Home Life

Having two kids with birthdays four days apart was a really bad idea, not that we consciously decided to do it that way.  Whatever you do, don’t try to get pregnant the same month more than once.   

As a result of this momentary lack in judgement, April is crazy crazy crazy.  There is Easter and the grandparents visiting back to back and double birthdays to plan and shop for. 

We did try to down play it this year with just a small family gathering for Ian and a fairy extravaganza for Ada and her four closest girlfriends, but it doesn’t seem how simple we try to make it, it still involves a lot of stress and energy.

I would never want to deprive my kids of anything, but this is only going to get more complicated as they get older.  There has to be a way to avoid having to do back to back birthday parties for the next 10 years, as it is both emotionally and financially challenging.  Would I be wrong to limit them to big parties every other year and a family party on the opposing years?  It seems fair to me, but I don’t have siblings and so I don’t have an understanding of how that might play with them.  Anyone have any good ideas?

This last week, I was feeling very overwhelmed by the whole thing and being generally cranky.  I even had an angry day and have had a hard time sleeping, which I haven’t encountered in a while.  I talked to my therapist about it yesterday and she thinks it is probably just some emotions that were brought up in therapy last week (we had kind of a break through session) that I didn’t have time to deal with and process appropriately because of family coming into town and Ada’s party and such.  We did some work to integrate some of it and I feel a little more centered this week, so that is good.

With all that said, the look of joy on Ada’s face as she bounced around for three days in anticipation of her friends coming to celebrate her birthday with her was worth every bit of stress and tiredness.  She just beamed and sparkled through the whole thing. 

With Ian turning 2 this week, I can’t wait to see him realize for the first time that everyone is singing for him and dig into a piece of chocolate cake with reckless abandon.  Priceless!

Now, if I could just get rid of this kink in my neck.

I have been exploring new foods and ways of eating as part of The Gabriel Method.

This salad has become my favorite lunch.  It is hearty and filling, dare I say comforting, and chock full of nutrition.  It is also highly customizable.  Get creative.

When using the Gabriel Method, we ask three questions before preparing a meal.

  1. Where is the assimilable protein?
  2. Where is the Omega 3?
  3. Where is the live food?

The protein in this meal comes from the chicken (make sure to use free range or the chicken doesn’t really count) and also from the raw nuts/seeds (they must be raw – roasted doesn’t count).

The Omega 3 is found in the ground flax seed (grind it fresh for maximum potency) as well as the sprouted bread croutons. The sprouted bread I use is loaded with seeds and flax. Not all of these breads are high in omega 3. Make sure to check your particular brand and style.

For live food, I use organic dark greens for this salad as well as other organic veggies. I also keep a live basil plant (available at the grocery store in the produce department) in my kitchen window. This is a great way to add vitality to your meal.

Keeping an herb garden is a great way to increase vitality in your food, save money and add a punch of flavor to your food. Healthy, fun and budget friendly. What beats that?

Wilted Salad

2 cups dark organic greens
2 T fresh basil
5 medium mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1 T flax seed, freshly ground
3 oz free range chicken breast, cut into bite size chunks
2 t olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 t dried oregano
pinch red chili flakes
1 T raw sunflower seeds
1 T raw sliced almonds
1 slice sprouted grain bread, toasted and cut into bite size pieces and cooled
Your favorite Vinaigrette salad dressing, I use Newman’s Own Roasted Garlic and Parmesan.
salt and pepper

Pile the greens on a plate. Top with toasted bread pieces, basil and ground flax. Set aside.

Heat 1 t oil in a medium frying pan over medium high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and a pinch of dried oregano and saute until browned, but not completely cooked through.  Remove and set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in the same frying pan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent and starting to soften.  Add mushrooms and saute until cooked through and nicely browned. Onions should be caramelized at this point and garlic will be brown and soft.  Season with salt, pepper, oregano and red chili flakes.

Add the carrots and chicken back to pan until chicken is cooked through, a couple of minutes.

Dump all that on top of the pile of greens. Top with seeds, nuts and salad dressing.

Toss and enjoy!

Nutritional Information

Buy the book now!

Well, it finally happened.  With my son, it was only a matter of time.  Today after lunch, he took my half full coffee cup off the table and poured it on my brand new couch (well, not brand new any more, but still, come on).  

I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  My head was spinning and this high pitched sound came out of my mouth. 

I immediately grabbed the roll of paper towels and started blotting.  The phone was sitting right there, so I called Karli to help me look up what to do.  I was afraid to stop blotting long enough to look up how to clean it.

Now, I knew that the microfiber was easy to clean.  That’s one of the reasons we went that way.  With kids, there always seems to be some small smear of something or other littering the couch cushions.  These wipe away with a damp sponge in just a couple of seconds.  But a whole cup of coffee?  I was sure we were doomed.

There was lots of advice available very easily online.  What we found is that microfiber can be cleaned with almost anything.  But Karli found a great little trick and I actually remember somebody telling me this also.  Wet Wipes.  Who woulda thunk it? 

Worked like a charm.  The stain is completely gone, like it never was there in the first place.  My only concern now is with the cushion underneath.  There is a faint smell of coffee surrounding the couch, but that will fade I’m sure.  Right?

The cushion cover unzips, but I am worried I won’t be able to get the cushion back in right and I am also not sure what I would do when I got there.  Maybe when I am done writing this, I will take a closer look.

I know that this wasn’t really his fault.  I definitely shouldn’t have left a cup of coffee anywhere he could reach it.  But at what point is this kind of thing going to slow down.  I know it won’t stop for a long while, but I feel like all I do is chase after him from one thing he knows he’s not supposed to do to another.  When does just a little bit of impulse control kick in?  

He knows what he is doing is wrong.  He runs runs away as soon as he sees me coming and knows to wait until I leave the room before doing these things.  He has a set of them:  the phone, the remotes, any food or drink available, the puzzle/game cabinet, my china cabinet, the computer, my laptop, grabbing anything he can reach off the counter etc.  I do the best I can to cover all my bases and watch him as closely as I can, but sometimes you have to pee or wash a dish or answer the phone or make lunch.  

I have put up gates everywhere I can and the tops of anything high I own are overflowing with stuff I have tried to get out of the way.

It all just makes me so tired.  I am definitely ready for whatever the next stage is because this one is getting old.  It was hard to see past it to the cuteness today, which is usually my way back.

Ok, Ok.  I know.  Here is another one of those recipes that came out of the what’s in the pantry moment, but surprisingly it is really warm and comfy and the kids could not get enough of it, so I thought I would share.

I promise I cook more than these wacky on a whim recipes, but they seem fun to share and I’m not going to share all my best stuff, gotta come to dinner for the really good stuff.  Who knows, someday I may want to write a cookbook.

Ooey Gooey Mexi Casserole

6 servings

  • 2 c.  cooked brown rice
  • 2 T   light ranch dressing
  • 1/4 c   fat free sour cream
  • 1 can   fat free refried beans
  • 1 can  diced green chilies
  • 1/2 lb pork loin roast
  • 3 T   taco seasoning
  • 2/3   cup enchilada sauce
  • 3/4   cup cheddar cheese, shredded

While the rice is cooking, prepare taco meat.   See my taco seasoning recipe for guidance if you need it.

Spread the rice on the bottom of a baking dish.

Mix the ranch dressing and sour cream together and then spread over the rice.   It will be a very thin layer.

The Big Book of Casseroles

This recipe will repeat the spread this out over…  routine several times and sometimes it is easier said than done.  I find that if I spoon out small spoonfuls out across the pan and then squish down or spread as best I can that it works out just fine.  With this dish it simply just doesn’t make much difference how pretty it looks because it isn’t really going to hold its form very well out of the pan anyway.

Spread the refried beans over the rice and sour cream mix.

Sprinkle/spread the green chilies

Spread out the taco meat

Pour the enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or so until heated through. It may bubble around the edges, but also may not, depending on what size of pan you use and how the sauce gets distributed.

Nutritional Information

If you have access to bulk seasonings anywhere near you, then there is no reason to buy packaged taco seasoning or really any packaged seasonings.  Bulk seasonings are so cheap.  It is even worth making a separate trip to a store that you don’t do your regular shopping at just to buy bulk seasonings if that is necessary. You will save a ton of money, I mean a ton.

Herbs and Spices

Anyway, I make my own taco seasoning as I go.  I just toss some spices into the pan with the meat, add a little water and let it stew, just like you would with taco seasoning you buy in a packet.   The best part?  Less salt, no weird chemicals and fresh spices provide more flavor.

Taco Seasoning

This is enough for a pound of meat and works well for any kind of meat you want to use – ground beef, chicken, pork etc.   This is a great way to use leftover meat, by the way.

2 T chili powder
1 T salt   – you can always use less and I recommend starting with less so that you get the right flavor for you.
1 T garlic powder
1 t cumin
1 t onion powder
couple of shakes of hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper

Just put all of this in with your meat, add a little water (1/4 cup or so) and turn on, cook until cooked through, water is gone and spices are well incorporated. I tend to add a little more water later and stew for a little bit while I prep the rest of the meal, but this isn’t necessary. If your meat is raw, you may want to brown it first, but I really only do this with ground beef so I can pour off any excess fat.

The  December issue of Cooking Light
this very cool new product was highlighted.

Now, I haven’t tried it, but since I am such an advocate of making your own baby food and I thought this was something I would have loved to have, I just had to mention it. It is simply a very innovative and mention worthy new product. I love it when people think outside the box.

The Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker is the latest in baby food mills.

What’s different about this one is that you can put the food in and steam it and then when it is finished cooking, turn the blender on and blend it to the desired consistency right in the same container. You can also use it to defrost or warm the baby food when your done.

The one thing that stands out as a flaw in this product is the small bowl size (2.5 cups) If you wanted to make big batches to freeze, this could be a hinderance. But, if Super Baby Food or The Sneaky Chef is your thing, then this just may be the perfect new gadget for you.

More Baby Puree Recipe Books


This is yet another crazy recipe that I came up with while digging through the cupboards looking for something to eat.  Nothing fancy, but a great way to use up the little bits of vegetables that collect in the produce drawer.  You can substitute any veggies or meat that you like into this recipe and it would also be great with leftover roasted potatoes instead of  rice.  

Hearty Chicken and Rice Bowl

1. t olive oil
1 Chicken breast, cubed
3/4 C. Cramini Mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 pinch dried oregano
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 pinch each salt and pepper
3/4 C.  Cramini Mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 C.  Onion, chopped
1 Carrot, sliced
3 T Cilantro, chopped
1 C. Cooked Brown Rice
1/2 C.  Prepared Brown Gravy
salt and pepper to taste

Don’t forget to cook your rice (I seem to forget to do this more than I would like.  I can’t count the times we ate stir-fry with no rice because I forgot to put it in to cook, rice can take a while.).

Prepare or heat gravy in a small pan while preparing the rest of the recipe.  I just use a packet, but you could make it from scratch, use leftover from a previous meal or prepared in a jar.  Doesn’t really matter what you use, just make sure it is hot before the meat and veggies are done.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. 

Add Chicken Breast and Mushrooms along with oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Cook for a few minutes until the chicken and mushrooms are cooked through and nicely browned.

Add Onion and Carrot and continue to cook for another minute or two just until the cold crunchy rawness is gone, you want these crisp still.

For each serving, put 1/2 the rice in the bottom of a good sized bowl.  Add 1/2 the chicken and veggie mixture and top with 1/2 the gravy.  Sprinkle 1/2 the cilantro on top.

You can season with a little more salt and pepper if needed.

I have to admit that I thought this recipe would be lower calorie than it is seeing as it is just rice and vegetables and chicken breast. I guess it’s not too bad and it does get a good grade (A-) for being low in fat and sugar and high in nutrients. It is a one bowl meal so for a hearty, warm and really satisfying bowl of food, the calories are pretty reasonable.  

It is high in sodium so if you are watching that you may want to substitute reduced low sodium beef broth for the gravy as that is where the salt is concentrated. This would reduce the calories a bit as well. Not sure how good it will taste as I haven’t tried it, but it should be pretty good.   I would reduce the broth down a little before serving to concentrate the flavor.  I will give it a try and post an update sometime soon.

Nutritional Information for this recipe

Every mom is constantly trying to sneak more veggies into the kid’s diet, right? Well,  my mother in law inspired me last time we visited her and the outcome was this delicious mini meatball recipe that my kids love and is full of veggie goodness.  I think they are great too and usually make myself an extra one to snack on when I cook them for the kids.  They would even make a great burger.

I don’t worry terribly about the amount of fat my kids intake in a meal like this, because they are light eaters and  eat a pretty healthy, well balanced diet so a little fat is still good for them and these meatballs are very tasty the way they are.  But, if it looks a little fatty for you or your kids, then I would suggest  cutting the sausage in half and upping the amount of lean meat.  I wouldn’t suggest cutting the sausage all together though as it is integral to the flavor and really what makes them so palatable for the kids.

This is a good sized recipe and will make 20-40 meatballs, depending on size.  This is the best part though.  After cooking them, lay them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer and put them in the freezer for an hour to overnight and then put all the little meatballs in a gallon freezer bag.  You can then take out the desired amount and heat them in the microwave.  30 seconds on high, turn, then another 30 seconds on high.

This is best made using a food processor. If you don’t own one, look to the bottom of this article for notes on making them by hand.

Hide-a-Veggie Meatball Recipe

1 lb. Very lean ground beef or ground turkey (both are equally good)
1 lb. ground pork sausage
1 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
2 medium carrots or 2 handfuls of baby carrots, cut into chunks
1 small onion, cut into chunks (about 1/2 cup or so)
2 cloves of garlic
2 slices of whole wheat bread (or any other kind of bread), regular sized slices not large – adjust for larger slices.
1 egg
1 t dry Italian seasoning (or a smidge each of oregan0, basil, thyme and/or rosemary, whatever you have is totally fine)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Put everything but the meat into the food processor and blend until very small bits, but not too much. Add the meat and mix until everything is well incorporated.

Pinch off small balls, roll them a little in your palm and place them in a large frying pan (oven safe only) in a single layer. Depending on how big of pan you have, you may have to do two batches.

Preheat the oven to 400F

Place the pan over medium heat and cook the meatballs until they are nicely browned on one side. Turn each meatball over using a pair of
tongs
and brown on the other side.

Take the pan and place it in the oven. Bake the meatballs until they are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Remove and serve.

Remember to freeze any leftovers for an easy quick meal at a later time.

cuisinart_food_processor

If you don’t have a food processor, you can easily make these by hand in a large mixing bowl, it will just be a little more work.

The carrots, onions, garlic and zucchini need to be shredded and then use a knife to cut those shreds as small as you can. Use dried bread crumbs instead of the bread slices, about 1 cup.

Add all the ingredients in the bowl and then mix well with your hands.

Proceed as stated above.

Nutritional Information –  Full Version
Nutritional Information – Light Version

Note:  Although the total fat and saturated fat is significantly lower in the light version, the grade didn’t change.  hmmm.

I know, I know, he’s only 18 months old, but it was still very exciting.  After the whole poop in the tub incident, I have been watching Ian for signs that he may need to go potty while he is in the tub.  Well,  he grabs himself, of course.  So a couple of times while I was still a little jumpy, (understandably so, right?) I would pull him out of the tub and put him on the potty, because I had read on some forum somewhere that that had worked for someone.

Well,  lately he has been wanting to sit on the potty whenever he gets out of the tub.  He is also a total menace in the bathroom and he is getting old enough that the bathroom can’t just simply be off limits so I needed something to distract him away from all the no nos in the bathroom.  

The worst is the toilet brush.  Those brushes are nasty and I really wish there was some alternative.  I have been looking, but haven’t really found a suitable alternative.  I am going to start using baking soda and vinegar and see how it goes though because I just read way too much on the chemicals in toilet cleaners.

Oh yeah,  Ian and the potty.  

I decided that I would buy him his own little potty.  I put it in the bathroom and now he has something to do and concentrate on rather than the nasty toilet brush and flip up garbage can.  It has been working like a charm for the last two days.  Karli even got a great pic of him brushing his teeth on the potty this afternoon.

CIMG3054

I wasn’t really thinking about him actually using the potty.  He’s very little still after all.  But, tonight after his bath, he climbed out of the tub and went right over to his potty and sat down and refused to get up.  So, I sat down and started talking to him about using the potty and how if he needed to go potty, he could point it down and just go.  

After a few minutes I was ready to move on and trying to distract him with all sorts of talk of milk and stories and jammies. I finally coaxed him off the potty and lo and behold, there it was.  A significant puddle. Frenzy ensues.  Karli ran to get a bite of brownie from the kitchen (they get a treat for using the potty, right?) and I wrapped him in his towel and smothered him with kisses and praise.

Ahh,  there is a light.  He will eventually grow up and learn to do things for himself.  He will eventually learn how to follow some rules and take to some structure.  

A pretty cool moment, I have to say.

Well, the living room is almost complete. All the furniture has arrived and we have moved most things in. We still need to accessorize, but wanted to live in the space for a while before we did too much. I need a couple of house plants, some throws and pillows and a new rug, but that will probably have to wait for a while.

I absolutely love the couches and having enough seating has made all the difference in the world to us. Having guests is now enjoyable, with seating for 6 or 7 comfortably.

We mounted the TV above the fireplace and I was a little concerned that it would be too high, but I really like it and we got one of those full motion mounts and I love it. It’s really stable and moves to be viewable from all over the room. The only downfall has been having to change the side of the table we eat at. Like the side of the bed you sleep on, you get attached.

Below are some photos of the process. We didn’t really catch the disaster that was our living room in its full glory, but it’ll do.  

Click on a photo to see slideshow.

CIMG2874CIMG2873CIMG2877CIMG2880IMG00010IMG00011IMG00009Pella's New CouchCIMG2950CIMG2949CIMG2948CIMG2947CIMG2946