29 March 2010

Food for thought

Like any busy stay-at-home mom, I try to feed my family healthy meals throughout the week. I've learned that in order for that to really happen, it takes some forethought and preparation. Just for fun, I thought I'd share some things that I do each week as far as meal planning goes. Maybe this will help encourage other busy moms? At the very least, it will simply give you a glimpse into our family.

I tend to do my grocery shopping on Monday mornings. I start thinking about my list on Sunday and jot things down. I don't go to the store without a list. Up until recently, I was spending way too much money (and time) making several trips to different grocery stores throughout the week. In addition to the bulk of my shopping at one main store (usually Wal-Mart), I'd also frequent places like Trader Joe's, Henry's, Fresh & Easy or Super Target. Since the beginning of the year, I've been doing well at sticking to one grocery store per week with a bi-weekly trip to Costco for things like milk, cereal, wipees, rotissiere chicken, and toiletries.

On average, I find that I cook about 4 times a week with at least one of the meals being large enough for leftovers on another night. Every other Monday night or so, Morgan is typically out of town for work. On that night, the girls get mac & cheese with edamame or broccoli (depending on what I have). They love it and automatically know what's for dinner when daddy's not home. And in order to make it super easy, I usually heat up a lean cuisine for me and call it good. That leaves one day a week where we like to eat out as a family. The places we dine range from Panda Express to the happy hour on the patio at Jackalope Ranch. We also like Chipotle, Panera, Las Casuelas, Applebee's, and Mario's. Eating out is a fun way to get out as a family and something that we look forward to by the end of the week. On average, we try to keep the cost down by spending no more than $30 on a restaurant. Very doable at all the places that I mentioned.

I'm thankful that my girls will eat just about anything that I cook. Really, do they have any another choice? :) I don't make something different for my kids, just because they would prefer something else. I guess I got that from my parents growing up. We never had any choices. Plus, I don't want my kids being too picky when it comes to food as they grow older. We are not big beef eaters in my home. I have nothing against beef, we just don't buy it very often. We love a good burger or filet once in a while and when we see my parents, Korean barbecue is a must. We also like carne asada from our local carneceria but we only get that about once a month. We eat a lot of turkey and chicken with the occasional fish or shrimp. I use ground turkey for everything including tacos, meatballs, sausages, and chili. My family likes the mild white fish, tilapia. I like it because you can dress it up any which way and it's very hard to over cook tilapia. It seems like I have a collection of meals in my arsenal but I do like to try new things to see if it'll make it into the "regular rotation." Probably more than anyone else in my family, I like and need variety.

Our favorite meals include: chicken enchiladas, tacos, spinach & cheese raviolis, orange chicken, lasagna, southwest chicken wraps, and spaghetti & meatballs. We use multi-grain or whole wheat pasta and eat mostly brown rice. Our favorite vegetable is broccoli so I usually steam or sautee that with some garlic. I happen to adore broccoli and could eat it everyday. We also like edamame (soy beans), corn on the cob, green beans, and raw carrots. The girls aren't big on cooked carrots or salads yet.

As far as recipes go... I don't typically use any. I never have. That's probably why I have a hard time with baking sometimes. I may ask for a recipe that looks interesting to me but I always end up doctoring it up with my own twist.

Basic staples that I keep in my pantry: All kinds of canned beans (refried, black, red kidney, pinto, and cannellini), Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, low sodium chicken broth, and pastas (we like spaghetti, penne, and rotini). I always have onions, garlic, spices, and evoo on hand. Can you tell that we love Mexican and Italian cuisine?

Before having kids, I loved to cook. I still do but I'm leaning more towards the functional and quick, rather than the more elaborate dinner parties that I used to throw. I have no shame in taking lots of help from places like Costco where I get their rotisserie chicken and use it for so many things. I also get their fresh spinach ravioli and orange chicken. The raviolis are my "go-to" meal.
I simply toss them in some olive oil and parmesan. It literally takes less than 10 mins. from start to finish. My family loves it and it's soooo easy. Great for those nights where dinner time is suddenly upon you and your plan didn't come to fruition. The orange chicken at Coscto is also good. It's all white meat chicken breast. I sometimes add chopped cashews or other nuts and top with sliced green onions or cilantro. I serve it with rice and sauteed broccoli or green beans. We use chopsticks on this night so it's fun for the kids.

In the winter, I love to make soups. My favorites are chicken tortilla, turkey soup with Thanksgiving leftovers, chicken & veg, lentil, and oxtail soup. I'm so happy that my whole family loves soup, too. In the summer, we tend to grill out a lot. There's nothing better than grilled veggies!

Food is something that has always brought my family together so I have grown up with a passion for it. That's probably why I love watching Food TV.
It inspires me.

Let's face it though, not every day works out as we'd like it to. There will be better days and weeks than others. Sometimes, us moms just don't get it together for one reason or another. The day ends up slipping away from us. Maybe we spent too much time on the computer or we just forgot to leave something out to defrost in the morning? Maybe we had the best intentions to start on dinner but other things came up during the day that required more of our attention? The main thing is that we don't verve too far off the meal planning course. In order to provide healthy meals and be more cost-conscious for our family, the best thing to do is try and stay on track as much as possible. It all starts with a plan. Weekly plans are better but some weeks,
I have to admit, I do daily planning instead. Still, the key word here is planning. If you're running into glitches, maybe start by making large one pot meals in the crock pot. That should take care of at least 2 days. You can also make meals on Sundays and freeze them for the week. Lastly, there's always the Costco food court for those nights when you just don't feel like cooking, no matter how much planning you did or did not do. :)

I don't consider myself a good cook by any means (although my sweet hubby and family would beg to differ). I never really cooked before I got married. In fact, there was a time in my young adult life when my parents worried that I would never be able to cook for my future husband and family. I learned that cooking just takes willingness and trial. I tend to cook by taste but whatever way works best for you is great! When people say, "I don't cook or I can't cook," it often simply means that they aren't willing to. Meals don't have to be elaborate or complicated. In fact, your family will love the simple ones with less ingredients.

I happen to love eating healthy food. I love veggies of all kinds and if I could eat a salad as a one dish meal everyday, I'd be happy. At this stage, salads are just a little time consuming for me. That's not to say that I don't ever splurge or eat anything fried on occasion. Thankfully, I don't have a huge sweet tooth (never have), although chocolate is becoming more appealing as I get older.
I like savory foods and can eat lots of it! I have to maintain a sense of portion control otherwise, I tend to over eat. I consistently exercise 3-4x's a week. It's usually Mon., Wed. & Fri. On the weekends, I try and get outside to run around with the kids. Thankfully, this routine allows me to eat just about anything I want. My exercise method is short and efficient for this time in my life. I get on my elliptical for about 15-20 mins. in the morning and follow-up with 5 lbs. weights. It's just enough for me to sweat and start out my day. I don't spend more than 30 mins. a day exercising. I prefer getting out and doing something fun for exercise but this has worked out nicely for me in the last year or so. There are still a couple of adventures that I want to try in life and I know that being fit will keep me young and motivated. Plus, I have a husband that has a body of a 20 something and can eat anything he wants without gaining weight. Seriously! So not fair! We strive to stay healthy and active so that we don't have any limitations when it comes to experiencing life and enjoying new adventures with our children.

So, that's it. That's how we operate around here. Wow, this post was way longer than I anticipated! The key of course is preparation and balance. You may not always feel like cooking or preparing something for your family but it is a necessity. Blessed are those who serve their family with a happy heart! Food has been a part of some of my fondest memories growing up. Isn't it funny how different smells can take us right back in time? Here's to creating new memories in the kitchen and around our dinner tables. Bon appetit, friends!

26 March 2010

new bikes

Faith is geared up and ready to ride.

There she goes!

Gracie, taking it slow.

Faith's smile says, "I got this, mom."

My two 4 year-olds.

The girls have been riding their bikes everyday since they got them. Grace was a tad apprehensive at first but it's times like this that having a daring and adventurous twin sister comes in handy! Both have been doing very well and loving every minute of it. Well, except for that one time when Gracie went down a small incline in our neighborhood and forgot everything we told her about how to use the brakes. She managed to hang on (while screaming the entire time) until I chased her down and caught up with her. They've been riding further and further every day. Pretty soon, Morgan and I are going to have to get bikes of our own so that we can venture out of our neighborhood gates together and take some family bike rides.

Looking forward to that day and loving this spectacular spring weather!

22 March 2010

Mindful

March 22nd. To us, it is the birth date of our double blessings from above. It is a joyous occasion that warrants celebration every year. To one young woman, this day is etched in her memory forever. A day that I'm sure she will never forget- whether she has ever tried to or not. As I tucked the girls into bed last night- we reminisced about our wonderful weekend. With overflowing hearts, we thanked God for each other, our family, our friends, and for all of our blessings. I whispered in each of their ears how thankful I am that God has made them my daughter. To which they sweetly replied, "I'm so happy that God made you my mama." (sniff, sniff...)

I couldn't help but think of Faith and Grace's birth mother and what this day represents to her. I am mindful of the fact that she may be experiencing a whole different set of emotions on this day. I couldn't begin to understand what those emotions might be. All I could think about was the fact that she will never forget this day, the day that she gave birth to two beautiful baby girls. After all, how can one really forget? It's just not humanly possible. And then I began to pray. I prayed with a mix of compassion and gratitude. I prayed that if she felt any kind of pain or anguish on this day (or any other day that she thought about the girls), that God would comfort her heart and give her a peace, as only He can. I prayed that she would seek God's face as a result of these two lives that she brought in the world, four years ago today. I prayed that she would open her heart and allow God to grace her life with a hope and a future, just as He has for our girls.

I don't know why but Morgan and I have always had a feeling that we would meet her one day. In fact, that's one of the reasons why we want the girls to learn Korean. If they ever choose to meet their birth mom, we'd love for them to be able to somewhat communicate with her. I do realize however, that love and gratitude knows no language barriers. It would be an honor for me to be able to thank her in person someday but that is not my choice to make. My experiences in life long to tell this young woman that God can use any circumstance to His glory. Our past does not define our future and the difficult choice she made to carry those babies for 33.5 weeks was not in vain.
I am aware that meeting her may never come to fruition in this lifetime but I can pray for her salvation and maybe, just maybe, I can thank her in the next...

Would you please join me in saying a little prayer for Faith & Grace's birth mom today? As a family, we would be humbled and grateful.

*In honor of the girls' birth mom, pictured above is the National Flower of Korea, the Rose of Sharon.

21 March 2010

Pool Party!

The girls and I had fun putting together these party favors.
Beach buckets with lots of goodies!

Don't they look festive?!

Our hardworking crew- The Taco Guys.

The girls with their cousin Christina.

The Sea Life Craft Station.

Paint a fish or create a sea life bracelet.

Grace paints her whale.

Trey and Dylan try their hand at fishing.

Water balloon toss into the lifesaver.

Hailey & Cat.

The salsa bar- 3 different salsas with all the fixin's. Yum!

Carne asada and homemade tortillas on the grill.

Rice & beans to feed a small army...

Grace swimming with Nemo.

~Friends~

~Family~

Fun in the sun!

Hapajee & Halmoni.

Rodrigo, our head taco guy.

Grace, reluctantly out of the pool for some lunch.

The Blodgett's.

Teagan, always the ladies man.

Rich, Grace, & Cat.

Kylie.

Jacob teaching Ellie how to fish.

Cupcake time!

My beach bear cupcakes turned out pretty cute!

Happy Birthday, Girls!!

Gracie.

Cobi & Maddy in the sandbox.

Us girls hanging out in the spa.

Kylie with Grandma.

Viv, Kylie, Faith & Grace.

Their very own pool floats.

Can you hula?

Hey batter, batter!

Cute mitts! Daddy liked this gift. :)

Bike helmets...

For their new bike!

Faith rides down the hallway...

And lastly, to end the day... Daddy proposes to Grace, the blushing bride.

What a day! We're still in recovery mode. The girls had an outstanding birthday party. We were so blessed by our family and dear friends who came from near and far. The girls loved having a pool party and most of the time, you couldn't even get them out of the pool- not even to eat. They ate like birds most of the day because they were having too much fun in the pool. Morgan and I were extremely pleased with our taco guy and his crew. They went above and beyond our expectations. The food, professionalism, and service- all ended up being fabulous!

After everyone left around 2:30, the girls were able to take a 90 minute nap. Yup, they were zonked! It was truly a special and memorable day for Faith and Grace. Thank you to all of our friends and family for joining in our celebration! We love you! Happy 4th Birthday, Girls!!

*I can't believe we now have two FOUR year-olds! Time flies when you're having fun!

17 March 2010

Birthday Week

Faith getting her haircut.

Cutie pie.

Grace's turn.

On their royal throne.

Cheers!

Me and Gracie.

Although technically, the girls' official birthday isn't until next monday, we celebrated a little early with a trip to the beauty shop followed by dinner at Island's. Tuesdays are $10 haircut days at Enchanted Memories (a place where princesses go to get beautified). I also had a gift certificate for 2 free kids meals at Island's, which just happens to be across the street.

Other birthday treats:

*They got to watch some of the "The Little Mermaid" while waiting in the beauty shop.

*They had pink lemonade with their dinner.

*They topped off dinner with a frozen yogurt dessert from Tutti Fruitti!

Yup, I'm getting a little lax in my older age. :) It was a special treat for them, that's for sure! The girls are all spruced up for their big day. They've been so incredibly patient waiting for their party. I couldn't be more proud of them. Only 3 more days and counting!! Did I mention that it's sunny and 89 degrees here today?!

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