Monday, November 11, 2013

A Day at the Farm.

Boy #3 had his first field trip of his Kindergarten career last Thursday to a local petting zoo. J took the day off and we brought Angel-baby to experience the animals and met up with the school at Old Mcdonalds Farm. We were running late but lucky for us their buses were running later so we still made it there before the kids. There were pens with goats, sheep, ducks, pigs and chickens. We saw a donkey, a cow, a rabbit and a couple of llamas. We even ran into a handful of deer. The farm also offers pony and train rides.

The kids ate their lunches at the covered picnic tables, played on the large playground and got to pick a pumpkin before returning to school. The weather was perfect! The rain finally moved out and a cool front came in so it really felt like autumn. Boy #3 had a great time feeding and petting everything he saw. The goats really do eat everything, including his bag of feed right out of his hands! The deers were not the least bit timid and came right up and ate out of my hand and ran off with the brown bag of food. Angel-baby wasn't so sure about the petting part but she went right up to all the pens. The flock of birds that kept soaring over our heads kind of freaked her out but she really enjoyed running around and taking everything else in. She ran and ran and ran! I think she made it 5 minutes in the car before she fell asleep and slept the whole way home. I remember doing this same trip when Boy #2 was in Kindergarten 3 years ago. Hard to believe that it's already Boy #3 turn. It was a fun day and I'm glad we got to share it with him. He now wants everyday to be a field trip day! I think this was his one and only for the year. 

Here are some pics from the farm.

Not so sure about the birds.

When I asked her if she was ready to go night-night? Her response: "Na-Na. Nie-Nie" For those of you who don't speak baby, I'll translate. "No-no. Night-Night!"  Yup, she told me! Love her!

Then this happened. Worn out from all the fun.

Friday, November 8, 2013

An Easy Update for the Computer Nook.

We don't have a office in this house.  We have a large Game Room upstairs with a computer armoire that houses all our office essentials. It works since we can close it off and keep certain things away from tiny hands. This was a our solution for serveal years but now the boys are into computer games and use this space sporadically for homework. It has recently come to our attention that our upstairs "office" has slowly been taken over by the boys. I'm never up there much since the baby perfers downstairs and J has a laptop that he keeps in the Family Room. He likes to spread out and work at the kitchen bar but occasionally leaves his laptop out I'm always afaid that the kids will mess with his things or worse yet, spill whatever it is they are snacking on at the time around or on it. This always leaves me cringing a tiny bit because I CAN NOT STAND to have things just sitting around out of place for days on end. I am a bit anal-retentive that way. I admit it, everything has a place so put it back where it goes!

When we moved into this house 7 years ago. It was your basic run of the mill track house with nothing of interest what-so-ever. We had a empty enclave in our Family Room that I knew could be something really cool if I could just figure out what to do with it. About 5 years ago, I decided to turn the space into a little computer nook for our old laptop. It wasn't a real work area but more a of place for displaying pretty knick-knacks. There was no real lighting or storage. Visibility was limited but that was ok because my nook was pretty and I didn't want a bunch of dangling cords. It filled in all the dead space without throwing in a plain boring bookshelf.  With the boys moving in on J's work space upstairs I decided to revisit this little nook and make it a little more functional. My goal was to add some lighting, simple storage and update the paint inexpensively as I could. Simple right?

Here's what I came up with. The total spent was around $30 and only took a day or two to put together. I think it blends better with the Family Room now. I love it!  



The breakdown.
I bought stencils (yes, I know stencils!) at Wal-mart for $3.97 and 2-2oz bottles of acrylic craft paint in Old White for $.47 apiece. I cut out the stencil and applied the paint with a paintbrush working in rows moving across the wall and down. When I was done, the stencils looked too perfect. I decided to give it a "aged" look by brushing in a few light coats of more craft paint all over and letting it dry. I then rubbed it all down with a damp cloth to blend in any lines. I added a few "splotches" of my chalk paint in Antibes Green to give the entire wall a bit of a patina. 

Next thing I did was rehang the shelving tracks a bit lower to add a new shelf. I painted the tracks with more craft paint to help camouflage them on the wall. The shelves went lighter with a couple of coats of my leftover chalk paint in French Linen. I restained the desk with a darker walnut stain I had in the garage and sealed it with some poly.

For the lighting, I found these industrial clamp lights at Home Depot for $6.97a peice. I painted them in Robin's Egg Blue with spray paint that I bought I Michael's with my 50% off coupon. The paint was horrible, more oil and water than anything else but it was only $4. I hid the cords to the lamps down the sides of the shelving tracks with electrical staples hammered in for a tight fit. When I was satisfied with the placement of the cords, I gave them a coat of more craft paint.
hidden track and cords (hopefully).

I didn't buy much in the way of new accessories other than a couple of things. I found a rustic basket with tin containers for pencils and pens but I didn't care for the tin when I got home. I replaced the tin containers with glass jars that I save from the fridge, usually jars from pickles, jams or jelly's. J got a charger caddy for his bday and I painted that (yup, you guessed it- with more craft paint) to help it blend. I also painted my black framed cork/dry erase board white and rehung it over the new monitor shelf. I had the chipboard boxes in my closet and pulled them out and used my crappy Robin's Egg Blue spray paint to give them a quick new look. The wicker basket was from Wal-mart and was $7. The blue wire baskets came from Homegoods and were $5 apiece. I bought those a few months ago for the kitchen but wasn't crazy how they looked in there. The rest of the accessories were either here on the old shelves (ceramic dogs and amber glass bowl) or gathered from other areas of the house. I love it when that happens! I was afraid the overall look was kind of busy so I reworked a few things but I think this works now. I really enjoy this little nook and it's now as pretty as it is functional and all under $30!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's in the pantry chicken casserole.

Yesterday was one of THOSE days. The baby is still adjusting from the time change and getting over no more nightly bottles so she was up bright, early and ready to go while not sleeping so well the night before. She ate breakfast and watched her "stories", Bubble Guppies as I walked around in a dazed stupor trying to straighten up a little for a play date we had mid-morning. It was going to be a busy day with our morning play date, my latest project that needed some more work, kids, homework, science project, laundry and dinner.  I still haven't made it to the store since the weather and the never ending rain is a maor turn off at the moment so I scanned the freezer for dinner ideas. I set out 4 large chicken breast to thaw and figured I would come with something to make with it later. 10:00 play date, 12:00 naptime. I worked some more in my bedroom on said project and read for a bit on my book that one of my Besties, Jennifer, recommended instead of doing anything productive. A friend stopped by so we could talk kitchen ideas since I'm going to help her paint cabinets. The baby wakes up so I feed her lunch and pick the boys off the bus from school. Crazy time ensues with homework, snacks, reading logs, math minutes plus project.  Dinner time is creeping up so it's now or never to figure out the chicken. I fight the urge to order another pizza! I scan the pantry to see what all I can throw together  to make a simple one dish dinner that will taste edible when mixed in a casserole. This is what I ended up with so I called it Pantry Chicken Casserole. Clever, huh? It was tasty, quick and most everyone enjoyed it. That's a Winner-Winner, Chicken Dinner! 

A simple easy dish that can be made around screaming babies and whiny kids. You could even make this the night before and cover it in the fridge and add the croutons and cheese before you pop it in the oven the next night. A homecooked meal that beats another night of pizza, well to me anyways. My kids could live on pizza!

Pantry Chicken Casserole

1.5 lbs chicken breast
1 medium onioin
1 TBS garlic
1 16 oz pkg of penne pasta
1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Trader Joe's Tomato Basil)
1/4 cup fat free half and half
1 bag of butter gralic croutons. (mine was 3/4 full)
6-8 slices of sharp cheddar cheese (I used what I had on hand so these were sandwich slices.)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Boil water for pasta and cook following directions and drain. Trim and cut chicken  into bite size pieces. Peel and chop onion. In a large skillet, heat 1.5-2 TBS of olive oil over med-high heat. Add onion, garlic and chicken and cook until onions are clear and chicken is no longer pink. 5-7 mins. I added salt and pepper as the chicken and onions were cooking. Drain pasta and add it back to your pot. Dump cooked chicken mixture on top and mix with noddles. Add the jar of sauce to your pasta. I added a little bit of fat free cream to the jar and shook it up some with the lid on to get all the leftover sauce out and poured that in too. Stir well and move everything into a 9x13 baking dish. Spread evenly in the pan. Crush your croutons and sprinkle them over the noodes followed by the cheese slices on top. Bake at 350 for 20 mins. Switch oven to broil and broil for 5 mins or until cheese is bubbly and browned, whichever comes first. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013, a recap.

I can not believe that Halloween has come and gone and we have now moved onto planning for Thanksgiving. Seems like it was just yesterday that I was trying to figure out ways to entertain my gaggle of guys for summer and now Christmas will be here in less than 9 weeks. I know, I can't fathom that at this point either. 

Here's a recap of our night's events. IT. GOES. LIKE. THIS. EVERY. YEAR. FOR. REAL. The kids were all super-excited getting home off the bus from school and the weather finally cleared up so they were relieved to see that trick-or-treating was still going on as planned that night. We've had nothing but rain for over a week and forecasters were callling for a rather ominous Halloween night. Glad that wasn't the case because we had no back up plan; our plan B, umbrellas? Anyhoo, afterschool snacks consisted of candy from school and more candy from the bus driver. Homework was much frowned upon being that it was Halloween. Our pumpkins still were not carved and I debated about "forgetting" to do them this year but guilt got the better of me because they really do enjoy it. I asked J, if he would be coming home early from work to do the carving and his solution was to grab a Mrs. Potato-head package that they had on the tables at his Halloween work party. I asked Boy # 3 what he wanted to do? A Mrs. Potato-head pumpkin or a carved pumpkin? Of course he wanted to carve a scary face. I told him we could do a scary ghost with circles for the eyes and mouth and he said "yeah, except make them triangles and scary!" I told him I wasn't so good in this department but I would do what I could in 20 minutes. He just wanted to play in the pumpkin's guts and seeds. I managed to start carving the pumpkin and told J to grab pizza and bug spray on the way home. With all the rain we had it felt like The Mosquito Coast out there. After one pumpkin was carved and another pumpkin was Mrs. Potato-ified, dinner was served. Cut to kids running around outside in their Halloween costumes.

I go to change clothes so I can match the other half of Angel-baby's get-up. Boy #1 ask if we could take his friend along with us to trick-or-treat. I said that was fine if his parents could drop him off and we would bring him home. We were planning to head out around 6:30 and this was brought up at 5:30. Short notice but they argeed to bring him over. I'm dressed, J is changing and I work on getting the baby ready. She wasn't having any of it! She did not want to get changed, have her hair messed with or put shoes on. Cue the doorbell ringing as others who have their sh!t together are already out collecting candy. My kids, on the other hand are now running outside minus all costumes except for Schaefer Flynn who takes this opportunity to take off out the opened door. No one knows where the candy is even though it's sitting on the table in the dinning room next to the front door. I have a screaming baby minus pants and one shoe in one hand and a Boston Terrier in a devil costume in the other. I tell Boy #1 to grab the candy and pass it out while they let a handful of trick-or-treaters into the house who all follow me into the kitchen?! After that round leaves, I tell the boys to put their costumes back on and man the door. We put the pumpkins outside and Boy #1's friend arrives. More kids come while my kids are scrambling to get dressed even though all afternoon they had their gear on and were ready to go. Go figure. Mr. Flynn runs out the door a second time to which I tell them, "if it's meant to be he will find his way home."

We manage to get some pictures taken, the baby in the stoller and someone brings back the dog. Some adult beverages were made due to the stressful nature of events. The boys make it out and around our small cul-de-sac and decide that the MineCraft costumes were not going to be as functional as they thought. The heads were bulky and they couldn't see so well out of the eyes. Boy #3 who requested the whole body made, couldn't use his hands to reach the doorbell and Boy #2 said he would just carry his head. I told Boy #2 to go inside and change into last year's Spiderman costume. J throws a fit saying he'll stay home if they don't wear the costumes that he spent all that time on. I told him he could give out the candy instead of leaving it in a bowl on the table. I know he worked hard on these but kids are going to be kids and I wanted them to be comfortable. Plus, I didn't want to be the one dragging these heads around all night. What seems like 20 minutes have passed, our drinks have been downed, and the candy on our front porch is quickly depleting while we wait for Boy #2 to change into Spiderman. Boy #3 is crying next door because this whole time he's been trying to ring the doorbell but his costume will not allow for much mobility. I go inside to see whats holding up Spiderman. It seems that Spiderman's costume was put away inside out last time he was out fighting bad guys and he had to figure out how to fix it right-side-in. Boy #1 and friend, come back after hitting all the available houses on our street and wants to know if he can change into his skeleton pull-over from last year since Boy #2 changed into Spiderman. Fine. Another adult beverage is made. Still waiting to actually leave and do some treating of our own. Enough time has passed or maybe it's the drink that has helped but J is now over all the costume changes and is back on board to go with us. Boy #1 and his friend head out of their own to attain maximum candy retention without being slowed down by little brothers. Angel-baby who fussed so long in her stroller waiting on Spiderman to arrive decides that she has forgotten why she was fussing in the first place. Things are starting to look up. We told Boy #2 that he had to stay together with Boy #3 to ring the doorbell for him. Schaefer Flynn is back on his leash and ready to go, the little devil. Finally we can start getting our trick-or-treating on! 

We saw plenty of friends, cool costumes and some awesome decorations. The younger boys were done after 3 streets and were ready to go home and check out their collective stashes. The 2 older boys came back to get the electric scooters so they could hit more houses. Our left out candy was all gone, the pumpkin's candle went out, and we turned off the porch lights. I told the kids that I get 10% of their candy for taking them out that night and I would collect my fee in the form of Reese Cups. I assured them I was only kidding after crying ensued shortly after that but that didn't stop me from making a mental note of who had the most so I could sneak some in after they were tucked far away in bed for the night. The kids were cleaned up, one was friend driven home and all were in bed by 9:15. J and I settled in for the evening with some leftover pizza, a beverage and a Indy scary movie. We may have gotten off to a rocky start but in all it was a great night. With Angel-baby only being 1 year, I see at least another 10 years or so like tonight. These are the times we will remember no matter how hectic. I would say that Halloween 2013 was a success just the way it was. 

Boy #3 helping to de-gut the pumpkin, his favorite part! 

Finished Pumpkin Products! 

MineCraft while it lasted!

Princess Tiger-Lilly and Cowgirl Momma.
The whole crew minus J, who was taking the pic.

Sneaky Pete...A.K.A. Schaefer Flynn.
Ready to go home to rest "tired feet" and check out their candy.