my little family

Saturday, April 19, 2014

yum: skillet apples and pork chops

Today's blessing:
Easy, healthy dinner

My husband's reaction after his first bite: Oh me-oh my-oh.

I'm not making that up. He's a pretty big dork.

When I pulled this pork loin out of the freezer yesterday morning, I had the intention of throwing it in the slow cooker with apples and onion and other miscellaneous ingredients. Then my little one decided she wanted an apple for her bedtime snack last night, and I wasn't about to say no to that! By the time I got back from the grocery store this morning, it was too late for the slow cooker. Luckily, I found plan B in here:


I was lucky enough to win this cookbook in a giveaway done by Anna over at girl with blog, and I was pretty excited. I don't have any pretty pictures of my ingredients or the recipe in progress, so I hope you'll forgive me for just sharing the recipe straight up.

Skillet Apples and Pork Chops
from Gooseberry Patch Good-for-You Everyday Meals

Ingredients:
6 bone-in pork chops (I had a pork loin that I just sliced into thin chops. No bones, but it's what I had!)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter divided
3-4 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (I didn't have this either. I didn't ever have dried thyme, so I substituted rosemary.)
1 cup lager-style beer or apple cider (Guess what...all we had was Heineken, and it worked just fine. But I'm sure a hard cider would have been even better!)

Season pork chops with salt and pepper.
Melt half of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Add pork chops to skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Turn chops over and cook for another 4 mintues, or until juices run clear.
Remove chops to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium; add remaining butter, apples, onion, and thyme to skillet. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add beer or cider and cook for another 15 minutes, or until liquid has reduced and thickened.
Return chops to skillet. Cover with apple mixture and cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve chops topped with apple mixture.

That's all. So easy, so delicious! I heated a can of green beans and warmed up some rolls to go with, and it was a great meal!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Paige Eileen Mae: 26 months

I'm sure it won't shock anyone to hear that Paige has gotten even more amazing over the last month. Some new developments:

She can sing her ABCs all the way through (when she wants to), and is starting to recognize letters, too. So far she knows A, B, C, O, P, and few others sometimes. It's kind of hit or miss with most of them!

I have to remind myself regularly that she's only 26 months old and doesn't need to be potty trained yet! She is physically ready - she usually tells us she needs a diaper change before she goes potty, but she has very little interest in going in her potty chair. Every now and then we'll get a few drops out of her, but then she decides she is done. We'll put a diaper on her, and five minutes later it will be soaked!

One of the sad developments...she is starting to say more words correctly. I know this is a good thing, but she just seems so much more grown up when she says "banana" instead of "babana" or "living room" instead of "vivivoom."

The transition from crib to toddler bed was smooth and seamless. We were going to start out with naps in the bed and nighttime in the crib, but after the first nap, she would have no more of her crib. She's even really good about staying in bed most of the time. Every now and then I'll find a book or toy in the bed with her when I go to get her up from her nap, and she was wearing a tutu at the end of nap the other day that she was not wearing when she laid down. Other than that, I haven't had to chase her back very often!

"Mommy" is slowly ceasing to exist, as all requests and questions are now being directed to Baby. "Come here, Baby!" "I want to snuggle with Baby." "Does Baby want to read a book?" I hope she's as excited about Baby when Baby actually makes an appearance!

We had a girls' date night at McDonalds one night while Daddy was gone and Mommy was sick of being at home!

Paige loved helping put her toddler bed together!

This is what she wore to church one day this month. I got her to put pants underneath, so I was happy.

Discovering the joy of the feather duster. Mommy likes this version of playing.

This girl loves broccoli. She requested it for a bedtime snack one night and again for lunch the next day. I'm not about to say no to that! 


We had to get outside one last time to play in the snow before it all disappeared. It was actually over 40 degrees when this picture was taken. The boots and snow pants were more to keep her dry when she waded through the melted snow than to keep her warm. The hat and mittens came off shortly after this picture was taken.

Paige loves "working." Maybe she can write her next update.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

a place for everything: april

Today’s blessing:
Travel mugs. Yes, I feel silly carrying one around my house, but at least I get to finish my coffee before it gets cold!

It's that time again! We’re getting organized one month and $25 at a time! Here's April:

Small Drawer Organizer: $5.47
Two File Boxes: $7.97 each
One Pack of Shower Curtain Rings: $1.12 (I could have gotten the cream ones for 75 cents, but I liked clear better, so I spent a little more. It's an investment that I'll be happy with forever!)
With tax, I think it came to $24 and some change. Not bad!

Here's how they were used:

Small Drawer Organizer:


The Small Drawer Organizer became the newest addition to the bathroom closet. Last month I started with a bigger one to organize the small pharmacy we have somehow accumulated, and this was the perfect complement. I could seriously have about a dozen of these all over my house and it still wouldn't be enough. They are one of the greatest little inventions ever.

We now have all of our band-aids, and creams (anti-itch and antibiotic) in neatly organized drawers. And I was able to see that I still had products that had expired in 2007, so I did a little purging while I was at it! I don't really have a designated use for the bottom drawer yet. When I was going through the closet, I realized that I have a ridiculous quantity of razors and refill blades. I stocked up with sales and coupons several years ago, and have been working through them ever since. I guess for now it can be my razor drawer!

File Boxes:



This is where you use the file folders you bought last month. The file boxes will make perfect memory boxes for our kids. (I hope!) I used PicMonkey to make the super-fancy name page and printed it on pretty card stock. I didn't want anything too permanent, because I like the idea of adding to it as she gets older: pictures that capture her personality, art she's made, etc. I solved this problem by using those sticky photo corner things that you can get in the scrapbooking section of any store.

I'm still playing around with how to label the folders, at least until she gets to school. Right now, I'm thinking I'll start with Prenatal through 1 Year:

Ultrasound pictures, hospital bracelets, baptism paraphernalia, random cards, and other such stuff.
1st Birthday until Preschool
So far all I have here is pictures she's painted, but I have more stuff packed somewhere that will go in here eventually. Now I have the folder - it's just waiting to be filled!
After that it gets much easier:
Preschool
Kindergarten
And then one for each grade after that.
I'm going to wait to make the actual tags for awhile because, let's face it, I'm pretty indecisive and will probably change my mind several times!
Eventually I'll probably add a few more, too: church stuff, scouting stuff, sports stuff, etc, depending on what they end up being interested in. I love these boxes because they're durable, they're inexpensive, they're big, and it's easy to add to them later if needed.

Paige was really excited to help, too.
I will not, however, be using them to store important legal documents and such. Birth certificates, social security cards, immunization records, and the like will still go in our fire-safe locked box! If you don't have one of those, put it at the top of your list!

Shower Curtain Rings:


As of right now, the shower curtain rings are being used to organize my scarves, but I can see myself coming up with many more uses for them in the future! I have some really great scarves, but I never wear them, because they've all been shoved in a drawer of my dresser. Now I can see them all, and I have an empty drawer to play around with!

I would love to hear your organization tips - how do you rein in the chaos on a budget?

Did you miss March? Check it out here!

Friday, April 4, 2014

fmf: writer

Here are the rules:
1. Write for five minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.
2. Link back to Lisa Jo Baker's blog with the rest of the Five Minute Friday-ers.
3. Comment on the person who linked up before you.

Please join us!

Today's prompt: Writer

GO

I do love being a writer.

Let me clarify by saying that I write, therefore I am a writer. Kind of like I run and sing, so I am a runner and a singer. I'm not saying I'm exceptional or even particularly good at any of them, but I do them.

I've always loved writing. When I was in second grade, I won an honorable mention in a local story contest. It was then that I abandoned my dream of becoming as astronomer (because what first grader doesn't dream of becoming an astronomer?) and decided I wanted to be a children's book author. Aside from a brief detour in fifth grade when I flirted with the idea of becoming a meteorologist, (again, perfectly normal, right?) the children's book author thing stuck until well into high school. That's when I discovered that music was more of a passion than a hobby. Sadly, I kept that illusion until my junior year of college, when I rediscovered that it was still a passion, but more the kind of passion that was a hobby than a career. Oops.

My senior year, I took the required keystone course. I didn't particularly care for the course or the professors, but I didn't mind the homework. We had to write several short papers, the aims of which were probably to help us become more self-reflective and learn about ourselves before we entered the big scary real world. Cheesy, but a little fun to a nerd like me. I never put too much effort into them - I treated them as more of a "free write" assignment than anything.

After class one day, one of the professors stopped me and said, "Have you ever thought about pursuing a career in writing? You have a real gift for it."

This coming from someone who didn't know I'd abandoned such a dream seven years before. I haven't been able to shake that comment. Even now, six years later, I couldn't tell you a single thing about that class, except that my professor made me think about writing again.

That comment, along with a college friend/acquaintance (the beautiful Anna of girl with blog) are the reason you are reading this post today.

STOP

Isn't it funny how off hand comments can stick with you in ways that neither you nor the comment-er ever thought they would?


Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

a place for everything: march

Today’s blessing:
Pinterest

You may have read my last post about my love of envelopes. Well, I recently added a new envelope to our budget, and I wanted to share with you. Ever since I got hooked on Pinterest, I've been pinning all kinds of great ways to get organized. I'm not the neatest person in the world, but if there is a place for something, I'm usually pretty good about making sure that's where it ends up. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to try any of these great ideas, because I couldn't figure out which envelope they'd come out of. Also, it's a bit overwhelming to look at a site with “52 clever organizing tricks you must try now or your home will be chaos” and know where to start. So I bit the bullet and added a “home expenses” budget. It'll cut into our debt snowball just the tiniest bit, but it’s a sacrifice we’ll make for a little bit of organization! Starting in March, I allotted $25 per month to go in this envelope.

Over the next few months, I hope to share some of these simple and inexpensive solutions with you. My goal is to have one every month. New pillows and an air mattress are on our “home expenses” list in the near future, but they’re probably not going to help us get any better organized. Those months, maybe I'll share some fun, free ideas that I've found and have been procrastinating trying but can't put off any longer because I've made the commitment to share something every month.

So, here it is – March’s $25 was spent in the following way:
Medium Drawer Organizer: $9.97
Two packs of file folders: $4.27 each
Two tray organizers: I don't actually remember how much these cost, but they probably weren't more than a few dollars a piece. I got them awhile ago, so this is more of a re-purposing thing.
Total: Just under $25

The medium drawer organizer is the first step toward getting our bathroom organized. We have somehow accumulated an obscene amount of medicine, and the bottles were taking over. I never knew if we were out of something or if it had just gotten pushed to the back of the cupboard, so I wasted money buying it again. Well, no more!


That's right, it's all right there, where it should be, without digging or knocking things over! I'm not sure those categories will stick for the long term, but for now, they work just fine!

(Note: If you don’t have a label maker, you should get one. They’re fun. Maybe it’s just because I’m a huge dork, but I love it. If you don’t have one and aren't as big a dork as I am, then masking tape and a pen work just as well.)

The tray organizers are another step in getting the bathroom organized. I read awhile ago about all the nasty stuff that floats around the bathroom. When you floss your teeth, you don't think that all of the food junk ends up on the mirror, do you? Really, think about it. Or not. It's just gross. So instead, I'm getting them off the counter and into a drawer.


Eventually we'll have something different, but for now, these are just fine. The one I really like is $15 and has more compartments (for toothpaste and floss and stuff) but there's no way it'll fit in our drawer.


We’ll be using the file folders for next month’s project, so just hold onto those. I spent a little more to get the pretty colored ones because I'm using them for a long term project and I want it to be pretty. The choice is yours!


Saturday, March 29, 2014

why i love envelopes

Today's blessing:
Envelopes

Have you discovered the envelope system yet? If you haven’t, you really should! Along with a solid budget and a frugal mindset, it’s how we've managed to not only make it on $1100 a month since August, but we've managed to pay off some debt. Here’s what you do:
  1.  Read the Total Money Makeover, take a Financial Peace University class, or spend some time on Dave Ramsey’s website learning about the baby steps.
  2. Complete baby step #1. (Have $1000 in savings.)
  3. Make a list of how much you spend on everything during the month. Eliminate everything that isn't absolutely necessary. Reduce everything that is. Seriously. Reduce it until you can’t imagine possibly living on that little.
  4. Make an envelope for every item that’s left on the list. For example, we have envelopes for car/renters insurance, gifts (so Christmas doesn't sneak up on you), pet expenses, clothing, eating out, car expenses, charitable giving, and discretionary. (The last one usually ends up being an extension of the eating out budget, but it’s there just in case we have a small expense that we didn't anticipate or find a really great sale on something.) Groceries get a separate wallet, because, let’s face it: an envelope wouldn't last long going grocery shopping at least once a week. Gas, student loan payments, and phone bills go on the debit card.
  5.  Every month, put the pre-determined amount of cash in the envelope. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you have no money in your gift envelope in December, you better start baking cookies. If the grocery money runs out, start rummaging through the freezer or pantry.
  6. Spend every penny of your income that’s left paying off your debt. If you don’t have any debt, you’re welcome to some of ours. We have plenty. (All student loans, though. No credit cards or car payments or anything like that. I guess if we have to have debt, I would prefer that kind…)

I first truly appreciated the envelope system when we got our $600 car insurance bill, and I didn't flinch when paying it. I just took the money out of the envelope and deposited it in the bank. You get a break if you pay all six months at a time rather than going monthly, so it’s definitely saved us plenty of money (and stress) in the long run! I no longer dread paying bills every month, because I know exactly how much we have and how much needs to go where!

The whole "pay cash" "gazelle intense" "live like no one else" lifestyle is something that the dork in me is absolutely obsessed with. If you're even the least bit intrigued, we should chat. Come over for a cup of tea. Or have me over for a cup of tea. Or we could go out for coffee/tea/pie/lunch, but you have to give me plenty of notice so I can make sure I have money in the budget for it. Seriously. It's a little disturbing how much I love to talk about this stuff and share what I've learned.

If you want to get started, you can purchase fancy pretty envelopes from a site like this, you can make your own, or you can do what I did:



As you can see, they've been loved. I hope to soon replace them with cute little cloth pouches, but it's not quite at the top of my to do list yet!

Friday, March 28, 2014

fmf: mighty

Here are the rules:
1. Write for five minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.
2. Link back to Lisa Jo Baker's blog with the rest of the Five Minute Friday-ers.
3. Comment on the person who linked up before you.

Please join us!

Today's prompt: Mighty

GO

"Motherhood is the holy, grueling work of being refined by the fire of sleep deprivation."
-Lisa Jo Baker

Wow, now isn't that something. You've heard of baptism by fire, jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, etc etc etc. Motherhood is so much. It is gentle and loving and generous, yes. But it is also exhausting, grueling, difficult, sometimes nearly impossible. There's a fire in it.

And that is what makes us mighty.

It's not that we aren't afraid to mother the child or make the life-long irreversible commitment. Sometimes it's not even motherhood specifically. Sometimes, it's not that we're not afraid to take the leap to sign up for that race even if we're no where near in shape for it yet. Or call that person that we met at church or playgroup or the gym and actually set up that playdate (and that's especially hard for awkward little me!). Or write that book even if we don't really believe that people will want to read it or that we're ready to share that part of us. It's not that we're not afraid.

We're just mighty.

STOP


Five Minute Friday