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A blog to support, encourage, and mentor at home moms in all aspects of home making and family life.

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Tuesday
Jan282014

Weekly Meal Plan

Recent Reader Question: "How did you get dinner on the table amidst a busy day with school and activities?"

Those of you who know me, know I LOVE organization!  If anyone every actually wants to know how I like to plan things, I'm more than happy to oblige!  So here's what I did to keep our family healthfully fed, on, at least, a pretty consistent basis.  It's not rocket science but during our busiest family years, it kept dinner on the table and lunch in the lunch bags on a regular basis.

I planned my food on Tuesdays.  I say "food" because I think many of us are in the habit of planning our dinners and even maybe our lunches in advance, but then we sometimes get caught short with the other food requirements during the day.  Breakfast and snacks.  Both of which can become thoughtless "grab and go" feedings.  Where we end up grabbing food that ideally we wouldn't choose to feed to our families.  Or ourselves for that matter.

So I'm just going to, in bullet form, explain how I liked to plan our food for the week.

I liked to use my Polestar Family Calendar - now I am in no way connected with this company, I just love their calendars there is space for everything.  Under the Meals section I'd write in lunch for each day.  My husband looked after his own lunch so this was just for the girls and I.   You'll notice a star in the middle of the meal box, that was to indicate that it was the same lunch listed on Monday, repeating on Tuesday - Friday.

I made the same lunch everyday for a week running and then switch it the next week.  I found it was easier, I wasted less food, I was able to make much of it in advance and one week of the same thing didn't seem to bother my kids. 

Here are a few different lunches that I used.  Now remember these aren't for each day.  One of these would be used for an entire week.   You'll notice in the picture of my calendar, I've written in the lunch on Monday and then just starred the rest of the days to indicate it's the same on the following days.  One day a week, I'd let the girls buy their lunch from the cafeteria.   

These are some different ones that my girls liked.  (They don't like sandwiches…)

Lunches:

Baked potato (microwaved in the morning, split, buttered, peppered and wrapped in tin foil)

green onions, cheddar, bacon

apple

carrot sticks

cookie

water bottle

plastic fork, knife

 

Navy bean soup

scissor rolls, buttered

celery sticks

apple

cookie

water bottle

plastic spoon

 

Greek salad w/ chicken breast

bun, buttered

mandarin orange

cookie

water bottle

plastic fork

 

turkey wrap (hummus, deli turkey, lettuce, bell peppers)

carrot sticks

kiwi

muffin

cookie

water bottle

 

chili

buttered bun

carrot sticks

kiwi

cookie

water bottle

plastic spoon 

Once I had which ever lunch I was going to make I'd figure out the "snack of the week", again I used the same after school snack for one entire week and then switched it the next.  The girls often had sports or activities after school so I would pack their snack in the morning at the same time as their lunch, but in a different brown paper bag and write "snack" on it.  Their water bottles were refillable so I didn't include another drink with their snack.  Here are a few that we liked.

Snacks:

muffin & yogurt, plastic spoon 

apple, cheese & crackers

hummus and crackers, carrot sticks

celery, cheese and crackers

Once I had the girls' lunches and snacks figured out, I'd write in my own - theirs were often too heavy for me.  I'd also write in my own snack for mid-afternoon, often the same as the girls', so that if I had to be out running them around in the afternoon I wouldn't end up grabbing something unhealthy or just plain starving.  Even if I was at home, I liked knowing that there was something healthy ready to go, it help to keep me out of the chips before dinner.

Then I'd write in dinners.  I'd start by writing out what I wanted to base the meal around and vary it on each day so we were eating a variety.  For example; Monday - fish, Tuesday - poultry, Wednesday - left overs, Thursday - Vegetarian, Friday - take out.  Saturday - date night/kids chicken fingers.  Sunday - beef.  Then I'd pick recipes and sides and write them in too.

Breakfast seemed to take care of itself, although looking back I wish I had been more intentional about breakfast.  When they were young it was cold cereal and an orange most mornings, as they got older and spent more time in front of the mirror before school, I usually made them smoothies that they drank in the car on the way.  In a perfect world I would have made crock pot steel cut oatmeal and scrambled eggs with an orange - in reality it never happened.  it's hard to get teenage girls to take time away from their hair and make up to eat, and I'm really not a morning person, I'm not really on my game until about 10 o'clock.  Such is life...  

And don't think I was re-inventing the wheel each week.  I would go back through old calendars and simply repeat menus.  I found that what we ate last August, lots of salads, meat on the barbecue, corn on the cob, was perfectly fine for this August and the same with Winter months when we liked heavier meals.   Over time I started pulling past menus from old calendars and keeping seasonal lists.  It made meal planning easier, and reminded me of things we had liked in the past that I might have forgotten about.  

Then once the menus were all figured out, I'd write out my grocery list.  I learned over time that if I "shopped my cupboards" before I went to Safeway, I could cut out buying a lot of things I already had.  I shopped once a week.  Yup, it was a lot of groceries, often two buggies full.  They would often open a separate cashier for me so other customers wouldn't have to wait behind my big order!  But then it was done.  I would come home, unload the car - that's the part I always hated.  Wash and prep the fruit and veggies.  Marinate whatever needed to be marinated.  Make up whatever lunch was for that week. 

Because it was such a huge list I found that if I categorized it, it made life simpler and shopping faster.  Here's an example. 

Produce:

celery

3x red bell

12x apples

green onions

romaine

Canned/Bottled:

Mayo

28 oz. diced tomatoes

2x chick peas

2x kidney beans

2x pinto beans

Dairy/Cold Case:

sour cream

3x milk

OJ

Grapefruit juice 

Deli:

Corn chips

salsa

hummus

tortillas

deli turkey - 400g

Of course it was much longer than this and by the time everything was shopped, unpacked, prepped and put away, it took the entire school day, but then it was done and I didn't have to think about food until the next Tuesday.  And I knew that for each day we had some sort of food planned out.  This worked for me.  I like doing things in a big way and then having them done.  Some people find once a week shopping to be too much and prefer to stop off at the store each day.  Either way, planning out what you're making and what you need to shop for is helpful and saves you from wandering aimlessly through the grocery store waiting for inspiration to strike.  It also keeps you from panicking at 4:30, thinking "What the heck am I going to feed these people - again!"

So there you go.  Remember, you asked!  ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday
Jan242014

Anxiously Waiting For Life To Start

My youngest daughter is in labour.  

When I gave birth to her sister, 20-something years ago, things did not go smoothly.  They went a little better when she was born, but women in my family don't give birth easily.  It's a very long, drawn out and often unsuccessful endeavour.  Between my sister and I, three out of our four births resulted in emergency c-sections.

And so I'm uneasy as I wait for texts from my son-in-law.  

"They sent us home, said it would be a while still."

"We would love it if you'd drop some food off, her contractions are more regular and I don't want to leave her.  She's hungry but doesn't know what she wants."

"Going back to the hospital, the morphine has worn off."

At this point as far as I know they're still at home, but they could be back at the hospital.  I'm sure texting us updates on their whereabouts isn't foremost in their minds just now.

Three months ago our older daughter had her first baby.  A home birth with a mid-wife.  I was very nervous about this idea.  I imagined her needing an emergency caesarian, them having to call the ambulance, be transferred to the hospital, prep-her, freeze her -  all taking up valuable, and possibly life threatening, time.  None of this happened.  In fact, she delivered their beautiful, healthy, baby girl, at home, after only 2 1/2 hours of active labour.

So I'm some what less trepidatious this time.  However, this is a different daughter.  A different body.  A different baby.  A different birth.  And just like my own two births were different, even though they were both experienced by the same mother.  I'm very aware that this is a new and different situation.  We don't know how her little body delivers, or how willingly this little babe will enter the world.

My husband knows, from when our older daughter had her baby, that I'm not chatty when our girls are in labour.  And so when I respond to his questions with a distracted and somewhat surly "What???"  He accepts it good-naturedly and leaves me to my pensive silence.

I've sent no emails to friends or family.  I've made no phone calls to let them know the babe's on her way.  I haven't Facebooked or texted anyone.  I want to be left alone.

I am.  Waiting.

Waiting. 

And so, just like when my girls married and I was home, forcibly retired from my beloved job of full-time mother, and I turned to this blog to pour out my feelings of grief and uncertainty at my unfamiliar future.  Today, once again I write for my own comfort.  Not sure whether I'll ever post this or not.  But find reassurance in the silent, anonymous companionship of my readers.

The support of being able to speak to you, to pour out my emotions, without the burden of a reply or questions.  A friend I can confide in without the need to feign excitement, when all I'm feeling at this moment is anxious anticipation.  

I'm not one to parade my emotions.  Unless my emotion is joy.  When I'm anxious or unsure, grief stricken or lonely, I retreat.  And I have, over the past 3 years since I began Your Apron Strings, learned the great solace writing provides me during those times.

Pouring my heart out to a flickering curser that may or may not, at some point, become a link to the many unknown friends I've made through this blog. 

And so I wait. 

Not sure if they're home or in the hospital.  Not sure if this new baby girl is close or hours away.  Praying that the mercies and blessings, God has lavished so richly on our family, will continue for yet another day.  That this little girl and her mother, still a babe herself in my eyes, will come through this safely.  Healthy.  And that my anxiety will once again, as it did when our first grandchild was born, melt into unspeakable joy and thanksgiving.  That I will once again tearfully meet a new love of my life.  And delight at the wondrous joys that await my daughter and her husband through the life of their first born child.  

I wait.

Unable to help her.  Unable to change anything that's going to happen.  Very aware of my dependence on the God I love, and what a tremendous blessing the safe delivery of a child is.

Such unspeakable blessings.  Such unspeakable joys.

Soon.  But for now I wait.

Friday
Jan172014

What You're Offering A Future Husband

I try really hard to keep to my mandate of "encouraging and mentoring, full time, at home mothers," when I write posts for this blog.  To keep away from politics or topics that vary from my set course.  But every now and then an issue comes up so repeatedly that I feel I need to write about it.

In the past 12 months I've had several young women, early 20's ish, want to talk to me about how they're "struggling" with their desire to settle down young and be full time mothers.

Their struggles seem to come from a few different angsts.  Those being;  They have a degree they feel they should use.  They feel that they're supposed to do and accomplish "more" before they settle down and start a family, things like getting an education, traveling or purchasing a home.  But the most common reason they seem to give for their hesitancy to admit their longing to be a wife and mother, is they feel "guilty."  That they're asking too much of the men in their lives.  The fear that it might scare them away.

I realize that much of North America no longer values motherhood as a career, but I didn't realize that this move away from the traditional role of wife and mother, had instilled in the younger generation trepidation to admit that they want it.  

And through this shyness to voice their desires for a traditional life, many young women are misrepresenting themselves as they date.  They just assume that young men no longer want a woman who wants to stay home and raise a family.  They're afraid that their boyfriends will be overwhelmed by the potential responsibility of being the sole provider for a family.  Or that they will be put off at the temerity of a woman expecting to be cared for in such a way.  They feel that it's asking too much and offering too little.

I have to say that coming from a home where my mom was home full time, as were my grandmothers, my husbands mother and his grandmothers, this surprised me.  In our family it's understood that motherhood and homemaking are valuable.  To be honest I'd go so far as to say, I always thought of them as some what of an art form.  Raising well behaved, well mannered kids, learning to be a good cook, organize a home and a family's schedule.  How to host occasions as well as putting the special into every day life.  The pride of keeping an clean and tidy house.  Helping out at school, driving for field trips.  

So as I struggled to wrap my head around how to address this topic.  How to affirm these young women who are coming to me, admitting this secret, shameful desire.  A desire to not have a career, but rather make a career of motherhood, I asked my husband what he thought and again I was surprised.  Well not really surprised so much, as had my eyes opened yet again.  His response was that young women weren't the only ones misrepresenting themselves out of fear of political incorrectness or due to social pressures.  But that young men were as well.  He said that a guy, in this day and age, would be very terrified to say to a woman he was dating, "So what if you just stayed home when we have kids?"  For fear of how she might respond.

And so there you have it.  Men and women longing for something so primal and basic.  Something once so expected, that has, over the last few decades become taboo.  We've somehow reached a point out there in the gendersphere, where we're afraid to tell one another what we really want.  Well that is unless it follows along the recent socially acceptable path of; education, job, live together, marriage, kids, job.

So today I thought I would delineate what it is that a young woman who wants to be a full time wife and mother is offering her future husband, and to champion the value and responsibilities of both his and her contributions in such a union.  

Here's a list, for the men, of what a girl who wants to stay home and be the mother to your children is offering;

  • Someone who will love you and only you, all your life.  
  • Someone who will bear your children.
  • Someone who will teach your children manners and how to get along with others.  Who will put their pictures up on the fridge and drive for their field trips.
  • Someone who will reinforce the teachings of your faith within your home.
  • Someone who will lay beside you in bed and listen to your last thoughts of the day.
  • Someone who will be your lover.
  • Someone who will plan birthday dinners for your parents, and bring them meals when they're sick.
  • Someone who will hold your hand at the movies.
  • Someone who will make sure you're eating healthy.
  • Someone who will use her time and energy to create a home you're happy to return to at the end of the day.  
  • Someone who will share your memories.
  • Someone who will support your dreams.
  • Someone who will live within the budget of your earnings.
  • Someone who will tell you when you're wrong.  And admit when she's wronged you.
  • Someone who will make you dinner.
  • Someone who will do the laundry, buy the groceries and clean the house.
  • Someone who will stick.  Even when the rough patch, stretches into a rough year, and you don't like each other very much right now. 

 

Here's what she's likely to expect in return;

  • Your committed and faithful love, for her entire life.
  • That you will be the soul financial provider for your family.
  • That you will take delight in your children, regardless of when they arrive.
  • That you'll take out the garbage, change the really high light bulbs and get up to see what that noise is in the middle of the night.
  • That you'll mow the lawn.
  • That you'll be a fully involved parent, even though she will be the one who spends more actual time with the kids.
  • That you'll love her as she ages, and see the beauty of a woman who is growing in wisdom and character as she decreases in youth.  That you won't expect her to remain 25 forever.  Mentally or physically.
  • That although she'll respect your position as head of the home, that you, in turn, will respectfully consider her opinions.
  • That you'll place her needs and the needs of your family above your own.
  • That you'll open her car door, without exception.  In the rain.  In the garage.  When you're mad at her.
  • That you'll appreciate the value of the home she creates for you and the children.  The details, and thought and care that go into making a loving sanctuary for your family.
  • That you'll pinch her, when you walk past her in the kitchen, and not wait until you're in bed to show her affection.
  • That you'll keep yourself for her and her only.  Physically, emotionally and mentally. 

 

That's the the offer.  That's the proposal.  It doesn't involve income or career.  Your home and family will be her career.  Loving you and your children, looking after the physical and emotional needs of your family is what she'll channel all her time and energy into.

This is what's on the table.  What a woman who wants to be a wife and mother is offering.  And I'm not ashamed or apologetic to say so.

Monday
Jan062014

Christmas in January, Gift Wrap Ideas

If you're heading out to take advantage of the very, marked down gift wrap mentioned in yesterday's post, I thought these pictures might serve as inspiration.

My girls and I love wrapping Christmas presents.  Something handed down from my Mom, who would put on Christmas music and make a special day of wrapping.  

So I thought I'd share some of the cute ideas that showed up under our tree this year.  The girls' are more creative than mine, mine are just matchy-matchy.  That's just me!  :)  

My colour coordinated presents. I like to use only a couple different kinds of paper so it all looks cohesive. I'm a matchy-matchy kind of Christmas tree girl!Another pic of my matchy tree.

This year our youngest daughter wrapped her presents in craft paper and stamped them all with "Fa la la", then she cut out the letters "FA LA LA" and placed them all through her tree. It was VERY darling! Our eldest daughter wrapped all her gifts with the theme of what was inside. My husband and I are going on a big trip for our 25th anniversary this Spring, so she bought us super comfy, embroidered cashmere travel socks for the overnight flight. You can see the travel lables she's put on the outside of the gift - super cute!!Here's another of our eldest's themed presents. This one has Hendrick's Gin inside. Here's one more of her themed gifts. This one was from our little grandbaby Elisabeth, it had sweet little pictures of her inside. She obviously knows the way to her Grammy's heart! xo

The eventual plight of all gift wrap... The aftermath of our Christmas morning 2013!!!

Monday
Jan062014

Christmas In January, Save Money Shopping For Next Christmas Now!

Okay, I know it just all finished but if you can emotionally handle it, I have some suggestions for things to do now, that will save you money come December!  

So!  (And I realize this sounds like an informercial, but it's true!)  This is the perfect time of year to buy all the Christmas basics.  Everything is on sale, usually for 50 - 70% off!  If you're running low on anything you'll need for next year or are just the kind of person who likes to take care of things in advance, now is a great time to buy;

  • Wrapping paper
  • Christmas cards - unless you do photo cards, then wait until Cyber Monday next November.
  • Gift sets - the ready to give, boxed up sets that are only out at Christmas time.  These are great gifts for people who aren't going to be giving you wish lists like your kids do.  People like - teachers, coaches, grandma, baby sitters.  People you just want to give a little something to at Christmas time.  Don't buy anything perishable, no one wants to receive 11 month old chocolates as a thank you gift!
  • Hostess gifts - scented candles, Christmas napkins, a pretty note book, things like that. 
  • Decor for your own home - that really pretty wreath that was too expensive to buy - it's probably 50% off right now.
  • Christmas PJ - In our family we all get new (matching!) PJ's every Christmas Eve, and it just now dawned on me that I could be buying these on sale in January and not having to worry about it during the busy Christmas season.
  • Christmas dishes - it's fun to have pretty Christmas dishes, but hard to justify buying them when you already have a gift list as long as your arm, once again, they're probably 50% off now.
  • Christmas crackers - if you're Canadian or British you know what these are, if you're American look into it, they're fun - and marked way down right now.  They last just fine, and will still "pop" come next December.
  • Birthday presents for your girlfriends - I know this isn't Christmasy, but during Christmas they put out so many beautiful notebooks, boxed cards, bracelets, sweaters, etc.  There's just oodles of pretty girl stuff in the stores right now, so long as it's not too seasonally specific now is a great time to stock up on pretty things to give your friends.

Almost anything you need for Christmas is still in the stores and being sold at a fraction of the price it was 2 weeks ago.  If you know you're going to need it for next year anyway might as well get it now!  While it's marked way down, there are no line ups and lots of parking spaces.  Oh!  And ask for gift boxes while you're at it!  They still have those too!

*This advice is all given with the caveat that if you went way over budget in December that you should disregard the above.  Saving money only makes sense when you are actually saving, and not digging yourselves further into debt.