Pinterest Favorites and Fails {Series}

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Today is another recipe (but this time, a side dish) and it’s a FAVORITE!!!!  Cheesy Ranch Potatoes, from Mrs. Happy Homemaker

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These are just as good (dare I say better??) than they look.

I had about half a bag of red potatoes left over from something else I had made previously and had no idea what to do with them.  So I hit Pinterest and looked up potato recipes.  This one had me at “cheese” and “ranch”- what more could you want?  I ended up making a simple chicken dish with these as a side, and it was heaven.  Jon thought they were fantastic, too, so it was a hit all around.

One warning- these do take a while to cook… like an hour.  So make sure you factor that into your cooking time (i.e. Don’t wait until 30 minutes before you want to eat to start making these.  I DID check the instructions on these closely, so I knew the cook time and planned in advance, but I can’t say that I’ve always done this.  So, just, FYI).

If you decide to give these a shot, let me know what you think of them!  Happy pinning!

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Read Together Tuesdays {Series}

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As you know, in addition to raising a wonderful, spunky, spirited toddler and working full time, I’m also a Barefoot Books Ambassador. Sure, this entails selling books to my family, friends, community, and beyond. But it also means I have this awesome privilege of spreading the joy of reading and encouraging literacy at all ages. With that in mind, I’ve decided to start a new series on the blog where I’ll feature a great book from Barefoot that’s great for reading together.

Today I’m featuring this dreamy paperback: “An Island in the Sun”

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I absolutely adore this book for many, many reasons. The illustrations alone would be reason enough to pick this up. One glance and you’ll have trouble catching your breath- they are just that beautiful.   islandcollage

But I also love the floating, swirling text and the simple, light rhyme. At it’s core, it’s a seek and find type of book that encourages children to spot the items on the page as the text is read. But it’s so much more than just that. The minimalist story line allows for (and fosters) reader/child interaction with the book; it just begs for you to add onto the tale, imagining what else you may encounter while sailing to an island (and after you arrive).

“An Island in the Sun” is recommended for ages 1-5, and if you buy it before the Winter Sale ends on February 2nd, you can snag it for just $3.50. If you’re stuck in a book rut and looking for something new, you can’t go wrong with this!

A Family Ski Trip

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Over the long Martin Luther King, Jr holiday weekend, Jon, Ian, and I joined my family for our annual ski trip. This little tradition is something my parents started over 5 years ago, and they’ve continued to foster it so that each year my entire family gets together and enjoys each other’s company while hitting the slopes. It’s always a lot of fun, and even though I couldn’t actually go on the mountain this year, I still enjoyed myself. We had a packed house- 9 adults and 4 kids (ages 3 months, 2 years, 9 years, and 11 years), but the house we rented was nice and spacious so it didn’t feel crowded or overrun.

I could probably write a hugely long post about this fabulous trip, but instead I’ll just hit the highlights (though it will still probably be long!).

  • The weather was actually pretty great
    The weather was not too cold, but also not so hot that the conditions on the slopes were terrible. It hovered around the 30s on Saturday and the 20s on Sunday. All in all, pretty nice. This allowed me and Ian to go outside and play in the snow a large majority of the weekend. He LOVED tromping through the snow.

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    • Seeing family was fantastic
      Since we do live 10 hours away from my family, it was so nice to be able to get together with everyone and just relax. The house we rented this year was enormous- each family had their own bedroom and bathroom. There were also two large gathering areas and a really big kitchen with a table that fit everyone comfortably. It was wonderful to have a bit of your own space to balance the family togetherness.
  • Ian rode a horse and got a cowboy hat
    On Sunday, only my dad, mom, brother #2, and Jon went on the slopes. The rest of us decided to get out of the house together and do something together. We found there was a little farm not too far away that offered hour long trail rides. Riding a horse was out of the question for me, but they told us there were pony rides for younger kids, so I decided to tag along for Ian’s sake. Well, the pony was not a pony- but a full size horse! After some coaxing (and yes, maybe even a bribe of ice cream), Ian finally agreed to get on the horse and ride around the field a bit. He was a bit apprehensive at first, but before too long he really seemed to enjoy himself. He was talking to me and the horse and even cracked a smile or two.

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    • Ian also let a llama eat out of his hand
      At the same farm where we did the horribly misnamed “pony ride”, there was a petting zoo. Ian was intrigued by the alpacas that were out grazing in the field. He also seemed to really like the donkey. Inside the small barn, we met some rabbits, a llama, and a goat. After watching me feed the llama, Ian decided he was brave enough to attempt it. He stuck his hand out flat, we poured the feed into it, and he let the llama eat all the food from his hand! I was amazed and also a little proud.
  • Caring for a toddler and an infant is HARD!
    On Sunday evening, everyone trekked out to the tubing park and spent 2 hours going down the runs. Since my doctor told me tubing was not in the cards for me, I ended up babysitting Ian and my baby nephew. Fortunately, my brother and sister-in-law had a baby carrier, so I was able to strap my nephew to me, and he fell asleep almost instantly. Unfortunately, Ian was so annoyed that he wasn’t able to tube with everyone else that he became cranky and whiney and insisted on being carried, too. Carrying three kids is tough. Thankfully, my brother came to my aid about halfway through tubing and took his son off my hands so I could focus on Ian. And then for the last 30 minutes of tubing, Jon came and played with Ian (putting him in a tube and pushing him down a small hill) while I carried my nephew in the carrier again so my brother could tube more. Having help made such a big difference. I went from feeling so incredibly overwhelmed (and frankly, a little scared of what things will be like when I have 2 like this of my own) to feeling like things were easily under control. If anything, this showed that I will need to learn to accept (and welcome!) help when this baby comes in May.

I’m excited for next year’s trip… I’ll be able to participate, and Ian might even be able to strap on a pair of skis or go tubing with us (he just might be 42 inches next January!).

Do you go on a trip with your family during the year? Where do you go/what do you do?

Pinterest Favorites and Fails {Series}

Welcome to another edition of my series, Pinterest Favorites and Fails!

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Today, unfortunately, is a big fat FAIL. It’s another recipe (can you tell I like to pin food?? LOL)- Loaded Baked Potato Chicken Casserole, from Cook Lisa Cook.

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Sounds and looks delicious, right? I mean, just look at all that cheesy goodness.

The problem with this recipe is that it is INSANELY spicy. It’s not just a little hot…it’s burn your insides and make your stomach turn hot. (For the record, my husband likes spicy food and actually did enjoy this…I have no stomach for spicy so I took about 2 bites before deciding if I continued to eat I would surely die).

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Picture from Cook Lisa Cook

Perhaps these pictures of the chicken being coated in the red death should have tipped me off. But no where in the post or the comments (yes, I nearly always read comments before trying a recipe) did it mention just how blazin’ hot this would be.

I’m sure I could tweak this recipe to cut down on the heat, and I probably will since I like the concept and overall ingredient base. Perhaps I’ll try that and let you all know how it goes.

So, if you love spicy (like, really spicy), you may want to give this recipe a shot. Otherwise, steer clear unless you want your insides to burn out! Happy pinning!

Baby Frankenfield #2… Gender Revealed!!

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Well we had our 20 week ultrasound last week, and the waiting is over!!  We now know the gender of our newest little nugget!

Last week I wrote a gender-prediction post, just for fun, based on some old wives’ tales.  The results were pretty inconclusive, as 2 gave a girl result and 3 gave a boy result.  So that meant we had to leave it up to the ultrasound results.

The ultrasound went well- baby F looks healthy and whole.  The doctor was pleased with baby F’s size and everything else she saw on the ultrasound photos.  It’s always amazing to see that little baby up on the screen… to see (and hear) the heart beating and watch the baby wiggling and kicking and flipping and spinning.  Right now there’s lots of space for baby to move around, but if this one is anything like Ian, before this whole thing is through there will be hardly any space to spare!  This baby was a little shy in showing us a profile, but we did finally get to see one, and we sure have a cutie!!

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Baby Frankenfield #2!

I found our ultrasound picture of Ian at 20 weeks, and put the two images side by side… they look like they have the same little nose (I think it’s interesting they are facing different directions, though)!

babysidebysideOk, so what is our new little bundle of joy?  Drumroll, please………

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We are so thrilled and cannot wait to see what adventures a little girl will bring.  I had a sneaky feeling that I was carrying a girl this time around.  When I was pregnant with Ian, I had this gut feeling he was a boy.  This time, things felt different and my gut was telling me girl.  But having it confirmed on that screen was something else!  I’m excited for frills and bows and cute outfits.  I’m also excited for Ian to bond with his new little sister and take care of her… I know he’ll be a terrific big brother.  In fact, he has even started helping us with name suggestions.  His current favorite: Ian’s Sister.  What a goofball!

And since this girl thing will be totally new to us, advice and tips are ALWAYS welcome!

Pinterest Favorites and Fails {Series}

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This week is another recipe, and it’s also a Pinterest Favorite: Chicken Spaghetti

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Photo from boomerbrief.com

I love love love this meal.  It has a little kick to it but it’s nice and creamy and oh so filling.  It’s also extremely easy and very forgiving. I’ve used a variety of noodles in this (spaghetti, angel hair, penne) and a variety of chicken (canned, bagged, breast I cooked myself). It’s an inexpensive meal and Ian really likes it (that’s reason enough right there to try this one out).  I love finding meals that the whole family eats together and enjoys.  I actually like this one so much that I printed it out and put it in my recipe binder- a coveted place of honor for a recipe!

So go ahead, check out the recipe and give it a try!

Tackling Potty Training: The HOW

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Earlier this week I mentioned that we decided to give potty training a shot.  It was quite an ordeal the first few days, but I was actually pretty surprised at how quickly and easily (all things considered) Ian took to the whole thing. We still have the occasional accident (typically with #2), but it’s nice to be done with diapers!

There are plenty of resources out there that explain how to potty train and various methods that can be used, so I’m not going to go into too much detail about that.  But I will hit the high points of what we did and what worked (and also what did not work).  I’ll also show the tools/potty aids we used.  This is certainly not the only way (or even the best way) to potty train, but it’s what we did, so take it for what it is- just another potential source or tool as you prepare to embark on your own potty adventure.

1) We started in the morning, as soon as Ian woke up.  We used that morning as a fresh beginning, and even theatrically said together “BYE-BYE DIAPERS!” as we took off the diaper Ian wore overnight and tossed it into the trash.  We then sat him on the potty and encouraged him to go (he didn’t) before pulling out the “big boy” underwear and throwing on some sweatpants (easy to remove and not a big deal if they get soiled).  I opted to use regular underwear instead of disposable or cloth training pants so that Ian could feel an accident and be negatively impacted by it.  I did use disposable training pants for nap time and bed time, though, since I wasn’t quite ready to start night training.  I also put him in disposable training pants before we took a trip in the car for the first 2 or so weeks (since I did NOT want to clean up the car seat if he had an accident).  Other than that, though, it was underwear the whole time… which was messy but I think definitely helped the process.

2) We originally were taking Ian to the bathroom about every 30 minutes and trying to coax him into going by offering 2 M&Ms for pee and 5 for poop.  This worked fine once he had his first success on the potty- up to that point, we may as well been speaking in Greek by offering some abstract candy for an abstract idea (going in the potty instead of his pants).  After he did realize how he could earn candy, he was more willing to actually go when we sat him on the potty, but about halfway through day 2 he went on a mini-strike and screamed bloody murder when we escorted him to the bathroom (I think he was annoyed by the mandatory breaks).  We changed tactics and offered 1 M&M for making the trek to the toilet and sitting on it. This was MUCH more successful, and he was more than willing to take a break from the day to walk to the bathroom if it meant candy was guaranteed. This was an easy fix for us and had no negative impact on the potty training process- in fact, I think it helped.  After the first day or so, we extended the time gradually until we were taking him every hour, to test his ability to hold it and ensure he was getting the hang of potty training. This also seemed to work well.

3) We started off using a small children’s floor potty (we used the Baby Bjorn Smart Potty, pictured above- LOVE THIS THING!) since it was portable and we could put it in the same room where we were. We did this for all of day 1 and most of day 2 before we moved the potty into the actual bathroom.  Ian liked having a potty his size to sit on and he also bizarrely enjoyed dumping its contents into the large toilet and flusing. Cleanup for the Baby Bjorn potty was super easy since it’s just a plastic bucket/insert that comes out and can be easily rinsed/wiped clean. I am so glad I bought this potty chair.

4) We also bought a portable potty ring/insert for our normal toilet (we bought the Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus via Amazon but I’m sure you can get it other places, too). OMG THIS THING IS AMAZING. I love that it nestles right inside the toilet seat and is very sturdy and secure.  I also love that it folds into a fairly small size and comes with a plastic carrying bag so it is easy to take with us wherever we want. We took it shopping, to restaurants, to the amusement park- everywhere!  I would buy this thing a million times over!  It allowed (and still does allow) Ian to use the bathroom ANYWHERE without issue… and as an added bonus, I don’t have to worry about him touching nasty public toilets.

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The portable potty insert we bought. Seriously one of the BEST inventions!!

5) A few days into potty training, we switched from the floor potty to the big potty (using our portably potty insert).  We asked Ian which one he wanted to use, and he usually picked the insert.  I think because we had been out and about most of the day before and used the potty insert the whole time he was used to it and liked being on the big potty like a big person.  This definitely significantly shortened clean up time after he went potty!

We are still asking Ian if he has to go potty and taking him every 1-2 hours as a precaution.  He will occassionally tell us if he has to use the bathroom, but not frequently enough for my liking (and I’d rather just avoid the accident by forcing him to take a potty break than waiting on him to ask for one on his own), but I’m hoping within another month we will be done with that, too, and he’ll be telling us when he needs a potty break.

Potty training is definitely a process, but it is possible!  What potty products/aids did you use when going through this?  Any techniques or tips you’d like to share?