Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Annabelle

I love the picture above. It tells a lot about Annabelle at this point in time. Our curly, blonde-haired, blue-eyed 3 year old daughter loves to play with her older siblings, wear what they wear, do what they do, and desperately wishes she were older :). Almost daily she'll ask why she's not four yet and how much longer it is until her birthday. She wishes she could go to school like her siblings, play piano like her siblings and go to sports camp with her siblings when the kids are off track from school. She's loving all the time she gets to spend with them over these three weeks they're off of school. It'll be an adjustment when they all go back, but she has gotten pretty good at keeping herself busy and entertained.

When the older siblings are gone, Annabelle likes to play with barbies. She can literally do this for hours. Sometimes she'll let Jane join her, but apparently Jane doesn't know how to play right so she usually won't let her play for long. Annabelle loves to dress up in princess and ballerina clothes and play make believe. Annabelle and Jane like to look at books, help mom cook and clean, exercise with mom and walk babies around the house in their strollers.

It seems to me that Annabelle and Jane have similar temperaments. Annabelle can both be very loving and sweet, she loves to cuddle and give and receive lots of hugs and kisses. But if you get on her bad side, you'll be in for a surprise. She's pretty feisty.

Annabelle knows her alphabet letters and sounds, she can write her name and many other letters, she can almost count to 20 without errors, and she knows many of her shapes and colors. Annabelle can ride a tricycle, she can get herself dressed and undressed, she can wash herself in the bath(though I always do her hair), and she plays well with others(except on occasion with her older siblings when she hits-usually Charles). Annabelle loves to sing and dance, just like her other two sisters, and she's very personable and friendly, even with adults which is a new one for our kids. Elisabeth is still shy around adults, even with her teacher who she's with every day and her piano teacher who she's with weekly.

Annabelle shares a bedroom with Elisabeth. Once we do our normal bedtime routine, they like to read together for a few minutes on Annabelle's bed, then Elisabeth will climb in her bed and read to herself a little longer with her bedside lamp; Annabelle usually falls asleep during that time. Annabelle doesn't take naps during the day when we're at home but if we're driving in the van in the late afternoon, she's out within seconds. Annabelle's favorite food is pizza, pasta with white sauce and apples with peanut butter.

We love our Annabelle!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jane

The next four posts I'm going to focus on each child individually and try and paint you a picture of their life at this point in time.

Jane is our youngest at 20 months of age. She's a beautiful petite little girl with very little hair that is blondish-brownish in color and big hazel eyes with long brown eyelashes. Even though she's small and cute, she's very able to do a lot of things and she can get herself into a lot of mischief. She can feed herself, communicate with words, hand gestures and facial expressions, she will eat dirt if you allow her to go into the garden, she can help unload the dishwasher(though things don't end up quite as organized as I would like), she can take everything out of a drawer or off a shelf before you even realize what's going on, she can climb onto chairs and tables, she can get on Charlie's bed and turn on the music from his alarm clock that sits on his head board, she can get up on the couch and piano(she either pulls a siblings shirt until they lay on the ground and then she uses them as a step stool, or she'll actually go grab a step stool and bring it over), she can sit and look through books, she can put on shoes, she can unroll an entire roll of toilet paper in a matter of seconds, she can sing and dance and even open the computer and get past the security lock! If you don't believe me, just look at this picture. She tries to be really sneaky about it, but I usually know what's going on because it suddenly gets really quiet and Jane is no longer in sight, and Jane is always by my side.

Jane is going through a stage right now where she wants to be held a lot and she wants mom a lot. This is fine some of the time. I love to cuddle and hold her, but it makes life a little more challenging when I'm trying to clean up a mess or cook dinner etc. And she's not very patient. Even though she understands a lot, if she doesn't get what she wants when she wants it(for example when she wants me to pick her up right this moment even though I've just explained to her that I need to make dinner), she'll plop herself onto the floor and cry and wail until well, until either I give in and hold her on my hip while still trying to make dinner, or until I can't take it any more and I ask her to go into another room until she's done crying, though sometimes that method backfires and she ends up crying even more. Usually she wins and I hold her on my side while I get other things done at a much slower rate. Even with this attachment, she does surprisingly well at her nursery class at church. She runs to class and then stays the whole time and is happy. But who knows, it seems like once our kids hit the age of 2, they all go through a hard spot in nursery.

Jane still has a blanket she loves. There are actually several blankets she loves that are all made out of fleece and have the ends tied together. She picks up one of the tied pieces, puts it in her little palm, closes her hand around it, and then brings that hand up to her nose where she can smell it while sucking her two fingers. Over the past couple of weeks, we've just started asking her to take her fingers out because even though she's only allowed to have her blankets at bed time in the crib, she'll suck her fingers without the blanket and I'm trying to get her away from that. You'd think doing this with three other kids before her, I'd know exactly what I was doing. But I don't. Every kid is so different that I've always had to approach it in different ways. Elisabeth was our longest finger sucker and she finally stopped at age 5, just before she started kindergarten because I told her she was too old now, going to be in school and that the other kids would make fun of her. I know that doesn't sound kind but it seemed like the right thing to say at the time. And it worked alright.

Jane is such a loving, sweet girl, but one who wears a scowl for a good portion of the day. I don't remember our other kids doing this but I'm kinda thinking it's because she's around older, but not that much older siblings all day who are constantly in her space and trying to do things with her that she doesn't want to do so she makes this face, perhaps to let them know she's unhappy, but it seems to be one of her normal expressions now. Hopefully that will change, I mean, it's cute for now, but I don't think it'll be quite so cute when she's older.

Jane takes one to two naps a day for about a total of a two hour nap period. She goes to bed around 730pm and wakes up around 7am. She eats what we eat and seems to like most things. When she wakes up, she'll usually hang out in her crib for awhile and talk to herself or sing. Then when she's ready to come out she'll call "Mommy!" over and over again until I come in and get her. I love it!

We love our Jane!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Injuries


Annabelle accidentally touched a hot pan with the side of her finger. We put ice and aloe on it right away, but I didn't know it was very bad until two days later when I noticed the huge, discolored blister on her finger. Poor thing. I'm hoping it'll just go away on it's own.
And my bump came back. It's hard to tell from this picture but it's big, red and about an inch under my knee. In high school especially, I would get a couple of huge bumps on my legs where I had bumped into something and they would be red and painful and would stay around forever. The last one I had before this was probably a couple of years ago. I hate these bumps and I thought I was forever rid of them but I think they're conditional upon a couple of things: 1. my health and what I'm eating(they get worse and bigger when I eat things high in fat and sugar) and 2. circulation...and I seem to have bad blood circulation in my legs when I'm pregnant...and I think a lot of this has to do with all the increasing weight I'm putting on my legs(If you're thinking, well you had this a lot in high school and weren't pregnant then...yes that's true, but I was also a little overweight in high school and that brings on bad circulation as well). Anyway, the bump got a lot bigger and more painful this weekend. Why? Because of Thanksgiving and the slice of cake I ate from the buffet and the apple pie and ice cream. Grrr. But I think this visible evidence will help me get back on track. If that doesn't help, I'm sure Miss Elisabeth will. She is keeping tabs on the family as to when each person eats sugar. If you have any sugar in a day she puts a big 'o' on your paper, and if you don't have any sugar she'll give you an 'x'. She likes to brag about how she has zero 'o's and how many 'x's other members of the family have. She came up with this all on her own :), and it's not a bad idea because I can honestly say I think twice now before I decide to eat something sugary or not because I know she'll ask later and I'll have to tell her and then she's going to mark a big fat circle on my paper. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Holiday




We celebrated Thanksgiving a little differently this year. Instead of cooking a Thanksgiving feast at home, we went out to eat at a buffet restaurant. I know, I know, it sounds kind of lame, but we'd thought about it for awhile and decided it'd be a good choice for our family this year.

We had heard from some friends who go every year to this particular buffet, that they have the typical Thanksgiving foods plus lots of other things which sounded perfect for our family. You see, it's just me and Scott and the kids in Utah, and my dad who was visiting for a few days. Scott's parents and siblings and my parents and siblings all live in other states and on top of that, most of us don't like turkey or meat, and the kids don't like mashed or sweet potatoes or green beans or stuffing or any of the traditional stuff so it just didn't make sense to spend hours cooking a huge meal that most of the family wouldn't eat. I don't mind leftovers for a day or two, but in years past, we'd have left overs for at least a week, sometimes more and then we'd end up throwing some away.


Our friends also warned us that we should go around 11am because the line is the shortest then, but even at that time to expect to wait an hour....and we did. We got there around 1130 and got in at 1230. The place was packed all day and apparently they are every Thanksgiving. And I can see why because the variety and all the foods were just great. Our kids ate free which was nice(two were young enough to be free and two had free meal passes from school)I loved the huge salad bar. The girls loved the pizza. Scott and my dad seemed to like most everything and Charles and Jane each found some things they enjoyed as well.

Later that evening Scott made a caramel apple pie and stuffing, and I made a small batch of mashed potatoes and yams just because I'd picked some of these items up earlier in the week for really cheap. It wasn't a big deal, we were probably in the kitchen cooking for half hour. I only made enough potatoes to have leftovers for a day which was nice. I really wasn't very hungry and didn't eat much at dinner, but the kids were ready for another meal and ate some chicken nuggets my dad bought while here with a little mashed potatoes. While sitting at the dinner table we went around and everyone said a few things they were grateful for. It's always fun to hear what the kids come up with. Overall it was a really nice Thanksgiving. And I wouldn't mind going to a buffet on Thanksgiving again next year!


I didn't do any Black Friday shopping this year; I think I'm getting too old for that :). But we did put up our Christmas tree, lights and decorations. I love Christmas and all the decorations and preparations involved!

(sorry the picture is awful; but this one is better than the one's we took of the outside of the house. I think we need a fancier camera to take pictures in the dark)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hair styles

We have more time to get ready in the mornings since the kids are off track. I printed off a hairstyle e-book and put it in a binder which I keep in my bathroom to try new hairstyles. Elisabeth has been going through and picking out new hairstyles to try several times a week. So far they've all turned out really cute. My personal favorite is a side french braid that ends in a bun on the opposite side of the head.

This is a double twist into a bun. I forgot to take the picture until after she'd slept on it all night so it doesn't look that great, but she loved it and got a lot of compliments on it.

This is a waterfall braid. You french braid starting on the side, but you drop a piece each time you braid and pick up a new one and then it ends on the opposite side in a braid. It's cute but next time I'll have to do it tighter because by the end of the day it had come out.

Elisabeth has also learned how to put her own hair in a pony tail and messy bun. Last week she put Annabelle's hair into pigtails. The front looked really good, but she didn't know you had to part the back of the head, so that was a bit messy looking, but since we've talked about it, I'm sure she'll do better next time. I'm amazed at all that girl can do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

16 Weeks

I had my 16 week appointment and everything seems to be good. Next time I post will be in three weeks when I have our ultrasound!! Wahoo! People's favorite question to ask us is, "So, are you hoping for a boy?" I thought I'd answer that now for all of my readers. Of course it'd been nice for Charlie to have a brother, but whatever the gender, we'll be super happy.

I'm pleased to report that I've been really good about my 6-days-a-week-1-hour exercise program. I haven't missed any days over the past few weeks. For now I walk or do the elliptical 3 times a week and I do exercise videos three days a week. When I walk, I make sure to get in three miles before I'm through which means I'm doing really brisk walking. But I think that even with all this exercise, I'll still gain quite a bit. Why? Because I've now gained almost 20 lbs and in the past I always exercised and I generally gain around 50. Do you know what that means? Over the past 7 years I've lost almost 200 lbs! Crazy! This time I'm also eating pretty healthy, but I really think that the weight gain and how our bodies develop in pregnancy have a lot to do with genetics etc. because my sisters are the same exact way. But I don't exercise and eat healthy just to not gain weight. There are SO many other benefits to living a healthy lifestyle.

Exercising with extra weight is hard. Try doing all your normal, challenging exercises and then add 20, 30 and 50 lb weights, and for an hour each day. It's no easy task. But doing that sort of thing is good for our bodies. It's good to strengthen them and to be challenged. It also makes the whole pregnancy better(less aches and pains, more energy etc) and once you have the baby, it makes getting back into shape a lot easier. Sometimes, before I get pregnant(since this is our 5th) I'll think to myself, "can I really do this again? am I strong enough? can I handle all the work involved?" and the answer always comes, 'yes, with the help of the Lord you can do anything that is good, and He will help you accomplish it.' And He always does. I know this is what He wants me to be doing right now and that makes me happy.

Other news in pregnancy....well, not much else is going on besides my changing body(the torso and chest area are where the changes are most pronounced and both require larger clothing). I haven't felt the baby kick yet so I rely on the monthly checkups with the doctor(love hearing the heart beat) to make sure the baby is okay.

Here are a couple of random pictures. Jane has maybe drunk from a bottle 5 times in her life and probably over a year ago. One day recently she was tearing her room apart which is something she likes to do often(she actually likes to take out clothes, toys, books, objects from all over the house and just leave them out), and she unzipped a bag that had a bottle inside. She brought it to me and begged and begged until I gave in and let her have a bottle. I was kind of curious to see what she'd so with it. It was so funny to see her drink from a bottle. I just had to pick her up and cradle her like a little baby while she drank. Since that night, we've put the bottle away, and I don't think she'll be able to get to it again. In the picture below, Jane picked up her bottle and it was dripping all down her neck and so she and I were making funny faces.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Off Track

The kids are off track right now, so I'll probably be posting less over the next couple of weeks. In year round school, they usually have several three week breaks, and then they go back to school for about 8 weeks. It works out pretty nicely.

Now that we've done this several times, we've figured out things that work well for us. First and foremost, me and the kids require a schedule. We need to be productive otherwise the kids get bored and whiny, they fight and mom goes crazy.

The weekend before we went off track, me and the kids sat down together and made a list of chores and activities and then we typed them all out. We have our daily chores which include making their beds, cleaning their rooms, practicing piano, unloading the dishwasher and cleaning up after themselves and after meals. Once their rooms are clean and they've practiced piano they pick one chore from the extra chore list which include things like, spot clean floor, clean bathroom, rake leaves etc. Once the daily and extra chores are complete, they may pick one of the activities from our list. If they want to have time to do these activities, they're finding that their chores need to be done in the morning then usually after we've eaten lunch we can do the activity. Some of the activities include making bookmarks, going to the library, going to the dollar theater, lunch with dad, making Christmas letters, going to sports camp, doing a craft, going to the children's museum at the church history building(we did that one today) etc.

Here is a picture of the kids making bookmarks. Elisabeth and Charlie's were double sided. Elisabeth put her favorite scripture on the back of one of her bookmarks which I thought was a nice idea.
Elisabeth knows how to make scrambled eggs all by herself and enjoys doing it. She's had more time to do this since she's been out of school. It is nice having an older child who takes care of herself and helps her siblings as well. (It was morning which is why her hair is unkempt. She wanted me to be sure to put that explanation in here :)).

Grandpa Garnica arrived yesterday and we're all enjoying his company. We tried to save some of the activities we thought he'd like to do with us, for this week.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin recipes

I love this time of year. I love baking with pumpkin. We've already made pumpkin pancakes several times this month. Love them! I've adapted a couple of recipes recently to my more-healthy-taste and both have turned out deliciously!

I had been dying to make pumpkin bread, and I have a good one that I used last year, but I didn't have some of the ingredients, and when I came across a pumpkin bread recipe from Blendtec, I thought I'd give it a try, making a couple of minor adjustments. The bread was SO yummy! Moist, perfect sweetness, perfect texture, all around a really yummy bread and one you can feel good about. If you don't have a high power blender, I suggest substituting applesauce(google it for sure but probably half a cup) for the whole apple.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread- recipe lightly adapted by Elisa Smith, from Blendtec

¼ C rice dream(or another milk)
1/3 C coconut oil, melted
¾ C sucanat
1 C pumpkin purée
1 medium apple, cored and seeded
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 2/3 C whole wheat pastry flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add first 8 ingredients to WildSide jar and secure lid. Press “Speed Up” to Speed 5 and allow full cycle to run. Add the remaining ingredients and secure lid. Press “Pulse” 6-8 times to incorporate dry ingredients. Using a spatula, scrape down sides of jar and add batter to a greased 8”x4” loaf pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes until done.


The next pumpkin recipe was decided on because Scott was craving pumpkin cookies(I, the pregnant one, should be the one with the cravings, right? We go through this pregnancy together :), but hopefully he won't put on 50 lbs like me). I found some highly reviewed pumpkin cookie recipes and then made some healthy adjustments. They turned out really good.

Pumpkin Cookies-by Elisa Smith

1 1/2 c wheat flour

1 c white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, softened
1 1/4 c Sucanat
1 c canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and Sucanat. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla to butter mixture and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet covered in parchment paper(this is optional; I like it because it means less mess to clean up after)by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly. Bake for 15-20 minutes.


Happy Pumpkin Baking!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In-home dates

Scott and I, more often than not, do in-home date nights, meaning we wait until the kids are in bed and then we have popcorn and a movie, play a game, or get take out from a restaurant etc. We love spending one-on-one time together and having date nights each week, and having in-home date nights makes that possible for us. Jane is 18 months and perhaps others think she's old enough for a babysitter, but she's a handful and I won't leave her with a teenager especially when that teen would also have 3 others to watch. So actually going out on dates doesn't happen too often, though we do go every other month when my friend(who is also a mom of four) can watch them. Sometimes we'll go when family comes to visit or sometimes we'll do a date with a teen babysitter but bring Jane with us, but definitely not weekly and many times not even monthly.

This past Saturday we planned a dinner date night. I always get so excited when we plan something that involves bringing food in! Scott and I love to get Indian food now and then and we hadn't had it in awhile, so we made home-made pizza for the kids, got them to bed by 8pm and then we had candle light dinner with Indian take-out. It was so nice to sit at the table together, just the two of us, not having to worry about getting up and down getting things for children. We were able to just sit, eat and visit. And we had zero interruptions.

This is my favorite Indian food ever! It's called Paneer Tiki Masala. It has a home made cheese, onions, peppers in an amazing creamy orange sauce and is served with indian rice and Naan bread. Yum! Scott usually gets the butter chicken which we think is the same sauce and it's also super yummy.

*As a side note, sometimes Charlie won't eat much at dinner time, but then he'll come back to the kitchen just before bed 'starving' and will eat his dinner at that time. Because we know this about him, if we noticed he didn't eat much, we'll leave him a dinner plate on the table he can warm up. On this particular night we left the rest of the pizza on the table since he didn't eat, and while we were reading scriptures(kids were in their pajamas) Jane walked into the kitchen, pulled out a chair, climbed on the table, grabbed a piece of pizza and sat there and ate it. Scott walked into the kitchen to see what she was doing and said, "Elisa, come look at your daughter." I thought it was cute(even though we've been trying to teach her not to get on the table), so I took a picture :).
By the way, my family is obsessed with this pizza dough recipe. It's the one in my recipe section called sourdough spelt pizza, though I actually don't do the sourdough part, and sometimes I use half wheat or all wheat. We cook it on the pizza stone and it rises perfectly, has the perfect amount of crisp on the bottom of the crust(maybe because of the pizza stone) and the top is soft and so delicious. And this dough recipe makes three pizzas so I can freeze the crust and it turns out wonderfully later.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

14 Weeks

My goal is to do a pregnancy update every 2 weeks. So here I am at 14 weeks. Over the past two weeks things have definitely improved. I feel SO much better. I wouldn't say I feel the same as I did before I was pregnant, but I'm sure that won't happen until a few months after the baby arrives :). I'm generally not nauseous anymore, though every once in awhile, if it's been too long since I've eaten, I'll start to feel yucky. And unfortunately, because of the months when I was sick and had to eat all the time, I'm positive my stomach has grown so I feel like I'm hungrier more often than normal.

I think I mentioned last time that I've already gained 10 pounds. I haven't gained anymore in the past two weeks which is a good thing :). I have also committed to exercising 6 days a week, an hour each day. So far I'm five out of six days, and the one day I didn't get my hour in, I was able to do half hour but that day was just crazy busy with volunteering at school and babysitting and getting food ready for a talent show that evening for our ward. I didn't even get to my exercise until all the kids were in bed, probably around 9pm. It is so much harder for me to exercise at night than in the morning; at night my body is exhausted, and when I'm pregnant, that just intensifies and for some reason my knee started bothering me a little too; but I'm sure it was because my body was tired from all the 'going' that day because it was fine again in the morning.

Other news in pregnancy is that I've recently taken out my maternity clothes and put away some of my clothes that are already too small. I'm still swimming in probably half of my maternity clothes, but there are quite a few pieces I can wear now and my normal, not pregnant shirts are just too short now to cover my growing belly. Overall I feel really good, I have my energy back, I'm drinking green smoothies regularly and not taking medications so I have less stomach pains because my body is not holding stuff(aka constipated), I'm able to do all I was before including staying on top of cleaning and cooking which we're all happy about. I can't wait until next month when we can find out the gender and start to feel baby kicking!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Date with Annabelle


Annabelle and I went on a dinner date last week. At Cafe Rio, kids under 6 get free quesadillas if you dine in, and Annabelle and I love Cafe Rio, so we went there for dinner. Usually she'll eat two quesadillas, hers and Charlie's because he doesn't like them but he loves my salad. After she finished her quesadilla she said she wanted more so I offered her some of my amazing salad. She refused at first but about a minute later decided to give it a try once I told her it had whole beans inside. She loved it and so we ended up sharing the rest of my salad as well. Afterward, we went across the parking lot to Cold Stone and shared an ice cream(We had earned a free one on our Cold Stone card because our family likes to go sometimes :). Hey, no judging! We don't eat refined sugar regularly and I almost never make stuff with refined sugar, but I think having a treat while you're out every now and then is okay, and one serving is better than having leftovers around the house for days)

Annabelle was so pleased to be able to go out on a date, with just her and mom. She smiled and sang and you could just tell she was soaking up all the time and attention from Mom. Just before we left on our date and Scott had just gotten home from work, Annabelle went up to him and said with a smile and a very excited voice, "Daddy, I'm going on a date with mom and only me, not you!"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Halloween Activities



Halloween Parade at school

Painting and Carving pumpkins




A short video of the kids scooping out the pumpkin guts.



Friday, November 4, 2011

Every day dinners

I was thinking recently that the foods I make the most for dinner, I haven't ever posted on here and I'd like to share that now.

I think I've mentioned before that we have a menu posted in our kitchen. It's just a frame with a piece of sparkly scrapbook paper as the background and I write the menu in each week with dry erase markers. Anyway, I try and allow each child to pick a meal a week and then the other days I'll fill in with recipes I want to try or ones Scott and I really like(and the kids don't particularly enjoy). We also usually have a day of leftovers. If you didn't already guess, the kids pick the same things week after week and these have become our staples(three dinners in particular to be exact) and I always have the food to make these meals stocked in the pantry. Here are those three meals.

First will be Homemade Pizza. We usually have it Friday or Saturday night. You can click on the link which will take you to an older post of mine where I typed out the recipe for the dough and the pizza sauce we make. I like to serve this with a salad.

The second meal that's chosen weekly is pasta and more often than not, with white sauce. For now we do half whole wheat pasta and half semolina(the typical, white kind you buy in stores). Scott doesn't love the taste of whole wheat so this is my compromise. But they're taste buds are adjusting and eventually I think we'll all be able to handle all whole wheat pasta. The kids have a favorite white sauce recipe I make, but I honestly don't make it every week, but fairly often. When I don't make sauce, I use the white or red sauce from a jar. But read the ingredients. Not all jars of white or red sauce, or any food for that matter are created equal. I go for the jars that have the least amount of ingredients with the most real foods(and words you can pronounce :)). I also like to serve this with a salad or steamed veggies. Here's how I make the white sauce:
Chicken with Cream Cheese White Sauce
1 large chicken breast, cut into strips
1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 c whole milk
6 oz cream cheese
1 tsp dried basil
3/4 c grated parmesan cheese

While you cook your pasta(~12 oz), heat oil over medium heat and cook chicken with garlic powder until no longer pink. Add milk and heat just to boiling. Stir in the cream cheese and basil. Reduce the heat, stirring constantly until cream cheese is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese. Toss hot pasta and sauce. Serve immediately.

Third is burritos. Or quesadillas, depending on how we decide to fold them up, I suppose. This meal is one you can do some prep work for days ahead of time, if you like. I like to keep cooked brown rice and beans in the fridge and on hand(right now I have pinto and kidney beans cooked and in the fridge; sometimes it's black beans). If you do that, it'll make putting your meal together really easy and fast.

Many times, the day we're going to eat burritos I'll put a piece of chicken in the crockpot with diced tomatoes and a chile(I use fresh when I have it from the garden, otherwise canned; and remember to read the ingredients) and a tablespoon of taco seasoning(I buy the big one from Costco because it has all real ingredients and specifically no msg which some of the packets do). I cook that on low for 7 hours or high for 3-4 hours, depending on what time in the day I was able to get it started. Once Scott's home from work, I pull my beans and rice out of the fridge, grab my whole wheat tortillas out of the pantry, grate some cheddar cheese and we put our burritos together(we have salsa and sour cream out for those who like it, as well). It's super fast and easy and there's always enough leftovers for another meal or two which I love. We'll usually have this with corn or a salad.

This is what my counter looks like when I'm pulling everything together: I've got all the foods out and a plate that I'm warming the amount of beans/rice/corn etc on that we'll need for that meal. Nothing fancy. But this is our life now :). By the way, for those of you who have never cooked beans before, try it. It's not hard, they're cheap and they don't have any preservatives like the canned ones do(I do use the canned one's sometimes, but I try not to). Read the instructions on the bag and it'll tell you how to do it. Generally there's a couple methods: soaking over night and then cooking on the stove for an hour or two; or rinsing and then boiling/simmering on stove for a couple of hours; or cooking in a crock pot for 6-8 hours.


As for the other meals, we all eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. Breakfast for the kids is a bowl of my homemade granola with rice milk or whole milk with green smoothie; except Sunday when we have a brunch before church and generally that's pancakes or waffles with pure maple syrup (also, now is the perfect time of year to make pumpkin pancakes. We just made these again this past weekend and I love this recipe.). I have a green smoothie for breakfast and Scott has toast with smoothie. Lunch is usually a peanut butter and honey or jelly sandwich with fruit, though we use 100% whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and raw, local honey or jelly with the most fruit and least preservatives. Annabelle, Jane and I have oatmeal for lunch pretty regularly too or sometimes they'll have a hard boiled egg or leftover burritos. And hopefully pretty soon here, I can get back to having my pink smoothie for lunch regularly. And that's about it for breakfast and lunch. Snacks a lot of times are fruit, sometimes combined with peanut butter(apple slices and peanut butter is a favorite) or cheese, we also have tortilla or multigrain chips and salsa, or sometimes a home made or packaged Clif Bar or Lara Bar. And there you have it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Halloween!

This Halloween we did something different. But first let me back up. A couple of weeks ago, leading up to Halloween, I was thinking it would be nice if our family had a different Halloween tradition, one that didn't involve going out in the cold, dark weather and having our children knock on doors asking for candy that I would make them give away anyway(well most of it). I don't like having candy around. We're always in the doctor's office for ear infections and other sicknesses when my kids are on sugar, probably because it dramatically slows the immune sysytem. Anyway, after mulling some ideas over in my head I decided that I wouldn't decide anything until I talked my ideas over with Scott and the kids because in the end, I want to do what will make everyone happy; within limits, of course.

Over dinner one night I asked the family what they would think about not going trick-or-treating this year but instead if we wore costumes and went to dinner and a movie(we have a dollar theater near by) or bowling. To my surprise no one whined and instead I heard a bunch of excited, "yes!" answers, with fist punches in the air. And Elisabeth even added, "Good, cause I hate being out in the cold and dark for so long." So that's exactly what we did. I'm not sure if this will be a forever tradition, though I certainly wouldn't mind, but if they decide to go back to trick-or-treating again, I'll be okay with it, though I'll enforce the rule I had before which is that they can pick out a couple of pieces of candy and the rest we buy off of them(not for much, just a few dollars) and Scott takes the remaining candy to work to share(I hope, he shares :)).

On the way to the bowling alley
It's not a long drive, but Annabelle refuses to nap so whenever we get in the car, if it's the late afternoon, she is out within minutes, sometimes even seconds.

Me and the two oldest girls dressed up as witches, Charles was a ninja and Jane was a pumpkin. Scott was himself. Boring! :) Just teasing you Scott.
Jane happy to walk around the bowling alley
Scott helped the kids steady the rack which they would roll their balls down





You have to watch this 15 second video clip below. It's of Annabelle bowling and it's hilarious. The only video we took while bowling was of Annabelle because she got so into it. Once her ball was rolling she'd jump up and down and yell! All the kids were pretty intense. They must get it from Scott :). Just kidding, he's not intense, he just cared more about my very poor bowling skills than I did(I'm sure because he didn't want me to feel bad, but that particular feeling was far from me :)). He gave me some pointers which helped my score but I still lost and I don't think I even got to 50 points, while he and a couple of the other kids were in the hundreds! Oh well, like I said, I really don't mind :). Okay, enough talking. Watch this!


After bowling we went to dinner at TGIFridays(the kids request). By the time we got there it was 630pm and quite dark. All the staff was dressed in costumes and it was SO not crowded which was SO nice. We got right in, got our food right away which was nice because we were all very hungry, and ordered vanilla ice cream for dessert which ended up being on the house because our waiter was just so pleased to have some customers :). I really hope we get to do this again. It was a very nice evening. Happy Halloween! (More pictures of Halloween activities during the week prior, to come in a later post)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jane and mom on the piano


When I'm playing the piano, Jane likes to come sit on my lap and play along with me, or sometimes she'll sit there and sing. It's really cute. This particular time she was playing the piano a little, but she also had her blanket with her because it was nearly bed time so she was enjoying her blanket :). Scott took a short video clip. It's a little hard trying to play the piano with someone on your lap. Here's a picture and a video. And the picture below is one Scott snapped of Jane while sitting in her favorite spot...in the kitchen on top of the honey bucket. It's the perfect size for her. Notice she's drinking her green smoothie from her jamba juice smoothie sippy cup, which means I'm making them a little more regularly again. Yay!