Saturday, November 30, 2013

Our Christmas Tree

The boys picked a good one.....we love it!
The highlight of the day for me was when I found the baby holding the star and singing 'twinkle, twinkle little star'.  It was a moment I never want to forget! 

We were done decorating before noon, so the rest of the day we did arts and crafts, played and got ready for Nana who came over for dinner.  I made baked pork chops coated with crushed multigrain crackers and a little bit of Parmesan, broccoli/cauliflower casserole, salad and focaccia.  

For dessert I made chocolate peppermint cookies and for an extra special treat let the kids put a small scoop of vanilla/chocolate frozen yogurt in between to make a cookie sandwich.

My big boy and I are about to watch the Grinch.

Good night all!

Friday, November 29, 2013

3 Weeks and 4 Days Until Christmas!

We picked up our tree!

Our first Christmas together my husband and I went to pick out our tree in the freezing cold.  We waited for quite some time for someone to come over to help us cut open the netting of the tree so we could see what it looked like. After what must have been 20 minutes I said forget it - let's buy a tree that is the right size and whatever it is when we open it at home it is; if it is a Charlie Brown tree we'll make it look pretty.

Twelve years later we continue this tradition with our kids. They pick out a tree and we put it up the day before decorating to let the branches fall.  Fingers crossed for no gaping holes like we had 2 years!!

Fresh out of the netting

We kept tomorrow open to do nothing but decorate the tree and house.  I love to make an event of things like this to make it special for all of us.  We'll cap off the night with a nice dinner at home and a movie.

Elmos gets up close and personal with the tree the boys picked out

Hope everyone got some good Black Friday deals!! We always skip the event, but this year happened to walk by the Gap on the way to legoland to meet some friends and the entire store was 50% off!  It wasn't crowded so I stocked up on underwear and socks for the kids.  Love a deal!!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kid Artwork

It was a gloomy day, but you could feel the energy in the air everywhere with excitement for the holiday break!

My husband took a vacation day so my parents didn't have to come down in this awful weather.  My middle guy was off today, but my husband had to schlep them all out to pick up my oldest who got out at noon.

I was home from work by 3 and have in the oven now a pumpkin pie for thanksgiving dessert and a crumb cake for tomorrow's breakfast which I will serve with fresh pineapple and strawberries for an easy breakfast.

We're going to my in laws for Thanksgiving so have a couple of things to bring in addition the pumpkin pie.  I already made the cranberry sauce which is the easiest thing in the world to do - skip the can!  Tomorrow all I have to do is make sweet potato bread, quinoa casserole and cinnamon carrots. 

Knowing I had other cooking to do tonight I made a simple dinner.  I threw in the crock pot some chicken broth, chopped carrots, onion, celery and a package of frozen chicken thighs.  When I got home I shredded the chicken thighs and had an easy meal of chicken vegetable soup.
As a special treat I decided to make dessert for my kids tonight to have while we watch Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving.  I didn't want to fuss so used an emergency box of brownies I had on hand and mixed it with a can of pumpkin -- that's all it takes to make Easy Pumpkin Brownies
Put it in a 9x13 pan at 350 for 50 minutes.  

Today's Get It Done Tip is about what to do with all the artwork the kids make.  I have had about a 149 of these guys (the artwork, not the kid) pass through my door in the past 6 years:

I had a conversation with a friend recently about how many paintings and drawings his kids make and how there are only so many you can keep.  I keep a dozen or so a year that are special and each of my kids have their own special artwork keepsake box I put those select few items in.  

The rest of the artwork gets a photo taken of it in the hands of the artist.  So I have the first two or three dot arts ever made by each kid with their name and date on it.  The 146 other dot arts also make an appearance on our "art wall" at home for a few weeks and then I have the picture of it forever....a small, electronic version that won't get tossed around my house.  I know some people take a photo of just the artwork, but I personally like that the artist is holding it in hand proudly showing it in the's so cute!

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a great long weekend!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Old Favorite Dinner with a Twist

Had the day off to take my oldest on his school trip to the aquarium.  Thank the lord I did because it was mayhem again with kids running in all different directions.

The highlight of the day was when an instructor from the aquarium was talking about the life cycle of humans and animals.  He asked what adults do when they get older.  My son responded "they drink wine". I must have turned 50 shades of purple!  I told his teacher that must be what she is teaching him in class since I haven't a clue where he picked that up. ;)

Since I am off today I am going to put in the oven some chicken legs and thighs and roast some carrots and make a big salad.

Get It Done Tip:  My kids, like most, love baked chicken. Once in awhile if I have crackers that aren't moving quick enough out of the house I will grind them up and use them for coating the chicken and bake it off. It serves two purposes - it gives a twist on something I know the kids will like and it ensures we don't waste food.  You can use pretty much any cracker (or even pretzels or chips) you have on hand.  I give mine a swirl in the Vitamix and that's it as coating for chicken or pork chops. Fun!

I am easily amused.

The kids didn't love these pumpkin crackers, but I am 1000% confident they'll love them as "breadcrumbs" on tonight's dinner. muhaha

They'll be enjoying it on their own because I have ladies night out.  Sayonara boys!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Calling Ahead + Paste e Fagioli

Today's Get It Done Tip is all about being resourceful.  We have all at some point had a day where we ran from store to store looking for an ingredient, a special toy for our kid, etc...and you know what I have to say about that? 
Screw it.
Aside from it being some alone time, it's not time well spent if you are juggling a career and family.

I ran out yesterday because I realized we had no onions (not resourceful - I know!).  While I was out my husband emailed me that he wanted to cook something so needed a special ingredient.  My plan was to go to a store that is close by, but I worried they might not carry his ingredient. 
What to do?
Call the store!  Not rocket science, I know....but I had a good 2 minutes debate in my head about going to Trader Joe's (closer) or Whole Foods (certain they carry the product) before I just called TJ's to see if they carried it. 
Another example - we had to buy a certain type of shirt for my oldest a few years back and we couldn't find what we wanted online.  At first my husband was talking about which stores we should hit up in order of preference to look for the item.  I said, uh no - let's call the stores and see if they have the right color/size before we waste the day running around.  We wound up hitting up one store and we were done.
Love it.

Tonight's dinner was prepped yesterday and finished off today.

Christmas Eve Pasta e Fagioli
Gooseberry Patch
3/4 lb. ground beef chuck (I used ground chicken)
1 onion, chopped
1 T. oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 T. dried basil
1 T. dried oregano
15-oz can diced tomatoes (I used 3 fresh chopped tomatoes)
4 cups chicken broth
15-oz can canellini bans, drained and rinsed
1 c. ditalini pasta, uncooked
Garnish: shredded Parmesan cheese

Pre-broth and noodles -- I threw in some shiitake mushrooms because I am a rebel
In a large heavy soup pot over medium heat, brown meat and onion in oil until beef is no longer pink; drain.
Stir in garlic, celery and carrot; cook for 4 minutes.
Sprinkle with basil and oregano.
Stir in tomatoes with juice and chicken broth; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in beans and pasta; simmer for 6-7 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through.
Ladle into bowls; garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Serves 4 to 6
I cooked off the pasta right before serving today and put a little scoop of noodles in the bottom of each bowl before ladling the soup over it.

Kid approved!

*UPDATE: Kid approved by the oldest only.  I personally found it bland. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pumpkin Soup

Waste not, want not.  I try a different pumpkin soup recipe every year with one of our leftover pumpkins.

Let's see how Martha stacks up this year.

Pumpkin, an onion, garlic and shiitake mushrooms roasted and then pureed with chicken stock.

Lunch for me and my Dad during the week.

I have tomorrow's dinner on the stove simmering and the house smells great.

Going to get some makeup on this face and get ready to head out to a kid's party up the street with my two big kids.  It's a 90 minute party so we'll be home soon after to relax and enjoy what's left of the weekend.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Polar Express Night

Went for a cut and color so had a little "me time".  Then ran to Lord and Taylor for a few gifts.  With the exception of the wine store all my in-store shopping is done. Yay!

Relaxed the rest of the day and we had our annual "Daddy's Spaghetti & Meatballs" for our Polar Express dinner.  Love that movie and we make an event out of it to kick off the season.

Four years ago when we started the Polar Express tradition it was a Friday and my husband happened to be off from work and he made spaghetti and meatballs.  Daddy cooking the same dinner before the first viewing of Polar Express has become our tradition to kick off the season.  I usually make a classic comfort dessert from scratch - in the past we have made rice pudding, chocolate pudding from scratch.  This year we had...

Cranberry Apple Crisp!

Susan Branch's Autumn Cookbook

The fresh cranberries are tart, but with a little ice cream on top the kids gobbled it up
Had to sneak this in tonight. 
138 Christmas cards sealed and stamped.  Usually like them to go out first week in Dec, but they may need to go out so they hit right after Thanksgiving because the kids are into EVERYTHING!
Enjoying the first fire of the year.

The baby is sleeping and the rest of us are watching the Polar Express while it lightly snowing outside.

Happy Saturday all!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Baby Books + Spinach Salad with Oranges, Avocado and Pistachio

Happy Friday!

Looking forward to spending a nice weekend with my little people. My little men each have such unique personalities and I LOVE to watch them together.  They have so much fun playing and can't wait for the weekend so they don't have to leave each other and go to school.

Last night they brought up a big tent and were in there having snacks and pretending they were in their own "brother house".   They are all growing up so fast and the baby is talking more and more which is so fun to see.  Which leads me to today's Get It Done Tip.

I am fantastic at taking oodles of pictures a month of the kids. But in the past was AWFUL about updating their baby books.  Three or so years ago I put a monthly, recurring reminder on my calendar "update baby books".

It is set for Saturday morning at 7:30 AM when I know I am still usually still upstairs where the books are and can grab them quick to make an updates that come to mind - teeth that fell out, new words said by the baby, etc.  I have a pen in with the books so I don't have to go hunting for one. I literally take them out of the closet, do whatever I need to do and put them back in.  Quick and then they can never say I only did it for the first one only. ;)

We were invited over to a friends for dinner tonight so no cooking for me.  I am in charge of bringing a salad so have this ready to go - it looks good!

6 oz. baby spinach
6 oz. mixed greens
2-3 navel oranges
2 avocados, pitted and diced (toss in a squeeze of orange juice to prevent browning) pistachios, toasted Honey-Orange Vinaigrette:
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

 To make the vinaigrette, whisk to combine the orange juice, vinegar, Dijon and honey. 
Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking constantly to emulsify. 
Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
 In a large bowl combine spinach, mixed greens, oranges, avocado, and pistachios. 
Drizzle with vinaigrette, toss, and serve.
Serves 6-8.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Daily Reminders + A Spin on Goulash

My husband has been getting up at 5 AM to go to the gym, which wakes my middle son up. So my day started with a barrage of questions from him - where's elf on the shelf? Do I have school? Are Oma and Opa coming down? I am thirsty. Mommeeeee I am thirsty!!!!

And that is just 30 seconds worth.

The bright side is since I was up early I managed to get out of the house in time for an 8:30 call. Once I have my Starbucks in hand the sleep deprivation washes away easy enough so managed to make it through the day.

My Get It Done Tip today is yet again another example of how your online calendar is an amazing tool to keep you organized and help you juggle both work and home responsibilities.

My oldest takes piano so we have to practice every day. When we first started piano there were times when I would remember he had to practice, but he was already asleep or remember too late in the evening when he would be too tired to focus. We moved the keyboard to the main floor in an effort to get better at it, but that still didn’t work.

However, for well over a year now my husband and I both have a reminder 7 pm every night reminding us to practice piano with our son. Now if we don't practice it is a conscious decision. :)

A related aside, a friend shared this article with me and I saw it again on Facebook yesterday. Some people have said I enrolled my kids too early in music lessons - my oldest started at 4 and my middle one just started 2 months ago at 3 1/2. This article shares an interesting study supporting early music education and discusses the effects music has on a child's brain before age 7. If you have a child in music lessons or are considering check it out -

Tonight's dinner looks like everything but the kitchen sink, but the kids loved it. I saw a recipe for a version of goulash and changed it up in order to get rid of some things. I am trying so hard to clean out my freezer; I am apparently a ground chicken hoarder which is part of the problem.

A New Spin on Goulash

Ground turkey or ground chicken

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

Bag of mixed frozen vegetables

Pint of grape tomatoes

Brown ground chicken or turkey in a pan, breaking it up.

Add in chopped onion and garlic and sauté.

Pour in 28 oz diced tomatoes, mixed vegetables and tomatoes.

Cover pan and simmer on low heat for an hour until turkey is cooked through (I did this the night before).

Serve over elbow macaroni.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cyber Monday + Turkey Moussaka

My mom pointed out to me today that it is 5 weeks until Christmas.  Really?  Holy crap.
Our holiday cards should arrive any day so that is almost off the list, so decorating and presents are next to tackle.  Good news is we have an organized plan with the mission of wrapping that stuff up so we can really enjoy the season with our little people and not be running around like lunatics shopping last minute.

This weekend we have some free time so we'll get the outside lights up (but not turn them on until thanksgiving eve).  Friday after Thanksgiving we'll pick out our tree and Saturday afternoon we can spend the day listening to Christmas music and decorate at our leisure, have a nice dinner and then can relax the rest of the weekend and enjoy the lights. 
As for presents, my oldest son asked for a remote control plane with doors that open and is battery controlled so it doesn't require charging. Gotta love how specific the request is.

The problem is I have been googling for this without much success.  So have redirected his attention to Zoomer the Robot Dog. 
When I went to B.J.'s last week I saw a robot dog and figured it's something different then the planes, trucks and trains they already have.  We googled robot dogs and came across Zoomer.  They loved the youtube video of Zoomer so now both older kids have Zoomer as their one wish from Santa. 

Although the wish came with a lot of confusion about how Santa delivers a toy that is bought in toy stores and how can an elf make USB ports. 

I was thankfully quick on my feet.
Random side note - so interesting - last night it was $79.99 and as I write this it is now $96!  Now I refuse to buy it unless I get at least $79.
I digress.
The final note about holiday shopping - I will not step foot in a store after Thanksgiving, so am a Cyber Monday shopper.  The problem is I am at work on Cyber Monday, like most people, and obviously don't have time to go shopping. 
Get It Done Tip: Each year when I see something in a catalog or store that could be a nice gift I save it in my amazon cart. 
I get an email notification when the price goes up or down so can purchase if it goes on sale.  Anything that is still in the cart by Cyber Monday is probably discounted that day and all I have to do is move it to the cart and hit submit.  Takes all of 2 minutes so I can get back to work and still enjoy getting more bang for my buck.
Pretend there is a transition sentence here.
Tonight's dinner was good!  Last night my husband took the kids up for baths and I cleaned up downstairs and got this in the oven.  I like this routine we have now so by the time baths are done I can do homework and piano practice with my older son while the next night's dinner cooks.
Turkey Moussaka
Gooseberry Patch's Homemade Christmas
2 eggplants, thinly sliced
1 T. olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced (I used 1)
1 t. garlic, minced
1 lb. ground turkey (I used ground chicken)
14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste (I skipped)
2 eggs, beaten
2 5.3 oz containers plain Greek yogurt
1 T. grated Parmesan cheese
Assembling the Moussaka
In an ungreased non-stick skillet over medium heat, brown eggplant slices on both sides; remove from skillet and set aside.
Add oil; sauté onions and garlic for 2 minutes.
Add turkey; cook and stir until browned then drain.
Add tomatoes with juice, parsley, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until turkey is tender.
Arrange half the eggplant slices in an ungreased 13x9 baking pan.
Top with turkey mixture, following by remaining eggplant slices.
In a bowl combine eggs, yogurt, and additional salt and pepper.
Pour over eggplant slices; sprinkle cheese over top.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until golden, bubbly and eggplant is tender.
Serves 8 to 10.  Serve a salad on the side to round it out.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mobile Device Photo Solutions

My husband is a tech geek and shared awhile ago a great tip for what to do with photos taken on your mobile device. 

I have been in the habit of uploading pictures from my phone to shutterfly one a week so they don’t get lost.  It’s a cumbersome process; however, he apparently has been much more efficient with his photos. 

Here’s his Get It Done Tip:

Using your mobile device for taking pictures has become the norm, but do you know how to keep your most important pictures safe?  

Most mobile devices now offer some sort of built in service to backup these very important photos and even allow for an easy way to view them on other devices like your TV or computer. The iPhone can use the iCloud backup technology save images and videos to your iTunes account in the cloud, as well as a few other option detailed here

Android devices can be backed up automatically using Google+.  This service is great and if configured properly, there is no cost for unlimited storage usage.  

Since we use Shutterfly my go to solution has been Shutterfly's App. I believe it still has some bugs to get worked out, but over all it is a great way to get all your photos uploaded so they don’t get lost if something happens to your mobile device.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Dining with Kids + Maple Roasted Chicken

We often get comments about how well-behaved the kids are when we go out to dinner with them.  Which is amazing to me since everywhere else they are ANIMALS.  

They know how to put on a good show.

I think we have three tried and true tricks to keep them all in order.  First, we know their limits. They can handle two courses and that's it before the ants get in their pants.

Second timing is everything.  Get them too early and they don't want to be there. And heaven help us if we get them too late and they are dying of hunger.  OMG, I can't explain the drama that ensues in that scenario. 4:00 seems to be our magic number.

Get It Done Tip: The third isn't a new concept to anyone, but the means may be new for some - it is to have some planned entertainment for them.  My tip is head to your dollar store and stock up on disposable, cheap arts and crafts.  
My side of the table had a glass of wine so this mess didn't bother me!
I went to a local junk store by my house called amazing savings. And stocked up on cheap arts and crafts that they can play with and we can toss after. For example, these Spongebob kits were 99 cents each and contained a coloring book story, stickers, stencils and crayons.  As soon as we got to the restaurant I whipped them out and the kids were so excited. They were quiet and happy with some bread and coloring. Dinner came not a moment too soon and then we ate and talked like a normal family. ;)  

We enjoyed appetizers, entrees and then left a trail of mud (post-football yesterday) and crumbs in our wake.  My boys always make their presence known!

Tonight's dinner (made in advance) was Maple Roasted Chicken from Gooseberry Patch's Farmhouse Christmas.  Such an easy all in one meal.  The leftovers are on the stove now being made into Winter Chicken Stew for tomorrow's dinner.

Maple Roasted Chicken

7-lb. Roasting Chicken (mine was much smaller)
1 large onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
6 carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
3 parsnips
2/3 cup maple syrup
2 T. Butter

Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
Spread the vegetables in the bottom of a deep roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
In small saucepan, over low heat, mix together syrup and butter until butter melts.
Roast the chicken 2 1/2 -3 hours basting with syrup and pan juices. (the cookbook didn't give a temp - I baked at 350 until cooked through)
Chicken is done when the breast is pierced and juices run clear.
If chicken becomes too brown before cooking time is complete, cover loosely with foil.

What's not to love about simple comfort food like this.  Filled the bellies of my growing boys and gave some leftover for another meal tomorrow.

Off to do my holiday cards and catch up on work.  Goodnight!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Any Given Sunday in Haiku

last football game of the season 
one soaked and muddy family
 a glass of wine and a nice dinner out with my four men 

a great sunday

No autographs, please.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Family Gathering

Had a great day with all my aunts, uncles and immediate family!   Here is a sampling of the menu:

green bean bacon bundles

orange caprese salad

pork roast filled with apple stuffing and topped with a dijon maple glaze

 THIS was RIDICULOUS and couldn't have been easier
Nutella Crunch Cake  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Prep for Big Gatherings + Potato Frittata Dinner

Well, my day didn't start quite like I had hoped.  I have been up since 5:15 with my middle guy who was complaining his ear hurt.  So I worked from home so I could run him to the doctor. 

He is on antibiotics, not contagious and acting totally normal so we're surviving and I am getting ready for our big family gathering tomorrow.

I feel like it's the eve of Thanksgiving with my two pumpkin pies in the oven. :) 

Get It Done Tip: Whenever you have a big crowd coming over prep as much as you can the night before and map out how the next day will flow.

For example - earlier in the week I gave thought to my schedule and what I needed to get done. I have all my shopping completed as of yesterday.  So, next step is to bake/assemble all the desserts tonight.  In fact the oven just beeped to let me know we're all done on that front.  Now all I have to do is one load of dishes and set the table.

Tomorrow morning my husband is going to take the kids out bright and early for a breakfast with Santa event.  I am sad I will miss it since we go every year, but they'll have fun and I can get everything else in order.  

Once they're off I will prep the quinoa casserole, bake the sweet potato bread, prep the green beans and make the salad.  About two hours before everyone comes I will make the stuffing for the pork, butterfly it and assemble and put in fridge.

When my guests arrive the plan is to preheat the oven. We'll have appetizers (guests insisted on bringing!) and then I will bake things off in the oven and use the barbecue too to help me cook.

Tonight's dinner was a quick one pan meal since I wanted to focus on prepping for tomorrow.  It also allowed me to use up the last batch of purple potatoes from our final crop share shipment (it was fun while it lasted!).  We all LOVED this.  Definitely a breakfast we'll serve one morning soon.

1 pound  Yukon gold or russet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced (I used purple potatoes)
2 tablespoons  olive oil 
2 large carrots, thinly sliced (left out - just didn't sound good to me)
12 eggs, lightly beaten (I used 8 or 10 - I can't remember)
1/2 cup  chopped green onions (4)
1/4 teaspoon  each salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, minced
Fresh snipped parsley (I forgot to add it)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a 10-inch oven-safe nonstick skillet cook potatoes in hot oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add carrots; cook for 5 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are tender and lightly browned, turning occasionally

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, half the green onions, salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture over potatoes. Bake, uncovered, about 18 minutes or until frittata appears dry on top. Remove frittata from oven. Let stand on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, for topper, in a small bowl gently toss together remaining green onions, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and parsley. Set aside.

With a spatula, loosen edges of frittata from skillet. Place a large serving platter over skillet. Using two hands, invert platter and skillet to release frittata onto platter. Cut frittata in wedges. Serve with green onion topper.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Weeknight Shopping + Creamy Chicken Noodle Slow Cooker Soup

As a working parent Friday through Sunday is precious family time when I rarely do errands.  Which is why I do my Target/Costco/BJ's and if I am being real - Lord and Taylor ;) - runs when the kids are in bed. 

We get homework and baths done quickly and then I run out around 7:45/8 usually once a month if we need something.

I am hosting a family dinner this Saturday with 11 adults and 4 kids so I pre-planned the menu, put the ingredients list in my notes section of my blackberry and triggered my  entertaining routine which is at this point a well-oiled machine.

Last night I went quickly to a local food store with a list of non-perishables in hand. I was out and back within an hour since I had my list organized.

Tonight I plan to go to BJ's (which is open until 10 pm - ideal!) for meat, vegetables, etc. 
Getting all the shopping out of the way before today is over will allow me to buckle down tomorrow night to enjoy baking and other prep.

We have a good menu planned:
Stuffed pork loin
Green bean bundles
Broccoli quinoa casserole
Sweet potato bread
A big fall salad
(2) NY Times Oreo-crusted pumpkin pies (fun!)
Nutella crunch ice cream cake
Caramel pecan brownies

Get It Done Tip: Lots to do, but if you break down what needs to get done into manageable chunks the days leading up it is all do-able without a lot of extra stress. In fact, the shopping and cooking are enjoyable "me time" and Saturday I'll have the bulk done and be ready with a glass of wine in hand to enjoy my family.

More on this topic tomorrow!

In other news, tonight's dinner was perfect for the freezing cold. 

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup 

I don't like to make things with condensed soups too often since there isn't anything healthy about it, but once in awhile I will pull a good comfort food recipe like this and make the condensed soup from scratch so I don't have to worry about BPA from a can.  But today I was stretched for time so had this on hand as a back-up...boxed is going to have to be good enough for tonight!
5  cups  water
2 10  ounce cans  condensed cream of chicken and mushroom soup (I used one)
2  cups  chopped cooked chicken (about 10 ounces) (I put mine in frozen and shredded when it was fully cooked)
1 10  ounce package  frozen mixed vegetables (I used two packages of Cascadian farms Gardener's Blend)
1  teaspoon  seasoned pepper or garlic-pepper seasoning
1 1/2  cups  dried egg noodles
                   In a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker, gradually stir the water into soup until smooth.
Stir in chicken, frozen vegetables, and seasoned pepper.
Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours.
If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. Stir in uncooked noodles.
Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes more or just until noodles are tender.

The kids loved it!!