Adventures in feeding, parenting and generally managing a household of five boys

Adventures in feeding, parenting and generally managing a household of five boys

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's for Dinner - Week of 3/28/11

I was plagued with one of those Mondays without school.  It totally throws off my week!  That, combined with the two birthdays, two sets of class birthday treats, and two extra boys, just about did me in!  Actually, the extra boys were easy; but boy, oh boy, can seven boys put away food!

In the process of doing the two sets of birthday treats I tried two new things:  edible cake tattoos and cake balls.  The cake tattoos are by Chef Duff of Charm City Cakes.  I was able to find them at Walmart.  They come in lots of cool designs and include a template to cut them into cookie size.  I was able to use them to decorate the cookies for Conor's class treat, and then use the cake topper tattoo to decorate the top of his cake.  Success!

I then convinced Aidan to try cake balls for his class treat instead of cupcakes.  It does take a couple of days for the various steps, but ultimately is an easy baked treat to make.  Here is a great step by step tutorial on how to make them:  cake balls.  Because of his large class size I made two cakes worth which left a lot of extras for here at home.  He chose red velvet cake dipped in vanilla candy coating with sprinkles.  Yummy!

Now for the "real food" . . .

Monday:  Homemade Italian Meatballs and Spaghetti, salad, garlic bread
                  I used a recipe for the meatballs that Johnsville Italian Sausage sent me, along with several free coupons for the sausage.  Very good!

Tuesday:  Quiche Lorraine, fruit salad
                  I am still using up items from the freezer.  I had two ready-made pie crusts that I want to get rid of . . . so quiche it is!

Wednesday:  Creamy Chicken Pot Pie, mozzarella sticks, raw veggies and dip
                  I also have a box of rolled pie crust in the freezer and I want to try those new Philadelphia Cooking Cremes, so I will have a go at chicken pot pie.  My friend, Jeni, recently had a House Party that featured this new product.  We all received recipe booklets using the cooking cremes and the pot pie recipe is from there.  The cheese sticks are from the freezer as well.

Thursday:  Leftovers, cheesy potatoes
                  Refrigerator clean-out day!  The potatoes are from the freezer.

Friday:  Creamy Artichoke Pasta, salad, bread
                   Another recipe utilizing the Philadelphia Cooking Cremes . . . I sure hope we like them!  It sounded like a good meatless meal for this week.  The bread is coming from the freezer.

Saturday:  Polenta-tomatillo casserole, carrots
                   This recipe is from The Six O'Clock Scramble.   I have a block of homemade polenta in the freezer that I will use for this recipe.  I will add a pound of ground beef to give it a little extra protein.

 Sunday:  Out to dinner
                   I have a Groupon that I want to use.  This will score major points with the children as well.  Gyros!

Enjoy the rest of your week and all those dinners (especially if they are coming from the freezer, like mine!).

I am participating in Menu Plan Monday over at!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's for Dinner - Week of 3/21/11

The craziness has begun . . . we are officially in baseball season!  Patrick is playing for his high school JV team.  Conor is on his school team as well as a travel team.  And Aidan is officially giving it a go this year on his school team.  Mark is only coaching two of those teams this year!  But not to forget that both Liam and Rowan are playing soccer this spring, which also starts this week.  Crazy!

Between the scads of laundry from all of the practices and games, the driving around to all of the aforementioned practices and games, and then attending the games; dinners are next to impossible to pull off much less achieve a quorum for.  Food is thrown at the boys as they are walking out or in the door.  My goal for the next couple of months is to try to cut down on, as much as possible, the fallback of fast food.  Difficult as it may seem, it simply requires a different level of planning.  Food that can last on the stove top or in the oven, or food that can be cooked quickly and in shifts is needed.  We will see!

I am still in the midst of cleaning out the freezer of food.  It never fails . . . those items that I didn't label, because I was sure I wouldn't forget what it was, has been forgotten.  Ugh!  I hate when that happens!  Mystery meals are never a winner and certainly hard to plan for.  I am making good headway in the freezer though.

For the meals . . .

Monday:  General Tso's Chicken, brown rice, edamame
                  I have some popcorn chicken in the freezer.  The General Tso's was a big hit a couple of weeks ago, so I am giving it another go with a mix I picked up at the store.

Tuesday:  Potato Leek Soup, salad, biscuits
                  I have the soup from the freezer along with the biscuits.  I also have some odds and ends to round out the meal for the non-soup eaters (a pot pie here, a individual pizza there).

Wednesday:  Turkey Stuffing Roll-ups, salad
                  I found a container of left-over stuffing and some turkey gravy in the freezer that I will combine with store-bought turkey slices.  This will hold well for the crazy night of practices and running.

Thursday:  Pork Tenderloin, cheesy potatoes, green beans
                  Everything from the freezer for this meal!  The cheesy potatoes were one of the unlabeled containers.  Thankfully the cornflakes on top gave it away!

Friday:  Fish Fry at Church
                  Love those Lenten fish frys!

Saturday:  Conor's Birthday Dinner, cake
                  As yet undecided.  Most likely of the Mexican variety.

Sunday:  Homemade Italian Meatballs and Spaghetti, salad, bread
                  I have Johnsville Italian sausage to review and it is in the freezer (so it counts!).  Bread is from the freezer as well.

I am really surprising myself with how much I have been able to make just centered around things I already have in my freezer.  I am going to need to be a little more creative next week as I wind this challenge down.

Enjoy your week!

I am participating in Menu Plan Monday over at!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Winners!

The winners of the Purex Complete Crystals Softener, as chosen by Random Integer Generator are:

#3:  Amanda "I use Gain or Snuggle dryer sheets that I got free with coupons."
#8:   Jane "I use Target brand dryer sheets."
#9:   mich520 "I use snuggle liquid and dryer sheets."

Congratulations to all of the winners!  I will be contacting you by email for further information to mail your free coupon to you.

Stay tuned for another review this week!!

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-03-20 21:07:57 UTC

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's for Dinner - Week of 3/14/11

Well, daylight savings time continues to kick this family in the behind!!  I'm not kidding when I say that it will take us a full week to recover.  Who ever came up with this idea?!

Both of my older boys had to be physically removed from their beds 10 minutes before they were to leave for school today.  Of course, they will have to go to bed earlier tonight.  We will see how that goes.

I am in full swing of trying to clean out my freezer a la "freezer challenge".  My problem isn't so much that we have full meals that need to be consumed as that there are so many bits and pieces.  A couple of pork chops here, some frozen soup there.  You know how it goes.  Ultimately, I try to challenge myself to eat something/anything out of the freezer during the course of the day.  And hopefully not replace it with something else that doesn't have a planned exit.  So, yes, I will be shopping to finish/round out those bits and pieces!

Interestingly, with all of the left-overs we had last week, I tried something new that the boys loved.  If you have children that watch the show iCarly, you may have heard them talk about "spaghetti tacos".  Well, we had some spaghetti left over, so I decided to surprise the boys and make them some of those infamous spaghetti tacos!  Essentially you put sauced spaghetti noodles into hard taco shells and cover with cheese.  Easy peasy and a huge crowd pleaser.  My only hint would be to get the wide "stand and stuff" shells to make putting the spaghetti in a little easier.

For the dinners:

Monday:  Beef and Bean Chimichangas, corn, nachos
                  I had the chimichangas in the freezer, but will need to supplement.  Corn from the freezer.  Enchilada sauce in the pantry.  A good start!

Tuesday:  One Pot Italian Rice and Beans, salad
                  This is actually a meal that I had planned for and had all the ingredients.  It is supposed to be meatless, but I will add a pound of ground beef (from the freezer) to make it a bit hardier for the lads.

Wednesday:  Frozen pizza, salad
                   Our Wednesdays have been crazy with our evening group run, so this will fit nicely.  I will be glad to get rid of the bulky frozen pizzas.

O'Thursday:  Guinness-Braised Corned Beef, green beans, Irish soda bread
                   The corned beef and green beans are from the freezer.  I have a great crockpot recipe for the corned beef.  I will spare the children the cabbage and do green beans instead this year!
Friday:  Caesar Spaghetti, Texas toast
                   We do meatless on Fridays during Lent, so this will fit nicely.  It is a Rachael Ray recipe from her new cookbook Look and Cook.  Other than the Texas toast, nothing is from the freezer.  I made an exception to try this recipe.

Saturday:  Dinner out

Sunday:  Chicken with Sweet Corn and Potato Saute
                This is another Rachael Ray recipe, this time from her Express Lane Meals cookbook.  The corn and chicken will come from the freezer.

Enjoy your week and good luck cleaning out your freezer and pantry!  Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a free bottle of Purex Complete Crystals Softener!

I am participating in Menu Plan Monday over at!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daylight Savings Time Doldrums

I hate daylight savings time! 

There, I said it!  And hate is a very strong word.  I try to rarely use it, but in this case it fits.

I need just about every hour in the day that there is.  So to lose an hour is a huge deal to me.  Especially since I lose it on the sleep end of my day.  And I really need my sleep!  So do my children.  To make matters worse with daylight savings; no one is tired at night.  But everyone is exhausted in the morning.  It is just not fair!

I love the fact that the evenings are lighter later.  I love when Mark gets home and there is still some daylight left.  I love eating dinner when it is not pitch black outside.  And the dark mornings I can even handle, for I know it won't be much longer until they are bright too.

But the week it takes for us to recover that lost hour is enough to push me over the edge. 

Thank goodness for caffeine!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Review and a Giveaway!

I am part of the "Purex Insiders" team of bloggers who have the privilege of getting the scoop on new Purex products.  I love the fact that I get to try new products and give my personal opinions on them.  And I get to share them with you!

Purex recently sent me a sample of their latest product Purex Complete Crystals Softeners as well as a coupon for a full sized bottle.  This is a revolutionary new product unlike anything we have seen on the market to date.  It is not a dryer sheet or a liquid softener . . . it is a crystal! The best part of all is that it is 92% natural and not oil-based like other liquid fabric softeners. 

So what does that mean to you?!

Well . . . I have to admit that, surprisingly, it should mean a lot!  I always knew that by using a fabric softener, whether in sheet or liquid form, that I was decreasing my towels' absorbency.  This is due to the oily residue that is left behind on the fabric.  But yet, I still continued to use softeners due to the amount of static electricity in my house.  Now, with Purex Complete Crystals Softeners, I no longer have to worry that I am decreasing the effectiveness of my towels because of my softener!

I did not know though, that by using softeners, that I was decreasing the flame-retardant effectiveness of my children's sleepwear!  Scary!  Again, this is due to the oily residue that is left behind by traditional softeners.

The one point that really hit home with me was this:  that yucky oily residue reduces the effectiveness of wicking fabrics and prevents them from drawing sweat away from your body during a work-out!  This fact is huge in this family of five active sports-playing boys.  And it really hit home with me personally, with all of the wicking sportswear that I wear while running and training for my half marathon.  I need that fabric to work!

Now, all of the above is fine and good, but only as long as the product works and is easy to use. 

I am happy to let you know that I have been personally using Purex Complete Crystals Softeners for the past two weeks and have been very happy with it on both counts.  I am able to use it in my HE machine.  You just measure the amount and throw it in on top of your clothes in the drum of your washing machine.  I don't have to remember to put anything in the dryer.  I love the scent - I tried the "fresh spring waters" variety.  And I don't have any static electricity with my clothes, sheets or towels!  The "green" in me is also happy that I am not littering the earth with any more of those dryer sheets!  (The boys are happy that those same sheets aren't stuck in their pants legs or on the backs of their shirts!)

I was able to find Purex Complete Crystals Softener at my Giant Eagle for $4.99.  I have also seen them at Kroger.  Purex regularly has coupons available in the Sunday paper, including today's edition!  Additionally, I find that Purex products tend to be less expensive than a lot of the other name brand softeners on the market and often go on sale.

In case my opinion isn't enough, Purex kindly sent me three coupons for a free full-sized bottle of Purex Complete Crystals Softener to give away! 

To enter, leave a comment telling me what, if any, kind of fabric softener you use.  Three winners will be chosen on Sunday, March 20th at 12 noon (EST). 

Good luck!

Disclaimer:  All opinions are my own.  Purex sent me a sample sized product and a coupon for a free full sized product to review.  I was not otherwise compensated for my work.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Congrats Liam!

Liam made his First Reconciliation today!



After - doesn't he look holier?!

All in preparation for First Holy Communion!  We are so proud of him!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Extreme Couponing

Did you watch the show on TLC several months ago called "Extreme Couponing"?

Conor watched the show with me and was quite impressed.  The funny thing;  he thought that I ought to take up extreme couponing like the people they profiled.  Interestingly, when I asked him if he would help me, he promptly and loudly exclaimed "No!".  Nevertheless, he wanted to benefit from having a room full of snack foods and the like. 

I, however, felt that the show was a little "extreme".  Honestly, 1000 boxes of Total cereal?

Check out what I scored on Thursday evening though:

The amazing thing was that I was actually paid to walk out of the store with this! 


I paid $3.95 for 5 cups of cereal and received $8.00 in register rewards (coupons to use at Walgreens).  I did this transaction twice for a total of 10 cereal cups and walked out with the cereal and $16.00 to use at Walgreens another day.

The best part of all . . . my children don't even like Fruity Pebbles.  So, this cereal will be donated to my local food pantry.  I got paid to donate food!

Love it!

Check out for more great deals like this.  Just don't be surprised if my Walgreens is "cleaned out"!

Happy Birthday Caragh!

My baby girl is one today!

Doesn't she just looked thrilled?! 

Shhhh . . . I don't think anyone told her.  Or, more likely, she is pouting because we are not making a big enough deal about it!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What I Read - February

I was able to do a lot of reading in February primarily due to our wonderfully lazy beach vacation.  The delayed flights and lengthy layovers certainly helped me in that regard as well!

Mark surprised me at Christmas with a Nook e-reader.  I am making a concerted effort to buy new books for my Nook instead of physical copies.  It is soooo hard for someone who likes to have a physical book in their hands.  I have really had to restrain myself from buying books while shopping at places like Target and Barnes & Noble.  Thankfully, I still have a good number of physical books piled up at home to keep me busy.  I will be discussing more about my Nook opinions in the future.

Now on to the books:

Into Temptation (The Spoils of Time, #3)

I finished the Spoils of Time trilogy with Into Temptation by Penny Vincenzi.  The trilogy was a real page turner for me, topping out at close to 2000 pages in total.  It is an historical fiction centered around a family- owned publishing house in London.  The trilogy starts (No Angel) around WWI time and progresses (Something Dangerous) through WWII.  Into Temptation centers around the emmigration of key family members to America and the emergence of American business as a world power.  I found the third book to be very engrossing.  It had the most plot twists and turns and intrigue of the three books.  If you want a series to fall into for some time, this is a good one.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.


Room by Emma Donoghue is also a page turner, but not for the faint of heart.  It is the deeply engrossing story of a woman and her five year old son who are being held captive in a backyard shed.  I don't want to say much more than that, to avoid giving anything away, but Room truly shows the capacity of a mother's love.  Unfortunately, it had a little bit of that "not wanting to look away from an accident" type of obsession for me until I finished the last page.  This was the first book I read on my Nook!  I give Room 4.5 stars out of 5.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

I also read all three of The Hunger Games trilogy in February!  The first book was for my book club selection and was an incredible pick!  This is a teen fiction series which benefits from the lack of swearing and gratuitous sex, but still has all of the teen love angst and violence to be a page turner for teens and forty year olds alike.  It centers around a post-revolutionary world with a dictatorship government that requires a yearly fight-to-the-death "hunger game" event of teenage children.  This dramatic event, upon which the first book is centered around, evolves into much more, which is what occupies the subsequent two books.  I hate to go into much more detail, to avoid spoiling the series for you.  Seriously, though, buy the books and pass them on to your teens!  The first book was definitely my favorite, followed by the third.  I flew through all three though.  I have the first in paperback and had to get the other two electronically on my Nook (I just couldn't wait!!).  My score:  4.5 out of 5 stars.

Interestingly, I did pass this series on to Conor who wants nothing to do with it!  I think he believes that it is another Twilight phenomena (Oh, Edward . . . )!

I have some good books on slate for next month.  I don't believe I will be able to finish quite what I did in February though.  If you want to see what I'm reading currently, or get some good book ideas, check out 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What's for Dinner - Week of 3/7/11

Better late than never, right?

The weather here in Columbus has been alternating between beautiful and ghastly.  Currently we are at ghastly with non-stop rain.  Of course, I am scheduled to run 7 miles tonight and two boys are starting with baseball.  Ugh!  I fear for April showers. 

This week is crazy as we start into our Lenten season with Ash Wednesday.  Thankfully, things will be a little easier now that the boys are eating more fish!  Rowan was even saying that he wanted to try some other types of fish, so I may have to "accommodate" him.  He will certainly have to be reminded of this conversation when dinner time comes around.

This is the time of year where I really try to clean out my freezer and pantry.  I hate to call it a "pantry challenge" because I fear that I am just not up to the task.  I know that I will have to go to the grocery store and buy additional food to supplement what I find in the freezer.  There are just too many appetites to fulfil!

Monday:  Pasta with Herbed Butter, broccoli
                 Very much like pasta with a pesto sauce.  I will add a pound of Italian sausage to appease the boys.

Tuesday:  Smorgasbord, carrots
                 We have a lot of left-overs to finish up.  Everyone's favorite (not)!

Wednesday:  Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, tomato soup
                  I have brie cheese for the adults and good old American and provolone for the boys.  I should be able to pull off this meal with the crazy night we have ahead of us.

Thursday:  Catfish with Stewed Tomatoes, yellow rice, asparagus
                 Rowan is getting his wish and we are going to try catfish.  Hmmmm, we'll see!

Friday:  Fish Fry at Church
                  Lent is known for the fish frys!

Saturday:  Out for a charity dinner
                  This is a corned beef dinner for a school charity event.  We even get to work the bar!

Sunday:  Smorgasbord, salad
                 Believe it or not, we will still have leftovers that need to be finished off.  Need to get the fridge cleaned out before I can tackle the freezer.

Have a great week!  Enjoy!

I am participating in Menu Plan Monday over at!

Stay tuned!  I hope to have some more reviews and a giveaway later this week!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bloody Sneakers

I had an "epic" run on Saturday. 

First off, we were scheduled to run 8 miles.  No biggie.  We've done 8 miles a couple of times already in this round of training.  I can do 8 miles.

Secondly, our group decided to road trip to a local metropolitan park so that we could run bigger and more hills.  No problem.  I can run or walk hills if need be.  I'm not going to let that bother me.  Actually, I was bothered more by the fact that we would have to wake up a half hour earlier to make it to the park in time for the run!

Lastly, it had been raining for a full 24 hours prior to the run and continued to rain throughout the entire run.  And rain hard.  Did I mention the puddles?  It was almost bad enough to warrant wearing a bathing suit.

Did I mention the hills?!

Well . . . the run went great.  Everyone in my group did wonderfully.  We ran strong and endured the rain and the hills and the mileage.  The worst part was stopping and realizing just how cold and waterlogged we were.

It wasn't until I was home, and warm and dry, that I looked at my sneakers and discovered that I had hit yet another running milestone.  Bloody sneakers!

It is always great to hit those milestones.  But, I think I would have been happy avoiding this one!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What's for Dinner - Week of 2/28/11

Yea - it's March this week! 

We have a crazy month . . . two birthdays, the start of baseball season for three of the boys and spring soccer for the other two.  To top it off, our training for the half-marathon is in full swing with major miles up ahead!  This is when my extra large kitchen calendar comes in handy to keep track of where everyone is supposed to be.

As I readily admit, I am a little "coupon crazy".  I love the feeling of getting items deeply discounted.  The easiest thing to accomplish that with is groceries.  Having five growing boys who rapidly deplete my refrigerator, getting groceries cheaply is a huge motivator for me. 

Now I know that not everyone shares my love for those little squares of paper.  I get it.  It takes a lot of time.  And honestly, I would not have done my wheeling and dealing to this extent even a couple of years ago with younger children.  Definitely not if I was still working.  At this time, I see couponing as my contribution to the family income.  Or, at least, justification for my occasional manicure!

But there is a much easier way to accomplish some discounting without so much time and effort.  And that is to use your store loyalty cards to your advantage.  Both of the major grocery chains in Columbus offer scores of "eoffers" that you can load onto your loyalty card from their websites.  No clipping, just clicking!

Simply go to the grocery store's website (, and register your store loyalty card.  Then find the "eoffer" (Giant Eagle) or "digital coupon" (Kroger) section and start clicking away.  The savings are automatically taken off your order when you check out.  You will be able to see your savings on your register slip!  (Just be sure to "uncheck" the box on the website so you don't receive the weekly emails!) 

Another great site is Cellfire (  There you can register for multiple grocery stores and load even different offers to each of your loyalty cards.  You do have to use your cell phone number to register, but I have never received a text message or call from them.  Cellfire also offers specials where you can load free item coupons or "$1 off your order" coupons on occasion.  I also never get any emails from Cellfire.

Both of these options update their coupons monthly, so it's something you only have to think about on occasion to still get the savings.  Nevertheless, I usually check weekly, or the day before I run to the store.

Happy savings!

On to the dinners . . .

Monday:  Breaded Tilapia with Garlic-Lime Sauce, brown rice, green beans
                 Sounds yummy.  The boys have been enjoying the tilapia!

Tuesday:  Dirty Rice, crudite platter
                 I have a book club event that night.  Mark and the boys will enjoy this while I am out.  It is just a Zatarain's mix.

Wednesday:  Baked Eggplant Parmesan, spaghetti, green salad
                 I like eggplant, the boys, not so much.  I may also cook some chicken breasts.  We'll see.

Thursday:  Wild Rice and Corn Casserole, kiwi
                 This is a meatless Mexican-type casserole.  I will most likely throw in a pound of ground beef to appease my carnivores.

Friday:  Roast Chicken with Vegetables, couscous
                  I'm always torn between cooking my own and buying a grocery store roast chicken, they are so cheap and so good.  I will cook my own this time, but I will have to cook two to feed all those boys!

Saturday:  Baseball Fundraiser
                 Will these fundraisers never end?!

Sunday:  Pasta with Herbed Butter, broccoli

Have a good week!  If you have any questions about ecoupons, leave a comment!

I am participating in Menu Plan Monday over at!