Monday, January 30, 2012

Hey, Mom, You Probably Won't Read This, But "Happy Birthday", Anyway!

I am so happy and grateful to be spending the day today with my mom.  Sadly, we have to spend the day at a funeral, but today is her birthday and we never really get to spend it together.  

I don't have any presents ready, I don't have a cake baked, but I am really looking forward to getting to spend some time with her on our car trip.

I hope that I can have as caring and giving of a heart as my mom, and I hope that my daughter and I have a close relationship like ours...
Happy Birthday to my magnificent Mom!  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Meal Planning Monday 1/23-1/27

Ugh, I'm sick and completely uninspired to do anything in the kitchen or anywhere else.  My appetite is "eh" at best, so making this week's meal plan was a challenge.  So I relied on the Pickies and their favorites with a few of my own, and we are calling it a week.

Smoothies and cereal
Sandwiches, crackers and fruit
Grilled hummus wraps, pineapple (mom and dad out, if I feel better!)

Smoothies and banana "ice cream"*
Mac and cheese, apple slices
Jambalaya, rice, cornbread, salad

Smoothies and banana chocolate chip millet muffins
Burritos, "ants on a log"
Spaghetti and black bean meatballs, salad

Smoothies and toast
Leftovers and veggie slices
Chickpea piccata with steamed kale, cauliflower mashed potatoes, salad

Smoothies and cereal
Leftover piccata and sandwiches for the Pickies
Pizza night with green beans and salad

*Banana "ice cream" is the easiest, most fun thing to eat.  You take bananas, peel them and freeze them in halves.  When you are ready, you let them sit out for a few minutes and put them in the food processor.  Process them until smooth, like ice cream.  Top with various fruits, nuts and sauces.  Who says you can't have ice cream for breakfast?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happiness in a Box and an Oven

I must have known it was coming a few days ago.  The oldest Picky was home sick (kinda) and I made one of the best soups I have made: Chicken-less Noodle soup.  I ate a couple bowls of it and sure enough, I am sniffling with a scratchy throat.  I can deal with it because I haven't really been sick for about a year (yay, vegan diet!) but man, now I want more soup.  But it wasn't just the soup that made this meal so extraordinary and sick-worthy:

It was all about the oyster ranch crackers.

My friend's aunt used to make these beloved crackers every year at Christmas time and we would eat bowls of them.  Now that I won't touch those artificially-flavored ranch packets, I came across the homemade recipe on my new favorite website.  And now I will share it with you.  

The entire recipe was not NOT gone within a couple hours.  
(please note the double negative).

Oyster Ranch Crackers
Recipe from Peas and Thank You

2 t. garlic powder
2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. dry mustard
    1/2 t. dried dill
      2 t. dried parsley
        1 t. salt
          3 T. oil (olive oil, canola, grapeseed, etc.)
            One 8 oz. package oyster crackers 
            (or any other cracker...even Gluten-Free!)

            Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
            In a large bowl, combine garlic powder, onion powder, mustard, dill, parsley and salt. Add oil and stir to combine.  Pour in oyster crackers and toss to evenly coat.  Transfer crackers to a baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
            The disappearing oyster crackers...picture courtesy of Mama Pea 

            TRY THEM NOW!  

            Monday, January 16, 2012

            Meal Plan Monday 1/16-1/20

            And here I am again, planning the meals for the week.  It's a lot like laundry; I think I'm done, take a good little break and then it's time to start all over again.  And then I think I can just make do with staples from the pantry and brainstorm ways to keep my grocery trip super low but that NEVER happens.  It's always those weeks that I have to stock up on vitamins, vanilla extract or spices.  But still, no matter what, it is cheaper to shop at Whole Foods then for me to take our family of five out a few times a week.

            Smoothies and cereal
            Lunch at Miguel's
            Teriyaki Tofu, quinoa, pineapple and salad 
            (I ran out of tofu last week.  Really.  Who runs out of tofu?)

            Smoothies and oatmeal squares
            Easy enchilada casseroles and veggies
            Chipotle-lime tempeh tacos, taco salad, fruit

            Smoothies and bagels
            Chicken-less noodle soup and ranch oyster crackers
            Grilled cheesy hummus wrap, tomato soup

            Smoothies and cereal
            Soup and sandwiches
            Jambalaya, cornbread, roasted carrots and apples

            Smoothies and banana chocolate chip millet muffins
            Burritos and applesauce
            Homemade pizza pockets (calzones), salad and green beans

            Cinnamon vinaigrette
            Sugar cookies (I swear I wasn't putting them off.  OK, maybe...)
            Ranch oyster crackers

            I'm still cooking out of my Peas and Thank You cookbook.  Although I feel that some of the organization could be better, I love the recipes and the attitude of the book.  They are very kid-friendly and the Pickies have been a lot less whiny at dinnertime.  And for that, I am very appreciative.

            Have you seen this new "Healthy Eating Plate" that Harvard has recommended for our daily eating?  What do you think?

            Friday, January 13, 2012

            My Week in Gratitude

            I have been meaning to blog a little more this week about the things that inspire me and make me feel grateful.  It turns out that I probably should keep a little inspiration journal that can house my sudden thoughts so that I don't forget them.  In reality, I forget a lot of them because I have a lot to remember between snow gear, homework and whether the oldest Picky's American Girl Doll has been properly tucked in for the evening.

            My Week in Gratitude

            1.  My littlest Picky generally dislikes trying new things; in fact, he will scream and run the other way.  I ended up making a Thai-style Veggie Burger (I was out of black beans for the black bean burger) and we strained our eyes looking at him side-wise as he actually tried it.  He did not prefer it, but he tried it.  And in my house, that is a miracle.

            2.  We had our typical monthly PTA meeting last night and hubby and I were dragged out to have drinks and snacks after-wise.  Socializing is good for the soul, especially when it is with new people.

            3.  The Pickies and I hung out with some new friends yesterday.  Love the promise of new friendship.

            4.  I picked up some new resale shop finds!  I now have a new sweater dress and a shirt.

            5.  My niece had her baby yesterday.  Honestly, it feels like yesterday that I was a teenager dressing her up in princess costumes and plotting the next Barbie Doll or bead set I was going to bring her. She is a lovely woman and I cannot wait to meet that sweet baby.  Babies are a complete blessing.

            6.  Knitting class this week was good for my heart although 3/4 of my project had to be ripped apart.  It was great to be able to chat with my buddies while teaching them the ins-and-outs of Pinterest and they gave me incredibly thoughtful Christmas presents.  One of the presents has to be made, go figure, but take a look at this awesome iPad case my knitting teacher made me (in full fall Amanda-like colors!):

            7.  Although this morning has entirely consisted of bickering, the middle Picky just belted out a rendition of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" with a full-on table drum solo during breakfast.

            8.  I changed my schedule up a little bit and was able to help out in the elementary school classes this week. It was really great because I haven't been able to get it together all year and the expressions on my little Pickies' faces were priceless.  It was a good reminder that a little bit of time (and effort!) goes a long way.

            9.  Daddy told the littlest Picky that he should hurry so he can see Miss Karen at preschool and he whispered enthusiastically, "Can I wear my green preschool shirt?!"  He loves his preschool shirts.

            10.  I am looking forward to ending the week with a date night and a pizza night with dear friends we haven't seen in a while.

            It seems that the things that made me the most happy this week had to do with conversations and socializing with friends, both new and old.  Maybe this is a reminder to take the time and nurture these relationships, even when life gets a little crazy.  

            Tuesday, January 10, 2012

            Making "Imaginary" Friends Real...

            I read a powerful article on Huffington Post last week called "The Internet Rescues a Family" and I could really relate to it.  No, I have never experienced a terrible gut-wrenching house fire like the subjects of the article nor have I personally had an entire community made up of strangers come together to help my own personal family (thank goodness!).  

            But I have seen magic happen through the internet.

            I have seen bloggers come together to raise money for one lovely local woman who lost her husband and the father of her children.  Pennies on a Platter selflessly set up her blog so that any advertising profits for a month went directly to Everyday Kings, a woman and family she had never met in real life.  If that isn't pure magic and kindness, I am not sure I know the appropriate definition anyway.

            Me and My Fabulous "Imaginary" Friend!

            While most new or expecting moms have moments of panic or feelings of isolation, I have had a fabulous group of ladies from all over the world to help me through my parenting moments.  Our "Stay-at-home Mom" forum has allowed us to help one another with normal, everyday stuff and has also seen us through very personal, intimate and sometimes painful parts of each other's lives.  Have we all met in person?  No.  But I did meet one of my Internet "friends" a couple years ago for the first time, and I am proud to say that she is as every bit lovely as the person on the screen and a wonderful friend.  Is it actually physically meeting someone that gives you a true connection?  No. It's opening oneself to another in any form.  

            Hubby and I were watching 60 Minutes last week and we saw a story about; it is a website that allows people to pitch their creative ideas and ask for financial backing within a certain time period. I already was well aware of this website when my two friends, Keisha and Kwaun Musical Ministries made a video asking for funding to produce a (stunning!) devotional album.  Almost 60 people came forward and raised $8705 for the extraordinary duo; $700 more dollars than they asked to raise.  All because of beautiful people who came together for a sole reason:  TO HELP.  And now these kind, beautiful ladies will be able to explore their dreams.

            I am completely overtaken by  kindness and compassion thriving in our world.  All it takes is someone who cares to have an idea, an inspiration, and the ability to nurture it with some hard work, networking and passion.  

            The world can be such a lovely place.  
            Even if it is on the internet.

            Sunday, January 8, 2012

            Mama's Making Some Meals 1/9-1/13

            Last week's meal-planning went awesome with my new cookbook, Peas and Thank You. The recipes were terrific and the older Pickies actually ate with minimal complaining (littlest Picky didn't complain; he would just walk away). All of the recipes were a hit and I even went on the blog and found more recipes.  I'm also repeating a few from last week. Good stuff. 

            This week I gave Picky #1 and #2 each a turn with the cookbook and three sticky notes. They each picked out a breakfast, dinner and dessert. They were really enthusiastic and you could tell that they felt empowered with their menu choices. :) 

            Blackberry smoothies and blueberry streusel muffins
            Quesadillas, tortilla chips and salsa
            Black bean soup, taco salad

            Smoothies and cereal
            Mac and cheese, apple slices
            Black bean burgers, sweet potato fries, steamed broccoli

            Smoothies and bagels
            Hummus, fruit and veggie sticks
            Teriyaki tofu, quinoa, pineapple chunks and salad

            Smoothies and chewy energy bars
            Grilled cheese, veggie sticks and hummus
            Chipotle lime burritos, spanish rice, green beans

            Shakes and cereal
            Bean burritos, applesauce, cheddar bunnies
            Homemade pizza, green beans

            Banana chocolate muffins
            Sugar cookies (sigh.  I am the WORST sugar cookie maker--EVER).

            What are you making this week?  Trying any new recipes?

            Thursday, January 5, 2012

            Oh Sweet Beauty...

            Hubby and I just absorbed this entire beautiful and profound.

            Words can be completely transcendental.

            I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily
            I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make
            Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
            The tools and gifts we got, we got a lot at stake.

            Take a few minutes and play this video.  Take the time.

            Aren't you glad that you stopped and appreciated some beauty?

            Wednesday, January 4, 2012

            A Childhood of Nonchalance

            It amazes me how easy children can brush things off like it's no big deal.  Hubby or I fall and we can't walk for weeks without whining and taking ibuprofen.  Littlest Picky, after seeing a "Wipe-out-like episode", runs straight into the doorwall and he cries for maybe three seconds (and hopefully will never ever EVER do that again).  
            What gives? HOW are kids so resilient?

            I lose a necklace, a bra and a pair of jeans and I search EVERYWHERE.  Under the bed, in the laundry, in drawers, behind the washing machine and I am so sad about my missing things.  Middle Picky misplaces his brand-new DS case with four of his games within a week of receiving them, shrugs his shoulders and says, "Oh well.  At least I have my 3DS and one game".  

            WHAT?  Why can they just move on without these items driving them crazy or walk away injury-free?  

            Thankfully, our children can get up and move after falling down,  with little to no injuries, but hopefully lessons will be learned (doubtful).  And maybe I need to take away some of the attachment that goes along with my material possessions and adopt my children's nonchalance.

            Ugh.  I guess.

            Monday, January 2, 2012

            Meal Planning Monday: 1/2-1/6

            I knew that I needed to start meal-planning again, so I used my new cookbook, Peas and Thank You, as a great opportunity (excuse) to test new recipes and feed the family.  I love a good cookbook and this one in particular is easy to read, funny, beautiful and has all sorts of little kid quips and stories.  I first found about this website and "Mama Pea" from this Vegetarian Times recipe (which was absolutely delicious!) so I am so excited to try out the other recipes.

            Oh, and a disclaimer of sorts:  We make shakes EVERY morning out of almond milk, fruit, chia seeds, raw protein powder and an occasionally veggie.  Read more about it here.

            Meal Plans Week of 1/2-1/6

            Shakes and leftover blueberry pancakes
            Sandwiches and fruit
            Black bean soup, taco salad and steamed broccoli

            Shakes and cereal
            Hummus wraps,  fruit and salad
            Spaghetti and black bean "meat"balls, green beans and french bread

            Shakes and blackberry cinnamon rolls
            Homemade mac and cheese, applesauce
            Spicy African Peanut Slow cooker soup, quinoa, salad

            Shakes and toast
            Sandwiches and leftover soup
            Tofu ricotta gnocchi (leftover marinara from Tuesday), mixed veggies, salad

            Shakes and blueberry streusel muffins
            Bean burritos, fruit and veggie sticks
            Homemade pizza, salad, another veggie of some sort

            I am feeling quite pleased about this week's food but the real trick will be to see how the kids do!  
            Is meal-planning one of your 2012 resolutions?

            Sunday, January 1, 2012

            It's Never Too Late to Embrace a Tradition

            Three years ago, we started a tradition that the kids now look forward to all year long.  I would never had imagined that a spontaneous change in meal-planning would produce this sort of excitement and anticipation.  On New Years Eve, normal people are probably cleaning, planning and shopping for parties.  Or heading out to bars wearing a lot of sequins and makeup.  Nope, not us.

            New Years Eve is the craziest day of the year in our house.  It is a complete, utter,  backwards day that starts the day off with turning around the pajamas.  This one hurt to watch; it just looked really uncomfortable. 
            The kids woke up, took showers and I prepared breakfast, err...dinner.    Ice cream sandwiches started the meal and some of us had grilled cheese and some had leftover Indian food.  I begrudgingly ate and definitely felt it mid-morning (I have to wait a while to eat) but I knew that I needed to participate.  The Pickies were absolutely pleased to have Mommy at the kitchen table in the morning.
            We then cuddled up and watched "Mr. Popper's Penguin"...which is a terrific movie if you haven't seen it.  I really fought every urge to do laundry, meal-plan, knit or do anything during the movie.  I'm glad I just chilled; the kids were so pleased.  We had our dear friends stop in, had our usual lunch and naptime, but then at guessed it:  Blueberry pancakes, roasted hash brown potatoes, tempeh bacon and a curried scrambled tofu.  OK, maybe you wouldn't have guessed the bacon and tofu part, but hey,we like it.  :)

            We finished the evening off with snuggling up on the couch with the dogs and watching the surprisingly-hilarious "Winnie the Pooh" movie...another good one.  The kids went to bed with full bellies and a happy heart.  It turned out to be a terrific day and it only required us to stretch our imagination a bit more and meal-plan a little different.  It was completely worth the queasiness I felt mid-morning after eating an ice cream sandwich and grilled cheese sandwich at 7:30am.  ;)

            Another crazy thing hubs and I did yesterday is that we unplugged from our phones and computers while the kids were awake.  This, in itself, caused me quite a bit of anxiety but then he said to me, "We aren't Amish; it's OK to check your email occasionally."  I don't want my children to grow up and reflect on childhood with a mother who was constantly glued to an iPhone, like much of my fellow generation.  And what did I get to do yesterday?  I colored.  I built train tracks.  I pretended to be a dog.  I watched movies.  It was a great day.

            It is never too late to start a tradition.  It may surprise you how a crazy idea can turn into something so sentimental and loved.  

            Happy New Year to you and yours.