Thursday, January 31, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Meal Planning

This is a post from early 2009. I came across it the other day while doing some searching and was surprised that my method hasn't changed since I originally wrote it four years ago. I guess if a system works, stick with it!

I feel kinda silly sharing this because it's probably stuff that most of you already do anyway. I am NO expert. I am, however, a big believer in doing what works best for your family. What works for me might not work for you, so keep that in mind as you read this.

1. Sit down with the family calendar.
I plan meals two weeks at a time and do my shopping accordingly. 

I find it helpful to sit down with our calendar and look at everything that we have going on in the two-week period I'm planning for. After-school activities mean that I need to plan easy meals, preferably crock-pot meals, on those nights. 

Parties/Get-togethers (like Bunco)? Do I need to bring a dish? We used to get together with our small group for dinner and that was something I needed to factor into my meal planning. Classroom parties? Do I have cookies to make or a snack to bring? Are we having guests for dinner? That usually means I plan dessert. Is John out of town? If so, we have easy, easy meals.

Eating out? We usually plan at least once a month to eat out. Sometimes more, sometimes less. My favorite times of the week to eat out are Friday nights and Sundays after church.

Everything on the calendar gets incorporated into my planning. 

2. Plan meals.
I gather all the grocery store ads and flip through them to see what's on sale. If chicken breasts are .99/lb, you can bet we're having lots of meals with chicken. If roast is on sale, I'll plan to have that too.

I also take a quick inventory of my pantry/freezer and plan around what I have an excess of.

Variety is key. I try to vary meats (chicken/beef/pork/fish) in each two week rotation as well as including some meatless meals (lentils/eggs/potatoes/pancakes).

When I lack inspiration, I ask my family for ideas. They're usually quick to suggest some favorites.

I also like to peruse cookbooks and cooking blogs for ideas. If I find a recipe I want to try, I make a note of the page number and cookbook it was in, or bookmark the website so that I can find it quickly when it's time to prepare the meal.

I also plan the sides to have with our meals. Usually this is a salad, bread, and/or veggie. It seems like we eat lots and lots of salad in the summer and more frozen veggies in the winter. 

3. Make grocery shopping list from meal plan.
I go through the meals I've planned one by one and write down all the ingredients I need to buy. I like to do this a day or two before I go to the store so that I have time to think of other things I need and gives me time to gather my coupons. My list is very specific. If I think of something I know I need as I'm planning menus, then I jot it down at that time. I've been known to forget important things if I don't write them down immediately!

4. Write menu plan in list form and stick on fridge.
I bought this magnetic note pad at the dollar store and I keep a list of all the meals on my menu plan written down on it. Once I prepare a meal, I cross it off the list.

5. Check the menu daily and decide what's for dinner.
I've gotten in the habit over the years of looking at my list each morning and deciding what we're having for dinner that evening. This allows me to think about my day and be flexible when I need to. I don't assign a meal to each day because my schedule isn't always predictable.

After I decide what we're having (I often ask John or one of the kids to choose) I set the meat for that meal down to thaw.

If I'm going to be at home all day, I'll choose to make something that requires a little more time and effort. If we have somewhere to go that night, I'll do something easy like tacos or spaghetti. On days that I have a Brownie meeting and get home at dinner time, I make sure I use my crock-pot. 

I also try to be thinking ahead when I select meals each day. For example, I do not like coming home after church on Sundays (starving) and trying to figure out what we're having for lunch, so I try to make something on Saturday night that will ensure we have leftovers the next day. 

My Best Tip

After I got into a regular routine of planning meals and sticking to my plan, I began to look for ways to simplify the process. While I can't tell you that I've found a way to make planning easier or faster, I have found a way to make meal preparation easier.

I buy meat in bulk when it's on sale. When I get home from the store, I "process" it all at the same time. With chicken, I look at my chicken meals and figure out how much I need to cook, then cook it and freeze in meal-sized portions in a labeled ziploc bag (quart size). If the recipe calls for raw chicken, I go ahead and slice/dice it before freezing, saving me a step later.Yes, that's a pumpkin in the background because I took these pictures in October--back before I talked myself out of doing this post!
I've found that freezing meat in ziploc bags works well because they stack nicely (taking up less room in freezer) and they thaw quickly. 

These are all pictures of chicken, but I do the same thing with ground beef. I just cook it all at once and freeze in meal-sized portions. In the summer, we eat lots of burgers, so I make the patties and freeze between sheets of waxed paper. 

In the mornings, I just pull the package out for whatever meal I've decided on and let it thaw. 

This saves time each evening because you've eliminated one cooking step.

It saves clean up too because you make the mess once and you're done.

It has saved us money because it allows me to throw a meal together really quickly. One day not too ago, I forgot to put the meat down to thaw. I was planning on having chili and I didn't realize until 5:00pm that the meat was still frozen. 

It was kids eat free night at our favorite restaurant and we had almost talked ourselves into going, but I realized that by the time we drove to the restaurant, ordered and received our food, I could have the pre-cooked meat thawed (thank goodness for microwaves) and simmering along with everything else in the pot. I got our meal from freezer to table in about 30 minutes. If I'd had to start from scratch that night we would have spent $30+ on dinner.

I also do the same thing with cheese. I buy a 2lb block (Tillamook!) every two weeks, and come home, shred it in my food processor, and store in a gallon sized ziploc bag in the fridge. Saves tons of time when you're throwing a meal together, plus it's cheaper to buy in a block than pre-shredded.

So................there you go.

I'm sure that I'm forgetting things, so I'm going to do a Part III later this week. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll try to answer them in that next post. If you have ideas or suggestions, add those too. I'd love for this to be a dialogue! 

I wrote this post back in 2009 as part of a series.
And guess what? I'm still just as wordy as ever. Wink.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tweaking. And other Wednesday stuff.

I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed by my schedule lately. I asked John to sit down with me over the weekend (before all the "yuck" struck) and take a long, hard, objective look at my calendar with the goal of tweaking things to regain some balance, and quite frankly to recover some L-I-F-E.

Together we realized that I spend a considerable portion of my day in my car. Having three kids in three different school makes that unavoidable, but when I weigh it out in terms of where my time goes each's a lot! I tried to identify other ways I waste time and come up with solutions to make full use of the 5.5 hours I have while the kids are in school every day to include work, commitments, and some life-giving-soul-reviving-activity. One thing that surprised (and greatly pleased me) was that I've significantly pared down my outside commitments to bible study and YL Grilled Cheese Thursday. I actually enjoy and look forward to both of those activities! This is the first time in a decade or more that I don't have multiple commitments to my kids' school(s). It's actually very, very nice and very, very freeing! YET, I still feel busy and overwhelmed. I think being a mom, working part-time, and keeping a home just combine to make even the most organized of us feel like slackers.

Anyhoo. I found a few areas to tweak and I'm trying to use my time much more purposefully so that I can free up space for the things that allow me to feel sane--like being home at least two days a week. And hiking. And friends. And even blogging. I want to feel like I have control over my schedule and not the other way around. I'm realistic here too; I realize that some weeks will totally own me. :)

Moving on...

It's Wednesday! Hump Day! And what better gift than a two-hour weather delay this morning? Actually a snow day would be even more of a gift but I'll take what I've been given. SNOW DAY! 
I got the text that the district upgraded our delay to a closure while sitting here writing this post. I am soooooooo sooooooooo sooooooooo happy right now. I think snow days might be even better when they're unexpected.

I've been very diligent about keeping wheat/gluten out of my diet for the past two weeks and I am feeling SO much better. But you know what stumps me? How to thicken soups and stews without good ole white flour. I've tried cornstarch (works okay but breaks down quickly), rice flour (seems grainy to me), and all-purpose gluten-free flour (has an after-bite and changes the flavor of things)(maybe because the primary ingredient in mine is garbanzo bean flour)(gag). I'm planning to make beef stew for dinner tonight and don't know what kind of flour/thickener to substitute for the flour. Any tried and true ideas from my GF friends? Think coconut flour would work?

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Weekend

I am back in the land of the living today after a hideous superbug attacked my intestines yesterday and found me alternating between the fetal position on my bed and the porcelain throne in my bathroom for fifteen l-o-n-g hours. Yuck. And Blech. And perhaps TMI. Sorry. It was a miserable day but this morning I woke up feeling like a million bucks. I will admit that I am still slightly afraid of food right now though. I hardly ever get sick (especially that kind of sick) but now it's happened two weekends in a row. Seriously. I spent last Saturday in bed with a similar gastrointestinal bug. That's enough to last me for at least twenty years. I hope so anyway.

Other than that, our weekend was fun. I met some friends for lunch on Friday and we ended up crashing a wedding reception. True story. Sort of. There was a wedding going on in the restaurant and the wedding party was seated RIGHT NEXT TO US. The receiving line passed right behind our table and when the groom prayed over their meal we could hear every word. It was weird. Especially since it was high noon on a Friday and there were other tables in the restaurant where we could have been seated away from them. Oh well. Add wedding crasher to my list of things I never thought I could say about myself.

Friday night I helped host a baby shower for some friends. It was a fun night. We basically just ate dinner and visited and we didn't play a single silly shower game--it was awesome! My friend, Lisa, did a TON of work and made everything look so cute. It was a camp theme (this baby is being expected by some Young Life friends and we figured their child would have a lot of camp experiences in their future) so Lisa had a "build your own trail mix" bar. For dessert, we roasted marshmallows over sterno cans and had lots of fun toppings. Lisa outdid herself--everything was so good and sooooooo perfectly themed.

Saturday morning was laid back and lazy. I started reading 7, the book that goes with my bible study guide...and's good. And challenging. And I adore Jen Hatmaker's writing style and her wit. Saturday afternoon I met some friends at the USAFA for a women's gymnastics meet. I love going to those. I feel like I'm watching the Olympics or something. Those girls are very, very good! Saturday night, John and I snuck away to see Silver Linings Playbook. I liked it; it made me both laugh and cry and it might be the only movie up for an Academy Award that I will have actually seen before the awards ceremony.

Sunday morning around 2am I woke up with the most horrendous stomachache. And I'll spare you the play by play since you already know how the rest of my day played out.

You know? I sometimes think it would be nice to have a whole day in bed to do nothing but watch tv and surf and nap and just do nothing? Yeah. It's not all it's cracked up to be. It was gorgeous here yesterday and I was itching to get outside. Didn't happen. I also fell asleep about five minutes into Downton Abbey and according to my Facebook newsfeed at 3am (when I woke up feeling incredibly refreshed) I missed a doozy of an episode. Guess I'll have to find time to squeeze that in this week. Sounds like I need to keep the tissues handy.

Happy Monday, folks! Here's hoping everyone has a fantastic week.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

More about that book I mentioned...

I mentioned last week that I was reading a fascinating book that had me considering a grain-free lifestyle. The book is Wheat Belly. The author, Dr. William Davis, builds a pretty strong case against Americans' consumption of wheat, wheat's extreme genetic modification over the years, it's addictive nature, and it's devastating effect on many, many areas of our health, including obesity. It seems ironic that something we've been told is good for us could actually be bad for our health, right? I told you; it's a fascinating book.

What resonated most with me was the fact that Dr. Davis was able to get to the root cause and eliminate many heath concerns by simply changing people's wheat-based diet. I feel like doctors are so quick to write a prescription these days that treats symptoms but masks the underlying cause(s) of what is making us sick. I've ranted about that before. Sorry.

Anyway, Wheat Belly is a compelling read (though a bit technical in places) and while I've realized that I don't want to give up grains completely, I can be intentional about my consumption. I already know I have a gluten sensitivity so I try to avoid wheat. The reason he suggests restricting other grains is because of the effect they have on blood sugar/insulin response and weight loss (duh, everyone knows low carb diets work...until you start adding carbs back in). I'm not trying to lose weight but I do put a priority on healthy eating so why not add a few grain-free meals into my rotation? Last night I made Mexican Chicken and "Rice" and it was very good! I knew my kids would balk and it wasn't a battle I chose to fight so I let them build their own chicken burritos. John opted for the burritos too, which bothered me at first but now I'm realizing it means more leftovers for me!

There are so many good resources on the web about this stuff, but if any of this piques your interest check out the Wheat Belly Blog -there is some good stuff there!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SMP 1.23.13

SMP = Seven Minute Post

Yesterday, Abbey had an appointment to get two very small cavities filled. The dentist told us last week that they were so small she might not even need an anesthetic. She heard those words and was certain she was not going to need a shot, so imagine her surprise when his assistant started talking her through the numbing process. She looked over at me with tears in her eyes, so I advocated for my daughter who is deathly afraid of shots and guess what? She endured the entire process without anything for pain. How tough is that girl? I was pretty proud of her. She is much more brave than her mother.

I'm starting a new bible study at church this morning. I've dropped out of spring bible study the last few years due to the pace of the spring semester and my inability to keep up with the study/schedule and I made a deal with myself last year that I would not commit again this spring. However, I'm SO intrigued by what we're studying this go-round that I decided to give it my best shot and am praying God will honor what little (or lot) I can give it.

In regard to yesterday's post, I've decided to ask my doctor to test Abbey for that specific allergy. Thank you for the comments and email responses.

Seven minutes passes really quickly!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Necessary? What do you think?

I'm soliciting advice today.

My youngest child, Abbey, has an EpiPen that was prescribed for her six years ago. Abbey broke out in hives after cracking and eating pistachios. Her hives were pretty mild but upon telling our pediatrician about the incident, she explained that first exposure to an allergen may not prompt a life-threatening anaphylactic situation (typically it is the second, third, or subsequent exposures that trigger it) but it's always good to be prepared. She prescribed two double-packs of EpiPen for Abbey and it was me that went into shock when I picked them up from the pharmacy. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ing. They were extremely pricey even with our insurance!

For a year or two, my pharmacy would switch them out upon expiration for a new set of Epipens which was a phenomenal deal. Basically, I paid for those first two double sets then just traded my expired pens for four new ones every year. Sadly, that program was short-lived. Probably because pharmaceutical companies figured out they were losing lots-o-money. 

In the 6+ years that Abbey has had her Epipen prescription, we've NEVER ONCE needed to use it. I'm just not sure she really even needs them. Every year I buy new ones and every year they expire unused and go straight to the trash bin. They're still expensive, even with insurance. I do not like paying for something she may or may not need and something that ends up getting thrown out every year. Honestly, it's like flushing $100+ a year down the toilet.

Now please hear me--if I thought that my child could not survive without them or her life depended on them, I would gladly fork over the money. And I also would still have a double set (I only refill two pens every year now instead of four--because throwing $200/year in the trash was KILLING me). But you know what? When we go on vacation we never take her EpiPen. We never even think about it. In fact, the only set she has is the one at school and my only reminder that she even has a set of pens is the paperwork from the school nurse every summer reminding me to bring her pens to school and fill out the dosage and consent forms.

In some sense the school system is what keeps me enslaved to renewing the EpiPen. Once you have that prescription/allergy listed on your medical file, there's not much getting around it. Any field trip she goes on, the Epipen goes too. Any after school (on campus ) activity, the EpiPen is there with her. It's so far off of MY radar that I once accidentally left her pens on the school bus after a field trip and didn't realize it for days. Thankfully her teacher noticed them and turned them into the office or I probably would have been in a lot of trouble with the school nurse. Oy!

I rarely buy pistachios anymore because of her allergy but the few times we have, she's just avoided them and been fine. She eats all other kinds of nuts (not willingly but enough to know she's not allergic) and tolerates them just fine. dilemna and need for advice?

Do I  count it a blessing that $100/year is something I can afford and keep paying it as "insurance" against an allergy that I think is a bit overblown? I don't see an end in this for at least 7 more years of public school, and the out-of-pocket amount that we will have paid by the time she graduates is a lot!

Or do I stop renewing the prescription and risk it? (And some of you might already think I am risking it by only having a set at school!)

My gut says I'm okay to risk it. I'm not sure what my doctor will say. I called her office this morning and talked to her nurse. She asked me a ton of questions and told me the doctor would review it and let me know tomorrow. There's no way I can know what she'll say but my guess is her liability is too much for her to nullify the script.

It's a hard mommy call to make, huh? What would YOU do? 

PS: I know that some of you have children who are extremely at risk for allergies and an Epipen is a life-saving device.I do not want to appear callous or diminish anyone's need for epinephrine. I just don't think that I agree that Abbey's prescription is warranted. I should also mention that I'm not a huge fan of traditional medicine and that factors into my thinking. 

*Follow up: Our pediatrician called me late last week to further discuss this with me. She doesn't feel good  about Abbey not having an EpiPen at this point (liability issues, I'm sure) but she did refer me to an allergist for testing and agreed to go with the allergist's recommendation. I agree with this plan of action, especially since Abbey was NEVER tested for this allergy before the pen was prescribed. So that's the plan. Thank you for all of your comments and private emails!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


SMP = Seven Minute Post

This week has felt so. stinkin'. long. I can't believe it's only Thursday. Having sick kids last week has made this feel like my first week back after Christmas break. I'm NOT in my groove. I've had a few scheduling snafus this week, but thankfully nothing too major. I'm just ready for my brain and calendar to start communicating again.

I dreamed last night that some of my extended family came to Colorado Springs to visit and decided to climb Pikes Peak around 6pm one evening. I was freaking out and trying to warn them about safety and nocturnal mountain predators (that's a rational fear) but they wouldn't listen so off we trekked in the dark. Whew. Glad I woke up from that dream.

Will has decided that instead of running track this spring, he wants to play lacrosse. John took him last weekend and got the gear he needs to get started. I'm proud of him for having the confidence and determination to learn something new...especially when his friends that play have been playing for a long time. And I'm excited to learn about this sport too!

I am reading a fascinating book right now (more on that later) that has me contemplating a grain-free diet. The health reasons are pretty compelling but I just don't know if it's a viable long-term eating plan. Especially with a family of five. I do not enjoy cooking separate meals and I'm not sure I can convince my family to go grain-free. My seven minutes are up (I actually ran over a bit) but I'll re-visit this topic again soon.

Have a great day, peeps.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

C-c-c-o-l-d and Irrational Fears

I have two topics on my mind today: the actual outdoor temperature and my irrational fears. Don't they pair nicely? Like milk and cookies, huh? 

It's been reeeeeeeeeally cold here for the last few days with highs hovering in the teens and the lows dipping below zero (my weather app said -8 this morning). We've had a bit of snow too. Not a lot, just an inch or so. Here are some of my cold weather observations.
1. I don't like it.
2. At all.
3. All the water bottles you store in your garage will freeze solid when it gets that cold.
4. And your kids will not like that one bit when they go to grab one on the way to school.
5. Water bottles in your garage aren't the only thing that might freeze. Apparently, your favorite burger joint isn't immune from the cold and their pipes freeze in temps like these. When you grab a burger after church on Sunday and ask for water to drink, the server will tell you that you can't have water because the pipes are frozen. Huh? Yep, true story. It's okay; soda goes better with a burger anyway.
6. Thirty degrees will feel like a heat wave. I can't wait for those kind of temperatures to return!

Moving on to irrational fears.

I have two that nag me almost daily.
1. I'm very much afraid of sticking my foot into a boot. I can't explain the fear of what could be lurking there. Spiders? Rodents? Tacks? I wear boots quite a bit and every single time I go to pull one on I shudder, cringe, and hold my breath. It makes sense that I might be equally afraid of sticking my foot in a shoe but for some reason I'm not--it's just boots. It isn't rational.  
2. I'm also afraid of my garage door crashing down on me as I pull into my garage. I usually wait for it to raise completely before I drive into my garage but even then I hold my breath until I'm past the point where it could come down on my head or on my passengers' heads. Isn't that the craziest thing?

Ahhhhhhh. There's nothing like putting your "crazy" out there for all the world wide web to see. If any of y'all have crazy, irrational fears feel free to share them so I maybe don't feel so awkward. BIG SMILE!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Just some of my favorite things of late. They may change tomorrow but today they're my favorites.

Favorite beauty product - Clinique Chubby Stick
Sarah was the one who made me aware of this product. She's really into make-up and beauty products and pointed this out to me one day while walking past a Clinique counter. I haven't bought Clinique in years and years but after spending too much money on cheap lipstick trying to find the right shade, I broke down and bought a chubby stick. L-O-V-E. It's so dry where we live and this is the perfect mix of sheer color and moisturizer. There is also a new Chubby Stick Intense, which is the same product with a bolder color. Revlon makes a similar product but I've found that it's much harder to get a true color with that brand.

Favorite place to waste time on the internet - Etsy

Favorite accessory - This chevron scarf that I mentioned the other day. It's happy and fun! In fact, I think I'll wear it today. 

Favorite television show - Downton Abbey
It's on tonight! Yay!

Favorite iPhone app - Weatherbug
I'm a bit of a weather nut so I like this app because it gives me lot more information than the standard weather app on my phone. Plus, it's free (hence the ads at the bottom of this morning's screen shot.)
In case you're wondering I did not get out and walk in -6 degree temps. I have limits! 

Favorite techy thing - touch screen/texting gloves
I found some inexpensive ones at Pac-Sun while (my teens' favorite store) but they're sold out online so I can't link you. These are similar; I've also seen them at Kohl's and Target for around $5-6. Basically, the fingers that you typically text with have conductive thread sewn into the glove which makes them work with your touch screen. Here's a tutorial for making your own.

Favorite candle  - Spiced Apple Toddy 
I bought mine before Christmas when they were on sale for $8. Wish I'd bought more at that price.

Favorite way to spend a Sunday -Church, a nap, and football. That's on my docket for today! Hope your day is restful too. 

Friday, January 11, 2013


SMP = Seven Minute Post

Today is the first time in three weeks that I'm home alone. My last kiddo is finally well and went back to school today for the first time since our break. Shortest school week ever, huh?

Y'all know that I love having my kids at home, but truthfully, I was beyond ready for her to go back. I really do enjoy (and need) some quiet in my day.

It's supposed to be really cold this weekend and I sure hope it is because I'm planning to have a nice, cozy couple of days at home. I want to work on a new puzzle (John's boss read my blog and sent a really hard one home with John this week--thank you Mr. P!), make those rice bags I mentioned, and watch football. We had a couple of chances to buy tickets to the Broncos playoff game tomorrow. It would have been fun but we decided we didn't want to spend a bunch of money to watch the game in freezing cold temps when we could watch from our warm, comfy couch. I'll likely be watching while wrapped up in my orange slanket. :) Sounds like I'll probably get to spend part of the weekend helping Abbey catch up on three missed days of schoolwork. How fun! said no mom ever.

And just like that my seven minutes are up. That was fast! Hope you all have a GREAT weekend!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Currents: January 2013

Current Books: I won't even pretend that I've cracked open a book since my last post about this. Actually, that's not quite true. I read a chapter of The Snow Child one afternoon last week and it's still beside my bed. Maybe today I will find some time to pick it back up.

Current Playlist: Probably time to ditch the Christmas playlist, huh? 

Current Color: Purple. Eggplant to be exact. I got a new sweater in that color and though it's not a color I routinely choose to wear I'm enjoying it. I'm trying to brighten up all the black and brown in my closet. 

Current Drink: I've been back on the coffee bandwagon for about a month. There's nothing like coming in from a wintry morning walk and wrapping my fingers around a steaming mug of coffee. It's SO good. Tea doesn't quite do it for me but I began my caffeine-detox (again) this morning so herbal tea will be my go-to for now. 

Current Food: I don't know that I'm craving anything right now except REAL food. I ate way too much junk and processed stuff over break and am trying to get back on track with clean eating. I made this for dinner last night (and if you must know, all three of my children protested wildly and did not eat one bit of it) and I'm making cheeseburger soup for dinner tonight. It's so yummy. 

Current Favorite Favorite: Warm, furry slippers! John picked up on all the hints I dropped and bought me a pair for Christmas. They're the last thing I take off at night and the first thing I put on in the mornings. L-O-V-E!

Current Wish List: Healthy kids. My girls are both home sick today with a really bad cold. I hate seeing them so pitiful. Abbey stayed home yesterday too and I would have kept Sarah home as well if she hadn't had make-up finals. Hopefully lots of fluid, rest, and TLC (the mom kind, not the network) will remedy things for their return tomorrow. Hopefully.

Current Needs: Can't think of one single thing I truly need right now. 

Current Triumph: Finding more time to blog. 

Current Annoyance: Not letting things go. Truth be told, I'm the one hanging on to petty things most of the time. However, having been on the receiving end of this a bit too much lately my eyes have been opened to the gift you can extend to others when you let things go and move on. I guess this is part annoyance + part lecture. Sorry. 

Current Indulgence: Sleeping in. I've taken some days off from walking to recover from not feeling great last week. As much as I've missed my social and endorphin fix, I have to say that sleeping in has been heavenly. I'll be bundled up and back at it tomorrow though!

Current Mood: Happy, but concerned about my girls.

Current Blessing: Provision. 

Current Outfit: Jeans, red sweater and a cute black/white chevron scarf. Chevron makes me smile! 

Current Excitement: We have some fun weekend plans AND I get to see one of my dearest friends next week--that would be YOU, Jennifer! 

Current Project: I have a yard of flannel on my kitchen table along with a bag of rice because I want to try making some of these. Have materials just need time! John and I are also looking to re-do our bedroom soon so I've been searching for ideas, paint colors, bedding, etc. I don't particularly enjoy this process but we've had the same bedding since before Abbey was born and it's getting pretty threadbare so it's time. Our bedroom also remains the last unpainted room in our house. I will not be sad to say goodbye to white walls. 

Current Link: My blog friend, Melissa, had a great idea and completed 26 acts of kindness for each of the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary shooting last month. One of those acts grew into a rather large (and AMAZING!) outpouring. You can read all about her 26th Act of Kindness here--I promise you will be blessed! 

Monday, January 07, 2013

Monday Schmonday

Well, it's Monday. My husband went back to work this morning after seventeen days at home with me/us. Neither of us were very excited about him going. He was in a grumpy mood last night and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what I'd done. Turns out I hadn't done anything. It was just him dreading re-entry into normal life. I think we both wish we could live in vacation mode. But (sigh) that is simply not realistic.

Our kids start back to school tomorrow so today is our last big hurrah. I make it sound like we're going out with a bang but we're really not doing anything big. Abbey is having a one of her BFFs over later this morning and Sarah had two of her favorite friends sleep over last night. I've mentioned many times that I'm not the biggest fan of sleepovers and that hasn't changed but I've learned that when your kids are older, sleepovers aren't so bad. Teenage girls usually want to bake something and I'm fine with that as long as they tidy up the kitchen (last night they did not--grrrr) and I feel comfortable going to sleep after telling them goodnight and that I expect them to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I'm not quite sure we agree on what is reasonable, but I bet we can agree that when their alarm clocks begin chirping tomorrow morning to wake them for school it will be painful.

Sarah has to take her remaining final tomorrow upon return to school and Will takes his last two exams on Wednesday. The snow day we had the week before Christmas break really threw a kink into their finals schedule. Back in the summer, I scheduled the kids' dental exams for tomorrow thinking they'd still be out on break and we could squeeze them in. Wrong! When the dentist's office called me last week to confirm I realized I couldn't pull Sarah/Will out of class early like I'd need to because of the make-up finals! Ugh. Had to reschedule all three appointments this week.

DOWNTON ABBEY is back! John and I discovered this lovely television series last January and we flew though Season I so we could catch Season II when it aired. We've since bought and watched both seasons again on DVD. It is sooooooo sooooooooo good, y'all. If you're not watching you need to, but you need to watch in order so begin with Season I. Season III began last night on PBS and we both stayed up way past our bedtime to watch. That show is just pure wonderful. Now that it's back I have a reason not to dread Sunday evenings so much.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Monday!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

1.5.13 Randomness

Randomness from Christmas break:

Last week, we bought part of a cow! I've wanted to do this for a long time. I knew it was probably cheaper and healthier for us in the long run but but quite honestly, I didn't want to drop that chunk of change. Plus, I knew we would have to buy a freezer as well. We finally bit the bullet and bought both and I am very, very pleased. The meat I've used so far is tasty! I really like knowing that we're eating quality stuff.

We bought a puzzle to work on New Year's Eve while John's family was here and put it together in record time. I enjoyed it so much that I bought another one the next day, and another one yesterday which I finished this morning after coming in from my walk. I'd forgotten how much I love puzzles. I need to join a puzzle swap or something because I can't continue to fund this addiction.
The day our company left I started feeling bad--runny nose, bodyaches, and a cough. I stayed in bed most of the day drinking Emergen-C and taking cold medicine and watching television. Being sick is a GREAT excuse to lay around watch television all day without guilt. I started Season 1 of Revenge on Netflix and I'm hooked. I'm also feeling much, much better--hooray! 

I was looking around Etsy a few weeks before Christmas and came across a printed quote that I loved. I showed it to John and lo and behold, I opened a framed version of it on Christmas morning. Sweet, huh? It was my favorite gift and quite a surprise too.

She believed she could so she did. 

The lady at the frame shop asked John if I'd there was some special accomplishment behind the print. I don't think it's anything I've done necessarily, but is more the mentality that if I believe I can do it then I absolutely can. Seven really good words to live by.
That print was my favorite gift. And this scarf was my funniest gift.
You're probably wondering why a cute scarf would be funny, right?

I like to make short stories long so bear with me.

 John took a day off a few weeks before Christmas and we went to Denver to do our Christmas shopping. I saw this scarf at the first store we walked into and liked it. John suggested I buy it and let him wrap it up for me for Christmas and I told him I'd think about it. As we were leaving the mall, we walked past it again and he urged me to buy it if I liked it. I did like it and the price was right, so I took it up to the counter and got in line to pay. John was still browsing while I was in line but walked up as I was paying and asked me if I'd noticed that the pattern on the scarf was SKULLS? Indeed I had NOT noticed that. The salesperson rolled her eyes and asked if I still wanted it (because I had literally JUST swiped my debit card as he was pointing this out to me) and I decided that yes, yes I did still want it. Hopefully it's only noticeable if you're all up in my personal space, right? And you might not have even noticed if I hadn't pointed it out. Besides, it goes great with my favorite black sweater AND my kids think it's cool that I have a skull scarf AND apparently skulls are quite trendy these days. I giggle every time I see it in my closet though.

I wonder how many of you are questioning my decision right now? I bet my mother sure is. 

On the agenda today:
Costco (Why do I always end up going there on Saturdays???? Why? Why? Why?)
Christmas thank-you notes (I can hear my kids groaning now)

Happy Saturday, y'all!

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Mona Lisa was the only one still smiling

One morning last month we had breakfast with some friends in Manitou Springs. Manitou Springs is a funky little mountain town at the base of Pikes Peak filled with great restaurants and eclectic shops--some of our faves include the Penny Arcade and Adams Mountain Cafe.

We were driving home from breakfast that day and passed The Mona Lisa, a fondue restaurant I've always wanted to try. I guess I've mentioned that to John a time or two ten because he suggested we try to have dinner there one night while his parents were here visiting. I readily agreed and made a reservation--because it's that kind of restaurant. 

Our date was last Sunday evening. We left the house early and did a little bit of post-Christmas shopping before heading down to Manitou Springs. It was getting dark and most of the shops were closing so we quickly found a parking place--an amazing parking place, by the way--and wandered in and out of the few shops that remained open before heading over to The Mona Lisa.

Our dining experience was everything we'd hoped it would be. Delicious. Quaint. Romantic. Definitely an evening to remember. About mid-way through our meal, a couple on their honeymoon was seated close by and we realized that it was December 30, which meant it was our half-anniversary and we have been married exactly 22.5 years. (That's neither here nor there...just something I wanted to remember).

We snapped this photo as were were leaving the restaurant--a happy reminder of a near-perfect evening. 
A near perfect evening. OR SO WE THOUGHT!

We exited The Mona Lisa and started heading in the direction of our car. 

Only our car was nowhere to be found. It was G-O-N-E.

That's a very bad feeling, y'all. A very very very very bad feeling.

Immediately I panicked. Several years ago, my van was broken into and I am hyper-worried about a repeat incident. I immediately assumed John's car had been stolen and my mind started racing with multiple scenarios, none with happy outcomes.

John isn't a freaker-outer like me (thank God) so he calmly suggested that maybe we weren't remembering our parking place correctly and suggested we keep walking.

About that time, an older couple approached us (must have been the dumbfounded look on our faces as we stared at an empty parking place) and asked: "Black Acura?" We nodded. The gentleman informed us that it had been towed about twenty minutes prior. He explained that a police officer was going door-to-door and checking shops and restaurants up and down the street looking for the car's owner but ultimately it had to be towed because he was unable to locate us. 

TOWED! Our car had been towed while we were obliviously having a nice long, romantic meal.


Fortunately, the Manitou Springs police department was only a block or two from The Mona Lisa so we walked down there to see what we needed to do to locate our car. The (gruff) receptionist called the police officer who was looking for us and he arrived shortly. He explained that we were parked illegally, which we'd already figured out by that time. In our defense, it wasn't clearly marked (even the officer admitted that) and the no parking lines were covered with ice and snow. For that reason he didn't ticket us (thankful for that!) but we were blocking a residential entrance and the owner was raising a ruckus (as would I) so towing was his only option. He tried to locate us like the gentleman on the street had said but stopped just short of The Mona Lisa (our luck!). He even tried getting our phone number from the license/registration on the car and calling but we don't have a home phone and neither of our cell phones are listed. He tried his very best not to tow us and we could tell he felt terrible about it. We honestly didn't know we were parked illegally until the car was gone and we started analyzing things. You'd think it would be obvious if you were blocking a residential entrance, wouldn't you? Yeah, that caught us very off-guard because it wasn't obvious at all.
We thought about calling John's dad to come get us and take us to our car, but decided it was quicker and easier to just call a cab. The cab driver turned out to be a very nice divinity student who talked our ear off for the ten minute cab ride to the tow lot. At least he was nice.

The tow lot couldn't have been in a scarier part of town. And the lot attendant (who I'm pretty sure had more tattoos than teeth) had me shaking in my UGGs. After what seemed like an eternity and after forking over an obscene amount of money, we finally had possession of our car once again, though now it reeked of tow-truck grit and cigarette smoke. Awe.Some.

If you're familiar with the movie A Christmas Story you might recall a scene where Ralphie starts beating the snot out of Scott Farkus and from his mouth proceeds a a seemingly endless stream of profanity. Remember? Great. Now substitute John for Ralphie and the steering wheel of his car for Scott Farkus and you'll have a snapshot of our drive home. In hindsight it was pretty hilarious.

Thank goodness we could laugh about it. We had to. The alternative was to cry.

You don't even want to know how much cash (ch-ch-ch-ch-ching!) we dropped that evening. Let's just say that it was a WHOLE LOT. Enough to make us both sick to our stomachs for the remainder of the evening and to go down in John and Mer history as THE MOST MEMORABLE AND EXPENSIVE DATE EVER. Pretty sure the only one still smiling at the end of the evening was The Mona Lisa. 


Yeah, you might want to forget what I said about hoping to be a bit better at blogging over Christmas break because evidently I forgot it too.

I'm just going to try to hit the highlights...

1. Our Christmas was great. It was just the five of us and it was wonderful and relaxing. The kids woke us up at 6am (pretty sure they set their alarms) and we opened gifts, ate our traditional Christmas breakfast of sausage balls, then spent the rest of the day lazing around, snacking, eating, and enjoying each other and our gifts. My one request was to watch The Nativity Story as a family, which we did and it pretty much perfected the day for me. 

2. John's parents arrived a few days after Christmas to spend some time with us. We tried to pack in as much fun as we could. One night we took them to see Parental Guidance (very cute movie!) and we also spent some time in Denver shopping, eating, and getting to know some of our extended family there. John and I went on a date one evening that ended up being the craziest date night ever. It deserves its own post so stay tuned.
John's brother and his family arrived on New Year's Eve (they'd been vacationing in Winter Park) and helped us ring in 2013 and all eleven of us spent New Year's Day in downtown Denver. I still can't get anyone to go ice skating with me--boo! It was a fun, but whirlwind week and they're all home safe and sound now. 

3. John has been off since December 20 and I have loved every minute of him being home! Okay, maybe not every minute but I have loved most of it. He goes back to work on Monday so we're trying to milk the last bit of relaxation out of these remaining days. Our kids start back to school on Tuesday and I must say I'm dreading that. I feel like we haven't had a long enough break! 

4. I tried really hard on NYE to sit down and write a post highlighting my favorite memories of 2012. I didn't get very far and gave up. Next I tried to write a post detailing my 2013 goals. Obviously I didn't get very far with that either. Time, people. With a house-full of company, free time was in short supply. Maybe I'll get to that one day. Or maybe the moment has passed. I don't know but I know that I do want to document a few things here for myself--some things I'm proud of. See #5 below.

5. I had two big personal fitness goals for 2012--to climb two fourteeners and to climb The Manitou Incline twice a month. I blogged about my climb up Grays and Torreys Peak in September. It was an exhilarating experience and has sparked a desire to add more 14ers to my list for 2013! I didn't quite make my Incline goal of twice a month but I did manage to climb to the top twenty-two point five times (one of those times I was sick and got off at the halfway/bailout point hence the .5) I'm more than happy with that number! Back in January I began logging all of my trail mileage. After my morning walk with friends on New Year's Eve I tallied up my final numbers--1050.5 miles for 2012--gotta say that feels GREAT!

6. If you happen to know someone who loves American Girl, you MIGHT be able to guess what's in the bag Abbey is holding in this picture. We made a stop by the AG store on New Year's Day for this newly-debuted-hot-ticket-item which she'd been saving her money to buy. That's a big smile she's wearing, huh?
I hope YOUR holidays were full of things you can look back on and smile about!