Meal Plan Monday: Week 1 of a Returning Challenge

Meal Plan Monday


Please Don't Heat Up the Kitchen New Recipe Challenge

It’s that time of year again.  We need a respite from the summer’s heat.  So, I bring you Week 1 of the returning Please Don’t Heat Up the Kitchen New Recipe Challenge (more to come on the challenge Wednesday for We Plan Wednesday).

This week, my focus is two sources.  The first is another one of the Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications (abbreviated below as BH&G SIP) Make and Take.  The other is a wonderful website that does the cost breakdown for recipes, Budget Bytes.

So, what’s up for this week?  Why, this, of course!

Saturday:  cookout with hot dogs and s’mores in the fire pit (Muffin has been dying to try s’mores)

Sunday:  grilled smoked sausage with peppers and onions

Monday:  Finger Lickin’ Barbecue Chicken (BH&G SIP Make and Take), beans, coleslaw

Tuesday:  Slow Cooker Rosemary Garlic Beef Stew (Budget Bytes), bread

Wednesday:  at my sister’s

Thursday:  at my sister’s

Friday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Saturday:  Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken (The Recipe Critic), rice, peas/beans

Sunday:  Asian-Style Barbecue Ribs (BH&G SIP Make and Take), fried rice, green veg (Father’s Day eats!)

What’s on your meal plan this week?  Oh, and if you have any recipes that need to make the list for the challenge, please let me know by dropping me a comment or two!  Thanks!  🙂

Summary Sunday: 100 Followers and Counting! (And Date Night)

Summary Sunday

Wow!  It’s been an explosive week!  At the end of the work day Friday, that is all I could say.  There was, of course, the exploding potato last Saturday (although I guess that counts as a last week sorta thing…although it sure was a portent of things to come).

I knew that it was going to be a long week.  I had two days jam packed with after work meetings.  Monday morning began with a bang, literally, though…my carpool buddy’s back passenger tire hit something (thus the “bang”) and went flat.  I realize now that my education has been sadly lacking.  I literally have NO IDEA how to fix a flat…or put the doughnut tire on.

Tuesday was the first meeting afternoon followed by Wednesday.  I feel on those days as if I barely have the time or the energy to give to Muffin that he needs from me.  Only his snuggles sustained me (and the fact that supper was pretty much prepared each day).

Thursday I felt more like Muffin’s mama; I felt that I was on the end-of-the-week slide into sanity.  And then Friday resulted in an explosion in one of my classes.

All in all, very explosive.

Saturday I got in some much-needed family time, including even a semi-successful DATE NIGHT (the first of the year).  After two false and non-starts, we caught up on some of our shows that had downloaded and made Bounty truffles (that’s what I’m going to call them because they wouldn’t dip well as bars).

I think it was after the craziness of the week that I noticed in my e-mail that I now have 100 followers!  Yay to all my wonderful readers who put up with my random musings about food, motherhood, and randomness!  Thank you for putting up with me!

How did your week go?  Hopefully, it was not as explosive as mine!

Datus Nightus Interruptus: Muffin’s Spaceship!

Earlier this evening when Josh and I sat down to enjoy the Mama and Dada part of date night, Muffin didn’t seem to appreciate that concept.  He kept wanting to interrupt, playing games on the tablet with his own onomatopoeia sound effects, wanting popcorn, wanting a drink, having to go potty…you get the idea.

And then…he came to ask if he could build a spaceship.  He’s been watching Star Wars lately and playing the LEGO Star Wars (free) game on his iPOD.  When we told him he could, but that he had to build it in his room, he quickly came back out to show us what he had built.

At the time, it would have been after 10 P.M. Ontario time, but he wanted us to call Grandma (Josh’s mom) immediately so that she could see it.  He also wanted me to come and snuggle, something that has become a nightly ritual this week.

I decided right then and there that 1) I would photograph his spaceship during “snuggle time” for posterity (really–it’s the biggest one that he’s built to date) and 2) I would take the picture and post it on here so that grandma, his aunts, and anyone else reading the blog could see it.

So, here goes:

Date Night Log: “Another” Movie Night and a Movie Treat

Date Night Log

Date Night Log:  Saturday, March 15, 2014

Catching Fire and Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars

From the beginning of the week on, it appeared that my plans for date night (bowling with 2 L bottles) was going to be subverted for something else.  Let me first preface this by saying:  I teach English and reading (in addition to social studies!) and have for nine years.  And I have not read any of the Hunger Games trilogy.  My husband, who doesn’t usually read fiction (but reads a lot of techie stuff and nonfiction), devoured all three books of the trilogy in less than a two-week span prior to the first movie coming out (on DVD).  So, when the first movie came out, we watched it.  He had already tried to get me to read the books, had in fact left them downloaded on the tablet, reminding me that I needed to read them.  They are on my TBR (to be read) list; they just aren’t at the top.

Dystopian literature bugs me.  It makes me angry.  It makes the the Libra in me who requires justice and balance to rail in horror and disgust.  When I read literature, for fun, dystopian literature is not my first choice.

Catching Fire came out recently.  I was trying to break the string of movie night date nights (although we do have a lot of movies that we have collected over the years that beg watching) and decided that, if we are going to watch a movie for date night, just as we did last week, we are going to make a snack to go with it.

On the meal plan for this week (to be posted Monday), I am making a slow cooker honey garlic chicken recipe that I found on the Six Sisters’ Stuff blog.  And just as I seem to need a time sink, I continued to look at all of the recipes in their recipe index.  I know.  But I consider it meal plan research.  And I did A LOT of research yesterday.  Fifty-one pages worth.

In doing that research, I found the weekly snack to make since we sped through the racks of Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies.  Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars.  And they are just like we used to have in the cafeteria before “everyone” became allergic to peanuts and peanut butter.  And they used ingredients I already had.  Bonus!

Therefore, when I finally dug my head out of the sand and realized that we were going to have ANOTHER movie night date night, I figured this would be a great snack to have.  And they were.

The recipe says that the recipe serves 30, but I cut them into 72 brownie-size bars.  They are very rich, so I think I can probably only eat half of one in a sitting.  I used my half-sheet pan that we had picked up at the restaurant supply store in Baton Rouge.  Pioneer Woman has proclaimed them indispensable in the kitchen, and I have to agree.  With the frosting, it makes a PAN FULL!

A few things to note:  when making these the next time (and there WILL BE a next time), I will melt the cup and a half of peanut butter in the microwave before spreading it on the hot bars.  I think that will make it easier to spread (and result in less tearing of the bars).  Also, I might double or 1 and 1/2 times the frosting.  If you click the link above, you can find the recipe (the Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars link) as well as several other recipes to drool over.  Anybody who has several slow cooker recipes and lots of buffalo chicken recipes gets my vote for great recipes.

Here’s how the snack looked:

I also refrigerated these overnight (this is shortly after I put the frosting on so it was still very liquidy) and brought some to my mom who was very excited when I said I was going to make these.  She remembers them from the cafeteria where she used to teach (at the school, not the cafeteria).  To me, they tasted spot-on, but she was concerned about the use of oatmeal; she didn’t remember an oatmeal texture.  I did use quick oats where the recipe called for not quick oats, but they still turned out just fine.

And then came time to watch the movie:

This is a movie that proves that movie night doesn’t work if you haven’t seen the movie before.  Since Josh had read the books, I kept bugging him with “Is he going to live?  Is she going to live?  Who does Katniss end up with?  Why is that going on?”  It was not a relaxing experience for him, to say the least.

But we did enjoy the treats!

Muffin took one with him to bed with a Sun, in an attempt to (bribe him) keep him from interrupting date night.  This recipe is DEFINITELY Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

Date Night Log: A Date Night Surprise

Date Night Log


Date Night Log:  Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dinner, a Nearly Double Feature, and Dessert

So, date night was going to be making cookies and watching a movie.  Then, we went shopping to Sam’s and Kohl’s with my parents.  And Muffin’s nap started at 3:30.  By now, many people realize that means that Muffin is (pretty much) out for the night.  So, date night actually included dinner, movie, baking cookies, and watching a movie.

For dinner, I had what I will now call a Blue Rocket Burger.  Josh used his burger press to again grill beefy pork burgers (the beef-pork mixture makes for such a yummy patty).  He also grilled asparagus and sausage that we had purchased from Sam’s that he plans to use in his lunches this week.

The Blue Rocket Burger, asparagus, sausage, and potato salad (purchased on sale at Albertson’s).

Anyway, I call it a Blue Rocket burger because it has blue cheese on it as well as Arugula (purchased on produce markdown at Brookshire’s for 99 cents and also called rocket).

After dinner, Josh crushed the corn flakes for Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies (the Joanne Fluke/Hannah Swensen mystery series/Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder recipe).

He put on Naked Gun on Netflix that we watched while I baked the cookies.  I made them smaller this time, so they made a lot.  I think the next time I make them, I will roll them out in balls and freeze half to bake again later.

I put a few on a plate for us to share.  We attempted to watch Robin Hood:  Men in Tights, as well, but we fell asleep partway through (plus, Muffin woke up after that one began, so it turned out to be not a date part of date night).

The date night dessert

Yes, Daisy joined us for date night.

Date night was fairly successful.  Lesson learned from this date night?  Take the opportunity where it finds you.  Like when Muffin is sleeping.

How has date night gone for you, lately?

Summary Sunday: What the LFam Did for Valentine’s Week

Summary SundaySunday:  We made blueberry pancakes with the blueberries from Fresh.  I spent much of the day updating the blog, reading blog posts, researching a future Tip Tuesday about picky eaters, reading to Muffin, snuggling with Muffin, cooking Muffin’s lunch, cooking chicken spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, and shredded chicken for tacos.  For lunch, I made Muffin a P lunch (all items were supposed to start with the letter P):  pizza, popcorn, pretties (fruit snacks–I was stumped, okay?), and pepperoni (actually some of the salami that we bought yesterday–and Muffin pointed out that it was salami).

I had something he wouldn’t eat (and Josh definitely wouldn’t):  some of the blue cheese crostini that I mentioned recently that my sister used to make.  I didn’t have red bell pepper, but I had tomato that I put with the green bell pepper and chunks of blue cheese.  P.S.  I found out that Muffin does not like blue cheese (like his dad).  I will post the recipe soon. I served it with a few shaved slices of the salami.  I may have eaten that entire plate.  (guilty shifting of eyes)

I laid down with Muffin for a nap after lunch (which was a struggle).  After sleeping for an hour or so (sometimes the best way to get Muffin to nap is to fall asleep yourself), I returned to the kitchen to work on my prep for meals this week.  Muffin came out while I was chopping carrots to add to the soup (impromptu surprise decision after boiling the noodles for the chicken spaghetti in the broth from the chicken and still scratching my head about Monday’s dinner since Saturday’s didn’t go as planned, and we were supposed to have Saturday’s leftovers on Monday).  I had pulled out an extra carrot knowing that if he woke up in time he would want some and he did.  In the midst of all of this, we did laundry.  After Josh got home, we ate dinner (chicken spaghetti, salad, baguette slices with special dipping blend, and grapes for Muffin) and then relaxed for a bit.

My plate.

Dipping oil: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, freshly ground pepper, Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Seasoning

Thinly sliced baguette on the bias. This was the last of it, and Muffin loved it!

Muffin’s plate: after he devoured the grapes and two of the pieces of bread but before he had the broccoli added to his plate. He also had pieces of diced tomato.

I also made Josh’s lunch (ham and swiss sub sandwich with honey mustard, lettuce, and tomato; bbq potato chips; a few small pieces of chocolate; broccoli and cauliflower pieces with ranch dressing to dip; an apple; and a granola bar) and my lunch (chicken spaghetti, a blood orange, a lollipop, a can of pop, and a fork).   Muffin took a bubble bath in my tub, brushed his teeth, and went to bed.

Monday:  Today threatened inclement weather.  Muffin fell asleep on the way home, so he missed the promised chicken noodle soup (with carrots, his fave!).  Josh and I ate the soup with cheese and crackers rather than sandwiches.  I worked on some work for the blog as well as some work for work.  I had brought home extra work for work because I figured that we would be out tomorrow because of bad weather (we were under winter weather advisory, after all).

Tuesday:  Well, the bad weather didn’t happen.  The students were actually pretty decent, though.  The weather that had been threatening for three weeks finally hit as we were getting out of school that day and continued the rest of the day (causing me to skid onto our street and then into the driveway).  We ate leftover chicken spaghetti and chicken noodle soup (Rene finally got to eat the soup, and he loved it).  This was actually a very “organic” meal in the sense that the planning was very fluid (we kept adding things)…grapes…chips…other stuff.  Shortly after arriving home, I found out school was canceled for tomorrow, so that was very much a plus.

Wednesday:  I awoke at 5:30 (thank you Muffin) on the day school was canceled.  I enjoyed most the fact that we were off today because I had planned tacos for today, so I could really focus on making a nifty taco seasoning based off of Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19 recipe.  Josh hung out a bit this morning as the roads were icy and he was unable to leave the house for work.  He did some work on his van, did some online courses and training for work until the roads had melted a bit (and reopened).  Muffin played trains a lot and was very particular in requesting certain Thomas movies.  I went outside to record the ice for posterity and discovered that Angel had sneaked out while Josh was throwing things away in the trash can.

As you can see, she was a bit peeved at being left out in the cold and wet.

Yes, that is a real picture of the real Angel.  Gotta love her!  She spent some time mouse hunting in the garage.  After a bit, Muffin had gotten kinda cranky, so we both took a bit of a nap.  🙂

I spent much of the afternoon listening to the KPod on the KiddNation website.  Then, I cruised YouTube for a bit looking at old Kidd Kraddick in the Morning vids.  And sobbing.  His death is one of those that just seems so surreal, as if it couldn’t possibly happen.  You know, when you have a nightmare and wake up and a few days later you can’t remember if what you dreamed was a dream or reality (I’ve stopped for the most part asking the people involved in the dream if events actually happened.  I just kinda wait it out and see if they mention stuff.  Is that normal?).  And I cracked up laughing as I listened to J-Si’s segment on the show today discussing “The Reality of Parenting.” (July 12, 2014).  I was one of “those people,” and Muffin has pretty much cured me of it.  We are also oh-for-ten.  (You’ll understand if you listen to it)

While I was slicing and dicing for the toppings for tacos for supper, Muffin became the official sniffer and taster of olives.  Lately, he’s had a marked preference for black olives.  He “taste-tested” at least five black olives and four green olives.  We had chicken tacos, and just as Alton Brown makes the beef tacos, I diced up an onion and sauteed it before adding the chicken and then the seasoning.  (I will be posting the seasoning recipe in an upcoming post–my adaptation of it, at least.)  Taco seasoning is another thing (like the chicken spaghetti) that I can’t make the same way twice.

Thursday:  Muffin got in truh-bull this afternoon.  Mom and Dad said he had been good all day, but he had gotten into the dry erase markers shortly before I arrived there and had colored on the carpet and a blanket (that he folded to keep from anyone finding it).  Graffiti seems to be his M.O., and it’s the one thing that makes me see red (even when he’s used green…or yellow…or brown).  I’m stuck as to a solution.  I’ve even thought of canceling my plans for the evening (Josh and Muffin were going to have a “man’s night,” while I played bunco–something I’ve never done–with my besties from college) to try to make sure that he does behave.  I arrived home late but happy because I got to spend time with my two besties from college (whom I hardly ever get to see).

Answers to Corner Gas Trivia Questions:  1.1 1)  the Ruby 2) Lacey takes the hot dogs off the menu. 3) Jaws

1.2 1) in a cabinet in the garage 2) Marvin Dray (the tax man) tells her to write Karen and Davis’s coffee off as a business expense 3) television

1.3 1) they think he (Pilate) killed Jesus 2) they are told that they are wearing girls’ shirts 3) because Wanda already started a Pilates class (mat class)

1.4 1) Tanner rigged it so that a bird pooped on Hank and it looked a lot like squeeze mayo 2) die-cast metal cars 3) Lacey says that she likes it when men take care of kids

1.5 1) it was supposed to be Grad ’86 and it was one of Brent’s goals to do so 2) he stopped traffic near the tower 3) she held his legs so he could spray the paint

1.6 1) Fitzy’s grandma, Helen Jensen 2) headcheese 3) Quincy

1.7 1) bowling 2) lawyer 3) broken taillight

1.8 1) a watch 2) Stubby Heidelberg 3) Sheckle and Jekyl (and Hyde)

1.9 1) Lacey–insulting the size of Brent’s and Davis’s phones 2) to play with the claw machine 3) mistype of the question:  It should have read “What did Lacey find out caused the rats and what did she do about it?” answer:  the old barn–she had it declared a historical landmark

1.10 1) Life of Pi 2) the comic makes fun of Dog River and cheers Wullerton 3) Wullerton

1.11 1) Karen slept with Hank 2) Oscar 3) Brent

1.12 1) Xanadu 2) goalie 3) hammer

1.13 1) cow 2) bracelet 3) belt

Friday:  Today was Valentine’s Day, and, as the work day progressed, I struggled to keep on my “happy face” for the fun events ahead.  Friday was really not a good day at work, ’nuff said.  So, I arrived home with Muffin (more than) a bit grumpy.  He had received a new “Charlie” (by the Pioneer Woman about her basset hound Charlie) book, candy, and a card from Granny and Granddaddy.  Muffin loves the Charlie books, as he calls them.  This one was about Charlie starting a school for the other animals on the ranch.  Did I mention Muffin also didn’t have a nap and that we have another new front coming through?  Although today was beautiful and the mercury kissed 70 degrees, one has to remember Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday when ice was falling/on the ground.  Gotta love Louisiana weather!  So mix cranky and crabby Mama and no-nap Muffin with a front coming in (which my dad says is a lot of reason for some of his misbehavior) and you have a near apocalypse in the making.

It didn’t quite help that I wasn’t able to get the strawberries on Wednesday (the weather), wash them Wednesday evening, lay them out for Thursday morning, and dip Thursday night.  Josh had washed the strawberries Friday morning, and I gotten home on time with no time glitches, I might have had them dipped in chocolate for dessert with the pizzas tonight.  That didn’t happen.  Due to a circumstance that happened during the day at work, I was late leaving work.  Then, it was a struggle to get Muffin to leave Granny’s and Granddaddy’s.  Then, nothing went right from that moment on (or at least it seemed so…I’m sure you know how that happens).  All of my “perfect” Valentine’s Day plans started to slide into oblivion.

I know I should have prepared the cards and the gifts before yesterday afternoon.  Muffin had received a card (with Spongebob stickers…I hear my sister laughing hysterically as she reads this…yes, I’ve given up), a Spongebob marshmallow pop (You can stop laughing now, you know–although it was fun to watch Spongebob disappear into Muffin’s tummy), candy that I bought on clearance at CVS (Starburst, Hershey’s drops, Simply Caramel Milky Way, and Orbit gum), some of the candy bars (World’s Finest Chocolate) that we are selling as a fundraiser at school (I made a special order with one of my former students), his safety scissors, a glue stick, and an Octonauts toy.  (I got Josh some Canadian beer that I purchased at Fresh by Brookshires that he liked when he had tried some from Central Market and some of the same candies as Muffin, as well).  Josh got me flowers and an all-milk Whitman’s sampler assortment.  (This is in addition to the fire pit that we bought each other.  If you read about the date night where we called 911, I’m sure you realized what a necessity this is.)

After prepping the presents and cards, I figured that we would make dinner next because otherwise Muffin wouldn’t eat.  I had Josh mix up the biscuit dough using Jiffy biscuit mix while I prepped the presents.  Even using parchment and flouring the parchment and the surface, it stuck to the parchment so that it could not be used as pizza dough to cut out the heart-shaped pizzas.  So, there was another setback while Josh and Muffin went to Brookshire’s and bought canned pizza dough (which I detest, but I couldn’t think of another option to make heart-shaped pizza at this point).  While they were gone, I used my new canape cutter that Mom got me at Christmas to cut out heart-shaped pepperpronies (as Muffin says it) and ham slices to top the pizzas (so there would be red and pink on the pizzas), so the time wasn’t totally lost while they were gone.  I also discovered that, once they came home, canned pizza dough doesn’t reroll well and tears easily (and it really doesn’t respond well to a heart-shaped cookie cutter).  Some of the heart shapes looked kind of mutant-y.

While the pizzas were cooking, we decided to open the cards and gifts (BIG mistake).  Muffin wanted to eat his Spongebob pop right away, and wanted to cut and glue stuff right away.  That didn’t go so well because we refused to let him until after dinner.  The pizzas tasted okay, by the way.

Muffin trying to get the stickers from his card.

Instead of the strawberries for dessert, Josh and I had ice cream sundaes while Muffin had his Spongebob marshmallow pop (and announced the parts of Spongebob that he had eaten).  I should note that this pop was one of the few things he specifically requested for Valentine’s Day (the other being the scissors–safety, of course).  He kept remembering it and re-mentioning it.  I managed to buy the last one Wal-Mart had the other day.

Muffin and Josh made me a valentine so that I would feel better!

After dessert, Muffin took a bath, and Josh helped me dip the strawberries.  I’ve decided that I probably shouldn’t use Target Market Pantry chocolate chips for dipping the strawberries because they don’t work so well (I’m not sure they are completely real chocolate).  I think they are chocolate frosting hardened into chips because that’s what happened when they melted.  I decided to decorate some of them with red sprinkles.  I usually just straight-up dip them.  Halfway cost comparison:  2 pounds of strawberries ($4 at Albertson’s) and chocolate chips (milk chocolate, bought on sale for $2 and purchased at Target–never again–for just under $2), roughly $8 total.  There really isn’t that much labor involved.  By comparison, 6 strawberries at Kroger were $8, and at Albertson’s they were $10 for 6.  Yes, the Albertson’s ones were decorated, but still $10 for 6?  Even if you bought higher quality chocolate, you are looking at $9-$10 for the whole batch of 30-40 or so.  And, if you had purchased just one strawberry from Godiva (yes, I’ve indulged), each berry is $6-10.  I’ll let you contemplate that one for a minute.  And dipping strawberries is fun…messy, but fun.  And, I like the smaller strawberries because the chocolate coating tends to stay on the strawberry after a bite (with larger strawberries, the chocolate tends to come off).  I think it’s time for a recipe!

I don’t know who took a bite out of the one in the lower left-hand corner! 😉

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

(good for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, New Year’s, Guy Fawke’s Day, Canada Day, etc.)

(Really, it’s the universal-occasion dessert)

2 pounds strawberries (washed, dried thoroughly, and room temperature), preferably strawberries that are “red” all the way through

2 bags chocolate chips (milk, white, dark, or semi-sweet, whichever you prefer)–don’t skimp on high-quality chips here–I learned my lesson Friday night!

sprinkles or other decorations (or, if you want to get really fancy, different chocolate chips or candy melts, melted and placed in a plastic bag with one corner removed, for drizzling on the finished berries–I’ve never done this because I prefer mine au naturel) (optional)

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for one minute in a pyrex measuring cup.  Stir with a wooden skewer after one minute.  Heat in ten-second increments, stirring with a wooden skewer each time, until the mixture is melted (Do not overcook the chips!  Bad, lumpy things will happen).

Once the chocolate is melted, remove and reserve the skewer.  Fluff up the strawberry leaves, and hold by the leaves to dunk and dip the strawberry in the chocolate.  In the beginning when the level of chocolate is high, I use an up and down method.  Once the level of the chocolate drops, I tend to almost roll it in the chocolate on its side.  I try to cover about 3/4 of the berry so that some of the red is still visible.  Place on a parchment or wax-paper-lined sheet pan or lipped cookie sheet (small enough to fit in your refrigerator).  This recipe took a sheet pan and a lipped cookie sheet (both) to hold all of the berries.  Repeat.  Once one sheet is full, decorate the berries (totally optional), and place the pan in the fridge for the chocolate to set.  Repeat as needed.

Note:  It is very important to make sure that the berries are completely dry (and room temperature) before dipping.  Any moisture (whether water from washing them or condensation from them being cold in a room-temperature kitchen) will cause the chocolate to seize and get lumpy and grainy.  That is definitely not yummy.

After dipping and refrigerating the strawberries, Josh decided to have an impromptu date night by watching the second Bourne movie (Bourne Supremacy).  It helped to laugh at the big noses again (seriously, stop using the profile camera angle) as well as the indestructability (is that a word?) of a cab car.  Great movie, though.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of it.  And, watching it seemed to make the stress of the day fade away.

Saturday:  After Muffin woke us up this morning, I went shopping to Kroger and Wal-Mart.  I picked up a few post-Valentine’s freebies that I put to use (cupcake liners to line the egg carton I put the chocolate-covered strawberries in for Mom and Daddy), Valentine’s sprinkles (wish I had those last night when I was making the strawberries), another Spongebob marshmallow pop (for Muffin’s Easter basket), and plates for tonight.  When I returned home, we got ready to take the strawberries to Mom and Daddy (and Muffin had made them valentines!) and to go to Brookshire’s and the library.  At Brookshire’s Muffin again got his Customer-in-Training cart and helped us pick out apples and bananas.  Then, we went to the library where Muffin picked out the movie Planes and several other books.  I picked out a few cookbooks and cozy mysteries.  After we ate a lunch of mac-n-cheese-and-hot dogs and Muffin watched the movie, Muffin and I took a nap.

Then, came the preparation for date night.  Toward the end of Muffin’s nap, I set up the cheese and stuff tray on our wooden cutting board that our builder gave us at signing for building with them.  I still don’t know how I managed to get it all on the tray.  (Actually, I didn’t.  I had originally intended to include the strawberries and SweetTarts conversation hearts with it to decorate.  That so didn’t happen.

Read more about this in the date night recap!

This was more a Muffin-and-us date (so it’s a good thing that Josh had decided to do an impromptu date night.  Verdict:  We all ate until stuffed and drowsy.  Then, we sent Muffin to bed with his strawberries and tried to watch the movie.  I must have been drowsier than I thought because I didn’t last halfway through Bourne Ultimatum.  It was a good movie, but I was zonked!  Needless to say, I didn’t finish this post until just now because I was asleep! 😉

How did your week go?  Drop me a line below to let me know!

By the way, the cheese board and the strawberries were DEFINITELY Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

I Broke the Rules of Date Night…and Do the Actors in the Bourne Movies Have Huge Noses?

Date Night Log

Saturday I really wasn’t feeling date night.  Also, Josh was on call so that calls for flexible date night.  Shocker, I know.  After six hours in the car with Muffin and being lost for part of that time, I honestly wanted to just go to bed.  So, I gathered up stuff for a movie night.  Since I had chosen one of my favorites for movie night last time (the date to replace that will forever be known as “hot” date night, thanks to my BFF co-worker Sherry who came up with the positive spin on it after I told her about it this past week) My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I chose one of his movies.  The Bourne Identity.  Now, I’m not the biggest fan of action movies.  I am starting to have an appreciation for James Bond after Skyfall.  I’m also not the biggest Matt Damon fan.  But I decided to put on my big girl pants and watch it with Josh.  I had bought all three movies for him a couple of years ago when (for the Black-Thursday-and-Friday sale) Wal-Mart had them on sale like super cheap.  I’m usually in charge of “manning” the DVD area during that sale, but that’s another story.

He popped some popcorn and poured us some lemon-lime pop to share, and I gathered one of our Godiva candy bars that I had purchased from our last Dallas trip (on sale!):  the caramel-filled one.  The sad thing is (or the happy thing for us) is that even with the most expensive component of the date (the Godiva candy bar), all of the date together cost less than it would have had for one movie ticket on a Saturday night at the theater (much less a second ticket, candy, popcorn, and pop).  And we didn’t have to have my parents watch Muffin.  Or leave the house.  I couldn’t have dealt with leaving the house after the Texas excursion yesterday.

And…I liked it.  I know; I broke date night rules by watching a movie that I hadn’t watched before (and that Josh hadn’t watched in so long that he couldn’t remember what all happened and who lived and died).  But fairly early in the action of the movie when Jason Bourne is driving in the car with the woman he rides around with (Maria?), the characters are each in profile.  To which Josh says, “His nose is huge!”  Then, I know that her nose was large, too.  And that was it.  For the rest of the movie I looked at huge noses.  I honestly think it had something to do with the camera angles (and profile shots), but that will be what I remember from the movie.  The huge noses.

I will let you contemplate that truly disturbing thought.  My apologies to the cast of The Bourne Identity whom I’m sure don’t really have huge noses in real life.

We had a mini unplanned date night this morning when we made the pancakes and the bacon and ate said pancakes and bacon because Muffin slept in and didn’t wake up until breakfast was over.  (So technically this makes two dates this week!)

I am definitely looking forward to next week’s date night with the cheese tray and game night (the part Josh doesn’t know about yet…shhhh.)

How did your date nights go this week?

We Plan Wednesday: Valentine’s Day and Val Day Date Night

We Plan WednesdayMuffin is VERY excited about Valentine’s Day.  I think it’s because he halfway still expects for Christmas to come up soon, and he loved every aspect of Christmas (Yes, we still have our Christmas tree up; don’t judge.  My goal is March, but I have a feeling that since Josh is off tomorrow and I’m at work that the tree will be taken down in my absence.).  So, we kept telling him throughout January that Valentine’s Day was coming up.

I have already purchased him a Thomas book for Valentine’s Day as well as some candy.  I still need to find my sweet Muffin a card.

Josh’s Valentine’s Day is going to be a blended Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day (just as mine will be a blended Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day).   Of course, we are still going to give each other cards, and I have some small things planned, but the big gifts will be given out at an undisclosed time somewhere between the two events for each of us.  I did say that I wanted to go to Horseshoe for brunch on Saturday (the day when we will be doing most of our celebrating).

For Josh and me, the big deal about Valentine’s Day this year is Valentine’s Day date night (Saturday the 15th).  I am planning a cheese and wine/beer tasting with the cheese board and different kinds of cheeses and accompaniments (yummy meats, crackers, toasts, olives, dried fruit, and nuts).  We are having heart shaped pizzas for the main event itself, but Saturday is all about date night.  I will rig Muffin up a scaled-down version that resembles a ploughman’s Muffin’s lunchable (a kind of deluxe homemade lunchable using some of the food cutters that I got for Christmas from Mom) and send him on his way to bed.  I figure we will watch a movie while we much and sip our way through the rest of the evening (Josh and me).  My goal is something light and frothy (maybe The Killers with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigel).  Nothing new, nothing too heavy.

I would like to have four different cheeses (and different types/varieties) with four different sippers (wine or beer), pears, grapes, dried cranberries, crackers and those little cocktail mini toasts, and some nuts.  I also purchased a honey BBQ turkey breast lunch meat that I want to add to the plate.  As well as olives.

My goal is to go to Fresh by Brookshire’s in Tyler to pick out some neat cheese choices.  Barring that, I’m going to have to make do with a local grocery store.  I would really prefer a cheese counter with fairly exotic cheeses where I can get little sample bits of each (in case we hate the cheese) rather than the prepackaged options at most grocery stores for the “exotic” cheeses.

I will leave you with this adorable vintage Valentine.  I love the Google image search results with usage rights!

What are you planning for your “smoothie” Valentine?  Any special date night plans?  Let me know as you comment below!

Tip Tuesday: A Source for Date Night Ideas (and a List of Possible Date Night Ideas)

Tip TuesdayJosh and I have now (somewhat successfully) completed five dates.  So far, the New Year’s resolution is working.  Taking conscious effort to carve time for each other out of our busy weeks on Saturdays has made both of us more aware of each other and our relationship.  Somewhere along the way (in between work, Muffin, and bills), we started to lose sight of “us.”  Even if we suffer some mild aches and pains and minor property damage 🙂 , this has helped us to remember that we are an “us.”  I think, rather than detract from my job as Muffin’s mama, Saturday night date night has made me a better–calmer, more focused, and move loving–mama to Muffin.

So, the tip for today is have a date night.  They do not have to break the bank or even cause you to leave your property.  Leaving the house is not an option for our date nights, and I would feel guilty spending a lot of money on a date when I could be spending the money on Muffin (or something we all need or could enjoy).  A lot of date nights actually start out with Muffin present and continue after he falls asleep.

Here is a run-down of the date’s we’ve had (so far):

Date 1:  Comedy Night/Nostalgia Date (YouTube) and smartphone games

Date 2:  Spa Relaxation Date

Date 3:  Fire in Fire Pit (fail) and Movie Date

Date 4:  Planning the Garden Date

Date 5:  Fire Pit and Hot Dog Roast

Remember to always include snacks or other food items at your date night!


p>Here is a list of other possible date ideas (some of them we are actively planning):

  1.  Medieval Night (watching Robin Hood and eating a medieval-style dinner maybe a la Medieval Times)  This will probably be a summer or spring break date because of the amount of planning and preparation involved.

  2.  Cheese Tasting and Chocolate Tasting:  This is planned for Valentine’s Day Saturday–See We Plan Wednesday tomorrow for more information.

  3.  Puzzle and snacks

  4.  board game night

  5.  Wii game night

  6.  movie nights (possibly with a theme):  I know a lot of sites eschew this idea, but I think if it’s a movie you’ve both seen, you can discuss it throughout the movie.

  7.  cloud/star watching (depending on if it is Muffin naptime or after Muffin goes to bed in the evening)

  8.  Bistro in the Backyard:  snacks or dinner on the back porch

  9.  making a snack for the week and eating some of it during another date activity

  10.  planning something fun/vacation (The garden date counts as this) (planning dream trips and watching them go live on Google Earth)

  11.  cleaning, decorating, organizing something in the house we plan to get to “eventually”

  12.  catch up on TV shows or movies on Netflix and pretend to be critics (or share one’s favorite show with the other)

  13.  photo booth fun

  14.  watching a football game (or, for other people, another sporting event)

  15.  create a faux drive in in the backyard using the laptop on a table (and snuggling on a blanket or outdoor furniture–once we get new outdoor furniture)

  16.  picnic or camping in the living room

  17.  create a Halloween costume (I want us to dress up as a family for Halloween)

  18.  a talk-and-listen session

  19.  research fun things to do together in cities we visit

  20.  blind-fold taste testing

  21.  play in the rain (or sprinkler)

  22.  bowling with 2 liter pop bottles and a ball (I’ve gathered the 10 bottles necessary; I’m only waiting for the best time to do this date)

  23.  cartoons with cookies and milk in jammies (ones that we choose, not ones Rene chooses)

  24.  arty stuff/painting a portrait of our partner

  25.  eating like a kid

  26.  Monte Carlo night (casino style games)

  27.  Speakeasy night

  28.  frisbee or other outdoor sports

  29.  Mad Libs

  30.  fireworks (watching, planning, or doing our own)

  31.  learn how to do something new on YouTube

  32.  water balloon fight

  33.  washing the car (or van)

  34.  creating a scavenger hunt for Muffin

  35.  making s’mores

  36.  trivia

  37.  candlelight shadow puppets

  38.  mini staycation (Brent and Lacey style from Corner Gas.  Little known fact:  this Canadian sitcom actually coined the phrase staycation, and the term has become misused.  If you get a chance to see the episode “Mail Fraud,” watch it to see Brent’s staycation.  It’s hilarious!)

  39.  karaoke at home

  40.  watch the sunrise/sunset

  41.  build a carnival game for Muffin and play it (or play Carnival Games on the Wii)

  42.  play psychic with each other and tell each other’s fortunes

  43.  mini date with everything mini (food and activities)

  44.  play broom hockey (like hockey but with a broom and a ball)

  45.  make a movie together with props and a plot (this may take several dates)

  46.  make clay and make something creative with the clay

  47.  make homemade ice cream together

  48.  build a fort in the living room and watch TV episodes or a movie together (and leave it up for Muffin to play with the next day)

  49.  fondue party while watching “Brent and His Shadow”  (again Corner Gas)

  50.  make a fancy dinner in the kitchen

  51.  pick a culture and imitate it with food, clothes, activities, and music

  52.  build and decorate paper airplanes–have a contest to see which one can fly the farthest

  53.  play hide-and-seek

  54.  candlelight chocolate-making evening (have Josh help me make truffles!)

  55.  hunt for four leaf clovers in the backyard while eating Lucky Charms bars or Lucky Charms trail mix (that we make right before)

  56.  play I Spy

  57.  make a pizza together and eat it by candlelight with a nice glass of wine or beer

  58.  make duct tape artwork or crafts

  59.  make a date jar with some of these ideas and pull one out for the weekend ahead (I would make weather and season neutral dates for the jar)

  60.  stream of consciousness/spur of the moment/flip a coin date

  61.  find a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book (or 2) and take turns reading passages and deciding what choice to make

  62.  gift-wrapping in front of a movie with hot chocolate and snacks (afterward snuggling on the couch)

  63.  host a dominoes tourney over several date nights–keep a running tally for the month

  64.  start Christmas lists for the family early

  65.  read the Harry Potter books together

  66.  play hopscotch or play with sidewalk chalk

  67.  make a design/pattern with food or cereal

  68.  get letter food/games or word poetry kits (or create a word poetry kit) and see who can come up with different combinations

  69.  make a soda shoppe with the Soda Stream and see who can come up with the most delicious combination

  70.  book club (I will finally read Hunger Games)

  71.  play “What If?” or “Would You Rather?”

  72.  dates beginning with different letters of the alphabet (or ones that spell out our names)

  73.  Holding a taste testing of certain categories of foods (candy, ice cream, cookies)

  74.  making a coffee shop in the living room or kitchen (especially now that Josh received the iced coffee machine)

  75.  golf course themed date using Solo cups to make the holes

  76.  hotel-themed date

  77.  decorate your own cupcake date (like we had at the Westin Galleria Dallas)

  78.  Corner Gas-themed date night: watching our fave eps of Corner Gas—playing trivial pursuit (or answering CG trivia questions—we each write twenty), eating chili cheese dogs with dill pickle chips and Nanaimo-style Saskatchewan bars (drinking coffee drinks with the Nanaimo for dessert)–dress in green-and-white for the ‘Riders, Ruby-sized root beer

  79.  make caramel apples

  80.  find the movie Date Night and critique it

  81.  dollar store/dollar spot date night:  each person has $5 before taxes to spend on items in the dollar spot or dollar store.  After the items are chosen, plan a date around them.

  82.  Big Bang Theory Date: play Josh’s trivia game, make tangerine chicken (and have fortune cookies), watch eps of Big Bang Theory

  83.  Let’s Make Whoopie Date: watch a whoopi goldberg movie, make (and eat) whoopie pies

  84.  make milkshakes (and milkshake mustaches)

There are several sites that stress the importance of date night.  One that many people (including myself) recommend is the Dating Divas.

Now, get out there and plan your first (or next) date night!  If you’ve had one (or had an idea for one) that I’ve left out, please let me know about it below.

Summary Sunday: What Happened This Week

Summary SundayWelcome to Summary Sunday, where I wrap up what happens during the week (that get lost in the shuffle of the planned blog posts).

Monday:  Back to work we go!  I heated up the chicken enchiladas, and then spent quite a bit of dinner time arguing with Muffin about the green chilies in the chicken mixture.  He really does not like peppers.  It’s very frustrating when he doesn’t eat pepper, but he likes things like broccoli and kale chips.

Tuesday:  Muffin has been a really good boy at Granny and Granddaddy’s house.  He really liked the pizza sub sandwich, so that is a new Muffin approved meal.  I think I will save it for Fridays, though, from now on.  It’s more pizza-y than anything else.  Josh made plans to use some of the other rolls for subs for the week rather than buying lunch.

Wednesday:  We ended up making hot dogs, after all, due to very few leftovers being left (lunches for me and we ate more of the enchis than I had planned).  Muffin was very happy with the hot dogs.  Day 3 of no-nap Muffin, though.

Thursday:  Muffin LOVED the frito pie!  He even raved about it on Friday to Granny and Granddaddy.  He wasn’t such a good boy Thursday, though, at Granny and Granddaddy’s.  Mom said he didn’t mind (which is a major ongoing problem).

Friday:  Friday was a really tough day at work.  I had to sit down for almost an hour and a half after bus ramp duty for my blood pressure to drop (and I don’t suffer from high blood pressure).  The meal plan went out the window.  We went to Izzo’s and got burritos.  In a growing trend, this restaurant visit was disappointing.  When we had visited Izzo’s before, we had raved over the taste the roasted corn topping added to the burritos.  They were out of roasted corn that night.  When I asked Muffin (who had been an angel that day at Mom’s and Daddy’s…and had taken a two-hour nap–the only one this week) if he wanted a taco or a burrito, he said “I just want chips.  And salsa.”  He ate some of the burrito and chips and salsa (He confiscated the salsa, in fact.) and walked around on the banquette seating.  He likes places like Izzo’s because he gets to go help Dad fill drinks.  He stayed up late Friday but willingly took a bath and brushed his teeth.  He’s getting better about brushing his teeth.

Saturday:  Saturday morning started like all weekend mornings:  a contest between Josh and me of who could ask the other what he/she wanted for breakfast first.  We realized that the breakfast cupboards were looking kinda bare (since it was Saturday and shopping day), so we let ourselves be talked into going to Strawn’s en route to shopping.  Muffin was not a perfect angel at Strawn’s.  We had ordered him a Mickey Pancake and bacon.  A piece of pancake dropped on the floor, and he was inconsolable because he wanted THAT PIECE OF PANCAKE.  I was starting to get the horrible mommy stare from the other diners, including someone at the next booth that I think I attended elementary school, middle school, high school, and college with.  I didn’t acknowledge him (too embarrassed over Muffin’s behavior), and he didn’t acknowledge me (probably a good idea because I was practicing my Muffin-directed-mommy-stare, the equivalent of what my dad calls my mom’s “teacher voice.” I don’t have the voice, but I pretty much have “teacher and mommy stare” down pat).  I had to give Muffin my phone so that he could watch Elf.  We had accidentally left the iPOD at home.  Yes, we are those parents.  The ones who let their child play with their iPOD at restaurant tables.  I avoided ordering pie, although this morning they already had several pies ready.  I wouldn’t have been able to decide between strawberry, chocolate, or coconut, anyway.  After Strawn’s, we went to Albertson’s and Brookshire’s for the deals outlined in Cent Saving Saturday.  We chose not to do Kroger and Super 1 because our local Kroger does not have Muffin-friendly carts and we were only going to get two items and because Super 1 is so out of the way for us.  I ended up finding a ham at Brookshire’s, anyway, so I was happy.  Then, we went to library.  Muffin really likes the library.  He picked up Wall-E and four books.  He has watched Wall-E three times in the last 18 hours.   After we got back home and put the groceries away, Josh and Muffin cleaned the car and Josh’s work van while I worked on blog posts and research.  Then, it was time to get ready for dinner and date night.  Muffin put on his red Lightning McQueen boots and pretended to be a cowboy.  Muffin abandoned us after the fire got too smoky for the second viewing of Wall-E.  When I came in from the fire, he was almost asleep.

Josh snapped a shot of me roasting a hot dog at the fire pit during date night.

Muffin being a “yee haaa cowboy”

Daisy got in on the fun!

Josh had to employ lighter fluid to get the fire to start.

The fire pit.

Daisy inciting the dog behind us. The dark grass is part of what burned.

The smoky fire made us very uncomfy.


p>And today is Sunday.  We have a very busy day planned, so I better post this post and get going.  You will hear about today in the next summary.