Wednesday, September 30, 2015

{baked spaghetti + meatballs: Real Simple style}

I LOVE magazines. Really love them. I am so happy when I get the mail and 1) It isn't a bill, and 2) I have a new magazine!!! One magazine I have loved for a long time is Real Simple. There are tons of organizational articles in there (which I love), but I especially love the recipes. Their cover pics are always awesome as well. Look how happy this one is:
Anyway, I was really happy this month when I saw a new recipe: spaghetti and meatballs. I know, what's new about that? Well, Caden and Lilli LOVE spaghetti and meatballs. Really, they love the meatball part the most. Mommy and Daddy like it, too, but sometimes it gets a little old. This month's Real Simple magazine has a new take on it to serve it as a casserole. Again, I know that is nothing new. What really caught my eye is that you do not need to cook the spaghetti. Nope. You just break it in half and mix it in. I had to try this for myself, so that is exactly why the kids and made this last night for our dinner tonight. The recipe takes over an hour and a half (at the least), so I knew that would take too long to eat it last night as dinner.

Again, I am super lucky to have some wonderful helpers at home. The first thing we needed to do was make the meatballs. Lilli wanted this to be her job. She mixed all of the ingredients together. She cracked the eggs:
Added them to the meat and breadcrumb mixture:
She also added the salt:
The black pepper:
The parsley flakes and the garlic powder (my additions):
From the mixture she made 18 meatballs (with some help from Mama) and put them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet:
I gave Caden the job of breaking all of the spaghetti in half:
Look at that determination on his face :)
No prob!

Then Caden poured the marinara sauce (1 1/2 jars--I would use two full jars next time) into our baking dish:
And he whisked in one cup of water:
The dish was a 2 1/2 quart baking dish (I would use a bigger one next time, fyi). He then added the broken pasta to the dish and mixed it to make sure all of the spaghetti was covered by the sauce.

We next layered the meatballs on top of the sauce and added some fresh basil sprigs that the kids picked from our backyard. How beautiful if this?!
And we covered it to bake at 400 degrees. The recipe says that it takes about an hour, but ours took closer to an hour and a half. I think the difference may be that I used gluten-free pasta.
After the pasta was cooked, we topped the casserole with fresh mozzarella:
Then we threw it back into the oven until the cheese melted and the meatballs were browned. Here was our finished product:
I would recommend putting the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet. There was a little spillover.
The kids' verdicts: They LOVED it! Two thumbs up (times two)! We will definitely be making this recipe again. Here is a link to Real Simple's website with a copy of the recipe I used.

Until later!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

{long overdue thank you card pics}

I usually try to send thank you cards out right away, but that didn't happen this year after Lilli's birthday party. Because her party was the weekend before school started, life happened. I have had the cards written for a couple of weeks, but then I needed to have Lilli sign each card. I kept putting that off or forgetting. I finally got her to sign all of the cards this past Sunday. She didn't complain once, and she had a bunch to sign:
She did a great job:
I also love to send a pic with the thank you cards. I always choose a pic from the party to send. I know people like getting a current pic of her. This year I decided to work with this pic below with the super cute sign Aunt Samantha made for the party:
I wanted to change it up to put a thank you message on it. I decided to use I have written about this photo editing/collage building site before, and I still really love it. I recently upgraded to a Royale Membership. I like all of the extra fonts I now have available. The best part is that it is only $33 a year. Not too shabby. Because I don't have Photoshop on my computer, this is a really great option for me. I started with the regular pic, and then I asked Ryan what to do to get rid of the text:) He showed me how to use the cloning tool to get rid of the words on the sign. So I worked on that:
 A little later...gone!
Then I chose a font and added "Thank you":
Next, I decided I wanted to remove the words on the bottom, too. You can see in the above pic where the "R" is starting to disappear. I also ended up enlarging "Thank You" and fading all of the text to make it look older.

Overall, it really didn't take as long as I thought it would to alter the pic. I will be printing these to put with the thank you cards. I usually print them as 2X3's, because I figure people don't really need a 4X6. I will be printing them tonight so I can mail them tomorrow :)
Isn't it cute?

Until later!

Monday, September 28, 2015

{Christmas shopping organization}

I know it is still September, but I have already done a nice chunk of my Christmas shopping. I have purchased some things online and some things in some stores. My biggest problem with buying things early is that sometimes I get so excited about what I bought that I can't wait until Christmas. This year I have decided that will not be an issue.  

I am a HUGE fan of Google Docs, so I made a spreadsheet to organize my Christmas shopping for the last two years. It works really well for me. I also share this spreadsheet with Ryan so he can see what I have bought and what we still need to get. I created a list template for myself that I can just copy each year. Here is what it looks like:
It is really easy to add rows above or below wherever you need them. Click here if you would like to use the template. You just need to open it up, go to File, and then Make a Copy. You can then rename it and add in whatever you want. 

I add as many rows as I need for each family member. I leave a blank row between family members. For example, here is a snippet from mine for this year:

I like having everything in one spot so I always know how much I need want to get. This year my goal is to not spend a ton of money on things. I want to try to give each person at least one handmade gift. This includes Caden and Lilli. I have some ideas about what I would like to do. Once I am done with a person on the list, I highlight his or her name so I know at a glance I am done. My goal is usually to be done with my shopping by Thanksgiving. This does not happen every year for me. Last year, I was way behind with my shopping. Everything still ended up being great.

Once I have the items I have ordered or purchased at the store, I have a spot where I put all of them. I just use totes to store everything. I keep it all in one place so I know exactly where it is. Everything except the gifts for Ryan. He cannot be trusted to not look. He is one of those people who will peek at the gifts if given the chance. I need to hide his :)

Did you start your Christmas shopping already? Anyone else doing some homemade gifts? I will let you know later what I am hoping to make for the kiddos.

Until later!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

{Kalahari Weekend: WOA Edition}

We had a great time at Kalahari. Yes, we did get that flat tire on the way there, but it didn't stop us from having fun. The kids really had a wonderful time. I asked them on the ride home what their favorite part was, and do you know what Caden said? The waterpark? Nope. The arcade? Nope. It was being able to play with Andrew and William. It is great to see that at such a young age the most important part of the weekend stood out the most to him: spending time with his cousins. On the ride home, Caden was OUT. Lilli got tired at first, but then she got a second wind. Ryan and I were laughing about how much she was gabbing :)

Here are some pics from the weekend. There are not a ton, because it is too hard to take pics when we are all in the water. That's okay, though. I would rather have the experience than worry about how to document it. Enjoy!

Friday night we hit up the arcade after dinner: 
Love how chill she looks :)
Saturday morning we slept in a bit, then we hit the waterpark. Most of my pics are of Lilli, because I hung out with her while Caden stuck with Andrew and the other adults. They went to the bigger slides and also the hot tub. You need to be 6 years old to go in the hot tubs at Kalahari, so Lilli was kinda bummed about that. Can't tell from this pic, though:
Pure joy is on her face :)
After swimming for a couple of hours, we went to Famous Dave's for lunch. There is a great outlet mall in the Dells, so we did a little shopping, too. Caden and Lilli were big fans of the little rides there:
We got back to the hotel, and the kids played for awhile in Grandma and Bumpah's hotel room. Daddy went over with the kids. (He was done with class for the day. Did I mention the entire reason we were there was because the Wisconsin Optometric Association was having their annual convention? That's why. Plus he was a presenter. We decided to make a family weekend out of it. Grandma and Bumpah came and got a separate room. Cara, Jordon, Andrew, William, and Baby Guin came and got a separate room, too.) Because the kiddos were all corralled and accounted for, I was able to get in some "Mommy time."
We went to Buffalo Phil's for dinner. They have a HUGE arcade area. We had to wait a little bit for our table, so we killed some time in the arcade. They have a big jumping area. The kids loved it:
 I also captured a slo-mo video of them jumping:
Here's another of William and Lilli in a little bus ride at that arcade:
It was a late night for the kids, and you can tell from this pic of Lilli at 8:30 this morning, she was feeling it:
We were able to hit the waterpark one more time this morning. The best part was that Daddy got some time in the water with Lilli. Caden was too busy going around by the time Ryan was able to join us:
 Caden and Lilli also discovered they really like the Lazy River:
Looks comfy, doesn't he?
Fun times! Now I have a lot of laundry to do. Good thing I rushed home and got all of that done right away. Ha ha. Just kidding. That didn't happen. I did get the wet suits in right away, but the rest can wait until tomorrow. This mama is tired.

Until later!

Friday, September 25, 2015

{flat tire memory put to good use}

I remember when I was younger and my brother and I were traveling somewhere in the car with my dad. It might have been in our old van. That I remember it all is really a miracle, because anyone who knows me knows that I have a horrible memory...anyway... I remember when I was younger we got a flat tire. My dad then unbuckled and had Danny and me get out of the car, climb up the hill next to the highway, and wait up there while he changed the tire. A police officer stopped to help, and he commended my dad for getting us out of the vehicle. He mentioned that the week before someone was changing their tire when the car was hit. We were much safer up on that hill and away from the traffic.

Flash forward to tonight...

Pam, the kids and I were heading to the Dells when Pam said to me, "Is that us or is that the road?" The van had started that bumping motion. Then I noticed the person next to us slowing down. We made eye contact right as the passenger mouthed the words "flat tire." We pulled over immediately. Yep, we had a flat. A pretty bad one. Of course...on the highway side. I unbuckled my belt, and I turned around to tell the kiddos to put on their shoes. We needed to get out and away from the van. And that's what we did. Lilli wasn't too sure about this:
But I sat down with them and we watched Phineas and Ferb while we waited. Thank God for Netflix :)
You can't tell from this pic, but I was also freaking out. Shortly after sitting down, I noticed a HUGE spider about two feet from us. I didn't want to scare the kiddos, so I didn't say anything. I just kept watching it to make sure it didn't move too far. Then I felt like spiders were all over me, but I kept my cool. That was definitely a mom win!

A nice gentleman also stopped to see if we needed help. We informed him we were waiting for AAA and also our husbands. He then told us to watch out for poison ivy. Great... I just kept saying in my head, "Leaves of three, let it be!" Reading that Fancy Nancy book about the poison ivy really paid off. I think we were in the clear. Phew! Here was our view from our spot:
I am happy to saw we all arrived safely at the hotel. I texted my dad right away to tell him that I remember what he taught me. He didn't even remember it at first! Does anyone else do this? It was a great piece of advice that really stuck with me.

Now bring on the water park and arcade games!

Until later!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

{my overnight waterpark packing list}

We go to the Dells a lot. Ryan sometimes has optometric conferences there (like this upcoming weekend), and we also go to two separate get togethers with family and friends there over the course of the year as well. I would say we generally go to either Great Wolf Lodge or Kalahari in total four times a year. Without fail, every time we go I forget something. This time I decided to plan a little better (Yes, I always have made a list beforehand), and I put together a list that I am going to SAVE for each time we go :) Here is what I came up with:

Waterpark Packing List for overnight trip

For the Waterpark
  • sunblock (if it’s nice enough to go to the outdoor section)
  • swim shoes or flip flops
  • swimsuits (2 per family member)
  • beach towels (1 per family member)
  • swimsuit cover-ups (t-shirts for the boys)
  • waterbag (I have a rubbery one that i got free with a bathing suit. Water doesn’t collect in it.)
      • Items for in the bag
          • baby wipes
          • water bottles
          • first aid kit (we needed this last time)
          • healthy snacks- Naturebox snacks most likely
  • detangling spray
  • hair-ties (for Lilli and me)
  • contacts (last time we went I forgot mine…)
  • wide headbands (I am planning to use these for the kids. We put their wristbands on their ankles, and I want to wrap the headband over it when they go to bed so they do not scratch themselves with the wristbands.)
  • 1 gallon-sized Ziploc bag (1 for each family member for wetsuits for return trip home)

For the Hotel Room
  • slippers
  • nightlight (I always forget this!)
  • bedtime books
  • book for myself
  • workout shoes and clothes
  • more snacks
  • a big blanket for the floor (If the kids want to sit on the floor, I don’t want them on that carpet-Yuck!)

Yes, we love waterparks. Even when I've forgotten things, we've still managed to have a good time. Here are some pics from over the years:
How cute is this?!
Do you think I missed anything essential to pack?

Until later!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

{making spiders for Halloween}

I LOVE decorating for Fall, and I especially love Halloween. I have been scouring Pinterest for ideas. This year I really wanted to let each kiddo make something to put up in the house. I found this cute paper plate spider idea on Pinterest from I Heart Crafty Things. The best part was that after modifying it a bit, I had all of the supplies on hand. We started this last night, and we finished it up tonight. Check out the super cute scary spider Lilli made:
They were super easy to make. I modified the ones from the inspiration a little to work better for us. For example, I didn't want to connect the plates with staples, because I was afraid the kids would hurt their hands if they caught one.

We started by painting the plates. I would highly recommend putting newspaper or something under the plates. We did, but Lilli still managed to get paint all over:
Then we let the plates dry over night. While they were drying, we cut out strips of black paper to use for the legs. We folded them to crimp them up:
Once the plates were dry (the next day), we taped the legs to the inside of the top plate:
Next Lilli drew eyes and a mouth onto the front of one of the plates:
We connected the plates with glue dots (I know you don't have to use Zots, but my kids LOVE them. They used to put them on their wrists and pretend they were Spiderman):
Finally we connected a piece of yarn so the spider could hang:
We just put the yarn in between the two plates and secured it was a Zot.
Her creation is displayed hanging from the window in the living room :)
Lilli wanted to make one like this, but Caden wanted to come up with his own design. He cut out all of his own pieces and created two spiders. I love his creativity. He even helped Lilli make a little one, too:

Caden's spider:
Lilli's spider:
He and Lilli put their little spiders by the fireplace:
He thought it would be funny to hang one by our door to the garage to scare Daddy last night. Ryan acted like it scared him a lot. Funny story: I went to throw my school bag into the car this morning, and the spider really did scare me. It was still dark at that time, and I felt something touch me. Then I saw something dark hanging down. Caden thought that was HILARIOUS! I have a feeling that spider will be scaring me from now until Halloween:

Until later!