Thursday, March 28, 2013

Baked Spaghetti

My poor picture doesn't do this dish any justice!

I get tired of spaghetti very easily, but I think I could eat this Baked Spaghetti with cream cheese every day for a week!  I originally found this recipe at Salad in a Jar and it has become one of my favorite family meals.

Baked Spaghetti

8 oz spaghetti
1 pound ground beef
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 T butter
1/3 cup chopped onions
8 oz cream cheese
2 T milk
grated Parmesan cheese (amount is your personal preference)
french fried onions (small or large can depending on how much you like these!)

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  Drain & set aside.
Brown ground beef and drain.  Add spaghetti sauce to skillet and heat.
Combine onions and butter in small glass bowl.  Cover and microwave 4 minutes on High until soft.
Add cream cheese and milk to onions and stir well.
Using a large baking dish, assemble in the following order: thin layer of spaghetti sauce, cooked spaghetti, cream cheese / onion mixture, remaining spaghetti sauce, parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Top with french fried onions and continue baking 5 more minutes.

* You can also make this ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it without the french fried onions.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Stitch Fix #1

Last week was M's spring break so my parents came to spend the week with us.  What should have been a fun, enjoyable time with family turned into quite the opposite.  We ended up passing a stomach virus around the house all week!  Thankfully, I was least affected by it so I could help take care of everyone and do a lot of cleaning.  As bad as it sounds for me to say, I think we were all ready for the week to be over so we could go back to our normal, healthy routines.

Even though most of the week was pretty rough, it did start out on a great note.  I received my first Stitch Fix shipment!  I learned about Stitch Fix at dotMom in my Fashion for Moms breakout sessions.  When Melanie started describing it, I knew right away I had to check it out.  Here's how it works:

You start by going to the Stitch Fix website and answering questions about yourself.  It's easy stuff like what size you are and what types of clothes you need for your lifestyle.  For example, I'm a stay at home mom so I would prefer conservative, casual type pieces.  You're also able to let them know in more detail what you like and what you don't.  I don't do animal prints or leather so that was another thing I could share about myself.  Another important part of the style profile is that you can choose what price range you would like for your clothes.  I chose the most inexpensive option.  

After you have completed your profile, you're going to have to be on a waiting list for a bit.  I waited about 3-4 weeks but it definitely seems to vary based on your clothing needs/preferences and your size.  

Once I received the glorious email that I was off the waiting list, I was able to schedule my first 'fix'!  A personal stylist selects 5 items for me that she thinks I will like based on my profile.  The cost of the service is $20, but if you keep any of the clothes, you can apply that $20 to whatever you keep.

My box arrived faster than I had expected it to and here's what it looked like.  I love how the envelope says "Your stylist thought these would look great on you".

The first item in the box was a cashmere scarf.  It was a really pretty pale purple (almost gray) color but right now I need actual clothes more than accessories.  


Next was a simple black dress by DownEast.  It didn't look like much when I pulled it out of the box, but I loved the fit and feel of this dress!  


Each article of clothing comes with a tag showing ways to wear it.  For someone like me who isn't super fashionable and struggles to think outside of the box, these are so helpful!

This top from Natural Life was another one that I wasn't too sure about when I first pulled it out of the box.  However, like the dress, the fit and feel were both so great.

The reverse side of the tag with pictures also describes how you can wear the clothes.

At first glance, this was my favorite of the fix!  These blouses seem to be very in right now and I don't have one.  I was excited to receive a cute one that is also mature enough for a 30-something mama.  I can totally see me wearing this blouse from 41Hawthorne with skinny jeans this spring or white shorts this summer.


Even though the previous shirt was my favorite when I first looked, this was my favorite after I had tried everything on.  It is just so me.  The material was super soft and the fit was great.  I can actually see this Kersh shirt working for almost anyone.


Here you can see the price range ($48-68) for the clothes I received.


After your shipment arrives, you have 3 business days to send back any clothes you do not want to keep.  In the bottom of the box is a prepaid envelope that you put the clothes in and drop at any USPS mailbox.  

For the clothes you would like to keep, you just hold onto them and go online to your Stitch Fix account to pay the amount due after your $20 is deducted.  If you decide to keep all 5 items, you get a 25% discount!

Overall I thought my stylist did an awesome job of selecting clothes for me.  I seriously could have been happy keeping each piece.  I decided to just go with one item this time, and I kept the navy blouse with the white tulips.  I highly recommend this service and am already looking forward to my next 'fix' in April!  

If you would like to give Stitch Fix a try, just click here.  

Do you have any questions about Stitch Fix?  If you've tried this fun service before, I'd love to hear about your experience!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some of Our Past Adventures

I wanted to participate in this week's Show Us Your Life with Kelly's Korner but couldn't choose just one destination to write about.  Since I've written about most of our trips on my old blog, I just decided to consolidate the links here.
We grew up in Georgia, but since then have also lived in Oklahoma, Germany, Tennesee and Kansas.  Many of our day to day adventures (in cities like Nashville) are in so many posts that I couldn't include those.  Most of these are some multiple day trips that we have taken.  I am more than happy to answer any questions related to to our trips listed here or questions about Georgia, the Ft Sill/Lawton/OKC area, the Ft Campbell/Clarksville/Nashville area, the Ft Leavenworth/Kansas City area, and Germany.

Enjoy a peek into a few of our adventures!

Disney World Magic Kingdom 2011  (Lots of tips in these 5 posts)
Disney World Hollywood Studios
Disney World Animal Kingdom 
Disney World Epcot
Downtown Disney

Daytona Beach, FL 2012
Daytona Beach, FL 2011

Rock City & Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN

Disney World Magic Kingdom 2010
Magic Kingdom 2 2010

Sea World Orlando 2010

Club Med Sandpiper Bay / Port St Lucie, FL
Club Med 2
Club Med 3

St Augustine, FL

Memphis, TN

Savannah, Georgia

Garmisch, Germany

Pisa, Italy

Wurzburg, Germany

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Angie Smith at dotMom : What Our Children Need to Know

Our first general session speaker at the dotMom Conference was Angie Smith.  She was pretty much what sealed the deal for me wanting to make this trip to Dallas.  Even though the average American may not know who she is, she's pretty much a Christian mom celebrity to me!  I was so excited to hear her and she really did speak to our hearts as moms.  We could all relate with what she was sharing with us.  Here are just a few of the points I took away from her session.  They aren't necessarily verbatim and may not be exactly what she intended, but this is the way I understood them.

1.  Our children need to know they have inherent value.
They need to know that:
a.  My love is not conditional.
We won't love our children more if they do the right thing or what they think pleases us.  We won't love them any less if they mess up.

b.  They are not props in my performance
We use our children to make ourselves look good to other people and the world.  (Instagram and Facebook anyone?)  We want them to look a certain way and act a certain way so that it reflects well on US.  Angie mentioned how she noticed she would lose a special moment with her children because she interrupted it to take a picture of them and post it online.  She also mentioned how she now asks her daughter's permission before sharing pictures of her.

c.  They are not an inconvenience to me
I think this was another punch to the gut for many of us.  When we get frustrated with our children, are we giving them the impression that they are inconvenient?  When they make a mess or slow us down when we're in a hurry, how do our words and actions make them feel?

Study & celebrate your individual child.
Angie discussed how she often groups her daughters together rather than acknowledging them as individuals.  During the course of a day she would often refer to them as "girls" rather than parent them as individuals.

How can I show you I love you today?
This is a wonderful way Angie tried to do a better job of celebrating her individual children.  She would ask each this question.  The daughter that is her 'pleaser' gave the answer she thought Angie wanted to hear (read the Bible together), but after a little more prodding she shared what she would really like to do (go to Claire's!).

2.  Life is not a crisis
Angie joked about how on days where they are running late for church you would think a terrorist was in their backyard by the way everyone is running around crazy.  It is not worth it to get so upset and frustrated with one another.

a.  Productivity is not an indication of a life well lived.
I LOVED this point and I think it pretty much speaks for itself.

b.  I will not make decisions for my children out of fear
I'm having a hard time remembering exactly how Angie explained this point.  I believe she referenced the loss of her daughter, Audrey, and how she couldn't let fear that something would happen to her other girls affect the way she parented them.

3.  Our children need to know that we are pilgrims too.  We don't know it all or have it all together.
This is another great, self explanatory point.  Marlie and I were recently talking about one of her Bible verses and how only God is perfect.  This took me back to that discussion.  We can't be afraid to let our children see that we make mistakes too and we also need grace and forgiveness.  What a beautiful example to show them.

I am so thankful that Angie allowed the Lord to speak to us through her.  She is writing her own posts about these points that will be more in depth.  I'm looking forward to reading them on her site at angiesmithonline.com

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pancake Muffins

I'm always on the lookout for breakfast ideas for the weekend.  During the week, we are all pretty set on our routine breakfasts, but I like to bake my family something fresh and hot on Saturday or Sunday.  This recipe for Pancake Squares has become one of my new favorites.  I love it because you can easily make good pancakes with ingredients you already have in your kitchen.  We actually decided to put our own little twist on the recipe and make what we call pancake muffins.  That way each member of the family can choose whether to leave them plain or add their own flavors.  Marlie loves to help make these and as you can see, her toppings of choice are chocolate chips, peanut butter chips & sprinkles!  Emma & I are both happy with just the fruit.

Pancake Muffins

3/4 cup milk
2 T melted butter
1 large egg
1 T sugar
1 cup All Purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
Optional additions (fruit, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a muffin tin.  In a mixing bowl, beat together milk, butter and egg.  Add sugar, then gradually beat the flour in.  Carefully stir in the baking powder and salt.  Scoop a few tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup.  Now sprinkle some of your chosen addition on top of the batter.
Here's what that looked like for us: chocolate chips, Reese's peanut butter chips, frozen berries and sprinkles!  (Please ignore my pitiful muffin tin.  I hope to upgrade one of these days!)



Add a few more tablespoons of batter until each muffin cup is about 2/3 full.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes.  Makes 6 pancake muffins.

(Per the original recipe, you can also just pour the batter into a single 8x8 pan to bake.)

Enjoy these easy Pancake Muffins!




Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bleach Pen Shirts

I've recently been hearing/reading about bleach pen crafts.  I wasn't sure what it was so I went searching online to learn more.  I found a fun easy craft that I thought would be perfect for Marlie for Valentine's Day.  You can make a shirt just for fun or any special occasion.  I also saw where someone let the kids design a t-shirt for dad for Father's Day.  That may be our next project!

To begin, all you need is:
1. a shirt
2. a Clorox Bleach Pen
3. a washable marker (optional)
4. a piece of cardboard or plastic (optional)

The pen can be found in the laundry section of your grocery store.  It will probably be located with the stain removers.
For the shirt, I would recommend checking out a local thrift store.  I wanted to get M a red, long sleeve shirt that was close to her size and found quite a few at our thrift store on post.  This one set me back a whopping 50 cents!

Once you have all your supplies, you are ready to get started!  I laid the shirt flat for M to work on and stuck some card board on the inside so the bleach wouldn't soak through to the back of the shirt.

Since it was our first attempt at a bleach pen project, we decided to go very simple and just draw a heart.  I found a washable marker and M traced her heart on the shirt first.  Obviously, you don't have to do this step.  I just thought it may help her avoid a potential meltdown if she made a mistake using only the bleach pen.



Now you can just go over your marker drawing with the bleach pen.


After you've finished your design, let the bleach set on the shirt and work it's magic.  I think we left ours on for about 15-20 minutes.  This is one of those things where you just have to see what looks good to you.

Once you're satisfied that the bleach has been on long enough, rinse it off with cold water.  After rinsing M's shirt, I threw it straight into the washing machine for a cold wash.  After a round in the dryer, we had our finished project!  M was so excited to wear her very own fashion design to school for Valentine's Day!



The bleach pen shirt was a quick and easy FUN craft!  I think M would agree that she would love to do this again.  

Does this look like something you would enjoy doing yourself or with your kids?  Would you make it for an occasion or just for fun?  What will your design be?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mama's Vegetable Soup

I'm not a big soup eater, but when it's cold outside, I love a big bowl of my Mama's Vegetable Soup.  It actually makes for a super healthy meal, but when you serve it with some good cornbread, this soup becomes the perfect comfort food.  I'm posting the recipe the way my mom gave it to me.  It's actually more of a list of ingredients than specific measurements and directions.  You can adjust the amounts to what you like and still have a great end result.  This soup is quick and very easy so give it a try!

The last few bites of a big pot of soup!
Mama's Vegetable Soup
1 can (15oz) whole tomatoes *
1 can (15oz) tomato sauce
1/2 can water
1 can corn (we use Green Giant Niblets)
1 can (or less) green sweet or early peas
okra (cut up, frozen)
salt & pepper, to taste
sugar, to taste (maybe a Tablespoon or a little more)
ground beef (We use a pound or a little less, because Bryan likes it with a lot of beef!)

Brown ground beef and drain.

Add all ingredients to a large pot and cook on medium to medium-high heat.  After the soup has simmered for a while, cut up the tomatoes to the consistency you like.

Cook the soup until everything tastes done, especially the okra.

*I prefer not to fool with cutting the tomatoes, so I usually just buy a can of diced tomatoes instead.

I know that this recipe is very general and some people would prefer more specific instructions.  If you have any questions about how to make the soup, just comment and I will be glad to help you.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Day in the Life

We are in the process of transitioning Miss E from 2 naps to 1 nap so I'm not quite sure what our days are going to look like yet.  Here is what today (and future days) will probably look like though.

0630: Bryan and I quietly get up and try to sneak downstairs before the girls wake.  Bryan grabs a cup of coffee and his iPhone to read his morning devotion.  I head for the couch with my Bible and Philippians Bible study workbook.  

0700:  M wanders downstairs and Emma starts yelling at us from her crib.  Both girls usually end up snuggling with dad.  I select Marlie's clothes for the day and prepare her lunch.  She & Bryan get ready for school and work.



0750: Bryan & Marlie are out the door for school and work.

0800: I fix myself a cup of hot tea and Emma's breakfast.  

0830 - 1030: Emma & I play, watch Sesame Street, and get dressed.  I attempt to get some chores done around the house, but we're at that stage where she is pulling things out faster than I can put them away!  This is also the time where she finds a bottle of super fine blue glitter, gets it open and dumps it all over the place.  I snapped this after I cleaned up most of the floor!



1030-1130: Once we finally get ourselves together, we are out the door to run errands on post.  On days that I can get childcare, this is also my gym/running time.

1130: Lunchtime for Em

1200: I pick up after Em's lunch and start getting mine ready.  Bryan comes home for a short lunch break.

1230: Em's new naptime

1300: For the next few hours, I eat lunch, watch an episode of whatever I have recorded on the DVR, spend some time online and maybe do a little dinner prep.

1530: Em wakes up and Marlie arrives home from school.  The girls have snacks and if it nice outside, we go play.



1715:  Bryan arrives home from work.  I beg him to play with the girls so I can fix dinner alone! ;)

1800:  We sit down for dinner as a family.  Bryan & I enjoy trying new recipes a lot, but Marlie would be happy with just Taco Tuesday and Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole.  Our "taco" dinner for this week got pushed to tonight so we will be having Sweet Pulled Pork Tacos.

1830: We clean up dinner and I wash dishes.  Bryan & Marlie pick up toys and Emma again follows behind pulling them out!

1900: I will give Emma her bath while Bryan & Marlie relax and watch a little TV together, or Bryan will give Marlie her bath.  

1930: Bryan puts Em to bed and I get to put Marlie to bed.  For the past year, I've missed this time with M because I was breastfeeding Emma at bedtime.  I love being able to read bedtime stories and pray with Marlie again.  This is definitely one of my favorite parts of the day.



2000: Bryan & I will watch a tv show together.  He's not a huge TV watcher and we have very different tastes, but we can agree on Parenthood, Biggest Loser, Duck Dynasty and Inside Combat Rescue (our newest addition).

2130: Bryan and I start getting ready for bed and read for a little while.  I always joke with Bryan that he only reads a few sentences before falling asleep!  I usually read (currently The Book Thief) for about a half hour before I'm done.    

This post is a part of the Show Us Your Life series at Kelly's Korner.