Saturday, May 26, 2012

Freezer Cooking

As a lot of you know, I LOVE freezer cooking.  It has been helpful in so many ways, most recently when we had baby Zachary.  Between having friends drop off meals for us & having a fully stocked freezer, I barely had to cook for weeks.  It. Was. Awesome.  We are still working on our freezer since I have had some time off from work, I've been cooking more & saving the easy prepared meals for when our schedule is busier.

Many of you have asked how I do my freezer cooking, so I'm going to give you some of the resources I use.  Really, the best thing I found is when you make something, make double & freeze half.  I do this mostly with soups & casseroles.  I also overcook at holidays (a bigger turkey or ham) & then use those leftovers to make meals & freeze.  This past year from Thanksgiving & Christmas I made 2 turkey soups, turkey pot pie, ham & bean soup, 2 ham & pasta casseroles.  Plus we ate for days on the leftovers.

Another huge source of our frozen meals is Dream Dinners.  I can't say enough good things about this place.  You go in & they have a bunch of stations set up & in about an hour you make 12-13 meals, each either 3 or 6 servings.  Then you go home & stick it all in your freezer & you're set for weeks.  This can be a little pricey, but when you look at the cost per meal & per serving, it's very close to what you spend in the grocery store & it's already set up!  This is a great way to stock a freezer very quickly.  And they frequently do Groupons or similar deals so that makes the price even better.

Here are a few other sites I have used for freezer cooking inspiration:

This is a pay site, but well worth the money.  I use this site for my weekly menu planning (crucial!) & they also have monthly freezer meals.  The cost works out to $5/month if you buy 6 months & again they do discounts through Groupon, etc.  Starting last Oct, I picked 3-4 freezer meals each month from this site & Adrian & I would take one day each month & make & freeze them.

The Marathon Mom
This is a parenting site I follow & she was pregnant at the same time I was.  She was freezer cooking & gave me some yummy ideas including the already mentioned pot pie.  Her chicken spaghetti is also FANTASTIC!  It's probably not the most healthy meal, but total comfort food & everyone in my house loved it.

Money Saving Mom
This is a blog I follow on Facebook for couponing help but she is also a huge freezer cooker.  She is currently wrapping up a 4 weeks to fill your freezer challenge (she did it through May).  I would like to do this one month, but couldn't get it together for May.  You can see all her recipes for the whole series or get ideas & pick & choose.

Those are the big ones I can think of right now.  A funny side story...As I was working my butt off to fill our freezer, I noticed there was more ice accumulating in the deep freeze than normal.  Turns out our seal is broken.  Since we got the freezer for $50 off of Craig's List almost 6 years ago, it has more than served it's purpose.  We are currently trying to eat all the food that is in there & will then be shopping for a new freezer with our tax refund from earlier this year!  I'm SO excited!!

Anyone else have other ideas for freezer cooking?  Any suggestions which deep freeze I should get?

Friday, May 25, 2012

School Daze

So back in January, when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, I made sure to figure out what AJ & Daniel would be doing next year for school so we wouldn't have another thing on our plate when we became a family of 5.  We had it all figured out...Daniel had done so well with his OT, behavior therapy & feeding therapy that he didn't quality for school age services.  AJ was still struggling with his speech & social & emotional skills.  So what made sense was to send them both to Flying Colors Preschool (where AJ goes this year).  That is our school district's special needs preschool that has classrooms with 8 special needs students & 8 typical students.  AJ would go to the Pre-K 5 class & continue with his speech therapy & working with an intervention specialist as his teacher.  Daniel would go to the Pre-K 3 class as a typical student with an intervention specialist as his teacher in case any of his issues got worse, or new ones popped up.  They would ride the bus together, go to school 4 mornings per week & Zak & I would have some one on one time.  Done and Done!

Then we had a meeting with AJ's teacher in March & all of that planning went out the window! 

Miss Julie told us that AJ was excelling academically, one of the smartest kids in his class.  There was no Pre-K 5 class & he would have to repeat the same curriculum he did this year.  She thought he would be VERY bored & that his attention would wane & he could possibly become a behavior problem.  Her recommendation was Kindergarten with speech therapy & we set up a meeting to set up his IEP.  That meeting was last Fri & I got to meet his teacher & speech therapist for next year.  They are both great women & I think AJ will do great!  He will get at least 20 minutes of one on one speech therapy every week plus additional group therapy in his class room.  He will go 5 days/week in the mornings & he gets to ride the bus (even though the school is only 4 doors from our house).  He is graduating from preschool next Weds & we couldn't be prouder of him!

Also during that fateful meeting, Miss Julie informed us that our school district had changed its preschool program & Daniel was no longer eligible to go to Flying Colors.  This wouldn't have been a big deal except this was the end of March & all the preschools in the area register in Jan/Feb so most of the prime spots would be full!  We decided to first check out the new school district preschool.  They now have the local YMCA running the program & it's a full day program.  There is no busing & it's in the building with the 5th graders in our district.  The cost also quadrupled, from $100/month to $100/week!  This was NOT an option for us!!  So I scrambled to figure out where I could get him in.  I found a few options, but it was hard to work around AJ's schedule for drop off & pick up (at the time I didn't know if AJ would be AM or PM).  Then one day I was driving to a friend's house & noticed the church across the street was starting a NEW preschool.  Jackpot!!  We went & took a tour & we all loved it!  They had plenty of spots, since they are brand new & the program looks fantastic.  Plus the times work perfect with AJ's schedule & it is less than a 5 minute drive from the house.  Daniel will go there Tues & Thurs mornings next year.

I am very happy & thankful this all worked out, but it has been an exhausting 2 months being up in the air about it.  I guess it's true what they say...the best laid plans...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Zachary - 3 months

Well, it's been 3 months since we became a family of 5.  Sometimes I feel like the time is dragging, other times it feels like a blink of an eye.  Zachary has been a joy since he got here, he is really a great baby & completes our family.

We went to the doctor today for a check up & Zak is growing perfectly.  He weighed in at 13 lbs, 12.5 oz in the 60% - he's up exactly 1 pound in one month.  He is 24 inches long & in the 55%.  The doctor said everything looks great, keep doing what we're doing.

We moved him into his own room about a week ago & he's been sleeping great since then.  Most nights he will do 10-12 hours in a row...I duck & hide when I say this to other friends who have recently had babies.  The past 2 nights he's up up in the middle of that stretch wanting to eat & play, hoping to not make that a habit.

Other than the new sleeping arrangements, Zak is working on his head control & trying to figure out rolling over.  We got the Bumbo out of the basement this weekend & he loves sitting in it.  He can see everything SO much better.  I may set up the jumparoo soon, that should be fun!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Easter Weekend

Well, this is almost a month late, but I'm going to write it up anyway.  I was just looking at the pictures that I posted on Facebook & was reminded of the awesome time we had over Easter weekend.  It was a little rushed since we had just gotten back from our NJ trip & were still trying to recover from that, but it was a ton of fun.

Friday night we went to a local church's Easter Eggspoltion.  It was SO fun.  They have a ton of things to do including bounce houses, cookie decorating, food, drinks, & the Easter Bunny & it's all free.  But the topper of the night was when the helicopter dropped thousands of eggs into the field for the little ones to "find."  AJ & Daniel LOVED the helicopter.  It was flying right over us & then dropped all the multicolored plastic eggs.  When it finished dropping the eggs the boys went into the field to gather up the plastic eggs.  They then traded those in for a handful of candy.  They loved everything about the event & we will be doing it again next year!

Saturday morning Zak & I got up early & went to meet my friend at Dream Dinners.  This is a local company that sets up the ingredients & recipes & you go from station to station to make about 13 freezer meals in an hour.  I. LOVE. THIS.  It has been so helpful since having Zak, but my freezer cooking is probably a post for another day.  While I was there Adrian took the boys to another egg hunt at one of our local parks.  They hunted more plastic eggs, got more candy & got to play on their favorite play ground.

We met back up at the house & headed out to the zoo for their event "Eggs, Paws & Claws."  We do this every year & go get the boys picture taken with the Easter Bunny (for free, yeah!)  After meeting the Bunny, we walked around visiting animals & collecting more candy from the various treat stations throughout the zoo.  It was a beautiful day to be out walking around, we really enjoyed it.

When we finally got home that night, we set up to color our eggs.  The boys were a little over eager (and maybe over tired as well) & broke the first few eggs they were trying to color.  But after the rough start we found our groove & the boys colored 2 dozen eggs so the Easter Bunny could hide them over night.

Sunday morning started with the boys charging into our room to wake us up excited to see if the Easter Bunny came.  We didn't do baskets for them (they got enough candy that weekend!) but had hidden the eggs for them to find.  They loved looking for them & found most of them pretty quickly.  We had a rough time finding the last few as the Easter Bunny was very tired the night before when he was hiding the eggs.  ;)

That day was filled with Easter fun.  AJ & Daniel both got haircuts out on our back porch.  Grandma & Grandpa came down to visit.  We Skyped with Nana, Pop Pop, Uncle Jon, Aunt Rebecca & cousin Luci in Florida.  We ate a ton of yummy food.  And then we crashed after a very long & tiring weekend.