Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve!

Today is a day to say goodbye to 2010!  The girls and I spent the day cleaning up the remaining Christmas decor and preparing for a new year.  To say that I am happy for 2010 to be over is an understatement.  This year brought with it:

- My Baby turned 1!
-Very long and scary hospital stay for my dad.
- My First born turned 3!
- 7 close deaths; six of which were to cancer and four of which occurred after Halloween.
- Several new babies were born!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-My sister started college in Arizona (UofA)
- Justin went to Pennsylvania for the first time.
- Justin & I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary!
- We went on our 1st trip without the girls!

And much much more.  This year was a mixed year some happy happy times and some very frightening times yet I can't say that it was a BAD year - if anything it was a year of growth and strength and most importantly BLESSINGS!

As we close this year I feel completely blessed to live the life I live and to have the opportunity to raise my two girls and spend my time as a wife and mother. So this year I hope for a fully Happy and less eventful year.

Tonigth we will celebrate our start - Justin asked me to be his girlfriend 7 years ago tonight!  Now that we have the girls and Justin has a commute we plan to celebrate our traditional date night at home.  We will be enjoying Chicken Parmigiana, bread, and salad tonight then watching a movie for old times sake (look for a recipe in the next few days)! 

Hope you all have a wonderful night and a Happy (and less eventful) New Year.  Tomorrow's post will highlight what I am most excited about for next year!

Ash of All Trades

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Helpful Hint for Lunches

One thing I have found with lunches is that if we plan what to eat we end up with leftovers if I don't plan then we scramble (sometimes eggs)!  What I usually do now is have some go to ideas. 

When I make pasta for dinner one night I make plenty of extra for a lunch or two for me and the girls!  I also make a batch of hardboiled eggs for egg salad or to eat plain.  Having beans one night make extra and keep them in the fridge they make great burritos, tacos, or go in salads etc. 

Thinking ahead saves me time later - I can do the opposite to - if we want pasta for lunch but need it for dinner make extra.  Chopping things for lunch/dinner chop extra for another day! 

This makes things go smoother and keeps me from cooking three meals from scratch each day. 

Just a handy tip I have realized makes my life sooooo much easier.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Merry Belated Christmas!

Greetings all and I hope you had a wonderfully Merry Christmas!  We enjoyed ourselves over here with lots of decorating and traditions plus family visits and more.  Here is a bit of a recap from the last few months!

 Above is our gingerbread house the girls so lovingly helped me decorate.  Chloee was in heaven organizing pieces and carefully placing them on while Caylee munched away 3 candies in her mouth per one on the house.  Mommy had to personalize it was a C for my girls!

Decorating the tree was a big hit for both of the girls.  Chloee was so excited since she remembered last year and since she got her annual Hallmark Ornament to hang.  We kind of went crazy this year (okay okay we do this every year) and bought the biggest tree we could find - let's just say the girls now have a 12 inch stump to sit on not including the other 12 inches we cut off.  Tall and broad that is how we like our Christmas trees.

December also brought with it the ripening (mostly) of our pumpkins!  We only waited four months for these puppies.  They proudly sit in the kitchen next to the Christmas cookie jar hehe.  We gave a few away and are going to make pumpkin seeds tomorrow with the rest.

Since we don't have snow in Eastvale we improvised and made paper snowmen even finding some downloadable hats and scarves for Chloee to add to them.  We took a picture and then gave the original to Grandma Suzi since snowmen are her favorite.  Gotta love kiddos for remembering the little things.

Here is a picture of our mantle (the lighting wasn't right but I never got around to taking another one).  We are going with my husband's idea of having all different stockings - he says I have too much order in my life (I think not) but I will let him have it since his stocking was handmade when he was a baby and I know there is nothing I can do to change his mind.  Pottery Barn you can keep your matching stockings for now.

We are now sadly cleaning up our Christmas decor - in most part due to the fact that our tree is dead and collapsing but we are looking forward to decorating for Valentines Day and more.  Lots of tips coming up in the New Year and lots of home improvement projects to follow!

Friendly Blogger, Ash of All Trades

Monday, October 25, 2010

How We Meal Plan

Since I just posted my October menu and will be posting my November menu in a few days I figured giving some of my meal planning tips might be a good idea! 

First things first - start small (unless you are up for a challenge!).  When we first started meal planning we did it weekly and planned 2 or 3 nights; as we got the hang of planning ahead we added nights here and there until now we just sit down monthly.  Oh what a relief!

Meal Planning Tips:
  1. Start with recipes you like and know how to cook, use these to simplify the start up.
  2. Plan new or difficult recipes on nights you have time to experiment.
  3. Make a list during the month of meals you would like to have or are inspired to try by the time next month comes around you will have a great head start.
  4. Similarly you can try to make a list of 20 meals (or 10 for you and 10 for your spouse) then just place them on a calendar and voila meal plan!
  5. Make planning the remained of the meals fun pull out cookbooks and magazines (if you have kids include their ideas).
  6. Plan on an empty stomach - trust me you will be much more successful this way!
  7. Look at your calendar - if you have a long day crock pot meals may be best, if you are eating brunch out on Sunday you may want a smaller dinner, if you have plans you don't need a meal.
  8. Coordinate your meals - use a whole chicken on Monday then make chicken enchiladas on Tuesday and Chicken Alfredo on Friday.  Using larger cuts of meat is healthier, cheaper, and gives variety!
  9. Add sides weekly based on sale ads.  Pick vegetables that are on sale to help cut the grocery budget.  Other sides like rice and beans are best when stockpiled and chosen ahead of time (we have been known to spend more than 20 minutes choosing a side dish - eek).
  10. Have variety - don't make pasta five times a week for three weeks you will burn yourself out!  One new thing we are trying is having a category for each day of the week.  Monday - Mexican; Tuesday - Pasta; etc etc.
  11. Be flexible - sometimes things come up (your husband just really wants to barbecue not cook indoors or you really honestly don't feel like beef stew on a 110 degree day) that's okay! We do try to plan for the weather a bit - although lately this has proven more difficult than usual.
  12. Invest in some good cookbooks/magazines or get to know some great websites!
  13. Have fun - oops I think I already said that!
One of my upcoming posts will be on my favorite cookbooks, magazines, and websites!

Bon Appetit!

Ash of All Trades

PS Please feel free to leave any additional tips as a comment - we are always open to new ideas!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October Meal Plan

Alright folks here is my October meal plan!  I know I know it is almost November but better late than never right? (and to be honest I made it way back in September I just have been fiddling with the layout of this new blog since then!)

So some tricks of the trade - once a month the hubby and I sit down and meal plan for the entire month.  We put together a list of what is in out stockpile, pull out all of our cookbooks (we have a ton) and decide what sounds good!  Usually by the end of any given month we have received recipes from friends, magazines or the internet and thus have somewhat of a headstart.  We are developing an art to our meal planning which will come in another post!

The point is we make it fun it is a date night of sorts.  If you are single do it with your roommate or your kids or your dog just make it fun! 

Second tip - it doesn't always go according to plan.  My type A personality is still learning this but its okay if meal friends call and invite you over or you invite someone over who doesn't like what is planned if it doesn't get used push it to next month or chalk it up to not being meant to be. 

Now some people say but I don't know what I am going to want in 21 days.  Well my husband salivates all day knowing we are going to have some good home cooked food he helped plan for and that was cooked with LOVE!  Now I say with love because before we instituted meal planning the night would run more like this: "aye aye aye hubby is almost home what are we going to have what are we going to have (insert panic attack), I can't make a decision oye vey ahhhhh  - spaghetti - again - for the third time this week".  And remorse would set in and I would feel like the wife of a rock.  So we don't do that anymore kapish!

Plus my kids are loving helping me prepare and cook and do all kinds of things that didn't happen before when mommy was in panic what should we make mode (and for some reason my pickiest three year old ever is even eating this food she cooks - hmmmmm)...  So voila our October meal plan with recipe links and all!

Meal Plan October 2010



Breakfast Omelettes

Moroccan Chicken
White Rice
Green Beans
Carne y Pollo Asada
Chips Salsa
Carne Asada Tacos & Rice with CornSoup & Grilled Cheese SandwichesOut to eat
Green Burritos
Chips & Salsa
Garlic Bread
Potatoes with Bell Peppers
Tri Tip
BBQ Herb Chicken
Tomato Salad
Sausage Hoagies
French Toast
Beef Flautas
Sezchuan Chicken
Fried Rice
Stir Fry Veggies
Garlic Bread
Beef Tacos
Mexican Pasta Bake with Peppers
Whole chicken soupSpaghetti & Meatballs
Parmesan Chicken & Asparagus Pasta Sausage Italian Stew and Garlic BreadLouisiana Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
Albondigas & Quesadillas
Brown Rice
Stir Fry Veggies
Breakfast PaninisItalian Wedding Soup
Bats N Cobwebs
Rotisserie Chicken
Pasta Dish

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome One, Welcome All!

Welcome to my new blog - Ash of All Trades.  This is a quick summary of what you can expect to read and experience in the upcoming days, weeks, months and hopefully years!  I love blogs, I love reading them, following them, writing them, designing them - you name it I love it! 

My goal in life is to always be striving to be the best person I can for any given period of life.  Right now I want to be the best wife, mother, daughter and sister to my husband, daughters, parents, siblings and friends for where they are in their life now.  What my toddlers need right now is not what they will need in five years (probably not even what they will need in the next year or two)!  I want to do as much as I feel called to do without feeling like my head is spinning around in la-la land. 

So one goal of this blog is to try and help others discover who they want to be and what they want to do for today but also for tomorrow.  We have to plan ahead my friends or the future will pounce!  (Is this a bit lofty of a goal - why yes that is why I will try).  This is my personal journey (although this blog will be very vague and not exposing my life to the whole wild world!) Here are some aspects I hope to include:

1. Meal Planning (lots of yummy recipes)
2. Frugal Budgeting - food and otherwise
3. Being a Part of A Family (including raising children and being a citizen of the world)
4. Trying Unconventional Things
5. Making The Most of Life

There will be many more facets and twists I am certain but I hope you will follow me on my journey to making sense and purpose out of this crazy ole world we live in.

Without Further Ado,
Ash of All Trades