Monday, August 22, 2016

Little Miss Observant

I don't know if it's a toddler thing, a girl thing, or a Jenna thing. Probably some combo of all 3. But seriously, Jenna is just so observant and helpful these days! My boys were NEVER like this. (And they still aren't). I know I've bragged about this before but she just continues to amaze me with the things she notices.

For example, if I call out to the kids "It's time to go, get your shoes on!", Jenna will immediately head to the shoe basket and put on her shoes. Then if my shoes are laying around, she will bring them to me. If she notices the boys aren't moving, she will go bring them their shoes. I love it!

Tonight at dinner we had just sat down to eat when Jenna started saying "Mommy cup? Mommy cup?" I was the only one at the table without a drink, and she immediately noticed. Talk about observant!

Speaking of dinner, Jenna will ask me for a wipe if she makes a mess on her tray. And she will always point out a mess on the floor if I'm sweeping and I miss it.

The other night I was saying "Boys put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Boys put your dirty clothes in the hamper". Over and over. (story of my life). The boys were in their own little boy world and didn't even hear me. After I had said it 3 times Jenna finally walked over, picked up their clothes and put them in the hamper. I may have made a comment to Adam about women just noticing things that need to be picked up or cleaned. Ahem.

There are way too many examples to list, but I think I've made my point. It's like Jenna is always listening to what I'm saying, paying attention, and noticing things that need to be done. I love having such a great little helper and I hope I can encourage her to continue this behavior!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

7 Nights of Dinner

Friday: Vegetable Lasagna, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad

Tonight I made my Summer Vegetable Lasagna. I hadn't made this in a really long time and we had forgotten how good it is! I always make it in the summer using fresh summer veggies, but you could certainly make it during the colder months and just change up the vegetables. This time I used fresh spinach, yellow squash, zucchini, carrot, and fresh kale. I have added sun-dried tomatoes in the past and those were really good. I love this dish because the prep is incredibly simple. Once your cheese is shredded and your veggies are chopped, all you have to do is assemble and bake. I don't even pre-cook the noodles. It is incredibly flavorful, even without any meat. Here is my recipe in case you want to try it:

(Before baking)

Summer Vegetable Lasagna

32 oz marinara sauce, or 4 cups (Costco sells this large sized jar)
12 lasagna noodles (whole wheat or regular)
4 cups chopped veggies
16 oz cottage cheese
1/2 cup parmesan
16 oz shredded mozzarella

-Combine cottage cheese and parmesan in a small bowl.
-Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 4 lasagna noodles. I usually lay 3 length-wise and then break up a 4th noodle perpendicular along the bottom.
-Top with 1 1/3 cups marinara sauce.
-Top with 1/3 of your cottage cheese mixture.
-Top with 1/3 of your veggies.
-Top with 1/3 of your mozzarella cheese.
-Repeat all layers twice, ending with cheese.
-Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. If you are using whole wheat noodles you may like to bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove foil and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

I served the lasagna with a simple Caesar salad (which Jenna ended up eating with her fingers out of my bowl! Guess I found a new food she loves!) I also baked one of these Alexia garlic breads. I usually like to make garlic bread from scratch but needed something quick. This brand contains good ingredients and Ryan absolutely loves it.

Saturday: Tri-Tip, Quinoa patties, fruit salad, salad

I was quite proud of myself for BBQing this tri-tip all by myself on the charcoal grill. Adam was out so he explained how to do it, and it wasn't too hard! I've cooked on the gas side of our BBQ but never attempted charcoal. Along with the meat I made a fruit salad of watermelon and red grapes, along with some leftover salad. I also cooked these quinoa patties. Adam and I both really love this recipe. They are very simple to make and only contain 5 ingredients.

Sunday: Honey Garlic Chicken, Rice, Broccoli and Cauliflower, Egg Rolls

This meal was so good. I found this recipe for Baked Honey Garlic Chicken on Pinterest. It looked really good, and I was surprised when my chicken actually turned out looking like the picture on the website! The method of coating in panko, baking, and then drizzling in sauce resulted in the perfect sticky crunchy sweet chicken. The honey flavor was a tad too strong for me, but otherwise delicious!

I served it over white rice, with steamed veggies on the side. I also baked some chicken egg rolls I had picked up at Trader Joe's, just for something fun and different to eat. Unfortunately my entire family hated this meal. Lucas and Jenna ate rice, Adam ate rice and veggies, and Ryan ate nothing. It is so frustrating to put in so much effort and then have my entire family reject dinner. Unfortunately this happens a lot, but I refuse to serve "kid" food or junk food every night. I do make an effort to make something like tacos, burgers, or pizza once a week. I was just expecting things to have gotten a little better by now at our dinner table, but it seems like my kids are only getting pickier.

Monday: Mahi Mahi Burgers with guacamole, roasted potatoes, coleslaw

Can you believe I have never made coleslaw? I have never liked the taste of it, but I think that's because of the celery seed that is usually added to it. I had picked up a bag of shredded cabbage and carrot at Trader Joe's so I googled simple coleslaw dressing recipes. I found one and gave it a try, and it was surprisingly pretty good.

I picked up these Mahi Mahi burgers at Trader Joe's (can you tell that's where I did my shopping this week?), and an employee recommended eating them on tacos with guacamole. I ate mine bunless dipped in ketchup and it was great! Adam ate his in a tortilla, and Ryan ate his on a whole wheat bun with ketchup. About half way through he decided he didn't like it, but I was so proud of him for trying something new. (Redemption after the previous night!) The boy loves his burgers, so now I'm wondering what else I can stick between a bun and slather with ketchup that he will be willing to try. On the side I roasted some Yukon gold potato wedges, recipe found here. Oh and the strawberries were the best I've had all summer.

Tuesday: Lazy Chile Relleno, Homemade refried beans, Salsa, Cornbread, Watermelon

I made my Mom's recipe for chile rellenos, recipe here on my blog. I love this recipe because it's easy and delicious. It's basically just eggs, cheese, a little flour, and canned green chiles. It turns into kind of an egg soufflé/casserole, and is excellent the next morning for breakfast!

On the side I made homemade refried beans, recipe here. You should really try this recipe! I know a big pot of beans doesn't look too appealing but they are so tasty with a little cheese on top. I promise.

I had some peppers from my garden so I made another huge batch of Pioneer Woman's Restaurant Salsa. I've been making a batch each week and somehow we always eat it all! We also ate some cornbread from the freezer and really ripe watermelon.

Wednesday: Chicken and Bean Nachos, Steamed Broccoli and Cauliflower
I wanted something really easy this night because our garbage disposal was clogged and our kitchen was a huge stinky mess. But I also wanted to make something special for Ryan since it was his first day of school. I cooked a couple chicken breasts in my homemade salsa and then shredded the meat. On top of chips I layered the chicken, leftover refried beans, cheese, salsa, and guacamole. (Ryan's version was just chips, cheese and chicken) I added some steamed veggies on the side and dinner was done!

Thursday: Ground Beef, Brown Rice, Salad
Late in the week I'm getting pretty tired and my dinners tend to get more simple. Tonight I cooked ground beef and served it with brown rice. I mixed the two together on my plate and doused it all in Worcestershire sauce. Yum. I could eat that condiment every day. Jenna tried it for the first time and liked it too! On the side I made a simple romaine salad with tomatoes and cucumbers from my garden.

Whew! 7 days of dinners from the Nullmeyer table. It's no secret I love to cook, but I'd have to say that even more than grocery shopping and cooking, I love planning out our meals. Sitting down and planning a week's worth of dinners and making my shopping list is like therapy for me. I try to get creative and use a variety of proteins and sides, while making sure nothing I buy is wasted. I always incorporate fish into our weekly plan, and I try not to make red meat more than once or twice. I also try to have a vegetarian night, but that is a bit tricky for my meat-loving family.  It's kind of like putting together a puzzle for me. Adam told me I should figure out a way to plan menus and make money doing it. What do you think? Do you like this chore or am I in the minority?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ryan's First Day of 1st Grade

Ryan was so nervous about starting First Grade today! Even more nervous than he was about Kindergarten. We talked a lot last night about how fun it was going to be, how he already knows some kids in his class, and how tiny the Kindergarteners would look to him this year. I think he was feeling really big now that he's moved up to the big kid playground. Speaking of Kindergarten, here is Ryan this year vs last year:

Not too much difference, except he's missing his 2 front teeth this year!

Ryan wanted to take a picture with Jenna because he thought she was going to miss him.
He may be smiling, but he was pretty subdued and nervous. He even told me he wasn't going to stay in his classroom. I gave him a big hug and told him a few words from the Bible to repeat to himself whenever he felt afraid. I know he'll get comfortable quickly and I hope he develops some great friendships this year!
When I picked up Ryan from school he said he had a good day! He ate lunch with his friends and he said his teacher is nice. Oh, and a boy at his table threw up. Ugh bring on the first grade germs!

Friday, August 12, 2016

My Little Gentleman

I try to teach my boys good manners. Open the doors for people, help out when it seems like someone can use help, let girls go first, carry things for Mommy, use polite words, put others first, etc. I want them to grow up to be kind, helpful fathers and husbands. And most importantly, men who love others as God loves us. It's a tall order for a Mom! And most of the time it is frustrating for me because I don't see the fruits of my labor yet!

But this little gentleman has been surprising me lately. All of a sudden he is becoming more helpful. When I ask him to help me carry in a grocery bag, he will grab two instead of one. He grunts and says it's really hard but he tries his hardest to carry in the heavy load for me.
When he can tell I don't feel well he is the first to come and give me a hug and ask me if I'm okay. It's funny because Lucas is my most aggressive temperamental child, and yet he has this really soft side to him.

The other day we were at the splash pad and I was about to apply sunblock to Lucas. All of a sudden he stopped me and looked worried. He told me "You can't put it on me. Jenna needs to go first because she's a girl!"

I realized that maybe Lucas has been listening to some of the lessons I've been teaching him. I can't take all the credit though, because I teach the same things to Ryan and he is not as eager to help. So much of it seems to be their God-given personality. I'm going to keep trying to raise little gentlemen and pray that my efforts pay off!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Our Summer Garden

I have been wanting a fruit/vegetable garden in our backyard since we moved in almost two years ago. But our yard is small and we couldn't find the space....until a few months ago when Adam made some space! He went outside and about an hour later came in to show me my new homemade planter box. It's over on the side of our house where we get a lot of direct sun. Perfect for growing food!

In early June I chose a few things to plant and laid them out.

Lucas helped me plant and water:

And I began to wonder if I could have squeezed a few more plants in to the space.....but then a couple weeks later the plants started to spread nicely.

And some fruit started to appear!

I planted a tomato, parsley, basil, zucchini, cucumber, yellow chili pepper, green pepper, strawberry, watermelon and pumpkin. Every morning when I go out to water at least one of the kids joins me to check on our garden's progress. Ryan in particular has been really excited about watching our food grow! I must admit I don't know a lot about gardening but it's a topic I wish I knew more about.

So now here we are in August. And I can't believe how much our garden has grown!! (I don't think I needed to buy any more plants. Ha!)
Even since I took these photos last week everything has grown and spread out more. The pumpkin plant in particular has crept along the path at least another foot. Crazy!

Our watermelon plant has 5 watermelons, and I'm hoping they all grow to full size.
My tomato plant is taller than me now! I have at least 10 tomatoes on it and one of them turned red this morning, so I may be eating garden tomatoes soon!
My yellow chili pepper plant is fantastic! I have picked 5 chili peppers so far and they definitely pack a spicy punch. So far all I've used them for is salsa (specifically, this recipe), but I'd love some new ideas.
 I am also loving my cucumber plant! I've picked 4 so far and they have such a great fresh taste.
However, my zucchini plant is a big disappointment. It is huge and leafy and has tons of blossoms...but no zucchinis! I don't know much about gardening, but after doing some internet research I think my plant only has male blossoms. Without female blossoms, it can't produce fruit. I have no idea how to solve this problem, so we may not have zucchini this year. I'm having the same issue with my pumpkin plant. Tons of growth and blossoms, but no fruit. Does anyone have any advice?
So I'd call my summer garden a success! Do you have a summer garden? I'm already looking forward to planting broccoli and cabbage and brussels sprouts in a few months.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bunk Bed!

We finally did it. We went and bought the boys a bunk bed! If you remember, we got desperate last month and moved the twin bed to the boys' room for Ryan to sleep in. It fit him much better than his toddler bed, but unfortunately it didn't fit in the room so well. Lucas' car toddler bed is kind of large and the two beds together, plus a dresser, meant absolutely no walking space in the room. It just wasn't working.

Adam talked about building the boys a bunk bed. His idea was to build it fairly low and have the two levels criss-cross to kind of form a V in the corner of the room, with the boys' feet overlapping each other. It was a good idea but we just have so many projects going on in our house that I was able to convince Adam that we should just buy a bed. One trip to Ikea later and the boys now have a bunk bed.
Here are a few pictures of their room now. All their books are under their window, but we will probably move one shelf to Jenna's room at some point.

Immediately to the left is their hotwheel shrine. I feel like they will still be playing with hotwheels as teenagers!

Over in the corner is their dresser, which we also got at Ikea back when Ryan was a baby. I love that we have floor space now.

We had this little shelf laying around so we used it to hang the boys' hats in the corner. Above it is a picture my Grandma painted with an old truck in it.

Sorry for the blurry picture. Ryan won this sports quilt at school last year and Adam came up with the idea of hanging it on the wall. Once we put it up Ryan got excited and said "Now this looks like a 10-yr old boys' room!"

Every night before bed the boys request water. Sometimes they wake up at night and can't find their cups. So Adam decided to make them custom cup holders to attach to the bed with zip ties, made out of PVC pipe. Nothing but the best for them. Ha!

And finally, Adam made a shelf just for Ryan. He felt like Ryan needed his own little space for his things. On it Ryan put his piggy bank, his baseball trophy, and his latest lego creations. Nobody is allowed to touch his shelf!
The boys love their new bunk bed. Ryan has actually been going to play in his room by himself for a few minutes at a time. He has never done this before, so I know he likes his new space. Now if only he would stay in his bed all night!