Contentment Lessons from a Toddler

It's nothing new that children as small as Lucy can hear something you say once, and then repeat it at the appropriate (or inappropriate!) time. But during the last few weeks, God has used her to remind me of a very important lesson just with the simple fact that she has been repeating something I say.

Often when we are grocery shopping together and we get ready to finish up and check out, I say, "Okay! We have everything we need.. we can go now!" I never realized how often I say it or how much she is understanding.

A couple of days ago, I was sitting, making a list of the gifts that we had bought and the ones we still had yet to buy while she was playing in her playroom. I must admit, I was slightly stressing over all that we still "had" to do on the budget we had. Don't get me wrong, we drastically cut back this year... mostly out of necessity.  I was worrying that by making a simple Christmas budget this year, we would leave someone out or hurt someone's feelings... I worried that I wasn't doing enough for my own parents and in laws when they have all done so much for us... I was thinking that maybe we should buy Lucy another small toy...

Enter Lucy with her pink shopping cart and a purse on her shoulder.
"Mommy! Look! I have EVERYTHING I need! I have everything I need, Mommy!" 
I look down in her shopping cart and I see her sippy cup of milk, her favorite doll, and a book--and a hot dog bun from her kitchen set.
At first I just smiled at her in disbelief, knowing she couldn't possible be reading my mind but still knowing that the One who made her did.
Luckily, I recovered and said something like, "You sure do! are you having fun?!" to which she replied, "YES."
And she wheeled around, happy as can be, and went about her playing in the other room.

In the past couple of days, she has said this phrase several times and each time, I try to really HEAR her and be reminded, that "YES, she does."  SO DO I. SO DO WE ALL. This year, we have enjoyed several new, fun experiences with Lucy since she is a bit older and more able to understand--but even with all of this, I realize, "Enough is enough." Meaning, we have enough. What we can afford to do is enough. Praise God, she is not quite at that point where enough does not feel like enough. But she will be soon, because she is human. My prayer is that we will continue to reinforce the fact we are happy and healthy and loved with what God chooses to PROVIDE for all of us. And we have enough. And if we were to be totally honest, enough is kind of an understatement. We have more than we NEED.

Because massive amounts of stuff or not, (preferably not!) we have Everything we need!


Thankful Thursday

Giving Baby Sister a Kiss...
or maybe trying to talk to her, I'm not sure. Lucy thinks she is literally inside my belly button. So she has started poking her finger in any time it is exposed (which is NOT very often.) :)


Wordless Wednesday: Happy to be....

The Mommy of this little girl!
(with one more on the way!)


25 Weeks!

We're growing!!!

I'm a little stunned at how fast this pregnancy is going by! Last night I was laying in bed with multiple pillows (Have you ever tried to prop yourself up to sleep because of a cold and try to keep your back comfortable while still sleeping on the Dr. approved 'side' WHOA!) and I was saying to Lance-- "I'm only 25 weeks!" And then I realized how only 15 weeks remain and so many of those will be taken up with the Holidays! WOW! It will be baby time before we know it! 

So all that to say, I haven't been great about keeping up with the stats-- other things keep
taking my attention :)

25 Weeks Pregnant
Gender: It's a GIRL! Abigail Grace.
Due Date: February 20th (but probably a bit before that since she will be scheduled-- so maybe Valentines Day!)
Cravings: Ice Water; Orange Juice; an occasional sweet tea (With a lot of ice!)  Fruits of any kind but especially red grapes, strawberries (too bad they're NOT in season and hard to find!) and definitely PINEAPPLE! Other than that, whatever my body is craving/ needing that day--but I also find myself wanting a lot of vegetables. I've always loved them but now I feel like I could eat them at every meal! Eating is so much more enjoyable in this trimester than it was in the first, that's for sure! Another somewhat strange craving I have is bagels. Some days I HAVE to have a good bagel. (Really missing Bruegers here in GA!) 
Movement: Definitely! She moves most in the evenings when I'm finally quiet and settled down for the day
but last night, I thought for sure she had friends over for a dance party!

Funny Moments:
Every time Lucy catches a glimpse of my growing tummy, she says, "Do you have my baby sister in there?" Last week on Halloween she woke up with a terrible stomach bug and we were sleeping in the same bed, (at my mom's house) and as I jumped out of bed to try to get her to the trash can, she vomited, cried, and then said, "I need a drink.... do you have my baby sister in your tummy?"  It was pitiful but so sweet that she was still thinking about it at a time like that! She has made this pregnancy so much fun with her little anecdotes. I can't wait to see what she really thinks of little Abby.


Stuckey Halloween 2011

This year my mom made Lucy's Belle Costume for Halloween. It was beautiful and was a HUGE hit with Lucy. She kept saying, "Mommy, I'm a REAL princess!" She was able to wear it to two parties and then she was sick with a stomach bug on Halloween so I don't think she even has a clue what trick-or-treating is but we still had fun. Lance was a trooper and dutifully handed out the candy I had bought and was able to meet a few of our neighbors. And yes, one little girl actually did the whole, "trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat, if you don't, I don't care..." well--you get the picture. We were both shocked that kids still do that. Things don't change that much I guess. :)

Here's a few pictures from our Pre-Halloween celebrations:

 She really was happier than it seems... we were in my parent's tree-house so she was a bit distracted. 

 Not a very good picture of "the bump" but it's there... I promise. 

Princess Belle Stuckey

Personally, I'm glad Halloween is over. It was fun and all, but I'm tired of having to avert Lucy's attention away from scary decorations every time we go somewhere. Even the big spiders in the Publix bakery were troubling her. She is SO my child. :) 
( I did teach her, "They're not real. They are happy spiders for decoration.") 
And so she said it every time after that. cute.


Wordless Wednesday: Abigail Grace!

Here she is.... well, the back side of her anyway.
She was a bit cozy and refused to turn around for the camera.


Saving Money when Printing Coupons & Favorite Deal Sites

    Now, we all know there is a wealth of printable coupons out there on the internet--many of which you are allowed *TWO prints per coupon (allowing you to get multiples of a good deal, or when things are Buy-one get one free)
    But recently, I was noticing the amount of copy paper I was going through! If I printed from a site like Target, the coupons would fit several to a page, but if I printed from a manufacturer's website, such as the salad dressing below, the entire page would be practically wasted. Especially if they take the opportunity to fill the rest of the page with advertisement.

SOOO, (and yes, I just figured this out!) I have started doing 2 things to maximize my paper "real estate"

1. Before I cut the coupon out, flipping the page over and rotating it and feeding it back into my paper tray to print another coupon on the back or on the bottom. (I know, obvious-info here-- but I promise, it just occurred to me last week and I felt silly for not doing it sooner!)
The second photo below shows how the coupon is once on one side, once on the other so I can cut both!

2. The second thing is, I have started keeping a tray of recyclable sheets of paper that have one side blank, whether from a marketing letter in the mail, the 2nd page of a recipe I print or whatever. MANY recipes end up going over onto a 2nd page, just with two sentences of information. Then I just gather these sheets up and feed them in my printer before I print coupons.

Again, I know this wasn't extremely exciting-- but in an effort to save our families a little money by couponing (not to the extreme, of course. :) I watched that show for the first time this week--YIKES.) we can maybe make that pack of copy paper go a BIT further.

What are some of your favorite deal/ coupon sites?

Mine are Frugal Coupon Living
              Faithful Provisions
              Couponing to Disney
              Totally Target
              And my ALL TIME FAVORITE! I Heart Publix (There is also an I heart Kroger as well I think.)


Wordless Wednesday: Fall means enjoying the Publix Pilgrims

Several years ago, Publix Grocery came out with this adorable commercial (s?) about little Pilgrim Salt and Pepper Shakers. They became so popular, that people wanted a set of their own so they started producing them at the Holidays. They have since stopped, I believe.. but my sweet mom bought me a set a few years back and now Lucy is LOVING playing with them. I'm not sure how many Thanksgivings they will make it through but we're making memories in the mean time! :)

In case you want a trip down memory lane, here is the commercial:


And here are a few shots of my own little pumpkin enjoying them!


Tuscan Vegetable Soup

One day earlier this week, Lucy and I opted to stay at home instead of fight the rain so I settled in to make Vegetable Soup and homemade bread for supper. Soup and Bread makes one of the BEST meals ever and I am always looking for more great soup recipes. This one will definitely go in the "recipe notebook."
I'm including a link to the original recipe in case you want to compare, since I made several changes based on our tastes. Let me know if you try it and like it!

Tuscan Vegetable Soup
(adapted from Ellie Krieger)

1- 15 oz. can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbs. Olive Oil
1/2 Large onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced
Sliced Mushrooms (How ever many you want, I had four leftover so I threw em in!)
One small box of frozen lima beans, drained and thawed partially
2 cups shredded Zucchini (She said to use one small diced zucchini, but I had shredded in the freezer.)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp salt (I didn't use quite this much, I just did it to taste. a pinch at the beginning and a pinch at the end)
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
32 ounces low sodium Chicken Broth (Or Vegetable!)
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes with the juice
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/3 cup grated parmesan (for garnish-- don't leave this part out-- it's so good!)

In a small bowl, mash half of the cannellini beans with the back of a spoon, set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over med-high heat. Add onion, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, thyme, sage, a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 5-9 minutes.

Add the broth, tomatoes and lima beans and bring to a boil. Add the mashed and whole white beans and the spinach and cook 3-5 minutes more until the spinach is wilted.

Serve topped with parmesan cheese.


She's Baaaackkkk...

I've been kindly reminded by not only my husband but also one of my best friends that my blog was.. sort of dormant. So, in honor of the new Fall Season, lets sweep away the cobwebs and catch up, shall we?

Oh my word. I just looked back to see when my last post was. Two MONTHS ago. Sheesh.
Okay let's do a fast forwarded-version of catching up.

My last 2 months in Pictures:

Lance and I both celebrated birthdays at the end of July...

Publix baked my cake since I wasn't feeling up to it..

But then I DID muster up the culinary fortitude to bake this cheesecake for Lance's special day. I'm so glad I did but let me just say, it will be a LONG time before I ever make anything THAT calorie laden again. HA! Half of it went in the freezer! But it was good, and He, of course is worth it!

We enjoyed a little hometown fun one Saturday with a trip to our local farmer's market and riverwalk... (Note: all farmer's markets are NOT created equal. Still spoiled from the NC State Market, but it's better than nothing!) 

Took a little impromptu overnight Girl's trip to Savannah to meet my mom... and have Dinner with Paula of course! 

Someone finally moved from a highchair to the booster seat at the table. I know, it was past time--but she's still so petite we didn't notice! 

 Made this soup... Easy and delicious-- recipe definitely to follow (THIS WEEK!)

 Made this bread.. it's our old standby but we LOVE it. We make two loaves at a time and freeze the second one for a few days later. One loaf doesn't last very long between toast, sandwiches and general eating! 

 Had a visit from Grammy--picked out our pumpkins and mums.. finally got the Fall decor out! 

And last but not least, Jam sessions with Daddy!

OH, and did I mention, we are having another BABY??!!!! We go on Tuesday to find out if pink or blue is in order! We are unbelievably excited. And as a matter of fact, now that the cat's out of the bag on the blogosphere, THAT explains my lack of posts! But I'm feeling MUCH better now, so hopefully we are back to "normal" for a while. Whatever normal is. :)


A reflection on a Thursday

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, 
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 
Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; 
Your walls are continually before me." --Isaiah 49:15-16

These verses are a great comfort to us all as we rest in the peace that comes from knowing our Heavenly Father loves us more closely than even the most dedicated mother could. As a mother who loves so fiercely, this rings true with me and brings me to a sober remembrance that He is God and I am not. I cannot help but think of the baby that we would have welcomed into our family this week and find rest that though we never knew the baby's sex or name, God knew from conception. He knew and He loved and He numbered that child's days and was faithful. As much as Lance and I think and hope that we will always remember this little brief life, we KNOW that God will never forget. 

And with so much to be thankful for that God has already given, we look forward to learning to Trust Him more fully with the children He has entrusted to us. I heard a new mom put it this way, "I hope to continue to learn to hold loosely while loving lavishly," as she spoke of her newborn son. So very true. Blessed be the name of the Lord who not only takes away, but also GIVES.


Nine Months.

    It was NINE months ago this week that we packed up this truck and moved to Georgia. It just does not seem like it's been that long until I look at how much Lucy has changed. Lance and I realized we have been here for over 1/3 of Lucy's life. Speaking of Lucy, Lance and I would both agree that of the three of us, she is the only member of our family that has the right perspective. More on that in a moment.

     For all that we went through getting to this stage of moving, getting a job, settling down, I have to be  honest and say that it's been H-A-R-D to adjust. Really. Downright difficult many days. I cringe even as I write this because I know so many of you reading it are the ones who faithfully prayed with us and encouraged us as we waited for God to open a door and move us. And then in His perfect timing He did, and here we are. And we have never doubted that HE moved us and we are in HIS will to be here. But in our own human weakness, we have struggled with making it Home. Sure, we've bought a home and made it our own--and we love it, but if we're being honest,(and apparently I am) it's not easy to settle.

    You know how people always say that the place where you start your life will always hold a "special place" in your heart? Well, for us, that is doubly true. For me Wake Forest was not only the first place I lived outside of my parents roof but also the place I formed many friendships, not to mention the place I became a girlfriend, a fiancee, a best friend, a wife, and a mother once I met Lance. Yes, I guess you could say it has a special place in my heart. Most days, as I try to give this new city my all in energy and heart, that "special place in my heart" becomes a huge lump in my throat. But we're trying. And more importantly, we are TRUSTING. God has blessed us so here and we are helping each other focus on those blessings and the knowledge that He has a plan for us here. And far be it from us to stand in the way.

   Lucy, on the other hand has had it down pat from day one. She never questioned us when we packed up her toys & moved them several states away to a quaint little townhouse in Georgia... and then again four months later when we moved her and all her stuff to a house down the road. And from the day after we moved in, when we pull up in the driveway, she says "HOME!! We're HOME!!!" Then a few months later, when we had the house painted, she began saying "BLUE HOME!! We're HOME!!" Amazing how she accepts everything with the joy and faith of a child and doesn't say, "Umm.. are you SURE we live here now? Mom?? Dad?? Because, this sure doesn't feel familiar."

Huh. My Two year old GETS it. Better than I do.

Oh, that I would trust my Heavenly Father the way she skips happily along, trusting us. Completely secure. Completely at peace. Completely LOVING today. I hope I will be just like her when I grow up.

And now, for those of you who have stuck with me and read this far, a little smile for you, because you've earned it. 


Nothing says summer like Pesto...

Basil Pesto
This morning I took a moment to cut enough basil from our two little plants to make a jar of pesto for the freezer. I love being able to pull out fresh pesto in the middle of fall or winter when our basil plants are hibernating!
This is my favorite Pesto recipe so far and it's pretty easy to throw together. It freezes well, even in a glass jar if you leave enough head space at the top. Before it went in the freezer though, I saved out a couple of tablespoons to go on some hot whole grain pasta for lunch.. YUM!

(*You will need a food processor for this recipe, if all you have is a small one-cup chopper, make the recipe in two batches.)

2-3 cloves of garlic
2 oz. of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (You can substitute the pre-shredded, but please do not use the stuff in the green can.)
1/4 cup of pine nuts (We actually use almonds, because we always have them on hand and they are a bit more economical.)
2 cups of Packed Basil Leaves, washed and dried
1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp of salt
1/8 tsp of freshly ground pepper

Turn your food processor on and drop the cloves of the garlic through the top opening. (This will result in a good mince.) Then add the nuts and the cheese and blend briefly until the nuts are ground up. Add the basil and pulse again. Add the oil in a slow steady stream through the top opening. Stop half way through the oil. This will result in a thick paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then add however much oil you need to reach your desired consistency up until you have added it all.

Add the salt and pepper and then taste for flavor. If the pesto tastes flat, try adding more parmesan or a pinch more salt.

Use the pesto right away or store it well covered. If you are storing it in the fridge for a few days, pour a small amount of olive oil on top to slow the discoloration.

**This recipe is from the Williams-Sonoma book of Sauces


Wordless Wednesday: First French Braids!


A couple weeks ago, we had the blessing of spending a few precious hours with some dear friends when we were both visiting family in Jacksonville at the same time. Courtney took the time to painstakingly braid Lucy's hair. Court is a braiding genius and 
I wish I would have been watching her so I could replicate this hairstyle on Lu. 
So cute!!!


Wordless Wednesday: Somebody had a Bumper Crop!

Here's what my kitchen looks like tonight...

Summer Corn was on sale for an amazingly low price-- so we stocked up to have corn later in the year.

AND, it was the perfect opportunity to make this great RECIPE! A great "out of the box" side dish to bring to a Summer Soiree!


Our Favorite Chocolate Cake

My little girl turned two yesterday and today I am busy baking cupcakes for a Cinderella party tomorrow! We are so excited and busy but I had to take a moment and share our favorite recipe for chocolate cake with you! It takes only minutes longer than a box cake mix and tastes so good!

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake 
(From the back of the Hershey's Unsweetened Chocolate Box)

2 cups of Sugar
1 3/4 cups of All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (I use applesauce every time and it's GREAT!)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup of boiling water

1. Heat Oven to 350' Grease and Flour two-9-inch round cake pans (or in our case it makes 30 cupcakes.)
2. Combine dry ingredients in bowl of your electric mixer.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 min. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin.) Pour into pans.
3. Bake 30-35 min. (cupcakes bake only 22-25 minutes) or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool Ten minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

For the Frosting, you can use whatever you like but our favorite is Hershey Bar Icing from Amanda and her mom. It is sooo good.

Hershey Bar Icing:
8 oz. of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of regular sugar
1 cup of powdered sugar
12 oz. of whipped cream or cook whip
2-3 Hershey Bars, grated

Mix all ingredients together well and frost your layers or cupcakes! Store in the fridge if possible, it makes it so good!

I'm linking up to Kelly's Korner and her SUYL-Desserts!

Have a great weekend!!!


May 26, 2011

Two years ago today, I got up, went to work (feeling slightly HUGE) :) and then went to an afternoon Doctor's Appointment... Several hours later, this bundle of beauty and joy joined our lives.

6 lbs. 11 ounces... 19 3/4 inches long and the softest little head of hair.

an instant Daddy's girl of course...

And then the night we brought her home from the hospital she looked so content in her own little bed... and I sat and stared and stared at her...

And before we knew it she was ONE!

And now here she is, in her best "Ta-DA!" pose.
Our girl is really getting bigger every day. In the last 6 months, she kicked the paci habit completely (we were just doing it at bed-time) and has really started making strides in the potty-training department.

Her vocabulary has just exploded so quickly that I have lost track of all the words and phrases she says. It's so funny at this age, it seems as though they watch you do something or say something once and they can repeat it. Sobering thought, isn't it?

She can count to 10 but usually it's "1-2-3-7-8-9-10" We will keep working on the others. :)

She knows her colors  and all her main shapes and can identify so many different things. What a joy it is to teach her and watch her learn!

Her favorite meals are Chick Fil a and Spaghetti. HA! She is definitely a girl who knows what she wants and can tell you what it is. We are still working on expanding her eating-- and slowly but surely, it's happening.

She is a true blessing every single day and we are so very grateful to be her parents and to be able to raise her to Love God and Love Others.


Spaghetti Bake

This recipe was shared with me in college by my roommate, who got it from someone else, who no doubt, got it from someone else. I have changed several things about it--and I would LOVE to share it with you! This is one of my "go-to" meals especially when cooking for someone else because it is such a crowd-pleaser!

Spaghetti Bake

One Large Family Size jar of Prego (45oz.)
One Regular Box of Spaghetti, boiled and drained
4 oz. of Cream Cheese, softened
4 oz. of Sour Cream
2 cups of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Italian Seasoning (Basil, Oregano, etc.)
Garlic Salt
Parmesan Cheese (Such as comes in the green can)

Preheat Oven to 350'
Once your Spaghetti has been drained, mix in the cream cheese and the sour cream and sprinkle a small bit of your three seasonings (Italian, Parmesan and Garlic) Stir to incorporate the cream cheese and sour cream into the hot pasta and try to eliminate any clumps.

In a Glass 13x9 baking dish, layer a bit of the sauce--just enough to cover the bottom of the dish.

Layer the pasta mixture with the sauce mixture several times in the dish. Each time you top with sauce try to make it cover the edges so the pasta does not dry out or get crispy in the oven. Half way through, sprinkle half of your mozzarella cheese on and then finish out your layers ending with plenty of sauce for the top.
Once all your sauce and spaghetti are gone, top with the remaining mozzarella and then a bit more parmesan and italian seasoning.

Bake at 350' for about 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

Allow dish to sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Meals and Memories...

       Anyone who knows me relatively well would say that cooking for people could very well be my "love language." I LOVE that aspect of hospitality and I always have. I know there are many ways you can serve and bless someone but for me, preparing a meal for loved ones is at the top of my list. (In fact my husband will be the first to tell you that he weighed a bit less when we first met than he does now--what can I say? He was a bachelor eating bowls of cold cereal and calling it a proper meal! Ha!)

     Tonight I have the rare opportunity to prepare a meal for some long-time close friends of ours who enjoy cooking (and eating!) as much as we do and I am a mix of ecstatic with a little bit of nostalgia mixed in. You see, this girl and I? We've shared many meals over many years. Many. And as I sit here, I cannot help but remember so many of them.

Some of my very best memories in college are of sitting with this girl... eating and chatting. It's a wonder we didn't gain more weight!

We discussed the drama of life with bagels and coffee and leather couches.

We braved the cold of the snow like true Florida girls with bowls of chili and playing cards and lots of laughing.

 We shared tea and scones at the super girly place down the street. In fact, we shared a luncheon there just hours before she wed her great husband.

We shared early Thanksgiving dinners for several  years in a row with this couple and those meals remain some of my favorites.

She brought me her famous chicken and rice when my daughter was born and I instantly felt more like myself again.

And just 6 short months ago, we shared several of our "last meals" (for awhile) together when we prepared to move here.

Days later, they helped us move here and we drank one last cup of coffee together while organizing our new kitchen.

And now, they are embarking on their own BIG journey. A new exciting adventure awaits them as they have faithfully waited for the Lord's timing and direction. He is taking them somewhere they have never been before for at least a season of life.

And our home happens to be a small stop off the interstate. And I couldn't be happier to be able to fix them a home cooked meal. I may have had the meal planned out for over a week--but to tell the truth, we would enjoy PB&J sandwiches just as much-- as long as we could share them together.


Mother's Day: Then and Now

 My First Mother's Day- 2009 Just Weeks before Lucy was born! (WOW.)

Mother's Day 2010- The day Lucy was dedicated at EBC in Raleigh

Mother's Day 2011- Augusta, GA 
(I would like to point out that apparently, we really got our money's worth out of our dresses! HA!)

Lance and Lucy completely spoiled me and we had a great day together. Worshiping together at our church (which we absolutely love) and then lunch at home with some new dear friends and then we relaxed together. I am so thankful to be Lance's Wife and Lucy Mom-- God has truly blessed us and we continue to be amazed by it every day!


Finer Things Friday: Beach Baby

Today I'm linking up to one of my favorite bloggers over at The Finer Things in Life.

After growing up a Florida girl, I have no idea why it has taken me this long to expose my almost two year old to the beach!!! This past week we had a brief amount of time in Myrtle Beach and so one morning, I jumped at the chance to take her. We only stayed about 30 minutes-- but hearing her say "Wowwwww!" when she got her first glimpse of the water was certainly a FINER thing!

Little Sandy Feet

Crazy beach hair-- I love it!


Cinco De Mayo Recipes: Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

       Since tomorrow is Cinco De Mayo, (Not to mention, the National Day of Prayer!) I wanted to share my favorite Enchilada recipe. I received this recipe about ten years ago when I was working at the bank and it has been one of my favorites through the years. I have tweaked it several times based on what we have or like at the time but this is the basic recipe. It's a winner in my book, because I really don't like red enchilada sauce and it does not have any!

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

One Package of Medium Flour Tortillas (we like mission but I think I might make my own this time-- I'll let you know how it goes!
One Packet of Taco Seasoning (this I usually do make myself-- just because I know what's going into it.)
One Can of Cream of Chicken Soup
4 oz. Cream Cheese (Half a brick-- we use low fat.)

One onion, diced small
Other Vegetables, cut into bite sized pieces (we like to use mushrooms, spinach and we have even added drained black beans.)
One lb. of Boneless, Skinless chicken, cut in bite sized pieces (In a pinch, you can certainly use a rotisserie-- just take it off the bone and shred it.)
8 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese (you won't need all of it.)
8 oz. Sour Cream (you probably won't use all of this either, but you may want it for garnish!)

In a saucepan, mix together the soup, taco seasoning and cream cheese. Heat on medium until the ingredients begin to melt together in a sauce. Add milk as needed. Lower heat to low and stir as needed to avoid sticking. This will be your creamy enchilada sauce.

In a large skillet, add a small amount of olive oil or pam and then add chicken. Cook chicken pieces until brown on all sides but not over done.. a few minutes on each side. Add onion, saute for 3-4 minutes and then add other vegetables (if using.) Cook until crisp- tender adding a pinch of salt if necessary.

Drain any excess liquid (this is especially important if you use spinach.) and then add two large handfuls of shredded cheese and then stir. Add about a half a cup of sour cream. Mix to incorporate.

Prepare a 9 x 13 Glass dish by spreading a thin layer of the enchilada sauce reserving plenty for the top of the casserole. Working one at a time, take a tortilla and place no more than a 3-4 tablespoons of meat-veggie-cheese filling and then roll the tortilla up tightly and place seam side down in the dish. do this until you run out of filling, placing them side by side as tightly as you can. If you want to make less, use a small dish so they will be compacted nicely. Top with the remainder of sauce and then sprinkle extra shredded cheese if you like. Bake at 350' for about 20 minutes until the cheese and sauce are bubbling. We garnish with sliced green onions, sour cream and cilantro. You can cut into squares or serve them by enchilada.

*** I also use to make this for a vegetarian friend, substituting cream of mushroom for the chicken and ramping up the veggies instead of meat!

Also try our favorite Salsa recipe!!!

And here's one for taco seasoning!


A New Favorite: Low Fat Banana Bread

I am always anxious to try a new banana bread recipe and this one is a good one. The technique is a bit different as you roast the bananas (still in the peel) in the oven first and then let them cool. This brings out so much more flavor and sweetness that you can dramatically reduce the sugar and oil or butter needed. DRAMATICALLY. If you follow the recipe, you will get a yummy loaf of traditional banana bread without the high calorie content. Enjoy!

Low-Fat Banana Bread
Makes one 9x5 loaf

4 Large Ripe Bananas
2 Large Eggs
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 3/4 cups of All purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar (as opposed to the usual cup or cup and a half!!)
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs. vegetable oil (as opposed to the usual stick of butter!) 
2 ounces of low fat cream cheese (cut into 4 pieces and chilled)

Roast Bananas on a rimmed baking sheet at 325' for 20 minutes until the skins are completely black. Remove and set aside to cool. Leave oven on.
After bananas are completely cooled, peel and mash them. Measure 1 1/2 cups. Discard any excess or save for future use. (Mine had quite a bit of liquid but it turned out great!)

Whisk Eggs and Vanilla in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer on med. low, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt together until combined. Add oil and cream cheese slowly, one piece at a time. Mix until the cream cheese incorporates and resembles small pea-sized bits. Slowly add egg mixture while mixing and then add bananas and beat 30 seconds.

Scrape batter into a greased loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes until golden brown. Cool for ten minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Store in the Fridge for a few days.
The recipe advised us to wait an hour and let it cool. We did not. :)

**Adapted from Cook's Country Magazine


Our Disney Trip (and Tips!) - Part Three - Don't Miss and Link Love

Things I would not miss (especially for a child's first trip to Disney)
(Many of these are Magic Kingdom Based so if anyone has any tips about other parks, feel free to include them in the comments!)

* Arriving as close to possible to "Rope Drop" at the park. There is a special kind of excitement that cannot be duplicated at this point in the day at Disney. Not to mention, you can hop on over to rides you most want to ride and catch them before EVERYONE else. At this time of year, rope drop is usually around 8am or 9am but check this Disney Site for exact information and times. (Oh, and grab a Times Guide when you pick up a map at the front of the park. This Times Guide will list show times and give helpful info as to where and when you can find certain characters!)
* Getting Lucy her first pair of mouse ears! Right in the Magic Kingdom Town Square, there is a little shop called The Chapeau Hat Shoppe (right next to the candy shop--smells divine!) where you can purchase the standard mouse ears and have them embroidered or you can even design your own mouse ears! We chose to have the standard black mouse ears (in the infant size--because they are generously sized!) and had the traditional script font of her name. This cost about $15.00 total for the hat and the embroidery at the time when we went earlier this month. I considered it my own souvenir because I was more excited about it than Lucy was--but she ended up loving them and still wants to wear them!
* I know I mentioned this yesterday but taking some time out to sit in the shade and share a Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar. This was one of the things that Lance remembered from his childhood (not me, I was allergic to dairy!) and we just had to do with Lucy. She loved it as much as we did and it was sweet and simple.(well simple.. except that we spent almost $6.00 on Ice Cream-- but hey, it's vacation, right?! One treat like that a day is to be expected, I guess! And it was worth it!) I almost enjoyed this trip more than any other because we HAD to take it slow and just enjoy every little moment.
* The Fireworks Show When we first arrived and realized the fireworks weren't until 10PM, we thought the kids would never last that long.. but they did (thanks to a hefty nap) and once the fireworks began, everyone forgot how tired they were. I have heard several people say that if you can get there early-- the tables at Casey's Hot Dogs on Main Street are a great place to watch the fireworks show. They take down the umbrellas and supposedly the view is fantastic. I don't know for sure because we were late getting there but try it and let me know!
* Riding the Train around the park in the hottest part of the day. The train lets off in Frontierland (right near Splash Mountain!) and Main Street, USA and it was a terrific way to rest and cool off for a little bit. It's kind of a good break for mom and dad since the kids have so much to look at.
* Take the Pictures you want to take! This may seem obvious, but I kept my camera very handy and not the in the bottom of the bag so that I didn't miss anything.
* Try the Town Square Theatre on Main Street for Mickey or the Princesses but book a Character Meal for the one you "must" see. 
We got a fast pass for Mickey while we waited to see Cinderella. Although, I will say this, we did not see Minnie Mouse. We asked several cast members when she would be there with them and they all kind of knowingly smiled and said "Hmmm.. we NEVER know when she will show up!" (So coy!) Of all the different times I heard how the "cast members are there to help and make your day perfect" this surprised me. So at one point, the man out front said that Minnie was in there with Mickey so we went in and apparently he was misinformed. Clearly Minnie is in the CIA. We didn't book a character meal but Lucy did not seem to miss Minnie once we saw a statue of her. Ha! Love that kid.
* Call the Front Desk and ask if Mousekeeping can clean your room in the morning before lunch time on days you will be going out to the park and returning after lunch. I did not do this and I wish I had. We returned back to our room both days to put Lucy down only to discover that housekeeping was just about to clean our room. we had to decline the service and just request clean towels. Not such a big deal, but I will ask in advance next time. I'm sure they will work with guests on this. 

Well, I could go on and on about EVERYTHING that was my favorite but I will stop there and just say, enjoy every second of it! Remember your kids will be kids and don't expect them to act like adults. If YOU don't feel like standing in line in the heat for 35 minutes... don't expect them to do it without a small amount of possibly uncharacteristic whining. :) I can't tell you how disappointing it was to hear some smarmy Dad or Mom (not Lucy's of course.. most of the time. Ha!) make some ill-tempered comment about how much "fun" they weren't having. AND, I saw one Mother riding the Tea Cups with her 5 year old daughter while TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE!!!!! I almost said, "Hey! Hang up your phone and take a mental photograph of this moment! Soon she'll be 21 and gone!!!" Well, Not really. Okay. Whew, Soapbox over. Clearly that struck a cord with me.

And Now, for the Link Love!!! These are helpful blogs, articles and links that helped us plan!!!

If you have any others, please share them!!

1. The Mom's Panel Advice (Great tool on the Disney Website!) Ask them anything, but first search to see if someone already has! I certainly wore out this website!
2. MouseSavers Subscribe to their email updates!
3. UnderCover Tourist (For ticket Deals!)
4. Traveling with Little Ones (From the Disney Parks Website)
5. AllEars
6. Check out this Disney Junior Site for Printable Coloring Sheets to get your kiddos excited on the way there!!
7. The Couponing to Disney Blog's Disney Training Articles helped me a lot as well!
8. Affording The Mouse
9. DIS Unplugged Disney Blog
10. Chip and Co (I didn't utilize this one as much but perhaps I could have.)

My Little Hawaiian Mousketeer

Fun with Dad on the Carousel!


Our Disney Trip (and Tips!) - Part Two - Traveling with Littles

 *I apologize in advance for the many details! Most of this might be obvious to many, but I hope this helps someone in some way at some point!     
 Disney World is one of those great places where there really is something for everyone. Though I'm not sure how much of our trip Lucy will remember later in life, I do not regret taking her at this age. We have some wonderful pictures and memories! Growing up in Florida, I was able to go to Disney several times; however this was my first trip to Disney as a parent and it was a completely different experience. Here are a few things that I learned along the way.

1. Plan ahead as much as possible. This might seem obvious, but it's true. The Disney website is a lot of help in this area. You can pretty much find out about every single ride, shop and restaurant in each park by doing a little digging.
Dining: **Also, AllEars has a great tool on their sight containing menus from most of the restaurants as well. We did research ahead of time to get an idea of a few different places we might like to eat each day, and made sure they were reasonable and had options for the kids.
**If you think you might want to do any table service meals, MAKE RESERVATIONS as soon as possible. **Also, put the Disney Reservation Number(1-407-939-3463) in your cell-phone in case you need to make any changes while in the area. 

Rides and Attractions: Try to map out what you plan to do each day building in plenty of time for breaks, rest, meals, etc. (It may take more time than you think.)
**This Disney Tool was a great help to us in planning to take little ones. We were able to find out which rides were appropriate and which might be too scary. Also, which rides have height requirements. You can also customize your own maps here!

2. Be Flexible if the Plan needs Re-Tweaking (or to be thrown out all together!)
This did not come as a surprise to us at all but we definitely needed to have "Plan-B" mentality on us most of the time.
We only planned to do one park over two days in a row because 1)we wanted to take it slow and enjoy our first trip and 2) we had a limited amount of time. The first day went great, the second day it POURED down rain.. so we packed everybody up and took a trip to IKEA and the Mall. Not at all what we planned, but it worked just fine and we all had fun together.. (which was the point anyway.) Then on Wed. we went back to finish the Magic Kingdom and the weather was absolutely perfect. All that to say, I wouldn't have originally planned to do it that way, but bad weather or not, a day thrown in there to just get up a little later and be a little more relaxed did everyone a lot of good. I think when we go back I would purposely build in a day just to hang around the hotel pool and enjoy the resorts. They are so nice!

This goes along with the 2nd point, but don't try to do TOO much with little ones. Especially toddlers or younger. They will be tired and frustrated and so will you. Remember that Disney or no Disney, they have basic needs and they are used to eating and sleeping regularly. We had a MUCH better time when we left after lunch, went back to the hotel, let them rest (and us too!) and then traveled back before or after Dinner. You will know how your child (children) are and what they can and cannot handle, so plan that accordingly. Just be prepared for the fact that they may do either a little better or a little worse than you imagine. And, have fun! We rode rides in FantasyLand for the majority of one whole day but that was what Lucy absolutely loved. Take time to sit in a shady spot and share Mickey Ice Cream Bars together! (But do it towards the later part of the day, cause you'll probably be out of wet wipes after!!)

*I know this has been a bunch of information but I hope it has been helpful. Come back tomorrow for Part 3: Things I wouldn't Miss and More Helpful Links!


Our Disney Trip (and Tips!) - Part One

Where do I begin?!?
I will say this, all the hours of planning and researching; the saving of little bits of money here and there-- it was all 100% worth it to constantly see this look on Lucy's face...

(She was pointing at the Mad Hatter's Teacups -- even though we had been on them SEVERAL times!)

       I utilized several blogs, websites and online tools (which I will gladly share) to gain information as we planned our trip. Most of these were helpful once we decided when to go and where to stay and for how long. 
    We arrived in Orlando on Sunday afternoon, got checked in and then went to the Downtown Disney area for dinner and a little fun. We walked around and then visited the World of Disney Character Store. (Which is huge, by the way.. the largest Disney Store in the Resort. It's TWELVE rooms of fun stuff to look at kept us and the kids busy for awhile.)

Where to Stay:
Like any other aspect, this depends on several things, but most importantly your budget. Because of the structure of our trip, we had the opportunity to spend half of it within the Disney Resort and half off the property at an Embassy Suites so we were able to compare different aspects of each.  We traveled with some friends of ours and we were able to get a very good deal on two rooms in the moderate resort. We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort on the Alligator Bayou Side. It was very relaxing with a "Deep South" Feel. The main pool area was beautifully done with a playground and water slide. One of our favorite aspects though, was the River Boat Ferry that took us from our hotel, down the river to Downtown Disney.. very charming.
 The bridge from our building to the main lobby area, ferry landing, restaurants, etc.

the view from our front door

Here's an article on the benefits of staying "On Property" at Disney. The owner of this particular blog has an entire Disney Training Section which I found to be extremely helpful.

All that being said, the two nights we stayed off site were very nice as well. We were only a couple miles away, drove right in, (paid parking: $14.00 a day) and then rode the shuttle and the Monorail right up to the front gate of the Magic Kingdom. Both were fun experiences. (The Embassy Suites offered a shuttle but the times weren't often enough for us so we drove and it worked out fine.)

**Keep in mind the importance of the ease of transportation if you are traveling with small children. For us, leaving mid-day for a nice long nap made all the difference in the world for Lucy, and by extension, her parents. :) Coming back at night was so fun since we were fresh and ready for round two! 

Come back tomorrow for "Traveling with Littles"