Recap Carnival

Okay so here is what a recap Carnival is.  You take the first sentence, of the first post of each month and copy it here.  When I went to do mine I realized I only blogged for 6 months this year.  So I decided to pull the beginning line of the first and last post of those month.

beginning:We had a terrific New Year's Eve.
end: I've been wanting to fill our water table with rice or Cheerios for a while now.

beginning: It's been months, about 6 to be more accurate.
end:Today I was planning on taking kids to the local Lakeshore Learning Store.

 beginning: This year is the first year I actually got joy from my garden.
end: These pictures may be hard to tell what is going on, I apologize for that. 

beginning: I love my house, every square inch.
end :We had an amazing Thanksgiving weekend. 

beginning: More Bentos.
end: December has been a really busy Bento month for us.

What I've learned from this is that I am generally pretty positive...loving holidays, my home, my garden and bentos.  It's funny how that new obsession comes out in just 12 lines.  But I also see that I need grabbier first lines.  My writing leaves a lot to be desired, but I've enjoyed writing just the same.

I'm really looking forward to what new things will pop into my life this year.  Lots of plans  and lots to look forward to in 2011.  Happy New Year!


What's for lunch Wednesday

Bento Lunch
December has been a really busy Bento month for us.  I've already sung the praises of these to go meals. It is a necessity for us to bring meals with us, and these allow us to eat practically anywhere (as you will see below).  Yes, most of my bentos are just tupperware...but I'm having so much fun creating them. For the holidays I had the pleasure of making a few dessert bentos for our many holiday events.  I figure it's only fair to give my kids a little smattering of desserts like any usual Xmas party has.  They loved it...too bad I forgot to take photos.

This one has salted edamame beans, carrots, Xmas tree SB&J sandwiches, rolled roast beef, picks of grapes and grape tomatoes, shaped apples and cinnamon pita chips.  Can you tell I give Gavin way more vegetables?  Our goal with Chelsea is for her to finish her vegetables or make a good dent...so I don't want to make that an impossibility.  Good News: Lots of progress on the veggie eating front with my girl!
 Easy bento: Tofutti Xmas sandwich, carrot sticks, pretzel sticks a slice of ham, a marshmellow  and tangerines.  My pic won't turn, but it's meant to look like decorated trees with presents underneath. 
 A quick lunch: These have half a jam sandwich each, a homemade banana-apple muffin, mixed veg and raisins.

 We ate the quick lunch one at Wegman's after a productive grocery shopping trip.  They have uber cute little tables and a tv playing kid shows.  I usually grab a diet coke for myself as a treat and enjoy the break while watching my cuties munch away.  It's also a great incentive for good behavior on our trip!
 We ate the Xmas tree bentos at Panera's before an allergist appointment.  Chelsea and Gavin enjoyed sitting on the same side of the booth together.  To be honest there was a bit more playing than eating that day...but who cares?

 The last two photos are from going to Longwood Gardens.  I was psyched on this freezing day that we had packed our food.  The restaurant was on the other side of the Gardens and were very crowded.  So it was perfect to find a warm bench inside.  Chelsea ate in the stroller and Gavin did it picnic style on the bench.


Think about it Thursday....a break

Let me begin with this disclaimer...by no stretch of the imagination am I a perfectionist.  I don't strive for perfection in any way.  I am an average sort of gal.  I'm happier to have completed a project, than to spend more time making it perfect.  I like my life the way it is...it's that simple.   But yet, I still hear a tiny voice always pushing to do more.  She says things like..."clean that", "help more", "be nicer", "make it better".  The inner me also pushes me to organize, cook, bake and plan like crazy.  

So do you know what I'm giving myself for Christmas this year? 
I"m going to tell her to shut it.  

Seriously, I'm going to stop feeling a sense of panic when the laundry piles up. Not going to over plan my days.  I will relax.  Can't wait to enjoy all the time with my friends and family.  I will be content in the moment.  Nope,  not going to think about what has to be done.  The focus won't be on what's next, but rather what is going on right now. 

Happy Holidays to everyone!


Top Ten Tuesday: Things I want for Christmas

My husband doesn't read my blog often, so this top ten isn't for him. It's just really a fun wish list.  I've included pictures from Christmas's past for the memories .

1. To sleep in past 7 a.m.

2. A great meal

3. A terrific dessert

4. A delicious  beer...flying fish winter ale (yummo)

5. Cozy cuddles on the couch with my husband and kids

6. A magically pristine kitchen or...what the hay...a magically clean house!

7. Lots of visits with family and friends

8. A nice nap under a warm blanket

 9. A safe, easy ride to Harrisburg (dislike bad driving conditions and traffic!)

10.To have most of the holiday busy work done before this weekend.  So we can relax and enjoy the time left to the holidays. 


Menu Plan Monday

 This week is busy.  I have something going on every night of the week.  In addition, our freezer is too full.  So this week, I'm trying to use up some of our food and be inventive with our meals.  Wednesday we're going to bake a bunch of cookies for school and upcoming parties.  I love to freeze cookies too, makes me feel less obligated to eat them.  So we'll need some freezer space for this too!  Thursday I'll be having a few friends over and want to try out a new recipe.  With these things in mind, I made it an easy week on myself.

Monday: Manwich Sandwich with green salad
Using my organic ground beef from the freezer.  Bought on sale, perfect in manwiches.
Tuesday:Chicken Pasta Italiano and breadsticks
This is from one of the 5 chicken dishes I made from the Frozen Assets book.  It is served warm the first day.  But I think I will add lettuce and use it cold another day for a Salad Works type salad.

Wednesday: Hot Ham Sandwiches with veggie fixins and fruit salad
I have been trying to make our own deli meat.  Last week I made a turkey roast and cut it thin.  This week I have a turkey ham with no nitrates to try out.  I make it in the beginning of the week, which lets Chris bring it for lunch and we can use it for lunches too.  But on Wednesday I will heat it up and probably pull out some fun sandwich fixins.
Thursday: Leftovers
We are bound to have a ton of all this stuff leftover, so Thursday I will put together some leftover plates or bentos for us.
Friday: Homemade Hot Pockets, fresh veg and dip
 I love making dough on Friday for Pizza.  This week we will use some of the manwich or ham as a filling for our own hot pockets.  

Saturday: Chili 
Sunday: TBD soup...I love experimenting
Nothing like having a meal in the crockpot for lunch and dinner on busy or lazy weekend (who knows which type this weekend will be).  We can put Chili on hot dogs or eat it as is or turn it into a dip.  And soup is great with salad, bread or a baked potato!

Breakfasts this week: Cold Cereal/ Muffins/ Hot Cereal/ Waffles/ Smoothies/ Breakfast cookies/ Soy Yogurt Partfaits

Lunches this week: Tofutti and jam sandwiches/ ham, fruit and veggies cubes/ hummus and chips/ leftover pasta salad/hot dogs/leftover hot pockets 


Playing Outside

Look: Today it got to be 44 degrees outside.  After a very frosty week, we were clamoring to get outside.  I'm feeling a bit under the weather and the kids have drippy noses.  Chris had to make a last minute trip to the poconos and the poor guy is snowboarding :)  So today I was trying to figure out what to do with the kids when they should be napping!  Not knowing how nice it was outside, I bundled up my little ones.  Sweatsuits, warmest winter coat, gloves, hats and hoods.  When we got outside we ditched some of the winter gear and played, played, played.  The kids gathered sticks for Millie.  We used the playground and swing set.  Both Chelsea and Gavin rode the trike...go Gavin (it was his first time getting it to move).  It was a great few hours!

Learn:  I should always check the weather.  We have gear for every sort of weather, so why not get out there more?  My two chickies are now completely worn out.  Does this mean it will be an early bedtime ?!?  hope so.  Also they worked up a great appetite and I switched a basic snack for veggies, fruit and meatballs.  They are both on their fourth meatball!

Love:  What I loved most about this was that the kids loved it.  Chelsea exclaimed that "We have the best playground, EVER!"  It's hardly as nice as some of the ones she has visited, so I know the comment was just about loving the time we were spending together.  Another thing I loved was how easy it is to get the dressed appropriately and out the door.  This was great especially when I wasn't feeling the best....close, free and easy!


What's for lunch Wednesday

Bento Lunch

So this is actually what was for lunch Monday.  My hubby had his flex off day, so we headed to the Please Touch Museum, for some fun with the kids.  From left to right my bento, chris's, then Chelsea and Gavin's lunch.  They had hummus and pita chips with fresh fruit and veggies.  I even threw in 2 chicken nuggets each.  Chris's lunch was two breaded chicken sandwiches on english muffins, with assorted fruit and veggies.  I had a bunch of veggies and a flat everything bagel with two triangles of laughing cow.

 We had  a terrific time, here are some more photos from two of our trips.  Gavin put on the helmet and ran over to Chris yelling "astronut."  Love him!


Top ten list...aka my top ten things to do today

These are in no particular order

1. Chelsea goes to school, playtime with Gavin
2. Walk (5:30 a.m. alarm, 30 degrees....not so good)
3. Laundry
4. Meals for kids (make ahead meals, wahoo)
5 Wrap a few presents
6. Date Night with husband (Thanks Jess!)

8. CVS shopping trip
9.Hug Millie
10. A little work

My friends that are working moms amaze me.  They do all these things and work an 8 or more hour day.  Hats off to you all!  xoxo


Inspirational Quote

A while back I saw about one of Oprah's aha moments.  She and I don't usually have the same light bulb, life changing thoughts.  On this day O's guest was author and speaker Geneen Roth.  I only caught a few minutes of the show, but what I saw intrigued me a bit.  Later that night I put a request on some of her books from the library.  Since the author was on Oprah, of course the books were on a long waiting list.  Anyhow it was quite a few months before I got my hands on her book Breaking Free from Emotional Eating.  I have to say by chapter two I was thinking Geneen was a phenomenon.  It had me rethinking some things that were seemed second nature.  I read When Food is Love next.  Still hooked on Geneen and seem to be really making changes to my thinking.  My favorite book of Geneen Roth's is When you Eat at the Refrigerator Pull up a Chair. In it Geneen describes in small chunks how to change your thinking and your life.  So today I thought I'd share a quote that made me change my thoughts on what I eat....

Geneen is describing a visit with her doctor.  She'd had shingles and other various ailments and couldn't get any relief.  The  doctor says " Think of your body as the earth.  If you want to plant a life-giving garden, you need to make sure the soil is loamy and rich with nutrients.  For most of your life, you've stripped the ground and still expected to grow healthy plants.  Now, you need to put some minerals back."  Best part is she got better.

I like this quote. I think of all the things I do to take care of my kids, my husband, my family, my dog, my home and my garden.  To liken making food choices to feeding the earth is remarkable to me.  When I was pregnant I followed the food pyramid to a tee...that is because I wanted to give the baby the best possible start.  Why not take this attitude for me?  I let this quote and chapter sit with me a bit before I moved on.  Now when I'm deciding what to eat, I think of it and usually (not always) make a choice that will nourish.


Fashion Fridays...using my closet

I heard a statistic (and of course I can't remember wear) that a person usually wears 20% of their clothing 80% of the time.  "Can't be," were the first thoughts I had.  But then I looked at my closet.  Not only was I probably only wearing about 10% to 15%, but I was gravitating to jeans and sweatshirts most of the time. My mother would be unhappy at this fact.  She always wore nice trousers, blouses, suits or dresses.  Even on a Saturday, Joyce would don wool slacks with a belt, a silk blouse, bracelets, necklaces and nice flat shoes. Sometimes I think Chelsea is a mini Joyce with her accesorizing and pretty dresses.
Cut to me on a typical Saturday I wear day old jeans and some sort of sweatshirt...preferably without a stain.  Don't get me wrong I'm not a complete slob.  On work occasions, or special outings I like to obsess over what I'm going to wear.  Okay, so onto using my closet more.

 This week was my first attempt to wear a range of clothes. I didn't only wear jeans during the day, I slipped in some khaki's and skirts too. Instead of  tees and sweatshirts, I put on button down shirts, sweaters and cardigans.  Every day I took a few extra minutes to plan the outfit and accessorize.  Yup, I was wearing belts, nice shoes, scarves and jewelry.  Felt like I was channeling my mom a bit, which seemed to lift my spirits.  My husband had a date night Tuesday. I pulled out that dress that I never seem to have the occasion to wear and put it on.  Yes, I was a bit overdressed for a casual restaurant...but honestly it didn't feel awkward, it felt more empowering.  I wasn't going for it, but this week I got a few compliments on my appearance, which was a nice change. 

So I am hoping to keep up using a range from my closet.  It felt good and less wasteful to wear pieces that were never worn.  It felt creative to find new combinations that worked.  Like I said, I felt empowered a bit because I knew I looked more put together than usual.  Put all these reasons together and it makes sense why taking a few minutes to put together more of an outfit and less of a uniform (tees and sweats) makes sense. 


Think about it Thursday...toys

It's toy season...that's for sure.Chris and I had a sitter the other night and decided to hit Toys R' Us (or TRU as we call it).  As we strolled the aisles, we were looking for ideas. We'd already picked a special gift for Chelsea and few small things for each of them, but most of the presents were still undetermined.  So what should we pick?   Do we need more puzzles...nope.  Should we get more train stuff...definitely not all our pieces don't even fit on our table.  How about some games...already have some we don't even play yet.  I got it, more cars....we have a museum worthy collection of small and big trucks.    Ug so what do we get? 

This topic has me thinking all week, thus the post.  My kids have so much.  They hardly even appreciate the range of stuff that is at their fingertips to play with.  Our house looks a bit like a toy store in many of the rooms.  On a daily basis I sigh as I enter a doorway to the family room or their play room.  Those rooms, in addition to their bedrooms, frequently have tiny toys scattered on the floor.  When they play, they can't find pieces to  toys because they have burrowed it away under pillows, in the wrong box or in their closets.  To top it all off over the past few weeks Chelsea has been saying she wants Santa to bring her things she already has.

Where have I gone wrong?  So I'm thinking instead of more gifts we hardly use, I could give them a better gift.  I'd like to give them the gift of appreciating all the things we have.  How on earth do I do that?

Some ideas...1. Clear out and donate all baby toys or things we hardly use. 2. Label  their toy bins so they know where to put their toys. 3. Put away about half the toys so we can pull them out every few weeks or months.4. Talk about how lucky we are more. 5. Play with them more and model how to play nicely and put things back.

Anyone else have ideas????


What's for lunch Wednesday

More Bentos.  I'm getting a bit on the obsessed side with these.  Such fun!

Here is a breakfast bento I did for over the weekend when we went out to breakfast at Ruby's diner.  Each kid got an english muffin, soy yogurt and grapes.  I added the fruit loops for fun.  My favorite part of the bentos is adding extra stuff.  It seems to give more variety and occupy more of their time.
We hit the Please Touch Museum on Monday.  Since we got a membership this will be a regular happening...bentos at the museum.  Our Turkey Day leftovers were from Saturday, therefore still good.  So they got (clockwise) apples, turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and homemade bread.  I brought along silk and pretzels too.  Gavin demolished his, seriously it echoed when he finished.  Chelsea was a bit less enthusiastic.  She ate the bread and turkey and pie.  She didn't like the lemony flavor of the apples (done to prevent brown...which is also a deterence for her too, so I couldn't win.)
Two bentos in one day...holy wow.  This was for Monday too.  We went to the mall to see Santa and get some energy out.  These two bentos fed us all.  The top left and bottom right are homemade stromboli.  I cooked it ahead an hour before Chris was due home and was then ready to go.  The kids supplemented their stromboli with bananas, crackers and applesauce.  It is very cost effective to do this because I think this meal cost about 5 or 6 bucks for all of us.


Menu Plan Monday...a week of leftovers

We had an amazing Thanksgiving weekend.  Our house is mostly decorated and we're ready for Christmas.  This week I am not doing a major grocery trip.  Probably will just pick up some silk, fresh fruit and bread. 

Monday: Stromboli...this is leftover from an appetizer I prepared and didn't need.

Tuesday: Turkey Soup...obvious why i have leftovers of this

Wednesday: Mac and Beef (from made ahead freezer meals)

Thursday: Garlic Chicken Stirfry (also a made ahead freezer meal)

Friday: Sandwiches

I took two of my tupperware containers and froze turkey, stuffing, and potatoes for another night.  They resembled hungry man frozen dinners, which made me giggle.


Another Passion of Mine...the dog

I write about my dog, Millie, every so often in my blog.  Today I was taking pictures of her a lot and thought.  Wouldn't it make a good blog to tell about my first baby....

My mom and I got Millie in 2000.  It was just a few short months after my father died from cancer and we were dealing with my mother's terminal cancer at the time.  I had quit work to take care of my mother, so it was the perfect distraction to get a puppy.  Sorry no pics, since this was before I had a digital camera...but I'm sure you've all seen adorable pictures of golden retriever pups...so just imagine one here.

I can vividly remember the first night we had her....she cried in her cage just like a baby.  My mother and I took turns talking the other one of going to get her.  Between house training her and her propensity for eating this (sweaters, leashes, toys..whatever) I remember her puppy days well.  My mom passed away before Millie turned one and we moved back to my home in the city. 

Millie was the perfect companion, then and now.  She loves to cuddle, play and just hang out.

This is a picture of her in the chair she quickly claimed at my house.  Millie has blessed my life.  She helped me grieve and get through so much.  It sounds dramatic, but she saved my life on a daily basis in those days.  She was the reason I got up, walked outside, smiled...she was the reason to keep going.  Okay, enough sad stuff.

When I met my husband, three years later,  he told me he was allergic to dogs.  My first thought was..."uh, oh...this isn't going far."  But the two of them became fast friends. With a bit more cleaning (or in those days, any cleaning at all..ha)  and some claritin, it all worked out.  Yippee a husband and a dog!!!
Then a few more years and a few babies, who turned into toddlers and young kids.  Through it all, Millie has been by our sides.  Still wanting to cuddle and play and just hang out.

Millie puts up with headbands, toys that clutter up the floor and hair pulling.  She is forced to be the anything from a reindeer to a horse to a princess or a robot in their pretend play.  She's been a chair, a toy holder, a sprinkler partner and a true friend.

There are far too many wonderful Millie stories for one blog to contain (or maybe I should make a blog all about her).  So I thought a post was in order.  And maybe even a few more posts, just about how much I love my dog.   It seems fitting since it is Thanksgiving week to write about a dog who I am so thankful for.