Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ways I'm {trying to be} Organized this School Year...

We are in the midst of week #3 of 1st grade and preschool starts next week.  Needless to say, the school dictates some of daily schedule....from when we wake up to when everyone heads to bed.  To make the most of my day, and in an attempt not to loose my marbles, here are some of the ways I keep things together during the school year:

1. Starting a load of laundry before bed.  (I promise my laundry never smells sour when I go to switch it in the morning.)  I can have a load of laundry folded and put away by 8 AM if I start the dryer shortly after I get up at 6 AM.

2.  Writing it down.  I finally broke down last year and bought an official "planner."  ("Mom's Plan-it Calendar" to be specific!)  I have the grade school and pre-school calendars copied into it and every time I open the weekly school newsletter from my email, I have it next to me to jot down anything I need to add in about the upcoming week.  We didn't miss any dress-down days or all parents-invited school events last year!  

3.  During the day, I keep a tote bag out on my kitchen table and fill it with anything that can be done in the car while we wait for the kids to be dismissed from school.  When I'm heading out the door, I grab the bag and can usually accomplish something off my "to-do list" during pick-up.  

4.  A place for everything and everything in it's place.  School demands a lot of "stuff"...backpacks, lunch boxes, specific shoes that need to be worn, etc.  And this year we added soccer gear into the mix!  I change out what we keep in our laundry room bench depending on the season...beach towels in the summer, hats and mittens in the winter, etc.  Right now Jude's soccer shoes and shin-guards are stored in one of the baskets in that bench.  

Clare's school shoes all stay in the shoe basket in the laundry room.  She takes them off when she comes in the door and they stay there until she's heading out the door in the morning.  Not having to look for lost items saves me time (and sanity) when we are heading out the door. 


5.  Staying on some kind of a schedule/routine.  Jude is doing afternoon preschool this year, so we have 5 "free" mornings a week.  To make the most of his last full year home with me (sniff, sniff), I've been trying to follow some kind of daily/weekly schedule for us.  For example, he is really enjoying story hour this year, so I make sure we head to the library on the days it is offered.  I also always go grocery shopping on Thursdays, and Fridays we have reserved for playdates.           

6. Easy dinners.  Especially those that can be made ahead of time (not during the homework hour) or use the beloved crockpot - bonus!  

7.  This might seem odd, but I make sure to keep a pen in the car.  While we are waiting to be dismissed from the grade school pick-up line, I can sign anything in Clare's backpack (her assignment book needs initialed every night) and fill out and sign any forms that come home.  Then everything can go right back into her folder and I have a few less papers to go through at home. 

So there's my list for keeping things somewhat under control from August to May!  
Do you have any tips to add?   

PS - Go see Jen for more Quick Takes.

Linking here.   

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Our Home Fries

Our "go-to" homemade french fry recipe is easy, fairly healthy, and delicious.  We especially love these fries with grilled hamburgers or any dinner sandwiches/wraps.  And Ryan and I like to dip them in ranch dressing.  (Which pretty much eliminates any "healthy" part of them, but we do use "light" ranch...) 

To make, wash and scrub baking potatoes and slice them up.  

Put them in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  I use my hands to make sure they all get coated with olive oil.  

Spread the fries on a greased cookie sheet.  (Yes, even though they are coated with olive oil, this is an important step so you can actually enjoy your fries on your dinner plate when they are finished cooking!)
Sprinkle fries with salt (and pepper if you wish).    

Bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.  

Serve (with optional ranch dressing) and enjoy!  

Linking here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Books My 2 Year-olds Have Loved

All 3 of my kids have loved these books right around age 2.  The series is by Debbie Bailey, Pictures by Susan Huszar.  They are short, educational/informative books about everyday people, events, and things.

These are some of the titles we have checked out right now...  

"Shoes" has especially been a HUGE hit with all of my kids!

And and almost 2 year-old is really enjoying "Happy Birthday."

Happy Reading!

Friday, August 24, 2012

7 Summer Faves!

Happy Friday!  TGIF definitely has a different meaning during the school year!  Two full weeks of school are under our belt, but today I'm reminiscing about our 7 top favorites from summer 2012 with Jen.  

7.  Customer appreciation lunch at Chick-Fil-A.

6a.  Making (and drinking!) strawberry sangria - yummy yum yum!

5.  Playing with our homemade ice blocks.  Everyone enjoyed cooling off as they chiseled away for trapped animals.  

3.  Swim Team.  We were so proud of Clare's swimming progress this summer!  

2.  Our visit with my family over Memorial Day.  (Although I'm still not budging on getting a dog!)   

1.  Our beach vacation to Destin, Florida.  Missing the beautiful white sandy beach! 

Hope your summer was full of great memories, too!

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

In Which I Became a Soccer Mom

Someone is on week 3 of Pre-K soccer practice and loving it.  Especially all of the "gear" needed to play.  

(And, yes, in a weak moment I agreed to a mohawk haircut...which will be cut into a more conservative look for Mass on Sunday!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bye-bye Builder Grade...AKA How We Framed Our Mirror

We bought our 9 year-old home almost 3 years ago.  Like most new construction, our house has lovely "builder grade" mirrors in all of the bathrooms.  (What I mean is that there really isn't anything special about them!)

I saw this amazing idea on pinterest and we got to work framing the mirror in our downstairs bathroom.  

Here's a "before."

First, we went to Lowes and purchased 2 pieces of wood moulding for $22 total.  We borrowed my father-in-law's power miter saw and cut 45 degree angles to create a frame the correct lengths for each side of the mirror.  (You could also do this with a miter box.)         

Then I spray-painted both side of each of the four cut pieces.

And, yes, if those pieces look dark green and not black (like we intended) you are correct.  In an eager hurry to start this project I grabbed "Charleston Green" paint by mistake.  This was just to prove that we are NOT DIY-ers at all!  Overall, not the worst mistake.    

After painting the trim BLACK, we were good to go.  

We piped liquid nails for mirrors on the back of each piece of trim, staying in the middle of each piece so nothing would reflect in the mirror.  And let me say that this stuff was awesome.  It securely held each piece of trim from as soon as it was in place.  We did not even need to use tape, etc. to help hold the trim up while it dried.  

Everything dried easily and then we used paintable caulk on the corners to hide the seams.  

I went back over with a foam brush and painted over the caulk.  (Just sprayed some of the paint on a piece of cardboard and it worked just fine.)  

And...all finished!

We are pleased with how it turned out!  And for about $30, not bad for a "custom upgrade."  

Now to tackle the other 3 bathroom mirrors in the house....

PS - In case you missed it before, we found our directions here.  

Linking here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Menu

Hope you had a good weekend!  We were all ready for our first weekend of the school year!  One of the ways I like to/need to stay organized during the school year (and all year round) is by making a weekly dinner menu.  Here's what this week is looking like...

We tried these yummy (and easy!) sandwiches for the first time tonight.

They were a HIT!  Great for an easy dinner, and would be perfect for any type of party...they were served at my sister's baby shower, but also sound good for the Superbowl, 1st Communion, etc.



Hamburgers and Hot Dogs


Bon Appetit!  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Airing Dirty Laundry

Clare wears a uniform to school and also has to follow some other dress-code guidelines.  One of which is that socks must be white or navy.  I bought good-quality socks for her last year and they still fit her.  But after one year on the mulch playground, the white ones weren't looking so white.  

I had already soaked them in oxiclean without making much progress.  Then after I saw this pin on pinterest and I wondered if the dish soap / hydrogen peroxide combination would work on dirty socks.  

I soaked each of the socks in a 1 part Dawn to 2 parts hydrogen peroxide solution, scrubbing extra dirty spots with an old toothbrush dipped in baking soda as suggested.  I let the damp socks sit for over an hour, then washed in hot water.  

They were MUCH cleaner this time around!  
We just gained back 3 pairs of white socks for 1st grade!  

Linking here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Day of First Grade

The big 1st grader!

And posing with the men in her life... 

After school she decided to do some photo-editing on this picture...lovely, right?

Then we had these after dinner as a celebratory 1st day of school dessert.  Delish!

Looking forward to a great school year!!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Words of Wisdom

In the past month or so Ellen's vocabulary and overall speech seem to have really blossomed.
Here are some of her most recent (and my favorite) sayings:

"Don't worry, Mommy."

"Mommy, I'm beautiful!"

"Jude is a good boy!"

"Jude is a big boy!" 

"I told you, Mommy!"

"I love my shoes!"

"Chocolate is yummy, Mommy!"  

She's pretty much right on everything here!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Soft Pretzels

I've had this recipe forever, but only recently made it.  Almost as good as the pretzels from the mall!

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
5 - 6 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola oil (enough to coat a mixing bowl)
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse or pretzel salt
cooking spray

1. Pour 2 cups warm water into mixing bowl.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Sprinkle with yeast, let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Beat 1 cup of flour into yeast on low until combined.  Beat in salt and 4 cups flour until combined.  Beat on med-low until dough pulls away from he sides of bowl.  Add 1/2 cup more flour, knead until combined.  Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead 10 times until smooth.

3.  Pour oil into mixing bowl and swirl to coat. Transfer dough to bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.  

4. Punch down dough. Transfer to lightly floured surface, divide into 16 pieces.  

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18 inch long strip.  Twist into pretzel shape; transfer dough to greased cookie sheet.  cover with towel and let rest15 minutes, until dough rises slightly.

6. Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Fill a large shallow pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Add baking soda.  Reduce to simmer and transfer 3 - 4 pretzels to water.  Poach 1 minute.  Transfer to baking sheet.  

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water.  Brush all pretzels with egg wash.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake 12 - 15 minutes.  Cool.  Store at room temperature - store in the open, not in a container.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Post-Surgery Gratitude

(Linking up with Jen on this happy Friday.)

Ellen an abdominal hernia operated on last Friday and all ended better than I expected.  I was preparing for the worst and was blessed with the best...not just from Ellen, but from others as well.  

1. The surgeon prayed with us when he met with us before the procedure.  Nothing more could put you more at ease then when the doctor operating on your child offers up a prayer.  I knew there was a reason I liked him.    

2.  Grandma and Grandpa hosted a sleepover for Clare and Jude the night before surgery since we had to be a the hospital at 6 AM.  (Not that I would have bored them and brought them anyway.)  My kids looked forward to spending the night there all week!  

3.  I was very thankful for the texts and emails I received the day of surgery from friends and family checking in on us.  We definitely were feeling the love.   

4. Balloons.  Nothing holds greater healing power.  Especially when they are from an out of town aunt (godmother) and uncle and are delivered to your door and then show up in your bedroom while you are taking your afternoon nap.  

5. Meals.  Our very sweet friends brought us meals for the days after surgery.  I cannot express how touched we were by their very kind (and delicious!) gesture.

6.  I couldn't have asked for an easier recovery for Miss Ellen.  Once she had some juice and teddy grahams after surgery she probably would have walked out of the hospital if they would have let her.  Other than waking up during the night in the 2 nights after surgery, she was back to her normal self quickly.  

7.  Most of all I'm thankful that the whole thing is over and that it was barely even a big deal for Ellen, and in return, for us!  

Happy Friday!