Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seizing the End of the Summer

We had a fun family outing last weekend, trying to squeeze in some fun before the summer comes to an end. We went to a city park with a sprayground which was very fun and refreshing, and as an added bonus also free (except the gas to drive there, of course). We'll definitely make this a regular outing next summer! Pictures are included for dear grandmas to our sweet kiddos.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stepping Into Fall

This summer has been full of activity, but not exactly tons of fun stuff. Our fully-staged house has been on the market since mid-May and we have had less than two handfuls of showings. Even without many showings, this has put a crimp in our family life as I have not wanted to go out of the house unless it was in great shape...just in case. We've discovered through this that although we do like a clean home, we really want to live here even more. Some furniture had been moved for a better presentation, but that has proved far less functional for our young family. We're ready to put things back in their family-friendly places, to move some belongings back in from the garage and just enjoy living here without pressure again. We will be taking our listing off the market within the next week and we're thinking of a family celebration to mark that event.

Aside from having our house on the market, we were concerned about my grandma and her health and then traveling to say goodbye and then traveling again to grieve and celebrate her life with all of the family. We continue to grieve this loss.

But, in between the stress and sadness we've experienced this summer, we've had some enjoyable times, too.

Sportster enjoyed being on his first team and looks forward to soccer this fall.

The kids enjoyed splashing in our backyard pool.

We enjoyed our July 4th weekend at home with a neighbor's party and fireworks and a outing to a very nice county park.

Surprisingly our littlest guy delighted in our hike the most.

My garden gave me LOTS of surpise pumpkin plants, which added lots of green to our backyard. And the kids are excited about the sunflowers, too! And we ended up with some free landscaping materials from a professional job next door which helped the cause, too. The tomatoes are coming along, too, so I am hoping the frost doesn't come too early as they still need much more time to ripen.

We endured a family camping trip with our church community. It will a great memory in the distant future, but the details are still a little too fresh to see it that way now, though we know it will certainly get easier as the kids grow up. In years to come we may actually be able to sit by the fire and fellowship or go hiking with those we went camping with.

We have been able to help with teaching Sister's Sunday School class and have so much more appreciation for those who serve in Children's Ministry!

We celebrated Smiley's birthday and transitioned him to a big bed, though the transition is still in process. He is enjoying the freedom a little too much.

And we have decided on a school option for Sportster which best suits him and our family for this year.

So, all in all, the summer was fine, but maybe not all we had hoped it would be. There are still many things on the Summer Fun 2008 sheet we made at the beginning of the summer which have not been even remotely attemped and with school starting tomorrow morning we will not get them done. But we're thinking it is going to be a great fall! Maybe I'll just make a new list....Fall Fun 2008!

We hope to get out and enjoy this beautiful place called Colorado even more!

P.S. - Most of these shots were taken by my husband and I think they turned out great! Also, this post is actually being published early on Monday, August 25th but I can't seem to change the date from the initial draft. If you know how to do this, please fill me in!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Menu Planning for Dummies

I've been in a bit of cooking rut lately, due largely to not making a very good menu plan and then finding that there are too many options by the time I want to start preparing dinner. So we'll see how this new idea works. Each night of the week we will have a theme and I'll do my best to work within that theme to use what we have to prepare that dinner. This will be the first week for me to try this. As I get this down pat, I will add breakfast and lunch plans. My specific menu plans for each will depend on the grocery sales of the current week or the stockpile of cheaply acquired ingredients from previous weeks. We are a family of 5, with a monthly grocery and household supplies/diapers/personal goods budget of $300/month. Homemade whole wheat bread may be added to many of the meals in one form or another.

Meat Monday - I'll cook something with beef or pork which will likely be the "meat & potatoes" meal of the week. I'm thinking roasts, steaks, pork chops, meatballs, etc. paired with potatoes or rice and a salad or vegetable.

Tex-Mex Tuesday - Meals could include tacos, burritos, taco salad, quesadillas with meat, fajitas or rice bowls with meat served with a vegetable or salad.

Chicken/Turkey Wednesday - Possible meals are grilled chicken breasts, roasted chicken, roasted turkey, chicken casseroles, turkey soup with homemade noodles, served with fruit and vegetables.

Third World (or Thrifty) Thursday - Bring on the beans and rice with whatever bits of meat are in the fridge from former meals! If we have a surplus of leftovers, we'll opt for clearing those out instead. This meal will likely be served with smoothies from fruit that needs to go. Smoothies in our house are made with any combination of fruit, yogurt, milk, juice and small amounts of ice cream that needs to be used up. Since I generally shop on Friday, it'll be nice to have the fridge clear for the new purchases. This is a day to use what we have and use inexpensive ingredients.

Family Friday - A meal catered toward what the kids like....pasta with meat sauce, pizza, burgers and oven fries, tacos, meat and cheese pockets, hot dogs wrapped in whole wheat bread dough, etc.

Savor the Day Saturday - For breakfast we'll have a better breakfast than we take the time for during the week which will likely be any combination of oat waffles, eggs and bacon, omelets, muffins, fruit, juice and smoothies. Lunch will be sandwiches or eating out, if we are able to do that on any given week. Dinner will be something prepared on the grill.

Simple Sunday - For lunch we'll have some kind of entree that I just have to pull out of the freezer on Saturday night, from times when I cook in bulk, or something I can assemble for the crock pot on Saturday night. For dinner we'll do some kind of soup and salad. Some soups we serve around here are chili, taco soup, chicken noodle or chicken rice, broccoli cheddar, vegetable beef, baked potato, and pasta e fagioli (from a copycat Olive Garden recipe I found online). Soups also seem to be good ways for us to use up little bits of this and that which are lingering in the fridge without any other purposeful use.

So, with that in mind, here's my plan for this week.

D: mesquite pork tenderloin (we like the Hormel Always Tender which I found on a good sale this week), green beans, green salad with cukes, peppers, celery, asiago, banana peppers & Tuscan dressing

D: taco on soft corn tortillas, carrots, celery, and peppers with dip

D: light chicken fettuccine alfredo, broccoli, breadsticks

D: leftovers and/or black beans and rice, fruit smoothies

Friday Dinner - Sunday Lunch: Camping Meals
beef hot dogs with chips & salsa, BBQ beans and fresh fruit
sub sandwiches, crackers, jello
cold cereal & milk, yogurt, white grape juice
oat banana pancakes with blueberries, orange juice and bacon
taco soup with chips, guac, sour cream & shredded cheese
tequila lime turkey tenderloin (grilled), creamy corn, rice (pre-cooked)

Oh, it feels good to have a solid, but simple plan!

For more menu ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.