Monday, August 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 8/30 - 9/5




My husband is back to day shift this week, thank goodness! That means a much more normal eating schedule and, more importantly, a non-zombie for a husband!

Monday: homemade pizza (sausage, mushroom, banana pepper, extra cheese and onion on half

Tuesday:chicken meatball subs, sliced tomatoes and cottage cheese

Wednesday: beef and noodles, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans

Thursday: bruschetta chicken bake, salad

Friday: chili and/or hot dogs at the campground

Saturday: fish fry at the campground

Sunday: smoked turkey & pork loin at the campground

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Goin' to the Zoo


Friday, Peanut and I took a field trip to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. I've been wanting to take her for a very long time, but it's been a scorcher of a summer and it just didn't seem like it would be fun in the extremely hot weather. Thankfully we got some relief from the heat last week and I decided it was a good opportunity to make a break for it.

I wasn't sure if she'd really "get it" because she's still pretty little. She absolutely loved it from the word go! That little mouth was gaped open with wonder from the moment we entered the gate.


It could not have been a more perfect day! The weather was fabulous and I felt like it was a great bonding experience. I'm with her pretty much 24/7, but seeing her in an environment other than home or our other usual places (grocery, craft store, families' houses) was extremely eye-opening. It really made me appreciate her as an individual with a personality all her own.


I thought she'd probably pay the most attention to the biggest animals because they're easier to see. Wrong! She couldn't have cared less about the lions, tigers, elephants and other animals that seem to be kids' favorites. Nope. Not my kid. What did she like? Things I never thought she'd give a second glance.

The manatees were probably her favorite. It's a really great exhibit. We were in there for a pretty long time.





She also really liked the otters:



I thought she was going to try to escape from my arms and into the penguin exhibit. I can see how that one might interest little ones if the penguins were swimming or jumping in and out of the water. They were all asleep when we were there, but she was still fascinated.



The flamingos might have been the favorite that surprised me the most.




We covered a lot of ground over the three and a half hours we were there. I wasn't sure how long she'd last without a nap. My plan was just to see whatever we could see before she fell asleep and then head for the car. She stayed wide awake the whole time! Our only breaks were for the restroom/diaper changes and water refills. Here are just some of the other animals we saw:

elephant family
orangutan
chimpanzee
aldabra tortoise
bonobo
Angolan colobus
komodo dragon
kangaroo
koala bears
black rhino
Our last stop was at the zoo's newest exhibit, the polar bears. The setup was pretty incredible and we got lucky that one of the bears was feeling playful.



After seeing the bear from above, we went down to the lower observation tunnel. The bear was sitting right on top of the glass. Audrey thought the bear behind was hilarious!




He even waved to us!



Being the pushover loving mother that I am, I caved and bought her a stuffed manatee in the gift shop. We originally went in to get change for the smashed penny machines, but she kept reaching out for this one particular toy and saying "Awww! Awww!" She slept with him in her car seat the entire way home.


I'd say the day was a hit for both of us, well worth the hour and forty-five minute drive to get there. I'm also really glad I went ahead and bought a season pass. It's good for a year from the date of purchase so we'll be able to go as much as we want this fall, see the Christmas lights display this winter and then go even more next spring and summer.

Kudos to the Columbus Zoo for such a great experience. The animals are clearly well taken care, it's fantastically educational, the facilities are clean and the park is beautifully designed. I can't wait to go back!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Super Saver Sloppy Joes

When I was younger, Manwich was the go-to meal for my dad to fix whenever my mom wasn't home for supper. He cooked on a regular basis, but my mom really didn't like Manwich so he'd wait until she wasn't going to be around to fix it. He LOVED the stuff. 

I'm sort of 'meh' about the stuff. I don't hate it, but I'd never request it, ya know? My husband, on the other hand, is as big of a fan as my dad. I usually make up a big batch if I'm going to be away from home for a stretch so that he has an easy at-home meal to reheat rather than eating out.

That's where this whole thing started. I was planning to be out of town for a long weekend and promised him I'd make up a batch of Manwich and stick it in the fridge. No big deal, except that when I went to the pantry we were *gasp in horror* out of canned Manwich.

Instead of abandoning the project all together, I googled Sloppy Joe recipes and came upon this recipe on Allrecipes.com. I wasn't sure how it'd compare to the name-brand, but I gave it a go. The result was a hit. My husband raved about it for weeks and said he liked it waaaay better than the real Manwich. I shared the recipe with my dad and even he said he'll never buy the "real" stuff again.

I've made it several times and tweaked it each go-round to better suit our tastes. With these revisions, I can actually say I like the stuff. I never measure anything when I make it, but here are my (very rough) estimations for how I make it:


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (not pictured)
  • salt & pepper to taste
Directions:

Brown the ground beef with the onion. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Bring to a bubble. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.

Ta da! Easy peasy, right? Not difficult to make, yummy and very, very inexpensive. If my calculations are correct, it's less than 25 cents per batch for the sauce. That's a considerable amount of savings over the canned variety. (This amount does not include the meat.)

I don't like juicy things like this on a sandwich because I cannot stand soggy bread. Instead, I serve mine over pasta. You can never go wrong with pasta. :)

I forgot to take a pic before we ate, but here's the closeup view of our leftovers.



Monday, August 23, 2010

Crop 'til You Drop

Don't pay the ransom, I've escaped!

(That's what my dad always used to say when he'd been gone for a long time and was calling to check in. :)

No, I didn't forget about the blog. I woke up Wednesday to a completely dead laptop even though it'd been plugged in to charge overnight. Thank goodness it was just the power cord, but no one within an hour radius of BFE our teeny tiny town carries any kind of Mac accessories. I decided to wait to go to a Mac store since my weekend plans put me near one.

The reason I was in the "big city" this weekend was for a scrapbooking retreat with my mom. My cousin came to watch Peanut while we worked on our albums. It was nice to have her right there, but still be able to focus on my pages.

I go to several retreats every year and it seems like I always lose my creative juice as soon as I walk in the door. Not this time! I was brainstorming layouts in the shower and in the car on the way there. It was so nice to sit down, pull out my pictures and immediately get to work instead of sitting there for the first 3 hours with a blank stare on my face.

I didn't get a ton accomplished because I still had to take time out to feed Peanut, feed myself and tend to her when she needed her mom. It was still more than I've accomplished in the last 10 months. It felt so good to get started on her album and fun/emotional/sad to look back at pictures of her when she was first born.

I wanted a girly album for Peanut's first year, but not light pink or anything with cheesy baby graphics on it. I fell in love with the color of this one and bought it. The picture doesn't really do it justice. It's somewhere between a bright pink and a coral.


I'm not going to post the title page because Peanut's full name is the majority of the layout and blurring it out would pretty much leave a blank page. :)

Here are some of the layouts I completed. Nothing too fancy or overly creative, but they're finished. I took a lot more time than usual figuring out what to say in the journaling boxes. I want Peanut to know not only what happened, but how we felt.






I think I'm headed out for a run to wake myself up. I'm going to fall asleep if I don't get up and moving. That's one thing about spending the whole weekend away from home. I'm always worthless the next day.

I'm also linking this post up to the following parties:










Hope you all had a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Joann's Haul

Yesterday I went shopping at the nearby outlet mall with my BFF on her day off. She's 4 months postpartum and in that weird "maternity clothes are too big, pre pregnancy clothes don't fit" stage. We've been BFFs for about 20 years and like similar things, but our tastes in clothing are very different. She asked me to come to be her honest opinion and so I'd encourage her to try things on that were outside of her clothing comfort zone. She found some really great pieces at great prices!

I didn't buy a single thing...until I made a pit stop at Joann's on the way home. :)

In my defense, I had a $10 coupon that I earned with a previous purchase and I didn't want to forget to use it. I also needed some embroidery floss and new embroidery needles for a cross stitch project I'm ready to begin. I found those right away:


That didn't add up to my $10 and I wasn't about to let any "free money" go to waste in a craft store. I decided to use the other coupon I had for 50% off one cut of regularly priced fabric. After literally 45 minutes of wandering the aisles, I finally settled on the damask that kept catching my eye:




That still put me just shy of my $10 so I ventured to my favorite place in the fabric store: the remnant bin. I absolutely love digging through the remnant bin. Besides the fabric there being discounted (always a plus), it's fun to see what other people have been buying that resulted in the leftovers. I always wonder what they used their cut of fabric to create. 

My hunt for a remnant to fill in the gap resulted in my buying 9 remnants:


All of them cost $1-$3. I don't have specific plans for any of them yet. They're all just cotton so they're versatile and I'm sure I'll find something. 

Oh, dear. Those are the famous last words of someone with a fabric addiction, aren't they? :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 8/16 - 8/22


Planning a menu this week was tough because our schedule has been turned upside down. My husband is working night shifts for two weeks. He's out the door between 4pm and 5pm, but I'd like to eat as a family before he leaves. Considering we don't normally eat until between 7pm and 8pm, that's quite a change.

Monday: BLTs (with tomatoes fresh from our garden!)

Tuesday: Black Bean Lasagna (from August 2010 Reader's Digest)

Wednesday: Chicken Sausage with Onions & Mushrooms on Italian Bread

Thursday: Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Posh Ham (from Jamie Oliver)

Friday: Cheeseburgers, Mac & Cheese

I also whipped up a batch of tofu pad thai today. My husband doesn't like this one so it will be for me to eat this week as an early lunch or later in the evening in case our late afternoon meal doesn't stick with me until bedtime. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Easy Company Squares

I made these delicious bars for a family get-together yesterday. They were an extreme hit! My uncle (who is a total foodie) absolutely RAVED about them the entire day. You would have thought we gave him a million bucks when we put the 4 leftover bars on a plate and gave them to him before we left. My aunt messaged me on Facebook yesterday to get the recipe and said he hasn't stopped talking about them. Little does he know that these are the world's easiest and quickest dessert to make. They're yummy cold, but still taste great at room temperature which makes them a great idea for potlucks and picnics.


Ingredients
  • two (8 ounce) blocks of cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat.)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • two (8 ounce) packages of crescent rolls (I used the seamless sheets.)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray a 9x13 inch pan or baking dish with non-stick spray
  3. Combine cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk & vanilla. Mix well.
  4. Unroll 1 can of dough, press into bottom of the pan. Top with cream cheese mixture.
  5. Whisk egg white. Unroll second can of dough & place on top of cream cheese mixture. Brush top of pastry with the egg white.
  6. Combine sugar & cinnamon. Sprinkle over pastry.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes.
  8. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Makes 36 squares, but no one can eat just one. :)


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Fair Baby

Yesterday my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and I took Peanut to her very first county fair.





It was a bajillion degrees and extremely crowded. Blech! We didn't stay very long. 

Of course my sister-in-law and I had to check on how our Home Arts projects faired in the judging and take pictures of our items on display. This was my main motivation for even wanting to 

My digital scrapbook took 1st place in its category:


My vacation scrapbook got a 5th place:



Neither of my sewing items placed. No shame there considering I'm an extreme novice. You should have seen the incredible pieces they were up against! Not gonna lie, I swelled with pride when I saw them on the display shelves even though there were no ribbons there. Regardless of how well they did, I made those and other people saw them. :)

 

I kinda wish they would have at least straightened the letters before putting it on the shelf. Oh well.
My sister in law did pretty well with her gift wrapping and baked good projects. This is sort of pathetic, but we're already planning projects and categories to enter for next year. The 2010 fair isn't even over yet!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Clean Out the Pantry: Week 2 Review

Week 2 of shopping from the pantry, fridge and freezer went well. My husband ended up having to stay out of town 2 nights for work so one meal was moved to the weekend and one was shifted to the menu for this week.

Here are the meals we did eat this week:

Tuesday
whole wheat angel hair pasta with chicken sausage & mushroom/ripe olive sauce


Thursday
Coyote Quesedilla a la Guy Fieri (so good you HAVE to make this one)


Friday 
sweet & sour chicken (from The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook) with brown rice


Saturday
cheeseburgers & steak fries (I think you know what those look like.)



Other than most of the ingredients for the quesedilla, the only other thing I had to buy for these meals  were 2 bell peppers. The rest came from our pantry, fridge & freezer. Here's the list of everything I used up for dinners:

~package of Sam's Club chicken sausages
~jar of spaghetti sauce
~finished up 1/2 a box of whole wheat angel hair pasta
~2 pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breasts
~2 tomatoes from our garden
~onion
~1 pound package of hamburger patties
~sourdough english muffins
~bag of frozen steak fries
~finished a can of parmesan cheese

I went to the grocery today and did really well. The only things I bought for meals this week were turkey bacon and a head of romaine lettuce, both for BLTs tonight. I reserved a few whole leaves of the lettuce for sandwiches and chopped the rest up to use for salads. I also bought stuff for my husband's lunches, baby food, a few staples that we've used up and need to keep on hand (Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan cheese, jelly, Dijon mustard) and the ingredients for two dishes to take to a family get together next weekend.

Oh, and I did buy several outfits for the little one. All of the summer stuff is on clearance at $2 or $3. I spent $20 and got a ton of darling clothes to put back for next year.