Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dreaming of Dinner

I have made a new discovery thanks to a good friend of mine.  I don't know if any of you remember my insane nesting endeavor to do Once-A-Month Cooking when I was 9 months pregnant with M.  I was a nesting freak of nature in all my swollen pregnant glory as I dragged A.R. to do a month's worth of grocery shopping in one day and then cook all of said purchased food the next day.  Needless to say the cooking didn't all get done in one day because my swollen belly and feet doth protested, but I cooked every night for a few nights after working all day to get it all done.  A.R. was intimidated and scared of entering the kitchen.  He helped when he could, but mostly he tried to stay out of my way.  I vowed NOT to do that again this pregnancy as we were both scarred despite saving money in the process.  I was getting the urge to prepare meals in advance again when my good friend reminded me of her new discovery: Dream Dinners.  Que the little ray of sunshine from heaven shining on my nice clean kitchen.

Dream Dinners does the dirty work for you.  They buy all the groceries, set up all the ingredients in stations, and do all the pre-cooking and prep work for you so all you have to do is go and package the meals in freezer bags or containers (that they provide) by following their simple directions at each station.  You even get index sized cards to put in the packages that tell you what's inside and how to prepare and cook the dish.  It is even extremely husband friendly (A.R. has volunteered to go to our next meal packing appointment in May should I not feel up to it physically).  I did a trial run first back in March that let you pick 6 meals from a section of their monthly menu.  We've made all but one meal so far and they have all been delicious and both husband and toddler approved.  Each month the Dream Dinners menu changes, so you never get bored with the selections and you are always welcome to order more than one of each meal if you think it will be a family hit.  There are also favorite meals that are rotated into the monthly menu regularly, so if you have a favorite, there's a good chance you'll see it again.

Last Saturday, I went back again for my first session doing a larger order of 15 meals.  It only took an hour and 15 minutes to assemble everything and I only had to wait for one food assembly station at the very end at which point I took a break, ate some samples, and looked at next month's menu to pick out our meals.  The employees at the location I go to are very helpful and nice and offered to even help me as I waddled around the assembly area.  During each session they offer samples of dishes from the next month's menu.  I joined the Dream Dinners rewards program (completely free), so I get 10% off my order each month and it allows me to just put down a down payment and then pay the balance a week before my next session.  The more months I make orders, the more perks I will get over time.  That 10% will go up I think after a certain number of visits.  A huge bonus to me is that if I ever can't make a session, I can either send A.R. in my place or I can pay a little extra and the Dream Dinners staff will assemble my meals for me.  I can pretty much guarantee we'll end up taking advantage of that perk come June when we have a newborn!

A huge thank you to my friend from saving me from some extreme nesting exhaustion this time around.  And an even bigger thank you to Dream Dinners!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hippity Hoppity- Easter 2012

This year we decided to do some additional non-religious traditions for Easter now that M is a little older.  I got an egg decorating kit from a friend that we put to use and she even got to give the Easter Bunny a high five at the mall since she was a bit too tentative to sit on his lap. :)  Let's not forget that the Easter Bunny paid a visit to our house this year and brought her a small basket (without candy) with goodies for her to play with.  Her favorite new treat is by far the bubble stuff the Easter Bunny put in her basket.  Every night when we get home from work she asks for her bubbles and does an insanely cute happy dance when we blow bubbles for her.
Thanks to the whisk trick a fellow toddler mom taught me about, dying eggs was mess free and fun.  M loved dipping the eggs in the various colors and seeing what came out.  The kit we had also came with stickers and she loved putting them on the eggs.  We'll definitely do it again next year!
I don't think she quite understood the whole Easter Bunny concept and frankly I don't blame her.  Come on...a bunny that delivers eggs?!  It does seem a little far fetched.  The Easter Bunny wasn't huge in our house growing up and we won't go all out at Easter time with our kids, either. Teaching her the religious reasons behind the holiday are more important to us.  Even still we got her a little something this year (all from Target's dollar section) and let her discover her Easter basket on Easter morning in the kitchen.  Of course she was excited about it seeing all the goodies inside -coloring books, crayons, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, travel coloring kits, and a Tangled puzzle.

This year we took her to both the Good Friday service and Easter Vigil mass.  She slept through most of the Good Friday mass (YAY!) and did pretty good with the Easter Vigil mass despite the extended length and the fact it started pretty much right before her bedtime (8pm).  We attended my friend's church for the Vigil mass as she had her 1st Communion and we wanted to support her and all the hard work she's been doing studying to become a Catholic.  She'll be confirmed Catholic next month!  The Vigil mass always starts in darkness with candle light only and M was enthralled.  She thought it was a huge birthday celebration and kept saying, "burfday, Mami! Burfday!"  Candles to her equal cake + happy birthday song + blowing out said candles, so she kept trying to blow out our candle and the candles held by the procession walking past us.  Adorable!  She LOVES the choir in church and any singing and there was quite a bit of it during the whole service and we just happened to sit right in front of the choir, so she loved watching them sing.

Easter morning we took our time waking up and just relaxed.  Since we went to mass the night before, we didn't have to rush off to Easter morning mass and it was kind of nice.  M opened her Easter basket while A.R. cooked breakfast and then we all snuggled on the couch for a "MOOO-bie!!" (movie).  Of course the day's selection was yet again another Disney delight, Tinkerbell.  After snuggle time we got ready to go over to the in-laws' house and spent some time over there.  It's hard to believe it was her third Easter already and it was a great one spent with family.

Fine. You can take my picture, but make it quick.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Turkey Meatballs

I wanted to go a bit healthier at M's birthday party considering the cookies and cake we'd be having.  The main fare was simple Italian (ziti, salad, garlic bread, Spanish rice- because apparently we can't have a family party without it), so I wanted to try out a new crock pot meatball recipe.  Skinnytaste did not let me down.  I made their Turkey Meatballs and they were delicious.  Nobody realized it wasn't red meat and we had hardly any leftovers which is always a good sign they were yummy!

Here is the recipe: Crock Pot Italian Turkey Meatballs

I didn't change a thing, but could have probably gotten away with adding extra garlic into the meatballs.  Maybe even in the form of garlic salt.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


My itty bitty baby is T-W-O.  How is that possible?!  She is such a happy girl packaged complete with a sense of humor, some sass, and my determination (a nicer word for stubborn?).  Her antics and shenanigans amaze me everyday.  It seems like she is always doing something new to make me laugh, cringe, or tear up with pride.  Her latest tear jerker moment was last week when she told me for the first time, "I wub u!" (I love you!) and also she started saying "I sowee, Mami. I sowee." (I'm sorry) if she does something wrong or bumps into me or something.  It literally makes you melt to hear your child show compassion like that.  I just want to hug her and smother her in kisses every time she says those words.  Of course she also has her toddler melt down moments and has gotten really good at telling us "NO, no, no!" when something doesn't suite her.  

She now can open our pantry and pull/push chairs up to the counter/pantry to reach what she wants to.  Helping me cook by pulling a chair up is her new favorite thing along with helping hold Tomas's leash when we walk him in the evenings, moving laundry from washer to dryer, and helping feed the dogs.  She is a chatter box these days and is a perfect little Spanglish gal speaking and understanding both, but mixing them up when it's easier to say a word in one language or the other.  She likes to try to dress herself and put her own shoes on (usually just dress shoes or sandals) and she loves having her hair done. M twirls and dances whenever we put a dress on her as she loves the flowy fabrics.  She is starting to count and recite letters and my mother-in-law taught her the Spanish vowel sounds.  Riding in the shopping cart is becoming a thing of the past so shopping with her can be completely exhausting, but we make little games out of it.  She LOVES being outside and cries when it's time to go inside.  A gal after my own heart!  M is in love with the movie Tangled and will watch it over and over.  She got a couple Rapunzel doll for her birthday and she loves playing with their hair and mothering them.  Puzzles and coloring are her other favorite past times.  And goodness me she hates it when she realizes her hands are dirty and asks to wash them immediately.

We celebrated M's 2nd birthday on her actual big day (March 25th) and invited just immediate family and one close friend and her daughter.  Her party was Barney themed and included a visit from the grand dino himself.  I also once again made her cake completely from scratch this year including the fondant Barney cake topper. :)  It was a vanilla cake with strawberry cream filling, and swiss merinque buttercream frosting.  While we waited for Barney's arrival, the kids (my 5 nephews and my friend's daughter) decorated sugar cookies like in the real show when they sing "the Cookie Song".  It was a huge hit for them and the cookies doubled as part of the favors the kids got to take home since I was a mean Auntie and didn't give out any candy in their goodie bags.

After cookie decorating we assembled the kids in the living room and Barney made his appearance.  M didn't see him at first as she was trying to escape the room and her back was turned to him.  When she finally turned around and saw him she just backed up and sat on her Titi's lap inbetween two of her cousins in awe.  No tears or crying, just utter and complete shock and awe that Barney was in HER house!  It was priceless and yes, it's on video. We also caught on video one of my nephew's, J, scurrying the heck out of the room as fast as possible in the opposite direction.  He was terrified of Barney at first, but warmed up to him and gave him a few high fives.  The kids held back for the most part just in awe and gave plenty of high fives.  My youngest nephew, C, was the ONLY one brave enough to let Barney hold him and of course my friend's 8 month old let Barney hold her for some pictures.  M wouldn't dance with Barney by herself, but she did in her Papi's arms for a bit with a huge smile on her face.

Barney stayed while we sang Happy Birthday to M and she absolutely reveled in the attention.  Her favorite thing at birthdays right now is when people sing and blow out the candles.  She sees a candle and/or cake and a "burfday" immediately comes to mind for her and she starts to sing, "Happy Birthday".  It's really adorable.  I think it confuses her when there's a cake and no candles around.  After her birthday song, we sang the parting song on the Barney show "I Love You, You Love Me" and tried to get a group shot of the kids with Barney before he left.  What happened after Barney left was priceless.  M was so sad.  She started pouting and walking around with her Barney doll and trying to trade it in to get the live Barney back.  She kept walking around saying, "Bye Barney.  Bye. Barney? Where are you?" with such a sad look on her face.  My eldest nephew tried to explain to her that Barney was now her doll (just like on the TV show where the doll comes to life in the beginning and then becomes a doll again in the end) and she wasn't buying it.  M would walk up to any adult and try to hand them her Barney to see if we could switch it out for the live one.  It lasted for about an hour before she gave up and even today- two weeks later- she'll still talk about Barney coming to her party.  Yes, we are the cool parents right now!!  A.R. was editing her birthday video this weekend and she heard it and immediately ran up to watch "her" Barney again.

In addition to Barney's visit, we were very fortunate that my brother was able to fly up from Florida to attend her party and he was able to pick up our Grandmother- M's Great Grandmother- in Massachusetts and drive her down for the party.  I'm not sure who enjoyed the party more- M or her Great Grammie!!  It was such a wonderful day and M LOVED everything about her party.  We are so very blessed to have such an awesome little girl as our daughter.
All tuckered out after her party

M and her Godparents

Great Grammie getting some Barney love

Monday, April 09, 2012

Big Girls Don't Cry

To appease my nesting instinct to prepare for Baby 2.0 I had to do some decorating in our home.  Since we are recycling our nursery that we decorated gender neutral with the intention of rotating all of our future babes through it, I got to decorate a big girl room for Miss M.  We wanted to make the switch early enough so that M didn't feel outcast by the new baby from the only room she remembers sleeping in since birth (she was in our room in a bassinet until she was 3 months old).  It made sense with timing and the start of my third trimester to make the switch around her 2nd birthday as sort of a gift to her.  She got to come with us furniture shopping and jump on the beds a bit as we picked out her furniture in early February and I dragged her on quite a few trips to Target until we stumbled across some bedding we (ok, mostly I) fell in love with.
M has always been infatuated with horses on carousels and with the live versions in general since her first pony ride last fall.  If she sees a horse (she says it in Spanish: caballo) she always yells, "NEEEIGGGH!" before she actually calls it a horse.  When I saw this horse bedding at Target I knew she had to have it.  She was napping the first time we "shopped" for it, but I totally took her back to the store awake to see if she liked it and she did.  A.R. thinks I'm pushing my love of horses on her.  I say it's in her blood and I swear horse lovers have an extra gene to be just crazy enough to want to ride the magnificant creatures that they are.  M has that gene.  It was quite evident when we visited my friend in NC and she got to ride her first real horse. :)  Definitely a proud Mami moment for me!
Ok, back to the subject.  M came with us to Home Depot to pick up paint swatches.  We decided on an awful Pepto Bismal pink (I'm more of a purple kind of gal) called Pretty in Pink from the Disney line of Behr paints.  It matches her bedding perfectly and M LOVES her pink room, so that's all that matters.  I'll get to paint a room purple in that house some day!  The night A.R. painted it we let her do a few rolls on the wall with the paint roller and she was so proud of herself.  After it was painted she ran around the room doing her own happy dance as her signature of approval.  Her furniture was delivered the first weekend in March and she got so excited once I put her horse bedding on her bed and A.R. hung up the horse painting.  We had purchased wall decals to match, but made a fatal error in putting them where she could reach them.  "ick-her, Mami! ick-her!" ensued as she though they were giant stickers and pulled them all off the walls.  We bought another box of the decals and need to hang them up higher out of her reach this time :).
We had planned to let her just play in her new room for a couple weeks and let her sleep in it the first time for her birthday, but she was much too excited about it.  Every time we opened the door to her room to give her some play time in there she'd yell, "NEIGH!" and one night we just figured, why delay it?  She obviously loved the room and had figured out how to use the step stool to get up and down from the bottom bunk with no issues, so we took a leap of faith and on Daylight Savings Time eve let her sleep in her new room the first time.  She woke up twice, but was more disoriented than upset and quickly fell back asleep each time.  She never once cried for her old comfy crib converted to a toddler bed or her old room (the nursery).  On night #2 I told her to go to her room after brushing her teeth and she went straight to her new room without even a glance at the nursery across the hall ::tear::.  My big girl doesn't cry.  She moves on.  Once again Mami had a harder time with the transition than she did.  I think the hardest part for me was having her sleep in a room without a video monitor hooked up for the first time.  I admit I peaked in at her before I went to bed anyway, but man I miss that spy cam!
We opted to go more neutral with her furniture and got bunk beds as her new room is our biggest bedroom besides our master bedroom suite and should we have three children one day (we'll see how it goes with two little ones first!), two of them will share this room.  NO, we don't know what sex Baby 2.0 is.  My in-laws saw her new big girl room and automatically assumed we already know we're having a girl, but honestly we don't know.  We just figured we're investing in furniture that is going to last through high school and we know we'll eventually have two little ones in this room, so why spend the money on interim furniture.  If we end up having two boys and M is our only girl, we'll move her out of this room into her own room and repaint the room a boy color.  If we have a boy and then a girl, we would still expect M to share her room with her youngest sister and if we have another girl come June, SCORE- no extra painting for A.R.! And if we end up with just two little ones?  We have an extra guest bed and a spot for friends when M is of sleep over age.  Of course, the top bunk is off limits for quite awhile.  M doesn't even realize what it is at this point and we don't plan on showing her anytime soon.  I fear for our health insurance premiums once she's old enough to climb up top!  I do remember always wishing I had bunk beds when I was little, though, and I'm glad we can give that to our kids.