Saturday, February 21, 2015

Weekend Ramblings

Do you ever have one of those weeks where it's just easier to not menu plan? That was this week for me. I sat down last Sunday night with my menu planning notebook and just hit a wall. So, instead of having a plan for every night, I went to the grocery store and bought a lot of general stuff like tons of veggies and pantry staples and then every night we have just made whatever sounds good. It's actually been really nice. I'll probably go back to more of a "plan" next week, but I've loved the spontaneity of this week.

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I finished Pride & Prejudice on Sunday and I was so sad to see it end. Sure, I struggled to get into the book but once I got used to the language and style of writing I absolutely loved it. If you haven't read it, you should. And give yourself some time to really get into it. The writing is so lovely and I found it to be so much more than just a "romance" novel. Now I am reading Frankenstein and it is blowing me away. I did not expect the writing to be so captivating and beautiful. I love it so far, which is not something I thought I'd ever say. With that said, I do feel a little book frustrated lately. I have this long list of "to read" but my library either doesn't carry the books I want or there is a wait for them. Don't you hate it when that happens?

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I have been thinking a lot about this job I have called mom and wife and caretaker of the house. While I have days where I want to hide in a corner and rock back and forth from the monotony and never endingness of my to-do list, most days I feel so thankful and...well...full. There is just something wonderful about tackling a mountain of dishes by hand and wiping the counters clean afterward, or soothing a crying baby and "flying" through the house with the best 2 year old I know, making a meal that not only nourishes the ones I love but tastes good too, folding clean clothes and ironing my husbands shirts while listening to NPR on Saturday mornings, or scrubbing the bathroom (my least favorite job of all) and feeling relief that I won't have to do that again for another week (or two, let's be honest). Sure, it's a job that never ends, and, like I said, I have days where I really want to run away and leave all the mess behind, but lately my heart is so full of gratitude for this season - for the opportunity to love my family with my time and labor. Life won't always look like this.

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Despite the beauty and mess of these days, I have also felt extremely weighed down by fear and anxiety. In some ways, I feel surrounded by death - some people we know and some we only know of have passed on and I feel the space they leave. Some have died too young and some at the end of a long and lovely life. I hate that as I get older I am more aware of all the ways that death can creep up and, truth be told, it scares me. I don't really know how to live without the fear of death - of the ones I love being taken from me or me being taken from the ones I love. All I know is that I'm constantly reminded to hug those precious ones every chance I get and to surrender my fears to Jesus.

"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go for to You I entrust my life." Psalm 143: 8 

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We woke up to trees and lawns and cars covered in snow. After breakfast and steaming mugs of coffee (for the grown ups) and a tall sippy cup of cold soy milk (for the toddler) we bundled ourselves in coats and scarves and embarked on a snowy ("shnow!") adventure. Then back inside for the rest of Toy Story ("Butz!") and the thawing of cold toes and noses.






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And to round off this wonderful post of everything and nothing, here are some things I've been reading lately - things that make me feel all the feelings and inspire the heck out of me.

Use your words

Another mom shares her story - a different story - and it made me feel normal and thankful.

I read this secret on one of my darker days and it made me cry. Sometimes we need to know we're not alone.

Much love to you!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dinner: February 9-15

Before I share our menu for this week, I want to give a review for the meals last week.

Monday: Leftovers

Always good.

Tuesday: Spicy Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Lime Sauce

Really, really good and not too complicated or time consuming for a weekday meal. The only change I would make next time would be to either cook the purple onion a bit to soften it or leave it out entirely. I am not a huge fan of crunchy onions. Other than that, it was really good and so satisfying. Plus, we had a ton of the avocado lime sauce leftover which we've been using as a chip dip. Yum.

Wednesday: Roasted chicken thighs, asparagus, sweet potato tots

I usually cook chicken thighs once a week because it is so easy and I love leftover chicken for lunches or dinners. I usually buy an 8 pack of thighs, season them with salt and pepper, brown them in a cast iron skillet for a few minutes and then into the oven (350 degrees) for 20 minutes. I love this healthy recipe for asparagus and we love the Alexis brand of sweet potatoes. The tots were a huge hit with Juni - "more, Mo, more?"

Thursday: Honey Chipotle Lime Quinoa Bowls

Forrest's lovely aunt and uncle took us out to dinner. Ahhh, the bliss of someone else cooking for me and no dishes.

Friday: Pizza

I always do a honey salami pizza and a veggie pizza. Have you ever put honey on the crust of your pizza? It's a game changer.

Saturday: Honey Chipotle Lime Quinoa Bowls

Forrest and I really loved this. It is filling and full of so many flavors. I think this salad will end up in a permanent rotation when the summer months roll around and tomatoes and fresh lettuce are in abundance. There was quite a bit for leftovers which I especially love for lunches.

Sunday: Freezer meal

The lasagna was so good, Lesta! :)

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Okay, so here's the menu for this week!

Monday: Roasted chicken thighs, broccoli, mashed cauliflower

Tuesday: Ginger Fried Rice

Image retrieved from Smitten Kitchen

Wednesday: Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche Tart & a salad

Image retrieved for A Sweet Spoonful

Thursday: Chipotle Chicken Chili & homemade corn bread muffins

We are having one of Forrest's classmates over for dinner, and, true confessions, I am always so nervous about cooking for other people. So what is my secret for overcoming this anxiety? Soup. Soup is oh so forgiving and usually something comforting. I have made this chili a few times before and since I have leftover chipotles from the honey lime quinoa bowls I thought this was the perfect choice. Homemade corn bread muffins are always a win too. 

Image retrieved from The Pioneer Woman

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Freezer meal (Steak & asparagus)

Sunday: Leftovers

A note about Sundays: as a full time, stay at home mom I don't really get days off, so that's why on Sunday I've made a pact with myself to take it easy. No cleaning, use the dishwasher (unless there aren't many dishes) and take it easy on the meal front. It does a lot toward refreshing my momma heart. I highly recommend it! 

What's on your menu?

xo

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Appliance That Changes Everything

Yesterday I bought this hair tool and I think it just might change my life.


John Frieda Hot Air Brush


Okay, that's probably an exaggeration, but I really do love it.

Here's how it works, at least for me:

I have pretty thick hair so it can take forever and a day to dry it, so I let it air dry for a bit. This works out well because I usually have either J or A demanding sweetly asking for my attention so I can attend to their many demands while my hair dries a little. Once I have satisfied the needs of the masses - aka, my two year old and 3 month old - I start the magic. Basically I divide my hair into sections and then place the brush under my hair, starting at the roots, and pull it down and under or down and out depending on the style you want to achieve. Even though I have let my hair dry quite a bit already the process still takes a while, but, honestly, I think it takes about the same amount of time as drying plus straightening or curling does. If you want more volume at your roots (who doesn't?) you just hold the heat there a little bit longer. I've heard you can also create waves in your hair but I have yet to attempt this.

So here's what I love about it:

  1. It's unbelievably easy to use. I am not particularly gifted at hair type stuff, especially on myself, so I was relieved and pleased that this was easy to figure out and use. I mean, I realize I could achieve this look with a round brush and blow dryer but I'm just not coordinated enough! I've tried. Trust me.
  2. You know the way your hair feels after you've just gotten it cut? Yeah, that's how my hair feels after using this. It makes my hair so soft and light. 
  3. The right side of my hair loves, I mean, l.o.v.e.s to turn out while my left side turns under. I love that I was able to get both sides to cooperate.
  4. My toddler - the one who screams bloody murder when I wash her hair or even brush it - lets me use this on her. It doesn't get too hot so it doesn't hurt her head and I think she was pretty fascinated by it. Also, she could use it as a microphone to sing into after I had finished her hair. Okay, okay... I also sang into it a little bit.
  5. It's really pretty affordable when you think about how much you might pay for a dryer, straightener, and a curling iron. I bought mine at Fred Meyer (that's where the gift card was for) and it was $39. On Amazon it is $26.49.
Okay, so because I love you, I am going to show you some pictures I took right after I finished doing my hair. Please forgive the poor quality. Also Arthur is like - "who cares about your hair? I just wanna eat, man!"

It even tamed my cowlick - that's what I call a miracle appliance

This is the side that loves turning out

Arthur is like - are we done yet?!


What hair tools or tricks do you swear by?

xo

ps: John Frieda didn't ask me to talk about their product. I just like it and thought you would too.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Dinner: February 2-8

I am embarrassed at how long it has been since I did one of these "dinner" posts, but no time like the present to jump back into the routine, right? I just finished a workout so my limbs feel like jello, I have a 3-month-old beside me that has just woken up from a nap and a 2-year-old who is simultaneously coloring, watching Peter Pan and eating animal cookies. All that to say - this will probably need to be kept pretty short.



On Saturday I made a big pot of black beans so I was planning on making a few meals this week that would use up all the leftovers. Last night I asked friends on Facebook what vegetables would pair well with the beans, and it was so great to hear people's ideas! I'm definitely going to heed their advice.

Here is our week in dinners:

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Spicy Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Avocado-Lime Sauce

Image retrieved from Dishing Up the Dirt

Wednesday: Roasted chicken thighs, asparagus, sweet potato tots

Thursday: Honey Chipotle Lime Quinoa Bowls I'll probably use leftover chicken from the night before and add in some black beans.

Image retrieved from Viance

Friday: Homemade pizza (a family tradition)

Saturday: Freezer meal (thank you, Lesta!)

Sunday: ?

Alright, A is officially melting down so I have to go.

What are your dinner plans this week?

xo

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Reading Challenge: The Classics

If you know me, you know that I love to read. The books I am typically drawn to are mysteries (have you read Louise Penny? She is my all-time favorite), middle grade fantasy (Harry Potter, anyone?), the occasional sci-fi (Ender's Game blew my mind) and young adult novels (Rainbow Rowell is my current favorite). With that said, there are a few times a year when I think it would be nice to read something with a little more substance, something to spend some time in and come away stretched in my way of thinking.

That is why I am excited about the reading challenge happening over at the Hollywood Housewife. Laura Tremaine, the lovely author of the blog, has instituted a year long list of classics that she, along with any other interested followers, will read and then discuss on her blog. First up is one I have actually read, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I am excited to read it again and am already a few chapters in.

 "Pride," observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, "is a very common failing I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency  on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonimously*. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us." (Pride & Prejudice, p 14)

Already, I have noticed that when I read a classic I can't read it quickly. I mean, I could, but the novel lends itself to being read slowly and thoughtfully. I like that. My days can feel so frenetic at times (enter in one energetic 2-year-old and one 3-month-old), so it is nice to come to a novel that forces me - my mind, my body, even my breath - to slow down. Does anyone else feel that way when reading a classic?

If you are interested in joining me, head over to HH to see the list of books for the year. The first discussion (on Pride & Prejudice) is February 16. Most of the titles are free on Kindle or available at your local library (hint, hint).

Oh, and let me know if you will be joining the challenge! I love reading buddies.

xo

*I know that this word is normally spelled "synonymously" but my copy of P&P spells it "synonimously" instead. I just didn't want you to go and start thinking that I can't spell.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dinner: May 12-18

Happy Monday!

Before I share the menu for this week, I want to tell you how we liked the meals from last week.

Monday: Chipotle chili

I have made this chili several times but I've always substituted chicken broth for the beer. This time, however, I decided to stick to the recipe and try the beer. I have to say, I didn't like it as much. I used a quality dark beer (Oregon no less!), but I thought the taste was too prevalent. I'd much rather taste the chipotle and spiciness, but that's just me.

Tuesday: Thai basil fried rice (sans radishes - I hate 'em)

I need to stop trying to recreate Thai dishes. Why? In a word: fish sauce. I know it's all in my head because Forrest couldn't taste it at all, but the fish taste was so strong for me that I had a bowl of cereal instead.

Wednesday: Baked potatoes with leftover chili

Good. Nothing too amazing but definitely filling and comforting.

Thursday: Crispy paprika-parmesan fish with green beans

Again, I should just stay away from the fish. My tastebuds are super sensitive and even the smoked paprika and parmesan couldn't mask the fishy taste. Forrest liked it though.

Friday: Taco pizza (Friday night is always pizza night)

Instead of cooking we went out to eat! Forrest finished his first year of grad school last week so we went out to celebrate. It was lovely. Especially the no dishes thing.

Saturday: Rotini pasta with ground turkey and broccoli

We had  Taco pizza instead. It was okay. I think I would have preferred refried beans as a base instead of black beans, but, honestly, I think I'm a little burned out on homemade pizza so this poor pizza didn't really have a chance.

Sunday: Grilled chicken, grilled corn on the cob, homemade sweet potato fries (Forrest is making all of this since it's Mother's Day)

We had a big lunch out for Mother's Day which was really special because we almost never eat out twice in one week. I definitely felt spoiled. So for dinner we just had leftovers.

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Now for this weeks menu! Hopefully there will be a few winners since, for me, there were so many duds last week.

Monday: Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

Image retrieved from The Kitchn
PS: I can already tell you that this is wonderful! I love a good Chicken Tortilla Soup and that is what this soup reminded me of. It makes a ton so we're all set for lunches this week.

Tuesday: Easy Sausage, Pepper and Onion Frittata

Image retrieved from Feed Me Phoebe


Breakfast for dinner? Yes please.

Wednesday:  Turkey Bolognese

Image retrieved from Dinner A Love Story


Pasta with tomato/meat sauce is one of the few meals that I know Juniper will eat. However, I've been trying to cut back on the amount of sodium we eat and pasta sauce is loaded with it. Even when I tried to look for a low sodium or "no salt added" option for tomato puree (needed for this recipe), I was out of luck. I ended up buying diced tomatoes (no salt added) that I'll just puree myself.

Thursday: Stir-fried Minced Beef with Chiles and Basil

Image retrieved from Orangette


This recipe is an old favorite that I love to tweak. For instance, it tastes amazing with sauteed red and yellow peppers. This week I'll be substituting ground turkey for the beef, and, needless to say, I won't be adding the fish sauce. I couldn't find Thai chiles so we're going to be boring and use a jalapeno.

Friday: Tacos

Because who doesn't love a good taco night? Also, I've been craving a double-decker taco from Taco Bell but I just can't bring myself to actually go and order one. 

Saturday: Grilled chicken and homemade sweet potato fries

Rerun from last week because we didn't make it. Also, the weather is supposed to be 82 so I know we'll want to be outside.

Sunday: On the road!

We are headed to Arizona to see my parents and I just can't wait!

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There you have it, friends. What's on your menu for the week? I'd love to hear.

xo

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dinner: May 5-11

For my birthday this year my parents got me the cookbook, Dinner A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach.

Dinner A Love Story

Jenny had me at "dinner diary." Every week (for fifteen years!) she wrote down what she wanted to eat for the upcoming week. Brilliant, right? This book, part cookbook and memoir, is the fruit of those 15 years. It is divided into the various stages of Jenny's life (i.e. Just-Married Stage and the New Parent Stage) with stories and recipes that correspond to those days. This book has given me hope for the days to come (you know, when my child might actually eat the food in front of her instead of playing with it. Or, wait - does that ever change?) and perseverance in the nitty-gritty of early parenthood. Basically, it revolutionized the way I do dinner in our house.

Since I love plans and lists I have started planning my own menu at the start of every week. When Sunday rolls around I write down what we're going to have Monday-Sunday of the upcoming week and then on Monday (usually) I head to the store with a complete list of all the ingredients I need to make those meals a reality. Planning out our meals has relieved so much stress! Of course, we don't always follow the plan, but it's such a relief to know that the guesswork has been taken out of "what are we having for dinner tonight?" Plus, when I'm stumped about what to include on the menu it's nice to have a handy reference to look back on - "oh yeah! we had (insert meal here) a few weeks ago and it was awesome! I'll make that!"

So, I've decided to let you in on my weekly menu. Maybe this doesn't interest you in the slightest, or maybe, if you're like me, you love this kind of stuff. I also hope that maybe it gives you fresh ideas for dinner because I know how easy it is to fall into a dinner rut. Finally, I hope you'll share your favorite dinners in the comments below. I always love to hear new ideas!

Without further ado, here is our menu for May 5-11

Monday: Chipotle chili (I decided to make this a vegetarian meal to save money)
Tuesday: Thai basil fried rice (sans radishes - I hate 'em)
Wednesday: Baked potatoes with leftover chili
Thursday: Crispy paprika-parmesan fish with green beans
Friday: Taco pizza (Friday night is always pizza night)
Saturday: Rotini pasta with ground turkey and broccoli
Sunday: Grilled chicken, grilled corn on the cob, homemade sweet potato fries (Forrest is making all of this since it's Mother's Day)

What are you having for dinner?

xo