Monday, January 23, 2012

Mmm, Mmm Monday- Mexican Stuffed Shells

I make another stuffed shells recipe that is a staple in this house.  But every once in awhile, I need a change.  This change was fabulous!  These were so good and a yummy alternative to taco night.

Mexican Stuffed Shells
recipe from The Way to His Heart

1 pound ground beef
1 package low-sodium taco seasoning
4 oz. cream cheese
14-16 jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 cup salsa
1 cup taco sauce
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Brown ground beef; add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions.

Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted. Blend well.  Set aside and cool completely. While the beef is cooling, cook the pasta shells according to package directions; drain. 

Set shells out individually on cutting board so that they don't stick together.  Pour salsa on bottom of 9 x 13 dish.  Stuff each shell with the meat mixture. Place in pan open side up.  Cover shells with taco sauce.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. **The salsa and taco sauce brands that I used were the exact amount called for in the recipe**

After 30 minutes, add shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes, with the foil removed. 

Top with condiments of your choice (green onions, black olives, sour cream, more salsa).
 Reviews From the Peanut Gallery
Me: 5 out of 5 stars.  I'm definitely making this one again.  I might sneak in some corn and black beans the next time.  I'm pretty sure that ground turkey would taste just as good as well.  I used fat free cream cheese and it added plenty of creaminess without the added fat. The spiciness of this can be adjusted based on the type of salsa and taco sauce you purchase.

Andy: 5 out of 5 stars.  This is one of his new favorites.  I'm pretty sure he will request this often.

Emma: If it has ground beef, she isn't going to touch it.  She was perfectly happy with her quesadilla.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tired Baby

Much to my dismay, Sophia has slowly been giving up her morning nap.  If she seems tired during the day, I try to put her down for a nap, but she just sits in her crib and cries or plays.  She just isn't having it. On most days, skipping this nap doesn't really seem to bother her at all.

But there are some days when she just can't make it until nap time.  Today was one of those days.  The girls were just finishing up lunch and while I was cleaning up, I noticed that Sophia had gotten pretty quiet.  I don't know how she managed to fall asleep with Emma singing, banging, and talking, which just goes to show that she must have been pretty tired.

Can you believe that this same tired girl was up 20 minutes after Andy took her upstairs? Luckily, she took a great nap later on.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Big Girl Bed

I've been putting this off for as long as possible, but today, we moved Emma into her "Big Girl Bed."  She has never tried to climb out of her crib even once, so we've kept her contained for as long as we could.  Now that she's potty-trained, we decided that the time had come to give her a little independence.  We had been telling her that she was going to start sleeping in her big girl bed this weekend and she was SO excited. So while the girls and I finished up breakfast this morning, Andy got to work converting her crib.

Saying goodbye to her crib one last time.
Waiting for breakfast is easier if you have a hand to hold.

Once her bed was ready, she couldn't wait to get into her room to see her new bed.  She was thrilled and loved the fact that she could get in and out on her own. She also loved her new bedding set, which I found at Target for a great deal.  It has a reversible comforter so she had a good time choosing which side she wanted showing. 

She was really excited to take her nap this afternoon, which never happens (and probably won't again anytime soon).  It must be pretty comfortable because she took over a three hour nap. 
There's still room for all of her bedtime friends.
Even though it's sad, it's also so much fun seeing my baby grow up and learn so much.  She makes me so proud each and every day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Potty Progress

Yes, this post is about the potty. Again. What can I say? Such is our life.

We are still accident free and Emma jumped the final hurdle of taking care of ALL of her business on the potty, if you know what I mean (wink, wink).  She's been going on her own and waking up dry and clean.  We are so excited and proud of our big girl!  Poop has never been more exciting.

Andy brought home a special gift to congratulate her on her accomplishments.  She is crazy about Dora right now and he brought home a monster-sized Dora balloon.  This thing is bigger than she is!
Our big girl with her even bigger balloon.
We ventured out for a quick trip to the grocery store today and she stayed accident-free! She's doing so well, but I wonder when I will stop looking at her like she's a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at any given moment. I'm sure that this whole process will soon become second nature to both of us.

Keep up the good work, sweet girl!  Mommy, Daddy, and Sophia are so proud of you!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Toilets and Teething

There have been some major developments in our house this weekend.

Sophia has decided to leave her days of infancy with guns blazing.  Well, with gums blazing anyway.  The poor thing is cutting four teeth on the top, all at the same time.  Two are just poking through and the the other two are pushing up.  Her little gums are so swollen and she is so irritable.  I feel so sorry for her.  Hopefully they'll all be through in the next week or so and she can get a break before the next set comes through. 

Our other big news is that I decided to use this long weekend to start potty training with Emma.  We've tested the waters before, but have always been met with resistance.  This time, we didn't give her a choice.  We told her there were no more diapers that fit her and that she was going to start wearing big girl panties like all of her friends.

We've been "warning" her all week that this was coming, so when she woke up on Saturday morning, she was ready to go.  She was a little hesitant and had three accidents that morning.  She seemed pretty disappointed after the third time and didn't have any accidents for the rest of the day!  We pumped her full of fluids all day so she would have to go often and get the practice. We aren't using treats each time she goes, but she does get a sticker for her potty chart. She also gets a cookie if she wakes up dry from her nap.  We used a Pull-Up for her nap and she woke up dry and went potty as soon as she woke up.

Nighttime was another story.  We cut off all fluids after dinner and she woke up dry, but didn't wake up, ahem, "clean" if you know what I mean...any suggestions there?

Today was day two and she was ready to put on her Minnie Mouse underwear as soon as she woke up. YAY!  She had a special big girl breakfast to celebrate her hard work.  We did lots of fluids again today.  She kind of balked at first about the constant drinking, but the fun straws and milk whenever she wanted helped tempt her. We did a Potty Pedi today to make things a little more fun. I bought her new Dora underwear and I told her if she didn't have any accidents today that she could wear them tomorrow.  It must have worked because she had NO accidents all day and woke up from her nap nice and dry. It was a GREAT day!
Showing off her newly painted fingers and toes.
For all of you seasoned mamas, I have a question for you. She's super excited about using the potty and so are we.  However, she's manipulating the system a little.  I'll put her down for a nap or for bed at night and she'll call out for me one second later and say she needs to go potty.  She will, but it's such a minuscule amount that she's obviously forcing herself to go.  She did that three times today during her nap. She'll also do this at dinner when she doesn't want to eat.  How do I find the balance between keeping her enthusiastic without having me run all over the place to help her go potty?

Tomorrow is day three, and my first day without Andy home.  When Andy gets home, I'm going to take somewhere (probably Target i.e. our second home) to practice when we're out and about. Wish us luck!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The 52 Week Organized Home Challenge

I came across the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge on one of the great blogs I read.  Jessica bravely showed before and after photos of her counters, which caused me to take a look at my own counters.  I sure wish I hadn't, because here's what I saw:

At least the dishes on the counter are clean; we had just finished breakfast.
I'm pretty good about keeping the "cooking" part of our counters clean and clear, but we have two areas that tend to collect junk.

One spot is the end of the counter were we dump our mail.  Andy likes to put his mail on his chair in the kitchen, but he forgets about it and then when it's time to eat, he throws it on the counter.  This is a constant battle between the two of us. Our solution was to purchase a hanging mail holder.  Unfortunately, the mail piles up in the hanger and that darn mail ends up back on the counter.

Oh my, a few stray Christmas dishes that didn't get put away, a cookbook, earmuffs(?), Andy's wallet and watch, file folder games for my classroom and other miscellaneous junk. Hi Sophia! :)
 The next problem area is the top of the microwave.  This is the bane of my existence. I don't know why we have this stuff on here.  It is just a dumping ground for random things we need to deal with. It's usually where I throw things that I found on the counter and needed to move so I could cook. It's a vicious cycle!
What in the world??? I have no words.
I cleaned up the problem areas and emptied the mail carrier.  We filed the paid bills and other paperwork.  All in all, it didn't take too long, it was just a matter of putting things away.  The hardest part is keeping up with it.  Some things are just going to always be on the counter and that can't be helped, like Sophia's bottles, which we keep filled with water, ready to be mixed, and the bottle drying rack.

I decided to check out the rest of the challenge and it seemed like it was pretty reasonable.  I mean, I can clean something in my house once a week.  Now a daily challenge? No way. Ain't happening.

The challenge is ongoing, so it's never too late to start.  I'm hoping that I can keep it up to help keep our home organized.  With these kiddos, we need it!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Nature Walk

I found an idea for a color coded nature walk in Family Fun a while back and I have been dying to try it out. The idea is to color the sections of an egg carton and have the kids search for items to match the colors. This sounded right up Emma's alley and I liked it because it was a fun (and free) thing to do.  Here she is with her carton at the beginning of our walk, ready to start filling:
This activity really helped Emma pay attention to her surroundings while she focused on one specific color.  I wasn't very optimistic about finding items for all the colors since it's winter, but we knew we'd still have fun trying.

Today was a little warmer and it seemed like the perfect day to try out our nature walk.  Emma understood her task easily enough and found a green and brown item pretty quickly.  We guided her through the rest and she had a great time searching for her items.

She said she wanted to ride this "big turtle."
This was the best find of the day.  She found this claw on the banks of the stream.  It was an "honorary black item", but we decided to leave it there. :)
Toddler Rule: When in doubt, poke with stick.
Even though there wasn't much out at this time of the year, she still managed to fill up her entire carton. Here's what she found: Red berries, an orange rock, a yellow leaf, green pine sprig, blue flower, purple leaf, brown acorn and pine cone, black rock, white flowers, and pink dogwood bud. 
After Emma filled her container, we had a chance to get out and play for a bit.
This was such a fun activity for all of us and I'm excited to try it again in the spring.  Since most of the items won't last, I'm thinking of taking a picture of each item and putting them into a little book so she can see how the variety changes each season.

The carton can be made with any colors.  The magazine's example even used various shades of colors.  We still have two uncolored sections left in our carton.  I might let Emma choose one of the colors and also choose a "challenge" color for our next walk.

Let me know if you try this with your kiddos and if they enjoyed it as much as mine!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Eleven Months Old

Dear Sophia,

Here we are again, you another month older, and me...?  Well, I'm still amazed by how wonderful you are.
Birth: 8 pounds 5 ounces
1 month: 9 pounds 3 ounces
 2 months: 11 pounds
3 months: 11 pounds 8 ounces
4 months: 13 pounds 13 ounces
5 months: 15 pounds 4 ounces
6 months: 16 pounds
7 months: 17 pounds
8 months: 18 pounds 6 ounces 
9 months: 19 pounds 9 ounces
10 months: 20 pounds 6 ounces 
11 months: 20 pounds 6 ounces
Birth: 19 inches
1 month: 20 1/2 inches
2 months: 22 3/8 inches
3 months: 23 1/2 inches
4 months: 23 1/2 inches
5 months: 25 inches
6 months: 25 1/2 inches
7 months: 27 inches
8 months: 27 1/4 inches 
9 months:  27 1/2 inches
10 months: 28 1/4 inches
11 months: 28 1/2 inches
You still eat a big bowl of oatmeal in the morning, usually followed by a handful of Cheerios.  For lunch, you refuse to eat pureed foods.  You squirm and yell if the spoon comes anywhere near your mouth.  If you can't do it yourself, you don't want it.  Your favorites right now are turkey, cheese, Cheerios, pasta, corn, and potatoes.  You have completely ignored the carrots, bananas, apples, and green beans I gave you to try.  We'll try again soon. You still get three bottles and drink about two sippy cups of water each day.
Tooth number two has made it's appearance! Your little grin is even cuter with your two little teeth poking through.

You are walking everywhere! You are so proud of yourself, and are so excited that you can walk that you will giggle the entire time you're on the move.  Emma isn't sure if she's excited or nervous about this new development.

You are quite the little babbler, and you sure do think you're carrying on a conversation.  You can say Mama, Dada, Emma, Nana, bay-bay (baby), and ba-ba (bye bye).  You can sign for more, which you use all the time at the dinner table.  Even with limited speech, you sure know how to get your point across.  You are such a loud screamer that we're sometimes afraid to take you places.  You scream if you're excited or mad.  You mostly scream at the cat (excited) or if we stop you from doing something you want to do (mad).

You have also learned to call the cat by clicking your tongue and you call us by beckoning with your finger.  You point at things you want, and once pointed at me and said "Mama."

What I Want to Remember
It's not necessarily a good thing to remember, but you have a vicious stubborn streak and you can flip from happy to mad faster than anyone I have ever seen! We're nervous about your teenage years. 

Your favorite songs are "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and "Ring Around the Rosie." Your favorite toys are your stacking cups and you have started figuring out how to nestle them in the right order.

You already want to be so independent but you still love to cuddle with us.  Sometimes you will be in the middle of playing and will suddenly stop, come over to me, and hold your arms up to be picked up.  You have learned the words "hug" and "kiss" and will lean on our shoulder or kiss our cheeks.I hope you never lose your loving personality.

You are such a sweet little thing and I can't wait to see you when I'm away from you so I can see your happy little smile.  You make this world a brighter, better, and more exciting place and I thank God each day that He chose me to be your mommy.

I love you Sunshine!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tot School

Andy went back today after a gloriously long break from work.  It's been so nice having him here during my break from school to let us spend time together as a family and to help out with the kids. It's nice to have a 1:1 kid to parent ratio so that each kid is getting equal time.

Lately, if Emma isn't kept occupied, major meltdowns occur (gotta love those Terrible Twos!).  It's been below freezing all morning, so I knew that getting outdoors was not going to happen.  I came across this awesome website on Pinterest that was full of great activities for preschoolers called "Tot School." Today seemed like a great day to try some of them out.

The first activity she tried was my favorite, but I was making breakfast and didn't get any pictures.  I took a blank sheet of paper and drew pink, green, and orange stars on it.  Then I gave her some leftover garage sale stickers we had from the summer.  She matched the stickers on the appropriately colored star.  She loved this and it was so easy! Here is her finished product:
Excuse the breakfast stains; she didn't want to give it up while she ate. :)
Emma loves to help me cook, and I try to let her help with as much as I can, but we're usually fighting the mad dash from work to dinner and there isn't always time to let her help.  Her favorite thing to help with is pouring.  

I gave her two cups, some macaroni, and let her practice pouring the macaroni from one cup to the other.  She LOVED this and it kept her occupied for over 30 minutes.

When she was done pouring, I gave her some numbered cups and had her count out her macaroni into each cup.  We mixed up the cups, but she wasn't fooled!
At one point she tried to take a shortcut and poured the macaroni into the number 8 cup. :)
We continued with the pasta theme and strung penne and wagon wheels onto ribbon. This thrilled her beyond belief and I decided that I'll dye the pasta next time and let her make a necklace.
Check out that concentration!

So proud of herself!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mmm, Mmm Monday- Chicken Tamale Casserole

Ah, tamales.  I grew up eating them, but they were something special we only enjoyed at Christmas.  Have you ever made tamales? Like, whoa. It's a huge undertaking.

So when I saw this recipe for tamale casserole, I was pretty intrigued.  I have never had tamale pie or casserole, but after checking the ingredients, I decided it couldn't be bad and thought I'd give it a whirl.

I'm so glad I did.  This was GOOD. Plus, it's from Cooking Light, so bonus points for being "healthy!"

Chicken Tamale Casserole
recipe adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (I used regular black pepper)
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 box corn muffin mix
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next seven ingredients (through chilies) in a large bowl, stirring until just moist.  Pour mixture into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until set.  Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork.  Your kitchen is probably smelling pretty good right now.

Pour enchilada sauce over top, then top with chicken.  Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake for 15 more minutes. 

Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.  Top with sour cream.

Reviews From the Peanut Gallery

Me: 5 out of 5 stars! Love this! I wouldn't say that it tasted like a real tamale, but man, was it good.  I used Jiffy cornbread mix, which was a little sweeter.  I'm going to try the recommended Martha White brand next time.

Andy: 5 out of 5 stars. Definitely a keeper.  He'd like it a little spicier (poor guy is married to a wimp), especially with the sweeter cornbread. He wants me to make just the cornbread mixture just like this the next time we have chili.