Friday, March 28, 2014

My Pledge To My Children

I was laying in bed last night with a horrendous headache, nauseous and unable to sleep. I was thinking about everything from bills that are due, to my anxiety that has been acting up, to how I really need a hair cut. Somewhere along the line I started thinking about the kids and how, as much as I hate to admit it, I have somewhat pushed them aside for my blog and various different social media outlets that I use to try and promote my blog.

I started thinking about how, when they were younger and the online world wasn't quite as easily accessible as it is now, I used to actually spend time with them. I'm talking about quality time. Not just being in the same room as them. I used to get down on the floor with them and play with cars, baby dolls, blocks. We used to fry plastic eggs in the pretend kitchen, sit at the dining room table and color and draw. I wasn't picking up my phone every two minutes to see how many likes a picture I just posted had, or who had commented on my latest blog post.

More and more I am being reminded of how fast the children grow. How all of a sudden they will be teenagers, too cool to hang out with me. Then they'll be off to college, getting married and having babies of their own. I don't want to look back on these days and regret not having my priorities in line. I don't want to look back and wish hat I had just taken the time to play Barbies with them or build Legos.

We are surrounded by electronics. Everywhere we turn, there they are - smartphones, tablets, Kindles, laptops, TV's, PC's. All the social media outlets are there as well - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. We are constantly "turned on", literally and metaphorically. I know that there are a lot of benefits and positives to having all of this at our fingertips, but I think there is a fine line between the good of them and overuse of them.

Everywhere I go there are expressionless kids staring at their DS games. Families out to dinner where each and every one of them is on their phone; texting, checking Facebook, searching the web. Sure, technically they are out to dinner together, but they aren't really together. I know that some children, who are uncomfortable in social settings, benefit from being able to divert their attention onto something other than their environment, and that is fine. But I have a hard time believing the entire family needs it.

Why has it become so difficult to spend time with the ones we love without having some sort of device plugged in? I am the most guilty of this in my family. I'm great at limiting the time I allow my children to play on their tablets, or how much TV they can watch. I have a serious case of "do as I say, not as I do" going on.

I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be the mom who, when the kids look back at their childhood, was never really there. I don't want to be the one who was distracted all the time. I want to be the one that their friends were envious of because of how present I was. I want my children to know that they were number one in my eyes.

I am making a pledge, today, March 28, 2014, that my children will once again be my priority. When we play Monopoly I will be 100% there, in the moment, playing the game. When they want me to look at their latest Lincoln Log creation I will be there, without brushing them aside for 15 minutes to finish my latest post, or scroll through my news feed 5 more times. I will watch them riding their bikes and scooters. I will help them with the painting they are working on. I won't huff and puff when they need help with their homework.

I am not saying that I won't write anymore, or post online when they are around, but I am going to focus on doing that when they are at school or in bed. I will put down my phone, turn off my laptop and not worry about how many people my Facebook page is reaching. The only people I should be worried about reaching is my children.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

100 Happy Days Week 3

Silence of the Mom

Each week, on Wednesday, I will open up a new blog post with my previous 7 days of happy. At the bottom you will have the opportunity to link up your blog post. Click on the "InLinkz Link-Up" button to share your blog post. This is a great way to get some exposure and discover some new blogs that might pique your interest.

Part of the success of any link-up is participation from everyone who links up. I hope you will take time to read through some, if not all of the other posts, but I ask that you please read at least the post before your own and leave a comment for them. Don't forget to grab my 100 Happy Days button to paste into your blog post!

Most of all, have fun!


Day 15 - Being goofy with my boy at lunch!

Day 16 - My cousin from England 
doing homework with my son!

Day 17 - Watching the big kids 
playing in the pool!

Day 18 - My puppy! (One of them.)

Day 19 - The longest picture in the world!

Day 20 - My kids enjoying a trip to 
Disney with their Dad!

Day 21 - Samoa flavored coffee creamer...
on clearance for $0.56 per bottle!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why I Think Color-Coordinated Easter Egg Hunts Are Ridiculous

Slowly but surely my various different social media news feeds are beginning to get cluttered with the latest Easter ideas. Crafts, baked goods, clothes, etc. I like a good Easter craft or new idea as much as the next person, but today, I saw something that I didn't like. No sir, I didn't like it one little bit - the color coordinated Easter egg hunt.

Picture courtesy of Oriental Trading Company

The idea is to give each child participating in the hunt one specific color egg to find. Why? So that every child gets the same number of eggs and one kid doesn't have an overflowing bucket. 

My first reaction was that this wasn't a bad idea. No one likes their kid to be the one with the least eggs, amiright? However, the more I thought about it, the more I didn't like it. In my opinion it is like soccer leagues who don't keep score because they don't want the losing team to be upset. Or dance companies who give all the girls trophies at the end of the year just for participating, regardless of whether or not they suck.

Life is full of disappointments. I don't want my kids to be disappointed, in fact I go out of my way to try to make sure that I don't disappoint them by not promising to take them places and do things with them if I know I can't follow through. I am, however, realistic and know that they will eventually get their feelings hurt and feel let down. Why are we so intent on leveling the playing field for everyone? Why do we feel the need to wrap them up in cotton and shelter them from anything and everything that isn't sunshine, butterflies and freaking unicorns?

I am not saying that we should all go out and intentionally set our kids up to fail. If your daughter has two left feet, maybe gymnastics isn't the best thing to enroll her in. If your son has terrible hand-eye coordination, ping pong may not be for him. That said, if they are hell-bent on trying out for the team, let them! Let them figure it out for themselves. You may think you're protecting them, but you are laying the groundwork for resentment towards you by always telling them no and never letting them try.

I mentioned the coordinated Easter egg hunt to a couple of my kids, who are 9, at dinner tonight. They looked at me like I had two heads.

"Why would you want to do that?"
"The whole fun of it is the excitement of trying to get the most eggs!"
"What about the golden egg? Isn't there one? Does every kid get one? If that's the case, there may as well not be one at all because it isn't special anymore."

Even the kids think it is ridiculous. They did agree, however, that egg hunts should be separated by age. It isn't much fun to see a bunch of 10-year-old kids trample a group of 3-year-old toddlers. 

Doesn't healthy competition encourage kids to strive to be better? To practice and put forth effort? If everyone is allowed to win, what's the point in trying? Why do we bother telling our kids to try their hardest if the ones who don't try win as well?

We are raising a generation of self-important children who feel the world owes them something. Take the girl who recently tried to sue her parents. She didn't want to follow the family rules and moved out, yet still expected her parents to support her financially. Thank god that judge had enough sense about him to realize it would be setting a terrible precedence if he awarded her the child support she was going after.

What about the 300-plus kids who illegally entered former NFL player Brian Holloway's home and destroyed it, documenting the whole thing on Twitter. Over 170 tweets were posted during the course of the night. When Holloway managed to gather roughly 200 of those names and some of the pictures, he started a website identifying the teens. All of a sudden he was being labeled as the bad guy and parents were threatening to sue him. Seriously? If I had been involved in something like that as a teen (I never would, but hypothetically speaking) my parents would have whooped my butt and grounded me for life. I would have been made to go to the house and help clean up and apologize to Mr. Holloway. 

Why is it that the last couple of generations have not had to be held accountable for their actions? Don't like your parent's rules? Move out and sue them! Don't have anything better to do on a Saturday night? Go trash some home and then have your parents threaten to sue the owner for calling you out on it! Suck at t-ball? That's OK, you're gonna get a trophy anyway!

We need to do our offspring a favor and, while promising not to be outright dicks to them by shooting down everything they want to try, also promise that we will allow them to figure some things out for themselves. Let them fall and pick themselves back up. Allow them to try out for teams, fail, shake it off and either try again or try something new. Hold them accountable for their actions. Teach them that if they do wrong, there will be consequences.

Let's promise to be there, on the sidelines of life, cheering them on and encouraging them without mollycoddling them and setting them up for false expectations of adulthood and real life. 

And for goodness sake, let them collect as many Easter eggs as they can get their grubby little paws on!

Yes, I did. I waxed if off!

A few years ago, I spent a week on the beach in Brazil. Knowing I didn't want to have to bother with the upkeep needed when wearing a bikini for seven days, I figured it was as good a time as any to get my first Brazilian wax. I called the local spa and made my appointment for a couple of days before I was due to leave for the trip.

When I arrived, the receptionist suggested I purchase numbing cream to put on before the procedure. Shit just got serious. Numbing cream? I get my eyebrows waxed, and occasionally my lip, and never have I had to put a numbing cream on. She must have smelled my fear and knew it would be an easy sale. So, I purchased the $10 cream and followed her back to the procedure room.

I looked around the room and felt instantly comforted. The lights were low, there was soft, soothing spa music on in the background and candles burning. 

I peeled off my jeans, folded them, placed them on the chair in the corner of the room, and positioned myself on the bed under the sheet. I suddenly remembered about the cream, so I jumped up and grabbed the tube. I squeezed some out and tried spread it out "down there". Have you ever tried to rub cream into a body part with hair? Imagine rubbing sunscreen onto a silver back gorilla. I did the best I could and hopped back up on the table hoping that the chunks of cream would somehow have dissolved by the time the waxologist came in. (Yes, I know that isn't a real word. No, I don't care.)

Moments later there was a gentle knock on the door and in walked an extremely pregnant woman. She introduced herself and asked if I was ready to get started. 

"As ready as I'll ever be" I mumbled, as I lied my head down on the table.

She slowly peeled the sheet back and asked "Is this your first waxing?"
Oh god, was it that obvious? 

"Um, yes, it is."
"When you called to make the appointment, did the receptionist advise you to trim?"
"Um, no, she didn't."
"We usually advise our clients to trim their hair to about a quarter of an inch, leaving enough for the wax to grab on to. If it is too long it doesn't get it all in one go. We end up having to reapply wax, which can start to get a little uncomfortable."
"Sorry about that. I usually keep it much more groomed but haven't done much in the last couple of weeks because I knew I was coming here."

She could sense my embarrassment.

"I'll trim it for you, if that's OK?"
"Oh, that's fine. Thank you. Sorry."

She pulled the sheet all the way back and flipped on the most blinding light ever. It was similar to the light the OB shines on you in the delivery room.

"Did put some sort of cream on?"
"Oh, yes, the receptionist recommended I put on numbing cream. It didn't absorb very well, I guess because of all the extra hair down there."
"I'll wipe it off."

This was getting more awkward with every passing moment.

After cleaning me up and trimming me down, she started on the actual waxing. I thought I was prepared for what was about to take place as I get my eyebrows waxed. I didn't think about the fact that the area being waxed was not only bigger than my eyebrows, but also more sensitive.

The waxologist smoothed on the warm wax, Covered it with a strip of cloth, rubbed her hand over the material and then asked me to hold my hand above the hairline and pull up so the skin was tight.

What? I have to participate in this? Aren't I just supposed to lie here and have this done to me?


"Are you OK?" She asked.
"Yep. Fine." I managed to murmur as the tears built up in my eyes.

After a couple of minutes and a few now-pull-tight-in-this-direction's, we were finished.

Or so I thought.

"OK, now just roll on your side for me and lift up your butt cheek."

LIFT UP MY BUTT CHEEK?? What in the world was she talking about? There's hair BACK THERE??

I rolled over and lifted up my left cheek. If you ever need to torture someone by humiliation, send them for a Brazilian bikini wax. Exposing your butthole like that to a complete stranger will definitely make someone blush.

Finally she was finished. She gave me some tips on staying comfortable, such as applying an ice-pack to help with the pain and swelling. Pain and swelling? Seriously? Sweet baby cheeses! What had I done to myself?

I lied there for a few moments, slightly dizzy and lightheaded from what had just taken place. I could feel myself sweating. It was suddenly very hot in that room. The heat was coming from "down there". Holy hell it felt like the fire of Hades was burning in my crotch.

I lifted myself off the table and looked at my jeans, wishing I had worn a skirt or yoga pants instead. I decided to take the ripping off a bandaid approach and pulled them on without a thought. It wasn't too bad, until I started walking and that hard, rough seam that runs down the front and back up the seat of the jeans started rubbing my already on fire, throbbing hoo-ha.

After I got home I took out a zip-loc bag, filled it with ice, wrapped it in a dishcloth and sat on my bed hoping for some relief.

In all honesty, by that evening, the pain was gone and I never experienced any swelling - thank god!

Let me just say, getting a Brazilian wax is sort of like childbirth. It hurts like hell at the time, but as time passes the memory of the extent of the pain somehow begins to dissipate.

I have had a few more since that first, harrowing experience, and if I'm honest, I would go every 3-5 weeks like they suggest. But that shit is expensive and as a SAHM to 5 kids, (3 full-time, 2 part-time) including a 13 month old, ain't nobody got time for that.

So there is my awkward moment. Have you braved the Brazilian wax a la Carrie from Sex and the City?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Liebster Awards - Wait, what?

Apparently there is this thing called the Liebster Awards floating around out there. Yeah, I'd never heard of them either, until It's Why You Like Me so graciously nominated me to participate. (Thanks for that, by the way. Now I actually have to do something semi-productive. Geesh.) Anyhoo, I guess the main idea is to help people discover new blogs that are out there.  It seems those nominated are required to write 11 random facts about themselves; answer 10 questions written by the person who nominated them; and come up with 10 questions for the people they nominate.

So here are 11 random, useless fact about me that no one gives an actual fuck about.

1) I am trying my hand at vegetable/fruit gardening. The kids and I just planted peas, carrots, radishes, watermelons, red bell peppers and cherry tomatoes. 

2) I spent most of my childhood living in England, Scotland and Spain.

3) I cannot parallel park to save my life.  I have a back-up camera in my minivan and can sometimes do it now, as long as there are no other cars in the general vicinity of where I am parking.

4) I loved being pregnant and it makes me sort of sad to know I will never experience that again.

5) I sneak candy bars.  Seriously.  I had a Twix yesterday and literally shoved an entire one in my mouth because I heard one of the kids coming.

6) I am not a fan of Disney.  I think it is an over-the-top, overly expensive piece of hell on earth. We went to Legoland last September and I would happily go back there any time.  That also doesn't mean that I won't ever go. I know the kids would give just about anything for us to take them, so I suppose it is going to have to happen one day.  I do, however, love Disney movies.

7) I drink coffee everyday, can't go without it, but I'm not actually that big of a fan.  At least not of the stuff you make at home.  I'll drink Starbucks any day, but the homemade stuff never tastes as good.

9) I always wanted to be an actress.  A movie star, in fact. I did a lot of singing, dancing and acting as a child but stopped when we moved back to the States when I was in 9th grade.  I regret not following through with it and giving it a shot.

10) I would love to get back in shape now that the baby is over a year old, but honestly, I just can't find the motivation. I have lost all the weight, but there are certain jiggly areas that shouldn't be jiggling.  I don't know why I am having such a hard time finding my workout mojo.

11) I went to boarding schools in England and Scotland from 11 years old until I was 14 and we moved to Florida.  I wasn't a "bad kid" or anything. It was actually my choice to go and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I made some wonderful friends that I still ave today.

Now for the questions submitted by It's Why You Like Me.

1. What is your favorite cuss word?
Fuck. I know, it is like, the worst one, but I can't help it.  It has so many uses; Fuck this.  Fuck that.  Fuck him.  Fuck her.  Fuck them.  Fuck me.  What the fuck. Mother fucker.  I don't give a fuck.  I don't give a flying fuck. Dumb fuck.  Fuck stick.  Fuck off.  My mother even coined the term "toad-fuck" during a fit of semi-road rage. I could go on, but I think you get the fucking point.

2. Have you ever said (and meant it) "I forgot to eat today"?
Honestly, yes, I have.  I always said I would never be "that person".  I mean, seriously, how does someone forget to eat?  My mother used to say it all the time and I never understood it.  I mean, my stomach ALWAYS reminds me when it is time to eat!  Then I had my third baby (fifth between the hubs and I).  When you add a fifth child into the mix, life gets really freakin' busy. Suddenly taking a shower takes precedence over eating. As does not moving for fear of waking the baby that sleeps on your chest, making it very challenging to get food.

3. Tacos or Burritos?
Tacos, for sure.  I prefer the crunchy ones, but the hubs and kids prefer soft, so that's what we usually have. Plus I always overfill the soft ones, so they end up more like burritos. 

4. What is your favorite childhood memory?
I know I should have one of these, but honestly, nothing immediately springs to mind.  I didn't have those family traditions like camping at the lake every summer, or family skiing trips every winter.  My parents traveled a lot.  I would say my happiest memories in general are from when my brother and I lived with our grandparents.
5. What is your favorite memory of YOUR child? (yes pets are children too)
This hits two kids with one stone...wait, that didn't sound favorite memories of my now 7 and 8 year olds are from when they were in the 2-4 age range and the three of us would put a bunch of blankets and pillows down on the livingroom floor, put in a movie and all take a nap together.  Now I would have to say the laughter around the dinner table when all 5 kids are home (2 stepdaughters) and the baby is doing something funny.

6. When you had that "ideal" significant other checklist (you did, shuddup) in your head how many of those characteristics are held by your current significant other?
Motivated - check.
Funny - check.
Hot - check.
Good kisser/lover - check/check.
Handy around the house - check.  Seriously, I think the man can fix anyfreakingthing.  He is also good with cars.  He built an entire motor all on his own, in the garage, for his old pick-up truck.  I wish I could spout off all the specifics but I'm not good like that.  I know it was a "something-stroker", I think I only remember that because it sounds dirty.
Good father - check.
Good provider - check.
Patient - check and uncheck.  Depends on the situation.  He has a lot more patience with me than with the kids.

7. What song do you want played at your funeral that best represents you?
"I like to Move It, Move It" The King Julian version.

8. Explain to me why twerking is even a thing. Really. Explain, please.
Because the world is coming to an end.  Forget the zombie apocalypse.  The end of the world is already beginning.  I blame the parents of today who didn't/don't force their children to take accountability for their actions and who are too afraid of said children to punish them and teach them respect for themselves and the world around them. 

9. Tell me anything here cause I'm over thinking of shit.
I hate the word "moist".

10. I thought of one other thing -- fabric softener sheets or liquid?
I don't use either, but if I had to choose, probably liquid.

Now for my nominations and questions.

Abandoning Pretense - We met Freshman year at college and were roommates the following year. She is hella-funny and is really good at reminding us to keep it real.

Play Pen - The Irreverent Parents Guide - When I got it in my head that it would be a good idea for me to start this blogging-business she was fairly new to it as well.  We promised each other we would help each other out. I've been neglecting my duties big time. (You're welcome.)

One Funny Daddy - He is funny. And easy on the eyes. Nuff said.

1) What is the most embarrassing thing your child has done/said to you in front of another adult?

2) If you could bring one person back from the dead, famous or not, who would it be and why?

3) Underwear - yes or no?

4) Name one place you have never visited but would love to.

5) Beach or pool?

6) Name a word you hate.

7) Are you a dog person or cat person?

8) Why is it so hard for me to think of questions?

9) Why did you start blogging?

10) Does your significant other get jealous of your relationship with Facebook?

11) What is your favorite holiday?

There you have it, folks. A whole shit-ton of useless questions and answers. Hopefully my nominees play along and don't hate me now. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

100 Happy Days Week 2

Silence of the Mom

Welcome to week 2 of 100 Happy Days!  Each week, on Wednesday, I will open up a new blog post with my previous 7 days of happy. At the bottom you will have the opportunity to link up your blog post. Click on the "An InLinkz Link-Up" button to share your blog post. This is a great way to get some exposure and discover some new blogs that might pique your interest.

Part of the success of any link-up is participation from everyone who links up. I hope you will take time to read through some, if not all of the other posts, but I ask that you please read at least the post before your own and leave a comment for them.

Don't forget to grab my 100 Happy Days button to paste into your blog post!

Day 8 - Coffee. Dunkin' Donuts coffee to be exact.
I woke up to find we were out of coffee and happily
remembered that they reopened DD just down the street!

Day 9 - Haribo Gummi Bears. They are the best. 
Especially the white ones. Nuff said.

Day 10 - Snuggling with Teddy while we watch
bubby and sissy at Tae Kwon Do practice.

Day 11 - Watching old cartoons with the kids, 
that I used to watch as a kid!

Day 12 - Drive-in movie with the family!
Mr. Peabody and Sherman!

Day 13 - Waking up to see the 7 year-old 
comforting the baby.

Day 14 - Another childhood flashback of mine - 
Monopoly with my kids!

Friday, March 7, 2014

100 Happy Days Week 1

Silence of the Mom

Each week, on Wednesday, I will open up a new blog post with my previous 7 days of happy. At the bottom you will have the opportunity to link up your blog post. Click on the "An InLinkz Link-Up" button to share your blog post. This is a great way to get some exposure and discover some new blogs that might pique your interest.

Part of the success of any link-up is participation from everyone who links up. I hope you will take time to read through some, if not all of the other posts, but I ask that you please read at least the post before your own and leave a comment for them.

Don't forget to grab my 100 Happy Days button to paste into your blog post!

Most of all, have fun!

Day 1 - My Facebook page makes me happy. 
I love the interaction I have with my readers.

 Day 2 - Finding this little Lego army protecting
our front door made me happy. I pity any burglar
who tries to break in and steps on those suckers!

Day 3 - Watching my 1 year old dancing
made me happy.

Day 4 - Jamming out to No Doubt with the baby
on the way home from the school drop off
made me happy!

Day 5 - Playing with the baby in the bath
made me happy!

Day 6 - Walking out into my backyard to 
a beautiful blue sky and vibrant colors
made me happy!

Day 7 - The garden the kids and I planted is
starting to grow. Peas, radishes, carrots, 
cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers 
and watermelon!

So there you have my list for this week of little things that made me happy. What made you happy this week?

Pit and Peak Link Up - Week 7


Well, it appears as though I have been a MAJOR slacker the last 4 weeks as my last Pit and Peak link up was week 3 - oops! I have to admit, I haven't really "felt it" lately. You know, the "it" that drives you to write, inspires you and motivates you.

Well, over the last few days it has slowly been creeping back in - so yay! 

Don't have a ton to report for this week in the way of pits or peaks, to be honest. But here's what I've got...

The Pit
  • We found out my hubby's attorney (he is being taken back to court by his ex wife) is in the hospital and isn't sure when/if he will be able to practice law again.
  • We also found out on Monday that hubby's case has been transferred to another attorney's office and he was supposed to be in court on Wednesday. That gave them 1 day to prepare. We live 3 hours away from where they have to be in court and where the attorney is.
  • We had some unexpected expenses and have literally no money until next Wednesday.

The Peak
  • Thankfully hubby's new attorney was able to get the hearing for Wednesday cancelled due to the circumstances.
  • We found out we get to have the hubby's daughter's for spring break this year, even though it isn't our year.
  • My Facebook page reached and surpassed 1,000 likes!
  • I've started to get my writing mojo back. I've been in a bit of a funk for the past 4'ish weeks and it feels great to be back into it!
  • The kids and I planted organic pea, red bell pepper, carrot, radish, watermelon and cherry tomato seeds and they are already sprouting!
  • Luckily we have a freezer full of food. (See pit above about having no money.)
I guess that's about it. Fairly quiet week, really. 

How was your week?

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew Part 1

I seem to be full of grandiose ideas that seem great at the time and totally attainable. Like my idea to build four American Girl beds and sew the bedding for my daughters and my niece for Christmas. I did get the bedding made but ended up buying four beds from IKEA. Or when I decided to knit scarves for my four kids and two nieces, also for Christmas. I got three out of the five done. The fourth is still on the loom. 

Well, last weekend was no exception. While scrolling through Facebook on my phone on Saturday morning, I came across a post for some make ahead meals. Light bulb! Hubs just got paid so we actually had money for groceries. I started Googling freezer meals and came up with the following; Creamy Chicken Taquitos, Stuffed Shells with Rotisserie Chicken and Spinach, Mini Meatloaves, Breakfast Burritos, Mac and cheese and Ziti with Italian Sausage and Ricotta.

I am going to share all the recipes but I will be splitting them up into two separate posts. I will review each recipe as we try them and update the posts with the reviews. For this first post I am sharing the Mac and Cheese, Taquitos and Stuffed Shells recipes.

With list in-hand, I left for the grocery store. It was just after 4 pm and I was all by myself. Almost like a little vacation! It took me roughly 1 1/2 hours to gather everything I needed. I decided I would share the recipes and write a little about my experience with each recipe.

First I tackled the macaroni and cheese.  I found this recipe on Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms. The only things I did differently was I didn't use microwave safe baking dishes. I will probably take them out the morning we plan on using them and let them defrost during the day. I also didn't make the breadcrumb topping - hubs isn't a fan of that. This recipe was really pretty easy. I think using the chicken stock in place of milk for the cheese sauce really gave it some great flavor. 

This recipe filled two 8x8 baking dishes to the brim.
2 microwave-safe 8-inch square baking dishes for this recipe
4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Salt and Pepper
1 lb. elbow macaroni
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
4-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
4 cups shredded colby cheese
2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Process topping: Pulse bread, Parmesan, garlic and 2 Tbsp. butter in food processor until coarsely ground. Divide crumb mixture between 2 zip-lock freezer bags and freeze.

Cook pasta: Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot over high heat. Add 1 Tbsp. salt and macaroni and cook until barely softened, about 3 minutes (important to avoid mushy blown-out macaroni). Drain pasta, then spread out on rimmed baking sheet and let cool.

Make sauce: Heat remaining butter, flour, mustard and cayenne (if using) in empty pot over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant; about 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in broth and cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Off heat, whisk in colby, cheddar, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper until smooth.

Freeze: Stir cooled pasta into sauce, breaking up any clumps until well combined. Divide pasta mixture between two 8-inch square baking dishes. Cool to room temperature. Wrap dishes tightly with plastic, cover with foil, and freeze for up to 2 months.

Bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove foil from casserole and reserve. Microwave casserole until mixture is thawed and beginning to bubble around edges, 7 to 12 minutes, stirring and replacing plastic halfway through cooking. Discard plastic and cover pan with reserved foil. Bake 20 minutes, then remove foil and sprinkle with 1 bag frozen bread crumbs. Continue to bake until crumbs are golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes longer. Let cool 10 minutes.

Review: This was delicious! It had such great, sharp cheese flavor. The kids loved it, the hubs loved it. I will definitely be making it again! I didn't microwave it as it was in a foil dish, I just put it in the oven for about 20 minutes longer than the directions state. 

Next up were the Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos, also from Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms. These were pretty easy and not very time consuming as you don't actually bake them when you assemble them. You can literally pull them right out of the freezer as you want them and bake them from frozen. The most time-consuming thing was having to unroll them all because I forgot to mix the Mexican cheese in with the chicken mixture and them re-roll them. I doubled the recipe and made 24.

The ingredients (minus the rotisserie chicken. 
Hubs was pulling all the meat off it for me.)

24 taquitos ready to freeze.

Yields 12

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup green salsa
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice from half a lime)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp sliced green onions
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Mexican flavored cheese
small flour or corn tortillas
kosher salt
cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, ground cumin, chili powder, onion powder and garlic. Once combined, stir in the cilantro and green onions. Add the chicken and cheese; mix thoroughly.

(If you decided to prep this in advance, refrigerate the mixture at this point until ready to continue.)

Working with a few tortillas at a time, heat them in the microwave between two paper towels until they are soft enough to roll (about 20 – 30 seconds).

Spoon 2-3 Tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto the lower third of a tortilla. Roll the tortilla as tightly as you can.

Place the rolled tortilla seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas until the mixture is gone. Make sure the taquitos are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.

**To freeze: Before baking, flash freeze the taquitos in a single layer on a baking sheet then place in a labeled freezer bag and store up to 3 months. To bake a frozen taquito (no need to thaw first): Preheat oven to 425˚F and bake for 20 minutes.

At this point we stopped and went to Firehouse for lunch on our way to the Model Train Expo that was in town over the weekend. No, we are not model train collectors. No, I didn't know what to expect. No, it wasn't what I thought it would be. I was under the impression that there would be tons of model train displays set up. There weren't. There was a pretty cool Lego city scene and a couple of other model train set-ups, but mostly it was just a bunch of old and antique train sets and accessories for sale. Oh, and it smelled like mothballs.

Once we returned home I decided to tackle the Stuffed Shells with Rotiserie Chicken and Spinach, again from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms.

It kind of looks like a big old mess
but it was fantastic! Definitely not
figure friendly, though!

10 oz. bag spinach
1 or 2 rotisserie chickens
12 oz. jumbo shells

Cheese Filling
2 lbs. ricotta cheese, part-skim
2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black ground pepper

2 pints heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon chicken bouillion powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Italian cheese, shredded
salt & pepper, to taste
¼ – ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated (for the topping)


1. Cover and boil the spinach in one inch of water until completely wilted. Drain well and set aside.

2. Remove the meat from the chicken(s) and set aside.

3. Cook the jumbo shells according to the directions. (Be sure to remove them before they split.) Drain the shells and place them on wax paper to dry.

4. In a large bowl, combine the cheese filling ingredients. Fill the shells with the cheese filling using a decorating bag or spoon. Place the stuffed shells in two 13 x 9-inch baking dishes. Add the chicken and spinach to the dish, so that it is evenly distributed around the shells. Set aside.

5. Heat the cream in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the boullion powder, garlic, Italian cheese, and salt & pepper. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is heated through.

6. Pour the sauce evenly over the shells, chicken and spinach. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.

7. Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly and the cheese is golden brown about 30 – 40 minutes.

Serves 8 – 9.

Freezing Directions
I recommend freezing this meal in disposable aluminum baking tins. Prepare this recipe through step # 6; cover and cool in the refrigerator. When completely cool, cover and wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Label the meal and include the cooking directions. Freeze up to 2 months.

To reheat, simply remove the foil and plastic wrap and place in the oven (frozen). Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees F until bubbly and heated through.

Review: We ate this last night. It was a HUGE hit! So much so, that the kids asked me to take it to have lunch with them today and bring the leftovers for them to eat. They originally asked for Subway (gag) so I'm really glad they wanted these leftovers instead. 

Two things to keep in mind with this one; 

1) You will have to let it thaw out in the fridge the day you plan on eating it. I let it sit out on the counter for a couple of hours before I put it in the oven and it took almost 2 hours to heat through and I bumped the heat from 350 to 375 to 400 degrees. We ended up eating the edges of it first as that was cooked but the middle stayed frozen for quite a while. 

2) It is EXTREMELY rich. I think there was too much ricotta mixture in each shell. I will definitely be making this again, however I will experiment with cutting the ricotta mixture down and mixing it with the chicken a spinach and stuffing the shells with that.