Friday, October 16, 2015

Crockpot Freezer Cooking

I set a goal to prep 20 freezer meals that cook well in the crockpot.
When I found this blog post I looked through the list of meals. I thought they sounded different enough and interesting enough that we wouldn't feel like we were eating the same thing every time I popped one in the crockpot.  We eat a lot of chicken already, so this plan works well for us.  Mixing in different meats and vegetarian dishes would make a decent amount of meals for our family.  So many of these types of meal planning posts seem very repetitive.  They take 5 meals and double them and you have 10, which should great...until you realize they all use the same ingredients!

I took an hour and a half to grocery shop and spent $167. $147 of which was at Aldi, our local, least expensive store and $20 at Pick 'n Save, our local average priced store.  Aldi doesn't carry every single item you would ever need or want, which is why I had to make a second trip for a handful of items.

I bought everything on this list (click or see below) that I didn't already have. I had some of the spices, the cider and balsamic vinegar, all of the "pantry supplies" (although I was low on EVOO, salt and pepper so I stocked up on those while I was at it).

As you can see in the blog post the author linked up all of the meals separately, so I went to each one, copied the recipe and pasted it into a word doc. I also printed the shopping list and was ready to start.

How did I do?  Well.....after three hours of cooking I finished 13 meals.  I would say that's pretty good for having a toddler who loves to help (and who eats all my green peppers)!

Why didn't I make all 20? I ran out of chicken!!!  I didn't buy all 12 pounds of chicken breasts because Aldi didn't have enough of their "all natural" chicken.  I figured I would start and see how far I got with what I bought. Part of the reason I ran out is probably because I didn't use the whole chickens.  I put one in the oven and by the time it was done, I was done.  I was tired and I didn't feel like cutting it all up. It didn't go to waste, we had it for dinner tonight. I also didn't read far enough in to see that three meals required foil pans. I didn't buy any, so I couldn't make those.

What DID I accomplish?  Glad you asked, here's a list:
Crock Meatloaf
    disclaimer: if you know me, you know I do not like meatloaf, but this was easy and I'm going to give it a         try.  I also think my kids are going to like it.  I may plan to have salad on hand for myself if I decide that I       still dislike meatloaf!
Crockpot Cranberry Orange Chicken
Crockpot Honey Rosemary Chicken
Crockpot Cilantro Lime Chicken
Cheesy Rigatoni
Mexican Chicken
Crockpot Chicken Fajitas
Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken
Crockpot Chicken with Apple and Sweet Potato
    disclaimer: I usually don't LOVE meals with apples, but this is just apple flavor from applesauce, I think         it will be good
Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches
Crockpot Veggies in a Bag
Taco Soup
Butternut Squash

What are my overall thoughts?  Looking back, this whole "project" didn't take that long.  Grocery shopping takes long no matter what you need to buy.  Cooking, prepping and cleaning takes time.  This cut back on a lot of time in the future for me so it was well worth it!  I can't tell you how the meals taste, but I will update as we go. I will also finish up those other meals this weekend so I will post an update on those.  I actually haven't made any pan type dishes to freeze so that will be a new thing for me.

If you make any of these, please post below and let me know what you think! Happy crocking!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back to School

Confession: I'm SO not looking forward to school starting.  Last year my oldest went to school for about 3 hours in the morning.  This year he will be in school for SEVEN.  Yes, SEVEN hours.

I know he's ready.
I know he will be okay.
I know he will enjoy it.


I'm not ready.
I'm not okay.
I'm not prepared to enjoy it.

Last year he started 4K.  That 3 hours went SO slow at the beginning of the year, I admit, it went a little faster toward the end of the year. I was so anxious to go pick him up.  To ask how his day was.  To find out if he ate snack.  To hear what he learned.  Now this year is quickly approaching and I'm pretty sad.

My big five year old.  The boy who made me a mom.  The one who is so caring and compassionate, also a little sassy...he's starting his journey of long days at school and for the next THIRTEEN years he will be gone for the majority of his weeks.  Away from our family.  Learning and growing and becoming a successful student.

All I want for him is to be kind, responsible and respectful.  I want him to make friends.  To eat his lunch, even the healthy parts.  I want him to know that his school is a safe place where he has many adults he can talk to and be honest with if he's feeling like something isn't right.  I want him to stick up for his friends and be someone his classmates can count on.  I want him to make his friends smile when they are sad, just like he does for his brother.  I want him to make new friends and learn to ask them their names if he can't remember:)  I want him to be the most brilliant crayon in the box.

I hear a lot of parents saying they are ready for school to start, that they want their time back and the summer to be over.  They say the summer is dragging on for them.  And I'm sure this is true.  Once you are used to your children being gone during the day.  That's normal, that's routine.  It's what you do.  But I'm not there...yet.  I know I'll get there, but I'm not close yet.

The one single thing I'm most excited for is more time with my little man.  I'm so excited to plan fun things for us to do and see friends with kids his age.  For him to be the only one fighting for my attention.

Having kids is hard.  We know this.  But going through these major changes is SUPER hard.  I'm a lefty, a right-brained person.  I like plans and schedules.  I like to know what to expect and to be in control of things.  It's my nature.  I like knowing my kids are safe and I like being that safe haven for them. Having a child in school, out of my care is not a comfortable feeling for me.  I'm a mom, it's what I know and it's all I've done for the past 5+ years.  That's it.

Am I the only one feeling this way?  Do I sound like I need some wine??  Ha!
But in all seriousness.  If you feel this same way, how do you deal?

Are you a veteran parent who has sent their kids off to school for years now?
Did you feel this way at some point?
What did you do to ease your fears?

I hope everyone enjoys their first day back.  I hope to jump back here and proclaim that I didn't shed a single tear.  We shall see.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Easy 4th of July decoration

Last year I made a super easy 4th of July decoration for outside.  I needed something large so it was visible from the street and so that it would take up the section of my front house I wanted to decorate. This tutorial from Tatertots&Jello was exactly what I needed.  I love how it turned out and I'm proud to display this each year around this time.

The changes I made where that I didn't use any vinyl and I didn't use spray paint.  I used craft acrylic paints in place of spray paint and I used a round sponge brush for the circles instead of vinyl. I also used duct tape that has a blue and white chevron pattern.  I had everything on hand besides the wood so this was a pretty inexpensive project for me.  If you make this for your home, I would love to see the finished product below in the comments!

Front of my house 2014

Front of my house 2015 (yes, I like to change the front door color!)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Want to go camping?

I am currently in the planning process for a big birthday party.  Dallas is now FIVE and Liam will be THREE in a few short weeks.  Last year we started hosting their party together and it went great. Part of that was because neither of them really cared what the theme of their party was.  I threw some ideas out there and they both agreed.  A camping party was what they wanted, a camping party is what they got. This year is proving to be a little more difficult because they are each opinionated and they each want their own theme.  I have the tough job of incorporating two themes into one party. Yeah, so fun for the type A personality I have! Can you hear the sarcasm?  I never blogged about their 2014 party. I actually haven't blogged in a REALLY long time. But I'm back because planning their 2015 party got me to thinking about last year's party and how fun it was.  I wanted to share all the details here for my memory and for my family/friends to enjoy it once more before we celebrate these two little dudes again.  Happy Camping!

It ALL started once I found the perfect invites over on etsy at Creative Union Design.  They were totally customizable and so fun to make with the shop owner, Roberta.  She was so helpful and patient. The invite was made for a single birthday kiddo, so we had to make it into something that fit two kids.  It turned out perfect.  I had it printed front/back on heavy card stock and cut at Kinko's, that was a small fortune.  But it saved me time and ink. I also used my corner rounder to make the corners...well..round!  Ha! Take a look:


Then, came the party day.  For food we had all sorts of camping style goodies.  Hot dogs and burgers with all the toppings including homemade slaw and few different types of sauces, chips, beans, fruit salad, ants on a log and a trail mix bar.  We invited our guests to make their own mix to either take home or snack on during the party.  I just purchased a bunch of different plastic and glass containers to fill along with small brown paper bags. I also decorated the trail mix table with a few types of lanterns and a cute banner. I labeled all the food and snacks by writing on some black stones with a white chalk marker.  I'm all about the details, in case you couldn't tell. 

Someone is hungry!

Our fishing poles made the perfect backdrop for the food tables!

I always try to have a few different drink options at our parties.  This year I had some flavored waters, watermelon sangria and of course your usual beer and soda.  We made cucumber water, strawberry water and a mint/lemon/lime water. I also try to have a way for people to label their drinks.  Is it just me or does it seem like there are a TON of half empty drinks at the end of a party? As you may notice by now I try to put lots of signs around the party so guests can help themselves.  We label the coolers and mini fridge with which drinks can be found inside and the tables for the food and other drink items.  (If you look back at the trial mix table you'll see what I mean too.) 

(Peek of the awesome cakes my friend made, more on those later.)

As for the activities, we had a pinata because Dallas seems to think that it's not a birthday party without a pinata.  We also had a bounce house.  This is a tradition in our family.  Michael's little brothers have had one at their birthdays for as long as we can remember so it's just something the Jeffers Family does!  We also set up tents all around the yard for the kids to play in.  We had one and borrowed the rest.  It was a great way to "decorate" on the cheap and we so appreciate our friends and family who loaned out their tents.  

The bounce house was really cool this year, it had room to jump, a slide inside and a basketball hoop inside as well!

We spray painted the tops of tree stumps with glow in the dark paint.  They never worked:(  They didn't glow in the dark at all!  I have no clue what happened but Lowe's let us return the EMPTY spray cans. The tree stumps came all the way from up north on my mom's husband's land up there.  My cousin was kind enough to drop them off on his way back from one of his trips up there.  Thanks James!

Onto one of the major highlights of the party.  THE CAKE!!!  My friend, Sam, has got to be one of the most talented people I know.  She's crazy crafty, very detailed orientated, a fantastic photographer and most of all, so kind to offer to make the cakes for the boys.  Okay, maybe she didn't just offer, I may have begged her.  And bribed her. Ha! I absolutely loved every single detail about the cakes. Want to know just how detailed she is?  She even took the time to make the eyes of the campers on the cake the same color eyes as Dallas and Liam. Yeah, I told you. Just look at these pictures. They will show you just how lucky the boys are to have Sam in their lives! :) Thanks friend! I purchased the tree stump bases at Michael's Craft Store.

Later on in the night we made s'mores.  Dallas is obsessed with them.  As you can see in some of the pictures, we all had camping themed shirts.  Mine was an old style trailer, Michael's said "camping, it's in-tents", Liam had a cute fox because to me camping in the woods = a few foxes running around and Dallas had a shirt on that said "I want s'mores".  I put together s'more kits to make it easier for people to make their own.  I put all the ingredients into plastic sandwich baggies and put them into red and white checkered fabric.  I set most of them on a tiered stand and the rest were tied onto roasting sticks. Some guests left before we roasted them so they grabbed a kit for the road.  One of my best ideas yet! 
Again, the white painted stump is supposed to be glow in the dark.

This is so them...Liam dancing and Dallas eating sweets.

Inside the fabric.

The last little detail, the kids thank you gift bags.  With the purchase of the invitations, Roberta also sent me personalized thank you notes.  I had those printed as well and taped them to the front of brown gift bags, then I just punched holes in the bags and tied them shut with red and white twine.  I can't even remember what was all in them but I know we put glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets, glow in the dark bubbles and some candy inside.  

A few more pictures from the party because, you know, this post doesn't have enough pictures yet:)
My big four year old best buddy!

It's your party and you can wear a diaper if you want to...Liam, not Michael!

Some guests relaxing

So lucky, these boys are...

All the kids

All the guests..the best picture we got!  Next time maybe they'll all look at the camera?

Ella got some candy

Liam enjoying his s'more

Dallas and Michael ready for bed in the tent

My brother-in-law and niece ready for bed too!

Thank you to everyone who celebrated our two sweet boys last year.  I can't believe we will be doing this again in a few weeks.  

Dear Dallas and Liam, 

I love you two more than I can put into words.  I live for your smiles, your hugs, your need for your mama and even your fart jokes.  You two make me feel so lucky.  How did I get to be your mom?  I don't know, but I'm forever grateful. You both have such different personalities, yet you are both so sweet, strong, loving, silly, energetic and smart.  Dallas you look just like your daddy but you have so many of my characteristics.  Liam you are just the opposite, you look like me and you act just like your dad. I hope you both always know how loved you are.  Birthday's have been huge celebrations in our house for the past five years and your daddy and I fully intent to continue that.  It is, after all, a celebration of your life.  I hope your parties are something you never forget and can look back on and say, those were the best days of my life.  I know that the day each of you were born was by far the best day of my life.  I celebrate you every day, but I will celebrate even more on your special days. I love you more than all the stars in the sky.  Please always stay little and remember to love your mom tomorrow and the next day as much as you do today.