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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Potager Cafe Review

I just started writing for Today's Mama in the DFW Mama blog.  I'm super thrilled about it.  Go see my first post about the awesome Potager Cafe.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

$20 Collar on a $10 Dog

So it appears that we've already done too much to our house.  Crap.  Ever heard of the expression "$20 collar on a $10 dog"?  Yeah, that's our house.  Actually, it's not as bad as I'm making it out to be.

We had a real estate agent come by the other day and give us her opinion on our house.  While she said that it would likely sell very quickly, she told us not to do a single thing more to it or else we'd be throwing our money down the drain.  As it stands right now, though, funny enough, we'd get back just about exactly what we put into it, which is pretty cool.  Since the insurance paid for the floors, we haven't over-invested into our house.

We stopped remodeling just in time!  The house will be paid off in July, and we had major plans to do a ton of stuff to it that had been annoying us.  But something just didn't sit right with me about spending all of that money on this house.  I was hesitant to say anything to Michael about it, though, because we have prided ourselves in living simply and existing in a small house.  It's a bit of a counter-American thing to do, and we thought we were pretty cool for it.  Ha!  But, dude, when that third baby came along, this house got a lot smaller.  I can't imagine how tiny it would feel when they're all teenagers.

So after we looked at a few houses that had about 1,000 square feet more than this one, Michael was convinced that it would be a good investment to upgrade.  I'm thrilled about it.

We're currently looking at houses just to get a feel for what we want and don't want so that we can make a wise decision.  We're also interviewing real estate agents to find the one that works the best with our vision.  It's crazy how a lot of them don't believe you when you say that you're going to save up cash.

And that's what we plan on.  We'll save up for another couple of years and then buy.  I'm totally excited and feel like we've made the right decision.  So thanks for everyone's input!  It's always good to get a "Amen", what what!  ;)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Only 5 WW Points!!!)

You're gonna love me for this one.  My bestie shared this recipe with me, and it's one of our house favorites now.  Delicious!  And the best part about it - it's only 5 Weight Watchers points.  Can't beat that for Mexican food!  And the second best thing about it - it's a crock pot meal that's oh so easy!  Try it, and I promise you won't be disappointed.
Ingredients plus a few garnish options
Here's your shopping list:

- 3-4 boneless, skinless, chicken breast (frozen or not - doesn't matter)
- 1 can kidney beans (15.5 oz)
- 1 can black beans (15.5 oz)
- 1 can Rotel Original (10 oz)
- 1 packet taco seasoning mix
- 1 packet Ranch dressing mix
- 2 cups frozen corn kernels

What it looks like when you dump all the ingredients in the crock pot
Dump it all in a crock pot and forget about it.

Note: The chicken does not need to be defrosted (a nice perk).  I like to put it in the crock pot the night before then refrigerate it and take it out the next morning and plug it in.  That way it doesn't slow my morning down.

What it looks like when it's done and the chicken is shredded
Put the crock pot on low for 8 hours or so OR on high for 4 hours or so.  (Always check the chicken to make sure it's done all the way through.  Y'all know I'm paranoid about that.)  Then when it's done, take two forks and pull the chicken apart until it's shredded.

You can either enjoy it just the way it is (which is 5 points a serving if the whole pot is 8 servings), or you can garnish it.  Here are some yummy options:

- tortilla chips (4 points for 12 chips - not worth the points to me since it's so yummy already, but if you're not on a diet, it's worth it)
- baked low-carb, whole wheat tortillas (1 point for 1 tortilla or 3 points for 2)
- avocado (3 points for 1/4 avocado)
- cilantro (0 points)
- shredded cheese (3 points for 1/4 cup)
Instead of baking the tortillas, I sprayed a little bit of Pam on the griddle and put these on high heat.  I kept turning them until they were crispy.  Then when they cooled off and hardened a little more, I broke them into chip size pieces.  Yummy! They would be good with some guacamole, too.
Make this tomorrow!  You won't regret it!  And be sure to tell me how you loved it.  ;)

UndertheTableandDreaming Featured At Serenity Now

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bigger House vs. Simpler Life

As many of you know (because I've been shouting it from the rooftops) we're about to have our house paid off in July or so.  We have been debt-free (all but the house) since last April, and since the beginning of last year we've been on the journey to financial peace, all thanks to Mr. Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University.

With the prospect of having a few extra bucks in the bank after the house is paid off (in half the time of our 15 year mortgage, if I might brag), we've developed quite the wish list of items to buy when we're not putting every single spare cent into the house.  And yes, we have a spreadsheet of such items.  Here they are (without prices):

Invisline (for Michael)
Sprinkler System
Driveway expansion
Replace tile floor in kitchen
Front bathroom remodel
Paint exterior of house
Paint kitchen cabinets and new hardware
Kitchen counters, backsplash, and island butcher block
New stove/oven range
Michael's car or truck
Michael's wardrobe update 
Annie's wardrobe update
Dining room and living room window treatments
Living room furniturePiano (I want the boys to have piano lessons.)
Tummy tuck (aww year - don't hate)
Computer (something faster so that Michael can work from home more easily)
Landscaping for front yard
Dining room sitting area/desk

But then that got me to thinkin'.  (Uh-oh, there I go.)  

So we really value a simple lifestyle.  We don't like to accumulate stuff and are relatively comfortable in our 1,330 sq ft house built in 1955.  We don't feel the need to compete with the Jones (even though I'd be lying if I said we weren't tempted from time to time).  We don't over-schedule our lives or the lives of our kids.  We stick to our budget (to a fault sometimes), and we're pretty disciplined.

So here's the big but...BUT I'm worried that we will be sinking a ton of money into our house when we possibly should upgrade to a slightly bigger house.  I've always thought that the perfect sized house is between 2,200-2,500 sq ft.  It's big enough to have a big family and to entertain comfortably but small enough to not lose your kids in it and to not allow them to be autonomous from the family (and small enough to not spend all your time cleaning it).

I've also said, though, that I wouldn't want to have to redo everything in a new house to have my personal style all over again.  So that would mean that I should hold off on all of the above house projects on my list so that I could possibly spend that money on a new house instead of further investing in this house.

There are lots of pros and cons to both options, though, so it's not such an easy decision.  I think we'll hold off on any projects until we definitely decide what we want to do.  So we'll just be saving for a bigger house or for remodels.  Either way we're paying cash.  :)

"Three Little Birds" Shirts and Baby Legs

I have some really amazing friends, and oh so talented, too.  Here are just a couple of the sweet baby gifts that my friends made for my kiddos.  There's no better way to my heart than through loving my kids.  :)

My amazingly talented friend Lyndy, an accomplished seamstress (are they still called that; it seems so antiquated), made these adorable baby legs.  While she is extremely talented, these baby legs are actually pretty easy to make.  All she did was cut the feet out of men's socks and hem up the ends.  They work perfectly, and I've gotten so many compliments on them.  LOVE THEM!!

My other sweet friend Robyn, who is so very creative and fun, made these precious little T-shirts.  She got her inspiration from my post about getting a Three Little Birds tattoo.  I LOVE these shirts for my three little birds.  She cut the patterned fabric out in the shape of the birds, used fabric adhesive to attach it to the T-shirts (possibly an iron on deal - I don't know), and then used fabric paint to draw the bird legs and numbers onto the shirts.  Great idea!  I love it!
Do you know how impossible it is to get a good picture of three squirmy, little boys?  Levi was trying to bite Samuel's head after Samuel bit Levi's shoulder.
Levi was being especially cuddly and cute with Isaac.  I love this picture.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Neighborhood Nerd" Finale

I have agonized over this ridiculous situation for FAR too long.  Okay, so here's a short recap.  There are these two girls that live on the next block over that I have tried to be friends with for years now.  I wrote about it here and then here.  I just read those posts, and dude, I'll say it: pretty pathetic.

So when I had Isaac these girls brought me this amazing meal with sides and desserts and homemade dressing - the works.  It was wonderful - Michael's favorite of all of the meals brought over.  Then one of them gave me this gorgeous crocheted baby blanket that I love, so I started thinking, 'Okay, maybe I overreacted; maybe they really do want to be friends.'  (Gosh, the lameness is oozing out of every word.)  So I invited them over for a playdate or coffee twice this month only to be totally ignored (and I know they got the emails because they replied).

SO...I get the point!  You have plenty of friends and don't have room for one more - whatever (that's a defeated 'whatever', not an angry 'whatever').  Why does it bother me so much?  (Even just proofreading this post makes me realize how incredibly nerdy and insecure I am.)

Well, here are my reasons, however gay they might be (is that not pc to say anymore?):
1.  I care too much about what other people think of me because I fear they might be right.  I've tried working on this, but I talk a better game of it than I play.
2.  They are SAHMs that live within walking distance - something every SAHM covets.
3.  We have a ton in common and really hit it off when we chat.  (This one is the hardest one for me because it baffles me why they don't like me.  Why would someone that's like me not like me?  Oh, that's frustrating and makes me question myself more than I ought.)
4.  Why would they give me a fabulous gift but not want to be my friend?  Were they just paying me back for the meal that I gave one of them when she had a baby?  Probably.  Score settled.

I'm officially done trying to make something happen that's not meant to happen.  I defriended them today so that I don't have to be reminded of my insecurities every time they post something on Facebook.  (Now I just have to be reminded every time I drive by their houses.)

Okay, so tell me honestly - do other people have thoughts like this or am I just insanely insecure?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Roast It!

So if you've seen me in person lately, chances are that I've told you about roasting my veggies.  I can't get enough of it.  I joined an organic produce co-op, and I'm LOVING it!  The best part of it is getting veggies that I normally wouldn't think to buy and figuring out how to cook them.  

A while back we got broccolini, so I looked up how to make it (seriously, what did people do before the internet).  The recipe I found said to toss it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper then put it on a baking sheet and bake it at about 375 or so for maybe 10 minutes or until the ends are a little crispy and brown.  O-M-G, it was DELICIOUS!  So now I'm hooked.  Then I wondered if you could do the same with broccoli, and guess what - you can!!!  I honestly don't like steamed broccoli unless it's loaded with cheese, but this is MUCH better and incredibly more healthy than heaping fattening cheese on it.  

Also, did you know that kale is the new spinach (Modern Family reference)?  Well, if you're wondering what to do with your kale, make it into kale chips!  Here's what I made on Tuesday night and the play-by-play.
Wash the veggies and dry them, then get a tablespoon or so of olive oil and put it in a large bowl.  Add some salt and pepper.  Cut up the veggies and toss them in the bowl.
Spread each onto a baking sheet.  And honestly, this was too much broccoli for the pan.  When the broccoli is more sparse on the sheet, it allows it to get crispier on the edges, which is what you want for a delicious, buttery, roasted taste.  So I would put about half of that on the pan.  The amount of kale that I have on that pan is right at the limit.  Any more and it wouldn't have allowed it to get crispy.
Then you pop it in the oven at about 375-400 for 7 or so minutes (I rarely use a timer, sorry). Then flip it with a spatula and pop it back in the oven for another 7 or so minutes.  You'll end up with kale that looks like this.  It will be crispy and paper thin and oh so yummy.
Next, put a paper towel down in a bowl and put the kale chips in there.  They'll stay crispy but won't keep in the frig, so eat them all!  You shouldn't have a problem with that because they're addictive.

The broccoli will look like this, and the edges might even get a little crispier than this (remember, I put too many on my pan).  These do keep in the frig until the next day, but they're softer.  So to be on the safe side, I would just make what you're going to eat that night.
So while that was baking, I had this on the ol' cast iron skillet.  It might look complicated, but trust me, it's totally easy.  First, I put a little cooking spray in the pan and seared each side of the chicken (and added salt and pepper to each side).  Then I added kalamata and Greek olives (from a jar bought from Walmart, but sometimes I buy them from the olive bar at Whole Foods), capers (from a jar bought from Walmart), artichokes (from a can bought from Walmart), and mushrooms (bought from a jar from Aldi, but fresh mushrooms work, too).  Also, I like to add fresh grape tomatoes, but I didn't have any on hand.  Then I cover it and let it simmer until the chicken is cooked through.  
Everything simmering in there infuses the chicken with delicious juiciness that has my mouth watering just thinking about it.  (In case you're wondering, the chicken is cut into a million times because I'm super-paranoid about undercooking chicken.)  Add that chicken with the olives, et. al. on top of a bed of brown rice, and prepare yourself for bliss. 

So anyway, I just thought I'd share one of my favorite meals with you.  So far I've roasted asparagus, kale, broccoli, broccolini, rosemary red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and possibly more.  Try it!  I love roasting; roasting's my favorite (a la Elf).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering...

1. How's breastfeeding going?
2. How's the diet going?
3. How are the boys adjusting to the baby?
4. Is Levi completely potty-trained now?

These are the common questions I've been getting lately, so I thought I'd give you a little update, in case you were wondering.  ;)

How's breastfeeding going?
Breastfeeding is going amazingly!  I'm so thrilled to have a full milk supply while feeding on-demand WITHOUT having to use any herbal galactagogues to increase my supply!  Let me tell you, I was not looking forward to that maple syrup smell you get from Fenugreek again.  I smelled like that blasted stuff for a total of 30 months, and I was done!  Isaac is nursing like a champ, lets me know when he's hungry, and is growing into a big boy.  I'm so glad I didn't give up all of those times in the first two weeks that I wanted to.  Yes, it would have been easier to bottle feed in the first two weeks when it was so painful and difficult, but breastfeeding is infinitely easier in the long run.  I'm so grateful for all of the support that I've received this time around.  I'm so blessed!

How's the diet going?
I'm currently stuck at 5 pounds of weight loss since I started tracking.  I started tracking it after my weight stuck at the same number for a while after the baby was born, so that way I knew I was done losing all of the water weight and was just holding onto the fat at that point.  I go back and forth with thinking that I need to eat all of the Weight Watcher points that they give me or not.  It feels like they give me too much, but I don't know.  On the weeks that I ate all of the points, I didn't lose any weight.  And on the weeks that I had some leftover, I lost weight.  They harp on eating all of the points so that you don't go into starvation mode, but whatever.  It also didn't help that I probably ate an entire cup of frosting at Levi's birthday party.  The GOOD news, though, is that on Monday night I wore my size 4 skinny jeans!  (And yes, there was absolutely a muffin top.  Spanx are my next investment.)  I don't think I was able to fit into my old clothes this soon after the first two kids were born, so that made me ecstatic!  I have 22 pounds to my ultimate goal weight, but I have just 7 pounds to go until my first goal.  I'm looking forward to being able to post before and after pictures!  I'll post one at my first goal.

How are the boys adjusting to the baby?
They really love the baby.  They treat him very sweetly.  The only thing I've noticed is that both of them do a lot of baby-talk nowadays.  They also throw fits more frequently, and I'm sure that's an acting out thing.  So I just make sure to give them lots of cuddles and love when I can because they need to feel my affection more.  I'm hoping that the crazy temper tantrums will taper off now that Levi's three and the more they both feel my love more.

Is Levi completely potty-trained now?
Levi turned 3 last Friday, and we have been working on potty-training since last April.  So thanks for asking, but with my head hung low in defeat, I tell you, uh, no, he's not completely potty-trained.  He has won.  I surrender.  Seriously.  I'm leaving it up to him.  Some days he wants to wear underwear, and I support him.  And other days he wants to wear Pull-ups, and I let him.  He does need to be completely potty-trained by August when school starts next year, so that's my goal.  I'll probably start taking away the Pull-ups in June and making him wear underwear all of the time.  But I'm waiting until June because I'm not quite ready to be on top of it right now with the baby still so young.  He's a little stinker, but he's mine; and I love him.


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