Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Inside Out

I disappeared from this space rather abruptly. I thought I'd turn myself a inside out for a few moments to explain myself.

I said awhile ago that I wanted to be more authentic. To let people really meet me. So here I am. This is me being unbelievably vulnerable. This is me sharing thoughts I have never spoken aloud.

A friend posted this on Facebook:
All I could think was, "that's me."
"It's caring about everything then caring about nothing. It's feeling everything at once then feeling paralysingly numb." [sic]

Here are a few of the things I worry about:

If I died, who would know how to make my kids' sandwiches the "right" way? No one will take the time to put the peanut butter on both pieces of bread before putting the jelly on top of the peanut butter so the jelly won't soak into the bread and make it soggy. No one will know not to cut Junior's sandwich, to cut Alice's into triangles and to cut Lizzie's into 6 rectangles. No one will cut the sandwich by pressing the knife into the bread to make clean edges instead of sawing at it making crumby edges.

Who will wrap my husband's sandwiches in wax paper and fold them up like a present? If they put his sandwich in a baggie, will they know to wrap it in a paper towel first? That's how he likes it.

Yet, I wait until the last moment to make lunches...usually close to midnight when I am too tired to take my time. 

Who will wipe the peanut butter, cream cheese or other sticky substance from the knives before loading them in the dishwasher if I am not here? My family will be eating with dirty, food encrusted knives.

My son will surely die of anaphylaxis from exposure to his allergen if I do not frantically check every label on every ingredient multiple times each time I buy it, each time we eat out, each time someone offers him food away from home. Too many adults don't take food allergies seriously or don't understand them and my son is in constant danger.

I worry about my husband not being able to manage the house & kids in my absence should I ever be absent...while dreaming of being absent just to watch him squirm a bit and really experience & appreciate everything I do.

But I have to do so many household things, I give up before I even start...because who really cares anyhow? No one will notice if the toilets go one more day (or week) without being cleaned. No one will notice that I spot cleaned the kitchen floor instead of giving it a proper mopping. I might as well leave the crayon on the wall since they're probably going to draw on that other wall with a pencil while I'm focused on cleaning the crayon anyhow.

What if I die and my husband forgets to do spelling homework with Junior on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and forgets to fill out and sign the form and send it back on Fridays? And he forgets to have him color his "I can read 100 books" thingy? Or he doesn't check his math homework and have him fix the mistakes? Or he forgets to pack him a lunch or give him bagel money on Fridays? Or no one shows up on the days we signed up to be the secret reader in Junior's class because I wasn't there to pick out a book and remind the person to show up?

So I forget to have him color his 100 books thingy and end up doing it myself.

I have so many things to get done, so many things asked of me and I get them all done. And everyone loves the work I've done and the end product is great, but it isn't up to my standards. I know what I am capable of and it is both more and better than what I have done. I know I could do better, but I can't seem to drag myself out of the fog to do it.

I have days, weeks and sometimes months of good days. Clarity. Foglessness. Days of productivity. Days where the worries vanish like M&Ms left out in a candy bowl in a room full of kids.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.

He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.
                           - Psalms 23: 1-4
This are what my "valley of the shadow of death" looks like. This is my comfort. I will make it through. I will walk through the valley. God is with me as I walk and I do not journey alone. I remember that there is a shadow because a great light stands behind that which I fear beckoning me forward, encouraging me to keep walking. Only He can restore my soul.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Miam Miam Monday (Menu Plan) v9

Our Alice is wearing purple lip gloss today. And even though..."growing up too fast"..."let her be a little girl," and "3 year olds shouldn't wear makeup" are all swirling around in my head, I couldn't be happier about it.

Only big girls who poop on the potty get to wear purple lip gloss. You feel my joy?

Now, let's talk about our food plan for this week!

BREAKFAST
Trisha Yearwood's Power Balls (we replace the peanut butter with WowButter so they're nut free)
Banana Cinnamon Muffins (without the butter/sugar on top)
Bagels & Fruit
Cereal & Fruit

LUNCH
PB&J Sandwiches with fruit & veggies
Roasted Garlic Hummus with Pita Chips & veggies
Tuna fish on crackers with cheese

DESSERT
 These brownies really have the best of both worlds. They are thick and cakey, but still fudgy and chewy. The top is crispy & crackled like it should be and the edges have the perfect bite to them.
 
Monday
I have some goat cheese sitting in the bottom of the cheese drawer that needs to be eaten before it needs to be thrown out. I have been craving a simple quiche - and this one is pretty easy. And very tasty. You can (read: should!) use a pre-made crust because the crust is the most challenging part of the recipe - it's not difficult, but it is time consuming and the dough is fragile and I can never flute the edges like in the recipe pictures. 

I'm already annoyed that my kids probably won't eat this. They like asparagus & eggs, they love goat cheese & crust, and they are indifferent to green onions. But combine them all - and I'm sure those little loveys will let me know that "it's not [their] favorite" which is our family's preferred way of saying we don't like something (because mommy refuses to listen to a constant chorus of 
"YUCK! ME NOT EAT DIS!"

Tuesday
I also have some ground beef that needs eatin'. So meatloaf is a quick way to use it up. The kids & husband love them some Brooke Deen Meatloaf. I also bought some sweet potatoes to try to get the kids interested in more exotic vegetables.

That's right. I just called sweet potatoes an exotic vegetable.

My kids are going through a picky phase. And I'm not having it.

Wednesday
Tuna Noodles
Not really a casserole...more like egg noodles with tuna & mayo. The kids & husband will happily eat it without complaint. I'll live through it. I'm banking on leftover quiche & sweet potatoes.

Thursday
Veggie Club Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Chips
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
EEEEEMMMMMMMMMMMM
WWWWWOOOOOWWWWW!
A hundred years ago when I lived in Tulsa a little deli opened up downtown; they made a garden veggie sub that was so good I was willing to speed walk pretty far to get it at lunchtime. Flashbacks to that sandwich have been intense for me lately, and I had recently found a similar veggie sandwich online that looked yummm, so I saved it. But when I went to pull up the recipe I had found it has vanished. So going off my memory (which is frighteningly bad) and adding a few more ingredients to make it super filling and over the top, I came up with these. Talk about exceeding my expectations for how scrumptious a veggie sandwich could be!

Friday
This recipe is billed as being even better than Panera Copycat soup. And it totally lives up to that billing. It really needs the bread bowl in my humble opinion because I'm pretty sure it's unAmerican or unCanadian to serve a creamy soup without a bread bowl. Or something like that.
I know you can buy anything at the grocery store these days, but taking the extra few minutes to make the bread bowls at home is worth it. The whole house smells amazing when you take fresh bread out of the oven and layer in the scent of homemade soup. 

Plus the leftover bread bowls can be sliced up the next morning for French Toast. I'm not saying you have to eat French Toast the next morning...I'm just saying you probably should.
Saturday
You know the drill. We love our pizza 'round these parts.  I'll substitute some Jamon Iberico direct from Spain to use up in place of the prosciutto. I love pizza night.

Sunday
Spaghetti and salad
We're going to my mom & dad's for Sunday dinner where we'll enjoy my mom's homemade spaghetti with Italian sausage and a garden salad.

Onward to soccer, school, homework, errands, exercising, baking & cooking, reading & coloring, lovin' & disciplinin' this week.

Linking up with Simcha Fisher over at her blog for her Friday What's for Supper feature. She had a great take on meatloaf...if only I could sculpt like she can.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Back to School Cookie Bars

I had to make a special treat for my boy for his first lunch at school. I found this recipe for PMS bars and they immediately appealed to my PMSing self. And though he is completely capable of explaining what PMS is (he's sat in on enough NFP classes that he could probably teach them himself), I'm not ready for that awkward call from the school just yet.

Thus, the "Back to School Cookie Bars" were born.
Unfortunately, the peanut butter chips just don't do it for me. Their flavor is too muted and the peanut butter taste can't quite overcome the other flavors in the cookie bars.

Butterscotch chips to the rescue.

Yes, these are incredibly sweet. The touch of salt in the crust and on the pretzels helps keep the sweetness from overpowering you though.

A mega-hit all around.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Miam Miam Monday (Menu Plan) v8

OK, was it just me or was that the longest 4 day week ever? Our son started 1st grade on Tuesday and stayed home sick with a virus on Wednesday. So, you know, off to a strong start here.

Oh well, at least our dinner game was on point.

Last week threw me off with all that crazy, cold weather here in Michigan. We even turned on the furnace one night (sick kids & a mommy who is not in the mood to extend the sick any longer than its already hanging on)!

This week we're expecting temperatures in the 80s again, which makes my Autumn soup plans fall a little flat. Nothing like a hot, hearty soup in your belly as you wipe the sweat from your brow and go sit in the kiddie pool to cool off. I'll pass. I slipped a soup into this week's plan out of sheer necessity.

Monday
These burgers are super easy to pull together. I hide some seasoned, grilled burgers under big, thick slices of mozzarella and let the cheese melt. Then I put the burgers on my Accidental Fantastical Buns, top with homemade Bruschetta and serve 'em up hot with some Oven Fries.


Tuesday
Because Tuesday is soccer practice, we have to have something that doesn't require me standing over the stove to get the meal to the table. That's where slow cooker potato soup comes in. The herbs really add something special to the soup, kicking it up a bit from the usual bland baked potato soup. You can still top it with all your potato soup favorites like cheddar cheese, green onions and bacon if you want. But I find the toppings unnecessary because the soup is tasty enough on its own.

Wednesday
Leftovers
Time to clean out the fridge ahead of my Friday grocery shopping trip!

Thursday
Onion chicken is a stand by for the kids. I know they'll eat the chicken and cornbread (we like the Jiffy Mix), but the green bean casserole (the Thanksgiving standard from the back of the French Fried Onion can) and Brussels Spouts will be a much tougher sell. We adults, however, will devour the Brussels Spouts like candy because these are so delicious. I probably won't even eat the chicken - I'll just fill up on the Brussels Sprouts, green beans & cornbread.

Friday
Hot dogs (for the kids) and Carrot Salad for the grown ups along with leftover soup. The French Onion Soup I made on Sunday and the Herbed Potato Soup from earlier in the week will need to be polished off.

Saturday
Japanese Noodles
There's a Japanese steakhouse with which my sister and I used to be slightly obsessed. And by slightly I mean, we would eat there one or two times a week. They made these amazing noodles to go with the hibachi dinner. Really, the noodles are so delicious I could go there just to get the noodles. But, alas, the budget doesn't allow it these days. Instead, I run over to the Asian grocer near our house and grab a package of rice noodles ($1.49) and cook them up. Julienne some carrots, slice up some green onions and a sweet onion, saute them in a little garlic butter & vegetable oil, add in some salt & pepper & lite soy sauce...and for less than $4, I can feed the entire family and have leftovers.

If you wanted to get fancy and make it a little heartier, you could saute some chicken or flank steak to add in. A few additional add-ons, if you're feeling fancy:  sugar snap peas, baby corn and fresh bean sprouts for some crunch.

Sunday
Grilled Pork Chops, Scalloped Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli, and Rolls (at my Mom & Dad's house)

There's the week folks! Any tailgaters out there? Who's your team and what's your game day tailgating must-have?

Linking up with Simcha Fisher for her Friday feature "What's for Supper?" where she poses a great question. The answer is: cleaning knives that have been used to spread peanut butter or soy butter or cream cheese. Go see what the questions was.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Miam Miam Monday (Menu Plan) v7

It's back to school week here at our house, so we're going with simple meals to get in the groove. Our big boy starts 1st grade at the neighborhood public school. Here's a simple equation to show you the mindset going on here:

(His excitement level + cost of new school clothes & supplies)3 = My anxiety/Alarm set to 6am

But I know it will be alright.
Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
     - John 14:27
So onward to this week's menu plan!

Monday
I found this great Greek marinade for chicken and when I amp up the garlic a bit, I think it is just perfect. Now, I am too scared to use our grill (propane scares me), so I bake the chicken at 350°F for 25 minutes, which works perfectly since the Spinach Balls also cook at 350°F for 20 minutes. I like to serve it with chicken flavored rice with vermicelli (Aldi brand) and a homemade Tatziki sauce, but the sauce isn't strictly necessary, and store bought would be just fine here too.

Tuesday
These are a frozen meal package found at Aldi - we'll just add the fresh sliced onion & tomatoes. My husband went grocery shopping with me a month ago and found this and bought it. Umm, not my style. But since we have 2 evening activities on Tuesday - a quick, throw it together, put it in foil and run out the door meal will have to suffice. The link above gives a more thorough review of the product...so we'll see what my husband and children think.

Wednesday
Spaghetti & Meatballs
This is one of those meals that I will double or triple so I have plenty of leftovers to stock the freezer. It's just as much work to make a big batch of marinara sauce as it is to make a small batch, so I'll do a big batch and save some time for future me. The meatballs are pretty easy and absolutely delicious. They are broiled just long enough to get the outside seared, then I finish cooking them in the sauce (or freeze them to use later) so they stay juicy and flavorful. Broiling them for  a few minutes before adding them to the sauce prevents the sauce from getting greasy - there's nothing worse than a greasy tomato sauce.

Plus, I can use the leftovers for meatball subs, meatball pizza or whatever else I can think of to use up meatballs.

Thursday
I love Chicken Salad and Waldorf Salad is one of my favorite varieties. This one is extra fruity and is easily nut free by omitting the walnuts (I always leave 'em out because - allergies). The leftover salad just gets better over the next several days, so if you have time to make this one ahead, I'd recommend it. I'll also throw together a loaf of French bread in the bread machine. We can eat lettuce wraps with it on Saturday for lunch too!

Friday
What is easier than breakfast for dinner?! Nothing, folks, nothing. And as an added bonus, at my house there will be no complaints when I serve waffles for dinner. All the kids love them, so I endure no "YUCK! ME NOT LIKE THIS!" comments from my 3yo.


Saturday
Pizza & Bread Sticks
I am dying for a regular old pepperoni pizza, so I moved pizza night to Saturday from our usual Friday. I make the dough, I make the sauce (and freeze leftovers for future use), and I make the Cheesy Garlic Bread Sticks. I buy the Ranch dressing in bulk for dipping. Lizzie, our 1yo, uses Ranch as facial moisturizer...so that's partially why we go through so much of it.

Sunday
Slow Cooker French Onion Soup with leftover Cheesy Garlic Bread Sticks
This slow cooker French Onion Soup couldn't be easier and leaves the house smelling amazing. We'll eat it with the leftover cheesy garlic breadsticks. My husband can take the leftovers to work as lunch a few days this week too!

That's our week in dinners! What's your favorite thing on your menu plan for the upcoming week?

Linked up with Simcha Fisher for her What's for Supper feature. Her menu is much funnier than mine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

5-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse Pie

Because I love you, I'm going to share one of my secret recipes with you.
 Whenever we get invited to a potluck or a holiday party or a gathering where I am supposed to bring food I try to get assigned a dessert as my dish to pass.
 The reasons for this are as follows in no particular order:
  1. I LOVE dessert and an evening out without a killer dessert is just a bummer in my book.
  2. I LOVE making desserts. I love making cakes, pies, cupcakes, fudge, truffles, cookies, and candy. If it qualifies as dessert I want to make it.
  3. I feel like people are (rightly) finicky about the foods they eat, but it's hard to pass up a good dessert.
  4. Like good wine, there should always be a chocolate dessert offered at every occasion.
  5. Recipe taste testing & leftovers are all MINE when I make the dessert.

This pie has been brought to dozens and dozens of events over the years. Once people taste it, they always ask me to bring it again the next time.
I am only too happy to oblige. You're welcome <insert my fancy curtsy here>.
Even though there are never any leftovers, no one ever asks me for the recipe. I guess they just assume it is really difficult and time consuming to make such a luscious mousse, but they couldn't be more wrong.
Plus when they see my smokin' guns they figure they don't have what it takes to whip the cream into submission. J/K - I use a handheld mixer.
Not only does this recipe have only 5 ingredients, but (cover your eyes if you're French) it is a microwave recipe too. I know, I should be ashamed, but I've tasted it...and there ain't no shame in my chocolate mousse game.
Go ahead and make it for your Labor Day cookout. What a great way to (un)officially end the summer!

To get the recipe click here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

#5Faves: My New Day Planner

You guys!!!!  I got a new day planner.

Yes, I know they have apps for that now. Yes, we use Cozi (family calendar, shopping lists) for the great pop-up reminders.

And I'll tell you what...even though Ver.izon gave me major side-eye for threatening to switch to T-Mo.bile because, blah, blah, blah, "their network coverage isn't as good", blah, blah, blah, "you get what you pay for"...I never can get on Ver.izon's fancy-schmancy network when I am out and about anyhow. Seriously, standing in the doctor's or dentist's office trying to make my next appointment saying, "sorry, my phone is going so slow. Ummm, sure just book it and I'll call to change it if it doesn't work when my calendar finally loads." I should've followed through on that threat and made the switch.

Nothing beats a paper planner in my world.

So I thought I'd share my new planner with you and tell you my #5Faves about it.

I got a My Faithful Planner and you guys - SWOON!!!

(This is not a sponsored post. I bought this planner on my own, paid for it with my own money, then after I fell in love with it, asked if they'd mind if I told you all about it.)

#1
Changeable Covers
They have over 100 cover designs and you can even upload your own photos for the cover (outside, inside, front or back). I selected a beautiful painting of Our Lady holding Jesus as an infant. On the inside covers I put pictures of my family along with my name and phone number (in case I lose my planner). You can change your cover because the disc binding allows you to just pop it off and pop a new one on. My next cover is probably going to be this one...or this one...I can't decide.

#2
Month View Layout
There are two different month-at-a-glance views included in the planners that have lots of space for writing in important events, birthdays, holidays, whatever. But I use my month-at-a-glance layout for menu planning. I write in events that have us away from the house at meal-times (or events that keep me away from the house during my usual meal prep times) so I can plan our menus around them. Then I just write in our menu plan right there.

#3
Weekly View Layout
First of all, I love the pretty colors - it just makes me cheerful, which if you know me is not an easy feat (pessimist that I am). They offer their layouts in black & white too, in case you are one of those naturally cheerful people who needs to hold it back a bit lest the rest of us slap hug you.

They have 5 layouts to choose from; I requested to have my weekly layout customized just a bit from the Student Layout. I needed the space below each day so I could assign tasks for myself to specific days, but I also needed the weekly To Do list space so I could keep a running list of things that need to get done, but don't necessarily have to be done on a specific day.

I also asked to have my days broken into Morning, Day & Night instead of the hour running along the side. Having the time there just stresses me out because I know I'll always be running behind and with little kids underfoot strict schedules fall apart quickly leaving me feeling like a failure. Feeling like a failure because I didn't make a phone call at 9:30am like I scheduled, leads to me, overwhelmed, in my pajamas, eating chocolate chips on the couch while my kids tear the house apart. So, no hours for me, just general times of the day.

#4
Liturgical Calendar and Pope, Saint, & Bible Quotes 

My Faithful Planner has a Liturgical calendar for each month already done! All the feast days are marked, all the days of abstinence are marked, the liturgical colors are all there - for Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form or both. How cool is that? Hint: Trรจs chic!

Additionally, sprinkled on each page are quotes from our beloved Popes, our favorite Saints, and our Holy Scriptures. What a great way to get some more good, holy reading and meditations in! I really love trying to memorize the quotes on the pages - especially the bible verses, because isn't it wonderful when the Holy Spirit just brings a scripture to your remembrance when you need it? I enjoy immersing myself in the Word of God and I've found it to be a great way to bring a smile to my face, usually when I need it most, at random moments in my day.

#5
Add ons
I added a few dividers onto my planner to make it easier to get to the current week and other frequently used features (there is a place for important phone numbers, website logins, etc. in the back). I also got some folder pockets so I can place papers I will need inside without them getting lost. They have pen holders and elastics for holding it all closed. It's just so fun to configure your planner exactly how you want it to make the best possible solution for you and your life.

I have to say that Yesenia at My Faithful Planner was a pleasure to work with; she was very attentive, prompt and efficient answering my questions and accommodating my requests. She and her lovely family have put so much time and effort into creating these beautiful and useful products. Their customer service was fantastic - my planner arrived much sooner than I expected especially considering I had requested some customization.

This planner has been a blessing to me and my family already, helping me organize my projects and our family's days and weeks.

I hope you check out My Faithful Planner and you are as inspired by them as I have been and that you consider purchasing one for yourself or as a gift to bless someone special.

Linking up with Jenna for this week's edition of #5Faves. Check out what other bloggers are finding useful, inspirational, fun or yummy these days!