Monday, March 30, 2009

And the Countdown Begins...

17 more preschool days to go! And not a moment too soon. I am ready to really focus on blog design, invitations and my new summer goodies I'll be debuting soon. And things are getting wild with my (lack of) time management skills between lesson plans, preschool days and business I AM READY!!
The boys are getting ready for summer, too. Both kiddos are enrolled in a fun one-day a week program in Belton called "Children's Day Out". A bunch of their comrades from our church also attend this program and have said their summer stuff is super fun! Benjamin is signed up for a boys' gymnastics class at Texas Tumblers here in town. He can't wait! I asked him if he wanted to do tee-ball or gymnastics and he said "I just need to tumble, Mom." Point taken.
Swimming lessons sign ups will be April 25th. This year we plan to get there at the crack of dawn. Last year, we noted that sign-ups started at 10. When we pulled into the parking lot at 9:45 and saw the line wrapped around the recreation center, we realized this was apparently a pretty big deal. We were soooo thankful to our wonderful friend Jennifer who gave swimming lessons to Benjamin and his church buddies (especially since we were the dopes who were too late to get a spot on the list in town).
As our friends up in Muleshoe emerge from their Arctic Tundra of a weekend, we have already been feeling a whole lot of spring down here. Crazy what a climate difference a few miles (okay several hundred) can make. The grass is starting to green up and tonight we even dined al fresco! Happy 17 Days of Preschool Left!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Spruce Up Giveaway!

Just FYI, I am doing a FUN giveaway at Kristi's. Go and enter today!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Goodbye, Spring Break 2009!

The good news this very moment no one in my house has a fever or is throwing up. (Disclaimer: that's not to say in the next day or so that won't happen). It just looks like we are hopefully on the downhill slope.
The bad news is...we totally had to cancel our SB plans to make a trip out to Pecos to see Grandma & Grandpa D. and hang with the cousins.
After seeing the doc Monday afternoon, she advised us to stay in town in case Jonathan's fever spiked again. Of course, at the exact moment we bring him to the doctor, he has no fever. But they were so thorough with him that I felt good about it. His bloodwork indicated he was viral. And it looks as though this entire month long ordeal has just been a series of viruses back-to-back. We had a few rough nights (and crazy mornings) the beginning of the week, but J-man has finally re-emerged and had a great week ending!

Slippers with daddy's socks...quite the fashion statement.

We basically quarantined ourselves for a few days and hung around the house...bummed about our situation, but glad to have a week off of work, even if we had to stay put. We did manage to squeeze a few things into our week. We had planned originally to paint our bedroom when we returned from Pecos, but we scrapped that idea and tried to just put some finishing touches on our kitchen.
Since we are planning in the next 2-5 years to sell our house to move to the Belton area, we want to enjoy any fix-ups we make before we sell it. So, room by room, we are slowly banging it out. We would love to sell right now, but are terrified of the market. Our neighborhood has so many homes on the market that have been that way for over 200 days! Scary. Since we're not in a huge hurry, we are just hanging out.

Later this week, my dad came over to install my belated birthday gift-- recessed lighting in my kitchen! It may sound like an odd gift to you, but my mom always requests to know what we all want for our birthday. She does not like to shop without specifics. When I told her, "lights", she made a funny face. But, I knew my dad would be excited-- he's a project kind of guy.
Previously, I just had a hanging fixture over my island. Great for when I was working at the island. Very shadow-y when I was trying to work on any other countertop. So, can lights are in! Oh, and the kitchen is now yellow, too! I will do an actual post with "finished product" pics soon...I just refuse to take pics until I mop the floor. It's in no amount of Swiffer Wet Jet touch-ups will do the job any more. It is an all-out bucket, mop, Pine-Sol, lather, rinse, repeat sort of situation. It's embarrassing, people.
I also "decorated" for in went to Hobby Lobby and bought a new nest to set out. My spring decor is pretty minimal. As in almost nada. But, this little buffet set up does make me smile. I just wanted to share it with you, since so many of my fellow bloggers have put up gorgeous "Spring Fluff" posts. You guys are very inspiring! Makes me want to spend a weekend at Canton and do it up right!

HAHA! I left the tag on my new nest! I just now noticed that.

So, happy spring to all! Oh, and Happy Birthday to Uncle Sam! Welcome to the thirties, dude!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We love us some Italian food around El Rancho Dominguez. And I am always excited when I find a new low-fat recipe that works well with the POINTS system. This week I thought it would be fun to share our new Italian fave around here....mangiamo!

Parmesan Baked Chicken Breasts
(from the Weight Watchers Annual Recipes for Success 2007 Cookbook)

1/3 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Cooking spray
Pasta sauce (favorite homemade recipe or store-bought will work)

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a shallow dish.
3. Place garlic and oil in a small glass bowl, and microwave on HIGH 30 seconds or until warm and fragrant.
4. Dip chicken in garlic oil; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray and place chicken on pan. Coat chicken with cooking spray (makes it crispy).
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until done and golden. Serve with pasta sauce.

POINTS value: 7 points per chicken breast.
We actually serve this over whole-wheat pasta and with a side of veggies.

One cup of whole-wheat pasta is 3 points. 1/2 cup of (most) pasta sauce is 1 point.

I love to add Molly McButter (as pictured) to our veggies for a little extra something.

Does anyone else's pasta sauce make this mess? Bubble, bubble, splat, splat.

Weight Watching TIP OF THE WEEK:
I think it's fun to try new things and think outside of the box. My WW pal, Jennifer, told me about these bagels and since then they have become my everyday breakfast. Hold onto your hats... they are only ONE point per bagel. And taste great. You can find "The Alternative Bagel" (from the Western Bagel Company) in the refrigerated section at Walmart...right next to the cream cheese.

This is the best 3-POINT breakfast...yummy when toasted. If I am in a salty mood, I use the 1/3 Less Fat Garden Veggie Cream Cheese (2 tablespoons). But if I am in the mood for something sweet (90% of my mornings), I go for the 1/3 Less Fat Strawberry Cream Cheese (2 tablespoons). The spread adds 2 points.

I would have never tried these on my own. But, I am so happy my friend found them. Since then, I have branched out and found a few new low-point things on my own. Just try something new! The tip? Think Outside the Box!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Break Kick Off

I kicked off SB '09 Friday night doing one of my absolutely new favorite the preview sale of the Belton Mamacents Consignment Event. I was worried that it was going to be a little disappointing because it was much smaller than the Austin sale I usually attend. But it did not disappoint. Since shopping consignment for the boys the last few years, it is now just a "cycle". I basically just buy the coming season's wardrobe for Benjamin which gets handed down to Jonathan later. And I consign the stuff that Jonathan has outgrown. We do get a few new things here and there, because hey, everyone likes to have a few spiffy new items to sport. And because I think it is fun to have them match sometimes...while they are still young enough to not complain about it.
But the deals were aplenty in Benjamin's size! Lots of brand new (with tags) Gymboree, Janie & Jack, and Gap loot, along with much, much more. I actually detagged everything immediately and threw it in the wash over the weekend, so I only have a "sampling" of our deals.

Tickled to find mAtChInG Gymbo shirts for the boys today at the sale (yes, I went back for the 50% off day after church...never gotten to do that before when it was all the way in Austin)! I couldn't believe that they had both of their sizes in this Bugs! print!

One of my FAVORITE things was not a clothing item, but rather this canvas-wrapped print for Jonathan's big boy room (debuting summer 2009). I got it for just $10! So thrilled with this.

I think it will go perfectly with the "Hit the Road" bedding I already picked up for him at Tar-jay. Have I ever mentioned that's my favorite store? It is. But I am no longer allowed to do the grocery shopping leads to coming home with a lot more than just food. You can see a little bit of the bedding in the above photo, but here is the shot I yanked off the Target site:

In other news....
Baby got a make-over...not sure if I should take measures to resolve this. I always fear that every wash will be his last. I am terrified to open the washer and find him in a hundred pieces. He is definitely well-loved.

Our spring break plans are now on hold. I hate actually typing this out, but believe it or not, something is up with Jonathan AGAIN. I noticed toward the end of the worship service, he looked super tired and put his little head down on David's shoulder (SO unlike him-- he is the king of the pew on most Sundays). He just looked a little droopy. But, with no fever at the time, he readily went to his new, big boy Bible class and was Mr. Happy again when I picked him up. But when we got home from the sale and were getting lunch ready, his fever popped up over 100. After a Motrin-induced-high this afternoon, he started running a little fever tonight as well. I will be on the phone getting him an appointment first thing in the morning.
What is going on with our sweet boy? Could this be allergies? Do you run fever with allergies? We looked back on the calendar today and realized he has been under the weather (on and off) for an entire month. He has been to the doctor twice. And yet, it keeps happening. I am a nervous wreck about him and just want this to all be over, for his sake. I just hope this isn't something major, just maybe a series of bugs. Please pray for our sweet Jon-Jon and that his little body will work all of this mess out. I always feel weird when we "re-emerge" after a bout of this and everyone asks if we're all well. I am so hesitant to say a word because obviously, this keeps happening over and over. And over. I'll go ahead and do a mass apology now to the moms of the kiddos in his Bible class as well as Miss Kylie who shared a bag of cereal with the boy this morning before we realized anything was up. I hope all of those sweet babies don't get a smidgen of this.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

One Way to Make Preschool Exciting

As if teaching preschool isn't already a whirlwind...add picture day and fire alarm/evacuation to the mix and it takes it to a whole new level.
After our class's pics, we headed to the library for music class. I joined my bunch towards the end of their time with our music teacher, Mrs. Rebecca. As soon as I sat down, we were startled by, of all things, the fire alarm. 
Our building is pretty large, it is after all, our church, too. Rebecca and I corralled my 10 kiddos and headed down the hall and quickly got the word to head straight outside. I did panic a bit, but tried not to let it show. We were met in the hall by several other classes. And then all of the tops of their little heads began to look alike. I did a head count about 20 times before making it all the way to the parking lot. 
And as we stood outside in our 'spring pictures' outfits in chilling temperatures, we quickly turned into popsicles and had to pile into other teachers' cars in the parking lot. My kids piled into Mollie's suburban and warmed up pretty fast. It was at least 20 minutes that we hung out!
We heard the sirens. Two firetrucks, an ambulance and another vehicle or two rushed over and checked it all out. During the entire time, I could see Benjamin and his class, so I knew he was fine. I wondered where Jonathan's class was...but I knew his sweet teacher would have him well taken care of. The whole ordeal was still very nerve-wracking.
After we got back into class and back to normal, Mrs. Kristi (there are THREE Mrs. Kristis at our preschool...weird, huh?), Jonathan's teacher, came down on her break for a visit. She told me that the alarm outside her class was the one that set it off. Then she informed me that their class was out in the hall at the time. Hmmmmm.
Tonight I chatted with her again and we have deduced that it was either that Dominguez kid or his BFF or the two of them working together.
Scary to think my two year old may have been at the heart of evacuating the entire preschool, church office staff, the private school also housed in our building as well as all the other people there today! 
My sincerest apologies to the Belton Fire Department.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Ultimate WW Recipe Post

I have been pecking at this post for a while now. There are a bunch of us at church and preschool currently on the Weight Watchers program. I {heart} Weight Watchers so much. I have been on the program several times and have been successful...and then had a major life-changing experience (marriage, baby, etc) that caused me to fall off the WW wagon. But, I am truly excited to be a "loser" again. I am working the program a little differently this time around...making sure to use every point given to me so it is an actual life-style change, not just a diet.

On my previous WW round in 2005-2006, I was thrilled to have lost 75 pounds. And there were many, many WW recipes that I came to just enjoy so much that helped me achieve that loss. Several of my blog friends and "real life" friends have asked for me to post some of my faves. I would love to do that. The problem is that I now have so many faves from over the years, that this will take more than just one post. Honestly, our little family eats these meals even when we are not on the program. They don't taste like you're missing out on anything. They are recipes for life!

My intention is to try to post a recipe (or hopefully more) once a week (this may be easier come May).  I am thinking Weight Watcher Wednesday might be a sort of fun little weekly post. Although today isn't Wednesday, I would love to go ahead and share a few of our family faves with you today! 

The manicotti is actually the one I took to the class potluck at church last weekend.

Shrimp Fried Rice with Edamame
(We just tried this last week so I snapped a few photos. It was the perfect fix for our Panda Express cravings-- even better being homemade! We had this with Mr. Chang's spring rolls, from the freezer section at Wal-mart. They were only 2 points each. This was from the Weight Watchers Annual Recipes for Success 2006 Cookbook.)

As PW would say...the cast of characters

2 teaspoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, coursely chopped
1 teaspoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
4 cups jasmine or other white rice, cooked according to package directions (can be chilled after cooked because chilled rice doesn't stick together when stir-frying)
1 cup fully-cooked shelled edamame
1/2 cup shredded carrot (about 1 medium) I actually used the little carrot sticks and shredded them in a mini food processor. 
1/3 cup chopped green onions (about 3 onions)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1. Heat peanut oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large nonstick skillet. Add shallots and egg; stir-fry 30 seconds or until egg is soft-scrambled. Add shrimp and ginger, stir-fry 2-3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Add rice and next 4 ingredients, and stir-fry 1 minute.

2. Stir in soy sauce and sesame oil.
YIELD: 6 servings (serving size 1 1/3 cups)

POINTS value: 7 per serving

Spinach Manicotti
(from the Weight Watchers Annual Recipes for Success 2003 Cookbook)

8 manicotti shells, uncooked
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup (1.3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained & squeezed dry
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg white
2 1/2 cups low-fat roasted garlic pasta sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse.
3. Combine ricotta cheese and next eight ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spoon mixture evenly into pasta shells. Place shells in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon pasta sauce evenly over shells. Cover and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve warm. YIELD: 8 servings (serving size: 1 shell and about 1/2 cup sauce).

POINTS value: 4 points per serving.

Huevos Rancheros
(We love this one! It is a great Sunday lunch that is quick, easy and doesn't require much prep work. Sometimes we substitute the corn tortillas with flour and make it more of a burrito, this also adds a point. For a hearty supper, we have even added an additional 2 eggs, again adding an additional 2 points per serving. This recipe is from my tried and true Complete Cooking Light Cookbook.)

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped green chiles (do not drain)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (sometimes I even skip this to avoid chopping)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons shredded 2% reduced fat cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions (optional)

1. Combine first eight ingredients in a non-stick skillet; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes.
2. Warm tortillas according to package directions.
3. Break each egg into a small bowl or custard cup and slip egg from bowl into tomato mixture (try not to break the yolk). Cover and simmer seven minutes or until eggs are done; remove eggs with a slotted spoon. Place tortillas on individual plates; top with half of tomato mixture and one egg. Sprinkle each with one tablespoon cheese and one tablespoon green onions.

POINTS value: 6 points per serving

Chocolate Eclair Cake
(YUM. I make this one all the time, even when I'm not on WW. I used to bring it to sorority in Muleshoe and it is always a hit at a church potluck. It's just rich & tasty. And makes me smile. Your friends won't think for a minute that it's low-fat. It's from that same favorite: Complete Cooking Light Cookbook.)
1 box low-fat honey graham crackers (at least 22 1/2 sheets)
cooking spray
3 cups fat free (skim) milk
2 (3.4-ounce) packages sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix
1 (8-ounce) tub fat-free cream cheese
1 (8-ounce) carton frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed
1/4 cup fat-free (skim) milk
2 tablespoons stick margarine or butter, softened
2 tablespoons honey
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Arrange 7 1/2 graham cracker sheets in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine 3 cups milk, pudding mixes, and cream cheese in a large bowl; beat at low speed on mixer 1 minute or until thick. Fold in whipped topping. Spread half of pudding mixture over graham crackers in dish, and top with 7 1/2 graham cracker sheets. Repeat procedure with remaining half of pudding mixture and 7 1/2 graham cracker sheets.
2. Combine 1/4 milk, butter, honey, and chocolate in a medium bowl, and beat well with mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar to chocolate mixture; beat well. Spread chocolate glaze over graham crackers. Cover dessert and chill for at least four hours. YIELD: 18 servings (serving size: 1 [3x2-inch] square).

POINTS value: 5 points per serving

Weight Watching TIP OF THE WEEK:
I thought it might also be fun to share the little tips and tricks we've all learned along the way to make being a "loser" a winning experience.
This week's tip is stolen from my good friend, Amanda, who has done an aMaZiNg job on Weight Watchers. We tried this a couple of nights ago and what a great trick:
When having baked potatoes, use a tablespoon or so of chicken broth to moisten your potato before adding all of your toppings. This keeps your potato yummy all the way down to the skin, long after the butter & sour cream are gone! And it is 0 points-- up to a cup of the fat free chicken broth only has 5 calories. Thanks, Amanda! We will never have dry potatoes again. Amanda suggested to me to just set out a bowl of broth with all of your other toppings and that's exactly what we did. We did warm the broth first. Try it the next time you enjoy a baked potato!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Ugh. Could we be any more pathetic?

One of the biggest reasons I haven't posted for awhile is because I have had nothing to report. We (as in the 4 foot & under members of our household) are sick...AGAIN. I guess I feel weird posting about it because lately I feel like every post begins with a nice sickie story. Just the season of life we are in, I suppose. I honestly don't remember being sick this much as a child.
I think the whole preschool thing this year has really put our immune systems up to some major challenges. Jonathan has had fever since Wednesday, when we took him to the Minute Clinic and they said it looked to be viral. The fact that he woke up this morning burning up at over 102 tells me we will probably be visiting our own doctor early this week. Benjamin started running fever yesterday afternoon, but insists he feels "wonderful". 
I have had to cancel on three separate friends this week for fun evenings together. To borrow a quote from my sweet friend, Becky, we are now so far out of the loop, we can't even see the loop anymore. We have worn out our DVR watching every recorded episode of The Little Einsteins, Max & Ruby and Caillou. To make it even more exciting, my car is also in the shop (and probably will be the majority of this week, too). People have done so many favors for us the past few days that I am about to start a list of thank you gifts that I need to purchase once this is all said and done. They were BIG favors. Probably requiring something homemade. If you wouldn't mind remembering us in your prayers...we have had the sickies for so long and would like to re-enter the land of the living at some point in time. Just pray for our boys that they kick this viral-thingy sooner than later.
In other non-germ related news...I found a TREASURE at this past week's book fair at preschool. 
When I was four, a dear friend of our family gave me a very special book that I read very often. If Jesus Came to My House became an instant favorite. I have held onto this book all these years and have continued to read it to my children. I even took it to preschool a few months ago to read in chapel when I was in charge one Thursday. It is pretty well-worn and the book jacket is about to fall apart. I was beginning to think it needed to be retired to a higher shelf to preserve it for sentimental reasons. Low and behold...they have reprinted it with new illustrations! I saw it at the book fair and scooped it up immediately! What a find. I love the new illustrations, too. And now the same sweet words in this story will be read many, many more times to my sweet boys. And one of them will be able to take it with them one day, too. Maybe to read to my grandchildren!

As you may remember, Benjamin loves The Berenstain Bears to pieces. I also found a collection of Christian Berenstain Bears stories at the bookfair! I didn't even know these existed. We have broken them in very well the last few days. I am so proud that Benjamin now wants to say his prayers on his knees all the time just like Brother and Sister Bear do in the stories. 

I know I have promised several of you to post some WW recipes...they're coming! I have already started the post, I just have to stop and administer meds and hugs pretty often these days. I am hoping to post it in the next 24 hours. Unless we spontaneously combust over here. Which nothing is out of question for us these days.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

You Need This Stuff...Yes, YOU!

My super fun friend, Amanda has recently debuted her new blog. My Domestic Disaster is sure to be anything but a disaster-- a fun blog with lots of fun ideas!
Currently, she is running ONE AMAZING GIVEAWAY! Seriously...check her out. Sign up to win one of her beautiful monogrammed goodies. They are AwEsOmE!
Seriously, go there now. Put down your coffee. Click the link. Win some awesome loot.
While you're there...mention you love her blog design. I happen to know the crazy gal who put it together for her. : )