Monday, November 23, 2015

Begin again...

Brevity has never been my strong suit.
You ask me what time it is and I'll tell you how to build a clock.

So, as the weeks and then months and then nearly a year passed - I really wasn't sure how I could come back here without writing nothing short of a novel. I'll try to be brief, but that isn't easy for me.

To say a lot has changed in the past year would be a drastic understatement. Here's a short list.

- I got promoted and became the head of my department making many dreams come true and giving me the opportunity to do even more of what I love to do so much.

- We decided to put our house on the market. While some of our neighbors were truly the best people we've never known, we knew that with The Incredible Hulk starting Kindergarten in the fall and being hesitant about the school he was slated to attend, we needed to make a change and began the arduous process of preparing our dream home to be put up for sale.

- We went to Disney World for the first time as a family. (Not that important, just part of what we've been spending our time doing and important for a future post I hope to write.)

- We started showing our house. It was on the market for around 45 days. In the first week we had 9 showings. It was not an easy time in our lives.

- I got in a car accident. The other driver was texting when she hit me. It wasn't bad, but it totaled my vehicle. And so, in the same week we put our house on the market, we were in the market for a new car. I got another minivan. Hell didn't freeze over.

- My team put on our second musical with the students at our school. Oh, and it was on the news. NBD.

- I got promoted...again. This time to a job I've been spending my career working toward with a team of professionals I respect so much. It was a bit ground-breaking to tell the truth. It meant stepping away from being solely a music therapist (I haven't touched a guitar in three months) - and now instead using those skills to oversee an educational team. More dreams coming true.

- We took a another trip to our happy place. Michigan in the summer will officially be a tradition for our family as long as they'll allow it. This time we were hosted by some of the best friends in the world and if there was any reason we were able to get through this stressful year in one piece, it's because of them.

- Our house sold...and we hadn't yet found a place to live. So we started that process. Which had its heartbreaking moments. Lots of beautiful homes that didn't work out...

- ...but, with two days to spare before TIH started Kindergarten, we moved into our new home. We love our neighborhood, we love how much closer we are to our family here. We love his school. We have LOTS of work to do on the new home and we love that too. We're starting our first official project today...which brings me to the final bit of news...

Photo credit: Rosser Photography

I was finally ready to begin again. It took me awhile to get there. And then it took us even longer to respect God's timeline. But, on the day that I drove home from the musical at my school, still giddy from the success of another year, something told me to stop and get a test.

So I did.
And I was.

This pregnancy began much like the first - being bowled over my nausea from around week 6 to week 16. And then smooth sailing.

Oh...and it's another boy.
When I started this blog (5 years ago next week), I always imagined that I would chronicle my second pregnancy week by week. Share every detail. Every funny story. Every way that this pregnancy is all at once totally different than my first, and in some ways completely the same.

Instead, I've been reveling in the here and now a bit. Without putting words to it. I know this is likely the last round for us. So, I've just been enjoying the journey and not wondering what is going to happen next.

There's been enough change for one year. I'm happy to revel in the simplicity of stasis.

Brevity has never been my strong suit.
I'm always afraid I'll leave out some detail that will bring everything together for the reader.
But, at some point, I just had to start somewhere simple.
Simple is good.

Photo credit: Rosser Photography

Monday, December 1, 2014

Picture this...

If ever you walked into the NMTOB house, you would find yourself staring at a whole lot of pictures of our faces.  I've never really been so great at decorating and I'm even worse at finding wall art that doesn't A: resemble something you would find in a hotel or B: fail to measure up to the proportions of the wall.  The result of this is crippling design paralysis and a lot of blank walls.

However, the one investment I have been willing to make year after year is photography.  Whether it be scenery shots of my favorite places to visit or adorable snapshots that needed to live somewhere other than Instagram, every room of our house is filled with lovely photographs.  Call it boring, call it borderline narcissistic, but at least the walls aren't blank.

So, when the people from WoodSnap contacted me about a product review, I was stoked.  Their product combines my first love (beautiful pictures) and wall art in a way that makes people stop and say, "Hey, wait.  That is seriously cool."  (No, really they've done exactly that since our WoodSnap has been sitting on my mantle.)

Since we received ours, I can't stop thinking of cool things you could have printed to display.  Maps of your favorite cities.  Reprints of old family photos.  Cool collages you creative types can make in Photoshop.  Beautiful quotes in pretty fonts.  The options really are endless.

Me?  I opted for printing this lovely photo courtesy of our fourth (!!!) photo shoot with Rosser Photography.

The result was stunning:

Our WoodSnap taking up residence in our Christmas mantle display.
I am so impressed by the vibrancy of the colors and the fact that you actually have to walk up to it to see that it's made of wood.  This makes it an attractive conversation piece.

I know what you're thinking - "This would make THE PERFECT GIFT for my grandmother/mother/co-worker/sister, etc."  Right you are!  And the best news is that WoodSnap is offering 30% off orders today for Cyber Monday as well as Free Ground Shipping for US orders.  So, order the best gift today, get it here well before your first holiday gathering, and save a buck in the process.

How could it be any better?
So, hurry up.  Get those presents purchased, so you can sit back and drink some wine enjoy the holiday!

Though WoodSnap provided me with complimentary product for review on this blog,  the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.  Obviously I barely have the time to wash my own hair daily, so I'm not going to take the time to write about a product I don't fully endorse

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Turkey Lurkey time...

If you've never heard the song referenced in this post's title, please FEAST YOUR EYES.  Because, it is one of my all time favorites.

So, last year around this time I had this wild idea that I'd really like to host Thanksgiving at my house this year.  2013 Me was clearly a bit on the over-zealous side, but 2014 Me decided to just go with it.

As you've probably noticed, I have been a terrible, neglectful blog owner and meal planner. I've planned November, but mostly week by week.  (I will try to be back for December to finish out the year strong...maybe.)  However, I'm going to attempt to make all of that better by sharing the NMOTB menu for Thanksgiving 2014 (hopefully to be repeated in years to come.)  I'll include recipe links, but there are a few things here and there which are family recipes that I can't really share.  Not because I don't want to, but because I have practically studied how to make these things successfully. Unless you all want to swing by my house and watch me.  Bring wine.

Without further ado, I present to you The NMOTB Thanksgiving Extravaganza (AKA: How to Try Really, Really Hard Not to Give 15 People Salmonella Poisoning).

This is a picture of the veggie tray I actually made for Thanksgiving 2012. #nailedit
Appetizers Because nobody is hungrier than guests who can smell turkey but can't eat it yet.
Veggie Tray with Ranch Dip and Hummus
Cranberry & Rosemary Cheese Spread
- Assorted Cheeses and Olives
- Mixed Nuts

Dinner Because my middle name is "Casserole."
Roasted Turkey with Stuffing {I'm not going to lie, I was going to kind of wing it on the turkey (pun totally intended) since I've seen my mother-in-law put hers together many times and it always comes out perfectly, but then I started getting really nervous that I'd screw it up.  So, I'm mostly going to follow the suggestions under the link.  And have my fingers crossed.  For the stuffing, I just follow the directions on the bag.}
- Mashed Red Potatoes and Gravy {Following the recipes for both which have been handed down for generations.  Trust me on the red potatoes...they make the BEST mashed potatoes you've ever had.}
- Corn Casserole
- Sweet Potato Casserole {Never been big on this myself...I put it on my plate every year (because, THANKSGIVING), but it isn't my fave.  My husband, on the other hand, lives for it, so I'm trying this recipe out.}
- Green Bean Casserole {Our family is the traditional sort that just likes the recipe on the back of the soup can.  What can I say?}
- Macaroni & Cheese {I grew up with two Southern-cooking grandmas, so this has to be on my menu.  However, I have a lovely guest bringing it for me, so I'll ask her for the recipe to share some other time!}
- Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa with Cranberries {Warning, this recipe comes from Thug Kitchen which is the best recipe website on the planet, but has language that is probably NSFW.}
- Roasted Broccoli {We were going to have steamed asparagus, but the roasted broccoli is SO much better, my husband convinced me to switch.}
- Cranberry Sauce {Another recipe out of Thug Kitchen.}
- Green Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette {I had this dressing at a dinner party the other day, and OHMYLORD.}
- Dinner Rolls {Did you see the list of food I just said I was preparing?  I bought frozen rolls. Deal.}

Dessert Because we'll all need something to tide us over before we start digging into the leftovers.
- Pumpkin Pie {Another recipe to be made by a guest. I can't bake.  It's no secret.}
- Apple Pie {My husband is making his recipe...he insists upon this every year.}
- Sea Salted Caramel Torte with Chocolate Ganache {Right, so remember when I said I can't bake?  So I decided to try baking by making an exceptionally complicated dessert with three different components.  This won't end well.  For example: I ground the almonds for the crust and then knocked the entire 1/4 cup over into the sink.  At least my apron is cute.}
- Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Oh, and drinks.  A lot of them.  I'm convinced that the trick to a successful Thanksgiving Dinner is to get your guests good and drunk so they'll all be too hungry to notice if your food didn't turn out so well.

In all seriousness, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday.  Yes, partially because it is a holiday completely centered around eating, but also because it's a holiday that almost always begins and ends with delightful time spent with loved ones celebrating the most important thing a person can possess - gratitude. I am unbelievably excited to start my own traditions this year by hosting this delightful meal.  Here's to many returns.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Veggie luv...

As I've made pretty clear in my posts here, one of the most beneficial things I've found about meal planning is giving my family a varied and well-rounded dinner menu for the month.  Because we like our veggies around the NMOTB house, we go through produce like no other.  The only thing that bothers me sometimes is that I've been known to get stuck in a produce rut.  We generally cycle through the same 5-10 vegetables/preparations a few times a month and that can get awfully boring.

Enter, Door to Door Organics Produce Delivery.

If you're not familiar with the concept, DTDO provides a service where on a weekly/biweekly basis, you can have fresh, organic produce delivered right to your door step.  What I love about it is that the produce box is predetermined for you (though you can build a profile with your tastes/make substitutions as necessary), so it offers the opportunity to try a variety of produce you'd otherwise skip over if you're stuck in a rut (like me.)

When our box arrived (with the apt slogan, "Joy Delivered"), it was like Christmas Day.
I don't think I've ever torn into a box so excitedly before.

The medium vegetable box we ordered was literally brimming with gorgeous, fresh produce.  I also added a few things from their fresh market (they have practically EVERYTHING you could want out of a natural food store).

I might be hooked forever.

DTDO tasked me with creating an original recipe to share with you all as part of a giveaway we'll be doing this week on the blog.  Two lucky Chicago-area readers will receive a $50.00 gift certificate each toward your own box of Joy Delivered.

I wanted to share a recipe that was easy to cook on a weeknight (because in the NMOTB kitchen, those are the best meals you can ask for) as well as a recipe that would offer a way to use any number of the great organic vegetables that would come in a produce box delivery.  This recipe is totally customizable, so make it with your favorite combination of vegetables, use your favorite jarred or homemade marinara, and whatever pasta strikes your fancy.

Hope you enjoy!

{NMOTB Pasta Primavera}

- 3ish tablespoons EVOO (as if I measured what feels good)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic (sliced thin)
- 1 yellow onion (diced)
- 6 cremini mushrooms (sliced thin)
- 1 zucchini (sliced into half coins)
- 1 head of broccolini (chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
- 1 jar of marinara (I usually make my own, but for the purposes of this recipe, I used Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce which is GREAT and available in the DTDO pantry, do whatever you want!)
- 1 pound of the pasta of your choice (We used this fresh spaghetti and it was OUTSTANDING.  Dried pasta of any shape would be fine as well!)
- 1 can of cannellini beans (rinsed/drained)
- 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
- Italian Seasoning (eyeball this)
- Salt/Pepper to taste
- Freshly shredded parmesan for garnish

- Drizzle some of the EVOO in a large skillet and warm over medium low heat.  Add sliced garlic and heat until fragrant.

- Add diced onion and toss with more EVOO.  Heat until soft/translucent.

- Add all vegetables into pan (and toss with more EVOO if things are a little too dry, you can tell it's one of my favorite ingredients).  Stir everything up, season with Italian Seasoning and a little S&P, and cover the vegetables.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are softened, stirring frequently.

- Meanwhile, boil your pasta in salted water.  If using fresh, this takes less than 5 minutes, so save enough time for whatever you're making.

- Once vegetables have softened, pour marinara and can of beans into the skillet and stir to coat everything.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

- Add pasta and spinach and toss until spinach is slightly wilted.

- Garnish pasta with fresh cheese.  We used this delightful Olive Oil and Rosemary asiago.  Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the delicious sauce and a nice green salad featuring gorgeous DTDO produce!


Are you ready to make your own delicious recipe with a box from DTDO?  Below you'll find all of the great ways to win using my fancy Rafflecopter giveaway widget.  The only bummer of this giveaway is that you must live in the greater Chicagoland area to enter (unless you live in which case, there are no bummers!)  You can search for your zip code here to see if you qualify.  The giveaway ends at midnight on Friday, October 24, and I'll be announcing the winner here on the blog on Friday morning!

However, because they're so awesome, DTDO is also offering $10.00 off your first order exclusive to NMOTB readers.  So even if you don't win the giveaway, you can try out produce box deliveries at a discounted price.  Follow the link here to get started.

Follow the Rafflecopter directions below for multiple ways to enter the giveaway and may the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Though Door to Door Organics  provided me with a complimentary delivery for review on this blog  the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.  Obviously I barely have the time to wash my own hair daily, so I'm not going to take the time to write about a product I don't fully endorse.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I wanna catch up...

Okay, as promised, I'm here today to give you what remains of the October 2014 meal plan.  I say "what remains" because although I meal planned the first and second weeks of the month...for the life of me, I cannot remember what we ate.  Some of the time was spent on travel and celebrating our sixth anniversary, but there were a lot of dinners eaten at home that I'm still forgetting.  This is such a blogging fail, I can't even discuss it.  So, let's all pretend that the month of October started on the 13th and move on.
Something super exciting that will be happening here at NMOTB this month is a giveaway from Door to Door Organics.  This will be specifically for my Chicagoan readers, but it is a giveaway that literally could be for ANY demographic this blog reaches.  (Moms? Sure.  Non-moms?  Great.  Non-women?  Awesome. Single, married, divorced? Have at it.)  Come back here next week for all of the details and to check out the yummy original recipe I'll be sharing made exclusively from my own DTDO delivery.

Remember that for up-to-the-minute meal planning ideas and recipe reviews, you can always go follow me on Pinterest.  Somehow I manage to neglect that form of social media less than any other form.  Recipes with a "*" are ones you can find reviews for on my Tried It! pin board.

Monday, October 13 - {No meal plan. Wow.  Already this is not going well.}

Tuesday, October 14 - One Pot Pasta; Salad

Wednesday, October 15 - Slow Cooker Quinoa Tex Mex*; Guacamole

Thursday, October 16 - DTDO Original Meal: NMOTB Pasta Primavera; Green Salad; Bread with Basil Butter

Friday, October 17 - Burgers; Cole Slaw; Tator Tots

Saturday, October 18 - {No meal plan.  Attending Paige's wedding!}

Sunday, October 19 - Spaghetti; Salad; Bread

Monday, October 20 - Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad

Tuesday, October 21 - Buffalo Pork Chops; Pasta; Roasted Broccoli

Wednesday, October 22 - Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad; Bread

Thursday, October 23 - Steak Teriyaki Ramen*; Egg Rolls (Probably going to get some that are frozen because I'm keeping it real.)

Friday, October 24 - Order In

Saturday, October 25 - Chili Bar!  (We're having a big Halloween costume party and will be serving multiple versions of chili with all of the accouterments you can imagine!)

Sunday, October 26 - Vegetable Beef Soup; Bread

Monday, October 27 - Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole*; Salad

Tuesday, October 28 - Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup*

Wednesday, October 29 - Crockpot Jambalaya*; Salad; Corn Bread

Thursday, October 30 - Shrimp Avocado Pasta*; Salad

Friday, October 31 - Pizza

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Responsibility? What's that...

Also known as, the meal plan I created and never posted.
I'm trying to make this up to you all by posting not only the VERY late October meal plan, but also the laughably absent September meal plan this week.  I also have a giveaway coming up.  Can we still be friends?

(Traditionally, the busiest part of my school year is the Fall when a lot of the students I serve have their annual IEP reviews.  Last year, this somehow made me exceptionally more productive blog-wise.  This year, I have no excuse other than the fact that I'm lazy.  Or something.)

Remember that for up-to-the-minute meal planning ideas and recipe reviews, you can always go follow me on Pinterest.  Somehow I manage to neglect that form of social media less than any other form.  Recipes with a "*" are ones you can find reviews for on my Tried It! pin board.

{September 2014}

Monday, September 1 - Burgers; Cole Slaw; Tator Tots

Tuesday, September 2 - {No meal plan.}

Wednesday, September 3 - {No meal plan.}

Thursday, September 4 - {No meal plan.}

Friday, September 5 - Burgers; Tator Tots; Cole Slaw

Saturday, September 6 - {No meal plan - we have a lot of plans in September that involves me not having to cook.  I like September!}

Sunday, September 7 - Balsamic Glazed Steak Rolls; Smashed Potatoes; Asparagus

Monday, September 8 - Chicken Piccata*; Angel Hair Pasta; Roasted Broccoli

Tuesday, September 9 - One Pot Shrimp Orzo*; Salad

Wednesday, September 10 - Slow Cooker Pork Roast*; Egg Noodles; Salad

Thursday, September 11 - Rotisserie Chicken; Orzo Salad

Friday, September 12 - Grilled Skirt Steak; Grilled Vegetables; Baked Potatoes

Saturday, September 13 - {No meal plan.}

Sunday, September 14 - {No meal plan.}

Monday, September 15 - {No meal plan.}

Tuesday, September 16 - {No meal plan.}

Wednesday, September 17 - Crockpot Pot Pie*; Biscuits; Salad

Thursday, September 18 - Mustard Garlic Lime Marinaded Chicken*; Roasted Zucchini; Cous Cous

Friday, September 19 - {No meal plan - we're entertaining!}

Saturday, September 20 - Lemon Herb Steak Foil Packet; Salad

Sunday, September 21 - Spicy Sausage Pasta; Salad

Monday, September 22 - Beer Marinaded Chicken*; Grilled Corn on the Cob; Cilantro Lime Rice

Tuesday, September 23 - Chipotle Bowls

Wednesday, September 24 - Crockpot Italian Chicken; Pasta; Salad

Thursday, September 25 - Chicken Sausage with Roasted Brussels in Pesto Pasta; Salad

Friday, September 26 - Grilled Italian Sausage; One Pan Fettuccine Alfredo; Peas

Saturday, September 27 - Buffalo Chicken Wraps; Chips

Sunday, September 28 - Chili

Monday, September 29 - Lemon Chicken Potato Casserole*; Steamed Asparagus

Tuesday, September 30 - Beef Tacos; Rice; Guacamole


Stay tuned later this week for an additional half of a meal plan (I know.  I can't pull it together) as well as some details for the giveaway I'll be doing in the next few weeks from Door to Door Organics!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Oh, Lido...

Lido missed the boat that day
He left the shack
But that was all he missed
And he ain't comin' back

Dear Lido,

A little over five years ago, there was a great buzz going around the hospital where I worked that the feral cat who lived in the courtyard had given birth to the cutest kittens.  Slowly, many of the kittens disappeared and even the mama cat was nowhere to be found - but, you remained.  My friend and co-worker at the time would sneak out and find your tiny little self hiding in the bushes or laying out in the sun and would send me pictures.

"You need to adopt this cat."

I was convinced that I was not a cat person and in truth, that I wasn't a pet person in general.  Shortly before we were married, we adopted a puppy.  The dog was needy and didn't sleep and was not a good fit for a home with two working owners.  We were able to find her a new home with family members, but I still look at our decision to adopt the dog as one of my biggest failures in life.  The entire situation made me terrified that I would never be able to be a good mother if I couldn't even care for a silly animal.

So, with that history I told my friend I would never adopt you because I didn't want another shot to fail at pet ownership.

And yet a few days later (and against all good judgment), I somehow had you sitting in my front seat in an old copy paper box with holes cut out so you could breathe, waiting to come home with us.  You hissed and spit and refused to eat for the first few days we had you.  We thought you were just nervous, but we soon learned that this fiery personality was pretty much uniquely you. 

We named you by putting my playlist on shuffle until we heard a name we liked.
And that song was "Lido Shuffle."

There were times that people didn't even know we owned a cat because we had to put you away when guests came over. Unlike normal cats, instead of running and hiding under beds when you were nervous, you would stalk our guests and slap them with your paws.  You'd hiss and growl and even bit a few people.  You were kind of a jerk, Lido.  But, you were our jerk.

When we brought The Incredible Hulk home, you didn't go near me for 8 months.  You seemed to hold me personally responsible for this new family member cramping your style.

But, you eventually figured out that he was here to stay and for the most part, you accepted that.
You also accepted that we liked him a little bit more than you.

You got a lot of second chances with us, Lido.  This must be why people say cats have nine lives.
I hope you know that we tried to keep you.

You hissed at my pregnant belly when I used cocoa butter because you didn't like the smell. You meowed anytime anyone closed a bathroom door to you, only to have us open it up so you could walk away. Affection was mostly on your terms, but when you did cuddle, you were actually kind of great at it.  (Even though you insisted on licking us constantly because you clearly you thought we didn't bathe enough.)  You loved pepperoni, a fact we discovered when we had to put you on Prozac to improve your mood and hiding it in the pepperoni was the only way to get you to take it.  (You totally knew we were drugging you, thanks for only spitting on the meds sometimes.)  You loved to sit in front of open windows and meow incessantly.  I told you to be quiet a lot, but I want you to know that I really loved that sound because it told me how happy you were.  You made us into the cat people we never really thought we'd be.

I hope you know we wish it could be any other way.
I hope you know we wanted to ignore the two doctors who told us this week that we shouldn't keep you as a pet anymore.
I hope you know this was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
I hope you know that I'll never know for sure if I did the right thing or not.
I hope you know that every day since, I've walked into the house expecting to hear your obnoxious meowing and feeling desperately sad when I all I hear is silence.

I texted the friend who helped me take you home to tell her you were gone, to tell her about the terrible decision we had to make, to tell her "Thank you" for convincing me to adopt you five years ago.  Because, was a really great five years.  
You were a crazy cat. But, you were our crazy cat.

She told me "Don't forget, Amanda.  You saved him."

She's halfway right.  Yes, we saved you from the courtyard where no one was around to feed you and you were likely going to meet the fate of your mom and all of your brothers/sisters.
But, Lido?  You saved me too.  Saved me from the feeling that I was a failure and could never take care of another living being.  Saved me from the crippling self-doubt I'd experienced.  Saved me from the selfish person I once was.
Lido, you made me a mama and I love you for it.
You weren't perfect.  But, you were ours.

I hope that when you get to where you're going that there's a pepperoni buffet and open windows for you to sit by for all eternity.  When we meet again, I know you'll probably purr and sit right on top of me, but bite me if I try to pet you.

And that's okay, because that's how I'll know it's you.

Lido will be runnin'
Havin' great big fun
Until he got the note
Saying tow the line or blow it
And that was all he wrote

I love you, Kitten Man.

One more for the road...

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