Menu Planning Feed

Our Easter Menu this Year

Good (Holy) Thursday, my friends!

Easter lily

Well, we're getting ready for the big day here - just a few days to go! And I'm trying to balance all the "outer bustle and busy-ness" with an "inner awareness and peace." Balance is always a tricky thing, but never more so at the holidays.

All this "bustle" of course is in preparation for our big family dinner ~ we're hosting it here at our house and expecting 20 people this year! I'm very much looking forward to seeing everyone and enjoying the holiday together. :)

Here is the menu I've organized with my mum:

Appetizers & Cocktails

sparkling peach sippers

soda/beer/wine

a simple punch for the kids

hot artichoke dip

shrimp dip

salsa & tortilla chips

fresh veggies & spinach dip

*

Dinner

baked ham and smoked turkey

hot fruit compote

roasted potatoes with onions

squash

corn

roasted asparagus

Annie's mac and cheese (per Earlybird's request)

assorted condiments

soft rolls and biscuits

*

Desserts

pineapple upside down cake

lemon cake

gingerbread

chocolate coconut "nest" cupcakes

salted caramel Easter popcorn

assorted candies

coffee

*

Weather permitting, there'll be an egg hunt for the kids, and maybe a little walk down the bike trail. The weather for Sunday is still looking good: highs around 50, sun giving way to clouds with perhaps a late day shower. I can live with that, especially now that he snow has all melted!

So early this Holy Thursday we're washing china and wine glasses, cleaning out the fridge, organizing table linens and neatening the boys' rooms. Meanwhile, Crackerjack is fighting a virus and Bookworm has a couple of classes to get to ... and this evening I have my echocardiogram. I'll keep you all posted on how that goes.

So, there's lots going on ... but I do have my quiet moments planned.

:)

Have a great Thursday, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!

**


Menu Monday ~ Holy Week

Easter egg pink sunrise

Wasn't this morning's sunrise just lovely? It was in our neck of the woods, anyway. We call this "Easter Egg Pink."

:)

Our Holy Week Dinner Menus

Monday, March 25th (Holy Monday)

bbq beef biscuit cups, corn, tater tots

*leftovers instead - using up food from the weekend*

Tuesday, March 26th (Holy Tuesday)

homemade calzones, salads

Wednesday, March 27th (Spy Wednesday)

silver dollar pancakes, roasted kielbasa/potatoes/vegetables

Thursday, March 28th (Holy or "Green" Thursday)

spinach salad, roast beef & radish subs, lime sorbet

Friday, March 29th (Good Friday)

*hot cross buns in the morning*

baked potatoes, soup

Saturday, March 30th (Holy Saturday)

leftovers/takeout

Sunday, March 31st (Easter Sunday)

Easter Dinner!

(separate post tomorrow)

*

(You may have noticed I'm not listing desserts this week - aside from Holy Thursday - because we're keeping things simple in preparation for Easter feasting.)

So this is the last "Menu Monday" for a while, my friends ... next week I'll put up a "Masterpiece Monday" so we can chat about the first episode of the new season of Call the Midwife!

Have a great day, everyone ... thanks so much for stopping by!

**


Menu Monday ~ updated with recipe links!

Good Morning, everyone! I hope you all had a nice weekend ...

Nest2

A bit pressed for time this morning, so without further ado, here are my dinner menus for the week ahead: 

Monday, March 18th

parmesan turkey cutlets, rice pilaf, sauteed spinach

leftover shamrock cookies

Tuesday, March 19th (St. Joseph's Day, Papal Inauguration)

sloppy joe empanadas, corn, salad

brownies w/dulce de leche ice cream

Wednesday, March 20th (Vernal Equinox)

pasta primavera, popovers

lemon souffle w/strawberry sauce

Thursday, March 21st

homemade pizzas, simple salads

fruit compote w/gingersnaps

Friday, March 22nd

spicy shrimp wraps

tropical fruit smoothies

Saturday, March 23rd

leftovers/takeout

Sunday, March 24th (Palm Sunday)

roast, potatoes, asparagus, herb bread

Palm Sunday Cake

*

Before I go, a quick "programming" note ~ posting might be slow for a bit because I'm feeling very slow myself these days! I am 30 weeks pregnant today ... though honestly, it feels more like 30 months! Lol. Not so much in time - which seems to be flying - more in physicality! Goodness, I forgot what 7 months pregnant feels like! Also, may I ask for your prayers? I'm having an ekg tomorrow and although I am sure (as is my midwife) that all is well, I'm still a bit nervous. Just hoping the rest of the pregnancy is smooth sailing for the wee babe and me!

Have a wonderful week, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon.

**


Menu Monday

Good morning, my friends!

Nest1

Well, I hope you all weathered the time change, and that your week's off to a great start. Anyone else having Downton withdrawals? Counting the Sundays till the Midwives return? Anyone catch last night's Once Upon a Time? What an ending!

Anyhoo ... here are my menus for this week. Tonight's meal may be tweaked, as I have a couple of sickies in the house - nothing severe, just moderate head colds - and that usually requires a simpler supper. But doesn't the Spanish chicken roast sound yummy?

 

Monday March 11th

Spanish chicken and potato roast, soft breadsticks

sorbet/ice cream and raspberry sauce

Tuesday, March 12th

takeout pizza (friend coming for supper*)

*postponed from last Friday due to storm

chocolate chip pan cookies

Wednesday, March 13th

baked ziti, turkey meatballs, garlic bread

winter fruit salad

Thursday, March 14th (National Pi Day)

beef pot pie, rice pilaf, roasted asparagus

pumpkin pie with whipped cream diagrams :)

Friday, March 15th

grilled cheese/carmelized onion panini, shamrock soup, tater tots

black and white banana cake

Saturday, March 16th

refrigerator smorgasbord - aka leftovers!

Sunday, March 17th (St. Patrick's Day)

slowcooker corned beef and cabbage, buttermilk mashed potatoes, maple glazed carrots, Irish brown bread

apple-blackberry crumble

*

 How are your menus shaping us this week? Are you trying anything new? Planning a little Pi Day or St. Patrick's Day fun?

(p.s. Speaking of St. Patrick's Day, here's a link to the Gooseberry Patch's "Luck o' the Irish" Pinterest page. Lots of neat ideas over there!)

Have a great day, everyone ... see you here again sometime soon!

**


Menu Monday (& CJ's Mexican Feast!)

Good morning, my friends! Today I'll be posting our weekly dinner menus, but I first wanted to share pictures from Crackerjack's Spanish class presentation. His group is focusing on "Las Posadas," that wonderful Mexican Advent celebration, and his duty was to bring in some special fiesta foods.

So here he is this morning (all sleepy-eyed and cowlicky, lol) holding a platter of freshly made "corn masa cakes."

Fiesta jack 1

A closer look at those cakes:

Fiesta 3

Yum!

And here they are in the griddle:

Fiesta 1

The recipe can be found here. Very quick and easy to make - we used frozen corn but these would be so fantastic made with fresh corn in the summer ... ooh, and garden fresh salsa! (Fyi, I found the masa harina at Whole Foods in the ethnic foods aisle.)

CJ is also bringing homemade pineapple salsa to serve with the cakes:

Fiesta 2

He's not a fan of tomato-based salsa, and his presentation is taking place early in the day, so we opted for this sweet fruity blend. This is especially delicious with baked cinnamon-sugar tortilla chips - something we like to make on the feast of OL Guadalupe. :)

And finally, a Virgin sangria punch:

Fiesta 4

A simple blend of grape, apple, lemon and orange juices with lots of fresh, sliced fruit. (Wouldn't this be nice on the Assumption, with ripe summer berries?) Bill helped CJ assemble this (as well as the salsa) last night so the flavors would have time to "steep." CJ and I made the corn cakes at six this morning!

*

 Now, about that dinner menu plan for this week ...

Monday, March 4th

chicken parmesan with angel hair pasta, roasted asparagus, rolls

TJ's peanut butter cookies

Tuesday, March 5th

taco baked potatoes (seasoned ground turkey & veggies, usual toppings)

leftover "sangria punch" popsicles

Wednesday, March 6th

grilled ham & cheddar panini, butternut squash soup, steak fries

oatmeal-apricot cookies

Thursday, March 7th

baked ziti, crusty bread, roasted Italian veggies

lemon/berry sorbet

Friday, March 8th

(the boys have a friend coming to supper)

takeout pizza & garden salad

chocolate-chip pan cookies

Saturday, March 9th

refrigerator smorgasbord - aka leftovers

Sunday, March 10th (Laetare or "Rose" Sunday)

slowcooker pork roast with sweet potatoes and onions, brown bread

maple egg custards with whipped cream

*

This looks to be a pretty busy week with several evening activities planned, so I kept the menus fairly simple. :)

What are you serving your family this week? Are you trying anything new? Where do you get your recipes - from friends, family, books, tv, magazines, online? I guess I get my recipes from all over - but boy, are they disorganized! I spent a good deal of time this weekend weeding out old piles of clipped and collected recipes - mostly from magazines, some photocopies and printouts. I love to cook and I love to try new (especially seasonal) foods, but I'm truly in need of a better system!

Well, I hope you all have a nice Monday ... and thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in my day!

See you here again very soon ...

**


Menu Monday

Happy Monday, my friends! And "cheers" to a brand new week!

Menu tab 1

Since "Masterpice Mondays" will be on hold until 3/31 (when Call the Midwife returns) I thought, for a bit, we might talk "menu planning" on Mondays ...

So to start, here's my dinner menu plan for this week:

Monday, February 25th

meatloaf, roasted winter veg, buttermilk biscuits

pound cake with warmed fruit

Tuesday, February 26th

toasted meatball subs, steak fries, salad

Wednesday, February 27th

roasted chicken thighs, diced sweet poatoes, rice

carrot cupcakes with maple-cream cheese glaze

Thursday, February 28th

leftovers OR

baked ziti, parmesan broccoli, garlic bread

Friday, March 1st (St. David's Day)

leek & potato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches

daffodil cake

Saturday, March 2nd (Dr. Seuss)

spinach and ham quiche (green eggs & ham!), salad

letter cookies

Sunday, March 3rd

grilled chicken fajitas, Mexican potatoes

ice cream with "sangria" fruit sauce

***

Now I must confess, this all looks pretty good on paper. ;) And I really do enjoy making up menu plans - going by what's in season and any special days on the calendar - but it almost never works out quite the way I designed. Some days I just scrap the plan and we eat homemade pizzas or leftovers or whatever else seems easy enough to get on the table. Then the chicken or beef goes in the freezer for another day ...

But I find it always helps to have a plan, and I try to get my plan worked out the Thursday before the weekend so I can purchase any necessary ingredients during my Saturday shop. Having a plan and the ingredients on hand is half the battle - making time (and finding energy) each day the for actual dinner prep is the next hurdle!

So what are you serving your family this week? Do you try to go by a plan or do you like to wing it? Please leave a comment below if you have thoughts to share and the time to share them!

:)

Have a great Monday, my friends!


Thinking ahead to Next Week ...

So on Thursdays I start actively planning out the next week ... I grab the new week's folder from my file crate, sit down with my calendar and then set about filling in the blanks ...

File planning

First I determine days & events "of note" ...

For the week of Monday, February 11th - Sunday, February 17th:

11Our Lady of Lourdes

12 - Abraham Lincoln's birthday

12 - Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras

13 - Ash Wednesday/LENT begins

14 - St. Valentine's Day

I also think about things that will need to be done/remembered and begin my "to do" list. I look at how busy our week will be - the balance of how often we'll be out and how much we'll be home. This helps me decide which days can handle more "to-do's" and which days will require a simpler supper.

Next I plan out our dinner menus, again keeping an eye on the calendar - is someone out one evening and/or is there something special to celebrate?

I then look over the master notes for this week in the year, and sort through the new folder to see what I've saved - recipes, crafts, invitations, etc. Then I decide what seems appealing/do-able this year.

The coming week is particularly rich with seasonal and liturgical events - so there are a LOT of plans listed here - but we only ever do what we can comfortably fit into our week. (And what I, as "ringmaster," feel up to.)

:)

Our Lady of Lourdes: a coloring page (from this book) - with EB, finish up Bernadette: Our Lady's Little Servant - with CJ, who will also research the sacred grotto, discuss plans to make our own backyard shrine, supper: crockpot French onion soup + small roast beef-baguette sandwiches + French apple dessert. After supper we'll watch a documentary on Lourdes (available on Netflix, instant play).

Lincoln's birthday: morning math: make penny rubbings with EB (review coins/money), bring out Lincoln Logs, lunch: rolled wrap sandwiches and jelly rolls ("Lincoln Logs"), read this book and fiddle with "log cabin" supplies (peanut butter, graham crackers and pretzels), watch Abraham Lincoln: Inspiring Heroes (middle boys) after lunch, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets after supper (older boys)

Shrove Tuesday: make Mardi Gras masks (paper plates, feathers/markers/craft sticks), supper: pancakes w/syrup and whipped cream, roasted kielbasa/homefries, fruit salad & a sparkly king's cake, bury our alleluia ...

Alleluia

Ash Wednesday - attend early Mass and receive ashes, back home set up Lent corner which will look much like this, plan meatless meals for the season (check back on this post), supper: cheese raviolis and simple salad, organize Lent/Easter book basket

St. Valentine's Day - earlier in week hang Valentines flag and decorate windows with red & white doiley hearts, wake boys with a pot of hot chocolate & freshly baked chocolate-chip banana bread, read about the real Saint Valentine, for supper: garlic baked chicken, rice pilaf, soy-butter asparagus and raspberry cobbler cupcakes, watch Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown with the kids after supper - and after EB goes to bed (he absolutely loathes Charlie Brown, lol)

***

So those are the plans for next week, and we'll see how well we fit them in. Some weeks we do a lot and some weeks not so much - but it's always nice to have plans, because ... there's always next year! And that's part of the comfort and joy of the year's seasons. :)

Well my friends, as I wrap up this post, it's the "calm before the storm" as the saying goes, as a "blizzard of epic proportions" is heading our way. Seems hard to believe since it's been such a quiet, sunny day ... but we've made our preparations as best we can ... and now we just sit and wait and watch for the snow to start falling ...

(I'm sure I'll have snow pictures to share at some point this weekend!) 

I hope wherever you are, you have a lovely evening and a good day tomorrow. Thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!

**


Organizing the Nest Survey, Part 2: Food for the Family

 

He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Nest2

First of all, I cannot thank you all enough for all your survey responses so far!! I have so enjoyed reading through your opinions and ideas about keeping track of all the things that need doing for our families. I'm excited to share the rest of the survey series with you all - this is going to be such fun!

Allrighty then! Today I'd like to talk about managing your family's food, so here are three questions for you:

1. Where do you plan out your family meals?

2. Where do you compose your grocery list?

3. Where do you keep your recipes?

***

If you have thoughts to share, please leave a comment below, and remember - with each comment your name will be entered in the giveaway (which is described here). If you'd rather not be entered in the contest, please let me know in your comment.

Also, to comment on - and/or read comments on - previous topics in this series, please click on the following the links:

1. to-do lists (daily and someday)

***

Well my friends, I hope you all have a lovely weekend ... Mine will be a quiet one for sure, as I've been put on "moderate" bed rest to quiet these Braxton-Hicks contractions! Apparently, the more babies you have, the sooner you can feel these harmless, but rather uncomfortable, contractions. I also got very dehydrated and that's probably what kicked them off. But rest assured - I saw the midwife yesterday and all is absolutely fine with the baby - I just need to take it easy for a couple of days. :)

See you all again very soon!

**


Weekly Bits of Domestic Bliss

VH nest 1
Of Note

Winter Solstice (21st), Fourth Sunday in Advent (23rd)

Nature:

Alas, it's looking more and more like a green Christmas. After a chilly, rainy start the week, we may see some flurries over week's end.

The Solstice brings the shortest day of the year. We'll make time to watch (and record) the sunrise and sunset. We'll also make some homemade nutty-fruity treats for the birds & squirrels.

Housekeeping:

Finalize Christmas Eve/Day menus.

Order ham.

Major fridge clean-out.

Party food/libations shopping over weekend. 

Last batch of Christmas cards mailed out.

Write out checklist for pre-Christmas cleaning.

Organize Christmas outfits.

Christmas Baking later this week!

Last minute online orders.

Dinner Menus:

M - baked ziti, leftover meatballs (from EB's party), salad, toasted rolls

T - squash soup & grilled cheese/turkey panini (leftover deli from EB's party)

W - grilled chicken tenders, rice, roasted vegetables (leftovers make great wraps for lunch the next day)

T - homemade pizzas, tossed salads

F - Solstice Supper: beef cottage pie, solstice bread, spiced cider, lemon "sun" cake

S - *leftovers a la Daddy*

S - turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn muffins, cranberry sauce

Dear Baby ...

(17 Weeks)

You are a very active baby, my little one! I'm feeling lots of movement every day - little pops and twirls. Daddy and I were watching a documentary on The Beatles and you seemed particularly rambunctious! So much so that Daddy could feel you from the outside!

Mama has some labwork this week and we're praying everything is OK.

Learning Themes:

The Winter Solstice

"Animals of Christmas" continued - donkeys!

Excited About ~ Working On:

Watching Christmas specials with the kids, when it gets dark in the mid-afternoons. I love it when the house is lit only by Christmas lights.

Beginning my Winter Journal ... brainstorming homey, cozy thoughts for January and February. :)

Choosing/organizing a new 2013 calendar.

Making time for a Christmas "Tuesday Tea" this week, whether it's Tuesday or not.

Miscellaneous:

My heart is so heavy this morning, so full of sorrow over the tragedy in Sandy Hook. Praying for those dear little souls, such beautiful children ... I can think no further on it, nothing makes sense and it's all too terrible to process. Just feeling very protective of my own children and praying for all those involved, especially the families of those lost.

Angel ornament

Well my friends, I hope your week's going well ... thanks so much for stopping by today. I know we're all busy, especially as we enter this last week before Christmas, so posting will be slow for me ... but please know I am always thinking of you all and keeping you in my prayers.

And have yourselves a merry little Monday ...

 **


Weekly Bits of Domestic Bliss

VH nest 1
Of Note

Mum's birthday (26th), Cyber Monday (26th), A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC (28th), Full Beaver Moon (28th), Feast of St. Andrew, Patron of Scotland (30th), B&N Educator Discount Day (1st), First Sunday in Advent (2nd)

Nature:

Quite chilly, in the 40s - mostly sunny. Flurries on Tuesday.

Beautiful bittersweet vines growing alongside the river out back.

Make plans (themes/practical considertations) for winter nature walks.

Watch for the full moon Wednesday night.

Housekeeping:

Put up Christmas decorations.

Do outdoor lights/decorations.

Begin online Christmas orders.

Organize boys' holiday outfits, haircuts.

Dinner Menus:

M - pesto pasta, crescent rolls (boys' fave), leftover meatballs

T - meatball/tortellini soup, garlic rolls

W - pulled chicken salad wraps, leftover soup

T - taco potatoes (ground turkey), fiesta salads

F - homemade pizza night, raw veggies/dip

S - *takeout*

S - pork roast, potatoes & squash, apple-cheddar muffins

Desserts: Scottish shortbread, oatmeal-fruit cookies, peppermint-brownie sundaes (Sunday Sundaes)

Dear Baby ...

(14 Weeks)

I felt you move for the first time on Thanksgiving morning! Oh my, what a wonderful feeling!

Feeling much less nausea these days! Just a little when I take my prenatal vitamin and sometimes around suppertime.

Keeping to home as much as possible - a quiet schedule helps my energy level!

Earlybird has noticed Mama's belly, but when he asked "What's wrong with your belly?" and I answered, "Well, it's getting kind of big, isn't it?" he simply shrugged and said, "Yeah, wow!" Nothing else, lol.

Learning Themes:

Waiting for Winter

"Animals of Christmas"

Work on using nice language - how we speak matters.

Christmas "food shopping" lists with EB.

Excited About ~ Working On:

A simple, peaceful Advent ~ reducing noise and clutter, both visual and auditory.

Bill set up "Classical Christmas" music for me on my phone - I park it on the kitchen counter with little speakers ... soothing background music for this time of year.

Miscellaneous:

Bring home the tree this weekend!

Address/stamp Christmas cards.

Watch Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas (on loan from library).

Brainstorm "teacher gifts" with the boys.

 ***

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start! I apologize I am so behind on comment replies ... I will be catching up over the next few days. (I always seem to think I have much more time (and energy) than I actually do!) I truly appreciate the time and thought you put into your messages. :)

Well, have yourselves a good day ... I will see you here again very soon!


Weekly Bits of Domestic Bliss

VH turkey bounty

Of Note

Thanksgiving Day (22nd), Black Friday (23rd), Small Business Saturday (24th), The Feast of Christ the King (25th), Stir Up Sunday (25th)

Nature:

A beautiful week is forecast! Sunny skies and milder temps - around 50 degrees which is very nice for New England at this time of year. I really love these days ... the weak sun hovers low in a milky sky ... there's more gray and brown, but that only makes the small bits of autumn color stand out all the more - the deep russet, auburn and gold. Beautiful!

Get a small potted evergreen tree for the deck.

Keep the feeders filled - start our "winter guest book."

Housekeeping:

Bake apple crisp.

Prepare cranberry-orange relish, artichoke dip and celery dish.

Assess outdoor holiday decorations.

A quick last-minute shop before Thanksgiving.

Order fruitcake ingredients and supplies.

Arrange autumnal flowers in vases.

Have artist-son make a Thanksgiving card for our pastor.

Dinner Menus:

M - baked ziti, leftover chicken, rolls

T - beef fajita wraps with Spanish rice (prepared)

W - homemade pizzas, salad

T - Thanksgiving Dinner!

F - roasted turkey kielbasa & mixed autumn veggies, cornbread

S - *leftovers night*

S - slowcooker soup (veggie) & meat/cheese calzones

Desserts: caramel apple cider, crockpot bread pudding, golden crown cupcakes

Dear Baby ...

13 Weeks today!

According to my books, you are the size of my closed fist this week!

Learning Themes:

Families

Working Together

Excited About ~ Working On:

Seeing our loved ones on Thanksgiving Day!

Thinking about loved ones who can't be with us this year.

Writing out my "Advent Joy" newsletter.

A crown craft for Sunday's feast day.

Miscellaneous:

Though I don't like to rush Christmas, it's practical to urge the boys to get their Lists together around this time. Sometimes they hope for a special item that must be ordered in advance or even be hunted down. :)

This year I'm going to make fruitcakes! I'm researching recipes and ingredients ...

Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with the boys.

Buy "Batman toys" for the 7 yr-old boys whose "angel tag" we chose from the Giving Tree.

Pay library late fees with "food for fines."

***

Good afternoon, everyone ~ I hope you're all having a nice Monday! How does your week look so far? Are you busy with holiday preparations or travel? Are you ready for the hustle and bustle to begin?

Well, wherever these days take you - far from home or close to the hearth - I wish you all a happy, healthy and heartwarming week!

And thanks as always for stopping by ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Crockpot Chicken - Al Fresco!

Crockpot al fresco

Thanks to some great advice from Jen, we are using our crockpot again!

As I've mentioned before (probably more times than necessary), I just cannot stand the smell of cooking right now - particularly meats, veggies and anything breaded or fried. Ugh.

But November nights are perfect for a nice slowcooked supper, and of course half the joy of using your crockpot is how wonderful your house smells as the food cooks! (The other half is how incredibly easy it is to prepare a meal in this way - throw everything in, turn the pot on and you are pretty much done!)

Anyhoo, Jen suggested moving the crockpot outside, and doesn't that make all kinds of sense? :) Jen does this to escape the heat (she lives in Key West, after all), but it would also keep all that "cooking smell" out of the house!

So here we have it, seen above - our trusty crockpot, parked on the deck, just in front of the grill, industriously stewing away ...

Dinner will be ready at 5:30 p.m.

:)

Although, I wonder if the cool outside temperature - high 40s today - will affect the cooking time at all? Any thoughts?

For the record, this is the recipe I'm using - I made it over the summer and it was a HUGE hit with my family. This time I had Bill do the skillet work while I got the peppers and spices ready. This dish makes a lot, and is wonderful served over linguine ... and with crusty garlic bread AND a glass of white wine IF you're not pregnant. ;)

***

More on the domestic front, we moved around our family room today! And by "we" I mean, Bill and Bookworm moved around our family room, while I sat on my duff and made "helpful" comments. ;)

Family room redo 1

Friends, family and longtime readers will remember our couch was facing away from the windows and the tv was in the opposite corner. But I like this arrangement a lot. It opens up the old TV corner for something else and makes a few cozy zones in an otherwise large-ish room. Plus, "my corner" of the sectional is now directly beneath a birdfeeder window and that will be so nice this winter. :)

***

Also, in between attending Mass, setting up the crockpot and moving around the family room, I taught CCD today. (Fyi: teaching 4th grade religious ed. is like herding cats on a bicycle - goodness me, how exhausting!) Anyways, we learned all about Advent this week - and boy did it get me excited! (The kids too, I think.) I am having a lot of fun brainstorming my ideas for this Advent season ... it begins just two weeks from today!

***

Well my friends ... I hope your weekend's been lovely. Have you seen any good movies? Are you watching anything fun on TV tonight? We'll be watching Once Upon a Time of course while recording Oprah's Favorite Things from 8-10 and Boardwalk Empire after that. The trick will be finding the time to watch all this good stuff later this week- and staying awake late enough, too!

That said, I'm off now to nap so I can keep alert for OUaT tonight!

Have a great night, my friends ... see you again very soon!



Weekly Bits of Domestic Bliss

VH nest 1

Of Note

National Indian Pudding Day (13th), America Recycles Day (15th), Boston Archdioscese Pastoral Plan Announcement (15th), Waldorf School Holiday Fair (17th), Homemade Bread Day (17th), Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Patron Saint of Bakers (17th), Giving Tree up at Church (18th), Oprah's Favorite Things (18th)

Nature:

Fairly seasonal: milder to start, a showery Tuesday, then sunshine and cooler temps for the balance of the week.

Rake leaves, continue yard cleanup.

Winterize container garden.

Get nuts and suet for feeders.

Construct brush pile "shelter" for winter birds & critters.

Housekeeping:

Launder bedding ~ change over to flannels.

Sort through winter gear (coats/hats/gloves/boots) and see what needs replacing/donating.

Order Christmas cards and stamps.

Get ingredients for Thanksgiving baking (Whole Foods).

Add Christmas Planning Sheets to Homekeeping Binder.

Dinner Menus:

M - grilled ham/cheese panini & butternut squash soup

T - meatloaf, acorn squash, roasted potatoes, rolls

W - baked ziti & meat(loaf) balls, salad, bread

T - chicken stir fry, rice/wraps

F - takeout

S - leftovers -->calzones/pizzas, veggies/dip

S - crockpot chicken cacciatore, crusty bread

Desserts: oatmeal cookies, fruit turnovers, mulled applesauce

Dear Baby ...

12 Weeks today!

Nausea may be letting up a little, while tiredness is kicking up a notch.

Learning Themes:

Hibernation

Expressing Gratitude

Excited About ~ Working On:

Emma Bridgewater Pottery, especially this adorable mug. :)

Red squirrel mug

Re-reading The Hobbit with Crackerjack.

New project plan: Potting Shed Makeover (Spring 2013)

Miscellaneous:

Thinking about getting a freezer (again/still) because, A. we have space for it downstairs, and, B. with a new baby due next spring, cooking ahead sounds very practical.

Close friends have come down with whooping cough ~ praying for their recovery and cautiously watching my own kids for symptoms. (So far, all clear.)

Must arrange a flu shot with the OB. (Have never had one before, but feel it might be important this year.)

Signing up Crackerjack for the Children's Christmas Choir.

***

Well, Good Monday morning, my friends!

I thought I'd try posting a weekly version of my daily housekeeping blog. I just have no hope of keeping up with the daily entries at this time, but I thought a weekly post might be do-able. So here's the first one!

I hope your week gets off to a great start ... golden sun and mild air here today - you should hear those birds chirping so sweetly!

Thanks so much for stopping by ... see you here again very soon!



Stressed over Dinner?

KG crying woman

So here's a headline that caught my eye in the Boston Globe today:

What's for Dinner, Mom?

"It sounds like the most benign question, doesn’t it? But figuring out what the heck to make, day in and day out, that will satisfy all those at the table—the carnivores, the vegetarians, the pasta-tarians, —is an enormous stressor for many mothers. If you want to really make mom happy this Sunday, forget the flowers and agree to eat something other than chicken fingers—without complaining."

*

So dear readers, I'm curious ...

Are you stressed over the whole dinner thing?

And if so, what about it stresses you out?

About a week ago I started another little blog - Daily Bits of Domestic Bliss - in an effort to keep track of my everyday housekeeping tasks. I'm really having fun with it, and I do find it helpful - it serves as a nice reminder and record - but I have to admit, about a day after I started it I had myself a little panic:

Gah, the pressure! My menus are open for public scrutiny!

But so far I think it's been good - this pressure - because it's given me a little nudge to be a bit more creative with our family diet. And goodness knows I needed it!

Because I'm a busy mom, "creative meal planning" can often get pushed aside for other more pressing domestic matters ... things like hygiene, sanity and good sleep. I'm also a creature of habit, which means it's very easy for me to fall into a comfortable rut ... and find myself making pizzas, pasta, burgers and grilled cheese pretty much night after night.

Sure my kids love all that easy stuff, but I want to expose them to a wider varety of foods. I'd like them to enjoy more vegetables and protein choices beyond hot dogs and chicken nuggets. I really want them to appreciate the value of a homemade meal. And I love making meals that please my husband, who works hard all day and truly savors satisfying food at the end of that long day. And by "satisfying" I mean food that fuels both body and soul. It's healthy and balanced - it smells and tastes good - and best of all, it makes us all feel good ... maybe even great!

It's human nature, isn't it? This desire to eat not just for survival, but pleasure? To enjoy what we eat, and how we eat it?

So now that I'm "reporting in" - not only to myself, but my readers as well - I feel all the more motivated to create a week of balanced, nutritious, satsfying meals. I don't want anyone to think I have always been so creative or accomplished in the culinary arts! (Oh my gosh, hardly.) I'm pretty much making this up as I go along.

Of course, not everyone has a blog where they can kick their dinner-planning into gear, but how about teaming up with a friend, or a few friends with whom you can share dinner ideas and support? Get together to exchange recipes and menu plans, etc. Set up email prompts and reminders ... that could be fun!

Or how about posting your menu plan on the fridge and getting the family involved? If you've got it all figured out - they can answer their own question (that inevitable, everyday question) simply by taking a look at the plan. Or if you're stumped for dinner ideas ... put up the empty menu planner and ask for suggestions. Maybe assign each family member their own night to plan (and/or prepare)?

I'm all for finding ways to make dinner less stressful because really, dinner should be a good thing in the shared life of a family. It's not fair if one person's doing all the work, especially if she's also harboring all the stress. 

I mean, I'm a full-time mom, so I do handle most of the dinner details myself. I do ask for help though ... I ask for input and ideas. I ask for time (quiet and space) with which to work on my menus, clip my coupons and write out my lists. That may seem silly, but honestly, if I don't seek out that time and tell everyone I'm "working" I don't get it done. I also ask Bill to handle some of the meals (i.e. pizzas or any that involve grilling) and I ask the boys to help with the prep when I need them. And I always ask that those who did not cook, help with the cleanup. I love that time of day when I sit down, maybe with a glass of wine, and watch the table get cleared, the leftovers get put away and the dishwasher get started. That's a really nice "wrap" to my day.

:)

So my final question for you all, because I'm curious and can really use the inspiration:

What are THREE dinners you make for your family?

They can be old favorites or new, whatever you'd like ... and if you have a recipe to share, I'd love that too! (And if I use it on my blog, I'll give credit to you.)

So for now I'm working on what we eat ... soon I'll turn a thoughtful eye on how we eat. As in ~ involving the kids, setting the family table, creating a certain environment and the ritual of dinner itself. More on all that in a bit.

Well, thank you all for stopping by and considering my rambles and questions. Until next time, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll be back again very soon!



It's a Hit ~ Chicken Caesar Kabobs!

Chicken caesar kabobs 2

If you follow my homekeeping blog, then you know we had Chicken Caesar Kabobs tonight for supper. :) This is a new meal for us, but the recipe sounded so good - and so different! - I just had to try it. And I'm so glad I did - it was unbelievably delicious!

Basically, the kabobs are meatballs made with ground chicken - as well as Ceasar dressing, panko bread crumbs and lemon zest - then grilled! I mixed up the meat and formed the kabobs - Bill sparked up the grill and handled the cooking. We served them on fresh hearts of romaine lettuce with an extra drizzle of dressing and a wedge of garlic toast ...

And there are no leftovers, my friends.

:)

If you like Caesar salad, you will LOVE this dish. The meatballs are incredibly moist and I love that they're grilled. Who knew you could grill meatballs, lol?

We really enjoyed this dish (obviously!) and I think it would be a great summer meal, so I wanted to share. And by the way, I found this recipe at the Taste and Tell blog - which I LOVE. Those rainbow blondie bars I made at Easter (and for the bake sale)? I found them there. And I'm quite eager to try my hand at these Strawberry Colada Cupcakes. I think they'd be perfect for Mother's Day.

Well, folks, I hope you all have a great weekend, and as always, thanks for stopping by. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you again very soon!



Feast Day Food & Fun!

Good morning, my friends! Here are a few pictures from our St. George's Day celebration ...

Saint george's day 4

In the early afternoon I baked up some carrot-wheat muffins ... and once they were cool, I topped them with a light cream-cheese glaze.

The very top muffin was emblazened with the Cross of St George:

Saint george's day 3

But hark ... what was lurking below?

Saint george's day 6

The dragon!

(Such an ugly old thing, isn't he?)

So after a "fish and chips" lunch, we read our favorite feast day book, drew our own dragons (Crackerjack did a whole scene from the story), and went on a quest to find every dragon toy we had in the house. We also enjoyed a little English snack - the aforementioned muffins and milk (a proper cup of tea for me). Before we ate, Crackerjack was "knighted" with the honor of playing St. George ... and he handily slew (i.e. ate) the old dragon.

As for the rest of our supper, we had ...

Saint george's day 1

Cottage Pie*

* Which is something like shepherd's pie, only topped with sliced potatoes instead of mashed. This recipe calls for dark beer, ground beef, rustic veggies, and a handful of thyme. I'm not 100% sure it's a traditional English dish, but I do know it's delicious as I've made it before!)

Roasted Asparagus*

* With a few drizzles of olive oil and shakes of parmesan cheese. I could eat asparagus every day in the Spring when it's so fresh and tender.

Rhubarb Crisp*

* Now, I was going to try making a Rhubarb "Fool" as that truly is a traditional English dessert - and it would have tied in nicely with Shakespeare's birthday - but Bill can't have dairy and much prefers a crisp anyway. This particular recipe has apples and rhubarb which is delicious and a bit different.

Parsley-Swiss-Romano Bread*

* We get this wonderful bread from a favorite local farm shop. It's delicious split, buttered and toasted.

**

So it was a very nice feast day, I must say! Combining all the very best things: fun, food, faith and family. Another memorable day to file away in our hearts.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, everyone! I will see you here again very soon!



Easter Sunday, 2012 ~ A Recap

 Hello, everyone ... and a Happy Easter to you!

I hope you all had a nice weekend, and a lovely holiday, as well. I thought you all might like to see some pictures from our Sunday?

(Now first ... please let me "warn" you ... this is an awfully long post. I know it might be a little "tmi" for some folks, but please keep in mind, I use this blog as a big family scrapbook and many years from now I'll be glad I captured every last detail!)

So ... away we go!

Well, Earlybird was up SUPER early (as usual) so we let him look through his basket provided he leave his brothers alone. Bill and I enjoyed our (strong) coffee while EB dove into his goodies ...

Easter 2012 34

The Easter Bunny always brings EB a few candies he can have - natural/organic jelly beans and "safe" chocolate bunnies - but mostly special books and toys. Like a ruler of his own, a turtle bath sponge, a Lego to build, and brand spankin' new crayons. Thankfully, he never seems to miss all those extra candies his brothers get in their baskets. :)

Finally, around 6:30 we allowed EB to wake up his brothers ... and I just had to share this picture - fuzzy and dark thought it is - because it cracks me up! Two tousled bedheads, squinty eyes, folded arms ... a general air about them of, "Huh?"

Easter 2012 32

EB, ever the master of ceremonies, was quite happy to welcome the boys to their baskets ...

Easter 2012 2

The older boys also get candies from the Easter Bunny (of a more traditional sort) as well as a couple of magazines, a new sketchbook and maybe a Wii game.

Archie just sat back and observed ...

Easter 2012 33

... most likely making mental notes for later.

And so the day began ...

Now, my mum and I started planning this dinner (this day) many weeks ago. And regular readers of my blog know this because I've talked about it quite a bit! We were expecting a party of 23 people in all, so that takes a lot of organization - particularly when it comes to food preparation and seating arrangements.

We'd be nowhere without our various lists ...

Easter 2012 31

As much as I love the holidays - Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas - I almost love the "lead up" even more. Because I love the anticipation and I have such fun working with my mum putting this all together. I especially love how, as Mum and I work, I glean all these great tips and hints. Like how to care for Gram's silver, and what pans work best for what foods ... bits of information I know my mum gleaned from my gram. And I feel this is a way we keep her with us as we go along. ❤

So, in getting creative with seating, we transformed the learning room into a table for four:

Easter 2012 40

Setting up a small table as a sideboard:

Easter 2012 37

The dining room table can be expanded to eight, but we squeezed 10 chairs around it:

Easter 2012 38

We set this table with some of my mum's "Blue Danube" china and two of my "English Countryside" plates. We also combined silverware sets ... but all the linen napkins once belonged to my grandmother.

And, finally, we had a table for six set up in the family room:

Easter 2012 39

So where did that leave the other two guests? Why, that would be Bookworm and Crackerjack - who kindly agreed to sit up at the kitchen island all on their own.

Now, for a few lots more pictures from the dinner party itself ...

Easter 2012 4

I know this punch looks like nothing special - indeed, the lighting is terrible in my "cocktail bar" (aka the china cupboard on any other day). But I promise you, it was delicious! It was quite a hit, and though the picture does not show it, the shade was the prettiest peachy-pink. It looked just like an Easter morning sunrise. :)

The punch recipe (which I found online) consisted of strawberries, pink lemonade, cold black tea and ginger ale ... and they tell me it was fantastic with a splash of coconut rum. ;)

(Added to my party notes for future gatherings ... a punch ladle!)

Here are two of my smiley guys ... Crackerjack and my brother, Matt.

Easter 2012 5

And my lovely cousins, Kate and Kara with their handsome gentleman friends, Paul and Manuel.

Easter 2012 6

(How time has flown ... I used to babysit these girls!)

It's hard to tell from this picture, but the two couples are playing table-top soccer. We moved the foozball table up from the playroom and onto the deck for the day. Here's a great big party/small house trick ... lure the guests outside, lol!

Here's my CJ setting up "lawn bowling" for the younger kids ...

Easter 2012 7

We even had two little doggies attend our Easter party!

Easter 2012 8

These pretty pups are "Lily" and "Sophie," who belong to my cousin Colin and his wife, Tina, who were on from New York. Though Archie and Oliver were "sequestered" for the day (in the older boys' bedroom), the dogs were kept outside in our fenced-in backyard. The house was already chaotic enough!

So, I have to show you this neat little thing ...

Easter 2012 9

I saw this idea in a magazine ... you (meaning, Bill, who did this for me) simply cut a small purple cabbage in such a way it will hold a thick dip (in this case, spinach) and then arrange your fresh veggies all around it. Isn't it so springy?

Here's part of our Easter party ...

Easter 2012 10

(From left to right): Kate and Paul, Uncle Karl, Grandma Barbara (Bill's mom), Bookworm, Kara, Auntie Marcia and Manuel.

And here's a few more ...

Easter 2012 12

(L to R): My sweet sister-in-law Ami and her boyfriend, Eric, Bill's dad (aka Grandpa Bill) and finally, my Bill. :)

So we served cocktails and appetizers at 1:30 ... and in addition to the veggies and dip, there was artichoke dip with French bread, devlilled eggs (made by Bill's mom), assorted cheeses with crackers, grapes and apples ... and cheese straws and breadsticks served with pesto.

Dinner was ready about an hour later ... 

Easter 2012 11

I use our L-shaped kitchen island for serving, "buffet style" at most of our gatherings. It's central and convenient as most of our house is open from room-to-room.

Our Easter Dinner Menu, 2012:

baked "honey" ham

roast turkey breast

potatoes au gratin

broccoli casserole

antipasto salad*

Annie's macaroni and cheese* - EB's one request, lol!

baked beans*

roasted spring vegetables

cranberry sauce

assorted mustards

Uncle Karl's Irish soda bread

assorted dinner rolls

(I put an * beside the things I made/prepared myself - everything else was contributed by somebody other than me.)

Here I am with my mum, who was keeping EB company while he "chilled" on the couch.

Easter 2012 13

(EB's not always one for the dinner table. Not for long, anyways, lol.)

And here we have the "dining room" party, which included my dad in the bottom center, then, going counterclockwise: my (little) brother Matt, my cousin Caitlin, and my cousin Colin and his wife, Tina, as well as their two (adorable) little boys, Connor and Finn.

Easter 2012 14

Oh my goodness, I have to show you this sweet little boy ... Finn is my first cousin's son, so I'm not sure if that makes him my second cousin (once removed)?

Easter 2012 30

Whatever it makes him, he's such a dear little boy ...  and yes, the baby-lust was surging strong. ;)

So after a brief intermission, in which I had lots of help putting away the leftover food - I set Bill about making coffee, and we got desserts out on the buffet ...

Our Easter Sunday Desserts, 2012:

Auntie Marcia's butterscotch pudding

(served with whipped cream)

cream cheese-frosted vanilla "bird nest" cupcakes*

Guinness Cake*

rhubarb grunt*

Easter blondies*

assorted cookies and candies

freshly brewed coffee

(same * rules apply)

A few shots of the dessert buffet ...

Easter 2012 17

Easter 2012 119

Easter 2012 19

Easter 2012 21

Easter 2012 20

After desserts there was an Easter egg hunt in the front yard!

Easter 2012 22

Caitlin and Colin with Connor.

Easter 2012 23

Crackerjack, Earlybird and Connor.

Easter 2012 24

Dad and Auntie Marcia.

(As you can see, there's a lot of height in my family ... it just skipped me and my mum, lol.)

Easter 2012 25

Earlybird, giving the thumbs up!

Easter 2012 1

My three "Boston Boys" ...

Easter 2012 27

... spending a special day with their "New York Cousins."

:)

Easter 2012 28

So by sunset, the party was over and our guests had gone home ... the flowers had drooped and the flames had burned low ... another Easter Sunday was over ...

But a whole Easter season just begun!

Alleluia! 

In my heart, this is what Easter is all about: celebrating the LIFE and the LOVE with which we have been so richly blessed, and all the amazing things we get to enjoy simply because God is so GOOD ...

I thank Him for every year we're together.

Well, my friends, I hope you have enjoyed this rather lengthy "peek" at our family's Easter celebration, and I thank you for sharing in our joy. I had such fun telling you all about it!

"A joy shared is a joy doubled." ~ Unknown

So have a good night, everyone ... I will see you again very soon!


Friday Lunch Break

Rice ball

Well, today was our last "Fishstick Friday" until next year ... next Friday (Good Friday) we'll have a simple soup and crackers for lunch. So the boys had their fishsticks and I had a spinach and goat cheese rice ball (shown above). I've never had a rice ball before - it was quite tasty, and very filling! I got it at the wonderful Italian market Mum and I shopped at this morning. (Papa came over to "supervise" the boys while we ran a few Easter errands.) We ordered the ham *and* turkey, and purchased special candies from the "special candy store" (which have since been stashed away). At the aforementioned market I also bought some nice things for this Sunday's (Palm Sunday's) breakfast: fresh asparagus and new potatoes, a lovely ricotta/ham pie and some pretty glazed pastries (taralli, I think they are called?).

Now we're home again, and the boys have finished their lessons - and lunch! - and the rest of the day stretches before us filled with bright sunshine and promise. I've got lots on my to-do list so I'd best get along with the to-doing.

Hope your day's going well, everyone ... see you here again later on!

:)


Weekly Specials

Fishstick Friday

Today's Menu

Breakfast: Cold cereal, toast.

Lunch: Fishsticks, applesauce, tater tots.

(Snack: Sugar cookies & water at Book Group)

Supper: Potato-leek soup, grilled cheese panini, sliced fruit with biscuits and cream.

*

Well, Book Group was very nice today! It's a small group this year, but the kids are all avid readers so the discussion is always quite enthusiastic and insightful. This month we read The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois. What a fun book! It was written in 1947, and the story is set in the late 1800s when hot-air balloons were "all the rage." It's a clever and fantastical tale, and I especially enjoyed the illustrations (which were done by the author himself). Of course this book selection also plays nicely into our current "air" study, as well as the boys' ongoing fascination with all things "steampunk." :)

So we're home again now, in from the cold and the wet. I've got a little time before I need to tidy up and start supper, so here I am puttering online. The soup, by the way, is a new recipe for me (found on the back of the Knorr packet). I can't say as though I've ever had leek soup before, but I do remember my Gram used to make a wonderful leek dip with that Knorr mix ...

Well, I'd best be off, but before I go, I'd like to thank you for stopping by and spending a little of your time here with me. I'd also like to wish you all a safe and happy weekend ...

See you here again very soon!



Sunday Evening Chit-Chat

(A little bit of this and that.)

Just popping on quickly to remind you that I'll be hosting "Masterpiece Monday" here tomorrow, so if you'd like to join us, be sure to tune in to "The Old Curiosity Shop" tonight and then come on back in the morning to chat.

:)

Also, while I'm here (and before supper comes out of the oven), I wanted to talk briefly about next week. There's lots coming up!

KGdaffodilFirst off, we have Leap Year on Wednesday, which is always kind of neat. (For the record, this is a very cute movie - and the scenery is gorgeous!)

Then March comes in (perhaps like a lion?) on Thursday.

Thursday also brings the Feast of St. David of Wales. We always mark this day with special food and dragon stories. (A red dragon is the symbol of Wales.)

Friday is Dr. Seuss Day (also known as Read Across America Day), and if we could, we'd go see The Lorax, but instead (and in true spirit of the day) we'll read the book. What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? I'd have to choose Green Eggs and Ham - it happens to be the first book I ever read!

And speaking of green eggs and ham, I'd like to make a spinach and ham quiche for Friday (aka green eggs and ham!) but as it's Friday (and Fridays are meatless for us during Lent) I'll probably serve that dish on Thursday instead. Then I'll switch the leek-and-potato soup (for St. David's Day) to Friday. That will taste nice with grilled cheese. :)

*

Other baking plans this week include making refrigerator bran muffins and homemade pretzels. Crafting plans include working on those Lenten banners I mentioned in this post, and we'll make the first panel of our "stained glass" doorway cross. (One panel for each Sunday through Easter.)

Learning plans include reading this book for Book Group on Friday (my turn to lead!) and kicking off a four-month, four-elements study ...

March = air

April = water

May = earth

June = fire

We'll explore the way the elements affect our everyday life, the world around us and even how they are part of our Faith. I'm really looking forward to it. :)

*

Oh, and one more quick thing! One of our Lenten goals this year is to spend more of our family time doing things together other than just watching TV. So last night we sat around the table and played a really wonderful game, Around the World: The Ultimate Global Board Game. It was so fun and quite educational! Some of the questions were ridiculously easy but they only illustrated the point that information we take for granted other people might not know as readily. Certainly we were stumped on many questions that focused on lands and cultures unfamiliar to us ... it was a great eye-opening exercise!

*

Well, now I will wrap up and bid you all a good night. I hope you've had a nice weekend and feel ready to start a new week! I'll see you all again soon ... and remember, if you watch Masterpiece Theater tonight, do stop by sometime tomorrow - I'll do my best to have the chat post up as early as possible.

Thanks for stopping by, my friends ... Good Night, and God Bless!