Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting the Garden Going

Better slightly belated then never, right? Early on this year (due mostly to D's age and uncanny ability to destroy) I decided to go with bought sprouts rather than starting our own seeds in the sun room like we did last year. This gave me a little breathing room while I decided what to plant. I still don't know... but at least I have a place to put everything! (I'm a little peeved... I had nice before and after pics of my newly weeded garden, but my computer ate them. DEFINITELY not operator error.)

The last wheelbarrow of grass.

Haha, what a big girl!

I'm looking for a good layout for an 8' x 8' garden. I know I want a little more variety this year. Last year there were FAR too many squash, and I never got around to planting tomatoes. All the garden generators that I've found are ones that you have to pay for, though. I guess it wouldn't be that hard to break out some graph paper and plot my own.

I'm also planning on starting an herb garden. I would LOVE to have basil and parsley available! Since I don't have enough room in my veggie garden, I've decided to grow them in tin cans nailed along the top railing of our fence. It should look pretty cool! I got the idea here and it sounds like a good solution for me. It will be close to the house, up away from the dogs and rabbits, and in a sunny spot. Plus, at the end of the year I can yank the cans off the fence and recycle them.

image from the Hedgewich blog

I should be going to the Amish farm next week to get my sprouts. I'm so excited! On an unrelated note, I'm working on the shopping list for my Crock Pot freezer recipes. I'm pretty excited about that, too. Hopefully I'll have that up early next week after I hit the grocery store over the weekend. I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful spring! :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Crock Pot Cycle 1: Recipe Review

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I pinned a great set of recipes plus a shopping list for the Crock Pot that made 8 dinners, here. Well, I loved it so much that I am ambitiously planning on doing my own! I've only got 2 meals left in the freezer, so it's time to start planning a new cycle of meals. Before I do that, though, I wanted to review the ones I made already. I'll preface my thoughts with this: all the meals were pretty good and I would make them again with a few minor modifications. The recipes were also all low fat and heavy on the veggies, which I LOVE. Each recipe made 2 freezer bags that fed me, the girls and my husband, with leftovers for lunch or dinner for the girls the next night.

8 (16, really) times I don't need to worry about dinner!

Savory Vegetable Beef Soup
This was a nice, hearty soup. It was tomato based with tons of veggies. The recipe called for pre-browning ground beef, but I used ground turkey. I think beef would have been better, or even uncooked beef cubes instead of ground. The potatoes and carrots were also not soft after 8 hours. I left them on for another few hours (total 10) and they were fine.

Next time: use the ground beef the original recipe calls for, or sub out beef stew cubes.

Teriyaki Chicken
Super yum! I had this once with egg noodles and once with rice. The rice was definitely better! The sauce turned out a little thin, and there was a lot of it, so the rice was nice to soak it up. The pineapple was a little much, maybe because the chunks I used were so big.

Next time: sub crushed pineapple for pineapple chunks, and pour off some of the liquid before adding to the freezer bag. The onion was a little much, too. I needed to cut my pieces up smaller, and maybe fine one more veggie to add for variety. Maybe yellow or orange peppers?

Healthy Barbeque Chicken
Another outstanding recipe. The green peppers turned out a little bitter for some reason, so the girls picked them all out. It's ok, like I mentioned earlier, all of the recipes were heavy on the veggies so there was plenty for them to eat. The original recipe mentions that you can use sweet potatoes instead of regular, so next time I make this I'll give that a try.

Next time: sub red, orange or yellow peppers for the green and try sweet potatoes. And don't call it barbeque chicken. It has nothing to do with barbeque.

Stephanie's Goulash
I saved the best for last. This recipe cooked up with a thick stew-like consistency. The beef cubes pulled apart nicely and weren't tough at all. I used low fat sour cream instead of regular, and I honestly don't think it made any difference. This was by far my favorite out of the bunch.

Next time: double the recipe! It only makes about half as much as the others, and it was sooo good that I missed the left overs.

If anyone is interested in the recipes, they're from The Test Kitchen of Melissa Fallis. This week, I'll find four new recipes and create a shopping list for them. I'm so excited! Aren't you? ;)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Easter Lollipop Garden

My cousin wanted me to share this nifty little Easter idea with the masses. It's been a hit the two years we've done it with N, and I'm so excited now that D is going to be old enough to kind of get it. I got the idea from my boss at work a few years ago, and he got it from one of his customers. Kind of like pinterest in the dark ages, haha!

Did you know that on Easter Eve, you can plant jelly beans and they grow overnight into lollipops?

The day before Easter, find a nice spot to plant your jelly beans.

Make sure they're covered up well with dirt!
Easter morning arrives and voila! Lollipops have sprouted!
Make sure you get them all!

This was from 2010, the first year we did the Lollipop Garden. N was just over 2 and FLIPPED over it, she was so excited!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

They're Classics for a Reason...

...Those simple little crafts that everyone knows about and does at least once in their lifetime. Today N, D & I went for a walk at the park. While we were "hiking" I asked N to pick up nice looking pine cones for me. While D was napping, we made Pine Cone Birdfeeders!

Here's what you need! For nut-free, you can use soy nut butter or maybe honey.

Spread it on with the knife. In a few minutes, you can give up and use your fingers.

Spread out the seeds. I used a birdbath to hold them in, and then just set the extra seeds out in it when we were finished.

Roll 'em around!

Tie on a string to hang them from.

Hang from some tree branches, and employ the 4 year old to take your picture so you have every step photographed.


We've really been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather here. N has been spending just about every waking hour outside. When we can get out and run off the sillies, everyone is so much happier!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blog Birthday

Happy birthday, my little blog! I went back to re-read some of my earlier posts a few weeks ago, and I realized that my very first post was mid-February. I decided to take stock of where I am right now, and see how I did with my goal of sweeping life changes.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

I cook a LOT more for the girls, we do super fun stuff almost every day, I've cut down on their TV a *little*, and I feel like my attitude is much better in general. There are a few things that have really helped me get my shiz together.

N going to school has brought some weekly routine into the mix. Not only does it get us out and about early in the day, but it gives me some quality time with D. School has also helped N's attitude, I think. She freaks out less frequently, and is a little more reasonable when there's an obstacle in the way. A little. We're still working on that.

I discovered audiobooks! This was a housecleaning epiphany. My husband works very late 4 days a week, so I'm on my own a lot. After the girls are in bed, I feel like I need some *me* time, understandably so. Before, I would sit down for "just a minute" to check my e-mail or watch a short show while I ate dinner. Once I parked my butt, that was all she wrote. This way, I can listen to a book while I poke around the house cleaning. I lose myself in the books and I find myself looking for more things to do while I listen. The house isn't perfect, but it's a LOT better.

I made a conscious effort to not shrink away from "messy" fun. We've been doing more crafty fun things, even if the project requires a lot of clean up. I try to include D, but that's asking a little much, haha! Our messy play time is usually when D is sleeping in the afternoons. N has gotten a lot better at helping around the house. She cleans up her toys when I ask her, and she even empties parts of the dishwasher for me! She's in charge of silverware and sippy cups. What a big girl <3 !

Dried beans and glue! Just a quick little craft for the afternoon. D didn't try to eat *too* many beans. (Really, you would think she was old enough to know better by now!)

I joined a MOMS Club! It's been awesome. There are playdates available just about every weekday, if you want to go. There are also Mom's Nights Out once a month, but since A works late just about every night, I never get to go. Boo! I host at least one playdate a month here, so it's also a good motivation to get the first floor presentable once a month. I've met a lot of great moms that live in my town, and N & D have a bunch of friends that they get to play with regularly. Not only are the playdates super fun, but the support has been fantastic. When I have a question about ANYTHING, there's 20 other moms that have an opinion (and aren't afraid to share it!). They all have kids. They all live near me. They've all been where I am, and know how hard it can be. They also know how much fun it is, too. :)

We still eat mac & chee sometimes. D still has chronic diarrhea (nasty, I know!). I still get frustrated. But I feel like I'm floating through the days less and less. I feel like I have a Purpose. I know that this is largely due to the girls being one year older and a little easier to handle. N & D can play together, and now that D is talking a little clearer, they can have actual conversations. (SO freaking cute!!)

Those little heads bent together are just the sweetest!

I would love to bottle this positive feeling and keep it in a jar for those days when the grumps come creeping in. Bad days are a part of life, but they've been less frequent and for that I'm grateful.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pinterest: Productive or Procrastination?

I like to think of it as productive procrastination. If you don't know what Pinterest is (and it seems that the ignorant population is rapidly decreasing as the popularity of Pinterest has boomed in the past few months) I'll give you a brief rundown.

The best way I can think to describe Pinterest is that it's a visual organization of internet bookmarks. Some bookmarks, or pins, you create yourself. You can also search or browse through other people's pins by general category, such as DIY & Crafts, Food & Drink, Kids, Pets, Art... etc. When you run across someone else's pin (internet bookmark) that you like, you can "re-pin" it to your own page. Your personal page is divided into categories called "boards" that you create yourself. On my personal page I mainly pin to my crochet board and crafts for my kids board. I love this method of storing and organizing internet bookmarks. Previously I would bookmark a site from my internet browser, and then promptly forget about it, or forget what it was when I went back. If you want to create your own "pin", there's instructions on how to add the "pin it" button to your internet's bookmarks or favorites tab. While you're on the website, click your "pin it" button and select a thumbnail to display on your board. Add a caption describing the website or why you pinned it and select a board to display it on. Voila! Limitless inspiration at your fingertips.

The key is to not only pin every awesome idea you run across, but to actually FOLLOW THROUGH with them. I've been making a concerted effort to do more with my girls. I want to do more than get through the day, I want to have a fun day. The little crafts and play time ideas that I've run across through Pinterest have made this so much easier. Once I got into the habit of doing more, it wasn't such a chore when N wanted to pull out her watercolors or play doh.

Here's a few of the pins that I have completed!

 Cloud Dough from Play at Home Mom

Metamucil Flubber from

Water Beads. These are actually squares in progress (we did both), but everything was squishy, slippery fun!

We put everything on the lightbox thanks to Play at Home Mom (again!)

Cute dress up butterfly wings adapted from My Poppet

It's not snot, it's home made hand soap!

8 complete crock pot meals, I'm so excited about this one!! I'm actually making my first one tomorrow morning. Yum! I especially love these recipes because they are heavy on the veggies, and super low fat.

I swear I do fun things with little D, too, but she's not as easy to photograph, haha! That girl doesn't stop moving, and if she sees the camera, she wants it. Bad. Anyway, I've been making it a point to accomplish more awesome with the wee ones, and Pinterest has been a good inspiration. A lot of the activities I've found use things that I already have around the house. Super handy!

I realized last week that my first blog was February 17th last year. Happy Birthday, Blog! I think I'll take the next few days to evaluate where I am and what I've accomplished during the last year. My head is definitely in a better place now than a year ago, and for that I'm glad. The girls are growing up (*sniff* *sniff*) and every day gets easier. I'm glad for everyone's support and all that mush, but I think I'll get into that next post. ;)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valen-times Day

We had a nice one!

The day before, we made faux sugar cookies out of boxed white cake mix, neon food dye and red sprinkles. N was a big help rolling out the balls of dough and squishing them flat. Of course, she also helped enthusiastically decorate the tops! I cut a heart out of cardstock and used the hole to create the hearts.

While the cookies were baking, N made the Valentines Day cards for her pre-school class. I folded the paper and drew a half heart and N did the rest. She cut the hearts out all by herself...

and really got into decorating them! I thought she would just stamp random hearts on them, but after a few she created a design that she liked and made the rest the same. The row of hearts at the top with a small break in the middle are eyes, and she drew smiles and frowns on the bottom. (That girl LOVES a good sad face!) We talked about love, and why she loves her friends and family.

She instructed me to take a picture of her stamps after she lined them all up.

Here are the finished Valentines. Cute! I made little bags of Mini Teddy Grahams to go on the back. I was going to write something about "bear hugs" or something, but N got so into her designs, I didn't have room! In the back is a rice hand warmer for her teacher.

The next morning, she let me make her hair pretty for school. It was supposed to be a heart, but I think I pulled a little too much hair back. Still cute, though. She had so much fun at school exchanging Valentines. I should have done something special with D, but sometimes that girl exhausts me! We went to a playdate with her cousin, so she had a super fun morning, too.

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day. We should take time every day to remember those we love!