Friday, September 28, 2012

Tried and True Recipe: Pizza Sauce

Homemade pizza makes a frequent appearance on our weekly menu plan.  It's something that everyone likes, especially Jack.  Not only is it healthier to make our own, but it's far cheaper than getting take-out, and it doesn't take too much effort to make from scratch!  We often make Buffalo and BBQ Chicken varieties, but when we take the more traditional route this is the pizza sauce we use to top our favorite whole-wheat pizza crust.

We prefer a thick, rich sauce and I've tried lots of different recipes looking for the sauce that we like best.  After some experimentation, this is it!  This recipe makes enough for 2-3 pizzas depending on the size of your pizza (ours is usually a ~14-inch round) and how saucy you like it, but it freezes great so I love to stash the extra in the freezer for next time and sometimes I'll make a double batch and freeze a bunch of individual portions to have on hand.

Pizza Sauce
Adapted from

2T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped (this is ~1/4 of a large onion, or 1/2 of a regular one)
1-2T minced garlic (a few good sized cloves)
14.5 oz. crushed tomatoes
8 oz. tomato sauce
6 oz. tomato paste
2t. dried oregano
2t. dried basil
1t. salt
pinch of sugar

In a medium sauce pan, heat EVOO over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes (you'll probably want to put a lid on it at this point so sauce doesn't get everywhere.  Tomato sauces are MESSY!  Just don't cover it completely, offset the lid a little to allow steam to escape.).

That's it!  Use it to top your favorite pizza.  It's also good to dip breadsticks and stromboli in.  Freeze any leftovers and thaw as needed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Consignment Shopping: Round 2

Last week, Jack and I made a 30 minute trip to another local consignment sale. I had never been to this particular sale before because it's a little bit of a hike, but WOW! It was a HUGE sale and totally worth the drive! I got so many great deals and bought clothing for both kids in a variety of sizes.

For Baby Dos:

Oops!  Forgot this one :)

Newborn:  1 Circo brand Sleeper

0-3 months:  2 Sleepers, both Carter's brand, one of them was new with tags!

3-6 months: 
     - 1 Carter's brand sleeper,
     - 1 3-piece (pants, short-sleeved onesie, button down long-sleeved shirt) Carter's brand outfit, new with tags!
     - 5 short-sleeved Carter's brand onesies
     - an additional onesie in a brand I've never heard of, new with tags!

6-9 months:
     - 2 short-sleeved Carter's brand onesies
     - 1 pair cotton pants, also Carter's brand
     - a darling little Circo brand zip-up hoodie

For Jack:

2T: A pair of camo pants and a pair of Old Navy brand jeans

     - 2 pairs of jeans, one is Carter's brand, the other is OshKosh B'gosh, both have the adjustable waist bands which are awesome!
     - 2 pairs of Carter's brand fleece footie PJs (one was new with tags!)
     - 3 long sleeved t-shirts, a sweat shirt, and a sweater vest (mixed brands).

     - 1 pair of OshKosh B'gosh jeans
     - 4 pairs of pants (OshKosh B'gosh, Gymboree, Circo, Arizona)
     - 1 zip-up sweater that was new with tags
     - 1 long-sleeved Children's Place brand thermal
     - 1 heavy zip up Children's Place fleece that will be used as a coat
     - 1 Gymboree brand sweat shirt
     - a Green Bay Packers Starter jersey, so he can be just like DaDa!

Total: $94.50

Obviously I spent a good amount of money, but look what I got!  40 pieces of clothing, which works out to an average of $2.36 per item.  Especially when considering 5 of those items still had tags on them and I'm very discerning with what I purchase, even the stuff without tags doesn't look used.  AND I got things in multiple sizes.  Obviously babies go through a lot of clothes the first year, but the stuff I got for Jack gives us an awesome head start on the next TWO years of cold-weather clothing.  You just can't beat that!

I'm super happy with what I got.  Like I said, the sale was huge so it was nice to be able to really pick through things and get really nice clothing at great prices!  We spent about 2 hours shopping and Jack was a champ the whole time.  He got a little antsy towards the very end, but he was probably getting hungry anyway and a snack fixed him right up, buying me another 20-30mins to finish up my shopping.  The most expensive thing I bought was the Children's Place zip-up fleece.  It was $5, but it seriously looks brand spankin' new and I know it's a great deal because we buy Jack something similar every year.  The jeans and pants were mostly $3-$4 and the majority of the shirts I bought were $2.  Both of the footie PJs were $2 as well, including the pair that still had tags on them.

There are still a few more sales coming up in the next few weeks.  I'll probably hit them up for more baby clothes (babies just outgrow stuff so quickly!) as well as to keep my eyes peeled for very specific things to round out Jack's wardrobe.

Annnnd now I have to clean out Jack's drawers to make room for the new stuff and store the outgrown stuff.  Always the worst part!

So excited for great deals! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 23rd

Sunday:  Broccoli Cheddar Soup in Bread Bowls

Monday:  Pasta with Bacon, Onion, and Gouda with Peas

Tuesday:  Grilled Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches with Ranch Potato Wedges

Wednesday:  Chicken Enchiladas (from the freezer) with Mexican Sour Cream Rice

Thursday:  Out

Friday:  Out

Saturday:  Turkey and Cheese Braid with Salad

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Friday, September 21, 2012

Me Time

Last night, after dinner, I snuck away for an hour to have some Me Time.  I picked up a decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte (*dreamy sigh* I love PSL's and although I don't have them often, this was the first of the season so it was even that much more special!) on the way and headed to a rather luxurious pedicure.  Mark and Jack gifted me with a spa certificate for my birthday (you know, back at the beginning of July!) and it was time to take advantage of a little pre-paid pampering!

I spent an hour in a massage chair, drinking my over-priced treat, chatting about trash TV and the latest celeb gossip, and having my feet massaged and prettified.  It was glorious.  It's been far, far too long since I've had a professional pedicure done.  Like, so long I can't remember... maybe it was when I was early on in my pregnancy with Jack. 

I need to do a better job of making time for me.  Mark is always willing to take over childcare duties so that I can have some Me Time without complaint, so the biggest Me Time hurdle is actually me.  I have lots of excuses why I don't make time for me.  Some valid, like the fact that in order to have Me Time it has to be during windows of time when Mark is actually home to take over childcare, some less so, like after a long day I just want to collapse on the couch and zone out in front of the TV with Mark rather than having to actually DO something or take away from Us Time.  But I also know that it's only going to get harder to find Me Time with two little ones to care for and it's important to get time to myself to do things I like to do.  Everyone deserves that!

This morning when Jack was eating his breakfast he noticed that the polish had changed on my toes.  He questioned while pointing to my toes, "What's that, Mama?".  I told him that I had gotten a pedicure last night while he spent time with DaDa and asked if he thought they were pretty.  He said yes.  He's getting so observant! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pregnancy #2: 23 Weeks

And the first bump picture.  Complete with photobombing courtesy of both the kidlet and the dog.

I'm still exhausted, but hanging in there.  Not like I have much choice!

The belly is growing and I'm feeling lots of kicks and movement in there so Baby Dos must be growing as well.  Last week, Mark even felt the first outside kicks!

The last few days I've had consistent pelvic pain and off-and-on sciatic nerve pain.  I'm happy to report that so far it's very mild.  But, to be honest, it's making me extremely nervous as I had a bad experience with both, especially the pelvic pain, during my last pregnancy.  Last time, it became very painful at 32 weeks and only got progressively worse from there to the point where it was hard to move towards the end of my pregnancy because I was in so much pain.  It also made labor extremely painful.  In fact, I don't remember feeling pain anywhere else other than my pelvis while I was in labor.

I'm very, very much hoping that my experience is going to be different this go around.  I know that pelvic discomfort and sciatic nerve pain is totally common with pregnancy and can come and go so I'm trying my best to ignore the mild pain and hope that it goes away!  In the meantime, I've been trying to do pelvic rocks daily because in addition to all the other benefits it's also supposed to help with sciatica and pelvic pain.

Next up: birthing classes!  We're taking a Hypnobabies course that starts next week.  I'm really hoping we enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On the Topic of Potty Training

A popular topic of conversation at play dates lately is potty training.  I feel like the mere words strike fear into the hearts of most sane toddler parents (and if it doesn't my parenting hat is heartily tipped in your direction!).  I often joke that if brain power alone could have my kid potty trained he would have been out of diapers a long time ago.  If only it were that easy.

The topic is very much on my mind lately as the mother of a 2 1/2 year old.  I'm very well read on the subject.  I know most (if not all) of the theories on getting 'er done, I know the signs of readiness to look for, but I still have no concrete plan of action.  Why?  Because as with many other aspects of parenting I've come to the conclusion that the problem with the whole potty training thing is there is no one right way to do it.  If there was there wouldn't be so many theories on how to do it, or so much speculation on the best way, or so much fear surrounding the whole process.  If there was one right way we'd all just DO it and it would be easy and that would be that.

This definitely feels like the biggest parenting hurdle we've faced yet.  I mean, he's 2 1/2.  He probably listens to 50% of what I say on a good day.  How in the world am I going to get him to GO in the potty?  Clearly it's not even something I can force.  I have to motivate him to actually want to do it.  Like... every time.

As it is, I just don't know where to start.  Sure Jack shows some of the signs of readiness, but we certainly can't check all of them off the list.  Additionally, I fully believe that waiting until your child is ready to do it (whatever that really means) is definitely the way to go.  On the other hand, it also seems like if you wait too long that can cause issues as well.  It's like there's this mystical window of time in which to do it and I need someone to tell me when that is - for my individual kid of course.  It also seems that there's a delicate balance between encouraging and motivating, and forcing and creating a power struggle.  I do not want to turn this into a power struggle!

So far, for all the brain power I've spent thinking about the subject, we're in waiting mode.  I'd love for Jack to be potty trained by the time Baby Dos makes her appearance because, well, call me crazy, but the idea of changing diapers for two kids (and washing those diapers, and schlepping those diapers around with us everywhere) just doesn't seem like my idea of fun.  If he's not potty trained by then it's certainly not the end of the world, but it definitely would make my life easier and possibly his too as I'll have more attention to devote to potty training before there's another outside baby to consider.  Jack will be around 1 month shy of 3-years-old when his little sister joins the family so I feel like this is a realistic goal (hope so anyway).

Now we just have to figure out how to get there!  So far we've got a potty seat (we even let him pick it out, it has Lightening McQueen on it.  If it helps him use the potty it could have the Queen of England's face on it for all I care), and we've started talking about it, and reading books about it (especially Caillou Potty Time because Jack has a serious fixation on Caillou and likes to do things like he does, fine by me.  I hope he wants to go potty like Caillou does too.  So far no success, although he does enjoy the book).  I also ask him periodically if he would like to sit on the potty and the answer is nearly always no.  Well, sometimes it's yes, but then when we actually make a move to make it happen it turns into a no.

So, as I said, we're in waiting mode, but at the same time not sitting idly by.  We're more... dipping a toe in rather than jumping in head first.  Waiting for what?  I'm not really sure.  Additional signs of readiness, I guess.  It sure would be nice if one day Jack woke up and denounced diapers or just started insisting on using the potty.  Short of that happening I'm sure we'll come up with some way of starting this whole process.

The thing is I've always kind of let things unfold in their own time with him.  I've never been one to rush things or go by the calendar in the way we make parenting choices and I've yet to regret it so I'm hoping that if I apply that same theory to potty training we'll really know when it's time and it'll help our cause.  That's what I'm telling myself anyway :)

Any solid advice from been there, done that mamas?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 16th

Really enjoying the cooler temperatures we've had lately!  This year I'm really looking forward to fall.  This summer was just TOO hot for my liking!  I'm usually a warm weather gal all the way, but the summer long heatwave we experienced was just too much to enjoy.  I tend to like fall (Soup weather!  And comfort foods!  And comfy clothes!  And spicy pumpkiny appley goodness scents!), but I feel like the nice weather only lasts a short time and then we're all too quickly into the rainy, gray, mushy fall days.  Oh well, this year I'm looking forward to it all!

Sunday:  Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Mac & Cheese

Monday:  Smoky Gouda Bacon Cheeseburgers with Smothered Onions and Baked Oven Fries - carried over from last week

Tuesday:  Chicken Taco Soup (CrockPot)

Wednesday:  Shredded Beef and Gravy (made with leftover meat from French Dips that I stashed in the freezer) with Mashed Potatoes and Carrots

Thursday:  Spicy Bean Burritos

Friday: Homemade Pizza

Saturday: Out

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tree Removal

Monday and Tuesday brought a lot of fun action to our house as we had a GIANT, seriously, this thing was HUGE, dead tree removed from our front yard.

The dead tree was so courteously left as a gift from this little bit of evil incarnate:

The Emerald Ash Borer.

Unfortunately for our neighborhood Ash Borers weren't an issue back in the 60s when our housing development was built so there are tons of mature Ash trees sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, which are all dead now thanks to these little bugs.  It's quite sad.  Apparently these little suckers can kill big trees like ours within 2 years.  It's quite a problem in our area (and several other states around us as the problem just continues to spread).

I can personally attest to the fact that 2 years ago our tree was totally fine.  Last year you could see that there was a problem.  Probably 1/3 of the tree didn't get leaves last Spring and it was confirmed towards the end of Summer that the tree was indeed infected.  This year, nothing.  Nada.  No leaves.  The tree was completely dead.  That's fast!  Not only that, but to make it even more lovely all the bark started falling off. 

Even sadder is the amount of money it costs to have a dead GIANT tree removed from your yard.  Apparently the whole GIANT and dead thing complicates the situation.  Yeah, not cheap.  After TONS of estimates we finally ended up laying out $1500 to trade the giant dead eye-sore tree for a giant eye-sore hole smack dab in the middle of our front yard.  Fabulous.  Some local municipalities are offering group contracts as motivation for individuals to get infected trees removed from their property (Ash trees on public property are being removed by the local governments), but of course our particular area isn't offering any sort of negotiated rate.  At least not yet, I'm sure now that we've put it off as long as possible and paid full price for a removal they'll probably start a group savings project in the Spring or something.  And then I'll get ragey. 

Just a sad, sad situation all around.  I'm sad that the tree died.  I'm sad we had to cut it down.  I'm sad we had to pay $1500 just to have a dead tree removed.  I'm sad that now instead of a tree in our front yard we have a giant hole that cost us $1500. 

Honestly though, once I saw just how much work went in to taking this thing out, I felt like we got an awesome deal.  The first day there were 4 guys here for 4 1/2 hours working non-stop (seriously, they worked HARD!).  Not only that, but they had to use a cherry picker to cut the branches off so there's that :/  The next day 2 guys came back for another 5 hours working non-stop to remove the big pieces that weren't shreddable the day before as well as to grind the stump and do some major cleanup of the front yard.  We're definitely happy with the service we got.

End of day yesterday.  This is wood just from the largest branches of the tree.

And here's the trunk.  Those rounds are HUGE.  As an especially nice treat around dusk we discovered that one of those rounds from the trunk had rolled into the street.  Mark was just barely able to get it back up in the yard near the curb because it was so heavy.  This whole process has just been so much fun.

And... end of day 2.  We get to keep all that mulch.  Isn't that exciting?!  :/

Really, there's no way around the giant hole we now have when you have to take out a tree of that size.  I guess we'll have to figure out what to do about that in the Spring.  I vote just leveling off the mulch and spray painting in green to blend in with the grass.  Maybe people won't notice!

Of course all the hub bub was super exciting for Jack.  He was all about seeing the trucks and watching the guys do their work from the front window.  Super surprisingly he actually napped through the chaos the first day (I was shocked!).  The second day, not so much, but they arrived right as I was laying him down so he didn't get any time to see what was going on or adjust to the noise beforehand like he did the day before.

And... no more giant, dead tree.  I guess it's an improvement, but now our yard looks pretty desolate.

Oh well, SO sooo glad this is all behind us now!  And added bonus, now we won't have to worry about dead, ice-coated tree limbs falling through our windows or roof this winter. :/

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Consignment Shopping

Last week was the start of fall consignment sale season.  I hit up the first sale and came home with a few good deals!  This time I was shopping for not just one, but TWO kids, yikes!  Now that we know that we're expecting a little girl I'm definitely on the look out for good deals on girl clothes.

For Jack:

1 Old Navy zip-up hoodie
1 Gymboree long-sleeved T-shirt with a TRUCK on it, new with tags still on!
1 pair of Gymboree Chinos (Chinos?  Khakis?  Not sure... they have cargo pockets and are a greenish color.  Some sort of pants :)  )
2 pairs of Carters long-sleeved cotton PJs

Everything is 4T.  He probably won't wear the pants or the PJs until next Fall at least, but I'm guessing he'll be ready for 4T tops before the Winter is over.  He has such a long torso!  I was on the lookout for 2T pants and 3T tops and pants as well, but I didn't find anything good.  Next sale!

For Baby Dos:

All Carters brand 0-3 months:
     - 1 sleeping gown (or, as Mark refers to them, Baby-in-a-Bag, awesome for overnight changes, of course!)
     - 3 one-piece sleepers (I call these sleepers, I think they're also called Sleep N Plays, maybe?)

I also picked up this mesh bath sling.  We have a traditional infant tub, of course, but this was only $3 and I thought it would be nice to have on hand for bathing the kids together.  Couldn't pass it up for that price and it looks brand new!

Total: $36

Great deals considering nothing even looks used.

And also?  ZOMG there are baby girl things in my house!  So strange! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 9th

Sunday:  Chipotle-inspired Chicken Burritos

Monday:  Teriyaki Chicken (CrockPot) with Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice

Tuesday:  Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Wednesday:  Smoky Gouda Bacon Cheeseburgers with Smothered Onions and Baked Oven Fries

Thursday:  Cheesy Beef & Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

Friday:  Homemade Pizza

Saturday:  Out

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Storm Door

Major props go to the hubs for spending a good chunk of his Labor Day installing our new storm door.  As I've mentioned in the past we're hoping to sell our house next year and between now and then we have a whole list of things that need to be done around the house to prepare for that. 

Our old storm door was at least 2 decades overdue for a replacement.  I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it's original to the house, which was built in the 60s.  Well... I take that back.  We have a back door that aluminum.  I'll bet that's original to the house.  The one on the front was probably replaced in the 80s :-/ 

We've talked about replacing it since we moved in, but of course just never got around to it.  Thankfully it's done now and it's something we can check off our list! 

The new storm door has a retractable screen so we don't have to deal with switching out the screen/glass insert like with our old door, which is really nice!  I think it's definitely an improvement. 

Overall, I tend to like the full-view storm doors best, but they're not really practical for our use since we like to use the screen and I can't even imagine chancing a full screen like that with a 45lb dog and a toddler to push on it from the inside.   I think this is a nice compromise for us and it definitely freshens up the facade of our house. 

Next weekend Mark plans to touch up the door frame, which as you can see has some peeling paint.  We also need to pick up a new welcome mat as some stoooopid wildlife has decided to snack on our old one.  My money is on the deranged squirrels that also at our patio cushions 2 years ago ::side eye::

We still need to replace the sliding glass door in our kitchen, the inside back door that's in our laundry room, as well as the aforementioned aluminum storm door that's on the outside.  Super fun! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 2nd

Sunday:  Out

Monday:  Late lunch

Tuesday:  Corn Chowder with Beer Bread

Wednesday:  Grilled Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches with Ranch Potato Wedges

Thursday:  Teriyaki Chicken (CrockPot) with Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice

Friday:  Out

Saturday:  Chipotle-inspired Chicken Burritos

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by