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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Our Easter couldn't have been better this year! 
I know that our Redeemer lives.
The festivities started out Saturday morning when we took our kids 
and the neighbor kids to the park for an Easter Egg hunt. 

We had two oblivious (though super cute) babies, 
 one really excited toddler, 
and one very concerned little girl.
The park was way too crowded. 
He was quick enough to snag one egg; she didn't get any!
Seriously. You wanted me to get excited over that?!
They still had a good time at the park. 
I'm pretty sure this girl would follow that boy anywhere.
 Best friends.
We went home to have our own Easter Egg hunt for them, 
this time with guaranteed finds!
Pep talks from the dads

He was quick!

She enlisted a basket holder
 Sunday morning was a perfect Easter morning. Such beautiful sunshine and warmth outside! It was a wonderful, quiet little family day. At church, the choir moved me to tears and after naps we headed back outside for another Easter egg hunt and a picnic of jelly beans.
Happy 1st Easter little dude!
Thanks to her aunt, little girl had the perfect spring dress to wear today!
 Smooches for daddy, and making sure mom saw how silly that was!
Ah goodness, too many cute pictures to choose from! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blazer WIP

I ran into Kohls a while back to pick up some bed pillows and something perfect caught my eye. The Lauren Conrad jacquard blazer in marshmallow white!!! Doesn't it just sound... yummy? Oh, it's beautiful and textured and has pockets... 
It's just the thing I've had in mind for myself. Prior to the find, I had been pinning all sorts of fresh colored blazers on pinterest. Take these for example:

A cotton Linen Blazer selling for $118 at Loft.com 

The white sateen blazer, $158 at Banana Republic

And, the adorable outfit ensemble featuring a white blazer put together over on tumblr.com

Yea- I love the look. The only problem with the LC jacket I saw in stores was the price tag... At $70 I admit, I totally considered it. $70 isn't so bad... it's more affordable than if I had ordered the jacket from Banana Republic or Loft... but ever since I started sewing I have this mean little I can make that alter ego that pipes up when it should be quiet, "You can sew that for a whole lot cheaper!"

"Yea, maybe," I reason... but, ain't nobody got time for that! I reach out to grab the jacket, but then that voice starts chanting:

$70 dollars... 28 gallons of milk, dinner for the family every night for a week, and diapers- oh gosh, that's a lot of diapers.

Fine. I pull my arm back without having grabbed my marshmallow blazer. Look like somebody gon' make time for that! A few minutes here, a few minutes there over the past week and here is my muslin work in progress jacket:

It's not exactly praiseworthy right now... I didn't even complete it. I just wanted to make sure I could figure out the pattern (which I did after a couple phone calls and several texts to my grandma), that I'd be happy with the sleeve length, and that it'd fit alright. I'll pay a little more attention to detail when I start on the real thing. As you can see, the collar is pretty sloppy. It really did give me trouble. Hopefully, I'll figure it out a little better the second time around... Gotta do something with those raw edges; must've missed a step in the instructions.

So... Easier to have just bought it? Yep.

Is it really going to save me money?

I think so. The pattern I am using, NEWLook 6035, came from walmart and only cost a few bucks. I already had the muslin on hand, but even if I'd had to buy it, muslin is really inexpensive. Guess it depends on the cost of fabric I use in the end. Either way, my inner sewing ego is satisfied. It's been a fun project so far and I think after all the hours put into the blazer, I'll appreciate having it a whole lot more.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

DIY tutus!

 Every girl needs to feel like a princess!

We've all seen 'em. The easy, no sew tutus that little girls just love to wear and moms love to make.
Recently, I made a few for my little girls dress up bin. Elastic for a waistband and strips of tulle tied slip knot style around the elastic. I learned that optimum fullness was achieved when the slip knots were tied in alternating directions, as pictured below: 
I get the feeling she'd wear these more often if I'd stop pulling the camera out. 
What can I say? I just want to capture all the poofy cuteness! 

Bloglovin... me too!

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Still figuring it out... but I'm using bloglovin now too! I don't do well with change!  

Friday, March 15, 2013

My girl is TWO!

Time flies, but yes- I can believe my little girl is two. She's just too darn grown up to be one! I mean this girl made her own lunch today for Pete's sake!  (With supervision, of course.) She cooked up her own pasta. 
And, she's potty trained. We started that last weekend; day two had one accident, day three had none and now she's good to go! I tested her on her letters this morning and she knows 23 of them, forgetting V and confusing E and F. She can even write a few letters like I, O and X, and point out the words Mama, Daddy and her own name too. She knows countless ASL signs and is understanding more and more Spanish. And, finally, FINALLY she is grasping the color concept. More often than not she can recognize yellow, blue, green, and red. What a relief! That was a toughy. Oh, and she counts to ten. We're so proud of her!

Little girl is a hoot. She says some pretty funny things, like:
"I want a geek!" Meaning, of course, that she'd like a drink. Yesterday, I started a conversation with her about what we'd find at the park. We agreed there would be rocks, water and ducks. When I asked her what else we could find at the park, she responded with, "Um... a purse!"
   "A purse?!" I asked.
   "Ya! Um... yellow!"
   "Wow! A yellow purse at the park?"
   "2, 3." She decided seriously. So we were on the look out, but darn it we didn't find two or three yellow purses at the park that day. She's become quite the critical back seat driver already. If I stop too suddenly, or turn too sharply for her liking, she flings out her arms to the sides and shouts, "Whoa! Baby, ok?" And she glances worriedly over at her brother in his car seat.

She sings; her favorite songs are the Wheels on the Bus and the Alphabet song which goes like this, "A, B, C, D, Q, R, S. Now I know my ABC- sing... me...A, B, C..." We rarely leave the house without her purse, a toy car, her baby, and- when she can convince us- her baby doll's stroller.

Our daughter is a very motivated, independent, social little girl who cannot be forced into anything. She can, however, be persuaded and candy is always a good bribe.

Oh, and despite my hoping for a princess party, our little girl chose a Cars/ Lightening McQueen themed birthday party. We had our awesome neighbors over to help us celebrate; just decorated cupcakes and socialized while the Cars movie played. Little girl just idolizes their son, and he is so sweet to her. The other day he was singing to her!


6 recipes, 22 freezer meals

6 Recipes, 22 Meals... Healthy,Tasty Dinners prepped in advance, frozen and ready for easy cooking perfect for the busiest of evenings or the nights you just don't feel like being in that kitchen!

The following recipes are for a Fajita Chicken Dinner, Teriyaki Chicken Dinner (with an optional recipe for home made teriyaki sauce), Two Meat Spaghetti Sauce, "Divine" Chicken (with an optional recipe for cream of chicken soup), Mexican Restaurant Sweet Pork, and Hubbys Best Hamburger Patties. And, for a nice bonus: incredible homemade salsa- because having a snack around makes food prep so much more enjoyable. 

* The home made teriyki sauce and cream of chicken soup recipes ensure that these meals will be GLUTEN FREE for my family.
Note that what I refer to as a meal is enough food to feed a small family. For example: a family that would all together eat 4 hamburgers for dinner or 3 chicken breasts along with side dishes. If planning to feed a larger group, resist the urge to cram more food into a bag. Instead, thaw and prepare two bags instead of only one for that evening. 

All chicken meals and the hamburger patties are frozen raw thus maintaining optimal nutrients for a frozen dinner only cooked once. The pork and spaghetti sauce are, however, cooked before being frozen, but I don't feel bad about it. Easy and deliciousness are achieved either way!

Freezer meals hardly seem worth it to me if the prep time is outrageous. I've compiled our favorite recipes based on how quickly they come together, and twinked them to our liking. I like to divide the work up into two days. I prepare the chicken meals the first night, this takes no more than an hour, and the pork/ beef freezer meals a second night. The second night takes slightly longer than the first, and the sweet pork needs several hours in the crock pot though the actual hands on prep time is very short. Also, the more I learn to multi task, the quicker everything comes together. Have the pork cooking in the crock pot while getting the spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, then move on to mixing hamburger... etc. 

Oh, and in case you are wondering: All 22 meals fit in the freezer compartment of a standard size refrigerator/ freezer set. It took some work, but I actually fit the 22 meals in there along with frozen bags of berries and veggies, frozen juices, an ice cube tray, ice packs, frozen sea food... 

Fajita Chicken Dinner (recipe makes three meals)
Adapted from Ring Around the Rosies
 9 Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless and raw
 6 8oz cans diced tomatoes with chiles
1 large onion, sliced
3 green bell peppers, sliced
3 red bell peppers, sliced
3 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder

Split ingredients equally between three large zip lock bags. Seal, mix, lay flat and freeze.

To prepare, remove one bag from the freezer, let thaw almost completely and cook in the crock pot on low 4 to 6 hours. Serve with corn tortillas and sour cream.

Teriyaki Chicken Dinner (recipe makes three meals)
Adapted from Ring Around the Rosies
 9 Chicken breasts, halved; boneless, skinless and raw
 9 Large carrots, peeled and halved
 1 red onion, cut into large chunks
 3 large cans of pineapple, and half of the juice from each can
3 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups teriyaki sauce
3 red bell pepper, sliced
 3 small cans water chestnuts, drained

Split ingredients equally between three large zip lock bags. Seal, mix, lay flat and freeze.

To prepare, remove one bag from the freezer. Let thaw almost completely and cook in the crock pot on low 4 to 6 hours, adding an additional 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce is optional. Serve over rice.

Gluten Free Teriyaki Sauce
Combine and heat:
1 cups gluten free, low sodium, soy sauce
4 cups water
2 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cups brown sugar
 6 tablespoons honey

Mix and add to above once hot:
1 cup cold water
6 - 8 tablespoon cornstarch

Remove from heat once it has reached desired thickness.
Note: What I don't use in preparing the teriyaki chicken freezer meals, I divide into three sandwich sized zip-lock bags and freeze. I then thaw it out on the day I serve the teriyaki meal so I can have extra sauce for rice.

Two Meat Spaghetti Sauce (Recipe makes 4 meals.)

2 lb Italian Sausage
1 lb Ground Beef
2 28oz can crushed tomatoes
2 12 oz can tomato paste
4 6oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder

Prep for freezer: Brown sausage and beef in a large dutch oven on stove. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for about an hour. Allow to cool. Divide equally among 4 gallon size zip lock bags. Lay flat and freeze.

Prep for dinner: Remove from freezer and allow to thaw. Empty bag either into a microwave safe bowl, or a sauace pan and heat accordingly. Serve over pasta.

Divine Chicken (Recipe makes 2 meals.)
Adapted from Ring Around the Rosies
6 Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless and raw
1 large bag of frozen broccoli
1 bag baby carrotts

Prep for freezer: Divide ingredients between two gallon sized freezer bags. Lay flat and freeze.

Prep for dinner: Remove a bag from the freezer and thaw. Empty contents into a crock pot and add 1 cup of milk and 1 can cream of chicken soup. Cook on low 4 to 6 hours.

Cream of Chicken Soup
Recipe taken from food.com's cream of anything soup mix

2 C Powdered Milk
3/4 C cornstarch
2 T minced onion
1 t basil
1 t thyme
1/2 t pepper

To prepare: Add 2/3 C of dry mixture to 1 C chicken broth.

Mexican Restaurant Sweet Pork (Recipe makes 4 meals.) 
4 2-3lb boneless pork roasts
4 cups brown sugar
4 cups spicy salsa
If you have a huge crock pot, you can prepare this all at once! I have to divide the recipe in two and cook each half on high about 3 hours. When cooked through, shred the pork and return to the crock pot. Allow to cool in the juices. Divide recipe into four gallon sized zip-lock bags including the juices. Lay flat and freeze.

To prepare for dinner: Thaw. Heat stove top or in the microwave and serve as sweet pork burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos...

Hubbys Best Hamburger Patties (Recipe makes 26 patties; about 6 meals.)
7 pounds of ground beef
7 eggs
3/4 box of rice chex cereal, crushed
Mustard powder, garlic powder, and onion powder used liberally

Combine ingredients well. Shape into approximately 26 hamburger patties. Arrange on parchment paper lined cookie sheets, two layers thick and freeze for about an hour. Cut parchment paper around patties and stack 3 or 4 high. Wrap in plastic wrap and return to freezer.

Prep for dinner: Thaw desired amount of patties. Grill, or prepare as desired.

BONUS!!! Our Favorite Salsa!
Quick and Easy Blender Salsa by Kelley of Mountain Mama Cooks
Picture courtesy of mountain mama cooks
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 10 oz can original Rotel
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 to 1 jalapeno, seeded or not (depends on how spicy you like it)
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
small to medium sized handful of cilantro, washed
juice of 1 lime

Put all the ingredients in the base of a food processor or good blender and pulse to combine for 30 seconds or so until all the ingredients are finely chopped and salsa is desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve with chips or over tacos.

Note: We like to put all ingredients EXCEPT for the diced tomatoes in the blender and stir in the tomatoes once everything else is blended. This just makes for a little chunkier of a salsa. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Colorado Adventure

The kids and I headed out to Colorado; Hubby stayed behind to focus on his semester midterms. I was so impressed with how well my children did on the air plane! SJ slept for the majority of the flight, and little girl acted like a little adult sitting in her own seat, sipping apple juice and studying the flight emergency preparedness pamphlet. The journey home was more stressful only because we were flying out of a much larger airport. Thankfully, God sent us help. I recently shared the following experience:

I attempted to fly home today with a bag on my back, a baby in my arms, and a toddler tugging on my shirt. So grateful to the beautiful lady in front of us in security who helped us get thru, even removing my shoes for me! She then took my daughters hand, smiled at me and said "ya know what? I'll get you to your gate." she helped us up escalators, on the train, and down moving sidewalks. She stopped to point out airplanes through the window, and make beep beep noises with L when they spotted a car. It was when we approached my gate, the furthest possible one, that I asked her what she does. She's a lawyer who represents abused and neglected children in court. No surprise. Ladies and gentlemen, I have met a real life angel. So humbled by, and grateful for, the incredible kindness of a stranger today.

Colorado, with all it's family visits and fun plans, was a stark contrast to the home- all- day lifestyle that typically occupies our schedule. It was exhausting! But, so much fun. Thanks to everyone who took the time to see us, opened up their homes to us, entertained my children, fed us, lent us cars and car seats, drove us around, supplied the diapers and celebrated my birthday with me. 

And now, for a bunch of pictures:

The Aquarium was great! They even had mermaids! Um... dream job! 
We went through with a cousin and grandmas. Fun day!
Picture courtesy of Downtown Aquarium Denver

Little girls face!!! ha ha.

 Brave enough to feed the sting rays!

 "Gummy" (as my daughter calls her)'s house was pretty much our home base during the trip.
Kids loved it there! We were all spoiled rotten.

With extra help, I actually had time to do my hair once! *Happy dance*

Below, my daughter smiles at my moms dad. Great picture, huh?

 Happy Birthday "aunt cookie!"
 Thanks for having us over Nana!
 Isn't this a great shot of all of us "kids" all grown up! I need to find another group shot with all of us in it from like ten years ago. That'd be a hoot!
 Coloring with another aunt...
 Below is a picture of my kids with their two great grandmothers on my side. 
What an awesome photograph to have!

 Four Generations
 Just chillin' with Grandpa and Nona!

 Kids taking turns wrestling with Grandpa.
 Loved getting to know my two awesome siblings!

 When this baby isn't eating, he's sleeping or smiling.
 Wish we'd have had more time with Hubby's ma. Unfortunately, a snow storm prevented another trip.
 Cute cousins!
 Red Robin... Yum! With my brother and his beautiful girl friend!
 Group shot!