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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Top Ten Ways to Help a Friend Move- without lifting anything

 
 
Jules here-

After successfully moving a 2,000 sqft. house into two storage units yesterday, I have become somewhat of an unwitting expert on moving. First piece of advice with moving/packing with very young kids: don't. If you like your home, your neighborhood, your mortgage-- then the grass is not greener somewhere else. It is not worth the effort unless you must....

That being said, I can't thank the people who helped with the move, preparation, and packing enough.  Now, if you have a friend who is preparing to sell his/her home-- don't balk at the chance to help out! Helping someone move doesn't have to just be the physical aspect of moving.  Here are a few simple suggestions on how you can be someone's hero during the hectic moving process:

    Carton10. Child care during packing and/or moving: Packing takes twice as long with children. As you are packing one box, they are emptying out a bin of toys, besides the fact that children require food, water and attention too....If you have even one hour to spare, call a friend and say, "Hey! How about I come over with my kids and we all play outside for a bit so you can pack?" or "Why not drop your kids off from 3-5 PM so you can get some work done?"  Those moments of peaceful, uninterrupted packing were so productive.
    Storage Warehouse Bins
    9. Keeping extra boxes, tape etc.  Have you moved recently? Do you have an online shopping addiction? Then you may have extra boxes and/or tape!  You can NEVER have too many boxes to pack a household. They fill up very, very quickly and I appreciated any extra boxes that I received.

    Italian Pizza8. Meals leading up to the move. Imagine cooking a meal with half your kitchen utensils packed or trying to reduce your larder but still feed three hungry kids... food was a challenge this past month and my normal healthful eating routine didn't survive.  Friends and neighbors hosted us for some meals which truly was a blessing!  Even if you don't want to host, you could always drop off a pot-luck meal (with disposable pan and paper plates) to a family who prepped to move.
     
    7. Become a decision-maker. When was the last time you sorted through your clothing? Have you ever truly delved into your attic? After looking at the sixteenth pair of khaki pants, you start to wonder which ones really do fit or are in style.  I had a couple of girlfriends who became my decision makers; I was so overwhelmed with other decisions that having second opinions on clothing and decoration sorting really catalyzed my packing process.

    Wine Glasses And Wine6. Taking the Packer for a break. Today was the first day in over 50 days that I did not work or pack something.  In my moments of downtime, I often found myself writing lists in my head or feeling guilty for not doing something.  Several of my friends treated me to a glass of wine out, going for a run with me, or simply chit-chatted about something other than moving.  Insisting that a Type A person takes a break is truly beneficial for everyone!

    5. Packing help. If you don't mind getting your hands dirty, offer an hour of packing services. Help dust off mirrors and picture frames, stack plates between newspaper, and follow orders for an hour or two.  Having two people tackle a kitchen easily cuts the time in half.

    4. Offer your company! Packing gets lonely and monotonous. Offer to come sit and chat- bring a soda and some chips, offer advice (see #7) or simply tell jokes while the packer goes about his/her business.  I loved when my neighbors stopped by and passed the time while I sorted, wrapped, and stacked.

    3. Sharing entertainment.  One month before the move, I cut out our cable.  I borrowed DVDs from friends, my sis allowed me access to an awesome movie app, and another friend lent me some Netflix shows. Using my kindle around the home, I could fill the void with some amazing mindless television programs.

    2. "Showing" help-  If your moving friend is selling his/her home, then most likely he/she must navigate the showings of real estate.  Real estate showings are the most dreaded thing that parents have to do.  I have mentioned my 2 year old son, James, before-- and nothing about a toddler boy lends itself to cleanliness and order.  To make my house perfect (without use of closet-shoving-of-extraneous-stuff) was nearly impossible.  Offer your house to the family for a few hours, prepare a to-go meal (most showings are over the dinner hour), or even offer to watch the kids 2 hours before the showing so the owner can clean!! 

    1. Day of move help. It takes a village to move a family.  Besides the actual movers, families need a support system: cleaners, child-care, bringers-of-food, and transportation. So even if you are scrawny and not much lifting help- bring pizza or waters, offer to take the kids for a walk, or even just come to vacuum.  Every bit of help is appreciated. My neighbor took all the kids all day- and though she may have inadvertently allowed my 2 year old to cross the street twice himself-- nobody was hurt (he actually came home to check our mail and back... sneaky little guy...):)  I cannot thank them all enough.
     
Don't wait until the person who is moving asks for help. Everyone knows that moving truly is awful, and I often felt too guilty taking people up on their offers to help. Offer specific ways that you can help; try to be a bit insistent, and food is always welcome! 


Easy Rule #587907- Sometimes saying "Thanks" doesn't cut it. To my friends who helped me through this process- I couldn't have done it without you. Truly.

Easy Rule #87970- If you don't know how to help someone, bring wine and chocolate- that goes along way no matter the situation.


The day after the move! We survived!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Celebrating Our One Year Anniversary

Jules here-

We did it... we survived one year of blogging!  Most blogs fizzle out after a couple of months-- but we have persevered! (Or at least... our mom reads it!)

So as we have written well over 140 posts.... we would love some input! What topics would you like to read about? Are there any recipes, childrearing ideas, or family secrets you are dying to know?  We love any and all suggestions!!

This is your chance!  Either message us or respond to this post! (We LOVE comments... it makes us think people actually read this....)


And Happy First Day of Fall! Here's a flashback pick of my nephews :) 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mini Rant #3- Knowing what's best



Jules here-

Though my life has become a bit scattered between packing, finding a new home, and working two jobs, I had the chance to attend the annual Homeschooling Mass in Manchester, NH last week.  New Hampshire has the highest percentage of homeschoolers in the country; however, most choose homeschooling for libertarian reasons rather than spiritual (i.e. Live Free or Die mentality).  Though I do not use a Catholic curriculum, I love to surround myself with people who have a similar belief system as I do. 
 
In a cathedral, one is often in awe of the grandiosity, the holiness, and the sense that the very building is in steeped tradition.  As the people all filed into the wooden pews, I gaped at the size of many of the families. With my family of three children, I was by far a minority!  Ems would have fit in perfectly with her brood; plus James's noises were easily drowned out by the steady fussing of several babies throughout the church.

When I mention to people that Ems is expecting her *gasp* 8th child, many people balk at the idea and some even have the audacity to say, "Well, as long as the oldest ones aren't raising the younger ones."  I often start sputtering excuses such as, "Of course not! Ems takes care of all of them."

But, sitting at the Mass, I had the opportunity to observe a family of six children interact: 1 fifteen year-old boy, twin 13 year-old boys, 1 five year-old boy, 1 three year-old boy, and one 2 week-old baby girl.  I didn't even notice the tiny infant in the eldest boy's arms until after the readings, as he snuggled her so gently.  The mother helped keep the younger two boys quiet and seated (like wrestling wild monkeys) while the eldest boys kept watch over their new baby sister.  When the baby fussed, the mother took her for a moment, soothed her, and then her son asked to hold her for the remainder of Mass.  Even the twin 13 year-olds were able to regulate the toddlers and keep them focused during the sermon. 
Was that older boy caring for his sibling? Yes! Did he look happy doing it? Yes!  What is so wrong with giving older children responsibility? Do you not want to teach your son's to be caring fathers? Or your daughter's how to nurture and protect their younger siblings?  Am I saying that older siblings should change every diaper, wake up for nighttime feedings, bathe all the younger kids while the mother sits and reads a book? No (as idyllic as that sounds...)  Children should have a balance of play, school, and housework, which can include helping with the younger set.  Schools often neglect teaching those valuable life skills and parent's often shun real responsibility for their kids.
Which is healthier for a kid: being overscheduled with sports, camps, lessons, etc so they have no free time? OR having their free time sometimes include playing with a younger sibling, or babysitting while mom cooks dinner?

My grandmother lost her mother when she was very young, and her father pretty much left the chores, raising the children, and cooking up to her-- she was even forced to throw out her books as she no longer had 'time' for them....   Am I advocating enslaving the older siblings? Of course not.  But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater-- look for the positive aspects of having older children involved in caregiving of the younger kids.  

Grace has become incredibly empathetic, kind, and trustworthy since I began entrusting her with "keep an eye on the little ones outside!" She reports any wrongdoings, runs to tell me emergencies, and tries to dissuade bad decisions (i.e. a 4 year-old climbing 40' in a tree...)  I don't have Grace change diapers, but she does run upstairs to get wipes or clothing for me.  I only can hope that Lissie and James will be as helpful someday....

Easy Rule #2498- Don't always assume that responsibility is a bad thing, it can create the very virtues you want to instill in your children.

Easy Rule #434- Mind what you say to people about their families-- you can't always assume you know what's best for someone else.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Top Ten Chicken Breast Dinners

Jules here-

Time to get back to my ultimate recipe top ten to help a friend with her cooking repertoire.  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a staple at my house, as their price often dips between $1.79-$1.99/pound- quite affordable since you are not paying for the bones!

So here it is, the Top Ten Chicken Breast Dishes:

10. Chicken Casseroles - In all honesty, my family does not enjoy chicken casseroles--but I do! They are quick, easy, and they freeze well.  You can make them with pasta or rice and use cream of ANYTHING soup.  When I was first married, I made these a bit too often.  After awhile, we got a bit sick of this staple 3-night-a-week-meal, so I took a hiatus from making them...  For most recipes you need a sauce (usually a form of condensed soup--or make your own), a vegetable, cheese, and a starch.


9. Crock pot buffalo chicken- A simple, yummy meal that men especially enjoy! If you like buffalo-style chicken wings, than you'll love this.

Ingredients:
3-4 Chicken breasts
1 packet of ranch dressing packet (you can easily make your own too)
1 Bottle of Red Hot Sauce (Frank's or other buffalo sauce is fine!)
2 TBS Butter
Sandwich rolls
Optional: Cheese
Optional: Chopped celery

Directions:
1. Place chicken breasts and 1/2 to 3/4 bottle of buffalo sauce (depending on desired spicy level) in crock pot with ranch seasoning.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours.
2. Shred the meat with two forks and add butter and rest of red hot sauce.
3. Serve in sandwich rolls (some people like cheese on top)

Alternatives: Cook with a little water instead of seasoning. Add seasoning after shredding so you can set aside some "plain" chicken for kids or picky eaters. Also, you can do this with barbecue sauce and make a mock "pulled pork" that's a lot cheaper....

8. Grilled Chicken- So simple, yet goes with anything. I usually throw on 5-6 chicken breasts on the grill after marinating them in an herb/garlic marinade (or Italian dressing).  The first night, we simply eat the grilled chicken, veggies and potatoes for a healthful meal.  As for the leftovers, I'll throw on a bed of greens add some fresh vegetables, feta and some strawberries for a scrumptious summer salad.  Or, I'll make a hearty chicken salad (I adapted this recipe from Giada's... my friend Lori made it for me once and I LOVE it... just a bit complicated for me!!)

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts chopped or shredded (your preference)
1/2 thinly sliced onion (green or red onion will do)
1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers
1/2 Cup toasted almond slivers
1/4 Cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh Parmesan or mozzarella

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually add the oil and blend until emulsified.

7.   The Classic Chicken Parmesan- I personally would never order chicken parm at a restaurant, as it is so easy to make and affordable.  It is a delicious meal that can become a standard dinner in your home. Serve with pasta and fresh bread-- Yum!  Feel free to make this recipe as "homemade" as you want (add your own sauce or other fun 'twists').

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4" thick
Bread crumbs (Italian Style)
4 slices of mozzarella or fresh Parmesan (or shredded)
1 jar of tomato sauce
1egg
Milk
Flour
Olive oil

Directions:
 1. Mix egg & milk together.  Dredge the chicken breasts in flour, then the egg mixture, and finally in bread crumbs.
2. Meanwhile heat olive oil in bottom of cast iron skillet (if you don't have one, use a regular skillet but you'll have to transfer the chicken to a foil-lined 9x13 pan for baking).
3. Brown chicken on each side (about 5 minutes each)
4. Add sauce to cover chicken and cover each with cheese.
5. Place in broiler for 4-5 minutes until cheese is melted.
6. Serve with extra sauce and cheese, with pasta.

6. Chicken Pot Pie/Chicken A La King- Depending on how much effort you want to do, this dinner can be easy or super challenging.  I typically make my own pie crusts, but you can use a store-bought one. You can use leftover chicken breasts from the grill, rotisserie chicken, or quickly boil some chicken prior to dinner.

 Chicken Pie Basics
9 Inch Pie crust
1 Cup cubed chicken
Variety of veggies: chopped (steamed partially if fresh, frozen you can throw in)
Gravy/Can of cream of soup (chicken or celery works best)
Onion chopped
Potato steamed and chopped
Salt & Pepper

1. Press crust to bottom of 9" pie pan.
2. Fill with all ingredients adding gravy last (right before putting in oven)
3. Cover with top crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

Freezes great, so I usually make 2!


Chicken A La King
 
1 Cup cubed chicken
Variety of veggies: chopped (steamed partially if fresh, frozen you can throw in)
Gravy/Can of cream of soup (chicken or celery works best)
Onion chopped
Potato steamed and chopped
Salt & Pepper
Biscuits

1. On the stove, heat gravy/soup until bubbling.
2. Add all remaining ingredients except biscuits.  Heat through.
3. Serve over open-faced biscuits.  YUM! Less than 20 minute dinner!!



5. Chicken enchiladas -- I've mentioned how much I love using chicken in Mexican dishes before.  Here's the link back to the post of these yummy chicken-filled tortillas.


4.Mock Chicken Cordon Bleu- Have ham or bacon? Have any kind of cheese (Swiss, cheddar, etc?)  Then you can make a quick Chicken Cordon Bleu!
Ingredients:
1. 4 Chicken Breasts (pounded thin)
2. Bread crumbs
3. Milk/egg wash
4. 4 Slices of ham or bacon
5. 4 Slices of cheese (or shredded) (4 more if you add cheese to the top)

Directions:
1. Dip chicken in flour dip, then egg/milk wash, then bread crumbs (Italian style is fine).
2. Add a slice of cheese and meat to center. Roll and pin with toothpick
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until center is no longer pink

Variations: Wrap bacon on outside for crispiness. Add cheese to top the last 10 minutes of baking.  Make a cream sauce/gravy to serve on top. Add more seasonings (garlic, etc.)

3. Quick & easy Parmesan/mayo chicken- I stumbled across this recipe on pinterest, and I always have the ingredients on hand-- and it's quick.

Recipe & Photo Courtesy of Hellman's
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 4 tsp. Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Combine mayonnaise with cheese in medium bowl. Arrange chicken on baking sheet. Evenly top with Mayonnaise mixture, then sprinkle with bread crumbs.
  3. Bake until chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes.
2. Italian Peasant Soup- This is my favorite "dinner" soup: hearty, warm, filling, and you can top it with cheese! 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian sausage links, casing removed and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) cannellini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 6 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • Shredded Parmesan or mozzarella cheese, optional
Directions

In Dutch oven or soup kettle, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Add onions and garlic; saute until tender. Add chicken; cook and stir until no longer pink. Stir in the beans, broth, tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Cook uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the spinach and heat just until wilted. Serve with cheese if desired

1. Chicken Fajitas- Fajitas are a weekly staple in my house. I either make them fresh, or use leftover chicken from the night before.  They are quick, easy AND easily adaptable for kids (put in them what they want). 
Ingredients:
 2-3 chicken breasts sliced in strips
2 onions sliced
2 green or red peppers, sliced
Tortillas
Sour cream
Taco or fajita seasonings
Salsa
Tomatoes (chopped)
Avocado/guacamole
Cheddar cheese
Optional: serve with Spanish rice

Directions:
1. In skillet pan, saute chicken for 5-7 minutes, add onions and peppers. Cook until all is softened. Add taco seasoning until flavor reaches desired level.
2. Meanwhile, heat tortillas, make guacamole, get ready for dinner!
3. Serve with side of rice, cheese and toppings!

Hope you enjoy some new chicken dishes-- nothing too spectacular, but all dishes you should be able to handle mid-week!

Easy Rule #54645- If all else fails, cook chicken. Cheap, easy, and millions of recipes.