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Make Ahead Meals + List Progress

I’m making progress on my list!

1) On Friday night I got a much-needed massage – it came as part of a Groupon, and also includes 7 drop-in workout classes I hope to start later this week.

2) Last night David and I processed a big batch of garden tomatoes. This is our first year having a stand alone freezer, thanks to David’s parents. We followed these directions on how to freeze tomatoes from your garden. I’m looking forward to using them in mid-winter sauces and soups.

3) We’ve begun cleaning and sanding the craigslist dresser for the hallway (more info about that later).

4) Also, this past week, I found some affordable recipes to make good freezer meals. These are the five I’m starting with:

• Spicy Pork Tinga Enchiladas (shown above)
• Taco Chicken Bowls
• Chicken Chili Verde
• Lentil & Sausage Stew
• Teriyaki Meatball Bowls

(The last four recipes come from a food blog called Budget Bytes, which has appetizing, step-by-step photos and also provides an interesting cost break-down of each ingredient). Around midweek I made a list of all the food I would need, and then Chloe and I went grocery shopping on Wednesday evening after dinner. On one hand it was nice to have a list to stick to – usually I just wander the aisles looking for things I hope my family will eat, not really thinking in terms of “meals.” That leads to lots of impulse buys, I can tell you. But having a list meant that if I forgot something, I had to go all the way to the other end of the store to get it. Luckily this just happened once, since I had organized the list by food type (meat, dairy, canned, dry and fruits & vegetables).

The first recipe I wanted to try was the Spicy Pork Tinga Enchiladas, planned for Thursday. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at the recipe until the afternoon, and then noticed it required 6-8 hours in the crock pot. Bummer. Lucky for us, friends invited us over to dinner that night. On Friday, I forgot again about starting the crockpot, and instead made salmon using the Teriyaki Glaze (yum!) from the Meatball recipe, which I paired with rice and vegetables. On Saturday, I forgot again and at the last minute decided to use this recipe for Parmesean Crusted Chicken. It was super-easy and quick, and will definitely go on my make-again list. The leftover chicken was perfect in today’s lunch of chicken salad sandwiches.

This morning, I finally remembered to prep the ingredients and start the crockpot (good thing I set the alarm on my phone!). Everything is in there simmering as I write, and the smell of slow-cooked pork and chipotle peppers is beginning to waft through the house. It makes a pretty large batch, and I’m thinking there will be enough for dinner, leftovers tomorrow, plus enough to freeze at least one or two meals. I’m pretty excited!

P.S. Can you imagine meal planning an entire month of meals? That is what Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler does. She’s posted her meal plan for the month of September here. It was really inspiring to see the entire month at a glance, and gave me recipe ideas to add to my list (Tater Tot Casserole anyone?).

 

 

 


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List Therapy

Last week felt pretty hard. Part of it was coming off the wonderful high of being at the beach for the three-day labor day weekend. Our vacation home was perfect – bright, clean, and kid-and-dog friendly. It was paid for by David’s work, since it was a “work party” weekend, and included social gatherings for meals and playing on the beach, including lots of kids. Thanks to friendly co-workers who briefly watched Chloe and Leo, I even got to surf for the first time in about 5 years! It was amazing to get in the water again. So many times that weekend I thought to myself “I am so happy!”

Then, we returned home. The kids got sick. Leo had trouble sleeping and there was tons of post-trip laundry/organizing/cleaning to do. So many small things – like Barkley wandering in with muddy paws right after I mopped floors – wore me down bit by bit. The worst point, though, was when I got an email saying the wonderful teacher Chloe was supposed to have for preschool was changing jobs and a new one was hired. Someone with less experience, and a man to boot. I know, it is not fair of me, but I just did not want a man as Chloe’s teacher. I looked into changing schools but the other three I’d considered had no spaces left. With no other options, we attended the meet-and-greet on Friday. It was hard for me to keep an open mind, but I think he’ll be okay. But will he be great? We’ll see. Academically, Chloe is already kindergarten-ready, so that isn’t a concern. She knows her shapes, colors, numbers and counting, the alphabet, and some phonetics. We are just beginning to learn reading skills, and when prompted she can sound out small words – up, cup, at, the, cat, hat, etc. Preschool for her is more for the social aspect – learning respect for others, better listening skills, cooperation, etc.

And that brings me to the “what would make me happy?” list. Instead of focusing on the negative, I started writing down what I felt might make me happy. Here are a few examples: from simple, to more complicated, to future planning:

• Getting a cake pop from starbucks. Yes, sometimes its the little things. A salted caramel for me, a pink birthday pop for Chloe.
• Finding a cheap, temporary storage solution for our cluttered hallway. Done! I bought a $20 dresser on craigslist. It needs some work, but the important thing is that it fits the space for now. Eventually we want to do built-ins.
• Meal planning and making freezer meals. It seems like so much of my time involves shopping for, preparing and cooking meals. There has got to be a better way. Plus, we spend A LOT on food. I want to start making double batches of recipes that I can freeze for later, and start putting my crock pot to use.
• A light tube for the hallway. This is more of a future wishlist item. Our hallway is dark, and I’d love to introduce some natural light there. Yes, there are overhead lights, but it’s not the same. David says he can do it, but he is understandably worried about putting a hole in the roof. I think my best bet is just to keep asking. 🙂

Of course there are other things – get more exercise, drink more water, carve out some “me” time, but those are perpetual list items that I never seem to do anything about. Either way, I’m feeling much better this week. I may have some projects (like a painted dresser!) to share soon. I urge you to try it, too. Good old list therapy!

 


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Ten simple things…

… that I’m thankful for right now…

1. More financial security thanks to my husband’s new job.

2. That Chloe and I visited OMSI and the Children’s Museum for free this month.

3. Delicious dinners with friends.

4. That the two fruit trees (1) (2) we purchased to replace this and this are beginning to bud.

5. That this bed exists, even though I’ll never be able to afford it.

6. That there is a covered play structure and park only a short drive away that Chloe can play on even when it rains (which is fairly often in the Pacific Northwest!). The photo above was taken there.

7. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate After Dinner Mint Thins, which I am addicted to right now.

8. A lovely package from Slovenia, sent by Pina.

9. That I’ve been able to leave Chloe in day care twice now.

10. That a photo of mine was selected for this, and that this photo is being considered by a transit authority as a window graphic for buses.

Thanks Sarah Jane for asking!


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Thoughts for 2010


Meridian Way Wind Farm, Cloud County, Kansas

It seems that every year I make the same old resolutions – drink more water, exercise, spend less, blah, blah. Not surprisingly, the outcome is about the same from year to year. This year, I’m skipping the resolutions. Instead, I’ve decided on three simple goals I’d like to accomplish just once every month in 2010:

1. Make something crafty
2. Visit someplace new
3. Try a new recipe

That’s it. Simple, measurable, achievable.

Of course, there are a thousand other things I could add to this list, and ultimately I do have many more hopes for this new year, but these are just for me, and perhaps my family (and possibly friends) will also benefit. It could mean a trip to the Children’s Museum with Chloe (where I’ve never been) or a delicious, unique meal for my husband to try. Either way, I hope it will also provide a chance to document each undertaking with photography, which is something I enjoy and would like to get better at.

What are your goals for the new year?


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Flying with Baby – Packing list, tips and advice

We just got back from our trip to Washington, DC. It was long – coast-to coast, but baby handled her first airplane travel much better than I expected. I credit good advice, a smartly packed diaper bag, and the luck of sitting next to child-friendly people for making a big difference on all our flights.

Our experience on Frontier: One piece of advice I got was to check my suitcase, stroller and car seat at the curb, but it turns out than Frontier doesn’t offer curb-side check-in. Because of this I decided to leave the stroller (which I was waffling on anyway), since I wouldn’t be able to carry it into the terminal alone, along with the baby, our suitcase, the car-seat and our carry-on diaper bag. Thank goodness she was in her baby carrier, because I needed both hands to get everything to the ticketing counter, and it was a life saver getting through security.

It definitely bothered me that Frontier doesn’t allow 24hr advanced online check-in with a lap child. However, a representative told me that Frontier always tries to give mothers’ a window seat, which is what I wanted. I also noticed on most flights that they seem to stow all babies at the very back of the plane (either for convenience to the lavatory or to keep all the noise in one place, it is hard to say). Chloe was an angel during the first day of flights (layover in Denver) but a little more fussy on the return trip, probably due to the extremely early wake-up and just generally being off her schedule. The first set of flights were better timed for her.

I thought I would be rushing through the layovers, but there was plenty of time to grab a bite to eat, change her diaper, and give her some tummy-time. I tried to schedule feedings so I could nurse during take-off, and she was usually asleep by landings. She didn’t seem bothered by air pressure changes, so I didn’t wake her up. Other key elements to our successful flights included packing several small and varied toys that were new to Chloe (which kept her attention longer), choosing easy to eat, one-handed foods (a sandwich vs. a salad, for example), giving baby multiple positions in my lap, and some tummy-time / free time to stretch off my lap during the layovers.

Our airplane carry-on diaper bag packing list

For Baby:
O    8 diapers + wipes (which we didn’t use all of)
O    diaper changing pad
O    3 disposable diaper changing table covers
O    5 diaper disposal sacks
O     sample size packet of diaper cream
O    small tube of baby lotion (in case of dry cabin air)
O    small amount of masking tape (wrapped around lotion tube)
O    Little Noses saline drops (in case of dry cabin air or air pressure problems)
O    bulb syringe
O    baby tylenol
O    thermometer
O    baby nail clippers
O    Clean Well hand sanitizer
O    1 receiving blanket (for it’s small size)*
O    2 burp cloths
O    3 pacifiers (two with clips)
O    3 small toys / teethers (new ones keep her attention longer)
O    2 changes of clothes (I dressed Chloe in a one-piece “sleep-and-play” for travel, because it was easy for diaper changes but packed a     change of clothes to meet grandpa and grandma in, which I didn’t use, plus an extra sleep-and-play, if needed, protected in a large ziploc with a spare ziploc to hold soiled clothes)
O    baby hat
O    immunization records
O    birth certificate

For Mom:
O    wallet (including driver’s license and spare cash)
O    water bottle (that I filled at a water fountain after we went through security)
O    snack bar
O    spare t-shirt
O    cell-phone (see note below about the iphone)
O    small point-and-shoot camera (to record this first flight)
O    travel-size contact solution and case
O    eye glasses
O    ultra light jacket (weighs almost nothing, and takes up little space – perfect for airport tummy-time)
O    nursing cover
O    extra set of breast pads
O    book (actually two, since I bought another one at the airport)
O    travel pack of tissues
O    ear plugs
O    lip balm
O   2  pens

Other Notes

Travel clothes: Since I am still nursing, I wore a low-neck t-shirt over a nursing tank top, so I could nurse easily (and discreetly with a nursing cover) on take-off. I also wore pants that have a flat waist (no belt to sit underneath the baby carrier) and a zipper pocket (so that my wallet, phone and money were secure on my person, without needing a separate purse).

Dealing with ear pressure in babies and small children: The key is to have them sucking and/or swallowing to help even out the air pressure in their ears. Nursing, a bottle, or a pacifier works great (older kids and adults can usually just chew gum or suck on a piece of candy). Another method is to use baby saline drops or spray which will moisturize dry nasal passages (especially on longer flights) and will also cause baby to swallow.

Emergency ear pressure relief trick: Here’s an obscure tip that one of my clients who has five kids shared – If your child seems to be having a really hard time coping with ear pressure, ask the flight attendant for two styrofoam cups, some hot water, and a wad of napkins (you could also use two socks, washcloths, etc.). Dip the napkins in hot water and wring them out so they won’t drip, place half the napkins in each cup and then “cup” the cups around both baby’s ears. This creates a bit of a vacuum, which will also help relieve the pressure.

Diapers & Wipes: I packed enough diapers and wipes in my diaper bag to last the day, plus a few extra should a delay occur. I also packed a couple in my suitcase, with the intention of buying more when we got to our destination.

Travel and the iphone: My husband generously let me borrow his iphone for the duration of our trip and I can’t say enough about it. This one small device was so handy for: an alarm clock, watch, music player, gps, camera, game device, intermittent night light, emailing, texting, phone calls and general internet access. Love it!

Baby Carrier : I use our awesome Beco Carrier. More about it here.

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