Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm Doing Something Good for a Change!

The March of Dimes is one of those organizations that just work. Who doesn't love babies, right?

I have personal experiences with premature birth. Without the technological advances made possible by the research and development supported by the March for Babies, I wouldn't have my son. Mostly because my husband would not have survived after being born at 32 weeks way back in the 1970's.

I cannot imagine how different my life would be if I hadn't met my husband. I may have never wanted kids, I wouldn't have the awesome network of in-laws that are really just my family as much as my own blood relatives are. I wouldn't have the most hilarious, precocious, prissy 3 year old niece in the world, who makes me laugh the way she loves to boss her little cousin Jacob around. I may have never understood the blinding pain that a loss to premature birth causes for the parents and everyone who already loved a little girl we were waiting to meet.

I am walking this year in honor of all of these things, and I hope that any of you who feel moved donate to help prevent more heartache in the future. You can use the button on the side of my page to donate, and I never see any of your info: your money goes straight to the March of Dimes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Feeling Blah About Dinner?

Please, allow me to help, with my second installment of a "kitchen sink" type recipe, when you just pull out whatever veggies you need to cook in your fridge/freezer and go to town.

I was lucky enough to shop at Trader Joe's on my lunch break yesterday, and was inspired by seeing the broccolini and blue lake green beans, two family favorites. (I was also inspired by their hella cheap French wine selection.) But I could just as easily make this without grocery store shopping with the frozen peas, frozen broccoli, and cream cheese that I almost always have on hand.

I hope you enjoy as much as me...please let me know if you do!

This is a very easy weeknight meal, esp. if you use presliced veggies or do prep the night before. If I hadn't had to do the cutting board prep, I could have easily had this meal on the table in 25 minutes.

3 cups penne pasta, uncooked
2 Tbsp. Italian Dressing (feel free to omit and use whatever herbs/vinegar/oil you have on hand)
3oz prscuitto, cut into strips or diced (I roll them to dice easier)
1 bunch broccolini
1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 2" pieces
8 oz mushrooms (I used presliced baby bellas and rough chopped them smaller)
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) Philadelphia® Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

(You can sub or add so many things to make this different each time: red bell pepper, asparagus, zuchinni, frozen peas, chicken cubes, any veggie in season or whatever you have in the fridge.)

1.) Cook pasta as directed on package.

2.)Meanwhile, heat skillet over med-high heat and add proscuttio, cooking until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.

If there is not enough oil leftover to coat the veggies, add a little olive oil to pan. Add vegetables; cook 10 to 12 min. or until veggies are beginning to soften, stirring frequently (you can also cover to let them cook a little quicker after you saute them a bit. The liquid released from the mushrooms will "steam" them.)

3.)Add broth and cream cheese; cook 1 min. or until cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Once sauce starts to come together and cream cheese is mostly melted, add tomato halves and stir just until they start to "wilt".

4.)Drain pasta; return to pot. Add proscuttio and vegetable mixture; toss lightly. Cook 1 min. or until heated through. (Sauce will thicken up standing.)

5.)Top with fresh grated parmesan and black pepper, if desired.

My husband told me that it may be the best thing I've ever made. ::swoon::

The original idea for this recipe should be credited to Rachael Ray, but I took major liberties with the execution, so this is indeed "my" recipe.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Whole Debt-Free Thing?

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances.Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

 Yeah, so back in October my husband and I attended a Dave Ramsay seminar. It was inspiring, it was relevant, it was motivating, and we were going to come home, make a budget, and be debt free within a year. To our credit, we are lucky enough to not carry as much debt as the average American household, but we knew if we didn't change some things we eventually would reach that number.

We had switched back and forth about managing our family's finances for a while, but one thing we had rarely done was sit down and have a budget meeting, and make decisions together. Dave's comments about the roles of the two heads of household and why budget meetings were tough fit us to a tee. My husband makes excel spreadsheets of our income and output, including the amount we pay in taxes and social security, in his free time for fun. 

He also does supernerd things, like this one time when he made himself a fake student ID to get basketball and movie tickets.
I check our balances each week, make payments as I feel like it, and forget our online banking passwords. If you even say "budget meeting" to me I get the hives.

I try to contribute to the family finances in a positive way, too. I am a coupon QUEEN, and love finding good deals. I will not pay more than $2 for a box of cereal or $1 for a pound of pasta. I have a very well stocked pantry, so if we have to go into hiding we'd be okay if we found some clean water.

I have about 4 priorities when I get on the computer for personal use: email, facebook, blog, Amazon. Now and then I might think to Twitter, or shop for bras (that never ends up well), or visit my favorite mommy message board, but I never, ever think "It's time for our budget meeting!"

So, things I like to do to procrastinate on the dreaded budget meeting. Because I am a master procrastinator.

1) Say I want to put a new background on my blog. Since I am HTML-illiterate, this could take upwards of three hours, and is good for multiple excuses.

2) Tell my husband that I couldn't get my blog template to work, so that he spends budget night trying to help me upload a new one.

3) Sign up to be bracket manager for our March Madness pool, and then remind him each night that he needs to get his picks set.

4) Feed my little guy spaghetti for dinner, guaranteeing a bath night.

5) Offer to do laundry for my hubs, and therefore spend multiple hours folding the backlog of clean, wrinkled laundry in the bonus room floor.

6) Make sure there are plenty of back episodes of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It on the DVR.

7) Remind husband that I do occasionally have a blogging deadline, that I procrastinate to the last day (as usual) and I MUST use the computer that night to blog.

I could go on, but I think you get my point!

No, really, next week, we HAVE to have a budget meeting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WMW: Advice for Returning to the Workforce

I love, love, love linking up to Julia's Working Mommy Wednesday prompts. Sadly, the reality of being a working mommy is sometimes that the blogging takes a back seat, and boy has work made me re-rpioritize my needs lately!

But I'm here now, and ready to give advice to any mom out there about to return to the workforce.

My own experience has been great: the number one catalyst to that is the childcare experience. I know some people out there think that daycare is the devil and that no one could ever care for you child as well as you. Sometimes, I think that's just not true. My son has had about 5 different primary teachers, and several assistants and other teachers come into contact with him in the last year and a half, and I am so thankful for every single one. We have loved them all for different reasons, but you cannot argue with a child who chants his teachers' names when we pull into the parking lot, or runs in to see his friends. He is HAPPY there, and that is the number one most important aspect of finding childcare that mom will feel comfortable with.

Of course, as happy as he is, nothing beats the feeling I get when I walk in the door to pick him up and that slow grin just spreads across his face because no one will ever replace mommy.

In the early days, I must say that I was very thankful that my little guy's daycare was so close to my work. Being able to go and nurse him during my lunch break just made the transition to being away from mommy for 9 hours a day much easier. Even if you are not breastfeeding, that little break in the day to cuddle your infant can really rev you up for the rest of your work day. Nowadays, there's no way I could drop by in the middle of the day and leave him there, or I would cause an epic meltdown.

As far as mom's health goes, reach out to your boss before returning to work and discuss the expectations. I know that you may work in a job where you need to "catch up" as soon as you get back, but don't let than mean working long hours. You need to be a mommy first, and no matter how hard it is, work has to come second. Make sure you discuss how things will be if baby gets sick: who will stay home, how much sick/vacation time do you have available for that, how does your boss/company/state laws feel about pump breaks? I know the logistics are hard to think about when you're home with your baby with nothing to do but take care of them, but I highly recommend a conversation about these things before returning to your job. Once you arrive, it will stress you out even more to have expectations sprung on you.

Other than that, know that your emotions are valid, that every mom goes through the guilty feelings, and that your child can and will thrive even without you there 24/7. In fact, although I can admit it doesn't work for every family/child, I think my child is more advanced in every area and is rewarded by the social interaction more than he is held back by not being with his mom as much.

I am so proud of him, and I cherish every weekend and evening even more because our time together is so valuable.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ahem...we Have a Winner!

So, I did not fall off the place of the fanet. (I seriously just typed that, and it will not be corrected.)

I have been super-swamped at work, and we have a little internet rule at home about no computer time while my son is awake. And sometimes I really do like to spend time with my hubby, so instead of blogging or twittering at night, I've been spending some quality time (and also keeping my kitchen clean).

That being said, I DO have a winner for my Celia Rivenbark book giveaway!

True Random Number Generator Min:1 Max:17 Result: 3 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

So, Kelley from Kelley's Break Room, shoot me a line and I'll put you in contact with Celia herself! I know you will be excited!