Monday, February 24, 2014

Saturday Morning Kitchen

 Every once in a while I get crazy and find myself ambitious to take on what is seemingly a big project. Every once in a while I actually act on that mood and roll up my sleeves to get the job done.

Saturday morning was one of those times.

A friend recently shared on Facebook how in a short amount of time one afternoon she had accomplished a whole bunch of meal/snack prep. I felt inspired and vowed that I should again hop back into at least prepping some ready to go snack options for my family. Mainly, for the kiddos.

On Friday evening, I perused my Pinterest boards to compile a small list based on in-house ingredients.

Saturday morning I rallied the troops and being that 4/4 of them were in good spirits, I decided to move ahead and enlist their help. Gosh, those big kids sure are capable of more than I probably allow them to do! Between grabbing ingredients, consulting recipes and little girl patrol, we were able to work together to make four different snacks in about 2 hours.

The kids have already tried some of each recipe, so I will link to them here. Each of the recipes was pretty easy, minimal ingredients and quick to prepare.

First, we made Breakfast Cookies. These are made to be a bigger cookie and eaten only one at a time. I've made that clear to my household  that they are a snack or can be eaten with a yogurt for a relatively quick (aka during school time) breakfast.

For the dried fruit in this recipe I used both raisins and some cut up dried apricots along with the pecans for nuts. Although the directions state white and brown sugar, the recipe post omitted the white sugar and I did as well. Just use the brown sugar.

My kids enjoy smoothies for snack or along with their lunch. I decided to prep some smoothies in my Ninja and then spoon them in little cups, pop a Popsicle craft stick in and throw them in the freezer. Jonah was especially helpful with the Ninja for this recipe. It is so easy to throw in my frozen blueberries and strawberries that I picked last summer to enjoy the fruity goodness of this treat. After a coupe hours in the freezer they were ready to eat. I have no recipe for this as I just eyeball my ingredients and whip them up.

Next, we moved on to Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins. I did this recipe 1 1/2x so that it made roughly 2 1/2 dozen mini muffins. I've been electing to go the mini muffin route as it seems less get wasted. They are the perfect size for the girls and if someone else from the household wants two, that's ok too. I used regular all purpose flour (not whole wheat as suggested) and then 2 eggs to make my recipe.

Lastly, we made up one more batch of No Bake Chewy Granola Bars. I had tried this one for the first time earlier in the week and since we all liked them so much decided to make another batch with different mix-ins. These are definitely our favorite homemade granola bar recipe to date.

There I was, two hours later with a bunch of goodies for the upcoming week. The granola bars I placed in a airtight storage container and put on the shelf in the pantry with the other snacks. The other items I bagged up in Ziploc freezer bags and threw in the freezer. I even cleaned out the freezer, threw some unknown random stuff away and created room for a plastic basket to house all the snacks. This way, my hope is that it makes it easy enough for myself and the older kids to grab the snacks and know exactly where they are when hunger strikes.

How's that for a productive Saturday morning? I hope you enjoy the recipes as much as we have.

Happy Snacking!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thankful For Every Day Life

 Joining the wonderful Jamie with a dose of Thankfuls today.

With a winter as long as this one seems to be, I've got to stay focused and keep in mind all the simple things that keep me Thankful.

A bonus for you, if you stick with me until the end of this post you'll find out how much fun

Thankful for birthday girls. My WINTER birthday girls. Somehow having these two gems to celebrate in February gives us something extra special to look forward to after Christmas. Getting to celebrate them near Valentines Day each year and during the month of love is just another extra benefit. 

Thankful for this three year old who gets as crazy as she sometimes looks. She can come up with some of the most quirky looks/screeches/shouts a toddler ever displayed. While this can get trying and loud at times, she does keep me laughing. 

Thankful for little piggy toes and the girls they belong to. Those girls are already striving to do all that their big sister does, including demanding the blue nail polish. I gave in because blue is their favorite color and they were satisfied with it just painted on their piggies. 

Thankful for sister love and sister kisses. It makes me smile every time as I capture the moment on my motherly heart. 

Thankful for beautiful music I hear each day from my piano children. Thankful we have been able to afford taking them to weekly lessons for this long and they are making such wonderful progress.

Thankful for toddler questions that range from hilarious to just plain quizzical. A couple from this week: "Why does daddy go to work?", "Why do people have to live in houses?" and "Why do we have faces?" When it begins with 'why', I never know what I'm going to get with what follows. 

Thankful for warm winter days that at least give the illusion that winter will end. Thankful for big kids that I can send out in the snow while the little girls nap. Thankful for the sunshine and the longer, lighter evenings. I think that helps all of us feel better about things.

Lastly, Thankful for blogger friends like Jamie who invite us over to their home for fun and friendship. It was so much fun reconnecting with her and meeting all of her sweeties. They all really are as fun in person as they are online. To prove it, Margaret had so much fun that she got a black eye during our visit. It's almost all gone now and it didn't seem to bother her.
Now you've been warned what a blast Jamie's house is that you come away with injuries. 

And a smile that accompanies the full heart that you received from a simple afternoon with a friend. Thankful.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I've Got Sunshine

I received the Sunshine Award last week from Patty @ Reasons for Chocolate. She's my FAVORITE Texas friend and totally exudes Sunshine! When she nominated me I believe her words were 'she has to be the sweetest, kindest, gentlest mama out there...' and I just about died laughing (I won't even tell ya what my kids said when I told them). Her words are too kind and definitely something for me to aspire to.

Well, when you blog you kind of tend to share a whole lot so I struggled to come up with 10 pieces of information about myself. I'll give it a go.

In no particular order:


I have had braces three times in my life. And one wonders why I kinda hate going to the dentist and shelling out exorbitant amounts of money? Um, because my parents already did that with these pearly whites. I would tell you how old I was each time, but those years are kind of blocked out of my memory. For good reason, my friends.
I do know that originally it was due to a really crocked front tooth and then again for crowding maybe and finally, because I hit puberty/maturity and some of them shifted again. At least that's how I remember it. I really spent large quantities of my tween/early teen life at the orthodontist office and hated it. Thankfully, my parents are like saints and drove me there like a bazillion times plus shelled out the moola.


I have lived in Minnesota my entire life. I have now driven 19 years in the winter and I have never gone in the ditch. Never slid off the road due to the bad road conditions and gone plowing in the ditch. By now hereby declaring this I have just sealed my fate and will not make it 20 years without incident. Seriously though, I drive like an over cautious grandma in the winter so for obvious reasons I've never gone in the ditch.


My hometown had 16 state lottery winners. I think most are still in the area. Anyone recall in 2003 hearing the story of the 'Lunch Ladies' who won the Powerball of $95 MILLION? Those were my peeps. A few of them served lunch way back when I was in school. 

Unfortunately, none of them were relatives or chose to give me a hand out. 


I have extensive experience in the food service industry. Read: I was a waitress in several establishments that were in dire need of trained waitresses that knew the menu and didn't mind serving annoying customers. At the time it wasn't really my most favorite thing to do, but looking back I still kind of miss the tip money. That was like the best. An hourly (minimum) wage, plus the bonus of tips. I loved the days of putting together my pile of ones at the end of the night and counting my change to see it all add up. Then every two weeks getting an 'additional' amount of money in the form of a check for my hourly wage. I thought that was the best, but it definitely didn't make up for rude customers and cranky pants that complained all.the.time. I can do without that.


I have never been on a warm weather vacation. By this I mean I've never traveled away from this miserable season that is named Winter in order to go to a warm climate to get away. With each passing winter I wonder why on earth I've never done so. Patty, are you reading this one? This would mean that you are like my #1 favorite warm climate friend and you may be the lucky winner of me at your doorstep one day. You've been warned. 

To be completely honest, I did spend three months of winter out of the cold one year. I spend two months in Louisiana and one month in Alabama. Of course I wasn't really 'vacationing' because I was serving a year with NET Ministries and I wasn't outside enjoying the sun every day. But I will say, despite all that, it was my favorite winter EVER. 
That was also the first and only time I've seen the ocean.


I kind of have a thing (ok, a slight crush) on Jim Caviezel. Hey, who doesn't?! It just so happens that he's on one of my current favorite shows, Person of Interest. Reed also enjoys the show so Friday nights are generally 'date night' and we watch an episode we have on DVR. It's like the best of both worlds, my husband, my crush and myself in our living room. What? Is that weird? At least they are both good Catholic guys.
My new favorite line another character said from a recent episode that I thought was hilarious (referring to Mr. Reese):

'You kind of have that salt & pepper thing going on. It's like catnip to soccer moms.'

Um, pretty much.


I currently weigh about 85 lbs less than on the day I delivered Lily. In my defense, I also gained the most weight in Lily's pregnancy (42 lbs), due to it being my first and me not knowing any better. I also gained the most water weight and retained the weight being quite swollen for the entire third trimester. All the babies after that I was far wiser and realized that it took a lot of effort to get rid of that baby weight, so I was a bit more cautious.

The above photo is me after going through almost exactly 24 hours of natural labor. Not my best photo. And you know what those nurses brought me to eat after all that work over all those hours? Toast and jam and I think a muffin. Sure, it was midnight, but seriously?
I've never gotten over that one.


One of my biggest pet peeves and I absolutely is my nose being touched. There, I said it. I know, like how many people even touch another persons nose? Hardly ever. But really, don't touch, flick, tweek or pinch it. Ever.
It may be weird, but it's kind of my 'thing'. I think it goes back to when I had some issues with what I thought were the beginning of allergies and went to an allergist for testing. I had something else, but it stems from this sensitivity to my nose. It would cause instant tickling in my nose and sneezing and it bugged the heck out of me.
I probably no longer have the issue, but my nose bugs me. My husband knows this and has made sure my kids do too.
Do not touch mommy's nose. Just don't do it.


My favorite times of the day are 1) the little girls' nap time and 2) when my head hits the pillow at night.  Sure, there are other real times during the day that are great but day in and day out these two seem to remain. The bedtime one is obvious, because I'm exhausted and I just love to snuggle in under the covers. I can fall asleep within about 3 minutes, never fail. The nap time has perhaps only been in the last 6 months or so that I've really become fond of it. Not because the house is finally quiet or I can go clean up all the tornadoes throughout or because that's usually my "me" time when I exercise.
I know I should just read the girls their stories before nap, tuck them in and leave, but I don't. There's something about singing to them or sitting in their room awaiting the slow rhythmic breathing of two sleeping beauties. I walk to each of their beds, cast a glance and give a kiss to their cheeks. That daily moment is caught in a still-frame on my heart. Priceless.


I am a Knights of Columbus free throw champion, three years running. You heard it here folks, super athlete right here.
These were way back in the '90's when the KC's did an annual free throw championship on a Saturday in the middle of the winter. The categories were broke up into age or grade and then gender.
I practiced for weeks. I had my form down. I was gonna rock it. Fifteen free throws, that's all it was. Whomever from your group nailed the most, was the winner of the plaque. Super simple.

I just happened to make the most free throws those three years.
I also just happened to be the only female in my age group each of those three years.

Yup, I only had to make one free throw to get the plaque (one year it was even a trophy). And one (or two) free throws was all I made those years and then the following year I had competition. Or maybe I just didn't enter because I got so completely nervous to shoot those fifteen free throws.
Or maybe I was a little less eager to be patronized because although I won, I didn't really 'win'. You know what I mean?
It doesn't matter, my husband still thinks I was like awesome at bball. He just doesn't know any better.

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Award:

1.  Use the award logo in your post.
2. Link to whoever nominated you.
3. Tell us 10 pieces of information about yourself.
4. Nominate fellow bloggers who "positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere".
5. Leave a comment on the nominees' blogs to tell them of the award.

I now nominate for the Sunshine Award three very sweet and Sunshiny ladies:

Colleen from Martin Family Moments

Go check them out in their little corners of the Blogosphere!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Let's Catch Up, Shall We?

As I breezed through the months worth of photos during my blogging hiatus, I found that there wasn't much to tell.
It was then though that I was reminded of strings of days that came together with seemingly nothing monumental to report. 
These are those days that perhaps get lost most in the shuffle, the days that no photos are taken and little documentation to prove we really did live them.
Maybe those were the days I struggled most or perhaps they were those ordinary days that make the best moments. The ones my children will remember.

Either way, a very brief look at a few of the things that did happen.

Lily turned ELEVEN. Wow. I totally didn't see that coming. Remind me again how these kids keep growing up?  We celebrated with her non-cake choice (it's some type of preteen phase I'm guessing) of rice krispie cake with chocolate glaze.

Lily ended up getting that cow she wanted. Kind of. Her AG doll, Abby, did at least. Perhaps in the spring she'll get a real cow or maybe a few chickens at least.

That following week we headed out of town for a couple days. Reed had a work related conference to attend, so we tagged along and did fun stuff while he worked. It's kind of a win-win. Fun for us all day, some fun as a family in the evenings and no time apart. It's perfect!

Well, when our parish priest found out we were heading to Rochester he mentioned this Catholic coffee shop. He was appauld I hadn't heard of it. So was I! 
Catholic and Coffee, two of my favorite things together?

Oh, but it got better my friends.

The kids and I headed out one morning to find the shop and it was just minutes from our hotel and our side of the city. 

It was like a fun field trip. Keep waiting, it gets better.

The St. James Coffee Shop is

Not only do they have coffee and treats and all the great stuff a coffee shop should....

they also have JESUS there:

You saw that, right? The tabernacle there in the center?
In the back of this coffee shop is a small chapel so that the working person or the average person who stops in for coffee, can also stop in for some Jesus time too.

It was really the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. I wish I lived closer! I would totally work there. Or be a frequent customer.

Check out their website link above to find more about their mission. We really enjoyed the atmosphere and the classic coffee shop feel, but with Saints photos and bios all over the shop. In the corner they had a treasure of basic Catholic books and other pamphlets, etc to evangelize and share the Catholic faith. Very cool.

We managed to cruise right on through the rest of September and October mainly just schooling. We made a brief stop at the end of the month to celebrate my 35th birthday. 

Somewhere in there our diocese finally received word that Rome had finally named a new bishop for us and he would be on his way.
Our bishop had retired last year and then with the change of Papacy we had to wait even longer for a new bishop to be named.
Bishop Donald Kettler's Installation as our Bishop would be held in early November with only limited seating available. Each parish received three tickets for members to attend the special Installation Mass. 
Thankfully, I've got connections, I work for our parish and it was during the week so a lot of people had to work.

Score three tickets and two very eager kids who thought the event would be awesome to attend. 
And here we are with the new Bishop:

Yeah, it was kind of a big deal and all. We had so much fun and made a great memory that day.

Of course, we celebrated some holidays in there as well.

Thanksgiving was at our house with my family. It was still relatively nice out and the ground still bare and brown without snow. Here's my big kids and my brother's boys, my nephews.
This is about the only time Lily is outnumbered by the male population, otherwise it's always the other way around and Jonah is outnumbered.

Christmas Eve was our tradition of just our family together and then Christmas day was spent with both of our extended families.
We went all out this year and took all four kids to Midnight Mass at our church. Last year I attended alone because we just didn't know how we'd venture out with everyone. This year we bit the bullet and grabbed everyone and went. It was beautiful and the kids all behaved really well. 

This photo was taken AFTER Mass, which meant it was well after 1am and the kids had only about 2 hours of sleep beforehand. Not bad, huh?

Another reason my time away was good/needed was the unexpected things God threw our way. 

Like the off and on colds/coughs that eventually took all of us captive at one time or another. This was a persistent strain that lasted and every time someone had it kicked, it returned. At one point all four kiddos were on meds and then right in there in early January both little girls got the tummy bug. They were troopers and we all survived. I'll just say though that it was the And hardest as I've never had all of my kids sick at the same time and for any length.
Mix in that Old Man Winter had dealt us some nasty cold that didn't allow us to go outside for many a day during that time. Not our best days as a family, that much is for sure.

In the midst of much of my time away, something was still stirring and tugging at my heart. In early December I finally found what it was when one evening I received the dreaded phone call I'd know for months was coming.

My dad's voice on the other end told me that my grandpa, Papa, had passed away. My heart broke and months worth of knowing finally became the reality I feared. I cried and I grieved most differently than I ever thought I would. While Papa Eddie and I weren't ever real close in our relationship, or so I thought, I didn't know how much my heart would miss him. I didn't know how deep the loss would impact me. He was a good man who after 94 years is missed by so many. I wasn't ready to let him go, even though many of us knew it was near. He was a man beyond words to explain. I lived most of my life at home with grandpa just across the meadow in the white house I frequented with visits. It's funny how his passing has stirred within me more memories than my heart can hold. Many of his years were on the family farm that he struggled and toiled farming for so long. Many of my memories are of the simple things grandpa said or did that connected him to each of us grandchildren in a unique way. Many of those things have come back as a flood filling my own soul since his passing. 

I am still overwhelmed with love for the man who taught me much, led by so much determination, loved his Catholic faith and whose wit, wisdom and laughter were what he was most known by.

I still find myself some days caught off guard by the simple memories and the quiet moments when the sadness of loss grabs a hold of me. 

Somehow I am easily consoled by the prayer that he taught many of us from our very youngest days:

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give thee my heart and my soul.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, grant that I may die in thy peace and company.

I sure hope they did, Papa. I pray that your prayers were answered.

Monday, February 3, 2014

She's Not A Baby Any More

Can you believe this girl turned TWO over the weekend?

You remember that day when I introduced her to you, right? You know, yesterday.
Except that yesterday was two years ago. 

Oh how we love this girl! We are celebrating a joint birthday for the little girls in a couple weeks, closer to Gianna's birthday. We still had to at least do a bit of celebrating to mark her entrance into this big world.

With a birthday on the Feast of the Presentation, how could we not eat and celebrate one way or another?

I prepared Breakfast Enchiladas for brunch after Mass. 

It was a HUGE hit and I highly recommend it as it's super duper easy!

Mommy and Daddy looking quite a bit different than two years ago. Maybe we've aged well. Perhaps.

Up until the last minute I really had no idea what I was going to do for her cake. 
Poor 4th child.
All I knew was that I had bought cake mix (again, bad mom) and a bag of Valentine colored M&Ms that I was somehow going to use. No, it was not going to be a very Pinterest-y birthday with theme and matching, but hopefully she doesn't care too much.

We ended up inviting Margaret's Godparents and their girls over for impromptu cake after brunch.
We'll catch the grandparents and maybe a few other family members in a couple weeks at the actual party for both Margaret and Gianna.

Do I sound like I'm feeling guilty at all here?
(Who gave this woman her Mom Badge? Clearly, not well earned in the bday dept.)

She looks like she enjoyed it, don't ya think?

I ended up feeling inspired (if you can call it that) and had Gianna help me separate the M&Ms by color before Mass. I then whipped up the Two Ingredient Buttercream Frosting that I now swear by and we had that cake all decorated by 8 am before shuffling off to Mass.

It was yummy, if I do say so myself.

The afternoon was pretty uneventful with only a quick nap for the Birthday Princess and her royal sister. 
The older kids were gone with dad snow tubing with their 4-H group, so it was just me and the girls holdin' down the fort.

What an afternoon to hang out in the kitchen and make a huge mess have a blast with Playdoh.

And now I have two TWO year olds in my house for the next 15 days. 

If the next two weeks are anything like the last month, they will be living up to their newly coined name:

The TWO Toddler Tornado Twins.

Yup, it will be gettin' real up in here.

Hang on mama.

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