Monday, November 29, 2010

Meal Plan Monday (November 29-December 3)

Monday- Poppyseed chicken from our freezer (recipe below--courtesy of Christen Hayes!), green beans, mashed potatoes
Tuesday- Meatball Subs (Can of french bread, HEB frozen meatballs (cook in microwave), jar of spaghetti sauce, provolone cheese. Bake the french bread, then slice open. Stuff with meatballs; top with spaghetti sauce and provolone cheese, then bake until cheese is bubbly.) Serve with a side of steamed veggies.
Wednesday- Laughing Cow Chicken Cordon Bleu , steamed brown rice, broccoli
Thursday- Chicken Quesadillas and Bear Creek Tortilla Soup
Friday- Baked grouper with chunky tomato sauce, serve over rice, roasted asparagus--this is hands down my favorite fish recipe--we often sub mahi mahi for the grouper but any firm, tropical type fish would work.

Poppyseed Chicken

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped/shredded (we cook ours in the crock pot with some onions, garlic, celery and seasoning)
1 family size can Cream of Chicken Soup
1- 8 oz sour cream
2 sticks of margarine
3 sleeves of Ritz crackers, crushed
3 tablespoons of poppyseeds

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Cook chicken and shred. Melt margarine and pour over Ritz crackers. Add poppyseeds to cracker mixture. Line the pan with 2/3 part of the cracker mixture (reserve the rest for topping). Mix soup, sour cream and chicken. Place on top of the crackers in the pan. Top with the reserved cracker mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
*Whenever I make this, I divide this into 2-3 separate baking dishes and freeze for later. When reheating after freezing, allow to defrost in the freezer about 24 hours and then will still usually need to bake at least an hour.

A full recap from our Thanksgiving is coming, I promise! For now, here's a very real snapshot of our little man as he is right now--practicing sitting with his fingers in his mouth.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

From our little turkey!
Gobble, gobble!

But please don't eat me!
We hope that you have a blessed day with those you love!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gobble Gobble!

I did a post earlier this month on Jackson's fantastic art projects at school. Here's the latest and greatest:

A fun spin on the delightful hand turkey!

 We had a lazy Sunday morning yesterday in our jammies. Here's Jackson modeling a new set (9 month size!)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Culinary Genius!

I wasn't planning to post again today, but I had a stroke of genius when preparing dinner that I just had to share. Also, what do you think of the new blog design? Isn't it fab? I'm in love with it! Thank you Jordan!

So on to the fabulous dinner...We went to a friend's house last night to watch the Nebraska game so I brought some Spinach Dip and wheat thins. It made a huge bowl and we all ate only about half of it. Now, I love Spinach Dip but since we are going out of town on Tuesday, I knew a lot of it would end up going to waste. So then I got the idea to repurpose it. We had some chicken tenders thawing so I decided to make stuffed chicken with it.  I took the Spinach Dip which had been prepared according to the recipe on the back of the Knorrs Vegetable Mix packet but without the water chestnuts or green onions. There was a lot left over so I would say I used about 1/3 of the total prepared dip. To this, I added a healthy handful of shredded parmesan cheese. I then pounded out the chicken between some plastic wrap until it was pretty thin--about a quarter inch. Next, I spread the chicken with the dip mixture, rolled them up pinwheel style and secured with 2 toothpicks each. I placed them into a pie pan I had brushed with EVOO. This is what they looked like just before I stuck them in the oven:

Next, I placed them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Since the chicken was pounded pretty thin, they cooked fairly quickly. While they were in the oven I prepared some rice and sauteed some mixed veggies. Voila! A delicious dinner!

The chicken was delicious! Creamy and flavorful! Next time I make Spinach Dip for a party, I will just plan to make this dish and set aside some of the prepared dip beforehand so I don't have to take chances that there won't be enough left over!

It's been awhile since I posted a Jackson picture, huh? Here you go...

We took advantage of the 80 degree day and went to hang out at the park. Here's "Super Jackson" playing with his daddy.

Handsome Boy!

Anticipating Thanksgiving...

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Food, family and college football are all some of my favorite things, so what's not to love? But it's more than that...don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, too. But something about Christmas is anti-climatic and seems to get overshadowed by the stress of the crowded stores, searching for the perfect gift for everyone and travelling from place to place. Thanksgiving is the fun and anticipation of the holiday season without all of the stress. And my family has a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration! All of my siblings try to make it to my parent's house in Nacogdoches by the Tuesday night before because it takes the whole day on Wednesday to prepare. We all split up the menu and help with getting it all done....the dressing, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, layered salad, pies....oh and don't forget the main dish! The Turkey! My dad has been frying turkeys for years and, oh goodness, injected with deliciousness and fried to's worth waiting all year for! On Thursday, we will stuff our faces and then have to take a big nap to sleep it all off only to wake up, eat the leftovers and repeat. Thankgsiving night is also the always highly anticipated Texas A&M vs. UT football game. BTHO t.u.! Whoop!

On Friday, we will all load up and drive to one of the nearby Christmas tree farms to select and cut down our own tree. We will then spend Friday evening and Saturday getting down all of the decorations and welcoming the holiday season. Putting out the decorations is always a fun trip down memory lane, recalling the history of our homemade ornaments, trips we've taken, and loved ones who are no longer with us physically, but always arrive in spirit to share in the joy of the season.

When I was in school, Thanksgiving was the first real break after a long semester...the light at the end of the tunnel. I have not anticipated the Thanksgiving break in quite the same way in a number of years but this year it's been keeping me going. Since going back to work in September, I feel like I've hardly had a chance to breathe. Thanksgiving break will be the first chance in a long while to slow down a little and enjoy my family. I NEED this break so badly this year, and I also have SO much to be thankful for. This year, I will also be enjoying the season through new eyes. I can't wait to see Jackson's reaction to the smell and sight of all of the pine trees lined up at the Christmas tree farm and his little face light up when he sees the tree in the living room for the first time. He is going to love looking at all of the ornaments and decorations and getting passed from one family member to the next. This year I get to begin passing down our family traditions to the next generation. I only hope that Jackson grows to love them as much as I do.

Here's to hoping the next two days go quickly!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy 5 Months Jackson!

Our big boy is 5 months old today! I think this month he really made the jump from infant to baby, if that distinction makes sense to anyone besides me. =) Early in the month we stopped using his swaddle blanket, he outgrew his mini crib, and is no longer content to just observe the world--he now has to interact with it--touching, tasting and smiling at most everything and everyone he encounters! Of course, this also makes him quite easily distracted so trying to get him to stop long enough to eat is growing more challenging by the day.

Apparently reclining is for little that's he's a big boy, he has to sit up all the time...

So we moved him to his big boy high chair and he is much happier at meal time. He loves his spoon!

He is not quite sitting up on his own but he's close! With a little bit of support he can sit straight up and without support he's doing quite well with the "tripod" sit.

Oh my goodness this boy has a great laugh!

And he is learning new things all the time! He's learned how to blow raspberries!

He weighs over 16 pounds now and he had a growth spurt in height this month. One week all of his 3-6 month size pants fit and the next week they were about 2 inches too short! I think his first tooth is going to make an appearance any day now. His hair is naturally growing in to look just like Daddy's hairstyle--longish on top and short on the sides. How cute are these two?

Daddy's Mini-Me
I just want to bottle a little of him up exactly how he is right now to pull out when he's a teenager and driving us crazy. We love you little man!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meal Plan Monday and Jackson in his high chair

The weather is changing (again) and it's been kind of dreary so you can definitely see some hearty, comfort food inspirations in our meal plan this week.

Monday- Alton Brown's Chicken Fried Steak, mashed potatoes, green beans (we made this tonight for the first time and it was delish! Picture below.
Tuesday- Foil Dinners- this is an old Girl Scout Camp favorite. Put Chicken, cut up potatoes and whatever veggies you like onto some foil (cut the foil about 3 times larger than the food and fold the sides so the juices don't run). We will be using carrots and frozen green beans. Season to taste and add some liquid (we just used water at Girl Scout Camp but you could use some EVOO, chicken broth, Italian Dressing, etc.). Fold over all sides of the foil to make a sealed pouch. Bake in 400 degree oven (or over the campfire if you prefer) until the chicken is cooked through--about 40 minutes.
Wednesday- Lemon pepper tilapia, brown rice, mixed veggies-- I just brush the tilapia fillets with a little bit of EVOO or melted butter, sprinkle them with lemon pepper seasoning and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.
Thursday- Hubby requested the crispy ranch chicken tenders again so we are doing that with some mac and cheese (boxed) and broccoli.
Friday- Stir fry chicken and vegetables (we marinate the chicken overnight in La Choy Garlic Ginger sauce), stir fry in the wok with some sesame oil, add the veggies (we buy a bag of frozen stir-fry style veggies), and add some more sauce for good measure. Serve over brown rice.

Here was our delicious chicken fried steak:


Tonight while Justin was making our delicious dinner, I got Jackson's high chair out of the box and put it together. He's wanting to sit straight up now instead of reclined like he does in his bouncer seat, so I thought he would like sitting in the high chair at dinner time. We will be starting him on some cereal in the next week or two anyway, so it was time. He loved it! And he has the right idea with the spoon!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What a difference 3 months makes!

He's growing so quickly! I love "now and then" comparisons so here's a few fun ones for you (and a chance to show off our fantastic 3 month photos a little more! ;)

Doesn't he look like a big boy now in his overalls?

Look how tiny his Jackson hat looks now! It barely fits on his big head!

Sweet sleeping boy--now with a filled out face and unclenched hands.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

3 Month Photo Shoot!

Yes, Jackson is almost 5 months but we just got our photos back from our photographer--she's busy but amazing! So worth the wait! I quickly threw together this slideshow so those that are interested could see all of the shots. And a few of our favorites are below.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Have Baby, Will Travel

We are back from our trip and happy to say that Jackson did great!!! I anticipated that he would do pretty well--he is a fairly easy-going, adaptable kind of guy and I think that travelling is part of his very being...while I was pregnant, Jackson became a very well-travelled baby! Before we even knew he was on the way, he accompanied us on our cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Mexico. On this trip he swam with sting rays in the Caymans, ziplined over waterfalls in Jamaica, and snorkeled in the beautiful waters of Cozumel. At 7 weeks into the pregnancy, we  flew to Anaheim, California and stayed at the Disneyland Resorts for the 2009 NODA Conference. I felt very sick and tired most of this trip due to the morning sickness that lasted pretty much all day. We did go to Disneyland, but had to skip out on the big thrills since all of the signs advised that “Expectant Mothers Should not Ride”. At 15 weeks, we rang in 2010 with my whole family on a New Year’s cruise and we got to go to Cozumel again. We passed on the snorkeling this time, but I definitely got my money’s worth at the buffets! February was a busy month with trips to Denver and Kansas City for more conferences for my work. After all of that, we were very happy just to stay home for a while!

So I was pleased but not altogether surprised with how well he did on this trip. Credit to mom and dad--we had done our homework and read everything we could about travelling with an infant. We scoured the internet for tips and tricks and were as ready as we could be for going through security with our ton of extra stuff, keeping him calm and quiet on the plane and adapting our hotel room for living with a baby. Here's a few things we did right:

The Malnar's Top 10...errr 11...Tips for Travelling with an Infant:
  1. We packed all of his stuff in our two suitcases so we didn't have to check a separate bag for him.
  2. We arrived at the airport early and brought his birth certificate, which was needed at check-in.
  3. We packed a Ziplock baggie with all of the liquids/gels (hand sanitizer, diaper cream, etc.) from his diaper bag and made it easily accessible for going through security. We did not pack any bottles which minimized the security time (he got his food straight from the source while travelling).
  4. We took him through the airport in his travel system (stroller with snap in infant seat). We debated about taking the infant seat because of its bulk but are really glad we did as he is much more comfortable in it and he was safer in the shuttle vans and cabs while in St. Louis. Our plan was to gate check both the stroller and infant seat. The stroller and infant seat were a pain going through security (he had to be taken out of them and the whole system taken apart and sent through the x-ray machine). On our return trip though we even got a "perfectly done" from the TSA officer as we passed through security like old pros.
  5. There were two of us to wrangle him and all of his stuff. I can't imagine having to do it alone. Of course, I can't imagine many parts of parenthood if I had to do it alone. Thank God for my wonderful husband!
  6. We purchased bags for the stroller and infant seat because we had heard how dirty and beat up these items can get when gate checked. The bags did not survive (had to be reinforced with duct tape before the return trip) but our stroller and seat did fine and that's what ultimately mattered.
  7. We found out that even though we did not purchase a seat for him, if there are any extra seats on the plane the flight attendants are happy to rearrange people to allow us to have an extra seat so that we can use his infant seat.
  8. I nursed him on take-off and landing or made sure he was sucking his paci to help with his ears popping.
  9. Our flights going to Dallas were conveniently timed during nap time so he slept a lot. And our entire travel time on the way there was less than 5 hours.
  10. We requested a crib (brought our own sheet) and refrigerator for our hotel room ahead of time and they were delivered to our room shortly after arrival. We brought a mini bottle of dishwashing liquid and sanitizing wipes for cleaning bottles and pump parts sans a microwave and sterilizer.
  11. We were willing and able to change our plans when Jackson decided he had enough. Justin had many sightseeing goals, but realized after a meltdown (essentially the only meltdown of the trip)
    at the zoo on Saturday, that when it's naptime or bedtime, it's time to go back to the hotel.
Besides the zoo meltdown, he was so so so good. On the way back home yesterday, our travel time was longer with a nearly 2 hour layover in DFW and later in the evening, and Jackson let us know on the last leg that he was done. We took turns bouncing him in the galley for nearly the duration of our 45 minute flight.

Now for some pictures...

First flight--College Station to DFW

2nd Flight--only leg we didn't have a separate seat for him because the plane was full.

View from our hotel room!

It was cold the first night we were there! He wasn't sure if he liked being all bundled up.

On our way to Forest Park

Outside the Zoo

Bundled up Baby

Taking a break from sightseeing to play with his toes. Now I know how the "Happy Baby" yoga pose got its name!
This picture is frustrating me to no end. It is oriented properly on my computer but keeps uploading turned sideways. I have tried it a million different ways. It's bugging the snot out of me because it's my favorite picture from the trip. Do me a favor and turn your head to the side to truly appreciate it. How cute are these two??

Me and my handsome boy on my birthday!
Couldn't be happier!

One of the nights, our large group decided to take a taxi to go to dinner. We discovered that a limo was cheaper than two taxis. 5 months old and he gets his first limo ride!

Too bad he slept through the whole thing.

Goofin around at the hotel

The Arch!

Agggh this picture is doing it too...again, just turn your head to the side and appreciate our walk to visit the Arch.
Top of the Arch!

View of the East St. Louis, Illinois side of the river. Apparently East St. Louis is not a place you would want to visit. But please admire my handiwork with the Arch's shadow.

Enjoying the view.

View from the top. Our hotel, the Millenium, is the tall, cylindrical shaped white tower on the left side of the picture.  

Jackson got to spend some time with our current NSP/Texas A&M orientation staff as well as some old friends.

Hanging out with T-Boyle

And Aunt Abby

All in all, it was a great trip. It was a relief and a confidence booster knowing that we can travel with Jackson. We told him that if he was good, he would get to go other places. He certainly upheld his end of the should we go next??

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    He's CRAFTastic!

    I'm pretty crafty. I can spend hours in Hobby Lobby. Arts and Crafts was my favorite part of Girl Scout Camp and I even once did an Art summer enrichment camp where I made a paper mache dog out of chicken wire, newspaper and paste, among other projects. (My family will also recall that I was interviewed by the local news about said summer enrichment program and my famous quote from that moment in the spotlight was "we made some stuff and did some stuff.")  Jackson's daycare has started him out on the right track towards following in mommy's crafty footsteps. When we were interviewing daycares, we asked what a typical day looked like in the infant room, and his teacher included that they sometimes do art projects. We smirked a little--I mean, what kind of art projects can you really do with infants?? But lo and behold, below is a sampling of the September/October crafts.....

    One day in September, just a few weeks after starting daycare, Jackson came home with orange paint under his fingernails. That same day, his daily report card showed that he had slept about 7 of the 8 hours he was there (sleeping was his coping mechanism early on). I'm pretty sure they unwrapped his hand while he was sleeping, dipped it in the paint and applied it to the leaf...but nonetheless, here's his first art project:

    A few weeks later, he came home with traces of white paint on his feet. How cute is this little ghost?

    And finally, this precious handprint spider.

    And then on Friday, they sent him home with this cuteness:
    I'm so grateful for his creative teachers and for their energy and patience to help our little one create these precious treasures!