Monday, January 30, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: crock-pot taco soup

i'm craving mexican food. i can pretty much eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. here's mexican food in a soup...doesn't get much better than that!

taco soup

2 (28 oz.) cans tomato puree

1 can corn - drained

2 (15 oz) cans pinto beans - rinsed

1 chopped onion (or one bag frozen chopped onion)

3 envelopes taco seasoning


1 pound ground beef


sour cream

sliced olives

shredded cheddar cheese

mexican rice

crushed tortilla chips

combine tomato sauce, corn, rinsed beans, onion, two cups of water and taco seasoning in a crock-pot. brown ground beef, drain fat and add the meat to the soup. cook on low for 4-8 hours. when ready to serve, pour soup in the bowls and add toppings. enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

friday fun finds: fabulous throw pillows

if you are thinking of redecorating or just need a change--- buy some throw pillows! throw pillows are an easy way to change the look and feel of a room without breaking the, they are a fun way to show off your personality. here are a few of my favorites. enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

the last month of pregnancy...

i have never met a woman in her last month of pregnancy who has said, "i love how this feels...i hope the baby stays in there a couple of extra weeks just for fun." nope, i'm pretty sure the last month of pregnancy is tough on everyone. don't get me wrong, i'm still happy to be expecting and thrilled for the upcoming little boy but every once in a while, it's refreshing to be real about why the last month of pregnancy totally bites. so, here it goes. if you are in the middle of your first pregnancy, don't say i didn't warn you.

1) cankles - do i really need to say more? you will swell. you will cease to recognize your own legs. you'll wear socks that, when you take them off, will leave a half inch indentation on your legs. it won't stop there. you'll be puffy everywhere. your face will look like you've spent each night crying. it's fabulous.

2) loss of bladder control - this may not happen with your first baby and it may not happen often... but i'm pretty comfortable in saying that at some point in your last month of pregnancy, you'll sneeze, cough, laugh too hard, jump up and down and you'll be stuck changing your pants. yep, it's awesome. doctors will advise on the importance of kegels but at some point, there are not enough kegels in all the world to keep you from peeing on yourself. welcome to parenthood...where your own personal embarrassment takes on a whole new meaning.

3) weight gain - at some point in the third trimester, as you are reading pregnancy books or bulletins, you will hear the great news that "from this week forward, you will gain about a pound a week and almost half of that weight will go to your baby." we're supposed to read that and be happy. i'm thrilled about the half a pound a week that is going to my infant...just not so pleased with the half a pound that is going to my thighs.

4) sleeplessness - how often have your heard people say, "get your rest now because you won't be sleeping when the baby comes." that's pretty laughable in the last month of pregnancy. the baby will pretty much be sitting on your bladder. you'll get up in the middle of the night numerous times to trickle out what would be a full bladder's worth if you were a two year old. then you'll go back to bed for a couple of hours and do it all over again. add to this the fact that you are only supposed so sleep on your side and that rolling over takes as much effort as a half marathon and you'll wake up pretty tired every day. add to that contractions, the baby kicking, your husband snoring and any other kids waking up and you'll find you pretty much walk around in a coma for the last month of pregnancy.

5) people's comments - things like, "what, you haven't had the baby yet?" or "you're huge! are you sure you're not carrying twins?" or "wow, i can't believe how quickly the pregnancy went." will pretty much make you crazy. first of all, all a pregnant woman wants to hear is how skinny she looks, how slim her thighs are and how all she's carrying is baby. besides that, she doesn't want to hear how quickly the pregnancy has gone for everyone else. i'm pretty sure i've been pregnant for the full 36-40 weeks like everyone other pregnant mother. just stick to telling me i'm skinny.

okay, there are my top five. what about you? what would you add to the end of pregnancy woe list? i can't wait to hear.

Monday, January 23, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: creamy tomato-basil soup

winter makes me instantly think of soup. in the mood for a bowl of comfort? try this creamy tomato-basil soup---it is amazing. truly. no really. try it. heaven in a bowl.....

creamy tomato-basil soup
makes 8 cups
source: paula deen quick & easy meals

8 on-the-vine tomatoes
olive oil cooking spray
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
3 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
10 large basil leaves, rougly chopped and divided
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c heavy cream

preheat oven to 450F. slice tomatoes in half crosswise, and scoop out seeds with a spoon. place tomato halves, skin side up, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. coat tomato halves with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper. roast tomatoes for 20 minutes or until very soft and slightly charred.

while tomatoes roast, melt butter over medium-low heat in a large dutch oven. add onion and garlic; cook until soft and golden. remove from heat.

add roasted tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and half of basil to onion mixture; stir.

in the container of a blender or food processor, place one third of the tomato mixture. process until smooth; transfer to a large bowl. repeat procedure twice with the remaining mixture.

return puree to dutch oven. add chicken broth and cream. cook over medium-low heat until heated through. stir in remaining basil, remaining 1/2 t salt, and remaining 1/2 t pepper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

mother of the year

about a week ago, i sent my two year old to school in pajamas for his pajama day...only, i had my days wrong and he was the only child in his class dressed up that day. luckily for him, he's two and his pajamas pretty much look similar to what i've seen other kids wearing in his class on normal days. still, i pretty much felt like i definitely deserved the "mother of the year" button for that one. there are days when i feel i deserve the free t-shirt, the pageant sash, the button and the tiara for my mothering skills. still, i know i'm not alone.

one of my girlfriends made the same mistake with her son...only he was in an upper primary grade. nothing screams years of therapy like sending your nine year old son to school in pajamas on the wrong day.

over christmas the stories multiplied. one of my mom friends put her child's backpack away for the christmas break and took it out the night before school started only to discover that it was full of a "fun" family project that was supposed to be completed over the break. oops. another friend got her girls ready to head back to school after the break and then was informed that christmas break had ended the day before. oh well, what's one more day off?

my best parenting moment came last year as i busily tried to get my son and daughter into preschool one morning. normally there is a drive-up drop off but this time i had snacks and other extras to bring in so had to park and walk them into their classes. i finally got them settled inside and then walked back to my car, sat down, and about jumped out of my skin as someone made a noise behind me. i thought some evil intruder had managed to hide in my backseat, ready to pounce, until i realized, nope, that is the baby...the one i totally forgot about as i was dropping off my other two. there was my one year old smiling in his pajamas with his pacifier, ready for the rest of the day. try to top that one!

what about you? i know i'm not the only one out there who's accidentally made some less than stellar mommy moves. it's time to bust out your best stories...

Monday, January 16, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: spicy sausage, chicken and bean pot

you can thank rachael ray for this yummy "soup". it is hearty and absolutely delicious...perfect for a cold winter day.

spicy sausage, chicken and bean pot

2 tbs. evoo (extra virgin olive oil)

3/4 pound hot italian sausage (i used 1 pound)

3/4 pound andouille sausage (i used 1 pound)

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks

salt and black pepper

1 large onion, chopped (i used frozen chopped onion)

2 carrots, peeled and shredded (or just buy a bag of shredded carrots from the salad section)

4 celery ribs, thinly sliced

1 fresh or dried bay leaf

2 (15 oz.) cans of white beans (cannellini)

5-6 fresh sage sprigs, thinly sliced (i used rubbed sage - about 2 tbsp)

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 loaf italian bread or 1 bagette (chopped into cubes or coarsely chopped in a food processor)

8 tbsp. melted butter

fresh flat leaf parsley

3-4 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped (i used dried thyme and added garlic powder and black pepper)

heat the evoo in a large pot over medium-high heat. add the italian sausage, crumble into large pieces with a wooden spoon and cook until it begins to brown, two to three minutes. add the andouille and cook until crisp at the edges, two to three minutes. remove the browned sausages to a paper-towel-lined plate and add the chicken to the skillet, seasoning it with salt and pepper. lightly brown the chicken for a couple of minutes on each side, then add the veggies, bay leaf, and more salt and pepper. cook for seven to eight minutes more to soften the veggies. add the sausages back to the pan with the beans and sage. pour in the wine and stir to deglaze the pan, then stir in the stock.

turn on the broiler and set the rack in the middle of the oven.

drizzle the bread chunks with the melted butter. add the parsley, thyme and salt and pepper and stir to combine. place the bread chunks on a cookie sheet and broil for about 6 minutes, checking often. pour the chicken and sausage into bowls and top with the seasoned bread.

so good!

my rachael ray go to cook book for fun new recipes to try is here: rachael ray: just in time. try won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 13, 2012

friday fun finds: best workout dvds for keeping your resolution

so, you all may have the cute clothes you need to get started on your resolutions.....but now you actually need to workout. as a busy mommy, i know how hard it is to find time for yourself outside of the home. here are some amazing dvds that you will love for your in-home workouts. let us know if we missed any of your personal favorites.

if you have ever wanted the body of a ballerina, this is your chance. this 40 minute workout dvd comes with a core ball (needed for exercises) and before you know if you will have beautiful, long and lean muscles. i can personally say that i am a devout believer and have never seen a more dramatic change in my body than with barre3. if you happen to be lucky enough to live where they have studios, do yourself and your body a favor and go take a class. you won't regret it. (you can thank me later).

this dvd contains three complete 25 minute workouts at three different levels. it mixes cardio, strength training, and an intense focus on the abs to create a system that they say can result in extreme weight loss as impressive as 20 lbs. in 30 days. that sounds pretty great to me---although, i think half the battle will be simply getting through a whole 25 minutes with jillian and her yelling.

the program boasts that it will help you change your body in 90 days. i don't doubt it---all i have heard is praise from people that have tried it. my own sister says that she has never seen such a change in her body in such a short time. i think these dvds are next on my wish list.

paula abdul's get up and dance!
make fun all you like, but that girl can dance! i promise you that it will be the most fun you may have ever had working out. if you love to dance and like miss paula abdul, this one is for you. 

personal training with jackie: crunch-free xtreme abs
if you have ever wanted those elusive washboard abs this dvd is for you. wowzers! jackie thinks that traditional crunches are a waste of time and she just might be right....i have never felt my abs burn quite the way they have after only two short 15 minute workouts. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the art of being remembered

yesterday, chach got the dreaded phone call. we again lost an amazing mother to cancer and, once more, we're left reeling. while we knew that she was fighting hard against the disease, we were surprised at how quickly she was taken when she took a turn for the worse. now we are left trying to make sense of it all and looking for any bits of wisdom we can find in the midst of the sorrow.

there is nothing that seems right about a wonderful mother saying goodbye to her two young children. it is a loss that is incomprehensible for mothers and children alike. still, there is something precious about a mother who knows her days will be fewer than she wants with her children and who has and takes the time to leave behind her legacy for her children to remember. regardless of how long we have with our children, we can all learn a lesson from a mother that knew. we can learn the art of being remembered...and remembered well.

every family is different, but here are some ways you can place some lasting images into the minds of your children, whether you have a lifetime with them or not.

get in the picture: how many photos do we have of our children? i know the numbers are countless in our family. how many of those pictures include your face? moms and dads are great at snapping photos and usually pretty poor at jumping into them. make a point of taking pictures with each one of your children. pick your favorites, blow them up, put them on the walls of your house. let your kids see everyday how proud you are to be seen with them. i know i've been guilty of staying out of too many photos. i've worried that putting an 8x10 of myself on the wall will look obnoxious. when i have taken the time and put up a picture of me with any of my kids, the picture always ends up being one of that child's favorites. let your kids see your face with theirs on a regular basis.

make some photo books: these projects do take time, money and energy but there are websites (my favorite is to help make the process easier. photos are great on a camera, on a computer, even printed out but there is something about having them organized and produced in a book format. my children will pour over photo books repeatedly. they will read the captions and memorize the events they had forgotten as time had passed. it gives them a sense of who they are, where they belong and where they have come from. take the time and make some for your family.

write things down: this one is difficult to do on a regular basis but it is a really special gift you can give your children. start by writing each child a letter on their birthdays. tell them about the year that has passed, how they have grown, how they have changed your life over the last year. keep these letters in a safe place and decide in advance when you'll give them to your children. we're holding onto ours until the kids are leaving for college. writing words down specifically to each individual child is priceless.

get yourself on video: i think a lot of parents take some sort of video coverage of a baby's first days in the hospital and then somehow manage to eliminate themselves from any other footage. get in there! get your spouse to record you being silly with your kids. film yourself playing "just dance" with your kids on the wii. record your spouse reading a favorite story with all the funny voices. capture the moments of your children learning to ride a bike or use roller blades...just make sure you can see the parent running along behind or holding their hand. someday, your kids will make fun of the clothes you are wearing and your totally out of date hair style but they'll also see pictures of a parent who always had their back.

pass on heirlooms and traditions: my kids know that certain recipes have been passed down from my grandmother. they know sayings that have been my family's favorites. they see certain things in our house that are almost a century old. put that stuff in writing. make a cookbook of all your family recipes. look for old pictures of your family making certain dishes and include those in the book. make a photo book of family memories. scan in old pictures of your grandparents and parents and write down the stories of your family that you know or can find out. my grandmother has filled my life with quilts. i am searching for pictures of my grandmother working on her quilting projects to include with pictures of each child and their own special quilts. too often our ancestors stories get lost as the years pass. we can take those stories and preserve them for generations to come.

teach your kids everything: as much as we would like, our days as parents are not all family game nights and playing tag in the backyard. parenting involves mountains of work. besides teaching your kids about play and reading and writing, take every opportunity in your own work day to teach them the basics of life. when you're doing laundry, teach them how to match up socks and fold dish towels until they're ready to learn more. when you are cooking a recipe, even though it will take twice as long with their "help," get them in there stirring with you. their independence may be a long way off, but one day they'll do something on their own and they'll remember it was you who taught them.

spend time one on one: this one can be hard. i've got four kids in my own house and one more coming soon. still, i am learning more and more the value of individual time with my kids. moms, go on a date night with your sons one at a time. dads, take out your daughters. even if you're eating out at mcdonald's, tell them over and over again how special the occasion is. if your kids are older, spend time reading a book next to them as they read on their own. one on one time doesn't have to be extravagant to be meaningful. just show your kids that you enjoy their company all on their own.

how did we do? do you have other ideas you can share? do you feel inspired to leave a lasting impression? i know we do.

Monday, January 9, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: kahlua cake

i love easy recipes. making a simple cake that has kahlua inside is just and added bonus. this cake is a crowd pleaser and is about as basic as they come: semi-homemade with a twist. love, love, love!

kahlua cake

1 chocolate cake mix with pudding in the mix

4 beaten eggs

2 cups sour cream

3/4 cup kahlua

3/4 cup oil

1 bag milk chocolate chips

pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. generously grease and flour a bundt pan. in a large mixing bowl, mix cake mix, eggs, sour cream, kahlua, and oil until well blended. add chocolate chips and combine until incorporated into the cake mix. pour into cake pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. test cake with a knife to make sure it is cooked through. allow to cool and then transfer to a cake platter. serve warm with vanilla ice cream and sliced strawberries. enjoy!

Friday, January 6, 2012

friday fun finds: a resolution & re-useable bags

my new years resolution this year is to bring my own bags when i do my shopping. i am not super "green", in general, but i think it is something simple that i can do that can make a big difference. so, whether i am off to target, the mall or trader joes this gal will be toting my own totes.....i am hoping that this is one resolution that i will keep. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

diy-- photo canvas alarm panel cover

this cute canvas photo serves two purposes. not only is it super chic artwork of one of my loves, but it doubles as a cover for the unsightly alarm panel.

ta-da! not only does it hide the ugly alarm panel from friends and family, but also from strangers.

simply attach two flat hinges first to the canvas (ordered at canvas on demand with uploaded photo from our collection) and then to the wall. (i just picked the hinges up at home depot for cheep). 

view when canvas is in open position to reveal the alarm panel. 

side view of both canvases on the wall in our entry. you can see the hinges from the side on the one that is hiding the alarm panel, but barely.

what do you think?

update: 7/25/12 we have many comments saying that this will NOT work as a thermostat cover and we agree--this idea is for an ALARM panel. :-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: kellie's red and black bean chili

if you read last weeks post, you know that we went non-traditional this year with our family christmas dinner. along with baked potato soup and greek lemon chicken soup we made this amazing chili. the three together were a triple threat and made for some very happy and full bellies on christmas day. enjoy!

kellie's red and black bean chili

• 1 lb. ground hamburger meat
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 large yellow onion, chopped
• 1 large anaheim pepper, chopped (green, mild, about 4-6 inches
   long…do not substitute with bell pepper!!) 
• 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
• 1 cup water
• 2 cans (15 oz each) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
• 2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• ¼ tsp ground allspice
• ¼ tsp ground coriander
• 1 tbs red wine vinegar or cider vinegar

• brown the beef in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 
   until the meat is brown and crumbly. drain off the fat. 
• add the garlic and onion, and cook until the onion is 
   translucent, about 5 minutes. 
• transfer the beef mixture to a crock pot. add the pepper, tomatoes,
   water, red and black beans (rinsed and drained!!), cumin,
   allspice, coriander, and vinegar. 
• cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours 
  (we did 8 and it turned out perfectly!).