Saturday, August 31, 2013

End of Summer TURKEY!

It took me a good minute to remember how my day started.  It feels like this morning was eons ago.

Got up with the kids and got everyone ready for the day.  Headed out for a 9:30 appointment for my hair and stopped at the food store for an item that Fresh Direct (food delivery) didn't have for a recipe next week.

Came home and my husband went out to help his sister move some furniture, so I had the kids all to myself.

Lucky for me we made our backyard as pleasant as possible knowing we'll likely be caged in it for the next 18 years.  We added a little fountain in the hopes the soothing trickle would cut down on the screaming, added some lights to our pool and most recently outdoor speakers for music.  We have it turned to the Billy Joel station the past few days.

I basically kept the laundry going for 6 hours and here and there straightened up their messes, but for the most part enjoyed sitting on the deck watching them.  The big boys did arts and crafts and went in the pool to play dolphin and a million and one other pretend games my oldest came up with. The baby threw my blackberry in the fountain and ate some berries off the ground that had ants on them.  It is never dull.

At one point I freaked because I saw a worm, so my protectors came over to investigate. My big boy was holding the other two back from hurting it saying "it's a living creature, don't hurt it", my middle one was bending his body back and forth singing "I'm a wiggly worm" and the little one was pointing at it saying "ant! eeeewww!".

I asked the kids what they might want for dinner -- I didn't put anything on the dinner menu schedule because I figured we were "staycationing" so would go out for dinner, but I wasn't in the mood to drag them out.  I suggested cornish hens for something different, but my big boy said we should get a big turkey. Sounded good to me since I am still on my Fall kick, so we grilled a turkey.  I found a recipe on Allrecipes that I tweaked.

It was awesome.
Grilled Whole Turkey


12 pounds whole turkey

2 cups water

3 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon paprika

Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat.

Place turkey breast side down until skin is golden, then put turkey breast side up in disposable heavy-duty roasting pan.  

Put root vegetables of your liking around turkey - I put carrots, sweet potatoes and a quartered onion.

Mix together the water, bouillon powder, garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning and paprika. Pour over turkey.

Grill until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 180 degrees -- my 12 pounder took almost 3 hours.

Remove turkey from grill and let stand 15 minutes before carving.

I took the pan drippings, skimmed the fat and put in it a saucepan.  I mixed 1/4 cup water with 2 TBS of corn starch and poured into drippings.  This gravy was so delicious that my oldest was trying to put the gravy in a cup to drink it -- it was that good.

I didn't mind making such a big turkey for all of us because as soon we bought it I started to make plans for it.

Get It Done Tip: Whenever we buy a big piece of meat we usually roast or grill it and then break the leftovers up into Ziploc for future meals.  Today's leftover turkey was split into 3 Ziploc.  One had meat and leftover gravy as an emergency dinner if I am too tired to cook one night.  The second is going to be turkey noodle soup which will be a week's worth of lunch for me.  The third batch will be for a turkey casserole one night in the future.  Make sure to make plans for it otherwise it might go to waste.

After dinner my middle son came to me three different times to deliver a flower to me.  He does this every so often - he is so sweet.

After dinner I cleaned up while my husband bathed the kids and got them ready for bed (my husband kicks #ss - more on him another day).  I then ran out to visit my mother-in-law for a bit.

Came home a little after 8 and straightened up the kid's craft closet which has been driving me nuts with stuff falling out of it. I basically threw out a bag of stuff and that helped a bit.  My husband kept telling me to stop and that he would do it tomorrow, but I don't want us to clean when the kids are awake.  First off it is near impossible since they are always hanging on me and second I would rather spend time with them instead of focused on something else.  So, I moved quick and now it's done.

Tomorrow we are invited over to a friend's house for dinner, so all I have to do is make appetizers.  House is in ok shape, so when I get up I will just put away the ten tons of laundry and then maybe we can spend the day playing with the kids.

PS - I forgot to note yesterday that the baby said "love you" for the very first time -- to his great-grandmother.  It was the cutest!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Chocolate Chip Waffles

Our cousin's sleepover was a success!

When everyone got up I had the kids help me make chocolate chip waffles.

As I was busy pulling out ingredients my niece cracked me up as she looked around at her 3 little cousins who were all getting into different things and talking at the same time and asked me "is it always like this?". Yes, it's always crazy.

We try new recipes for waffles usually every other weekend.  The kids love them and there are some great recipes out there that sneak in nutrition.  Pumpkin waffles in the Fall come to mind as one goodie we always enjoy.

However, because we're still on "vacation" and it was a special treat to have their cousin over we skipped the healthy and went right to chocolate.

It can be a little involved to make waffles, but it's worth the effort.

Food Network's Chocolate Chip Waffles


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing the iron
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat waffle iron according to directions.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Separate the 2 eggs and put all the whites in a large bowl.

In a large liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, milk, vanilla, and 1/4 cup melted butter. Whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture until a batter is formed. Take care not to over mix the batter.

Whip the egg whites until they just begin to hold a loose peak. Scatter the sugar over the whites and continue beating until they hold a soft peak. Fold a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten the base, then fold in the remaining whites. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Brush the inside surface of the iron with butter. Pour in enough batter to barely fill each hole of the waffle iron; the amount will vary depending upon the size of the iron. (Take into consideration that the batter will spread once the lid is closed.) Close and cook until crisp and the waffle iron stops steaming, about 5 minutes. Serve as the waffles come off the iron or transfer to a rack set on a pan in preheated 200 degree F oven to keep warm. Serve with maple syrup.

Get It Done Tip: Most waffle recipes give enough batter to have plenty of extra waffles.  I let the extras cool on wire racks to stay crispy and then cut them into serving sizes.  I put the waffles in Ziploc and freeze flat.  During the week I can easily pop out as many waffles as needed and put them in my toaster for a quick breakfast for the kids.  

After breakfast I took the two little boys to check in on my grandmother quick since my parents are away. Then I came home to clean, cook and bake for a few hours while my husband took all 4 kids (my niece included) to get our big son cleats for flag football which starts next week.

Around 5:00 my husband's aunts and the rest of his family came over for dinner.  We made grilled chicken bruschetta, a great quinoa casserole which everyone loved, corn, salad.  We finished with dutch apple crumble pie and fresh whipped cream.

We had a great evening and the kids put on a "water show" in the pool for everyone.  

Everyone was gone by 8:30 and my kids were all passed out before if not soon thereafter.  They are beat. My husband ran out quick to see his friend who is up from Florida. Starting Monday we'll both do our best to be home so we can do sleep boot camp to get back in the school routine. They have 2 more days of living la vida loca!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day One of Staycation: Paleo Breakfast + Wholesale Club

It was a busy first day of part II vacation (aka staycation).

We got up and my husband cooked up breakfast in line with his Paleo kick - baked portobello mushrooms filled with prosciutto and eggs cracked in them.  It was pretty good - something different.  He got the recipe here:

It doesn't look pretty, until you looks really close --- awww, a smiley face -- a freaky egg-eyed, prosciutto mouthed smiley face

After breakfast we went to BJ's to pick up a few things including new phones for the house.  Hundreds of dollars later and no new phones in hand I am not sure what we bought.

Get It Done Tip: I buy organic chicken in bulk from Costco or BJ's and freeze them.  Every Sunday I look at the week's menu and whenever there is chicken as part of the recipe I mark my calendar to take it out two night's prior to defrost.  For example - if chicken is on the menu for Wed I mark my calendar to take it out Monday night so it is defrosted in case I want to prep dinner Tues night.  My Sunday food delivery then only consists of fresh produce, milk, eggs, cheese and bread.

We picked up my niece in the afternoon and she came with us for the kid's annual eye doctor appointment. We then hit up some stores and got all 3 kids matching sneakers - they look so cute.  Finally we want out to dinner.

When we got home the kids went in the pool, roasted s'mores and now my big boy and his cousin are snuggled on the couch watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  They're all excited to have a sleepover tonight.  I am excited at the thought of them all staying in their own beds for once!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

School Prep

We're home!

We went to the beach this morning.  There was a group of dolphins swimming close to shore so the kids had a chance to see them which was cool.

Packed up, stopped for lunch - where I had artichoke hearts stuffed with a bite of king crab and breadcrumbs then broiled. OMG.

The children were WILD!  Wild, Wild, WILD!  So we left not a moment too soon.
The late nights caught up with them and they weren't listening and were annoying each other.  It was a great vacation, but we were all happy to get home.

As soon as we got home we unloaded the car.  I kept up with the laundry, but still had some pieces to run through the wash.  It was a semi-wasted day anyway given we were driving home in the car and although I was exhausted I pushed myself to do all the unpacking and cleaning up so I can enjoy the next few days at home.

After we unpacked the car I ran to my son's school to pick up his supplies.  The school started a new system where with one click you can order all the supplies your child needs by grade online.  It's packed up by a local retailer and delivered to the school for you to pick up.

I debated for half a second in case I could get a better price somewhere else but then had a flashback of last year going from store to store looking for fiskars scissors.  I called Walmart and they had them - when we got there they only had pink which was a no go, etc.  What I might save in supplies I would spend in gas and anything that buys me time back to spend with my kids is money well spent in my opinion!

This one stop shopping was awesome!  They even included labels with his name so I could attach them to his supplies.

Get It Done Tip: If your school offers this one stop school supply shopping I highly recommend. If they don't - ask them to do it!  :)

A beautiful sight!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Busy, Fun Day

The kids got up at the CRACK dawn.

We threw clothes on them all and took them out for breakfast.  Then home for bathing suits, sunblock and headed to the beach.

I took the baby home around 11 for a nap and to get us organized for the rest of the day (yes, we went out for breakfast and had 2 hours on the beach and it was still only 11:00!). I took another shower, got the wash going, prepped lunch and laid out everyone's clothes for when they got home.

After lunch we packed them all into the car and did our trip to the far end of the island to see the lighthouse. The kids napped on the way there so it worked out perfect. Went for an early dinner, ice cream parlor show and then the little amusement park in town.


Get It Done Tip: I laid out everyone's pajamas, towels/washcloths, night time diapers and made bottles and put them in the fridge.  I knew we'd be home late and we would all be exhausted.  I was thankful I did this because as soon as we got in they all went in the tub and the rest of the nighttime routine went quickly.

Everyone is bathed and in bed now.  My big boy is still awake because the baby keeps crying.
I think everyone is just over tired.  It's been an awesome few days, but the late nights are a bit much since the kids are still so little. This is why I always plan for a few days off at home after vacation so we can get our home in order and the kids back in a routine.

Tomorrow beach and then we head home!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vacation Agenda Items

Had another great day today.  Beach, pirate ship, out to a nice dinner (although the kids were a little wild!).

We decided our two youngest were completely exhausted and needed a good night of sleep.  We opted to keep them home and I went out with the big boy to the amusement park.

We had a great time on the bumper cars, playing skee ball and then buying him his annual LBI sweat shirt. The other two will get their sweat shirts it gets passed down to them. ;)

Tomorrow is our last full day.  We want to go to a special ice cream place that is a tradition of ours as well as take a drive to the far end to see the light house before we leave for home.

Get It Done Tip: In order to see all the sites and do all of our traditions I map out how long things take to do without being rushed, I organize activities so they flow together nice.  For example, we'll likely do the drive out to the light house and then we'll look up some places to do dinner on that end of the island.  We can then do the ice cream shop before going home for the night.

Keeping an organized agenda of your vacation time will de-stress your time so you can enjoy it. Make sure to leave huge blocks of time open and free too - seeing the sites is nice, but it's time to relax too!
I tried to get a picture of my big boy on the Himalaya ride

Sunday, August 25, 2013

GTL at the Jersey Shore

I love that this blog has forced me to keep some sort of diary of my days.

For years now I have wanted to keep a diary to look back on when I am older, but I never seem to find the time.  I could have easily skipped writing the past couple of days because I was so tired, but I feel compelled to write because I have a friend that keeps encouraging me to keep it up.  At least I know someone is reading. :)

It's easy to remember the milestone days of your life.  But these simple days are just as precious and I love that I now have a little log of them so they won't be forgotten.

It has been another "10" day at the shore.  We went to the beach for a few hours.  I then went home with the two little ones while my husband took the big boy out on his boogie board.

Get It Done Tip: I packed some snacks for the beach.  I have friends who buy big batches of snacks and then break them up into Ziploc to save money.  I have no facts to back up my opinions on this topic, but I can't imagine you save that much money by doing this after having to buy Ziploc bags.
I had so much to pull together between getting myself and 3 kids ready - bathing suits, towels, water shoes, sunscreen, bottles, diapers, the list goes on.  The last thing I needed to worry about was making snack bags for everyone.  So my tip for today is splurge and get those prepackaged snack packs once in awhile.  The few pennies you save is worth your sanity if you have a ton going on!

When everyone got home I took my middle guy out to look at my favorite store down here called "How to Live".  We then picked up clams and mussels from the fish market for dinner.

We did the math after the fact - the dinner cooked at home, plus a nice salad of tomato/cucumber/red onion on the side ran us about $45.  Considering our lunch cost $90 with tip and it was sandwiches I think we saved enough to splurge on snack packs. ;)

We went to the 6 pm play of Willy Wonka which the kids loved.  Rob took the big boys to play mini golf after while I took a walk with the baby.

The days are going too fast!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Relaxing Saturday on Long Beach Island, NJ

We got on the road around 8 this morning and made it to Long Beach Island, NJ around 10:15.

Such a great, family vacation spot.  No boardwalk - just beach, a small amusement park and some cute shops.  Just perfect.

The house we rented is friggin' amazing.  Four decks at different levels, double set of bunk beds for kids, walk to the beach, amazing kitchen, dining room and living room.  The house is empty of stuff so when I walked in I put away milk, eggs and some other food items I picked up and then all I did was sit.

An overwhelming fatigue came over me.  I could have gone to sleep and I bet I would've slept for hours.

Between work and family I am constantly "on" until my head hits the pillow each night.  There is always something to do despite my best efforts to try to ignore the laundry and messes so I can enjoy the kids when I am home.

But here on vacation there isn't much to do.  Nothing really for the kids to mess up (they just keep running from deck to deck and driving me crazy since I am running after them to make sure they are safe), no stuff lying around, nothing to cook, no laundry yet. Had some work emails buzz through on the car ride down, but then even that fell silent.  So I think all the stress fell off me like a load of bricks and my poor fatigued body could barely move.

We took the kids to the beach for a bit today and then went out to a nice lunch at the Plantation Restaurant.

Get It Done Tip: When you arrive in a new place grab the local free newspaper which has event information.  I did this when we went to lunch and flipped through quick to scope out what was going on in town.  Sure enough I found the local theater is doing a Willy Wonka play for kids.  So funny since I was just telling my middle one we'd do a Willy Wonka theme for his birthday since he has such a sweet tooth.
We went to a play at the theater last year and the kids loved it, so we hit up the ticket booth tonight so we have good seats and can plan to be at the show 6 pm tomorrow.  We can't wait!

We were supposed to go out for dinner, but we had lunch so late and I was so tired I couldn't bare the thought of having to sit through dinner at a restaurant.  So made the kids a light dinner at home with what we had on had and then we took them to the amusement park and out for ice cream.

My big boy has quite the arm and won a baseball game twice so he won a prize for him and one of his little brothers.  So sweet.  They all have such a ball together - it is so fun to watch them enjoy these special days together.

We got in about 40 minutes ago, so it was a late night.  We bathed everyone and the house is finally quiet.
Let's hope they sleep in!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Vacation Prep

It's late(ish) if that is a word.  I officially just finished my last deliverable for work and turned on my out of office.  It's vacation for the next 10 days and I am PSYCHED!

I am drained of energy from almost 2 years of running ragged.  My little one was born January of 2012 and prior to that my last full week of vacation was August 2011. Yes, I had 3+ months maternity leave last year but that was no vacation. So this week off has been highly anticipated.

I am no fool.  I know my kids will still be whining at my feet and my blackberry will still be buzzing, but it'll be on a beach and in a house that doesn't have closets staring at me begging me to organize them.

So, hopefully I can relax a little.  I seriously need it.

I stayed focused all week to get things in order at work so I don't have anything hanging over my head that would bug me while I was out.  I still have things open at work of course...never will there be a day when everything is crossed off the list.

Get It Done Tip: I sent an email to key people at work Thursday reminding them I was going to be out and giving an update on where things stood and what other steps I planned to do before I officially logged off for vacation Friday COB. It gave people the opportunity to make comments/ask for additional items and I still had a day to deliver on it. I sent my final update today in the afternoon and made note of my next step for items all of which will happen on or after September 3rd when I return.  I sent this early enough for people to read it and in most cases I got back a "have a great vacation!".  It felt good to have things in order and know that expectations are set that yes, I am around if you need me, but unless it's urgent we can chat when I return.

After work I ran out for a pedicure, picked up some wine and went to the store to get some fruit and snacks for our car trip.

When I got home I went into the fridge to slice up and freeze whatever veggies were still in there.  Despite my sauce from yesterday I still had a ton of stuff.  Huge zucchini and a bunch of peppers.  I cleaned them, sliced them and froze them.  I made a mental note I can pull them out for dinner one night to toss on the grill as a side dish.
Until we meet again peppers, zucchini and leeks! 

My boys are so incredibly excited to go to the "wavy beach" as they call it that it took them some time to settle down to get to sleep.  I am now off to do the same so I am rested for tomorrow. :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Quick Garden Sauce in the Slow Cooker

We joined an organic farm share this year so get tons of fresh vegetables delivered to us each week.

The quality is great and the fun of it is we never know what we'll get.  We have been getting a lot of beets, cucumbers and other veggies that have been great for juicing which my husband has been loving.  

This week we also received eggplant, green peppers, garlic and a bunch of tomatoes (plus I have tomatoes from our garden), so decided to toss everything into the crock and make a sauce.

So at 6:45 AM I was chopping up a storm!

The eggplants get their own special photo since I forgot to put them in the first picture!

I came home and the house smelled great.  I pureed everything until it was smooth and the kids LOVED it.

We don't often do pasta and sauce, but this was darn good!

My husband had some Tiger Woods golf thing so wasn't home for dinner.  I knew I wouldn't need to make a ton of sauce for just the kids and I, but wanted to get rid of the vegetables since we're leaving on vacation Saturday morning., so dumped everything in.

Get it Done Tip: Make big batches of sauce and freeze in individual Ziploc bags to use for quick weeknight meals - toss with pasta, pour over chicken cutlets and sprinkle with mozzarella, or toss with meat/chopped veggies and put on hearty bread for sandwiches.

The extra sauce I had I put in the freezer so I have a delicious and nutritious sauce the next time a recipe calls for it.

Garden Vegetable Sauce in the Slow Cooker

6 tomatoes chopped (I also threw in some cherry tomatoes from my garden)
2 garlic cloves minced
1 green pepper chopped
24 oz tomatoes (I used bionature strained tomatoes)
7 oz tomato paste (I used bionature brand)
1 eggplant peeled and diced
1/4 cup red wine
tablespoon sugar
sprinkle of dried oregano

Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray and mix all ingredients in crock.
Cook on low for 8-9 hours
Cool and puree until smooth
toss with pasta 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Polynesian Pulled Pork

Just got home after having drinks with some old college friends.  They were teasing me how I am take charge.  Everyone kept saying we should get together and I had enough of the talk so put something on the books! It was a fun night.

Get It Done Tip: If there is someplace you want to go or someone you want to visit just schedule it and put it on your calendar. Someone told me a great saying today. They said they would rather regret the things they did instead of regretting the things they didn't do.  Make it your motto too and make the time to visit people you want to see and go the places you want to go!

Since I knew I was going out after work I made a quick simple meal in the crock pot that everyone LOVED!  

Polynesian Pulled Pork

4 red pepper sliced
small jar duck sauce (sorry too tired to go downstairs to try and dig through trash to find size!)
boneless pork roast or pork shoulder
can of crushed pineapple

Put sliced peppers in crock pot
put pork on top
pour duck sauce over pork
Pour can of pineapple over

Cook on low for 8 hours (or less/more depending on size of meat) until meat is cooked through.
shred pork with fork and mix through pineapple, peppers
Pile shredded pork mixture on sandwiches
We served ours with a salad and corn.

My husband is on a paleo kick so ate in minus the bread.  Kids devoured it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Get It Done With Breathing Room

I worked from home today.  As stressful as my job has been the past few weeks, I am really fortunate. Love that my job is so flexible that I can wake up and decide I need to stay home.

I was able to do work uninterrupted and ran out around 11 to pick up my son's school uniform so it was one less thing to worry about.

Get It Done Tip: Don't wait until the last possible minute to get something done.  I could have waited another 2 1/2 weeks to pick up the uniform, but even this was cutting it too close for my liking.

If you wait until the last minute it'll just add to your stress and you run the risk of something coming up that doesn't allow you to accomplish the task -- give yourself breathing room!

We were supposed to go with friends out to dinner, but some members of the other family had a cold so they cancelled.  We took our kids out for a quick bite and now we're home snuggled in bed about to read a National Geographic's Little Kid magazine.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Cheesy Spinach Baked Ziti

Ah, work. We know how I am feeling about that topic.  Let's move on.

I prepped dinner yesterday so it could be heated up quickly so it was one less thing to worry about.  Below was so freakin fast and the kids LOVED it.  The recipe is from Gooseberry Patch's cookbook "Farmhouse Kitchen" - I am obsessed with Gooseberry Patch!

I used freshly grated Parmesan cheese for the dinner and noticed I was running low on it.

Get It Done Tip: Whenever I am about about to run low on something I automatically add it to my notes list on my mobile device -- I have a weekly grocery list, a Costco list, a Walmart list, a Target list, etc. so I add it in as appropriate to ensure I don't forget.

If my brother read this blog maybe he wouldn't have run out of toilet paper at his daughter's birthday party this past weekend. I am not sure how we're related.

Getting fancy with our pictures - action shot + sepia!

Cheesy Spinach Baked Ziti

12-oz package ziti, cooked
12 1/2 oz diced tomatoes with italian herbs
9-oz package frozen creamed spinach, thawed
8-oz packaged grated Romano cheese (I grated fresh parm instead)
8-oz packaged shredded mozzarella

Mix all ingredients except mozzarella cheese; spread in greased 13x9 baking pan.
Top with mozzarella cheese.
Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

All three of my kids devoured it.  My husband is yet again on a anti-carb kick and had a green smoothie and I went out to dinner with an old colleague and ate homemade pasta!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Roasted Chicken and Garden Vegetables + Homemade Applesauce

Had a nice Sunday.  Piano with my big boy and a quick play date at the park with his school friend.  I also quickly hit up Banana Republic since I received a $15 gift card in the mail from them (no dollar amount required to spend!) so wound up getting a hair band for $5.  It pays to open up every piece of mail -- even if it looks like junk!

My husband's grandma and his dad came over for dinner.

We joined an organic crop share so cut up a bunch of veggies from this week's delivery to roast along with boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Cut up carrots, parsnips, shallots, squash, potato and sweet potato.  Tossed with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Spread out on 2 baking sheets and nestled chicken thighs in between (putting EVOO and same seasoning on them).

Roasted at 400 for 20 minutes then took out and tossed in white mushrooms sliced in half and chanterelle mushrooms which gave the dish a rich, earthy taste.  Served with a salad and fresh bread.

I also made something called Fall Harvest Cake for dessert -- it was healthy, but not worth making again so not going to write it down.  It was a bundt cake that included a bunch of spices - ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, used apple sauce instead of oil, can of pumpkin, chopped apple.  After baked I frosted it with a fresh cream cheese frosting.  It was super moist and healthy (except the frosting), but let's face it - if it isn't chocolate it isn't really dessert!

I also did lots of other cooking today!

We have fresh produce delivered for the week on Sunday morning.

Get it Done Tip: In prep for the delivery I take a look at whatever is left from the prior week's shopping so I can either freeze it or use it so it doesn't go to waste.  We buy organic which can be pricey, so I hate to waste a thing.

Usually we're cleaned out by end of week, but for some reason this week I had 6 bananas turning brown and about 6 apples that were about to turn.  I made banana bread with 3 of the bananas and froze the rest for smoothies.  And I cleaned and cored/sliced the apples to make fresh applesauce.

Applesauce is SO easy to make -- I used to make all my own baby food and this was always an easy staple. You can usually just peel, core, slice and toss in a tiny bit of water and cinnamon and then cook them down and puree.  A friend of mine swore by this recipe though which does have some sugar added, but also includes the peel which is high in fiber and has other health benefits.

Fresh Applesauce
4 pounds tart apples, cored and sliced
1/2 cup sugar (I used less)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup water
1 Tbs lemon juice

Mix everything together in a crockpot and cook on low.  Mine were softened in about 6 hours.
Mash for chunky or puree for smooth.

Tasty health snack for the all!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Birthday Cake Pops

We have my niece's 5th birthday today. Looking forward to enjoying my kids and maybe even SITTING for a bit!

Made cake pops last night to bring along with some wine to the celebration.

Cake pops look complicated, but they aren't.  But then when you're doing them you realize they are sort of a pain in the rear.

All you need is any type of cake mix -- bake it as usual then cut off and discard hard edges and crumble the rest in a bowl with some canned frosting until they hold together and can be made into balls.  Dip the lollipop stick in melted chocolate and put cake ball on it.  Put in fridge to set.
Then dip entire cake pop in melted chocolate or candy coating, add sprinkles if desired and then put on wax paper in the fridge to harden.

You need a foam block so they harden without a flat side -- but I was too lazy to go looking for mine.

I have made all types of cake pops - one weird one using crushed graham crackers and cream cheese frosting and these are actually a brownie mix.  The brownies were moist so required no frosting mixed in.

The plate looked sparse in the middle so the jelly beans are can never have enough sugar at a kid's birthday party. :)

The gifts are wrapped, the boy's cards for their cousin are made and off we go!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Quick & Easy Harvest Pork Skillet + War Paint

Had the day off today, well sorta.  So much going on at work it is nearly impossible to truly disconnect.  I do feel like I have work/life balance though.

My personal stuff flows into my job and my job flows into my life.  Being flexible and not drawing a line in the sand and being ok with it has allowed me to get stuff done and keep my sanity.

This morning was a total cluster though.  First time ever I had off and there was a miscommunication and my poor dad came down to watch the kids.  Since he was down I left him to watch the big kids while I ran off with the baby at 8 AM to get my Starbucks, pick up pork chops for tonight's dinner (because like an idiot I ignored the package I bought on Sunday which had a sell by date of Wed so it was garbage today -more on that later), went to the bank.

Dropped perishables and a coffee off with my dad and then hit the road again.  9:30 was at a toy store to look at Alex crafts since their facebook page announced you would get a free gift with a purchase -- of course the store didn't have the free gift, so that was a waste - but picked up 2 crafts for the big boys anyway.

Then off to 10 AM doc with the baby.  Yep, all that by 10 AM!  It is a lot of running around I know.
After doc went to visit my mother-in-law quick, then home to let my dad leave.

By 12:30 I had lunch cooking for the kids and then after lunch put baby down for a nap and set big kids up with a painting train craft.  I had a work call at 1:30 so thought I was genius to plan this so I could have my call in peace.

But no, I was not a genius.  Instead of painting the trains the kids took off their shirts and painted their belly buttons and gave themselves war paint.  It was a sight!

Tried to do a little work for my job while they played outside, but it was hard.

Then made dinner and my husband took older ones to see Planes.  Baby is sleeping, I cleaned up and am waiting for brownies to cool so I can make cake pops for my niece's 5th birthday party which is tomorrow.
It's been a crazy couple of weeks. Next week at work is sure to be intense, but after that I have off and am looking forward to being with my men by the shore -- we all need it.

Anyway, back to the expired pork that I had to throw out - I didn't "get it done" and I wasted time and
money. I know better, but it was a crazy week and it happens.  

Get it Done Tip: As soon as you get in your groceries check the expiration date against your meal plan.  If the sell by date is prior to your schedule either move the recipe on your calendar or put the item in the freezer (if possible) so it doesn't go bad.  I know sell by date means it could be good the next day, but I skeeve that.

On to DINNER!   I am still on this major Fall kick (wait until you hear about my plans for Sunday dessert!). I made something that almost looks like last night's dinner, but it wasn't and it was really good!  This is taken from Gooseberry Patch's Quick and Easy Autumn Cookbook.
We all enjoyed it and so simple to make.

Harvest Pork Skillet

4 boneless pork chops, diced
2 tbs oil
12-oz jar pork gravy
2 T ketchup
8 redskin potatoes, diced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (I apparently was out so used frozen peas instead)

In large skillet over medium heat, brown pork chops in oil. 
Stir in gravy, ketchup and potatoes.
Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Stir in vegetables.
Cook for 10-15 minutes longer until vegetables are tender and pork is cooked through.
Serve with a salad and dinner is done!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings (without the dumplings)

Oh my goodness gracious. I am about to drop I am so exhausted.

Long day at work followed by our summer party, which had an 80's theme. Ran out early and got home in time for baths/bed. I knew that since I would be home late I had to get dinner ready in advance.

If anyone ever asks me my best tip for juggling work and life first thing out of my mouth is:

Get It Done Tip: Get a crock pot! While most of the recipes are far from gourmet (except I LOVE the America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Cookbook - which is gourmet and every recipe is perfect), it is a lifesaver for a day like I had today. I have a ton more to say about slow cookers, but it'll have to wait for a day when I am more coherent.

I made Better Homes and Gardens "Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings", but left out the dumplings because otherwise my husband would have had to make/add them as soon as he got home....and the thought of him measuring, mixing, rolling dough after he got home with 3 hungry kids hanging on him made me take pity on him. So, they had Chicken and Dumplings minus the dumplings.

Chicken and Dumplings (minus the dumplings)

My husband's dinner, as texted to me while I ate a dinner of pop rocks, fun dip and other 80's junk food surrounded by dancing leg-warmered, neon-clad colleagues.

2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped potatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped parsnips
2 bay leaves
1 tsp crushed dried sage
1 clove garlic minced
2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 14 oz can chicken broth
1 10 3/4 oz can cream of chicken soup

Combine first seven ingredients in a slow cooker
Mix broth with soup and pour over meat and vegetables in crock pot
Cook on low for 8-10 hours

My husband said he and the little two liked it.  The 6-year old turned vegetarian tonight and skipped the meat apparently.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fresh Lemonade and Crabby Kids

The baby woke up crabby, but seemed to get better throughout the day.

I worked from home today (because I had a check-up in the afternoon) and was surprised for a bit all was quiet. The little two were napping at the same time and the oldest laid down to rest too.
I thought to myself - great! They'll be well rested for our middle one's friend who was coming over for a pizza play date (I disclosed to the mom that the baby had a fever last night, but she was still game!).

But, no. They rested to get their animal on. Seriously. They were embarrassing. Running around like crazy, not listening. When I go through the online diary over the past couple of days I can see why - we are having a lot of fun packing it all in, but we're doing way too much and running ragged at this point.

We had planned tonight's play date a few weeks back assuming since it's August we could use the pool; however, it felt like Sept. So the kids ran around, but the middle one and his friend are only 3 and need to keep being directed back to each other to actually play together....thankfully I had goodies on hand to do just that!

Get It Done Tip - I have a closet where I store little toys I find on clearance that can be used as a surprise when we have little visitors -- whether it is punch balloons, glow in the dark necklaces, bubbles, etc. It's great to stock up on these things so you have some fun surprises that make the play date a little extra special and the visitor gets a "party favor". The kids had a ball.

As I mentioned we had a special treat of pizza, salad and the mom brought dessert. I cut up some fruit and used little plastic sword toothpicks to incentive all the boys to dig in (it worked!). I also am not a juice fan - my kids drink water, but for play dates I like to make this fresh-squeezed lemonade. It is SO easy and delish!

Fresh Lemonade
4 lemons
8 cups water 
 1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar

Mix 1/3 cup water and 1 cup of sugar in saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
Juice lemons.
Pour 8 cups water, sugar water and lemon juice into pitcher and stir.
Chill in fridge and serve over ice if desired.

Thankfully the next few days should be relatively quiet!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Not Your Momma's Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole

Crazy day at work.  I am not going to write that sentence again -- let's just assume from now on that if I went to work it was crazy; otherwise I am going to start every post Monday-Friday with that same line and it's just depressing!

Was looking forward to putting the two little ones to bed, catching up on some work and relaxing while my husband took our oldest to karate. No such luck.

Came home and my mom told me the baby was fine all day - he was jumping, he was dancing, he was laughing but as soon as it turned 5:00 he was lethargic and he was feverish.  He is moaning/crying for hours and screams the second I leave his room. It's sad.

Thankfully my husband is home now as he has the Midas touch with the putting the kids to bed.  He got the middle one down, then took over the baby for me and now here I am on my laptop snuggled next to the big boy - who is playing a game on the kindle that he stumbled across and I bought for him called Baby Home Adventure.  The game consists of having to sort laundry, plant flowers, clean the house. HYSTERICAL. Good, let him learn so he makes someone a good husband one day!

Anyway, I don't have a ton of time to write tonight as I have oodles of work to do for my job and who knows what kind of sleep we'll get anyway given the baby is sick.  So, let me hop right to it.

I made for tonight's dinner a chicken, broccoli, rice casserole (not using canned soup). I found the recipe on and it was pretty good.

Get It Done Tip: If you have a Trader Joe's by you they sell organic (and regular) brown rice in the freezer section.  I guess you can make your own rice too and just freeze it, but why bother when someone else can do it for ya and it's cheap, cheap!  It is already cooked so all you have to do is dump it in your favorite dish to heat it up.  Life changing. You can thank me later.

I am going to need to take a food photography class...everything looks good in person, I promise!

Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole 

1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 head broccoli, chopped  (I used frozen)
1 tablespoon butter 
1 small onion, diced 
3 -4 garlic cloves, minced 
1/4 teaspoon thyme 
2 cups cooked chicken, diced 
1/2 cup milk 
3 tablespoons mayonnaise 
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 

Cook broccoli until tender and toss with rice. Put in greased 9x13 casserole dish.
Heat butter over medium heat in pan and add onions and cook until softened and just starting to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
Turn off heat, add thyme, chicken, mayonnaise and milk, stirring to combine.
Add chicken and sauce mixture, 1 1/2 cups of cheese to broccoli rice and mix well.
Cook at 350 degrees approx 25 minutes or until cheese is melted.

I ate this with the baby laying lethargic in one arm, balancing the dish on my legs while watching my middle son naked pretending he was a rock star with lipstick all over his face and chest. You know, the usual.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Sweet & Salty Treats Pool Party

It was Monday, for sure.

Slept weird on this organic barley pillow my husband swears by, but made my neck crooked.  Dragged my aching, crooked neck and the rest of my limbs out of bed and haven't stopped until now.

Had a great lunch with an old colleague, but otherwise uneventful day at work.

Day flew and next thing I new it was 5:05, so raced out the door to catch the train.  Train is usually on time, but today of all days it moved at a slug's pace.  I usually get in the door at 6:05.  Just enough time to get my act together for a 6:30 pool party play date, but today walked in at 6:25!  Total panic.  

Thankfully everything was in order for the most part....except that the baby was walking around with some rubber playground mulch in his diaper for a bit thanks to his older brothers....but that's a story for another day!

Everything went great.  It's so nice to have a glass of wine and chat with other mom's to hear what they are struggling with or what they have found successful ranging from meal ideas to babysitters to vacation spots.  I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by so many mothers that I admire and learn from.

One topic that came up was about all the pictures we take on our phone and whether or not we print them out.   I take hundreds of pictures a month, I upload them to shutterfly, I email them out monthly to family and friends but I am TERRIBLE at printing them/making books.  One day I will get'll keep me busy when I am an empty nester...god willing shutterfly doesn't go out of business or get hacked by then!!

Get It Done Tip: One thing that I mentioned that got some interest from the other mom's is that I mark my calendar each week to email myself all the photos from my phone.  I then save them to my desktop and upload them to shutterfly. This ensures I never lose any of the precious photos of my munchkins.

All of these conversations were going on over wine and munching on those amazing Almond Dark Chocolate Cookies and this yummy popcorn.  

I have one of those old fashioned air poppers.  I buy the organic popcorn and always forget that it is a great snack for company.  The kids were flipping over it while they watched it pop.  I jazzed it up with a little drizzled butter, grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of salt.  Yum!
Parmesan Popcorn

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Almond Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Great day visiting with family in NJ today. The kids had fun playing in the lake with their cousins and climbing the jungle gym on the beach. There was some minor drama with me getting smashed in the face by my little niece on the swings -- got a nice bump under my eye, but otherwise we all had fun.

I love road trips like we had today when I am a passenger and my train ride to/from the city for work.
Get It Done Tip: I can use the time to flip through cookbooks or magazines to do meal planning. I pick out recipes that look interesting and plug it into my notes section on my blackberry. I then make the corresponding shopping list breaking it out by weeks. Cuts down on the stress to have things organized. 

Tomorrow we have another play date in the evening so I plan to do a salty/sweet treat pool party after dinner. Picked up some pretzels and these cute Trader Joe's mini ice cream cones. Tonight I set out all the paper goods we'll need, straightened up the house, made homemade lemonade and tomorrow will make some fresh Parmesan Popcorn. I also made these a-ma-zing Almond Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 3.5 oz bars chocolate bars of your choice (I used a bar of dark chocolate and a bar of milk chocolate with Almond)

Mix first 5 ingredients thoroughly. 
Mix flour, baking soda, salt together and add to first 5 ingredient mixture.
Chop chocolate bars and mix through cookie dough.
Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto lightly greased cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Playdate featuring Brownie Pizza

It was the last day of camp today for the big boys. I worked from home today and then as soon as I was done I raced downstairs to clean up and get dinner going. We had my oldest's 2 little friends and their families over for a play date and dinner. The kids had a blast and I made this super easy treat I found on Pinterest called Brownie Pizza. Just use boxed brownies (I replaced equal parts unsweetened applesauce instead of vegetable oil my boxed mix called for) and bake until done in a deep dish pizza pan. I usually make it the night before and when cool cover with tinfoil. Right before I serve it I put cool whip on it and sliced strawberries. That's it - easy and can feed a crowd.
Brownie Pizza

Get it done tip: Pinterest is a great way to organize things you like online. I have pin boards broken out by brunch, lunch, appetizer, breakfast, sides, dessert, etc., so when I have to entertain all I have to do is peruse my pin boards to quickly pull together a menu.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dirty Laundry

Took the day off from work and if I am being real even though I did prep last night it was still insanity this morning. BUT imagine how much worse it could have been if I didn't do somethings to at least get us in shape to move quicker! :)
Raced to get everyone dressed, shower myself and get dressed. Fed the kids breakfast amid constant shrieks for #2 who kept getting his food stolen by #3. Tried to block it out and pack bags, put on makeup, straighten up a little. Then we ran out the door to drop the big 2 off at camp.
Yesterday I thought about all I had to get done knowing we would be out most of the day at the aquarium to visit friends. I wanted to visit my mother-in-law who is recouping from surgery in a rehab center. I needed to get my coffee and gift cards for camp counselors (last day of camp tomorrow), needed kids to make cards for counselors and needed some Method All Purpose spray, needed to clean the house because we are having company Friday. Always looking at the days ahead to figure out what I need to do and mentally blocking off the time so things get done.
I knew it would be easier to visit my mother-in-law and do the shopping while kids were in camp so did that and when we got home had the kids make their cards and when they were in bed straightened up for company.
The cleaning and keeping the house running feels like an endless fruitless pursuit. It is never all done and you just have to get over that so you can enjoy your family and not spend every waking minute worrying about cleaning. Which is why I usually focus on doing that at night when the kids are in bed. Tonight's fun was getting out this mess!
I joke that I feel like I am living a Tide commercial...but it actually isn't a joke! :)

Get it done tip: I spoke to a stay-at-home mom during my 3rd maternity leave and told her how I just couldn't keep up with the endless laundry. She gave me the best laundry tip that seems so simple, but it really made a difference for me: Keep doing small loads. Even if you wake up in the morning and you only have a few things - toss them in. My washing machine/dryer have settings for small loads so I don't worry about wasting water or energy. It is the simplest tip, but when I tried it laundry became more manageable. Plus the stress of looking at laundry piling up waiting for a "full load" goes away. Anything that saves time and sanity is worth trying!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Day Off From Cooking Dinner

I had planned to make a dent in using all the tomatoes in our garden today and slice them, along with steak and make sandwiches. However, plans changed as I needed to help out a friend and watch her two little girls in the evening. So, we had an impromptu playdate and ordered in pizza.

I went into my notes section of my blackberry and to ensure nothing goes to waste moved the steak sandwich plan to another day. Put the meat and the rolls in the freezer and used the tomatoes to make a salad instead.

Get it done tip: A playdate on a weeknight means exhausted kids in the morning for camp. I have off tomorrow so plan to take the kids to camp and visit a family member and then get the big boys from camp to visit some other friends at the aquarium. Sure to be a fun day, but crazy morning lays ahead.

To cut down on the stress of getting everyone out of the house I laid out everyone's clothes already (mine included) and packed the diaper bag for the baby, made his bottles, organized the snacks. I was sooo tired and dreaded doing it, but know in the long run it will make my morning that much easier so worth the extra push! I am pooped, goodnight!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Amazon Prime & 6-Bean Casserole

I LOVE Amazon Prime. I never get tired of the topic. The endless amounts of random things I can have shipped to my door (diapers, detergent, baby bottle liners, shampoo, I will stop now!) so I don't have to go to the store has been life changing. I work five days a week and when I am not working I want to spend every minute with my kids and not in a store...unless of course we're talking about going to Lord and Taylor. Amazon Prime is a few bucks a year and you get most items shipped to your door second-day air. The subscribe and save is also a kick butt way to get things you use often at an even greater discount. LOVE. Anyhow, I have found a broad selection of non-perishable organic food on Amazon including organic brown sugar. I ordered it and was clearly too excited to read the fine print and now have 6 packages sitting in my cupboard so am looking for ways to use it up! I found the recipe below also in Gooseberry Patch's new Quick and Easy Autumn book (I am a Gooseberry Patch junkie!). I normally like to only use ingredients that aren't canned, but when I find a recipe that looks really odd I just have to try it, so here we are today.

6-Bean Casserole
1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
15 oz can green beans
15 oz yellow wax beans
15 oz butter beans
15 oz great northern beans
16 oz light red kidney beans
16 oz pork and beans
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup onion chopped 
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 t white vinegar
1 t dry mustard

Brown meat, put into crockpot with remaining ingredients. Stir and cook in crockpot for 8 hours.

The Verdict: My husband said "this is good". The rest of us, not so much.

Get it done tip: Amazon Prime - 'nuff said.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mondays Call For One Dish Dinners!

My house runs like a well-oiled machine.  I drive my husband crazy with lists and calendar invites to keep us organized, but deep down he knows it's the only way anything would get done. 
I prep Monday's dinner Sunday night.  I like to do a one pot meal that can be easily popped into the oven and served alongside a nice salad. 
I found an interesting recipe in Gooseberry Patch's new cookbook "Quick and Easy Autumn" and made some tweaks to it to suit my family's taste.  It was pretty good!  Vegetable, carb, protein all in one dish.  Picked some basil and tomatoes from our garden for an easy side and dinner was done.

Hearty Squash Casserole

1 cup zucchini shredded
2 potatoes peeled and sliced
1/3 cup onion chopped
14 1/2 oz diced tomatoes
1/3 cup butter melted
8 oz package chicken stuffing
pound of ground chicken
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 1/3 cup water

Spray a 3 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
Layer ingridients in the following order: squash, sliced potatoes, onion, tomatoes; set aside.
In a separate bowl toss melted butter and stuffing together; spoon over tomatoes.
In another bowl mix ground chicken, soups and water together.  Spoon meat mixture over stuffing.
Cover and bake at 350 for an hour or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

The verdict: Two of my boys (6 and 18 months) loved it and had 2 helpings.  My middle one was 'meh on it. Husband and I loved it. My mom, who heated it up while I was coming home from work and asked for the recipe.  Great hearty meal.

Get it done tip: I make my dinner menu and corresponding grocery lists weeks in advance.  With grocery list in hand you can stock up on non-perishables you know you will use when they go on sale.  This helps save money and ensures that whatever you buy doesn't go to waste.  For example, I knew I had to buy stuffing and the soup a few weeks ago so when they went on sale I picked them up.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ready For Fall with Healthier Pumpkin Cookies

Nonstop. All day.  That's how we roll.   Me and my three little boys hit up Legoland for an early morning playdate. We got home around noon and I got to work prepping our Sunday dinner. 
I used to hate Sundays -- for a decade in my 20s it meant I likely had a hangover and for a couple of years in my early 30s it meant work was the next day. 
That's now changed and Sunday is family day to me.   I get the house in order, listen to the italian music station, look out in the backyard at my kids playing while cooking up a storm. 
The cooler (80s!) weather has me in the mood for Fall, so I made a roast chicken, string bean and fresh corn casserole and crockpot sweet potatoes with peaches.
Sunday's are also special because they are the only day I make dessert, so with today's Fall theme I decided to make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. 
These cookies are not like regular chocolate chip cookies, so get that out of your head.  These are puffy, soft, chewy and a bit healthier than the traditional cookies that use butter, oil or shortening since I used unsweetened applesauce in place of those ingriedients.

Pumpkin Cookies with Chocolate Chips
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
15 oz canned pumpkin puree
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Mix together wet ingredients until well mixed.  Add flour, baking soda and cinnamon and mix well.  Fold in chocolate  chips. 
Using a cookie scoop drop on greased baking sheet. 
Bake 375 for 8-10 minutes.
Cool on wire rack.

My kids loved them!  Now off to finish prep for the week ahead!

Get it done tip:  I do the food shopping Sunday and plan our dinners that have perishable ingredients earlier in the week to ensure nothing goes to waste.