Friday, February 26, 2010

Super Saucy Pork Chops

I can't remember where this recipe came from originally, so if anyone recognizes let me know so I can credit the creator of this yummy dish. We haven't had it in a while, we've been out of pork chops and they haven't been on sale. Finally this week they are on sale so I'm planning to have these soon.

2 pork chops (fat trimmed and bone removed)
14 oz can of peeled, crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T vinegar
1 t garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1 T molasses
1-2 cups cooked pasta (if you are going gluten-free use a gluten-free pasta here)

1. Pour tomatoes in blender and pulse to break up tomatoes. We like ours just a little chunky.

2. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot, except pork chops and pasta, and stir.

3. Place pork chops on top.

4. Cook for 6-8 hours on low.

5. Serve over pasta.

This makes enough for my husband and I to eat for dinner with enough leftover for the next days lunch.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's Been a Rough Kind of a Week

Last month at Doodlebug's 12 month visit to the pediatrician did not go as well as we hoped. He is healthy, but he's not hitting his developmental milestones on time. This wasn't a total shocker. He's always been the kind of kid who hits milestones as late as possible and can still be considered in the normal range. But at 9 months he was still okay. At 12 months he was not crawling, not pulling up and not able to cruise furniture. He also cannot finger feed or chew food and just figured out how to use a sippy cup.

It is heartbreaking to have other moms say brightly "Is he walking yet?" and tell me that their child, who is 4 months younger, has been pulling up for months now. It is devastating to hear your pediatrician say that this puts your child in the bottom 10% developmentally. It literally hurt my heart to be told by a neurologist this week that he is developmentally delayed and that we need to undergo genetic and metabolic testing to make sure there's nothing more serious going on.

The bright spot is that her gut says he is just a late bloomer.

But, since her gut is not always right Doodlebug has appoinments with an optomologist, geneticist, child development center (for speech, fine motor and gross motor assessments) and more blood tests than I can count. I'm slogging through the insurance underworld to try and get approval for everything she wants to order. And this is just the tip of the iceburg. She also wants an MRI and other genetic testing, assuming we find nothing from all this.

My heart is breaking for my little boy who is behind and he's only a year old. Playing catch up already. He's going to be poked, prodded and stuck with needles. Naptimes will be interupted in favor of doctor's visits. Instead of playing with my sweet boy he is watching Elmo so I can make the 5th phone call of the day to fight with insurance or give a medical history over the phone, again.

In the middle of all of this I noticed his arms and legs turning dusky and finger and toenails turning blue. That earned us another trip to the pediatrician and a bonus round to the cardiologist next week.

Sweetheart, please give your Mommy a break.

This is not what I wanted for him. For us. For our family. And yet here we are. My head screams "I don't want to!" and "I'm not ready!" and "I can't handle this!" But I know I have to. Because I'm the mommy and I will do anything, even deal with the insurance company, for my sweet boy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things I Never Understood Until I Was a Mom....

1. Nursing is really hard work. I never understood this until I realized the reality of a nursing cycle for us. Nurse for an hour. Change baby and play for a few minutes and put baby to bed. Pump while baby sleeps. Put milk in fridge, wash out pump. Get baby up from nap. Repeat all day every day for months. While recovering from 9 months of being sick and major surgery.

2. Why moms allow their children to go out in public with food all over their faces. I clean my child up after every meal. Without fail, when we get to the grocery store or the YMCA I see a smear of stray fruit or rice that we missed. It's really hard to check a moving target for cleanliness.

3. What is the big deal about teething? Until you watch the helpless child you love scream for 4 days straight, not eat and just be generally miserable as teeth come in. Now it makes sense.

4. How much I would love him. Everyone is so eager to tell you about how you will never be able to nap again. True. How much money they will cost. Also true. But they never mention that baby laughter is one of the happiest sounds in the world. Baby kisses are wonderful beyond almost anything else. That this little person will change your life in all sorts of ways, but most of them are for the better.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Filing With Catch All Folders

One of the problems I've always had with filing is that I want to keep everything. Always. I am afraid of getting rid of a paper I might need someday. But of course I never do. And if I did I would not be able to find it anyway because it's in a huge stack somewhere.

Periodically I would create a new filing system. And since every piece of paper needs to be in a file my systems got very complicated. And time consuming. I really didn't want to file stacks and stacks of paperwork every week. Some paperwork I needed to keep, but only for the short term. What do I do with all of that stuff?

When I started this project I got on the internet and started reading about filing systems. Maybe I could find one that works for me, right? Right! I mean, I can't be the only one with this dilemna.

I came across the Freedom Filer system. One piece of their system is a 24 month rotating file system. You take 24 file folders and label them with the months of the year. Since you have two years worth one set will be labeled "even year" and the other "odd year". This is where you are going to put all your monthly paid bills, receipts, and other odds and ends. Since we are in February 2010 right now, any paperwork I get I put in the February-even year file. When we get to March I will switch to the March-even year file. When February 2012 rolls around I will need to put that months' documents in the February-even year file. I will simply sort out the February 2010 file, shred most of it, and anything I really do need to keep I will file in a more permanent place. After two years it is much easier for me to throw my paperwork away.

I'm happy knowing I have any paper I could possibly need, it's all stored neatly away and I can find anything I might need in just a few minutes. I also added two folders labeled "Taxes-even year" and Taxes-odd year". This is where we put donation receipts, paid car taxes, w2's and any other documents we will need to do our taxes. No more combing through mountains of paperwork at tax time to find documentation for deductions.

I tucked all my files in a pretty basket and leave it out on the counter where papers used to pile up. It is so easy to use that my papers get popped into a folder rather than laid on the counter "just for now". We all know how dangerous that is.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mexican Chicken Soup

We don't do many soups in our house. Neither my husband or I especially enjoy them but we do have a couple of recipes we pull out from time to time. This is one of my favorites because it is very flexible, quick and yummy. It's also a great way to use up leftover cooked chicken.


Boneless, skinless chicken (This can be cut into cubes now, or shredded with a fork after cooking.)
1 can Mexican tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth (If you are making this gluten free be sure the chicken broth is gluten free.)
1 stalk of celery cut into small pieces
1 cup of frozen or canned corn
1/2 cup frozen green beans cut to about 1" long
1 t cumin
2 t minced garlic

Puree tomatoes to break up most of the chunks. Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

I have done all sorts of combinations in this soup. When I haven't had Mexican tomatoes I've used regular tomatoes and added some salsa. Sometimes I brown the celery and garlic before adding it to the crock pot. I have used this recipe with both raw and cooked chicken and it works either way. I omit the celery when I don't have it. When I'm reheating it I will often mix in some shredded Mexican cheese. It's a pretty flexible dish with very little prep work.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s day has never been my favorite holiday. Remember back in elementary school when we gave out valentines to our entire class? And the rule was that you had to give a valentine to everyone? Because if the teacher didn’t make that rule then there would be that one kid who wouldn’t get any. Your grade school popularity meter measured out in candy hearts on your desk for the world to see.

When I moved onto celebrations of Valentine’s day as an adult I discovered it’s still a competition that many women use to measure who is loved the most by their boyfriend/husband/fiancĂ©. And instead of being measured in candy hearts it is now measured in red roses, expensive jewelry and fabulously romantic dates.

And the poor men who are trying desperately to figure out what that perfect gift will be. Should they send flowers? Flowers die. And what if one of her co-workers gets a bigger arrangement? Chocolates? Maybe, but maybe she’ll just talk about how they will make her fat. Jewelry? Lingerie? Teddy bears? A romantic date?

The single girls don’t have it any easier. They watch all the flowers being delivered, knowing there are none for them. They hear about all the romantic plans, and have none of their own. They become that one kid who doesn’t get any valentines in grade school.

So, I choose not to celebrate. I don’t want to be part of the competition. I don’t want my husband to spend his money on chocolate I don’t need and that will be half-price by Monday. I don’t want to go out to dinner with a million other people on one of the most crowded days of the year. I don’t want him to think that I love him any less because he didn’t give me the perfect gift or a wonderful night on the town. I know he loves me. Of all the women in the world, he chose me to be the one he spends his life with.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yogurt in the Crock Pot

Yogurt can be really expensive. Especially when you are looking for the kind that doesn't have a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners in it. And then if you want organic yogurt you'd better go get a home equity loan. Of course, Doodlebug loves yogurt.

I was shocked to discover that you can make your own yogurt at home. And I was even more amazed to find out that you can make it in your crock pot. Who knew?

But it must be really complicated, right? Nope! It is so, so, so easy. The hardest part for me is remembering to start it in time.


--8 cups (1/2 gallon) of milk
--1/2 cup of store bought* plain yogurt with live and active cultures


Put the milk in the crock pot. Turn crock pot on low and let cook for 2 1/2 hours.

After the 2 1/2 hours unplug your crock pot and let sit for 3 hours.

After sitting scoop out 2 cups of warm milk, put the lid back on the crock pot and wisk the milk together with the store bought yogurt.*

Pour the milk/yogurt mix back in the crock pot and stir to combine. Put the lid back on the crock pot.

Wrap your entire crock pot in a bath towel to insulate it and leave 8-12 hours.

Presto, you have yogurt!

Put the yogurt in the fridge and it should last 7-10 days. You can also freeze excess yogurt. I ladel it into zip top sandwhich bags and store in the freezer. Even if you freeze it you can use it to start your next batch of yogurt.

If you freeze your yogurt it will separate. You can either mix it back together or pour off some of the clearish liquid (whey) if you want thicker yogurt.

When you first make this yogurt it will be very thin. If you want thicker yogurt you can line a collander with a coffee filter and spoon the yogurt inside. Let it sit over a bowl for a few hours. It will gradually thicken up.

The yogurt will be more tart than store bought since there is no added sugar. You can add honey, fruit or whatever else strikes your fancy.

* for future yogurt making you can use 1/2 cup of your crock pot yogurt instead of store bought

And I have not tried this variation, but I plan to next time I have a little leftover milk.

Boil one cup of milk and let it cool to room tempature. Stir in 1 tablespoon of yogurt and let it sit, without moving, overnight. In the morning you will have yogurt.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Filing System

Last month I was thinking about all the paperwork in our house that needed to be filed. I realized our filing system was not working for us, but had no idea how to set up one that would so I started looking around on the internet.

I found this site and really liked how the files are set up. My favorite part is the 24 month rotating catchall files. You will need 24 files labeled with the months of the year. You will end up with 2 files for each month, one of which will be labled "even year" and the other "odd year".

January-even year
January-odd year
February-even year
February-odd year

This is the place where you put all of your receipts, paid bills, account statements and any other paperwork you might need but that does not have a permanent filing home. Since we are in February 2010 I am putting all of the documents I'm getting this month in that file. When February 2012 (the next even year) comes around I will go through this file and shred most of the paperwork in this file. Anything that I still need to keep will get filed in a more permanent place. And then I will reuse my February-even year file for my February 2012 paperwork.

I love this system for several reasons. The two biggies are that I feel like I have to save everything and this gives me a place to do that. The second is it's so simple to file since over 90% of my paperwork ends up in these files. I figure that in 2 years I will have a pretty good idea what needs to make it into my personal files and I should be able to shred the rest pretty easily.

This is what I made all the cute file folders for. I have all of them sitting on top of my kitchen counter in a basket that used to be a magazine rack. You can see it here in one of my "before" pictures.

As new paperwork comes into the house it is getting filed quickly and painlessly into these folders and I'm starting to make some progress on my old stack of paperwork that needed to be filed too. My system still has a ways to go, but I love seeing progress. Only 17 days left in Filing February.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just for Laughs

When I was pregnant we went to a breastfeeding class. Since we were running late I decided to wait and pee after we got checked in. This will now be referred to as mistake number one.

The only seats we could get were on the side of the classroom on the far side of the door. The only way to get to the door was to cross in front of the entire class. As we put our coats down I told Chris I was going to use the restroom. Just then the instructor stood up and said, "Let's begin..." so I sat back down. Mistake number two.

Just a couple of minutes into the lecture I realized the mistakes I had made. Of course I didn't want to waddle across the front of the class to the door and was not even sure I could get through without asking someone to move. So I didn't. Mistake number three.

When the instructor finally gave us a break I headed for the door. The bathrooms on our side of the hospital were closed. Really? Seriously? I am never going to make it. I held my hand over my baby and prayed he would not head butt me in the bladder.

My husband was walking with me so I leaned over and quietly told him, "Honey, if all of a sudden I say that my water broke, don't panic. Just go back to the room and get our stuff and I'll meet you at the car." He looked at me oddly but just nodded his head.

I did make it to the bathroom. But when I got out my husband wanted a little explanation about the water breaking comment.

When you wait a little too long to go to the bathroom, which is necessary roughly every fifteen minutes when you are pregnant, and then your child pokes your very full bladder you wonder what you will do if you pee in public. This was my contingency plan. I would say very loudly, "Oh my gosh, my water just broke!" I would then waddle to the nearest exit as quickly as possible with my hand over my belly.

Thankfully I never had to implement my plan, but I was ready.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Doodlebug's First Birthday

As we neared Doodlebug's birthday we suddenly got bunches of catalogues showing all the latest 'accessories' we would need to have a memorable day. Everything from high chairs covers (for that perfect photo) to themed invitations, to little royal thrones. Are you kidding me???

We took a slightly simpler approach. I sent out evites (and mailed a hard copy to the one person on our list without email), Daddy made a cake, Mommy made cookies, we bought balloons at the Dollar store as favors and called it a day. We also limited our guest list to family, godparents and one family that we have regular playdates with. Even without all that stuff from the catalogue we managed to have a pretty good time and some really cute photos.

The highlight for the boys was chasing my dad through the kitchen, down the hall and back into the kitchen. I have no idea why that was such a hit but they were laughing hysterically almost the entire time.

Doodlebug needed a little help opening his presents so both kids gladly jumped in.

Doodlebug was pretty preoccupied with the ribbon off of one of the packages.

Here's his little friend helping with the wrapping paper. Yet another activity that I had no idea would bring such a thrill.

This sweet little girl is known for her one liners. When I asked her who the gift was from she replied, with great enthusiasm, "Target!!!!!" And when her mom told her to thank us for having them over she came in the family room, gave me a great big hug and yelled "I love this party!" She just cracks me up.

We wrapped the party up with a little bit of cake before the guest of honor crashed and had to leave for a nap.

Exhausting, but oh so much fun!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Birthday Cake

We had Doodlebug's first birthday party over the weekend. It was so much fun! And I am so tired.

I was planning to upload a bunch of pictures and make a fancy collage. What was I thinking?

I thought I'd start a bit smaller and upload our cake pictures. My sweet hubby made a really cute cake for Doodlebug.

First he baked two 9 x 9 yellow cakes and carved them into the shape of a "1". We had a little trouble with the top and had to perform a little cake surgery. But it was all covered up by the frosting in the end.

Here he is frosting the cake. After he made the cake he told me this is only the second one he's ever frosted. I was very impressed.

After Chris frosted the cake we outlined it with jellybeans. They added some color and covered up the places where we smeared the frosting on our cake board.

I think the cake turned out really cute for our first attempt.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Turkey Meatballs

It can be a little tricky trying to cook at the end of a long day with an infant. I decided to pull out our crock pot and start trying all the crock pot recipies I could find. This one had been saved in a file for a long, long time. It sounded good, but also a little odd. I just wasn't sure if I would like it. Well after making it I discovered that I don't like it. I love it! I was astonished that meatballs put in the crockpot raw actually browned, but they do.

This recipe tastes even better the next day and freezes really well if you happen to have any meatballs left over. Mmm...turkey meatballs.

Turkey meatballs


--1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
--1 egg
--1 tsp kosher salt
--1 tsp ground black pepper
--1 ½ t poultry seasoning
--1/2 onion, finely chopped
--1 cup natural applesauce or 1 peeled and finely chopped apple
--1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
--1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries (optional)


In a large mixing bowl, mix the ground turkey with the rest of the ingredients.

Make golf-ball sized meatballs, and drop them into your crockpot. It’s fine to stack them on top of each other.

Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 5-9---the cooking time will depend the number of meatballs and the size of your crockpot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Snow in the South

We live in an area where it's pretty rare to get snow. When the weatherman first mentions the word "snow" on the air people flock to the grocery store and buy up all the milk and bread. I've never quite understood what people plan to do with milk and bread in a snowstorm. Maybe they make french toast? I don't know.

When we do finally get snow, the entire city shuts down. Honestly, two snowflakes and school is closed. Even once the snow melts the schools stay closed for another day. Yet another thing I don't understand about the South.

My husband and I grew up in areas where it snowed all winter long. When it did snow here last week we were both a little sad that Doodlebug won't get to grow up sledding, making snowmen and playing in the snow. When the snow does visit us, we try to make the most of it.

This was the night the snow started. We took Doodlebug out for a walk so he could see it. Our neighbors commented that we are like the post office, out walking in snow, sleet, rain, nothing stops us. They think we're nuts. They're probably right.

Unfortunately his hat kept slipping down over his eyes so I don't know how much he actually saw. He would just quietly sit in his stroller with his eyes covered and not make a peep. Only when we checked on him did we notice the problem.

When we did have some snow on the ground we decided to go out sledding. If only we had a sled. But my good friend had an idea, laundry baskets. So we pulled out an old one, lined it with a blanket, bundled up the Doodlebug and headed out the door.

I think he enjoyed the snow a lot more this time. I just love the look of pure joy on his face.

He was very amused watching Mommy and Daddy try to chip off the driveway with various garden tools.

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