30 Days of Dinner Challenge

4
Sep
2014

30DaysofDinnerChallenge

I am a big fan of family dinners – it is not secret if you’ve been here long.  Dinner together is a relationship building experience of bonding and memory making.  We are a blended family – meaning everyone is scattered in different homes at different times plus my husband travels – so it makes our time together even more valuable.

I am pleased to announce I am partnering with Dream Dinners in a 30 Day Challenge to have dinner together as a family.  You know, September is a crazy busy month with adjusting schedules and everyone back to fall sports and after school activities.  If you are not careful and plan – dinner can easily be forgotten.  

For me, planning is key:

1. I grab a blank monthly calendar and mark the days my husband is out of town and then mark the days the kids are home.  If it’s just me and my 4 year old, dinners tend to me a little more low key.

2. I  plan out what meals I have on hand and what I want to make through the month.

Dream-Dinners-Ready

3.  This month I was blessed to go to Dream Dinners and make ahead dinners to use during the month.  Dream Dinners is the originator and leader of the meal assembly industry – and the menu changes each month, so you’ll never get bored!  We picked our dinner choices online and then showed up to assemble them as a family affair.  It was great for everyone, and even the older kids were excited!

Here are some photos of us making our dinners – it was great.  My two oldest kids came along – and my hubby!  It was a fun evening and I loved all my helpers.

Dream-Dinners-family-fun

I had done this before with my kids when they were much younger and I was a single mom.  It was such positive experience and a fun way to build memories, so this was great for bringing those back – my kids were thrilled to go again!

We broke into teams and made dinners and it took a little less than 1 1/2 hours to make 12 dinners for the month.  The total cost was $262.72 for 8 meals that served 6, and one meal that served 3; equaling $5.15 per serving.  All the prep was done ahead of time, meals are in the freezer and ready to be taken out!   

You travel to stations set up with all the ingredients you need for the recipe and the best part – they clean up after you AND they have treats!!  We had a special preview appetizer of a menu item that will be available next month as well as freshly baked cookies.

Dream-Dinners-Family-Dinner

We made:

Meatloaf Milano with Mashed Potatoes

Chicken Soft Tacos with Key Lime Corn

Cranberry Buttermilk Chicken

Steak Provence with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Kentucky Pork Chops

Outlaw Chicken Marinar

Monte Cristo Chicken

Cola and Lime Tender Pork Roast

Bueno Steak Tacos with Spanish Rice

I absolutely loved the experience and overall ease of prepping dinners.  The only thing I would love to see is allergen information posted when you go online to sign up for the dinners you will prepare on your set time.  Being Gluten Free, I can easily make adjustments to recipes at home,  but when you are prepping things away from home, there is less opportunity to change up items or know for sure that the meal can be made gluten free.  

Will you join me?  

To Join the Challenge:

1.  Decide on the number of meals you’d like to share with your family each week during September.  Whether you plan on pledging to share 30 homemade meals this month or are looking forward to sitting down as a family for three dinners a week, you’ll reap the benefits of family meals all month long.

2.  I will be sharing my dinners on my Facebook page and Instagram using the hashtag #30DaysofDinner.  You can also share original pictures of your family’s meals on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter – either homemade or a family dinner at your favorite restaurant – they all count!

3.  Tag Dream Dinners in your photo and use #3oDaysofDinner to enter the contest.  Dream Dinners will be giving away a $200 gift card each week during September – so the more photos you share, the more chances you’ll have of winning!

I am looking forward to this fun challenge!  I have committed to 15 dinners together as a family this month – that may seem a bit slim, but with a hubby that travels and kids at different homes….that is a great number for us!  

What’s your number?

I was gifted with a $200 gift card as compensation for my partnership in this challenge from Dream Dinners and all opinions are my own and were not influenced by the compensation.

5 Time Management Hacks

14
Aug
2014

TIme-Management-Hacks-Intentional-Day

It is time to stop all the fun and games of summer and begin getting back to organized days and routine.  If you are anything like me, summer means you lose a bit of routine and feel a bit less productive – which can be good, but there is a time for everything as they say – and now we must think ahead and move forward.

As the school year begins, it is the perfect time to take a look at organizing our day with intention and purpose. The real key isn’t to hope to pull extra time out of nowhere, but to learn to use the time you do have more effectively. Being intentional with your time management can be the key to success and a life with less stress and anxiety

Here are my tips to jumpstart you back into an organized day!

An Effective To-Do List

This is one of the most essential tools in time management.  Find a system that works for you.  I know many have so appreciated combining their to-do list in the Weekly Household Planner – especially the version that is all ready to use, with all the household tasks listed out.  I love using my planner and adding other tasks that I need to accomplish in the line available for each day or in the notes section.  I also at times up a sticky note attached to my planner for tasks that need to be completed.  Adding tasks to the list the night before helps me organize my day and realize what needs to get done and what I might be able to put on another day.  Some moms have printed the blank version and used that exclusively for “other tasks” – making it easy to write on and organize.

Prioritizing what you need to accomplish will help you to understand what is truly important to get done and what may be able to wait.

 Next is to prioritize them. Be honest when you do this. Figure out what you need to get done and put those higher on the list than what you want to get done.

Use a Calendar

Keep track of important dates, birthdays, appointments and upcoming events. Our family uses the Apple iCal system to keep things in order and all 6 of our calendars easily synced.   I love it!  From myself to my husband who travels 3-4 days a week and a college age daughter – we all need to know what is going on.  This has been the easiest system for us to use.  Find a system that works for you and use it!  I have also used Cozi previous to our Apple conversion, or you can grab a paper calendar as well. This Amy Knapp 2015 version is great because it is big and easy for little ones to see what is coming up and is 17 months, so starts with August 2014!

Keeping a visual calender at arm’s reach does wonders for making sure you are on track and is a central place for everyone to see what is going on as well.

Command Center

Take some time to find an area in your home where you can keep your calendar and tasks items located. When things are in their place you won’t lose time looking for them. This also makes it easier to concentrate.  Having a central location for spare paper, pens, envelopes, sticky notes and your task lists will help you be intentional with staying organized.  Put stuff away when you are done it and file paperwork as soon as it is ready to be filed.

Schedule Breaks

This may make you laugh, but you are working too – so just like you would have scheduled breaks at an “office” job, plan time in your day to have a couple 10-15 minute breaks. They are important for staying refreshed so scheduling them will make sure you take breaks as well as helping some other little ones in your home expect them each day – routine makes everything  bit easier!  Use a timer to remind yourself if you need to, but take some breaks throughout the day. 

Be flexible, yet firm

It is great to have a plan and a routine that works for your family, but remember that each day brings it’s own set of issues and it’s not always possible to stick to a set routine.  I admit, adjusting to curve balls in my day can be a bit overwhelming to me, and is something I have to work on.  When something comes up that needs to get done or you need to give attention to, stop and determine if there is something that will need to be deleted from your day or rescheduled.  

Time management can save you a lot of trouble and stress. Through planning and organization you can save time and get more done. It may have a small time investment to get started, but the benefits can be amazing, plus you will open time up for things that are FUN things to fit into your day!

Super Hero Back to School Shopping Tips

31
Jul
2014

Back-to-School-Shopping-Tips

It’s that time of year! Your child needs school supplies and clothes. Where do you start? How do you pay for it all?

I love tips, especially easy tips for back to school - Here are some tips for making the grade with your grade school kid this year.

Dressed for Success

Your grade school child may not have the picky tastes of a teenager, but he or she is going to need some new clothes this year.  I know, we all hate the dreaded school shopping.  I love the season I am in right now.  I have a 17 year old who basically does his own shopping and we give him a budget.  I don’t have to worry about our 13 year old, and our 4 year old is very easy.  By the way, my favorite kid clothing store is Old Navy – purchasing online is my cup of tea!

Before you get started, make sure you go through last year’s clothing and find out what fits and what doesn’t. This includes shoes, socks, and underwear, too. Grade school kids can grow really fast!

Here are some more ideas for clothes shopping with your grade school child.

  • Plan your shopping trip for a day when you don’t have to rush, and when you don’t have anything planned the night before. Being rested and ready helps everyone’s mood, and so does being able to take your time. Or better yet, save time and energy by shopping online, especially for basics.  Target and Old Navy are perfect for underwear, socks and basic t-shirts.
  • Call the school where your child will be attending and make sure there aren’t any changes to the dress code. If your child will be attending this school for the first time, you’ll want to find out what the dress code is.
  • Keeping it simple helps a lot. Depending on his (or her) age, he will be better able to dress himself as the year goes on. Having easy-to-fasten clothes can help a lot to facilitate this process. Tough buttons (or lots of buttons), lacings, belts, and small head-holes can make dressing a frustrating experience. Go for clothes with large head-holes, zippers, and easy (and few) buttons.

School Supplies

Moving on to school supplies – like the clothes, it’s a good idea to check with your school list – you can access that list online usually or even find the specific grade list at your local stores.  I know that some teachers specify brands, colors, and so forth, so making sure you have the exact teacher/grade list is important.

Here are some other tips for shopping for school supplies with your grade school child.

  • Go generic on writing items like pens and pencils. Getting fancy, unique writing implements only leads to competition in the classroom and the possibility that your child’s fancy pens will get stolen. Unless the teacher requires otherwise, go with standard #2 pencils.  I love simple!
  • Markers should be water-based, and crayons are usually needed in packs of 16. Consider a box to store and carry these small, easily-lost items.
  • Erasers are always needed in grade school. A large, pink eraser like you had in school is a good purchase. Some erasers that fit on the ends of pencils are inexpensive additions, too.
  • Your child’s school may not supply paper like they did in the old days, (I don’t even remember going and buying many school supplies when I was a kid – maybe I am really dating myself!)  Find out from your teacher/school if you need to supply ruled (lined) paper, which will differ from teacher to teacher and grade to grade.
  • Notebooks come in many forms. Your grade school child will probably need some spiral-bound ones as well as some binders. Think slim and trim so the notebooks fit in your child’s desk, no matter what type is required.
  • You also might want to purchase some dividers or pocket folders to help your child stay organized. In addition, the printable Student Planner, that can be found in the Back 2 School Survival Guide can be placed in your child’s notebook.  Having one main place to keep track of daily homework assignments will help your child keep track of due items, but also keep things in one spot ready to turn in.

Let’s get organized for school so you can keep enjoying what’s left of summer!

Emeals Family Favorite Recipe

25
Jul
2014

Ham-Broccoli-Pastry-emeals

We are on vacation this week but I wanted to share with you one of my family’s FAVORITE eMeals recipes.   This recipe dates back to October of 2009 -YES – I have been an eMeals lover that long!!

It’s REAL name is:  Ham and Broccoli Pastry – but we have lovingly re-named it the Ham and Broccoli Bake.

Even though I am now more of a Gluten Free and Paleo lover, this recipe finds it’s way into our meal planning for special occasions. It is often THE most requested meal item for birthday dinners.  :-)

So, as I asked for suggestions for our vacation meals, it was no surprise this one made it into the top 5 choices!  I thought it was certainly time to share the fabulous meal with you too.

This recipe has coveted my family’s rating of 5 stars……. now, when we rate any eMeals or other recipe, it is always done off the “Ham and Broccoli Bake” rating scale – so you know this is a BIG deal at our house!

emeals-recipe-family-favorite

The recipe is simple and is perfect when you serve some fruit or a small salad along with it.  I also love this recipe because you are kinda sneaky  –  you are getting that broccoli in, and for many in your family, they may miss it since it tastes so good!

Here is what it looks like as you pull it out of the oven.  Easy to cut into serving size pieces.

Ham-Broccoli-Bake-emeals

Emeals has so many meal plan options to choose from, making dinner prep and planning simple for me.  Right now, you can get 20% off any new meal subscription using the discount code:   SCHOOL   

Now is the time to make your meal planning simple and easy – why waste your time on something that someone else can do for you better or more efficeintly?  That is my motto!!  Plus, they do it well.

Two Tips For an Easy Back 2 School Season

17
Jul
2014

Back-to-school-success

I am excited to share some fun ways to get organized for Back to School.  Now, for those of you who are in my neck of the woods, don’t shoot me!!  Yes, for those on the west coast, we still have at least 1 1/2 months of summer left, but for those on the east coast and mid-west, school days are coming quick.

If you are a new reader, you may not have become familiar with my Back 2 School Survival Guide.  This product released three years ago and has been a great help to many moms who need to re-focus for the upcoming school year.  There are great sections on setting up routines for home and school, how to set goals and track them, battling homework hassles, dealing with bullies, expectations,  anxiety and more.  Over 80 pages of helpful information that you will access year after year!

Back 2 School Survival Guide- make that back to school transition easier

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with Back to School – go on over and check it out.

Back-to-School-SliderMy next Back to School “fix” is with the help of eMeals – yep, you know how much I love it.  Here I shared my love for the eMeals Paleo plan and I will posting again next month on a different plan and let you know how we liked it.  I have used eMeals now for over 5 years – LOVE!!   Simple and easy is my middle name and eMeals makes planning and preparing dinner one thing to ‘almost’ take off my to-do list.  I love it!  

With eMeals you choose a meal plan based on eating style {there are so many to choose from – Clean Eating, Classic, Paleo, Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Carb, Kid Friendly, Vegetarian and more}, your family size and your favorite grocery store. Once a week you get an email with 7 dinner recipes, a shopping list organized by section and coordinated with weekly sales at grocery stores.   They also have an APP where you can easily access the lists to grocery shop from and do your cooking.  

So I was thrilled when I just got news that they were also kicking off Back to School with a special.  You can grab a new membership to eMeals for 20% off using the discount code  SCHOOL.  In addition, if you are a new subscriber or already subscribed you will get access to a FREE BACK TO SCHOOL GUIDE full of easy recipes for breakfast, lunch boxes, easy weeknight meals and more:

  • 3 Power Breakfast Recipes
  • 2 Lunch Box Recipes
  • 2 Weeknight Dinners
  • 2 Afterschool Snacks
  • 1 Yummy Dessert

10 perfect recipes to get you back into the swing of things for the school year!   Here is a FREE recipe for you to try on your family now!!

Turkey-Bacon-Tortilla-Roll-ups-watermark (1) 

Turkey-Bacon Tortilla Roll-Ups (from the Back to School Survival Guide PDF)

8 slices bacon

Mayonnaise

1 (8-oz) package store-bought guacamole

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

1/2  lb thinly sliced deli turkey

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (or any shredded cheese)

1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce (optional)

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp; drain. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise and guacamole over each tortilla.

Layer turkey, bacon and cheese on each tortilla.

Add lettuce, if desired. Roll up tortillas, and cut in half.

Makes 4 servings.

I will be grabbing some Gluten Free Tortillas to make this while on vacation with my family this next week – a time saver and easy to serve.  Perfect pool food!