Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Yummy Mummy Stuff

Happy Halloween!

This entire week sucked, but I pushed it aside to enjoy the evening with my kids and niece.

This is my last Kate Gosselin recipe (for now!) as next week I am all meal planned out via Pinterest.

In Kate's new cookbook she has a recipe called Yummy Stuff.  The name was weird and she wrote how much her kids loved it which is why it caught my attention.  It has egg noodles in it so I decided to rename it Yummy Mummy Stuff for the purposes of Halloween.  The egg noodles are the mummy wrapping.  

I must have too much time on my hands, I know.

It was good!

Yummy Mummy Stuff
2 pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon dried parsley
Pinch of black pepper
32 ounce store-bought beef gravy, or 4 cups beef broth, if making homemade
½ cup flour (if making homemade gravy)
20 ounces cooked egg noodles
Package of frozen mixed vegetables (this is my addition to the recipe to round out the meal)
It doesn't look pretty, but we can get away with it since it's Halloween.  Bottom line - it was hearty and everyone loved it.
Brown the beef in a saute pan and then add the garlic salt, parsley and pepper.
If using store-bought gravy, add the gravy to the browned meat mixture until heated through.
If making homemade beef gravy, in a medium pot, bring the beef broth to a boil; turn the heat to low and add the flour by the teaspoon.
Stir constantly until thickened into the desired gravy consistency.
Add to the meat mixture.
Stir in frozen mixed vegetables until heated through.
Spoon the meat/veg/gravy mixture over the noodles and serve.

Get It Done Tip: All of our holiday items are stored in the attic like most people.  Except if it is something that absolutely must be in a picture for tradition’s sake.  

For example, Thanksgiving there is a stuffed turkey the kids take a picture with every year since they were born.  One year we brought the Thanksgiving bins down and I was in a panic because I couldn’t find it.  After that experience I dedicated the top shelf in one of our closets for these special traditional items so they don’t get lost.  

Today I went to that special place in the closet and out came their trick or treat bags.   One less thing to stress about today since I knew exactly where they were. ;)

Hope everyone got lots of fun goodies!!

KLHF - This picture is for you - snacks!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


My husband and I went this morning to our middle son's school to watch him and his classmates sing some adorable Halloween songs in costume.  He did the motions and whispered the words.  It was sweet!

I wasn't feeling great and stupidly went to work anyway.  By 3:00 I was done so left and am now home.

I am going to help my older son with homework then relax, but before I do that wanted to share this quick tip.

Get It Done Tip: Like almost every school nowadays the teacher keeps a blog where she makes note of homework each night.  I set up a recurring reminder on my calendar for 6:30 pm each day with the link for the site and log on information so I can just click on it when it pops up and get organized quickly with what needs to be done.  

Now, if only my son would bring home the right books and the teacher would regularly post we'd really be in great shape!!

What's your tip?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Working Mom Inspirations: Home Organization

I can NOT speak to having an organized house.  I am super organized in almost every other aspect of my life, but  come into my house and it's surface clean; however, open a drawer or closet and you'll get my number real quick.

Lucky for me I have an expert in my circle who gives me tips all the time and actually came to my house one weekend to do a complete overhaul for me.   Let me introduce you to another Working Mom Inspiration - Sloane, an amazing friend, a mom of 2 great kids, super wife and works part-time among many other titles.

Sloane came to my house to help me organize it about 3 years ago.  One thing that really stuck with me is to keep like things together.  I used to toss crafts or toys in the coat closet just because there was space and had bags of napkins piled in the basement if there wasn't room in a kitchen cabinet.  She taught me to keep the coat closet for coats, keep the crafts with the crafts and dammit stop buying so many napkins if you don't have room in your kitchen for them.

Life changing.

Here are Sloane's Get It Done Tips:

The #1 reason I am organized is to reduce stress. It's that simple. I'm not OCD, I'm not a control freak, and I'm not a micro manager (just don't ask my husband if he agrees). But it's true, I keep my home, car, family, and life as organized as possible simply for that reason. I absolutely hate the way stress makes me feel and I know how unhealthy it is for your mind, body, and spirit. In addition, being an organized Mom keeps the "family machine" thriving. And lastly, being organized saves you money. Here are my favorite tips for the busy working family:

A place for everything and everything in its place. It's one of the oldest sayings but it's my #1 tip. Identify a place (that makes sense) for all categories of your household and keep like items together. Share these locations with the family so they know (and can help) maintain an organized environment. For example - "kid's school clutter".  I have 2 kids and in my hall closet I have a double stack-able bin (color coded) for their school papers. When they get home I immediately empty their backpacks. Homework gets put on the dining room table, school papers get read and filed in their bins, lunch boxes get emptied and backpacks are hung in their designated spots. Whole process take 3 minutes because I have a system. I have similar systems for almost all areas of our household. 

One in, one out. Give very careful thought to what you bring into your home. Is it necessary? Will you honestly use it? Do you need it? Do you have a place for it? If it fits all the above criteria then bring it home. BUT - if it's an item that you have excess of (clothes), then take something out in its place. Balance is the key here. There is only so much a person or family needs. The rest is just clutter! 

When in doubt throw it out (or donate). This one explains itself. Everything you have in your home should be something you use, enjoy, and need. If you're not sure (doubt) throw it out (or donate)! Don't keep items out of guilt, and be very careful of the "I might need this someday" category (clutters' best friend). 

Two laundry hampers for the whole family. None of this "basket in every bedroom" business. One for darks, one for lights in a central location for everyone to use. When one is full (or both) do a load. No matter what day of the week. Laundry is continuous and endless. Don't overwhelm yourself by letting it pile up and occupy a whole day or days. 

Pay bills right away (or schedule them to be paid). Paper clutter is its own animal. Manage that by using online bill pay (usually free with your checking account). Saves you the stamp, you can pick the date for the bill to be paid, and you don't have to use your own checks. Do this the day the bill or bills come in and file or shred the paper bill immediately. Or better yet, opt for e-bills and eliminate the paper all together. 

Finally, teach your children early the importance of being organized and working together as a family to keep the home a pleasant and well functioning environment for everyone. 

Sloane is a professional home organizer, so if you have any interest in her services please message me -

Thank you, Sloane, for your insights into home organization!


Monday, October 28, 2013

A Special Edition of Get It Done + Chicken Corn Soup

It was another Monday with a touch more excitement than usual.  I was thrilled to see my article on Wee Westchester's site today listing a few fun working mom tips specific to my area.  You can read the article here.

Get It Done Tip: Wee Westchester is specific to my neck of the woods, but I highly recommend you seek out similar local mom sites in your area.  They are a one-stop resource to show you all the activities in your area so you don't have to do any legwork.  More on Wee Westchester in a future post!

Came home to my wild bunch and enjoyed the dinner of Chicken Corn Soup. It was hearty.  I picture eating a mug of that soup in front of the fire on a snowy day.

Say what you want about Kate Gosselin, but I dig her stuff!  Here's the recipe from her cookbook "Love is in the Mix".

Savory Chicken Corn Soup

Chicken Carcass
Water (enough to cover the carcass)
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 cup chick bouillon powder
1 teaspoon salt (I left this out)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups flour
2 eggs beaten
1/2 tsp baking powder
20 ounces whole kernel corn
15 oz creamed corn

Boil chicken carcass on medium heat for 6 to 7 hours (I put mine in the crock pot).
Strain the bones with the meat attached, and return all of the liquid to the pot.  
Remove the meat from the bones once they have cooled.
Discard the bones and set meat aside.
Add the celery onions, carrots and parsley to the broth.  
Add the bouillon base or powder, and the salt and pepper.
Turn up the heat to a boil.
Mix the tsp of salt, the baking powder, and the flour in a bowl.
Slowly add the beaten eggs while stirring the flour using a fork.
This will create a crumbly mixture.
Add this mixture to the pot of boiling broth by hand, crumbling as you drop it in small lumps into the pot.
Turn the heat to low.
Allow the soup to thicken for 10 minutes and then add the kernel and creamed corn. Stir.
Return the chicken to the pot. 
Cook for 15 minutes longer.
Stir and serve hot.

We have tons leftover, so you can freeze it for another day or have lunch for a few days.

The kids liked it.  I love that I used up the leftover chicken I froze from last week so we didn't waste.

I am off to straighten up the downstairs mess so the place is somewhat back in order.  While I was putting the baby to bed the two older ones decided to be the Easter Bunny and hid about 40 clementines all around the house.  Now I need to find them all before I get fruit flies.  They're so cute.

Look closely and you'll see a big bite out of one - skin and all.  Don't worry - they didn't eat it.
I found it chewed up on the living room floor.   Because apparently I am raising a bunch of animals in a barn. ;)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Birthday Dinner

This day flew!

We went to piano practice in the morning and then skipped football to head over to my in-laws to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday.

What a great job my husband and sister-in-law did throwing her a great birthday party. Lots of great appetizers then surf  'n turf -  lobster tails, fillet, baked potatoes, asparagus, salad.   It was a feast!

We walked into our home to a wonderful aroma -- I had forgotten that before we left I put in the frozen leftover chicken from last Sunday's dinner into the crock pot with enough water to cover it to make a base for tomorrow's dinner - Chicken Corn Soup. It looks like it is going to be really good, so will share the recipe after we try it tomorrow.

As you know, I take the weekends "off" from Get It Done Tips, but tomorrow I am kicking off the week with a very special edition!. :)  Stay tuned!

Hope everyone has a great week!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween Fun

The kids were up before 6 AM.  I am sure I will miss these days, but oy.

We picked up some breakfast sandwiches and hit the road to visit my grandmother and "trick or treat".  

In the afternoon we went for an hour to their karate school for their Halloween party.  The kids had fun playing games.

We then went home to relax and I made dinner.  In the morning before we left I marinated chicken tenders in a great marinade from Kate Gosselin's cookbook "Love is in the Mix" - olive oil, lots of fresh lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, basil and garlic salt.  It was delicious.

I also had a lot of vegetables I had to use up from our organic crop share.  I wasn't sure what time we would be home so I put the butternut squash in the crockpot with a tiny bit of water, sprinkle of brown sugar and a tab of butter.  When it was time I scooped it out and mashed it as a side.  It was good - the baby in particular loved it. 

Crock pot butternut squash

Lemon grilled chicken and our vegetables from the crop share - broccoli, mashed butternut squash and purple potatoes

After dinner we went to an awesome place by us call Dino Dig USA.  The kids had fun digging for Halloween treasures, painting pumpkins, bobbing for apples, eating doughnuts off a string (no hands!) and playing a lot of fun games.

Peter Pan and the Indian Chief digging for treasures

The kids are now passed out. My husband went out with two high school friends and I am going to unwind on pinterest before going to bed.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Organizing Your Work Day

My job has been so incredibly busy and it is just going to be crazier than ever for the next 7 business days while one of my teammates enjoys her well-deserved vacation in Hawaii.

Get It Done Tip: First thing I did when I got to the office this morning was make a list of everything I needed to do before I left for the day.  One of the most important time management skills I have read about is to "complete the most important task first" often also known as the least desirable task since they are rarely quick and painless.

I often fall into the trap of getting the quick things out of the way first - answer an email, send out a note - but then it spirals and hours go by of dealing with little annoying things instead of getting big productive things moving.  The link above states that the golden rule of time management is to identify two or so tasks that are crucial to complete and get them done first.  Once you're done the day has been a success already. 

I agree completely. Put the big things at the top of your list and plow through everything.  I am trying to get into the habit of answering the pesky little emails on my commute or after I get the kids in bed.

Funny Workplace Ecard: Sometimes I like to treat myself at work and just do one thing at a time.

My evening was uneventful.  I asked my husband to bring home takeout as a treat and the big boys went to karate (another stripe for the big boy and 1st stripe for the middle guy).  Then we ran to the store quick.

I am about to log off and go to bed.  I am beat.  Goodnight!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Class Trip + The Shark

I took a half of a vacation day in the morning to chaperone my oldest's class trip to the Botanical Gardens.   Thank goodness I went because I swear if I didn't there would have been a good chance they would have boarded the bus without him. Dear lord.

Worked from home for the rest of the day.  Thankfully no homework tonight because I am solo since my husband is going out for dinner/drinks with friends tonight.

I am roasting some purple potatoes from the crop share and heating up the leftover beef stew that I froze after our Halloween dinner the other week.

I then plan to get the kids in the bath, clean up and then get some rest.

Get It Done Tip:  I have hard wood floors and for my first two years as a mom I was using a broom and dust pan like a fool after every meal and play doh mess.  I finally found this:

The Shark.  I charge it in my kitchen and use it probably 40 times a day.

I like to exaggerate.

In all seriousness I use it A LOT.  And it's the last thing I do as part of my nighttime clean up routine. It is light weight, cordless, bag less, inexpensive and keeps the place looking somewhat decent.  Highly recommend!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Work To-Do List

What a choppy day! Worked from home in the morning.
Ran out to take my big boy to a birthday party and then to the city for a work dinner.
Busy, but fun day all in all.

I put pork chops, sliced apple, sauteed onions and sauerkraut in the slow cooker on low for 5 1/2 hours for my boys.  Told my husband to cook up a bag of frozen green beans for a side so it was an easy dinner for them.

At the work event I spent a bit of time chatting with my boss who has his own Get It Done Tip: He keeps a notes list for not only his to-dos, but each of his direct reports he has a notes page for too.  Anytime he thinks of something he needs to discuss with the direct report he plugs it into their notes section immediately. So this evening we quickly went through numerous topics in an organized manner.  

I now have an ipad mini from work so started doing the same.  Takes some getting used to but sure as heck beats a million post it notes all over my desk!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Carving + Sunburst Stir-Fry

My oldest has off from school tomorrow so the kids were allowed to stay up late to carve our pumpkins. It was fun!

I always keep one smaller pumpkin safe from carving so after Halloween I make pumpkin soup.  I will report back on how it turns out.

Get It Done Tip: Your online calendar is your friend. I keep saying it's my secret tip, but it's no secret anymore since I talk about it every week.

I knew we were going to carve pumpkins and we wouldn't want to do it too far off from Halloween. About 2 weeks ago I looked at the calendar to find the perfect evening to make sure this tradition was given the time it deserved and so we weren't rushed or tired.

I chose tonight since my son has off tomorrow and sent an invite to my husband to block off our evening to enjoy "pumpkin carving" with the kids. This 2 seconds of planning/calendar blocking ensured we made some great memories as a family tonight.

Ps - Tonight's dinner received 6 thumbs up from the kids! Here's the recipe:

1 can (20 oz.) chunk pineapple in juice or syrup
1 chicken breast, split, skinned, boned
2 lg. cloves garlic, pressed
2 tbsp. minced ginger root (or 1 tsp. ground ginger)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 med. carrots, sliced
1 green bell pepper, slivered
4 oz. thin spaghetti, cooked
3 green onions, chunked
1/3 c. reserved pineapple juice
1/3 c. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. sesame oil

Drain pineapple, reserving 1/3 cup juice for sauce. Cut chicken into chunks. In large skillet, stir fry chicken with garlic and ginger in oil for 2 minutes. Add pineapple, carrots and bell pepper. Cover. Steam 2-3 minutes until vegetables are tender-crisp. Stir in spaghetti.

Combine sauce ingredients. Pour into skillet along with green onions. Toss until ingredients are mixed and heated through.

Monday, October 21, 2013

If You Want Time, You Must Make It

My day is not worth recounting in detail.  It was a typical Monday - work, got home to the dinner I prepped yesterday which sadly was not that great. In an effort to clean out my freezer I made eggplant parm using eggplant from the crop share I sliced and froze, leftover sauce and mozzarella I froze.  It came out awful - maybe because I froze the eggplant - never again!  My husband was spared since he went to the Giants game after work.

Get It Done Tip: You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.

I read this quote today and it really resonated with me.  Everyone is so busy whether you have kids or not and whether you are working or not. 

Do you want to take a vacation? Do you want to call that old friend you haven't spoke to in ages? Do you want to do something special with your family and make a great memory?

If you wait for the perfect time to do it the opportunity might be lost.  Forget the house cleaning, forget the laundry and take a minute to put it on your calendar today and just do it.  I found this online and it drives home the point -

Don't postpone joy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ah, Sunday




Crop share acorn squash and purple potatoes + sweet potato and carrots - roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of brown sugar on acorn squash.

Roast chicken stuffed with lemon inside and under the skin. de-lish.

Apple Cranberry Cobbler.

Monster's Inc.

That's all folks.  

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Daddy's Spaghetti Sauce

We had a fun day today.  My husband and older son went fishing bright and early.
We did karate (my middle guy got his belt!) around 1:00 then I took my oldest to a kid's birthday party.
We were home by 5 and enjoyed sauce using everything you see below, plus 2 jars of Bionature strained tomatoes, and then pureed until smooth.  I love Bionature tomatoes since they are in glass jars - so you don't have to worry about the acidity of the tomatoes interacting with the cans - most that have BPA linings.

Turkey meatballs and whole wheat angel hair and it was a great dinner.

Off to watch Toy Story Tower of Terror with my big boy and husband and relax!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Crockpot Stuffed Peppers & More Freebies

I made "Lighter Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers" in the crock pot today.  

The recipe was pretty easy to put together and it was good.

After dinner I had the pleasure of taking my two little ones to Sesame Street Live.  They were so well behaved and cute.           

Of course I bought the tickets months ago and my older son's one and only "Friday night under the lights" football game was 8 pm so he and my husband skipped out on Big Bird.  My middle one was whining he missed his big brother when we arrived which was cute.

Our show was over at 8 so we drove to the football field to cheer him on quickly and now they are all good and tuckered out and in bed.

Get It Done Tip: I mentioned my love of freebies the other day. I just found this website in a magazine and had to share.

Apparently they are new deals and freebies every day.  I snagged a keurig cup sample the other day for example.  I marked my calendar every day at 8:15 with the website link to remind myself to check. I am usually on the train at that time so click right on the link to do a quick peruse.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Slow Cooker Breakfast: Basic Oatmeal

Oatmeal in the slow cooker - it's what's for breakfast.

It was so good and my kids (except the middle one) devoured it.  

I did a quick search through a couple of recipes last night to get the gist of what to do and made up my own version.  There is a brown sugar apple version I want to make, but decided to start simple in fear the kids would revolt if I went too extreme too soon....we'll work our way up to something a little fancier!

I knew chocolate had to be involved for this to even be a possibility.

I set the stage last night and told them I was going to make oatmeal and as a treat would be allowed to stir in 2 chocolate chips to melt through it.  They were game.

I enjoyed it myself very much and plan to do this once a week during the cold months.  It's almost 8:00 at night right now and I could go for some this second.

Basic slow cooker oatmeal
1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
1/2 cup half-and-half (you can use milk)
Sprinkle of brown sugar

I threw in a handful of raspberries and they melted into everything...good idea if you have a picky eater to sneak it in.

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours.

I put it on before I went to bed and when we got up I let the kids sprinkle on their 2 chocolate chips. :) Couldn't have been easier.  I am going to throw in fresh berries before serving next time. Yum.

Get It Done Tip: Slow cookers are not just for dinner.  Not only can you make oatmeal, but there are tons of egg casseroles, french toast casserole recipes out on the web. Experiment and have fun! No prep or fuss in the morning...just show up, scoop and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Easy Minestrone + Pampers Gifts To Grow

It's 10:07, do you know where your children are?

Mine are FINALLY sleeping.  Dear lord it took forever.  My husband is away for business until Friday and it is so hard to keep them focused to get through homework, baths and then to bed at a decent time when I am by myself.  My older two love to feed off each other's energy and fool around every minute.  I don't mind usually except I take weeknight bedtime seriously.  If I don't my older son is a disaster at school and isn't focused -- like anyone would be if they don't get enough sleep. 

While my husband is away I have the easiest dinners on earth planned.  Today I made Minestrone and the kids loved it!

1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
2 cups water
1 14 - 15 ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 medium yellow sweet pepper, chopped (I left this out)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning or 1 teaspoon each dried basil and garlic powder
1 cup dry rigatoni or penne pasta
2 - 3 cups baby spinach (I used bok choy  because it came in this week's crop share)
Shaved Parmesan and/or fresh basil (optional)

I was lucky to have time to eat it much less take a picture of it, so please enjoy this picture from BHG! 

In a Dutch oven combine the tomatoes, water, beans, broth, sweet pepper, seasoning, and pasta.

Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to medium.

Cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until pasta is barely tender.

Stir in spinach. Ladle into soup bowls. Top with Parmesan cheese and/or fresh basil.

Get It Done Tip: I am a sucker for freebies and look at them as a way to save money.  I received an email today from Amazon Subscribe & Save that I have some of my monthly subscriptions shipping. One monthly subscription is Pampers for the baby. 
I was late to the game and only found out about PampersGifts to Grow with my third baby.  On the plastic of each batch of diapers is a little sticker with a code. You plug the code into the pampers/gifts to grow website and as you accumulate points you can redeem them for rewards.  
As soon as the diapers are delivered I pull the stickers off before putting away the diapers then log them that night before they get lost. This has become routine so I never miss a code and we're working our way towards this baby!

I have spoken to some friends and they have given up logging their code because they forget.  I have personally found that when I do it same day it gets done, it takes all of 3 minutes and we're now more than 1/2 way to our reward.  I can't wait to surprise the kids!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tortellini and Garden Vegetable Bake + Organizing Your Day

I love my job for so many reasons.  One random reason is we get fun freebies.  I had the pleasure of dragging home today a few boxes of pasta, 80 fancy toothbrushes, 2 plastic tablecloths, 3 sand pails and shovels, 4 new serving trays and painters tape.
Random indeed!

Tonight's dinner is a casserole that was pretty good.  I found it online and sent it over to my inlaws twice and they loved it. Finally getting around to trying it myself!

10 ounces dried cheese-filled tortellini (2-1/2 cups) or two 9-ounce packages refrigerated tortellini
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, halved crosswise
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup milk
1 8 ounce package cream cheese or light cream cheese (Neufchatel), cubed and softened
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 small red or green sweet pepper, coarsely chopped (I would probably leave this out next time)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions, adding the carrot during the last 5 minutes of cooking and the sugar snap peas during the last 1 minute of cooking; drain.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a 12-inch skillet.

Add chicken and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from skillet.

Shake together chicken broth, oregano, flour, garlic salt, and pepper in a screw-top jar until smooth.

Add to skillet along with milk.

Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; add cream cheese.

Cook and stir until cream cheese is smooth.

Remove from heat.

Stir in lemon juice.

Add pasta mixture, chicken mixture, tomatoes, and sweet pepper. Toss to coat.

Turn into an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart casserole.

Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through.

Stir mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
I like that this had protein and lots of vegetables and was fairly easy to throw together.

Get It Done Tip: Every parent working or not has a million things that need to get done every day.  Every now and again I pause to look at my routine and see if it makes more sense to reshuffle how and when I get things done.

For example, do I really need to go through the mail, fold laundry, write this blog post, (insert anything) instead of spending time with my kids?  Um, no. There is nothing more important to me than enjoying my kids when I am not working.  Therefore I make it a priority to do as many things as possible after they are in bed or when I have down time (aka my train ride to/from work!). 

On the train I will go through paperwork for school, catalogs, magazines, meal plan, etc.  At home when they are sleeping I wrap gifts, mail cards, prep dinner for the next day, clean up. I also try to streamline these activities to one night a week or condense them to once a month so I don't feel like I have to do something every night.

Starting next weekend I am again making a change to my routine. I love, love, love to cook, but have noticed it's taking up too much time on Sunday.  Therefore I am going to change it up. Every Sunday I make fresh, healthy muffins or breads for the week for breakfast/snack food for the kids.  It makes me feel good that my kids are eating healthy food I make so I won't compromise on that and buy pre-packaged goods.  That said, I now am going to try to do the baking during the evening when they are in bed and do a double batch to freeze so I get a week "off".  I would love to do a quadruple batch but my freezer sucks on space!

Also I usually make something a little more involved for Monday dinner since I know I have time to prep it Sunday. Instead now I am going to look to either do a crock pot meal or something super simple I can make the night before.  

Let's see how it goes!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Whole Foods Tip

I was one of the sad few who had to work on Columbus

My husband was off so was left to schlep all 3 kids by himself for their flu shots.  It was a horror show as you can imagine.  He had to pin down the older one; all were screaming before it even started. Awful.

He then took them all to pick up more of those little colored rubber bands for that bracelet craze that is going on now.  I don't even know what it's called, but my son saw his cousin doing it and is now making us bracelets out the ying-yang.

Their final leg of the field trip was to Whole Foods.  
Get It Done Tip: Only within the past year did it come to my attention that Whole Foods gives out free snacks to kids at the customer service desk.  Go there, let them pick out a treat to munch on and then you can shop in peace (if you move super fast!).

I came home to a nice dinner of pork chops crusted in almond flour (paleo essential), roasted butternut squash (from the crop share), fresh sweet potato fries and a tomato salad (final ones from our garden).  It was delish (thank you hubby!).

He also made a pretty elaborate fruit salad and these amazing paleo cookies from the site Eat Drink & Be Hopeful.  No butter, no eggs and we all still loved them.

2 1/2 cups Almond Flour
1/8 cup coconut oil, softened
2 ripe bananas
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I use one small chocolate bar that is cut up in small pieces)

Mix all the dry ingredients together. 
Add in the two mashed bananas, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. 
Fold in chocolate chips. 
Drop batter by tablespoons onto a greased backing dish. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes then allow to cool and serve.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Bread

I have my feet up on the couch and am relaxing.  Weird!

But not for long, around 1:00 we're heading out to a birthday party for our friend's twin boys.  We're looking forward to a nice day.

No cooking for me today, but I have to share this bread I made last night to go along with the beef stew.

I ordered on Amazon BPA-free cans of organic pumpkin and sweet potato purree.  They each came as a pack of 12, so need to start using them up.

I present to you Sweet Potato Oatmeal Bread.  I put it in the bread machine so it could not have been easier. Everyone loved it and today it is even better.  The inside is so soft and chewy with a crunchy crust.

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Bread

1 ¼ cup warm water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
I used about 3/4 of a 14.5 oz can of sweet potato puree 
1 tsp salt
¼ cup brown sugar 
1 cup quick oats
3 cups flour
2 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast

Combine ingredients in order specified by your bread machine.
Keep an eye on it -- mine looked a tiny bit loose, so I added a sprinkle more of flour.  
It firmed up perfectly and was delicious.  My kids liked it too!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Halloween Activity

TGIF!   My husband had the pleasure of taking all 3 kids to the dentist  by himself today.  Monday he gets to take them all for flu shots since I need to go to work. Poor guy!

I had a nice quiet evening doing a little bit of party prep for a Halloween dinner we're doing tomorrow night.  We have a very fun themed menu planned, so I will share pictures tomorrow.

Made dessert and set the table so tomorrow I don't have a lot to do except prep the appetizer and get dinner going.

Get It Done Tip:   I have a tradition with my kids that started two years ago.  I always like for them to have Halloween pajamas.  The only problem is they barely get use out of them (not a fan of wearing things when the holiday is over) since it's such a quick holiday and most of them are bloody expensive.

So, I decided to let them do something fun and inexpensive which has become a nice tradition - we let them tie dye shirts orange.  This is then their "Halloween pajamas" -  paired with pajama pants of course!

I'll share the finished product tomorrow!

The kids have so much fun doing it.  They look forward to the tradition of making their "Halloween shirts" and they wear them year round.  The dye is all of $3 or so and I picked up (actually amazon delivered) long-sleeved white shirts, which weren't expensive either.

Here is a great site to demonstrate how you make different patterns:

You could do this for almost any occasion - pastel for Easter, red or green for the holidays.  A fun, inexpensive, useful it!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

I am out of the house 10 hours door to door when I go to the city.   Therefore, I only make chicken recipes in the slow cooker when I am working from home; otherwise it gets all dried out.

Today I worked from home.  Guess what we had? Chicken Stew!  The meat was actually tender and juicy -- I don't remember the last time I had slow cooker chicken that was tender and juicy!  What an exciting day.

I mentioned that you can't go wrong with Martha Stewart recipes.  You know who else you can't go wrong with?  She's on the other end of the spectrum from Martha.  Betty Crocker.  Was she a real person? 
I digress.

Here is Betty's recipe!
Betty Crocker


3 medium potatoes (about 1 lb), cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups baby-cut carrots
1 package (8 oz) fresh whole mushrooms, each cut in half
2 packages (20 oz each) boneless skinless chicken thighs (I took mine right out of the freezer and put them in)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I didn't use any)
1 teaspoon instant chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 jar (18 oz) roasted chicken gravy
1/2 cup dry white wine or water

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew
I took my older son to a birthday party at 5:00, so didn't have time to take a picture.  This is Betty's picture, but ours looked just as fab. ;)
In 4- to 5-quart slow cooker, toss potatoes, carrots and mushrooms.
Arrange chicken on vegetable mixture.
Sprinkle salt, onion and garlic powder over chicken.
Stir tomato paste into jar of gravy.
Pour gravy mixture and wine over all.
Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.

Get It Done Tip: It is a worthy investment to buy a programmable slow cooker.  If you are out longer than the cooking time it will switch to "warm" so it doesn't overcook your dinner. This is the one I used today.
A bigger one, for roasts or larger dinners, is this one which browns, sautes, steams and slow cooks all in one.  An investment, but a mega time saver.  Just be careful when cleaning the base - the control panel needs to be kept dry.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tortellini and Peas + Getting More For Your Money

It was a typical day; no celeb sightings!  I had to stay a little late for a meeting at work and I literally walked in the front door, put down my bag, grabbed the keys and walked out the back door to the car for my middle son's school's open house.

It was over pretty quick and now I am home sitting with the middle one to get him to bed while my husband lays with the big boy.  The kids don't leave me alone all day long, but as soon as it's lights out they are "scared" and endlessly whine "I want Daddy". 

For dinner we had Martha Stewart's Tortellini and Peas.  It was easy and what's not to love about such a simple dish. Plus, let's be real, I needed some carbs!

Tortellini & Peas (and green beans!)

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds frozen cheese tortellini
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas 
(we also added a bag of frozen green beans)
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook tortellini about 2 minutes less than package instructions. 
 Add peas; cook until pasta is al dente and peas are tender, 2 minutes more. 
 Reserving 1 cup pasta water, drain. 

Set aside pasta and peas
Melt butter in pasta pot over medium-low heat. 

Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Discard garlic.
To pasta pot, add pasta and peas, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup reserved pasta water; season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. 

Add more pasta water, if necessary, to thin sauce. 
Serve, topped with additional Parmesan if desired.

Now, for my daily weekday tip -- I really wanted to title this blog post "shut the front door" because that is what went through my head the other day when I was flipping through one of the many toy catalogs I have been perusing in prep for Christmas.  

I never buy my kids toys unless it is Christmas or their birthdays.  They have so much stuff and it usually gets destroyed in less than an hour.  That said, I was feeling a little bad for the baby who has stuff, but at this point most of the age appropriate toys we have for him are broken or missing pieces.

Weekend before last I made an effort and bought every battery size out there and then went to work putting them into the toys so the stuff actually worked for the poor kid.  I tossed quite a few things after this exercise.

So,  back to the toy catalog, when I was looking at it on the train I saw a cute plastic farm that was decorated for Halloween with animals dressed up I thought how cute for the baby.

Get It Done Tip:  Anytime I see something in a catalog that I like I immediately google it to see if I can find it cheaper somewhere else. Often times I will just go right to amazon and will usually find the best price there (except sometimes in the thick of the holiday season store prices can be more competitive).  This item was in the catalog for $35 + shipping.  I found it brand new on amazon for $22 + free 2nd day shipping!
I think that is an insane price difference and this is not the first time this has happened.
All of this happened on my daily train ride to the city -- I love when I have a productive commute. ;)
All 3 of the kids have been having fun with this + I love that I saved money!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Morgan Freeman Sighting + Overnight Guest Idea

I saw Morgan Freeman on the streets of NYC this afternoon.  Everything else in the day is sort of irrelevant after you have a mega star sighting like THIS.

Morgan Freakin' Freeman on a Tuesday Afternoon
The other week I mentioned I was making a slow cooker dish from Sandra Lee called Pork Roast with Whisky Sauce.  I then mysteriously never provided an update on it.

It was because I was a total dumass and thought I read the sell by date correctly, but I didn't.  So the morning I went to put the pork in the slow cooker I noticed it was past the date and it smelled slightly so had to toss it. I was SO upset to waste especially since I know better; I just had to ignore it happened altogether.

That said the recipe sounded so unusual and interesting I had to try it at some point, so it made its way onto today's menu.

Unfortunately I had to run out the of the house for an early meeting like a bat out of hell so left my husband with instructions on what to do.

I am not sure what happened, but something went terribly wrong.  My husband came home from work early and emailed me that he washed off the pork since it didn't taste like the alcohol burned off.  Oy vey. So sadly this Sandra Lee dinner was a fail.

Tomorrow we're having tortellini with peas....hopefully we'll have better luck. It's a Martha Stewart recipe and you can't go wrong with her so I am confident it'll be edible!

A little while ago I was straightening up one or two final things post our little weekend trip and wanted to share a silly little tip that I do with all the little shampoo, conditioner, soap freebies from hotels.
Penthouse upgrade = 2 bathrooms = lots of stuff
Get It Done Tip: I usually bring my own shampoo when I go away, so rarely use the complimentary toiletries.  I do take them home though and put them in a Ziploc in the linen closet.  When we have overnight guests I set up their bed and leave fresh towels and a stash of trial-sized shampoos, conditioners, soaps for them. A fun, useful to way to use up the products.  It's a simple touch and also saves times since you don't have to go shopping or run around looking for the items in case your guest forgets to bring their own...especially when it is a surprise overnight guest.  I am all about being prepared to cut down on stress!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Capturing Memories

I came home to my 4 men picking me up from the train so I wouldn't have to walk in the rain.  When we got in the kids started flipping out to their Dad about something and I was asked to remove myself from the kitchen.

They called me into the dining room where I found them all surrounding a little ice cream cake that read "We Love You Mommy".  What a sweet "just because" way to end a dreary Monday!

The meatloaf I made yesterday for dinner was awesome as predicted.

As I was cleaning up this evening I was looking at these pictures of my babies on their first Halloween:

Get It Done Tip: I have friends who love to scrapbook and others who make elaborate shutterfly albums every month of their pictures.  I wish I could have someone do that for me, because I would love the end product.  I just got zip patience and time for it.

I think the fact that an average month logs at minimum 600 pictures has a lot to do with this - it is overwhelming task to go backwards and organize/weed through them all!

That said, you can get similar results with less time and less expense.  On Valentine's Day my hubby has made a tradition of making a book of select pics from the prior year and putting them into a book for me.

We also create an annual video montage of select pics and set them to the most popular tunes of the year. We play them on the DVD at the kids family parties.

Finally, for most holidays I take pictures of the kids in a similar pose and display them.  For Christmas I have each  year's photo with Santa hung from the tree, Easter I have out their first pictures with the bunny on the mantle.

And as you can see from the picture above, for Halloween I decided to buy a traditional costume for my first born - he was gonna be a pumpkin!  Each of the siblings had their turn for their first Halloween in the same costume and their photos are proudly displayed on the mantel each October. My older sons really liked looking at the pictures and debating which brother was in which picture.

You may be like me and too stretched to do elaborate books or scrap booking, but simple things like picking out a few seasonal, special pictures that rotate throughout the year, a DVD photo compilation or a once a year shutterfly book are a great way to display precious memories without taking up too much time or money.