Thursday, January 10, 2019

Winter Fun List

Hello! We are back in the full swing of things over here, with dance lessons and swim lessons and client meetings and fellowship interviews and a baby with a fever. Again. Yay for 2019!

Inspired by Laura's list, I made my own list of things to do to make winter after Christmas more exciting, instead of wanting to stay in my pajamas for the next 3 months.

After writing this list, Winter 2019 doesn't seem so bad.

Go out to eat for restaurant week. I have wanted to do this for years, but am always doing some type of detox in January. Well, not this January. I have our favorite baby sitter booked, now I just need to pick the restaurant. So many choices!

Sit and watch the Chiefs in the playoffs. I must admit that although our team is doing great this year, I haven't actually watched many of the games, but rather listened while doing all of the other things. Saturday (and hopefully a few of the following weeks!) I am staying put on the couch and watching every single play.

Winter Jam. This has been on my list for a few years, but every year I bail to stay home in my pajamas. Not this year. I am forcing myself out of hibernation for this, even if I only take Ina.

Church marriage event. Dan and I are so looking forward to this. I love our church.

Branson Family Trip! The girls pooled their Christmas money and we booked a water park room for a few days. We can't wait!

Have dinner with my grandparents once a week. For a long time I have been trying to work my schedule to visit my grandparents while they aren't eating dinner, but found it near impossible. My light bulb moment was when I realized we could just grab dinner and eat with them. Genius.

Take the kids sledding. Ina has been begging, however, every time it snows Dan is plowing or salting and I can't take all three kids by myself. I will just need a plan that involves Mira-care.

Be outside for 20 minutes a day. You know how you read all of those articles that advise going on a walk to treat/prevent the afternoon slump, and you nod your head, and then proceed to stay sitting at your desk all afternoon and wonder why your energy is low? Just me?

Well, two days ago I was feeling the typical 2 PM slump, so I laced up my shoes and walked for 15 minutes. The sunshine and fresh air made a world of difference in my mood, mental clarity, and energy. I am going to set a 2 PM alarm from now on.

Cook something I have never made before. I am thinking risotto. Or a whole fish. Or mussels. Or maybe all of them.

That's all for now! Anything you are doing to make winter more fun?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

My Family's Most Cooked Meals of 2018

Hey there! I hope you survived the first few days of the new year!

If you are anything like me, the new year brings a fresh start to many things, one of which is full-steam-ahead meal planning. Meal planning helps not only budgeting, but also ensuring my family eats nutritious meals so that we can go through the rest of life effectively.

(Speaking of budgeting, I just switched to YNAB and I am OBSESSED. It is everything I didn't know I needed. Do it.)

A few days ago I flipped through my 2018 planner for a little meal planning inspiration. I noticed a handful of meals my family ate over and over again and I started writing them down to share with you!

I thought this list would be useful to others looking for meals that are:

  1. Delicious - at least 4/5 of my family members will eat it
  2. Relatively nutritious
  3. EASY to make. Like, less than 30 minutes hands on time and can be prepared with a toddler at your feet and a baby in your arms.
  4. All the ingredients can be found at Aldi (because who wants to go to two grocery stores?).

I also have to give credit to my friend Danielle. Her family lived with us for the majority of 2018, so she was greatly involved in the planning, preparing, and executing of these meals, which means they are actually TWO FAMILY approved.

Get your grocery list ready.

Cheeseburger salad from Skinnytaste.

This was probably my favorite recipe of 2018. We ate this two times a month and the leftovers were great. We gave the kids sandwich thins and typically served baked sweet potato fries as a side. The dressing is amazing and I usually add chopped kale in with my lettuce because you know I love any way to add my favorite green.

The only way I change the recipe is to just brown the meat (like if I was making tacos) instead of making patties. So easy!

Pork Shoulder Ragu from Dinner a Love Story

This little gem is my go-to for entertaining, but we also made it twice just for us. Serve with a salad and roasted broccoli. Heads up: you need to start cooking 4(ish) hours before you need to eat.

Carnitas from Skinnytaste

Hands down my favorite slow cooker meal. I always serve with a simple cabbage slaw and tortillas/chips and enjoy ever last bite.

Enchiladas from Gimme Some Oven

That sauce is straight up drinkable, and if you have meat already cooked from another meal, this recipe is a great way to completely transform the flavor. Dan would eat this every day if I let him.

I will note that the sauce recipe has a little kick to it and if you prefer something a little more tame, Gina's recipe is also delicious.

Greek Chicken Pitas from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

This is the ultimate customizable meal that can be easily prepped before hand. The spice rub makes the chicken so flavorful when it comes off the grill and I have used the quick pickled onions for everything from tacos to BBQ.

I usually serve with rice and chickpeas or pitas, so the kids can choose their own meal adventure.

Sloppy Joe's from Skinnytaste

This was a Champ family favorite that we have since adopted. There are so many veggies and nutrients thrown in into that sauce!

Every single time we had this for dinner Ina proclaimed that she didn't like sloppy joes, but by the end she was gobbling up her plate.

Monterrey Chicken from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

This might be the most delicious way to cook a chicken breast. The absolute perfect summer meal. We typically served Mexican rice and some type of roasted vegetable and no matter how much chicken I defrosted, there never seemed to be any leftovers.

Peruvian Chicken with Green sauce from Skinnytaste

This recipe requires two different links (sauce and chicken), but is beyond worth it. This is my other favorite meal of 2018 and can be served with anything from rice to pasta to just a pan full of roasted vegetables. When that sauce is in the fridge it gets put on everything: eggs, salad, burritos, etc. Do yourself a favor and make it now.

A few other meals that I don't have recipes for, but almost always make it on to our monthly meal rotation. I know these aren't ground breaking, but a good reminder that sometimes simple and obvious is the best way to get through the week without being in the drive-thru.

  • Tacos. I make my own seasoning (usually just sprinkle chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregeno, and salt to taste) on ground beef or turkey or a combo. I chop up lettuce, tomatoes, and onions and we have a range of tortillas. My family has been super into double-decker tacos, so a can of refried beans is a must. 
  • Spaghetti. Sometimes we make meatballs. Sometimes we use this super simple slow cooker recipe or this veggie packed recipe. No matter the day, if you add tomato sauce and pasta together, my entire family will devour it.
  • Pizza. Sometimes we buy a take and bake from Aldi. Sometimes I make my own dough and make a BBQ chicken and pepperoni. Sometimes I use the bread, rolls, buns in the bottom of the bread basket. Pizza is always a delicious hit in our house. 

I hope this information was helpful!

How about you? Is there a meal you have cooked over and over again that I need to know about?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

19 Goals for 2019

Good morning and Happy Happy 2019!

Have you heard that how you spent New Year's Day is indicative of how you will spend your year? If that is true, I will spent most of 2019 looking for my keys, which sounds pretty accurate.

We spent NYE at home, eating reubens (all the girls love them!), watching Annie, and going to bed at 10 PM. Ina seemed to enjoy the fake countdown I made up right before we went upstairs and I almost felt bad about missing the real deal.

Yesterday we had Hoppin' John and Collard Greens. (A few notes on the recipes: for the Hoppin' John, I used Tony Chachere's creole seasoning and doubled the recipe. For the greens, I wouldn't use sesame oil next time).

So how about some goals for 2019?

I know that every blog you read has a  post like this, but I love this sort of stuff. Except for last year, apparently I didn't, because I tried to check my goals from last year and it turns out I didn't set any.

Weird. Maybe I was a little overwhelmed on December 31, 2017? Honestly, I don't really remember.

From big to small, here are some ways to make this year great!

1.Not complain about winter, instead embrace it. This article about people without the sun for days is incredibly interesting.
2. Do something about my eyebrows. Geeze.
3. Improve and meet work goals. Every year at work we have to set 4 to 5 goals for the year. I have to admit that the last few years, between babies and maternity leaves, my goals haven't been very lofty. I hope to change that this year and put my foot on the career gas pedal.
4. Write thank you cards. Or at the very least, send thank you texts.
5. Have professional family photos taken. Print them out. Hang them on our walls.
6. Do a photo family 2019 book in real time. Include fun things the girls say, memories of things we did together, etc.
7. Outsource house cleaning. And pool cleaning/maintenance (does it count as outsourcing if I assign this to Dan?).
8. Start serving at church in a different way other than small group leader.
9. Go to a Christian concert.
10. Go to a marriage conference.
11. Take three vacation days (spread out) just for me. The kids will still go to school/daycare. I ended 2019 with about 4 leftover vacation days which surprised me.
12. Go on a few family trips - one big out out of the state (hopefully) and a few smaller ones in the state.
13. Payoff half of our rental house principal. We really want to get this paid off by the end of 2020 and I think we can do it!
14. Read a chapter of the bible a day. Just one chapter, but better than nothing.
15. Do a pull-up. I want this so bad.
16. Start a book club. Or maybe join a book club.
17. Read 25 books. Totally doable.
18. Maintain my weight/size/health. For the first time in a long time, on December 31 I feel absolutely fantastic. Not perfect, but great for me. I just want to be happy with the way my body is right now.
19. Average two blog posts per week. One more topical post (I have pretty much stopped writing these) and one weekly summary

Have a great rest of your week!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Christmas 2018 (Another Pukey Christmas)

Hello and Happy New Year!

I am back from the gym and furiously typing, hoping that Mira doesn't wake up for the 6th morning in a row by getting sick in her crib.

Poor baby. Poor Momma. (Is it bad to truly feel sorry for yourself? Ha!)

Backing up to Christmas Eve, we had a fun filled day that started with Dan's company party at Top Golf. What a fun place!

We ate lunch and swung golf clubs while I enjoyed meeting everyone Dan works with. From there we quickly went to Granny's house to pick up the girls and get them ready for church.

Our church had a Home Alone theme for the sermon, and had a photo booth set up with some of the characters, and some of the "booby traps" which we didn't know until after that photo was taken.

My face hurt from smiling so much.

From church we drove to Grandma Frankie's house to celebrate Christmas. The girls had fun, but on the way home everyone was complaining and whiny, which I attributed to the increased amount of sugar intake.

By midnight I was proved wrong once with Ina, 4 am twice with Cora, and then  6 am, a third time with Mira. If you are ever interested in challenging yourself, try playing Santa while tending to three puking children.

I was also starting to feel sick, but tried to ignore it as I had 16 people coming to my house in two hours and cinnamon rolls to make.

We all held it together as we forced ourselves to open presents and go through the Santa scavenger hunt I had printed out days before...literally between puking episodes for everyone.

Then we hurried to clean, put everything away, and made cinnamon rolls and meatballs for brunch.

We greeted our family and tried to hold it together. The girls actually did great, but I pretty much just laid on the floor and hoped that my welcoming smile was enough.

We were all spoiled so much and the girls have all sorts of new toys to play with.

The last few days have mostly been spent trying to survive. Poor Dan caught the stomach bug two days later and I think it hit him the hardest. Mira mostly cries unless I am holding her, which makes cooking, cleaning, or anything else very difficult.

(A perfect visual representation of the status of my house right now)

We did get out of the house on Saturday for my gym's Christmas party and on Sunday for church and my mom's side of the family Christmas.

I am not going to sugar coat it. This "vacation" week has been rough. I am really looking forward to starting work again on Wednesday.  Next year we are going out of town for Christmas.

I hope you had a great Christmas and I am looking forward to a healthier 2019.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Week Before Christmas

Hello! I hope you had a fantastic Christmas! Our's was...eventful...but I will leave that for the next post. Until then, let's play some catch up.

(Ina was so proud of her gingerbread house she made at school. She put it on the counter and many times I caught Cora sneaking pieces off to eat until it could no longer stand.)

Monday night we soaked in the beauty of not having dance class, ate curry, watched Nailed It (the holiday edition, which for some reason, we cannot give enough of) and basically recovered from a very busy weekend.

Backing up to Monday morning, I reached a PR at the gym and snatched a 50 pound dumbbell! I always forget to mention the gym, but I am still going every single weekday morning (except when I don't wake up to my 4:40 alarm, which has happened once or twice...). I absolutely adore starting my day this way with these people that push me and motivate me.

Tuesday I picked up the girls and Dan and we drove directly to Longview Lake to enjoy their Christmas in the Park lights display.

Because we were moving at negative 2 miles per hour, we let the girls out of their car seats. Ina and Cora stuck their heads out the sunroof while Mira sat in my lap and either tried to press every button on the dashboard or jump out the passenger window.

Every single display was appreciated and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over. They particularly loved all the things that lit up above our heads and Ina would beg to stay put and let the reindeer/Santa/skier/snowflake go over us just one more time...

Thursday I stuffed my face at my department's holiday lunch and then drove to Ina's school for her holiday party.

These events have drastically improved since I was in school. They had a bounce house and crafts and snacks and games and after only 45 minutes I left with one question: HOW do teachers do this every single day?

God bless them.

Also, something worth noting from Ina's party: she knows every single person in that school. Like every single one. I was impressed when she was introducing me to kids in the other kindergarten classes, but when we walked by the first grade line and she enthusiastically said hello to each kid by name, I was blown away. She is a little social butterfly!

I had Friday off work, but had still scheduled for the girls to go to Danielle's. So, I cleaned and wrapped my little heart out.

Then, my dad and his girlfriend came over to watch not only my three kids, but also Chessa's two kids, so we could celebrate her birthday.

We ate delicious pizza and cake and briefly felt like we were in college again.

Saturday we had a slow start and then Ina and Cora went to Grandma Frankie's to make Christmas cookies and stay the night while Dan and I got to work on their Christmas present - a dress up clothes stand.

Why buy something pre-made when you can spend more money and more time making something yourself?

All joking aside, it turned out great and the quality is much better than anything Amazon could have sent us.

In between trips to the hardware store and paint coats we watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It funny and heart warming and something that we both enjoy, but not for little viewers.

After Grandma Frankie dropped the girls off on Sunday I took them to visit my friend Sarah (in town from DC) and her family.

The girls always have so much fun at Doug and Charlotte's house. Not only because of the company and cool toys, but also the treats they leave with. This year I also left with a treat - Blue Bell ice cream (still not available in Kansas City) and I have been thoroughly enjoying every single bite.

Sunday night we ate double-decker tacos (Ina's new favorite) and watched the Chiefs game until half time after which I plopped into bed, completely exhausted.

I don't have any meal recipes to share - we have been kind of winging it. BUT, if you are looking for a good NYE recipe to bring to a party, this hoagie dip never disappoints.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

All of the Things Weekend

Like all of you, I'm sure, this weekend was one for our family record books as we tried to squeeze in as many things as possible within 48 hours.

On Friday Dan and I put on adult clothes (a sparkly skirt for me and...well...long pants for him), dropped the girls off at Grandma Frankie's, and ventured to the city for my part-time-job's Christmas party.

We devoured some delicious food (this was our first time at Lidia's!) and enjoyed talking to the people we only talk to once a year. I do adore built in date nights.

I worked (my 4  hours a week for aforementioned part time job) on Saturday morning while Dan and the girls cleaned out the van, that desperately needed a good vacuuming. Then Dan dropped Mira and I off at Aldi to grocery shop while he took the older girls to Home Depot to pick up the supplies to build their Christmas gift (unbeknownst to them!).

We watched a Christmas movie and then headed to our friend's house for a little game night birthday party. The invite said it would be "low key" so I wore leggings and Mira wore her PJ's (and no shoes). We played Things, ate chili, and soaked in some time with some of our favorite people.

Sunday the girls and I picked up grandma and grandpa at the long term care facility while Dan was at church serving with the baptism team. I feel I should mention this because when you have three small children the simple act of picking two people up takes a lot of effort and planning and may have involved a red headed child screaming in the bathroom, which caused other residents of the long term care facility to come check on her, which only led to a lot more screaming.

Once we were all loaded in the van, we headed to church where the girls performed with the rest of their class.

Ina was directly in front of us and dutifully went through every motion and word perfectly. Cora was across the stage, so I didn't get as good of a view of her, but she seemed to be giving that drum all the gusto she could drum up.

She and one of her friends also adorably peeked their heads on stage before their performance started.

This was the same girl who flat out refused to go on stage at her dance recital the week before.


From church we headed to my nephew Jake's birthday party. Cora wanted to make sure that all of his new toys were well played with before we left, while Ina and I wanted to make sure that every kind of pizza was sampled.

Much to Cora's dismay, we left the party a tad bit early to make it to our next destination, a play! Our town recently started a community theater and I jumped at the chance to reserve tickets for the Christmas performance, A Neighborhood Noel.

I didn't know how much I would sincerely love the show, but I absolutely did. One of Ina's friends was in the show as well, which added so much to her excitement. Cora may have been a little too young (or a little too exhausted) for the play, because Granny had to pick her up at intermission after she was making rude noises while laying under other's chairs.

After the play was over we hurried home and arrived with the rest of our small group for our annual cookie exchange.

Dan made chicken and noodles and I had baked and cleaned earlier that morning. After we filled the cookie boxes and ate dinner we sat around watching YouTube videos and listening to the kids sing and dance.

I just love doing life with these people.

Other notable things from the week before this one:

- We endured our last dance practice of the season. Whew.

- My work department had a White Elephant gift exchange. We were to bring something we already had and didn't want anymore and give it as a gift. Nice idea, right? I brought something from my kitchen I hadn't used once in ten years and happily came home with a beautiful tray from India.

- My aunt and cousin came over to watch the Chief's game on Thursday night and even though they lost by one point in the last few seconds on the game, I enjoyed watching it with them and drinking RumChata cinnamon hot chocolate.

Recipes to share:

Bacon wrapped dates - we used cream cheese instead of goat cheese because we know some people don't like goat cheese, but honestly, I kind of regretted that decision.

Chicken and potato yellow curry with brown rice, naan, and cucumber/tomato/red onion salad - this was everything I wanted in life and I looked forward to eating leftovers as soon as I finished the first meal.

Asparagus, bacon, and egg salad with a Dijon vinaigrette. So delicious. I want to repeat this all spring.

For the cookie exchange I contributed spiced pecans and the amazing shortbread chocolate chunk cookies (rolled in red sugar for a little festive touch). I would strongly recommend those recipes to anyone looking to do a little holiday baking.

Also, because you just need to - egg nog.

I hope you have a great week before Christmas! <3

Monday, December 17, 2018

Dance Mom in Training

(Let's pretend like I posted this a week ago...)

Hello and Happy Christmas season!

Par for the course, a sickness has taken over our house and everyone has been, well, drippy for the past week.

This extra drainage has led to many an ear infection and cough and each night at bedtime I am putting my pharmacy skills to good use as I hand out the medicine.

Not letting sickness get us down, we still had four dance practices in one week and did a lot of celebrating over the weekend. Friday night my family from Texas came over to celebrate Christmas.

The girls were absolutely spoiled with so many cute outfits, dress up clothes (Cora hasn't taken her yellow Minnie Mouse high heels off), a Polaroid camera, and a karaoke machine that even Mira loves to "sing" into.

After presents we ate dinner, played cards, and ate Christmas cookies and my heart was full.

The next morning after I worked for a few hours we took Granny out to eat for her birthday! We love Granny so much and we loved getting to celebrate her.

On the way home from lunch two out of three girls fell asleep in the car, so Dan did the tuck-and-roll drop off at home for me to pack dinners while he continued to drive them around. By the time I was ready to get back in the car, all three were asleep and we drove the 35 minutes to my niece Hallaway's dance recital.

Hallaway was in The Nutcracker and it was adorable. Ina was entranced and Cora kept on asking when she was going to get to be a ballerina. Soon! As we had to leave a little early to make it to their rehearsal for their recital the following day.

Cora was loving the rehearsal until she wasn't. Remember when I took the girls to see Little Shop of Horrors? They loved it, but Cora was a little scared.

(Cora, standing completely alone on stage...)

Guess what the theater team left backstage? Yep - the man eating plant! With all of its bloody teeth glory. Poor Cora was so scared. The fear, combined with the sickness and her overall red headed temperament made her not want to do anything more. After a lot of coaxing she finally got up there and sang and we came home very tired from a long day.

Sunday morning we woke up and hurried to early church, stopped by Target for a last minute costume change, and then headed to the theater for the girls' first show.

One of the other moms was so nice to help the girls during the first show (she is a saint) so I could sit in the audience and enjoying seeing them come out and sing My Favorite Things (so stinking adorable), Ina (as a reindeer with a lot of hip action) pull out Santa's sleigh, and Cora as a cute little gingerbread man.

The most precious moment was Ina gently guiding Cora up to the microphone to sing her part. She is (usually) such a good big sister.

I needed this first relaxing show, because the second show was hard. Cora was just done, which would have normally been no big deal, but we had 20+ family members coming and I knew she would be sad later if she didn't do it. After a lot of coaxing and bribing, I finally just handed her to her teacher (another saint!) and ran away.

She went on stage for her song, and then again for her dance, but was crying by the end. As soon as she walked off stage I handed her to our family and she was all smiles. We celebrated a job well done with Mexican food and margaritas.

A few recipes from the week:

spiced shrimp (made into tacos and served with a spicy cabbage slaw - yum)

pork shoulder ragu (make sure the pork is boneless!)

parmesean chicken - everyone loved this! Served with a kale pear salad.

meatloaf with roasted veggies

I hope you had a good weekend! <3

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