Christmas Cookie Frosting Tradition

It’s December 17, and I have yet to bake a Christmas cookie. Whaaat?!?! As someone with a giant sweet tooth, that is so very wrong. Normally I do a cookie exchange with two teacher friends I met during my semester long stint at a high school in Janesville, but that didn’t happen this year. Also, Brody’s office has been a sugar bomb lately, and the last thing he wants to come home to are cookies. Or does he…?

Growing up, my grandparents (my mom’s folks) would come over before Christmas every year to help my sister and I frost sugar cookies. My mom would make the dough, cut them out, and bake them (and maybe we helped?), while Laura and I got to do the fun stuff with Grandma and Grandpa.

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Sweet rollers, huh?

*Random fact: My grandma’s name is Shirley, but my grandpa calls her Kate. It’s more of a “pet” name, but I’ve never heard him call her by her real name.

Even when my sister and I were in college, we’d find time to continue this tradition.

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There’d be frosting made from milk, butter and powdered sugar of all different colors, sprinkles, and red hot candies. My grandpa would show us his “Indian trick” where he’d swirl two different colors of frosting on one cookie. We’d end up with snowmen, Santa Clauses, Christmas trees, boots, stars, and angels all in various colors.

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Of course the tradition of it made this so special. I hope to continue this with our kids, whether they frost cookies with Brody and I, their grandparents, or aunts and uncles. But, I’d say the other special part of making cookies was eating them. My mom’s sugar cookies are incredible. She sent me a text picture of her recipe, and you lucky people are going to see it now, in all of its buttery glory.

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Can’t you see the love and happiness in the worn and torn edges?

This afternoon while Finley napped, I made the dough.

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My plan was to make a half batch, but I accidentally forgot to halve the sugar, so in went two more sticks of butter. Because we have plans this afternoon post-nap, I didn’t make any of the cookies. I think I’ll bake and frost some tomorrow to bring to a kids’ holiday party through my weekly play group. Maybe this weekend, Finley, Brody and I can all frost cookies together.

I Whine for a Bit and Then List Ten Happies (not a real word)

Like everyone, I’m in shock that it’s August already. In my previous life as an English teacher, this is when I would start to freak out/get excited about the beginning of a new school year. I’d be planning units, getting my classroom ready, and reconnecting with colleagues. I miss that. Whoa – I didn’t intend for this post to get all down-in-the-dumps so quickly, but it’s been a little rough around here lately.

Big “first world problems” happening in our household. For one, as I explained already, we sold our house. Fast. Now we don’t have a new house to move into…that is unless you count our friends’ basement. We’ve been packing up the last seven years of our lives, and our dining and living rooms are filled with boxes. The walls are empty and closets are half full. It’s sad, but I’m okay. We are so incredible fortunate to have amazing friends who have offered up space in their house to live and/or store some of our belongings that we don’t want in storage.

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This week, we were THIS close to having a great house. The house was on the market last year, didn’t sell, and was for sale again. We put in a few informal offers, and it seemed like she may accept. Then she changed her mind. And then we almost had it again. And then she said she was going to take it off the market. Hope, sadness, hope, sadness. After this last rejection, Brody and I have both moved on and realized this house will not be our forever home.

Our options now are to either wait for a house (in our price range that we like) to come on the market in the one neighborhood (fully developed, elementary school, pool, sidewalks, green space, etc.) we like, or build in a different neighborhood (which is also a really nice area but still being developed obviously). If we build and commit by September 1, the house would be complete by January 15. Such big decisions.

Another “first world problem” we’re dealing with is Finley. Oh my. Fevers, crabbiness, runny noses, night wakings, and did I mention crabbiness? I keep reminding myself of how horrible she must feel. I’ve heard that if adults experienced the pain babies feel when their teeth come in, we’d all be on high strength pain killers.

There have been some very good moments too in the past couple weeks. It’s not like me to be such a Debbie Downer, so here are ten awesome things about my life:

1. Finley is becoming a walker! It’s so cool to see her moving like a person.

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2. We took a family trip to the zoo (on Finley’s super crabby day), and we had a great time. It’s some good and interesting people watching there on the weekends! Finley seemed to like the ostrich the most.

3. As we pack, we’ve also been purging. Lots of trips to Goodwill and lots of crap thrown away (we bought a Bagster and will have Waste Management pick it up before we move).

4. I’ve had a few good long runs alone and with friends. However, Brody and I have decided to not run the Madison Mini anymore. This was going to be a race we ran together, and with him getting sick and injured and us moving, we’re not ready. We’d like to do a fall half marathon instead.

5. My mom sold her condo and is moving up north to the cottage permanently. She’s officially retired and will be living in a beautiful house on the best lake ever.

6. I made a delicious dinner two nights ago: PaleOMG’s Thai Pork and Veggie Meatballs. The sauce is ridiculous. If I wasn’t trying to clean out the random food in my freezer, I’d buy more pork and curry powder and make it again soon.

7. Finley loves her Radio Flyer. Every time we walk past it in the garage, she points and grunts. She holds on to the handlebars, and it’s pretty much the cutest thing ever.

8. Starbuck’s iced caramel machiaccto with whole milk = yum. I crave these all the time. I mean, why wouldn’t I? It’s the perfect combination of sugar, fat, and caffeine.

9. Today Brody and I are taking a pasta cooking class at A Pig in a Fur Coat with a bunch of other friends. We went in with two other couples and bid on the class through a raffle at a charity event. Yes, I know pasta is a grain and not Paleo/Primal. It’s a conscious cheat and will be worth it.

10. I read a book! My friend loaned me A Fault in Our Stars, and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t read a book for MONTHS (my previous English teacher self is scolding current SAHM self), and how I missed it. I once owned this book, but a student borrowed it and never returned it. Anyways, I’d like to see the movie now. Ha! Like that’ll happen.

Happy Saturday folks! Have a good weekend!

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Friday Five

1. I made Against All Grain’s paleo honey biscuits this afternoon. When I made them a month ago, they had great flavor but were still a little mushy. In the comments, Danielle said to avoid Bob’s Redmill’s almond flour, and I actually found a different and cheaper brand at my grocery store. I also baked them for 16 minutes. They’re cooling on my stovetop, and we’ll see how long I can hold off on sampling them.

2. Two “big” changes in the world of raising the babe: 1) I have stopped tracking everything Finley does on the baby app. It’s slightly embarrassing that I held on to this habit for so long. It was unnecessary for me to be recording every diaper change and bath. After the look I got from a friend this week when I told her I was still tracking all this, I knew it was time to let go. It feels good. The only issue is I forget what side to start nursing on. 2) Last night I didn’t dream feed Finley. She eats dinner at 6pm, and then I nurse her at 6:45pm. She hasn’t really been taking in much for the dream feeds recently, and she also wakes up when I pull her out of bed (although she does fall back asleep while nursing and/or when I put her back in her crib). Finley slept through the night like nothing had changed. I had a little leakage on the left side but no discomfort.

3. Yesterday Finley and I spent seven hours at a friend’s house working the garage sale. There were eight families (us included) who contributed. They’ve developed quite the system: color coded stickers and sheets and three and a half hour shifts (everyone was asked to work two). Baby and kids’ clothes seemed to do the best, and I had none of that to offer. My contributions included men and women’s clothes and household stuff. My guess is I make $50.

4. It’s been raining here all week, and while it’s great to see green grass, I am ready for sun and warm temperatures. Plus I have some yard work to do, and the rain makes that unappealing.

5. Brody and I are going to run the Madison Mini half marathon in August! We haven’t signed up yet, but he’s agreed. I showed him Hal Higeon’s novice 1 training plan, and I think we’ll both loosely follow it. We’ll do our long weekend run together with Finley. If by chance she’s not a fan of being in the stroller for that long, we may have to get creative with it: Brody runs five miles, we run five miles together with Finley, and then I run five miles. Now let’s hope we don’t have a scorcher of a summer – running in heat and humidity stinks. *Yes, I realize I slightly contradicted myself in 4 and 5.

Happy Friday!

April’s Freezer Meals

Hey hey! How are things? I’m checking in to share the recipes from this month’s freezer meals group and talk a little about what’s going on with food in our household.

The group skipped March, and like me, I’m guessing everyone had empty freezers ready to be stuffed with delicious meals. Seven ladies were in for this month, and we met on Monday night for assembly. After putting Finley down, I grabbed my meat in gallon baggies, some food I prepped ahead of time for assembly, and a cookie sheet and headed out the door.

Before meeting, the super woman who organizes this whole operation informed us we’d need to bring the following meats: 2 lbs raw chicken breasts, 2 cups cooked diced chicken, 1 lb cooked Italian sausage, 1 lb cooked ground turkey, and 3 total lbs of cooked ground beef. On Monday morning, my mom (who was visiting for the weekend), Finley and I made the trek to Whole Foods in Madison to buy meat.

To back up a smidge, the super woman who did the shopping dropped off 10 lbs of onions, 2 heads of celery, and 7 boxes of chicken flavored rice for me to prep before Monday. It was quite fortunate that my mom was in town and likes doing stuff in the kitchen, because she helped me with the dicing and sautéing. 

The assembly took only an hour or so. I was responsible for putting together the bags of food for the Pasta Fagioli and labeling the cans of broth and kidney beans with everyone’s name and the meal it goes with. Everyone had come with gallon baggies with their names and the meal on each. This system, or each person putting together all seven of the same meal, works well, and as I said, went really fast.

So the recipes – here they are! I haven’t made any, so I can’t vouch for what’s good or not, but they all sound great.

Breaded Ranch Chicken

Pizza Casserole

Pasta Fagioli

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Emily’s Sloppy Joe Recipe (no link)

  • 1.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 3/4 cup finely diced green pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can Healthy Request tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • small drizzle of maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: Saute green pepper, onion, celery and garlic. Brown meat. Add all other ingredients. Let simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Italian Rice Bake (no link)

  • 1 package chicken flavored rice
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (sweet)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese

Instructions: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare rice according to box. Brown the meat, sprinkling with onion powder as it cooks. Combine rice, sausage, marinara sauce, and seasonings. Put into greased baking dish. Pour extra sauce over top if desired and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Sadly, some of these freezer meals may sit in our freezer for a while, as Brody and I have officially started eating Paleo/Primal. We’re not 100%, especially me – I’ve cheated a bunch. Brody, though, has been. From what I’ve read, following this lifestyle is quite personal – what works for you may or may not work for others. In essence, we’ve cut out all grains and processed foods. We’re still eating dairy, and I highly doubt will ever go the raw route.

I had already been transitioning into this way of eating, and it hasn’t been very difficult. Being home full time, I’m surrounded by the food I buy, so as long as a package of Oreo’s or Wheat Thins doesn’t end up in my shopping cart, I don’t have access to it. Brody, on the other hand, has faced some obstacles. On Monday he sent me pictures of amazing looking desserts from his office, and on Wednesday he went to the Brewers game to which he was handed a beer as he walked on to the bus.

I’ll keep you posted on our journey and on the freezer meals we eat.

Happy Friday!

I’m in Another Monthly Food “Group”

If you’ve been reading about my life for a while, you know that I get together with a fabulous group of women once a month to eat food, share the recipes, drink wine, and enjoy each other’s company. I love our monthly Wine and Recipe get togethers!

Two ladies in this group are also in a Freezer Meal group. They explained it to me and suggested I give it a shot. After speaking to Brody about it, I told them to count me in.

This was my first month doing it, and I sadly couldn’t even attend “the” event (explained later), but here’s the gist of it.

One (super) woman in the group compiles recipes from everyone else as possible meals for the month. Last month there were categories, like breakfast, Crock Pot, and soup, with two options in each. We have a private Facebook page, and everyone voted for their favorite option.

Once the meals are decided, said (super) woman does the shopping for the majority of the ingredients. Considering there are nine ladies in the group, that’s a lot of food! She also tells us what we need to bring to “the” event. This month, everyone had to bring one pound of raw chicken breasts, two cups of cooked cubed chicken, one pound of cooked Italian sausage, and one pound of thinly sliced raw steak. The meat cost me about $25, and we all owed (super) woman $28! Only $28! Seven meals for under $60!

This month’s night of assembly met on the last day of February at 7:30pm. You can tell these are all moms because it starts after the kiddos go to bed. Unfortunately, this was the day Finley had a fever and went to the doctor. It ended up being teething and has been the beginning of a very rough time for her (and us).

Anyways, back to the food. My meals were put together by the rest of the group, and a friend dropped them off after around 9:30pm. Apparently the whole production is like a well-oiled machine, and I can’t wait to be a part of it in March.

Here are the recipes and links to the freezer meals from February:

Teriyaki Pork Chops
*I used chicken breasts but they dried out a little. I’d like to make this again but with boneless pork chops.

Szechuan Steak Stir Fry
*I made this already and it was really good. However we used frozen veggies, and if I made it again, I’d use fresh or somehow get some of the water out of the frozen.

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
*I’m making this for dinner tonight!

Chicken Pot Pie
*This one is SOO good! I made it for dinner on Sunday and have been eating it for lunch. Not the healthiest but great comfort food.

Parmesan Sage Meatloaf

Baked Brownie Oatmeal
*I’ve been eating this for breakfast and loving it. This morning I heated up a square and then added a dollop of peanut butter to the top. Finley likes it too!

Quinoa Chili

If I didn’t add a comment under the recipe, it’s because I haven’t made it yet. This month I’ve been a little too excited to try everything – next month I may need to pace myself and spread the meals out. Or not.

It’s been so convenient to have these meals all ready to go in my freezer. Although it does require a little planning ahead (i.e. taking the food out to thaw), everything is done! No extra runs to the store for a missing ingredient. Not that that’s ever happened to me. Not like that happened last week when I was making tacos and didn’t have seasoning…and had been at the store earlier that day.

I hope to share the freezer meals I come home with every month.

Questions:
Do you stock your freezer with food or meals?
Are you or do you know someone in a freezer meal group?

Wine and Recipe: Crock Pot Chicken

Oh hey! Long time no chat (other than the very quick Finley Photo Dump post from yesterday). I didn’t plan on taking such a long break from posting, but it happened. I’ve had ideas for posts floating around in my brain for the last few weeks, but actually writing them out has been pushed aside. I swear “Blog post” has been on my daily to-do list for a while now. This is one I’m super excited to share because I think it may be useful to some of you!

Last month’s Wine and Recipe was a winner. Some may even say “Winner winner chicken dinner!” Ha! Such a bad joke but so appropriate. Mel hosted, and as a working and pregnant mama (her daughter is 19 months and she’s due in March), time is precious. Plus, using a Crock Pot is so dang easy!

I have to admit, I wasn’t overly psyched for this Wine and Recipe initially. I was worried all the dishes would be too similar. Was I wrong! The food was amazing, and I’ve already made four of the recipes. Brody has also been a fan, which has been a welcome surprise. He’s not a huge fan of the Crock Pot (texture issue and the infamous Crock Pot smell). But, he’s gobbled all of these up with a smile on his face. So without further ado, the recipes!

Crock Pot Thai Chicken
This was my contribution, and according to Mel’s husband (who sampled all of the dishes), mine took first place for the night. Considering there are THREE ingredients, one of them being the chicken, I’d say that’s pretty awesome. There are more ingredients if you make the rice…which I highly recommend you do. Instead of TJ’s peanut vinegarette, I used a peanut dipping sauce by Bankok. Love this dish! The link above brings you to Iowa Girl Eats, the creator of this yummy concoction.

Enchilada Crock Pot Chicken
This one is also way easy and has a short list of ingredients. We ate this chicken deliciousness, courtesy of Nicole, on sliced baguette rounds and tortilla chips. When I made it a week after W&R, I also ended up eating it in a whole wheat wrap. There’s a container of it in my freezer, and I’m hoping it thaws well for a future quick appetizer.

Ingredients:
-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
-10 oz. can red enchilada sauce
-2 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
-4 cups Monetary jack cheese

Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken
Everyone loves buffalo sauce, right? Another easy-peasy recipe for you. Thanks, Amber!

Ingredients:
-3 lb. bag frozen chicken breasts
-1 packet ranch dip powder
-1 bottle of Frank’s hot sauce

Place frozen chicken, ranch powder, and Frank’s hot sauce in the Crock Pot and cook on low for 10 hours. Shred chicken and serve with crumbled bleu cheese, chopped celery, and lettuce leaves.

Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
Kathy likes bacon. How can you go wrong with bacon? This is a heavy dish, but in a good way – definite comfort food. Unlike the buffalo chicken recipe, this is not one you’d make in the summer. This is a winter dish all the way. I made it for Brody and I the week after W&R, and we both agreed it’d be nice with some peas mixed in at the end for some vegetables and pops of sweetness.

Ingredients:
-3 cloves of garlic
-1 package of ranch dressing mix
-1 10.75 oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
-1 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
-1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
-1/2 cup of bacon
-3 cups of pasta

Spray inside of Crock Pot. Cook and chop bacon. Add chicken breasts. Mix together garlic, ranch dressing mix, cream of chicken soup, Greek yogurt, and bacon in a small bowl. Pour mixture over chicken. Cook on high for 3.5 hours or low for 6-7 hours. When chicken is done, cook pasta and mix into chicken.

Spicy Ginger Chicken
Laura has this recipe in her regular rotation, and with three boys, she’s got lots of mouths to feed and keep happy. We love ginger in our house, so I knew I’d be making this one. It was a great, healthy, and surprisingly light dish.

Ingredients:
-2.5-3 lbs. drumsticks and/or boneless, skinless thighs
-2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
-2 tbs. quick cooking tapioca
-1 tbs. grated fresh ginger
-1 tbs. fresh chopped cilantro or parsley
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 tsp. packed brown sugar
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Place chicken in Crock Pot. Drain tomatoes, reserving juice from one can. In a medium bowl, combines tomatoes and reserved juice, tapioca, ginger, cilantro/parsley, garlic, brown sugar, salt and crushed red pepper. Pour suave over chicken and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-3.5 hours. Serve chicken over couscous or rice.

Chicken Risotto
I know what you’re thinking: Busy moms don’t have time for risotto! You’re right. We don’t. This faux risotto won’t fool anyone, but it’s still a great meal. Thanks for sharing this one Emily!

Ingredients:
-1 1/4 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
-1/2 cup finely chopped onion
-1/2 cup shredded carrot
-1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
-2 cups of water
-2 cups uncooked instant white rice
-2 tbs. butter (which Emily actually didn’t include)
-1 10.75 oz. can of cream of chicken soup
-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix chicken, onion, carrot, garlic and water in Crock Pot and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Stir in rice and butter. Increase heat to high, cover, and cook for 5 minutes until rice is tender. Stir in soup and cheese. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes.

I have a few more to share, but I think I’ll do a part two post to share those. It’s almost 9pm, and I need to dream feed the little lady before I turn in for the night. I really hope you try one, two, or all of these amazing chicken recipes! We have another Wine and Recipe next week already, and the theme is pizza. I’m so excited! I like food way too much.

A Day in the Life with Finley [11-11-2013]

Just over a month ago, I did one of these posts. Not only are things changing a little as Finley gets older, but I’m now watching a 17 month old part time. This shows what a pretty typical Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday (the days I watch Adalyn) is like for me.

6:33am I hear Finley talking to herself. She slept very well last night: 6:15pm to 2am (with a dream feed at 8:30pm), 2:30am to 3:45am (Brody got her back to sleep – yay Dad!), and 4:15am to 6:30am. Brody goes to get her and bring her to hang out in our bed for a bit.

6:35am Finley soaked through her diaper so I get up to change her while Brody showers. Question to moms: During the night, if your little one didn’t poop or have diaper rash, do you change his/her diaper?

6:45am I brew coffee, pick up clutter, and do a few dishes while Finley hangs out in her Bumbo. Brody comes down to make breakfast and “chat” with Finley.

7:10am My coffee is done, and I pour myself a cup to sip on while I nurse Fin.

7:20am She’s not very hungry and barely nurses, so into the bouncer she goes.

7:30am The dogs get let out to pee, and I make a yogurt mess bowl for breakfast and continue drinking coffee.
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8:00am Finley and I play on the floor waiting for Adalyn.
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8:18am Finley rubs her eyes, and it’s been over an hour and a half of awake time. I put her down for nap #1. As an experiment, I use the swaddle strap to see if it makes any difference in the length of this nap.
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8:25am Adalyn arrives, and I put her in the high chair to finish eating her breakfast. However instead of eating the English muffin with peanut butter, she licks the peanut butter off and gets it all over her face.

8:45am The rain has turned to snow. Adalyn and I stare out the window at it (while I cry inside a little…I dislike the cold that comes with winter and snow).

9:03am Finley is awake. It’s a 42 minute nap – better than last week’s 28 minute ones. Maybe the strap did help.

9:35am Finley nurses. Adalyn has started carrying around her blanket – her nap time is coming up soon.

9:55am I put Adalyn down in the pack ‘n play in our guest room. Finley and I play in her room. I put away her clothes from the laundry basket.

10:15am It’s impossible to shower when both Finley and Adalyn are awake. I bring the bouncer into the bathroom for Fin to play in while I shower. She starts to fuss right as the conditioner (and fistfuls of my hair) go down the drain.

10:30 Fin and I read books in her room after a failed attempt to nap. She’s not ready yet.

10:45am Now she’s ready for nap #2. I put her in the swaddle strap again.

11:15am FOOD! I need food badly. My small-ish breakfast four hours ago wore off an hour ago. I make egg salad and put it on a wheat high fiber tortilla and have a small apple on the side.
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I’m still hungry (no surprise) and eat a Sierra Trail Mix Clif bar. It satisfies my sweet tooth and fills me up.
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12:15pm I get dinner cooking in the slow cooker; we’re having Iowa Girl Eat’s Crock Pot Thai chicken.

12:30pm Adalyn wakes up from her nap, and it’s lunch time for her.
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12:45pm Finley wakes up, gets a clean diaper, and plays on her favorite mat.
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1:00pm I clean up Adalyn’s face and hands and change her diaper. Finley hangs out on a blanket on her tummy.

1:20pm Adalyn’s mom, my friend, arrives and we catch up.

1:54pm Finley nurses and I respond to text messages.

2:10pm We go upstairs to have some quiet time in the nursery. I read a few books to Fin, including one of my favorites: Hand Hand Fingers Thumb.

2:33pm Nap time for Fin.

2:45pm Snack time for Mama! I have a handful of tortilla chips with a BLT dip and then an orange. I definitely did not eat enough fruit this weekend.

3:10pm After folding a load of laundry, I sit down to watch an episode of Parenthood.

3:20pm Finley’s eyes open. I attempt to soothe her back to sleep but to no avail.

3:30pm We bundle up for a trip to Woodman’s.

4:22pm We’re home from the store. I put away the groceries and Finley jumps around.
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4:45pm I nurse Finley. She again eats for a short period of time – strange.

5:06pm Diaper and outfit change required – poop everywhere.

5:15pm I attempt to put Finley down for a nap (it’d be #4) but she was not interested. I decide to not fight it and let her have a longer awake period. This means she’ll be ready for bed around 6:20pm (three hours after the last nap ended).

5:20pm Brody gets home!

5:45pm Rubba-dubba-dub, Finley’s in the tub.

6:00pm Brody reads a few books to Fin before saying goodnight to her.

6:15pm I change Fin’s pajamas (she spit up all over the first pair she was in), put her in a sleep sack, and sing “Twinkle Twinkle” to her.

6:35pm Finley falls asleep.

6:45pm I finish making dinner, and Brody and I eat while watching The West Wing.

7:30pm We continue relaxing on the couch but switch to The Voice.
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8:49 Normally I dream feed Finley around now, but she has woken up, and instead of soothing her back to sleep, I feed her.

9:30pm Bedtime for Mama.

Questions:
What’s the best part of your day?
What’d you eat for lunch and dinner yesterday?

Meals of the Week [9/16 – 9/22]

Now that I’m staying home full time and we don’t have my income, we’re trying to be smarter with money. One way we can do that is with meal planning and avoid falling into the takeout trap from places like Chipotle, Panera, or Salvatore’s.

Brody and I did our weekly trip to Woodman’s (at probably the worst time ever) yesterday, and I am very excited for our meals this week.

Burgers on the Grill
Brody makes a mean burger, and I don’t see us grilling much anymore with fall approaching. He puts lots of spices, Worcestershire sauce, and other lovelies to doctor up the ground chuck. Nestled between a toasted kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and ketchup, it’ll be a farewell to summer meal. On the side, we’ll probably have Bush’s baked beans.

Enchiladas
Tacos are a staple at our house, so it’s nice to mix it up with something a little different. I use ground beef (from Jacobson Brothers), cheddar cheese, and red enchilada sauce. I keep it simple.

Chicken Florentine Pasta
While Brody and Finley slept yesterday morning, I caught an episode of The Pioneer Woman featuring 16 minute meals. While I’m sure what takes her 16 minutes will take me 32, I was intrigued by this pasta recipe. Plus I’d get to use up all of the tomatoes from my plant.

Beef with Snow Peas
This was another 16 minute meal by Ree, and I knew Brody would be on board with this one. It uses flank steak, which I have never used in a stir fry. We don’t get any beef products from Woodman’s, so I’ll have to swing by Costco this week to pick up the two-packs they have of flank steak.

Banana Muffins
I’ll probably be the only one who eats these, and they will be great for breakfasts. I’ve been into muffins lately instead of toast: sweet potato muffins, zucchini muffins, and now banana muffins. My plans were to make pumpkin muffins (those will happen late next week), but Woodman’s had bags of overly ripe bananas for 99 cents, and I knew I had a banana muffin recipe in my binder that I had never tried. These aren’t super healthy, but it’s also not like eating dessert for breakfast. Just to make sure they were okay, I tested one. Yup, they’re okay. Actually, pretty perfect: chewy outside and soft inside. I did omit the nuts because I spread copious amounts of peanut butter on them anyways.

Questions:
Do you like grocery shopping and meal planning?
What are you making this week that you’re excited about?

Non-Baby Topics (No Lie…Not Even One Picture)

Let’s chat about something other than sleep, breastmilk, and all other baby-related topics.

First up, TV! Now that I’m home full-time, I’ve been watching more TV (should I be ashamed?), or at least having it on in the background. Brody and I also continue to watch our shows at night.

My daytime TV starts with The Today Show. I was embarrassingly excited when they announced that Carson Daly is joining the team!!!!
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I always defend Carson when Brody pokes fun of him on The Voice and thought he was fantastic when he was a guest host for The Today Show a month ago.

I also regularly watch What Not To Wear and The Chew, both of which I DVR. Sometimes I’ll see an episode of Long Island Medium or The Dr. Oz Show.

At night, Brody and I have a handful of shows we’re into. This section demands a list:

1) Have you seen The Newsroom? If not, you have to watch it.
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It’s in its second season and is SO well done. The writer and producer, Aaron Sorkin, also created Sports Night and The West Wing. The show gives a (fictional) behind the scenes look at producing a nightly news program. The characters are well-developed, and the plot is just smart.

2) Sons of Anarchy started up again, and we watched the first episode the other night. I forgot how violent that show is: anal rape, torture porn, drowning in a tub of urine. Oy! And I’m sure all of the S.O.A. and Fifty Shades of Grey fans out there heard that Charlie Hunnam will be Christian Grey in the film version of the very popular trilogy (which I never read).
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3) The Food Truck Road Race is another one we keep up with. Quite a 180 from S.O.A., right? Tyler Florence hosts this show, and I’m guessing the title gives away the premise.

4) Brody started watched Revolution on Netflix on his own, and I got sucked in a couple weekends ago about ten episodes into the first season. We enjoyed Lost, and this is by the same writer, JJ Abrams. It’s a slightly futuristic setting in which the “lights went out.” No power, no electricity…well, sort of. This is the perfect lazy weekend show.

Second non-baby discussion point, FOOD!

Last weekend, Brody was gone, and a kind friend brought over soup for me. One less meal to figure out? Awesome! The soup (with kale, ground turkey, and carrots) was delicious, and with the cooler temps, I’m ready to start making more comfort foods. I found the recipe my friend used (link above) and made myself a batch. Instead of rice, I added some potatoes that were on their last legs. It was the perfect quick and healthy lunch for me last week.

I was craving something sweet (no surprise) I found this protein powder peanut butter cookies. They were what you’d expect from a healthy cookie, but I actually prefer this protein powder cookie dough. Brody came home, saw the cookies thinking they were “real”, and got excited. I quickly intercepted his reaching hand – he would’ve spit the cookie out and given me that “I can’t believe you eat this” look. Because I’m an awesome wife, I made “real” cookies for him this morning…with peanut butter, and butter, and sugar. Smitten Kitchen has the best cookie recipes, so I followed hers. Peanut butter cookies for the win! I broke my rule (more of a guideline) of not eating chocolate before noon and had two. Then I had two after lunch. I’ll probably have more before the day is done.

This is kind of food related: a commercial was shot at my house on Wednesday. Like a legit commercial that will air on TV (only on the east coast, though). How did this come to be? A neighbor of mine knows the woman who was responsible for finding locations for breakfast sausage company’s commercial. My neighbor suggested my house since they were looking for a kitchen space with a breakfast bar. Out of a handful of houses, mine was one of three selected! A crew of thirty some people arrived at 7:30am and occupied the entire first floor of my house. Lots of cars and an RV lined the streets around my house, camera and lighting equipment was set up inside and outside, and there was a food buffet outside…cause that’s when you know it’s the real deal.
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They left at 8:00pm (after doing a very good job of cleaning my house) and handed over a nice check. Plus, they left a package of breakfast sausage in the freezer for us! It was a very cool and unique experience.

Third and final topic, exercise. I’m kind of back on that horse; this past week I went to kickboxing on Tuesday, Zumba on Wednesday, and ran three miles on Friday. My body feels good, but I can definitely tell something is different with my knees. They ache when I crouch down and stand up, even if I hadn’t recently worked out. Also, I don’t notice it’s any worse after running. Pregnancy can affect ligaments, and I’m guessing that’s what is going on. I also need new shoes. It could be that.

I didn’t even mention “she who will not be named” once. Bet you didn’t think I could do it? It was hard.

Questions:
What show(s) are you into?
What’s the best thing you’ve made recently?
What’s been your go-to way to exercise recently?

Lately: Cooking and Baking

Good Tuesday morning!

Ever since Finley was born, I have been less than stellar at planning and making dinners. Here are my excuses:

1) It’s hard because her nap schedule is unpredictable – sometimes she sleeps an hour and sometimes it’s three. Often times she’s awake or going down right when I’d need to be making dinner.

2) Turning on the oven when it’s 80+ degrees out is no fun.

3) Many of my go-to meals aren’t summer-y enough.

I’m starting to get better, though, which is funny because all of the above three excuses still apply. I do enjoy cooking and baking, so I’ve started become better at using my free time in the morning (i.e. not just watching The Today Show and reading blogs while she sleeps).

What have I been making?

Banana-Oatmeal Bread
Last week Wednesday, I had a bunch of overripe bananas just screaming at me to be used. Of course I turned to my favorite banana bread recipe. I doubled the recipe, as one loaf was going to fellow blogger and mama of adorable Bennett, Nicole. All was going well until I pulled the two loaves out of the oven and realized…I never added the OATMEAL (obviously hilarious as it is banana-OATMEAL bread) or milk. Leaving out those two ingredients kind of canceled each other out because it still tasted good (just a little drier). On Monday morning during one of Finley’s naps, I used the last three ripe bananas and correctly made a loaf. Said loaf was brought to Nicole’s yesterday.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls
After coming home with a baby, I was so thankful for the generosity of my friends who brought food for meals (and this may have been why I slacked in the kitchen for so many weeks!). We had enchiladas (thanks Mel!), egg muffins (amazing stuff Jena!), lasagna from Gino’s, bags of Target trail mix, etc. I was able to pay it forward to Nicole and Jena this week. I emailed each mama, giving them a bunch of meal and dessert options. Besides the banana-oatmeal bread, Nicole chose Skinnytaste’s Spinach Lasagna Rolls. I first heard about these from Bridget, as this is her go-to meal to bring to her friends with new babies. They were very easy to make, and I followed the recipe almost exactly. Changes I made: I used regular ricotta instead of fat free and added chopped tomatoes and a few spices to the sauce. I’ve never made these before, so I hope they tasted okay!

Pineapple Cashew Fried Rice
Jena requested this meal, and I was psyched to make it again. At the last Wine and Recipe, it was a hit. Although it is a little time consuming with multiple steps, it is so worth it. I love the use of coconut oil and milk – it gives the dish great flavor. Even my husband who HATES coconut loved the serving I left for him. He was actually upset I didn’t leave him a larger portion – ha! Anyways, I also cooked up a couple chicken breasts for some protein for Jena, but it would also be delicious with edamame or shrimp.

No Bake Peanut Butter S’mores
So I am mildly obsessed with Jessica’s blog; her food is amazing, she has beautiful pictures, and she is freaking hilarious. I found this one while going through all of her dessert recipes and immediately added it to the sweet options for the mamas. Jena picked it, and I got to baking. However, as the title states, there’s no baking involved. This accommodates my #2 reason nicely. The simplicity and decadence of this recipe drew me in. OMG people! Make these now, please. Jena was kind enough to cut out a square for me when I dropped them off. I was happy because I had really wanted to try them but would’ve felt ridiculous dropping off a pan of dessert with a square missing. “Hi, I’m Angie, and I have no self control when it comes to chocolate.” They should stay refrigerated, though, especially if it’s warm and/or humid because they will get a little too soft.

Avocado Basil Garlic Pasta
I’ve made this before and blogged about it, but I really think it’s such a fantastic summer meal. While Finley was napping this morning, I assembled this meal for tonight. Everything screams summer: bacon (perfect for using leftovers from BLTs…if that’s a problem you have), tomatoes, basil, and avocados. The warm pasta over the avocado creates a thin sauce, and the lemon adds a brightness. Plus, don’t the food judges on shows like Chopped always talk about acid in a dish? I am forever appreciative to Nicole from Wine and Recipe for sharing this dish with the gang last summer.

Tuna Salad
During Finley’s second nap of the morning (do you see a pattern here?), I made Brody’s mom’s tuna salad. For a guy who hates hard boiled eggs and the smell of drained tuna, it amazes me how he’ll gobble this up. But hey, I am not complaining because I love it too. The mystery ingredients are the relish and pickled watermelon rind. I’ve also blogged about this before, so click on the title if you want the recipe to go my earlier post.

I’ve been bad about taking food pictures. For whatever reason, all I want to do is take pictures of Finley – ha! Like this one…

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Finley taking up the whole shopping cart at a grocery store in northern Wisconsin

And this one…
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Finley being an escape artist and getting that hand out of her swaddle sack

And just one more.
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Finley sleeping in my arms after getting her two month shots

Maybe, if you want to see what these recipes look like, you should make them because then you get to eat them too. It’s a win-win!

Happy eating!