Monday, January 31, 2011

Snowmageddon


If you are living under a rock in the mid-west then let me be the first to tell you, 
we are getting some snow soon....

A LOT OF SNOW..... 

The grocery store was insane.
The pharmacy parking lot was full.
The Fruit Stores parking lot was full. 
Milk was being purchased in illegal amounts. A sign went up saying 3 gallons per person. 

Reports say that we are under a BLIZZARD WARNING at Noon on Tuesday.....and all reports combined say we will get 12 - 24 inches before it is all over.  50MPH winds and oh, it's gonna be COLD.

Meetings are being canceled.  Emails are rampant with more cancellations!
I am ready...  I have lots of milk (I went to 2 stores!) I have crafts to do with the kids. I have snow clothes ready too. I have books to read, BLOGS to stalk people to call and email. Oh, and that volunteer job for J's Raffle.  

I am ready...Are you ready mid-westerners? 

Counting my blessings

Odd that a toilet seat would be photo of the day....But, well, this is about C and his time with toilet.  

I can report after 6 days of sheer HELL, C has gotten the hang of going tinkle in the potty. Poop will come, but just seeing him "doing the dance" and gettin the job done has raised my spirits (they were pretty low!)
While the potty was terrifying to my little guy, after the first time he has become friends with the toilet, and not complaining while sitting there.  He does not mind the constant "Do you have to potty?" questions.  I can leave the room knowing he will scream when he has to go.  

It is not over, I know that, but for now, I can say we are doing better than we were 4 days ago.  It is a long road, and the transformation of my little man has been amazing.  

The transformation of me has been less than glamorous.  When I announced to M that I needed a shower on Saturday.  J replied "Dad, she really does! I think she has been in those clothes for 3 days.  I think she was afraid to leave C"  Smart kid...he was totally right.  Terrified I had more slipcovers to wash, I never left C for 4 days.  So I never showered. I never took my normal mommy "ten minutes of quiet", I never did anything without him.  That was the best shower of my life (and I say that every summer after returning from our summer house after weeks of "river life"!

The war is not over, but a small  battle has been won.....I am feeling my guilt a little less today and I am beaming with proud vibes to my C.  As stubborn as he is, he is me, through and through.  I can only imagine what the years will bring if this took that long!

Friday, January 28, 2011

One step backwards = 100 steps backwards

OK, I am admitting it....C is not potty trained.  There is it out there.  

Here's the story. 

We (OK, I) tried when he was 3.5....He fought me every step of the way.  He screamed, he hit, he bit, he cried, he hit some more.  With advice from my mom and my dearest trusted mom friend (K) they told me to stop.  It was killing my patience, my heart and my soul.  We stopped.  I snuck him into preschool with the mantra each day "OK C, what do we not do at school?" he would respond "POOP OR PEE OR LEAK"....Happily he has not had an accident since week 1.  We moved on, knowing I was hiding this from all the people around me. 

When C turned 4 (and the weeks leading up to it) he announced to us (M & I) that when he was 4 he would use the potty.  Sunday came and went, and with exhaustion I did not push it. Monday came and school's mantra went on. When he got home, I did not put a pull up on him. We started to potty train.  4 accidents later, no success on the potty and a good bath, he went to bed saying "I will do it tomorrow".  Tuesday came and went, with one accident (and numerous times on the potty) until 4pm.  Then his bladder exploded on my couch (thank goodness for slip covers!)  Wednesday was accident city, all day long.  Countless loads of laundry, frustration beginning to take over and my brain simply fried.  Thursday came and I changed my plan. Instead of small rewards for sitting on the potty I announced "If you have an accident, I take something away".  First accident was his beloved kitty, then his blanky, then his new Lego's from his birthday, then all of his stuffed animals, then stories and cuddles at bedtime.  Today (Friday) he was told the same and now he sits in my kitchen with no TV privileges, no toy privileges, no snacks and no playing with J when he comes home.  

My spirit is strong with all of the challenges in my life, but this is breaking me bit, by bit, moment by moment. I feel like a failure, I feel like what I say does not register.  He is four years old and cannot (and will not) do it. I have sheltered him from play dates outside our home because he does not use the potty. I cannot let him  let others know what he cannot do.  I am embarrassed. I am ashamed. 

So as I type, he is sitting in my kitchen, humming and talking like there is nothing wrong. I am crying.  We cannot even celebrate one step forward because there have been none.  We have 100 steps backward and no steps ahead.  And one mommy who is having a hard time seeing a light at the end of the long tunnel I think I have created......


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MIA

Where do the days go?  Oh that's right, I volunteer for too much and get overwhelmed in the final weeks.  THAT IS WHERE MY DAYS GO! 

J's school Raffle is in a few weeks. I am once again chairing it (my last year, I swear!) So right after C's party my living room became Raffle Central with gift baskets, prizes, ribbon, tissue paper etc. It is a mess.  I avoid that room at all costs.  But it is time to start knocking out things so I am not sleep deprived the week of the event. 

C came down with something in the middle of the night last night so he and I stayed in....And did what any normal OCD mom would do, organized something. I tackled "my side" of the storage room.  (Where I keep gifts, my crafting stuff, wrapping paper, ribbon and anything else I need to hide or conceal from the residents.) I tossed about 2 boxes worth of "junk".  Meaning if I moved into this house 4.5 years ago and have not TOUCHED IT, it was gone....That felt nice. I cleared up 3 shelves, labeled anything that needed with my new fun labels I got from iheartorganizing and loved it! It is now a place that I will happily walk into and not feel like I might kill myself going back there.  Between the holidays and C's party, it became a dumping ground!

In a moment of C resting and me playing online I found this blog that I adore! She style is more my style and slowly I am creating ideas for the house that are totally DIY and budget friendly. I may do it my own way, but at least the ball is rolling in the right direction!

Since C is sick, we have laid low, had some cuddles, gotten some chores done and rested.  That has been nice.  But it also means I am behind on my list. I see a long night ahead of me to catch up so I do not feel overwhelmed on Thursday.  I have such a routine and although I know I am a SAHM my choice, if my routine gets bumped it sends me into a tizzy. Does that happen to anyone else?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Over, so let the clean up begin

What a weekend!  The party was a lot of fun!  The kids LOVED it, C had a blast, the parents came for pizza and drinks while the kids played even longer...And you know it is a good night when we all look at our bottles of wine that were consumed (7 in total) then our watches and say "HOW DID IT GET TO BE 9:30pm!???"

I started with the mini prep tour in the last post but here is the rest....

 I made the banner with left over scrapbook paper and the LEGO font I know cherish so much!  I did not put C's name on it so I can re-use it for J and even M's birthday!


And what kids party is complete without a bar?  LOL  This was before the kids arrived, there was beer and white wine chilling in the kitchen! 

So the kids promptly arrived and played LEGO's until everyone was settled.  They all enjoyed creating and showing off to M and I!



They played well and M and I started whispering to guests that there were 2 buckets in the house that needed guesses for a prize.  The kids quickly ran about (one was upstairs and one was downstairs) to get guesses in!  The little ones who could not write got help from the bigger kids or M and I.

Then we split the kids into two teams and gave each team a bin of LEGOS. Each bin had the same amount of LEGOS in it (same shapes etc) and the teams had 10 minutes to build the tallest tower.  This was hard for the littler ones since the big kids "took over" but they held their own.

Here is one of the towers!  Pretty great eh? 

The kids played, and created amazingly well until pizza time and when the adults arrived.  Some had to bolt but more came for pizza and cake. 

Here it is....My creation!

Now, it is not perfect, but I did it myself and I am pretty proud of myself!  And it was REALLY YUMMY! (and  I am still dining on it for breakfast!) C loved it!  

Late into the night the kids that remained helped C rip into gifts....


C was really nice about letting the kids help him open!  I was very proud!
And this is what the basement looked like at 10:30 that night....




Over all, C had a great day, it was fun to plan and execute and everyone just enjoyed being together on a winter evening!  That is how I love to entertain!  No fuss, friends and fun.....
Simply perfect!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's Party Time

Well, it is party day!  C has been non stop about it for days and he was most excited to wake up this morning to get this party started! Sadly, no one is arriving until 4pm!  


This is what my buffet looked like yesterday morning, more supplies came upstairs after this, but as you can see, it was getting a little crowded!

Last night I tackled the "cake"....Ok so many people chimed in on getting ROYAL BLUE frosting, but after 2 trips to different Michaels I gave up and used simple ol' food coloring. It was not as ROYAL as I would have liked but after using my little tube of blue and my neighbors (all at 8:00pm) this is as blue as I could get it....After awhile it was simply NOT changing colors.



So I gave up and just started creating.  I have a new respect for those of you who love to decorate cakes. This was NOT easy and took patience (which I do not have a lot of!)  The finished product is chillin the fridge until party time! (You'll have to wait and see!)

This morning M took the boys to run errands and pick up another request of dear C...>Balloons.  I asked him weeks ago and he showed no interest. Last night he chimed in that he wanted FIVE balloons...Off they went to Party City and I started "doing the decorating".  Here is what I got done without assistance!


The sign that greets our guests....A last minute idea from the birthday boy.  Thanks to urban fonts and having a LEGO font that was perfect! I once again cut each letter out.....We will hang this in the playroom after the party!

Then the goody bags and one game table....

The bags are filled with a LEGO bookmark that we made, a collectible LEGO man and LEGO candy.  Nothing crazy, because the LEGO men were not the usual cheap stuff you get from parties. I know my boys will love getting the guys!


This is one of the guess the LEGO's in the bucket games.  We have two. Again I used the LEGO font to make out the sheets for the kids.  FOr those who cannot write, we will help them.  My boys are dying to know how many...I will never tell....(23 and 19! HA!)

Between the party for kids starting at 4pm and the adults arriving at 5:30 for pizza and cake we will have a fun night with some of our close neighborhood friends.....I am actually looking forward to sitting down with a glass of wine shortly after the younger guests eat! :)


Friday, January 21, 2011

DEEP FREEZE

I woke up this morning to my favorite morning DJ"s and the weather report...It was not good.  Not good at all.  They happily spoke of the sun that would be coming out and then gave the current temperature.  It was  good, funny or uplifting.....Hell it was awful....It was 0, ZERO, NIL, Nothin, Not 1, but ZERO.....I wanted to stay in my warm bed, snuggled with my down comforter and listen to the music playing.  My kids had other ideas..Like school! 

It has been a busy day around here with school and dressing to go outside.  It is 5 now, and I think I might have seen a 7 earlier in the car, but nothing like 73 that my mom was bragging about via Skype this morning (thank mom, your a peach!) I have gathered all the decorations, favors, games for the party.  All sit on top of my buffet in the living room, except for one game that J is insisting he do himself (the planning, NOT the execution!).  Lego's have been scattered in every room that people will see (yep, even a bowl of Lego's in the bathroom! I am taking this theme to heart!)  The cake, although I had grand plans to whip out when C was at school will be saved until after bedtime. I need more time to work out a plan in my head.  Plus, I do not need assistance from the younger people residing here.  I need complete concentration on this.  I have consulted 3 people on blue frosting as well. I have no back up, except for plain ol white frosting.  I will get it done, but it could be a long night.

I have been watching some new BLOG's too and love IHeart Organizing!  it is a great site and she has amazing ideas and some free (and not free downloads!)  I have printed out many of her free ones today!  I have a slew of labels to place after the party is over!  I love it!  And I am always up for a new idea on keeping me organized!  
Once the party is over, I will post a lot of photo's of what we did for the decorations etc. and some of the party itself!  I have a feeling the little surprises I have tossed in will make C beyond thrilled to be having a LEGO party! Nothing will be posted until the BEARS GAME Sunday....We are a little obsessed with Sunday already and how we are going to keep C quiet during the entire game.  Luckily he will have presents to play with and open when he starts to bug daddy and I!  

GO BEARS! And happy weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cake---Part 1

C and I are knee deep in cake making for the party this weekend.  I was told by my friend, the cake maker expert here in town to start early (in case you screw up and to let things cool!) so we started today.
C was the "pourer" guy, while I did most of the mixing.  Since we had to do this in 2 batches (3 layers of cake and one layer to make the cirlces for the top of the LEGO block) this is taking more time that he cares to stand around for.  
Here are the first 2 layers complete and now cooling
 The next batch just were removed from the oven and are cooling in the pan (according to the directions) for 10 minutes.  Once they are 100% cool, I am tossing them (OK, gently moving them) into the fridge (tightly sealed, I know, I know) until tomorrow when I will begin the battle to make BLUE FROSTING and put it all together.
Now I am a cheap baker.....I am not buying some piece of cardboard to put this cake on , so I am dismantling a cardboard box that a gift for C came in (thanks Aunt K!) and will wrap it in foil to make the "plate". 
I am realizing why I do commonly keep bakeries in business, this patience thing is not working for me when it comes to baking.  All this down time to bake the cake, let it cool, frosting tomorrow is for the birds. I have enough stuff to do than sit around watching cakes rise in the oven...Like visit more BLOGS....
This is my friend Lisa's BLOG.  She is a creative soul with amazing ideas.  She even assisted me when I needed to re-invent my basement for the Canadian Invasion this summer.  We took a lot of her ideas and then added a few of our own, and some we nixed because of the strict budget or we did not have the time. I will post some photo's once C, J and I clean up down there tonight in preparation for the party! I love the way someone else had a vision for my room, one that I simply could not see.....
Ok, my 10 minutes of cooling are done, and laundry needs to be put away.......


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chicken Wraps

When I find a food / meal I love, I eat it to death...I mean it and my mom would confirm it.  I eat it constantly until I grow sick of it.  For the last year I have eaten some kind of fajita for lunch, everyday.  Chicken, grilled peppers, onion and salsa.  Everyday, wrapped in a tortilla.  I love it.  

But I found this recipe and we had it for dinner recently and I do think this could become my new favorite.....

Chicken Wraps

1/2 c white rice (regular or quick cooking)
4 c cooked / shredded chicken (you could use rotisserie, but I shredded my own chicken)
1 c chicken broth 
2T balsamic vingear
2T light brown sugar
1T chili powder
1t ground cumin
1t hot sauce
1/2t salt
1/4t pepper
2T fresh cilantro
Tortillas

Cook rice according to package directions. 

Meanwhile boil chicken in pot of water.  Shred when it is cooked through.  (If using rotisserie chicken, pull chicken from bones, tossing the skin!) 
Transfer chicken into a new sacuepan, add broth, vinegar, sugar, chili powder, cumin, hot sauce, salt & Pepper.  Set pan over med. heat and bring to simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes (or until rice is done).  Fold in rice and cilantro.  Spoon mixture into tortilla's. Roll and serve.

Heats up later for a great lunch option too! :)

M loved this as did I.  It is filling and fresh tasting! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh I forgot!

Remember when I said I loved this.

Here is my beloved photo wall in the office....


And this is the mini version above M's computer in the office. 

I love these photo's above his computer.  The middle one is a family photo that we had taken at our summer house when C was just 9 months old (and had his curly locks and M said he looked like a girl!)  I love the mat too.  While at our summer house that summer we did a class on different ways of designing fabric with soap and paint (it was a kids class). I took the best 6 that J did and made it into the mat of the family photo from later that summer.  Granted the colors do not match the room, but they match the colors we are wearing in the photo, and they are made by J so it makes it more special! 

Catch up

So I had some time yesterday to photograph some of the little projects around here that I am working on.  You may remember the dresser / nightstand that started it all off!
That is a photo of the first coat of paint.  It is almost complete now, but I wanted to show you I was doing SOMETHING!  It is still drying so stay tuned for the final photo soon!



Then I wrote about M cleaning up / giving me a new desk area just for me.
It is a small little area, but has enough room for my computer and printer and when I need / want to I can craft some smallish things there too.  To the side there is a built in cubby space for supplies.
And my first little craft was to make my pencil bucket (full of my "good colored pencils, markers and pencils") a pretty home....To keep in the colors of the basement family room I did this:
I simply used some left over canvas from a project years ago and some navy velvet ribbon to bring in the navy from the rest of the room.  The bucket was a stainless steel bucket that had seem better days.  It is the perfect size for all of my pens, pencils and scissors!  I love it!  I was also able to make a dry erase board out of an old frame that I had painted navy years ago for my first apartment.  I backed it with canvas, put the glass back in and POOF! I have a pretty board for all of my volunteer projects I am working on!  I used some pictures to pretty up the space too.  (So when my brain does wander!)

Obviously C was inspired by crafts too because I walked into the basement a couple of days ago to find his "art work" a la dry erase marker....





Thankfully, it was dry erase marker!  A little elbow grease and the Mr. Clean Magic eraser got rid of the marker on the walls.  The fabric on the couch and chair required more TLC (I love that they are BOTH slipcovers)...Oxy clean, Spray and Wash and more elbow grease got most of it out....And then the dry cleaners!  Needless to say, the markers have been moved and he has learned his easel is where he should be inspired!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Holiday

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It is a holiday and a time to reflect on the man.  We have done that, J has told us about him and why he was important to our society.  It is interesting to hear it from a 6 year old, but he gets it.  It is hard to imagine the world the way it was long ago.

We spent the weekend getting "stuff" done.  J needed new shoes.....After 3 stores and COUNTLESS PAIRS that were tried on, he finally found a pair.  See, he wanted shoes that did not tie.  That is fine, but I hate Velcro shoes.  They are not cute.  After searching the 3 stores we realized big kid shoes are TIE shoes. We found ONE pair and he was sold.  (It was way more dramatic than I am stating to all of you, but I do not have it in me to relive those 2 hours again!)

We came home to the BEARS game that we hunkered down to watch together.  Good thing, because they won and next week we have to wear the exact same clothes to beat the PACKERS.  J & C insist it was because we were donning our navy and orange.  Whatever, they were excited....We are excited and we are 1 step closer to the Superbowl!

Since J is recognizing that the next few days will be all about C, we gave him some extra TLC.  We re-arranged his room.  I have hated they way it was arranged for a year. The boys needs play space.  He often heads to his room to play, create or just get away from his annoying brother.  M was on board with his drill to remove headboards and help with the lifting.  J stated his ideas, but mommy pre-vailed! (See those interior design classes are helping even with a 6 year old!)  Now his room is functional for more playing, a better court for NERF basketball.  Plenty of space for LEGO creations and still cozy enough to read a book, play with his DS and get a way from annoying little brothers. I will post pictures later.  Why interrupt the playing going on up there.

I got the clear coat on the dresser and handles will happen today.  M organized the basement desk for me and I started getting it "prettied" up.  To keep with the colors in the basement, I have made everything navy and cream.  (Pics to come later too!).  I love it. My only little area for me to keep my glue gun, post my ideas and create.  I am inspired just having this little space.

So it is a snowy day, we are all still in our jammies and enjoying being home.  I am sure it will not last. I need to make a plan to entertain the boys. I am hoping that Tara's boys will come over to play and I can put them to work to color in large LEGO MEN cut outs for the party.  I am running out of time!

Pictures will come later of J's room, the basement and maybe the dresser.....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

More inspiration

I love family photo's.  We have a wall in our office that I have hung photo's of our family, friends, grandparents etc. I love to look at it.  M loves to see who the kids are looking like from the older photo's of our parents or grandparents. I love see to my favorite photo of my brother.  I love to see the photo's of all of my brother's buddies at a wedding we all attended together (not mine!).  I cherish this wall.  

So in my continuing search for inspiration for the master bedroom I saw this
And love how simple they make that look!  Now I have a lot of angled walls in our room but I think I could make this work in some areas.  I want more photo's of my kids in my room.  Not crazy amount, but I remember my mom always had our school photo's in her room.  J is only in 1st grade so I do not have THAT many school photo's yet, but we have some amazing photos none the less with more to come this summer! (Happily one of my BFF is a self taught photog, and has agreed to take our photo's this summer!  for the bargain price of hugs and all the beer she can drink!  :)

Today even thought it is a family day, I am determined to put the final coat of clear coat on the dresser.  I had never intended too, but C ran a car over the top of it and well, it scratched the paint SOOO, I am still fixing that!  It should be done this weekend and placed Monday. Then to start on the next one.  I found an old curtain rod in our basement too that can be re-purposed for the room so I have some of the basic elements, but no fabric yet.  Soon I will be at a stand still.


Friday, January 14, 2011

New Meal

On New Year's Day my college friend was on a recipe sharing kick.  I must have seen 10 recipes from her that day.This one interested me for two reasons 1) it's pasta! 2) it was easy!  Both are important at my house on a weeknight!!  


BOWTIE LASANGA

1lbs ground chuck (I used ground turkey as I rarely cook with ground beef anymore)
3 C of spaghetti sauce
5 C of bowtie noodles
1T of olive oil
1t salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1t Italian Seasoning 
1/2 c of Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 c of sour cream (I used light and tasted no difference!)
Fry the beef / turkey in the pan.  Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the directions. After noodles are cooked, drain and drizzle with oil.  Mix in the spaghetti sauce.  Add your meat, seasonings, cheese and sour cream and gently fold until it is mixed through.  Let everything melt together for 5 - 10 minutes over low heat.



I served this to J first and said do you like it?  He said "Mom, I do not like it..............I LOVE IT".  M then tried it and said "NEW FAVORITE!"  (I get that from him alot so I think he thinks it is great and we should have again, sooner than later!)

It was easy.  I did heat up my sauce as it was frozen and not fully defrosted by dinner. I used light sour cream and it was totally fine. My sauce that I make has spinach in it and it was fine too.  (I used the sauce I blogged about 2 weeks ago).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

All about C

I feel like I talk about C a lot on this Blog already...It must because he is home with me all the time (besides those lovely days when he has school for 2.5 hours!)  Big brother J is just as amazing as C in a different way.  J is very thoughtful but manipulative in a six year old way.  Since we are knee deep in the LEGO party to come J is feeling a little jealous it is not all about him.  This is a conversation we had last night at bed time.

J: Mom, when can we start working on my Birthday party?
Me: Well, your special day is not until May so we have time.  What do you want to have as your theme?
J: I do not know. But C is getting all this stuff and I want it too.
Me: I know J but his birthday is in the winter, he cannot have an outdoor party like you AND it's right after Christmas so it is harder to plan something.  
J: I wish my birthday was in January.
Me: WHY? I love spring and summer parties.  They can be outside so we are not cramped in the house.  Plus we have a great yard for them.  We can do a LEGO party for you, just outside.  
J: REALLY?  But it would be for 7 year old's, not babies right?  
Me: Well, C is turning 4 so everything is for littler kids, but I can change it up for your birthday.  

He seemed happy after that.....And then 10 minutes later he said "Mom, I am going to dream of a party idea tonight and get back to you."  Get back to me?  This is not a business venture dear J!  It's a party! 

I will report, J did not get back to me this morning, but we have time.  May seems so far away to me right now. 

C and I are off of birthday plans today (although we did buy the cake mixes and frosting today).  We have other "things" to do.  Anyone have any tips on making canned frosting a true ROYAL blue with food coloring?  Baby blue is not an option (nor is it a LEGO color!)  
This is the cake I will attempt to make!

So baker friends, let me know how to get THAT color......The birthday boy is insisting it be "BLUE, MOM, BLUE! It's my favorite color!"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kitchen Dreams

Oh how I long for a larger kitchen.  A kitchen we can eat in, that has more storage and that is truly the gathering places for my family and all of the friends we often have over for impromptu "pizza night's".  But this old drafty house has a smallish kitchen, no place to eat in it (we eat in our formal dining room for every meal!) and if you want to be with while I cook, they you are standing, usually in my way.
How great would it be to have this:
Credit to Martha Stewart Living

I love the small table in this kitchen with the storage / merchandising above!  Now since we have lived in this house for 4 years I have drafted my own "plans" (in my head ofcourse!) if and when we either win the lottery or come into large amounts of cash.  My kitchen would be the first room we "re-do", I would make larger and make just perfect for us and the people who spend time here!
Until then, we and my red walls, my shortage of cabinets and prep space will be just fine...And when you come over to have dinner, you will quickly learn the best places to stand so you are not in my way!

On a side note, my free day turned into "birthday" mode and C and I have been  working on goody bags, banners, cake toppers and other little things for the bash a mere 11 days away!  Wait until you see it all put together! I am betting J will want a LEGO party come spring too! :)

Only Wednesday?

Those are the words M left me with this morning..."It's ONLY WEDNESDAY!?"  I know, I cannot believe it.  I seriously think since November and December flew by for me I will be burdened with a slow, cold and snowy January.  Perhaps February could warm up a little and come March, I will begin my packing for my hot vacation to the desert at the end of the month. I need March to get here ASAP.

I have literally nothing planned for today. I have given myself a "free day" (like a free period in high school). I have plenty of "things to do" but I may or may not get to them.  I am ok with that since I have a planned free day.  I have poly urethane to put on M's nightstand and then to add the new handles, I have my nightstand to sand, prime and paint. I have birthday party plans to make up, I have laundry.  I will go with the flow and see what I want to do.  C has school today so I really do have some free time, but I am thinking more along the lines of watching "Oprah" (I mean come on, it's her farewell season and I live in Chicago!).

So friends, make sure you plan yourself a free day soon too. I see myself cuddled in a blanket soon with my cookbooks and my recipes finding new creations for us to eat or I see myself with my stack of magazines looking for more inspiration for this house.  Whatever it is that I do, I am free to do what I want! I like that....A LOT....

Monday, January 10, 2011

When a plan comes together

I love lists. I love plans. I love even more when I complete the list AND the plan comes together all is ONE DAY!  (and a Monday to boot!)

Since September I have been (sort of secretly) been planning a HUGE event for our school district.  I was hoping to do this to bridge the gap between the four schools in our district, have an amazingly FUN family event and well, maybe raise some money while doing it.  See, for J's school I am the president of Fundraising. I got roped into the job, and because well, I think I am good at it and have good results when I do it.  So, when I saw a little something in a magazine about a HUGE fundraiser I was NOT put off by it, instead so interested I started planning it...Alone.....

I will not get into the details but I can say now that after 1000 emails between my new best friend at this organization, finding a lot of new friends and realizing I was not the only person with the same dreams for our community, I did it. I signed a contract for a family event for 1000 people!  Yea, I am LOONEY!

I can happily announce the 10 people who read this (none of you who live near me!) that I have planned for the Harlem Wizards to play against 30 of our students, teachers, administrators and parents!  Check out the link!  They are the same kind of group as the Globetrotters, only they ONLY do small venues, they only do fundraising!  I am pumped.  (Now, I know Shannon T. is reading this so she will get the reference so bear with me!) I went to a high school that had an AMAZING boys basketball team.  I was the manager for 4 years and loved it. I became a huge basketball fan through those years.  To even watch the video reminds me of the star of our high school team and his slam dunks...Only these guys have more moves than Andy EVER did (and Shannon, you can tell Andy I said that!)

So tonight I will dream of ballers, I will dream of dunks and I will dream of screaming fans...because tomorrow I have 22 pages of lists to get through to get more people to help me out!

Busy Busy Busy

When I made out the list for Monday (last night ofcourse!) I did not think it would be that long....then I made the list.....Who am I kidding?  When all four of us are home for the weekend, Mondays are always my catch up day!  At least J & C have school so I have 2.5 hours to catch up alone!

On a good note, we spent the morning at a home improvement store yesterday and I found a brown paint for the dresser / nightstand for M.  It is a great chocolate brown color and I love it!  I got it painted and have to put the new handles on it and it will be done!  The other nightstand needs some TLC and M offered to assist me (yea! I love help!)  An even better note is that we found a sage green color I like, maybe even love, for the master bedroom!  It is hard to love a paint chip so when we see it on the walls I will decide if it is love!  But the two chips (the brown for the nightstands and the green for the walls) look great together! (Yes I will post photo's soon enough! It's only 7:42am!)

On our travels as a family yesterday we drove by a bunch of antique stores too!  I mentioned to M that I wanted to check them out, but we have 2 melting kids in the back so we plan to make another visit to them.  I would love to find some kind of inspirations or treasures for the room (knowing full well the budget for this extreme makeover is minimal!)

As for a follow up, the short ribs dinner was DEVINE!  A lot more work and time was used than I expected but we loved every bite. I learned a few things too....

1) Have your butcher cut off as much FAT as possible off the meat.  It was a fatty piece of meat so that was one negative.
2) The sauce really does reduce a lot more than I expected (and it was SO yummy!).  I felt I had to keep an eye on it the last hour of cooking so the meat did not dry out. I kept spooning it on top of the meat!
3) I could do this in the crock pot! :) 
4) This will be a great "we are having company and I want to impress them" meal. 

Hopefully I get my list complete while I am sans - kids to finish up the nightstand, then work on the pantry too!  Photo updates to follow!

Happy Monday friends!  Snow is headed our way tomorrow......3 - 5 inches! I see the crock pot coming out tomorrow to make a pot roast for us to eat while we watch the snow!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday's Project

Well since it is cold, and a little snowy and I am trying to take things OFF my list, C and I tackled another project without leaving the house....OUR PANTRY.

It is not in our kitchen, it is just outside the doorway into the kitchen and well, it is ugly so we started on a two step process to get it pretty (or as pretty as a pantry can be). 

I wanted to simply clean it, but then decided to take out the shelves and paint the walls the same color as the hallway.

 The pantry without it's contents and shelves....
 The contents on my floor (making it tricky to move about for about 2 hours!)

After C and I started this project I walked into the basement to find that my basin tub had overflowed and I quickly had to call a plumber to assist me so we finished the wall painting and I will have to get back to the shelves next week.  
But here is what we got done. 

The shelves and base board (yea, I have base boards in my pantry) will be painted a high gloss while to match the rest of the trim in the house.  It will be pretty and it will motivate me to keep it that way!  At least now step one is done! :)



Hello Friday, what took ya so long?

How come when your on "break" for two weeks, that the first week back to real life seems to DRAG?  I swear I was stunned when we hit Christmas and I was still living in November!  Now we are in full on slow motion and well, I do not like it one bit.  

The weekend has little "fun" planned.  Sadly Mommy has some volunteer meetings to attend for Jack's school on Saturday so my afternoon is really shot.  But I suppose I could say it will be great quality time for my 3 boys to have together.  I do have a new dinner planned with it's leftovers being straight to my non-cook friend T around the corner.  She does not cook...AT ALL....I mean her middle son actually asked her this summer "if she could pour? Like Milk mom?  Can you even pour milk?"  She can pour, she can even warm up, but ask yourself to dinner at her house, and her hubby J cooks it all!  And as a rule of thumb we NEVER, and I mean NEVER, pass up a dinner invite when J is cooking.  He is amazing!  Hell, we will even cancel on you if they invite us over!  

But I went off topic.....My new dinner is short ribs.  I told T about it and her response was "Oh, I do not eat food that I have to eat with my hands".  I told her these are not "rib RIBS" these are cooked in a wine sauce, the meat will fall off the bone etc.  She does not buy it.  So today while buying the short ribs, I bought one extra, just for T! Then she'll understand and want me to make more for her!
The rest of the weekend will be me, cleaning up, perhaps sanding more and priming even more than I did yesterday.  Home Depot was a bust as they had no sample sizes of the paint colors I wanted. I will try another Home Depot this weekend. I did not have it in me.  There is plenty to do, but with this Chicago weather, I would like nothing more than a cozy movie day / weekend on the couch.....Since I have children, I have not done that is well, 6.5 years to be exact....Oh to dream about it! 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Turkey Meatballs

So last year we went and visited a childhood friend, Karrie and her husband Jamie for a night.  They live close enough to go from one night and the boys LOVED going.  Karrie made an amazing Italian dinner for us that has not become a family FAVORITE!     
Giada De Laurentiis' Turkey Meatballs!  I make a bunch and freeze them so we have them on hand for easy dinners later in the month too!  This recipe makes about 3 dozen meatballs depending on the size you make them.  

Turkey Meatballs
1/4 c plain dried bread crumbs (I use whole wheat bread and put them in the Cuisnart to make my own!)
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 T whole milk
3/4 c grated Parmesan Cheese
2/4 t salt
3/4 pepper
1 lbs ground turkey (I use the Jennie-O brand, the leanest you can buy!)
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
5 C Marinara Sauce (see my notes later on that!)

In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk and 1/2 the cheese, salt and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, but do not overwork the meat. Shape the meat into bite size balls.  
In a large skillet, heat oil over a medium / high flame.  Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving or turning the meatballs, until brown on the bottom(about 3 minutes).  Turn the meatballs over and brown the otherside, about another 3 minutes. Continue to cook until all sides are brown. 

NOW....If you want to freeze some, let them cool, COMPLETELY and put them in a zip lock bag.  I store about 6 - 8 per bag so I have a few meals for the future. 

If you are continuing with dinner, add the marinara sauce to the meatballs and bring the sauce to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 5 - 10 minutes.  Serve with pasta (we use whatever we have in the house!) and lots of Parmesan cheese!

As for the sauce to use....We have debates around here about that.  Giada makes a good sauce, but in a pinch Karrie (and now me too) agree that Emerils Marinara that you can buy at the grocery store is JUST as good as hers (and easier!)  I do make a "cheaters sauce in large batches for my freezer as well...it's super easy!)

My Cheaters Sauce

2 large cans of pureed tomato sauce
1 can of petite diced tomatoes
1 jar of roasted red peppers
1T of red pepper flakes
1 pkg of frozen spinach (defrosted and drained well)
1 package of button mushrooms, diced, and sauteed
Salt & Pepper

Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer for 1 - 2 hours, stirring often.  I let it cool completely and divide it into round GLADWARE containers for my freezer. 

We will eat this tonight and have meat and sauce for at least 2 to 3 meals in the future!  I love it when I have food in the freezer for those busy days / nights or if I am just not up to cooking!

Enjoy!

Lists and Loves

Since my 2011 resolution list was short (why commit to so much when I could fail???) I decided to simply make a list, not a a commitment and better yet, if I do not finish the list I will not feel guilty! I get most of my list is done during the colder months because I play too much during the summer at the pool, at our cottage or here in our neighborhood.  I would rather not be bogged down the lists during the warmth!  Its good to be busy in the winters of Chicago...It keeps you warm!

So, in my efforts to "redo" the bedroom, I have been searching the internet for ideas, inspirations etc. I have come across some AMAZING sites!  Like Ana White!  Um, hello, the woman is a handmade furniture genius and really making me think I could do some of her projects!  I have a list on her site already!  I may have to borrow M's truck to start picking up lumber soon! 

One of my other "list" items is to cook more, and that is a no brainer since I love to cook.  My goal is 1 - 2 new meals a week.  Easy or hard, when time permits.  I am so relaxed in my kitchen that this is not going to be a hard one for me. Tonight's dinner (which I will post later) is an Italian dish that we love!  M is thrilled I am pulling it out tonight! 

C and I are hoping to get a move on here soon to head out on a few simple errands and a trip to Home Depot for some paint ideas.  He loves that place, thank goodness!  Toss him some Mickey Mouse paint cards and he is good for 15 minutes. At least I have some ideas on paint colors for the dresser / nightstands. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Small Steps

While my time without kids was brief I did get part 1 of a many step process complete....One of the soon to be nightstands for our bedroom is prepped...I did remember just after I starting priming to take some pictures, so here is what I have....Everything is primed, holes are filled where the old knobs were (I am hoping to score some really cool pulls or paint some myself).  

Tomorrow C and I might hit Home Depot for some paint options.  I like this.  And what do you know?  Calico Corner's fabric sale starts soon so perhaps I will find something to go off of in this project!  :)  Otherwise I could be at a stand still until I find paint.  I will hopefully start the other nightstand tomorrow or this weekend

 Isn't the harvest gold inside and pale pink outside lovely?  
No wonder this was a garage sale find!
Although C was patient while I finished up, his threshold for this kind of stuff is not as long as I would like. I got 2 hours of work in total, one without him, one with him.  His running commentary was amusing sometimes, but I prefer to listen to my DMB mix on my ipod. 

High Hopes

While I am counting the minutes before C goes to school I am seeing my free time being eaten up soon enough with the volunteer projects I am lined up for....So, between now and then I have a few "things" I want to finish up! I have boldly decided that 2011 is the year to "DO" our Master bedroom. We moved into the drafty house 4 years ago and have worked so hard on all of the rooms in the places, except for the Master bedroom!  Over the weekend M and I cleaned it within an inch of it's life, removed furniture that was not needed (or being used), we are trying out a new arrangement right now and brainstorming what we still need for the place. 
In the mean time (for 3 years now) I have been trying to find fabric and paint.  I have seen NOTHING that I love...NOTHING....Can you believe that?  But I have picked up some furniture along the way that needs painting and re-purposing so I am just going to do it.  I love greens so I am just going with that and hopefully, one day, or during the next Calico Corner or Joanne's fabric sale, I will find something!
Today I am hoping to sand and prime the 2 new nightstands I have picked up (one from a garage sale and one I saved from the garbage truck from a friend). I want to paint them a brown color to match (sort of) the antiques we have in the room (my grandma's dresser and this adorable Amish dresser we bought last year). If I can knock these 2 items out before I turn into the volunteer mom in the next couple of weeks I will feel like I am doing something for me and only me...And M I suppose since he sleeps in there too! 

So, off to take C to school and get the Kilz out! :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Moments like these.....

As much as I love being home with the kids, I must admit it is harder job than I expected.....Harder because I have one of those "difficult" children.  I take FULL responsibility that he is difficult because of me. I baby him.  He is my baby, and well, when you lose a child, you tend to baby the subsequent (I learned that in my support group!).  But there are days, that are seriously tougher than others.  He exhausts me.  He is perfectly content in the house, with me close by and available to fix all broken Lego creations.  The moment we step outside the house, it is like the child I just had completely floated away into thin air. 

We just went to the post office. A quick errand, rather harmless, but something we do weekly to mail  my retired, snow bird parents their mail in California.  He was calm, he was quiet until we are about to leave and BAM!  He did not get a sticker and all hell broke loose! I gave him a sticker (not a stamp but the large sticker OF the stamp) and well, that was not good enough.  He cried the 10 blocks it took us to get home.  He cried when he could not find the stickers he lost 2 weeks ago.  After literally IGNORING him, my child has retreated upstairs to what I am guessing is to take a nap.  Convenient when we have to pick up J in one hour from school.

And after this short rest sweet C will take, he will forget about the sticker, he will forget he momentarily turned into the devil and he will forget that his mommy wanted to pull her hair out with all the whining.  Instead he will be a love, a cuddly little boy and will win my heart over again for me to baby him.  I really have to toughen up or the age of 4 could be as bad as 3 was with him!

Oh Tuesday

Typically Tuesdays are days with C, where we run around together, doing errands and I spend the rest of the day catching up on chores but because he had no school yesterday today is sort of a free day.  The chores all got done yesterday!  (I suppose I could find more to do, and surely I will, but it's only 815am so give me a little time to wake up!)

The one thing I do know is the new dinner we are having tonight and I am so excited about!  I got this cookbook last year for my birthday (thanks M!) and have tried a few things in it but then sort of put it away.  Over the winter break I pulled it out and got excited about it again!  While I missed the years that Art Smith was on Oprah and cooking for her (yea, I was a little busy with small kids and running a small business) I do think he has some great recipes! 

So tonights dinner will surely be a winner because M loves pasta and I love veggies!  I think the chicken nuggets will be a nice touch for the kids too, since I am sure they will pass on trying this one!

Fettuccine with Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms
from Back to the Table by Art Smith

1lbs thin asparagus (I am using frozen)
10 oz of mushrooms (I am using button mushrooms tonight)
2T of extra virgin olive oil
S & P to taste
12 oz egg fettuccine(I am using whole wheat pasta)
4 T unsalted butter
1 small shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c ricotta
1/3 c parmesan cheese 
2 T chopped chives (I forgot to buy these and do not see myself going out to buy them!)

Position rack to the top third of oven and preheat to 450.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.
Toss Asparagus and mushrooms with oil and season to taste, spread on a large baking sheet.  Bake, stirring often until just tender (12 - 15 minutes).  Cut asparagus into 1 inch lengths and cover loosely.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until barely tender. 
While pasta is cooking heat butter in a medium skillet and medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring often until softened (about 2 minutes).
Scoop 1/2 c of the cooking water out of the pot and reserve.  Drain the pasta and return to the pot.  Add asparagus and mushrooms, ricotta and Parmesan cheese, garlic and shallots (with the butter you cooked it in) and the chives. Toss gradually adding enough cooking water to make a creamy sauce.  Season to taste with S & P.  
Serve hot with additional Parmesan cheese.
I am also making some garlic cheesy toast and a salad to go with this! 



Monday, January 3, 2011

When your turning 4

C is turning 4 this month....Last week, right after we ripped into piles of presents from Santa, I started brainstorming a party for him.  Sadly, because his birthday is right after Christmas, the budget for a party for him is nil.  I am a retired crafter, but I usually try to do something for his party!
So, after brainstorming, I walked into my basement and it hit me!  C loves Lego's, we own one million of the little boogers and I had my party idea! I will be turning MY house, into "Lego City".
Thankfully, one of my BFF is crafty in a photoshop kind of way and I called her first.  She happily agreed to make his invites!  Easy!  She gave me some instructions, I gave her in the info and within 24 hours, the invites were complete and sent to Walgreens to be printed!  Then I started with my lists for decorations, games, cake etc!  All will be done by ME...and I am NOT A BAKER!  Thanks to other Blogs and websites I was given the encouragement I needed to pull this off. 
Another BFF found  this
and is sending it for the favor bags!  LEGO CANDY!  WOW! I need to get out more!
I found online this LEGO font and after I played with it enough I made coloring sheets, all the letters I will need to make a Happy Birthday banner, and other things I will need to print out for the cake, the door decorations etc.  This was a good find!
Then I found this Lego Cake and totally knew I could do that with a couple of boxes of cake mix, some frosting, some food coloring and some cupcakes! See, I am getting this done! :)
Sure, there is more to be done, and I will track my progress for you, but for now I am feeling good on the list I have made.  The next couple of evenings I will be cutting out lots of letters for the banner to make next week.  Stay tuned.....

Meal Plans

So each month, I take 1 - 2 hours to attempt making a healthy and yummy meal plan for this family.  It is hard since J & C tend to request chicken nuggets 7 days a week, but I try none the less. I get giddy when I find new recipes in my cookbooks or online. I love to try new meals out on our family (or really on M) and get his thoughts.  With each new dinner I mark it as good (and will cook again) or bad and never look at it again.  I have a lot more goods than bads. 

M is a meat lover and would rather eat steak 7 days a week, where I am more adventurous with my eating. I love to look at the photo's of food and decide if it looks good if it will be tried.

So this evenings dinner is easy and healthy....Crispy Chicken Tenders with roasted cauliflower!  I commonly use chicken tenders when I cook chicken for a number of reasons:
1) I can tell the kids they are nuggets!
2) They cook faster!
3) I buy them in bulk and are cheaper!

It is super easy to make this dinner and it all cooks at the same time, and at the same temperature! 

Crispy Chicken Tenders
8 - 10 tenders
Olive Oil
2 C of crushed corn flakes
1 C of parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 350.  Spray non stick spray to a 9 X 13 baking dish. 
In 2 shallow pans put some oil in one and the corn flakes and parmesan cheese in the other. Dredge each tender into the oil and then into the dry pan.  Place into the baking dish and use a little extra oil drizzled on top of chicken. 
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and serve with whatever dipping sauce you like.  We love BBQ Sauce our Smoky Ranch!

Roasted Cauliflower
(I use frozen for this but you can use fresh too!)
1 bag or large head of Cauliflower
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
Kosher salt

Place cauliflower onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil  & sprinkle with salt.  Toss gently.  Place in the oven (with the chicken) and cook at the time same.  Mix 15 minutes into cooking.  The last 5 minutes you should sprinkle the cheese on top and place back in the oven. 

When Chicken is done, plate it first and then bring out the cauliflower!  I plate everything in the kitchen so I do not use bowls and spoons making for more of a mess.  We eat this with a salad!  There are rarely left overs! :)

Prep time is 15 minutes and cooking is 30 minutes! Easy , healthy and delicious! 

Happy New Year

So it's not the first day of the New Year, but I thought it was time I had an outlet for all the things I do on a daily basis and share them with anyone interested....
I cook daily, I clean daily, I am organized and I am a mom....And I get tips and Ideas from those around me everyday.  I thought I would try sharing some of the best things I know online....It could work, it might bomb, but at least I can say I  tried!
So with the oldest back at school today, the youngest still home til Wednesday and hubby starting his new position at the same job he had last year it was time for me to find something new!


Let me start out with some background....
My oldest is amazing, but sometimes eggs his little brother on.  He is my first born and I adore him.  I will call him "J" on this blog. My middle child sadly passed away shortly after birth. I miss her everyday.  She will be "A" for all of the little moments I miss her.  Then there is my handful youngest child "C"....He is funny and shy but babied by me the most.  My amazing husband "M" keeps me well balanced and also frustrates me to no end. We are the perfect match.  We live in the burbs of Chicago in our old and drafty house.  We love our summer cottage, our neighbors and our friends and family. 
I love my family, I love my home, and I love to find new outlets for all of the crazy ideas in my head...Perhaps that is what this is for.....