Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Your Pins Tested! Slow Cooker Italian Chicken

As part of my new attempt at meal planning, I want to try a new recipe each week.  Last week, I mentioned this recipe from Pinterest and boy was it easy and delicious.  Perfect for any day of the week. 

(Check out last week's meal plan here)

I followed the recipe, and the only thing I substituted was the potatoes, and used what I had already so I didn't have to buy more.

What you'll need:
3-4 chicken breasts (or enough for your family)
2 cups Italian dressing (I used Ken's-says Gluten Free right on the bottle)
2 lbs potatoes
1 tbsp oregano (I don't measure; I just toss some in there)
Parmesan for when serving
salt and pepper


Friday, January 17, 2014

*I'm Blushing*

This month, I was honored with being nominated the Mom of the Month over at the Mommy Stories! 

The Mommy Stories is all about motherhood, from room decorating, to tips on bringing home a new baby, and stories from real moms.  My sister, Angela, runs it and started the Facebook group awhile back and it has grown to almost 1,000 members!  

Many thanks to the Mommy Stories members for this honor!

Here's my life as a mom (as taken from her post, with permission):


 Mom of the Month - Amanda McCarty!

Another year of Mom of the Month recognition, and we're starting it off in a great direction, featuring my very own younger sister, Amanda McCarty (or "Min," as I named her when I was 3 years old when she was born!).

I have a rule with the Mom of the Month nominations... I can't nominate anyone myself. It's just not fair - despite the zillions of months I WISH I could nominate on the Mommy Stories! So, when a couple of people asked me to feature my sister on the blog, I was ECSTATIC! She's an amazing person, hardest working mother I know. She does it all... cooks real meals, cleans nonstop, sews everything I ever have a hole in, has an incredible home business... and above all, finished her college degree despite some derailing in her life. PROUD is an understatement of how I feel about my sister.

So happy to feature her here for you. I know you will learn lots from her, most importantly how to be REAL and down-to-earth, enjoying the small mama moments of life. She's even provided you with some great recipes!

ENJOY! Congrats, Amanda! (OK, can't call you that... MIN!)

1. Describe your child in 3­-5 words.
Kind, smart, inquisitive, imaginative, adorable

2. When was your child born and where?
Atticus was born in Dover, NH in 2010, at the same hospital I was born. 

Baby #2 will be born in Glens Falls, NY in 2014.

3. How would you describe your pregnancies?
With Atticus, it was so easy. I waitressed at two restaurants up until 8 1⁄2 months and other than some back pain, it was an easy pregnancy. This time around, it’s easy again, but I am much more tired, being home with my 3 year old and running my small business from home.

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3­-5 words. 
Obsessed, crafty, DIY, rules­-based, in love.

5. What type of mom do you hope your child thinks you were someday when he's old enough to tell you?
I hope my son (and daughter when she is born/older) thinks of me as a mom who was there for them, no matter what. We are very open with his questions, even if they are awkward (like, “how did the baby get in the belly?” or “why don’t you have a penis?”) and I never want them to feel uncomfortable talking to me or my husband. I hope we are always as close as we are now. (He’s three, so I have a feeling he may get sick of me at some point!).

6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of?

I recently finished the degree I had started years ago, and had to put on hold when I had Atticus. It took many years, but I finally did it and I am very proud of that accomplishment. 
If I can do it, truly anyone can. Being a mom doesn’t mean you can’t be a student, however untraditional. 

I’m also really proud of little man my son is becoming. He is so loving, and considerate of others and most importantly, he has manners. I am so proud of the person he is, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.

7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom?
Probably having to spread myself very thin. I balance a lot of things in a day, and have done so even more recently as my husband has just began his military career and is gone a lot. 

Finding the balance between being me, Amanda, the person, the mom, the wife, the small business owner, the friend, aunt, sister, daughter, etc. is at times a struggle. But I’ve learned that if I’m doing my best, that is good enough for me. I’m realistic with my expectations of myself and if I can’t do it all, that’s ok with me.

8. What is your favorite baby product(s) that makes your mom job easier?
I’d love to say something groundbreaking, something that shouts “wow! what a great mom!” but my son got an Innotab tablet a year ago, and that little piece of technology has really become my

friend these days when I need to get something accomplished. That and the iPad. (I have a degree in Media Studies and Communications, so I am very pro­screen time, in moderation). I can tell Atticus to play his ABC game on the tablet or iPad and he goes right to it, and practices his letters, or “reads” his e­book. It’s amazing what kids have these days! And it’s even more amazing the things I can accomplish in that small window of time he is occupied.

9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother?
Of course, the obvious, enjoy your baby, because they won’t be babies long. I felt like when I was a new mom, I was doing what a lot of other moms do, and waiting for the next step or milestone, but I think it's important to enjoy each moment with your tiny person, because they really do grow up so fast. 

Also, always remember that YOU are the mom, not your mother, or mother­-in­-law, or friends. Don’t let others tell you how to parent your child, and go with your gut. Ask questions, read books, ask other parents, but at the end of the day, do what you (and dad, of course!) see fit.

10. What is a typical day like for you?
We really don’t have a typical day, in the traditional sense of keeping a schedule. My husband is in training for the Army, so lately Atticus and I have been without him and this has thrown us off a bit. 

We usually get up around 8, he does his chore of feeding the dogs, and letting our cat out. We do potty, breakfast, tv time. Then it's errand running, and getting out of the house. 

When we get back from whatever the day holds, it's “resting” time (since naps are non existent these days) where he reads a book quietly or plays quietly. In the early afternoon we usually do something together, even if it's just folding laundry, just to have a little together time. We like to craft, or bake or paint, and then make dinner together. Then it's bath, snuggle couch time with a little tv time, books and the attempt of getting him to bed, which is nearly impossible these days.

11. Since it's January, what are your New Year's Resolutions? Specifically, what is one thing you hope to focus on and achieve as a mom this year?

My main goal is to slow down and enjoy things more. We are all so busy, and with a new baby coming in March, we are only going to get more busy, so I really want to take time to enjoy little moments. 

Atticus is starting preschool in the next month, and dad will be home from training, so things will get busier in the upcoming months. My priority is to not let the day-to-day tasks take over my life and to let things slide so I can enjoy my family more.

On a non­-mom note, my personal goal is to eat healthier with more homemade foods. I plan on learning canning, and making more meals from scratch, and putting good things into my body. (I mean this in a 100% NOT weight-related way. My goal is energy and health, and I just love to make stuff from scratch!)

12. Where in the world would you go if you had all the money in the world?
I would go everywhere! I’d start in Europe, then some place tropical, and then tour the United States in an RV hitting all the major landmarks.

13. Top 3 favorite meals to make and why? (if you give a recipe that's a bonus for points!)
1. Turkey sweet potato shepherd's pie:
(brown ground turkey and add gravy of your choice. Put in bottom of pie or baking dish. Add a layer of shredded cheese, then top with bag of frozen veggies. Top that with mashed sweet potatoes and a little more cheese. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes and enjoy!) This is a staple in my house. Atticus thinks the turkey burger is tacos so he likes it, and it doesn’t take long to make. We all love it in our house and makes for great leftovers.

2. Anything I can throw in my crockpot!
Like this Hawaiin chicken one

3. We love to make pizza! Its delicious and Atticus can help my adding the toppings. Because I am gluten free I make ours, and usually go by this recipe: http://chroniclesofaknaptimeknitter.blogspot.com/2012/09/gluten­free­pizza­for­whole­family­on.h tmp

14. What do you do for YOU for me time?

I need me­ time to keep my sanity and be the best mom I can be, so I am not afraid to admit when I need some time off! I love to read, so even if it's only five pages a day, I make time every single day to get a few pages in. 

Once a week I have my girlfriends over for a movie and some girl time, and every week or so, I drop my guy off at my friend’s house so I can get out for an hour or so and get a haircut, grocery shop alone, or even just grab a coffee by myself. 

And when my husband is not away in the Army, I love a good bubble bath! He is so wonderful about giving me time to re­charge and encourages me to “go do something” while he holds down the fort. I’m very lucky to have such an amazing guy! (ok ok, gushing love fest over.)

These two photos taken from Erica Miller, New York

15. What are you most excited for and nervous about with having baby #2?

I’m most excited to see another amazing human that my body created. I look at my son and literally stare at him, wondering how something so incredible came from me. (high­ five husband, we make good ones!). 

I’m excited to see Atticus take on the role of big brother, because he is so excited about his baby coming, and let's be real, I’m excited to dress a baby girl! 

I’m most nervous about those sleepless nights, with a three year old and two dogs. When Atticus was born, it was just my husband and I, and now there is a lot more going on in my crazy house. Getting closer and closer to the end of this pregnancy, I’m nervous about having to spread myself even more thin and give everyone the attention they need. But I’m confident we’ll figure it all out!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

5 Ways I've Saved Money This Week

As you've probably figured out by now, I am always looking for ways to stretch a dollar and get the best bang for my buck.  This week, I've had a few opportunities to save on those purchases I can't avoid.  Here they are:

1. Buy contacts at BJ's-I have two different prescriptions for my contacts, one for each eye, so when I purchase contacts I always have to buy two boxes.  This can get pretty pricey.  On average, a box is $35, plus shipping if you're using 1-800-Contacts.  At BJ's, they are just under $23 a box! 

*if you are a military family, be sure to ask for the military discount when getting or renewing your BJ's membership.  You save $15 off the yearly fee, and get an emailed $10 off purchase coupon

2. Use Monroe for oil changes-I hate getting oil changes.  Mostly when I need a tire rotation and everything too, so when I saw the sign for a $19.99 oil change, which included free tire rotation (even if you didn't purchase your tires there) I jumped on it! 

3. Meal Plan-This was my first week of meal planning and I am loving it.  Prior to grocery shopping for it, I looked for coupons and then hit the store with my list.  This has avoided extra trips to the grocery store, which almost always lead to unnecessary purchases.  (in case you missed it, here's the post for this week's meal plan).

4. Condense your errands into one trip-if you're like us, this can be tough.  I don't like leaving the dogs home alone for too long (for fear of the wreckage I'll return home to) and errand running with a three year old can be very hard, but by getting it all done in one outing, it save numerous trips, subsequently saving a ton on gas.  I found, also, that with our list in hand, we were less likely to make unnecessary stops, which often lead to purchases we didn't plan for or need.

5. Consign unwanted items-I became a consignor at a kids and baby consignment shop this week and I'm so excited! We are saving up for a two seater stroller, and dropped off some items we no longer need and didn't plan on keeping for future babies.  I don't know if we've made anything yet, but this is a great way to either get some cash for your items, or store credit to put toward what you need.  I have an account with an adult clothing consignment store, as well, and I've made a few hundred dollars since starting there.

Have you saved money recently? Please share your tips!

Monday, January 13, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan

I have been reading a lot about the benefits of meal planning.  It saves time and money and basically just makes life a little easier (at least that's what they say).  Over at the Mommy Stories, there are some great tips on getting started, but since I am gluten free, I have to alter my menu a bit because some items, like pasta, can be very expensive and not conducive to a budget friendly plan.

My goal here was to plan meals that the whole family likes, some with leftover potential for lunches and at least one new recipe.  My family is small, so I don't need to worry about huge portions and often split the meal and toss half in the freezer.  If you have a bigger family, you could opt to up your portions and do that as well.  I also wanted to use some of the ingredients I had on hand, so some of our choices were based on that.

Here's what our week looks like:

Monday: French Onion Soup and Garlic Bread (I use my own gluten free recipe for the soup and will make some bread machine bread to go with it)

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday (Atticus' favorite day)

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Italian Chicken, a new recipe I found from this Pin.  I love a good slow cooker meal, and this seems simple and delicious. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Thursday: Spinach Lasagne (this is my weekly girls night, so I planned a slightly bigger meal for sharing)

Friday: Pizza (using this recipe)

Saturday: Sandwiches using whatever we need to use up in the fridge

Sunday: Leftovers

After I planned out the dinners for the week, I made a list of what I needed to get, and then headed over to Coupons.com to see what I could find for coupons.  Grocery shopping with a very specific list in hand is a great way to avoid those unnecessary purchases and makes it easier to stick to a budget. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

7 Day Challenge to Organization-January Edition

I always begin the new year with the goal of getting organized and to spend less time cleaning.  It works for about four minutes, and then comes undone.  This year, I'm doing it! To help, I have come up with a 7 day challenge to do this week, in hopes of tackling some projects that get put on the back burner, and to make my life easier.  Here's what this week's challenge holds:

Day 1 (Monday):
Organize those recipes! I just got a new recipe binder, but I stuffed it with my food covered, ripped pieces of paper and it just doesn't make any sense. I can't find anything and it's just chaos. So day 1's challenge is to clean this up and get it all organized, maybe even add a recipe or two it.

Day 2 (Tuesday):
Tackle a closet.  Any closet. I know you have one in your house too, the one that is overflowing and bursting with who knows what.  Clean it out.  Organize it. Toss stuff.  Donate stuff. Get rid of it, or put it where it needs to go.

Day 3 (Wednesday): Make 5 freezer meals to have ready for another day.  I personally love making freezer meals, and they come in so handy, especially if I can throw them in the crock pot when its time to use them. 

Day 4 (Thursday):
Tackle a pile.  I know you have one.   A laundry pile, a magazine pile, an ironing, pile, toy pile....find it and take care of it!

Day 5 (Friday):
Clean out and organize your towel/linen closet.  If its ripped, either toss it or make it rags.  Old ratty towels, toss them.  Sheets that have been around for a hundred years, toss them.  Fold, organize, make it pretty in there.

Day 6 (Saturday):
Clean out your fridge.  Throw away anything that's gone bad, use up anything you can (make a soup, or have a leftover free-for-all dinner) and clean it top to bottom. 

Day 7 (Sunday):
De-clutter! Go through each room in your house and get rid of at least item you don't want, use or need. 

I'll keep track of my progress and let you know how it goes, and please share your progress too!  Have an idea for the February edition?  Feel free to comment or give a shout.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Caterpillar Craft (thanks, Pinterest!)

It's freezing out here in upstate NY, so we have been looking for fun things to keep us (him) busy in the house.  This caterpillar project, found from this Pin was just the thing for my three year old.  We have been working on learning numbers and letters, and how to spell his name, so this was a great way to practice these things, while having fun.  

Here's what you'll need:
-construction paper
-pipe cleaners
-a marker
-glue stick

We started out by writing his name and having him spell it out to me.  He has a hard time physically writing it, so we worked together on the letters.  He counted how many circles he would need (one for each letter of the name, plus the head) and he chose the colors he wanted.  Once I cut them out, he got to glue, which is basically the coolest thing ever to him.

Next, he drew the face and we worked together to add the legs and antennas.  When it was all assembled, we wrote out his name together, spelling it aloud with each letter and then turned it over, counted the circles and numbered them.

He was thrilled with his colorful little friend:

*To see more projects, follow on Pinterest!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Enter to Win a Crooked By Design Hat of Your Choice!

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