Monday, May 5, 2014

Spinach Cheese Tortellini Soup

Ever lack the energy or creativity to come up with an amazing dinner?  Try this.  Seriously easiest dinner, ever.  I don't say that lightly.  I can make this while Simone hangs on my leg and it still comes out perfect. 

What you need...

2 fist fulls of fresh spinach.  I just use the regular box (or bag) spinach from the salad section of our Fry's.
2 cans of low sodium chicken broth
1 can of peeled & diced tomatoes 
1 package of cheese tortellini 
Dash of garlic salt & black pepper
1 lb of ground Italian sausage (you can omit this for a meatless meal and it's still amazing)
Get it done...

Toss the first five ingredients in your crock pot on LOW.  
If you are going to add the Italian sausage, brown it in a pan, drain it, and add that to the crock pot.
Allow it to cook on low for 1-4 hours.  You can't really mess it up!!

It's BEYOND EASY, and goes well with sandwiches or garlic bread!  It keeps nicely, too for up to a week in the fridge.  We use this as dinner on nights when we are busy, will be getting home late, or days when I'm completely overwhelmed and want dinner to make itself.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dear 18 Month Old Simone...

Dear Simone,

Hello you wild little monkey, you.  You are certainly learning to voice your opinion these days, and you are quite....opinionated.  Although, if you weren't I would be beyond shocked.  You see, sweet Simone, your Daddy and Mommy are a lot like you... or more you're a lot like your parents.  When the task is frustrating, when we have to leave a friend's house, or when you're angry you get upset and make your voice heard.  I know it's hard to understand why you're not allowed to climb on the kitchen table, but I promise that we just want you safe.  Someday it will all make sense...

What's amazing about a kid like you is that your opinionated side comes out in other ways, beautiful ways.  For instance, there's no wondering who you love, when you love someone we all know it!  You show affection freely giving hugs & kisses to your family & friends.  One of my very favorite things you've been doing is holding my (or Daddy's) face in your tiny hands & looking right into my eyes.  After a good long look at me, you throw your arms around my neck and squeeze me with the best hug I've ever felt.  It makes any of the challenges of our day melt away.  It tells me that you are happy and proud of your Mommy despite mistakes I make along the way.  And, I could never really put into words how it FEELS... but I think it's along the lines of pure sweet bliss.

You are also talking up a storm!  You've mastered many words (Daddy, Mama, cup, keys, cheese, Ozzie, Landon, doggy, kitty, baby, shoes... to name a few) and you're working on many more.  We are always impressed by how much you understand.  Even when you don't want to listen, you show us that you understand what we are saying.  I see you playing pretend with your babies, your cars, and blocks.  Some days I can't believe you're the same tiny baby girl who we first snuggled a year & a half ago.

We love our evening walks out front... and now that you love to hold hands with Daddy & I, it's even better!  Stealing moments with you looking at the trees Daddy planted, snuggling on Saturday mornings as a family, and family kisses & hugs before bed time are some of the most meaningful moments I've ever had in my life.  Daddy & I also love working with you in the garden, and while taking care of the yard.  You have become such a great helper and your love for the outdoors shows.  One of the sweetest things you do is when there is a big gust of wind, you throw your arms out to the sides and toss your head back.  You really feel everything around you and we just feel so lucky to be a part of your life.

We are so proud of how you have excelled at swim.  You were awarded your first level survival medal a few weeks ago.  I was beaming with pride and couldn't believe how far you've come in your lessons.  Right now you can float (airplane) on your back by yourself, reach up for the wall, almost climb out of the pool alone, and go under and find the step.  You're confident and comfortable in the water and each day you show me how independent you are becoming.

Simone, you are smart and beautiful, but more importantly you are determined.  I hope you carry that through your entire life.  Even when the world weighs you down, because it will no matter how hard I wish it wouldn't, keep that determination.  Hold on to it, and no matter where you go in life it will serve you well.

Most of all, Simone, I want to say thank you.  Thank you for being my girl.  Thank you for being a trooper when things aren't easy.  Thank you for every little thing that makes you, YOU!  Even the stuff that challenges me.  I love you more today than I thought I could yesterday and I can't wait to see what adventures are next!

Love always & with all of my heart,

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thirty-One Days of Gratitude

Epp!  I've been staying true to so many goals in my life lately, except taking time to blog!  Saying BLOG makes me feel like a drone though, so can we just call it "fractured, but beautiful thoughts about my life".  That sounds much more real.  

Anyways, tomorrow is the first day of May, and I love this time of year in Arizona.  It's warm and beautiful, and you can be outside almost all day (with some SPF & water in tow).   Best part -- it's not 113, yet.  I wanted to do something special to keep my head in the "game" of life for the month.  Each day in May I would like to reflect on something positive in my life.  I will spend the next 31 days reflecting on 31 different things that make me happy.  

It's all too easy to get caught up in what's not good enough in our lives.  When I have a mind set of focusing on the good, I'm really good at being positive.  But, when something shifts my focus (or more like, I allow it to shift my focus) I spiral quickly into seeing all of the negative.  This is an experiment in how shifting my focus to the positive changes the way I feel in my life.

I'll be sharing my thoughts on Instagram follow me there!  Once May is over I'd like to do a recap post with all of my thirty-one things & how I feel about my list.  Anyone who would like to do this with me, I would love that!  Maybe your posts can inspire me to think of all of the great things in my life, too! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Crafty Name Blocks

 A few months back my friends cousin held a mommy crafting day and taught us all how to make really cute name blocks.  They actually don't have to be a name, per se.  Other ladies there made ones that said "Fall" or "Peace", which turned out adorable!  Before we went to the party we all picked up the paper that we wanted to use on our blocks.  I bought regular designed paper from Michael's (cheating on "the lobby"... but whatever), as well as some plain colored paper.

Before we got to the party her husband had cut 2 x 4's into three different sizes.  She painted the blocks for everyone (so that they could dry) before we arrived.  The blocks need to really dry before you start decorating them.  Obviously, the blank spot on the front is where you will put your colored paper.

This was my set up before I got started.  Luckily, she suggested some pretty sparkly paper for the letters instead of what I had picked out.  The sparkle really makes it stand out against a designed paper.  Thank goodness for an expert being around, or I would have totally GOOFED.  Anyways, you cut the paper to fit just inside the blocks, and use modge podge to apply the paper to the block.  FIRST, do a thin layer on the block and press the paper on, making sure that you flatten out any air bubbles.  Let each block dry after applying the paper.  While that was drying she used her Cricut Machine (these are sooo bad ass... I totally want one... someday... when I have the money!) to cut out the letters for our blocks.  She also has another machine (I think it was Cricut brand as well) that makes the letters into a sticker.

Seriously, without this machine you would need to be an expert with scissors... or have FAR more patience than I've ever experienced.  Anyways, by the time we got those all cut the paper was dry-ish.  Next, we applied the letter stickers to the blocks.  Once you have the letters where you want them, paint a thin layer of modge podge over the ENTIRE block.  This seals the paper on, the letter on, and gives the whole block a nice glossy finish.  NOTE... the modge podge will look a little WHITE (like old school glue) when you apply it.  Don't freak... this is totally normal and it will dry completely clear.  And, another tip, try to smooth out the modge podge the best you can, and big clumps will still dry clear, but will look like a big clear booger.  Yeah, I said it... and, what?!

Decorating the blocks is totally up to you.  I used a few little flower pieces combined to make a flower that fit my colors.  Hot glue those bad boys together, with a rhinestone in the middle, and BOOM... looks like you bought it in one piece.  I also used some sparkly teal & pink tulle as an accent on the smaller blocks.  Watch out for this stuff... I went home looking like I'd been to the glitter factory... and, I'm not talking about where they make glitter!

Here's my finish product at the party!  It was a great craft to do with friends and I love it in Simone's room...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Goodbye Gymboree...

Well, technically it's called Baby Bugs.  Simone has spent the last seven months in a class at Aspire Gymnastics where she's been learning to socialize with other kids, bounce on trampolines, and climb everything!

The class is for kids 0-15 months, and we've reached the end of our time there.  Sad that it's over, but she's had an amazing time.  I highly recommend Aspire, and truly if we could do both swim & gymnastics right now, we would be moving on to the next class.  The best part about Baby Bugs is it is FREE.  They offer paid classes for all ages, as well as open gym.  Simone's teacher, Coach Kat was patient, and helpful with the kids.  The Moms (& Dads) also had a great time chatting and getting to socialize while the kids tear around.

Aspire is the training facility of the ASU Men's Gymnastics team, and there are regularly guys & girls there doing amazing things!  So, if you are in the area, check it out!

Going back through my photos I realized just how much Simone has grown up since starting there. 

Our first time at Baby Bugs...

Other fun moments from our time there...

Our last day, yesterday morning... Doing her favorite thing, the trampoline!

 A little note, there were so many activities that we did there that I could not capture pictures of while wrangling Simone.  They have a great foam pit the kids can get it, super bouncy trampolines, a tumbling track, uneven bars, beams, etc.  I can't say enough about how great of a place it is... but, I will say we will be back someday!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Texas Fudge - A Breakfast Casserole

 Texas fudge is a delicious breakfast casserole that my Mom-in-law taught me to make.  It's easy, you can prepare it ahead of time (night before!), and everyone loves it!  Warning, there are copious amounts of cheese in this dish... if that make you nervous, look away!  If you're like me... add a little extra cheese and LAUGH.

What you need...

6 eggs
8 ounces of heavy whipping cream
3-5 tablespoons of milk 
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups of shredded Monterrey jack cheese
2 4oz cans of chopped green chillies

Get it done...

Preheat oven to 350
Beat together by hand the first five ingredients (eggs, cream, milk, & cheeses)

Spray 9x13 pan with non-stick spray
Spread chillies evenly across bottom of pan

Pour egg mixture carefully over chillies

If you are preparing ahead of time, you can stop here... or cook it about 1/2 way through.  Put it in the fridge (I don't leave it for more then 24 hours).  

Bake at 350 for 40 mins or until golden on top and a knife comes out clean

We love it, and have this regularly on the weekends, since I can just pop it in the oven when we get up.  This makes it an ideal dish for Christmas or Thanksgiving mornings, too!  It's even really amazing reheated.  I'll make us a big one on Sunday, and Todd eats it for breakfast for the first half of the week.  


Friday, January 24, 2014

Simone's Table Makeover

For a while I've been searching for a little table & chair set for Simone.  I was looking at the Ikea Kids Table  over and over.  But it was so borrrrrinnnnnggggg (said in my best angst-y teenager voice).  Although the great things about that set are A. the price, and B. the fact that you could do anything with the paint.  

Luckily, I didn't pull the trigger on that set and waited.  I stopped off at Goodwill to browse with Simone one afternoon and found this BEAUTY!  A real wood table with cute little chairs for, hold on to your butts...$17!  It was cheaper than the cheap Ikea table set and it will have some longevity, too.

Some Mom put some love into this paint job, but it wasn't our style.  It took me a few weeks to get it done, because I really have like two hours during a day that I get to myself.  Well, to be fair... I have more than that, but the rest of the time is usually spent vacuuming, washing dishes, working, blogging, and occasionally peeing.  Anyways, I used leftover Valspar Paint from her room (Simone's Styling Diggs) to complete the project.  After a few layers of paint, and some elbow grease this is how it turned out.

I'm all about finding a GOOD DEAL!  And, I love that I was able to make it well suited for Simone.  Good thing is as she grows up we could change the color to fit her style... or possibly for baby #2.  Oh, gosh, just saying that makes my head spin!

Simone was so grateful!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I'm not about that park life.

The park.  Ahhh the location of so many play dates, birthday's, and hang outs.  And I'm just totally grossed out by the giant litter box.  Ok, so I'm half kidding here.  The park isn't that bad.  We always have a good time when we go.  I'm not sure what part of me can't seem to be "all in" when it comes to the park.  Although, I'm guessing it's the the type A, control freak of a mother, who never wants her baby dirty, part.  Blerg.

Let me stop right there.  I will say that I not only let her get dirty, I encourage it.  It's a huge part of learning for her, and for me, too.  She has even put a handful of that sand in her mouth.  Of course, she quickly spat it out when she realized she was eating pebbled poison!  And, the sand... the sand is EVERYWHERE.  And, by going to the park I've signed  up for two days of finding sand on her body... even after a tubby.  Since I have a 15 month old I better get used to it, right?!  And, Mom friends, please accept the weird creature that I am.

Things are getting better at the park as she can experience more, and pulling her in the wagon on the way is bliss!  Taking Simone to the park with Landon (her big cousin) is also a great way to curb me hating on the park.  Those two can make anything fun and adorable.  So, I'm making progress on my journey to loving the park.
Give me time.

"we should go play in the grass, it's more fun..." - me

Are there any regular kid things that give you the heebie jeebies?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dear 15 month old Simone...

Dear Simone,

Today, you are fifteen months old, and I want to tell you first that I absolutely love you.

I'm sure you gather that... from the kisses I request throughout the day, from the snuggles I steal when you're sitting still, and from the times I make you do what's best for you instead of what you want.

Right now some of your favorite things are running, squawking, waving, giving kisses, and petting our kitty Ozzie.  Your Daddy & I love hearing you say "Hi, Daddy" or "Hi, Ozzie" while waving.  You "take care" of your baby dolls (and Mommy & Daddy) by patting them on the back.  I already see the nurturing spirit I'm sure you will carry through your whole life.

I'm so proud that you have love and interest for other kids around you.  You love giving kisses to your friends and waving at any kid you see while we are out and about.  And, you're LEARNING to share... it's not easy, but we will get there.

Simone & her buddy Taylor having some grahams
You no longer walk, you run.  You sit at your little table and have snacks (with a dolly, or a friend).  You are sleeping THROUGH THE NIGHT in your big girl bed!  Breakfast is your favorite meal and you usually start the day with three servings of oatmeal.  Your other favorite foods are strawberries, quinoa (with carrots & cheese), blueberries, spoons of peanut butter, and most of all bread.

at the park with Landon
You love being outside, in the sand, or in your wagon.  You really love being in your wagon with your big cousin, Landon!  You love climbing on the couch and looking over the back at me while I'm cooking.  You love playing in the kitchen with pots & pans.  You love going outside and ringing your wind chime every night with your Daddy when he gets home.  And, I love capturing pictures of it all.

showing Daddy you're ready for anything
You are doing fantastic in swimming lessons.  Your teacher always speaks of your improvement from week to week, and we beam with pride.  I watch you while you're in class doing your airplane, bubbles, and rainbow dives.  Someday you will swim with strength and confidence, and it's all because of the work you are putting in now.

waiting your turn at swim
I wanted to tell you in this letter that I know it's hard for you when I put you into time out.  Trust me, it's hard for me, too.  Especially since I know you are a genuinely GOOD girl.  Right now we are working on our communication.  I'm BLOWN away by what you understand.  I ask you for something, and you go look for it for me.  You are so impressive, and in time you will be able to tell me exactly what you need.  Until then we will take time to try to understand each other more.  You're doing so good with your signs and already understanding that sometimes we have to do something we don't like.

we made it through your first molars!
I was never sure how it was possible before I met you... but I love you more this morning than I have ANY OTHER morning of your life.  Every day my love for you grows stronger and I'm thankful for even the toughest moments of our day.  If you choose to someday be a mother I hope to be there to remind you that the best things in life are hardly ever easy.  They require you to work, to be challenged, and to be tested.  The most important part is how you respond.  Trust me, sweet daughter, I'm still learning this myself.  The best part is I get to learn this as I grow with you, and your Daddy.

Happy fifteen months, Simone.  I'm not sure how this time passed so quickly.  Though, I am sure that it has been a ride I'd only want to take with someone as truly amazing as you are.


Ps.  I love you forever.