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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

To Watch List

Loyal readers may remember a while ago I mentioned a website called www.goodreads.com.  I love this website because it allows me to build a "to read" list.  When I hear about a book I want to read I just go add it to my list and then the next time I am heading to the book store or library I can look and see what I want to read next. 

I have developed my own system for watching movies.  I know many of you are on Netflix so you already have a list of movies you want to watch but for me it isn't worth $10 a month to belong to Netflix.  I just don't have time to watch very many movies each month.  So I build my list using the public library.....and its FREE.

Every time I hear about a DVD I want to rent I go to the Johnson County Library website and request that movie.  Now, if it is new and popular I will be about number 400 on the list but that is okay.  Six months later when that movie comes available I get an e-mail and almost every time I say "Oh, I forgot about that one!"   I have one week to make my way to the library to check out the movie and another two weeks after that to watch it.  Giving me three whole weeks to carve out 2 hours of time!  I love my system.  And if I pick up a movie and don't get around to watching it I can make the decision to keep it a day or two longer at 30 cents per day or return it and put it back on my list. 

Occasionally I'll take 15 minutes and build my list.  I pull up the Red Box website and browse through the new release list and then add those to my library queue.  If I happen to rent a movie from Red Box one night (or go on a girls weekend and watch 7 movies in 3 days!) I come home and pull up my library list and delete the ones I watched. 


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's for dinner tonight? Homemade Pizza

We love pizza in our house but we rarely get delivery or take out.  Almost always if we are having pizza it is homemade.  I whip up a simple, quick crust, pile on the toppings and you have a pizza you can't beat.

Pizza Crust (makes 1 crust for 10x15 pan)

1 pkg quick rise yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups flour
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Mix the yeast and water and let stand for about 10 minutes, it will be creamy looking when it is ready.  While that works itself combine flour, salt, sugar and garlic powder in a mixing bowl.  When yeast liquid is ready pour the olive oil in the flour mixture and then add the yeast water.  Mix until combined but do not over mix!  Let sit about 30 minutes, until double in volume.  I cover with a towel and put on the stove where the oven is heating to 425.

Pizza toppings can be endless.  Some of our favorites include onions, red peppers, tomato slices, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, baby bella mushrooms.  Tonight I sauteed the sliced mushrooms and onions before putting them on the pizza.  I think it makes it a little tastier.  I always double the crust recipe and make 2 pizzas.  Each pizza ends up being topped in half so we each end up with a few slices just the way we like them.

I use bottled pizza sauce most of the time just for the convenience and I also use a blend of cheeses, an Italian blend or a cheddar/mozzarella blend. 

So now that you have your toppings, sauce and cheese assembled you can build your pizza.  Roll out your dough to fit your pan.  I highly recommend using a Pampered Chef stone because it makes the bottom of you dough crispy and not soggy.  Parbake your crust for about 10 minutes.  Then remove from oven and top at will, obviously starting with the sauce, then the meat and veggies and last the cheese.  (Sorry, gotta spell it out for my Chicago friends :-)  Then bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and a little golden brown. If you are making two pizzas in one oven I would switch them from top to bottom half way through.

Dig in!!!!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Five Second Hugs!


A few days ago I came home from work.  I said hello to everyone as I walked in but then immediately went upstairs to change my clothes and start a load of laundry and then right into the kitchen to start dinner.  At the same time I was flipping through the mail and tidying up the kitchen.  I turn around to find Liv Mae standing behind me with her arms spread wide open, patiently waiting for a hug.  I said "What are you doing?  I'm cooking dinner.  I almost ran you over."  She says "Do you have time for a 5 second hug?"  

Okay, so I melted.  All she wanted was five seconds of undivided attention and affection from her mom.  I get so focused on bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan that sometimes I forget to take a breath and just enjoy my kids on a day to day basis.  So we have a new tradition in our house.  The Five Second Hug -- which by the way I count it out actually ends up being 8 - 10 seconds.  Squeeze hard, count to 5 veryyyyyyy slowlyyyyy and breathe them in.  I know first hand how fast they grow since I already have one in high school!  


I think this tradition will definitely stick!

Friday, August 26, 2011

My very worst BAD MOM Moment!

As promised I'm sharing my worst, BAD MOM moment ever, or at least to date.  But there is a lesson to be had so read on, if not just for enjoyment and reinforcement that you are not alone in your struggles.

It was the first week of Olivia Mae's Kindergarten year.  For those of you who have seen my daughter you know that she is a Mini-Me.  She looks just like me, almost eerily so.  She also shares some of my personality traits, such as my dislike of morning and my need for plentiful sleep.  When she was in daycare/preschool it wasn't a big deal because she could roll out of bed, throw on some clothes and go to school half dressed.  The lovely ladies at Wonder Tots would snuggle her into her day and when she was fully alert feed her a yummy breakfast.  With real school now in session she had to be up, dressed, fed and ready to learn every day by 8:00!  Even at her worldly age of almost 6 it was a little more than she could muster.  

The first week was painful.  Having to literally drag her out of bed several times each morning, begging and pleading with her to please brush her teeth, please come down and eat.  It was painful.  On about the third or fourth day (I can't remember exactly as it is a bad, blurry memory now) we were downstairs fixing breakfast and I sent her back upstairs for something (maybe to brush her teeth or get her shoes??? again, it is a blur).  She stomped around the corner and presumably up the stairs.  After about five minutes I hollered that we needed to get moving with no response so I decided to go check on her.  (NOW REMEMBER -- I myself am NOT a morning person so this was all a bigger struggle for me than maybe the average mom).  As I rounded the corner of the dining room, what did I encounter????  Miss Olivia perched on the bottom step, pouting and having never even gone upstairs!!!!!!  I must have gotten a terrifying look on my face because she popped up and sprinted up those stairs so dang fast.  So what did I do???  Yes!  I chased her!  Right up the stairs and into her bedroom, I picked her up and very firmly placed her on her bed (maybe a little thrown) and screamed "WE ARE NOT GOING TO DO THIS EVERYDAY!!!!  WE ARE NOT GOING TO DO THIS EVERY! FRICKING! DAY!!!!"  I am not a spanker.  I have never lifted a finger to either of my children, not a swat, not smack, nothing, so this was very out of character for me but I completely lost it.  I quickly realized I had lost it and went and locked myself in my bedroom to cool down.  The kids were late to school and the MORNING CHART was born that day while I was at work.  

So what is the Morning Chart?  A detailed time line of everything she needed to accomplish every morning with very easy to read times and correlating pictures.  I went out at lunch bought her a digital clock from Walmart and that night we sat down and discussed the tasks in detail.  I even gave her time to stretch before getting out of bed.  We also discussed her bedtime and decided to play around with it.  I was putting her to bed pretty early because she does need a lot of sleep and she was laying there for an hour.  We moved her bedtime back 30 minutes and she started falling asleep right away.  It was not an easy transition but we made it.  Every morning I would holler down the hall "It's 7:15, what are you doing?"  And she could check her chart and see if she was on track.  "It's 7:25.  Are you putting your laundry in the hamper?"  Eventually the Morning Chart went away but not until sometime in first grade.  And I am proud to say that now she sets her own alarm, gets herself up, dressed, hair done, fed all with no prompting and almost a smile and she has been doing this since early 4th grade.  We both realize we are not morning people but unfortunately the rest of the world doesn't operate on our schedule!




Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's for Dinner Tonight? Cheeseburgers, Potato Salad and Fruit

So this is a tricky time of year for me.  I want the convenience of throw and go crock pot cooking but I don't really find myself craving those hot, heavy dishes.  What's a mom to do?  Soccer practice, swim team, working late.......  The only cure for me is PREPARATION!  Tonight we will have grilled cheeseburgers, homemade potato salad and cantaloupe for dinner.  I manage by preparing ahead of time.  Last night I made the potato salad (mine is the best in the world, according to me and my kids and my mom), made up the hamburger patties and cut up a melon.  Tonight when we get home it is a matter of throwing the burgers on the grill and dinner is on the table.  You can also prepare your lettuce, tomatoes and onions or whatever your toppings of choice are.  We prefer sauteed onions so I'll put those on to cook while the burgers grill.  Below are my recipes for potato salad and hamburgers.  

Potato Salad


5-6 pre-baked potatoes (you can microwave them in a pinch but please don't boil!)

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

celery seed

3-4 hard boiled eggs

yellow mustard

mayo


Peel and diced the pre-baked and cooled potatoes (you can actually bake them a day or two ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to use them.)  Peel and chop the hard boiled eggs (again, can be boiled ahead of time).  Combine the eggs, potatoes and onions in a resealable storage bowl.  Add a tsp of celery seed and 2 T. yellow mustard.  Add mayo to the right consistency.  I usually don't salt or pepper mine at this point.  Put it in the fridge to chill.  When ready to serve taste and then season with salt or pepper as needed.  


Cheeseburgers


1.5 pounds ground beef

3 - 4 T. McCormicks Grill Mates Hamburger Seasoning

1-2 T. Worcestershire Sauce


Mix and form into patties, I typically get 5 - 5 oz patties out of this.  I use a scale to weigh the meat because I hate having one burger left that is really small or really big.  I also have a hamburger patty maker that I bought from Bed, Bath and Beyond that I love.  It makes the perfect size and shape burgers and you can stack them up and store them in the container until you are ready to grill.  Grill them to your desired doneness either on the outside grill or inside grill.  Ours take about 4 minutes on each side and they are a smidge pink in the middle.  Put cheese on them when there is just a minute or two left.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't Jump to No!

Do you jump to NO?  I do and I know I'm not alone.  My mom even admitted to me recently that she did when us kids were at home.  And my BFF Mary confessed to jumping to No just today at lunch.  Do you know what I mean?  Your lovely child asks you something and without even thinking you "just say no."  (Maybe we should blame Nancy Regan!) 

So why do we jump to No and how do we stop?  

I think we jump to No out of years of practice and conditioning.  Let's be honest, these kids ask for a lot and,  especially when they are little, we have to say no a lot.  Can I jump on my bed? No.  Can I have ice cream for dinner?  No.  Can I run in the street?  No.  So you see, they have given us good reason to say no out of reflex and habit.  They have created the monster!

Now to the more important thing -- how do we fix it???  I think there are two solutions here for this dilemma:
First, when you find you have jumped to No be honest with your kids.  In our home we don't negotiate with our kids.  Once we say No to something we never go back on our decision.  And I mean NEVER.  The reason is obvious.  Once you let them wear you down with begging and pleading you have set a precedent and they are bound to beg, plead and pester from here til the end of time.  Some of my favorite phrases to shut down the pleading:

"This isn't a conversation."   
"Asked and answered." 
"No pestering."  
"Not open for discussion."  

Honestly my girls are pretty well trained and one well placed LOOK will usually stop the pestering.  I have watched friends tell their kids no and then proceed to argue and negotiate with them for 20 minutes and then give in and they wonder why their kids don't take no for answer.  

However, sometimes my girls will ask me something and I'll just say no without even really thinking about it. In that case I have reversed my decision, not because they asked again but because I re-thought my jumpy No and decided there wasn't a valid reason for it.  I find that it is best in these cases to just be honest.  For example:

One time last year Haley asked me if she could go to a movie with some friends on a Sunday afternoon.  I said No.  She didn't pester or plead but I could tell she wasn't happy with the decision.  A few minutes later I went to her and said very honestly "I don't know why I said no.  I'm not available to drive you because your sister has a soccer game but if you have a ride to and from the movies, you can go." 
 

I think we both learned from the experience.  She learned that I really try not to say No just for the sake of saying No and I learned that I can reverse my decision as long as it isn't a response to pleading and begging. 

The second solution is easier said than done.  Count to 10 before answering.  If your kids ask you something, take a deep breath, count to ten before you answer.  I know for me that is a challenge but I think I am up for it.  

As I said in my little bio on this blog, I have had my bad-mom moments, more than I'd like to admit.  Hopefully this admission of my premature No-ing will help me (and maybe you) have fewer of them.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In a Dinner Rut???

Ever feel like you are in a total dinner rut?  This is a great time of year to get out of that rut and here is an exercise to help you.  BRAINSTORM!!!  Open up a word document or just grab your note pad and in five minutes write down every meal idea you can think of.  Write down everything that pops in your head from those quick grab and go options (macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets) to those family favorites that take hours (pot roast with veggies slow cooked all day) to those standards (spaghetti and meat balls) that we all rely on.  Save this list and work through it as you are planning your meals for the next few months.  Keep the list in a handy place so you can update it from time to time.  Families change, my list today is greatly different than it was 5 years ago.  Today mine looks something like this:

Lemon Garlic Chicken
Steak with Baked Potatoes
Chicken Fajita
Soup and grilled cheese
Pancakes, eggs, bacon
Crockpot Italian Chicken with Pasta
Spaghetti and meatballs
Beef and Bean burritos
Tacos
Homemade Pizza

You get the idea.  My guess is you'll come up with at least 20 dinner ideas. 

Another way to brainstorm is to raid your recipe box.  Every few months I pull a few recipes out that we haven't made in a while and I try them out on the family.  After dinner everyone has to vote to keep the recipe or throw it in the trash. 

Last but not least, commit to trying one new dinner idea each week for a month.  It can be something super easy (like off my Blog!) or a more elaborate recipe you pick out of a magazine, cookbook or website.  Either way at the end of the month you'll either have 4 new meals to add to your list or 4 really funny family stories to share!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lunch Box Recipe

When your kids get tired of Goldfish and pretzels, make a batch of these yummy crackers to put in their lunch boxes:


Hidden Valley Ranch Oyster Crackers

12 oz. oyster crackers
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
¼ tsp. lemon pepper
½ tsp. dill weed
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix everything except crackers.  Pour over crackers.  Place in 250° oven for 15-20 minutes.

I have made these with mini pretzels instead of the oyster crackers and they were yummy too.