Having been on a diet for forever, I was starved for something sweet. I admit that I used to eat a lot of "comfort food", so finding a way I could still do this and not gain weight has been a challenge. Fortunately, I came up with secret of packing little bags of Jelly Bellies, these great little jelly beans that really taste like what they say they taste like.
A Few of My Favorite Things is quite possibly my mantra. No I do not particularly enjoy whiskers or creamy ponies, but I have other favorite things. The order does not matter, time with my family would ultimately be first. Just a few of life’s “things” to help me get through the day.
1. Starbucks Refreshers raspberry pomegranate sparkling green coffee beverage – Yes a long name, but so worth every drop! When the school year started I had a 2-3 can a day habit. Kicked it and miss it dearly, but a can or two a week (mostly on Fridays) keeps me balanced and sane.
2. Mio liquid water enhancer - A few squirts of this fruity goodness enables me to get my daily water intake. I have tried other brands, but this is it. Our local outlet store, the Grocery Outlet, has 3 packs for $5.99! That is cheaper than the Aldi brand. Plus, I keep one on my desk for student use. The water
3. Speaking of Aldi, Imagine a mother of 3 young ones going into the store for 2 weeks of groceries, spending under $100, and getting out in 30 minutes or less…yes it is possible. Fresh veggies and meat, no which version of circle cereal discussions, and all without a mama headache. Ahh, one of my happy places.
4. My Kindle Fire. Not exactly the opiate of the masses, but it gets the job done. Read a book. Listen to music. Video clips. Facebook and email. It meets my current technological needs. Most days it an arm’s length away. It is kid-friendly and at its current $159 tag, a little easier to swallow if harmed when playing.
5. Pampered Chef stones. The best shower that I have ever attended or hosted was my Pampered Chef wedding shower. While the consultant demonstrated products, I crafted my wish list. Later, I welcomed gifts from the shower. Almost every item I longed for I received! Wonderful! Recently, after 11 years of weekly use, my rectangle stone cracked in 2/3 and 1/3 portions. Rather than replace it, I continue to use the two sections. It works for me. I do not own a single sheet pan or cookie sheet. It is all stone for me.
A few favorites I long for…
No not to win the lottery or a bigger this or better that, simple things. Items or experiences to help bring a little joy or ease to life.
1. Roomba - Our short-haired puppy sheds. With all hardwood floors, hair tumbleweeds collect in the corners, along baseboards, everywhere. How nice it would be to turn on the Roomba and have it clear away the cobwebs and sorrows. M has a friend that has 3 roombas! I have 3 non-robotized roombas, but they just add to the mess.
2. Cooking Classes - The Grand Rapids Cooking School offers many wonderful cooking classes, as does Food Dance in Kalamazoo. I long to take a cooking class every month or two to hone my culinary love. But young children and the ole pocketbook put a kibosh on that dream. Instead, I will continue cooking in the school of life.
3. Ultimately I long to hear my children’s whispers. To be able to giggle in response to a shared secret, swim in relaxation knowing that I will hear the squeals of joy or frightened cries, or hear a joke the first time, not the fifth time at ever increasing decibels. A Siemens waterproof hearing aid for swimming with kids. You may want to swim with dolphins, I long to swim with sound. When cuddling with my daughter as she whispers sweet sentiments, a ReSound Alera brings tears just thinking about its capabilities. Hear a whisper, enjoy music, hear my child as he/she recites lines – Yes please!
Share one of your favorite things! I love to read what gets others through their day.
Yesterday, daughter E and I needed some post Latvian school activities. Scrolling through my Pinterest pins, we randomly picked a few recipes and crafts using our available items.
First up, Nutella cookies. The recipe comes from Tasty Kitchen and it can be found here. Our cookies did not flatten out like the website picture. Instead they stayed like little Nutella truffles. Yum! My only disappointment was that the recipe does not make many cookies for the cost factor (almost a whole tub of Nutella). We used the Aldi Hazelnut spread. All in all, tasty and easy for a 4-year-old to make! The dough is stiff, so her petite arm bulked up.
We took a break and scoured for a family project or craft. Since I am constantly stepping on or vacuuming up Lego, a Lego village was constructed. Thank you to Our Forever House and the great Lego ideas Even the hubs joined the fun!
After all that hard work, it was time for dinner. While I made pasta bird’s nests with spinach and garlic, E manned the cutting board to make Garlic Parmesan Pull-a-part Bread. Special credit to The Virtuous Wife for the simple recipe! We always keep a few tubes of biscuits or crescent rolls on hand, ready for a last-minute throw down dinner. Carefully E cut the biscuits into quarters, nice math lesson, and tossed the chunks in Parmesan and garlic. She’s a cute little helper!
Later E sat with my tablet flipping through my Pinterest boards planning our next pin-up day.
A short time into our dating relationship, I learned one of my now husband’s biggest pet peeves. Stopping at a local Meijers for some late night snacks, he cursed something about the laziness of Americans. Not understanding, I asked about which element of laziness he was referring. He responded, look at all the carts parked a few feet from a cart corral. A few more steps and bingo, the cart would be home!
Since that day, I diligently make sure my cart gets parked back in its garage. Even when venturing out with little ones in tow, the cart is driven home. Sometimes that means carrying kids and groceries or leaving kids unattended for a moment, but the job gets done.
The Kalamazoo River meanders its way through our charming little city. What is not so charming is when the water level is low and from varying vantage points throughout the town you can play I SPY Shopping Cart. If only the town supermarket would have a quarter or dime “cart for hire” hub. Imagine the possibilities.
A year and a half ago we switched our primary grocery shopping to Aldi. For a quarter, a cart is unlocked and enjoyed for the shopping excursion. Most of the time, the cart is bone dry! The carts are housed in a covered space attached to the building. No wet, cold cart. At the end of the shopping blitz, simply return the cart to the shed and voila, out comes your quarter! Amazing, isn’t it?!
Imagine if all big chain stores started this? I am sure there would be a cost savings, less damage to parked cars, and not to mention the pride in doing your part. That quarter a cart, or in most stores a high school and college age student cart person, reflects back to more money from your pocketbook. Sometimes as we head in, a person will ask if we need a cart. A quarter is exchanged and I am on my way. Other trips, a hand is put up, “keep it” is mouthed and I head in beaming in mutual respect. I prefer to pay it forward, whether I received the cart for free or dutifully dished out a quarter, I pass it on. A quarter a day keeps the frustration at bay.
What a difference a quarter could make.
A few years ago we purchased this cookbook for our Little Chef. Along with the book, you receive 5 silicone baking cups. The book contains many wonderfully, simple, and delicious family recipes. One of our family favorites is “Fish and Salsa”. We use whatever salsa and fish we have available. This time our fish on hand was Aldi tilapia and mild salsa.. This is my spin on the recipe.
Preheat oven to 375.
5 tilapia fillets cut in 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup salsa
5 T. Shredded cheese
Layer tilapia, dash garlic powder, 1/2 T. Salsa (2 – 3layers depending on thickness). Top with 1 T. Cheese.
Place cups on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until salsa is bubbling. Serve in cups. We also use small baking ramekins sprayed with EVOO since 5 cups is not enough. Serve with a salad, sauteed veggies, or tortillas for a healthier fish taco!
Our two oldest each ate two cups and the littlest ate 1 and 1/2 this time. Thankfully I used 6 fillets this time!
This week my friend Sarah shared with me her friend’s blog, Short Stop. The first post that I read May the 4th Be With You had me at the title. May 4th was only days away, so Sarah and I began planning. Giggling like school girls and channeling the Force, we planned our galactic menu. First, let me share a little bit about Sarah. She has never watched a single Star Wars movie, ever! Not sheltered, just never got around to it. At our home, she has witnessed fierce lightsaber battles between her husband and my boys. Hopefully her girl E will be able to defend herself when she gets older!
My boys love Star Wars; Legos, toys, t-shirts, lightsabers – anything. So me telling them that we were planning a Star Wars night was like saying we’re getting a new puppy! Cries of when, who is coming, and do we get to watch the movie quickly filled the room. Getting the kids on board helped to have them responsible for all of the “decorating”, aka – spread out your Star Wars figurines, podracers, fun on the food table.
We started the morning with Princess Leia “buns”.
The May the 4th Be With You Menu
Boba Fett, Darth Maul, and Ewoks on a plate (Boba fettuccine with Aldi red vodka sauce and meatballs)
Lightsabers with Jaba slime (pretzel rods wrapped in bacon and honey mustard)
Dark Force for the adults, aka dark beer
R2D2 and Princess Leia treats For Leia, my kids made heads from the cereal mixture and put mini Reeses PB cubs for “buns”. Not the prettiest, but the cereal mixture (Chocolate, PB, and Multi Grain Cherrios) made them tasty!
I love planning and organizing family events from picnics in the park to themed birthdays. They are only kids for a short time and I want them to have amazing childhood memories. Too soon they will be racing to a practice or a date, battling teenage hormones, or trekking off to college and we will not have the opportunity to relish in their childhoods and live it to its fullest. This “party” was inexpensive, fun-filled, and most importantly, a memory maker.
Yesterday while the kids and I were playing the weeding game… What, you do not know that game? It’s quite simple, who can pick the most weeds in X amount of time. The prize is a happy mommy and a weed free flower bed. Win/win for all – the flower bed, an activity that involves all 3 kids, and mama gets to check one thing off her spring list.
While enjoying the weeding fun, we discovered a spring onion mega patch. As each bulb saw day light, I racked my brain for a dinner concoction to highlight springs bounty.
Sautéed Green Beans with bacon and spring onions
1 lb. frozen long green beans, defrosted
3 strips turkey bacon, diced
5 spring onion bulbs, sliced
2 T. cider vinegar
1 t. sugar
black pepper to taste
Saute the bacon and spring onions. Add in the green beans and cook until heated through. Meanwhile mix the vinegar and sugar. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar mixture and add pepper to taste. Serve immediately, enjoy!
The spring onions added a nice sweetness to the beans.
The green beans and turkey bacon were pantry ingredients from Aldi, my shopping haven.
Recently my mom retired from 25+ years as a church secretary. She has a gift for words and often used the church newsletter to express her thanks in a space called “Thankful Corner”. Now that she’s retired, I thought I’d use this space to carry on the sentiments.
My first recipient will be my wonderful friend Sarah. She is an amazing, beautiful new mom juggling a 13 week old and being back to work. In the short time of our friendship, our conversations on life, love, family, faith and food always leave my heart a little lighter and my smile brighter. Through our time together, I’ve regained my love for writing, cooking, and frugal living. It doesn’t hurt that she shares my love for Aldi. Every day she inspires me to be a better wife, mother, and friend. Thank you Sarah for being you, warm, smiley you!
Take a minute and send out a thank you to someone one who inspires you. Saying thank you is a lost art, let’s bring it back!
Like any child friendly kitchen, we have a snack drawer - a collection of goodies to tickle any taste bud or mood. The snack drawer has been under locks from our 22 month old since moving into the house 7 months ago. Many days I hear, “snack, snack” and get reluctantly pulled away so he can scour through the weekly items on hand. The child lock is because the cupboard containing the snack drawer also holds my can and baked goods. Some how I can see my little spit fire bringing me a can of tuna and demanding a casserole in return.
Recently the lock broke. The first couple of days were a constant battle of wills. His, pleading to open this container or that snack versus mine of resisting the urge to fix the lock. 6 days later the lock is still broke and I’m loving it. I am not lazy, just needing a little down time after dealing with teenage toddlers all day. When I get home from school with 3 kids in tow, my favorite moment of the day is snuggling and listening to their daily run down. Getting pulled into the kitchen forces me into the reality that the dishes are not done, homework is on the agenda, and the evening meal is still just parts and not a summation.
Now, little man rummages around the Mary Poppins like drawer carefully choosing the right item. Next he runs full speed saying, “Snack! Snack! Open Peese!” And I am left cuddling with kid 1, 2, or both, sometimes all 3, without having to break the warmth of our nest.
Our rule is one snack after school! If they are still hungry, they can have a carrot or apple. And if the tummy is still rumbly, then they help prep dinner and/or set the table to speed along the dinner process.
Snacks drawer finds (rotated weekly and mostly purchased at Aldi):
*items are organized in plastic shoe boxes*
natural fruit snacks
granola or cereal bars
100% juice boxes
homemade trail mix (cheese crackers, pretzels, nuts, raisins, M&Ms, mini marshmallows, honey nut o’s)
fruit or applesauce cups
raisins, dried strawberries, etc
Snacks via fruit bowl:
Fridge snack container:
*a couple of stackable plastic boxes*
cheese sticks or wedges
Save yourself a little peace, if your kids are ready, get a snack drawer, caddy, or cupboard.
A few idea for your snack drawer:
My menu was planned. All day I thought about the delicious burritos that would fill my tummy later. The ooey gooey cheese melted over the top, the creamy turkey and tomatoes inside, I ate a light lunch all in anticipation of the Mexican fiesta. As the ground turkey and onions were browning, I meticulously laid out the other ingredients. Wait, what’s this? Only 2 tortillas? How can I possibly serve a growing family of 5 with just 2 tortillas?! Surely this is a mistake! I searched high and low and found only a moldy, limp carrot. The little ones were growing restless and asking for dinner. What was I to do? 20 minutes was all I had left until the kitchen and all in it, would self-destruct. For a mere moment I played merry-go-round with the items until I had it…Mexican Lasagna!
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
1. 1 pound ground turkey browned with 1/4 cup diced onion (flavored with cumin, chili powder, and sea salt)
2. Mix in 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (Add in a can of green chilis if your kids can handle it.)
3. Bring to a simmer. Add in 3 Tablespoons of sour cream. Stir until well incorporated.
4. Spray a small casserole dish. Put 1/4 cup of the meat mixture in the bottom of the dish. Layer on 1 medium flour tortilla (or whatever flavor or size available). Spread on all but 1/2 cup of the meat mixture. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup of queso cheese (cream cheese would also work). Add on another tortilla and the remaining meat mixture. Lastly top with 1 cup cheddar cheese.
5. Bake in the oven until bubbly. About 8 minutes.
6. Serve with a tossed salad and salsa.
Please remind me to put a package of tortillas on the Aldi’s list. Actually make that 2. The oldest, plus the husband, gave it two thumbs up.