Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Have A New Home

Thanks to anyone who was reading this blog, but I have decided to kick it up a notch and start up a new one. It is a little more professional than the ramblings I have posted on here. I will still keep this blog, however, but it will not be updated nearly as often. Thanks again!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why Can't I Remember?

This is ridiculous. I remember sitting at the computer looking at an invitation to something and asking my husband if that Saturday was clear on his calendar and if he would mind if I committed us to something on August 7th...but as I sit here trying to think of where it is I am supposed to be, or what it is I am supposed to be doing...I can't remember!

I've always heard that when women have children they develop "Mommy Brain," and I would like to blame my current memory loss on this theory. If I don't, that means I am going crazy, or developing early on-set Alzheimer's (thanks a lot book club for having me read Still Alice!).

I have gone through all my e-mails on all of my accounts and have checked calendars, evite, and even Facebook. Nothing. Hopefully I can remember by the time Saturday rolls around--in the meantime, I'll clean the house, just in case whatever it is that is supposed to occur is at my house!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mommy Is A Mess!

Okay, so I have been crying my eyes out for the past 12 hours. Why? My baby is going to a new babysitter today, since Daddy has to return to his teaching position, and Jonathan will be starting Kindergarten in three weeks. One of those alone is enough to send me into a frenzy! As if Jonathan going off into the world without me all day wasn't enough, but now someone other than me will be cuddling my little five-month-old. The ongoing battle of being a working mom! The guilt, the longing, the need to help pay the bills!

Both of them will be spending time with a young stay-at-home mom whom I have been slowly been able to get to know. We made the switch from the daycare ministry Jonathan was attending because he is going off to the big "K" and I would rather have little "T" in more of a home setting. You know, besides the fact that I was able to pick the kids up one day when Jonathan was playing on the playground with no teacher outside and drove off, no one the wiser. That's another story for another day! Let's get back to me being a mess!

Let's face it, I do not do change well. When it involves my kids, it is even worse! I love working-at least the line of work I do. And we really wouldn't be able to pay all the bills if I were not working, but the GUILT sometimes just kills me! And the debate of whether or not I am making the right decision plays over in my mind like an old record. I have been secretly glad that Jonathan is spending the first few weeks with the new babysitter, because he is old enough to grill when I get home. "What did you do today?" "What did you eat for breakfast?" "Did the babysitter commit any crimes while Mommy was at work?" you know, the usual.

Speaking of which, I should really call in to see how the "drop off" went. Be prepared for a bigger mess in three weeks...in the mean time, I need to do some stalking...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Garden Recipes!

I love having a garden and my little piece of dirt is starting to produce some wonderful flavors! While I am still waiting for those luscious tomatoes to turn their brilliant shade of red, I have been delighted with the farmer's market 's crop of romaine lettuce and summer squash. I am in love with my latest salad creation! It isn't some culinary discovery, but it is easy and very tasty!

Summer Salad

Romaine lettuce ripped into pieces, tossed with Light Italian dressing, topped with dried cranberries and pecan pieces.

I prepared this salad for some mommy friends who recently had babies and got rave reviews back. Along with it, I prepared this yummy pasta dish that is meant to be a freezer dish--but works well as a meal meant to feed more than one family.

Ham and Cheese Penne

2 boxes of penne noodles

1 cup butter or margarine

4 cloves of minced garlic

2 tsp salt

8 cups milk (I use skim)

2 tsp Dijon mustard

8 cups of shredded Colby cheese (I buy it in a block, then shred it myself to save money)

16 oz of deli ham, cut into thin strips

*This makes (2) 13 X 9 casseroles

In a really large pot, cook the pasta according to the box directions and drain it. Clean the pot so that you can use it again. In a large skillet, melt the butter and roast the garlic. Add the flour and salt, whisking continuously. Place the mixture back into the large pot. This is easier than trying to find a skillet deep enough to hold the milk.

Cook over medium heat until all the lumps are gone. Once the mixture begins to bubble, slowly add the milk--again, constantly whisking. Once it begins to boil, allow it boil for about a minute before adding the mustard and cheese.

Continue to stir until the cheese is melted. Add the ham. Then the pasta. Pour the pasta mixture into the casserole dishes. Either freeze or bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes at 350.

If freezing, allow the dish to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking.

I have one more recipe to share...

Baked Summer Squash

While in past years I have fried the heck out of my summer squash, this year I was looking for a healthier way to get that crisp flavor. I simply sliced the squash into circles with a medium thickness, sprinkled them with seasoned salt, and bake them at 350 for about 10 minutes. I made this while family was visiting and all the children gobbled it up!

That's what I call summer lovin!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

31 Days of July!

We have declared July "family" month here at the red ranch! Since Daddy is out of school for the summer, but Mommy used all of her vacation time for her maternity leave, we decided to make a list of things we wanted to make sure we do this summer that were easy and close by...so here's what we came up with:

*Go to a parade

*Take a family walk

*Play mini golf

*Walk the trails at county park

*Go swimming at the beach

*Go see our cousin who lives in Chicago

*Go to the Ft. Wayne mall

*See the butterfly exhibit at the zoo

*Go to the train museum

*Ride the train at the zoo

*Go to the fair

*Go to Cedar Point

*Play school inside (I think this one is soo cute!)

*Pick blueberries

*See fireworks

I think that is a pretty good list! I made out a calendar and made sure to schedule the activities for a certain day so that we are more likely to stick to the plan. I made sure not to schedule every day, however, because I know we would get worn out and give up...especially with the other things life usually throws in to make things interesting! I also figured that if we couldn't do a particular event because of inclement weather, than there were plenty of other days to get it done! So, even though we are calling it the "31 Days of July," we didn't actually schedule 31 activities. That isn't to say that we couldn't, however, because there are always things that come up that I had no idea about until a couple of days beforehand--you know, like a great craft fair, or a show the little ones would love to see.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How Do You Teach T-Rex Manners?

Okay, so my darling five-year-old was a T-Rex yesterday. All. Day. Long. That means that when he came to the dinner table, he wanted to eat only meat and only use his two-fingered hands to eat with. (Because, a T-Rex only has two fingers, Mom!) Needless to say, it didn't sit well with this "you must watch your manners at the table" mommy. I can't stand it when I see kids of a certain age eating with their hands. With the exception, of course, of chicken nuggets and french fries. I also cannot stand it when children do not sit in their seats, and on their bottoms. Getting up and wandering around annoys me to no end.

I've heard other mothers say that as long as their child is eating, they don't care how they eat. That is just ridiculous to me!

That is why I really take the time to try and teach what I think is considered modern day manners. I don't expect my children to be seen and not heard--which is exactly what was expected of me as a child. Instead, I want them to be polite individuals that don't push people out of their way in public, say please and thank you, and don't gross me out or embarrass me at the dinner table. So, last night, my little T-Rex ate with his fork...albeit he only used two fingers to hold it, but that was okay. And just because my son's favorite dinosaur happens to be a carnivore, doesn't mean T-Rex can't try something new--so the veggies were eaten too.

Experts say that it is best to model manners to children. They also suggest correcting them physically, not verbally, at the dinner table. That is something I will keep in mind for the future, because I do tend to get in the trap of "complaining" about behavior at dinner, which doesn't make for easy digestion for any of us. Handing my son a napkin will probably give him a better clue anyway than telling him fifty times to wipe his face.

It is not often I get to dine with a T-Rex, so it was a rather fun meal and I think we were able to watch our manners and still remember that sometimes a five-year-old just really needs to be a five-year-old. We left the stomping and the growling, however, for after desert!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Made Shepherd's Pie!

Okay, so it might not be a big deal to you...but to me it is a big deal. I have never made Shepherd's pie before, nor had I really had a desire to until I went searching for a recipe to use up the ground turkey that I had defrosted and was sitting in my refrigerator waiting to be used. You see, I have been trying to cook with turkey more because it is a healthier choice--and that is absolutely something we need to focus on here in the red ranch--but I often get stuck in a rut and can't think beyond my basics. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, Shepherd's pie is beyond my basics! So behold....the Pie!

Doesn't look so healthy does it? Alright, we have far to go on our healthier journey, but at least it wasn't made with fat filled beef! Here's the recipe (via allrecipes.com) if you would like to give it a try:


cooking spray
1 1 /2 pounds potatoes
6Tbs. butter or marg.
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground turkey
2 packages of instant gravy (although I used premade in a can)
1 cup water
1 (16 oz) package of frozen peas and carrots, thawed (although I cut up some organic carrots)
2 cups shredded cheese of your choice (that's where the low-fat cheese comes in!)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease medium baking dish.

Cover chunked potatoes in saucepan and boil for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft. Drain, beat and add butter, milk, salt and pepper.

Brown turkey in a medium skillet, add gravy. Stir often until bubbly.

Add turkey mixture to the baking dish. Next, layer peas and carrots, then top with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle on the cheese and bake 20 to 30 minutes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Our Kitchen DIY

I'm back! OK, not back to work yet, but in 3 short weeks I will be! In the meantime, I wanted to write a post about our kitchen resurfacing project.

For the last six months, every free weekend and vacation, my husband was hard at work making my plans come to life. Now keep in mind...we did have a baby through all of this too! Our 1960s kitchen just HAD to be tackled, however. But with little money to spend on the project, we made the most out of what we had. We did splurge on a new range to replace the old 24" wall oven and cook top--that's right, the oven was so small I couldn't fit a standard size cookie sheet inside! We also purchased new counter tops--which was the most expensive part of our remodel. I had no idea counter tops were so expensive!

We purchased a used dishwasher from a friend who was upgrading and saved a ton of money! Our "push to the sink and hook it up" dishwasher was driving me crazy, so this is my favorite part of our new kitchen!

The other issue that just had to be addressed was the fact that a line of cabinets were blocking the view to our dinning room, but we had an entire wall that had NOTHING on it...just a heating unit. A lot of older homes are similar, but in today's "open concept" era, it really dated our home. And so did the cabinets themselves!!! Just take a look.....

Small cabinet BEFORE

The "beast" that held the wall oven and blocked the view to the dinning room BEFORE...well, actually once it became my test cabinet for paint colors, that is!

Larger lower cabinet BEFORE

Counter tops BEFORE

Counter tops AFTER

Small upper cabinet AFTER

Sink cabinet side AFTER

The new view to the dinning area---complete with dishwasher AFTER!

I love our new kitchen and it seems so much larger!!! Not to mention, that the space is so much more user friendly! When we took out that line of cabinets to the dinning room, we extended the counter top to create a bar area, which is perfect for entertaining! And my oldest son can sit there when he comes home from Kindergarten this fall and do his homework while I make dinner! My husband and I can actually be in the same space at the same time too. Before, we would bump into each other because there wasn't enough counter space.

I would say our DIY was a success!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Packing It In and Taking An Early Leave

Okay, so my plan was to work right up until this baby decided to make his appearance, but the last couple of weeks--and days in particular--have been so hard for me. I bit the bullet this morning and told my boss that I wanted to start my leave on Friday, two weeks before my actual due date. Don't ask me why I feel guilty, but I do! But this week I have had a nasty cold and developed a bladder infection. It seems as if the antibiotics have not yet kicked in and I have had horrible back and pelvis pain due to this crazy infection. Coupled with not being able to sleep at night, and dealing with a preschooler-- and the thought of going to work seems like torture! Thank God I don't actually WORK for a living!

Why do we, as moms, however, feel guilty for now matter what decisions we choose to make? I am already 3cm dilated and 70% effaced, so doesn't that count for something? After all, my body has been somewhat busy! Not to mention, when I am at work, I have to suffer through stupid questions and some times down right rudeness from fellow employees. One "gentleman" actually asked me if I was having twins! Another "gentleman" keeps telling me not to sneeze, or I might have that baby...which is of course, followed by laughter on his part. So, you, see making sure I have all my ducks in order and having some special time with my son before this baby arrives makes a heck of a lot of sense to me! On the flip side...I want to make sure I spend as much time with my new baby as possible and taking an earlier leave means I need to return to work earlier. Although, I think it is crazy to think that the hard work of having a baby only begins once the baby is here!

Did you take an early maternity leave, or work right up to your due date?

Friday, January 29, 2010

50 Never Looked So Good!

Today is my sister's 50th Birthday! While she might not be too thrilled about me spreading the news of her age, I think it is a day worth celebrating--and besides, 50 is NOT what it used to be! Did you know that Julianne Moore is also turning 50 this year? She looks AMAZING!

The Cat in the Hat is also turning 50 in the year 2010...and who doesn't LOVE the Cat in the Hat?

Since there is a 15 year age difference between me and my eldest sister, we didn't exactly "grow up" together, but she certainly helped ME grow up and I have some wonderful memories of her throughout my childhood. One of those memories includes my 13th birthday, when my "big sis" didn't realize exactly how old her "baby sis" was, and gave me some pretty pink plastic princess shoes! They were about three sizes too small!

My big sister has always been there for me...no matter what! She knew what to tell me and when to tell me things growing up, like mom and dad really aren't as evil as they seem, or that boy doesn't know what he's missing! Most of all, though, she was FUN! She took me places my parents normally wouldn't--because there were just too many of us and not enough time or money to go around--and I loved it! We went to movies, the circus, the mall, the zoo, you name it!

The thing I am loving about her now that we are both grown women, is that she has now become the fun "aunt" to my son! Just this past weekend she showed up at my door, unexpected, and asked if she could take Jonathan home for the weekend. I most certainly needed the break, being 9 months preggers and all, and Jonathan was ready to go---after all, Aunt Gail has 5 doggies to play with at her house and all the junk food you can dream of! They watched movies, played cards, and stayed up waaaay too late--all the things I remember loving when I went to stay the night with her as a kid!

So, in the spirit of youth, and not looking or acting 50, I hope she loves these pretty pink princess shoes I got her for her birthday present!

Happy Birthday, Gail! I love you!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Whoa Momma!

Okay...I am probably one of the most modest and prudish people in the world, but I recently stepped out of my comfort zone to have some maternity pictures taken. It took a lot for me to come to this decision. I had seen these types of pictures before and there was no way I was baring it all for the world to see, especially at the highest weight I have ever been in my life, but then I saw some very tasteful pictures done by an acquaintance of mine and I just had to do it!

Anyone who really knows me knows that making babies has not been easy for me. It took two years and some minor surgery to become pregnant with Jonathan. It wasn't that my parts weren't working, they just had some serious issues. I'll save all those details for another time...but the point is, even though we were committed to keep trying, I never really thought that I could have another child. Needless to say, my hubby and I were elated when we found out we were adding to our family! And Jonathan was just as ecstatic!

That's why I have been cherishing this pregnancy...not only out of gratitude, but also from the perspective that this could very well be the last time I am ever "with child." So, that, my friends, is worth celebrating! I really wanted Jonathan to be in the pictures with me because I wanted him to know that he will always be Mommy's baby too...after all he has held that position for 5 whole years, and I know he is going to go through some adjustments.

So behold....the final product! Thanks to Tina's Photography in Walkerton, Indiana for the speedy, professional, and tasteful job!!

Now I truly have something tangible to cherish and I am so glad that I put aside my modesty issues to do these pictures. I know that they are not every one's cup of tea, but for me, it is a celebration of my little miracles!

Can't wait to meet you little one!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter Activities For Kids

Okay, so it is officially the middle of winter and I don't know about you, but these natives are getting a little restless, so I have come up with some fun ideas to do with Jonathan in the deep of winter to keep us both from losing our minds! While the new sled Jonathan got for Christmas has kept him entertained, we decided to broaden our horizons a little. Here's what I came up with...

Snow Painting

This is an easy and cheap form of entertainment. Simply find some squirt bottles you might have around the house i.e. workout bottles or old dish detergent bottles. Fill them up with cold water (warm water will just melt the snow) and add some food coloring. Open the doors to outside and let your little Picasso squirt his heart out on the snow to create works of art! We used the back yard...just in case our neighbors were not so fond of my budding artist.

Building A Milk Jug Igloo

Okay, so this is a little bigger activity to tackle, but after seeing one, I decided we simply have to try it! A friend of mine is a preschool teacher and she does this with her class every year and it is quite impressive!

We are in the process of collecting our milk jugs for this project. Luckily the one thing I have been craving with this pregnancy is milk, so hopefully we will have enough gathered to build a small igloo before the winter is over.

If you would like to attempt this project, here are a few tips:

-make sure to clean out the jugs, there is nothing like the smell of sour milk! Even after cleaning them, you might want to keep the caps on to ensure no odor leaks! And it adds a little bit of flair!

-Use a HIGH temp glue gun. This is important, because if you use a regular glue gun, your jugs will not stick as nicely and all of your hard will will topple into a pile of jugs.

-Get friends and neighbors in on the art of collecting those milk jugs...it will take about 100 jugs to make the size igloo pictured above. You can get away with using less though if you are only building it for a single child. Although the sky is the limit, if you build it, they will play!

-Create a foundation first by simply placing jugs in a semi-circle the size you want your igloo to be.

-Placing a yard stick in the opening for the door may help your igloo keep its shape until you have it built. Simply remove it when you are done!

Snow Shoeing

Something I haven't tried, but have been interested in, is snowshoeing. Our local parks department has a wonderful program that allows you to rent shoes for just $3. They even give you a lesson on how to put them on and how to walk in the them. Since all you have to do is walk, this is an easy way for the family to get some exercise in a fun new way, and to see some great scenery! Check with you local parks department to see what else they might have to offer!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Menu Planning

Okay, with the new year here and a new baby coming soon, I have decided it is time for me to take menu planning more seriously! I usually get pretty gung-ho about doing this every now an then and end up running out of steam--but I cannot deny that it will benefit our growing family if I take a little time planning our meals, budgeting for them, and taking advantage of that wonderful freezer in the garage!

In the past, I have thought that I needed to put "fancy" meals on my meal planner, which usually ends up in failure, because I NEVER cook anything fancy, and our families tastes buds usually don't lend to the finer delicacies. So, this time, I have included our favorites right off the bat and things that I like to cook, hopefully making it easier for me to stick to. I really wanted to knock out a whole month of meal planning at once, but so far I have only figured out this week. That's okay, though, because it will still save on our budget as we will not be as tempted to run out and get fast food. Not to mention I can plan our meals to what happens to be on sale in the grocery stores. Since my energy level is a little low these days, I am LOVING my slow cooker...so if you have any recipes you would like to share, please do so!

Also--I have never cooked for the freezer and I need some help! Anyone have any tips and meal ideas for me?