Wednesday, November 5, 2014

'Tis The Season!

It's November, folks! I feel as though I should almost whisper it, but 'tis the season!

I know that it's just the first week of November, but I took a look at our calendar and all that we have going on and do you know what? Christmas is going to be here before I know it!

This weekend my sister is flying in for a couple of days and as much as I'd like to spend the whole weekend hanging out with her and snuggling her baby, I'll need to be home with my kids. This weekend is also the Minnesota Rifle Deer Hunting Opener and yes, that is a real holiday. I mean, for any family of hunters, it is!

Yes, I live in Wisconsin, but we're probably just shy of two hours from my family's hunting land in Minnesota and Cliff is planning on spending three nights up there this weekend.

Then we have a weekend off before the Wisconsin Rifle Deer Hunting Opener, which also happens to be the weekend of both kids' birthdays. So... do I have their birthday party the weekend of hunting opener or do I have it a week early? Decisions, decisions...

The following week is Thanksgiving, our town's River Dazzle Parade, and our family's annual Christmas cookie baking day.

All of a sudden, it is December! How'd that happen?

So, I've been working on the kids' Christmas (and birthday) wish lists. To be honest, they need nothing and don't really even have much of anything (realistic) on their wish lists. However, there have been a few things Gavin has asked for throughout the year that I have said "put it on your wish list!"

Since they don't need much and I don't want more junky plastic toys cluttering their rooms or scattered around the house, I'm not getting them much for toys. I am, however, hoping to make them a few really cool things that I hope they will love. BUT, I'm on a majorly tight timeline for the amount of work involved. I don't want to give all the surprises away, but I want to share the ideas! I also am a little nervous to say anything out loud, because I'm nervous I won't get to even half of it and then I'll feel like I failed! But, I'm going to share. I'm working on being more transparent.

I want to make my kids a tee-pee. A big one. I've seen some amazing teepees for sale, but they start around $275.00 and go up from there. They are really beautiful, but more than I plan to spend on that item at this time. I'm looking at spending about $50 on making one. I love the one below that JenlovesKev made for Rowan and the design is similar to what I've been thinking. I hope to use five or six  8'  "poles" and planned on using canvas drop-cloth from the home improvement store for the majority of the teepee with some more personalized touches and colorful fabrics just around the doorway and the base of the teepee.

I plan to make a miniature "treehouse" fairy / gnome home for the kids to play with. I've seen some online like the one below from Magic Cabin. The base alone (just the wood parts) is $150, and then you buy all of the greenery, dolls, and other components separately or you can buy the whole thing for $249. I love it, I really do. Again, it's just not in my Christmas budget with the other things I'm planning for this year.  So... I'll be making one. It's more special that way, anyway, right?

I always have big ideas of giving Cliff's parents a photo album of the year, but never seem to get it done in time or if I do, it's rushed and not the quality I had hoped for. We'll see if this year is any different. I'm struggling to think of anything very meaningful for them, and they really have many very nice things, and don't want more "stuff". I am planning on printing a digitized "watercolor" painting of their house for them and printing a few of our family photos for them, but that's all I've come up with so far.

I have no good ideas for Cliff at all! None...  at... all. Do you have any?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Menu

Okay friends, I am in a major cooking rut! Major! Like, as in, I need help!

Here's the thing... it's FALL, which is my favorite time to cook and I always have tons of great fall recipes, but for some reason, right now I am just stuck!

So many things sound good, delicious really! I just can't get myself to actually make them! I'm not sure if I really don't have time or if I'm just so overwhelmed from work combined with parenting that I don't have the energy or what my problem is. This time of year is especially challenging at home with Cliff so busy on the farm and the stress of how the harvest is going. I do get impatient for the harvest season (followed by hunting season) to end so that we can return to the normalcy of two parents putting the kids to bed, cleaning up dinner, etc. In the meantime, we eat a LOT of macaroni and cheese! Just this week, Gavin actually told me "I actually don't really like macaroni and cheese" when I asked him to finish his dinner. Poor kid! It used to be his favorite food (back when it was a treat!), but that was the third time in a week that we had macaroni and cheese for dinner. Oh goodness!

So... I'm looking for fresh ideas for QUICK meals. Something I can have ready in 30 minutes or less or that can go in the crockpot without a lot of effort. I do have some favorites that I will share with you as well!

I have tried the whole make-enough-for-two-meals-and-freeze-half approach and the sad truth is that I never make the second half because in general thawing and cooking things that have been frozen kind of scares me for some weird reason! I have no idea why, I just never think it will taste good!

I love crock pot chicken tacos and they're so easy, but  I just made white chicken chili last weekend, which has much the same flavor and many of the same ingredients as the tacos, so I'm holding off with those for a bit.

So...   Here's what's on my menu / idea list for the next couple of weeks. Want any of these recipes? I love to share! The new recipes that I haven't tried yet have links below! If you get to making them before I do, please share your critique in the comments!

Meal Option 1
Hamburgers with potato chips and pickles (because I have six ready-to-cook burgers in a baggie in the freezer from this summer when I mixed up too much hamburger!  ...and because I NEVER buy potato chips, and they sound SO good and summery!)

Meal Option 2
Greek Yellow Squash Pizza from Kate and CookieandKate with a regular flatbread crust. (new recipe)

Gluten-free socca pizza (made with an easy chickpea flour crust) -

Meal Option 3 - crockpot
Sausage and Bean Soup made with turkey sausage, which makes it WAY less heavy / greasy (an old favorite) and
Sweet Potato Corn Cakes with garlic cilantro dipping sauce (new recipe from Beth at Budget Bites)

Sweet Potato Corn Cakes

Meal Option 4
Potato Corn Chowder (my favorite original recipe)
Crusty bread or Pecan Nut Thins with Fig & Olive Goat Cheese (my new fave goat cheese)

Meal Option 5 - crockpot
Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin with Oriental Stuffing (two old favorites that we love over and over and over again).

Meal Option 6 - crockpot
Chicken Enchiladas or Tacos with Yellow Saffron Rice

Meal Option 7 - crockpot
My favorite ground beef Chili with Colby cheese and garlic bagel thins on the side.

What are you making these days? Anything quick that I can whip up in 30 minutes or less between getting home from work with kids in tow and sitting down to eat?  Please share in comments!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Then and Now

I FINALLY downloaded some photos off my phone and iPad that have been out there for over a year and was a little surprised to see how much things have changed in that short period of time!

I thought it would be a little bit fun to share a few "then and nows" from the last year or so.

In her lifejacket on the boat at the lakehouse...

Exactly one year apart, at Beaver Valley Camp for the annual get-together (steak fry or pig roast)...

First day of Pre-k and first day of Kindergarten, one year apart...

Almost the same little smirk, a year apart...

Me and the kids at Hoffman Park...

The most recent picture I have (below) doesn't have Cliff in it, because he was busy farming, but it's a good one of the kids and shows just how much Addison has grown. She suddenly has tons of hair! Gavin does too - he really needs a haircut! :) One of these days we'll get a family picture with all four of us! The last time we took one was in May and that was a quick-before-the-sun-goes-down everybody sit and smile kind of thing! For now though, I do love this one below. Wish I could photoshop Cliff into it!
These guys are so much fun (MOST of the time) and I love to see them grow and change and learn.