Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2 Week Meal Plan

Sorry this is a few days late friends. :) Here is another list of 2 weeks of meals with links (if applicable)

1. French Bread Pizza ( I will do a tutorial on this one if necessary...you basically buy a loaf of french bread, top it with your favorite pizza sauce, toppings and cheese and bake it in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes- or until the cheese is bubbly)

2. Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork 

3. Ham and Potato Soup (I will be adapting THIS recipe)

4. Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat (*Note* I made this last night. I didn't add the water because I couldn't find cornstarch and it did thicken enough to be a sauce. I added 1/4 cup of orange juice instead of juice of 1 orange.  The only change I am going to make would be to add about half the ketchup it calls for and then it will probably be spot on! Jeff liked it which is all that matters.)

5. Honey Lime Enchiladas (You will notice a few repeats from the last meal plan. Jeff was gone to the oil fields and I just didn't have the energy to make a full meal for me and two toddlers so there were a few nights we had canned soup and mac and cheese instead of what was on the meal plan. Jeff has been wanting these so I made sure to put it back on the rotation this time.)

6. Skinny Crock Pot Pizza Casserole 

7. Corn and Cheese Chowder in Homemade Bread Bowls

8. Melt in Your Mouth Slow Cooker Pot Roast  (*Note* Made this on Sunday! It was DELICIOUS!  I didn't have cola so I used root beer instead and it was still sooooo yummy! Definitely worth running around the store looking for Heinz Chili Sauce- its by the condiments p.s.- definitely will be back on rotation sometime in the future!)

9. Chicken Parmesan- My recipe is so easy and is HERE!

10. Slow Cooker Roasted Chicken with Root Veggies (I'll be combining several recipes for this. I will blog about it and let you know how it turns out. :)  However, if you just can't wait, there are plenty of Pinterest pins and recipes at food.com that will explain how to do it.)

11. Jeff's Favorite Meatloaf (didn't get made AGAIN...I really am going to do my best to get it done during this rotation. Jeff is going back out to the field, so I'm hoping he is home before this 2 weeks of meals is over so I have a chance to make it while he's here!!!!)

12. Slow Cooker French Dip Sammies 

13. Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken

14. Oven Baked Stew (In the Slow Cooker)

Happy meal planning! Feel free to share. :)

Bon Appetit, darlings!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Frustrations

"___________ said the cutest thing yesterday."

Such a simple, run of the mill phrase. Friends share back and forth all the adorable things that their kids say and do all the time, but when you're struggling with a child who has unexplained developmental delay, those words can sometimes seem like vinegar being poured onto an open wound.

I don't know what it is, but I have been struggling lately. Faith has been, well, Faith. Lovable, smiling, happy, and into everything she shouldn't be into...just like normal...but I have had a more difficult time dealing with tantrums and melt downs that occur from lack of communication than ever before. Maybe its just that I have been sick for the last week or so, maybe I just had my hopes set too high for her progress- who knows...but whatever the cause, it seems like every tantrum or meltdown has crushed my heart into a million pieces and I hurt for my daughter.

It also seems like EVERYONE with a toddler about Faith's age has a child who is talking up a storm and being adorable with learning how to use language effectively, and here I am with a child who is silent for the most part. Her language consists of "yeah", spoken at a high pitched squeal as loudly as she can say it and "Uh oh" when she drops something and can't reach it....

I think the thing that has been getting to me the most lately is that I never hear her call me "mamma". When she cries and I'm not in the room, I don't know if she is being her usual drama queen self and is upset because Phillie has the toy she wants or if she is crying because she needs me and is in pain or in trouble...and in the last few weeks, as she has gotten into things that she shouldn't, there has been more than one occasion where I feel like the WORST MOM EVER because I left her alone for 5 minutes and come back to find a head, arm, torso (whatever, etc.) stuck behind or under furniture and she had been whining or crying, but not to the extent that I thought she was in any danger...

Every day I hear Phillie surpass her linguistically. The other day I was holding Phillie, she patted me on the shoulder, gave me a kiss and said, "Good mamma".  It melted my heart because she is just so darn adorable and lovable, but broke my heart when I realized that, for some reason, Faith can't have those types of little moments with me. Phillie calls out for me, she can say if she likes something or doesn't..she says "hot dog" and sings along with the "hot dog dance" when we watch her favorite show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse...Faith has adapted in some ways. She will make short "ah" or "uh" sounds when they are counting, she has this thing she does with her arms when Mickey asks everyone to say the magic words to get the clubhouse to appear...she tries, bless her heart...but I can sense her frustration that nobody understands her when she babbles, and we have major meltdowns if she brings me something and I can't guess right away what she wants me to do with it.

Faith has been my little buddy lately (aka ATTACHED TO MY HIP). I'm guessing its because of all the times that she has gotten herself into sticky situations when I'm not around. It has been frustrating at times, but for the most part I have needed her to be like this lately, because, in her own way, she is letting me know that she needs me or wants me. She will come and close the lid down on my laptop and crawl into my lap and just "be"...or I will be sitting on the floor trying to engage her and she will randomly just crawl into my lap and pull my arms around her to hold her tight... those are our little moments. I am grateful for them, but I feel guilty at the same time because I DO want more. I want to hear her say funny and cute things...she is such a goof with her body language and mannerisms, I just want to know what is going on inside that little head of hers. Its like there is constantly a joke on the tip of her tongue that she is dying to tell...and it gets frustrating for both of us.

Another frustrating thing to watch is how she interacts with the other kids; especially in nursery at church. There is a little girl in the nursery, don't know her name, but she follows Faith around and tries SO HARD to get her to play with her. Faith walks away and tries to find a corner to be alone but this little girl is so persistent. I know that I should find out her name, find out who her mom is and see if we can schedule a play date, but then comes the problem of will it being a fruitful play date or if its just going to be frustrating for the poor girl who desperately is trying to be Faith's friend, but Faith, for the most part, ignores her and wants to do her own thing her way? Its a tough call, but I suppose I need to go outside my comfort zone, explain the situation to this little girl's mom and see if she would be willing to try. Who knows, it could help, right? If anything, we can take the time to teach Faith how to play with someone else and that will help her in other situations.

While there are frustrations, I have had some small victories that I shouldn't short change. I have figured out that Faith will respond to her name if I say it as high pitched and LOUDLY as I possibly can...this has led me to wonder if her delays really do have something to do with her hearing. She just can't hear language in order to make heads or tails of how to use it. We have the speech therapist coming to our house this week. I am praying that Faith will cooperate so that we can do the hearing test and get definitive results here at home instead of having to wait and schedule with an audiologist here in town.

Faith has also learned how to play with blocks. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but considering that just a few months ago therapists in Idaho were saying that it was a pretty big deal that she didn't have a clue what to do with blocks other than eat them, I am taking it as a huge victory. She will bring me 3 or 4 blocks, I will stack a few, and then she will bring blocks to stack until the tower gets so tall that it falls over (that's her favorite part).

She is also developing a sense of personal style. She is every bit as girlie as I thought she would be. She is constantly bringing me her play tutus to put them on, and she loves to have scarves wrapped around her head like a 1950's diva (think Grace Kelly in High Society) ready to go for a ride in a corvette.  The other day, she had me put on an old dance costume that my mother in law had gotten for her at a yard sale and refused to take it off. We ended up running errands with her wearing the lovely, red frock complete with shiny silver sequins and glitter...she looked fabulous! LOL

I guess the biggest frustration is seeing that she IS a toddler and cognitively seems to act her age, she just can't communicate like a child her age. She wants to be a big girl, she wants to be understood, she just can't figure out how to do it on her own.

I know this too shall pass. I know that we are on the path to getting her the help she needs. I have no doubt in my mind that she will be able to talk in the next few years, I guess I'm just getting impatient (story of my life, I suppose).

Hopefully, Wednesday will bring us some more answers. I am praying that it does...but even if it doesn't, I know the Lord will provide the answers in His own time and in the way that they need to be provided. Who am I to question His plan?  I know Faith is destined for great things. She is too awesome not to be. For now, I need to focus on enjoying where she is as opposed to where she isn't developmentally... my frustrations have more to do with ME.

I'm so glad that my girls are loving and patient with me. I'm a work in progress, but I'm getting there. God, grant me the ability to be the mother THEY need as opposed of the mother I THINK I need to be... because that is more important than what the world and Pinterest tell me... at least I realize that its me that needs to change my way of thinking, and that is half the battle, right?

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Warm Corn Chowder Salad- My Take.

I will openly admit, though some of my Idaho and Utah friends may think of it as blasphemous, that I am NOT a big fan of meat. 

It weighs you down, makes you feel heavy, and gives you a general all around "blah" feeling.

However, I feel like it needs to be at least a small part of the human diet (we have canine teeth for cripes sakes! It's SCIENCE PEOPLE!) and, let's be honest- I have cravings and, though it is heavy and makes me feel kind of gross afterwards, I do have the occasional craving for a Big Mac, Whopper, or a nice juicy steak. I'm human and when I am craving meat, I would prefer to chow down. 

This whole week I've been sick, tired and feeling blah...and tonight I REALLY didn't want to cook, but I also didn't want to eat something heavy and greasy like pizza. I had to fight the urge to order sandwiches from Pizza Hut (their sandwiches are the BOMB the night you order them, but be warned, they are not so bomb diggity the next day.) Then I remembered I had this recipe on my meal plan and hadn't made it yet. Light, easy, and quick...magic words when you're so tired you can barely see straight.

So,  as promised, here is my adaptation for THIS recipe. Sorry, its not a photo tutorial (the babies wouldn't cooperate for me to be in the kitchen that long.), but I did take a picture of the end result. P.S> TODDLER FRIENDLY ALERT! My girls DEVOURED this...Don't believe me? I took a few pictures of them devouring it for proof (you'll see them later.)

What did I need to adapt? Well... I'm not a HUGE fan of raw onions. I LOVE me some veggies, and can eat most of them raw with no problems, but onions and I aren't friends unless they are sauteed, sweet and tender...I also don't care for jalepenos. I LOVE spicy food, but not jalepenos (I know, I'm weird.)   I also felt like it just needed a little more variety when it came to veggies. I love corn and potatoes, but they are both high in carbohydrates and I just needed a little something extra in there to balance them out... 

Read on:

I took 5 strips of bacon and chopped them up into bite sized pieces, I also diced 1/3 of a medium sized red onion, and 1/3 of a green pepper. I threw them all in the pan together...While the bacon cooked, the onions and peppers sauteed in the grease.When the bacon was just about cooked and the onions were almost done, I chopped 1/2 c of spinach (I used it sparingly, but would have put more in if I hadn't needed to share with my girls) and tossed it in the pan. I cooked it until it was just beginning to wilt. I then dumped the contents of the pan into a bowl and set it aside.

Next, I ran a stick of butter over the pan to lightly coat it and sprayed that with some Pam to keep it from burning.  I then added 2 1/2 c of diced red potatoes (cut into about 1/4 inch cubes) to the pan. I salted, peppered, and onion powdered to what I believed would taste good. Tossed the potatoes around to mix the seasonings, and then covered the pan and left it for about 3 minutes. This allows the potatoes to brown on one side while becoming tender in the middle. It basically cuts your cook time in half. I stirred the potatoes, covered them and repeated the process. I tasted the potatoes after about 6 minutes to check seasonings (you don't want to over salt, remember you will have the bacon in there later) and to see how tender they were (it took about 10 minutes for my potatoes to be tender.) 

Once the potatoes were tender. I added 3/4 c frozen corn to the pan and cooked the mix, stirring occasionally, until the corn was cooked through. Your potatoes should have a lightly browned, crispy exterior at this point.  Go ahead and toss back in the bacon mixture. Cook together to meld flavors and reheat bacon mixture for 2-5 ish minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. Stir well to get the vinegar to dress the whole mix. (I was apprehensive about the vinegar too. To be honest, I kind of wish I'd added a splash more after I tasted it. When you add just enough it really makes the sweetness of the corn, onions, and bell peppers pop and brings out the lovely smoky flavor of the bacon. If you're really nervous, just add it in splashes, mix and taste it to be sure that its to your liking.)

Et Voila!

Again, I wish I'd added more spinach. 

Oddly enough, the Cupcake surprised me by picking through her food to find the spinach and eat it first and then ate everything else. As suspected, the Little Diva, who loves spinach when its raw, ate around it and ignored it in cooked form. 

Oh yeah...you need the pictoral proof that toddlers love this...Well then, here ya go:








The end!

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings!

Friday, August 16, 2013

SLC Round Up

About a week ago, my husband surprised me with a text. He said, "What do you think about getting away to SLC this weekend for a vacation and to do some shopping?"

I was taken aback...not only was he suggesting a vacation- but SHOPPING? Not just shopping, SHOPPING IN SLC? Willingly? (LOL)

We talked back and forth about it. I asked him if he was serious and he said we didn't have to go if I didn't want to...Well...I need to preface this.

I'm CHEAP...like mega, uber, super I don't buy it unless I'm desperate or so in love that I can't live without it cheap...(and the so in love with it that I can't live without it thing RARELY ever happens. I am a clearance and major sale shopper all the way. I just can't bring myself to pay full price in most cases.)

So..shopping in SLC with no restrictions but those that I would place on myself was going to be a treat and also very frustrating for my hubby...he knows that I am one of those shoppers that will go from store to store and leave something behind thinking I can find something similar or exactly the same cheaper somewhere else...

We've also been poor as church mice since we got married. We didn't even take a honeymoon (and still haven't) because we really couldn't afford it. So pairing shopping with a mini vacation for me is quite the luxury.

Jeff had also been gone in the field. We had been missing him terribly. He also knew he had to go back out at some point during his next rotation at work and so he really wanted to spend some quality time away from the stresses and pressures of home with us.

Once we decided we were going for sure, I spent the rest of the week planning things and trying to find the most cost effective and fun things to do while we were there.

We decided to stay at a hotel right next to temple square because we ultimately decided that we mostly wanted to walk around temple square and the surrounding area and paying for parking at the hotel would be better than paying for parking at City Creek or one of the other nearby businesses.

Jeff got home on Friday night. I got up early on Saturday morning to finish packing, get ready, get the girls ready, and help to load the car and we were off by 7:30. We stopped before we left to buy another umbrella stroller (I LOVE our enormous jogging stroller, but it would have taken up the majority of the cargo space in the back of our little SUV, so we had to come up with another option.), we stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and we were on our way out of Rock Springs by 8:00.

The drive to SLC was fun. The girls watched various Disney movies in the back and we got to enjoy the scenery as we rode. We held hands and talked about everything under the sun.

We were trying to make it early enough to SLC that we could meet up with my sis who was there with her kids and hubby for a back to school shopping mini vacation herself.

Amber wasn't quite ready to meet up, and we were a bit early to check into the hotel, so we swallowed our pride and paid for parking at City Creek and decided to walk around and check out some stores.

I was an AWESOME mom and in my rush to get out the door, had forgotten to pack shoes for the girls so our quest was to see if we could find a place that sold affordable toddler shoes...yeah, we weren't successful in our quest. Most everything we could find was WAY more than I was willing to spend for a pair of shoes that was going to fit for 2-4 months tops...we did have luck at the Disney Store, but I wasn't sure I wanted to buy shoes that slipped on and off easily since Faith has a tendency to like to be barefoot.

Which brings me to one of my favorite parts of the trip...the part I wish I would have pulled my camera out for- The Disney Store.

We walked around and I found the wall o' Tinkerbell (seriously, there was a WHOLE WALL filled with Tinkerbell stuff). Faith started jabbering as soon as I pulled the stroller up for her to check out the goods. She instantly wanted OUT of the stroller and started touching and grabbing everything she could put her hands on. There was the sweetest little pair of Tinkerbell ballet flats that had the little pom poms on the front. They jingled like Tinkerbell does when she tries to talk to a human. They were more affordable than I thought they would be (I think they were $14.99) and I was very close to buying them. Faith gazed at them on her feet lovingly and tapped her little toes against the foot rests on the stroller...but I was super nervous that she would slip one off or one would slip off on its own because she was jingling the bells so much, and that we would lose one. So we bid them a fond farewell (Yes, there were tears as I took them off her feet and we were walking away.) Daddy thought for just a moment about buying the shoes and the Tinkerbell costume that went with them (Faith was hugging onto it for dear life at that point- She wanted me to put it on her and kept trying to slip it over her head) until he found out that the entire package would run us $50...he said we'd look for a cheaper Tinkerbell costume for her when we got home... After the wall o' Tinkerbell, I strolled Faith around all the Monsters Inc. toys (she LOVES the Monsters) and Jeff found a Minnie ear headband and put it on Phillie. He brought me over to show me what she was doing...

Normally, Phillie doesn't like headbands or hats on her head. She rips them off almost as fast as you put them on but the Minnie ears were different. Minnie is her "thing" right now. She was looking in the mirror smiling and giggling, trying to kiss her reflection and sat perfectly content to have the Minnie ears on her head. She was SO EXCITED (again, I really wish I'd been brave enough to take my camera out to capture it...but I was concerned that I would get in trouble so I kept it tucked away in the diaper bag...I suppose it will have to be a mental picture...) The Minnie ears were only $6...I tried to convince Jeff to let her get them and that we'd get Faith the Lambie doll she was loving on at the moment, but Jeff said he didn't want to spend money on souvenirs until we'd been shopping for necessities.

I had to agree with him. Most of what we had for Faith was hand me downs that had either been stretched out by a more chubby 18 month old, or was falling apart at the seams (literally)...and I was so desperate for clothes in Phillies size that I had her wearing Faith's clothes (that are a bit big on her) to make up the difference for what I lacked.

So...after we left the Disney Store, we got the sad news that my sis couldn't make it to meet us. Her kids were misbehaving and she was done. She just wanted to go home and crash. I totally understood (Maybe next time Ambs! Love you!)

We checked walked over to check into our hotel. We stayed that the SLC Plaza at Temple Square. It was a little more expensive than other hotels, but it was right by everything we wanted to do. I decided that, even without a free breakfast $79 for the night wasn't a bad deal to be right across the street from Temple Square!

It was probably one of the nicest hotels I've stayed in since I was in Europe.  The staff was super friendly and the beds were actually very comfortable (my one complaint with hotels is the beds always seem to be too hard, this one was actually just about right). The room was HUGE, which was a big plus since we had 2 pack and plays to set up for our girls to sleep.

We crashed at the hotel for a bit and I changed into one of the new outfits we'd purchased for me while we were at City Creek. I bought a couple of cute things on Clearance at Forever 21. I got dressed and looked at my husband and smiled and told him that I felt like "me" again. After almost 2 years of wearing nothing but hand me downs (seriously, every item in my closet but 2 dresses I got from one of my sisters who both have different fashion sense than me- Amber's is close, but not quite. :) ) it was nice to be wearing something that I actually purchased with my style in mind.

We walked back, picked up the car and headed to one of my favorite places on earth...Target.

We got a little lost on the way, but it ended up being worth it because Target is where we finished our "shopping spree".  I got 3 new outfits for the girls that I could mix and match pieces (ie 3 shirts and 3 bottoms for each girl.) Phillie is a TOTAL shopping diva. I was SHOCKED.  I was trying to show Faith some clothes and Phillie would cry because it was what she wanted. Phillie picked out all of her own outfits- I'm not even joking. She would grab things and not let them go (oddly enough, she always managed to grab her right size) or she would whine when I would put something down because Faith wasn't showing any interest but SHE was.  The funniest part of that shopping trip was when Faith and Phillie both grabbed skirts off of the clearance rack and wouldn't let them go. They turned out to be the right size and were both $2.50, so I decided to let them keep them and we'd find a top for them.  Fast forward to this week when I pulled them out for the girls to wear for the day. Phillie squealed, crawled over to me, grabbed her skirt and attempted to pull it on all by herself! She was going to wear that skirt and there was no time to squabble about it. LOL

We came back from Target with some new clothes for everyone, some wooden blocks for the girls to play with, and some wooden toddler puzzles with pegged pieces..and then crashed at the hotel. We had planned on going to Temple Square, but neither of the girls had taken a nap all day and they were CRANKY and HUNGRY (it was dinner time).  We were going to walk to the Cheesecake Factory, but opted to be cheaper and eat at the restaurant connected to the hotel- good old JB's.

Jeff was disappointed that his rib basket only had 2 ribs, but I saved the day by letting him eat the other half of my steak (it was an 8 oz steak and I'm usually lucky if I can finish a 6 oz),  Phillie ate ALL of my vegetables (I kind of wanted those...) wanted my baked potato, and refused to touch her grilled cheese sandwich and french fries, and everyone devoured a piece of cheesecake at the end. While Jeff paid the bill, I let the girls take turns eating the leftover blueberries that hadn't been eaten with bites of cheesecake...they were in heaven.

We woke up and decided that our goals for the day were Temple Square and Hogle Zoo...I actually took pictures of this part...YAY!

We had a yummy breakfast at IHOP (another funny story... we got lost trying to find the IHOP and then realized that we had passed it the day before when we were looking for Target and had even pointed it out as we were driving in attempts to make a mental note that it was there...oh well..LOL)  and then drove back to Temple Square.

Finding parking was tricky. We weren't sure if our parking pass would work at the hotel after we'd checked out and not all the City Creek parking lots were open...we probably drove around the block over and over for 20 minutes before we found a way in to park.

Temple Square was BEAUTIFUL. I felt a little out of place because most people that were walking around were walking around in their Sunday bests...here we were in leggings/jeans and a tunic dress/t-shirt...but I didn't see any glares or stares. I was surprised to see what a tourist attraction it is even on a Sunday. I knew that with the Tabernacle Choir broadcast there would be people around before and after, but even during there were sister missionaries giving tours to large numbers of people.  The girls were in love with all the flowers and trees. It was very hard for us to convince Faith especially that the flowers were to admire not tug on and take home with us.
I got to have some new experiences this trip. I actually got to go inside the Assembly Hall (AKA one of the first LDS churches before they decided that simple was better and more cost effective) and the tabernacle. Both were stunning. The Assembly Hall was on par with some of the most beautiful churches I've seen in Europe. I can understand why they stopped building them that way though, can you imagine what people's contributions to their ward building fund would have been back in the day before tithes and offerings were able to cover the costs for new buildings? YIKES!
I had a very emotional reaction when we went into the Tabernacle. The spirit was so strong there. I had the thought of how many prophets had stood at the pulpit in the front of a congregation in that building and about lost it. It gave me chills to think about all of the amazing spiritual giants had passed through the doors of that building and I wept...I tried to keep it inconspicuous, but it was quite the feat to keep it together.

While we were in the North Visitors' Center, we went to my favorite place on Temple Square, the Christus Room with the Christus statue. When I was little I always felt cheated out of time in that place. I loved to sit and listen to the echoes that the room made as people walked, talked and whispered, and study the intricate paintings of the universe on the ceiling and surrounding walls and just stare at the Christus...my parents always had to drag me out. It was here that we let Faith and Phillie out of the strollers for a bit to run around. Faith was calling out to hear the echoes back (of course, I was slightly embarrassed as there were several families sitting on the benches with parents whom I heard say, "Just sit quietly and feel the spirit." Oops...sorry. Can't really explain feeling the spirit to a precocious 21 month old who has made up her mind that her shrill scream coming back to her ears is the coolest thing ever...

While in the Christus room, there was a group of Japanese female tourists taking pictures. Phillie decided to crawl over and check them out. I decided to sit back and watch the exchange. They smiled down at her and she smiled back at them (that darn smile could probably have taken down the Persian Army, those 300 Spartans could have saved their lives in their epic battle by just holding her up for everyone to see- its THAT charming.) They finally started bending down to take pictures of her and say sweet things to her in Japanese...I know, this is where most mothers would probably go pick up their child and politely ask that they don't take pictures, but I figured it wouldn't do any harm...Seriously, her cuteness should be shared with the world, and if they wanted to remember her- who am I to deny them the memory? (I fully expect to see a random post in Japanese about the adorable American baby someone met in the Christus room at temple square with a picture of Phillie's charming smile someday on the internet...and I'm fully okay about that. LOL)

We scooped the girls up and made our way out of Temple Square...We had the slightly terrifying moment of realizing that they way we'd come out of City Creek was now locked up tight...That moment of "Crap, how are we going to get to the car?!" Set in for me and Jeff was cool as a cucumber, we walked the block until we found a way into the courtyard for City Creek that was open and made our way through to an elevator (of course, I was secretly holding inside the terror that the way out would be fenced in and we would have to call and wait for someone to let us out...)

We were doubly depressed to find that the splash pad was turned off. We had hoped to let the girls play but were denied! The nice security guard informed us that the splash pad at the Gateway Mall would be open if we wanted to go there, but Jeff wasn't keen on driving around downtown and paying for parking again, and I wasn't keen on trying to maneuver our way onto the Light Rail and pay for a ride to Gateway with the girls in strollers so we took off.

We stopped for lunch and OF COURSE- the girls fell asleep. They'd been wide awake the day before and refused to sleep in the car at all- but the one time you want them to be awake they are out cold. We decided to end our sojourn in SLC. Hogle Zoo could wait for another trip. We didn't want to go with cranky babies and spend 2-3 hours walking the zoo with them screaming... So, we got on the road home.

We decided to stop in Park City for gas. It was lovely and I joked about how small the Walmart was.. Jeff said he could live in Park City but then we both agreed it would likely never happen because it probably costs a pretty penny to live there. (Side note- It started POURING rain as we drove home, so we were kind of glad we decided to skip the zoo...)

We headed on. We stopped at a scenic view to change movies and change diapers and let the girls stretch their legs. It was well worth the stop!  Breathtaking views of the reservoir (not sure which one it is ) that is outside Park City.

We hopped the state line back into Wyoming and welcomed the beautiful, blue open skies.

Stopped in Evanston for another break and then made our way back to our home in Rock Springs.

Jeff remarked that Wyoming would never be "home" but he was content to think of it that way temporarily. I agreed. I definitely don't feel as much like a "fish out of water" here as I did in Nevada. The people are the kind of people I grew up around- hardworking farmers, mechanics, machinists, etc.- sturdy stock that will give you directions to the best mechanic or the nearest gas station or take the shirt off their back to help a wounded passer by...kind sturdy stock... and the area, while not as green as I'm used to, has a similar climate and feel to it. I definitely feel like I can put down roots here for a while and be content...and if a while turned into longer than I expected, I'd probably still be content. I miss my family. I miss Idaho and all the wonderful, beautiful hidden treasures that it holds, but Wyoming can be tied for a close second with Montana.

Thus ends our sojourn to SLC. Jeff was talking about going back for the Temple Square Christmas Light display and I am SO EXCITED just thinking of it. I've never been and its on my bucket list. Surprisingly, I only had 2 white knuckle moments on our trip to SLC and I actually found myself saying what a cool town it is if you're willing to explore it a bit. I won't mind another trip to SLC, and if all our vacations ever are when we live here is a quick weekend trip there, I will likely be content. We had a lot of fun and got to focus on enjoying time being a family- and that was all that mattered.



Hugs and Loves until next time, darlings!






Sunday, August 11, 2013

2 Weeks of Dinners...Making August Easy

Sorry I haven't been faithful with my meal plan posts. I have several friends who love that I: A) take the time to make a meal plan and B) Post it so they can steal it! (LOL)

I was going to wait until tomorrow to type this (I just got back from a little mini vacation to Salt Lake City, and I am POOPED!) but Microsoft Word is being dumb, and on the off chance that it can't recover the document again when it decides NOT to save it when I ask it to (grumble, grumble, swear word in German, grumble)...I decided I'd better take the time to type it here so I have it.

Here you go: two weeks of meals with links and notes from my kitchen. :) (Click the recipe title to follow the link.)

1. My special smothered chicken (this is a recipe that I devised years ago- like in high school years ago. I think, if I remember right, it was based off of something that my mom had in a restaurant and asked if I could recreate it at home...couldn't tell you the name of the dish or the restaurant its copying, sorry...its been WAY too long.  Its actually been quite some time since I made it, but since my husband is a teriyaki sauce freak, I've decided to give it a go. I will post the recipe when I make it (with or without pictures depends on if I remember to take them and the munchkins are patient so I can focus! )

2. Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas (my husband  and girls LOVE these! *Note* A LOT of people think the original recipe is too sweet. I had a friend recommend using half the honey it calls for and it REALLY makes a difference. I also add a tsp of cumin to the marinade to up the flavor profile.)

3. Slow Cooker Italian Chicken 

4. Slow Cooker Ham and Potato Casserole

5. Jeff's Favorite Meat Loaf...I've been planning on re doing this recipe for a while now (it is on my old recipe blog, but is almost unreadable because somehow the format got all screwy). I will get it on here, I promise!

6. Crock Pot Lasagna- this one is fairly easy and always a crowd pleaser. A tutorial is almost not necessary, but I'm going to do it anyway.

7. Loaded Grilled Cheese with Homemade Fries- Do you know how to make a grilled cheese? Now add turkey, bacon, sprouts, tomato, avocado and you get a loaded grilled cheese...Don't worry, I will do a tutorial so you can gawk at the splendor...


9. Chicken Taco Soup (I'll be adapting THIS recipe...we will see how it turns out, but you can try your own adaptation, or wait to read about mine. :) )

10. Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce (I will be adapting THIS recipe...as if anyone could make a Pioneer Woman recipe better...but I'm going to try...you can read about it when it happens, but if you just can't wait, the original is TO DIE FOR!)

11. Slow Cooker Creamy Salsa Chicken (I've seen lots of recipes with just salsa, but this is something totally new to me. I'll be excited to try it.)


13. Broccoli and Pasta Bake (I will be adapting THIS recipe and removing the chicken for a vegetarian night... Sometimes I just need a break from meat... You can, of course, add the chicken. *Note* a meal plan instantly becomes cheaper when you plan a few vegetarian options...just sayin'...)

14. Warm Corn Chowder Salad (I'm not a big fan of THIS recipe in its entirety, so I will be adapting it to suit my family's personal preference as well as my idea of what would make it more palatable...you can always go ahead and make it as is..I won't judge. :) )

Here you go, darlings! Happy eating!

P.S> I know there are a lot of chicken meals in this meal plan but: A) I prefer chicken to pretty much any other meat. I don't like eating beef if I don't have to because, frankly, it upsets my tummy...I just happened to be in a chicken mood and B) Chicken is on sale at my local grocery store... I want the next two weeks to be cost effective...so sue me! LOL

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Noodles

I'm sorry, darlings.

I know I promised new recipes a few days ago, but life got away from me...

Having two kids under 2 does happen to take up quite a bit of your time.

My sweet babies have caught a summer cold. Our poor Divine Cupcake was the first to come down with it, and lets just say, there has been a lot of this face in our house lately:
I decided to bring back an old classic.

I have many wonderful memories associated with homemade chicken noodle soup. We were the lucky kids on our block who had a mom that was home full time. While my dad was generally the main "chef" of the house, he enjoyed more experimental cuisine being a foodie...when my mom cooked, it was generally the wonderful meat and potatoes fare that many people grew up with. For us, because it was a rare occurrence, it was ALWAYS special.

We always welcomed walking in from school at 3:00 after our bus ride and smelling the delicious combination of chicken, veggies and homemade breadsticks. We knew dinner would be early that night and delicious. Mom always made enough for any stragglers passing by (aka the neighborhood kids who had to wait patiently for their moms to get home) to come in and enjoy a bowl with us if they wanted to.

I think that is one thing that molded me. My home was a safe haven and the whole neighborhood knew it. All the neighborhood kids loved and respected my mother. I was and still am blessed by her wonderful example.

My favorite days were the days she was a little late finishing up and we got to help her make the noodles.

I've been making this dish since I was about 5 years old and I will make it until I'm in my grave because its THAT good and reminds me of wonderful times past.

Here you go, darlings. Enjoy the nostalgia!

(Note- I made my in the crock pot, but its just as easily done in a stock pot and quicker. I just knew that my little ones wouldn't wait for me for long and when you do it in a stock pot, you kind of have to do everything all at once.)

Ingredients:
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (you can use bone in, just be sure to remove the skin and be careful to make sure to get ALL the bones out.)
3 celery stalks, diced finely (dice the leaves and add them in too. My grandma always said that celery leaves helped cure colds fast. Its probably an old wives tale, but they are delish too!)
2 carrots, diced finely
1-2 cups any other veggies you'd like (I used about 1/2 c of peas and 1/2 c of corn)
1 recipe homemade noodles
onion powder, salt, pepper to taste

In a large stock pot or crock pot, place your carrots, celery and chicken with 3 cups of water. Sprinkle the top with onion powder (and garlic powder if you want), and salt generously (this will make your stock, and you will be adding more water later so if its too salty, you can always diffuse it.) sprinkle lightly with pepper. (I did add some dried minced onion to mine as well)  If using a crock pot, place on low for about 4-6 hours, if using a stock pot, bring to a simmer and simmer on low until chicken is soft, cooked through, and easy to shred (usually takes 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on how hot your surface coils get and how quickly you want it to be done.  : ) )

Once your chicken is just about ready to shred, start your noodles.

2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 c water

Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Put the eggs in the middle of the well, and sprinkle the salt on top.

 (take your rings off for this part ladies...) Add a splash of water. Using your hands, slowly mix all the ingredients together. Add enough water so that the dough is pliable and somewhat sticky (almost like play dough but slightly stickier).  It should look something like this when its ready to be rolled out:

Split the dough into thirds. Take one of your thirds and roll it in flour. Then roll it out as thin as you can (*note* if you're using a crock pot, you want to make the noodles slightly thicker, as they will melt down instead of cook through)

Once its rolled out, roll the dough up like you're making cinnamon rolls. Using a sharp nice, slice your roll into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rolls. Unroll them and voila! You have your noodles.

I wanted my noodles to be shorter so I didn't have to cut them up for my babies. I cut my rolled out dough in half and repeated the process with the other half. My noodles ended up being, at the longest, about 4 inches in length.

If you have a hard time unrolling the spirals (the ends have sealed) simply pop the center out and unroll them from there. You will easily find the sealed end and get it apart.

Toss the noodles lightly into your bowl as you unroll them. No need to pack them in.
Once you've shredded your chicken, go ahead and add your extra veggies and about 2-3 more cups of water . Taste to be sure you don't need to add more seasonings, or more water. If using a stock pot, bring to a rolling simmer, if cooking in a crock pot, adjust to high heat and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes.Toss in your noodles and lightly stir to break them up. If you're cooking in a stock pot, it will take about 10 minutes for the noodles to cook through, if you're cooking in a crock pot, watch them and taste. Depending on how hot your slow cooker cooks, it can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. You don't want to let it go too long in the crock pot, or the noodles will turn to mush.



and there you have it...have some breadsticks on the side and you have a hearty meal guaranteed to knock out any cold...:)

Bon appetit, darlings!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

As Summer Slowly Ends... and a quick update on Faith

Its crazy to think that today is the first day of August.  This summer has just flown by...and so has this year! Have you realized yet that we are now 8 months into the year? There are only 4 months left of 2013...only 2 months until Halloween, 3 months until Thanksgiving, and 4 months until Christmas...INSANE!

Jeff started a new rotation because of the tech he is shadowing and will be doing 15 days on and 6 off for a little while. We just had his first "off period" of 6 days and we took a lot of time to just do things as a family. A lot of our time was spent at home and it was nice.

We purchased a table and a Blu-ray player that has wi-fi so we can watch Netflix on it (makes it much easier than hooking up one of the computers and trying to keep Phillie away from the dangling cords.) I bought 2 scented wax warmers on clearance for $5, and our house smells like vanilla and caramel now all day long instead of the hints of lingering cigarette smoke( a gift from previous tenants of the house..YUCK!) and that general mildew smell that comes with living in a REALLY old house with plaster walls...I'm loving the new ambiance that a yummy smelling house creates. Its weird, but everyone seems happier when the house smells nice... Our house here is starting to feel more like home and things are coming together. We do need to buy one more chair (we only bought two because Jeff thought the table came with chairs. He was wondering why I was so insistent about getting at least one more...LOL Oh well, we will get there eventually!)  Also, our new washer and dryer arrived and I am ALMOST caught up on laundry now.

On Saturday, we got to go to our first Wyoming parade...it was a first parade for the girls in general. Let's just say that Rock Springs knows how to throw a parade for fair time. We walked away with a grocery bag's worth of candy, 4 cans of soda, 4 bottles of water, 7 or 8 popsicles and one of the local flower shops even gave flowers away to the moms and older young ladies of the crowd...I brought cash expecting to need to buy drinks or popsicles, but I was wrong. It was crazy. Every float that went by, someone was handing us a popsicle or throwing candy or giving us a free drink! The girls had fun watching the horses, classic cars, and Shriner's circus cars ride by. The best part is we only live about 2 blocks from the parade route. We didn't have to deal with traffic or finding a parking spot, we just got to walk out there about 20 minutes before the parade started and wait. It was awesome!


Tuesday was Jeff's last day off so we decided we'd make the day really special. We went to Garnet Park to have a picnic and let the girls play at the splash pad. Unfortunately, we got there and were informed by some other ladies that the splash pad was broken. They had been waiting HOURS for someone to come fix it and had finally given up. We ate our lunch and let the girls play in what little water was bubbling up...it was kind of pathetic so we knew we had 2 choices- we could go to the rec center and play in the splash pad there and swim, or go buy a pool with a spout so that we could have our own private splash pad...

We opted for the latter since I don't have a car to get places when he's a work and we figured it would be nice for me to have a way to spend time outside with the girls as summer draws to its close.

After spending almost an hour trying to find one at Walmart (it took almost 45 minutes to find an associate to help us find where they'd put the pool stuff...VERY frustrating) we opted to go to Kmart because they didn't have anything like what we were looking for. At Kmart, we found several options and ended up with a circle pool with a water slide and a zebra head spout that sprays water onto the slide. Faith picked it. We held the boxes down in front of her and asked her which one she wanted. It was a good choice. We also were pleasantly surprised to find out that it was on sale. It ended up being $10 cheaper than we had thought it would be.

Here are some pictures of the fun the girls had:

So...we embark on the next 15 days. Jeff will be working and I will be having fun with the kiddos during the day, and we will enjoy the family time we get when he's home. I love that we can all just snuggle up together and watch a movie at the end of the day for a few minutes, say evening prayers and Jeff and I have the rest of the evening to talk about our day and smooch (yep- that's right, we're married and we smooch! Get used to it!)

We love our new ward and have quickly made friends. Jeff's one regret is that he doesn't have more time off in the evenings. There are several guys in the ward that play frisbee golf and Jeff would love to go out and play with them and do tournaments with them...

In short, as much as I wasn't sure if I wanted it to be, Wyoming is quickly becoming "home".  I miss my green hills in southeast Idaho and being somewhat close to my family, but the people here and the similar climate make it easier.

I am very blessed at the moment and I am on my knees every morning and night thanking God for bringing us through the Hades of unemployment. Hopefully, with any lucky, Jeff will be on payroll soon (instead of a contractor through SOS) and all of the nerves surrounding this job will dissipate and I can REALLY allow myself to settle in.

For good measure, enjoy some pictures of the fun we've had today:
and video of Faith dancing and then hiding from the camera inconspicuously when she noticed I had it out....
video
Faith is a little character. She loves to dance and copy dance moves of characters on the shows we watch (we definitely have a flexible little ballerina on our hands.) Her favorite moves are leg extensions and twirling.  She loves shows like "Shake it Up!" and Angelina Ballerina because she gets to dance every time a character starts to dance. Too cute and funny. Still no headway on talking yet, but she has gotten much better at problem solving and figuring out puzzles. Its a slow process. The Infant Toddler program here is going to do her hearing test and if that isn't the culprit, they have a developmental psychologist who will test her to see if we can get a firm diagnosis of what is going on and help us find better treatments once we have an idea of what the cause may be. I'm feeling very fortunate that we were able to move here where the program is a little better funded. We also talked today about the possibility of taking the girls to Kindermusic classes at the Child Development Center here for free. I am excited to do it and take part.

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings!

P.S> I will be posting a few recipes later today. Stay tuned!