My Stories of the Week


Rare occurrence! Last weekend, the girls were with the grandmas and grandpas, and Brett and I had a night away. We stayed at Cedar Crest Lodge, south of Kansas City, and had a wonderful time (the food!!!).


On the drive down, we stopped at Dollar General for snacks and a restroom. It was pretty much the only option in the tiny town. Brett scanned the DVD display and snatched up this gem. Ramona and Beezus DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy combo for $2.97. We hadn’t seen the movie, but we couldn’t resist that deal. After all, it’s $14.79 on Amazon.

When we were back home, we decided to preview it before letting the girls watch it, and I was prepared to be severely disappointed. Classic children’s books are not always well done in newer movies (Cheaper by the Dozen, anyone?). But I was impressed! It was a sweet movie and stayed true to the characters. Since we have listened to almost all the Ramona audiobooks in the last year, I know the girls will be excited to see the stories they’ve enjoyed so much.


I picked up this book because I liked the title and I’d read another by the author. I have pretty much the same taste in stories as when I was four: no scary, no bad guys, happy ending. But I don’t want just fluff. This story involved a sister relationship as one was going through treatment for breast cancer. If you know some of my extended family, you understand this hit a little close to home.

With the prevalence of cancer, I think anyone would find a connection to the story. There were also recurring themes of cooking and Jane Austen, so obviously I was a fan.

So those are my weekend stories, and I recommend them all!

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Freezer Meal Exchange – How it Works, Plus Recipe for Egg Casserole


It’s so nice to have a freezer full of easy meals. They’re great for a busy week and keeps us away from the drive-thru on a regular basis. I’ve done several strategies for freezer stocking: on my own, freezer meal prep nights at a grocery store, and recently freezer meal exchanges with friends.

The principle is that each person makes multiple batches of the same meal. So instead of prepping five different meals, you do five of the same for more efficiency. Then you get together and trade.

Freezer meal exchanges are a great option for people with allergies or certain dietary choices. I have several friends who are paleo, so they organized a group who was willing to follow those restrictions (basically grain-free, dairy-free, and no potatoes or beans). So this is the Paleo Egg Casserole I made to trade.

It is A LOT of prep work. There were five of us in the group, and I decided to make two smaller casseroles for each family instead of 9×13 pans. So 10 casseroles!

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Pretty! Right after this shot, I was rethinking this plan as I was beating four dozen eggs. But it really wasn’t that bad.

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I came home from the exchange with chicken and kale stew, chicken piccata, mini chicken pot pies, and chicken and sweet potato burgers. Yum!

PALEO EGG CASSEROLE WITH SAUSAGE AND VEGGIES

  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 lb. sausage, cooked
  • 3 cups cooked veggies (I used sweet potatoes, red peppers, and broccoli)
  • salt and pepper

Spread sausage and veggies evenly in the bottom of a 9×13 pan or two smaller pans. Beat eggs, almond milk, and salt and pepper and pour over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 35-45 minutes for a large pan or 25-30 minutes for two smaller pans.

**If you are not paleo, just make with regular milk, and add cheese if you want. This is what I’ll do in the future since this was a big hit with our whole family! They love “breakfast for dinner,” and this was an easy and tasty way to get some veggies in.

Summer Bucket List – 2/3 Through

How is this possible?!? I was going to do a bucket list check-in halfway through, and obviously I missed that.

Our board now looks like this:


That’s a lot of checks! We’ve been busy having fun, but haven’t done as well keeping up with the academic and spiritual sides. But we’ve got four weeks left!

Here are a few things we’ve tackled so far:

Lots of trips to the neighborhood pool.

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I only put one box for Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, but we’ve been there several times. A special visit was with out-of-town cousins!

Brett likes to take a day off now and then to join us for big adventures. Like the zoo, with carousel rides, boat rides, and a picnic. And KOALAS!

And he couldn’t resist joining us for lunch at Fritz’s. It’s a super fun restaurant where your food is delivered by train. Yeah, pretty cool, and obviously a favorite for more than just kids. ;)

Yard pool! It’s fun to play on our own or invite neighbors over for a mini pool party. 

I didn’t want all our “goals” to be about personal entertainment. So I included “Gift Day.” We made bags of treats for a few neighbors and delivered them.

So that’s just a peek at our summer so far. Lots of fun times ahead… And almost time to start shopping for school supplies!

 

What I Buy at Aldi (almost) Every Week

I’ve become an Aldi fan. It saved our budget – want proof? I compiled comparable items at HyVee and Walmart, and the results were WOW. But first, the backstory.

Our food budget has gone through some upheaval in the last couple years. First, we moved to Kansas City and were shocked at the food prices. Our eating habits hadn’t changed, but our food costs were consistently running about 20% higher than in Texas. Part of this is the fact that there is no food tax on Texas, the rest is just higher prices in general.

I consider myself a savvy food shopper, so I wasn’t happy about this situation. I don’t clip coupons, but I meal plan, utilize leftovers, shop the sales, and meal plan (big deal!).

So what’s a girl to do? Food budget situation not good.

Then my friends started talking about Aldi. I’d thought Aldi was full of cheap junk food, but turns out there is a lot of healthy, affordable food to be found on those tiny narrow aisles. So here is a look at what I buy on a regular basis. These items are in my cart almost every week.

You can see that most of these are healthy, real food items. Not processed box dinners or junk food. But a couple treats. ;) These are my staples.

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  • Tortillas
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Cherry pie filling – I don’t buy this frequently, but I included it because it is dye-free and does not contain high fructose corn syrup. This is rare to find, and never at this price point.
  • Granola bars
  • Ketchup – organic because it doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup
  • Applesauce jar

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  • Milk
  • Blue corn chips – Brett’s favorite
  • String cheese
  • Eggs
  • Frozen broccoli – a lot of store brand (and name brand) broccoli seems to have a high stem content. My kids don’t eat stems. Lots of florets here.
  • Grapes

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  • Caesar salad kit – My kids eat salad!
  • Cinnamon rolls – I don’t buy these frequently, but I included them because they are seriously better than even Pillsbury. No kidding.
  • White cheddar “Cheezits”
  • Storage/freezer bags
  • Avocados – they’re .39 on sale and only .69 regular price.
  • Black beans
  • Petite diced tomatoes
  • Gum

So just to check if I was actually saving money, not some kind of magic Aldi placebo, I pulled up comparable items at HyVee and Walmart (via the online ordering system), choosing store brand items when available for the lowest possible prices. I used regular prices for the Aldi total but included sale prices for the others (as of 7/10/16). Here are the results for the 20 items shown above:

Aldi: $34.35

HyVee: $52.85

Walmart: $45.50

So it is actually cheaper. By a decent margin!

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300!

This is my 300th post. If you’d told me 5 years ago that I’d be typing my 300th post on an iPhone app while sitting outside watching my three children play at our home in suburban Kansas City (far from Olive Street), I probably would have fallen over.

There have some big gaps between posts, mostly because of these small people who take my sleep and my brain power. But without them, I wouldn’t have much to write about. ;)

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But over the years, I’ve …

Walking around Breckenridge

I’ve documented family moments like…

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Looking on past posts, I see recipes I forgot about and now can’t wait to make again, like…

Chillin' at the hotel

And I’ve tackled some serious topics that really seemed to resonate with readers…

Milestones are fun to recognize the distance, and it’s been motivating for me to move forward. I’ve been reminded of what a fun legacy this is. I love looking back at the posts of adventures when Hannah was little. This is my scrapbook and my journal. And I also get to share deeper thoughts with friends and family and sometimes a few more. ;)

Thanks to y’all for sticking with me!

Taquito Time: The Basics

Want a go-to meal you can throw together in 30 minutes with whatever you have lying around the kitchen? Endless variations and the kids will eat it? I found it.

The Taquito.

If you’re picturing something greasy from the freezer section, think again. This version has way better ingredients and is baked instead of fried.

You’ll find taquitos on our menu plan several times a month for these very reasons. Today, I want to share the basic method, and you’ll be able to take that in any direction based on what you feel like and whatever’s in your fridge. You think you’re not a good cook? You can handle this! And it gets better? Yep, only one bowl and one spoon to wash.

First, the ingredients. This is simple.

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These are versatile ingredients that I always have on hand. I make big batches of shredded chicken in the slow cooker and freeze them in 2 cup portions. So I just thaw a bag-ful, and we’re ready for taquitos!

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Mix the ingredients. You could move on to the next step right here – chicken, cheese, cream cheese – tasty and done! Or you could scan an eyeball around your fridge and find some random things that might need a destination.

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I found a cob of grilled corn, some cilantro, and a green onion. So those guys go in, too. Just say no to food waste!

After mixing, spread in tortillas, wrap up, and put seam-side down on a sprayed baking sheet.

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When they’re all assembled and placed, lightly spray the tops with the cooking spray. I guess this is optional, but it helps them get a little crispy.

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Put them in an oven at 425 for 12-15 minutes. Depends on how brown and crispy you like them. Then top (or dip) and enjoy! These are a family favorite over here, and I’ll be featuring some yummy variations.

Here’s the simple rundown:

Basic Taquitos

  • 8-12 tortillas
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 cups cooked chicken

Mix and spread into tortillas. Roll up and place seam-side down on a sprayed baking sheet. Lightly spray tops. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes.

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What’s Red, White, and Blue All Over?

There’s so much craziness going on with politics and terrorists and judges and state budgets, it’s depressing. Doesn’t make me feel super patriotic, to be honest. And it seems like a lot of people feel that way. But, like anything else, if we’re only focusing on the bad, we’re missing a lot.

We have so much to be thankful for! We have so many freedoms that others in the world do not, and it has been a long rough road to achieve that. Hannah asked what freedom is, and the best way I could come up to explain it was “It means we get to make a lot of choices.”

One of the freedoms we do NOT have in Johnson County is setting off fireworks, so we headed west. On July 3rd, we had a combined celebration of Father’s Day and the 4th of July at my parents’ house. Lots of food, fun, and fireworks.

Our neighborhood puts on an annual bike parade and cookout for the 4th, so on Monday we hung out with our pretty great neighbors. The girls had fun decorating the bike and wagon.

Yes, Violet is wearing a Snow White dress. She wanted to ride her tricycle in the bike parade, but her legs can only go about 2 mph with a max distance of two blocks. Total distance for the day was going to be over a mile. So we convinced her to ride in the wagon by telling her it was like a princess float in the Disney parade. Of course then she insisted on wearing a princess dress. No problem. Independence and all that. (btw, she was not the only one at the event in a princess dress)

We illegally brought smoke bombs and sparklers across county lines for a little bit of driveway fun after an all-American dinner of BBQ chicken, potato salad, and apple pie.

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The weather was amazing both days, so we enjoyed the extra time outside in the “coolness” and very few bugs. A wonderful weekend to celebrate family time, fun time, our great country, and our great neighborhood!