Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stop and smell the roses...

Today is one of those days that i love the most....Sunday (my favorite!), quiet, no errands to run, not much to do, just a nice easy day at home. And it's days like today that I take a moment to pause, and to look at my life and be thankful for all that I have in it.

I've always said that my life since having my children has been "chaotic bliss." It's wonderful, happy, joyful, but also filled with constant going, constant attention giving, constantly moving onto the next thing, it's BUSY!  When there's always so much to do and so little time to do it all, it can be hard to stop, and take a moment to be grateful.  I have so much, when there are others out there who have little.  I can get frustrated over my kids messes, tantrums, and screams, when there are other women out there who can only dream of having little ones to take care of.  Maybe my husband drives me crazy sometimes, but there are those who are mourning the loss of their beloved spouse. I don't feel like emptying a dishwasher or vacuuming floors, but I bet the person sleeping on a bench downtown wouldn't mind having a home and chores to do....This is when we need to step back....

Take a look around...

and smile and be thankful for what we've been given in this life.

Yes, we can all get caught up in the everyday, as Mom's we have so much to do, so many to take care of and never enough time in the day to get it all done.  It can be overwhelming, frustrating, and just plain hard sometimes.  But when we stop and smell the roses, we realize how lucky we really are.

I can't imagine life without my gorgeous, giggly children, my wonderful husband, my home, my friends and family.  When I sit here and think about how blessed I really am, it makes all of those little things seem so silly.

So today, as I sit here while my children are sleeping, I can hear my son's breathing on his bedroom monitor and it makes me smile.  Yes, there is a baseball game on tv instead of some quiet music, but I'm happy to have my husband here beside me instead of away at work.  There are toys on the floor that need to be picked up, laundry in the dryer that needs to be folded, and I still have some projects I'd like to finish up today, but I'm not complaining.  I'm just so happy to be here, with my family, in our little home.  And there's no place I'd rather be.

So if you're feeling like things aren't so great, overwhelmed by everything you need to take care of today, or this week, just make sure you take the time to stop and smell the roses.  I bet you'll feel so much better!!  Have a beautiful Sunday!

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Cooking with the Pioneer Woman

Hello and Happy Friday!!  I feel so disconnected and behind here as I have been without internet for three days!  It's amazing how attached we get to our computers isn't it?  Between my blog, facebook, pinterest and all of my other internet addictions, I I feel like I've missed out!  LOL!  I'm caught up now and ready to share my Pioneer Woman a minute :)

It's a beautiful but chilly day here in Ohio and I'm so looking forward to this weekend!  My Mother-in-law is going to babysit for us tomorrow and Matt and I are going to be lucky enough to get a day of running errands without the little ones tagging along! :)  (On a Saturday...GASP!) My husbands birthday is coming up in about ten days so we're going out to do some shopping for him and also for Charlie!  Charlie's 1st birthday will be here before I know it!  He was born on May 23rd, and I can't believe how much time has flown!  This year we're throwing him a John Deere birthday!  I'm so excited I can't stand it!  I'm having so much fun getting things ready for him!  I can't wait to share the pictures with you all!  I just can't believe my baby is going to be one!

This week has been exciting for us, as Charlie has started WALKING! It's amazing how you realize how quickly time goes by when your little baby is now a toddler.  He's having so much fun following his sister around and getting into just about everything he can get his chubby little hands on! So of course, I'm getting the baby itch now because I no longer have a baby in the house!  Might be time to start thinking about making our family of four a family of five :)


On with the yumminess!!

As I mentioned the other day, My Mom just bought the The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummonds cookbook for me.  I LOVE it and I will say again that you should run out and buy it NOW!.......


why are you still reading this??? ;)

This week I decided to make her Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce...and as I expected, it was DELICIOUS! The only ONLY little tiny thing I would change is I would cut back the garlic next time...that's totally a matter of personal preference.  I made a Parmesan Garlic bread to go with it (recipe below as well!) and it was a little too much for me...on it's own it's probably fabulous!! So here we go!

Pioneer Woman Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

12 oz fettuccine or other pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion finely chopped**
4 garlic cloves minced
two 15 oz cans tomato sauce or marinara sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
dash of sugar, or more to taste
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, or more to taste
chopped fresh basil

**BUSY MOM TIP**  If you don't have the time or the tears (or the patience!) to finely chop an onion you can coarsely chop it and throw it in the food processor for a few pulses.  This is what I did and it works out perfectly!  You can also chop it even more finely for the flavor but it'll keep the picky little ones from seeing the onion! 

Cook the fettuccine according to package directions, reserving a little hot pasta water for later. Heat the olive oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Pour in the tomato sauce, add salt, pepper and sugar and stir until warm. Add in the heavy cream and mix well. Add in the Parmesan cheese and then the hot pasta. Toss well and add a splash of hot pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Just before serving toss in more cheese and fresh basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!!!!

Kate's Parmesan-Garlic Pull-apart bread

2- 7.5oz cans buttermilk biscuits 
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
optional: parsley, oregano, italian seasonings to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan.  Quarter your biscuits and add into a large bowl.  In a separate bowl combine butter, garlic, Parmesan cheese and herbs, if your using them. Pour over top of biscuits and gently toss to coat.  Arrange in bundt pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.  Immediately turn onto a plate and serve warm!  Enjoy!!!

So there you have it...are you hungry yet??? I am!!! And I have leftovers in the fridge ;)  I hope you all enjoy these recipes if you get the chance to try them!   Have an absolutely fantastic weekend, whatever you do!!  

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another Saturday at the Parks Household and Green Bean Fries!

Hi there and happy Saturday!  It's a gloomy one here in Ohio, so my little family and I are enjoying a quiet day at home.  Lily's been fighting off HIVES all week, so we're having to keep her activity to a minimum to keep her from getting hot and making the hives come back worse. Also she's taking benadryl and prednisone around the clock and it makes her....slightly....incredibly...GRUMPY!  (Another good reason to stay home and take it easy :)

So in between playing with the kids and tackling this weeks pile of laundry, I've been having a lot of fun reading through my new Pioneer Woman Cookbook! My Mom so kindly picked it up for me this week, and not only is it stuffed to the brim with a million recipe's I want to try, but it's also chock full of great pictures and stories of her life.  I find her so incredibly fascinating, if you haven't checked out her blog, cookbooks, or Food Network show yet, than you should!  You'll love her! Her cookbooks have become permanent fixtures on my coffee table. So tonight I'm trying out her recipe for tomato cream pasta and I can't wait!  My hubby's at the store as we speak picking up what I need for it!  I promise I'll share the recipe with you this week - as I'm sure it's delicious and you'll want to make it too!

On another note, today is my Mama's birthday!!  Yesterday, we went over to her house and my grandmother served us all up a fabulous lunch (and dessert!) to celebrate.  With everything my Mom has been through in these past few months, she deserved the chance to get to rest and be pampered.  Tonight my Dad's taking her out to her favorite restaurant for dinner and we'll be celebrating again tomorrow night with the whole family!  So Happy Happy Birthday Mom!!  I hope your day is as fabulous as you are!!

Mom, Sister, myself and Lily this year on Easter

So the last time I went to Trader Joe's I picked up one of their enormous bags of frozen green beans.  I LOVE green beans, they are one of the few green veggies that I can eat without too much "stuff" to make them better.  But for a while now I've been hooked on the green bean fries from Fridays and I thought it'd been fun to try and come up with my own recipe for something similar.  So while the kiddos were napping today I played around a bit and came up with this recipe.  They're quite yummy if I do say so myself and actually pretty healthy since they aren't fried! I dipped them in a little ranch dressing, but they're good all on their own!  The best part is that they are FAST to whip up as a side dish or a snack and you probably have everything you need in your fridge/freezer/pantry. 

Green Bean Fries

1 lb. fresh or frozen green beans
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. cajun seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 c. plain bread crumbs

Preheat over to 400 degrees. If you're using frozen green beans, run them under warm water for a couple of minutes to thaw.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs well and then add in green beans, coating well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl combine bread crumbs cajun seasoning and garlic powder.  Pour over beans and coat well.  Spread onto a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing from baking sheet to ensure crispness.  Enjoy with a side of ranch dressing :) 

Another milestone for my little one, I gave Charlie his first haircut this week!  He did so good, and even though his sweet baby curls are gone, his little man haircut looks SO CUTE!  

ooooh a sucker!

mmm...happy with my sucker

OKAY!  You can get off me now Mom!

Seriously, Mommy, get off me!!

Happy Boy with his new haircut! 

I'm off to go do some cooking with the Pioneer Woman!  I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!!

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Aunt Patty's Chicken Enchiladas

It's been quite a week here at the Parks Household...everyone's been sick (except my hubby!) and now Lily has a massive case of the hives needless to say, we've been spending a lot of time at HOME and INSIDE not getting to enjoy this gorgeous weather (boo!).  But that's okay :) I took Miss Lily to the doctor and got her put on some meds and she's looking better already!  I'm looking forward to the weekend and getting to go have some fun if everyone is feeling better by then :)

So since I've been home so much, I've been taking a lot of time and working on my housework, cleaning out and organizing closets and so forth.  Now that I have TWO little ones snacking on a regular basis, my carpets are in constant need of vacuuming and I'm sweeping twice a day to keep the crumbs at bay.  Charlie has taken a liking to the sweeper though and he's making it a bit difficult on me...but he's so darn cute it's hard not to let him have his fun! :)

So....onto the yummy stuff!!  This recipe comes with a little story.  About 6 years ago, my Mom, Sister and Aunts threw me a wedding shower (holy moly I can't believe it's been that long already!) and one of the things that they did was ask everyone they invited to bring me a one of their favorite recipe's for my recipe book.  I have come to cherish these recipes so much because they were all hand written by my friends and family (some of them have passed on since) and they are something that I will have forever and ever.  Not to mention, I've made a lot of them and they are all tried and true and DELICIOUS!  This recipe is one of the firsts that I tried and I've been making them every since.  It comes from Matt's Aunt Patty.  She told me that when her kids would come home from college they always requested these Chicken Enchiladas, and I can see why...they are AWESOME!  So hopefully they won't mind that i'm sharing her recipe here!!!  And please excuse the photo, it's not easy getting a good picture of a chicken enchilada...LOL!

Aunt Patty's Chicken Enchiladas

2 c. chicken cooked and shredded**
16 oz. sour cream
1 c. salsa
1 lb. shredded Mexican cheese, divided
8-10 burrito sized tortillas
1 can enchilada sauce
garnish: lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, sour cream,salsa, whatever you like!

**Busy Mom Tip:  Pick up a rotisserie chicken from your grocery, remove the skin from the breast and shred it up!  Saves you the work of cooking and seasoning the chicken yourself.  Save the dark meat for your hubby for lunch if he likes it, or use it in another recipe if you like it!  Makes these super quick and easy to cook up!

In a bowl combine chicken, sour cream, salsa and half of your cheese. Spoon it evenly into tortillas and place them seam side down in a large casserole dish (I use a lasagna pan!). 

 Top them off with the enchilada sauce and remaining cheese and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes!  

Serve them up with refried beans and rice if you like!  Another tip with these is that they freeze up FABULOUSLY!  If you're only cooking for two, then half the recipe is plenty!  Fill them and top with cheese and enchilada sauce then cover in a tight layer of plastic wrap and another layer of foil. Just be sure to thaw them out before cooking again!  

Tonight my hubby's off early and I can't decide what I'm making for dinner, I suppose I should get off this computer and figure something out ;)  I hope you all have a fabulous Thursday night and weekend too if I don't have a chance to write before then!!  Enjoy!

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Sweet Peanut Butter Dip

Is it just me, or are your Mondays more relaxing than your weekends?  My husband started a new job last week and for the time being, he's working monday through friday instead of working Saturdays and having another day off during the week. So this weekend was jam packed with running errands, shopping, playing with the kiddos and getting stuff done around the house.  Although today was spent catching up on laundry, doing housework and cooking, etc, it was STILL a nice rest from the busy weekend!  Tomorrow's back to school for Miss Lily and things will get busy again, but I so enjoyed getting to stay home and have a lazy day.

It was another rainy (and windy!) day here so comfort food was in store for the menu today. After her oh-so-fabulous Kraft Mac n' Cheese lunch  Miss Lily requested that we have a "special treat" since she ate so well.  Usually we save her "special treats" for when she does really good things like cleaning up her toys without being asked or being especially sweet to her brother, but when she asks in her cute little voice I just can't resist.  I've been playing around with this Peanut Butter Dip recipe for a while now, a lot of them are too sweet and dry like the center of a Reese Cup  (DON'T get me wrong, I like Reese cups, but not as a dip!) or they just tasted like plain peanut butter.  So, I experimented a bit and came up with this recipe.  It's REALLY great with apple slices, pretzels or jumbo marshmallows. Probably it would be good on toast or a bagel as well, if you like the sweet stuff in the mornings! Try it out and let me know what you think!

Sweet Peanut Butter Dip

1 (8oz) bar cream cheese
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2/3 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Soften cream cheese in the microwave until it is VERY soft. Blend in all ingredients by hand until smooth and creamy.  Chill before serving and ENJOY!

Wanna find this recipe and lots of other great ones?  Check out Weekend Potluck linky!


Lily's been begging me for more and more of this since I made it, so I guess it's preschooler approved!  I hope you all like it as well! 

I cooked up some Chicken Enchiladas for tonights dinner (smells SO good!) and I'll share the recipe with you tomorrow or Wednesday! I need to go finish that up and some laundry too!  Enjoy your evening!! 

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

BEST Banana Bread and a Rainy Saturday

What is it about a good rainy day that is just so fabulous?  Now mind you, I don't like a bunch of them in a row, but one good, stay-at-home, rainy day is always so nice!  Today has been pretty much a wash-out. Raining all day, gloomy outside, but in here, there are good things baking, lots of books being read, crayons, movies, snacks, and lots of family fun! I love these days even more when my hubby is home with us!

Besides playing with the kiddos, I've been on a re-organizing binge!  For some reason, in the winter time I tend to slack on keeping the drawers, closets, and cupboards organized.  I don't know why really, but it must be that spending so much time at home, inside, I get lazy with it.  So I created a 30 day organizing list and I've been working on cleaning one drawer, cupboard, closet, etc. each day.  SLOWLY but surely it's getting done, I'm throwing out/donating clothes and items we're not using, trashing what needs to be trashed and starting to feel like this house is getting sorted out.  Every bag of stuff I get out of this house makes me feel so much better!  Maybe I'll keep my 30 day schedule and use it to help me keep things straightened up every month!  So here's my list in case you want to make one too!!

1. Kitchen Pantry 1
2. Kitchen Pantry 2
3. Cabinets over stove
4. Dishes/Glasses Cabinet
5. Entertainment Center Drawers
6. Foyer Closet
7. Linen Closet
8. Lily's Dresser
9. Lily's toy shelves
10. Charlie's Dresser
11. Charlie's toy shelves
12. My Dresser
13. My Closet
14. Bathroom Cabinets
12. Medicine Cabinets
13. Kids Closet
14. Craft Closet
15. Bedroom Bookcase
16. Living Room Storage Cabinet
17. Kitchen Hutch Cabinet
18. Kitchen Hutch Drawers
19. Utility Closet
20. Desk top and drawers
21. Clean Under kids beds
22. Clean out under our bed
23. Clean under living room furniture
24. DVD Storage
25. Kids bookcase
26. Living Room bookcase
27. Organize Kitchen Open Shelving
28. Kitchen Drawers
29. Cabinet under Kitchen Sink
30. All lower kitchen cabinets

So every day I take a little time to get something organized, and in a month - it'll will be done!  All I have left to do is keep them straitened up!  And if you're like me, and not very good about this, you can keep your list and do them every month!  After the first cleaning, it should just be a matter of straitening them up, and throwing out anything you don't need.

So as I mentioned earlier about good things baking - my kiddos have been sick and I always like to make something comforting for them to munch on when they're not really in the mood to eat.  Miss Lily asked for Banana Bread, so that's what I made!  I've had a ton of different banana bread recipe's and everyone always has their own favorite!  This is mine - I think it's the best! :)

BEST Banana Bread

2/3-1 c. mashed bananas
1 egg
1/4 c. butter, melted
4 T. milk
3/4 + 2 T. sugar
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl combine bananas, egg, butter and milk. Add in sugar and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and soda, and salt.  Slowly add dry ingredients to banana mixture until just moistened. Pour into a greased bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until golden. Serve warm!

I know butter is tradititional, but try this bread topped with apple butter or peanut butter for even more flavor! (The Peanut Butter is So good on it!) 

I think I only have a few more minutes of sleeping kiddos so I'm off to do a little reading before they wake up!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!  

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Family Movie Night Taco Ring

Hi and Happy Thursday! (It's almost the weekend, Yay!) It's been a super-busy week here for us, but fun as always.  Lily's weeks keep me busy, filled up with playtime, dance class, preschool, family visit's and lots more...but of course, it's always fun!  Although it's definitely great for our kids to get out and play with other kids, learn to be social and have hobbies like dance, sports, music, anything.  I'm definitely a firm believer in spending time at home as a family. All kids need down time, for sure, and more than just a little nap every afternoon.  When we don't have things going on outside of the house, I like to make sure we get days to stay home and enjoy time together as a family.  One of my favorite ways to do this is "Family Movie Night."  It's something we started over the winter and we've kind of gotten away from it over the past few "warm weather" weeks.  Tonight we're reinstating it per Lily's request and our chosen movie is "The Lion King."

For us, Family Movie Night consists of some kind of quick-and-easy dinner, a huge "campsite" usually created by Matt and the Kids, and of course, dessert.  I love these nights, sprawled out on the floor together, it always brings back memories of my childhood and all the times my sister and I spent evenings with a bowl of popcorn and a great movie.  I hope that it will be yet another memory my children remember as they grow up and have their own families.

One of my favorite meals to make for Family Movie Night is "Taco Ring." This recipe is really quick and easy to make, especially if you get the taco meat ready ahead of time.  It only takes about 15 minutes (or less!) to cook and the kids love it!  Serve it up with some chips and queso for a quick side and it's and easy dish to eat in front of the tv without too much mess :)  Hope you enjoy!

Taco Ring

1 lb. ground beef
taco seasoning
2 pkg (8ct.) crescent rolls
shredded cheddar cheese
garnish: diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, salsa, taco sauce, sour cream, etc.  whatever you like!

In a large skillet, brown ground beef and drain.  Return to pan and add taco seasoning and follow package instructions. 

Meanwhile, arrange crescent rolls in a starburst pattern on a pizza pan or stone

Spoon ground beef on top of crescent rolls making sure to leave room to seal the ends together.  Top with Cheese.  You can also mix the cheese right into the meat before spooning it onto the rolls...either way works great!

Fold the points of the star in towards the center and press to seal

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Top with whatever garnishes you like and enjoy!!! :) 

for this and other great recipes check out the Recipe Round up!

Movie's starting so it's time for me to get off of here and spend some time with my family!!  I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday Night and and a FABULOUS weekend!!!

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Memories 2012

Easter holds really special memories for me as it was always a big holiday for us when we were kids.  My grandparents always did it up right, big Easter baskets for myself, my sister and my cousins, huge egg hunts, homemade ice cream and of course a big brunch!  I always looked forward to Easter as it seemed like ALL of the extended family was there and everyone seemed to get along (at least to us kids!).

Now that I have my own kids I find this holiday tradition to be more fun than ever!  This year, we were lucky enough to have my husband home the entire week before, so he got to join in on some of the fun, like coloring Eggs :)

This year, due to my Mom's recent surgery and a lot of my family not being in town for Easter, we decided to forgo a big get-together and we had my Mom, Dad and Sister to our house for brunch and the big Egg Hunt.  

The kids were up around 7 and we did Easter Baskets and had a mini - indoor egg hunt as well.  What is it about the holidays that always makes me realize how quickly my children are growing up?  Lily's first Easter she was 4 months old.  We did a small basket for her and that was it, took her to my grandma's for the family get together and she slept through most of the day. 

The next year was with Matt's extended family at his Aunt Patty's house...I always remember this year because it was BEAUTIFUL outside and Lily was really getting the hang of the whole Easter Egg Hunt Idea.  This day still holds some of my favorite pictures of Lily.

Last year, I was about 8 months pregnant with Charlie and daydreaming about what it would be like to have two little ones running around the next year ;)   You can find all of those pictures and stories here in my Easter Memories 2011 blog post.

After our big morning with just the four of us, I spent the rest of the morning finishing up with the cooking and cleaning to get ready for my family.  Mom, Dad and Sara came and the kids got to dig through their baskets from "Papou and Nana."  Lily's was filled with clothes, coloring books, toys and candy, Charlie's with John Deere cars, little toy animals and clothes and candy as well.  They are definitely spoiled when it comes to ALL of their grandparents (and they have a LOT!) Then we had breakfast casserole, monkey bread, fruit salad and Mom's famous Applewood Apple Julep. After brunch Papou and Daddy headed out to to hide the eggs in the yard and Miss Lily found them all in about 3 minutes flat! As always, it was another great holiday spent with wonderful family!  I hope someday my own children will look back on their Easter Memories and know how hard we all work to make it great for them!  I know they'll do the same with their own families :)

Well that's about it for our big Easter Celebration! The rest of the evening was spent relaxing, Matt and I caught up on some reading and some shows and we went to bed early so he could get lots of good sleep for his first day at his new job!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, if you celebrate, and if not, that you got to rest and enjoy the day anyway! Love and Hugs!!

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