Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Snapshots

That's me (far left,) The Bestie, and a lovely young lady friend. We were out for a girl's night prior to seeing The Hunger Games midnight showing on Thursday night/Friday morning. That's how I roll.

A trip the museum's discovery room for our preschool co-op led to:

Triceratops dress up.

Microscope exploring.
Trying to open a clam.

Examining a snail.

One had her dance pictures this week, this is one of her costumes (they have 2.) Her class is competing one week from today! I'm so excited to spend the day in Greensboro with her and her dance school. Yay!

We were running late, and she had to apply her makeup in the car.

Another shot from the museum (yeah, I uploaded out of order today, oops.) They were using binoculars to check out the construction across the street.

Our "spring tree" craft, completed.

A tour of the weather station for One and Two with our 4H club.

Spring Time Tree process, with Four.

And, spring time tree craft process for Three.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Healthy Housewife Dinner

Tonight's dinner is slated to be Smoked Sausage and Pasta. There are two versions of this dish. The lazy (I say that with love, some of my dinner posts are lazy housewife dinner after all) version involves cutting up the sausage, boiling the pasta, and dumping it together with a can of cream of mushroom soup and milk.

The healthier version involves making your own cream of mushroom sauce. It's really much easier than it sounds. You make a simple white sauce, add in mushrooms (and onions, and celery since I'm making it myself!) and voila. Better for you than the creamy soup out of can--I'm not judging, cause seriously, some days, I'm just dumping that stuff in. But, if you have 5 minutes and the motivation (this is KEY) you can make a healthier version pretty easily.


Smoked Sausage (I buy the all beef one.)
Rotini pasta (you can use whatever shape you have on hand.)
Onions (optional)
Celery (optional)

Start water boiling and get that pasta going. Cut up the smoked sausage and sautee it in a pan. Remove the sausage from the pan and use the drippings to cook up the mushrooms and onions and celery. Make the white sauce (recipe to follow.) I use the same pan that the veggies are in. Drain pasta. Add to pan. Stir. You can top it with some parm if you like (my kids are all secretly mice and love cheese on EVERYTHING.)

White Sauce Recipe:

Basic White Sauce from scratch.

In a saucepan over a low/low-medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2-3 tablespoons white flour. With a fork/whisker, mix and heat until bubbly without burning. You want this to become a paste. Next, stir in about a cup of milk and keep stirring on medium heat until thickened. I’ll keep lifting the saucepan up off the burner as needed to keep from burning, as I’m stirring the sauce. The key is to keep stirring.

Remove from heat and use in your recipe. Easy.

Want to make it a cream of mushroom, celery, cheese, etc? Begin by sauteing your veggies in the butter and then continue with the white sauce. This way you can make a fresh cream sauce which always tastes great.

Ideas: fresh mushrooms, celery, onion, cheese(Just add cheese after the sauce is made and melt it down while the sauce is still hot)

No fresh veggies? Try adding some celery salt or onion salt to taste. This works great too.


And, since this is doesn't really qualify as SKINNY...

A Four Minute Workout I usually do this workout a couple times a week, on days where a.) I've just not been really active, or b.) days where I ate more sweet stuff than I should have. :) It's fast, it will get your heart racing and tone places you weren't working before--I know because I'm always sore after it, so I'm not working those places doing the other things I do (Zumba, basketball with the kids, tag, etc.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Two for Tuesday. Welcome Spring!

We are headed to the park today with The Bestie and her crew (she has 3 kidlets) to welcome spring! Bestie's Three is here with us, and MY One and Two are at her house after a last minute sleepover was suggested while we were there yesterday (she takes the girls, I take the boys.) So, I plan to do a craft with the boys here before we head out to the park, and I found a "Signs of Spring scavenger Hunt" to print and do with them too.

Enjoy the equinox!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sideways Saturday--Organizing.

I've been reading a book--One Year to an Organized Life. I've mentioned that my life sort of derailed, OK it really derailed--no "sort of" about it--about a year ago. I've been trying to regain my footing, and get myself back on track. I was once a very organized woman! I really had my shit together. No joke. And, then, my life fell to pieces around me. But, I digress. I saw this book at my Bestie's house and bought it just a few days later. I just knew it would help me jump start getting my organized self back. And, ya know what? It really has! It's not an expensive book. And, that is not a link to "my" amazon store or anything. I'm not getting any thing out of recommending it to you, except that you might get a little more organized too!

So, since I'm returning to my old ways....I'm going to share some things I did/do to make life easier. We're a busy family of 6. My kids are very active, and we're often "out" 3 evenings a week (that is just kids stuff...not MY nights out, which are at least one a week.) We eat together every night, a luxury in today's society, and one I am so thankful for. Even if it means we all eat at 5, or 7...we ALL eat. Why? Because it's important to me. Anyway, that's not the point!

Food is key. I've always been a meal planner (meaning: I sit down once a week and plan out what we will eat.) To aid in meal planning I made a spreadsheet with EVERYTHING I cook on it. Then, I could pull it up, and not end up making the same handful of things over and over because they were what sprang to mind. Also, it's important to have your calendar handy when you meal plan because, for example, if your Monday is Manic, you WILL want to plan something EASY for Monday. A crock-pot recipe for example. Just a couple weeks ago, I posted about trying to cut back on our food budget. To do this, part of my plan was to plan our meals FARTHER in advance, and be more conscious of using everything I have. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean, if I'm going to make a whole chicken on Sunday, then on Tuesday I should plan something that will use the leftover chicken. I should also try to plan a whole chicken around the time I'm going to run out of stock (I make it from the bones, in the crock-pot) so that I don't have to buy the stock at the store to make a different recipe. I printed out 2 months worth of blank calendar pages, and I sat down and planned. I pulled things from my spreadsheet, I pulled new recipes from my pinterest account, I pulled new things from a cookbook I have been using (a gift from MIL) and I purposely included a meatless dish and a breakfast for dinner night each week.

This approach has been great! I didn't have to go to the store "for real" last week (on Monday, I did need to get some sugar, and sliced cheese but I was able to do that while One was at her dance class.) Going to the grocery store "for real" is one of my least favorite tasks. I loathe it. It always ends in me wanting to strangle someone. Taking 4 kids into the store is just no fun for me. Sometimes, I let The Punk take them and I just stay home, avoiding the task altogether. It's also much better if I take any pairing of the kids--except One and Two, and Three and Four. One and Three, Two and Three, One and Four, Two and Four...all that works. One and Two alternately love and hate each other (hormonal teenage sisters that are 18 months apart...who'd have guessed?) and Three and Four feed off each others energy and make me C-R-A-Z-Y. Actually, One, Two and Three is also bearable. It's really all Four's fault. Yep, I said that. Anyway...Shopping less means a.) I don't have to go there as often b.) I'm spending less and c.) since it's planned we aren't eating the same thing twice in at least 2 months! See that? Win...all around.

Second, each week I bake (usually on Sunday because it's our slowest day.) I make a loaf of bread--I'd like to start baking wheat bread, but for now it's sweet breads (banana, apple, zucchini, pumpkin) or a batch of muffins. I also will make a batch of waffles or pancakes that the kids can then warm up over the course of the week (you can microwave them with a cup of water and they reheat well.) The Punk makes breakfast a couple times a week, and with that, the kids have a hot breakfast almost everyday. I also bake some sort of "treat." A cake. A pie. A cobbler. A batch of cookies. A batch of brownies. Something just for fun. So, yes, I spend a few hours Sunday cooking, but it means we have homemade snacks and hot breakfast throughout the week. It's an even trade.

Lastly, I cook my ground meat ahead of time. We buy a large thing of ground beef and ground turkey. I mix them up and cook it. If it's a meatloaf, I will mix it together (adding 2 eggs if I intend to do it in the crock-pot) wrap it in aluminum foil and then Ziploc bag it. If it's going to be Salisbury steaks, or hamburger patties, again, I mix it together and wrap and bag it. This takes out a huge chunk of time on the day of actual cooking! If I'm making a recipe that uses ground beef-I just grab a bag of precooked meat from the freezer, and throw the rest of the recipe together.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Flashback Friday

Last week, our 4H Leader brought in a big box. She explained to me that her kids had outgrown all of these, but she had made them and she couldn't just toss before she tried to find somwhere else to donate them, did I want them??? An entire box of file folder games....YES please!!! Three was very excited about it as well. He's played several of the games this week.

Co-op was about rainbows this week, here is the awesome craft Three and Four made. It was 1/2 a paper plate and streamers and glue. So simple, fun and cute to display. Our hostess did an awesome job she even taught the kids the signs for all the colors. Very cool.

We worked on letter review, and I'm so excited to report that Three knows all but 4 letters of the alphabet now. This is impressive as just a few weeks ago he only knew MAYBE half. He was just unmotivated to learn them, and knowing that all children are so different (his oldest sister was reading before her 3rd birthday-actually, at about the age Four is now, and his other sister didn't do it until 7ish) I just didn't push it. His motivation? Four. Four knows half the letters already. He's just very interested, and this has motivated Three to learn them, because well, he can't be outdone by baby brother. *wink* Sometime peer pressure can be positive!

Today we did fingerprint shamrocks (green ink pad, and fingers are your only necessary supplies.) Yesterday we talked about clover, while lying in a nice patch of it. Three tried his best to find one with four leaves, without success. It occurred to me while Four was lying in the clover, that he might be allergic (because he is allergic to almost all of the outdoors.)

We've been outside a lot as the weather here has been SO gorgeous all week!

Sunday Snapshots

Our Leprechaun trap. It didn't work. Those sneaky little creatures!! They did wrap garland around all our kitchen chairs, left sparkles all over the window sill, turned one of the chairs upside down on top of the table, and turned the toilet water green! Also in exchange for our gold coins, he left us candy and sidewalk chalk (because Four can't partake of the candy, with all his allergies.)

A hideout made from the couch cushions.

Fingerprint clover.

Lying in a patch of real clover (right after I snapped this I wondered if he was allergic...lluckily there was no reaction!)

See what I can do? Arm in a cast does not slow down a 5 yr old. This is the 2nd 5 yr old I've had with a broken arm--ok, technically Two was only 4 1/2 but close enough--and it really doesn't limit their activities. The only thing we've had to limit is playgrounds with sand. Sand inside the cast doesn't sound like fun. Oh, wait, the neighbors set up a sprinkler on Friday (our temp was 85!) and we did not let Three play in it. Mostly though, that was because it was Friday and *if* it did get wet there was no easy way to get it re-wrapped until Monday.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lazy Housewife Dinner

Ok, I've tried 3 new recipes in the last couple weeks. I try to put at least one new thing in a week, but last week there were 2. :)

I tried this recipe out last week: Baked Parmesan Garlic Chicken. It's a really simple main dish to throw together. And, if you serve it along side roasted broccoli/cauliflower, dinner is done and easy-peasy. The review was good on all fronts. The Punk said "it was alright." but what does he know, really? He doesn't get as excited by food as I do, so I'm going to dismiss his lackluster assessment. I thought it was YUMMY. The kids all ate it up too. Yay. Definitely a keeper.

Last night, I made breakfast for dinner. Potato Bacon Casserole. The kids all ate it, and there weren't any complaints, but The Punk and I both felt sort of blah about it. I wasn't impressed. I LOVE Cracker Barrel's hashbrown casserole and was hoping this would be a "make at home" version of fell short. I won't be adding it.

Lastly, a skinny housewife moment. :) I made this Baked Ziti with Spinach in my head, my family wouldn't balk at the fact that there was spinach in it. I mean, I tasted it, and I didn't think the spinach even tasted like spinach after being cooked in the tomato sauce. *shrug* My silly family couldn't get past it. One and Two did try it. One ate it with me, but Two didn't like it. *eye roll* The Punk and Three didn't even try it. One and I ate it for dinner, and lunch and then I shared the rest with neighbors (who also really liked it!) I would def make this again, and probably will make it in half, and use it as a lunch option.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordy (Whiny) Wednesday

Today I'm in a really horrid, terribly, no good, rotten mood. It's the first day of my period. A male friend is being a total douche. And my 5 yr old just asked me to remove the crust from his TOAST. TOAST-which by the process of toasting turns the whole damn thing into CRUST. *smh*

It's one of those days where I just want to crawl into my bed, pull the covers up, and read or watch trashy shows all day. Can I do that?? No, I can't. I may be able to arrange a few hours of that this afternoon though, and I'm going to hold on to that hope through my...err...the boys morning playdate.

I also wish I could do Zumba tonight. Maybe I'll play my game on the wii this afternoon, or just turn on the music and dance (I have several songs on my iphone that we do in class.) Probably not though, as I expect by mid-day I'm going to be exhausted, as the first 2 days of my period tend to render me useless after a few hours. It doesn't help that I was awake at 4:15 and couldn't fall back asleep. Sigh. The physical activity would probably make me feel better, but I just don't know if I'll muster it. Meh.

Yep, this post is just a whine fest. It's ok though, because honestly I'm not usually a whiner. I'm usually a glass-half-full type of person. I have a friend who says "Glass half full, or half empty...its time for a refill." I like it. I'm usually good about it, but today...I just don't care.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Manic Monday

Oh, here you are again.

Manic as usual. Art Class for the big kids, Zumba for me, childcare center for the boys (my BFF's boy is also in there, so it's a highlight for them too.) Bowling league for Two. Three also bowls (and I took BFF's son too,) but with his arm in the heavy cast, and the fact that he still uses both hands to throw the ball down the lane....I'm going to let him skip it for awhile. Maybe until he's uncasted (yeah, spellcheck says that's not a real word, it can kiss my ass.) Then, I may be willing to pay for his trophy. Yep, I said it. He's been really looking forward to earning his trophy, and while I'm not a big fan of "everyone must have a trophy," he might miss too many times to ACTUALLY earn it, and since that is no fault of his own (see my story about how I broke the boy) I may pony up the $2.50 and just buy the damn thing. *shrug* We skipped last week's bowling altogether because in the eloquent words of my Friend...Sometimes we just can't get our shit together, and that's OK too! Last Monday was quite possibly the worst day of my life so far, and I don't regret skipping bowling. So there.

One has her dance class tonight, and it's imperative that she not miss ANY of them because they go to competition in a month. I love going to the competition. Not only because I get to watch One and her company compete, but some of the other performances are SUPERCALIFRAGALISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS.

Let me take a moment to gush about watching my kids do their thing. I love watching my kids do what they love, and for One that is dancing. Two loves sports (soccer especially, but she also rocks at basketball and softball) and I love watching her play anything and everything. I'm waiting for Three and Four to really find their "thing" and then I'll be just as into watching them too!

Off to accomplish somethings before I leave the house. Have a great Monday, I hope yours is less than manic.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sideways Saturday

I don't know...I was looking for something cute to call my Saturday post. And after the last couple months, I feel a bit sideways. :) There you have it. Plus, this post doesn't really have a "theme" which should leave you feeling sideways with me.

First, I want to review my Busy Bags! I made some up, and they were a blessing when I had to recently take my mom to the doctor with all 4 kids in tow. I grabbed a ziplock bag of color wonder markers and their color wonder books, easy enough. I grabbed the sticker bags I had made up (stickers and a piece of paper.) I grabbed a couple board books that I've had "put up" for awhile, so they seemed new (and almost indestructible by Four, always important.) So, while we waited in the waiting room the boys were able to color without me having to worry about them getting marker/crayon on the dr's chairs/tables/floor and then they were able to do some stickers and sit and read a book that was "new" and therefore worthy of their attention. It was WIN all around. Also, at home, I found a few more things I already have that will work for quiet time.

Leaf Rubbing plates. My MIL found these at goodwill for a quarter (or some such insanity.) I put 4 of them in a bag, took a piece of white paper and cut it into quarters-as that is roughly the size of the plates I have, added a peeled crayon making the rubbing easier and voila.

Wedgits. How.Did.I.Forget.These! If you don't know what these are, or you don't own a it. Right.Now. We have a double set, and a set of cards that give you patterns for building LARGE, FANTASTIC structures with them. I lucked out and found them at a consignment sale. I'm cheap.

Magnet Set. I am pretty sure I have this pinned. I laid out an alphabet magnet set on a piece of paper and snapped a pic. I printed it and laminated it. Place the paper on a cookie sheet, and let the kids match the magnet to the letter on the sheet.

Small chalkboards and chalk from $$Ttree. Chalk is another medium I can confidently let Four have without supervision as it is easily removed from all surfaces.

Playdough. The boys do pretty well with playdough unsupervised....but this will probably be something I only allow when I'm going to be near by.

Second, I'm working on things like meal planning and cutting our grocery bill. I'm about to list out all the meals that I make on a regular basis. I also like to try new recipes, and occasionally they make the cut into the permanent rotation. Which means the list will be ever changing and growing. At the end, I'd like to have a smaller grocery bill, and a list of a couple months worth of healthier meals. :)

Third, we tried "swedish meatballs" this week. The recipe was simple...meatballs (I used oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs and for ME the texture was a little off. They were still good, but not great for me.) The sauce was chili sauce, bbq sauce, and grape jelly. I served it over rice, and everyone ate it up. Even Three who is by far the pickiest eater in our house. I don't think we'll be putting it in the permanent rotation though as we didn't LOVE it, and chili sauce is not a staple I keep (so I'd have to buy it special for this dish...) Also, grape jelly. We eat an almost organic grape jelly that costs an arm and a leg, and this dish calls for a 1/2 cup of it, making it not very frugal. Maybe, if the kids ask for it, I would make it special for them, but I don't think they will.

Lastly, I leave you with a video...I really enjoy this song.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Flashback Friday

Not a lot to flash back on....we haven't done much school. But, this has been far and beyond the worst week I can remember.

Some serious shit hit the fan on Sunday night. Turning Manic Monday into more than it's usual chaos as I was running on almost no sleep. I got the kids to art, and did my Zumba class (because I needed an hour where I didn't need to think of my own stuff) but then I started to fall apart from either the stress of the last few days or lack of sleep. Probably both. I hit my BFF's house for awhile, but when Four started to melt down, I was ill equipped to parent through it and just gave up and came home. When I got home, I was metaphorically punched in the gut with MORE bad news. At some point I realized that the date was 2/27, and this date holds some serious history for my BFF and I. And, now apparently it was my turn. I decided to nap. Yes, I met all this turmoil with sleep. Judge all you want.

I slept an hour, got up, helped put my boys to bed, and returned to slumber. I only read one chapter in The Hunger Games...just so you know where I was. I reflected on how much worse things COULD be...but decided I would wave my universal white flag anyway.

Tuesday, we actually did school. But it was mostly discussion (reviewing letters on the wall) and workbooks so I don't have any pictures to post.

Wednesday, BFF had some stuff to handle so her kiddo's were here with me. Making for 7. At least for awhile there were 7. One left about noon to hang out with a friend, and spend the night. Two left with BFF and her kids to spend the night with her.

Thursday, I desperately tried to catch up on some housework as over the course of the last 7 days I've been falling further and further behind. I've returned to making lists, so as to try to get things done again!

And, then today...I hope to do some school with the boys. Maybe some sort of craft and a do-a-dot letter I printed sometime last week.