My good for today?
In my effort to try one new meal a week, I started off with something easy to get it going.
Sloppy Joe Pitas from Top 100 Finger Foods
PW’s Potato Skins from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
I love sloppy joe’s. LOVE them! My fondest memory of sloppy joe sandwiches was when I was on a mission trip in South Dakota in high school. The women on the reservation we were working at cooked us lunch every day. One of the last days we were there, they brought sloppy joe’s on wheat buns. I think I ate about 6 of them! They were delicious! And seriously, what kid doesn’t like sloppy joe’s? The answer? Mine!
First off, I enjoyed making this homemade version. It included grated carrots, which were unnoticeable in taste but added a little healthiness. There weren’t any seasonings in this recipe, so I looked up other homemade versions, but couldn’t find the right combination that I felt comfortable with, so I just went with the basic recipe that I was working from originally.
The idea was to put the sloppy joe mixture into pita bread – sort of like a pocket – so that it would not be as messy as on a bun. The first hiccup came when my pitas ripped when trying to open the pockets. Therefore, they were still messy, and almost more so than if I had just used a bun. Strike 1.
Now on to the potato skins… I have yet to officially make anything from PW’s cookbook, so this was my first attempt, and I was so excited. I love potato skins, and this looked easy enough. Wrong! After baking the potatoes for the allotted time, I cut them in half, lengthwise, and then tried to scoop out the potato. The insides still seemed raw, and I kept ripping the skin, which obviously ruined the integrity of a “potato skin.” To save something from the 3 huge potatoes, I decided to just cut them up, throw some EVOO, kosher salt, and pepper on them and stick them back in the oven. Sadly, they never got fully cooked, and I ended up having to eat mine with butter like it was a normal baked potato. Strike 2.
I can’t really mess up salad, so that was fine. Nothing new there anyway.
Jeremy was the wonderful husband that he is, and said everything was great. Cooper ate his sloppy joe and salad. (I didn’t even bother giving them the potatoes because I knew they wouldn’t eat them.) Mason had two bites of sloppy joe before determining she didn’t like the bumps in it. Despite trying to tell her it was like a mix of taco meat and pizza sauce, she ended up eating 2 carrots for dinner.
I won’t give this meal a full three strikes because it was eaten and enjoyed by some. But I don’t think I’ll be jumping to make Sloppy Joe Pitas and Potato Skins again any time soon. I know I need to keep practicing with my technique for the potato skins, but I need to give it some time first.
I think I’ll go with a crockpot meal next. That’s more my speed during this cold winter.
Switcharoom January 24, 2011
To start the new year off fresh, we did yet another room switch at our house. We sure love rearranging! The switch was initiated for two reasons.
1. We like to keep things fresh in our house. We get tired of the same ol’ same ol’. We like to solve new space planning problems and redecorate using old things. It is exciting to Jeremy and I, and why not start 2011 off making us happy?
2. We wanted our house to function in a new way. Not that the old way wasn’t working, but we weren’t entirely happy with it, and the new function of each room is just what we need right now.
We are thankful to have our family close by so that we could beg for help – AGAIN. (Ok, I begged for help even though Jeremy thought the two of us could handle it with two crazy kids running around. I don’t know what he was thinking!) I took before and after pictures so that you can see each room’s old function and the new (and improved) function of today. Here we go.
Master Bedroom to Kids’ Bedroom/Toy Room
We had the whole upstairs as our master bedroom. It was our retreat. We had a sitting area where we would watch TV after the kids went to bed. We had a lovely walk-in closet in the front dormer of our house. The “office” is right outside this room on an extra-large landing/hallway, and it was wonderful to be able to have one of us on the desktop computer (where all of our pictures are stored) while the other was in the bedroom/sitting area watching TV or going to bed early (hmm, I wonder who that would be.) It was a good fit except for the fact that we had to go downstairs to use the bathroom or deal with unhappy kids in the middle of the night. (Yes, we only have one bathroom!)
The fact that the two bedrooms on the main floor were the kids’ bedroom and their toy room seemed wasteful. The toy room did function as a guest room (with Aerobed), but it was not ideal. So the kids moved upstairs, and we were able to combine their two rooms into one big one. They love the extra space! And the paint in this room was already neutral with a combo of tan and white, so it works great with their pink and blue duvets.
Kids’ Bedroom to Multipurpose Room/Gym
The bigger of the two bedrooms on the main floor was the kids’ bedroom. It’s a nice shade of green, and it fit their two sleigh beds perfectly. Again, there was no need for toys in this room since their toy room was right across the hall. The reason we chose this room for the multipurpose room was that it already included a cable hookup (necessary for our workouts) and was not directly under the kids’ new bed placement upstairs so the sound of the treadmill would not wake them. Also, this is the bigger room, so it easily fits an Aerobed and a pack n’ play (for lots of nephew visits!) when the treadmill is folded up.
Our treadmill used to be in our basement in a dark damp corner. It was not inspiring. And with our low basement ceilings, Jeremy was never able to run or exercise comfortably with fear of hitting his head on the ceiling. With our goals of exercising more and living a more healthy lifestyle, it was necessary to provide a space for both of us to work out happily. While moving the treadmill up the stairs was quite a feat, the end result is just what we envisioned.
Kids’ Toy Room to Master Bedroom
Having the toy room on the main floor was helpful when the kids were younger because they were so eager to be near us when they played. And I wanted them within earshot in case they needed anything. Now that they are older, they play by themselves a lot more and are more independent, so I don’t need to worry about them going up and down the stairs on their own. And I honestly like having their mess and loudness away from me at times now that they play upstairs.
Using this room (the smallest of the bedrooms) as our master took some serious rearranging of furniture and a bit of compromise, (for instance, my clothes are all in the MP room closet and we had to sacrifice one of our nightstands) but it’s totally worth it! After having the large bedroom upstairs, it is nice to have a cozy, warm, and bright place to sleep in. We don’t need the extra space – we just need a nice place to sleep, and this room is perfect for that. (And I love the fact that I only have to walk about 5 feet to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night.) The blue paint that was already in this room is perfect for our neutral bedding and dark wood furniture. We re-purposed an iron crate that had once been in our living room and a Marimekko canvas we had made for ourselves but had been in the kids’ bedroom. We treated ourselves to a new bird print from Z Gallerie and a new mirror from Ikea. This room is definitely my favorite style-wise!
That’s the end of the tour. We are very happy with our rearranging, and now every single member of the family has slept in every bedroom at some point. Quite an accomplishment, right? Maybe? Honestly, my favorite part of this redo came just this past Saturday. I was able to get up early, make and bake cinnamon bread, and fold laundry while watching TV all without waking anyone up. Now THAT is an accomplishment! …thanks to Switcharoom!
Finding New Recipes January 21, 2011
I wanted to title this post “Finding new food in every day” but I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up the pace.
Here’s the plan: Go through all of my cookbooks to find new and exciting recipes for the family to try.
Here’s the rub: I am picky. My daughter is picky. I am a bit stubborn in trying new things or new ways of doing things. BUT… (and that’s a big but!), I am willing to give it a go.
Here is the reason: Jeremy and I are getting a bit bored with our everyday meals. I usually do a crock pot meal on Sundays, and we eat leftovers for lunch the next few days. We have Tex Mex Tuesdays, which usually involves tacos or fajitas – basically anything involving tortillas. The rest of the week’s meals are a myriad of my normal recipes, which include but are not limited to spaghetti, chili, grilled chicken and rice, chicken stir fry, chicken cheese steaks, pork loin, chicken noodle soup, turkey sandwiches… Doesn’t it all sound so ho-hum? So typical? We need to break out of our food rut! We need to eat more vegetables! We need to get our kids to try new things!
So this weekend I will be going through my many cookbooks and my many torn out pages from magazines or printed recipes from my favorite blogs and coming up with a plan. I already meal plan for each week, but I need to have a bigger overall plan (that’s not too strict) of how we will incorporate these new recipes while still keeping some of our favorite flavors and foods in the mix. It is daunting, but it is also exciting.
Now if only Jeremy would agree that this plan requires some new cooking tools like a Le Creuset dutch oven!
Just What We Needed January 14, 2011
I am thankful that we have not had the same winter as last year. It was quite a lot of snow and a lot of snow days!
But there is something about a random snow day in the middle of a crazy month that helps give us a needed break. I was hoping for such a snow day this week. The weather forecast predicted a big storm, but our area was only meant to get a few inches. With everyone around us bracing for the worst (yes, the unfounded Mid-Atlantic mayhem), I was pretty sure we’d have a snow day, and I would have an easy excuse to stay home with the kids, cuddle up and watch a few movies. Sadly, Mother Nature didn’t think it was time yet, and we only got about 2 inches of snow. A 2 hour delay. Bummer.
I didn’t let that stop us, though. I gave ourselves a snow day! (It helped that Cooper wasn’t feeling 100%, which gave me an easy excuse to keep him home from school on the shortened day.) And before the tiny amount of snow melted, we got out and had some fun. It was just what we needed!
Even though I had to work the rest of the afternoon and our snow angels are already melted away, I got to enjoy some time with the kids, and it was really just what I needed!
I’m Learning Why… January 13, 2011
I’m learning why I did not become a teacher like everyone else in my family. Despite my English degree and a Masters in Gifted Education, I never fully went the teaching route. As Mason gets older and requires help with her reading and writing skills, I realize that I was never cut out to be a teacher. I have no patience for it! Kudos to all you teachers out there that can patiently sit next to a student trying to read a word that is so obvious to you and seems so easy, yet the student keeps rattling off other words that don’t even come close to what’s in front of them! Oh my, it is so not my cup of tea. (I don’t even drink tea, so that may not be effective enough… It is so not my cookie!)
Mason and I have been working on rhyming words as a way to get her reading skills going. We have some great flashcards my mom (a teacher) got her, and we’ve been doing a few each day over breakfast, snack, sometimes dinner. She sees the main word on the front of the card and has to sound it out. We hide the picture so she has to try to read. (The girl has amazing reading comprehension, but the pictures often mess with her actual reading of words.) Once we know the main word, we come up with rhyming words. The back of the flashcard has a list of the rhymes, and I’ve been trying to get Mason to ‘read’ them as well. Today’s word was “spot.” When looking at “cot,” she said “cat.” I told her it has to rhyme with “spot.” So she sounded it out, but instead put a long “o” in it, so it sounded more like “coat.” I kept reminding her that we’re doing rhyming words, but she still didn’t get it. It took all my patience that had rebooted in me from a good night’s sleep not to go crazy in front of her.
I’m not sure how I’m going to do over the next several years as her learning kicks up a notch with homework and tests and such. Even with my education degree, I never learned how to actually teach someone a specific thing. I learned more general teaching ideas like differentiation and experience learning. This is all new to me, and I’m not doing great so far. I’m learning why it’s a good thing I sit at a desk in front of a computer all day instead of having other parents trust me with educating the “future” of our country!
Baby To Big Boy January 11, 2011
My baby boy is gone. In his place, I have a big boy who continues to grow up in so many ways right in front of my eyes. In just a week, so much has changed. Here are the top 5 ways he has changed.
1. He officially turned 3. His birthday was last Tuesday, and that meant he would move to the 3-year-old classroom at his daycare. The transition has been happening for the past month, but he now officially has a cubby and a sign-in sheet. I am so excited for this change for him. With Ms. Rosa as his teacher, I know he will have more structure in his day and more opportunity to learn new things. Thankfully he knew Ms. Rosa already because she was Mason’s teacher originally, and I believe that has helped his transition.
2. He is potty trained. Ok, I don’t want to jinx this with such a grand statement, but the potty training is going well as of this past weekend. Two weekends ago, we decided it was time to just go cold turkey because we had told him they don’t make diapers for 3-year-olds. And he kept telling us he wanted to give his diapers to baby Hayes. Since we knew we were house-bound for a couple of days, we decided to go for it. The first week was a little rough, and he had several accidents. He never told us when he needed to go – we would just get lucky by taking him to the bathroom every hour or so. And even with that, he never went #2 on the potty. Last Friday, I was very discouraged because he had three accidents at school, and when I picked him up, he was wearing some other boy’s bright red capri pants two sizes too small because he had run through all of the extra clothes I had sent with him. Well, it must have been a wake-up call for him because Saturday morning he just started telling us when he had to go. And then he went #2 on the potty! Twice!! He had no accidents over the weekend, and I am so proud of him. I can tell he is proud of himself too. It’s amazing how it call just clicked. The school thing is still getting worked out since he keeps telling his teacher he wants to go pee pee at home, but we’re getting there.
3. He gave “dog” away. This is not something that happened in the last week, but it is still a sign that my baby has disappeared. Ever since he was born, Cooper has had a blue dog blanket “thing” (I never know what to call it!) that he slept with. After three years of sleeping with this thing, you can imagine how much “love” it got. He chewed on the ears, sucked on his nose, wiped his snot with it… Of course, I would wash it, but still it was getting old. Jeremy hated the dog. I, on the other hand, loved it. I loved smelling it because it always smelled like Cooper. It was just “him.” I was not pushing him to get rid of it, and actually Jeremy wasn’t really either. But when we were in Raleigh back in December, Cooper just went to his bed, brought out dog and gave it to Hayes. He said he didn’t need it anymore, and that baby Hayes could use it. Well, at the moment, you can only imagine the tears that welled up in my eyes. If any of you have read the Knuffle Bunny series, you would understand. I can’t even explain it. Just go to your nearest book store and read all three Knuffle Bunny books. It will only take about 10 minutes. If you don’t cry or even get a little chill by the end of the third book, I will be shocked! Needless to say, we did not let Hayes keep dog. Jeremy and I confiscated him and brought him home to wash and save in Cooper’s Memory Box.
4. He no longer likes kisses. I know this is just a phase, or at least I hope it is, but it breaks my heart. This past weekend, Cooper exclaimed to everyone, “I don’t like kisses anymore.” That’s it. He will not give me any more kisses and doesn’t want us to kiss him. He also said no more hugs, but I think I’ve talked him back from that one. I couldn’t live without my Cooper hugs. For now, I’m dealing with the no kisses thing. He’s a boy. I know it will go back and forth – kisses, no kisses, kisses, no kisses… I just hope it comes back to kisses soon.
5. He is a social butterfly. This is a new one for us. Mason is very shy with other people. Even with people she has known for a long time, like her daycare teachers or family friends, she does not talk easily. It takes a bit to get warmed up. Cooper was heading down the same path until just the last few weeks when he has turned into a little talker. He talks to the doctors, the grocery store clerks, the daycare parents, waiters, whoever! It’s amazing to watch him interact, and I love seeing this side of him.
There are some good changes as he turns into this little boy, but I’m sad about letting go of him as my baby and all that comes with it. He will keep growing up, I know, but I will treasure my “baby” moments with him forever.