Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Accidental Deliciousness

As soon as I knew that I would start working evenings, I headed straight to Pinterest.  I created a board entitled, "Daddy Dinners," and started pinning crock pot meals and make ahead dishes that would be easy for Andrew on the nights that I work.  Now Andrew is fully capable of microwaving cooking a meal for the kids, but I know firsthand how hard it is to make a healthy meal that we will all eat, at the same time both kids seem to turn into clinging monsters. Plus, I'm OCD and like to have control over the meals :).  

For my first night of work, I planned to make crockpot lasagna.  I thought I had everything from the store, but turns out I was missing the key ingredient...lasagna noodles.  So, then I found this recipe for crockpot spaghetti.  Well, I didn't have everything for that either.  Enter my superb cooking skills and flexibility (and sarcasm) and I created a delicious meal that we loved!  Here's the recipe and a few pictures that I quickly snapped while holding Audrey and trying to obviously they are stellar ;).  I hope you enjoy!

1 lb ground beef
Italian seasoning
8 oz cottage cheese
8 oz ricotta
1/2 box of spaghetti
Jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (or homemade if you're fancy)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Brown ground beef.  When it's almost finished, sprinkle with Italian Seasoning and salt/pepper.
2. While the meat is cooking, in a separate bowl, stir together the cottage cheese and ricotta.  
3. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.  Poor half of the sauce in the bottom.  Layer the ground beef on top of the sauce.  Next, break the spaghetti into thirds and lay on top of the meat.  Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese on top and then cover with the cheese mixture.  Pour the rest of the sauce over that, so that the spaghetti is completely covered.  Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
4. Cook on low heat for 3-4 hours.  

You could use ground turkey or sausage as well.  This was on sale.
I swear this post is not sponsored by Kroger.
Cottage cheese/Ricotta mixture
Layers of yumminess.
I was finally able to put her down when I gave her this apple.

Make sure the spaghetti is fully covered.

Mine was finished after 3 hours!
So it doesn't "plate" well.  But man is it good, and so are leftovers!

I'm not sure of the nutritional value, but as long as you don't eat the whole thing, it's really not bad.  I had a veggie filled salad as a side...the kids and Andrew had corn :).  Here's to more accidental deliciousness!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fall Friday Fun

Sorry about the post title, couldn't help it :).  We had such a wonderful time at Blooms & Berries Fall Fun on the Farm today, I had to share!  I also didn't want to totally annoy my Facebook friends/Instagram followers ;).  We went last year and went back this past summer to pick blueberries and it really is one of my favorite places to visit.  If you're still looking for a pumpkin patch to visit, I highly recommend it!

Grandma and her favorite little cow.

I like to sit on my food too!

King of the dirt pile!

This was too cute!  He loved the Spookley walk!

Someone takes after her brother...

His favorite was the one waaaaay in the back.

Peak fall colors, gorgeous.

Last year vs. this year.  Maybe we'll get smiles next year :).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back to My Future

So I have to admit, I've never seen a Back to the Future movie all the way through.  I've seen bits and pieces and get the general idea, but it's now on my list to watch the full movie(s).  Apparently today is the "future" date used in the movie, but the catch is we are not flying around on hover boards and (sorry Cubs fans) it looks like the Mets are headed to the World Series.  So this got me thinking about what I thought my future would be like.  One thing is four year ago self would definitely be surprised what the future had in store for her.

Taken about four years ago.
Four years ago I was unemployed, trying desperately to have a baby and not living the healthiest of lifestyles.  Fast forward to January and 2012 started off well with a new job in a school district.  Move to June and I not only got my dream teaching job, but I turned 30 and found out I was pregnant with Aiden.  Proof that life can change faster than you ever imagined.  I taught my first year with Aiden in my belly and took 11 weeks off when he was born that next February.

First day of school/daycare.
At that point, there was never a question that I would return to teaching.  We interviewed daycares and found one we liked.  Thank goodness for his wonderful teachers, because taking him there was HARD.  I never felt right about it, even though I knew he was being well taken care of.  Teaching that year was difficult, even though I loved my students and co-workers.  Let's speed up through the next two years... found out we were pregnant with Audrey in January, she was born in September.  Took my first year of leave of absence, which worked out well when I found out I needed open heart surgery in January.  After the surgery, we decided I would take a second year off to continue to focus on the kids and my health.  And that brings us back to today (no DeLorean necessary).

So the question I get asked almost daily...are you going back to teaching?  Here's where my four year ago self would be shocked.  No.  This week, I officially resigned from my teaching position.  The truth is, I never thought this would be possible, so I never considered it.  But we've decided, as a family, that we will make sacrifices so that I can be home with our babies.  There are other boring reasons too, but even with all of that, it was not an easy decision.  Teaching was my dream and I love working with kids.  My school is amazing and hard to leave.  But I know in my heart that this is the right decision.

A few weeks ago, I also did something else surprising.  I started training for my new part time job...back in the tutoring field.  My career started in tutoring and I worked in the industry for 8 years. I was offered a great opportunity with an amazing company, Varsity Tutors (look them up!), to work as a Sales Director.  It's not a lot of hours and it's only evenings and weekends when Andrew can spend time with the kids, so fingers crossed it is as perfect as it seems.

Work in PJs with hot apple cider?  Yes, please.
Okay, enough boring updating and babbling.  Now you know my up to date life story.  But my overall takeaway from thinking back to my future?  Anything is possible.  In a month we could be moving to Australia, win the lottery and fly all of you to our private island.  Not likely, but you get the idea.  So I'd like to tell my four year ago self to chill out. Get a lot of sleep and enjoy the free time.  Your future is bright, your dreams will come true and your dreams will change.  Enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Health Update: Recommitment and Other Ramblings...

It's been awhile since I've reflected on my health and checked in on how things are going.  By the numbers, things are going well.  I've officially lost over 50 pounds (51!), if I use my weight right after Audrey was born.  Clothes are fitting well and I'm SO close to a size that I haven't been since the beginning of college (notice I said beginning, thank you freshman 15+).  I feel stronger than I ever have and notice muscles that I didn't know you could notice.  I'm also to the point of needing a new wardrobe, but am trying to make due until I reach my goal weight and I'll obviously have to space these purchases out...or start playing the lottery :).

While working out and the numbers are great, I know I'm pushing it a bit when it comes to food.  My goal has always been to not deprive myself of anything but to eat in moderation and keep a good balance.  I'm still doing this, but I honestly haven't used MyFitnessPal App in several weeks to track my calories and I haven't been quite as strict about my choices.  I know myself well enough to know that this is a slippery slope.  I don't intend on tracking my calories for the rest of my life and I have a general idea of how each day is going, but as the holidays, cold temps and lots of parties/gatherings approach, it's time to recommit myself to this goal.  I have an ultimate goal of reaching a certain number by the one year anniversary of my open heart surgery, which would be January 12th.  That's 13 weeks from now, believe it or not.  29 pounds in 13 weeks is very doable, but I also know it's not just about the numbers.  We'll see what happens!

And now the random ramblings and pictures...

I'm loving this fall weather!  It's hard to not want to spend every second outside.

I've been craving big salads recently and made this for dinner the other night.  Using a rotisserie chicken and already cut up veggies from the salad bar at the grocery store made this very easy.  

A miracle happened in our house last night.  I made something that EVERYONE not only ate, but enjoyed!  Click here for the recipe.  FYI, I didn't add the jalapeƱo since the kids were eating it, and it only took 2 hours.  Even if you don't like quinoa, give this a try!

Aiden is doing better with pre-school, although drop offs are still tough.  He talks about a little girl named Harper and loves to count everything, but especially M&Ms.

I don't want to jinx anything by saying how well Audrey has been doing lately across the board.  So I'll just share a cute picture :).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Take on Direct Sales

Unless you've been living under a social media rock (which is unlikely since you're reading this!), you've noticed that the concept of direct sales has taken off.  People are selling, and buying, makeup, skin care, clothing, food, name it, if there's not a direct sales company for it yet, there probably will be soon.  Along with the fast growth of these companies has come the naysayers.  You may think that this post is going to be my joining of the masses and complaining about the annoying posts and over sharing of success stories.  Well, think again.

Direct sales has come a long way from the Longaberger parties I used to attend with my mom when I was younger.  Us kids would sit in the other room and make fun of the women who were oohing and ahhhing over baskets.  But a few short years later, I was invited to a jewelry party and started oohing and ahhhing myself.  Fast forward a few years again and I started my own direct sales business.  A good friend of mine had just started selling MaryKay and was loving it.  I had recently lost my job and not only loved the products, but loved the support and positivity from the women she was working with.  I became a consultant and worked the business for a few months before deciding it wasn't good timing for me.  

A few months ago a new (to me) direct sales company exploded on my Facebook feed.  Rodan + Fields was everywhere and several of my friends were joining the company and starting their own businesses.  The products seemed to generate great results and I was curious to try them.  My friend Beth (click here to check out her site!) sent me a mini-facial to try and I was impressed.  I also had a consultation with her and learned which products would be right for me.  While adding a new regimen to my skincare isn't in the budget right now, I am eager to try these out in the near future.

LOVE Beth's attention to detail.
So why share my experience with direct sales?  Why dedicate an entire post to this topic?  Frankly, I'm tired of hearing people complain about the women (and men) who have chosen this path.  Yes, they post a lot of information and pictures.  Yes, they seem more upbeat and supportive than is humanly possible.  BUT...what is so wrong with that?  Who are we to put them down for taking a chance?  I see advertisements all the time from big box companies, but I don't see a lot of complaints about those.  I will always choose to support a friend who is starting a small business, when financially able.  I will always prefer to read about my friends' successes and positive attitudes over negativity.  

That little blue thing...heaven on my face.
Bottom line... Rodan + Fields, MaryKay and even Longaberger...they are great products.  Those who have chosen to sell them are doing so to provide you with quality and good for them for making money along the way.  I'm pretty sure this is just the beginning of this type of consumerism.  So how about we support and encourage these business owners, if not with a purchase then maybe a "like" on one of those many Facebook pictures.  I promise an encouraging attitude feels much better than a negative one... and with less frowning, you may even end up with less wrinkles ;).

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fabulous Fall

Okay okay...I'll jump on the fall bandwagon.  I won't go as far to say that it is my favorite season, because like the indecisive person that I can be, I like all four seasons for different reasons.  But fall is wonderful and after our beach trip last weekend, I finally feel ready for it.  Besides the crisp air, beautiful colors, football, sweaters and scarves, I've found even more to love about fall.  It's a season when I tend to feel overwhelmed by all of the activities and options, so I'm trying very hard to relax and just go with the flow.  Not my style but my blood pressure will appreciate it.  So here are a few fall favorites and don't worry, I'm sure this won't be my last "I love fall" post ;).

Our house in the fall...

Most of the colors in our home are warm earth tones, so fall decorations fit right in.  It always feels cozy and when the leaves change color, the view out the back is gorgeous.

This candle...

It's best of both worlds and feels right in September, October and November.

All of the outdoor festivals, fairs and pumpkin patches...

We've been to an apple orchard and I have several more on my list.  We'll see how this goes since I'm "going with the flow..."


My feet are ready to be done with flip flops.  It's boots and gym shoes now until spring!

And these...

Pumpkin Cookies and Cream Cookies.  Make them.  Now.  Use this recipe (click here), but use Pumpkin Oreos.  If you love pumpkin, you will love these.  If you don't love pumpkin, you'll probably still love these.  I make these with different oreos all year.  Even though it's basically a chocolate chip cookie with oreos instead of chips, there's something about the cream from the oreos.  Just try them, trust me.