Sunday, February 28, 2010

Meal Planning - March 1

Last week's meal plan got a little off track mid-week, but I figure that's the whole purpose of the plan: to be rigid enough that meals are ready to be pulled out of the freezer and prepared, yet flexible enough to deal with the little surprises life (and your husband) like to throw at you.

This is a cooking weekend, which means I am preparing 7 recipes to go in the freezer for future use (as of right now, I have 4 down, 1 in the slow cooker, and 2 to go). I double all of the recipes and, since we are a relatively small family (2 1/2 people, as we like to joke) that generally gives us 2-3 nights worth of meals. I also had a revelation while reorganizing the freezer this morning in preparation for the additional bounty about to descend on it: for me, it is not enough to have a list of what's in the freezer next to the meal plan calendar; I also need to make note of the date on which each meal was prepared/frozen. I actually had to throw away (the shame!) six meals this morning, as my helpful husband pointed out they had been prepared in September, October or November and most likely were no longer fit to eat. Talk about learning things the hard way, huh?

Anyhow, here is what's on our menu this week:

Monday - Chicken Spaghetti (prepared yesterday and waiting patiently in the fridge)

Tuesday - Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup (cooked yesterday and frozen)

Wednesday - BBQ Potatoes (pork is in the crock pot now; I will make the potatoes Wednesday)

Thursday - Spaghetti (sauce pre-made and frozen)

Friday - Chicken Fajitas (pre-made and frozen raw; chicken will marinate while it defrosts)

Saturday - Lasagna (pre-made and frozen)

Sunday - Shepherd's Pie (pre-made and frozen)

For more meal planning ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie's home page or her Menu Plan Monday page. One of my favorite blogs!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sewing Corner Success

Okay, I'm going to have to brag on myself a little, because I somehow managed to plan and execute a project all in one day - this almost never happens! Anyhow, as I briefly mentioned earlier, I was gifted three bookshelves by a fellow Freecycle member this weekend. As a result, the cute little kitchen hutch-type piece of furniture I had in our office (known as a dining room in a former life) was able to be rescued from piles of clutter and relocated to the corner of the living room, MY corner of the living room, my happy little sewing corner. Hooray :-)

I, of course, forgot to take a picture of the messy little corner before I began. Or maybe I "forgot" so y'all wouldn't have to see how disorganized it was...I'll let you be the judge of that ;-) Anyhow, here are some photos that I did remember to take:

First of all, I measured the dimensions of my little hutch (does anyone know what the official name of this piece of furniture is?) and, armed with my trusty measuring tape and newly-discovered shelf dimensions, headed over to my local Dollar Tree store. Let me just say hallelujah, for everything truly is $1 there, unlike some other discount stores with the word dollar in their names. Not that I'm naming names, anyhow, I picked out three sizes of containers which would be perfect for my purposes, measured everything twice (just to be sure), did some quick multiplication (I admit, on my cell phone, not in my head - the shame! What will my math teacher husband say?) and headed home with the above goo

Oh, and in case you're curious, the tribal-looking markings on the table are courtesy of my preschooler. Since we don't allow drawing on walls or big people furniture, he has to settle for his little dinner table ;-)

Next up: I set up all the spiffy new containers on the shelves, just to make sure everything fit as I had anticipated before getting started on the heart of the project. No use sorting, tossing and delegating into boxes if the boxes don't have a home, right?

This will give you an idea of the type of sewing goods I was working with...

...and please ignore the gross-looking carpet! Still waiting on the carpet c
leaning guys to come :-P

An indeterminate amount of time later (I totally lose track of time when I start organizing, but you can definitely see the difference in lighting if you compare this photo to the first one), I looked up and realized I was done. Let me walk you through the new layout, from the bottom up: The 12 bins on the bottom shelf hold smaller pieces of material (mostly sorted by fabric content), yarn, sewing machine accessories (like the pedal and bobbins) and some already-pieced bits of the quilt I'm currently working on. The bags on the wine racks have larger pieces of material, the aforementioned quilt, and some navy drill waiting patiently to be turned into a new pair of hornpipe pants sometime in the near future. The butcher block shelf holds my beloved sewing machine and my bin of clothes to be mended. Yes, my bin is very full, but perhaps now that I have containerized these clothes I will be more motivated to mend in a timely fashion? Either way, at least it is a festive green color :-)

The next shelf up contains 6 smaller bins (whose lids, fabulously, do not detach from the base, but are hinged and open from the middle in two pieces), 5 of which are labeled and filled with the wonders of Thread, Ribbon, Sewing Tools, Pins and Fasteners. For number 6, I will wait and see what other essential will need a home. I left the top shelf empty for two reasons: First, I like the clean look of the area right now. Having a horizontal line above and below each section makes it seem more organized, in my opinion. Second, having an empty, high horizontal space will no doubt come in handy when I am (inevitably) interrupted mid-project and need to quickly fling bits of material and pins and needles somewhere safe, out of the way of prying little hands.

And so, dear reader, there is my new and improved sewing corner, completely renovated and reorganized for the low price of $19 + tax.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Meal Planning - February 22

I hope y'all will forgive me for my absence in the later part of last week. Some sort of virus, combined with a busy week at work, all compiled to keep me away from the computer. I am looking forward to sharing the great adventure my son and I had on Saturday, as well as the overhaul I am doing on my home office!

For now, let me stay on track. Here is my family's meal plan for the week of Monday, February 22nd:

Monday - Chicken Burritos (filling pre-made and frozen; I halve the amount of black beans the recipe calls for)

Tuesday - Potato Soup (pre-made and frozen; I substitute soy milk and turkey bacon)

Wednesday - Spaghetti (I'm telling you, we have it at least one weeknight a week - my husband could happily eat it every other day!)

Thursday - Shepherd's Pie (filling pre-made and frozen; on Thursday night I will add the potatoes and bake)

Friday - Meatball Soup (pre-made and frozen; I add the noodles when reheating, so they don't get mushy)

Saturday - Chicken, Rice & Broccoli Casserole (pre-made and frozen; this is from my friend Kathy in California - scroll down for the recipe)

Sunday - Fajitas (filling pre-made and frozen; the beef marinates as it thaws, so it is very flavorful)

Next weekend will be a big cooking weekend for me, so if you have any new and exciting ideas for freeze-ahead entrees for me to try, please let me know! I think winter is the hardest time of the year for me to cook - I just lose interest in food, for some reason. Must be my inner bear, wanting to hibernate ;-)

*****Kathy's Chicken, Rice & Broccoli Casserole*****

Ingredients (for 1 casserole - I always double recipes when I do my freeze-ahead cooking)

1 box wild rice pilaf w/garlic & herbs, cooked (Kathy uses Near East brand)
1 chicken breast, cubed and cooked [I used 2 chicken breasts per casserole]
1/2 bag frozen chopped broccoli
3/4 cup fat free sour cream
1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup (undiluted)
shredded cheddar cheese [don't add this until you are ready to bake, if cooking ahead & freezing]
**after chatting with Kathy, I decided to add mixed vegetables to the mix, and next time I am planning on adding some tofu - just enough that my husband can't taste it, of course!

Cook the rice according to the directions on the box. Cook the chicken [I generally boil mine] and cube it. Mix all the ingredients together. Spread into a casserole dish then top with cheese [if you are freezing, save the cheese for when you are ready to bake]. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes, until the cheese on top is melted and the casserole is bubbly. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Meal Planning: An Integral Part of Being a MIHM

If you are like me, you are busy. You want to eat healthfully, but you don't always have the time to cook an elaborate meal each evening. In a perfect world, we could all get take-out every night or hire a personal chef, but who has the money for that? If you are really like me, you also had little to no guidance in learning how to plan/cook healthy, inexpensive meals for your family growing up. So what's an all-grown-up Make It Happen Mama to do? Get on the internet and start researching, of course! What your mama didn't give you, somebody else's mama has most likely blogged about. You can quote me on that ;-)

I started dabbling in meal planning and freeze-ahead meals this past August and, let me tell you, it has been a rough education. The basic idea with freeze-ahead meals is that 1-2 weekends a month (depending on the size of your family - and your freezer!) you set aside a day or two and just prep/cook/label/freeze food all day. Trust me, you will not be hungry at the end of that day. My husband has been fairly supportive, giving ideas of meals he would like to try (spaghetti is always a winner in our house), keeping our son out of my hair on shopping/cooking days, and contributing the ever-inspiring, "Don't worry, honey...if it sucks, I'll just go pick up some fast food." Um, yes. Thank you, dear.

Today I am taking the plunge and officially joining the ranks of nearly 500 other bloggers at's Menu Plan Monday. This means that I am now not only responsible to my family for meal planning, but also you, dear reader, and a host of other folks at No pressure, right?

So yeah, I'm a little behind for this week (what a great way to start things off, right?), but here is what is on our menu for this week:

Monday: Pasta Meatball Soup (pre-made & frozen - I waited to add the pasta until thawed)

Tuesday: Pot Roast (slow cooker)

Wednesday: Artichoke Chicken (pre-made & frozen)

Thursday: Spaghetti (sauce pre-made & frozen)

Friday: Macaroni Chili (pre-made & frozen - we leave out the beans on this one)

Saturday: Chicken Burritos (pre-made in the slow cooker & frozen)

Sunday: Baby Burgers (another family favorite - we have this one at least one Sunday a month)

What's your family eating this week?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Taking My Face(book) Off(line)

In the spirit of pursuing a Mak
e It Happen Mama lifestyle, I recently decided this was the year to make a Lenten resolution. After much introspection, I was able to identify several habits which, while enjoyable, may take up too much time (social networking sites), impact my health (my insatiable sweet tooth), or just plain don't contribute to my life in any worthwhile fashion (celebrity gossip). Having gone on a sugar fast in the past, I know that side effects for me include headaches and crankiness, so this may be a change better attempted during the summer, when fewer people would have to deal with a sugar-free me on a daily basis. Curbing my yen for celebrity gossip is fairly easy, almost too easy - I wanted a challenge. So it came down to Facebook. While I certainly don't think I am addicted to Facebook, my husband complains at least twice a week about me returning messages, checking statuses, etc. when he wants to use the computer. I could just chalk this up to his antisocial nature or general male crankiness, rattle off a list of excuses (95% of my friends live in different time zones, we all work, most have kids and it's hard to catch each other on the phone, my family likes me to post pictures of our son...the list goes on and on!) or I could stop and actually consider the impact this activity has on my life. Am I really addicted to Facebook? Would it be so terrible to give it up for Lent? Geography makes face-to-face time pretty much impossible, but what is keeping me from picking up the phone and spending half an hour with a friend each day? Can I take this challenge one step further and eke time out of my schedule to actually converse with people?

My rational, MIHM side says no problem. My addictive, social, internet-loving side says it will be difficult, but doable. My husband (with a snort) predicts it will last a week. Talking to some of my friends about it, I've gotten mixed reviews. Red-Headed Mommy, a friend from grad school, says she'll miss me but is impressed I am taking on the task. Little Brother, a friend from college, votes *dislike*, irritated he won't have up-to-the-minute photographic documentation of how my preschooler is growing and developing (there's a reason my husband calls me mamarazzi...but that's a topic for another post). Violin Goddess, a friend from college, was first aggravated I would be missing in action, then terrified when I announced part of my resolution is to spend more time talking to friends on the phone, instead of merely cyber-stalking them (apparently, she's phone-phobic - who knew?). Hot Blond, another grad school friend, thinks she may take on the same resolution. Well, at least now I know I'll have someone to talk to on the phone - and I've definitely been neglecting Hot Blond lately :-( Sweet Teacher at work told me today she is giving up sugar, taking Oprah's phone challenge AND vowing to run six days a week through the Lenten season. Wow, and I thought I was challenging myself!

So on this Fat Tuesday, I am scrambling to answer the last of my Facebook birthday greetings (not helpful that my birthday and Ash Wednesday are only 3 days apart this year!) and making sure my phone number and e-mail address are obvious on my Info know, just in case any of my 700ish friends can make the great sacrifice of putting their laptops down and spending some quality voice time with me.

Take a minute and tell me about your Lenten resolutions - or lack thereof. It's not quite the same as chatting on the phone, but I'd love to hear your thoughts :-)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who is a Make It Happen Mama?

Who, you may ask, is a Make It Happen Mama? Well, you might be, actually. Or you may just want to be one, like me. So let's talk about what being a Make It Happen Mama (or MIHM) is all about:

A Make It Happen Mama realizes she cannot control everything around her and does not stress about the things beyond her control. What a MIHM can control, however, she endeavors to do to the best of her ability. She is excited to learn new ways of doing things that save her time, money and energy. A MIHM sets realistic goals for herself and break these goals into measurable objectives to keep her motivated along the way to self-improvement. She does not feel guilty taking time for herself, whether that consists of working out, reading a book, spending time with girlfriends or taking a bubble bath. A MIHM takes care of herself physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. She is not afraid to say no to others in order to keep her life in balance. A MIHM not only takes care of her family but teaches them how to take care of themselves. She takes pride in the successes of her friends and family members and always keeps a positive attitude.

So, obviously, talking about being a Make It Happen Mama is much easier than actually being one. Am I a perfect, well-balanced career woman/wife/mother who keeps everything balanced and in perspective 24/7 and never lets you see her sweat? No, absolutely not, and if you don't believe me, just ask my husband ;-) Everything in life is a continuous process, and I am no exception.

What other characteristics do you think are an important part of being a Make It Happen Mama?