Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Preparing for Easter: A Few Fun, Meaningful Activities

Sorry Kiddiewinkies... no time to add photos to this post today.

My kitchen needs to be cleaned.

And I haven't uploaded photos from my camera since November.

No, seriously, all of our Chrismas pictures are STILL on the camera. For real.

Anyway... I thought I'd share my Easter plans for this year. I'm planning on doing a few simple activities with Bennett. I think they will really teach the Easter story in a very hands-on way.
  • First, I found this tip on making your own Resurrection eggs instead of buying them. SCORE! (Thanks Leslie for posting this idea on your blog!). You are supposed to start opening the eggs 12 days before Easter... I started yesterday. OOPS. Oh well, we've' just been opening two eggs a day. NO need to live by the rules as long as the kids are learning. Ah-men.
  • My friend Suz-to-the-Anne (I'd link to her blog but it's tre-exclusive) passed along a recipe for Easter Cookies, and I literally squealed with delight when I read through it. I can't wait to make them on Easter-Eve.

Also, I thought I'd share the mahn-u that my Mamasita and I will be making for Easter Dinner.


Fruit Salsa with Cinnmon Chips

Deviled Eggs



Spicy Honey Chicken (For those non-pork eaters... Heathens.)

Creamy Herb Potatoes


Green Salad


Strawberry Shortcake

That's all for now! Now go eat some Cadbury Mini Eggs and enjoy your Easter!

Monday, March 29, 2010

April's Theme: HELP!

Hello Darlin's,

I need some ideas/suggestions for April's theme o' the month. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read this and this.

I'm stuck. Seriously. Easter is at the beginning of the month, and that threw me for a loop.

  • Umbrella (ella, ella... ehhh) month?
  • Spring Month?
  • Something-else-because-those-are-the-only-two-ideas-I-have-month?

I'm desperate. Please send help.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Healthy, One Ingredient Ice Cream: By Jove, I Think She's Got It!

I tried this tip, and I had to share because it really is that amazing!

You basically just take a few bananas, peel and chop them, freeze them and pop 'em in the food processor. And AMAZINGLY you end up with banana ice cream... no joke! (see above link for more deets... that's "details" for those of you who aren't hip).

I'm honestly not really a banana person, but I AM an ice cream person. And this won me over. I also gave some to McPreachy, and he thought it was banana-flavored ice cream! He had no idea that he was in fact eating a frozen, pulvarized banana. Mwah ha ha! I am so sneaky!

This would be awesome for those of you who have kids with food allergies or intolerances.

Or for those of you who just plain eat too much ice cream.

Next time I want to try to throw some coconut oil in there for a delish tropical delight! And even if you throw a few chocolate chips, granola or chopped almonds on top, it is still MUCH healthier than eating a big bowl of ice cream. And it is VERY delicious and smooth.

Do not be a skeptic... just try it. Try it, and you will see.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weekly Chore Schedule: Get to Work, Woman!

I recently decided that our family needed a little more structure to run more efficiently. Up until now, I've been kind of a easy-going-do-it-when-ya-need-to kinda Mama. But since Mallory was born, it seems like I need a little more of a daily routine so that our home can be a restful, peaceful haven for my husband and kids (and me!)

A while ago I read this post over at simple mom, and it inspired me to develop a flexible daily routine and weekly chore schedule. I've been implementing it for a few weeks now, and I LOVE it!!! I feel like I am accomplishing more, but amazingly I have WAY more time to spend with my kids during the day! Here's what I'm doing:
  • Cocka-Doodle Doo! -- The biggest change to my daily life is implementing a morning routine, which starts before my kids wake up... as in waking up EARLY. For those of you who know me well (which is really ALL of you since only 5 people even read this blog), you know how much I HATE waking up early. I think it's downright unchristian. But I've got to say, after I actually get up and get going, I really love the result of being up an hour before my kids wake up. It starts the day on my terms, not theirs and allows me to read my Bible, exercise, and of course make and consume large quantities of coffee, all before Bennett comes clumping downstairs. It has definitely taken some getting used to and some adjustment of my usually-late bedtime. But overall, I feel that starting the day off this way makes for a much more productive and happy day.
  • Breakfast as a family -- This has been another things we've started doing almost daily, and it has been great. As soon as the kids get up, we all eat together and Neil leads the family in a little devotional. It really seems to start Bennett's day off better.
  • Weekly Cleaning and Chore Schedule -- I don't know about you other Mamas, but keeping the house clean AND balancing household responsibilities with making sure I'm spending enough time playing with my kids is hard for me. So I decided to make a schedule for household chores. Each day I do only what's on the list, not worrying about other things around the house. If it doesn't get done, then it will have to wait till next week. This keeps me from having things pile up and allows me to clean more often in smaller increments, which is much easier with kids! The best thing is, once I'm done with the day's job, I'm done for the day, and I can enjoy playing with my kids!

My schedule is:

Sundays: plan meals and make schedule with hubby for the upcoming week

Mondays: clean out fridge, grocery shop

Tuesdays: laundry, change bed linens and towels

Wednesdays: dust, vacuum

Thursdays: 30 minute organizing session (For instance, this week I spent 30 minutes going through our toys, throwing away broken pieces, putting games back together and pulling out choking hazards that have weaseled their way into the playroom. Other items on this agenda are: my desk, hall closet, kitchen junk drawer, etc.)

Fridays: clean bathrooms

Saturdays: swiffer and mop floors, do one monthly chore (see below)

Every Day: clean kitchen (wipe counters, do dishes, etc), make beds

Monthly: clean out kids clothes and closets, clean/organize pantry, deep-clean kitchen (burners, oven, wipe down cupboards, etc.), spot clean carpet... I'm still adding to this list, so I'm sure other things will end up on here.

Anyway, this has really been good for me as a homemaker and has helped me to accomplish small, realistic goals each day. The McPreacher has even noticed that things seem to be more peaceful and running more efficiently around the house!

Hopefully this will help out any of you stressed out Mamas as much as it has helped me!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mallory: My Precious Newborn Baby Girl...Wait... She's One?!

How does this keep happening to me? Mallory just turned one. I can't understand it. She was just born yesterday.

I though I'd write a little bit about our Mallie girl in honor of her first birthday.

Mallory was born on a Thursday morning after a very short and easy labor. I started having contractions about 3am, and about an hour later, I woke the hubby and called my parents to tell them to get their patooties in the car, STAT!

I really wanted to wait to go to the hospital until my parents arrived to watch Bennett (who was sleeping soundly upstairs... in a crib, wearing diapers, sucking a binky!!! Oh my, how much has changed in just a year... but I digress...)

Anyway, my contractions were pretty close together, but I was literally sitting on the couch with my legs crossed just waiting for my Mom and Dad to arrive. We got to the hospital about 7:30, and I was already nearing the end of labor (I'll spare you the centimetrical details). Within an hour, I got my epidural, which I still insisted on having even when the nurse tried to talk me out of it, and within another hour I was delivering our beautiful, healthy baby girl.

Here are some pics from that special day:

The first few months of Mallory's life were of course a big transition, especially since we were in the process of moving. Here's an email I sent to my Mom and a few friends after my first night alone with both kids:

So tonight was the dreaded first night alone with the kids, nursing and doing the dinner/bedtime routine on my own. My hubby had a meeting. Mallory was a perfect sleepy little angel all day, but of course the minute he left at 5:30, her tummy got gassy, and she basically cried all night long unless I was holding her. So everything you are about to read was basically done one-handed while saying, "Shhhhhhhhhh" and administering mylocon.

We got through dinner without any serious problems. Again, I was helping Bennett eat his spaghetti with one hand while trying to appease poor Mallie girl. But no major issues there.

After dinner is where it all started to fall apart. Bennett has been constipated for like a week, and I could tell it was really bothering him tonight, and I couldn't let it wait until morning. So I decided to give him a glycerin suppository after dinner. Normally this takes both Neil and I holding him down with all our strength. Tonight I basically had to sit on him and put it in while Mallory was screaming bloody murder in the background. Trust me, you haven't lived until you've put a glycerin suppository in your son's booty while your newborn is screaming in the

At this point, Mallory was so upset, I decided to feed her. As luck would have it, the suppository started taking effect just as Mallory started eating. Poor Bennett is crying and asking me to hold him while he is pushing his poopys out. So I am trying to nurse and hold Bennett at the same time. At one point, he looked up at me with his red, sweaty little face and said, "Help me!" He finally got it out, and then proceeded to run around with poop in his pants for 20 minutes while I finished nursing. After getting Mallie settled (finally), Bennett and I went upstairs to put him to bed. To top off my night, I stepped into a puddle of [our dog] Daphne's pee on Bennett's rug! I guess she was feeling neglected and decided to take it out on me...

It was an interesting night, but we got through it. I know you girls have all been there. Now I'm going to go eat some carbs and watch Dancing with the Stars...

High Diddily Dee, A Mama's Life for me...

Even though this past year has gone SO fast, when I read that email, it seems like I wrote it FOREVER ago! How does that work? It's like I'm in some Mommy space-time continuum that makes no sense to the outside world.

Anyway, back to Mallory. What to say about our Mallie girl? She is delightful...there's really no better word for her. She is just delightful, through and through. She is honestly almost always happy and smiling.

Her two favorite things are social interaction, and FOOD! Our Mallie gal can out-eat any baby you send our way, hands down. My friend Lissa teases me because when I bring Mallory a snack for the church nursery, I don't bring a baggie of cheerios... I bring the whole bag of them, directly out of the box, closed with a binder clip... Yep, classy through and through, that's me.

Here's a few pics of the birthday girl, all grown up (sniff).

She LOVES her Daddy!

I've never, ever, ever seen a happier, more fun-loving baby than Mallory. She truly is a blessing, and I'm so thankful for the precious little person she is already becoming.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Coconut Chicken, New Recipes and Other Holy Things

I just made these coconut chicken fingers for dinner tonight, and HOLY MOLY! I'm posting the recipe for these suckers so that you all can make them immediately. They were delish to the utmost.

A few notes:
  • I'm not a big curry fan, so I substituted the curry powder for paprika... It turned out great and gave a beautiful color!
  • My chicken cooked quicker than the recipe said. It only took about 12 minutes. The coconut burns quickly, so watch you chicken carefully!
  • I served these tenders with white rice and baked sweet potatoes. I wanted to make this dipping sauce to go with them, but I was out of apricot jam.

And on the subject of new recipes, here are a few I'm planning on trying out in the next few weeks.

I must admit, I'm a sucker for new recipes. My Katie lovingly calls me a recipe nerd, and she's right! (she calls me a medical nerd too, but that's a different story for a different time).

I like to try several new recipes each week! I actually have a hard time finding a balance between making the old standbys and trying out every new recipe that comes my way. Anyone have a great system they'd like to share? I'm all ears!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

McPreachy and Mount Vernon: A Saga

Yesterday was McPreachy's birthday. So, in keeping with our birthday tradition, he got to pick the menu for his birthday dinner AND he got to pick any cake he wanted out of one of my favorite cookbooks, The Cake Mix Doctor.

This birthday-cake-picking-and-making-tradition is SO exciting for Bennett. He's been talking about making Daddy's birthday cake for weeks.

The cake McPreachy picked: Mount Vernon Cake.

(2nd row from the bottom, 3rd cake from the left)

If you are currently asking yourself what in the world Mount Vernon cake is, then you are not alone. Bennett and I also scratched our heads inquisitively when we heard the verdict.

It turns out that Mount Vernon Cake is a dense, white cake iced with marshmallow frosting and layered with... you guessed it... homemade cherry filling. Is it all coming together for you now? George Washington... cherry tree... Mount Vernon... Get it?

Leave it to Mr. Academia to pick a historically significant cake. My husband is a very learned man, and he doesn't make even trivial decisions lightly.

And speaking of Mount Vernon, here are some pics from our trip with the Varelas to this hallowed landmark some 4 years ago. I was pregnant with Bennett at the time.

Yep. I pretended to chop down the cherry tree whilst in the cherry tree garden. Yep, I sure did.

All in all, the cake was pretty darn delish! George Washington would have been proud.

Here's a pic of the poor sucker after we hacked away at it. (Get it? Cherry tree... hacked away...)

And here's Mallie... just because she's cute.

For his birthday dinner, McPreachy asked me to make enchiladas, rice and beans. Here's the recipe I used for the enchiladas and here's the recipe for the rice. They are both AWESOME recipes!

Though it was a simple day, I think we made McPreachy's birthday really special.

Happy Birthday, husband o' mine! I love you. I adore you. I'd be lost without you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spotlight: Trader Joe's Product O' the Whenever

Hello TJ lovers,

Notice that I am no longer calling this segment "Trader Joe's Product O' the Week," because, let's face it... I will never get it together enough to post on this subject every week.

Instead, I will just call it, "TJ's Product O' the Whenever." That way, I can post about it whenever the mood strikes me.

This whenever's product hails from the dairy case. Please welcome:

Trader Joe's Organic Vanilla Bean Yogurt.

Or "Moo Cow Yogurt," as it is affectionately called in our house. Bennett started calling it that because of the oh-so-genteel cow that graces the carton.

"Yogurt?" you may be asking. "What is so amazing about yogurt?"

Oh, but this is no ordinary yogurt. It is the only yogurt I have EVER liked because it is so, so, so wonderfully delicious.

NOTE: It is CRUCIAL that you buy the vanilla bean and not plain ol' vanilla. This is the key factor in the yogurt's cultured deliciousness. If you fail, all will be lost. The future of the parfait as we know it is in your hands.

Speaking of parfaits, try this yogurt with fruit and your favorite granola. Or try it in your favorite cake/muffin recipe.

Just try it. That's all I'm going to say. Just do it.

And speaking of Trader Joe's... OH MY GOODNESS!!! Has anyone else heard of this book?! I haven't purchased one yet, but it is definitely on my wishlist.

I guffawed when I saw a lady with one the other day.

She thought I was very odd, indeed.

Two Things: Today's Schedule and Green Month

Our days have needed a little more structure as of late. I've noticed Bennett getting a little antsy and cranky on days when we are home. I also feel a constant struggle between things that need to get done around the house and Bennett's need for me to play with him.

So today, in an effort to love-tap several birds with one stone, Bennett and I devised a little "To Do List" on our easel.

The rule was that we got to trade off picking activities for the morning. Bennett started off the list with play trains, and then I added in item #2 "Get dressed" (translation: let Mama take a shower in peace without trying to toss cars in the shower and asking her, "Can we pway cars?" every 2 minutes).

We weren't super sticklers about the order of things... that's just not how I roll. If Bennett decided he wanted to play trains again during "car play time," that's just fine and dandy. The main purpose of the list is to let him see that his activities are important and given priority in our day while teaching him that Mama also has other responsibilities at home too. It also keeps me on track and helps me balance playtime with work time. I actually really liked the way the morning played out using this schedule.

A few side-notes:

  • Item #4 (Reading Lesson) is actually something we just started today. We had an awesome speaker at our MOPS group last night who talked about teaching pre-schoolers to read. She has a very user-friendly curriculum, which we purchased, and I'm excited about it. Check out her website for more info.

  • Item #5 (Green Hunt) is referring to our theme for March, Green Month! Bennett is VERY into his favorite color being green right now. If I hand him a blue plate, he will quickly (and somewhat politely) remind me that blue is NOT his favorite color. So for March, I decided that instead of focusing on Shamrocks or Leprechauns, we would focus on green. Bennett is VERY excited about it.

  • One item that somehow didn't make it onto the To Do List was: "Make a fort using every toy bin in the playroom, thereby dumping every toy we own onto the ground." Oh, but don't worry. Bennett took care of that item while I was getting dressed (#2).

  • Today's activity, the "green hunt" was just walking around the neighborhood looking for things that are green. We picked up leaves, clovers and green sticks, and when we got home, we talked about the word "nature" and what that means. Then we taped the leaves to a paper and hung it in the playroom. Simple, but Bennett loved it. I am learning with Bennett that he enjoys simple things MUCH more than big, elaborate productions. Even though I'm all about the glitzy, glittery crafts, that's just not Bennett's thang... and I'm learning to plan our activities accordingly. I'm trying.

But I cannot promise that we won't have some sort of elaborate rainbow/pot 'o gold fiasco on Saint Patrick's Day. Baby steps, people... baby steps.

I'm only human after all...