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Monday, August 29, 2011

Yahoo Monday!!

Yippeee!!!!! It's Monday. Normally I don't care for Mondays, but today my older kids went back to school. I am so glad! We had a great summer, full of vacations, play dates, eating out, gardening, field trips and more, but there's a certain order being in school brings back. They all went, no tears, big smiles and were ready to go by 7:40 a.m. School doesn't start until 8:25 a.m. They must be mine.

Seven hours of two-to-one defense, instead of five-to-one. My odds have greatly improved. We love their teachers and have great hope another successful school year has begun.

Now, they'll need to have a snack when they get home, so I've created a snack basket, filled with relatively nutritious snacks for after school, along with tags (created with my Cricut) of snack ideas in the fridge--cheese sticks, fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc. Should be a hit when they get home.

The dinner ideas still need to be planned, but Fall is in the air, so bring out the crock pot-much to my husband's dismay. He thinks they don't taste flavorful, like my regular cooking. So I guess there's more to learn this year. Here's Meal Ideas for this week. Enjoy!

Picnic in the park- just because summer is over, doesn't mean we can't have fun.



Burgers and Oven Fries

Chicken Strips

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lunch Box Tips #3

Lunch time is usually crazy at school. The kids would rather go play than eat. Here are a few ideas to get your mind, and theirs, back to school. 


Lunch box cheat solutions              

  • Place a frozen juice box in your kids’ lunchbox. – it’ll keep the food chilled and will be thawed by lunchtime. You can also freeze water bottles, go-gurt and some types of sandwiches to act as insulation.
  • Go for variety. Make sandwiches using whole grain tortillas, bagels or pitas.
  • Pack antibacterial wet wipes so your kids can clean their hands before and after eating.
  • Add grated veggies to sandwiches and wraps for crunch – your kids won’t notice they’re eating something that’s good for them!
  • Use small resealable bags to pack dressings. Kids can open one corner and simply squeeze onto salad, then discard.
  • Get dipping! Pack salsa, hummus, yogurt or salad dressing for your little ones to dunk their sandwich, veggies or fruit into.
  • Make bite-sized and mini versions of regular foods like sandwiches. They work well for small appetites and are more likely to be eaten.
  • Add a quick note to say good luck on a test or “I love you” – it will brighten your child’s day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lunch Box Tips #2

Lunch Box Safety

Keep food preparation areas in the kitchen clean. Wash counter tops, cutting boards, utensils and your hands in hot, soapy water. And don't let the family pet jump up on kitchen counters.
  • After preparing lunches, remember to immediately return unused portions of perishable foods, like cheeses, deli meats and mayonnaise, to the refrigerator. Don't let them sit out on the counter.
  • Make sure that cold foods are cold before packing them in a lunch box. If possible, prepare the lunch the night before and store it in the refrigerator. (This also takes the edge off the mad morning rush!)
  • Insulated lunch bags or boxes are the best way to keep food at a safe temperature until . Nestle a frozen juice pouch or ice pack inside and sandwiches will stay extra cool.
  • At school, instruct the kids to store their lunch box out of direct sunlight and away from radiators or other heaters if possible.
  • Sandwiches made with refrigerated items such as luncheon meats, cheese and tuna salad should be carried in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack. That way they should be safe to eat after 2 to 3 hours un -refrigerated.
  • Keep hot foods, like soups, stews or chilies, hot. In the morning, bring the food to a boil and then immediately pour into a hot, sterile vacuum bottle. (Sterilize the vacuum bottle with boiling water.)
  • Lunch foods that can be eaten at room temperature include:
    • Peanut butter
    • Jams and jellies
    • Breads, crackers, cereals
    • Clean fruits and vegetables
    • Dried meats, such as beef jerky
    • Baked products, such as cookies and cakes
    • Canned meat or poultry products that are eaten immediately after opening

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lunch Box Tips #1

Time Saving and Money Saving Tips on getting lunches ready

  • ORGANIZE; Get your containers, fun stuff like stickers, notes, treats; Ice packs; Thermos; Baggies/wrap all ready to go
  • A creative lunch recipe is simply any recipe that’s fun. Use your imagination and come up with different combinations of food and unique ways to present it. See my post on Sept. 13 for more ideas!
  • Buy a bag of chips or pretzels dedicated to lunches. Make up individual baggies of snacks (zipper bags are best for this) and place them back into the empty chip bag. Each morning you just reach in and grab one.
  • Cut carrots and celery into sticks and store in baggies.
  • Buy small fruits such as Clementine’s and grapes, or dried fruits such as dried cranberries and raisins, and make up individual baggies.
  • You can also freeze sandwiches with deli meats, such as ham, turkey, bologna and salami. Make baggies of a piece of lettuce and an individually wrapped piece of cheese to toss in the lunch bag with the frozen sandwich. You can also buy mustard and mayonnaise packets from places like Costco, Sam's Club and restaurant supply stores.
  • To keep jelly from oozing out the bottom of the sandwich, after placing everything inside the lunch bag, place sandwich on top laying flat. Standing it up can cause the jelly to leak out the bottom as it thaws.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Give Away

Check out this site Book Give Away for some fun give aways on cookbooks and such. Have a great day.

Mealtime Monday on Tuesday

Yea, I am late in posting. Like it matters, right? I had all the good intentions in the world to do this yesterday, until I opened my fridge and my leftovers that were to be our dinner were gone! I made London Broil and was going to use the leftovers for a Philly style sandwich, but the darling husband took the entire bag to work. Really????? The ENTIRE bag? How hungry do you get? Furthermore, I know you love Red Meat, but are you really going to eat a variation of it everyday for lunch??? Yup!

He did make up for it by cooking dinner last night--we had breakfast. Here's an idea or two for this week....unless someone ends up taking it for an accompaniment to Red Meat.

Chicken Tacos: If you are lucky enough to have a garden throw in some peppers and tomatoes to your meat sauce. If you have kids that aren't too picky, maybe even some shredded carrots or spinach could add color and flavor to this easy meal.

Burgers: I hate to touch meat-you know this. Raw, cooked or otherwise. I eat it, but I have a thing about touching it. Ironic since my grandpa was a butcher. Anyhow, I am trying to overcome this issue and can sometimes pull off a burger or meatloaf meal if I wear kitchen gloves. 

I mix shredded veggies into the burger (or meatloaf) to hide them and still have my kids eat the meal. Burgers on the grill with a little pepper jack cheese, garden fresh tomato, spinach and onion, and I forget about all my idiosyncrasies.

Don't forget about homemade oven fries or grilled zucchini.

Hamburger Stew
Using all of my garden goodies.

Minestrone Soup
More garden goodies

Chicken Strips with dipping sauce. TIP: Don't throw away the ends of the bread! Puree them in your blender/food processor, flavor them with desired spices (I like Italian Seasoning, Parmesan cheese and Steak Seasoning) and save them in a bag or Tupperware. You have FREE homemade bread crumbs for this recipe.

4 chicken breasts
Bread crumbs
Flour (1/4 cup)
1 egg

Salt and pepper your strips of chicken. Set up three bowls: one with flour, one with egg, one with bread crumbs. Dip the chicken into the Flour, THEN egg, THEN bread. You can also put the dry ingredients into plastic bags and drop the chicken in the bag to coat it--easier clean up.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with favorite dipping sauces. We like Ranch, Honey Mustard, BBQ sauce and Sweet and Sour. I save my extra sauces from fast food places for this meal. This is one meal everyone eats because they can pick sauces that make them happy, which makes me happy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to School Party

I've jumped into back to school with both feet! I have the opportunity to be the President-Elect for our local PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) at school. Next year I'll be President. So this year is great training! I love the girls I get to work with and our principal is amazing.

All of this doesn't alleviate the feeling in the pit of my stomach each year that school starts. Getting all the kids up and dressed, and out the door by 8 a.m. isn't fun. Watching them go off to the first day of school, a little unsure of what's going to happen is hard. I don't like them to feel insecure and even a bit scared. This year hopefully will be easier since the older 3 mostly know the drill. Making lunches every night is the bane of my existence--worse than laundry.

However, education is necessary. I love learning and I was one of the nerdy kids that loved going to school. So I've decided to help us all make the transition to a new year by highlighting all the fun things about going back to school like new school supplies, new backpacks and lunch bags, new school clothes and new opportunities.

We're having a party! Each of the kids get a gift bag full of new things to use. We are having our favorite dinner and desserts. We are having a new organization system (OK, this is fun for me, not them) outlining each child's responsibilities and rewards for completing those tasks so I can restore calm to the chaos.

This year I hope to highlight the positive and fun that school can be, so maybe we won't miss the carefree summer days as much. We still have weekends for Family Fun.

I know the girls are ready to get their full social life back. I hope J-Dog will love his new Chinese class and make new friends. D. gets to start pre-school. I hope she doesn't drive her teacher crazy too much. So soon it will be me and the baby, hanging out. It will be so weird to only have one kid at home. Whatever will I do? Oh, that's right, PTO President Stuff. Never a dull moment!

Party Time People! School's Back!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Online Obsession

I have an addiction to online shopping. OK, let's clarify, not an addiction like you're going to see me on an upcoming episode of "Hoarders," more like, "If I have to shop, I'd rather do it online, cuz it doesn't involve kids, gas, shopping with kids and it does include tons of "discount codes" kind of obsessed. Wow, mouthful!

I have been using Ebates for a few months and LOVE it. What's Ebates?? Do you live under a rock? Let me explain. Ebates is an online company you can shop thousands of store through and receive a certain percentage back in a check for shopping online. AND you can use online code discounts too.

For example: The kids needed new school clothes. I hate taking them shopping because there are five of them, and they have opinions and can't make decisions...yadda, yadda. I don't want to be yelling in public at them, no need to have that on tape and sent to CPS.

So I hopped on Ebates, found The Children's Place, Kohl's and Payless Shoes. Bought what I needed through the store's website, but because I logged into Ebates to get to the store site, I received anywhere from 3% to 15% back (in a check) from Ebates on my online purchase. Ebates also has discount codes you can use to lower your total too. I bought $250 worth of clothing for the kids (3 outfits for the older kids, 2 for the younger, including 1 pair of shoes each) and paid $140 including shipping, plus got a check for $8 in the mail from Ebates. That's $26 per kid!!!

I think this company is GOLDEN. If I've totally confused you log onto and see for yourself. And if you purchase from Ebates please tell them I sent you (there's bonuses for referring friends. Use for your reference email). Or, comment here, send me an email or call me, I can help!

This is an awesome way to have cool stuff for cheap. Happy Saving and Shopping.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Must Confess...

I am spoiled! Yesterday was the official anniversary of the day I was born. It was the BEST birthday I've had in a long time.

Andy had to work, which was fine. I mean seriously, I've had a few birthdays so taking off a day to hang out wasn't necessary. I was so looking forward to 5 p.m. when he'd be home and then....

the doorbell rang at 3 p.m. and I open the door and there, right at eye level are FOUR DOZEN LONG STEMMED ROSES. And a really cute delivery guy. I've said before how we don't celebrate anything on it's actual date, we celebrate before the date cuz no one can keep a secret, so the fact Andy kept a surprise and brought me flowers was awesome.
Told you they were awesome!

The great day was also filled with a gift wrapped, cold Diet Coke from my twins, a couple of sweet cards and gifts from two of my best girlfriends (you know who you are, thanks girls you made my day!) and then a surprise dinner out, without kids, at Carino's where I got the trifecta of perfection--Italian Nachos, Spicy Shrimp and Chicken and Tiramisu. Thanks to our best babysitters for watching the posse of tiny people.

As if all those surprises weren't enough, I got a cute new pair of shoes, some awesome cupcake supplies and a Cricut Expressions Bundle. Way too cool!

It's been forever since I let anyone spoil me. I admit, I'd rather pay off bills than buy anything for myself. I was overindulged and to all of you who made yesterday so special, THANK YOU! Maybe getting older isn't so bad. Maybe next year I'll cop to having turned 30-something...maybe.

Friday, August 12, 2011


If you have a garden chances are you have zucchini. I have a million uses for this stuff, but this cookie recipe is exceptional. Enjoy!

(Recipe from Betty Crocker)

3/4 C. soft butter
1 ½ C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. grated/pureed Zucchini
1 C. chopped pecans
2 t. lemon zest
1 t. salt
2 ½ C. all purpose flour
2 t. baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly oil a cookie sheet, spray with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
3. Combine all ingredients and mix until they make a dough.
4. Scoop dough onto the prepared cookie sheet in 1 inch balls.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand to cool for approximately 15 minutes.
6. When cool, drizzle with glaze. (see recipe below)

2 C. powdered sugar
juice of 1 lemon (1/4 C.)
1 t. vanilla

Mix all together. After cookies have cooled, drizzle the glaze on top of each cookie.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thoughts for Tuesday

With the 10th Anniversary of my 25th birthday on the horizon I have had some time to think about what I've learned and accomplished over all that time. We each write our history, past, present and future. Who we are and who we will become is determined by our actions, or lack of, and sometimes we aren't even in tune enough to realize it.

I've made a lot of mistakes, but we all do. It's how we learn. I've also had a great number of accomplishements because I've learned lessons from those mistakes. I am so happy to have made it this far, and hope my accomplishements will outshine all my mistakes, at some point.

Here's a few words of wisdom that got me thinking and have inspired me to be better.

"You don't know where you're going, unless you know where you've been." -Jane Fonda (ok, I am sure she's not the only person to say this, but she's who I heard it from.)

"Each relationship prepares you for the next. No relationship is a waste of time. We learn a lot by loving someone else, even if for a short time." -Michelle Salisbury McCullough

There are 5 things in life you cannot recover: A stone...after it's thrown. A word...after it is said. An occasion...after it's missed. The time...after it's gone. A person...after they die. Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably And never regret anything that made you smile, Enjoy Life!!--Andy's friend, Nikki Martin

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, August 8, 2011

Creative Mealtime Monday

I am getting more creative with serving meals. I think it's fun and maybe if things look pretty, the kids will at least give it a try.

Here's some ideas for this week's meal presentations:

Mac and Cheese--Ok instead of the boring out of the box, onto the plate; try making homemade Jack's Mac and using seashell shaped pasta. Cut the bottom half of your hot dogs into 1/8 sections to make an octopus and Mac and Cheese is now Pirate Macaroni or Ariel Pasta.

Tiny Meal--My kids love mini bagel sandwiches. Just pile on your favorite toppings and enjoy. You can also make sliders, using small dinner rolls and meat, or use a chicken nugget to make mini sandwiches. Make mini fruit kabobs with toothpicks and small chunks of fruit and serve mini pretzels.

Layers--Make your Shepherds Pie, Lasagna or other favorite casserole in small oven-safe dishes. Serve in individual portions along with a layered salad and layered dessert like this one:

Katie's Trifle
1 box Brownie Mix
1 lg. box Raspberry Jello
1 lg. box Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 sm. container of cool whip
Sprinkles or fruit for garnish

Bake the brownies, according to box directions and let cool. When cool break into bite sized pieces and place in trifle bowl, or other large round dish. Make the Jello and pour over brownie bites; When Jello is set make pudding and put on top of Jello. Pudding should take about 10 minutes to set. Then frost with cool whip and desired garnishes.

Make a monochromatic meal--but not a brown one. Brown is not an appetizing color to eat by the platefuls. Instead use fruit, veggies and other brightly colored items to entice your family's appetites. Food coloring always works to create colored rice, pasta or sauce for your colorful meal.

Brown Bag It-- pack up sandwiches and get to the park. Don't forget the soccer ball and Frisbee.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August Scrapbook Post

1. What am I eating for dinner today? Greek Spaghetti
2. Who was the last person I talked to on the phone?Andy
3. What color did I wear today? Black
4. What was the last good thing I read? "Salvation at the Dairy Queen"
5. What's one goal I have accomplished this week? Kids to the Library for rewards
6. What's one thing I need to work on? Prep for Back to School
7. Today's best thought? Fun week ahead
8. One word to sum up today is? Rewarding
9. One worry or concern? What happened to the $5 I thought I had??
10. Favorite thing I did this week? Finished cleaning my garage/basement and had a lucrative yard sale!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Websites

I've added some new buttons and websites you'll want to check out. See the left side of this page under "Memorable Blogs" and check out the four new buttons to a fun new site I found.

Also you'll want to check out this week's freebies!,  sign up for their email club and get a free Nacho Burrito.

Today on Facebook, Freschetta will be giving away tens of thousands of FREE slices of pizza!

 FREE Back to School Post-it Notes Sample Pack from Post-It.

Don't forget to check out for new clearance and discounts on summer fun.

Office Max has a free backpack and lunch box with $15 purchase.

Target has a great deal on school supplies: Rose Art crayons $.19; six pack of Elmer's glue sticks $1; Cheap Papermate pens (with coupons) and FREE Bic Pens (using manufacturers coupons with the coupon). There's also scissors for $1, refill paper and notebooks for $1 or under.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Meal Time Monday

We survived the week without our Dad/Husband. Saturday was a joyous day! We ate out a ton, and are now back to the groove.

What's for dinner this week? Well it's payday, so we're scraping the bottom of the barrel, but I do have a couple of new ones to try. Maybe you should too. This week's recipes are from Deanna Buxton, author of World Wide Ward Cookbook series. I won the Christmas WWW Book of hers a few weeks ago. Yeah!

Lemon Chicken


4 pounds chicken breasts, cut into large pieces
2 Cups fresh lemon juice
2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 Cup corn oil
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
1/4 Cup brown sugar
1/4 Cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Combine chicken and lemon juice in a bowl or zipper bag; marinate in refrigerator several hours or overnight. Drain chicken. Combine flour, salt, paprika, and pepper. Coat each chicken piece in the flour mixture. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry chicken pieces, a few at a time, for 5 minutes on each side until browned. Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a large, shallow baking dish.Sprinkle with lemon zest and brown sugar. Mix chicken stock and lemon extract; pour around chicken. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until tender. 6 servings.
Bar-B-Que Spareribs

5-6 lb. spareribs
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced
1 C. packed brown sugar
2  10.75-oz. cans tomato soup
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 C. vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 C. water
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. chili powder

Place meat in 9 x 13-inch pan; salt and pepper.  Place onion on top and sprinkle brown sugar over top.  Combine soup, sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, water, cinnamon and chili powder together and heat just until warm.  Pour over meat and bake at 350 degrees for 3-4 hours. 6 servings.
That's all for this week's post. I've been organizing the house getting ready to sell some stuff. My energy's gone. Thanks parents for the donations. And have fun with my kids, but don't feel like you have to spoil them this week. Also, Happy Anniversary (yesterday). Betcha never thought 18 years ago, you'd be celebrating the occassion with grandkids in tow, huh? Love You.