Tuesday, October 13, 2015

While Mom's Away.....

     I am thoroughly enjoying work right now.  My first day was last Monday, and although I have yet to do any actual patient care (that starts tomorrow) I find myself so content to simply be working on a regular basis.  As cheesy as it may sound, I get a little thrill every morning when I clip my badge to my chest.  Something about seeing that red tag with those big, bold, white letters "RN" makes me get a surge of pride and excitement.  It's a daily reminder of all I set out to do and accomplished, but it's also a humbling reminder to earn the right to continue wearing the badge for as long as I am willing and able.  I know that a lot of these feelings are related to the newness of it all, and I'm sure they will fade with time.  I only hope they don't fade too quickly or completely.  

     All this time away has caused a bit of an upheaval on the home front.  Poor J has had to pick up my slack by taking charge of Monkey, which includes getting her to and from school, packing her lunches, overseeing homework, and intercepting all messages from school.  Not to mention he's now in charge of dinner and most of the housework while I'm gone most of the day.  He has received these new duties with as much grace s is humanly possible for him.  He even mopped for the second time in our entire marriage yesterday.  It's been interesting to watch as he navigates these mostly uncharted waters.  And it hasn't been without its funny moments.  Take lunch for example, y'all have seen the cute-sie lunches I usually prepare for Monkey.  Let's just say that J has a more simplistic approach.  Let me present my case this way:

How Mommy does lunch:
      Cute and coordinated themed lunches that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are nutritious.

How Daddy does lunch:
     I think they're supposed to be lips....

How Mommy does breakfast:
     Bakes yummy Dark Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins the night before so no one is rushed or scrambling to find breakfast in the morning.
Recipe below

 How Daddy does breakfast:

J (yelling up the stairs):  Kid, if you want to eat this morning you better get down here now and grab some cereal! We leave in 5 minutes!!!

How Mommy does dinner:

Begins the process several hours in advance, making sure to enlist the help of Monkey so that she's engaged and occupied.  Presents a hearty, healthy, and filling meal to her family with pride.  

Recipe coming soon
How Daddy does dinner:    

J (walking up to my car as I arrive home from work):  Are you full of germs?
Me: No; I didn't take care of patients today.
J:  Cool, don't get out.  I forgot to defrost the chicken.  I'm taking y'all out to eat.  

     As much as I love poking fun at him, my husband has been a great help these days, and I have every confidence he'll find his own groove soon.  Or at least I hope he does ;-) Now, how about a recipe before you go?

Dark Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from two twenty one blog
Makes 15 muffins 

1/2 canola oil
1 cup 100% pure pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 cups dark chocolate chips

Combine oil, pumpkin, sugar, egg, and vanilla.  In a separate, small bowl combine milk and baking soda; add to pumpkin mixture.  Next add cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, salt, and flour to pumpkin mixture.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Allow the batter to sit for 15 minutes.  Line muffin tin with paper liners.  Use a scoop to ladle batter into prepared muffin tins.  Bake 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes away clean.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I'm Trying to Be Productive Here

     It's September.  My last blog post was in July.  You may be asking, "What happened to August?".  Well, although my last post should have ushered in a new age of consistent, uninterrupted blog posts (the likes of which this blog hasn't seen since my days as a stay-at-home mommy), sadly that has not been the case.  Why?  Simply put: I've had a case of the "I don't wanna's" since graduating.  I obtained a BSN, followed by an RN, and then I even secured a job, so if I want to sit around my house and color adult coloring pages until I start working, I'm entitled to do that, right?  .....Right?
     *sigh*  I was supposed to run 8 miles today, but instead I crawled back into bed once I saw my daughter off to school from the bus stop.  I did not wake up again until 0900.  It was glorious.  However, in order to not feel like today was a total waste, I've decided to revisit this poor, neglected blog.  How about some fun lunches for your little one?

Charlotte's Web Bento
 After reading this classic tale to Monkey as a bedtime story, I surprised her with this Charlotte's Web-inspired lunch.  There's Wilbur made with these easy-to-use sandwich cutters.  Charlotte was cut from the wax of a Babybel.  Wilbur's "trough" is filled with yummy pretzels.  And you can see the goose with her seven eggs that will later hatch into goslings, while one egg was doomed to rot in Templeton's collection.  I threw in some snow peas and grapes for sides, and sent Monkey off to school, excited to eat her fun lunch.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
For this lunch I prepared wheat rotini and turkey meatballs the night before.  I added some spaghetti sauce, black grapes, celery sticks, and a pepper jack cheese stick to complete this meal.

Under the Sea Bento
This one was fun to make, because it was the first time I got to use the egg molds an awesome friend bought for me.  I made the fish-shaped egg using the mold, and then I made a starfish sandwich.  Then I cut a fish out of the wax of a Babybel.  Next I made this cute sea-snail from a Halo orange by cutting away most of the peel. I added the Goldfish and grape tomatoes as sides and called it good.

DIY Pizza Bagels
I've made DIY Pizza lunches before, but I usually used my homemade English muffins as the pizza crust.  To save time, I decided to use store-bought bagels for this lunch.  I like bagels because they are super easy to write on, and Monkey loves them.  I put some pizza sauce in the little Cinderella box pictured, and I added some sliced ham and Mozzarella cheese for toppings.  For sides, I added grapes,   an orange, and a bit of broccoli.

Cars That Go Vroom Bento
(If you have that song in your head now, you're welcome.)
For this one, I used the other egg mold in the pack my friend bought for me, which makes the little car-shaped egg you see there.  I used cookie cutters to cut out the car-shaped sandwiches, and I decorated them using my food markers.  Next I designed a stop light on a Babybel using food markers.  Then I added a Go-Gurt and an orange for sides.

School Days Bento
This bento was Monkey's first-day-of-school lunch.  It features a pencil-shaped sandwich, complete with cheese to form the standard #2 pencil look, as well as a bit of lunch meat to form the pink eraser.  I then cut an A+ in a Babybel and added some carrot sticks.  I also packed a handful of Alphabet Cheezits and a few strawberries.

Snow White Bento
For this lunch I used a simple circle cookie cutter to form a circle sandwich to form Snow's face, which I then decorated with food markers.  I surrounded the sandwich with snow peas.  Then I cut a "bite" from an apple using a small cookie cutter.  Next using another small cookie cutter, I cut an apple in the wax of a Babybel.  This I put on a bed of pretzels.

Dino Bento
For this bento I cut two different dino sandwiches from two different dino cookie cutters.  I then used my handy food markers once again to draw cracks on the shell of a boiled egg.  This I laid on a "nest" of pretzels.  I added a pair of Halo oranges and a pepper jack cheese stick for sides.

Breakfast Bento
On Sundays, J and Monkey can usually convince me to make pancakes for breakfast, and every now and then I have enough foresight to make a few mini ones for Monday's lunch.  These pancakes are a slightly healthier version, made with Greek yogurt (for the recipe click here).  I packed a bit of syrup in the Cinderella box for dipping, and then I filled the remaining containers with strawberries, a cheese stick, and a boiled egg.

Breakfast for Lunch (Again)
For a different take on breakfast for lunch, I simply packed a bagel with cream cheese (in the Cinderella box), an egg, a bit of broccoli, and some grapes.

Puppy Bento 
This was another easy lunch to prepare.  I used a circle cookie cutter to cut the bread and meat for the sandwich, which I then decorated with food markers and candy eyes.  For the floppy ears, I simply used a bit of the crust and secured them in place with a dab of mustard.  Then I cut a bone shape from the wax of a Babybel.  I added grapes, and snow peas as sides, and called it a day.

     Hopefully these fun lunches will inspire you to jazz up your kiddos plain ol' PB&J with some fun new twists!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

And Just Like That, It's Over

     Yesterday was my final day of preceptorship.  Preceptorship was the last leg of this long, arduous journey to obtain a BSN.  All that's left to graduate is turning in my paperwork to my instructor, and then I will be set to graduate in two weeks.  I think I'm in a state of disbelief.  It didn't feel real on the way home last night.  It took hearing my mom on the phone saying again and again, "You did it. You're done" before it began to sink in a bit. 
     Although Nursing school seemed to drag on and on indefinitely with new hoops to jump at every corner, now that it's moving to the rear view  mirror it seems like it was too short.  I'm going to be responsible for lives soon.  I will be an advocate, an educator, and a safeguard for my patients.  That's a lot of responsibility, and I'm going to be honest and say that I wonder if I'm ready.  My preceptor, who is an amazing woman, and an equally wonderful nurse told me that she felt that way too when she started.  Maybe that's a good thing.  I don't ever want to take my job lightly.  I don't want to ever become flippant about a patient's wellbeing.  I want to be a good nurse.  No.  I want to be an amazing nurse who makes a difference in people's lives.  I want to be the kind of nurse that people remember.  Not necessarily my name or even my face, but I want them to remember that I cared, that I helped them, and that I was their rock to lean on.  That may sound cheesy, but every word is true. 
     I'm hesitant to put too much here, but I am looking forward to the future with great enthusiasm at my prospects.  Once I pass NCLEX (and I will pass!) I'll be looking for doors to open where I never expected them to be.  I hope that as I close this chapter and begin the next one God will guide me to where He needs me, since He knows where my heart lies.  I will definitely be keeping y'all updated as I move through this next stage of life with joy and enthusiasm. 
 A rare selfie before my last day.
     It seems a bit out of place to tack on a recipe at the end of this blog entry, but then again, it would feel wrong not to. So here you are, an easy recipe for any weeknight that's also not terrible for you. 

Balsamic Chicken and Veggies

1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
3 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 TBS honey
1 1/4 lbs chicken breast tenderloins
2 TBS olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

In a mixing bowl, mix together salad dressing, balsamic vinegar, and honey. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a skillet over mediun heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Place in the skillet, and cook 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through. Add half of the dressing mixture to skillet, and turn the chicken to coat. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, leaving the sauce in the skillet. Add the aspargus and carrots to the skillet, and season as desired with salt and pepper.  Stir frequently, cooking until tender, or about 4 minutes. Transfer veggies to serving plattet. Add remaining dressing mixture and tomatoes to the skillet, and cook for about a minute. Return chicken and veggies to the skillet and toss to coat. Serve warm. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Race You to the Castle

     My poor little neglected blog needs a bit of an update.  I've been busily finishing out the last bit of Nursing school, and as a result I've been adjusting to the life of a "real nurse".  The schedule is not the typical 9-5 I've been used to, with twelve  hour days 3-4 times a week, and it's taken some getting used to.  Poor J has had a time trying to navigate this blog for various recipes, and I've had one too many nights where I've come home to a disaster in the kitchen with a note on the table saying, "The kitchen's a mess; don't judge me".  It's all a learning experience though, and I think we will make it out of nursing school alive after all... I hope.

     In my down time I've still been cooking as always, and of course I have a recipe in store for y'all, but in the meantime I am super excited to announce that my sister and I will be participating in the  2016 Glass Slipper Challenge :-D  This is a runDisney event that consists of the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K and the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  Ultimately it's a Disney fanatic/insane runner's dream come true, and I'm going !    

     This is coming at a good time because the heat has me needing some motivation to run.  I've recently begun a weight training program by Jamie Eason, but I miss running.  With school ending soon, I'll have fewer excuses to not get out there.  Now I get to have fun picking which princess I want to be for a day :-)  

     Now I think I owe y'all at least two recipes since this poor blog has been so neglected lately. 

Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from The 36th Avenue

3 cups old fashioned oats  

1½ cups brown sugar 
5½ cups milk 
½ cup peanut butter 
3 eggs, beaten 
1 cup walnuts 
1 cup dark chocolate chips 

In a large pot, combine oats, milk, brown sugar, peanut butter, and eggs. Mix well and simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly, 20 minutes or until thickened. Once mixture is thick, stir in raisins. Pour into greased 9x13 inch pan and top with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until oatmeal is set. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve warm; top with milk or additional brown sugar if desired.

This made for a yummy breakfast for dinner meal.  That is, for everyone except Monkey, who has found peanut butter personally offensive for some reason.  Oh well, you can't please everyone.  This next one had a much better reception from all parties.   

Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry with Asparagus 

  • 1 1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, diced into 1-inch pieces

    • 4 1/2 tsp canola oil, divided
    • 1 lb asparagus, end portions trimmed and remainder diced into 1 1/2-inch pieces
    • 1 small yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
    • 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced*
    • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, then more for garnish if desired
    • 1 Tbsp peeled and finely grated fresh ginger 
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    • In a 12-inch non-stick wok (or large and deep non-stick skillet), heat 1 1/2 tsp canola oil over moderately high heat. Once oil is hot, add diced chicken and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until cooked through, tossing occasionally, about 6 to 7 minutes. Pour chicken onto a large plate and set aside.
    • Return wok to burner, reduce to medium-high heat, add remaining 1 Tbsp canola oil. Once oil is hot, add asparagus, yellow onion and mushrooms, and red pepper flakes and sauté until tender-crisp, about 4 - 5 minutes, adding in garlic and ginger during the last 1 minute of sautéing. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl (or in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup) whisk together chicken broth, soy sauce, honey and cornstarch until well blended. 
    • Pour chicken broth mixture into skillet with veggies, season with salt and pepper to taste, and bring mixture to a light boil, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to gently boil, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Toss chicken into mixture and serve warm over white or brown rice, sprinkled with additional red pepper flakes if desired (note that this is best served immediately as the liquids from the veggies will begin to break down and thin the sauce).


    Sunday, June 21, 2015

    If You Give A Dad A Donut

         Happy Father's Day to all you amazing daddies out there :-)  Monkey and I had planned to sneak out while we let her daddy sleep in to get donuts, but he was wide awake at 0600 with us, so he just came along for the ride. We came home with donuts, and Monkey presented him with a book we put together on Shutterfly

         I was inspired by the book "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake" by Laura Numeroff, which was one of Monkey's favorite bedtime stories for a long time. Each line in our story is enhanced with a picture of J. He absolutely loved the book, choosing to read it aloud to us while we ate our donuts.
          This afternoon we'll spoil him a little more by taking him to see a movie. I thought I was going to play it smart by telling him he had a choice. He could come with Monkey and me to see the new animated movie, Inside Out, or he could go see Insidious 3 solo while I take Monkey to Inside Out. Now, that may sound like a trap, but J knows I HATE scary moves. I also know that J loves scary movies, so I thought this way he'd get to watch it, and I'd be off the hook. I forgot, though, that J is a bit sick and twisted in that he loves making me watch scary movies too. So he chose to come with us for the family movie, and promised to save the scary one for a night we can rent it at home and see it together.  Yay....

    Monday, May 4, 2015

    May the Fourth be With You

         This may come as a shock to some of you, but growing up I was a complete nerd.  (I know, right?!) I loved reading and learning so much; school was my favorite.  I made A's all my life.  (Until Nursing school, of course.)  In primary and middle school I was teased mercilessly for not being cool or popular.  I remember being called names, bullied, and even tripped in the hallways between classes.  At recess I would hide in the library, where I'd research anything from ancient civilizations to American history.  But that didn't always work, and some nights I'd come home very upset, and I'd cry to my stuffed animals.  On nights like those I remember being cheered up by the adventures of Bilbo Baggins as he went off in search of dragons and treasure.  On other occasions when I was made to feel bad, I'd perk up while watching Luke Skywalker use the Force to conquer the Dark Side with my daddy and big sister.  Sometimes, just daydreaming about what it would feel like to have superpowers, like the X-men, would make all the worries go away.  I didn't always like being a nerd, though.  I tried not to be one for a while, and I was miserable.  I wanted to be popular in middle school, but that would have meant giving up all the things that made me happy.  For a while I tried, but it didn't work.  It just made the misery worse.  Finally in high school I found people who liked me just as I was, no pretending, and no sacrificing the things I was passionate about, but I was still hesitant to let my inner nerd truly fly, having been made to suffer for it all my life.
         It's odd how paradoxical life can be.  As bad as I wanted to fit in while in grade school, that's how badly I want my daughter to stand out.  Even after all the torment I went through as a nerd, I'd love to see my daughter be one too.  And here's why: nerds, geeks, dorks, whatever you call them have one thing in common: passion.  They are incredibly passionate about the things that make them happy, whether that's science, technology, comic books, novels, Halo, Magic the Gathering, Dr. Who, Harry Potter, LOTR, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.   It doesn't matter what ignites their excitement, once a geek likes something, they let everyone know about it, and they pursue it for life.  I want my daughter to be passionate about life, and I want her to find joy in even something as trivial as a card game.  That's why I encourage her when she shows an interest in something to go all out with it.  You like superheros?  Superhero books!  Superhero coloring pages! Super hero costumes!  Oh, you're into Pokemon now?  Cool.  I'll buy two decks, and then we can play together.  What's that?  You were playing Star Wars at school with a friend?  Sweet!  Let's watch the movies, so you can accurately imitate a strong female character like Princess Leia.
         Being a nerd is something that I thought brought me great strife as a child, but now I realize that's only because I didn't embrace it at the time.  I hope my child enjoys her nerdiness, and embraces the fact that you can get really excited about a movie, or a scientific fact, or even a new trading card, and that's OKAY!  That's more than okay in my book; that's pretty cool :-)
        Coincidentally, this monologue is being brought to you on none other than May the Fourth (if you don't get the reference, you're excused).  You know...Star Wars Day?  And since the theme of the evening is revel in your nerdiness, allow me to share with you the epic lunch I sent Monkey to school with.  This is the lunch my sister deemed, "The most epic and nerdy thing you've ever concocted" (and that's saying something).

         This marvelous Star Wars masterpiece was so much fun to make.  I created Princess Leia by drawing a cartoonish version of her onto a sandwich bun using a food marker.  The Storm Trooper was made by simply drawing on a boiled egg with the same food maker.  Yoda was created by cutting a green apple in half; I then cut one of the halves in half again, and I soaked those three parts (the half and two quarters) in a bowl of water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice for about 5 minutes to keep it from browning before lunch.  I arranged Yoda's ears and face by using green grapes to keep everything in place.  Next I used the tip of a grape as a nose by securing it with a toothpick, and I added a pair of candy eyes using a couple of dabs of Nutella.  I threw in a handful of Wheat Thin Chips for good measure, and I sent Monkey off to school.  But, wait, there's more....

         I had to add this fun little note to the lid of Monkey's lunch box.

         Today was also Monkey's day to bring snacks to school, and I had a LOT of fun putting these together.

         I found Star Wars themed Teddy Grahams, although you could also use the chocolate Teddy Grahams as Ewoks, and I placed those in one snack bag per child.  Then I dipped pretzel sticks in white chocolate that I had dyed blue and red, although, the red turned out pink :-/  Monkey didn't mind though.  She knew which ones were for the Dark Side lol.  I printed out little labels from card stock that said, "Happy Star Wars Day", and I used those to staple the two bags together.

         Next I printed out little labels that said "Jedi Juice".  I let Monkey color the lightsabers before I enlisted J's help to tape the labels onto juice boxes.

         I had a lot fun putting all these together for Monkey, and she informed me that her classmates enjoyed playing with the mini lightsabers before devouring them.  Yay for organized nerdiness!

    Happy Star Wars Day!  May the Fourth be With You! :-)

    Sunday, March 29, 2015

    Every Child is an Artist

         My sweet baby girl is 6 years old now.  She turned 6 on Thursday, and we celebrated with family and friends yesterday.  She had a Rainbow/Art Party this year, although for a while there I thought we'd end up doing a Frozen shindig.  She changed her mind at the last second when she realized an Art Party would involve actual paint.  We had fun stocking up on goodies at Michael's for the event.  They had canvases on sale, so I grabbed a few packages.  I also bought a pair of easels, and the kids took turns using them to paint their masterpieces.

    While a couple of kids were working on their paintings, I'd take another aside to paint his or her face.  I found this awesome face paint kit on Amazon (you can also find it at Michael's).  It comes with a book of instructions, but they're pretty ornate, so I just found some simple designs on Pinterest.  I did balloons for the boys and rainbows for the girls.  It was fun for me to have something to do other than play hostess.

         As far as decorating went this year, I really phoned it in a bit.  My sister made the adorable banner that hung over the gift table.

    I printed a couple of pretty images and framed them to decorate the same table.

    I threw up a few streamers in basic colors by the food table, and called it a day.

         The food was much more fun.  First I made sugar cookies using this recipe, and I cut them out to look like little painter's palettes (I used an Easter egg shape to cut out the main shape, and then a small circle to cut out the hole).

    Next I used cookie icing to dab little blots of "paint" onto each palette.  After that, I made "paintbrushes" out of pretzels rods dipped into white chocolate that I had tinted different colors.  Then I popped popcorn and had Monkey help me assemble little cones out of construction paper and labeled them "Pop Art".

    Then I put together a fruit tray, making sure to include every color of the rainbow.  I used red apples, oranges, pineapple, green apples, blueberries, and red/purple grapes.  I loved this because you could interchange so many fruit for the colors.  You could do green grapes or kiwi for green.  You could substitute strawberries or raspberries for red, and so on.

    I kept it simple with "Van Gogh's Veggies" by simply purchasing a vegetable tray.

    I meant to have "Paint Chips and Dip", but I forgot to put them out :-/  Oh well.  Finally, for the punch, I froze Koolaid into ice cubes in every color of the Rainbow.  I placed the ice cubes in my big drink dispenser, and I poured Sprite over the top of it.  It looked pretty cool, but I was worried as it melted it would make an ugly brown or blackish color, but I actually got more of a purple, which wasn't too bad.

    I found these cute rainbow swirl lollipops at Walmart and used them as party favors.

    Lastly, I went the easy route and bought a cake at Walmart.  Although there are some really cute ideas  on my Pinterest board.

        All in all this birthday felt a tad simpler, but it was very pleasant.  Monkey seemed to enjoy herself immensely!  She has been playing with all of her new toys and crafts.  In fact, as I'm typing she's making clay figures with a clay craft pack she received from one of our guests.  I can't believe she's six.  I know I go through this every year, but 6 is just older.  She's a little girl; she's in school.  She wants to play at the park with her friends more than hang out with me and her daddy.  She's got her own personality and opinions, and they're not always in line with mine.  She's so confident and vivacious.  She's her own person, and she's not ashamed to be herself.  I admire and love that about her.  I hope as the years pass she doesn't lose that ability to be herself, 100%!