Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I love my crockpot.


We got a small one as a wedding gift. It was great. Until it wasn't. I think we donated it to Deseret Industries to bless some other newly-wed couple who only needed to feed two people at a time.

Right around that time, Anna got married. Such perfect timing. :) She was given two crockpots as wedding gifts and gifted us with one of them. Anna, did you know I think of you every time I use it?

When we get busy (and I'm thinking ahead) it's such a lifesaver. Here are some of my favorite crockpot recipes:

Shredded Sweet Pork Salad (aka Cafe Rio Salad!)
Potluck Beans (Pork & Beans -- this is my favorite pork & beans recipe now. It says it cooks tons, but for our family of six we only end up with leftovers for two lunches the next day. I suppose if you're really taking it to a potluck and it's a side dish, it makes a lot. But we usually eat it as a main dish with cornbread casserole and fruit. This calls for a pound of beef, but I'm going to be making it with 1/2 a pound. Not because it needs less, just because I can and it'll still taste awesome.)
Yogurt (I've substituted the regular milk here for powdered milk several times! I usually use 1/2 C - 1 C more powdered milk than it calls for, to get it thicker.)
Chicken and White Bean Stew (This is not originally a crockpot recipe - just cook the bacon and onions first and then add to the other ingredients in the crockpot. I leave out the spinach.)

Non-crockpot recipes that work great in the crockpot:
stroganoff
bbq chicken/pork sandwiches
spaghetti sauce
french dip sandwiches (just the meat of course...)
Hawaiian Haystacks
Lil' Smokies with a ketchup/worchestershire sauce/brown sugar mix (perfect for New Year's)

It's also really handy to cook frozen chicken in the crockpot so that it's ready to use in recipes when you're ready to make dinner.

Yesterday I saw a post on Pioneer Woman about a new book called Fix-It and Forget-It Kids' Cookbook. There are several versions of the Fix-It and Forget-It books. I've checked out the basic one from the library and liked several recipes. Our library doesn't have the kid's version yet (it just came out this month). As soon as it does though, we're going to check it out. It looks awesome. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts that kids can throw in the crockpot and make? I think the girls are going to be doing a lot of our cooking in the near future. I'm looking forward to the break!

What crockpot recipes do you have that you love?

You know that saying, "That's a bunch of crock!"?
Kind of weird that we call it a crockpot...


Monday, October 25, 2010

Twelve

This semester, Thursdays are my busiest days. We do school, drive to two music lessons, drive home just in time to eat dinner (I'm loving the crockpot on days like this), and then hurry to Heidi's soccer practice.


This Thursday was even worse. It seems hard to imagine that it could be. But I sat down to plan it out the day before and it looked like this:

- Mail very important package
- Go to Autumn's dental appointment
- Come home for lunch
- Go to Esther's violin lesson
- Go to Heidi's guitar lesson
- Eat dinner (crockpot)
- Heidi's soccer practice
- Do a musical number for our Stake Relief Society Leadership Meeting
- Bedtime!

Phew.

Then the night before all of this, we realized that Eric couldn't drive his loaner car to school. There was NOWHERE for him to park without his staff sticker. Student parking wasn't even an option because the loaner had no plates (a dealer plate...).

At first I had a mini melt-down. I had figured out how to make my insanely busy day work and suddenly a very big wrench had been thrown in it. I didn't want to change my plan...it took awhile to figure it out! And I didn't want to not go through with anything either.

After I calmed down, it turned out that needing to drive Eric to school simplified some things and then as the day progressed, other things became simpler too.

Tender mercies.

1. We stopped at the UPS Store on the way to Eric's work. I went inside and mailed the package - by myself.
2. We made it to Autumn's dentist appointment only 5 minutes late when traffic had me thinking it'd be 15.
3. Her dental appointment only took 30 minutes instead of the expected ninety.
4. We were able to do some of our schoolwork at home instead of in the car.
5. Becca got to have a nap.
6. Traffic was beautiful driving to Esther's lesson.
7. Traffic was beautiful driving to Heidi's lesson. We arrived with 20 minutes to spare.
8. Traffic, again, was beautiful driving to pick up Eric from work. Particularly huge considering just last week, that same day of the week, roughly the same time, and the same freeway, it took me 40 minutes to drive 3 miles. And also huge because we had rain most of the day, but no rain on that drive.
9. Received a phone call from our friend who requested the musical number. She had made dinner for us and wanted to bring it over.
10. Heidi's soccer practice was cancelled -- the fields were too muddied from the rain.
11. Eric's singing made the ladies cry.
12. Our sitter got Becca into her jammies and put her in bed. She fell asleep within seconds. This was a big deal not only because she's not always the best at that with others, but because we hadn't even given bedtime instructions. We ran late and he just decided to give it a go! We love Bob. The girls do too. He's like a grandpa to them.

I feel like that saying "when it rains, it pours" really fit on that day. But with a positive slant. We were so incredibly blessed. I am still amazed when I think about it.

Messy, messy

Thanks for the comments on how you keep your kids' room's clean! It sounds like we do things pretty similarly. We've had a new system in place this past week and I'm watching and reevaluating to make sure it works and wondered what works for you...


Right now the big girls need to have their room clean by bedtime. If it isn't, I walk through with a garbage bag and put everything from the floor into the bag. Well, not entirely everything. Of the things they've missed, they have to put the clothes in the hamper and library books on the shelf. Everything else goes in the bag. After that, they have to get their room clean by bedtime three days in a row before they can have anything back from the bags. And they have to request things specifically. So, no just digging through the bag looking for something interesting and no getting the entire bag back.

The first day I took out FOUR trash bags. I admit that half of each trash bag WAS trash. Paper trash. We go through a lot of paper in this house. But still, two bags worth of toys overall. They earned it back in the first three days. But we were busy and I didn't bother to make time for them to get things from the bags. They reminded me a few times, but it was always in the middle of something. And the interesting thing was that they never reminded me asking for something specific. They just talked about "the bags". I am beginning to feel like they really don't need most of what they have.

Oh, and I also implemented a rule that if one of them wasn't cleaning and the other was, I would take a particularly special toy from the non-cleaner and keep it for a day. This proved to be very effective. I never had to use it, but I expect at some point I will have to.

In the meantime, I think my only adjustment to what we're doing will be to do a "deep analysis" on their current toys and take away the ones they're not using. We'll probably be left with a stuffed animal per kid, books, paper and crayons, and recent birthday gifts. It's hard to believe that they will be okay with that. But at the same time, that's all I ever see them play with! Well, that and the bins for their toys. No wonder they can't keep things clean. They always want to use the storage stuff for parts of their games... They'll also still have the option to play with games and gamesets that stay locked in the closet but are available on request.

*crossing my fingers that this solves much of their messes*

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm trying to write while singing bedtime songs to the girls. I wonder if I'll mix things up and type song lyrics here and sing what I'm trying to blog. I wonder if the girls would even notice.


We've had a great first two months of school and are learning how to juggle a new schedule. Sometimes I think I manage it with great finesse. Other times, I fall flat on my face. Last year we had school and Activity Days twice a month. This semester we have three girls in music lessons, two in soccer, and Activity Days twice a month. And I volunteered to be on the Parent Council for our charter school (which we homeschool through). And I volunteered to be Team Mom on Autumn's soccer team. I keep laughing at myself for volunteering. The Parent Council seemed like it would be different than it is, but it's fine. Very low-key. Soccer, AYSO, is completely volunteer-based and when we signed up I read through the booklet they sent us home with and was so stressed about how we could do "our part". Then noone else volunteered when the coach asked for a Team Mom so I offered. Now that we've been doing soccer practice for a couple of months, I realize that if I'd not said anything, eventually (at later practices...), someone would have volunteered. And that I was kind of silly to stress over how I would pitch in. It's not as intense as it seemed like it would be. At times I feel painfully new to the team sports scene. Definitely not something I grew up with, but definitely something I'm grateful to be involving my girls in.

Oh, actually, if I were to ask Eric maybe he'd say it is a little intense. He referees almost every week and lots of times it's at 8am. EIGHT A.M. on a Saturday morning. We will both be glad to have our Saturdays back when the season is over.

On the flip-side, Autumn and Heidi are really enjoying soccer. And they're picking it up really quickly. Autumn is the smallest girl on her team but has been dubbed "The Terminator" by one the team parents because she isn't afraid of anything. Go Autumn! She was one-on-one a few weeks ago with a girl more than a head taller than her and much bigger over-all. She's also a little Energizer Bunny out there. Everyone else starts lagging and she just goes, goes, goes. It's fun to watch. I find that I'm not surprised really because that's the way she approaches most things! That's my Autumn.

I think Heidi is enjoying the social aspect of soccer more than the playing. She enjoys talking to her teammates at the back of lines when they're waiting to do things with the ball. And sometimes misses her turn because of it. She makes me laugh. During games we shout lots of encouragement to her to keep her watching the ball. When we don't she looks like she's bird-watching. It's hilarious. And ever with the two fingers in her mouth. Even as she plays soccer. I don't want to talk about that though. It will come. That's what I have to keep telling myself. We'll get there.

(and now I think I'll be able to blog without worrying about singing. 3 down, 1 almost there)

Here are some of the things we've been up to:

- Autumn started cello lessons. We love her teacher and have a Germany connection. She even lived in Heidelberg, playing for the Heidelberg Stadtisches Opera Orchestra.

- Heidi started guitar lessons. Her cousin Jaxon is jealous and will be so excited to see her guitar next month when he comes for Thanksgiving.

- Esther has been preparing for a big Halloween concert. No solos, but lots of fun Halloween-y pieces and a skit that goes along with the order of songs.

- We've been back to Disneyland four times since the summer blackout dates ended.

- The girls had dental appointments and had NO cavities. Two of Autumn's front teeth are behind the other two. She just got an appliance yesterday that will widen her arch and move the teeth forward. It's a spacer but it's removable. She had a hard time falling asleep last night but no problems tonight so it seems like she's adjusting quickly. If we had held off on this, she would definitely have needed braces to correct it (not to mention being self conscious about her smile). We'll still have to wait and see if she needs them for other reasons, but I'm hopeful she'll dodge that bullet.

- Heidi turned SEVEN. She loves Hello Kitty right now so we had a Hello Kitty birthday, complete with a Hello Kitty cake (which, she informed me, didn't look as good as the one I made for Autumn a few years ago...but she still liked it).

- Autumn turned NINE. She lives in her own Harry Potter world right now, so of course she requested a Harry Potter theme for her birthday. I think she's been on a Harry Potter kick for years now. She almost wanted to be Hermione for Halloween again this year. I think she's reverted back to her original choice now. Princess Leia.

Oh, and I turned....twenty-nine. Again.

Okay, I admit. I'm done with my twenties. I am THIRTY. It still seems kind of strange. It was fitting that for a big birthday like this, I got the best birthday presents I have ever gotten. A MacBook Pro and an iTouch (now if only I could remember where I hid the iTouch two days ago! the girls love it as much as I do...). We no longer have PC's. And I love Macs. I still can't quite believe how awesome they are.

Someday I will find my mini SD card to move pictures from my phone to my computer. Many a blog post awaits. They just wouldn't make sense though without the accompanying pictures...

In the meantime, a question for anyone who's still out there...

How do you keep your kids rooms clean? Because honestly, I'm beginning to think the toys just get in the way of play. I'm not convinced they need them anymore...