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The first third of summer is already gone.  Time flies when you’re having fun, right?  That’s always the case.  I feel like I’m digging in my heels, trying not to let one minute slip through my fingers.  The girls have been getting along so well and I’ve felt so peaceful about things.


To make matters worse, the school supplies are already coming out and I know what it feels like to be those people who start fussing about Christmas stuff coming out in the stores so early.  Quit taking my summer, school!  We still have 2/3 left!

I won’t say I’m sorry to see July, however.  We have a lot of awesome stuff coming up and even though I’m trying to slow down and enjoy every single June day, I can’t say I’m super sorry to see July peeking it’s head over the fence.

 

We are having a “clean out the pantry/freezer” sort of week.  I’ll probably buy some fresh produce and some odds and ends to make meals, but overall, I want to use some stuff up.  I feel like we get ahead of ourselves sometimes and buy things we don’t use right away and suddenly the pantry and the freezer are bursting at the seams and we still have nothing to eat.  It’s kind of weird.

Monday Spaghetti with broccoli.  Baby Bee requested this for her birthday dinner, but we had cake for dinner instead.

TuesdaySloppy Toms, oven fries and carrots

Wednesday Southwest Chicken Chopped Salad

ThursdayBelated Date Night Menu (if Auntie Awesome is agreeable) Steak Bite, grilled zucchini and roasted garlic mushrooms.

FridayPicnic at the Park! Smoked pork and other picnic goodies! I have a ton of pasta, so I’m thinking I will probably make a pasta salad.

This week, the forecast is calling for warm, rainy days and that means the girls and I will be in the house more than we were last week. It’s tempting, when the weather gets iffy, to end up in front of the tv a lot. I admit to being a tv lover. I think I could probably watch 18 hours of tv a day if I didn’t have kids or a guilty conscience problem. But, I want summer to be a lot more fun than just endless hours of tv and video games.

The girls and I made bouncy balls a few weeks ago. We bought our kit at Five Below (for, well, less than $5), but this kit from Amazon makes a nice amount of balls for the same price. It absolutely worked and was easy enough for Littlebit to use with no help and for Baby Bee to use with minimal help.

Our one complaint is that as the balls dry out, they stop being bouncy, which is a bummer. Even soaking them in water doesn’t restore them, it only makes them slimy,but for me the price for the quiet activity time works out to a plus even when we take the hard balls into consideration.

Ahem.

We’ve also been enjoying playing with kinetic sand. Okay, it’s a little pricey for $20 for two pounds and, to be honest, you’ll need two pounds per kid. I also purchased a tray for playing and some molds, which makes this a pretty pricey activity, but the amount of play and interest far surpasses the price. The sand stays moist and pliable. It’s easy to mold/build with. It doesn’t dry out and since it sticks to itself, it’s easy to clean up. It even tempts adults to play with it and the texture is just…different. I love letting it run through my fingers.

I’ll be sure to share more fun rainy and sunny day ideas as we discover them over the course of the summer.

 

But, for now, the menu plan

 

Monday Grilled steak, baked potatoes and veggies

Tuesday Smoked chicken, mashed turnips and veggies

WednesdayChicken Fajita Kabobs and Spanish Rice

Thursday Date night: Grilled steak bites, grilled zucchini and roasted garlic mushrooms

Friday Family Date Night

Saturday Grilled Chicken and Southwest Cornbread Salad

Sunday Baked General’s Chicken with Rice and Broccoli

I hope you sang that to the tune of “Piano Man” by Billy Joel.  If not, try it now. It works.

Kids all over the country are in count down mode.  Parents are too (some looking forward with happy anticipation and others with dread).  I admit to loving summer time.  For a couple of crazy weeks, I’m pretty sure I could even homeschool!

And, then Big Daddy reminds me of the million reasons why that wouldn’t even begin to work.  He’d start with reminding how much therapy Baby Bee gets at school (and how much she needs it and how much it’s helped her) and then would end up with him asking me when the last time was the Princess sat down and willingly listening to anything we had to say.

So, I enjoy the summers.  I like the challenge of balancing fun with learning mixed up with ample amounts of quiet couch time.  It’s perfect.

The weather here in Ohio is making us long for school to be out as well.  We’ve had nice warm days (with rain!  So much rain!) with enough sun to make a dip in the pool or the lake seem like a good idea.  The windows are open and the birds are singing and the little girls struggled with bedtimes in the daylight (over summer, I adjust them to a later time to avoid this and to try and gain some sleeping in time for myself).  Just two more days.

The Princess graduated from Middle School last week.  I was more anxious about her transition to middle school than I am of her transition to High School.  The Princess has already been traipsing all over the high school and I feel confident about her ability to handle the changes that are coming.

Last week, Big Daddy and I sat down the Princess and had a Very Serious Talk about her future.  I admit, I don’t like to imagine it much.  I mean, I want her to have it, but I don’t like thinking about the day when our home starts to stop being the Princess’s home.  I know that will happen as she transitions to college.  For a while, this will be home and she’ll be pulled to come back, but as her life expands beyond us, she won’t.  But, I don’t want to spend too much time wishing the Princess away.  She’s only 14 and we have four years to go (Only four?  Wasn’t she just four?  Wasn’t it just a little bit ago that her childhood stretched in front of us so vast and open and now it’s shrunk to less than a handful of years which doesn’t seem like it’s nearly enough).

There are so few summers when your children are at home.  So very few.  Just 18 and I’m trying my damnedest to make every one count.

 

The Menu Plan

Monday Flat iron steak (thank you, Trader Joe’s!), carrots and crash hot potatoes

Tuesday BBQ chicken, quinoa and salad

Wednesday Last Day of School Party (Pizza and Cake!)

Thursday  Crunchy Chicken Salad and Egg Rolls

Friday Chicken Bacado Casserole with Salad

Saturday Smoked burgers, pasta salad and corn on the cob

Sunday Slow Cooker pot roast with balsamic vinegar and onions, salad and some lovely bread from the bakery.

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.

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