Semi-Weekly Meal Plan: July 1st, 2018

Semi-weeklyFinally, summer!  I know it’s technically been summer for over ten days, but this is my first week off – and my only week before going back for Extended School Year – and it’s already shaping up to be a busy week.  We had company on Saturday, a pool party yesterday, 4th of July celebration tomorrow, a party on the fourth – July and August are shaping up to be jam-packed.  As a result, I’m taking a cycle or two off from meal-planning using Pinterest, and instead falling back on some tried-and-true recipes of my own.

But before we get to that, let’s talk about the last cycle.

One-Pot Cheesy Taco Pasta: 

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GODSEND.  I might make this in a deeper pot next time (stove top got some collateral damage are I tried to flip and stir) and add some different cheeses – I used Mexican, which in in line with the spirit of the recipe, but man, I’d love to add some cheddar.  We paired this with a little salad, and next time I might use the suggestion made in the recipe and add crushed tortillas to the top.
Beans and Rice Kielbasa Skillet:

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I think for this recipe I was supposed to use smoked kielbasa, but instead we picked up fresh.  The recipe was still pretty good (God, what a difference in rice just by using broth instead of water to cook it), but as I was eating it, it occurred to me how much different/better it would probably have been, to have that smokiness.  Still, it was a blessedly fast meal, and held up really well for next-day leftovers.
Stuffed Pepper Casserole:

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Honestly, might become my go-to in lieu of actual stuffed peppers.  Stuffed pepper are always so time consuming, and in the end, we wind up tearing them apart so they look like this anyway – why not just eliminate the middle man and nearly halve the time?  (Cook time on this is 25 minutes – even with 20 minutes of prep time, that comes to a total of 45.  Cook time alone on my traditional stuffed peppers was nearly an hour).  This is a great base for a lot of variant casseroles, I think – next time I might add black beans, corn, and taco seasoning, and serve it with some corn bread.

So, as I said, I’m taking a cycle or two off from cooking other people’s recipes, and I’m going to spend a few days falling back on some old favorites, those meals you sort of developed/improvised that became staples for you.  I often adapt and tweak these recipes as I go, but I will provide a recipe for the versions I cook this week in the next Meal Plan post.  Because of our schedule this week, this cycle is only two meals:

Lo Mein with Egg Rolls
Meatloaf with Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes

I hope your holiday week is equal parts busy and relaxing!  As always, if you have recipe suggestions, please comment them down below, I’m always looking for new meals to try out!

Bear’s Weekly Book Haul: June 29, 2018

Bear's book haulLast Wednesday was my crazy summer prep day, so we wound up not going to the library – Bear got an extra week with his books, and we did a few re-reads.  This week, I think the winner for us was There’s a Monster in Your Book!

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It’s an interactive book that tells you do do things on each page to try to get the monster out of your books – shake the book, tip the pages, yell really loud – and it was a really fun experience, watching how into it Bear got, even on the third read-through.  It’s not hugely text dense, and it doesn’t really have a storyline, but it’s a great little book to end the night with, spending some time and having a few giggles with the kiddo.

For me, the clear winner was A Family is a Family is a Family, which was short and sweet, with really lovely illustrations, about the different configurations that a family can take.  It brought up families with LGBT parents, interracial families, single moms, foster parents, adoptive parents, kids being raised by grandparents, only children, and large families. It was nice to see the diversity of family celebrated, with the singular through line of love and support being families’ defining feature.51FYQ-KDJKL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

This week’s haul, you’ll notice several Olivia books – what can I say, our family loves Olivia!  These books are part of the Nickelodeon tie-in series, based on the animated series.  They’re good, solid little storybooks, but the original series by Ian Falconer simply cannot be beat.  If you haven’t read Falconer’s books, please do yourself and your child a favor.  Our favorite is probable Olivia Goes to Venice.

Anyway…:

Olivia Plants a Garden, by Emily Sollinger
GoodRead summary:  Olivia is planting a garden and she can’t wait to see what blooms from her mystery seeds. She knows she’ll have the best plant in the entire class.

Olivia Trains Her Cat, by Sarah Alby and Joe Purdy
GoodReads summary:  Olivia wants her cat to be just as amazing as Francine’s, who can perform incredible tricks on demand. But teaching a cat to perform isn’t as easy as it looks, as Olivia soon finds out! Kids will love this charming ready-to-read story with rebus icons about Olivia and her pet.

Dinner with Olivia, by Emily Sollinger
GoodReads summary:  Olivia is thrilled to be invited to Francine’s house for dinner…she just knows it’s going to be a very sophisticated evening. And then it’s time for Olivia to have Francine over…but what will Francine think of her family’s casual table manners?


Olivia Cooks Up a Surprise, by Emily Sollinger and Jared Osterhold
GoodReads summary: It’s Mother’s birthday, and Olivia is planning something super special–a surprise dinner! What’s on the menu? All red food, of course!

Crunch the Shy Dinosaur, by  Cirocco Dunlap and Greg Pizzoli
GoodReads summary:  Crunch is a lovely and quiet brontosaurus who has hidden himself in some shrubbery and is rather shy. He would like to play, but it will require some gentle coaxing from you! If you are patient and encouraging, you will find yourself with a new friend!

Road Work Ahead, by Anastasia Suen and Jannie Ho
GoodReads summary:  When a family sets out on a trip to Grandma’s, their journey proves to be more like a visit to a construction site. Sidewalks are being poured, streetlights repaired, roads resurfaced. The noise of jackhammers, whistles, and horns fills the air.

Three Bears in a Boat, by David Soman
GoodReads summary:  Three bear siblings break their mother’s favorite blue seashell, and rather than tell her, they decide to set out in their sailboat to find her a new one. On their quest they encounter salty sailors, strange new islands, huge whales, and vast seas but no blue seashells. When a treacherous storm suddenly blows in, the three bears find themselves tossed about in their little boat, far from Mama. What will become of their search, and what will it take to bring them safely home?

The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown
GoodReads summary:  While out exploring one day, a little boy named Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.

That’s it for this week! (And I changed the format a little; I’m still trying to gain my footing doing this blog thing.  Is it better?  Do you like it?)  If you have any thoughts of the books we hauled this week, or any recommendations, please let us know!  We’re always looking for good books for Bear!

Feel Good Friday/Friday Faves: June 29, 2018

onnie & Carole

Hey-o, it’s Friday, and I am finally off for the summer!!  (That proclamation comes with a footnote, but we’ll get to that).  So what has carried me over that highest of humps, the last week of the academic year?  Lots of little things – just as this last week has been weighed down by the culmination of lots of little stressors, I’ve been buoyed along by lots of small pleasures and things that made me smile.

First, Dollar Tree has been getting a ton of super cute mugs and glassware lately, my favorite of which I hauled last weekend.  Their mug collection has been amazing for a while now, but I’m really starting to dig their glasses. Along with those cute wine glasses, we recently replaced our entire set of drinking glasses with this really chic-looking collection, all for $1 each.  

Second, Hollar is going crazy, whaaat.  I found a freakin’ french press coffee maker for $5, and they recently got in a whole slew of Beat Bugs and Lion Guard  merch for a pretty hefty discount (that might actually be gone now, honestly.  It was a super good deal). I’m getting ready to stock up on stocking stuffers (I know, early! But it’s so much less of a financial crunch when you spread it out over several months), and they have a ton of great stuff for kid’s (or adult’s!) stockings, or for small birthday gifts.  

Third, guys, I have a problem:  I do not know how to like things casually.  If I fall for something or someone, I fall suddenly, unexpectedly, and hard.  This week, I’ve been listening to Harry Potter audio books with Bear and it’s lead me back down the rabbit hole of Harry Potter fandom (I am a massive, massive Potterhead), which in turn lead to a return to Fantastic Beasts fandom, which in turn lead me back to Ezra Miller, who I had a massive crush on back when I first saw the movie.  I recently revisited him, and discovered his band, Sons of an Illustrious Father. Honestly, I could listen to this song on repeat all day:

It also goes without saying that I’m now on the hunt for any movies I can get my hands on with him in it – first up being Perks of Being a Wallflower because, wow, that book was a part of my adolescence, and I somehow never managed to catch the film. 

Fourth, it took forever to do so, but I finally got confirmation that I am working two days a week this summer!  I’m happy to have a little bit of structure, and still have the freedom and time to pursue personal projects and develop a prep routine/curriculum to get Bear ready for hopefully starting kindergarten in September of 2019 (again, I know it’s a long way off, but after this summer I’m going to have way less time to work with – basically an hour a day – so I need to do some planning and be ready to spread it out).

Fifth – and finally – guys, I have a plan.  Or at least the stirrings of a plan. In a previous post I made it a priority to create some order in my life and establish a routine, and I’m making some headway in that department and hope to be back with updates and progress notes soon.  I’m so, so glad to be getting somewhat of a break from the daily grind of sleep-work-home-sleep in order to work on developing these changes.

So that’s it from me, guys.  What has carried you along this week?

Getting Older

You’d think that any number of things that have transpired in my life so far would make me feel old – getting married, buying a house, having a kid, even just seeing my birthday circled when I flip over the calendar to July – but no.  You know what makes me feel old?

Earlier this week, I got an email from my assistant principal looking to recruit staff to work at the summer high school orientation to welcome the class of 2022.  

Excuse me, what?

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I feel you, John Mulaney.

Like I said, I don’t usually feel “old.”  In fact, I often have to remind myself of how old I really am. I actually have this problem where I’ll sometimes have to bite my tongue to stop myself from referring to recent college grads as “about my age.”  Like, no sweetie, she’s 23. You’re almost 36. You need to stop.

But… 2022.  2022 still doesn’t even sound like a real year to me.  I graduated high school in 2000. I started working here in 2005.  When people refer to something being from “ten years ago,” my mind still turns to the 90s.

So it’s not having a kid, or owning a home, or having a career.  It’s getting emails about future graduating classes. And other similarly inconsequential things.

How I Know I’m Getting Older

  1. Waking up at 9 am, which used to be a perfectly respectable wake-up  time, now feels like I’m sleeping half the damn day away.

  2. I have favorite tupperware.  It’s got an attached lid (whaaaaaat.  I hope whoever figured that out got a medal.  Seriously. I’ll start with fifty Tupperware lids and wind up with five.  Attached is the way to go.)

  3. I get excited when we go to the “nice” supermarket, and I’ll take an extra leisurely stroll down the expansive ethnic food and produce aisles.  Do I buy anything different? No. I seriously just window shop produce, now. It’s concerning.

  4. I look forward to cleaning days with the same fervor and enthusiasm with which I used to anticipate snow days as a kid.  Days when I can get up early, get myself a big mug of coffee, kiss my husband and son goodbye for the day, and just clean??  Yaaaaaas.

  5. I can no longer count my grey hairs.  They are legion.

  6. I weirdly care more about cultivating an image, but care less if some people don’t like that image.  Meaning, I guess, that I’ve become more concerned with being happy with the way I present myself, and less concerned  about others being happy with it.

  7. I’m obsessed with The Dollar Tree, discount stores, thrift shops, and over-all just getting more for less.  Which isn’t strictly an age thing, I suppose, but for me there’s been a definite upwardly thrifty trend as I’ve gotten older.

  8. I’m basically ready for bed after one glass of wine.  Which rarely stops me from having my second glass of wine, but means I now put on my pajamas first.

  9. I need coffee more now than ever in order to feel human, but that same amount of coffee now gives me the caffeine shakes.I used to be able to drink a large Dunks Coolata before bed and sleep like a baby.  Now I have a cup of coffee with breakfast and I’m trembling like a leaf by 10 am.

  10. I have “bad” body parts.  Like, the other day, I complained to my husband that my “bad ankle”  was acting up, and suddenly it was like, ‘oh crap – I have a bad ankle.  This is how it starts – this is how the whole system starts to crumble.’

  11. I’m now over a decade older than all six Friends during Season One.  Whaaaat.

  12. THEY ARE REBOOTING A REBOOT OF A SHOW I WATCHED AS A KID.  No one should live long enough to see such atrocities.

  13. I once told a student I loved vintage video games – the really old school stuff – and he replied with, “oh you mean like the N64?”  This was, itself, already several years ago. I’m terrified if I said this today, the kid would be like, “Oh, you mean like the PS2?”

  14. I buy a lot of tunics, now.  I don’t know, is this an age thing?  I don’t remember owning this many when I was younger.

  15. We listen to the radio when we ride the bus for student internships and I recognize literally none of the songs on the radio anymore.

How and when do you most feel your age?  Comment down below!

Semi-Weekly Meal Plan: June 24th, 2018

Semi-weeklyYou all may or may not have noticed that there was no meal plan post on Wednesday.  Well, that’s because we didn’t shop on Wednesday – we had a night of leftovers and a night where Andy wasn’t home, so I wasn’t going to cook for myself (Bear, as has been established, does not eat what I cook anyway, so he and I did cheese, crackers, and chicken nuggets).  At that point, given that we also had dinner plans Saturday, it made sense to just wait until today to shop again.

Which we did!

But first, a quick recap of last week:

Artichoke, Tomato, and Spinach flatbread:

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Absolutely nothing wrong with it, though I continue to think I could get away with cooking the flatbreads about five or so fewer minutes (the edges are always burned).  The artichokes were the best part of this, and I think with the addition of maybe kalamata olives and a thin, cream-based sauce (like a light alfredo), this could be really good.  As it was, it was solid, but nothing special.

Crockpot Chicken and Stuffing:

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So… Andy prepped this, since it was a crockpot meal and essentially foolproof; just dump everything in and let it go.

Well.

When I got home and stirred the pot, a good chunk of the stuffing was just burnt.  Like, charred, smoking, burnt.  I brought this up to Andy, who was defensive (“I just followed the recipe you sent me”) until finally realizing (and admitting) later that he’d forgotten to add the requisite cup of water.  Well.

Once well stirred, though, we lowered the heat and cooked it a little longer than necessary, and there was, surprisingly, no burnt taste.  It was a nice, easy, satisfying meal, and Stovetop Stuffing is a huge guilty pleasure of mine, so this will go on the regular roster of meals to choose from.

Sympathy for the Deviled Egg Burger:

Alas, I got no picture.  To be fair, it… looked like a burger with egg salad on it.  And to be fair, again, I don’t think I did the patties justice.  I severely underseasoned them – that’s on me, entirely – but the deviled egg salad was honestly some of the best I’ve ever had.  With a better seasoned burger, this would have been really good.  The combo of egg and ground beef, even as it was, was weirdly fulfilling.

This week:

Beans and Rice Kielbasa Skillet:  Kielbasa was a staple growing up in my house, and I think I’ve made it a grand total of one time since moving out on my own.  This sounded like a nice, simple meal that was a little bit of a twist on the rice and beans that I always do.

Stuffed Pepper Casserole:  I love stuffed peppers, but shy away from them because they are time consuming and often messy to make.  I can cook this in significantly less time, and I feel like it’ll have a more composed bite, as well.

One-Pot Cheesy Taco Pasta:  ONE POT PASTA IS A GODSEND (hell, one pot anything is wonderful).  I’ve made this before (don’t recall if it was this exact recipe?  This was before I was actively using Pinterest), and it was wonderful.

That’s it for this week!  Have any recipes recommendations?  We’re especially looking for good, easy pork recipes to add to our repertoire (we don’t eat much pork because I’m not sure how to prepare it), so if you have any tried and true favorites, send them my way!

Organizing the Chaotic Mind

organizing my lifeI’ve spent the last two and a half hours trying to clean the house.  I can’t say it hasn’t been successful – my living room and kitchen are looking pretty spiffy right now – but it’s taken longer than it would likely have taken most other people, because in the midst of completing one task, I have these intense compulsions to stop whatever I’m doing and start something – anything – else.

While I’m tidying up the kitchen:

I should organize Bear’s busy bins for summer.
Did I ever download that preschool curriculum?
I need to touch up the paint along the baseboards.
I should go out and buy organizers for the cabinets.
I still have to make those worksheets for Bear’s binder.
I have to look up home remedies for carpet stains.
I’ve got to scrub down these walls, I haven’t done that in ages.
When was the last time I washed windows?

While I’m vacuuming the living room:

I should steam clean the upstairs shower.
I need to look up those picture frames I found at WalMart.  Ooh, I should see if RetailMeNot has coupons for them.
Maybe I should order the materials to make those sconces for the wall.
I still need to find floral foam and fake succulents.  I wonder if I can order in bulk from Dollar Tree?
I should get new bins for Bear’s clothes.

And those are at least semi-on task.  A ton of them aren’t even cleaning related:

I should do a shopping haul video.  I think most of my stuff from this week is still in shopping bags.
I’ve gotta start doing mail exchanges again.
I should totally start a bullet journal.
I have a great idea for an art piece I could vlog.
I need to go make more headers for my blog.
I’ve gotta update my social media links.

…and on.  And on.  And the amazing (and frustrating) thing is, after thirty-six years, I still don’t know how to just not listen to those compulsions.  I can, for the most part, resist – but it comes at the cost of temporarily stalling out.  Like the act of pulling myself away from the temptation of distraction is, itself, an act that unbalances me,  knocks me just a little bit off-track, and requires a few moments to re-rail.  Usually this looks like me, sitting on whatever surface my butt settles on, and just staring around the room, trying to remember what I was doing, or what I could do next.  Sometimes it’s grabbing a snack.  Today, it was jumping on here.

The problem is, I don’t have a system for dealing with these intrusive thoughts, and it’s not like they don’t all have some merit.  But I have no system worked out that allows me to address them all – if I think of something and don’t do it immediately, I will put off (or forget) doing it indefinitely.  If I have the motivation and the energy for something one day and don’t jump on it, I will lose momentum and that unfinished task will gnaw at me and drain my mental energy for days or weeks, until I manage to pull myself up again.  I’m not proud of my limitations, but I know them.  I know them very well.  This is living with executive dysfunction.

But, I thought, maybe turning to this blog while I’m trying to recoup isn’t the worst thing to do.  After all, this blog is all about navigating parenthood with a chaotic mind, and the first step to navigating chaos is to impose some sort of order.

And no, it won’t be perfect.  But it’ll give me a structure to work within.

So, while I try to reorder my thoughts and get back to the task at hand, I just want to welcome you to what will be an ongoing series of posts about imposing structure and organization on my life – checklists, schedules, journals, organizational tools – what works, and what doesn’t. 

I might as well utilize what would otherwise be a distraction as a tool, right?  Make it public, hold myself accountable.

It’s a work in progress.  It always is, isn’t it?

Back to the tasks at hand.  One at a time.

Feel-Good Friday/Friday Faves: June 23rd, 2018

onnie & CaroleWait, I’m sorry, what…?  It’s not Friday, it’s Saturday?  Uh, oh, yeah, I know.

So after yet another endless week, I decided to wrap yesterday up by spending the afternoon looking after my niece and nephew, followed by an evening tending to Bear while Andy was gaming, and then turning in for the night at, swear to God, 8 pm.  So, posting didn’t happen.

I still have a week of work left, guys, and I’m still not sure if I’m working two or four day weeks this summer.  Keeping me float this week:

After going on sale on June 22nd, Andy scored us Welcome to Night Vale Live tickets for the showing in Northampton.  We’ve been fans of Night Vale since starting to listen to it in late 2013, and saw our first live show in March of 2014.  This will be our fifth time seeing them live, and our second time in Northampton (which is a special treat, because Northampton is about two hours from us, and we have no cause to ever really go there, save special events, and I adore the town).  If you’re a Night Vale fan or are curious about it, tickets for the tour are on sale here.

Next, Nailed It – why haven’t I seen this show before?  It’s cheesy, silly, fun.  Watching casual home bakers try to mimic these intricate creations in the kitchen just makes me laugh and shake my head and feel slightly superior for a little while (even though I know I would absolutely do no better than any of the contestants).

Third, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum.  Yeah, I know, these Friday posts are making me sound like all I do is drink, but wht can I say?  I like to unwind with a drink at the end of the day.

And, in what will likely be a feel-good for no one who doesn’t already follow her, my favorite YouTube Dollar Tree hauler/DIYer, Bargain Bethany, just put out a video announcing her engagement.  YouTube – and the internet in general – is a funny thing, isn’t it?  I’ve never met Bethany in real life, she doesn’t know me at all, but I’ve followed her videos for a long time, and got genuinely excited when I saw the announcement.

That’s all for this week – what’s kept you going these last seven (or eight) days?