Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I know this much is true...

Photo credit: Rosser Photography
As a first-time (and hopefully to someday be, second-time) mom, I'm frequently weighed down by the overwhelming amount of lessons I am responsible to teach to my son.  So, I recently started writing down the ones that were really important to me.  I imagine this list will continue to grow.  And perhaps, the things that I find to be super important right now, won't be the things I emphasize when TIH is much older...but for now...these are the things I really want my child to know.

Wear sunscreen.  Wear a helmet.  Wear your seatbelt.  Look both ways before crossing the street.  Don't run on the pool deck.

Among the rudest things you can tell a person is that they look "tired."

Don't yuck anyone else's yum.  This is a lesson that starts in our house with food and goes all the way up to someone's religion.

That being said, it really is okay to disagree with someone. And if someone makes you feel bad about your disagreement, it's probably more about them than you.

I truly think you can say almost anything you need to say if you can be kind with your words.

You should always, always, always try to be kind with your words.

In practically every situation, you should respect the word "no" and the people who use it.  Expect the same from the people you surround yourself with.

Validation does not mean agreement.  You don't have to agree with anyone, but you should validate their reality at every step.

You will learn more if you are friends with people who are different from you.

Be yourself.  It is better to be hated for something you are than loved for something you're not.

Food nourishes the body, mind, and soul.  Eat well.

You are no better than any other person on this planet.

If it's "elite," you probably don't want to be a part of it.

The uncomfortable conversation you avoid having by not expressing anger directly is far less painful than letting that anger eat you alive.

Class is about making people feel comfortable around you. Class is an attribute that should never be assigned to material things.

Be nice to your server.  To the clerk at the grocery store.  To the barista at Starbucks.  To everyone you meet.  Treat others not just how you want to be treated - treat them even better than that.

Some of the most important words to have in your vocabulary:  Please.  Thank you.  Excuse me.  You're right, I'm wrong. I'm sorry.

Do something that scares you every once in awhile.  Don't enjoy life from the sidelines.  But, if something feels wrong or scary or like a bad idea in your gut - listen to that little voice.

We hope to be lucky enough to get you gifts for every Christmas, for birthdays, and sometimes gifts "just because."  We really hope you enjoy them, but I truly hope you remember and cherish more about those special days than the gifts.  Those occasions are not about the presents.

Believe in something.  I sure hope it's God, but even if it isn't, I hope you believe in whatever it is with all of your heart.

Don't litter.  Recycle.  Carpool.  Prevent forest fires.  Leave the planet better than you found it.

Be generous with what you are given and with what you earn.

Never underestimate the power of a sincerely written "thank you" note.  Gratitude is an incredibly important (and often underrated) virtue.

Love is love.

That's all I have for now.  Love, Mom

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Slow down everyone, you're moving too fast...

Dear TIH,
I don't even try to hide the fact that I was not really a baby person before I became a mother.  Whenever I would hold a friend's baby before becoming a mother myself, it was as though the baby could sense I was uncomfortable and he or she would promptly scream their heads off.  Even in the first weeks of your life, every time I held your tiny little body close to mine, I was so scared that I was "doing it wrong," that I would "break" you somehow, that you also could sense I was really not any good at this.

On one such occasion, feeling the anxiety which was all too familiar in those days, I had finally gotten you to go to sleep in the middle of the day.  I looked down at the smallness of you and was dumbfounded how such a tiny little thing could be so overwhelming for me.  I felt a tear roll down my cheek and before I knew it, I was silently crying as I held you.  I felt like SUCH a failure.  And I whispered to you, "I'm sorry about all this.  I can't wait until you get bigger."

And, you did get bigger.
You grew and grew and grew.

You learned.  You walked and talked and did all of the things I was longing for when you were that tiny baby in my arms.

Photo credit: Rosser Photography

It all happened SO fast.
And today - you are four.

I love that you're growing.  Watching you grow is one of the great privileges of my life.  And, I love that we've gotten to grow together.  I got to grow from a sort of selfish woman who didn't really have any idea what it was like to take care of anyone else into someone else entirely.

Your mom.

Photo credit: Rosser Photography

So, thanks buddy.  Thanks for letting me watch you grow.  Thanks for teaching me in your little way to be the woman that I am today.

I know you're excited by how big you're getting and how much you're learning.  You tell us every day about the new "big boy" things you can do.  And truthfully, it breaks my heart a little bit.

Buddy, I have to tell you, it's not so scary for me that you're little anymore.  It's actually much scarier how fast the time is going.  So...if it isn't too much to ask - slow it down just a bit.

Because as it turns out, I can wait for you to be bigger.


From this year's photo shoot with Rosser Photography.
Stephanie, I am forever indebted to you for these priceless and beautiful memories.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I don't quite know how to say how I feel...

Last month I got to see my little sister marry the love of her life.  The minute she asked me to be her matron of honor, I knew exactly what I wanted to say to her in her toast.  I thought I'd share it with you all today.  Enjoy.

I'm an ugly crier.
For those who don’t know, I am Andrea’s sister Amanda.  You know, I’ve been in a lot of weddings (though this is my first time being the matron of honor) and I have to tell you, mostly matrons of honor tell the story the first time they met the groom.  So, I guess that means I’m supposed to tell you that story and tell you that I immediately knew that Ricky was perfect for Andrea and all of that.  Truth be told, I had no idea if he was perfect for Andrea that night or not.  I do know that when my son stuck his entire hand in Ricky’s pumpkin beer, Ricky didn’t even flinch and went immediately and bought himself another one.  No questions asked.  No hard feelings whatsoever.  So whether or not Andrea liked him, as far as my husband and I were concerned, we were going to keep Ricky around for awhile.

Actually, the story I really want to tell tonight is one that happened several years before Andrea and Ricky even knew one another.  Back in January 2006, our family took a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona.  We stayed at a resort on a golf course which had about every available amenity you can think of including, in the center of the resort, a beautiful pool that was gorgeously landscaped, huge, had tons of lounge chairs, fluffy white towels, and a huge water slide that made it look like it had been carved out of a mountain.  As St. Louisans are wont to do at the opportunity to swim in the middle of January, we decided to spend an afternoon poolside and all made our way down there as a group.  Well, everyone except for Andrea, who told us she needed to “get ready” before she met us down there.

I settled myself in on a lounger and opened my book, reading only for a little while before I noticed my sister making her way across the pool deck.  Let me tell you - she was decked. out.  Every inch of her was styled to perfection - from her bathing suit coverup to her flip flops to her sunglasses to her beach bag - everything matched, everything looked great on her, and everything looked perfectly together.  She took the chair next to me, settled in, pulled out a magazine, and leisurely began to flip the pages.  

About three minutes passed when she tossed aside the magazine and announced loudly, “I’m bored.”  She stood up.  Threw off the sunglasses.  Kicked off the flip flops.  And made a beeline straight for the water slide.  Where, she entertained herself by going down the water slide, SQUEALING with delight the entire time.  This went on for about an hour until she got bored with that and dragged me across the pool deck and made me go down about twenty or thirty times.

I tell this story here today, not only because I cannot pass an opportunity to tell a funny Andrea story, but also because I think it perfectly encapsulates Andrea.  It’s pretty normal for a little sister to look up to her big sister, but I am here to say that, though she may be my crazy little sister - I have always looked up to Andrea.

She is 100% able to pull herself together.  She’s graceful and poised and truly makes it all look effortless.  However, she also knows when to throw that all off and just have a really good time. 

And here’s the good news - though I haven’t known him quite as long as I’ve known her - I can say with some certainty that Ricky possesses these same qualities.  (Which is mostly convenient because Andrea needs someone to go down the water slide with her.)

Marriage - I’ve found in my long 5 and a half years - is a little bit like that.  You need to be able to be serious.  To pull yourselves together and remain poised when the occasion calls for it.  But, also, you have to know when to shake it all off, have a great time, and go down the water slide together.

If today is any indication of the joy you will share in the life you spend together, I think you guys are going to be just fine.  And so, I lift my glass to you and to your joy on this day and in all the days that follow.  I love you both.  Congratulations.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Homeward bound...

Check me out.  I was able to register the New Mom on the Blog domain name over the weekend and even get it set up with my old URL.  I'm official y'all.  Though you will be redirected from the old .blogspot URL, you can update your bookmarks or feeds...just because it makes me feel fancy.

I have probably hundreds of foods tied to memories in my life, but the recipe I'm sharing here today has a taste so nostalgic for me, I might as well be sitting beside a campfire outside of my grandparent's camper the moment I take a bite.  I did a little research on Pinterest and it looks like "foil packet dinners" are becoming a pretty popular trend.  Maybe they're en vogue right now, but I can tell you that my family has been making these for decades (and upon talking to my grandmother about the etiology of this recipe - it appears they've been around for even longer than she thought.)

My family always called these "hobo dinners" and if you search for recipes for that, you'll find something very similar to what I'm going to share today. (You can also look for "foil packet dinners" as I mentioned before, or "campfire dinners.")  From what I gather now, this recipe came from a friend of my great uncle, though we always were told this was something my grandmother learned from all of her years as a Girl Scout leader.  No matter where exactly this recipe came from, we know that, like all things that get handed down, we've adapted it slightly over the years and have learned little tricks along the way.  I'm very excited to share it with you today.  The Incredible Hulk (who we all know has his picky eating moments), declared this his "favorite" meal and ate every single bite.  You know it's a winner with that sort of endorsement.

Though these are great to bring along for camping and can be cooked on an open fire, we cooked ours on our grill at home.  You can also just stick them in the oven.  Additionally, once you've learned the method of filling the packets and cooking them, you can pretty much stick whatever you want in there (even dessert items!)  This would also be a great way to cook up some veggies for my non-meateater friends.  (The vegetables were pretty much TIH's favorite part anyway.)

Let's get started.

{Hobo Dinners}

Cast of characters.
- 2 pieces of foil 2-3 feet in length per packet {Use heavy duty foil - we didn't and it worked, but was a pain...learn from my mistake.}
- 1 hamburger patty {Create this however you want - we used our usual method for cooking hamburgers and seasoned them as such.}
- 1 carrot per packet (chopped)
- 1 celery stalk per packet (chopped)
- 1 red potato per packet (peeled and sliced) {The red potato is so important.  My family has been using them in our cooking forever and they are just the best.  No comparison to any other potato variety.}
- half an onion per packet (chopped)
- 1/2 can of tomato sauce per packet
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 pat of butter per packet {My family always uses a pat of Fleischman's margarine which was how the recipe was taught to us.  I haven't used margarine in my cooking in years and don't even keep it in the house.  In fact, when I eat margarine now, it makes me pretty sick.  I do know for a fact that you can use either form and these will still turn out delicious.  But, Time magazine did recently devote its cover to butter with the headline: "Eat butter." Who am I to argue with Time?}

- Place one burger on top of one piece of foil and cover it with the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and sliced red potato.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.

There's a nice burger underneath all of that good stuff.
- Pour the tomato sauce directly over the vegetables and add the pat of butter (or margarine.)  Season with more salt or pepper

Next step: take a blurry cell phone image for your blog. #fail
 - Now comes the art of foil packetry.  Make a tent out of the foil and fold it at the top.  Continue rolling down until you meet your pile of veggies/meat/sauce.  Then fold up the sides.

I submit to you: the foil tent.
- Flip your foil packet over and then re-roll it with a second piece of foil in the same fashion.  This will keep the juices from leaking out.

Like so.  (As you can see, the results don't have to be pretty.)
- Repeat these steps until you have a foil packet per person ready to go on the grill.  Hobo dinners are customizable, so if anyone likes theirs a certain way (e.g., no meat, no celery, etc.) you can mark them with nail polish.  (This was a suggestion from my grandmother because she says the nail polish won't burn off on the grill so you'll still be able to see whose is whose.)

We lost our grill to a bird's nest this spring. (Gross.)  Here's the new one.  Ain't she a beaut?
- The cook time for these will vary based on the way you are cooking them.  Ours were on the grill for about 30 minutes and were turned often.  In the oven (at 375 degrees), my grandmother said they take a lot longer.  You want to cook them until the burger is just past pink and the vegetables are soft.

- After they're done, carefully open the packet.  (A lot of steam will come out and the foil will be hot...so many burned fingers as a kid.)  Transfer to a plate if you're fancy like that.

Like a warm hug from grandma.
Other ideas and bits of advice that my grandmother had to share:
- Consider using a chunkier tomato sauce for a bit more substance
- Set the ingredients up assembly line style and have the whole family build their own packet (get the kids involved!)  This is how I learned to do it, so obviously this was my favorite tip.
- Try chicken breast, green onion, mushrooms, rice, and butter and cook using the same method
- Make "banana boats" for desert (bananas, chocolate chips, pound cake, and marshmallows with a little butter).  WOW.  Done and DONE.
- Make extra because these taste even better as leftovers (You see, these people know me...leftovers are totally my jam.)
- Serve with a nice crusty bread (I did this without even hearing it from her first...totally a good move.)

So, that's that!  Trust me when I say your whole family will love this.  My husband was a huge fan - especially because of the simple clean up.  I would love to hear about adaptations anyone tried and how they turned out.  ENJOY!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Well, she seemed all right by dawn's early light...

Guess what?  Even though you didn't see them?  There were meal plans for the months of May and June!  So...even if I slacked as a blogger, I can say that my tried and true methods of monthly meal plans continue to remain intact.  I tried some new recipes during those months...can't remember them at all (especially since I lost my beloved "I Made This" board, thanks for that, Pinterest) and so I didn't do any recipe reviews.  That's about three months with no recipe reviews.  GREAT.

I'm trying to pick up where I left off, so let's just get this meal plan shared so I can move on with my life of being a subpar blogger.  Besides, I have lots of Mad Men episodes to binge on a mise en place to prepare for tonight's pasta.

New recipes to be tried this month are denoted with a "*."  I hope to be back to share my reviews of those recipes, but you can also find my notes on those recipes by going to my new Pinterest board: "Tried It."  You'll also find links to all of the recipes featured below in one handy dandy location.  Make sure you're following me on Pinterest for access to my obsessive pinning at all times. I hope you like statement necklaces and smoothie recipes because that's a lot of what my pins feature.

{July 2014}

Tuesday, July 1 - One Pot Pasta; Salad

Wednesday, July 2 - Hobo Dinners {This requires some explanation.  This is a old family recipe that my grandmother learned when she was a Girl Scout leader.  We've made them for years and always called them "Hobo Dinners."  It's basically a foil-packet dinner that can be cooked on the grill or a campfire (if you are so inclined.)  I'm hoping to provide a tutorial for this one up on the blog because it's  not only an easy meal - it's also delicious (total comfort food for me) AND very versatile.  Once you've got the concept down, you'll be cooking all of your food in foil before you know it.  Okay...maybe not.} {UPDATE:  I've shared the recipe for this meal!  Check it out!}

Thursday, July 3 - {No meal plan}

Friday, July 4 - {Happy Fourth! No meal plan - but I'll hopefully be eating something delicious and bad for me.  'MURCA.}

Saturday, July 5 - {No meal plan - attending a family reunion.  Likely eating embarrassing amounts of fried chicken - please remind me to run approximately 12 miles upon return.}

Sunday, July 6 - Grilled Fish* {Salmon for me; Tilapia for my husband}; Roasted Zucchini; Rice

Monday, July 7 - Beef Lo Mein*; Salad

Tuesday, July 8 - Buffalo Pork Chops; One Pot Fettucini Alfredo*; Sauteed Green Beans {I love my own famous fettucini recipe, but this one only calls for one pot.  Trying it out for the first time, but I'm already sold.}

Wednesday, July 9 - Chicken Taco Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {We're still using our own blend of taco seasoning to season taco meats and LOVING it.  I've made this Cilantro Lime Dressing recipe before and could eat it with a spoon.}

Thursday, July 10 - Greek Stuffed Pitas; Salad

Friday, July 11 - ORDER PIZZA

Saturday, July 12 - Crock Pot Pulled Pork; Grilled Corn; Potato Wedges {My husband and I have our own special pulled pork recipe that's a favorite, but I recently saw this recipe on Pinterest and we may give that a try instead.}

Sunday, July 13 - Grilled Shrimp with Mustard Sauce*; Baked Potatoes; Sauteed Brussels & Corn {Okay, for starters, I have always loved brussels sprouts no matter how you serve them.  If you don't like brussels sprouts - I get it...it's an acquired taste...however, I feel like 95% of people are not trying to cook them in any interesting way.  We tried this amazing brussels sprouts and corn recipe the other day and my husband - who does not like brussels - went back for SECONDS.  He's converted, y'all.  Proudest day of my life. SERIOUSLY.  TRY IT.}

Monday, July 14 - {No meal plan.}

Tuesday, July 15 - {No meal plan.}

Wednesday, July 16 - {No meal plan.}

Thursday, July 17 - TIH TURNS FOUR! (WHAT?)  
Stuffed Peppers; Salad; Bread {I made a meal plan, but I have a feeling we will take TIH out to dinner.  That's been our tradition for the past few years.}

Friday, July 18 - Grilled Brats; Cole Slaw; Tator Tots

Saturday, July 19 - {No meal plan.  We may have visitors, so I haven't decided what to serve yet.}

Sunday, July 20 - {No meal plan.}

Monday, July 21 - Lemon Shrimp with Parmesan Rice*; Steamed Asparagus

Tuesday, July 22 - Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad; Bread

Wednesday, July 23 - Beef Dip Sandwiches; Steamed Broccoli; Chips

Thursday, July 24 - Crock Pot Fried Rice; Salad

Friday, July 25 - Steaks; Grilled Vegetables; Baked Potatoes {My husband is the king of grilled veggies.  I usually do a variety of bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, red onions, tomatoes, and then toss in a few cloves of garlic.  You bite down on one of those?  You know what heaven tastes like.}

Saturday, July 26 - Spinach & Mushroom Smothered Chicken*; Carrots; Pasta

Sunday, July 27 - Cheesy Chicken Orzo*; Salad

Monday, July 28 - Pizzadillas; Salad

Tuesday, July 29 - Chicken Caesar Sandwiches; Chips

Wednesday, July 30 - Shrimp & Guacamole Tostadas; Cilantro Lime Rice

Thursday, July 31 - Breaded Pork Chops; Sauteed Asparagus; Cous Cous


Check back this month where I will at least TRY to review some of these recipes.  I'm also planning to answer the FAQ regarding monthly meal plans - "Do you stick to your plan?"  Within reason I usually stick to the plan, but I thought I'd give you an idea of what that looks like by posting a "meal plan vs. reality" post.  Hope to hear what you all are cooking.  I'm in desperate need for ideas.  Picking recipes has become like pulling teeth for some nights.  Post your ideas here!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Oink, oink, diggity dear...

Please add this post to the every growing list of New Mom on the Blog posts that are nothing about being a "new mom."  Also add it to the also lengthy list of blog posts tagged under "shameless self-promotion."
Jazz hands for days.

As I teased in my previous post (and blamed for my two-month blog hiatus), I had the pleasure of seeing a school year's worth of work come to fruition at my place of employment.  For the entire school year, we've been working on putting together our very first musical at the school I work for, and on June 6 what was once a silly dream became a magical reality.  To describe it in words doesn't seem fair - it was truly one of the coolest things I've every done.

In a rare NMOTB moment, I am sharing an interview I did with my co-worker, colleague, and friend Tyler on his podcast (The Urban Therapist) which I actually listen to weekly and LOVE.  (Does anyone else listen to podcasts?  Tyler got me hooked and I can't imagine my commute without them now.)  So, not only will you get to find out what I've been doing instead of blogging for the past few months, you'll get to hear me speak about what I do as a music therapist.  (Well, one of the things I do as a music therapist, there's a little more to it than this if you can believe it.)

The first half of the podcast is my interview followed by comments by the hosts (Tyler & Andrea).  They continue after the Three Piggy Opera part of the podcast with even more intriguing things (such as homemade kefir and public transit.)  I highly recommend you subscribe and listen to them - I generally learn something new and interesting (sometimes unrelated to music therapy) and am always quite entertained.  (And I'm not just saying that because they spend a large portion of this episode saying nice things about me...this podcast is one of my favorites.)

So - listen, enjoy, learn something new.
Follow this link and there are options for streaming the podcast or for downloading it for free on iTunes.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Help me get my feet back on the ground...

I...just don't even know what to say readers.  I'm sorry?

Truth be told, the time I've spent away from the blog has been spent quite well.  For example, I watched my little sister marry the love of her life and enjoyed every minute of it.  I also directed 80 elementary students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the very first musical our school has ever seen.  (I also watched the newest season of Orange is the New Black.)  So...even though it's been awhile, at least I can say it was time very very very well spent, but I'm ready to stop ignoring this blog I actually love a whole lot (even though I sometimes treat it like a red-headed stepchild.)

During my absence, I also somehow lost my beloved "I Made This" Pinterest board.  This board is where I was reposting all of the recipes (and some of the changes I made to recipes) I feature here on the blog.  The loss of this board feels catastrophic (yes, I realize it isn't), but it is a reminder of why I need to be better at blogging so that I am hosting my own content and not storing it somewhere where I have no control if something happens.  However, if you do know how to get this board back for me (Pinterest says they can't), I might actually pay you one million trillion dollars...somehow.  So, if you're looking for recipe recommendations, your best bet is to crawl through old recipe review posts until I'm able to rebuild.

Today, I'm back on the blog already hocking a product, and one that I've already pitched to you all at that...so you know I must really, really love this product.

The fine folks at Just for Mom Savings have asked me to be a regular contributor to their awesome quarterly booklets for moms.  ALL you have to do is go to their website and sign up and you will receive their booklets which are not only filled with great ideas and recipes from awesome moms (like yours truly), but you'll also get tons of savings from products you're already using.  (This quarter's coupons include Seventh Generation, Gerber, and Amy's Organic Foods - all of which are products which make regular appearances in my shopping cart with or without a coupon.)

And don't let the name fool you, a lot of these savings (and even some of the tips) can be enjoyed by non-parents as well (Dish TV, ProFlowers, and personalized stationery - just to name a few.)

What do you have to lose (other than the money you'll be wasting by not using these FREE coupons)?  

If you want to receive this quarter's book, make sure you sign up before July 1...but, why wait?  Go now!

You can also join in the social media fun by following Just for Mom Savings on Facebook and Twitter!

Though I am a contributor to Just for Mom Savings and receive advanced copies for review, the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.  Obviously I barely have the time to wash my own hair some days, so I'm not going to take the time to write about a product I don't fully endorse (plus, it's free, so whatever.)

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