Monday, February 20, 2012

In the Kitchen: Crockpot Pizza

Every weekend I look at Collin and say "I really need to sit down and finish the fire story." And he looks back at me and says "yeah, ya do."  And every weekend comes and goes and I rarely even sit down, let alone have time to blog.  

We're two months post-fire and our lives are still pretty much a mess.  Some days it feels like we're chugging through the to-do list but a lot of days (like this past weekend) it feels like we're forever doggy paddling in the deep end, never making it even close to shore.  There are a lot of days I just can't fight it any longer and I let myself sink, in tears or anger/frustration. 

The local children's furniture shop was having a sale this weekend so we packed the boys up and headed to Appleton.  I don't know why we thought this was a good idea.  Not once has a trip to the furniture shop in town with them in tow been successful, and this one also proved to be pretty much a disaster.  Thankfully the owner, who was helping us, is pretty much a saint and he quoted us on a couple of sets (at the sales price) and said the quotes are good for 30 days.  He also didn't flinch at our children's behavior, having raised four boys of his own, he was sympathetic and understanding.  It was about the only saving grace of the day.

We still have so much to inventory (so much!), drivers license and credit cards to replace, donation boxes that haven't been sorted through, I can't even think about it all because it gets me so down.  The one thing we have started doing again though, is cooking regularly.  For the first several weeks following the fire we were eating out or eating boxed dinners, pretty much all the time.  Partially because we have very limited cooking supplies, also because we are just now restocking all of our spices/ingredients needed to make most things, but mostly because I didn't have any recipes.

Our return to cooking has been in no small part due to my friend, Jill, and her sister, who put together an awesome gift for us.  With the help of a number of family members and friends they combined a group of people's favorite recipes, wrote them on to recipe cards, fitted them in the protective slips, and organized them all into a cute little recipe box.  I'll be honest, I may have weeped a little when I saw it.  

The most recent one we tried was Crockpot Pizza (which was supplied/submitted? by Jill).  Everyone in the family loved this, we'll definitely be making it again.  Plus, it makes a huge pot so we got two, if not three, full meals out of it.  Go!  Make yourself pizza in a crockpot!

Crockpot Pizza
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (cooked)
1 (8oz) pkg rigatoni pasta (I used whatever was in the cupboard)
1 (16 oz) pkg shredded mozzarella cheese
1 can cream of tomato soup
2 jars pizza sauce
8 oz sliced pepperoni, halved (opps, I'm just now seeing I was supposed to half it, I didn't, and it turned out fine.)

(Side note, when cooking my beef I added a can of mushrooms, onions, garlic, and some italian seasonings - just because I add this to pretty much all "Italian" meals.)

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil.  Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and set aside.

In slow cooker, alternate layers of ground beef, noodles, cheese, soup, sauce, and pepperoni.

Cook on low setting for 4 hours.

Serve with garlic bread and salad.  Enjoy!  (we also served with cottage cheese.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Celebrating Valentine's Day

I love holidays.  I'm not sure there is one that I don't like, but this year my anticipation for Valentine's Day has surprised even myself.  I think it is because this day is centered around love and over the course of the last couple of months so many people have shown us so much love that some days my heart feels like it is bursting.  Of course there are also days that my heart is still heavy, really heavy, but it's in those moments that I remind myself of all this love and start to feel whole again.

A few weeks ago we bought the boys a Valentine's book that explains the history of the day in very easy to understand, simplistic terms.  We've been reading the book and talking about the upcoming holiday and planning our Valentine's (an idea I got from The Fry Family Blog, via Pinterest.)  Keaton has been so into it this year. I showed him a picture online and we set out to buy our shovels.  Every store we've been at lately he's been asking to look for them (note, we never did find just shovels, so I had to order them online.)  Then a couple of weekends ago we started putting them together.  Keaton shoveling, Hutton eating.  And with each bag we packaged up we talked about who it was going to and why we wanted to show them love this year.

My only disappointment in the project is I wish we could have made and sent more.  I wish we could have sent them to everyone on our thank you list.  Because there are so many people that we "dig" right now.  So many people that we love.

For the Grandparent's this year we did a little different project.  This idea came from also via Pinterest.

This morning I woke up early to put the boy's gifts out and start working on our traditional Valentine's morning waffles.  The boy's got more of a haul this year than most because I wanted to replace some of the things that they lost in the fire. When Keaton came up this morning and saw gifts sitting on the kitchen counter he stopped in his tracks and just stared with wide eyes.  When my mom came up the stairs he exclaimed, Mimi! We got presents!!  His excitement might have made my morning.

The rest of our Valentine's celebration was centered around food. Waffles on our new heart plates this morning, red velvet cupcakes at lunch, and our traditional Valentine's Day dinner, seafood alfredo, crab cakes and asparagus.  This is the meal Collin and I had on our first Valentine's Day together and we've made it a tradition. 

In many ways it was just a simple, ordinary day, which might have made me love it even more.

And now for our Valentine's Day guessing game results.....

First of all, I have to tell you I loved reading through your guesses and if I could have combined all of your guesses into one, you guys would have nailed it!  But the person with the most correct guesses first, the winner is...


Congrats Jill!  I'm hoping you guys received your package today!

So?  What were the correct answers??

Keaton - Tractors (he also wants construction equipment, so I'm going to try to combine the two)  (Guessed by: Jill, Ember, Tanya, Amanda, and Kelly)

Hutton - Sports themed (possibly focused on baseball) (Guessed by: Kira, who not only said sports, but noted baseball - nice work!)

Baby Kono III color scheme - Brown and Blue, nature inspired (Colors guessed by: Jill and Ember Nature inspired noted by Kira)  My current inspiration are these birch tree wall decals

We'll have to have another guessing game in time for St. Patty's!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

22/23 Week Update On All Things Baby

18 weeks
22/23 weeks
Wow, wow, wow, I can't believe I'm about 22/23 weeks along and this is the first Baby update I'm writing.  Life.  It throws you punches.  Sorry Baby Kono III, I promise to take lots of pictures of you when you get here.  Okay, I promise to try. (Aaaaand, the Baby in my belly is shaking his head and thinking, yup, I'm screwed.)

There were a ton of posts I had planned on writing before the fire to give this baby justice, but since we're so far into the pregnancy at this point lets see if we can sum up the first half rather quickly.

  • I guess to start I should tell you, Baby Kono III was a SURPRISE!  While we had planned on having a third, we had decided to put off trying until the first of the year.  I was in the midst of training for another half marathon when I got the positive pregnancy test (in fact, three days before I took the test I ran 10 miles, something I never would have done had I even thought it was possible that I was pregnant.)  BUT, that doesn't mean that when I saw those two pink lines I didn't jump for joy.  I think my text to Ember said something about being "on cloud 9."  I took the test on a Wednesday afternoon, Keaton was napping and Hutton was in the bathroom with me sitting on the floor playing with the other two tests in the box.  I picked him up, swung him around and he giggled, though he had no idea what was going on.  That night I surprised Collin with a Dairy Queen cake that said "#3 - See you June 3rd"  he looked at the cake, looked at me, looked at the cake again and said "Are you pregnant?" We trusted that God knew something we didn't know with the timing and on December 10th we learned what that something was.  I remember standing outside in the bitter cold that night and thanking Him that I was not only pregnant, but already through the first trimester, because there is no way in these months following the fire that we would even be thinking about ttc right now, there is just too much else on our plates.  So we are both overjoyed and so very thankful.
  • My morning sickness started pretty much on queue at 6 weeks.  While I didn't throw up nearly as much as I did with Hutton I generally felt like shit all day everyday.  That first trimester was actually pretty miserable.  I remember more than once saying "this is it, I can't do this again." At the beginning I thought this first trimester was very different from either of the boys, but when I went back to read this recap I wrote during Hutt's pregnancy I realized with the exception of the puking, pregnancy #3 followed pretty closely to pregnancy #2. The biggest difference is that the morning sickness did not stop at 11 weeks!!!  Until the fire, I didn't think it was ever going to stop.  It was really the fire, the distraction, that made me feel human, pregnancy-wise, again. 
Those two bullet points pretty much sum up the first trimester.  Here's how things are going now:

  • The pictures above we're taken at 18 weeks and 22/23 weeks along (I say 22/23 because the doc currently has me at 22 weeks 3 days and I think I was actually 23 weeks yesterday.)  Apparently I don't have a comparison pic for either of these weeks, but here was 20 weeks with Hutton.
  • To date I've gained 13 pounds.  I guess I didn't keep track last time around.  I'm kind of bummed about that because I have no idea if that is similar to last time or not.  Sadly, I'm also at the same weight I was when I gave birth to Keaton.  Age/metabolism, you are such a bitch. 
  • Baby's heart rate yesterday was 147.  He has always been right around this, ranging from 140-150.  This is in line with Hutton; Keaton was always in the 160s.
  • Since week 19 (I believe) I've been on weekly progesterone injections.  This is to hopefully prolong the pregnancy.  Our goal is 35 weeks (Keaton was born at 36; Hutton was born at 34) - we'd really like to avoid the NICU this go around.  The boys come with me into the docs for my weekly shots.  Each week as I lean over the table Keat puts his hands right next to me and says "you getting a shot for your baby, Mom?"
  • We've had two ultrasounds, one at 16 weeks to check my cervix to make sure it wasn't already thinning/opening, and one at 20 weeks for the anatomy.  Both looked good.  I have pictures to show you but I misplaced the disk, so I'll have to look for that. Collin and I both feel like he looks like Hutton, although I know full well that I thought Hutt looked liked Keaton and that was totally inaccurate, so....
  • Oh, did I mention, it's a BOY!!  We didn't have the energy for a surprise this time around.  We're still working on a name.  This process of having to name a baby is hard work.  We had both of the other boys' names picked out long before we were even trying for a family; this is all new to me and if I'm being honest, I don't particularly like it.  I find it stressful. 
  • I keep forgetting that we need to replace everything we had for a baby.  Then it hits me and I start to panic a little.  We are currently 4 months from our due date (officially June 11th) and if I go early we might only be 3, or....oh, don't let me even go there.  Let's just plan a trip to Babies R Us, ASAP, eh?
  • Baby has been really moving a lot the last few days.  I think that is because I foolishly made the comment on Sunday that he doesn't seem as active as his brothers....when will I learn??
I think that's about it.  Now that we're all up to speed I'll try to post some updates a little more regularly.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Valentine's Day guessing game

Yesterday was a good day in the Kono household, we closed on our mortgage!!  We've known for a few weeks now that everything had gone through okay but until I signed my name on those papers I didn't want to speak a word of it in fear of jinxing ourselves.  I've been so concerned about this, what if the appraisal doesn't come in high enough?  What if something is wrong with our credit scores (even though I've looked at them a dozen times) and it screws up our approval, what if?  what it?  what if?  Collin of course was cool a a cucumber, things will be fine, he said.  While I, Type-A miss Frets-a-Lot, laid awake at night worrying about and fearing the worst. 

This living situation, us staying in a duplex in town, is okay, we're making due, but only because in my mind it is temporary.  If this were suddenly to become indefinite, I think I might lose it.  This is not home, even Keaton calls it "the duplex;" all I want is to go home.  As of yesterday I can officially say this summer (or maybe fall, were not exactly sure when the house will be ready) we'll be GOING HOME!!!

Knowing things had gone through okay has let me start dreaming and planning a little in the last week or so.  I've been talking to the boys about their bedrooms and we've been sketching ideas in our mind.  In honor of Valentine's Day next week I thought we'd have a little guessing game on here.  The winner will be the proud recipient of one of our homemade valentine's - we worked on them this past weekend.  It's not much, but I will tell you there is candy involved :)

So here's the question: What theme are we planning* for each of the boys' rooms (for Baby it isn't a theme, but a color scheme)?

So your answer should be three parts: 1) Keaton's theme, 2) Hutton's theme and 3) Baby Kono III's nursery colors.

I'll give one point for each correct guess and the person with the most points first, wins.

(That probably makes no sense, but in my head I know what I'm doing.)

I'll be going to the post office on Saturday morning so get your guesses in by the end of the week.

*I say planning because kids are fickle and current themes are subject to change.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Blogging Again

This month has kicked my ass.

(In my head I totally just said, This ass has kicked my month, which I think about sums it up.)

When I sat down and wrote Part 1 of the fire story I had every intention of finishing it that same weekend.  That was what?  Four freaking weeks ago.  Part of it is that I'm nervous about writing the second half.  That whole evening (well, early morning) is such a blur.  I have my memories but I worry that they might not all be exact.  And part of it is that writing it means I have to go back there, I have to experience it all again, and at the end of the day that just feels too exhausting.  But mostly, it's simply because I haven't had time.  December at work was full of deadlines and year-end projects, being out for nearly the last three weeks of the year really set me behind, and January has been all about playing catch up.  It's made for some long days, both mentally and physically, and has left me with very little energy to do much else.  And then the weekend roles around and there is just so much to do.  We're still trying to sort and organize items that have been donated.  I have a list of thank yous to write that will likely take me a whole year (I'm very slow when it comes to Thank yous), oh, and that insurance inventory thing.  Oh my God, you guys, it is SO much work.  We have only completed 1 1/2 rooms and have already put hours into it. 

But the good news is, the calendar has flipped to February, I've met my January month-end deadlines.  For right this second, I'm feeling a little peace and I'm hoping with it I'll be able to carve out some more time for blogging.  I mean, I have yet to tell you about this baby.  This little BOY who will be joining our family in four short months.  He's becoming an active little guy, but when his brothers are around he seems to just sit still and listen.  I'm feeling kicks from both the inside and out now, and Collin has felt them too, but Keaton, oh bless his heart, can only sit still for about 10 seconds and then he pushes on my tummy and says, "he kicked, Mama??"  Well no, honey, that was just the flub bouncing back at you, but we'll try again when he gets bigger.

I have an appointment next Wednesday, so I'll try writing a proper pregnancy update then. 

In the meantime, I'm going to try to finish the Story of the Fire because even though things have been hectic and overwhelming around here, we've been busy rebuilding (our home and our lives), and that's a much happier story to document.