share your stories and join in on the discussion on Facebook!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

yummy! meals that work lately

We're always seeing posts on the discussion group about easy, simple, cheap meals that moms can make for their families. It gets old preparing three meals a day, snacks, etc. and we all are trying our best to stick with a budget but also make healthy food for our children.

The last two months or so I've been trying to whip up different things in my kitchen. Nothing fancy, just something that may work for us. I've become obsessed with using the crockpot on weekends. It's a lifesaver!

I need quick and easy meals. I don't want to spend the time after work cooking big meals. I get two hours a night - generally - with my kids, after daycare pick up and driving home ... I want to spend that time playing instead of cooking and washing pots and pans. So, I'm in search of quick meals that I can whip up when we get home, or meals that are good the next day (so I cook them the evening before we're going to eat them, after bed time so kids are asleep and house is quiet). 

Here are a few ideas I've found recently:

Chicken with cranberry sauce and barbecue sauce 
Melissa LaFrance gave me this recipe a while ago. I love it! Crockpot... chicken breast, can of cranberry sauce (whole berries) and 1/2 to full bottle of barbecue sauce). YUM. I serve over brown rice.

Chicken with salsa, cheese, cream cheese over rice
My sister's recipe, check it out on her blog! 

Chicken sausage or oriental chicken meatballs with garlic, onion, mixed stir fry veggies, rice, soy sauce.... Yum. I made this up a week ago and everyone loved it. I bought the chicken meatballs at the grocery store, al fresco brand. I love those anyway so thought I'd try a stir fry with them. Stir fry happens a lot in my house, it's easy, quick and good for you. I wanted a new spin on it, so this was a good option for that.

Mini pizzas
English muffins, set out some toppings, makes it fun for the kids, too, and so easy to cook.

Hawaiian chicken
Another one from my sister's blog. This is a new favorite in our house... everyone loves it!

Raviolis and tortellini
Spicing up the old standby pasta meal of the week, mix in some sausage or metaballs to make it even more different, or even some alfredo sauce.

Scrambled eggs with peppers and cheese
or dropped egg on toast.... spicing up breakfast for dinner night! Not just the regular pancakes or waffles... we tried something different two weeks ago with some peppers we had leftover from another recipe. Tossed it in with the eggs and cheese, made some sandwiches with toast. Yum! And super easy.

Parmiagiano-Reggiano Crusted Chicken (pic above)
from Rachael Ray of course... Such a different way to coat chicken, love it!

1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup grated parmiagiano-reggiano cheese
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Dip chicken in flour, then egg, then cheese. Cook in frying pan with olive oil about 10 minutes, turning over once.

Turkey and Stuffing Pie (pic above)
also from Rachael Ray magazine - SO easy. Takes 30 minutes total, yummy! Doesn't make more than enough for 2 people and one leftover so if a larger family I'd double it.

4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
1/2 pound turkey tenders
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour and cook, stirring 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened, 5 to 7 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the turkey and cranberries; transfer the mixture to a 9-inch square baking dish.

2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup flour, the cornmeal, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a separate bowl, beat the milk, egg and oil until blended. Pour into the dry ingredients, stir to form a stiff batter.

3. Drop the batter in 4 large spoonfuls onto the turkey mixture. Bake until the cornbread is golden-brown, about 25 minutes. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Cranberry Orange Stuffing
BEST stuffing recipe in the world! Again, Rachael Ray (can you see a theme?! LOVE her recipes because they are easy and delicious, Italian, my favorite!)
1 tablespoon olive oill
2 tablespoons butter
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
2 cranberry orange muffins
2 tablespoons thyme
1 cup chicken stock

Heat the olive oil and butter in skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts, add celery and onion and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Crumble the muffins into the pan and combine with the vegetables. Add thyme and chicken stock. Cook stuffing five minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and let stand in the warm pan.

SO DELICIOUS and easy!

potty training 101 - starting them young

This kid is a spitfire. She is hilarious. She runs so fast, everyone who visits is on edge saying, "oh, watch out! Uh, oh, oy..." worried she's going to fall and hit her head or something. We let her do it. She's the second child chasing after a big busy brother, after all.

So when this do-it-herself, unique and independent, very sassy girl decided "poop potty" one day, we went with it. I don't even know how it started or the first day, but it was about 6 weeks ago when she was 20 months old that she became interested in the bathroom business.

Since then, it's been interesting. And not anything we've initiated... We set the stage and encouraged, sure, but were we thinking our daughter would actually sit and go pee at just over 1 1/2, heck no! We honestly though this summer she'd be doing that... she's surprised us from day one (putting me into labor the day before my scheduled C-section!). You just go with it, that's what I know about little kids and their big ideas.

Here's the story, of potty training a little one... (you know already from previous posts about my son deciding to potty train on his own at 2 1/2 years old after his baby sister was born, THIS is a different approach now... as everything goes with #2, I suppose!).

Just like with our son, we took the little potty out at about 18 months old, just because, as a teaching tool, something for our children to get curious about. My daughter started playing with it, moving it in the bathroom, sitting on it like a stool, standing on it to brush her teeth at the sink, etc. Just a play tool.

We talked about peeing and pooping. When changing her diaper we'd say, "Someday you will poop in the potty when you're a big girl." We let her come in when we went to the bathroom. I would say, "Good job, Mommy went pee in the potty! Yay!" randomly.

We read potty stories. We made sure they were in the bathroom, too. Our son started getting into reading to his sister when he went in to potty, she'd go and sit on her little potty with her clothes on at first, and he'd read to her. It was adorable!

She got a doll who goes on a potty for Christmas. She loves taking her dolls into the bathroom to use the potty, too. All exploratory fun... that leads to interest in something.

Having her brother's enthusiasm and watching him take frequent trips to the potty are what got this little girl going in the bathroom. She wants to do everything he does anyway... playing with trucks and tractors, dressing like Superman, sleeping in his big boy bed, shoveling outside, working with tools, etc. Why would I think it would be any different with bathroom routines?!

And the big bro loved having someone follow him around, he felt cool. So he encourages it. He asks her now every time he has to go to the bathroom if she needs to go, too. She always says yes. They sit there like two best friends. It's adorable!

Then my daughter started asking us to change her and running to the changing table, the second she went poop in her diaper, not liking the feel of it... after just a week before she didn't care and wouldn't tell us if she pooped. We started saying, "Addi, where does poop go next time?" She'd answer, "potty," and we'd move on. Sometimes we take the poop from the diaper and take her in to show her that it goes in the potty, dumping from diaper to toilet.

She then was saying "poop" when she peed or pooped in her diaper, and running to the bathroom. Lately she's started hiding in a room by herself to poop in her diaper. She doesn't want people seeing it. I remember this with my son, this was one of the last stages he went through before he asked to wear big boy underwear and really was potty training.

Lately we have her sit on the potty to pee before baths at night. This came naturally because our son has to pee before getting in the tub, so she started sitting on her potty at the same time that he was standing at his. Since there are two of them, it takes a minute for me to help them both undress and get ready, so she's been sitting on her potty reading or watching us while I help him get in the tub, which is enough time for her to end up peeing. She's had success every time she sits there at night the last few weeks.

Basically we throw a party when she pees. We clap, dance, tell her good job, and our son gives her a high five. He wants to see it every time, and so she gets proud pointing to it in the potty. He tells her to dump it in the big potty and how to flush. It's like a big thing in our house right now. She then runs out to tell daddy about it if she peed with me, or tell me if she peed with dad. It's a THING right now. And we're giving it all the attention and excitement it deserves.

I've noticed sometimes she's dry after nap, so immediately we have her sit on the potty and it naturally comes out. Or like this morning, her brother woke her up, so I know she was in a deep sleep and had not peed this morning yet, her diaper was just full from pee during the night. So I took her to the potty and she went instantly. So this is our next step: pee first thing in the morning. We'll try that out and see how it goes.

Basically what I see with her, being 21 months old, she doesn't quite get it entirely yet. She knows what potties are for, she knows that we prefer her doing pee and poop in there, but she doesn't quite know how to explain it, use her words or get there in time or hold it. I don't think she can physically do it entirely. I can't explain it well, but I know my child and I know a bigger kid who I've successfully potty trained, and she just doesn't seem to be at the same spot he was when he was ready to consciously make decisions and follow through with it.

When I see her able to hold it for longer periods of time and really able to get herself to go when on the potty, like not by chance, then I'll know we're ready for the 3 days inside just doing pottying nonstop type of situation. I haven't felt that she is there yet. When she's ready we'll be also. We have tried on big girl underwear.  I've already started collecting little trinkets for prizes. That's another thing, she's not even interested in any incentive to going on the potty yet... she just does it, moves on. So to me there isn't any enticing her to continue it, it's just something shes going to be into or not.

I'm excited at where she's at right now, but also totally overwhelmed... she's so little in my mind to start this! But, I believe in following their lead, and she's definitely leading us toward wanting to be potty trained. So ready or not, here we go!

Next step after successfully doing pee on the potty first thing in the morning, is going to be watching her routines... when does she typically poop each day? Take her to the potty just before that time to see if we can read until she poops.  Slow baby steps is how I see this process with her since she's younger than I expected to do this with her. When she's totally ready, we'll know.

ADORABLE John Deere hat hand knit by my amazing sister Amanda McCarty of Crooked By Design on Etsy and on Facebook - check her out! 

We're all in this together, I guess! Yay, pottying!

potty training 101 - children's books

Reading to children about things that are coming up in their lives is a great idea! It helps teach them about things they are curious about. We have books all around our house... on the back of the toilet in the bathroom, next to the couch in the living room, on a book shelf with a comfy bear to sit next to upstairs, next to each of their beds so when they wake in the morning they can read on their own, etc.

Reading about pottying is just one more way of teaching your child about this sometimes crazy process.

Here are a few good reads I found.

All images from

We have these two for boys or girls. They are straight forward and cute!

OK this one I have to get from the library. My son would love this... firefighters!

Princesses pottying... how sweet!

We loved the Joanna Cole book about becoming a big brother, 
so I'm sure this one is super cute as well. 

Sesame Street fans will enjoy these below! Also, the Elmo Potty video is a fun one. 

Pirates using potties... oh this would be perfect for little guys out there!

This one is kinda gross but definitely real, so it's funny.

SUPER POOPER... I kinda want this one just to make me laugh.

We have this one below for my daughter, the girls version, with real kids in the pictures, it's cute. 

LOVE all Free Spirit books, like Hands Are Not For Hitting. This one is cute!

Last but not least, our favorites by Alona Frankel... the Once Upon a Potty books for boys and girls. These are adorable. I do wish she labeled pee and poop as such, but we change up the words when we read it so it's no big deal. She goes over body parts in this and the waiting game of potty training. An old favorite.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

it's a work baby shower!

My best co-worker friend, Christine Coutu, is having her first baby girl! Work showers are so much fun. They are simple and always full of food, and people who work hard together actually enjoying time together. It's fun to get a range of people and ages in one room, all walks of life and experiences - some with newborns, some with multiple kids, some without children.

My friend is the sweetest person ever, so planning her shower was something I was way too interested in planning little details for, texting her husband to ask random questions like their wedding colors (rose pink and light green, which were part of the theme!) or the crib colors.

We took maternity pictures of her growing baby bump the weekend before the shower, so of course I had to frame some of them for the party atmosphere.

Christine is not in favor of all girlie pink items for her daughter so we tried to have subtle touches of pink. I happened to find her wedding colors in some party plates at the Dollar Tree of all places, such a lucky find!

My favorite part of the party was coming up with the candy bar! One of her cravings was sweet treats and candy. I collected various candies, got some clear bags and twist ties so people at the party could fill their treat bags for a snack later on. So much fun! I've always wanted to put one of these together.

A few of the candies included:
Snickers mini bars
Tootsie Rolls
Gummi Bears
Good n' Plenty
Sour Patch Kids
Reeses Pieces
Heath Bar pieces
Raspberry M&Ms

We got her an adorable gluten free cake just for herself. Carrot cake. Amazingness. From Bam-Bam Bakery in Portland. So yummy!

These cookies were super cute! A co-worker (a guy of all things!) made these diaper cookies. Such a great idea for a shower!

Because she has a huge family - really big! - and is a devoted member of a large church of like-family friends, along with this being her first of three or four baby showers... my co-worker and I who planned this wanted it to be as simple as possible for her.

We asked guests to bring books for the baby to start their library. We figured that was perfect since we work in a school and educators love books!  It was less to open - very few blankets and onesies were given. Those items are absolutely adorable, but not at multiple showers.

Christine had also told me that she always tries to spoil the mom-to-be when she attends showers, giving them nail polish or bath soap or candy or something they can enjoy themselves since they are doing all the hard work. So, of course at a simple shower we needed something for HER! We asked people to consider giving her magazines, parenting books,  nail polish, lotions, bath items, comfy socks or slippers, and of course candy or chocolates since those are her favorite. She got the sweetest gifts! It's so nice to remind yourself to pamper your growing belly at that late stage in the pregnancy. She was so happy receiving those gifts!

This was such a fun shower. It's so special planning a baby shower for someone who is so appreciative of every little detail you put into the party, and of course a first baby!

OK wait till you see this diaper baby below! You've seen diaper cakes, right?  Well, this is a baby. Made out of DIAPERS! My co-worker is super crafty. Love this idea, so different.

 Baby showers are fun!

Monday, January 20, 2014

strong momma Jenni Hassler - child food allergies

A strong momma on the blog this morning, Jenni Hassler again. I've featured her here a few times (Etsy shop Signed n' Sealed! Check it out!). This time, she's sharing her challenge of raising a daughter with severe food allergies. This woman is so talented - adorable nursery, handmade Etsy shop items, and now basically a chef! 

Seriously though, what  struggle it is to have to watch every morsel of food that goes into your child's mouth. It sounds to me like Jenni does this with grace and acceptance. Her goal in writing this was to share her experience in an effort to help others who don't have children with food allergies to better understand the importance of the situation, less judgment, more support. 

It's difficult to really fully understand something we have not been through ourselves. What I appreciate most is how much Jenni really didn't want to come off as negative in this post, but rather being real and honest about her experience. I appreciate honesty more than anything, but even more when the person giving it out is trying to be as considerate as possible. 

Thanks, Jenni, for explaining this! You seem like such a STRONG momma to me!

All photos from Jenni Hassler

1. When did you find out your child has a food allergy?
Lauren was 1 1/2 years old. We actually had to have our doctor beg the allergist to take her as they usually won't test under the age of two. This was 5 1/2 years ago, I hope that has changed with so many kiddos having reactions these days.

2. What things is she allergic to?
She 'was' allergic to everything but the kitchen sink. All nuts. Beef. Milk. Corn. Soy. Eggs. Tomatoes. Sesame seeds. Oats. Then trees, grass, dust, dogs, cats. Through the years she is tested every 1-2 years. Her allergies have come and gone and then come back again throughout with the exception of all nuts, they are the same. Currently she is allergic to all nuts, soy, oats, sesame seed, corn, eggs & honey.

3. What was it like finding out she had food allergies? What sorts of things went through your mind? 

It was the scariest thing EVER. What was I suppose to feed my child?! She couldn't have anything she was used to eating. Would she eat anything else? And then if she gets any of it we were scared of the side affects, eczema & worse, her peanut allergy was so bad we had to learn to use an Epi-Pen to save her life. I was frantically looking for meal ideas & snacks, it was like survival mode kicked in because that's what we had to do, help her survive this. Scary.

4. Do you recommend any good books, Web sites, etc. in the area of food allergies? 
I don't have a ton of references because I look everywhere for recipes. I'm constantly checking out allergy books at the library as well. 

I have grown to LOVE cookbooks even though I may not be able to use any, out of a whole book I might find one or it might spark an idea and that's good enough for me. I search hundreds of recipes a month. If recipes are abundant then I'm calm & we get to have variety in our life. Lol!! 

This website is a great community though...

5. What is it like overall having a child with a food allergy? 
Challenging. Cross contamination could be anywhere. You really have to think... If someone is using that spoon for that dish & uses it for another, she can't eat it.

Restaurants are not even in our vocabulary anymore but just think of a buffet & how much cross contamination there is. Any allergy sufferers worst nightmare!

I worry about taking her on an airplane. I worry about her at school, every day. Even riding the bus is a privilege for her, I would rather take her to be safe but she wants to be a kid & I really have to try and let her sometimes. 

She is not able to go grocery shopping with me anymore. She breaks out in hives just being in the store. We've gone to a park before to enjoy a picnic & after she had been running through the grass and sitting down in it, there was like a blanket of pistachio shells everywhere. Talk about panic.

And lastly, the worst thing is explaining to her that she is not different & there's nothing 'wrong' with her when she asks why she was made this way. Breaks my heart...

6. What do you think others don't understand about children with food allergies?
How severe it can be. You can NEVER let your guard down. As soon as you do, even if you think "oh they've never had a serious reaction", wrong!

It can happen in a heartbeat. I think this is why people think parents of children with food allergies overreact but really, in all honesty, we don't want to stick our kid with a needle & pray they make it. We have to be that aware.

7. What might happen if your child accidentally had something she is allergic to? How severe is the allergy?
If she is around or eats any nuts she can have an anaphylaxis reaction. In other words, she may first need Benedryl to try to stop the allergy attack in the system. If that doesn't stop it, she will need an Epi-Pen administered and medical attention immediately as the airways can start to close up or have violent vomiting attacks. If she eats soy, oats, eggs, corn, honey, sesame seeds, she can break out in hives, usually causes her eczema to flair, upset stomach or itchy mouth.

8. What things do you have to do or keep in mind when attending birthday parties, holiday gatherings with family, sending her to school, etc. that perhaps other parents don't have to consider without a food allergy?
Anywhere we go we HAVE to pack food. There is no eating out or eating cafeteria food. Cold lunch every day. I always have to call the parents before a party to confirm what they're serving & then make sure Lauren brings her own treat or even enough to share. Family usually remembers her allergies but I never expect anyone to make food that she can absolutely have, it is hard enough for me.

9. What has having a child with a food allergy taught you ?

To not take eating food for granted. Be grateful. Seriously. Everyone eats, mostly what they'd like, right? Imagine being told most of your life 'you can't eat that' or 'there's nothing you can eat here, you have to wait'.

10. How is caring for this child with a food allergy different from caring for your other children without allergies? (if you have more than one)
It is SO easy to just make food for my son, whatever he wants or likes to eat. On the flip side, when he visits a sitter I have to ask them not to serve him any peanut products for fear he will bring it home on him. So I still worry and limit his contact with it even though he has no signs (he's 18 months old).

11. Does the rest of your family avoid the food that your daughter is allergic to? 
Yes, we all do. As I mentioned above about my son avoiding it, my husband & I do as well. We miss Reese's peanut butter cups and peanut butter on an apple. We deal with it though, it's our life now.

It's not just her dealing with it, we are a family and have to do this together.

12. What advice would you give to another mother whose child has a food allergy? 
I hope you like to cook ;)

My advice is to make your child happy with the food they can have. Let them be involved in picking out their food as much as possible. 

I'm SO glad I did this and joke that my daughter will be a chef someday she is so involved in food now. She loves watch cooking shows, she's 8 years old.

13. What 3 words would you use to describe having a child with a food allergy?
Challenging. Determined. Supportive.

14. Anything else you want to add? 
As much as I want my daughter's food allergies to disappear, it has made her who she is. It has made our family experience things other people do not. We are strong.

I wish there was a way to help more people understand. I want to thank Angela for letting me use my voice on this.

If anything, I want more people to be aware & to not pass judgment so quickly on food allergies. It is a scary epidemic that our children are facing and their children and so on. Understand & educate yourself. You could save a life someday. Who knows.

rooms to grow - Arwen Meyer

YAY, thanks to Hiedi Earwood for helping out her good friend Arwen Meyer with snapping a few photos of her brand new baby's nursery. I LOVE this room! Love it! The colors are amazing, so cute for a little guy. Most incredibly organized and adorable closet ever, too... scroll down to see!

Congrats to new mama, Arwen, and the new little one! Thanks for taking the time to put this together with such a newborn around. It's worth showing off! 

All photos from Hiedi Earwood and Arwen Meyer

1. What purpose does this room serve for your family? What do people do in here?
This is Phoenix's nursery. Since he is just over a week old, it's used primarily for changing/feeding/sleeping.

2. What was the "before" in this room like? Why did you want to change it up?
This room used to be used as an office.

OK, seriously, how cool are these laundry baskets? Sorting easier! Love that idea!

3. What are you excited about / proud of with this room now?

I am really proud of how all of the details, planned and unplanned, fit together seamlessly in the end.  

We purchased things from several stores over many months, and made some things for a personal touch, and it all just works so well together.

4. What do you hope your child thinks of his room or could do in this room?

I hope our son can look around this room and feel the love from everyone that contributed. His great grandmother made him the afagan, I modge podged his letters, and his father built him the closet organizer and applied the wall stickers.

5. What are the best parts about this room and why did you choose to include those?
I love that we have a book case full of books, given to him at his shower, and a comfy chair (that we searched high and low for!) to read them in. Reading is very important to us.

6. Share info about the room in general, what is in there specifically, why you put things where you did, why you chose bright colors, etc.
When we started planning the room, I knew I wanted a crisp look and that I didn't want a definite theme. 

I started with the wall color. Then thought about storage and the other pieces of furniture we wanted in the room. 

From there it was all about the personal little details to make this HIS room. We love how it all turned out, and are excited to see him grow into it.