Friday, October 16, 2009

Company Girl Coffee

This is my first time to participate in the Friday Company Girl Coffee. Rachel really inspired me with her post on getting your "gift center" set up. I don't have a place yet to set up a gift closet like hers but for a long time I had a system for organizing the wrapping paper and gift bags that was working well for me. I used an old garment bag and had the paper rolls bows, gift bags and tissue stored neatly away and hanging in my coat closet. It was convenient and everyone knew where the supplies were (although we never could keep a pair of scissors from wandering off). Well, a few months ago the bag got a little too full and heavy and it broke. Now it would not hang up anymore but continued to be stuffed in the closet. The paper was wrinkling and there was no room for the 9 rolls of Christmas paper I found on a fantastic markdown recently.


The old system for storing our wrapping supplies was no longer working.

A week ago my husband reached his tolerance limit with our son`s bedroom and we went on a rampage to rid his room of a ton of unneccesary junk. I came across this large under the bed box that was not being used for anything important.

This morning I gathered up the wrapping supplies from around the house, put the ribbon and bows in clear ziploc bags so I can see easily what colors and sizes I have, and it all fits in the big box.

Christmas paper stashes under the bed needs a new home.


I don't have a spot clear under my bed for this so it is temporarily standing on end in the corner of the dining room.

It is out of the way and will be fine until we need to turn the heat on in the house. Hopefully by then I will have decluttered a spot under my bed to store the supplies.
Thanks, Rachel, for the kick in the pants to deal with this before the holiday season gets into full swing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Menu Plan: October 12-18

The good news is that we did fairly well at sticking to the menu plan last week. Not every meal was made on the day it was scheduled for, but most were made at some point during the week. The bad news is that I don't have many meals to push to this week, so I had to come up with a whole week's worth of meals. I have to say that as we are recovering from some sickness in the house (and my hubby and I may be toying with the idea of falling victim as well) that this week's plans do not include a lot of labor intensive recipes. Today is a holiday so we are pushing last Friday's pizza to today, but we may let one of the boys invite a friend over on Friday so we will either do pizza again (I don't expect to get any complaints from the kids over this. "boo hiss, pizza twice in one week!" Nope, not gonna hear that phrase in my household.) or, if I am ambitious we will make homemade pepperoni rolls. Plan C: the least ambitious of all but just as delicious is to buy brown and serve loaves of "french" bread, stuff with pepperoni and mozzarella and then bake till golden brown. Yummy!

Monday Oct 12
Breakfast: Oatmeal, juice
School snack: Not needed --- today is a holiday
Meal 1: Homemade pizza
Meal 2: Baked Salsa Chicken, rice, brussel sprouts

Tuesday Oct 13
Breakfast: cold cereal, juice
School snack: apple slices
Meal 1: Fried rice
Meal 2: crockpot sunshine chicken,

Wednesday, October 14
Breakfast: Maria cookies and hot chocolate
School snack: seedless grapes
Meal 1: Spaghetti and meat sauce
Meal 2: BLT sandwiches

Thursday, October 15
Breakfast: cold cereal, juice
School snack: fresh fruit (whatever was a good deal at the produce market yesterday)
Meal 1: Baked potato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches
Meal 2: Soft tacos or taco salad

Friday, October 16
Breakfast: pancakes or waffles
School snack: peanut butter crackers
Meal 1: pepperoni rolls
Meal 2: leftovers

Saturday, October 17
International dinner at the church with the young people. Stephen thinks he wants to bring macaroni and cheese. Tim is undecided -- maybe a salad, or jello of some kind.

Sunday, October 18

Meal 1: Meatballs and gravy, egg noodles, salad
Meal 2: omelettes and toast.

Don't forget to head over to Laura's for everyone else's weekly menu plan. And let me know in the comments if you're having any great inspiration for this week's menu at your house.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Karen´s awesome pizza dough recipe

Homemade pizza dough (thanks again to my friend Karen who shared this with me many years ago)

2 to 2.5 cups flour
1 pkg rapid rise yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup warm water (approx 120 degrees F)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey

Mix together 2 cups flour, yeast and salt in large mixing bowl. Add oil and honey to warm water in measuring cup and stir well. Add to flour mixture and mix well. (Or if using regular yeast, sprinkle yeast over water and let stand 5 minutes. Then add oil and honey and add to the flour.)
Mix and knead on lightly floured board until elastic.
Wash, dry and oil bowl. Let dough rise in bowl until doubled in size (40-60 minutes depending on what kind of yeast you use.)
Shape and bake with your favorite toppings. 10 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Getting back to menu planning (Oct 5-11)

October is here, the family is back to a full-day school schedule, and it is time to get back to writing out a weekly menu so I can avoid the daily panic of "what's for dinner?" I know that in the past this simple little step has really helped remove a ton of stress from my week. Here is my plan for the week. We are still figuring out the schedule with after school activities so I will go back to the format I used a while back of just posting meal #1 and meal #2. I will have the ingredients in the house for both meals, and decide on the day which meal will be eaten for "lunch" (at 2:30 when the kids get home from school) and which one will be "dinner" (eaten sometime between 6:30 and 7:30)

Monday Oct 5
Breakfast: cold cereal, juice
School snack: granola bars, yogurt drink
Meal 1: Cream of broccoli soup, tunafish in pita pockets
Meal 2: Toni's apple puff pancakes

Tuesday Oct 6
Breakfast: Oatmeal, juice
School snack:
Meal 1: Crockpot beef stew and biscuits
Meal 2: Quiche, salad

Wednesday, October 7
Breakfast: Maria cookies and hot chocolate
School snack: apple slices
Meal 1: Burritos and rice I may try this recipe for Burrito casserole
Meal 2: Sandwiches, chips

Thursday, October 8
Breakfast: cold cereal, juice
School snack: fresh fruit (whatever was a good deal at the produce market yesterday)
Meal 1: Homemade mac and cheese with ham, green beans
Meal 2: poached eggs on toast

Friday, October 9
Breakfast: pancakes or waffles
School snack: peanut butter crackers
Meal 1: homemade pizza
Meal 2: leftovers

Currently I have no plan for Saturday and Sunday as this is a holiday weekend and I still do not know if we are going away or planning any family outings during this time.

Check over here to see what everyone else is putting on their menu this week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to School

Well, it hardly seems possible that i have not posted since May but the blog doesn't lie. We had a wonderful summer but I am ready for it to be over and for life to get back to "normal". The incredibly hot temperatures have finally gone and this week the kids go back to school. It seems that even the return to school cannot be done all at once, but rather in small bites. The first and fourth graders started back on Monday. I have been working a little at a time to finish shopping for all their text books. I still need to get some of them covered. Fortunately their classes will probably do the same as in previous years and form a class Co-op. This means as parents we will choose two parents to open up an account at a local bank. Then each parent pays 15 or 20 euros into the account and the teacher uses that to purchase supplies for the class. Last year the 3rd grade teacher not only bought the pencils, pens, crayons, markers, glue, colored pencils, etc for the class but also used the money to purchase the kind of notebook she wanted the kids to use for their class notes. I know I would have spent more money running around to buy all the stuff and this way the kids have what they need when they need it. A win-win situation for all in my book.

Tuesday I took the two older kids out to shop for their supplies ... at least the notebooks and folders they want. In secondary school the teachers are not so particular about the kind of notebooks so the boys helped me pìck out the kind they wanted .... knowing that we wouldn't even be looking at the expensive ones with the pictures on the covers. I'm sorry but i can't afford to pay twice the price just to have a Disney cover. Not when I am buying 16 or 17 notebooks!

Today, Wednesday, my second born started school. He moves up to the "instituto" this year to start 7th grade. The 7th graders had to go into the school at 10am for an general assembly, find out their class lists and meet the home-room teachers and get their school "agendas" to record their assignments in.

I thought my life would finally get back to a normal school schedule tomorrow when my oldest son heads back to school for his first day. It will also be an assembly, class list, home-room teacher, agenda day. What I found out was that in order to have this first day "orientation" for the 9th and 10th graders, the 7th and 8th graders get to stay home. So, we wait till Friday for the TRUE first day of school celebration (for Mom)Ü

Monday, May 25, 2009

Feeling Patriotic

I'm feeling patriotic today so I decided to add some music to the blog for a few days. Living overseas, we miss the typical American holidays like Memorial Day but I try to do a few things to teach my kids a little about these days so that they can build some bonds to their American culture. (As TCK's -- Third Culture Kids -- )they are immersed in the spanish and european culture, but one day will most likely live in the States and I want them to understand that part of their heritage as well. They know that today Mom will be playing band music and telling stories about what Memorial Day was like for me growing up, how their relatives are celebrating today, etc etc etc. I am also feeling "doubly patriotic" since I am preparing for tomorrow. At the elementary school tomorrow they are having a "cultural day" where the classes will learn and experience things about many other cultures (there are kids from all over the world in the school). I am giving 3 30 minute "talks" to the preschoolers and then providing some kind of american food to the classrooms of my other two children. In the preschool time I am planning on talking about the 4th of July and how it is typically celebrated in the States. We are going to listen to Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever and march around the room like a band in a parade. They are also going to be making a variation on this craft I found online. Right now I am tracing a couple hundred star shapes on Red, White and Blue posterboard and will be cutting them out later today. I am looking forward to a fun day tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A thought about Mothers

I came across this quote from Theodore Roosevelt (1908)

"it is the tasks connected with the home that are the fundamental tasks of humanity ... After all, we can get along for a time being with an inferior quality of success in other lines, political or business, or of any such kind; because if there are failings in such matters we can make them good in the next generation; but if the mother does not do her duty, there will either be no next generation, or a generation that is worse than none at all."

How am I affecting the next generation? What about you?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Menu Plan Monday April 20-27

We've been back from Spring vacation for over a week now but I haven't done very well at the task of feeding my family. I know that things go soooo much better if I have a menu plan so here goes Plan A for the week. There will undoubtedly be revisions as the week goes by but at least I have a place to start from.

Monday 4/20
Breakfast: Cereal
School Snack: homemade bran muffins
Lunch: Baked burritos with toppings
Dinner: Local pizzeria had a deal tonight of small pizzas for 1 euro. We walked over and fed the family for 8 euros including beverages. And no dirty dishes for me.

Tuesday 4/21
Breakfast: Oatmeal
School Snack: granola bars
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches eaten in the car on our way to the mall for Ben & Jerry's free ice-cream day.
Dinner: hot dogs and macaroni and cheese

Wednesday 4/22
Breakfast: or oil bread
School Snack: homemade cookies or brownies
Lunch: chicken and broccoli, rice
Dinner: quiche

Thursday 4/23
Breakfast: Cereal and fruit
School Snack: apple slices
Lunch: Chili and cornbread
Dinner: grilled cheese sandwiches

Friday 4/24
Breakfast: PopTarts or cereal from the recent care package from the States
School Snack: Kids' choice
Lunch: homemade pizza
Dinner: ????

Saturday 4/25
Hubby and eldest son will be gone all day at a youth event in Salamanca with the car. I'll be at home with the littler ones. We'll nosh on leftovers and maybe make chicken sandwiches (from frozen chicken patties fried up and eaten on burger buns).

Sunday 4/26
Choir practice after church will get us home later than normal. We'll have meatballs and sauce heating in the crockpot and will just have to cook some spaghetti pasta once we get home.

Don't forget to head over to Laura's to see what everyone else has on the menu for this week.

Friday, March 27, 2009

focus, focus, focus

I think that I waste a lot of time by not being focussed on a specific goal. I flit from room to room and from task to task because everywhere I look I see something that "needs to be done" or (more often) that I want to do. I think if I would stop for a couple of minutes each day and refine my focus and determine my goals (and learn how to make a REASONABLE list) I would find things going much smoother and would probably see that I am making better progress on "eating the elephant". I am going to try out my new theory for the next 6 days as I prepare the house for houseguests over Easter weekend and pack the family for our vacation the week before Easter. See the timeline there? I need to have the house ready BEFORE we leave on vacation. The only way that will work is with some focus, focus, focus.
Wednesday's post showed me that I was a bit too vague in what I wanted to accomplish in those 90 minutes before picking up the kids. I was also overly optomistic in how much I could get done. Put away all the food I bought at the market, make lunch, do a massive decluttering, straighten up the house etc etc etc. Who am I kidding? I had nothing more to bring to the donation center but the 2 bags that are in the back of the car from last week. I putzed about in the kitchen for the whole time and didn't have time to drive by on the way to the school. I barely got my "small thing" done from Rachel's Home Sanctuary site.
So today I have one focus for the morning.... I must finish filing our taxes! I do not want this hanging over my head for our vacation so I have determined that today is the day it will get done. I started yesterday but had to stop when school was out and never got back to it. I have 4 hours before I have to pick up the kids and it should not take even half that long. Once that is done I will look at the time and determine my focus for the rest of the morning. Let's see if this new approach makes a difference.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

back for some teeny bites

This poor blog is feeling so neglected. I've gotten hooked into facebook, updating my status regularly but I realize there are friends and family that have not (and probably never will) join facebook so I may try my hand at some quick posts here. Maybe if I pretend that I am limited in my # of characters like on my facebook status updates, I can improve my editing skills and learn how to be brief.

Today I hit the local outdoor produce market. Only planned to get two things so I didn't bring the rolling cart. Bad move ... I ended up lugging 8 bags totalling more than 25 lbs to the car. Ouch! I just couldn't resist some of the prices and I know my family will appreciate eating the healthy stuff. They are so much better than I am in their eating habits. So, sometime this week we will have zucchini soup, cream of broccoli soup (for my husband who is still needing to have soft foods), brussel sprouts, coleslaw, cucumber salad, strawberries, pears and apples. My mouth is watering already (well, all except the brussel sprouts)
I have 90 minutes till I have to go pick up the kids at school. Let's see what I can rustle up for lunch and how many bags of stuff I can declutter from the house to leave a the donation center on my way to pick them up.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Menu Plan February 9-15, 2009

I sat down with my husband this evening and he helped with the menu plan, letting me know which days he expects to be home for meals. This week is a bit unusual because we had dinner guests today, my daughter is having her first "friend" birthday party this Friday, the family birthday party will be Saturday and then Sunday we will celebrate Valentine's Day with a nice dinner after church. Here is the plan for the week:

Monday Feb 9
Breakfast: cold cereal
School Snack: peanut butter and crackers
Meal 1: Salsa chicken, rice, corn, peas with bacon, corn bread
Meal 2: buttered pasta, garlic bread

Tuesday Feb 10
Breakfast: Oatmeal
School Snack: apple slices
Meal 1: Lasagna, salad
Meal 2: grilled cheese sandwiches, raw veggies

Wednesday Feb 11
Breakfast: Toast & jam
School Snack: peanut butter cookies
Meal 1: Fried rice with bacon, peppers and eggs
Meal 2: pepperoni rolls

Thursday Feb 12
Breakfast: hot chocolate and Maria cookies
School Snack: croissant sandwiches
Meal 1: lentils and rice, salad
Meal 2: eggs on toast

Friday Feb 13
Breakfast: cereal
School Snack: Valentine Rice Krispie treats
Meal 1: Quesadillas
Meal 2: party food for my daughter's princess party. Any ideas????

Saturday Feb 14
Breakfast: French toast
Meal 1: Birthday meal chosen by Princess herself -- Rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli
Meal 2: leftovers

Sunday Feb 15
Breakfast: ?
Meal 1: Ham or pot roast depending on which is a better price, mashed potatoes, peas
Meal 2: leftovers or sandwiches

Head on over to Laura's to see what others have on the menu for the week.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday Feb 2-8, 2009

I am still using my master menu list although I had to flex a bit and stray from the "assigned categories" for each day of the week due to this week's schedule of events. Here is the rough plan for the week: (Instead of lunch and dinner I will just put meal 1 and meal 2 since I don't always know ahead of time when my hubby will be here to eat with us and which meal should be the "big meal" of the day.

Mon 2/2
Breakfast: Baguette toast with olive oil, juice
School snack: sliced granny smith apple
Meal 1: Rotisserie chicken, rice or ali-oli potatoes, broccoli
Meal 2: last practice session to determine which spanish tortilla "recipe" I will submit tomorrow to the town tortilla contest.

Tuesday 2/3
Breakfast: Oatmeal
School snack: bocadillo de tortilla (with left over tortilla from mon. dinner)
Meal 1: We will be at the tortilla day festivities and will either eat snacks or stand in line for free tortilla.
Meal 2: chorizo sausage, salad, eat up my (prize-winning?) tortilla entry

Wed. 2/4
Breakfast: cold cereal
School snack: croissants with peanut butter or nocilla spread
Meal 1: Fried rice (with bacon, peppers, scrambled eggs, onions, etc)
Meal 2: Dad's choice (it is his turn to stay home with the little ones while I go to prayer meeting with the older ones and stay for choir practice)

Thursday 2/5
Breakfast: toast with jam or honey, fruit
School snack: homemade cookies
Meal 1: Burritos with salad toppings, tortilla chips
Meal 2: soup and crackers

Friday 2/6
Breakfast: homemade egg (Mc)muffins
School snack: peanut butter crackers, juice box
Meal 1: pizza
Meal 2: We are babysitting for some friends' children and don't know yet if it is in our home or theirs.

Sat 2/7
Breakfast: Banana bread
Meal 1: Beef and broccoli, rice or egg noodles
Meal 2: hot dogs and macaroni and cheese

Sun 2/8

Breakfast: cereal
Meal 1:lasagna, salad
Meal 2:leftovers or snacks

Head on over to Laura's to see what others have on their menu this week.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WW: Views of my kitchen

Here are some views from my kitchen this past week.

One of the parents at the kids' school who knows I always order tea instead of coffee when I go out gave me this box of tea from her family restaurant. I guess they had received several boxes of it by mistake and it wasn't selling so she gave me an extra box. Good thing I am not hyper-sensitive ...Read the label carefully.:-)

The apartment was chilly the other day and it was downright cold outside. (OK, it was just below freezing so I know that is a heat wave to my Michigan friends .... but it is cold for Madrid) so I pulled out my big Tupperware bowl and made homemade bread for supper. YUM

Today I went to the outdoor market for the first time since before Christmas. Here is the haul for today .... 2 kilos zuchini, 2 kilos lemons, 4 kilos granny smith apples, 3 small trays of cherry tomatoes (in the white bowl), 2 kilos cucumbers, 2 heads of iceburg lettuce and 3 bags of "gourmet" salad greens. Any guesses on the grand total for this (aprox 25 lbs of produce)? (Reminder for you non-metric readers: 1 kilo = 2.2 pounds)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Menu and back to blogging

It's Monday and I have finally crossed the last of the holiday parties and events off the calendar. We had to reschedule the teen Christmas party that was supposed to have been at our house on the 27th because we had the stomach flu in our home at that time, and the following weekend too. We moved the location of the party to the church which removed the stress of having to get the house cleaned up and company ready but added the stress of having to transport all the food and serving dishes to the church. The menu was a success -- tortilla roll-ups, Jewish hotdogs, and my mother-in-law's warm from the oven ham and cheese on a bun sandwhiches, chips, olives, the famous (or should I say infamous?) punch (1 liter of red berry juice, 1 liter pineapple juice, 2 liters lemon/lime soda and a few scoops of vanilla ice cream). Everyone loves it. Desserts were a platter of lemon bars, another of chocolate mayonaise cake which came out almost like brownies this time, and a platter of all the Christmas cookies that were still hanging around in tupperware in my house. There were a few shortbread cookies, some Choco-mint snappers, a slew of spritz cookies and then my husband had the nerve to put the last of the peanut-butter bonbons on the tray. He is much more spiritual than I am. I was planning on keeping those last 9 bonbons in the tupperware at home for a day when I really needed them. Oh well. That's life.
Rachel, over at Home Sanctuary gave us a challenge the other day regarding our meal planning. Spurred on by the promise of 100 points towards my Company Girl total, I came up with 6 meal categories (one for each day of the week other than Friday which will remain Pizza night) and then wrote down 4 main dishes for each category. So, in theory I have 28 days of meals planned, right? Well...... maybe. I still need to come up with lunches, side dishes, breakfasts and snacks. And, I need to go shopping to make sure I have the ingredients for these meals or I will end up staring at the list, realizing I am missing an ingredient for all the possibilities and making peanut butter and jelly again.
Here are the daily categories I came up with for this month and we will see if they need some tweaking before February.
Monday- Crock pot meal (so I can be free to spend my energy cleaning up after the weekend and doing laundry) This one didn't work out today but it is the "general plan" Ended up making hamburgers today and heating up leftover soup.
Tuesday- Oven meal. I normally am home on Tuesdays so I think it is the best day to plan a more labor intensive meal or at least one that cooks in the oven.
Wednesday-- Quick pasta meal. Hopefully this will help with the "get me to the church on time" run around on prayer meeting night.
Thursday-- Egg dishes My plan to still eat well despite the economic "crisis".
Friday-- Still Pizza night. I value my life.
Saturday-- depending on our schedule for the week it will be leftovers or perhaps the chance to try out a new recipe.
Sunday-- I am working on coming up with a list of 6 or 8 meals that work for our crazy Sunday schedule. It is a rare Sunday that we get home from church before 2:30pm and it is usually closer to 3pm. We are all ready to eat RIGHT AWAY so I need to have things that cook up super fast, or meals that have been prepped the night before and can be heated quickly in the microwave. Also crockpot meals work well here. I would love to just buy the rotisserie chicken from our local chicken place a block away. His prices are still the best around, but even so, we need to cut back on spending.

This week's tentative plans for each main meal (sometimes mid-day meal, other times evening meal depending on my husband's work schedule) is as follows:
Mon -- Had cheeseburgers and leftovers. No time or ingredients to mess in the kitchen this morning.
Tuesday-- homemade macaroni and cheese with ham cubes, salad?
Wednesday --Baked bean casserole. (switching pasta to Tuesday so as not to have 2 ground beef meals back to back)
Thursday-- broccoli casserole (uses frozen broccoli, cottage cheese and eggs)
Friday-- homemade pizza
Sunday-- Hubby wants chinese food for his birthday lunch after church and then wants me to cook the roast I bought (per his wishes) for dinner. If this ends up seeming like 2 big meals for one day we may move the roast dinner to Saturday's meal.

Check out Laura's blog to see what everyone else has on their menu for the week.

Friday, January 2, 2009

An extra long unplanned blogging break

I had such great plans with the Holiday Bites and thought that the blogging of my little bites at the holiday preparation would be a good thing. However, a few things beyond my control brought it all to a screeching halt. A trojan virus infected my computer and made me quite paranoid about going online until I could take care of it. It took a few weeks (since I was so busy with the Holidays and many other things took priority of my time) to get a new harddrive (1 TB -- WOW) and transfer all my pictures from the laptop (I was basically out of memory on the laptop hd) and any other documents that I would be upset to lose, should the virus on my laptop cause a crash. Praise the Lord, the laptop did not crash, no files were lost, I have freed up plenty of space on the laptop and I am back online, safely this time. But, this all took over two weeks. Include the fact that I have been fighting with the flu for a week, starting on the 26th, and 4 other members of the family have had it too, and that makes for little time or energy to blog.
We still have another 5 days of vacation and "holidays" here in Spain, with three Kings' Day coming on Tuesday the 6th. We plan to go to some friends' home to see the parade on the eve of the 5th, then stay the night so the kids can go to bed and the adults can stay up playing Rook till the wee hours of the morning, and then we will have a small gift exchange and fellowship together on the 6th. The kids head back to school on the 8th and I imagine that I will get back into a regular blogging schedule then.
I have to admit that during those two weeks of not having internet connection, I kind of liked not being sidetracked and sucked into blogs, facebook and wasting time on the computer when I could and should be doing other things. Now that I can get back online I need to figure out how to be disciplined to limit my time online and still accomplish the important things each day. I'll let you know if I figure it all out. :-)