Thursday, November 29, 2012

In the Hustle and Bustle


If you are like me, then there are at least two nights a week I have no time to stand over a stove.  To say that I am obsessed with giving my family a healthy meal at home just might be an understatement.  I have learned, as my children have gotten older and are involved in evening activities, that eating at home can be slightly more challenging.  In true fashion it really just gave me a stronger drive to figure it out.  It, meaning, how I would accomplish a decent meal in a short amount of time.  My first answer to this is to wrap your arms around your crock pot.  A.K.A. My Best Friend.  Lately though, I have been venturing into some dishes that are quick "throw" together meals, but the crock pot is still my preferred method.  But, hey, who am I to complain?

This is a dish I made our first night in the mountains.  We had driven all day and then had to stop at the bottom of the mountain to buy the groceries we would need before heading up.  Some earlier afternoon shopping road breaks had put us a little behind schedule so altering this dish even further, with a ready made chicken, made it the perfect quick and easy meal.  AND...it was a hit with everyone!  In case you haven't met me before, I am not a short order cook.  The only time my kids will ever be served something different then what I make is if it is entirely too spicy...sometimes it's worth it.  :)

Here we go.

Creamy Chicken Divan Soup


Recipe Compliments of Southern Living.

Makes 12 cups.

Ingredients:

***To speed up the prep time, grab a rotisserie chicken from the deli.  Super quick and loads of flavor!

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium-sized sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 (48 oz.) container chicken broth
  • 2 (12 oz.) packages fresh broccoli florets (about 12 cups)
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
  • 4 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 (8 oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add onion, and saute 5 to 6 minutes or until tender.  Add garlic and red pepper, and cook 2 minutes.  Stir in chicken broth and broccoli.  Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until broccoli is tender.  Stir in cream cheese.
  2. Process mixture with a handheld blender until smooth.  Add chicken and shredded cheese.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with almonds, if desired.
Note: If you don't have a handheld immersion blender, let the mixture cool slightly; process mixture, in batches, in a regular blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.  Return mixture to Dutch oven, and proceed as directed.  ****I bought an immersion blender for $13!  Worth every cent!

Here is how I made it "skinny"--
  • I used reduced fat / low sodium chicken broth
  • I used reduced fat cream cheese
  • I used reduced fat shredded cheese

So, in the hustle and bustle of life, especially in this holiday season, you can still feed your family a healthy meal.  From the taste of it, they will think you cooked all day.  It can be our little secret.  ;)


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Not So Plastic Christmas


I can't really say what has come over me lately.  A lot probably.  But we will just start here.  Christmas.  Am I the only one who is so over it?  I don't mean the reason for it, but the hoopla that surrounds it.  Anyway, I began my mission for downsizing last year.  It was hard I must admit.  I am as bad as a kid sometimes.  Don't we all do it?  We get in the store and the child in us just comes out.  It really is awful and then Man just looks at me like, "Is that for you or them?"  

So, to add to my downsizing efforts, this year I am on a different kind of mission.  A homemade kind of mission.  This is how it works...mostly.  I am on a mission to hand make or buy from someone who did make it, most of our Christmas gifts, especially for the girls.  I am so over the plastic and lights and batteries and noise and plastic.  Is anybody with me?  So now I am on a mission to support as many people, Mommas, Daddies, Grandmas, and Grandpas who are making things and sharing their talent with all of us.  There is nothing, for me, that says love more then something homemade.  I have a cousin, through marriage, who has never given my kids anything store bought and I have a 7, 4, and 1 year old.  I look forward to her gifts for them more then anything.  Her gifts scream love, detail, and the gift of her time.  

The sad reality is that I am one person.  I cannot possibly make everything for my kids, nor do I have the skill to do so.  So, for me, the next best thing is to support those who can.  I would encourage you to do the same.  These people take so much pride in what they do and they actually want you to love it!  Isn't that awesome?  Now on to the fun part.  I have made a few purchases toward my goal already and I can't wait to share them with you.  Here we go!

When my baby seven year old announced the whole ear piercing thing to me, and then once I knew it was going to be a "go", I went straight to Etsy.  My "go to" place for all things handmade.  I wanted something unique and fun for her tiny little ears...once the six weeks is up, of course.  I had success.  I found these.


You must see her shop!  AL Joyeria has cool stuff for everyone.  I might be going back for myself ;)

We have a slight love for American Girl in this house.  Man's wallet is not part of the love, however.  The girls circled every.single.item in the catalog when it came so how was I to know?  Besides, Santa doesn't get the catalog.  ;)  Now, this was fun...because let me tell you...there is some serious talent out there and I spent hours looking through this stuff.  Here is just a bit of what I found.

Auntie Jans specializes in the clothing department of American Girls or similar sized dolls.  Best part?  Everything is ready to ship.  Guess who's Bitty Baby will have some styling diapers?

Are you squealing like I did?  Addison is going to be in heaven...until Olivia decides her Bitty Baby is cool again and needs these too.

If you have one of these dolls then you can appreciate the way my eyeballs pop out of my head when a simple bed is $200....or more.  Then I got to thinking.  Sometimes I have time for this...at midnight.  That is how I found A Crafter's Nook.  They make so much more then these cute little beds.  You must go see them.  Here is what I chose and I got to select the cutouts.  WOOHOO!


These beds can bunk, or not, and I am so totally over the moon (no pun intended) about painting them and making the bedding!  Love, love, love this!  Here is one more thing in their shop that I really want...I may have to go back!


The tiny hands in my house would love this!

Then there was this.


 Oh my word.  I couldn't help myself.  And then, the next morning I got the sweetest message from the shop owner.  How excited she was to make this for me and to contact her anytime.  You can find Christine at Lavenderlore.  Let me just say that this little number is the tip of the iceberg.  Without a self-imposed dollar restriction I would have gone crazy in her store...for a doll...yes.

For my sweet little Allye I have the cutest thing ever being handcrafted on a working ranch in San Antonio, TX.  I saw this on a blog I frequent and bought it immediately.  It is called a Sweet Seat.  It gets the little ones up above the table for easier eating while making them feel "big" without the nasty straps and constraints. 


 They even come in mini sets...one for the big girl and one for her "baby".  To.die.for!  Click in to Sweet Seasons Farm and see all the goodness they are cooking up over there! 

Well, I have started shopping now.  Have you?  Better yet...I am supporting folks who are working hard to support their families doing something they love...are you?  I hope this encourages you to try and buy some homemade items this holiday season.  More to come.  The shopping is not done!  

I will give you some glimpses, along the way, of what I am contributing to this homemade Christmas too!

---The So Over the Plastic Mama

P.S.   The UPS man and I had a talk the other day.  He appreciates my effort towards his job security.  :)





Monday, November 26, 2012

Dear Lord, I Am Requesting Deferment

Forever and ever and ever Olivia has told me that she was not ever getting her ears pierced.  Ever.  This child is terrified of needles.  Suited me just fine.  One less thing to worry about and, well, I knew she would come around.  What I didn't expect was that she would come into my room one morning just three short weeks ago and announce that she was getting her ears pierced that day because she had a dream that she did and I needed to take her right then before she changed her mind.  That last part folks, that is how I knew I would be doing no such thing.  If there was going to be any "rule" about this it was that she would want to do it for herself.  Ready and willing. 



Best I can remember I had to be nine years old.  Marked in stone no more, no less.  I am not that kind of mother...sort of.  Doesn't make me better I just don't prefer that method...right now ;)  I mean dating is going to be like twenty-five around here and I just had to be sixteen.  ;)  I have tried to gauge my children and their requests with what seems reasonable and in accordance with our values.  For me, this was not a really life or death decision, compared to some others I have had to make recently.  The hardest part for me, as I explained to Man one night laying in the bed at some late hour, when his eyes were half shut.  "Why is she doing this to me?  First the hair and now this?  This is more then I can take.  Does she know what she is doing to her mother?"  Snooooore.  Huh uh.  So I slept on it. 



Then I decided this.  For me, she had to be responsible enough to take care of them.  I was not adding that to my chore list.  Considering this is the child who has owned two pair of very nice glasses for a year and they are still  in mint condition I think this one was a "yes".  Two, she would not be allowed to wear dangles and we would not be having a further discussion on this.  She agreed and we are still clarifying to her what a dangle is.  They just look soooo tempting! 



So once we decided that it was a "go" we then decided to surprise her and let her do them while we were visiting my parents for Thanksgiving.  Then Meme could be there to see them (per Olivia's request)!  I was so excited to tell her, so I made her guess.  She did...eventually.  Then the nerves kicked in.  She said, "Why didn't you tell me so I could prepare?"  Ha ha ha.  I didn't tell her so she wouldn't ask me 5,127 times, "How many more days?"



And for all of the build up and all of my worry and all of Man's sleepless sleep-filled nights over this...it was over...just like that.



Dry the nervous tears away...



and we were done for the day.



Please Lord, I need a break.  Can you please defer all further events that make me wonder where my baby went to someone else...for like the next two years?  Please and thank you.

Want to see how it really played out?  Click below for the video.  If you get this post through an email subscription you will want to click the link, scroll to the bottom and watch the video directly from the blog.
www.MamaBouchardTalks.blogspot.com

video



Friday, November 23, 2012

Mama's Top Five Friday - Thankful


We have had a truly wonderful week enjoying our time together as a family.  While we are thankful for our blessings daily, what a special time of year to take extra time and reflect and express our thanks.  


1.) Allye enjoying our trail walk through the leaves and the grass.  Fingers crossed grass is her new best friend.

2.) Olivia having "shot" practice with her BB Gun.  That girl loves the mountains...and the BB Gun...and a little competition.

3.) Addison's biggest smile of the week...when she found a T for Trynt on our nature walk.

4.) Self family portrait at the end of our vacation.  I will cherish this forever.

5.) Thanksgiving Day--- I hope yours was as wonderful as ours.  We laughed and loved and hope you did too.

---The Thankful Mama
 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful



I.Am.Thankful.

I am thankful for:

Smiling faces  *  Unconditional love  *  Never ending hugs Runny noses  *  Crying eyes  *  Small  helping hands  *   Medium helping hands  *  Big helping hands   *  Brown eyes  *  Blue eyes  *  Laughter  *  Good Health  *  Sleepless Nights  *  Human Alarm Clocks  *   Ruffles  *  Hairbows  *  Sippy Cups  *  Pacifiers  *  G a m e  N i g h t s  *  Snack Time  *  Cookies  *  Bed Head  *  De-tangler Spray  *    "Spa" Days Dress Up  *   Miracles  *  Lollipops  *  Tea Parties   

3 Beautiful.Healthy.Loving.Girls  

Be thankful...today and always.
  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Unplanned Days


I carefully rolled out of bed yesterday morning, gently grabbed my camera, tiptoed to the glass French doors, and slowly pulled the handle.  I thought you might like to see what met me there.  I wasn't disappointed.

 
I stood and soaked it all in and then I heard a cry and turned to see Allye with her face planted against the great room windows crying her tiny eyes out at the sight of me more then ten paces away.  Ahhh, it was good while it lasted.  And the day began.

I knew of this little park we had been to years before when the girls were smaller.  We decided to take a drive there.  We saw this on the way.  


Poor thing was camera shy.  Must not have its picture made as often as my girls do.  

We were having a blast on the swing set with a "How high can you go?" competition...


when we saw a gravel path and began to follow it...


 Yes!  She is in the grass and the leaves!  It's a miracle!  There are only 122 more pictures of proof, if you need it.

It lead us to a leaf filled trail that we couldn't resist.  


 We descended down a narrow path that opened into a large field.


We found our way onto another trail and suddenly Man says, "Shhhh.  I hear running water."  Who does that?  I am thinking..."Ok, if your thirsty there is bottled water at the car."  Clearly that wasn't the point.  This was one of those manly moments...Boy Scoutish...Man v. Wild...you get it.  Yes, we followed the sound...


 and found this...


and this.

Addison was happiest in the leaves.

 
 Allye needed more time to take it all in.


 I love what can happen when there is no plan.  

....................................................

And sometimes I don't.  

I woke up this morning without a care in the world, baked some delicious glazed pear muffins, and told Man I would take care of the dishes.  I made a HUGE mess because I was planning ahead and prepared dinner at the same time.  I felt a little guilty.  I was three glasses into my huge mess when it happened.  I called for Man.  He ran.  I held it out.  He tried to touch it.  I wouldn't let him.  He said he had it under control and he went for the First Aid kit.  He did not want to hear me the first, second, or third time I told him it needed stitches.  Apparently Band Aids fix everything in Man's world.  Except I quickly learned that 10.8 miles away was more then a Band Aid.  I kissed my babies goodbye and was out the door and headed down the mountain.  


 That folks it NOT a Band Aid.  There was blood, more blood, needles, numbing, sutures, splints, gauze, and blood.  And what does he say when I bounce in the house (the numbing was in full effect still)?  "Hey, quit pointing at me!"  He thought he was funny.  He is doing dishes for the next 7 days.

It didn't get us down.  We had a last walk to take.  Walking sticks were promised.


They are gorgeous works of art now.  Man knows about these things.  Apparently.



I would say this place, as remote as it is, gave us more then we expected, memories that will last forever, and plenty to do. ;)

.............................................................

A neat little mountain snack I made for the girls and thought I would share.


Your kids will thank you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where There's Nothing To Do


 Some, maybe most, people would drive the tightly winding roads to this remote area we are staying in this week and say, "This isn't for us, there is nothing to do."  I have two feelings about this actually.  One - I am glad there are people like that because then it wouldn't be so remote anymore.  Two - I would feel sorry for them that quality time with their family and kids breathing fresh air, playing outside, swimming in the lake, and going on hikes doesn't qualify as "enough to do" anymore.  Actually, the fact that there isn't a flashing light, blaring noise, city distractions, or any distractions is just what I love about this place.

 
There is actually lots of this...it makes Man's heart happy!


And when we go on walks, the only sound you hear is the crunch of freshly fallen leaves beneath your feet.  I would bet round silver coins that you could hear a pin drop...if you weren't crunching the leaves that is.


There are always treasures waiting to be found...or picked.  Beauty...it is in the eye of the beholder.  I was captivated by what they saw to be beautiful on our walk.  Each item had to be the best to make it into our bag.  ;)


There is always an animal track to stop and see.  I love watching Man teach our girls about the different tracks.  It just seems so fatherly.  It makes my heart melt.


Sometimes you find something that brings back memories.  Addison saw this and with the greatest excitement said, "Mommy, it's a T for Trynt!"  Oh how this made her day and then we had some great talks about Trynt, our favorite cowboy in Texas.  That was a special time in our day for sure.


There were bragging rights for things like biggest of something...who would have thought there could be a leaf the size of a face?  It made the bag!

Then there is the moment when you return like it is Halloween night and marvel at what you "got".


Then you get on your scooter and ride down the steepest driveway ever...because Mommy is cheering you on and taking five zillion pictures and clapping like crazy!


While others seem to have lost their legs and need a different kind of ride.


And then...then there is this.


What better place to practice your shot?  


I 100% love this!  I love that they are learning about all kinds of things in life.  I mostly love when their daddy is teaching them, and how they listen so intently and want to do it right...just for him.


 A new memory was made today.  Addison pulled the trigger for the first time!  She was so proud of herself.  This was a right of passage in her eyes.  I loved seeing the light in her eyes when, "She did it!" 

There is this one modern day amenity that my girls cherish here in this place.

 
All except one.


This was not her thing.  Not one bit.  She told us so.  Over and over and over.  She will come around.  This we know for sure.  But hey, what a memory!

 Then there is the bonding that happens at the kitchen table.  This is always some of my favorite times with my girls.


That is why boys aren't invited.

We love making pretty things.


But God's pretty is always better.


Goodnight...

from a very remote place in the mountains of North Carolina, 
where there is plenty to do ;)

Monday, November 19, 2012

An Ultimate Act of Kindness --- Ripping the Band Aid Off


Last Friday I gave you a slight hint of something that occurred during the week that I could not discuss at the moment.  It was #5.  So today I am ripping off the band aid and giving you the story, the whole story, and nothing but the story.  Sorry, I got carried away.  Avoidance I guess.  Here we go.

I informed the big girls that they would be getting haircuts before we left on vacation.  Addison immediately informed me that she wanted to make sure I let her get hers cut shorter then last time.  I quickly agreed because she is 4 and she forgets things and she is easily persuaded.  Except she talked about it everyday, she was not forgetting, and she was not convinced in anyway.  There was no amount of Mommy bribing that was working.  I excepted defeat.

After hearing Addison and I go back and forth on this for several days Olivia comes to me one day and says, "Mom, I want to cut my hair."  I reply, "Ok."  I am assuming a trim here friends, since at age 4 this child informed me she was growing out her hair like a princess and it had to touch her bottom.  I was sorely mistaken.  Upon further explanation she says, "Like really cut it Mom.  I want to donate my hair to the kids who don't have any."  I let this sink in.  As the days passed she continued to talk about it and I would say, "Are you sure?  I can't glue it back on.  It took three years to grow your hair and it's not to your bottom yet."  She gave me cordial smiles and knowing nods to each of my most valid points.  And then it happened.  Last Thursday, the day before the haircut appointment, we were weaving through the roads of our tree-lined neighborhood on the way to dance.  As I slow to turn she says, "Mom, I can't wait to get my haircut tomorrow!"  To which I reply, "Olivia.  You won't have any hair left."  Kind of in that exasperated Mom tone that says, "Have you heard my very valid points for the last four days?"  In return she responds in the most confident, definitive, and determined tone I have ever heard from her, "Mom, if I was one of those kids who didn't have hair, you would want someone like me to donate theirs."  And that folks was all it took.  Who can argue with that?

I can tell you we were both very nervous Friday morning when we walked into the salon.  I was armed with a camera that I was going to hide behind and she was all smiles.  


There was lots and lots and lots of measuring.


 The ponytail was made.  

(Side Note---I later read we should have done several ponytails. Doing one can cause a loss of up to four inches.  Yikes!)


 The final moment.  Last chance to pull the plug!

 .....................................

 BUT...she didn't!





 

When I lay my head down each night I wonder if I made a difference in their lives that day.  Did I show them what is important to our family by living it out?  Did I explain the whys and hows so they understood?  What can I do better to train them up in the way they should go?  But, on Friday night I laid down my head and knew...this sweet child taught me today, by living it out.  She put the need of someone she will never meet above her own desires and never turned back.  Now that, in my book, was an ultimate act of kindness that I am so grateful I was a part of.

........................

As promised...a glimpse from my writing spot this week in the mountains of North Carolina.  Just me, Man, and the girls. 



 After living apart for almost four months we needed this.  My girls are getting their cups filled and that...that makes me happy.


***We chose to send her hair to Wigs for Kids.  To learn more about this company and how to donate hair or financially you can click here.  They never charge for their wigs.  They have no idea who we are I just admire their passion to give kids confidence and make them feel whole again!


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