Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Coffee Talk

I feel like a truck hit me.  Everything hurts and I am so incredibly tired.  Hopefully I am not coming down with something.

I dropped off my son at school so I could tell the teacher he isn't bringing home the right homework books. Which resulted in more books missing from the book bag again today.  I am too Type A for this!

My husband stayed home today with the kids.  I came home to the place in shambles and stories of poop on the bathroom floor and slipping in it.  I am laughing as I write this.  Hilarious.

My husband made an easy dinner I earmarked -- it was a wheat berry & porcini soup.  Except my grocery delivery didn't have wheat berry so I looked up substitutes and made farro & porcini soup.  It was SO awful.  I mean, I could barely get down one spoonful of it. Blech.

Very rarely will you find food untouched in this house.  Tonight's dinner was a fail! :(
I have a project I need to focus on so need to tend to that now so I can get to bed soon. Hoping some sleep does me good.

If not, I am going to try this Get It Done Tip tomorrow:  I read in All You Magazine an article called "How to Fake a Good Night's Sleep".  It talked about how a sleep journal study found that if you drink your coffee slowly throughout the day - specifically 2 oz an hour - you can maintain energy throughout the day.
Worth a try!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Getting Ready For Halloween

Yep, it's that time.  One of my favorite holidays is Halloween so we always decorate early so we can enjoy it for a few weeks.

The house was in a state of disaster for hours and it drove me crazy. I walked in circle all day long cleaning, decorating and only finally getting things in shape by early evening.

Got up to the usual routine - baked their snack for the week - this week it was banana bread. Decided against making soup for lunch to give myself a break today.   Dinner for tomorrow my husband can throw in the crock pot since he'll be home, so not a ton of time in the kitchen for once.

We all went to my oldest's first football game at 1:30.  He made a touch down!  We were so proud!

As soon we got home I started dinner while my husband finished up hanging up the Halloween lights.

Everything from the week's crop share tossed with olive oil, soy sauce and some crushed garlic.  Roasted until tender. Delish.
I had extra shredded cheddar from a past recipe, so decided to stuff chicken breast with a little of it and then dip it in bread crumbs and brown in a pan.  I poured some white wine in the pan too and it made a nice little sauce.  Served with roasted vegetables and a big salad. Quick and easy.

Paper plates were used because I am over it today.
We have all the candles lit and orange Halloween lights inside and outside, so there is a nice cozy glow in the living room.  I am sitting relaxing as I type this while the kids are finishing up "Wreck it Ralph". Soon to bed for all. I am so looking forward to it!

Quick update - my middle one was just looking around at all the lights and decorations and said "I am so excited it is Halloween".  Just made every minute of today worth the effort!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday Fun

We got up bright and early to take our annual Halloween picture at a local farm store among all the pumpkins. Before we left I asked my oldest what he thought about a new clip I bought and had in my hair and he whispered in response "awkward".  He cracks me up.

Did the best we could with the pictures - it is near impossible to have them all sit, look and smile, so we don't have high expectations and therefore are never disappointed. ;)

There was slight drama when the baby tripped and did a tumblesault and smacked his head.  He has a nice bump on his head and I am pretty sure I got a new gray hair on mine.

We then picked out our pumpkins and picked up sandwiches for lunch.

We went home to change and hit the road at 10 AM to get to Six Flags New England when it opened at noon.  Ate sandwiches on the car ride up.
Fright Fest!
Kids had a blast at the park and we headed home around 5.  Stopped to pick up Chinese food for dinner on the way home.

My husband got the kids in the bath while I cleaned up downstairs.  Once I am done with this post I plan to take a shower and "get horizontal" as my mother-in-law would say.  Can't wait.

PS - I ordered the kid's Thanksgiving outfits today.  Janie and Jack Friends and Family 25% off runs through tomorrow!  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Steamed Artichokes

The kids got up early again and blasted some hardcore rap music for their morning dance party and I thought I was going to lose it.

Flew out of the house and then work, work, work, work, work.

Got home around 5:00 and washed off my son's name written in marker in the downstairs bathroom.  Yelled a little.

Then sat to enjoy one of my favorite special meals - steamed artichokes.

Once every few months I will put this on the menu and we all love it - except my middle one today decided he didn't like it.  They all change their mind depending on their mood, so I don't let it dictate dinner.  If I served it next week there is a good chance he's be back on board.

All you have to do is cut off the top of the artichoke and peel the stem.  Put it in a inch or two of water with lemon and some peeled garlic.  Then steam until tender (knife in middle is easily inserted and leaves pull off easily).
When you get to the "heart" of the artichoke you use a spoon to take off the fuzz before dunking - it's the best part!
Melt butter with some garlic, lemon juice and dash of dried mustard.  Serve with a salad and it's a delicious, different meal from the usual chicken something.  Plus the kids find it amusing (except for mr. grouchy #2) to pull off the leaves and dunk them.  

Tomorrow we're looking forward to going in the morning to take our annual Halloween picture at the pumpkin patch with the kids and then going to an amusement park around noon with some other friends.
Normally I would space out two big events, but I want enough time to make a card with the picture and order them, so want to get it going.  Also if we do it all in one day then I have Sunday off to relax. :)

Get It Done Tip: Birds of a feather flock together.  The college friends we'll see tomorrow and their kids we try to get together with at least once a season.  Because of this we already have mapped out our holiday gathering for December. It's way in advance, but if you know it's going to happen put a place marker down. This ensures things happen.  Usually about a month out we'll all take a look to make sure the date still works so we have enough time to reschedule if needed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

School Lunch

My day started before dawn.  My middle one woke up and started talking as loud as he could to his big brother (they were both in our bed) about how he saw a star out the window.

Of course even in a semi-sleep state my oldest cannot be outdone and said with his eyes closed "I saw a shooting star".

It would have been cute except they wouldn't go back to bed, so here I am post-homework, totally completely drained of energy.  My eyes even feel heavy.

I want nothing more than to take a shower and fall into bed, but I told my husband I needed to first bake something for my company bake sale tomorrow. He told me he would run out and pick up a box of brownies and make them for me. He is a saint!

One quick prep for my son's lunch tomorrow than off I go.  My son has been a fuss pot for what he wants me to pack for lunch lately, but usually we have our routine. Monday-Wednesday lunch is usually a cheese or jelly sandwich (I am anti-deli meat starting a few months ago) with other snacks/fruit of course, Thursday we usually do mac n cheese with some frozen vegetables mixed through and Friday he gets a special treat of buying lunch at school.

Get It Done Tip:  I never mind giving something a little extra effort at the start if it is going to make my life easier on a regular basis.  Case and point - at the beginning of the school year I print out labels with what the school requires on the envelope to buy lunch and fill them with the appropriate dollar amount.  I make about 20 of them to last for the entire school year.  It sits in the same drawer where the rolls of quarters for snack are kept.

Tonight all I have to do is toss one of the envelopes in his backpack and I am done. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Tuesday

I was going to start this by commenting on the title with "that's all I have to say about that".  Except now that I am writing this line, I remembered it is Wednesday.

I can't keep it straight this week.

The days whiz by at top speed.  I heard my intern talking to my co-worker about getting soup for lunch at around 10:00; however, when I looked at the clock I saw it was actually after 12:00!!   And now here I am and it's 9:39 at night.  I feel like I blinked and the day was over.  

I was just texting with a friend who told me she took out her slow cooker and has a fab chicken recipe she is going to make in it tomorrow.  She just re-entered the workforce after taking 3 years off to be with her kids. I am going to feature her one day soon as she in an interesting character. ;)

Speaking of dinner, I need to prep ours for tomorrow - pork roast with whisky sauce in the slow cooker - sounds interesting!  I will report back on it!

But first I have a quick, frivolous tip for tonight.  I keep work and family stuff humming along well enough for the most part, but of course other things are sacrificed.  One example is I never, I mean NEVER watch TV - (last show I watched Pam and Jim on the Office weren't even dating!).  

And other things completely fall off the radar. For example I can be a hot mess when it comes to having a manicure.  I have ZERO patience for taking an hour to sit and get a manicure.  But I work in a professional office so need to try to pull myself together and that's certainly a part of it.  So, when I do remember, I am usually trying my best to clean it up on Sunday night.

The problem is it usually looks like my 3 year old gave me a manicure.  Until THIS came into my life last week when I accidentally got on the wrong train and had to wander around a CVS until my husband got around to picking me up. 

I knew that whole wrong train debacle was the universe leading me to something -- something great, something deep that I needed to apply to my life.

This Sally Hansen nail polish certainly has to be it.  No? Well, it's all I found and it is pretty kickin.

Get It Done Tip: I don't know much about beauty supplies.  And I don't know much about why this is called "complete salon manicure", but it looks better than anything I have ever done on my own in my life.
Highly recommend.  It's $8, which I am not sure if it is cheap or expensive for a bottle of nail polish (I have been addicted to Essie Ballet Slippers for 20 years), but it paid for itself after 1 use given the cost of a manicure and I can put it on when it fits into my schedule (which is usually 10:00 at night!).
I also like light colors or this "Earl Gray" so when it chips it isn't so noticeable.  This brand though just goes on better and looks like my 3-year old had the night off from painting his mom's nails.  And that's huge news for me.
I need to get more colors pronto.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cider Mill Stew + Keeping Your Child's Activities Organized

Oy. I have been a little unfocused the past couple of days.  It is 8:22 and my goal is to wrap this up on 10 minutes or less.  Let's see how I do.

Work, home, school work, clean up.  Took something out of freezer for dinner tomorrow because I think my time is better spent resting tonight instead of cooking.

Remember this picture from Sunday?
It's Cider Mill Stew.  Every one of us loved it.  The cider and vinegar gave it a great tang.  It took some cooking time which is why I made it Sunday, but once everything was chopped it came together quickly. Heated up in no time Monday and we had a great dinner.

Cider Mill Stew
Gooseberry Patch - Farmhouse Kitchen

3 T all-purpose flour
1 t. salt (I never use salt so left it out)
1/2 t. pepper
1 lb. beef stew, cubed
2 T. oil
1 cup apple cider
1 cup water (I used beef broth)
1 cup beef broth
1 T. cider vinegar
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces (I threw in way more to fill little bellies)
1 stalk celery (I used 2)
1 potato (I used 2)
1 onion 

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a large plastic zipping bag.
Add beef, a few pieces at a time; shake to coat.
In Dutch oven, brown beef in oil; drain.
Stir in cider, water, broth, vinegar and thyme; bring to boil over medium heat.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer for one hour and 45 minutes., or until meat is tender.
Add vegetables; return to boil.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Not a drop was left!

There is zero transition to the second part of this post due to my self-imposed race against the clock to see if I can finish this in 10 minutes.  I need to get a life, I know.  

Anyway, here we go!

Get It Done Tip: I have my middle son's school calendar for the year and have their schedules for extra curricular activities.  Absolutely every single item has been plugged into my calendar and an invite sent to my husband for his calendar.  We have had this system for a few years now and it works like a charm.  
There is no confusion about who needs to be where at what time.  We have the calendar for the entire year - including calendar notations for when there is no school, half days of school, every Sunday at 9:15 is marked for piano and the one weird weekend where there is no piano it is marked too.  
Once I finally get my big boy's school calendar we'll be locked and loaded for the school year.  It takes a little bit of time to organize it all, but once it is down double check it and you can breathe easy knowing where/when everyone needs to be so you can organize your day appropriately and hopefully have a little less stress.

It's 8:36 (pre-spellcheck). I hate to lose - darn! ;)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Working Mom Inspirations

I am a firm believer that we can all learn from each other and should take the time to do so.   Often in conversations with other moms I ask for their tips/tricks on different subject matters and almost always get a spark for a new idea that could benefit my family.

I recently chatted with one of my oldest friends to get some of her tips.  Meredith is a mother of 2 elementary school aged girls and works full-time as an HR Director.

I am continually amazed how Meredith excels at her job and does a great job raising her two little girls.  One thing in particular that has always stood out to me about her is she is VERY involved in the school system.  She is the one on Facebook sending out updates on school board meetings and rallying other parents with a call to action when needed.  She is a wealth of info on her kid’s school and is passionate about making sure it is the best it can be for her girls.

I asked her for how she manages to stay so involved in the school while juggling work and home and here are her Get It Done Tips:

When you think about getting involved in your child’s school, do not think about what you want to do. Instead, think about what is truly feasible for you to do given your work and home life.

Meredith wanted to do something that would help her feel connected to the school.  She knew that joining the PTA would be a good route to look into to fulfill that goal. 

She knew off the bat things like organizing planning committees, which is an enormous job, would be too time consuming.  She needed something that would allow her to contribute during the evening hours when she wasn’t working, so she volunteered to be the school’s PTA Secretary.  She feels like she is contributing, connected and it fits within the time she has available to give so has not created extra stress.

In her role as PTA Secretary she does not have to give a minute (pun intended) of her time during the day.  She takes minutes at meetings that take place at night and cleans up the documents after the kids are in bed.  

She mentioned she doesn’t often get to school too much during day to volunteer, but from time to time will pick something she is comfortable doing that isn’t too time consuming.  She gave an example of how her oldest daughter’s class had to run their own town and the teacher needed some parents to come in order to ensure it was organized so the fun wouldn’t detract from the learning takeaways.

It was a one day ½ hour commitment.  She blocked her work calendar for the entire time she would be out INCLUDING travel time to/from the office so no one could schedule something during that time.

She recommends being careful to not over commit.  In the beginning she ran into that problem and got herself into a very stressful period.  She said before you sign up really look at the time commitment and review your calendar of commitments in comparison. Is it something that is going to take you out of the house too many days in a row?  Is it going to interfere with spending time with your family? Will you need to arrange childcare?

Finally, make sure you are a star at work so when you do step out no one blinks and eye and you have flexibility.

Thank you Meredith for taking the time to share your tips – you are a source of inspiration!  
I look forward to highlighting other working moms that I admire in the future.

PS - Update on cooking from yesterday - apple turnovers I made for breakfast were amazing and so easy.  My big boy ate 3!  I skipped the part with water/lemon and just put them in the pan as soon as I peeled them. Recommend!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

First Day of Fall: Cooking + Relaxing

My day in pictures. 
Lemon Orzo Soup in the crock pot for this week's lunch.  


Tomorrow's Dinner: Cider Mill Stew.  If it's good I will share the recipe tomorrow.
It looks like I spent all day in the kitchen, but I spent tons of time playing too!
We played with pinwheels
We chased butterflies
We took a break from it all

We also made a major mess of toys inside, but no use stressing everyone out with a photo of it.

We had a nice dinner of pork chops with apples, creamed spinach, carrots and a salad
Our apple pound cake had so much promise going into the oven..
It was awful.
Apple turnovers for Monday morning breakfast
The kid's are excited to try them!

We are all now snuggled on the couch watching Elf.

Hope everyone has a good week!  Tomorrow I have a special blog post I am excited to share!  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

An All American Day: Apples + Football + Family

This day kicked off right after midnight with the baby screaming.  And he kept the party going all night long every few hours.  Must be teething.  Doesn't even register in my weary body anymore. 

My husband came home at some point instead of sleeping up in CT because he "missed us"....suspicious sounding.

And finally, an official kick off of the day was had at 7 AM.

I let my husband sleep and got the kids dressed, in the car and off to Starbucks we went for breakfast and my caffeine fix.  

We went to visit my grandmother for an hour. 

Then we went apple picking.  My husband met us and a good friend and her sister and kids came too.  I was a bit concerned that everyone kept telling me it was supposed to rain, but we lucked out without a drop.

How 'bout them apples

After apple picking my husband took the big boy in his car to his flag football practice and I took the little kids to BJ's to pick up some stuff we needed.

We got home and it was 1:30.  Kids were asleep so I sat outside and enjoyed the Fall breeze and relaxed a bit. 

We went to dinner at my in-laws and had a nice time. We were watching home movies when I told my middle guy that he needed to move because he isn't a window.  To which he responded indignantly "I know I am not a window. I am a man!".

We had a ham for dinner and I told my father-in-law he has to make this soup recipe with the ham hock:  It looks like a very boring recipe, but it is really so, so, good.  

Looking forward to making a dent in that pile of apples tomorrow!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tomato Orzo Soup + Seasonal Recipes

I blinked and it was Friday.  That wasn't so bad.

I set the meal plan weeks ago, but I must have had a psychic prediction I would be drowning in tomatoes from the garden and crop share.

Tonight's dinner was Barefoot Contessa's Tomato Orzo Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons.  I threw in a couple of chopped tomatoes from the garden so we keep 'em moving!

I didn't make the grilled cheese croutons because I had homemade regular croutons on hand I wanted to use.

Since I hate to waste, whenever I have bread that is about to get old I usually cut it into cubes, toss it with a little bit of melted butter and either italian seasoning or garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees until browned - 10 to 15 minutes usually - and store in an airtight container.  Couldn't be easier and great for soups and salads.

I got good use of the croutons today.  My oldest son loved the soup and had 2 bowls and the baby ate his and took his spoon to hunt for more.

I threatened my middle one that he could not go to karate if he didn't eat.  Since my older son would be lost without his personal audience he was instrumental in helping his brother shove down a enough spoonfuls to appease me.
They decided they wanted to pretend they were on a picnic and eat their (cooled!) soup while sitting on the floor.
It was Friday at 5:30 after a long week; I pick and choose my battles.

After dinner I took my big boy to karate and had my middle one do a trial lesson.  He loved it and did great, so we signed them up to go together from now on.   They are SO excited to do this together.

Came home to a clean house compliments of the husband who then left to go play poker at my brother's house.  He'll sleep over since it will be a late night and they live far + my brother and his family have chickens and he is on a mission to feed someone breakfast with all the eggs he collects!

Little ones are in bed now and big boy is next to me playing with the kindle.

Tomorrow we're excited for APPLE PICKING!

Get It Done Tip: I have boards on pinterest for seasonal recipes I come across.  I collected all the apple recipes that sounded interesting over the past year and plugged it onto my Fall board.

But in addition to pinterest, I still enjoy looking at old cookbooks; many which do not have their recipes online.  For those recipes, knowing we go apple picking mid to end of Sept,  I marked my calendar the first weekend in Sept with an invite called "Apple Recipes".  In the body of the email I made notes of the recipe name, cookbook name and page number.  I collected 3 over the past year that looked really cool - Fresh Apple Pound Cake, Apple Kuchen Bars and Fresh Cranberry Apple Crisp.

Now tomorrow when I have 20 pounds of apples I won't have to wonder what to do with them - we'll eat most fresh, make some applesauce and I have a few fun recipes to choose to make 1 dessert this weekend and 1 for next.  Tonight I will go to grab the cookbooks to pick one recipe so I can make sure I have all ingredients on hand.

Which reminds me, my older son begged to make fresh apple turonvers, so that'll be on the schedule for breakfast Monday!

This is my kind of fun!  So looking forward to a nice Fall day tomorrow!

Wishing everyone a great weekend!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Family Chili + Reducing School Morning Drama Part Deux

Last night's "Back to School" night was quick and easy.  My son's teacher said this is her 50th class - wow! 

She told me my son is a good boy (I feel the need to put in a disclaimer that it's only day 8) and that he told her he wants to be a gardener when he grows up.  She said that he told her about all the vegetables he would grow and then said very seriously "there is nothing like a homegrown tomato".  

Also, apparently at recess he also started his own "carnival" where for one of the "rides" he had kids lock hands and twirl each other around.  He is a riot.

My husband went fishing for the last time this season after work so I got home and put the kids in the bath right away and then settled down to do homework with my big boy.  He has his first spelling test tomorrow so needed to drill him a bit.

Skipping back to dinner.  I am slightly nauseated as I write this post.  You know when you eat something one too many times.  That happened today when ground turkey showed up for a third time this week.  I have had e-nough.

I made Gooseberry Patch's Hometown Harvest Family Chili.  I am not a big fan of chili, but figured it was easy for a weekday and fit my husband's Paleo obsession.  

But enough of my editorializing.  The kids loved it.  So here ya go:

Family Chili
Gooseberry Patch Hometown Harvest

2 lbs ground  beef or turkey
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 green pepper, chopped
15 1/2 oz diced tomatoes
16 oz tomato sauce
15 1/2 oz kidney beans 
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 T chili powder (I left this out)
2 T Worcestershire sauce 
2 t ground cumin (I left this out)
1/2 t dry mustard
1 bay leaf
No Apple products in the house at the moment so this blurry photo, which is the best Blackberry can offer, will have to do!

Brown meat with onion, celery and green peppers; drain. 
Put meat mixture in slow cooker, stir in tomatoes with juice and remaining ingredients. 
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.
Discard bay leaf before serving.

Moving on from the topic of ground meat.

Get It Done Tip:  In line with setting expectations for breakfast the night before a few moms have told me they even set the table for breakfast the night before.  Now I haven't done this, but I thought it was such a simple, great idea. That's why it is always good to talk to other moms and ask how they get things done. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but it might spark an idea for you that could make a major impact on your day so you can spend more time with your family - which is the ultimate goal.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Throw it Together Dinner + Reducing Morning Drama

Worked from home today so enjoyed dropping off and picking up the kids from school.

Had a fairly productive day at work too which was great.

It's 6:10 now and everyone is fed and bathed and in pajamas anxiously awaiting two of their aunts who are coming over to play Candyland with them for an hour while we duck out to go to "Back to School Night" at the big boy's school.

Knowing I was going to get home late last night I planned a quick meal for today that I could toss in the crockpot. Took that amazing garden veggie sauce I made from scratch the other day, threw some meatballs in (Whole Foods has organic frozen meatballs if you really want to fast forward this recipe!) and let it slow cook.  Baked off some bread from Fresh Direct and called it a day.  Not a usual meal of choice for us, but it worked for today.  Although two of the kids only ate the meatballs and one revolted against everything completely.

My fuss pot kids didn't love it, but maybe yours will!

We usually only do dessert on the weekend, but since we have company tonight I threw something together quick early this morning before work.  I remembered last night I bought an emergency Trader Joe's mix of pumpkin chocolate chip blondies - good to have an emergency box of something on hand for times like this.

Thank god for TJ's - they always have a little something different!

We're going to get ready to head out now.  I just need to handle my daily ritual with the kids before we leave.

Get It Done Tip: I set expectations for what they will have for breakfast each morning the night before. They have their choice tomorrow of cereal with fruit, waffles or eggs.  I am not a short order cook so they need to agree on what they want and when they wake up tomorrow there is no fussing or drama or bargaining about what is being served.  We have enough crap going on in the morning I refuse to waste time arguing that this one wants nothing or this one wants something that I don't have.

This creates for a harmonious morning.  Ok, that is a MAJOR exaggeration, but it does cut down on the stress and drama EVER so slightly. ;)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Snack Money

We were up at 6 AM so got in a good 2 hours with my boys before we all headed to work and school.

I had a work event tonight, so left them with the easiest dinner standby in history - chicken cutlets, roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables.  Very boring, but whenever I go out for the evening I make something simple so I don't have to stress about prep. I also have a very simple meal for tomorrow too since I knew I would be home late and wouldn't be up for chopping and prepping before a late bedtime.

Although I DID contemplate making brownies from scratch right now as a treat for my husband's Aunts who are coming to watch the kids tomorrow evening so we both can attend back to school night.  

But it's 10:36 and although I can be crazy and cook up treats for the kids or guests way later than this, the fatigue whipped the crazy right out of me!

I have just enough energy left to type this post and do a general sweep of the main floor to make sure it's in decent shape for tomorrow.

I also organized the book bag/lunch box situation. 

I reviewed the completed homework and noticed a question was missed.  Dear lord how could they have missed one question when there were only 5 total?? It is taking every ounce of energy to hold myself back from using my best 6-year old forgery skills to write in the answer myself! I'll just have to deal with sitting him down in the morning to knock it out.

Finally prepped the snack bag and lunch box. I make the lunches to go in the morning.  Once or twice a week I let my son buy snack as a special treat. 

Get It Done Tip: A snack at school costs 50 cents and they require exact change.  After a few weeks of scrounging around for change the night before I came to a more efficient routine.  At the beginning of the school year I go to the bank and pick up a few rolls of quarters.  I keep them in a drawer close to where we do our school bag prep so it's within easy reach whenever a special snack treat is approved.

Mega time saver!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Stuffed Pepper Soup + School Snack Organization

It's almost 10 pm so I am going to make this quick.  As soon as we got the kids to bed I ran out to get pajamas for my big boy - I can't believe he is 6 wearing a size 10/12!

Just got in and am exhausted, but would rather shop for something silly like this when they are sleeping on a weeknight verses crapping up a weekend doing it.

Let's talk about that Stuffed Pepper Soup I made yesterday in the crockpot.  It was supposed to give 3 or so days of lunch for me and my Dad (who watches the kids during the day), but in 24 hours there is only 1 bowl left.  It was SO good!

I loved it, my Dad, my husband snuck a taste and asked me to make it again and my oldest begged for it as his after school snack!

Stuffed Pepper Soup
Gooseberry Patch Hometown Harvest
2 lbs ground beef (I used ground turkey)
28-oz can diced tomatoes
28-oz can tomato sauce
3 cups green peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup rice, uncooked (I used trader joe's organic frozen brown rice)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cubes beef bouillon

In a skillet brown turkey; drain well.
Add turkey, tomatoes with liquid and remaining ingredients in slow cooker; stir.
Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or until rice and meat are cooked through.

I often don't make the same thing twice, but this is a keeper.

Get It Done Tip: I prep my lunch - like this soup - for the week on Sundays.  To prep for my oldest's school snack for the week on Sunday I grab 5 water bottles and get them in the fridge and write his name on 5 snack bags.  I then have my routine at night of opening up the snack bag, putting the napkin in it and prepping whatever the snack is - whatever a bag of crackers or cutting up fruit and in the morning put in the snack (if non-perishable I put it in the night before) and the cold water.
Having the bags prepped and the water bottles ready to go during the week is one less step I need to worry about during a hectic morning.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sundays are for Cooking

Today was a major cooking day in prep for the week ahead.  Specifically banana chocolate chip muffins for the kids to snack on during the week, tomorrow's dinner of chicken legs with rice and roasted veggies, stuffed pepper soup for lunch during the week (I will share recipe if it is good when I try it tomorrow for lunch!).

Sounds like a lot of time spent in the kitchen, but everything came together quickly.  The muffins were done in no time.  The soup I threw in the crock pot to cook and tomorrow's dinner I made in a casserole dish and popped in to bake.

My husband took his Dad fishing in the morning, so I took the 3 munchkins to piano lessons, Trader Joe's and to scope out some summer clearance items at a local store.

When we came home it was 11:15.  Seriously.  Even I couldn't believe it was still so early.

I put the baby down for a nap and sat outside with the big boys watching them play.  They even hopped in the pool for one last hurrah of Summer it was so warm.

My husband invited over his grandma for dinner and I made a pot roast in the oven with veggies cooked for a few hours in lots of red wine and seasonings.

For dessert I made an Apple Cinnamon Loaf. My two big boys loved it.  Reminded me of banana bread.  It was very moist and not too sweet.

That was pretty much the day here - mostly relaxing in between keeping things moving in the kitchen.
The one memorable moment is how much the baby is talking more and more and imitating everything the big boys do - it is a riot. He is even putting together little sentences.  Today he said "I want baba" and was pointing to the fridge.  When we put together the new double stroller he pointed to its cupholder and said "baba goes here".  So sweet.

Laundry is folded, dishwasher is on it's 4th and final run of the day and the school and work bags are packed.  Goodnight!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

I have made more sauce in a month than I have in my entire life. 

We got a boatload of tomatoes again from the crop share and still have them coming in every day from our garden. So last night before bed I threw all the fresh tomatoes, onions, yellow squash, carrots in the crock with red wine, pinch of sugar and a can of whole tomatoes.

From Crock to Vitamix!

When I woke up this morning I pureed everything and it was ready to go.
It really couldn't be easier and you can't beat the taste and obviously with all those fresh vegetables the health  benefits.

I took the baby in the morning to have his hair cut since my husband kept commenting on how he needed it.  After the haircut we ran to Target to pick up a gift card for a birthday party next month and bins to store summer clothes.

By 10:30 we were home and I was upstairs working on swapping out all the clothes.  I then figured I would just swap mine out too to get it over with.  So happy that is done!

My big boy and I went to the birthday party. Before we left I gave my husband instructions for dinner.

I found this big bag of frozen grilled eggplant at Whole Foods.  I thought how cool to use this for eggplant parm.

My husband layered the eggplant with the fresh tomato sauce I made and mozzarella. Popped it in the oven and that was it.

I am not going to lie to you, it's not as good as REAL eggplant parm that is breaded and fried.  However, I would make this again, but for lunch since it's a quick, healthy option (and something different from my usual soup or salad).  I would cut it up into individual serving sizes, freeze, take out the night before and then bring it to work.

It's a groupon weekend.  My husband took the big boy to meet a friend at some race track thing -- I really am not even sure what it is and maybe I am better off being blissfully ignorant in this case!

My middle one is sleeping and baby keeps crying so am in/out of his room to soothe him back to sleep.

It's 7:30 - hopefully soon I can put my feet up to relax!

Friday, September 13, 2013


TGIFF.  Yes, that extra F is there on purpose.

Work was somewhat productive.

Flew out of there at 4 to hop the train home.

Gathered the kids and as soon as my husband walked in we packed them up into the car and met some friends and their 3 kids for dinner thanks to Groupon.

Had fun, but two courses is all the kids can handle, so we got out of there in the knick of time.

My husband helped with baths and now ran to his parents to help them with something quick.

The older two won't stop yapping despite my pleas to go to sleep already!

Tomorrow we have a birthday party for my son's school friend and Sunday piano and that's it.  Hopefully tomorrow morning I can bang out putting away summer clothes and unpacking Fall clothes for all 3 so I can move on.  I am not a fan of that event because it always seems so time consuming.

Get It Done Tip: I usually look at the weekends a month in advance to see what parties we have to go to and get the gifts and cards in order.  I then use one weeknight when the kids are in bed to wrap and prep everything.  The goal being not to have to stress about buying gifts and wrapping presents all the night before.

Just grabbed the bag for tomorrow out of my closet so we can just go when the time comes.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Simple Catch All + Beef Vegetable Barley Soup

Got off the train from work to find the surprise of all four of my boys waiting for me.  The big boys brought their scooters and we had a nice walk home together.

Sitting here helping my son do his homework now.  He is SUCH a procrastinator.  He doesn't understand yet that if he just focused on it he'd get it over with we'd be done.  Instead it takes twice the amount of time because he complains every 2 minutes.  He just picked his nose and tried to wipe it on the tablecloth.  I CAN'T.

Although it may not be tasteful to switch from that sentence to what we ate for dinner, I am doing it anyway.

We had a beef vegetable barley soup in the crockpot.  It was pretty good and my oldest had a few bowls full.

Found the recipe in Gooseberry Patch's Hometown Harvest, but had to modify it a bit based on ingredients I had on hand.  

Beef  Vegetable Barley

Put in the crock 5 cups of water with carrots, beef bouillon, celery, frozen corn, stew meat, onion, can of stewed tomatoes, barley and that was it.  I never put in a ton of red meat when I cook soups and stews --- -- it's not really healthy anyway and a little goes a long way.  Plus organic beef can cost a small fortune. Cooked for 10 hours and came home to a hearty soup.  Although it was hot again today so not the most appropriate meal.

Homework is finally done.  Now off to do piano practice for 30 seconds before bed.  

Get It Done Tip: Have you ever seen these clear folders with the embedded tabs?  

Someone I know who is a crazy organized working mom introduced them to me a few years ago.  You can buy them at Staples.  

I use them for so many things -- keeping all the piano books, sheet music together.  

When we go on a trip somewhere I create one and put hotel itineraries, tickets to events - amusement parks, shows, etc. 

Each school year gets one and collects any things I need to keep in a drawer.  When I see recipes I like that are hard copy they get one.  Etc.

I like that only one side and top have an opening so things are kept together nice, you can see what is inside, it fits in a drawer, you can throw it in your bag.  I am a big fan!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Day of Rememberance

Security was tight in the city today as expected.  It's hard to believe it has been 12 years since the attacks. It is still hard for me to wrap my head around the enormity of what happened.   Although it is in my subconscious every day - particularly when I walk through high traffic areas on the weekday like Grand Central.

My plans for today's blog seem so trivial given the solemn day so I am going to keep it brief just to journal what happened in general.

I had to get to work to meet someone by 8 so got up super early and had a day packed with meetings.

Going home I missed my regular train so got on the next train which I haven't taken in years.  When I saw it whiz by my stop I thought greeeaaattt.  When I called my husband and he didn't answer emails or calls after 20 minutes I put the phone down and let it go.

I always feel things happen for a reason, so I figured I would make the best of the evening while I waited for him to call back.

I went to Starbucks and sat out on the terrace sipped a passion fruit iced tea.

I went to a pizzeria and had a slice of pizza (I had taken out the last bag of leftover turkey with gravy and veggies for dinner for their dinner so knew they were at least fed).

I went to CVS and bought a card, nail polish and sour jelly beans. ;)

and then he called.  They were in the pool having their own fun which is why I didn't hear from them.

BUT, before my husband picked me up a friend emailed me a text by accident.  In it she mentioned she was looking for part-time work and mentioned she would do a few hours at a walgreens or cvs and was having a problem finding something.  I told her even though it wasn't meant for me I was at that very moment IN a CVS a few towns over so would ask if they were hiring.  They were, so I sent her the info.  How crazy would it be if she got a job there?  We'll see!

Got home around 7:30 and my husband took the two little ones upstairs while I worked on homework with the big guy.

All are in bed now and I need to get some work done for the office.

Also received the sweetest note from one of my oldest friends telling me how much she has been enjoying this blog and the tips.  I am so lucky to have such great friends who are so supportive and encouraging! Love you!

That's it for tonight.

Thinking of those who lost so much today.  May they all find peace.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie

My day started at 5:45 AM with two kids bouncing on my bed.  5:55 the third one was taken out of his crib to join the fun.   No amount of Starbucks could keep my eyes from hurting all day.

My husband dropped my older son off with a bag of "asks" from the teacher.  When he handed it to the teacher her response was "my, someone is on the ball".  Love it. ;)

My husband had to work late so my mom bathed all three kids and they were in their PJs ready to roll - what a great surprise for me!   I shoveled in dinner quick and am now sitting next to my big boy while he does his homework and is yapping incessantly.

I just challenged him to see who could finish quicker to pick up the pace since I am beat.  He kept looking at where I am and telling me to look where he is so I finally told him to not pay attention to the competition and laser focus on his work to do it quickly and perfectly -- it worked. Yay.

I made dinner last night for tonight - Chicken Potpie.  I didn't read the recipe right and now realize I made one enormous pie instead of making two.  Crap.  Wish I read it right so I could have had one nice pie for the freezer. Oh well.

It was pretty good.  The kids loved it.

Get It Done Tip:  Finally have the weekly schedule for my older son's gym, Spanish, music, etc.  My son has a gym uniform he'll have to wear on Wed, so just marked my calendar with a reoccurring reminder Tues night and again Wed morning to remind me.  My calendar is polluted to the max with reminders as you'll see, but it's the only way I can keep it all straight!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Kick Off School Snack - Taffy Apple Pizza

I had the day off to enjoy taking my boys to their first day of school.

Drop off with the big boy went smooth.  I then came back to pick up the two little boys to take the middle one for a 1/2 hour to sit with him in his classroom so he gets used to the new teachers and room.

Afterwards we went up quickly to visit my grandmother. 

We got home around 12:45.  I threw together the recipe for Sandra Lee's Asian Steak Hot Pot in the crockpot.  It only had to cook 3-5 hours so knowing I would be home I plugged it into the menu for today. It was so-so.

The big hit was a very special treat I made for their after school snack.  I usually do cupcakes or the usual for the first and last day of school, but decided to switch it up when I found a cute recipe in Gooseberry Patch Quick and Easy Autumn that I earmarked to make a few weeks back called Taffy Apple Pizza.

The kids had fun drizzling the caramel!

Taffy Apple Pizza

18-oz refrigerated sugar cookie dough
8-oz package cream cheese, softened (I used neufatchel)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
1 t vanilla extract
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping

Form cookie dough into ball and place in center of 14' round pizza pan.

Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out to a 14-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick.

Bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes, until lightly golden.

Remove from oven and cool at least 10 minutes.

Loosen cookie from pan slightly so it doesn't stick.

Combine cream cheese, brown sugar, peanut butter and vanilla; mix well and spread evenly over cookie.

Cut apple slices in half and arrange evenly over cream cheese mixture.

Drizzle topping over apples.

Sprinkle peanuts on top if desired and cut into wedges.

It was so easy and good!

Get It Done Tip: Probably the first and only time my son didn't come home with homework, but I had a ton of homework.  About 18 sheets I needed to fill out and a few additional checks I had to cut - money to cover their textbooks (17 text books in 1st grade!!), money to opt out of doing lunch duty, send a picture of your child, etc.
As soon as it comes in, no matter how tired I am I just deal with it and put it back in the folder to return it to the teacher the next day.
I don't want to lose the paperwork, run the risk of it getting destroyed by one of the kids or forgetting about it. So I just turn it around same day and get it to hell out of here!  :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Vegetable Lasagna and The Night Before First Grade

It was a nice Sunday.  My husband took the two older ones bike riding and I ran out quick to scope out the kid's summer clearance racks and get the boys a few Fall/Winter items at Lord and Taylor.

I kept the laundry going and decided to skip swapping out their Summer for Fall clothes for another week.

For dinner I made a big salad and a lasagna that my kids devoured.  My big boy had 4 adult-sized helpings and the baby ate 3 bowls full of it and after he ate each one he held out the bowl and hollered "more!".  

My middle guy was the only one who refused it and asked for cereal instead. I told him no he had to eat it. After a lot of back-and-forth I told him that if he eats two forkfuls I would get him cereal.  I loaded his fork up with spinach, sauce and a piece of noodle and he said "mmm" and ate almost everything else on his plate. Love it.

Like all my dinners I usually find the recipe weeks before they actually get on the dinner schedule since we have the meals planned a few weeks out.  I found this recipe back in the June edition of Good Housekeeping. 

They call it 3-Cheese Lasagna, but I call it Vegetable Lasagna because this isn't about the cheese -- I feel like I had a farmer's bounty in this!  Lots of nutrition for my little people.

Plus, I made the marinara from scratch Saturday - similar to the sauce I made the other week.  Took all of 20 minutes to wash and slice all the tomatoes and an eggplant from my garden + peppers, onion, garlic, carrots from my CSA. Tossed everything in the crock with a little red wine and jar of tomato sauce.  Pureed it all and used 1/2 of it in this recipe and froze the rest for another day. 

This lasagna came together so quickly. I prepped it while they were biking and baby was napping.  I didn't buy no boil noodles - instead I soaked the noodles in the hottest tap water for 15 minutes and then assembled as noted in the recipe. When it was show time I popped it in the oven to bake.  It's a keeper.

After dinner and clean up we marched everyone up for baths and bed.  I can't believe my (first) baby is going to start first grade tomorrow!  We read the book "Night Before First Grade" and he is fast asleep now. He is very worried about the "strict" teacher and "too much work".  :)

My middle one starts a 3-year old nursery school program and tomorrow I have to stay with him for 1/2 hour so he starts to feel comfortable with the new room and teacher for drop off on Wednesday.  

I found a recipe a few months ago that someone said they used to make often as an after school snack.  I baked the base of it tonight and am looking forward to surprising them with it tomorrow and hearing all about their day.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Italian Dinner al Fresco

What a great day.

We headed out to the zoo as soon as it opened.  It was near empty so we hit up a dino tour that was new and wandered around without the crowds.

I packed a lunch of sandwiches and we sat on benches and watched the giraffes.

By 1:00 it was starting to get packed, so we headed out.  Stopped at Whole Foods to pick up ingredients for tonight's dinner and a few other items for the week ahead.

We decided to make something we probably haven't made since the first year or so of marriage - 

Saltimboca is prosciutto-topped chicken cutlets in a brown mushroom gravy atop sliced hard boiled eggs and wilted fresh spinach.  It sounds odd, I know, but it was fantastic.  I also sauteed some green beans with oil, garlic and panko.  Everyone loved it.

I hate to waste food and had a box of organic nilla wafers that the kids didn't like.  I found a recipe called Bananarama Pudding that I tweaked to repurpose the wafers and move them out of my cabinet!

Layered wafers in a dish, topped with sliced bananas, layered on top again with wafers (to clean out the box!).  Then I poured Dr. Oetker's organic chocolate pudding over it.  Put in fridge to set.

The wafers have happily left the building.

All the children have been sleeping since 7:30 which is unheard of in this house.  I have my feet up sipping a caramel Bailey's on the rocks and my husband went to visit his parent's.  

Enjoying the quiet!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Quick & Easy Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach

It was a short week, but it didn't feel that way!

I go to work a little early on Fridays so I can leave early.  The day flies by there is always so much going on.

A quiet weekend ahead is on tap in order to continue to get the kids well rested for the first week back to school.

As I was walking to the train this morning I was thinking we could do a movie night, but I couldn't think of anything good to watch.  

Get It Done Tip: Facebook is an amazing tool for crowdsourcing, so I turned to it for my fun question of "What's a good family movie".  Dozens of movie titles later I have a list that will last us a couple of years.  Some movies I had forgotten about and other I never heard of so we did a preview of them on Apple TV and are psyched to watch them in the future.

All that said, my big boy dug in his heels and wanted no part of a new movie, so now here we are watching Willy Wonka again!  Better luck next time.

I make dinner like a normal person on Friday (no night before prep!) so we had Taste of Home's one pan meal of Chicken Thighs with Shallots and Spinach.  It was SO quick and we all liked it - except my big boy who ate it only because otherwise there wouldn't be a movie.

Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach Recipe
Everyone was starving so I was so busy dishing it out I forgot to take a pic -- luckily I found the recipe online and they have this fancy pic of it!

Have a good weekend!