Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cuteness overload!

      So we were really happy to receive a new video camera for Christmas and have been having a great time using it to capture all of Owen's achievements and cute antics this month. And I know I already posted a video today, but I figured people wouldn't mind multiple videos of Mr. Cutie. In this video we are playing one of his favorite games - knock down the block tower. He gets extra excited when I take a longer time to stack the blocks, but keep him waiting to be able to knock them down. He's so precious. Enjoy!

Proudest UGA Graduates EVER!

As a father, I cannot express how proud I am of my son.  Watch this video to see why.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Organized Home Challenge: Week Four

      So I just completed another fun challenge as part of Home Storage Solution's "52 Weeks to An Organized Home." Last week we had to clean out and organize the fridge and freezer. It is actually something that we desperately needed to do. (Though Tim would have told you that "it's not that bad.") Don't judge me by my "before" picture. And also, don't judge me by my food choices. 
No specific home for anything. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tasty Thursday

      I'm kind-of getting tired of the same old, same old thing and I have really been craving some spicy food so my menu for this week reflects that. We're going to have a lot of peppers and Asian spices. It's going to be a tasty week! Last week we had four new recipes: steak and cheese sandwiches with onion, lightened up beef shepherd's pie, chicken enchilada soup, and crock pot Bolognese sauce. 

Steak and cheese sandwiches with onion: This recipe was pretty good. I did add a little butter when I was cooking it along with some Worcestershire sauce and I think that made the meat and sauce taste a little richer. Both Tim and I enjoyed them.

Lightened up beef shepherd's pie: This was probably one of the biggest let-downs of any Skinny Taste recipe that I've ever made. Tim and I both didn't really like it. I can't say for sure what the biggest problem with the recipe was, but there wasn't a lot of flavor and the frozen veggies were still pretty crunchy after cooking it. I probably will not make this particular recipe again. 

Chicken enchilada soup: Of all the recipes that we tried last week, this one was by far our favorite. It was so good and really easy to put together. The cilantro and chipolte chiles in adobo sauce really make this a delicious and unique recipe. I used twice the amount of chipolte chiles sauce as she recommended and it still wasn't very spicy to our palates. We both really like spicy food though. We will definitely be making this soup again, if not as soon as possible!

Crock pot Bolognese sauce: This recipe was good, though it still isn't my perfect pasta sauce. I'm still searching! It did get better with time though because the leftovers I had for lunch the next day were really tasty. I'm hoping that the leftovers that I stored in the freezer will just continue to get better with time.

     For any of the above recipes, link to my previous menu blog here and then click through to the link to the original recipe. And now, on to the menu for this week. 

Thursday: Steak fajitas. I have leftover beef in the freezer from last week that I'm going to make into last minute fajitas. I make them with a little garlic powder, some cumin, chile powder, onion, some type of pepper, and a squeeze of lime juice. Yummy! We will have our fajitas with black beans and rice. 
Friday: Pollo in potacchio.  This is a Skinny Taste recipe that I've been interested in for some time. She makes it in her Dutch oven, but I will be giving it a try in my slow cooker. I'm really excited about having another slow cooker meal because I love being able to throw everything together earlier in the day and have time to clean the kitchen before Tim gets home from work. I've been really trying to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen every night so that I don't have to wake up to a dirty kitchen that needs to be clean. I've been doing okay for the most part, but slow cooker meals definitely help cut down on the number of dishes that need to be washed in the evening. We'll be having this with roasted red potatoes and roasted parmesan green beans. 
Photo from SkinnyTaste.com.
Saturday: Sweet and fiery pork tenderloin. Not sure if I will make the fruit salsa because I don't really like mango. We will have the pork with brown rice and broccoli. I'm really excited about this recipe because I'm interested in trying the Sriracha sauce. Chefs always seem to be using it on the Food Network, but I've never had it. Otherwise, it just looks like an easy and yummy recipe. And if we like it, then maybe we can try it grilled when the weather starts to warm up. 
Photo from Skinnytaste.com.

Sunday: Beef and barley soup. This is a recipe that Tim's Aunt Beth made for us when we were visiting them before Christmas. Tim and I both really liked it and I'm always happy to add another soup recipe to my repertoire. 
Monday: Leftover soup.
Tuesday: Bangin' good shrimp.  This is a knock-off healthier version of my favorite dish at Bonefish Grill. We haven't eaten there in a really long time because Tim heard from someone at his work that they got food poisoning the last time they ate there. I'd still be tempted to risk it, but Tim doesn't want to. :) I'm hoping that this knock-off is really good. We'll have it with baked sweet potato fries because we haven't had them in a while and I think the flavors will actually go pretty well together. We may wrap the shrimp and lettuces in tortillas to eat them. 
Photo from Skinnytaste.com.
Wednesday: Skinny chicken enchiladas. We will be having these so that we can use up the entire pack of tortillas from earlier in the week. Also, these are highly rated on the Skinny Taste website, so I thought I would give them a try. We'll have them with corn and black beans. 
Photo from Skinnytaste.com.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Organized Home Challenge: Week Three

     This was by far the hardest week so far of the Organized Home Challenge: Pantry, spice cabinet and food storage areas. We don't have a lot of room in our kitchen for storing food so space is at a minimum. And you can put all your food in as many cute labeled containers as you like, but if you don't have the room for them, then you don't have the room for them and there's nothing you can do to expand the space. We basically have three food storage areas: the spice cabinet, one set of cabinets in the kitchen for canned goods and other small packaged food items, and one shelf in our shelving unit in the laundry room for bulk items and larger packaged food items. 
      I have found three main benefits to having those areas better organized since completing the challenge. 

                  1. Using clear storage allows me to quickly see what we have stocked so that I  don't buy more of what I already have and can better plan my menus around those items.
                 2. Using sealed storage containers will keep our food fresher for longer.
                 3. Only buying what I have room to store will hopefully prevent me from spending more at the grocery store than we need to.

     I began the challenge for this week by pulling everything out of my spice cabinet and throwing away all the expired spices. (If they said Publix on them, then that was a hint that they were old!) Then I divided the cabinet's three shelves based on type of spices: cooking spices, baking spices, and grilling spice/sauces and bulk spices. I put the smaller bottles of cooking spices on the bottom shelf in a plastic tray so that I can pull that out and easily find what I am looking for without having to dig through the shelf and knock all the bottles over while doing it. I am really happy with the results and I didn't have to buy anything. I considered buying a spice rack, but decided that I didn't want to have that cluttering up the counters. 
     The next spot that I tackled was the cabinet in the kitchen. Mainly I decided the bottom shelf would be used for canned goods and taller items and the second would be for everything else. The top shelf holds our toaster and some oatmeal. It looks much better just by organizing it like that and now I can see what I have most of the time and can hopefully finally use up all the pasta in my cabinets.
     Lastly, I organized the shelf in the laundry room. I pulled out all my unused clear plastic storage containers and purchased a few more at Target to better organize my bulk cooking and baking products like flour, sugar, rice, and pasta. I put everything on my kitchen island and then matched up the food with the containers based on how big the container would need to be to hold all of the food. After that, I found some free labels at Better Homes and Gardens, edited them in Photoshop, printed them out, and then adhered them to my containers.
Pretty cute, huh?
Here is my "before" spice cabinet.
I pretty much just put stuff wherever it fit.
Our "before" food cabinet just had things stuffed in there haphazardly.
Our food shelf in the pantry was the same way. Oh the shame.
And here are the "afters."
Three clear areas - cooking, baking, and grilling and bulk spices - make it easy to find things.
Not really organized, but certain foods have a specific place now and I consolidated some of the pasta to make some more space too. At least now I can see what I have pretty easily.
I added these labels because I thought they were cute, but now that I have a million powdery white things in containers, it's actually pretty necessary.
The finished pantry. Baby formula and food, bread, onions and potatoes a stored on the left and all of my containerized food is on the right in two rows so that I can see them easily. The small containers are too small for most things so I use them for Owen's snacks.
We also have canisters on the counter, but I've found that even the largest one is too small for things like flour and sugar so instead I use them for random other things like tea bags. And the most important one is the one with all our favorite southern sauces.
     Next up for the Organized Home Challenge, I will be organizing my freezer and refrigerator. I'm not too worried about the freezer because there isn't much in there, but the fridge is a bit of a mess. Plus I have apparently inherited my mother's tendency to have half a million half bottles of marinades, sauces, jarred things, and more in my fridge door. But hopefully I can find a good way to get everything organized and pick out specific places in the fridge where certain things will always be kept to create some order in there. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Home management binder printables

     The home management binder that I made a few weeks ago has been amazing. For the most part my cleaning checklist has helped keep the house relatively tidy most of the time. And when I went to have my oil changed and tires rotated the other day, the mechanic marveled at my organization and my ability to quickly find the warranty for our tires. And when I need to fill out birthday cards that I bought a while ago, I know just where to find them. It has really been great for keeping me organized now that mommy brain keeps me from remembering everything I once could. For those of you who were inspired to make your own home management binder after reading my post a couple weeks ago, I wanted to link you to the printables that I used to make mine. Most of them were free, though I did pay for a few of them. Then all you'll need to do it just pick up a binder and some divider tabs and print out these pages based on which ones will work for you. Have fun! (Only me and about two other people I know would qualify organizing as fun. You know who you are.) 
     My cover page and the calendar, important events and birthdays, a gift giving list, emergency and medical information forms, and my contacts sheets were all from a blog called Finding Home. The blogger there has several other sections that were not relevant for my binder (like a cute pet section), but might be for yours!
I opened this page in Photoshop and personalized it with our names.      
 I really love her monthly calendars. They are really cute and you can print them so that you have the whole month across two facing pages. 
      The cleaning checklists in my cleaning section are all from the site Money Saving Mom. What is really great about those pages is they can be downloaded and then edited and filled in with your personal information. So if something in her chore chart doesn't fit your house, you can take it out and put in something that applies to you.
This is the original example or you can fill out a blank one.
    My financial section, including a budget sheet, a page for keeping track of receipts, and a bill payment checklist, came from Clean Mama's Etsy shop. She has tons of printables for all sorts of things like keeping track of exercising, cleaning, the holidays, and even one for keeping track of your infant when you first bring them home from the hospital. (This last one would have been a lifesaver for me!). She also has some free printables here.
    I had a lot of trouble finding an auto maintenance sheet to help us keep up with any work done on our cars. I was tired of just stuffing receipts and things into the glove compartment and figured I could better keep track of when we need stuff done if it was in my binder. And as a matter of fact, when I was collecting all our receipts and doing the math on our mileage, I discovered that my car was due for both an oil change and tire rotation. Who knows when we would have thought to do it otherwise? I eventually found a cute printable by Jennifer Jones of the blog I Heart Organizing. She has lots of printables for sale in her Etsy shop. And she is supposed to have an entire home management binder collection coming out soon too.
Cute colors makes it fun to keep track of car stuff.
      My weekly to-do list is from I Heart Organizing too. It is listed under her free printables section along with some pretty awesome other printables like ones for blog ideas and a home maintenance checklist, both of which I also use in my binder.
I liked this one because it had space for to dos and my menu and other things.
       I am about to add a few more pages to some of the sections in my home management binder, so I thought I would tell you about them here. Since Owen has been sick this week and I have been trying to keep track of symptoms, temperatures, and when we give him medication, I began looking for a printable to hold that information. I found it at YourWay.net. It's not the most attractive of my printables, but it was the only one I could find for what I wanted. 
    The other new form that I found was one for notes for a babysitter. We don't leave Owen with a babysitter very often, but this will be really helpful for when we do it again. I found it at Mommy Tracked. There are more free printables there as well, including one for party planning that I might use when I start working on Owen's first birthday party.

     And there you have it. All of the printables from my home management binder. Enjoy! If you know of any cool printables that I'm missing let me know!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow day(s)!

      We had our first real Washington snow Tuesday night. Wait, you say. Don't you live in a desert? Why yes we do, so we were all the more surprised to wake up to snow and watch as it kept snowing and kept snowing and kept snowing almost all day. I would guess that we got about seven inches of snow. I went out yesterday morning to the grocery store to stock up on our groceries for the week and buy Tim some medicine, tissues, and Powerade. Driving to the grocery store, I got to see the area covered in snow for miles and miles. It was so pretty. I also got to see all the many cars stranded on the side of the road where people who should not have been driving in the snow were out and about. That kind-of freaked me out, but thanks to my four-wheel drive, I made it to the store and back really easily. Unfortunately, because I had a sick husband and baby, we didn't get to enjoy playing in the snow, but we have really enjoyed the view from our windows. Here are some photos of the snow. It still pretty much still looks like this outside two days later. With a sick baby I have been housebound for about a week now and now I'm snowbound too. I am about to go crazy.

Here's our house covered in snow.
This is the view down our street. You can't even see the road because it's covered in snow.
Another view of our house.
Under all that snow is a Georgia Bulldog.
My footprints in the very deep snow.
Almost seven inches when I measured, though more fell throughout the day.
Icicles on the house.
The view of the backyard.
The sick people had to watch from inside. Yes, my sick husband is wearing short sleeves. 
Watching snow fall can entertain a baby for a long time. If he has his trusty choo-choo train with him.
Tim's sicky paraphernalia.
We did venture out one time to get the mail.
Checking out some snow up close.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tasty Thursday

     The past week has been an interesting and tiring one. Owen caught a cold (most likely at childcare during my workouts) and has been a handful for the past week. He was fine last Friday and then Saturday his nose started running and he was coughing and had a pretty high fever for a few days. He is still a very happy little boy though and plays like there is nothing wrong with him. And I still managed to make most of my planned meals last week so stay tuned for the reviews. Things got more interesting yesterday when Tim suddenly came down with his own cold and it snowed seven inches! At least. We were nearly out of groceries so I braved the snow and drove to the grocery store to pick up our groceries for this week and medicine for Tim (Thank goodness for four-wheel drive). Luckily I planned our menu for this coming week on Tuesday night and was prepared. Driving in the snow was actually a lot of fun and being able to see the city covered in snow was really neat. Pushing a shopping cart through snow drifts in the parking lot at Winco was not so much fun though. I plan to post pictures of the snow soon, so check back tomorrow. 
      I tried two out of the three new recipes I planned to make last week. Last night instead of making chicken tikka masala, I made chicken soup for the sicky husband. But the other two recipes I made were pretty good. The buttermilk chocolate chip scones were really good and very easy to make. I think it took me maybe 10 minutes to make the dough so I had them baked before Tim emerged from the bedroom last weekend. The stuffed cabbage casserole was good, but I think it would be better if it had more cheese. (Cue sounds of shock from those who know that I don't really like cheese most of the time). I had a problem with the layers kind-of falling apart and the cabbage sliding around, so I think if you had a layer of cheese in the middle as well as on the top, it would help hold it together better. Also, the recipe tells you to cook the cabbage on medium-high heat, but when I did that, it started to burn, so I would recommend cooking it on medium heat. It also made a lot so I froze about half of the casserole for another time and we ate the rest over a couple of dinners. And with that said, on to our menu for this week. Oh, and our weekend starts early because Tim just got a text that work was canceled today due to the snow and ice. (He already gets every Friday off because he works long days the rest of the week.) Yaaaaay for another long four-day weekend!
Thursday: Steak and cheese sandwiches with onions and mushrooms. (Well, not the mushrooms.) Tim has practically been begging for a sandwich similar to this that I made last year. It was a Pioneer Woman recipe so of course it used about 12 sticks of butter. So after making it the one time, I never really planned to make it again because it was so unhealthy. Then I found a similar recipe on Skinny Taste and decided to surprise Tim with this version of a steak, onion, and cheese sandwich.
Photo from Skinnytaste.com.
Friday: Lightened up beef shepherd's pie. We will have this with roasted green beans. Tim has also requested Beef Shepherd's Pie on many occasions, but I have never found a good recipe for it. He particularly likes the beef shepherd's pie at The Cheesecake Factory. This will probably not taste anything like that because it is a lightened up version (and I heard that the beef shepherd's pie is one of the higher caloric options at that restaurant). I thought that it would be nice and warm comfort food for the really cold week.
Photo from Skinnytaste.com.
Saturday: Leftovers. This time with steamed or roasted broccoli probably. Leftovers will be great today because we are going to my friend Kristina's son's first birthday party. And I am dragging Tim along because I want him to meet her husband. Haha!
SundayCrock pot chicken enchilada soup. Tim has also been wanting me to make soup for a while because the weather has been so cold. My friend Katie made this last week and said that it was really good, so I'm interested in trying it out. It uses chiles in adobo sauce so I'm looking forward to a soup with some spice. And the fact that I can make it in the slow cooker is an added bonus. 
Photo from Skinnytaste.com.
Monday: Leftovers.
Tuesday: Crock pot Bolognese sauce with spaghetti. I am really excited about this recipe because it looks really good and has a lot of interesting ingredients like carrots and pancetta. Plus it should make a ton and then I can freeze it for a last minute meal another time. We will eat this with sauteed brussels sprouts and maybe a side salad.
Photo from Skinnytaste.com.
Wednesday: Healthy baked chicken nuggets. We will be having these chicken nuggets this week because A. They are really tasty and I already have every ingredient that we need, and B. We are expecting a shipment soon from my mom containing 5 Zaxby's sauces and about 10 various Chick-Fil-A sauces. We will have them with baked zucchini sticks and green beans.
Photo from Skinnytaste.com.
    And our special treat for the week is this recipe for butterbeer cupcakes. Tim and I just received the last Harry Potter movie in the mail from Netflix and we will watch it this weekend while eating these cupcakes. I have had them bookmarked on Pinterest for a really long time and wanted to wait until the movie came out to try them.
Photo from Amybites.com.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Organized Home Challenge: Week Two

     Week Two of the Organized Home Challenge was about organizing your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Most of my cabinets are in good order so I chose just three to work on: the glassware cabinet, the kitchen linens drawer, and the dreaded junk drawer.
      All of these three drawers and cabinets needed to have the old, unused, or dirty items removed and what was left organized. Here are my photos of the befores and afters.
BEFORE. Unlike things being kept together, bottles that we don't use anymore, and too many coffee mugs and thermoses.
AFTER. Just by trashing the old bottles and then organizing items based on type, it looks so much better! Also, I realized we have quite a few wine glasses for people who rarely drink wine. But they're pretty!
BEFORE. My kitchen linens drawer had too much crammed in there and a lot of the dish towels and washcloths were old and stained.
AFTER. Old dishtowels were relegated to the rag bag and the clean ones and new washcloths were folded to better organize the drawer.
       And the most shameful drawer in my kitchen... the junk drawer. Before, it was just stuffed with everything imaginable. Paperwork, instruction booklets and warranties, phonebooks, address book, batteries, pens, stamps, tape dispensers, coupon books, flashlights, candles (both birthday and otherwise), and more.

BEFORE. Cram it in as best you can was the only rule.
     So I waited until Owen's nap time and then I dumped everything from the junk drawer out onto my kitchen island. I began sorting, putting similar useful things together and trashing anything we didn't need like expired coupons and empty ink pens. I found a large zip top bag and used that to keep our appliance instruction manuals and warranties together and stored that in our important documents file box. That cleared out a lot of space in the junk drawer. I purchased two acrylic organizers from Target for about $8 and used those to organize everything that was left over. Now all the batteries for Owen's toys are kept together by type, stamps and envelopes are kept in the same place as my address book, and office supplies have a home. 
Dumped on the counter, all the mess seemed hopelessly daunting.  But I just slowly began sorting through it all.
AFTER. It's not a junk drawer anymore. It's a drawer with a purpose!
So much better.
     This past week I have really enjoyed participating in the Organized Home Challenge. It hasn't been too hard or time-consuming and the results have been awesome. Check back in next Monday to see my results from Week Three after I tackle our food storage areas. Wait until you see the before picture of my "pantry." Eeep!