Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Freezer meals

When Candace and I aren't dreaming of summer time and how we plan to spend every single day at the water park... bouncing calls off of each other and griping that flu season is too long this year... or sharing funny stories about our babies...
We are talking about this day.
The day that we would cook all day and freeze our meals to simplify our life!

We have hunted recipes on Pinterest...
And shopped for our freezer gear...
but today, we put our plan into action and I came away with 20 ready-to-go meals.

I will do my best to share the recipes, but I will let you know right now--
It isn't healthy...
It isn't divine eating...
And if you are afraid of cream-of-whatever soups, exit now.

What it is, however, is a way to help me simplify and keep us from eating out when I don't want to cook!

I should also add that we are not big eaters in this house...
and we also are not left-over eaters...
so recipes that would normally make a 9X12, filled 2 8X8 and turned into 2 meals for us.
Which is how I reached the grand total of 20.

Here goes...
Let the fun begin!

We each came prepared with cooked chicken.
I cooked thighs in the crockpot over night, sprinkled with seasoning, topped with chopped celery, onion and capers.  And a stick of butter, like Paula Deen, y'all.
The entire package was like $4.

Candace cooked her first whole chicken in the oven, which quite frankly sicked us all out.
And I think she said he cost her about $7.
Both gave us what we needed... shredded chicken, both tasty.

First I made lasagna.
Mixed the ricotta, with an egg and Italian seasoning.
Layered between oven-ready noodles (not cooked), spaghetti sauce and Italian cheese blends and topped with Mozzarella.  (you can layer baby spinach, which I planned on doing... but forgot)
Meal 1 and 2; complete.

Similarly, Candace's first 2 meals were also a pasta.
However, she is trying to manage one of her baby's ADHD with dietary changes and has cut most all gluten, dye and preservatives from their diet.
This is ground beef (cooked), spaghetti sauce, Italian cheese blend and Quinoa noodles mixed and topped with more cheese.

Next, we each made chicken spaghetti.
I believe she used rice noodles in her's and she found dye free/ gluten free cream of's too...
I added Velveeta to mine but she had to omit it because of the dye.
And I tried the veggie noodles, which were actually really good.
Meal 3 and 4; complete.

I used the big cans of cream of's so that I could make 2 portions of king ranch casserole as well.
Same mixture used in chicken spaghetti above (cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, Rotel, shredded chicken from my slow-cooked thighs, chicken broth and Velveeta) but this time layered it with tortilla chips and shredded Mexican blend cheese.
Not too inventive...
but meal 5 and 6; complete.

Candace had great intentions on making twice baked potatoes...
except she forgot about them and they were left in my oven!

We each made our own batch of tortilla soup.
Mine has the shredded chicken, sauteed onions, minced garlic and bell peppers, frozen corn, frozen carrots, rotel, diced tomatoes, chopped zucchini, chopped yellow squash, chicken broth, ground cumin, cilantro and chicken bullion.

I believe Candace's was similar, keep the corn-- cut the cilantro and other veggies.

The soup was split into 4 containers, which we will call meal 7, 8, 9 and 10...
but if you know me and tortilla soup; this will only probably make 2 meals.

Candace nor I, either one, will eat hamburger meat-- however we don't mind feeding it to our crews.
This is just your good 'ol sloppy Joe, divided and froze for another quick dinner.
Meal 11, and 12.

We each made 2 loaves of meat... aka meat loaf.
I didn't get a picture of this, so we will pretend that's what Candace is whipping up there above.
I just used the can pre-made jazz, egg and oats-- but Candace used Paula Deen's homemade recipe.
1 lb of HB meat, split, made meal 13 and 14, complete.

2 thighs shredded, a bag of the frozen, chunky stew vegetables, a small can of cream of chicken and a small can of cream of mushroom soup, a little garlic salt and the rest of the jazz that was sitting beneath the chicken (broth, onions, capers, and celery) were all stuffed into a set of pie crusts.
Two pot pies...
Meal 15 and 16; ready.

We each made one large pan of cheese enchiladas... (only because we were out of the little pans.)
This is just a large can of mild enchilada sauce mixed with a small can of cream of mushroom, poured over rolled corn tortillas and stuffed with shredded cheese and topped with more cheese on top.
Meal 17.

Finally, I had bought a pack of 6 large chicken breasts.
I bagged them up, 2 per sack
One, I added teriyaki sauce and sliced pineapple.
Another, a packet of fajita seasoning and sliced peppers.
And the third, BBQ sauce.

Completing today's meals, 18, 19, and 20.

Well, actually 21, if you count the last bit of pork leftover from last weekend's pulled pork tacos and last night's nachos.

This little $3 pork roast turns into 3 meals for us.
Season salt, a little rub, a lot of minced garlic and a stick of butter in the crock pot, start it off.
Eaten shredded on tacos make meal one.
I freeze the remains in baggies and we usually eat it on buns with BBQ sauce to make meal two.
And for the little bit left over, we layer refried beans, Velveeta, the pork, and shredded cheese.
While that's baking, I saute up a little onions and top it off with cilantro.

And that's all for this round.
not too shabby for our first go at it...
and the chicken spaghetti was fabuloso, we had it tonight with a side of steamed broccoli.
The boys liked it, both Lance and I had seconds, and there's still a little serving left over for Toby dog.

I think our portions were perfect!
And I certainly had a blast with one of my favorite chicks...

Can't wait until our next go!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Stock Show: round 1

Lance met me with the boys after work on Saturday to go to the Fort Worth Stock Show.
It was crazy-crowded and we forgot the stroller, so it ended up being a lot of work.
But we got to visit with our friends and see a few exhibits, so I won't complain either!

Thankfully our season passes to the museum get us in for free, so we are planning a date back again-- this time, during the week, when it is less crowded!

I also left my camera behind, but thanks to my handy dandy Iphone, I am still not without pics!

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Friday... time to reflect on happiness

It feels like Monday was a year ago.

Maddox was out of school Monday for MLK Day.
The funeral was Tuesday.
Wednesday I had my first Bible study... took my sister to the airport... had a flat tire... got Maddox to and from school... and went to a cookout at my brother's with my aunt and uncle.
Yesterday we ran errands and then ate lunch at the park and played in the 80 degree weather.
Finally its Friday... which in my exciting world, just means laundry... and because we live in Texas, back to 50 degrees.


Mamaw's funeral was beautiful.  Thanks to the Mary Poppins' purse and enough snacks for a 7 day camping trip, the boys were perfect.  I still haven't broke down, and I think mostly her death has made me reflect.... and I am happy for her to be on the golden streets of Heaven, no walker in site.
I do want to share 2 Maddox'isms from the event.
Pulling up, he got his nervous face like he was a minute away from spilling the tears.
He took a deep breath, and said, "well, let's go find a stone without words, that's where we will put her."
And then he saw Gunner and Ellie, and he was 4 again... not sad... just playful-- not trying to be the funeral director at all.
But as we were leaving, his wheels started turning again.
Just as we reached the car, he looked to Lance and I and said, "so... are we just going to leave her bones here?"
I almost fell over!!  I said, "well we are certainly not taking them with us!"
I know it's a bit dark to tell such funny stories about a funeral-- but if you knew Mamaw....
I can see her tossing her head back and laughing now!
I guarantee she got a kick out of that one!

With her death, I have thought a lot.
First about funerals.
I don't want a funeral.
It is a lot of money for people to get together and be sad.
I want everyone to take a trip and talk about their favorite stories about me.
Turn me to ashes and spread me somewhere beautiful.
It's just a body... and I will already be in Heaven having a celebration beyond anything we can afford.
So write that down.
No funeral.

Then about Lance.

These past few weeks have helped me highlight all of the qualities that make my husband so special.
I pretend to be so independent and in control of this house, but when it falls apart, he's always there.
Quietly ready to take control and lead this boat back to safe waters.
I think I brag on him a lot as a daddy... but I don't know if I make it clear how amazing he is all the way around.
He helps me with housework-- he listens when I need to vent-- and he honestly tries to fix the hole when I tell him what more I need.
He's not perfect...
He's spends way too much time pooping, on Gun Broker, and tuning out most everything in our house.  He still won't compliment me, takes 7 years to get ready, and gets himself into more 'political discussions' than I would care to witness--
but God knows I'm not perfect either...
and my list of down falls laps his by a mile.
Fights with the squishy ball, or him holding me down so that the boys can attack me-- and the nights we are laughing so hard we can't breathe, make up for his down falls.
I didn't tell him that I needed more of those nights this week, but he knew.
I am blessed to have him as my best friend.

Finally I have been thinking about happiness in general.

You all know that I only have about 1/1000 of my life figured out.
And depending on the time of the month, even that is a stretch.
Over this week I have thought about how proud I am of my Mamaw.
She bought her house for $6,000, years ago.  She eventually added on a bedroom and a bathroom, making it a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1 car garage little estate.
She made her own money...
Raised 2 kids by herself...
And was happy.
She had a view on every topic you could throw at her...
A very opinionated and bossy view, I may add.
But she lived this life with joy.
Almost a century of it.

She really had her stuff together.

She told me many tips over the years about happiness--
but I think what I have had ringing through my head for days is, "just make good choices."
Happiness really is that simple.
A choice.

If I were making my own list of advice, I would probably start by telling you not to buy the new Girl Scout Mango cookie; it tastes like hand lotion.
To think of at least 2 meals to make from each type of cooked meat-- so that you throw away less food-- but don't have to have the same meal twice in one week.
And to have a savings account.

But for some reason I have more information spilling from me today-- a bit deeper than these topics-- and I feel compelled to write it down.
So here goes:

If we surround ourselves with friends who hate their husbands... we will too.
If we work beside people who constantly hate our job... it will rub off.
If our close acquaintances get to jet set-- and party-- and throw their responsibilities to the way-side-- and depend on everyone else for their happiness... we will find ourselves wishing we could do the same, and tarnishing all that we have worked to build.
Bitterness and unhappiness and never being satisfied are all as contagious as the flu.
I know.
I have caught the bug many, many times.
Money will not make us happy.
If we put our weight of happiness into material things and cash... we will be stripped of happiness when we are stripped of those things.
And it happens.
That's life.

If we worry constantly about this earthly body... we will drown in that also.
Weight is just a number.  --Easily said from a girl who has to worry more about gaining than losing, I know.  But believe me, those pins about "no one wants a skinny girl"  ...or "this is what a real women is suppose to look like", are just as ugly to a stickly gal, as fat jokes are to a heavy girl.
I am all about making healthy choices, but dieting every day and eating faux dirt isn't a happy life.

Sometimes I worry that my blog has too much good stuff.  That people either think, "she's full of crap.  You know their life is just stressful as ours."  or "who is she to give advice?"  And they're right.
I write these things down to clear my own head.
Or to offer words of encouragement one day-- years from now, when my children are facing the same struggles we do.

I try and write a healthy balance of the stress in my life, as well as the blessings-- but it still probably shows more highlights than reality.
If I spent my time picking at this keyboard to document the longest days-- I would have more of those.

Sure, I've been known to hand out a grade A spanking at the checkout line, and then see someone's status talking about how terrible parents are who spank.
Yes, I sometimes don't "like" peoples pictures when I think they have gone out of their way to not like mine.
Of course, I am mean to my husband sometimes and take my impatience out on my kids.
I also spend WAY too much time cleaning.
We eat out WAY too much and are always more broke than we should be.
I am constantly trying to think of a way to reorganize my life and am convinced that if everything were on a perfect schedule, my life would be smoother.
I am always looking ahead-- and can't wait until...
And I never really feel deserving of anything nice.

I jack it up every single day.

But I have surrounded myself with Godly women... who are amazing mothers... who love their husbands... are know how to be a friend.
and if the saying is true:: you are who you hang with...
then I am doing alright.

I think what is weighing on me-- that I feel compelled to share...
is simply:
If we surround ourselves with happy things... and think happy thoughts... and follow through with happy actions... and focus more on what we are doing right-- rather than what we are doing wrong... even when it feels forced, and we don't try to 'get ahead' or worry about what we are owed or how we have been wronged...
I think we will be happy.

Maybe I am wrong...
But I'll let you take that up with Mamaw one day.

I am pretty sure that these were more her words than mine.

Monday, January 21, 2013

catching up

Wednesday morning I had to do my lab check off...
Lance played mommy...
And I took my time getting home.

There was a time that I would have sat in my car and ate my lunch before I dared eating alone in a restaurant.
But not anymore.
I thoroughly enjoyed my quiet time and I peacefully ate every bite of my vegetable plate while I people watched and scanned Instagram.

It was good for Lance too, as he and Beckham had an entire day of one-on-one time while Maddox was at school.
Maddox didn't have a great day at school on Wednesday... and though he didn't pull a stick, you would have thought he lost his left arm when he called to tell me.
Obviously I would prefer him to be a peach... But he was punishing himself enough and asking why he couldn't be perfect like Austin-- so I let it go.

"We all have our days", I told him.
"You'll just have to try harder next time".  

My sister flew home on Thursday.
Friday, her and mom and myself had lunch together at Olive Garden.
We dropped Al off at the hospital to see her friend,
and then mom and I (and the boys, of course) shopped around and had our Ipad replaced at the Apple Store.
(let me just say, Apple knows service.)
They replaced that bad boy, without a penny out of my pocket, and I was in and out in under 3 minutes.

Mom dropped me and the boys off with Lance and we had dinner with the Dean family.

Lance is off on Saturdays--
which means we run around town, wasting our day on boy things.
bla bla bla...
Best Buy...
bla bla bla...
Wait!  I did buy myself a external hard drive, to back up my external hard drive that I already have, at Best Buy, so I guess that trip was for me.

You may call  it neurotic-- I call it....

...neurotic.  :/

Oh well. I please my anxiety, $100 of Christmas cash, at a time.

That evening was my sister-from-another-mister's 30th birthday party.

Lance and I went back and forwarth with our plans-- and honestly it came own to the last hour before we decided that he was going with me and we would hire a babysitter.

Read it again, hire. a. sitter!

I've paid my sister before-- and a friend of hers too-- back before we were a family 'o four,
back when I worked night clinic, and Lance worked nights and our schedules clashed here and there.
But mostly mom took the job for free, so even that was a rare occurrence.

But this...
This was our first go a the real deal!

We weren't the first on either side to have kids--
so when Lance and I were kidless-- we loved keeping our nieces.

But then they each had more-- and we started our little community too, and its just too hard-- everyone is so busy-- so mom seems to be our only option.
Mostly we only like to "use" her when there's something we have to go to-- like work.  Or a wedding. Etc.

She offered this time too...
But we thought we would act like big people, and take the plunge.

That way, if it all worked out--
maybe, just maybe... Lance and I could start taking date nights with each other.
Sounds exotic, right?!

I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I was nervous.
But they were both asleep when she got here, and we were only gone about 4 hours.
SO-- she only had a little over 2 hours to do any damage, and for the first time ever, I was willing to roll the dice.

She said the boys were good for her--
But I may have sat up until midnight worrying that Beckham got into some harmful substance-- that he smuggled from an outlet, I guess, since everything is locked up...

Worrying that I didn't pay her enough.

That she secretly hated it... hated them... 

And wondering how Maddox ended up with a bruised forehead.

But Maddox has already said he can't wait for the next time he gets a babysitter--
and to be quite truthful; I can't either!

We had a great time helping Amanda celebrate her thirties...
even if we bailed out after dinner.

Lance and I got some much needed time together as well--
and laughed that when I called him a creep, it made us both bust out into song-- him, Creep by Radiohead and me, Creep by TLC.
I said it shows our difference in age--
He said that it just proves I've always had a thing for my booty-beats!

Sunday I was on call.
It was steady... but it is flu season, so I was expecting much worse!
The weather was nice...
Not too much to complain about.
Or document.

But that brings us today.
Today I had to go grocery shopping...
which can sometimes be like being whipped by a cat of nine tails.

I am a big fan of bribery, however, and I had promised a trip to McD's for lunch-- and a little play-- if everyone behaved.
Maddox did great.
Beckham is 21 months  (as of today, actually) and was decent.  --I'm throwing him a bone here.

While there, I saw a man bent down and talking sternly to his little boy.
As we passed, I heard him say, "because we are poor son.  We are just trying to survive.  I don't tell you that we can't afford it to be mean, I tell you that because we have to eat and we have very little money to spend."
The boy was crying and then the dad said, "maybe I can buy a little beef and make our own beef jerky."

You could find me next to the yogurt spilling salt water like it's free.  Couldn't handle it.

Lance said I should have offered to buy it, but I think that would have embarrassed them...  So I pushed on like I hadn't heard a word.

$220 whips my hide, but it has to be done-- and thankfully we have it to spend.
With a basket full of necessities-- and lots of privileges too... I found myself feeling grateful.

We shifted to the golden arches.

It was so loud in there, that I couldn't think.
There were kids old enough to shave, tackling each other, yelling and playing way rowdy on the top deck of the play thing.

Beckham started crawling up the steps, and Maddox (being the protective brother that he is) said, "guys, can we play nice so my baby brother can play?"  to which a kid-- maybe 7 or 8, yelled, "NO!!" in his face before he jumped into the slide and slid down.

I'm not into spanking other people's kids.
But I do wish it were legal.  

Once the little baby (maybe 2 or 3) came down with the busted lip, I called it a day and we bailed on Ronald.  (McDonald, that is)

I may have cussed a man in the parking lot who cut me off and I felt a bit spent by the time we made it home.

It's day like today that I worry that my kids heard more, "no" and "stop", and "quit" and "hush" then "yes" and "tell me more" and "you're so funny", etc....

But Lance called and Maddox asked to talk to him.
Maddox really excitedly told Lance, "did mommy tell you how she saved the day? ... "a little boy started frowing up all over the place by the eggs and mommy helped him and cleaned him up."

Honestly, that happened right after the beef jerky escapade and I completely forgot about it.
But he sure knew how to lift me up, that's for sure.

I'll never deserve that cape he thinks I wear.

Which brings us to tonight. 

I had mentioned earlier, that I haven't really shed many tears over Mamaw's passing.
I've worried that it just hasn't hit me yet- or that I'm holding it in for some reason-- or that tomorrow, at her funeral, I am going to fall off the deep end.

Lance and I have talked about it... and I honestly think I have so much peace about it because I knew she was ready.
She lived 97 years and only stayed twice in the hospital-- both in her last year of life.
She retired from a great job, had a car, a house, knew the Lord and didn't suffer.
She went to Heaven in her sleep.  Just the way we would all like to.

I agreed with him, that maybe I wasn't going to have a bawl fest.
That maybe I was just at peace.

No one mentioned the conversation that I was going to have to have with my four year old tonight over dinner.

Out of no where Maddox said, "Is Mamaw still sick."
Oh.  There's that lump.
I looked at Lance, terrified to talk.
Lance, being the calm soul that he is, said, "no buddy.  She's not sick at all."
Maddox: "she got better?"
Lance: "she sure did.  She got to go to Heaven where she is healthy again."
Maddox: "with God?"
Lance: "yes sir."
Maddox: "so I don't get to see her again?"  He paused, put his tongue in his cheek and said, "but I really miss her."
Lance talked to him about Heaven and all of the amazing things that Mamaw was enjoying and then he told us that he wanted to go to Heaven too and see her.
His mommy has anxiety, so she backed that story up a bit and explained that he still has 93 years to worry about it.
Maddox asked me not to cry and then I asked him if he had any questions.
He shook his head no...
I said, "You understand?  You think you've got it?"
To which he said, "no momma.  I don't get it at all." as he buried his head into my chest and lost control of his tears.
I started crying...
And Lance wasn't far behind.

We finished by talking about our favorite things about Mamaw.
His favorite memory of her being the tray full of toys that she kept hidden under the bed.

And we prepared him for tomorrow.

Maybe we shouldn't take them?
Maybe that's too much for him...
But maybe he, like us, needs that closure...
I'm just not sure?

You'd be surprised the things I get called about that you would think would be not a part of my job.
I have lots of answers, when it comes to the well being of children, in that respect.
But unfortunately, there's no protocol for that. 

Tomorrow we say our final goodbye, although Mamaw has already spent almost a week in a timeless utopia.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  1 John 5:13