Sunday, November 25, 2012

Destination Thanksgiving

We spent the last week in vacation-land on a destination Thanksgiving trip to Anna Maria Island. Last November we went to AMI for my bro-in-law's wedding, where I sprained my ankle and almost died of morning sickness. This year was healthy and accident-free. 

We spent the week with Zane's parents at this lovely rental home half a block from the north tip of the island. The weather was really nice: cool in the mornings and warm in the daytime. 

We went to several restaurants, which helped us learn that Daisy does not like loud, crowded restaurants like Mr. Bones' BBQ (pictured above) or Cracker Barrel (where we went for Turkey Day dinner). But her need to escape the chaos was always met by her doting grandparents who were more than happy to walk her around outside. 

Daisy got lots of grandparent time. It was good for her soul and good for theirs. It's amazing how much joy a baby can bring, especially when she smiles or coos or falls asleep in your arms. 

We did an early dinner on Thanksgiving at Cracker Barrel, which was a new venture for all of us: eating out on Thanksgiving! It was fun to break tradition and do something different. CB does a great traditional meal though, so I still got my turkey and dressing. We ate at 3:30pm with all the senior citizens in a five mile radius. Daisy didn't like the crowds, but they all LOVED her. Everywhere she turned her fussy face there was a table of seniors smiling and waving their hands at her.

At one point, Zane left the table to change Daisy's diaper, and an elderly woman came up to me. She spoke really softly and said, "I'm from Syracuse. I have five children. When I had my first child, I came in one day, and my husband was holding him over a sink full of sh*t. He didn't know what to do."

Then she sat down.

Yes. That happened.

It was pretty much the most awesome thing anyone's ever said to me. I wonder what kind of stories I'll tell young people when I'm her age.

Since we ate so early, we had plenty of time for card cames that night. It was a fun way to wrap up the week. We drove home on Friday, and I'm not sure who was more sad: the G-parents or Daisy. 

This is her "Get me out of this carseat" face. Luckily, she fell asleep for most of the drive home.

Thanksgiving: Part Two was spent with my family on Saturday. I didn't get as many pictures, but we did a whole traditional meal and Daisy got some special aunt-time. Being the first grandkid/niece has it's major perks.

Then there are still those times that only Mommy can soothe her. Those are the times I end up rocking myself to sleep. 

This fatigue was from a mixture of tryptophan and social exhaustion. We had a great holiday with family, but I'm also looking forward to some down-time this week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bulk Cooking

Tuesday was my bulk-cooking day. I've never done this before, but I've wanted to try it for a while. I made four different recipes and doubled those recipes to make eight meals.

I bought six 8x8 aluminum cake pans. I was looking for disposable pans that would only hold enough for four-serving casseroles. 

I'm really "fly by the seat of my pants" when it comes to cooking, so I'll share the recipes, but they're only frames of recipes that you'll have to fill in to meet your taste. Basically, I made eight chicken quarter legs and two cups of rice and separated those into all these different recipes. I'm so not exact with measurements. I added spices to some of them too (lots of cayenne pepper), but I have no idea how much or what I put in each one. Ha! Here we go!

1. Chicken Enchilada Casserole - this recipe made two 8x8 pans

2 15oz cans of black beans
1 15oz can of corn
2-3 chicken quarter legs shredded
1 jar of salsa (I just poured it in until I thought it looked good enough)
2/3 cup of rice
1-2 cups of cheese
4 large tortillas

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Spread one tortilla in the bottom of each pan. Add mixture on top. Add another tortilla. Add more mixture. Top with extra shredded cheese. Cover with aluminum foil, sharpie what it is, and freeze. When ready to eat, thaw and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot. Each casserole will feed Zane and me for two meals.

Casseroles ready for the meat. 

2. Chicken, cheese, broccoli and rice casserole (that's my self-explanatory title for it) - two 8x8 pans

2/3 cup of rice
1/2 box of velveeta cheese (I had some leftover from another dish). Sliced (see photo)
1/2 bag of frozen broccoli
2-3 chicken quarter legs shredded
garlic salt to taste

Lay rice in bottom of each pan. Add frozen evenly broccoli. Pat down into rice. Add chicken evenly. Sprinkle with garlic salt. Lay sliced velveeta cheese evenly across each pan. Cover with aluminum foil, sharpie what it is, and freeze. When ready to eat, thaw and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot. Each casserole will feed Zane and me for two meals.

Four chicken quarter legs boiling, and four chicken quarter legs slow-cooking. 

3. Mexican casserole

1/2 ground beef browned
2/3 cup of rice
2 15oz cans of black beans
1 15oz can of corn
1 12oz (?) can of Rotel
1-2 cups of cheese
Tortilla chips

Mix rice, beef, beans, corn, and rotel. Add evenly into two pans. Sprinkle cheese on top. Cover with aluminum foil, sharpie what it is, and freeze. Serve on tortilla chips. We ate this one Tuesday and tonight, and it's good. When ready to eat, thaw and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot. Each casserole will feed Zane and me for two meals.

4. Chicken Calzones (whatever you want to call it) - makes four two-serving size calzones

3-3.5 cups of flour (I used wheat)
1 cup of warm water (I used 1-1/4 cup with the wheat flour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 packet yeast
2 TBSP oil
[One dough recipe without rising makes 2 calzones. I doubled the recipe to make four calzones because I had so much extra ingredients for the insides. However, I could have made four calzones with one dough recipe if I had given it time to rise.]

2-3 chicken quarter legs shredded
1/2 bag of frozen broccoli
1 13oz can of cream of chicken soup
1-2 cups of cheese

Make dough (I used my stand mixer):  Mix yeast, sugar and water for a couple minutes. Add salt and oil. Add flour and mix with the dough hook for about 6 minutes.

While it's mixing, add your other ingredients in a bowl: chicken, broccoli, cheese, soup, garlic salt if you want.

Sprinkle flour on counter. Roll out dough. Cut in half. Add mixture in the middle. Roll up dough. Pinch shut. Wrap well in aluminum foil, sharpie what it is, and freeze. When thawed, spread butter on top and bake (not sure how long yet!). Each calzone will feed Zane and me one time, since they're big enough for two servings.

We're going to try one of these tomorrow night, and I'll let you know how it goes. I've never cooked calzones fresh or frozen. I have no idea how long to bake it, so I'm going to test it out. I made four, so hopefully baking them goes well!

UPDATE: We let the calzone thaw for about 10 minutes, then put it in our toaster oven at 375F for 45 minutes. It turned out pretty good! Zane loved it, so that makes it a win. The dough was really dense though, so I'm going to work on that recipe for next time.

It took several hours with all the mixing, meat-cooking, and clean up! My back hurt from washing dishes afterwards, but now my freezer is stocked with 10 meals!

Next time, I think I'll do it over a few days like this:
Day 1: Soak and cook dry beans, which are cheaper and more healthy than canned.
Day 2: Cook all my meat. Make my dough and let it rise.
Day 3: Prepare all my meals and freeze.

With three days, I could knock out more than 10 meals, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Baby Gym from Hula Hoop

Last month, Daisy was visiting her cousin and played in this play mat: 

She really likes to look at things hanging above her, but we don't have one of those at our house. I didn't want to purchase one, because I don't know how much longer she'll enjoy lying on her back and looking up at stuff, since she's on her way to the next stages of babyhood. 

I thought about it over the last month, and today I was finally able to make one during Daisy's nap! Here we go!

Start with a hula hoop. Zane's job has tons of hula hoops, so I asked him to bring home one that was bent and unusable to the company (which he did with permission from the inventory guys). 

Zane cut it in half at the bent points with a hand saw. 

I used fabric that I already had from an old window valance, but it was originally a bedsheet. 

I made:
Two 60''x2'' sleeves (I suggest adjusting that to 54''x1'')
One 18''x30'' panel for the bottom
One 9''x2.5'' sleeve 

Here's a general idea of where we're going with this: 

After you make your sleeves, slip the hula hoops into the sleeves. Then slip the small sleeve over both hula hoops, so you have this:

Next, sew ends of the hula hoops to the corners of the panel. I squeezed mine under the sewing machine, but this could be done by hand as well:

60'' was too long for my sleeves, so my panel didn't lay flat and the hoops were all cock-eyed. 

To fix that, I slipped the hula hoops as far into the corners as possible, and gathered the extra fabric under the middle joint sleeve. Then I hand-sewed the hula sleeves to the joint sleeve to secure the gathered fabric. I hope that makes sense. It's really tacky and raw-looking, but it's for my own kid, so I'm not trying to impress anyone with a gift. 

A 1'' wide sleeve would look much cleaner, and 54'' long sleeves wouldn't require the extra gathering into the middle joint sleeve. If I ever make this as a gift, I'll do that adjustment. 

Here's the final product with toys and a blanket: 

Total cost: $0.00, because I already had the materials!
Estimated cost for approximately 1 yard of fabric and a hula hoop: $5.00?
Cost of a new baby gym: $30.00-$80.00, depending on brand and sophistication. 

Yay for saving money! 

There are many ways you can adjust this DIY to be more cute or more sophisticated. You can add tabs along the sleeves, use pretty baby fabric, or even a bigger hula hoop. Hopefully this post just gives you an idea of what you can do yourself instead of spending the extra bucks. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012


We're nearly halfway through November, and this is my first post for the month. Last year that happened because I was barely pregnant, and I didn't know what to say on my blog without actually announcing it.

Not the same reason this year. Maybe November is my writers' block month.

I've been busy crafting. I'm doing hand-made Christmas gifts to save some money this year, and that means triple the time and effort going into the gifts. I'm already really self-conscious about gift-giving (as in, I consider myself a horrible gift-giver). I rarely make things for other people, so I'm putting pressure on myself to make nice, thoughtful, gift-worthy projects. No painted macaroni.

Everyday I spend a couple hours working on various projects (while Daisy naps or plays), but I can't post any of them, because they're gifts!! I don't want any recipients reading what their Christmas gifts are, so I must craft in blog silence until after Christmas, then I'll share what I've been up to.

Some of them are pretty awesome. The others are just regular awesome.

My Just Dance 4 audience. I'm trying to find creative things to do with her. 
In other news, Daisy's now four months old. She can roll over from her back onto her tummy, but not the other way. She has found her feet and loves them. And she just started making a raspberry noise while sticking out her tongue and spitting, which I think is the cutest thing ever. It's also one of those things that I wouldn't notice someone else's baby doing. 

I know it's super late to share, but here's our [horribly lighted] family Halloween photo from this year. I didn't have motivation for a family theme, but Zane and I managed to throw costumes together that afternoon: 

A detective, hippie and puppy 

One more of the cute dalmatian:

Happy Holidays! One down (Halloween), three to go (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years for us)!