Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas tree

By the way...does anyone need a Christmas tree?

I know someone who wants to give one away. I'm assuming it's a fake one. I'm not sure.

If you're interested I can find out if it's still available.

Because I just did this

My house is, by no means, clean. In is rather cluttered and messy. I'm working on it, alright!

I read a quote on the Richards' fridge when we were staying at their house. I liked it a lot. It says,

"Dull women have immaculate houses."

By definition then, I'm not dull. But I do try to do little things to keep my house neater.

For example, I somehow picked up the habit of dusting with old dryer sheets. Nothing big. Just on my way to the trash can I'll dust off a picture frame or part of the baseboards on the wall or the top of a door frame.

Dryer sheets apparently help keep dust from settling so I guess it's a good habit--at any rate it temporarily keeps a little part of my house less dusty.

I just finished folding the laundry and dusted the baseboard in the corner of our room by the garbage can. Now it looks pretty.

The Monthly Menu Bandwaggon

I really liked the idea of the monthly menu too so I have been working on mine since like 11:30 this morning. It takes me a long time because I always look through cookbooks as I don't have a ready repertoire of recipes in my head. And I always forget to write down the ones that I make that we end up liking. So I am often starting from scratch to decide what to make. Plus I made the grocery list as I found recipes to go on the menu. So here's my list (in case anyone wants to steal from it.) I can give recipes too. I asked Matt what he wanted for Christmas dinner, so that one was all him. I've never made Christmas dinner before, and this is our first Christmas to have at our own house with no extra family around.

3 Tuscn chicken and white beans
10 enichilada casserole
17 ladle-it-on lasagne
24 oven fried chicken
31 Italian tomato-herb chicken

4 tortilla pizzas
11 new mexican meatless chili
18 pizza beanburgers
25 mashed potatoes w/ velveeta, broccoli, parmesan chicken and angel hair pasta, alfredo sauce, fruit smoothies, asphalt pie

5 Bonnie: Enrichment, Matt: We'll figure something out.
12 funeral potatoes and maybe spaghetti
19 heartwarming chili
26 topsy-turvy beef pie

Thursdays (love the idea of a pizza night):
6 BLT pizza
13 taco pizza
20 regular (cheese) pizza
27 little ceasar's pizza

Fridays (Since I'm off the hook for cooking 3 of the 4 Fridays I decided to make it all simple.):
7 Work Party/ Ashby's Party
14 Ward Party
21 Pasta Roni/ Mac & Cheese
28 Armstrong Family Christmas

1 oven-baked french toast
8 Cheesy Vegetable Strata
15 Santa Fe Brunch bake
22 breakfast burritos
29 waffles

Sundays (I know Sunday is usually a day of nice meals, but I believe in keeping the workload simple on Sundays so that I don't have to spend my whole evening working on dinner and can rest. Besides that, during December, I'll probably need to bring Matt dinners at the church sometimes, and there are two weeks where I will be somewhere else in other wards.):
2 tortilla soup/ herb-cheese bread
9 leftovers/ eat at Matt's parents'
16 leftovers/ maybe eat at Robin's
23 leftovers
30 leftovers

It's nice to have that done.

More Christmas Traditions

Since Andrew's parents gave us their old full-size tree, we have an extra tree in our storage shed that is just a few feet tall.

We both really like Christmas so at first we thought we'd just set them both up. But then we remembered that our apartment is really too small for that. We thought about giving it away, but I'm still a little partial to it since it was our first tree.

So I kept thinking of what to do and how we could use it. As I was decorating our wreath, I came up with an idea.

I thought that it would be fun to break that tree out on Christmas Eve and make homemade decorations for it. Just like the snowmen on our wreath contain personal notes to us, I thought we could make little ornaments and attach notes to them before putting them on the tree. The kids could make paper chains and snowflakes, and any other little ornament idea we come up with.

We are also planning on making little ornaments with the kids' pictures on each year so they can see how they grow. We thought we'd reserve those for the tree on Christmas Eve--then we can look at our pictures, make ornaments, write notes of love and gratitude and decorate the tree with them. It would be a great way to channel that Christmas Eve energy that children have.

Then on Christmas morning we'd take out the notes and read them to each other.

Granted, this might take some censoring from Santa when the children are old enough to fight and be mean to each other. We wouldn't want any hate notes to ruin a Christmas morning for anyone. That's the beauty of being Santa. You can make things go the way you want. You hold the magic.

We also have a nice-sized lump of coal that James Gillespie gave me last year. Isn't he a sweet boy?

I'm going to put some glaze-stuff on it so that it doesn't get everything black. Then on Christmas Eve, Santa will choose someone's stocking and put the coal inside of it with all the goodies. Whoever gets the lump of coal will get to put the star or angel on the top of the tree the next year.

We don't have a star or angel yet, but we want one. Right now our tree is topped with a snowman, which seems overtly pagan to me.

December, as promised

Alright, here's our semi-plan for December's meals.

2: Omlettes
9: Fast Sunday! Meatloaf
16: Waffles
23: Ham
30: Scalloped potatoes

3: Burritos
10: Enchiladas
17: Quesadillas
24: Homemade Spaghetti (our Christmas tradition)
31: Perogies (our New Year's tradition)

MYOLO! Done and done! Except for the 25th. That's Christmas and we're hoping to be invited to one of our parents' houses...otherwise we probably will just have left overs or sandwiches or something. Who knows? There's still time.

5: Chicken a la King (last time I made this, it ended up more like Sweet and Sour...don't ask me how. I don't know)
12: BBQ Chicken
19: A pot pie of sorts
26: Stirfry

6: Pasta al forno
13: Lasagne
20: Pasta con pesto?
27: Southwestern Casserole

It's pizza night in Heissatopia!

1: Hot dogs with pork n' beans
8: Vegetable soup
15: Pineapple chili
22: Regular chili
29: Pita and falafel balls (hmmm...maybe we'll have that on Christmas...that sounds fun)

I'm also looking for a nice wassail recipe. Does anyone have a tried, tested, and true recipe they'd like to share? We want to make some for our Christmas Eve festivities.

Monthly Menus

My friend Crystal recently bemoaned on her blog that, although she enjoys cooking, she can never think of what to make for dinner.

I have a double whammy. I don't enjoy cooking all that much and I never know what to make for dinner. Yikes!

I enjoy baking, for the most part, although I get sick of that pretty quick, too...and I do like to cook some things some of the time. Mostly though I like to eat things that other people make.

In order to make my life a little less hectic, I've tried to eliminate my "there's only 10 minutes before Andrew gets home" routine. That used to involve scurrying around the kitchen, opening the fridge, freezer, and every single cupboard, trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

And then there were the shopping trips. Disaster! "Ummm...I think we might eat this in the next two weeks...maybe."

Well, now I make monthly calendars of what we're planning for dinner. It's partially an effort to make sure that I eat lots but mostly it's just to eliminate the stress of not knowing what to make.

Planning a whole month may sound daunting, but I have a method.

First, I plan the meals going down instead of across. This is a tip I got from one of my friend's moms. I tend to think in categories, so if I write down "tacos" I'll probably write down "enchiladas" and then I'll probably write down "fajitas" and then I'll write down something else within that same genre of food. If I were writing down these ideas in a MTWThF fasion, my family would be pretty sick of Mexican food by the end of the week. Instead, I chose a day of the week and wrote down all the Mexican dishes that I knew how to make. So, Monday is our Mexican day.

A few more things you need to know before I show you November and December's menus:

MYOLO--this is one of our family's words. One day we will have to write our own dictionary because we make up words all the time. This particular word is an acronym for Make Your Own/Left Overs. It's the night that I'm not making dinner for anyone, so fend for yourself. The microwave is above the oven.

Friday is pizza night. End of story. That might sound boring, but there are so many varieties of pizza that your options are limitless. Individual, stuffed crust, potato...just go to Italy. You will see that, at least if you travel with my husband, you can eat pizza for every meal.

That takes of two days of every week. Now we only have to plan 5 days per week.

Anyway, here's what we ate (for the most part) in November:

Sundays (Sunday Dinner Day, obviously)
4: Breakfast for dinner
11: Mashed potatoes with gravy
18: Scalloped potatoes
25: Meatloaf, potatoes

Mondays (Mexican night)
5: Fajitas
12: Enchiladas
19: Taco soup
26: Spanish Rice

Tuesdays (MYOLO)
Done and done.

Wednesdays (Rice stuff)
7: Sweet and sour
14: Teriyaki
21: Hawaiian haystacks
28: Kosheri

Thursday (Pasta night)
Andrew gets home early this day and all he knows how to make is pasta...and that's why today is pasta day. Because he is home to make it. He's home in time to help on Fridays, too...explaining why that is pizza day.

1: Stroganaff
8: Soup (which isn't really a pasta...but oh, well. We wanted soup)
15: Pasta salad
22: Thanksgiving
28: Sloppy Joes

Friday (Pizza night)
Done and done

Saturday (Experimental/Lazy)
3: Twice baked potatoes
10: Mac 'n' cheese
17: Sub sandwiches
24: Pineapple chili

Okay, so I said that I'd give you December's calendar as well, but I'm tired so I'm going to bed after telling you a little more about my method.

We shop for two week's worth of food. I look at the calendar and jot down what I need to make the meals. Then I know that I have all the ingredients for everything I want to (read: have to) make for the next two weeks.

My calendar isn't set in stone, either. If our parents invite us over for dinner, I will gladly postpone making a meal. And if I really don't feel like making something, I won't. For example, yesterday I didn't feel like making kosheri because that takes quite a bit of work. I made sloppy joes instead and planned to make kosheri today. I still didn't want to make kosheri today until Andrew reminded me that I had frozen pre-cooked lentils in the freezer...then kosheri looked like a lot less work, so I made it. Otherwise we would have had soup-from-a-can or something equally difficult to make.

Advent Calendar

Andrew and I have been talking a lot about traditions we want to have in our home. Some are being carried over from our own childhood homes and others we are inventing on the spot.

We feel that since families are being attacked at every side that having fun family traditions can help the fight on our side. Families come first.

With that in mind as the holiday season is fast upon us, we've been seeking out Christmas traditions.

Karen gave us a little advent calendar all stocked up and ready to go...but we still had the old one that she gave us so I was thinking what we could do with that one. Surely we didn't need two calendars with treats.

Instead I thought of 24 things to do as a family to help strengthen our relationships. I typed them up and cut them out and put them randomly in the calendar so not even I know where most of the papers are. There are a few that we planned out.

The second is the first presidency fireside, so we'll be doing that on the second.
The eighth is my friend's wedding reception and we'll be going into SLC anyway, so we are planning on going to see the lights at Temple Square that day.
The sixteenth is our anniversary, so that's when we'll force Rachel to watch us slow dance in the kitchen.
And the twenty-fourth is Christmas eve, so we'll of course be reading the Christmas story and acting that out.

And then I had to strategically place things that Andrew and I could both do on our own (readings, etc) because sometimes he isn't home until late, late, late so it is almost impossible to get family time in. But at least we can read the same message and talk about it over IM or on a later date.

Other than that though, these are all placed randomly in the calendar. None of us have any idea when they will pop up. It should be fun.
  • Watch Mr. Krueger's Christmas
  • Watch Nora's Christmas Gift
  • Watch The Story of the Other Wise Man
  • Watch The Nativity
  • Watch Joy to the World
  • Read the Christmas Story and act it out
  • Watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional
  • Read President Monson's talk
  • Go see the lights on Temple Square
  • Everyone choose your favorite Christmas song to sing
  • Read this short Christmas message
  • Read a message by President Hinckley
  • Let daddy be a donkey and take turns riding around on his back like Mary and Joseph
  • Read a Christmas story from the library
  • Play a game together
  • Sing your favorite Christmas hymn
  • Read President Faust's message
  • Watch mommy and daddy dance to their song
  • Go Christmas Light looking
  • Turn on jazzy Christmas music and dance in the kitchen
  • Play a game together
  • Sing your favorite Christmas carols
  • Go caroling to a neighbour
  • Read what some prophets remember about Christmas
I have had some more ideas for Christmas traditions but it's late so I'll post them later I guess.

Our Purpose

I guess I just wanted a place to swap ideas with friends that have similar values as me.

This is a motherhood brag book, venting location, and idea swap meet.

And so we begin.