Friday, August 29, 2014

Emelina Mae's Baptism (plus a yummy birthday cake ice cream recipe!)

This weekend we got to celebrate a pretty huge milestone for Miss Emma - her baptism. Aside from the obvious reasons, it was special in many ways.  Like Annalyn, she wore the gown that my mom, Aunt Kathy, and I all wore for our christenings.  It has held up amazingly well over these 50+ years! We also used the blanket that my grandma recalls using for "all special occasions" when her kids were babies.  I was so excited that my Aunt Kathy was able to come and bring my grandma all the way from Nebraska.  It really meant a lot to all of us.

she really likes to grab her feet lately
it's super cute, but makes it hard to photograph a dress!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Twelve Time-saving Tips

As most of you have probably guessed looking at my blog these past few months, I have anything but extra time these days.  Baby #2 really is a big adjustment.  Even more than #1, I think!  But now that Michael's school year has started and I'm back to work, we definitely have a time shortage.  Any time we have together we want to spend, well, together.  So we've had to get more creative and plan ahead to make meals happen.  Here's some of my time saving tips (not just for new parents!) for getting weeknight meals on the table:

1.  Chop ahead
:  Although it's one of my favorite parts of meal prep, it's also one of the most time consuming.  Since I have anything but extra time, I've been making an effort to chop everything ahead, including veggies for Mike's lunch, and storing them in labeled ziplock bags.  That way, no matter who starts dinner, all we have to do is grab the veggie bag and dive into the recipe.  Imagine how much quicker dinner would be without all the washing and chopping!  Not to mention, you can use the chopping time as a nice break.  It's almost therapeutic when there's not a two year old's fingers you're trying to avoid the whole time. Which brings me to...

2.  Nap time:  As hard as it is not to lie down and nap myself, I've been trying hard to make nap times productive.  Use it to prepare as much of dinner as possible.  Making a casserole?  Put it together and ready to go in the oven.  Can it be made ahead and reheated?  Do it!  Chop everything for the whole week even.  Never underestimate the power of a parent at nap time.  

3. Get up early:  This is a tough one for me.  I am not a morning person and lately, I do not have an abundance of time for sleep.  But even an extra 20-30 minutes in the morning before the kids are up can make a world of difference.  I use this time to prepare/put together lunches/snacks for the day (although I'm always so proud of myself for getting this done the night before, it just doesn't happen until morning most days.), get a headstart on dinner, or work on menu planning and grocery lists for the week.

4. Slow cooker:  This old friend will get you through anything!  Not only can you toss it together and forget about it until dinner time, but it gives you some flexibility as to when you start it.  Usually, I try to get it ready in the morning and put it on low all day, but lately I've found myself not having time to start on it until afternoon and just cooking it on high.  It's really helpful once I go back to work because I can cook dinner for my family even on nights I'm not there to eat with them. 

5.  Leftovers:  Please don't ignore the power of leftovers!  Not only do they save time, but they help stretch the grocery budget.  By taking a little extra time to cook one day, you can have dinner ready for the next two days, or use them as healthy lunches.   If you're feeling really creative, you can often transform leftovers into a whole new dish.  Oftentimes, the new dish is even better than the first!  We've been on a roasted whole chicken kick lately, and I've had a lot of fun creating fun dishes with the leftovers.  We usually eat the breasts the first night, then shred the remaining meat to use in the next night's dish.

6. Freeze ahead:  Especially when you can foresee upcoming busy times, freezer meals are clutch.  Usually, they just need thawed, reheated, or tossed in the slow cooker and dinner is served.  Most pastas and casseroles are good candidates, as well as my favorite and always versatile, taco meat.  One good way to build up your freezer stash is to double one meal a week and freeze it.  Be sure to date and label it with how it should be reheated/thawed.  

7.  Say yes to help:  Whether it's with dinner, housekeeping, or the kids, never say no to help!  If your friends/family offer, they are probably sincere about wanting to help you.  Ask them to do the weekly chopping, or to play with the kids while you do it.  See if they mind running the vacuum, or taking the kids outside while you try to find your kitchen again.  If they want to bring dinner over, let them!  Our friends and family have been amazing this summer, and we wouldn't have what's left of our sanity without them.

8. Shopping list/menu planning:  Honestly, I don't know how anyone can shop without a list.  I have to rewrite mine in order of how they appear in the grocery store, or we end up running back and forth the whole time.   I've also been trying to plan meals in order of how long the ingredients will stay fresh.  For example, this week I made this low fat Greek chicken salad using a rotisserie chicken (hello, leftovers!), then two nights later we made these buffalo joes (using prechopped veggies from the first night), and lastly, a quinoa enchilada bake (again with chop ahead ingredients and canned non-perishables that could stand to wait until the end of the week).  Planning ahead like this keeps from wasting perishable ingredients and spending more time at the grocery later in the week.  You can also freeze meat that won't keep until later in the week (or cook it ahead and freeze to save cook time later. This is especially helpful come soup/chili season!).  Twice a week grocery shopping seems to be our magic number.  Once a week usually doesn't keep fresh ingredients fresh long enough for us.  

9.  Super easy sides:  I love complex salads and sides just as much as the next person, but for weeknight meals, keep it simple.  Toss together a quick salad, some frozen veggies, or some raw veggies/fruit.  You don't have to have 4 courses for every meal.  

10.  One pot wonders:  Less dishes = less time.  It's that simple!  Soups, chilis, casseroles, pastas, and slow cooker dishes all equal less post-dinner cleanup.  

11.  Microwave it:  Don't forget about the quickest/easiest way to cook, the microwave.  In a pinch, you can cook just about anything in the microwave.  We use ours for steam-in-the-bag veggies, reheating leftovers, and even corn on the cob.  You'd be surprised how much you can actually cook in there.  It's also great for kick-starting things like baked potatoes/sweet potatoes to lessen the amount of time in the oven.

12.  Go-to meals:  I love trying/creating new dishes, but for times that we are crunched for time, I turn to the old standbys.  Several years ago, I made a photo book with some of our favorite go-to meals.  Most are family recipes, or ones that we made a lot when we were first married and still in college.  Having them handy is always nice when writing menus for the week.  They are quick, easy, and familiar enough that I can make most of them without even looking at the recipe.  You don't have to be adventurous every night.  When we first got married, we would try one new recipe per week.  Honestly, a few of those became old standbys.  Others we tried once or twice and moved on.  Either way, it's ok!

And there you have it!  My latest advice for getting good food on the table as quickly/efficiently as possible.  It's been a challenge, but healthy family dinners are too important to skip.  And who wants to spend extra time in the kitchen when you could be playing dress up with these two cuties?  Not this mama, that's for sure! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to Work

I never appreciated breastfeeding so much as before and after my first 13 hour shift (2nd day of work) post-maternity leave.  The look on little Emelina's sweet face when she saw me melted my aching heart.  I thought she might nurse forever and never let go.  I honestly probably would've let her.  I can't even describe how hard it was to lay her down yesterday morning knowing I wouldn't pick her up again for 15 hours (ended up being 12 because Michael brought them to see me).

Annalyn was pretty excited to see me, too, but was more interested in picking out a sucker in the pharmacy and going potty on "Mommy's work potty."  Michael told her to tell me what she did today and she chose these super helpful words, "I woke up and mommy wasn't there and I cried because you went to work and I wanted to play with you."  Michael: "yea, I was going for 'I made you a pretty finger-painting,' but way to go, kid."  That kid has guilt down gooood!  Honestly, I'm not even sure if the crying story is true.  Our nanny said she did great.  

Don't get me wrong, I had a good day at work.  I got to see a lot of my favorite patients, show off pics of the girls, and catch up with coworkers.  I got to use my brain and enjoy working without all the pain/discomfort of pregnancy (always the coolest thing when I go back!). Twelve weeks is just too soon for this mama.  I know many people take way less, and I'm so glad we were able to take 12, but it just isn't long enough.  She's too little.  I'm too attached/nervous/clingy/jealous/worried. But we made through.   

Love you and miss you like crazy sweet babies!  Let's make our days off together count :)


PS - pumping is for the birds!  Not a big fan of that... Especially while running a retail pharmacy.  At least I have awesome techs, I suppose!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sun Dried Tomato Basil Whipped Feta

After having a delicious whipped feta dip at a restaurant with Dan and Shawna last weekend, I became obsessed with recreating it.  This version tastes pretty darn close to the original and is super easy to make.  I have a feeling it will be made several more times as football season approaches.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Sun Dried Tomato Basil Whipped Feta

- 8 oz. low fat cream cheese, softened
- 6 oz. crumbled feta (tomato basil or regular)
- 1/3 to 1/2 c. Packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 c. Sun dried tomatoes (I used a sundried tomato pesto I had on hand)
- 1 T. Olive oil


1.  In a food processor, process feta until fine crumbs.  

2.  Add basil leaves and tomatoes and process until finely chopped.  Add olive oil as needed to allow ingredients to mix.

3.  Add cream cheese and process until smooth.  Refrigerate for an hour or overnight.  Serve as a dip with veggies, pitas, chips, or crackers, or as a spread on sandwiches and wraps.  It doesn't take much to add BIG flavor!

We used it to make these yummy wraps with chicken and spinach.

printable recipe

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Convos with Peanut: Snack time, Peanut style

Peanut:  I want pistachios... with cheese on 'em and olives.  Purple olives and green olives and blue olives and pink olives.

Daddy:  you like all those kinds, huh?

Peanut:  yep.  

Little foodie in the making!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Convos with Peanut: On Frozen, part 2

Annalyn: "She froze the ground, and then Elsa runned away!"

Mama:  Why did Elsa run away?

Annalyn:  "Because she didn't like her sister."

After a pause to keep from laughing,
Mama:  Well, I think it was because she froze everything and didn't want to hurt anyone.

After a pause to think, takes off running and sings, "let it gooooo! Let it goooo!  It never bothered me anyway!!!"

Once again, I don't think she quite gets this movie...

I just love this photo, and I use it all the time... But I think it's an appropriate addition to this post.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Raspberry Vinaigrette

Here's a perfect way to use that homemade raspberry vinegar recipe I posted earlier.  Even if you're not a big fan of fruit in your salads, this lightly sweet dressing is a delicious way to freshen up those greens.  A perfect end-of-the-summer recipe and would make a great hostess gift for that holiday dinner party. Here's how Mama makes it:

Raspberry Vinaigrette

- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 1/2 c. raspberry vinegar (see my homemade recipe here )
- 1/3 c. sugar
- 1 T. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 t. dried oregano
- 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
- salt, to taste (about 1/2 t.)


1.  Place all ingredients in a jar with a lid.  Shake to combine, store in refrigerator.

2.  Serving suggestion:  Toss spring mix salad greens with dressing; sprinkle with chopped pecans, dried cranberries, and feta cheese.  Serve as a side, or with some grilled chicken as a meal.

Friday, August 1, 2014

About Aboo: Emelina's 2 month update

Dearest Emelina,

It's hard to believe it, but my little Squishy is 2 months old already (actually a little over by the time I finished this).  At your appointment, you weighed 10 lbs. 10.5 oz. and were 23" long.   Even now, we are getting little glimpses of your developing personality.  You've started smiling and almost laughing lately.  You love your big sister, even if she does pick on you sometimes.  We've been working hard to put you down more, so you're starting to like your swing, and even just laying on a blanket and looking at toys.   Although most of the time you prefer to be held, facing out, and walking.

Sleep is our biggest challenge lately, since you greatly prefer sleeping on Mama to sleeping in your cradle.  We've worked up to a few hours at a time in the cradle, but there are just some nights that I need more than a couple little naps.  It's a work in progress, along with your daytime schedule.  I'm finding it harder to set your schedule because I've always fed you on demand.  Unlike a bottle fed baby, I don't really know how much you're getting at each feeding, so it's hard to say that you don't need to eat again an hour later when you ask.  Lately you've been taking at least one long morning and afternoon nap, which is nice.  All in all, it's still one big work in progress.  Welcome to life, Squish!

And yes, I still call you my Squishy, or Squishers, or just Squish.  Sorry, but it's sort of catching on, too.  All in love, baby, all in love.   
I mean, really! Look at that squishy little face!!

So far you've been to 6 states (IL, NE, MO, IA, OH, and obviously IN) and four zoos (Indy, Fort Wayne, Omaha, Decatur).  Not bad for your first two months of life!  You still despise your car seat which makes traveling rough, but honestly short trips are worse than long ones because you especially hate stopping.  We can't get you to consistently take a pacifier, but occasionally you will in the car.  You mostly like to clutch the bunny on the other end of the paci. 

Oh, and your hair!  As it gets even longer, it's starting to stick straight up just like your sister's did.  It's even crazier, though, because you have sooo much!  It's usually the first thing people notice and comment about you.  The second is your huge eyes.  

I left you with Grandma for the first time when you were 8 weeks old, and with your nanny just this week at almost 10 weeks old.  Honestly, it kills me.  I hate being away from you, even for an hour, but I've been forcing myself to slowly start leaving more so it's not as big of a shock here in a couple weeks when I go back to work.  Dreading that day...

I've successfully breastfed you exclusively so far, which is a huge accomplishment in my book!  It has been far from easy, but I'm glad I've been able to.  I worry about how going back to work will affect my supply, but you have no problem taking bottles, so that's at least promising.  I'm trying to remind myself that even if we have to supplement, it's not the end of the world.  I have no problem with formula, other than cost and all the bottle washing.  As much as you like to eat, I can't imagine you'll mind the switch.  It will be hard to give up some of the snuggle time though.

All in all, we are doing pretty well, Emma. Or at least trying really hard!  Every week gets a little easier and you just keep getting more fun.  Even though it scares me given her track record, I love watching you and Annalyn interact.  There's just something so special about seeing your kids loving on each other (as opposed to pulling/poking/hitting... Sorry, babe, we are working on it! At least I know you'll be tough.)
...a relationship built on love and mutual respect <note the sarcasm> 

Love you so much little Squishy!

All my love,