Meet Baby Doll

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We are happy to announce the addition of Baby Doll to the Bloomfield Road family. She was born January 19th at 4:04 am. We have all been adjusting quite nicely to her arrival over the past week. She is finally sleeping in good clips, she eats often and a lot and we are all getting better rested each evening. Even cuteness has started adjusting better over the past couple days (he had been holding onto his last bits of things he can control but we have all learned to let go of a little bit of control over the past week).

Baby Doll has all our hearts wrapped up in her little fist. Her brother comes running anytime she cries, wanting to know if she is hungry or just has a “big poop.” I’ve started to get over the first little bits of ‘baby blues’ but I’m still crying at almost every episode of West Wing as the Captain and I have made it our mission over the next six weeks of maternity/paternity leave to finish the series (Netflix Binge!) I cry over breastfeeding, feeling stuck in the house, not getting to hold Cuteness as much and lots of other things too but Captain is there is to bring me water, make me dinner and let me know it is all okay.

We learned with this delivery that our babies come fast. While Cuteness came a mere half hour after arriving to the hospital, Baby Doll came nine minutes after arriving at the hospital. We didn’t realize that after 9pm and before 8am everyone comes through the emergency room. We also learned if you have taken a bullet in the chest that the emergency room crew will happily help you, but if you are having a baby they want you nowhere near that emergency room, they will run you in wheel chair across the hospital to the maternity ward while you are shouting, “I can feel the head” as if their life depended on it. The emergency room is not in the business of delivering babies. We learned all this from experience! I’m pretty sure that if there was a medal to get us across that hospital the quickest our emergency crew won it that evening. The doctor and midwife arrived after the baby was delivered. Luckily nurses are amazing and great at their jobs!

ABC Grilled Sandwich

Grilled ABC Header

Rainy days call for grilled cheese sandwiches. It is one of those sandwiches that you usually have all the ingredients for in the fridge and you can really put in whatever you want into it. In this case, I had all the ingredients for one of my favorite combinations of grilled cheese–apples, bacon and cheese.

While reading the Mom 100 Cookbook, I did run across a neat tip regarding grilled cheese sandwiches. She said that someone had told her that they put a lid on the pan that they are grilling their sandwich in to ensure that the cheese gets melted. I tell you, whoever came up with that idea is genius! It works.

For this sandwich, I used buttered sour dough, a mix of gouda, cheddar and mozzarella cheese (it is what we had in the fridge), slices of gala apple and a couple slices of bacon.

I put the sandwich in the pan and then just simply put a lid on top of the sandwich which provided some pressure but also captured the heat in the pan allowing the cheese to melt. I used blocks of cheese and usually I would shred for grilled cheese but with the new trick I didn’t need to shred it. Grilled cheese perfection!

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Cookbook Review: The Mom 100 Cookbook

The Mom 100 Cookbook Title

I wasn’t a huge fan of this cookbook when I first started looking through it. I wouldn’t call any of the recipes special or anything that any other cookbook you own doesn’t already have or you may already know how to cook. Who needs another lasagna recipe or chocolate chip cookie recipe. With that being said, I found myself going to this cookbook over and over.

What makes this cookbook special is its layout. Katie Workman, the author, lays out this cookbook in chapters that each are dilemmas that come up in life that make it difficult to cook a meal for your family. Lots of people coming over, someone doesn’t eat meat, bake sale tomorrow. The recipes are easy and nothing special but they are solutions.

I cooked a couple of the recipes out of here and they were good. I do like that most of the recipes have options for different tastes in the household (adults vs. children) and have suggestions on how kids can help you. I’m not sure it is a book that I would purchase but it could be a great gift for a new mom or even a first cookbook for someone going off to college.

Finished Product

Semi-Homemade: Crockpot Chicken & Dumpling Soup

Chicken and Dumpling Title 1.4.14

Cuteness and I have both been fighting off a cold bug lately. We both are to the point that we feel fine, we just have boogers galore and the only thing we can taste in all honesty is salt. With the holidays we stocked up on some cans of cream of chicken, chicken stock and we had a can of Pillsbury rolls. We don’t have these things in the house all the time but because of sales and my use of coupons when they end up being something like 15 cents a can, I’ll buy a few to keep in the fridge or pantry for a quick meal.

I call this semi-homemade because I am mixing ingredients together and I do use fresh vegetables in it. This recipe makes a ton and with both Cuteness and I having two bowls we still had a ton leftover. I’ll probably end up freezing a little bit to have as a ready meal when baby comes. I’m not doing a printable because there are tons of versions of this soup online, this is just what I have found tastes the best for us.

Semi-Homemade Crockpot Chicken & Dumpling Soup

  • 3 cans (14 ounce) Low Sodium, Fat Free Chicken Broth
  • 2 cans (10.75 ounce) Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 3 breasts uncooked chicken (or equivalent of cooked rotisserie chicken product)
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 tbs pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 5 biscuits from Pillsbury Grand Biscuit can, cut

Mix all ingredients in crockpot through thyme. Turn crockpot on high for 5 to 6 hours. Chicken will cook and will start to crumble and shred. In last half hour of cooking add in cut up biscuits (should be in pieces no larger than an inch) and stir into soup mixture. Mix occasionally until biscuits are a dumpling texture, about one half hour. Serve warm with additional pepper and crackers.

It is probably five minutes active time and I usually add a lot more pepper. If you want more vegetables, I would just add more. Other good vegetables would be corn, broccoli and green beans. I probably wouldn’t use peas because I’m not sure they would hold up well and while broccoli would end up cooking itself to shreds it would still be good. You can also use low sodium and fat versions of the soup and add more or less chicken or turkey if you feel like it. Really, it is just a tasty creamy soup that is easy to toss together.

Bubble Fun!

Bubble Fun Title Card

Seriously, this was so much fun!  I had seen this on Pinterest (link to original blog post at Fun at Home with Kids) and thought that it really couldn’t be that easy, but it was. Bubbles! Bubbles everywhere! I’ve been looking for some fun things that we could do in the evening, in doors, now that it is dark and cold but I didn’t want anything that would take too long to prepare or be too messy. The great thing about this is that we just tossed it all in the tub after we were done and he took a bath, the clean up was minimal in the kitchen too. We just rinsed everything off, dried it and we were all cleaned up. Best part for Cuteness, green bathwater. Best part for mom, clean floor.

I wouldn’t mess with the original formula for making this.

  • 1/4 cup water (we always use distilled for anything bubbles)
  • 2 tablespoons dish soap (we use Dawn when we make anything bubbles)
  • food coloring (we just used regular drop food coloring, the cheap stuff)

Mix in your mixer at the highest speed. This recipe makes one bowl of foam. We just rinsed it out and put together another batch in a different color and put both in a empty tub that we had. It probably took 5 minutes to make both colors and do the clean up.

The bubbles stayed for a long time and this is going to be a fun activity for outdoors this summer too since we can sent Cuteness outdoors with a tub of bubbles to toss around the yard with no concern. He was having a good time and we can see that we are going to have some requests for this one again in the future.

Bubbles - Copy

Organizing the Home: Kitchen Countertops

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So here is what happened. I got pregnant and almost instantly was no longer able to do anything in the kitchen. I could not, as much as I tried, be around most food. Raw meat would make me throw up. Dirty dishes would have me gagging at the thought of it. It left my husband holding the reins for everything kitchen related for six months. It has really only been in the past month and a half that I’ve been able to make it back to the kitchen to cook and help with dishes. While my husband is great at a lot of things, in his own words, “You’re just better at this than I am.”

With the baby coming, this was the first area that I knew that I had to tackle. Keeping our counter tops organized and functional is so important to our entire house running smoothly and we know it. With the preparation for another baby, the kitchen has been drastically impacted. It has become a dumping ground for pretty much everything that comes through the door.

Now, it is about to get real. Here is what our kitchen looked like before (I’m sparing you the sink!).

Before Collage

Gross, right! We were just overwhelmed. Now, I think I have mentioned this before–the husband and I are actually used to living in tiny spaces. Boats, one room apartments and a studio in Hawaii that was less than 400 square feet (and that included a kitchen, bathroom and wash/dryer unit!). I knew that we had just outgrew our space, we needed to get rid of things we didn’t use/need to make this space useable.

Here were the steps that I went about in organizing this space:

  • If I didn’t use it at least once a week, it could be put away in a drawer or cabinet.
  • If it wasn’t used for making food, eating food or was in fact food. It didn’t belong in our kitchen.
  • If it was garbage or broken it was tossed.
  • If it was dirty. It got cleaned.
  • If it was clean, it got put away.
  • If it was going to stay. It was made a home.

With that being said. Almost everything except for some photos were removed from the fridge. The overflowing junk baskets on top of the fridge were cleaned out and all that remains in there are some candles and batteries (which may get moved eventually to the laundry room).

We got new glassware for Christmas from my brother and his wife so any glass that wasn’t a part of that set, was sent to the local thrift store. Our travel mugs were put in a new place and lids were matched with our Gladware. All of the kids cups/plates/bottles were organized and shelved. Plates and bowls were stacked properly. All foodstuffs was put in the pantry.

If it could be hung on the wall or peg board it was. Removed from the kitchen was a handmade ladle that couldn’t be used, a board game, a few books and a plethora of gift certificates that had been hiding on top of the microwave. Oil/vinegar containers were filled and put next to the stove for food prep and I finally decided to remove my salt pig. As much as I enjoyed it.

Tada! A totally clean and organized kitchen.

After Collage

It is just so much better. It probably took me an hour or two of work to get everything organized and clean (though it took me most of the day with toddler!). We’ve also come up with a few rules to keep things tidy.

  • Counters are cleaned up and washed each evening.
  • Dishes are not allowed to sit in the sink for more than 24 hours.
  • If it is food, it belongs in the fridge or in the pantry.
  • If we don’t use it for making food or eating food. It doesn’t belong in the kitchen.

Still to be organized in the kitchen are our few drawers, the lower cabinets, our one set of upper cupboards and the pantry. This was a good start though and we already notice the difference in the kitchen.

After Cookbooks

10 Goals for 2014

2014 Goals

This year, I set out to make goals that I actually think I can complete and speak to where I am in life right now. I’ve gone back to work part-time (but really almost full-time) and am no longer working from my home. We have very active and wicked smart toddler running around house who I desire to give more attention to and we have a baby that is due in the next couple weeks to make its arrival.

My overall goal this year is to make things easier and not try so hard to be perfect. While I really like making my own laundry detergent, cooking meals from scratch and having a super clean house; It really just isn’t all possible with what I have going on right now.

So my 10 goals this year keep all that in mind. They are about having fun, trying new things and being available at home to my husband and kids. My meals aren’t all going to be made from scratch and I need to be okay with that. My home isn’t going to be perfect from head to toe but it can get organized. I’m not going to travel to Europe but I can go someplace, I’ve never been before. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get those student loans paid off…maybe.

Salish Sea Plunge Tossing Rocks

What We Are Reading…December

Title Card

Cuteness is finally at the age where he is starting to put all the elements of Christmas together so we chose a bunch of books this month with a holiday theme. We really try not to make the focus of Christmas on presents or Santa in our house so we tried to pick a selection of books that are not just about Santa and presents but about the overall holiday.

Polar Express Page

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg: This is going to be unpopular, but I just don’t like this book. Cuteness loves trains, so this story is a huge hit with him and the descriptions are great. I, on the other hand, find the illustrations dark and the story a little choppy. It has been a great discussion book, we talk about where the North Pole is, why the children are sad, and all the things around the train in the pictures.

Fancy Nancy Page

Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas, Jane O’Connor: This has been a favorite since we picked it up. The pictures are great and Cuteness usually repeats the phrases, “viola” and “oh la la” when we read them. I love how this story doesn’t focus on Santa or present but really focuses on all the family activities around Christmas. We also love books that have some larger words in it such as “splendiferous.” If you want to your child to use multi-syllabic words then you need to use them.

Angel Pig Page

Angel Pig and The Hidden Christmas, Jan Waldron: Angel Pig, about a pig family that has no money to spend on Christmas, was one that I just loved. Due to their lack of monetary funds the pig family has to put together a Christmas with what they have. They make, bake and decorate with what they have in their home and soon find that they had everything they needed all along for a perfect holiday. My husband and I, have spent a few Christmas Holidays with no extra funds and we’ve had to make, bake and decorate with what we’ve had and those have been some of our favorite ones.

Dream Snow Page

Dream Snow, Eric Carle: This one was so loved by Cuteness that we had to put it out of reach. He kept on asking for it to be read over and over. In this story, a farmer goes about this day and starts to dream of snow. Soon all the animals and the farmer are covered by a white blanket of snow. When he awakes the farmer remembered that he had something special to get done before the end of the day. This story isn’t necessarily about Christmas but it does have a great holiday theme.

Quick Stovetop Creamy Pasta

Creamy Stovetop Pasta

Now that we are both working outside the home again we’ve found a need to add a number of quick dishes to our menu that can be tossed together quickly or made the night before. We also like recipes that allow us to have a meal either the next day or something that will pack well four lunches the next day.

This recipe fits all that criteria and it includes ingredients that we have in our pantry and fridge most of the time. While as written this recipe is not healthy (we only have it about once a year) it can be modified to make it healthier. Replacing the pasta with a whole wheat pasta, using lower-fat dairy and meat products (try turkey instead of beef) will keep this recipe just as filling with fewer calories.

I call this stovetop because a majority of it is made on the stove. If you wanted to skip the extra dirty dish and avoid the oven you can sprinkle the mozzarella on top of each individual serving or reduce the heat and let it melt on top of the stovetop dish before serving.

Quick Stovetop Creamy Pasta (PDF)

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups uncooked macaroni pasta
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1½ cups chopped onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream or milk
  • 14.5 ounces stewed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella

Preheat broiler.

Cook pasta according to package and drain. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add beef to pan. Sauté 5 minutes until brown, stirring to crumble. Add onions to beef and sauté for four additional minutes. Lower heat and add minced garlic stirring constantly for one minute.

Add flour to beef mixture, stirring frequently for one minute. Add cream, stewed tomatoes (with liquid), and cream cheese. Stir mixture over medium heat until smooth about four minutes. Add pasta to mixture.

Spray a 13×9 in baking dish with cooking spray. Pour pasta mixture into baking dish and sprinkle evenly with mozzarella. Broil for 5 minutes or until mozzarella is golden.

Cookbook Review: Essential Pepin

Essential Pepin Title

I’m a huge fan of cookbooks and books about cooks. I have the complete works of Anthony Bourdain. Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton is on my top ten list of favorite books. I not only have most of Julia Child’s cookbooks but also her My Life in France biography. I’ve never wanted to be a chef, but I’m completely fascinated by those who have made their lives be all about cooking.

One quick glance through Essential Pepin I new that this book was probably one that I will need to someday have as part of my cookbook library. While the book is full of expectant French recipes containing duck, grilled rabbit, open-faced sandwiches, veal and lamb it also contains some unexpected such as the Sweet-and-Spicy Curried Chicken which contains apple and banana along with curry and other spices. While Pepin suggests serving it over a pilaf we simply cooked up some Jasmine rice to serve it over. We were all (including the toddler) in all with this spicy dish that has a sweet afterthought.

Pepin Cooked

Pepin’s food is approachable and each recipe comes with a bit of a prolog with tips or just a sweet story about the tradition of the recipe. There are over 700 recipes in this book. Most of which have already been published but were updated for this edition. He doesn’t cover a lot of the basics in the book but it comes with a CD which includes basics in it. Most of the recipes contain ingredients that can be found in the modern American kitchen with only the occasional recipe calling for frog legs or an ingredient that could be more difficult to find for those who don’t live in larger metropolitan areas.

I’ll be sad to return this cookbook back to the library and I’m adding it to my cookbook wishlist.

Pepin Frogs

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