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Ten years ago, we bought a kitchen table. We started out without a lot, like a lot of people do, and over the years collected handful of furniture. Some of it was the cheapest we could manage to fit our needs, some of it was hand-me-downs and some of it, we made do with things we came into the marriage with. I called our decorating “early frat house” because it was mismatched and sometimes ugly.

But, there’s no shame in that. Having an ugly hand-me-down couch is kind of a rite of passage…everyone should have one so they can appreciate it when they get a nice couch.

In 2004, we moved to Michigan and left our hand-me-down table and chairs behind. They’d seen better days. For a while, we used our patio set indoors.

But, after Jack nabbing food off of the table at dinner time, we found a bought the perfect table.

It was a serious piece of furniture, or at least it felt like it to us.  We still had a futon as a couch.

So much has changed since then.  Our poor table.  It’s legs are wobbling off and a few of the chairs come with “sit at your own risk!” warnings.  The beautiful color in the picture above is a thing of the past, as it’s been bleached by years of sitting in the sun.  It’s covered in marker and at my spot is some glitter glue in mardi gras colors that will not scrub off.  I keep it covered up by a tablecloth now because I can’t get it clean no matter what.  It’s stained, gouged, faded and scarred.  It was the first, nice piece of furniture we owned.

In 8-10 weeks, a new table will be in the place of the table above.  We ordered to our exact specifications which are, strangely enough, the dimensions of the table above.  Counter height.  Sixty inches square.

As an aside, why are more dining tables not square.  Square tables are perfect for square rooms.

I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see our old table move on.  We’ll save the non-wobbly chairs for use in the kitchen at the island and the rest of it just isn’t worth saving.   I’m glad, though, that we bought it all those years ago.  We’ve had so many good meals and good times around it.

And, my new table is so beautiful that it’s hard to feel sad about it coming to live in my house and can’t 8-10 weeks be gone already?????!!?

 

The Menu Plan

Monday Grilled cheese pull apart rolls with tomato soup

Tuesday Spaghetti Carbonara

Wednesday Grilled chicken, garlic parmesan orzo and veggies

Thursday Lemon garlic tilapia, crash hot potatoes and veggies

Friday Pizza Night

Saturday Homemade corn dogs and oven fries

Sunday best ever baked chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies

My first happy thing photo was taken at breakfast with Big Daddy.

It was taken at a little diner we’d never tried before (and probably won’t again.  It was just not good enough to justify the drive).   Big Daddy and I are in transition right now, I think.  We both feel change in the wind, but as of writing this, what that change will be isn’t certain.  It’s just there, rolling around and spurring deep “what if” conversations.  I suppose it’s a blessing that we both feel like we’re at the same place.  It’s hard when one of you is in a transition space an the other isn’t.

The premise of #100HappyDays is simple.  For 100 days, you post a picture each day of something that’s made you happy. According to the #100HappyDays website:

The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.

Aren’t we all reaching for that? It’s a simple project, it takes little time. You register at the site and then let them know which socia media platform you plan on using for your project. Then, you take a picture and post it with the #100HappyDays tag. That’s it. Simple.

I do see it working. There have been days where, as the evening was drawing to a close I realized I hadn’t observed anything or taken a picture. So, I looked to find something. It’s not hard to find something that makes you happy, and slowing down to appreciate it something I’ve enjoyed. Only 91 more days to go.

The Menu Plan

Monday Grilled Bruschetta Chicken salad and garlic bread

Tuesday Chicken and gravy  with mashed potatoes and corn

Wednesday Grilled Chicken (seasoned with Bojangles Fry Seasoning.  Not just for fries!), Mexican sour cream rice and veggies

Thursday Brinner!!

Friday Bubble Up Pizza

Saturday Date night (or maybe Friday will be date night?)

Sunday Broccoli Cheese Soup in bread bowls

On Saturday morning, we left sunny blue skies and temperatures warm enough for Baby Bee, who is always cold, to wear nothing but a t-shirt out in the morning…


…and arrived home to blowing snow with accumulation.


For years Big Daddy and I have talked about the move south and this was the first trip where I actually dreaded coming back home. I’m tired of the cold temperatures, the snow and all that misery. This pleases Big Daddy. A lot.

I’ll be writing about our trip over the next few weeks in order not to overwhelm you with Disney related content, but one thing I was looking forward to was eating at home. I’m tired of fast food, road food and all other food that isn’t cooked at home. I’m excited to return to eating Simply Filling and to continue to work on my weight loss goals.

Oh, and a brief preview of our vacation; our five park days found us walking in excess of fifty miles. I’m shocked at the number of people intending to do that sort of mileage (about 10 miles per day) in Old Navy flip flops. People! Take care of your feet!

And now, the menu plan

Monday Mongolian beef with rice and sugar snap peas

Tuesday Crockpot Chicken Taco bowls with Salad

Wednesday Italian Beef, baked potato wedges and veggies with dip

Thursday Slow cooker chicken tikka masala with rice and veggies

Friday Pizza Night

Saturday Chicken burritos, Spanish rice and corn

Sunday Mozzarella stuffed turkey meatballs with whole wheat spaghetti and salad

Once upon a time, I was very rigid. I don’t handle change well. It’s genetic. Then I met this guy and he was the opposite of me. Big Daddy believes in living life on the fly. Over the years, we’ve done what we do best. We’ve melded together. I’ve become less rigid. I accept change more easily and Big Daddy has come to realize that a hotel reservation and a loose plan is a great thing.

Last week really put this to the test. After two full week’s of winter break, we had two snow days due to extreme cold and poor conditions. I don’t mind that sort of thing. I like having the girls home but, admittedly, it kind of threw off my “rah-rah New Year” motivation and we ended up with two more days of Christmas break. Plans got tossed out the window. Wednesday dawned witha two hour delay. Baby Bee only had one day of school all of last week.

 

 

And then we woke up Saturday morning with no water and a canceled date night due to Auntie Awesome’s house flooding.

It wasn’t what I planned. I admit to being tense and a little on edge. It’s hard to roll with the kind of punches that mean you can’t do laundry or flush the toilet. We sent the girls out to dig snow into Big Daddy’s brew bucket and repeated the mantra “if it’s yellow let it mellow mantra” over and over. The water came back Sunday night and while the kids have a day off school today because of the lack of water coupled with a boil order, I’m okay. Another bonus day with my girls and since the weather will be mild, we should be able to work in a little unplanned fun. That’s a good thing.

Monday grilled pork loin, crash hot potatoes and salad

Tuesday Make your own grilled chicken salad

Wednesday Slow cooker pasta fagioli

Thursday Sloppy Toms with sweet potato fries

Friday Homemade pizza!

Saturday Still trying to get that baked sesame chicken on the table.  Maybe this will be the week?

Sunday Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic chicken (we opted to make store bought pot pies last week  to reduce the number of dishes we dirtied)

Buttery cookies and double layered cake.
Potatoes in the skillet and some that you bake.
Savory ham and pastry snackie things.
At Christmas time I ate all of those things.

Shredded pork at New Year and pretzels with cheese dip.
Shrimp cocktail and briskett and roasted garlic fontina dip
Have some more cookies and some chocolate pretzel things
At Christmas and New Year I ate all of these things!

Oh yes, friends. It was a great holiday season. I outdid myself cooking this year, if I may say so myself. Over the years, I’ve perfected the cooking process and we turn out some amazing food at our house over the holiday season. Last week, I asked Big Daddy to make me a mocha.

“Put in some cream”, I said.
“How much? LIke a tablespoon?”
“Are you crazy? No. LIke a cup.”
Big Daddy scraped his jaw up off the floor and made me a mocha, but now that Christmas is over, I’ll switch to fat free half and half. The tree is down, the outside lights are off and this week I’ll be packing up all of our special little doodads that made the house so magical over the past month. They’ll wrap in in the basement until next November when I pull them out again.

But, like half of the world, the New Year means that it’s time return to a MUCH healthier way of eating. No more cookies for breakfast, no more dip for dinner. No more whipping cream in my coffee. And, you know? I’m ready for that.

Last year, I had to face some hard truths about my weight. They’re still hard truths. I ended up the year down 10 pounds from my high in the summer. I realize that I could have lost more and maybe I should have, but I maintained through the holiday season and I feel okay with that. I’m ready to be done eating heavy food and sweets.

As soon was we get through that tirmisu in the fridge.

Monday Crock Pot Creamy Tomato Soup with a side salad and fresh rolls

Tuesday Crock Pot Sesame Honey chicken over rice with sugar snap peas

Wednesday Cajun Chicken Pasta with Salad

Thursday Baked chicken nuggets, oven fries, cooked carrots (I love cooked carrots!)

Friday Make Your Own Pizza

Saturday Baked honey sesame chicken, rice, egg rolls and veggies (probably sugar snap peas as they seem to go best with Chinese style food)

Sunday Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken, mashed rutabagas, roasted asparagus

 

I have one big Christmas task left to perform. My shopping is done and my house is decorated. I confessed on Facebook that I wasn’t sending out cards this year. Baby Bee has a Christmas party on Wednesday night and I’m room mom for Littlebit’s party on Friday. The girls will be out of school in just a couple of days and the excitement is sure to mount.

But, there’s one thing left. Something I’ve been putting off because we have no restraint and I want to make sure there are some left.

Yes. It’s Christmas cookies and, yes, I live in a house FULL of cookie monsters. Even the dog. She cleaned off half a cookie plate last Christmas Eve. She felt a little bit bad about it, but not much which is the general reaction around here. Sorry the cookies are gone, but I’m not sorry, really.

This week, I’ll be baking a batch of cookies every day to get my baking season kicked off. Here’s the awesome (and delicious) cookies I’ll baking this year.

 

Monday Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tuesday Snowman Cookies

Wednesday Sprtiz

Thursday Russian Tea Cakes

Friday Turtle Cookies

Saturday Gingerbread people

Sunday Sugar Cookies

 

I promise I’ll still be cooking dinner this week, but I bet we have dessert a time or two as well.

The snow is falling again, here in Ohio. The football game is on and the little girls are playing with the art set my brother and sister-in-law gave Baby Bee for Christmas. I’m in my favorite spot, right next to the Christmas tree and if I turn just right, all I have to do is swivel my head to see the tree and the snow in turn.

We had an easy breakfast this morning to see my brother, sister-in-law and baby niece home. Homemade egg mcmuffins. So simple, you really don’t need a recipe, but far more tasty than anything you get from the golden arches.

Soon, we’ll have to start planning dinner and I know just what sort of food I’m thinking about making. It’s slow cooked and warm. It doesn’t have to be heavy or rich, but hearty. Something to fill up your belly and warm you up to your toes. Maybe a something that seems a little fancy or a little more special than something you’d normally make. This is such a special time of year.

 

Here’s my list of dinners that are just a little bit special as we slide into the holiday season.

 

1) Beef Burgundy.  This easy to make, slow simmered stew is just a small step up from a beef stew.  This is very much a meal your Grandma would have cooked herself for a Sunday family dinner.  You can eat it as a stand alone, but it’s lovely over mashed potatoes.

 

2) But, if you want a different beef stew option, Guinness Beef Stew has been mentioned on this blog about a million times and that’s because it’s worth the time, effort and expense to make.  Drop it in the oven at the start of the football game and by the end you have a wonderful stand alone meal.

3) Chicken Pot Pie.  Use a pre-made crust and spend your time and efforts on the filling. Creamy and delicious, I like to add potatoes to mine.  Wonderful to adapt to any cooked meat you may have as leftovers as well and since the recipe makes tons of filling, you can put together a second pot pie to put in the freezer for later.

5) Potato and Cheese Smoked Sausage Casserole. This is not high brow food. This is pure comfort for a cold night. It’s bubbly and cheesey and a little salty from the smoked sausage and paired with veggies, is something that just about everyone will eat. Cook your potatoes in the microwave until soft but not done (if I cook four potatoes, I use the two potato setting on my microwave) for easy slicing. And, you get to practice your roux making skills.

So, my favorite day of the year is screaming towards us quite quickly. This past weekend, we put up our Christmas Tree. We try to get one cut as fresh as we can and a local place has some recently pre-cut trees that look amazing for a long time. We’ve had an artificial trees most of our marriage, but I really really prefer a real tree. There’s just nothing like it.

Perched in my favorite chair, it’s ground zero for Christmas tree beauty.

I have announced that I am parking myself in my chair for the entire Christmas season, so close to the tree that I can reach out and touch it. The living room smells amazing. No scented candle or bottled spray can touch it.


Our big Thanksgiving snow melted away, but we had our first snow day and a few more inches Friday, so everything is blanketed again and I admit to hoping that it will stay (or we’ll add more) as we wait for Christmas to come.

We have a very busy week this week. Our December obligations come to a head this week. We have lots to do and more fun than we can probably stand, so dinner this week will be simple stuff and feature heavy use of the crock pot.

Monday Crock Pot Chicken and Noodles

Tuesday Crock pot chicken Risotto with garlic bread and veggies

Wednesday Big Daddy’s Birthday.  Menu still TBD, but I”m pretty sure I’ll be making this.

Thursday  Cube Steak with Gravy, mashed potatoes and veggies

Friday Disney on Ice with our Girl Scout Troop, my brother and sister-in-law and Babyniece. We’ll have make your own pizzas so we can eat early and be ready for the show

Saturday Auntie Awesome’s annual Christmas party

Sunday Leaving this open as well to see what we feel like after the weekend.  We may be looking for something slow cooked and hearty or light.

Well, December just is.  The holly jolly fun is in full swing at our house now and today, a special visitor showed up at our house.

That’s right, Pepper the Elf has been assigned to us through the Elf In Training Host Family Program.  Our job is to teach Pepper what it’s like to be Christmassy.  Littlebit is up to the task. She’s consulted Pepper’s instructions very carefully had has declared herself to be full of Christmas spirit.  However, she’s pretty sure that if we touch Pepper, she can re-grow her Christmas magic, so I’m a little worried about her plans for poor Pepper.


Pepper’s first task was to find her Elvin brethren and stage a concert.  Since what Pepper visits shows us what she wants to learn about, I suspect lots of caroling around the house when the little girls find her in the morning.

Pepper’s job isn’t to report on behavior.  She’s just here to learn about how wonderful Christmas is from a family who loves Christmas and how to be a good Christmas Elf.  Also, like  a Gremlin, we have to keep her away from sugar.  I think Pepper is going to bow to temptation soon and get a little bit crazy due to a lot of excess Elf energy.  That is, if Littlebit doesn’t throw away all the sugar and candy.  She’s worried about keeping Pepper on task.

My Christmas shopping is nearly done and soon the wrapping stage will begin.  I have a few more decorations to put up and our tree will go up this weekend.  I think I may actually hit my goal of having a whole week before Christmas Eve to soak in the holiday spirit.  It’s my goal every single year.  A lot of times, I’m working right up to zero hour and I don’t like that.  I feel rushed and not very holly jolly.

Also, is this the comfort food time of year or what?  I think we’re turning into hibernating bears.  Over the THanksgiving holiday (I hope yours was wonderful!) we barely left the house.  I mean it.  I was gone for about 30 minutes on Thanksgiving Day, but otherwise, I came home on Tuesday afternoon and didn’t leave again until Sunday afternoon.  I also hardly cooked.  We just gorged ourselves on leftovers.

Of course, we got 7 inches of snow Tuesday night and the thick snow fall really made me want to curl up on the couch and never leave.

By the way, I made this amazing French Silk pie for Thanksgiving and it was a HUGE hit. It’s very easy and mostly inexpensive to make and I’d highly recommend it.

 

Monday One pot smoked sausage and pasta dinner

Tuesday One pot chicken risotto

Wednesday White Chicken Chili

Thursday Lemon Chicken

Friday Family Movie Night

Saturday Baked honey sesame chicken

Sunday To be determined, but I’m thinking something slow cooked and delicious.

A week ago, it did this…

And the thing about it that was most amazing was that, for a first snow, it actually stuck and we had some amount of snow on the ground for three days.  I won’t tell you I was disappointed.  My theory is, if it’s all going to be brown, and bare, and dead it might as well snow on it.

Baby Bee was certain that it was Christmas time and she’s stepped up her list writing in earnest.  Our steadfast little tree that holds onto its leaves so stubbornly looked beautiful in the snow.

Within a week, the temperatures had soared up to nearly sixty degrees and I got one more last wearing out of my flip flops on Sunday before massive thunderstorms moved through the area driving the temperatures back down to normal again.

And that is why my sinuses have been on crazy over drive.

I don’t mind the cooler temperatures. Cooler temperatures are always full of promise to me.

And now, the menu plan!

 

Monday Slow cooker chicken and gravy  with mashed potatoes and corn

Tuesday Pork chops with cornbread stuffing and veggies

Wednesday Chicken roll ups and veggies

Thursday  Carraba’s grilled chicken and creamy lemon linguine with salad

Friday Deep dish pizza.  I’m missing Chicago style goodness, even if Jon Stewart doesn’t like it.

Saturday Family Movie Night!!

Sunday Mashed Potato Pie

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