Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easter Fun!

Okay, I have a confession...I've been really bad about doing craft and fun projects with the kids lately.  It seems like I've had so many things to do to prepare for Baby #4 that I've slacked off and just let the kiddos play most days.  I figured it was time to do something fun with them to celebrate Easter, so today we did a few crafts and over the weekend my mom was kind enough to make some cookie dough for the kiddos to cut out some cookies to decorate.  Mom-guilt washed away!

Today we made stained glass Easter eggs to put in our front door windows and a bunny ear headband.  Not too many supplies needed:  contact paper, construction paper, tissue paper, card stock, and a stapler.  For the eggs, I cut out the shape of an egg from construction paper and stuck it on the contact paper.  We already had some tissue paper cut up, so they stuck it on.  You can also have your kids rip it.  To make the bunny ear headbands, I used pink card stock and large white construction paper to make the headband.  My daughter is almost four, so she cut out her ears (and did pretty well!).  For the little guy, I did it all.  Once we were finished, they practiced their hopping and finding some eggs.  

Little Easter Bunnies

Stained glass Easter Eggs

If you're looking for some other activities, one of my favorites is to make glossy Easter eggs.  Cut out an egg on some card stock or poster board.  Add some corn syrup to regular washable paint and it will dry very shiny.  It's so pretty and on my list of things to do later this week.  You can also take some plastic eggs, separate them, and let the kids paint with eggs by stamping.  I also plan on making a bunny puppet with a brown lunch sack.

The kids had a great time yesterday finding eggs that I had hidden around the house.  We like to practice!  After awhile, I had the kids hide them for each other.  Oh the giggles!  You can turn this into a math game by giving them a specific number of eggs to find.  You can also take a Sharpie and put dots on one half of the egg and a corresponding number on the other (use different colors, it is more challenging) and have the kids match them up.

As I mentioned earlier, we made cut-out cookies and decorated them with frosting over the weekend.  The kids got to paint the frosting on and had a blast.  I'll include the recipe that I use to paint the cookies.

Cookie Glaze Frosting

1 cup powdered sugar
2 t. milk
2 t. light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Food coloring of decorating gel

In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth.  Beat in corn syrup and vanilla until icing is smooth and glossy.  If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup (this is always the case for me.  You could add a bit more milk and then corn syrup until it is thin enough to spread).  Separate into bowls and add coloring gel or dye.  Paint them with a brush.

Cutting them out

Painting away!

A finished product!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Counting Down the Days...2 Weeks (or less!)

My little energy bursts last week seem to have subsided.  I'm pretty sure I could go to bed right now and it's not even dinnertime!  My kids have been sleeping better (and later), but unfortunately it's a little late for that because I'm up all of the time at night.  Seems to be how things always go when we have another baby.  If they could keep it up after he or she arrives, though, that would be great!

There have been a lot of "last-minute" ideas I've had that I'm trying to get crossed off of my list.  Over the weekend my husband and I went out for a date night (gasp!).  It was much-needed and we thoroughly enjoyed a quiet dinner and were able to have a conversation without being interrupted a million times.  It's something we definitely don't do enough, but I know we appreciate it on the rare occasions that it happens.  Fortunately, we are both fairly realistic about our expectations for a social life at this point and time in our lives:  it is pretty non-existent.  Even though we have family nearby, it is difficult for them to watch and put to bed our three kids and it won't get any easier adding another.  We've tried to get creative and do a "date night" at home on some Saturday evenings, but that will probably be put on the back burner for awhile, too.  I think it can be frustrating for us at times, but it's just where we are in life.  

I finally got a baby book yesterday (so excited!), so I plan to work on filling that in this week.  I enjoy marking the milestones for all of our kids and have stuck with the baby books (and then journals) for all of the kiddos so far.  I am a super sentimental freak, so this is very important to me!  I still need to finish uploading pictures to my photo cart online, but I hope to get that done this week, too.  I like to do photo albums, but have had a hard time keeping up the past few years!  At least I will have all of the pictures printed off.  They may sit in a box for awhile, but it's something!

All-in-all, I'm pretty happy with what has been accomplished in the past month as we await Baby #4's arrival.  My kids are excited and ask each night if it will be the day.  My husband and I are anxious and waiting for true labor to kick in.  Most importantly, though, we're enjoying our last few days or weeks as a family of five.  We had planned many special activities and have enjoyed them a lot.  I am always nervous about how our family dynamics will change once another little one arrives, but I think our kiddos will shower this one with love (maybe too much!) and before we know it we'll feel like it's always been the six of us! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Nesting, Nesting! Might as Well Bake!

This week has been a long one!  I'm trying to be patient awaiting Baby #4's arrival, but two days of constant contractions has made me a little impatient.  My body always does this, though, and I know it could go on for a few more weeks, but at least it kicked me into high gear!  My house is cleaned, the nursery is coming along, and I finally packed my hospital bag.  Now we just wait and what better way to pass the time than to...bake!

Today I decided to try out a blueberry muffin recipe I had come across awhile ago.  It's been on my list of things to freeze for "after baby," so I tackled them today.  We have done a little taste-testing this morning.  My husband and I like them a lot, the kids are a little uncertain.  They are certainly not as sweet as a box mix, but they are much healthier and very moist!  I thought I'd share the recipe in case you'd like to try them out!

Blueberry Muffins
Source:  Joy of Baking (adapted a bit)

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup yogurt (calls for plain, but I used vanilla)
1/3 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
6 oz. fresh blueberries

In a small bowl, mix together egg, yogurt, oil, and vanilla.  In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry, folding in using a spatula, blending well.  Better will be thick.  Fold in blueberries.  Scoop into lined muffin pans using an ice cream scoop.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Recipe says it makes 12, but I got 24 out of it because I don't make giant muffins!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Craving: Cherry Bars!

I only have a few more weeks to enjoy indulging in the pregnancy cravings, so I better take advantage of it, right?  Over the weekend I made our green Jello cake and have had my fair share of it (I'm saving one more piece for tonight!).  It is spring break for my kindergartener this week and I'm on my own with the three kiddos until Friday, so I think I deserve a treat!  

I was flipping through my recipe book the other day and came across a recipe for Cherry Bars.  I love them, my husband does not, so we'll see where the kids stand.  He doesn't like the texture of cherries, so it's no surprise these don't top his list!  I think I'll be making a quick trip to the store tomorrow to pick up a few things to make these.

Cherry Bars

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
dash of salt

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time.  Beat well.  Add vanilla, flour, and salt.  Mix well.  Spread in a greased jelly roll pan.  Spoon one can cherry pie filling on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar or vanilla glaze.

Note:  I spread thin layer on bottom of pan.  Then pie filling and then drop remainder of dough in small portions on top and spread with knife as best I can.  Yum!!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Fun

You would think Christmas is coming!  My kids are so excited about St. Patrick's Day and I'm not really sure why, as we don't make a big deal out of it.  Our oldest son has been playing "leprechaun" which entails dumping all of the toys all over the floor and turning all of the chairs upside down.  Needless to say, after one round of the game, he was forced to clean it all up himself and we ended that little bit.  Since then, they have been devising ways to set traps for the leprechauns by baiting them with Lucky Charms and they can't wait to see what mischief they will cause.  I guess we better plan something!

I haven't been feeling super crafty lately, but did provide them with three green cut-out hearts and had them piece them together into shamrocks.  We've also printed off a few coloring pages to make our house a little more festive.  They really are all into this holiday!

Our little craft project

For a little fun, I thought I'd share a recipe that you could make for a St. Patrick's Day dessert.  When I was young, I would beg my mom to make this cake.  I've made this for my kids before and they aren't huge fans, but I might make it this year anyway (I know I will eat it up!).  You can substitute any Jello flavor to go with any holiday or occasion.

Jello Cake

Yellow cake mix
1 small package Jello (green for this one!)
1 c. boiling water, add Jello and stir for two minutes
1/2 c. cold water, add to Jello

Cake extender:
1 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. oil
2/3 c. water

Mix cake mix per box instructions.  Add extender.  Pour into a 9X13 cake pan and bake according to package instructions, but add 10-15 minutes to cake time (due to adding the cake extender).  Let cool.  Using a wooden spoon handle, poke holes on top of the cake.  Pour in the Jello.  Chill 3-4 hours.  Top with Cool Whip-go ahead, dye it green (and fruit if desired).  *Sometimes I have made a package of vanilla pudding and mixed that in with the Cool Whip to spread on the top.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Broccoli Rice Casserole (Without Processed Cheese!)

It's been a busy day filled with more baby prep and party prep for our daughter's birthday party.  It's the little things in life, like My Little Pony napkins and party plates, that really bring a smile to a kid's face.  The countdown is on for her celebration.  She has given me very specific instructions about her cake as only an almost-four-year-old can and I just need to finalize a menu.  We are celebrating with family a few weekends before her birthday hopefully before the baby arrives!

I know I share many main dish recipes with you, but I wanted to pass along this awesome cheesy rice and broccoli side dish that I made for Christmas.  It was so delicious and did not contain any processed cheese (which is a bonus!).

No Cheese-Whiz Broccoli Rice Casserole
Source:  www.food.com

2 10 oz. boxes frozen broccoli, thawed (I used fresh; I guessed how much and steamed it first)
2 cups cooked rice
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 small onion, chopped (I omitted)
2 T. butter

If using, cook onion in butter in large skillet on stove until soft.  Add remaining ingredients and cook just until cheese is melted.  Put in 2-quart casserole dish (I used a 9X13 Pyrex pan).  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feeling a Little Nostalgic

Tonight we are taking a tour of the hospital that we will deliver at this time around.  It's making me feel a bit sad and nostalgic.  By nature I'm not a huge fan of change.  I like things to be predictable and I like familiarity.  This time around, our birth experience will not be either of those things, not that I'd ever call childbirth predictable per se, but at least knowing what to expect with my doctors and hospital was.

Before we moved, we went to a practice of four doctors.  Somehow it worked out that the same doctor was on-call for all of our children's births.  None of mine were scheduled and he said it was the first time it had ever happened to him.  We really liked our doctor and I have missed him terribly throughout this pregnancy!  I was also used to the hospital procedures and felt kind of at home there after having three babies.  

This time around I am also at a practice, but am seeing midwives.  While the practice is nice, I don't feel any real connection to any of the midwives and quite honestly can't even remember who is who half of the time.  It's been a little difficult for me.  I miss the familiarity of my doctor and being able to bring my concerns and questions to someone who knows my history.  I know it will all work out just fine in the end, but I just find myself getting a bit nervous about the situation.

We're down to our last month (4 weeks until my due date!) and I'm feeling a bit sad about the very real possibility of this being the last little bundle we have.  While this pregnancy has been by far the most difficult, I will still miss the amazing feeling of those first little patters, kicks, and squirms.  I still find it hard to believe that it was already six years ago that we had just done this for the first time and here we are with our fourth!  I still can't believe how quickly the kiddos have grown.  I may shed a few more tears this time around, especially after all of the firsts we'll encounter!  

I think it's safe to say that my husband and I are both excited and a little bit nervous about adding another baby to the brood.  We don't get much sleep around here the way it is, so what's another one, right?  I plan to soak up as many newborn snuggles as I can while still making sure to spend some time with all of the others, too, of course.  If this is indeed the last go-around, I'm going to try to live in the moment and enjoy it all, the good and the bad, as much as I can.  

Here's to an exciting last few weeks of wondering, "Is this the day?"  The kids are counting down the days as well.  I think they are intrigued and excited, too.  I guess I should get busy decorating the nursery and getting a few more things washed up.  Our little surprise will be here soon (we may want to solidify some name choices, too!).


Friday, March 8, 2013

No Meat Friday: Walkabout Soup

Ten years ago I found a website that I really like called Copykat.com.  It had several recipes that were like those you eat at restaurants.  Awhile back I posted Alfredo sauce from Olive Garden (which I love!).  Today I thought I'd share a recipe for Outback's Walkabout Soup.  Apparently they have different kinds of this depending on they day.  This one is a cheesy soup that just contains onions.  I am NOT an onion fan, but I love this soup!

Outback Steakhouse Walkabout Soup
Source:  www.copykat.com
2 C. thinly sliced yellow sweet onions
2 T. butter
1 can chicken broth
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/4 c. diced Velveeta cubes (compressed in a measuring cup)
1 1/2- 1 3/4 c. white sauce (below)
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish

In 2-quart saucepan, place 2 T. butter and sliced onions.  Cook at low to medium heat stirring frequently until soft and clear, but not brown.  Add chicken broth, chicken bouillon cubes, salt, and pepper.  Stir until completely heated through.  Add white sauce and Velveeta cheese.  White sauce will be thick because it has been removed from the heat.  Simmer on medium low heat until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are blended, stirring constantly.  Turn temperature to warm and let cook for additional 30-45 minutes.

Serve with a garnish of shredded cheddar cheese and a few slices of warm bread.

Thick White Sauce

3 T. butter
3 T. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. whole milk

In a 1-quart saucepan, melt butter and add flour.  Cook on medium heat until the flour turns thick and comes away from the side of the saucepan.  Pour milk in flour mixture a little at a time and stir constantly.  Add salt.  Mixture should thicken and become like thick pudding.  Remember to stir constantly taking care not to let mixture lump.  Set aside, off from heat until ready to use for the soup.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Prepping For Baby: Meals!

With about a month to go, I decided it was time to sit down and plan out our meals and put together a large grocery list.  While I am doing this to prep for the month after the baby is born, you could easily do this in your everyday life as well.  It takes time and organization, but it will pay off in the end.  We will not be eating frozen food and take-out, but some of our favorite homemade meals. Today I'll share with you our menu list and some tips on how to make meal planning easier!  I am not planning to freeze any of these meals in advance.  I will just have all of the ingredients on hand.

The first thing I did was look through my recipes to find the most time-efficient and simple meals I could find.  My goal was to come up with at least one month's worth of meals for both lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast, snacks and some special treats I don't usually buy for the kids during this transition time.  

Planning lunch was pretty simple, as our kids are pretty partial to the same old rotation of meals:  jelly, Sunbutter/jelly, deli meat, or grilled cheese sandwiches; quesadillas, hot dogs (I like to buy the no nitrate turkey dogs), tomato soup, and macaroni and cheese.  We'll have leftovers, too, if they're available.  For myself (since my kiddos won't eat it), I'm going to have some cooked turkey on hand in the freezer for turkey and gravy over mashed potatoes (YUM!).

Putting together our dinner options and list took a little more time.  Every Friday we have homemade pizza, so that was an easy one (and four meals-bonus!).  I also like to have breakfast for dinner on Thursday nights, so we'll rotate through homemade french toast, pancakes, and waffles for those meals.   One night a week, usually Monday, I like to do a crockpot recipe, so I chose Italian Beef and BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and chicken tacos.  I plan to make the chicken tacos twice and use the meat to make enchiladas one night.  It's just an easy way to cook the chicken and it's very flavorful.

I'm a big fan of casseroles, so of course I will be incorporating those into my menu.  One of the easiest ways to make the casserole prep work quick is to cook and cube the chicken ahead of time.  I put two cups in Ziploc and put them in the freezer.  I usually find that this amount is enough to suffice for most of my recipes.  I chose the following casserole recipes:  Cheesy Chicken (which I can make the night before which is a bonus!), Chicken Tetrazzini, Turkey Tetrazzini, Spaghetti Pie, Shepherd's Pie, Tator Tot, and Chicken and Rice.  Most of these are easy to have supplies on hand for.  You'll need your soups, pastas, frozen vegetables and potatoes, and other odds and ends that you can buy ahead of time.  

I've also included Spaghetti, Baked Mostaccioli, Sloppy Joe's, Tacos, Chicken Pot Pie, Ribs, Oven BBQ Chicken Drumsticks,  and BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.  Of course, I put in a few of the kids' favorites for our Saturday fun night:  Mummy Hot Dogs, Fish Sticks, and popcorn and apples.  I also hope the weather gets warmer, so my husband can grill!  I bought steaks, a pork tenderloin, and chicken drumsticks for that purpose!

This seems like a lot of food!  Maybe it will last longer that a month, but I would rather be over-prepared than under!  I have all of the meat we will need stored in our big deep freezer as well as vegetables for sides.  We have more than enough juice, cereal, and oatmeal to last and I will be stocking our freezer with a variety of muffins and breakfast breads as well to change things up a bit.  We'll still have to go to the grocery store weekly, but for the most part we will just need milk, bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, and cottage cheese.  I think I'm going to get spoiled.  Maybe I'll try to keep this up to an extent!    

The majority of the recipes that I've included in this post are on my blog.  You can search by their names to find them.  Today I will include a recipe that we had this week.  It's very simple and our kids love it!

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

4 chicken breasts
1 12 oz. can 7-Up
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce

Place chicken in a skillet.  Mix together 7-Up and BBQ sauce.  Pour over chicken.  Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour, covering the skillet.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and shred in a bowl or pan.  Pour the liquid in and mix together.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Finding Our Purpose and Acting On It: Part 1

I finished my first book of March!  It was actually on my February book list, but I didn't get around to it.  I'm grateful that I got it read, because it was a great story with a motivating message that just reinforced the journey that I'm on.  As I've mentioned several times, I have really taken to reading non-fiction books and especially am intrigued by people's experiences and journeys to get where they are now.  This book was no exception and if you're looking for a little inspiration, reassurance, or motivation, it may be a great book for you to read.  It is called Undaunted:  Daring to do what god calls you to do by Christine Caine.

You see, I'm still in that place where I'm a little uncertain, a little hesitant, in what path I'm supposed to be taking.  What role(s) am I supposed to be fulfilling right now?  What is my purpose?  How can I make a difference in my corner of the world?  I always have a million ideas spinning around in my head and I feel passionate about helping other people and raising well-rounded, compassionate, caring children.  If I really sit down and think about my goals and where my heart lies, I can come to these conclusions that my purpose must include children, education, and those less fortunate.  I have come to this same conclusion since I was a little girl.  I knew from a young age that I'd be a teacher.  I always wanted to be around children and jumped at any chance to babysit.  I would make baked goods to sell at garage sales and donate the money to a charity.  It's been wired into me from the beginning and I don't think it will ever change. 

Now that I clearly understand what I'm drawn to, I suppose it's time to evaluate how I have been incorporating those passions into my life and how I can "go bigger."  I can see that being a mother is one of the roles I'm supposed to fulfill in life and that's what I'll touch on today.  Maybe sharing my experiences, struggles, joys, and frustrations with an audience of those experiencing similar situations is my way to go "bigger" in that role.  Maybe one of you has been encouraged or relieved to find that you aren't alone from something you have read on this blog.  Just to know you aren't alone can be a big relief!  

While having a big family isn't for everyone, it was our desire to do so.  Being a mother to many children, especially so young and close in age, is a challenging, rewarding job.  We have our good days and our bad, but at the end of each day, our children are tucked into bed knowing that they are loved, cared for, and special.  Do I always feel great about our day and how I handled things?  No.  Are there days where it is heartbreaking to watch my children struggle?  Yes.  Do I find joy in our family and the love we have for each other?  Yes!  Though we aren't perfect, we do the best that we can.  At the core of it all is our faith.  It is important to us to teach our children about God and to guide them in prayer each night.  It is also the way that I end each day (though I will admit, there are times when I'm so exhausted I wake up to realize I completely fell asleep in the middle of my prayers!).  We may not be the most religious family in the world, but we are building a foundation for our children and family that will continue to grow.

*Today I'm going to share with you some personal thoughts on some reasons I feel kids in our society are struggling.  Not all of you will agree, but this is something I feel very passionate about and I'm willing to go out on a limb and share these thoughts.  Today I feel like this is my purpose:  to put myself out there and maybe inspire some thought and conversation on this topic. 

As I mentioned last week, our kindergartener is having trouble at school.  Many of you reached out to me to share that your child has encountered unpleasant experiences at school and that you are shocked at how young our kiddos are being exposed to cruel behavior, inappropriate social interactions, and teachers who aren't looking at our children as individuals but by what know.  It is sad, it is troubling, but most importantly it is just not acceptable.  If these behaviors are starting this early, where are they heading in the future?  Bullying is the hot topic now in education and society, but how much action is being taken?  There are protocols for everything, but when I hear my son share his experiences about telling a person in charge when he is being picked on (both verbally and physically), their response seems to be less than helpful (for example, "See if you can make him stop.").  The responsibility, however, does not lie entirely with those we entrust our children to everyday, it lies with us, as parents, as well.  From my perspective, I feel that we have two major responsibilities:  Are we teaching our kids how to cope and deal with these experiences?  Are we providing an environment at home that is focused on being kind to others, spending time with our children, and monitoring what they are being exposed to?

Our children need to feel valued and important.  I understand that life is busy and many are balancing work and children, but we still need to make time to spend with our children that is relaxed, fun, light-hearted, and pleasant.  If a day has been stressful and crazy (I understand this well!), the least we can do is sit down at the end of the night, snuggle up with our kiddos, give them our full attention (no tv, texting, emails, etc.) read to them, and ask them about their day.  How will we ever know how they are feeling, what troubles they're having, or what wonderful experiences they've had that day if we don't ask?  How lonely that must feel to be brushed off because Mom or Dad are too busy, stressed, or tired.    I think we need to make it a point to have one late afternoon/night a week that is reserved for family fun time.  Play a game, watch a movie together, or go somewhere fun that is family-friendly.  Make it a tradition-kids love them (and parents will, too)!  We chose to be parents and it is our most important job.  We need to make it a priority to be present and available to our kids.

When I sit and think about what has changed in the past 25 years since I was in elementary school, the first thing that comes to mind is technology:  computers, tablets, smartphones, video games, you name it.  I feel like these advances in technology are taking away from what kids really should be doing:  interacting with others, playing, using their imaginations, and learning how to occupy their time without having their faces glued to a screen.  One of my biggest pet peeves about going out for dinner (or anywhere in public really) is seeing kids sitting at a table playing on a phone/tablet.  Why aren't we teaching our kids how to socialize and behave when we're out and about?  How about having a conversation, playing a game of tic-tac-toe, or coloring like we did when we were younger?  Yes, it's great to have our kids quiet, but if you really think about it, how are we preparing them for their future socially?  How are they learning to self-regulate?  To interact with others?

In our busy world, it seems so easy to have our kids watch tv, play video games, or play on the tablet or computer to keep them occupied. While this can provide a lot of educational opportunities, we can't forget about the simple act of playing.  Kids need to be creative, use their imaginations, move their bodies around, be silly, and have fun.  There needs to be a limit (and a short one at that) on how much time our kids are partaking in these activities.  While advances in technology have made our lives much easier, I don't think they've been as beneficial for our kids as many would believe.  I've heard teachers who work with middle and high school students talk about how many kids just don't know how to interact anymore.  They don't talk, they text.  Their faces are always buried in their phones.  Instead of doing things with their friends or playing outside, they're hanging out at home indoors playing video games and watching tv.  I'm sure this is trickling down to the elementary level as well. This is not a positive trend!    

Finally, we need to really think about what we are allowing our kids to watch and what types of games we are allowing them to play.  There is so much violence out there, both fictional and real, and we wonder why our kids are acting the way they do.  We, as parents, need to set the limits and relay our expectations to our children.  Ultimately, we are the ones in control.  One of the most disturbing tidbits my son came home with from school one day was about the shootings at Sandy Hook.  It was the first school day after the horrible tragedy.  While we had taken the time to sit down and discuss what happened with him, we did not give a detailed description and kept it fairly vague, as we felt that it was developmentally appropriate for him.  We kept the television off any news channels that weekend and the days that followed.  I was appalled when our son came home giving me a graphic account of what had happened at Sandy Hook.  I had recorded and watched the news and knew that the child that had shared this information had done so also.  My first thought was, "Where are this child's parents?"  Why are we allowing our young children to watch these things?  Yes, there is a lot of hardship and tragedy in this world, but that doesn't mean that the nightly news is the way our children should be learning about it.  I had a difficult time processing what had happened, I can't imagine what a young child would think!  

This post may come across as a big rant or preachy, but these topics are something that I have given a lot of thought to and talked with my husband and friends about at great length.  None of us are perfect parents.  We don't always make the best choices for our kids, but as a society, we need to take a step back and really think about how we can shift this sad state we're in.  These kids are our future.  We need to step up, speak up, and help our kids be kind, compassionate, caring people.  Somehow, some way, we need to make a difference.  It starts in our homes, but that may not be enough.  How can we reach out to our community to make an even bigger impact?  What can we do to make a difference in our corner of the world?




Monday, March 4, 2013

Comfort Food Monday: No-Fuss Beef Stroganoff

We are preparing for another round of snow today and catching up from a very unproductive weekend since I spent the whole weekend down for the count.  While my kiddos seems to get sick often and spread their germs, I have been fortunate to escape many of their ailments.  Unfortunately, the stomach flu got the best of me this time.  It couldn't have struck at a worse time:  nearly 8 months pregnant and on the one night I actually had plans, fun plans, to see Maroon 5.  Oh well!  We were lucky that my parents were able to take our older two for the weekend and my husband had some serious one-on-one time with our youngest.  We made it work and now time will tell if my husband will be the only victim to escape!

I am freaking out a bit that our baby is scheduled to arrive in about a month, as we have a lot to do to prepare yet.  It is my goal to get some more things washed up this week and pull out some of the "gear."  Last week I had several boxes of diapers and wipes delivered (I love internet shopping!) and took some time to hit Babies R Us and Target to get some other essentials.  The nursery really needs to be painted soon so we can start organizing and putting everything together.  I know it will all work out. It would just be better if it were sooner rather than later!  With our first child, we had the nursery painted and started decorating by the end of the first trimester!  Funny how you don't have as much time when there are more kids running around (ha!).

Simple meals will be beneficial once the little one arrives.  One of my to-do list projects is to cook up a bunch of chicken, cube it, and freeze it for casserole recipes.  It is such a time-saver and really helps us eat some decent meals during the crazy transition time.  I also plan to bake some breakfast breads and muffins, so we can switch things up a bit.

Today I'd like to share a recipe for Beef Stroganoff.  It is very simple and one of my favorites!

No-Fuss Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can mushrooms or use fresh
8-12 oz. sour cream
Egg noodles, about 3/4 package

Brown ground beef in a skillet and drain grease.  Add cream of mushroom soup and mushrooms (if using fresh, saute first) and simmer.  Add sour cream (make as saucy as you prefer) and turn down the heat to avoid scorching.  Stir until heated through.  Serve over hot egg noodles.

Friday, March 1, 2013

No Meat Friday: Orange Roughy

Since yesterday's post was a little heavy and emotional, I thought I'd keep today's brief and provide a yummy fish recipe.  My mom always made this when I was growing up during Lent and I just came across it the other day.  It is intended for the microwave, but I have always baked it.

Orange Roughy

1 lb. fish
salt and pepper
2 T. butter
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. grated onion

If using fresh, cut fish into serving pieces.  If using frozen, thaw filets.  Microwave butter, lemon juice, and onion in glass measuring cup until melted.  Arrange fish in ungreased baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour butter mixture over the fish and microwave until fish flakes easily with fork, 4 to 4 1/2 minutes.

*My oven method:  Follow all of the same steps, except bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until fish flakes.  (Keep checking with a fork to not overcook).

*You could also substitute cod, halibut, haddock, and sole if you're looking for a mild fish.