Thursday, August 7, 2014

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle

I don't exactly consider myself a hoarder, but I have trouble throwing (some) things away.  Take this computer hutch for instance.

With limited space and no official office in our previous home, it was perfect for concealing computer equipment and accessories.  Once we moved to a larger space, I knew I wanted a desk for our desktop, but I couldn't part with this piece.

We moved it to several rooms before finally settling on the piano room.  It is now the perfect place for my crafting supplies and sewing machine.   I recently reorganized it to make it more functional.  Now it's time to knock out a few crafts!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Oodles of Noodles

Before deciding to buy the  KitchenAid pasta attachment, I decided to try an inexpensive countertop pasta maker.  I've seen a kazillion Food Network shows where chefs and wannabes whip up a batch of pasta and make it look so simple.  Of course I had to give it a try.  Believe it or not, it is SO simple:  time consuming and messy, but very simple.  If you can play with Playdough, you can make pasta.

I've tried a few recipes including the basic one that came with the pasta maker and Mario Batali's recipe found here.  Whichever recipe you choose, here are a few of my tips:

  • All purpose flour will work, but semolina flour works best for Italian dishes.
  • DO NOT rush.  You must pass each piece of pasta through the pasta press multiple times.
  • If you don't have a pasta drying rack,  use a cookie sheet elevated on a stock pot.
  • Cook pasta in heavily salted, boiling water.  It will cook in 2-4 minutes.
  • Although the countertop version is another piece of equipment, it works very well.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Crafting and Thrifting (Yes, Please!)

Well, I have been doing more than just cooking and eating.  Crafting is therapeutic for me, and I don't do it nearly enough!  I was happy to make this wreath for a dear friend recently.  Just going into Hobby Lobby for supplies has me itching to make another one for myself.  Sadly, the Hobby Lobby employees know me by name.  Even worse, when Baby Girl was an infant, I remember telling someone I was going to Hobby Lobby and hearing her let out a loud shriek as in, "NO!  NOT AGAIN!"  I'm sure it was just a weird reflex, but the idea of her protesting a craft run at 6 months, was  hilarious!!

Another favorite pasttime is thrifting.  I LOVE a bargain.  I've found everything from a silk necktie for a penny (it was priced incorrectly) to expensive formal gowns for $20.  I'm even known to repurpose someone's junk (right off the curb).  My hubby was out one night and rolled past these babies sitting on the curb: a FREE set of 8 iron barstools with two matching pool lounge chairs.  Well, we don't have a pool, but I couldn't get these loaded up into the back of my SUV fast enough.  Never mind the near rigor mortis that it caused in my arms.  With a few cans of Rustoleum and cushions from World Market, they were good as new.  All for my favorite price:  FREE!  I would totally decorate my entire house from consignment and thrift shops, if my hubby would go along.

Now, if only I could knock out a few scrapbook pages.  I'd be set!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer, Summer, Summertime!

Here we are smack dab in the middle of summer break, and I'm totally enjoying relaxing.  This is the first deliberately unscheduled summer in a VERY long time!  Our summers are typically filled with swim team commitments, day camps, a vacation (or two),  outings, and the list goes on.  In other words, early mornings, living in the car, fragmented schedules,  and Sonic.  As the kids get older and have more scheduled activities during the school year, the opportunity to "chillax" seems like a mirage.  This summer I just put my foot down.  It took the boys a minute to adjust.  At first, they were shocked that we weren't "doing anything all summer", but I had to correct them.  We'll be doing things, just not EVERYTHING.  I think they've finally come around.  Each morning, they hop in my bed and spend an hour or so reading, followed by chores and piano practice.  They have daily math and language workbook pages, and are allowed to watch t.v. after 3:00 AND all duties are complete.  They've complained their fair share, but it is what it is.  For breakfast, they fend for themselves.  Lunch is a quick fix, and I cook dinner as usual.  This was also a change, from past summers where I continued to cook 3 meals a day.  Luckily, kids are pretty resilient and smart. I think they can tell the difference in my stress level, so they're rolling with it.  

Now, I haven't completely gone off the grid.  I'm already planning our fall schedule and the logistics, including holiday menus and decorating.  I only have a few loose ends and I'll be set.  I'm just hoping I can get a better handle on things this year, because by the end of last year I felt like I was treading water.

Hubby is wrapping up a local project at work, and just in time he has landed a new gig that doesn't require him to travel.  That monkey on our backs has finally been lifted.  No matter how many in-town assignments he's been fortunate enough to work on, the nature of his work requires him to travel.  With this new company and position, comes a more regional structure (=no travel), a promotion and raise.  Bye bye monkey!

Here's what I've been up to since my last post.  I dare not ask myself whether I eat to live, or live to eat. Frankly, I'm ashamed of the answer!  

Side note:  When "Scandal Thursdays" return in the fall, we'll have to find another (healthier) treat to enjoy while watching Olivia Pope and the gang.  Weekly indulgences of creme brulee and molten lava cakes are just NOT a good idea!

Chocolate dipped shortbread cookies
Lobster macaroni and cheese
Molten lava cakes a la mode
Strawberry Cheesecake
Monster Sub Sandwich (poolside lunch)
Fresh Lemonade (school treat)
Iced Sugar Cookies (end of season football party)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chicken and Vegetable Tostadas

One of my favorite things about the change of seasons is the availability of fresh produce.  I love spring and summer produce!  Here's one of my favorite Cooking Light recipes.  It's even great for making ahead.

Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
2 ears of corn, removed from cob
1/2 red onion, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1/2 c. salsa verde
1 c. shredded monterrey jack cheese
salt, pepper, cumin to taste
10-12 flour tortillas
Cilantro, optional

Dice chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and saute in olive oil until cooked through.
Season with cumin, salt and pepper.
Remove chicken from heat.  Set aside.
Add  another tbsp of olive oil to the pan, and saute vegetables until tender.
Add chicken to the vegetables and stir in salsa.
Add more salt, pepper and cumin to taste.

At this point, you can cool and refrigerate the mixture if you're planning to make it ahead.  The mixture is also yummy to eat with tortilla chips.

If you're ready for dinner…
Place 2-3 tortillas on a sheet tray and broil each side for 1-2 minutes.  Top each tortilla with chicken/veggie mixture and broil another 2 minutes.  Top with cheese and broil another minute until the cheese melts.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired.  
*I only broil 2-3 at a time, because they will burn quickly.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why Worry?

I've never really been an "in the moment" kind of person.  In fact, my mother used to call me Vanessa (Huxtable, "The Cosby Show").   I was an adult, before I realized what she meant.  Like Vanessa,  I was a worrier and contemplator.   Every decision warranted weighing all options and preparing for all outcomes, even hypothetical ones.

As I matured and assumed more responsibility, my Vanessa-like tendencies got worse, before they got better. With more responsibility came more decisions.  Eventually through life's experiences came the blunt realization that, no matter how tangible things here on Earth are, we are not in control.

To keep it all in balance...

Focus on:
Accepting God's daily portion of grace and meditating on scriptures that reaffirm His promises.  I've listed a few of my favorites.
  • Psalms 23:4
  • Psalms 55:22
  • Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Matthew 6:25-34
  • Matthew 11:28-30
  • Philippians 4:6-7 
Obsessing, worrying and over-analyzing.  These behaviors generate fear and are counterproductive.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fashion Flub

Toss together 1 ratty hoodie, 1 screen print tee, 1 pair of grass stained jeans, 2 smelly gym sneakers, and  a pair of fluorescent calf length gym socks and what do you have?  A tween!

It's JB's uniform these days, and it drives me bananas!  We've been going back and forth about his school attire, but I conceded after seeing how his peers dress.  What I can't handle is this "get-up" when he's out with me in public.  A few Sundays ago, he chose to wear this to church.  Apparently Sunday mornings bring about various illnesses and ailments that interfere with how decent clothing fits.  In our mad dash to get out the door for church, I honestly didn't notice his outfit until we were walking across the church parking lot.

That started my campaign to do my own version of "Ambush Makeover".  Armed with a few pictures saved on a Pinterest board, we headed to a local H&M.  In anticipation of a growth spurt, I decided against a complete overhaul of his wardrobe.  I just wanted to get a few basic, staple pieces and accessories (hmmmm).    When we stepped into the store, the boys criticized and laughed at everything from the the house/techno music blasting from the sound system to the clothing that I chose. Honestly,  I laughed, because they found it so amusing.   As I suggested shoe options:  driving loafers, oxfords….I realized that I was out of my league.

We eventually left the store with a few items, including a nice pair of red chinos that (believe it or not) he chose NOT to wear the following Sunday.   I decided to hold off on transforming wardrobes.  Besides, the more I thought about it and perused fashion blogs, I got a little nervous about the possibility of turning my little boy into a chick magnet.  For now I'll settle for a nice shower and swipe of deodorant.  Baby steps, right!

But….you have to admit, this looks nice!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Parenting These Days

This stage of parenthood has certainly brought a new set of challenges!  It's kind of like Texas weather- ever changing!  The early years are physically demanding.  As the children get older, it becomes a mental and emotional roller coaster.  At the end of the day, I am mentally drained.  Something tells me this is only the beginning.

JB is now 12 and eager to share his wealth of knowledge on ALL subjects.  He insists on doing things his way, and taking suggestions from parents is way lame.   Although it was painful at first, he finally settled into middle school.  Occasionally, he has trouble getting himself organized, but overall he's on the right track.

MC has succumbed to the mysterious "middle child syndrome".  He is happy to "fly under the radar", when he's not quipping a punch line.  He's the creative type and quickly loses interest in things that he determines are irrelevant.  Let's just say he needs a little outside motivation.

Baby Girl is our little spitfire!  She has no problem telling you exactly what she wants and when she wants it.  I just had a talk with the boys about the difference between assertiveness in boys and girls.  I want to make sure we don't unknowingly affect her self-confidence with labels, so we'll have to find synonyms for bossy.

Recently I've  been brought to tears (of laughter) at the thought of parenting a teenager and toddler at the same time.  What was I thinking?  I've certainly relaxed a bit, on some things, and learned to pick  my battles.  I'm also praying, in advance, for the teenage years!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Be Efficient

As I've said in previous posts, I don't typically write resolutions for the new year.  I tend to stick with a theme.  At the end of the year, I felt like I should focus on being more efficient.  So…..

Be efficient 
it is…my theme for 2014.

By definition, efficient means capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, design or energy.  

I immediately felt challenged to make the distinction from years past when I planned to get organized, be more disciplined, and manage stress better.  Ironically, these qualities contribute to being more efficient; but, they can also add to the overall "busyness" that often stresses me out.

For me, being more efficient, means:
  • Letting my big kids handle more responsibilities (without micro-managing), so my time and energy aren't wasted.
  • Lowering extremely high expectations in order to set attainable goals with achievable results.
  • Recognizing that mental energy is as valuable as physical energy.  Wasting mental energy will surely affect productivity.
Being efficient is NOT cramming an activity, errand, or responsibility into every 15 minute block on the calendar.  

So far, I'd give myself a C+ in this area.  We're only three months into the year, and I'm optimistic!

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