Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Things

1. Best decision – Joining the Air Force. Not only did I get to serve my country, see the world, earn a paycheck and all that, but I met some of the best people ever. Active duty, spouses, civilians, local nationals – just interesting, wonderful people. And I’m happy to be friends with lots of those same people today.
2. Second best decision – marrying Mike.
3. I love James Bond movies and I still can’t decide who I think the best Bond is. It’s not George Lazenby.
4. My favorite TV show is Friends and I have not watched a sitcom since that I enjoy as much as that one.
5. I love music but not the music of Sheryl Crow. I can’t explain it, but I absolutely cannot tolerate her music.
6. I graduated from RPI with a dual major in Math and Psychology. Math in Public is not a strong point for me – never was. And who knew the AF actually used those math majors!?! The few skills I did retain are more than enough for what I need these days.
7. I love to knit, scrapbook, and quilt/sew. Being creative helps balance out the analytical and logical parts of my brain.
8. I’m the 4th generation 1st born female (therefore EMN was the 5th) but we need to do more genealogy because there could be more generations.
9. I completed a marathon and hope to do more but I’d like to actually train this time.
10. I grew up in a very small town in upstate New York. 24 people in my public school graduating class. I miss my small town and it’s probably the last place on earth that I feel truly at peace.
11. I love car trips. Day trips or week long drives across the country – I love them all.
12. I miss my friends in Arizona. The worst part about moving is leaving people you love.
13. Parenting is hard and challenges me in ways I never dreamed of. I’m so glad I have found other moms all along the way to share the journey with!
14. Postpartum depression was a very scary time in my life and recovering from that was some of the hardest personal work I’ve had to do.
15. I’m seriously on the fence about more kids – some days I’d love more, some days I’m at my limit. So we stay at two for now.
16. Love to watch reality TV like Top Chef, Project Runway, Amazing Race, Survivor, etc. And that’s just the stuff I’m admitting to.
17. I really enjoy reading non-fiction.
18. Since childhood I have had a fascination with First Ladies. When we were stationed in Italy I had the opportunity to meet Laura Bush and have my picture taken with her.
19. I have been frugal and practical even before starting Dave Ramsey.
20. I hate shopping. OK, hate is a strong word. I strongly dislike most shopping. Some shopping I like – books, yarn. And I like grocery shopping when I don’t have to take the kids. I just don’t like all the other kinds of shopping.
21. I tolerate animals. I like other people’s pets but will avoid having any in this house for as long as possible.
22. I love lemon poppy seed bread.
23. I try to learn something new every day. Some days I only learn something new about myself.
24. I thrive when I have a structure or schedule. Spontaneity is not my friend.
25. I love hockey. It took moving to the desert to really make me love it because that is where our family started attending Phoenix Coyotes games. Now the kids know Wayne Gretzky on sight, EMN has been on ice skates already and we are now San Antonio Rampage fans. And Mike and I both hope to return to our alma maters for college games.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Not much new

You'd never know that I had planned to update my blog twice a week! Not much new is going on but I have a few things I plan to put up later today as time allows.

We've cleaned out Mike's den in order to build a his bookcase, I've been sewing and continuing to paint EMN's room and the kids continue their usual schedule.

Yesterday we became members of Coker United Methodist Church. We feel very comfortable there and look forward to becoming more involved.

So that's the short of things here. More pictures and details later if I can get to it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saving Dinner

Below is a post from Leanne Ely, the guru at Saving Dinner. I get her daily emails and often learn a few things I didn't know before. Enjoy!
Dear Friends,

It occurs to me that there are a lot of people who don't know about the incredible free resources we have everyday on Our free daily emails (they're short and sweet!) are full of beneficial hints to help you cook, save time and get some great new recipes, too.

Every day we highlight something different. For example, on Tuesdays we have a feature called Tips, Tricks and A Recipe where you'll learn how to handle an ingredient quicker, learn a trick or two and then get a fabulous recipe to try it out with! It's one of our more popular features!

To get our daily emails, go to the homepage, Saving Dinner and sign up to get
the free Menu-Mailer, plus a free freezer recipe (you can't miss it on the homepage, it's a green button that says, "Try a week of free menus! Sign up now!" Click on the button, and you'll see all of our daily emails (you sign up for what you want) and you'll get the free Menu-Mailer; a week's worth of dinner with a menu, recipes and side dish suggestions, plus a detailed shopping list from our regular Menu-Mailer, Heart Healthy, Low Carb and the Body Clutter MM. We also
have sample weeks from the ebooks! And as a bonus, the freezer recipe from one of our popular freezer menus, where you assemble your meal in a freezer quality bag, thaw when you need it and cook it up fresh—this is a great way to do dinner!

Here is an example of Tuesday's Tips, Tricks and A Recipe:

Happy Tuesday, y'all!

It's that time of the week--Tricks, Tips and a Recipe, our regular Tuesday installment where you'll learn a tip or a trick and you'll get a great recipe to try it out with. Doesn't get much better than that, now does it?

Don't forget tomorrow is the radio show, Saving Dinner with the Dinner Diva. It's on every Wednesday at noon EST. http://www.blogtalk saving-dinner"
www.blogtalkradio. com/saving- dinner You can call in LIVE with your questions! If you can't, you can always listen to the archives.

Today's focus is on PEPPER.

Here's today's TRICK:

Have you noticed that freshly ground pepper tastes way better than that flat icky stuff in a can? Good pepper is mandatory for good cooking. Get yourself a peppermill today—you can even get disposable glass ones at the grocery store, already filled with pepper. If you're blessed to have a good peppermill but hate the mess it makes, here's a trick for keeping the pepper leavings out of your cupboard: when you're done using your peppermill, place the peppermill in a ramekin and put them both in your cupboard. Then the excess pepper that leaks
out of your peppermill will end up in the dish, not the cupboard. Next time you're cooking, just throw that little bit left in the dish in your whatever it is you're making!

And here's a TIP:

One other problem in the peppermill department is the refilling of the mill. It's a pain and if peppercorns overflow, you've got quite a mess to deal with. Here's a tip to avoid the overflow; cut the bottom off of an empty soda or water bottle, turn it upside down and use as a funnel. The neck of the water bottle is wide enough to let the peppercorns in without the jamming that happens using a regular funnel.

And your RECIPE:

Three Peppered Pork Chops Salsa Verde
Serves 4

4 lean, boneless pork chops -- 3/4-inch thick
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
liberal grinding of fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 jalapeno chili pepper (or to taste) – seeded,
deribbed and minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup salsa verde
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Fresh cilantro -- chopped, as garnish

Sprinkle chops on both sides with lemon pepper and fresh ground pepper (just grind directly onto the chop). In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and cook chops till browned on one side; turn chops and add onion and chile to pan. Continue to cook chops, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about a minute. Add broth, salsa verde and vinegar to the skillet. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Serve chops with sauce, and sprinkle the top
with chopped cilantro.

Per Serving: 202 Calories; 6g Fat; 20g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g
Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 774mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain
(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat.

Check out the resources on Saving Dinner!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Go Dutchmen

As luck would have it, Mike's beloved Union Dutchmen were playing on national TV on Friday night, the night of his return home. So we settled in for a night of hockey with our own in house cheerleader watching the hometown crowd in Schenectady NY lose to Cornell University. The kids really did enjoy watching the game since they have plenty of Union College t-shirts, sweatshirts and goodies so they were finally able to connect all the logos with an actual team. EMN's cheerleader outfit is due to thoughtful aunts who kept gifts from Uncle Mike for his future daughter. Thank you! Saturday night the Phoenix Coyotes played during Hockey Night in Canada so we got to watch that too (and they won!!). We didn't purchase the NHL cable package so our ability to watch NHL games is limited to Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights. Could this explain why "Oh Canada" is one of EMN's favorite songs? All in all, a great weekend for this hockey loving family.

Winter here in South Texas can be unpredictable but my kids have a tendancy to overdress just because they can. Check out EMN's fancy crown in addition to her snazzy hat. Temperatures eventually climbed into the 60s but the hats and gloves were never far away. At that point I think it's safe to say they are more of a fashion statement than a necessity.

Today was a Daddy/Daughter and Mother/Son day in our family. The first half went on an ice-skating outing at a local rink. Those photos are trapped on a camera phone but suffice it to say that EMN's giggles provided lots of smiles for Daddy and she was beyond thrilled to be on the ice for the first time. We hope to go as a family soon. Since the camera is never far from my side, it went on the train trip with MTN and me. However, my son is a bit camera shy these days and prefers that I keep it in my bag. The train we rode is down by the San Antonio zoo and we had a great time. It's about a 20 minute ride and we followed that with a leisurely stroll around the parks enjoying the great weather. It was nice spending an afternoon with him with out errands to run and schedules to keep. Next month we switch and I look forward to a girls day!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Welcome Home!

Homecomings are always particularly sweet. It was only a week and relatively uneventful (thankfully) but reunions are very exciting.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mountain Cedar

Mountain cedar is evil in yellow powder form. At least, it is if that is why I feel like junk. It is apparently a particularly potent allergen here in south Texas and if you're not allergic to anything else, you'll be allergic to this. Yay. If that's not the reason for my crumminess, then I'm blaming the child who did not cover his cough last Sunday and kept hacking in my general direction. Either way, I feel cruddy but I'm happy that the kids are letting me nap when they nap (well, EMN doesn't really nap, but still, she lets me sleep) and are generally pretty understanding that I'm not 100%. Mike is traveling this week so I'm doing my best to take things slow, drink lots of water, get plenty of rest and not overdo anything. And I'm becoming very familiar with all the medicines that can potentially provide relief. Here's to an uneventful week!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Monthly Meal Planning and Meal Plan for January

How I monthly meal plan.

The biggest piece of the puzzle for me was setting up a frame work and then I have a few secret weapons (listed below - read on). My current framework looks like this:

Monday - International/Ham/Pork
Tuesday - Chicken/Turkey
Wednesday - Pasta
Thursday - Crock Pot/Casserole
Friday - FFY/Out
Saturday - Cooks Choice
Sunday - Mike Grills

To explain a bit further, Monday nights are when we do our versions of German, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, etc. or a pork based meal if we choose to be more basic. Wednesday nights we sometimes have places to be so I chose pasta since those meals I can usually get on the table in 30 minutes or less. Thursdays are busy days for me so I put my crock pot to work or use a casserole that I've made ahead so I don't have to prep a meal that night. A huge lifesaver! Fridays - FFY is Fend For Yourself where we eat out of the fridge if there are any leftovers (Mike uses leftovers for lunch at work) or, rarely, we will eat out/order in. Sunday, if Mike doesn't grill for whatever reason, I'll use my broiler, grill pan or cast iron for a similar purpose.

Our Little Caesar's has Customer Appreciation Days on random Tuesdays throughout the month and those sometimes trump my meal plan ($3.99 for a large pepperoni pizza and that feeds our family. Can't beat it!).

So once I have my basic framework, I then flip through my favorite cook books and fill in the month. So what are my secret weapons??

Basically I have two secret weapons. The first are freezer meals from Saving Dinner . I do about 30 meals at a time and use them over a two or three month cycle. I use Leanne's Five for the Freezer menus and the Mega Menu Mailer and they have all been pretty tasty. It packs the freezer pretty full and it's wonderful having all the prep done so that I can have a month of meals ready at a moments notice. It's a full day of prepping meals and it pays off in huge dividends on busy nights. All it takes is thawing ahead of time and that is where my meal plan comes in. I post it on the counter so the afternoon before (usually when I'm making lunch) I pull what I need out of the freezer to thaw. When I'm planning out the month, I plug a freezer meal in on the days where it makes the most sense for us. I like freezer meals so much I became an affiliate for Saving Dinner! Check out the link to the left and download a sample menu for free!

The second secret weapon is Rachael Ray, as much as it pains me to say it. I can't/won't watch her on TV but her cookbooks have become some of my most trusted. My favorite is her Express Lane Meals. It's a well balanced meal in one recipe - that's really the best part. The sides are already accounted for in the recipe so there's no tinkering around trying to figure out what else to have with the meat. Don't fall for the 30 minute part - they usually take longer - around 45 minutes. The food has great flavor and the meal is well balanced.

All in all, for me, having the framework like I listed above helped me the most. It also helps that I like to cook and Mike will eat anything I make. I have a few real loser meals once in awhile but that happens and there's always ice cream to fill his empty belly. ;)

So all that being said, here is my meal plan for January. Mike is gone for one week and the kids are helping me make dinner that week and we have visitors for a few days this month so those are factored in to the plan. Also, I am down to only 4 freezer meals left from my big batch in November so I'm due for another round of stashing this month. And a disclaimer: I never make the same meal twice in a month if I can help it and it is common that half the recipes I make in a month are new. Mike requested a lot of family favorites this month to balance all the new meals I like to try and that's reflected in the plan too.

3 - Fruited Pork Chops - Saving Dinner
4 - Steak
5 - Chicken Burritos - Rachael Ray (RR)
6 - Swedish Meatballs - Family Favorite (FF)
7 - Sesame Noodles - RR
8 - Broccolini & Ricotta Pasta - RR
9 - Chicken fingers with honey mustard dipping sauce
10 - Homemade mac n cheese
11 - Homemade pizza
12 - Spaghetti
13 - Pigs in a Blanket
14 - Hamburgers
15 - Homemade noodles
16 - Pork Chops & Applesauce - FF
17 - Buffalo Chicken Wraps - FF
18 - Grill
19 - Curry in a Hurry - RR
20 - Lemon Chicken with Spinach - FF
21 - Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage - RR
22 - Chicken Quiche - FF
23 - Cajun Chili with Scallion Corn Cakes - RR
24 - Brats with Potato Salad and Sauerkraut - FF
25 - Grill
26 - Veggie Lo Mein - RR
27 - Pizza - home made
28 - Carbonara - RR
29 - Sweet & Sour Sausage - FF
30 - Lasagna - FF
31 - Dinner out with Family

Rachael Ray - this month I used Classic Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals Cookbook

Can you guess which week the kids are helping to cook??

New Year - New Skills

Another sewing class today and I'm thrilled with all the new skills that I have learned. Buttonholes, sewing on buttons, blind hems, a variety of ways to machine applique - it was all very exciting for me. I've been stitching up EMN's curtains in between butterfly painting and it's all coming together quite nicely.
I posted recently on Facebook that I had meal-planned for all of January and I got quite a response! Quite a few people seemed genuinely interested in how I do it so I'll post my method here for anyone interested. It's not new or novel but it works for me. I've been monthly meal planning for about four months now and I don't know if I could go back to the weekly planning again. I like getting it done all at once. It helps with grocery shopping, budgeting and being flexible. And it does give me a certain amount of control that is extraordinarily helpful when little else in our lives is predictable.