Make Ahead Meals-Batch One

For the next few posts I’ll be sharing some meal prep I’ve got going on this fall.  Before school starts, I always like to stock away some freezer meals and some easy, bulk breakfasts and snacks.  During Christmas break, I do the same thing before heading back for second semester.  It is just one of those little things that ends up making a BIG difference.

This year, more than most, I feel the pressure to get ahead.  With baby number two on the way, my nesting mode already switched to ‘on’ long ago, and meal prep just seems so important right now!

I have carefully chosen meals and other bulk recipes to make, and I have divided everything up over several non-consecutive weekends (yes, I even marked everything out on the calendar). This way, I don’t have to do a meal-prepping marathon-which is fun (when you’re not seven months pregnant)-and I can make more in the end than I’d have the time and freezer space for if I did it all at once.

Batch one is simple: two freezer Crock Pot recipes that will be perfect for the fall, along with one healthy breakfast cookie recipe that has already been ‘kid-approved’ at my house.

For each freezer meal, I made two batches which ends up being four meals total.  Each meal will contain about 4-8 servings.  You can do singles, double, or triple the recipe-whatever works for you and your freezer space.  First, I pile all ingredients on the counter so that I can prep as quick as possible.

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Next I prepare my freezer bags.  On the label I write the name of the meal, the cook time and temp, and any extra ingredients or instructions.  Some people also jot down an expiration date or write the date the meal was made; but in our house, we eat these so quickly that I haven’t found that type of labeling to be necessary! 😀

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After everything is set, I begin filling bags!  At the end of it all, I lay the bags flat and even them out so they stack neatly in the freezer. Some people choose to double-bag each meal just in case the seal should pop open and spill.  I have never had an issue with that, so currently I just use one bag per meal.

And now for the recipes….

Meal One: Crock-Pot Cheesy Tortellini Soup

16 oz frozen tortellini
1 small bag fresh spinach
2 cans (15 oz) Italian style diced tomatoes
1 box or 4 cups vegetable broth
1 block (8oz) cream cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Toss all but the vegetable broth in a gallon-sized freezer bag, and freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to eat, throw the contents of the bag into your Crock-Pot along with the vegetable broth, and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours.  This pairs well with garlic bread, or a simple, grilled sandwich.

I always buy all ingredients at the same time (unless they will spoil), for example: I bought the broth and it’s waiting in my pantry for when I want to cook this meal.  That way I don’t have to remember to buy extra ingredients later.  Instead, I’m always ready for any meal craving that comes my way!

Here is the source where I found this delicious meal.

 

Meal Two: Crock-Pot Chicken Alfredo

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 small cans of cream of chicken soup (I used cream of mushroom, you can also make your own)

1 block (8 oz.) of cream cheese

1 packet of Italian dressing mix

Place all into a freezer bag and freeze for up to three months.  When you are ready to cook, drop everything into the Crock-Pot for 6-8 hours on LOW.  You can serve this hearty sauce over the pasta of your choice. Pair it with a side of veggies and *poof* you’ve got a delicious dinner for the fam!

 

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Last but not least: Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies!  These can be made ahead for a simple breakfast-on-the-go, or even frozen for up to two months.  I made a couple of changes to the original recipe, so my version is below:

2 ¼ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup oat flour or whole-wheat flour (I used whole wheat)
½ cup white flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup cinnamon applesauce
½ cup honey
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup grated carrot
1 apple, grated, peel left on

For the carrot and apple, I just chopped both in my food processor for ease.  Then, I dumped everything into my mixer, combined until it looked gooey–kind of like a chunky cake batter consistency.  Next, make patties about the size of your palm and press them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 14 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let the breakfast cookies cool on the pan a few minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack.

 

Follow me on Pinterest to get a sneak peek of other meals I might be prepping along with family activities for the fall!

Self-Care Sundays

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Through the craziness of the work week and time spent with family and friends, it is easy to just rush into the next week without batting an eye.

The older I get, the more I realize how crucial it is for me to carve out time to myself.  Self-care used to be plentiful.  But now, as a wife and a mom, my me time isn’t always mine anymore.  There’s not much I would change about that, though! 😉 But, in order to do my best in all of the roles I play in life, I make an effort to relax and recharge over the weekend.

Whether it is all rolled into one, beautiful Self-Care Sunday session, or it is taken as a few 10 minute increments throughout the week, make it a habit to recharge.

Here are a few ways to start:

Skin

Normally I wash my face with hand soap.  I have been doing so ever since I can remember and I have been fortunate that my skin is not problematic.  It kinda puts up with whatever I put it through.  (I’ll wait while you roll your eyes.)  A few times a week, though, I like to treat my face with something special.  After I do, I always feel like my face is more fresh and bright.  Here are some of my favorite pampering products:

Visanti Brighten Up!vasanti

A little bit of this stuff goes a long way!  It has a very sandy, gritty texture and I just can’t get enough of it.  Exfoliation!  Yaaaas! I squirt a bit out onto my fingertip and dot it around my face, then I take a little water and lather it up all over my face and jawline until my little heart’s content.  After rinsing it off, my face feels amazingly soft and I can almost see my pores exhaling little sighs of joy and contentment. Almost.

Deep Sea mask

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There’s something about the thick, clay texture that makes me feel like I’m lounging at a luxurious spa when I’m only really bent over the bathroom sink.

I love the balancing effect this mask has.  Whether my skin is seeming a little oily (summer time) or extremely dry and flaky (middle of winter), wearing this clay mask for 10-15 minutes a week seems to even out my complexion.

 

Derma Roller  
rollerI’m new to the Derma Rolling world, but after my first treatment, I was already hooked.  If you’ve never heard of a Derma Roller, no worries, let me fill you in.  The rolling device is full of tiny needles that help with a variety of skin issues when used regularly.  I use a 1.0mm needle which helps for most conditions, but there are many varying lengths that you can check out here.  Generally you’ll want to stick to .5mm or 1.0mm, go any higher and you should to consult a professional first.

I first tried the Derma Roller on my face.  Yes.  Needles.  On my face.  Think of it like acupuncture..sort of.. 😛  I won’t lie to you here: it is not comfortable.  However, I don’t think it is uncomfortable either.  It feels just like you think it would: tiny little pin-pricks rolling across the surface of your face.  But, because of the rolling motion, it also gives a tingly sensation that takes away from any discomfort the needles bring on.

After rolling the device in all directions across my face, I put on an Aloe mask that came face.jpgwith my Derma Roller kit.  I had never tried a mask like this, but like the Derma Roller, I. Am. Hooked.  The mask is so silky and cooling, and after taking it off my face just radiated.  What?  Did she really just say her face radiated?  Yes, I know, it isn’t like me to be this giddy about skincare.  Honestly though, after one Derma Roller treatment, I saw a noticeable difference.  Be cautioned, though: the Derma Roller should be used lightly, and never turned on side to side on your skin or you risk tiny tears in your skin’s surface.  Additionally, do not wear any makeup, lotion, or sunscreen for the following 24 hours after using the Derma Roller.

Because of the effects the Derma Roller had on my face, I decided to give it a try on my stomach.  The Derma Roller claims to help the appearance of stretchmarks, so I thought: well, it can’t make my stretchmarks worse!!  I took a before picture (which I will keep to myself for now), and I’m only a two treatments in, so I don’t have final results to mesmerize you with, but I will say that, similar to my face, the skin on my stomach seems a lot softer, so I have high hopes that things in that region will smooth out even more!
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I got my Derma Roller from http://www.dermarollersystem.com/  so head there to read more about the product if you are new to it, or ask me any questions in the comments section here.

 

Hair

My skin treats me pretty well, but my hair, I’m convinced is out to get me.  I used to love it’s texture before I had my daughter, but post pregnancy, I just seem to get more and more frustrated by it.  And, pregnancy was almost four years ago, so you can imagine my grief!  Aside from just chopping it off a couple times over the past several years, I have decided to make a commitment to my hair by giving it some extra love on the weekends.

Dry Shampoo

I feel so gross if I don’t wash my hair.  For whatever reason, I just get so nervous about greasy hair.  Any expert would tell you, however; washing your hair just a couple times a week is plenty.  Say whaaaat?

Marie Claire and many other women’s magazines explain that washing too often can strip hair of its natural oils and moisture. And, maybe that is my problem.  Though I frequently wash my hair because I worry that it is too oily, what it really becomes is dry, frizzy, and full of tangles.

I decided to relax on all the washing in the past couple of years, and it has proven that my hair can, indeed, last longer than a day without getting too greasy.  In order to reassure myself though, I always use “dry shampoo.”  When I say “dry shampoo” I really mean baby powder!  Seriously, this stuff is great.  I put a little on my palm and rub all around my hairline, and then a little more on the top of my scalp where I part my hair.  It’s important to really scrub and rub it in so that your hair doesn’t look powdery.  What I love even more than the de-greasing effect is the added volume.  Adding powder to my hair is one of the only surefire ways I’ve found to pump up my hair’s volume and make it last all day.

Some people purchase dry shampoo, but you really don’t need to.  Baby powder is an easy option, but if you want to step it up slightly without overspending on actual dry shampoo, try my sister’s recipe and make your own:

recipe

Leave-in Conditioner

Just before a shower on Sunday night, I try my best to remember to apply leave-in conditioner.  I load the stuff on my hair, kneading it around until every strand is saturated, and then I clip it up in a bun and forget about it for a half hour or so.

I shower as usual and then after my hair is dry and styled, I just smile and nod to myself as I gaze at my majestic hair in the mirror.  Just kidding.  But after a leave-in conditioner application, my hair-game is really amped-up for the next week or two.  The ends are soft instead of dry and brittle; no static in sight–even in the dead of winter; and my hair is so much more voluminous.

Pictured here are my two favorites-but, I admit, I haven’t tried a wide variety of brands of leave-in conditioners, so if you have a favorite other than these two-leave me a note in the comments!

Body

Most times I feel like sleep and rest are the things my body needs most, but if I really think about it, that isn’t really the case.  If I’m being honest, my body feels the best when I put it to work!  Getting in an intense workout leaves me feeling fabulous.  Instead of just resting my body and forgetting about it when I do slow down, there are a couple of self-care techniques I use to

Nail Care

This school year has been pretty dull in terms of my fingernails.  I think I’ve done them twice… (maybe?) since August.  The easiest route for me is always Jamberry.  Nail wraps just last so much longer than anything else.  If I paint my fingernails, my polish chips by the end of the day-no joke- I’ve tried all types of brands and finishes, and that statement still stands.  I think I wash my hands too much or something.  Not that I’m OCD about anything… really.. 🙂 augustnail

However, a 10 minute Jamberry application leads me to not think about my nails’ appearance for at least 10 days.  There’s also no dry time like there is for regular polish, which is something that every mama will appreciate.

Toenails are a whole different story.  I’ve done many Jamberry applications on them as well-which is great because those applications last for 4+ weeks-but, there is nothing like a good salon pedicure.  I try and treat myself to a couple pedicures a year, but if I had the extra cash, I’d go every week.  They. Are. Heavenly.

Not only does polish usually last longer on your toes, (and when done at a salon it could last up to 3 months if you let it-not that I have of course 😉 ) but you also get an hour or so away from all the stresses in your life, a fabulous foot and calf massage, and just a generally more optimistic view of life when you leave a salon after a pedicure.  Being the start of sandal season, Mother’s Day is a perfect time for a gift certificate to a nail salon – so start dropping hints to your hubby now!

Muscles
 During the workweek I try to get in several sweat sessions.  A lengthy neighborhood walk, a little Zumba, or weight training in the basement are all great ways to make me feel better physically and mentally.  After a workout, I stretch for a few minutes, but when crunched for time I always fit in more heart-pumping moves as opposed to a lengthy bout of deep stretches.

I know better.  Stretching your muscles is so, super important!  I’m working on allotting more time to stretch during the week, but on weekends I always leave my ‘crunched for time’ excuse at the door.   Fitness Magazine notes that each static stretch should be held for about 30 seconds.  Much less than that, and you won’t be
lengthening your muscle fibers.  After a workout during the week I pick a stretch or two for each muscle group I worked and I leave it at that.  During the weekends, though, I try and pick several stretches for all parts of my body and I really focus in on relaxing and breathing through each stretch.

Another great way to help muscle performance is by incorporating dynamic stretching into your fitness routine.  Dynamic stretches are typically done before a workout whereas static stretches (the kind mentioned in the previous two paragraphs) are performed after a workout as a cool-down.   Focused on warming up the muscles, dynamic stretching uses a rhythmic movement that you perform several times until your body starts to loosen up. Runner’s World outlines a great dynamic stretching routine, and if you’re not a runner-have no fear- dynamic stretching can work for anyone.

No matter which type of stretching you go for, the even better part of building in some extra time to give your muscles attention comes with the foam roller.  After a heart-pounding, sweat-inducing workout, rolling out my muscles is the most indulgent treatment I can give them at home.

There are several varieties of foam rollers; softer, firmer, ridged, etc.  Once your muscles loosen up, and you no longer feel any discomfort from rolling, you can advance to a firmer roller. But, at the beginning, just go for something average, like the one pictured above.

Whoa. Back up.  Did she say “when you no longer feel any discomfort?” Foam rolling will bring discomfort?

Yes.  It might even be pretty painful at first.  Do your best to just roll with it. (See what I did there? 😛 )  The pain comes from muscle tightness, to put it simply.  And, with more rolling, that tightness slowly goes away.  foam-roller-exercises1

Check out the images on the right for guidance.  Hit one of these poses on your foam roller, and start rolling side to side until you span the entire length of the muscle you’re trying to target.  You can also rotate the joints in play to hit your muscles at all angles.  Another great reason to have a foam roller around the house is that it helps rehabilitate strained or injured muscles as well.  After a Sunday night foam rolling session, I feel totally relaxed and ready to face another workweek.

Mind

If I address no other area of self-care during the weekend, I always make sure that I cleanse my mind so that I can begin the upcoming week organized and relaxed.  I’ve found that getting my mind right is the most important when it comes to self-care.  When crunched for time, other areas may slip away, but I always always always make sure to do something for my mind.

Organize

Nothing makes me feel more accomplished around the house than organization.  It could be straightening out my pantry, going through old clothes and forming a ‘donation pile,’ creating new boards on Pinterest, or meal-prepping for the week.  I love it all!

Last week I was in a teensy bit of denial that the weekend was coming to a close, and I didn’t organize myself at all for the week.  Let me just say: Never again!  I felt lost each day scrambling to make lunches and staring at piles of dirty laundry.

Two of my favorite ways to organize the food in our house are making freezer meals, and portioning out fruits, veggies, and breakfasts.  Most of my freezer meal recipes come from this website.  With so much variety and printable recipes and shopping lists, it makes freezer meal prep so simple.

I make a batch of freezer meals about every three months.  After shopping early on a Saturday morning, I fill my counter with all ingredients, and I just gooooo!  I prep 10-20 meals at a time depending on the amount of space in my freezer, and it usually takes me about two hours.  Then, during the week, I pull out a meal that I want to use the next day and place it in the fridge.  In the morning, I put it in the Crock Pot and don’t think about it again until it’s dinner time that night.  We usually eat 1-3 freezer meals a week, and if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t eat!  Just kidding of course, but they are just so easy, why would I do anything else?

Something I do every Sunday is portion out fruits, veggies, and breakfasts.  I find that if all the healthy stuff is washed, and ready to go in containers there is really no excuse not to eat it.  We also don’t eat breakfast at home most of the time, so if that is taken care of before the morning of, it also saves a ton of hassle.  Whatever the type of organization you are into, completing it over the weekend is ideal.

Unwind

Did someone say adult coloring book?  Why, no, I didn’t.  But this is close.

I bought a planner like this one at the beginning of the school year, and I can’t get enough.  It combines my need for organization (like I mentioned above) with my need to unwind.  Every week there is a new page to color and I indulge in this relaxing pastime after a long day at work, or when I’m crabby and need to just zone out, or as a way of spending time with my daughter when she wants to color in her own coloring books.

Another unwinding activity I’ve gotten into recently is Sudoku puzzle books.  I feel kind of like a granny admitting to this hobby of mine, but I really enjoy the challenge that puzzle books bring.  A lot of times I feel stuck on my phone or the computer because, let’s face it, everything is tied to technology these days.  Even my Bible reading is accompanied by an app.  (Okay, it doesn’t have to be that way, but it helps me feel organized….)

For Christmas I asked for a puzzle book because I just wanted to get away from technology a bit and have a paper and pencil kind of thing to do.  Turns out, I really enjoy it.  I feel like I’m ‘keeping my mind young’ as those grannys probably claim as well, and I also find my puzzle book relaxing after a busy week.

Rest

The best for last.  Rest is the easiest and probably most important self-care routine.

The advice you are given after having a baby: Nap when the baby naps.  I don’t know about you, but I barely could give into this.  I always felt guilty; how would the dishes get washed if I was napping? But, I’m telling you now, just nap. Go to bed early.  Turn on a 1/2 hour cartoon for the kiddos, and shut your eyes for those 30 minutes.

For whatever reason, on Saturday night I get wild.  Around 10 p.m. I get this burst of energy and I just want to clean, and organize, and write, and dance, and eat, etc., etc., etc.!  And, as tempting as it is to stay up late and get everything accomplished, instead I make myself a list of all that is spinning around in my head and tell myself, “But first, sleep.”

There has never been a Sunday morning that I have regretted going to bed instead of staying up and giving in to my wild streak. 😉


I hope after reading through my ramblings, you find some inspiration to take with you and create your own self-care routine.

If you’re unsure of how to begin, I have created a free printable with an easy way to start a self-care routine that fits your life.  You can devote one weekend a month to each area of self-care and then start again the next month, tweaking activities as needed.

Get the free printable here — selfcareblue

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Transitions

Praying the other night, there was a theme that arose: transition.

I have tried to be diligent the past few weeks, praying through the trials on our family and job changes, and for a few days this week, a friend’s request for prayer about a transition out of a job has popped up, and then rounding out my prayer the other night, I talked to God about the transition into motherhood that my sister is traveling through.  At that point it was clear to me that transitions, or maybe just the future is one of (if not the only, as I thought more about it) prayer requests that springs forth most often.

Season for everything2

The bible states there is a time for everything, and I just want to meditate on that for a second.

Some transitions hit us so abruptly, we get slapped in the face with the reality of ”things work this way now” or ”nothing will ever be as it was”… Some transitions we can almost see on the horizon and we just float, waiting for that wave of change to wash over us. In both scenarios, anxiety is present. No matter how the page turns; quick with the flick of a thumb or slowly wavering over in a breeze of wind, there is still the turmoil of saying goodbye to the last chapter.

Even in transitions of a positive nature where the days ahead seem to be in our favor, the adjustment period between each season of life provides plenty of issues to be worked out.

I presented a question to myself when I was scrambled amidst these thoughts: Which is better: a quick, bandaid-like shock that shoves us into a new phase of life? Or, a longer adjustment period where we can just about foresee what is on the other side of the mountain? Which would I rather go through? Which would amount to the least stress? When I pick one, is there a way to avoid the other?

An answer to my question formed: it doesn’t matter.  All in all, I can’t control any of these things anyway.   So, why not turn my focus elsewhere?  Why not lift my eyes to what is constant?

God will be with me in all seasons, through whatever transition-quick or lengthy. Why not flip my worry into a praise: wherever I am, he has led me, and wherever I’ll go, he will lead me. For all seasons, until the end of time. Amen.

Season for everything

After praying and thinking about transitions that night, I awoke to this verse on my phone that I had saved YEARS ago.  I love its encouragement.

Occupied for Hours

My name is Jordan Walz and I’m addicted to Pinterest.

There. I said it.

 

During the school year I barely have time to exhale it seems, but when summer comes along, my Pinterest obsession is in FULL FORCE!

I pin everything.  Household improvements, activities for children, recipes, party decor, cleaning solutions, hairstyles, wedding dresses…. But, still, I feel like I’m practical about my pinning. At just over 3,000 pins, I honestly feel like (someday) I will get to fulfill each and every last one of them.  Plus the couple dozen that I’ll end up pinning later tonight.

I have organized myself this summer so that I can tackle certain pins each week.  And so far, so good.  I am sure I will have plenty of fun things to write about before summer comes to an end.

One type of pin I consistently come across on Pinterest is the collage of bright colored pictures displaying all sorts of thrilling toddler activities- you know the kind.  After clicking on the link, it seems like every website supplying these wild activity ideas offers the desperate mother a dream come true:  “Glue, sand, water, pom poms, and a kitchen spoon: Toddler fun for 3+ hours” or, “Just a stack of newspaper and a jelly bean keeps your 4-year-old busy all afternoon.”

If you have a toddler or have ever played with a toddler for two minutes, you know that their attention span is about two minutes long.

These magical ideas on Pinterest would have you believe otherwise.

And I did start to believe otherwise.

Ooooh, if I just mix food coloring with water, fill seven glasses each with a different amount of the liquid, and hand my daughter a spoon, she’ll go crazy making music for the next hour and I can be free to get some housework done (or, let’s be real, try out that idea I pinned about makeup contouring).

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Not that I need an activity to “babysit” my child.  If I did, I would just turn on the TV and let her have at it.  But, when I’m constantly bombarded with these promises of hours of fun on Pinterest, because I’m constantly on Pinterest, I expect at least a good 15 minutes.  Wouldn’t you?

 

After trying many of these marvelous toddler activities over the years, her and I have had a lot of fun together.  But never once has my sweet toddler girl been so fully immersed for hours on end as Pinterest would have me expect.

Last night, I tried something new: coloring pasta shapes with a little food dye and rubbing alcohol.  My little girl was beside herself with excitement, wanting start playing with these noodles immediately.  I told her we’d wait until morning to make sure they were fully dry.

When I considered how much pasta I used and how long she would probably want to play with the shapes, I started wishing I just made pasta for dinner instead because eating it would be of better use.

Totally wrong.

This, folks, is the one activity that will keep your toddlers busy for hours.

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This is the only thing she played with this morning before her nap.  I had to pry her away from it for a play-date and then again when it was lunchtime.  She loves sorting the shapes, colors, stacking them, and I think just the whole sensory experience is thrilling to her.

Finally!  Mama can clean the toilets this afternoon! (Or, let’s be real, I’m going to try this or this or anything else on my Pinterest boards, really 😉)


 

Colored Pasta Shapes

Stir together 2 teaspoons of food coloring and 3 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol.  Add the mixture to a Ziploc bag filled with 2 cups of pasta shapes of your choice.  Shake to cover the pasta completely, and then dump out onto parchment paper and let dry.