Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Planning causing you a headache!

The season of rushing to get everything done QUICKLY is here and I'm starting to feel overwhelmed. I have gifts to buy or finish making, food to make, cards to send, gifts to wrap, not to mention my normal to do list. In addition I have an ankle injury which is slowing me down and making me grumpy.

I'm trying to look on the optimistic side of things. This injury is MAKING me slow down. I have been on the run, not really sitting down to take time for myself (besides Zumba) in months. Now that I can't get my groove on in exercise class I'm feeling overwhelmed by the stressors of my life. I have been trying to find other things to help me relax and replenish my soul. However, sitting still is getting to me. I was really enjoying dance my frustrations away to music I normally don't listen too.

What do you do to relax??? I need some ideas! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

'Tis the season

Our AWESOME kids!
It seems right after Thanksgiving, our family is ready to start spreading the Christmas cheer. The Friday after thanksgiving it is one of our family’s’ traditions to decorate our Christmas tree, listen to Christmas music, and try to enjoy each other’s company.  So on Friday we decorated our tree, it was wonderful. We all managed to get along, which is difficult with two teenagers and preschooler in the house, and our tree is spectacular.  

Our beautiful tree!

Then Saturday and Sunday, we have been blessed with the opportunity to celebrate some Christmas cheer with two of our church communities.


Maddie and I decorating her Gingerbread House

Saturday night at HOPE United Methodist, we went and decorated gingerbread houses, listened to carolers, and watched them light the tree. It was an amazing night, spent with friends.

Crafting at Haddonfield UMC

Sunday night, We hung up some Christmas lights before heading over to Haddonfield United Methodist Church to their Advent workshop. It was a wonderful night, with some friends. There was so many crafts for the kids to do. Maddie had so much fun running around with her friend trying to complete all the crafts.

It may not be December yet, but I am ready to celebrate this Christmas season making wonderful memories with our family.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday night is alright, for planning!

A typical Saturday night in my house has changed over the years. We no longer go out with our friends to a bar or the movies; we don’t even have people over to hang out past 8pm. Ahh, the joys of having young children. I now sit on the couch and figure out what I need from shop rite that is on sale as well as what I need for my meal plan.  Cindy at the site Living Rich with Coupons  posts her ShopRite match-ups on Saturday evenings and I flock to her site to do my Saturday night ritual.  I love having my shopping list complete on Saturday so on Sunday, I can clip, print, or find my coupons.

This week for dinner we are having:

Monday-Chicken Piccata with orzo
Tuesday-Fish Tacos, Mexican corn salad and black beans
Wednesday- Chick Fil a (It’s their 35th anniversary and a local Chick Fil a is having sandwiches for 1.10)
Thursday-Savannah Style Crab soup
Friday- Chicken Parm Burgers with broccoli
Sunday-meatless 3 bean chili with cornbread muffins

My entire shopping list for this week including the few things on sale that I would like to get is:
*bulleted items are on sale
*        Golden Ripe Bananas - $0.49 (this is a GREAT price)
*        Broccoli Crowns - $0.99  
Black bear Virginia ham
Sliced mozzarella cheese
Halibut or haddock
*        Osteo Bi-Flex - $7.99 as low as $1.99 each after coupon
$6/1 Osteo Bi-Flex Caplet, Soft gel or Powder, exp. 12/20/11 (RP 11/06/11)
$5/1 Osteo Bi-Flex Caplets, Soft gels or Powder, exp. 12/20/11 (RP 10/09/11)
$3/1 Osteo Bi-Flex Soft gels, Caplets, or Powders, exp. 11/25/11 (ALL YOU Nov '11)
$2/1 Osteo Bi-Flex Supplement or Powder printable
Ground chicken
½ & ½
*        International Delight Creamers - $1.99 with coupons the price will be .99
Large ShopRite vanilla yogurt
Wheat bread
Sour cream
Slider rolls
Frozen vanilla yogurt
Frozen broccoli and spinach
*        Hungry Jack Pancake Mix - $1.99 as low as $1.49 each after coupon
$1/2 Hungry Jack Pancake Mix or Syrup, exp. 12/31/11 (RP 11/06/11 R)

*        Marcal Small Steps Napkins - $1.34 as low as $0.34 each after coupon
*        Hefty One Zip Bags - $1.34 as low as $0.59 each after coupon
$1/2 Hefty One Zip Bags, exp. 11/30/11 (RP 08/14/11)
$1/2 Hefty One Zip Bags, exp. 2/29/12 (RP 11/13/11)
$0.75/2 Hefty One Zip Bags, exp. 2/29/12 (RP 11/13/11 R)

*        Martinson Ground Coffee - $2.99 as low as $1.99 each after coupon 
$1/1 Martinson Coffee (2 small cans or 1 large can) exp 1/10/12 (7/10/11 SS)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What do you want for Christmas?

With Black Friday in two days, I’ve been working on my shopping list for what I should get for the kids, my parents, and in laws. This task seems daunting every year, because I stress about finding the “perfect” gift at the best price for the people I care about. I am personally at a stage in my life where objects aren’t really what I want. Of course I would appreciate some new clothes and I do have my eye on a cute pair of toms, but really I would like to have more adventures.

A little over a month ago, my husband and I went zip cording for my 30th birthday to conquer my fear of heights. It was great and completely out of character for me. Over the past year, I’ve been working on myself; trying to change who I am, overcome the things and fears see as my negative qualities, become more involved in church, try to forgive people who have offended or hurt me, let new people in, and step out the box I’ve created for myself.

I don’t really know what I want to experience next, a group of my friends have discussed skydiving. Let’s see if that really happens, but after riding down the 280 foot-long zipcord flying past trees going 45MPH, I think it’s possible for me to consider or maybe rolling away in a Zorb.

I like that I feel anything is possible. That I’m not just a mom, step-mom, and wife; but that I can be an adventure seeker, someone who wants to do fun things with my husband and friends; something we used to do before we had our daughter. We used to go ocean kayaking, swimming with turtles, and canoeing; seems like a life time ago, but I am ready to show Maddie that Mom can do really awesome stuff, that most moms don’t do. All while being the best mom I can be to her.

I want Maddie to grab life by the horns and tackle all the challenges that life can throw her and have fun doing it. Life should be fun not a series of lists and plans, but experiences to look back on.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Planning on cooking for 15?

Thanksgiving is a few days away. As a planner and someone who enjoys cooking, this holiday is my favorite. I have detailed game plan of what I’m making, who is bringing what, and what time I need to start on Wednesday; so I’m not stressed out on Thanksgiving day and can enjoy watching the Macy’s TD parade. 

My game plan for this week starts bright and early Wednesday morning with me brining my turkey.
A friend of mine is making her first turkey and was asking me how to brine. There are many different recipes for brining. I prefer to brine my turkey in apple cider. Apple cider brine has less salt than the typical brine, so then I don’t feel so bad about slathering my turkey in a delicious garlic herb compound butter before roasting. YUM!

Each member of our family plays a part in our meal. My husband makes the most delicious sausage stuffing, my stepson Holden is in charge of the apple pie, my other stepson Alec handles the cranberry apple sauce, and my daughter makes the pumpkin pie. I’m so thankful that each of them is able to make something delicious to share with our extended family and close friends on Thanksgiving. I’m also thankful that all this takes place on Wednesday night. We have a small kitchen and having this many people and dirty dishes in such a small space can take the holiday cheer right out of the holiday.

On Thursday I don’t start cooking anything until 12:30 in the afternoon, which is when the turkey goes in. The rest of the day is peeling potatoes, making mac and cheese for my sweet sister, getting the veggies ready for steaming and roasting, and finally making gravy and remembering not to burn the biscuits. We plan on eating around 4:00. This will leave us enough time after dinner to settle into our food comas and then play Just Dance 3  to burn off some calories before enjoying the dessert spread.

In a moment of reflection, I’m thankful I have some good friends and family who have encouraged me to write this blog and to spend the day enjoying food and games with some of them.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What’s for dinner in the New Year, Mom?

Most of my friends or close acquaintances think I’m completely nuts for planning a month of meals in advance; I sometimes agree or even feel slightly embarrassed. I’m in no way a Martha Stewart wannabe. I enjoy food. I enjoy cooking. I really enjoy the feeling I get when I make a delicious healthy meal for my family. Now, pleasing all five family members is not easy, but I think 3 out of the 5 is not bad. Especially when one of them is an opinioned four year old who is in the thick of “I don’t want to try it”.
When my stepsons were little I was working and going to school full time. My available time to plan meals was limited, so it wasn’t as detailed or even as varied as it is today, I started small and developed a method that really works for us.  Back then I could muster up the creative juices once a week to tackle the meal plan. Which to be honest became tedious and felt like a chore. I would ask my husband, what do you want for dinner this week? What I got back was the equivalent of a tumble weed blowing down a deserted street in the Wild Wild West. HOW FRUSTRATING!!!  I then decided to plan a whole month at a time so I wouldn’t need to deal with this frustration until next month.
So I decided to type up a list of all the meals I had previously written down on my wall calendars for us all to sit down and figure this out together and plan the month. The boys would give maybe a handful of ideas off our meal list and so would my husband before they would scatter off to either watch T.V or play a video game leaving me to figure out the rest of month.
My method has evolved over the last NINE years.
I now know better what my family likes which is almost EVERYTHING except Cilantro.  I usually make substitutions in a recipe to get around their dislikes, but in the end. What I make for dinner is What’s for Dinner! Like it or leave it, but you can’t have anything else… I’m not running a restaurant here.
My advice to start meal planning is simple.
1) Write a list of your family’s favorite meals so when you sit down to write your meal plan. You have some options right in front of you.
2) Take into consideration your life; you know your schedule and that soccer or dance is every Tuesday. When you sit down to make your menu plan, keep in mind that maybe a crockpot meal would be best on those nights.
3) It’s your meal plan, can change it if you want to, switch your meals around to another day, but don’t waste the ingredients that you purchased. All that waste adds up to a lot of $$$.  
4) Try and experiment with new recipes.  If you like Chicken Parm, why not try Rachael Ray’s Chicken Parm Toss or Chicken Parm Sliders. And remember you are in control of how you make it; change whatever you don’t like in the recipe… It will be delicious, maybe even better than anything Rachael Ray can put together.
5) Get a simple calendar with enough room to write a meal.
6) Chose a day to have chicken, beef, veggie, seafood or pasta meal.
7) Add some variety like a Mexican, Chinese, German, or Italian.  
8) Try and shop your local grocery stores sales on meat, cheese the things you use regularly and stock up when the price is right. There are so many wonderful sites that will help you save money on your groceries, my favorite is Living Rich with Coupons. Cindy at this site has helped me learn the best way to use coupons and maximize my savings.
9) Try to think outside the box and TRY NEW THINGS. The worse that can happen is you won’t like it, so don’t make it again!
10) Remember this is meant to help you feel less stressed, so have fun planning your meals. Take some ideas from your favorite restaurants.
Does the planning process still stress me out sometimes? Sure! But knowing I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner until Christmas is GREAT!!!  (Which will be seafood bisque, filet, mignon, asparagus, and baked potatoes). In case you were wondering.