Sunday, March 29, 2015

Freezer cooking





One of my favorite people in the world just had a baby. She texted me to ask what some of my favorite freezer meals are. I love freezer cooking. Its one of my favorite things to do/think about/talk about. I wish I'd gotten this post together BEFORE she gave birth but
1. Maddie came 3 weeks early and I don't really DO early very well. I barely do on time.
2. My fam has has strep, bladder infection, strep, bladder spasms, strep, and hay fever. Not in that order and not all the same person. But, seriously, if I never see the inside of a doctor's office again it'll be too soon. Wait....I'm a nurse.......

Since becoming a stay at home mom/sometimes working mom/working mom, I've found freezer cooking to be a crazy saver. Like, its saved me from going crazy several times. I've written a few blog posts about it, mostly in years past, where I did a HUGE cooking session and made a huge mess and came out with like 20 meals in a day.  I'd make tons of casseroles and have them stacked in the freezer and they were my prized possessions.  I'm going to be honest, that, although I liked the outcome of these days, I was never prepared enough (story of my life) and it is SOOOO messy and I was SPENT after those days. That being said, I MISS those days and ALL those premade dishes being in the freezer.

That was when I had only Rylan. I could either do it when he was sleeping, or on a day when I traded babysitting with someone. These things happen with one baby. When you have two kids, getting them both to nap at the same time is about as easy as winning the lottery and when you do it, if you are smart you either take a nap yourself or shower. You don't freezer cook. Then, my kids, one at at time went off dairy. Guess what went away when dairy went away? Casseroles.

I miss casseroles.

I miss cream of mushroom soup. A lot.

I'd love a slice of lasagna right about now.

So, freezer cooking went away for awhile.

About two year ago I started picking it back up. I learned that freezer cooking doesn't have to be an eight hour cooking session. Your end result does not have to be 30 meals.  What works for me is to do a little bit at a time.  And it doesn't have to be an entire meal to make it helpful to your dinner.

There are five ways to do this

1. Double or triple a meal, eat one the night you make it, save the other one or two for later.  I do this with lots of things. I almost always do it with homemade waffles or pancakes or muffins, they freeze wonderfully.I do it with soups like chili and minestrone. If you think right now "I don't want to eat the same thing again and again" the answer is YOU WON'T. If you consistently put stuff in the freezer, you won't be repeating meals very often at all. I've recently started trying out recipes from Pinterest.  You can also, carve an hour or so out of a day and put together a recipe. It might seem like you are only doing a little, but all these littles add up to a filled freezer if you do it weekly.

Pumpkin Donuts (I make them into mini muffins because I'm lazy)
Biscuit Pizzas
Skinnied Paula Deen Chili
Pizza Crust (recipe makes enough for 3 large pizzas or 6 small ones, Pizza dough is totally freezable)
Waffles (I double or triple this recipe, freeze it, then day of eating we take them out of freezer and cook at 350 for about 10 mins, from frozen)
Cornbread
Dairy free Pancakes (recipe is for blueberry, I've made them plain, with cinnamon, with blewbs its always good)
Banana Bread (I usually do muffins, as we tend to not overeat when they aren't in loaf form)
Brown Sugar Meatloaf
Turkey Burgers
World's Best Cornbread
BBQ Meatballs


2. Make the beginnings of a recipe: chop up onions and peppers and have them ready for a soup of casserole, put the dry ingredients of pancakes or homemade brownies in a ziplock bag, where only the eggs and oil need to be added later. When there is a sale on ground beef or turkey, buy a shiz ton and cook it, divide it into portions and have it ready for sloppy joes, lasagna, spaghetti, or chili. Put all the seasonings in some ground beef and put it into hamburger patty shape and flash freeze it, then all you have to do is thaw and grill. Easy peasy chicken squeezy. Pre-make noodles (cook them all dente) and freeze them, then when kids/husband/you are starving, you can warm up bottled marinara, throw in some ground beef that you've already cooked and heat up your precooked noodles. Little things like this will save you from calling for takeout so many times.


3. Dump recipes.These are recipes that you pour into a bag without doing much prep work, and they are ready to thaw and pour into a casserole pan or the crockpot. These are my current jam. I do this on Saturday or Sunday night, I triple the recipe, cook one at the time, and make two for the freezer.
Sausage and Peppers-cook in crockpot all day and put over pasta
Honey Pineapple Chicken
Paula Deen's Skinnied Chili
Salsa Chicken-1 pound chickn, 1 jar salsa, 1 can corn (drained), 1 can black beans. AND GO!
Spicy Lime and Honey Wings (I use this for chicken drumsticks mostly), just thaw, and put on cookie sheet, cook 45mins at 400.
Italian Chicken-2 pounds of chicken, 1bottle Italian dressing, dump in crockpot, cook, serve over rice.

4. Plain and simple leftovers. Ever have a meal that you don't want to eat again and again and again? Try to freeze the leftovers and see what happens. I love to make Calico Beans and Ham and Beans. Problem is, we eat half of it and then Rob and I have leftovers for 3 days and you can only eat beans for so many days in a row before friends and coworkers start complaining. Also, a full pack of hot dogs or a 20oz ground turkey package has 8 or so portions. We eat 5-6. A few extra grilled hot dogs and hamburgers are amazing for nights when you have sick littles, church to get to, or just do not want to cook.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Resolution check up: Part deux

Well, shizzles, I let another month go by and didn't blog. I tried to write out blogs but I have this insane fear of being boring and not worth it. And then I sleep or the moon is right or something and I remember I started this blog to update about us and its for us and I should blog about what I want to blog about.

I wrote out my 2015 Resolutions and resolved to check in weekly about this. Which I've done once.....I really like to fail myself.

1.Read 2 books a month-I'm all over the map with my book reading. I'm constantly reading, but I am so ADHD lately I can't even help myself. At any given time, I have three books going. Usually a smut book (fiction/romancey), a Christian book, and a self help book. Doing this is making me not get anything done. So far, this year, I have read:
Image result for heaven is for real
I will be honest, I wasn't ready to buy what these people were selling. But, it was a good read and I was a believer by the end. Its much better than the movie, no offense to Greg Kinear, whom I love.

Write this lady's name down, save it in your phone for library and bookstore use and look her up on your Kindle or whatevs. I've read four of her books and plan to read all of hers. She has a way of making you think about what you would do if faced with a situation that seems wrong.

This is pitiful. 2 books in 2 months. I can do better. Put the phone and computer down, Sara. Focus Sara.

I currently have a Stephanie Plum novel going and The Happiness Project.

2.Read my kids 1000 books or chapters of a chapter book in 2015. As of last night, we're at 118. I am hoping to keep up this pace, we have ten more months to go and I can easily attain this goal. The kids are loving picking out books at the library to be read to. Rylan is really good at sight words these days so he reads a little to us and I love watching him grow. 

3.Walk,run,bike,elliptical,stairstep, or crawl 1007.5 miles.
-I'm tired of hurting myself or being sick. And the weather. Excuses Excuses Excuses. I currently am at 81 miles. I've got to step it up. Or more, step on a workout machine! I hurt my back and was slow getting back to the gym, it was everything I could do to get through my workdays, which involve a lot of standing, pushing beds, and lifting patients, without crying. I feel 90% better and feel like I know what I did that was the culprit (a certain weight machine at too high weight) and am staying far far away from it.

3.Spend time with God every day-I've 75% kept up my prayer journal, I miss a day or two here and there, but I get caught up. I love reading back and seeing prayers that have been answered. It is a wonderful way to give your worries to God at the end of the day. Some days, like yesterday, I concentrate on being thankful instead of asking for blessings. I am more aware of praying for people when I remember/see they are in need.

4.GET ORGANIZED!!!!! This one is going to take time, but I am on my way. I am getting dinners ready ahead of time, meals packed so we aren't buying lunches at school, work or restaurants unless they are preplanned. Rob and I completely cleaned out our garage and organized it to the best of our ability and it looks fabulous. The next day, I did a few jumping jacks because of all the extra room. At the beginning of February I cleaned out our master closet. We aren't utilizing that closet to the best of our abilities, its huge for a townhouse and I got our clothes organized so that we can use the shelving for other stuff, like board games, and gloves and hats that are shoved everywhere. My next project is finances. A must must must do.I want to go on vacation. We've done family vacations in the past few years, but Rob and I have not taken a vacation all by ourselves with kids ever. I know we can do this, we just have to hunker down.

5. Spend more time with my kids. Going better. Can always be even better.  True story, Max and I like to put some tunes on my cell phone and sit at the table and color and chit chat. It is totally fun.  They are outgrowing their babiness so fast. Pretty soon it will all be video games.  I am including them in cooking, trying to remember to turn down the radio and chit chat in the van and just overall remembering to enjoy my children. They were a true gift from God. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

How I had two littles and didn't go crazy


I was told one day that I seem to be so calm and easy going and have it together. And I laughed in that person's face. But, it got me thinking about the times I thought that there would be no end to the crazy feeling that was having two little ones. And maybe if I could shed a little light on what I did that worked for me and supposedly made me look like I had it together, maybe I could help one mama feel like she too can get through it.

I preface my following paragraph with the fact that I completely and totally love both of my children to the end of the earth and back again. They are a blessing and I wouldn't be me without them.

Rylan was born November 2008. I had planned to be trying to get pregnant around his second birthday. Life had other plans. Instead, we carried a 6 week old baby to Rylan's second birthday. I wouldn't trade this for a million suitcases full of a million dollars each. We got Max, and a life with no Max is no life for me.

You can never plan for life with two or more kids. People will warn you and you'll listen, but you won't know until you are in it. You think it'll be like one kid but a little harder. Strike that flip it and reverse it. You can no longer hand off the baby to your spouse to get a shower or a nap, because your spouse has the other child. You can't sit down in a chair with your tiny baby and breastfeed in peace, because your toddler is poking at your boob and saying "wat dat?" Your stoller is double in size, if it isn't too long to turn a corner without knocking down everything at the end of an aisle, its so wide you can't get through a normal store/library/church door. Before having my second child I could get my first to calm down and chill in a backpack I bought that held up to 40 pounds. I couldn't put that on my back because I was wearing another child on my front. Getting a shower or a nap or time to cook a meal now requires two humans to be happy and healthy, and you aren't one of those humans. If you make it an hour with only 1 person crying, you feel like you are a triumph, and bonus points if you weren't the one crying.

It did almost make me cray-zay. But, now,  looking at my 4 and 6 year olds, I can barely remember the sleepless nights, the crying because I couldn't remember the last conversation that Rob and I had that didn't revolve around who would do baths and who would do dishes, the saying sorry to my kids because mommy yelled, or realizing that I had left my car keys in the diaper bag AFTER Rob had taken kids and said diaper bag to daycare for the day.

Here's a few things that got me through those first few months, when life seems kind of nuts:

I'll start way back when.  When I had a 2 year old and a newborn. It was hard and I often felt nuts, but one of the things I did was have a notebook in which I wrote myself notes. I wrote down meals that turned out to be really easy to make while dealing with the kids, I wrote down ways to entertain both kids at once, if a day went well, I wrote something down that I thought made it go better.  This got me through the first crazy months.

Another thing I did was I found things that entertained both of my kids and things that killed 2 birds with one stone. Rylan was 2 and ornery and crazy, but he LOVED taking baths. Baths were a time that he was in one place and couldn't get into too much trouble.  So that little boy got a nice long bath every single day. Sometimes I bathed Max in the little baby tub on the floor next to Rylan in the big tub. Sometimes I folded laundry at the sink while he took a bath and brother slept. Sometimes I sat on the closed toilet and did absolutely nothing but make sure my kids were both alive. I learned to cook wearing a baby (the safe way), read a book while pushing a double stroller, pull a wagon with one kid in it normally and the other in a car seat in it. We got out of the house as much as possible because new sights, new people made us all behave better than being at home.

I also slept when my kids did. I went to bed at 8:30 and got up at 5am (of course with many nighttime awakenings in between).  A friend once said I got more done before 8am than she did all day. That's not necessarily true, but I often got bills paid, one on one time with the baby, time to talk with my husband, books read, or simply bathing first thing in the morning. Having a pajama day is good in theory, but I always do better if I get up and get started with my day. When your kids get up, they often are ready to party, so meeting them with a little coffee in your system does wonders to your psyche.

Also, don't compare yourself to any other moms. This is so hard, but just like the person that told me I seem so calm and put together when I was really hiding a mountain of legoes behind a closed closet door, nobody is perfect. Not one mom can do it all alone. Choose your battles. I love to cook. Its my thing. If I served chicken nuggets and heat up Chef Boyardee for dinner, it would hurt my heart. So I never stopped cooking and baking. I even let Rylan help me when he was a wee lad.  I might seem like Suzy Homemaker when I bust out banana muffins and Chicken Parmesan, but have you seen my laundry pile? It ain't pretty. I can't do it all well, so I picked the thing I do the best at, feeding my family, and went with that. The laundry gets done, and with a lot of help from the hubs, eventually, but its not my forte. The moment you realize that somebody that looks like they have their shiz together on the outside, probably has a layer of dust on their sidetables will be a freeing moment for you.

We had our tough days, we cried and yelled and didn't know what we were doing. But we loved each other like crazy and we made it.

This blog post has been four years in the making. I've always meant to write a "how I survived one' but every time I thought about it, life gave us lemons and I had to real quick find a new lemonade. I hope to add to these thoughts with a series of posts, if they are helpful at all.

For now, here's some pics to show our crazy.

Managing to read with two squiglies

Wagons are your friend

Family pictures that include the whole family are few and far between

The stroller that doesn't fit through any doors, ever. But it drives like a dream and the kids have lots of room. Side note: feed the shiz out of your kids. You can get yourself very far on a walk if the chillens bellies are full.

Definitely get some good are muscles for this sort of thing

And please, remember, for every ten photos that look like the above, you'll get 1 that look like the below




The sit and stand stroller that saved our sanity. You'll want one of these. Like...yesterday

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pantry Challenge

Last Saturday I went to the grocery store for the 5th time since the New Year. Last Saturday was 17th. That's a little sad. Before Christmas, funds were tight and we were leaving for 5 days at my parents' so we had some decently empty shelves in the pantry and fridge. So, I went to Walmart and filled us up. During that week we went two more times to fill in what I forgot, because I am forgetful. The next week I went to Aldi* and majorly stocked up. We are always out of snacky type things and "lunchbox helpers", as I call them, that are staples for Rylan's lunches and Rob and I's snacks, like raisins, turkey jerkey sticks, applesauce pouches, 100 calorie packs of nuts, chips, fruit snacks, and creackers. I got all the needed things, plus all the AMAZING Aldi deals*. (read:10 pounds of potatoes, bags of chicken, cheese, turkey, and bacon). Not one week later, I was back at Aldi reloading on the "lunchbox helpers" and snacks we were again out of, and buying all of Aldi's AMAZING deals (read: 9 bell peppers, a bag of apples, more bags of chicken, bacon and cheese).

I came home and loaded the needed snacks, cereal, and lunchbox helpers in the cabinet and then pushed, shoved, and rearranged the produce and meat into the deep freeze and fridge.

And then I decided I shouldn't be allowed at a grocery store for a while.

It doesn't help that we live (literally) walking distance to Walmart's front door right now. When we lived in Hensley, the closest grocery store was at least a ten minute drive and they were overpriced and always smelled strongly of fried chicken. Like not a "oooohhhhh yum we should grab fried chicken for dinner" smell, but a "did they just fry chicken in old grease inside my nose?" kind of smell. It was always there. So, we preferred the stores that were in Little Rock, which took 30+ minutes to get to. So, if I forgot something? Too bad. Wait till your next trip to town. And even then, the thought of unloading two little kids and answering "no" a hundred times to "can I go see the toys" "can I have fruit snacks" "can I have a donut" just made one or two items not worth it. Now its just RIGHT THERE.

-Sidenote: Aldi is magical and I love it. They have everyday low prices PLUS amazing specials. They have a lot of rules that you have to do. Its how they keep their prices low. Its weird the first time and then you are used to it and its normal. Like, they don't take checks or credit. Cash or debit only. They don't have cart pushers. Therefore, you put a quarter in a slot and it releases a cart for you and you don't get your quarter back unless you return your cart to the front of the store. They also don't have , you bring your own, or if you are like me my first two times, you bring home a trunk full of cucumbers rolling around back there. Its weird, but I'm used to it now.

So, Monday, I decided I'm not allowed back in a store for a while. And when I go, I can't spend over $20. At first I said only almond milk, peanut butter, eggs, and fresh produce. Then I ran out of spray oil and olive oil and flour. I can't really cook without those first two things, and having flour will help me use up other pantry items, PLUS we are once again running low on lunchbox helpers, so I changed it to $40. I was previously spending $150 or so a week, so That is almost a quarter of what we were spending.

So far so good. I'll fully admit, we ate out on Monday for lunch and Wednesday for dinner. I got off work late on Wednesday and it was eat out or skip church. We ate out. Monday, our landlord was replacing our garbage disposal. We were sure he was going to make us pay (cough, rock in the disposal, cough) so, getting out of the way and getting Chick Fil A so he could replace it for free (holla at being a renter!) was a small price to pay.

I am excited to use up some of this food and save some money in the process. By not having a birthday or Christmas this month and adding my new job which has more hours and better pay (Silver Linings!!!!), we are seeing a light at the end of the low funds tunnel and I love it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Resolution check up

I'm going to try to do a Resolution Check in weekly. Just to keep myself accountable.

1.Read 2 books a month-I read half of Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling,which was hilarious and half of Made to Crave by Lysa Terhuerst before they were due back at the library. Can I put them together and make one book read? Probably not. I had to return them because they wouldn't let me renew items I had put on hold. #stupidrules So I am a quarter of the way through a new book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It is really good so far.

2.Read my kids 1000 books or chapters of a chapter book. As of last night we are on 58 books for the month/year. If I do 84 books per month, that will get us our goal no problem. The kids are always whiny about turning off the tv and reading but always end up asking for more books when we are done.  

3.Walk,run,bike,elliptical,stairstep, or crawl 1007.5 miles.
-I am at 35 for the month/year. Not awesome, but not awful. More important than this number is that this last week's mileage includes me running 2 miles straight for the first time IN MY LIFE and doing a two mile hike with my family yesterday.


3.Spend time with God every day-I started a prayer journal in late December and I've kept up with it. In just this short time, two prayers I've written down have been answered. Its nice to put my thoughts out there and to reread them later and realize they've been heard. I also use this journaling to keep track of my books and mileage. It has been a nice thing to do at the close of every day.

4.GET ORGANIZED!!!!! This one is going to take time, but I am on my way. I have cleaned out our pantry and began the process of filling up our deep freeze with ready to go meals to decrease the "WHAT'S FOR DINNER? problems. This past Saturday, Rob and I cleaned out our garage, a major feat. We moved a 1660 square foot house plus a storage room off of garage AND a storage shed AND a two car garage into a 1300 sf apartment with one car garage. The apartment had a fridge already, so we have a fridge and a deep freeze, a riding lawn mower, push mower, double jogging stroller, regular stroller, two bikes, two scooters, and a TON of boxes shoved in the garage. It was impossible to find anything. We can walk, even do a few jumping jacks in there. We also donated three boxes to Goodwill. Yayskies.

5. Spend more time with my kids. I am trying on this one. It is so hard for me, it is actually a sign of my anxiety problems to just sit and play. When the kids get to playing good with something, I have this overwhelming "they are entertained,get something done" feeling. But, its important for me to play with them. For them and for me. I am already seeing how fast they are growing and I'm ralizing how soon they won't want me around them ever. Working on sight words has been a good way to get Rylan and I some one on one time, he feels very proud of his reading abilities. We've played several games of Hungry Hippos and Break the Ice, games that they got for Christmas and colored and tried hard to turn off the electronics more often. We gave them sticker books for Christmas, so its been nice to sit and have calm time doing that.

I have gone to the gym or worked out outside 3-6 days a week each week. I started a Body Pump class on Saturday mornings with my sister, Tammy and this last week we added a second class at 5:30am on Wednesday. That was early for all those weights, but was wonderful when it was done.

I've also started a new job. Last Monday I started at Washington Regional here in Fayetteville. I did a 40 hour week, something I haven't done since having children. It was General Nursing Orientation, so I haven't yet started actual unit nursing yet, that starts tomorrow (Tuesday). I am ridiculously nervous about it. I will be in Surgery Post Op. Its some new, some old stuff and a lot of computer stuff that is ALLNEW.

Ch Ch Ch Changes............

So, its been 19 days since New Years and I feel like they haven't been wasted. If every weekly update is like this one, I'll be happy.

The Holidays

I missed, um, like 2 months of blogging from November January. If there is ever a break in my blogging its because life is a little hairy and the blog is one thing that is easy to let go of. In this case, we were scrunching down figuring out some money issues and I was having a tough time with my former job. After a lot of worrying, tears, and talking it into the GROUND, we were able to make the decision that I was going to quit and use the Christmas break to apply for new jobs. I was also able to get Max's new school to put his account on hold over the Christmas break so that I wasn't paying for preschool while Rylan and I were sitting at home. We we made those decisions, and 9,000,000 pounds of stress left my shoulders and I was able to calm down and really enjoy being home with my kiddos and seeing my family. I am so lucky that our life allowed us to be able to make this decision. Many people in my position would not been able to do that and for that I am eternally grateful.

Even though I've already done the New Years blog, I felt it a must to blog about our Christmas.

I have pretty crappy pictures from a very fun and eventful trip to Fayetteville Square to see the Christmas lights. We had our niece Marley and nephew Wil with us and, seriously, the Fayetteville Square is gawgeous at Christmas.

Because Christmas=camel rides

We employed our favorite photography team, Marley and Wil to attempt a Christmas pic of the family. I think they did fabulous. Unfortunatelylife got hairy (see above) and I didn't get a pic out. Oh well. Yay for a new facebook pic!

Santa came to the gym! When the flyers came out, I thought for sure it would be maybe a trainer with the fake beard and a pillow up the suit. Nope, this Santa was legit AND brought the MRS. The boys were so excited!

The one reason to let Mariah Carey stay in America

I let the kids decorate the tree and all the ornaments were in a 2 ft by 2 ft area. It was magical.

Favorite new park

And then? The usual sickness happened. In the same week, Rylan andI got the stomach flu followed by Max getting a terrible fever virus that turned into an ear and sinus infection.
I love watching Christmas movies. One of our money saving techniques was to ditch satellite, so we missed out on the usual Christmas movies that are on every night, but luckily we had Christmas Vacation and Elf on DVD, so we started some new traditions. Side note: next year fast forward through a few parts that are not appropriate for little eyes. Like the lady taking her clothes off in Clark Griswold's dream. Whoopsie.

Christmas Eve and day we went to my parents house. There was cooking and hiking and present opening. It was awesome.



























After Christmas, I had one more week before I started work and Rylan went back to school. We made "paney cakes" from the Mickey Mouse Maker that Max got from Aunt Staci, Uncle Chad and fam.
We went to Chuck E Cheez and Max kept a wall between he and Chuck.

Zoe came over and helped Rylan learn to ride his new scooter


I went through a period during December where I wasn't very fun to be around.  Christmas brought everything back into perspective. We have a great family. We love each other so much. We celebrated Jesus' birth. We remembered the reason for the season.