the best mornings, big babies, weird beans, and monday goals + menus


I was here last Friday morning after Rob sent me away to spend some time alone. :) I was so, so tired and just feeling weary. I think the lack of deep sleep for so many weeks is really catching up to me now- so much so that I joyfully drank a Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks {and liked it! hooray!}. Coffee + talking to Jesus + beautiful breeze= the sweetest Friday morning a girl could ever hope for. My husband is so good to me. :)


I love how he takes care of me and doesn't mind holding a baby or changing diapers or anything else. He's a keeper. :D
daddy and his 6-week-old hefty little wingman
And can you tell Zane is growing like a weed! Can you believe he's almost 7 weeks? I think he looks 3-4 months old.


Dinner is looking fall-ish for sure- I'm thrilled to get back into the squashes again. :D I have great plans for spaghetti squash with marinara or avocado...yum. I was so excited to see them in stock at Walmart last night.


And I'd never seen this before. I read the ingredients, and the grains are just pre-cooked with no added ingredients. I tried it and it's good- the brown rice tastes like instant rice, but hey, what could you expect?


And I spotted these for the first time too- I've never heard of cranberry beans! Have you?


I looked up recipes on Pinterest and found this recipe for Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli. Doesn't it look amazing?


And these tiny apples were only 97 cents per lb. I would love to make these into caramel apples with the kids. I think. Or maybe just apples with caramel dip... :)


And I completed all the tasks on my to-do list last week, and I even chopped cut Noah's hair {ahem} to boot. :)

Well, I technically cleaned out my drawers- I suppose it still counts if the clothes are divided into piles and still on the floor a day later right? ;) What's really sad is that I have more exercise clothes than real clothes these days! Priorities, right? hahah! 


I'm so soo thrilled about October coming tomorrow. It's the best month of the year in Texas. ;) That and Rob, Elijah, and I cover a week of birthdays, which makes it full of happiness and sugar in my favorite form- cake. ;)

Here are my "do, read, learn, and be" goals for the first week of October:

do:
  • exercise 4-5 hours this week/teach fitness classes- 3 BODYPUMPS and 1 BODYCOMBAT
  • plan out October activities with kids/birthdays/etc.
  • plan out my days and weeks on paper again using the plan and this week
  • do devotions alone at lunch time {the baby and I haven't been getting up earlier than the kids these days}
  • list 3 items {watch out- more pop-up closet posts coming soon!}
  • make dental appointments

read: 
  • Isaiah chapters 40-55

learn:
  • family verse we are memorizing together:  

Isaiah 55:6-7
 Seek the Lord while he may be found;

    call on him while he is near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways

    and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,

    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
be {character aspect}: 
patient.

This week I want to answer my children {and husband} with the words "yes" instead of "what" and show them that they are not bothering me. They are all asking me a gazillion questions a day- many at the same exact time while the baby is crying, so sometimes it does actually bother me, of course, but it's my response I need to work on. What isn't bad itself, but I want to change the way I respond altogether and break the bad habits I've made.

I just don't want to portray impatience to them with every question they ask me, as I've been more likely to do lately. Mama is definitely grumpier these days with less sleep, but it's not fair to them to treat them as if they are the problem or the reason. I want them to know they are welcome to talk to me {and when it's not the appropriate time to ask questions too. ;)}. I know the Holy Spirit will give me patience to deal with them, even when I don't feel like it, if I ask Him to help me be patient and shape me to be the mother He wants me to be. :)

And our meal plans for this week:

sausage and sauerkraut- a childhood favorite that's a rare treat, sooo good but soo bad... ;)
black beans and rice
dinner out
pizza night
chicken and red potatoes
tacos + refried beans
mystery freezer meal

me {lunch and dinners}:
tofu and basil rice stir fry
chicken and multi-grains {above}
baked potatoes
spaghetti squash + cranberry beans
boiled eggs and oatmeal {I've been craving protein like crazy the last 3 weeks}
chicken and red potatoes
buffalo chicken and brown rice

Lunches are still easy: sandwiches and chips or leftovers.

What's your favorite easy lunch {to feed a crowd}? I need ideas- preferably ones that take paper plates! :)

Any plans this week?

What good words do you use to respond to hundreds of repetitions of "mommy?" from your kiddos? I'd love to hear!

frugal mishaps {of the haircutting kind}

Because no frugal journey is without its mishaps, I just have to share one of the latest adventures I went on this week… ;)

So I’ve been cutting our boys’ hair for several years to save money- I figure it saves us at least $120 or more a year to do it at home. Several years ago we invested in a set of Wahl clippers, and I’ve been cutting their hair ever since, with the exception of a few special occasions. :)

I’ve never been good at it, but in the grand scheme of things- how much does it matter if they don’t have perfect hair? Not much, we figure. I’m no professional, so I nearly always waver when it’s haircutting time, but Rob insists that I do a great job and it saves us $30 a pop. So I do it anyway. :) Plus, we’ve paid $30 and been less than happy with the outcome plenty of times.

We hadn’t done any haircuts at our house since May, and it was TIME.

Noah was the first candidate to go under the clippers. Here’s the before:

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All was going well until, for maybe the second time in all of our haircutting history, the GUARD fell off in the middle of a cut!

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My eyes just got really wide, and Noah asked what happened and immediately started laughing…. {he was still laughing in the pic above}. He wanted to see it, so I took a picture of the tiny {ahem} mistake I’d made:

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Eeeeewww no. Rob thought I was going to have to shave it off completely, but I did my best to salvage the style, and here’s what came out of it:

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Not too bad, I think. :P I can still see the spot, but luckily his blonde hair  is much more forgiving than darker hair. I actually really like how it turned out! He was such a good sport about it too. He thought it was hilarious his mama accidentally scalped him. That’s my boy. :)

After Noah’s extra-generous hair cut, I was a wimp and barely touched Elijah’s hair. He just had a little trim.

Turns out haircutting on little sleep can be a dangerous thing. ;)

Do you cut hair at home?
While I do, and love to save the money, it makes me appreciate the skill of hair stylists all the more!

Have you ever messed up a haircut like that? What happened? {please make me feel better, hahah!}

Do frugal mishaps happen to you too?

re-entering the PC world: a Staples back to school notebook package review

Since we’ve started back to school, I find that I spend almost all of my time at my new desk {more on that later!}during the day. I feel like I almost have a 9 to 5 job right now with homeschooling alone. I am adjusting to the long hours in front of the computer, and though I only have one hand 95% of the time, I am thankfully still able to use the mouse with it when the kids aren’t asking me questions. :)

Right around the same time we decided to homeschool again and use a video curriculum x 3, Staples offered to send me a back to school package to review! Perfect timing, no doubt {and we know who is in that business! :D}… since we could use the extra computer right now. They just asked me to try out their products and give my honest opinions about them. Easy enough, right? :) I was in!

I was sent this little wireless Western Digital router, a year of Norton Anti-virus, and an easy button, along with a laptop and a backpack:

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Here’s the funny thing. I’m firmly in the Apple fangirl- make it easy for me-camp, and I have a super-technical husband {he does PC support for a living, basically}, which means I’ve never had to plug in a router or install antivirus software or learn how to use Windows  for 6+ years. :) So this whole review thing was fun for me because I’ve never done those technical things before! And when they sent me a PC to review, I was excited to try out Windows 8 and see how it compares to Apple’s OS these days.

I was sent the Toshiba Satellite L75D-A7283, a 17.3 inch laptop with Windows 8, 6 GB of RAM, and a 750 GB hard drive. Pretty spectacular specifications in the laptop world, I think. If I were to buy a comparable Mac it would be more than $2500, but this one was right at $400 after rebates and discounts. Kind of crazy cheap. It does have a cheaper AMD A4 processor though- a big difference from an Apple or nicer PC notebook.

Check out the size of this beast- that’s a regular pencil down there on the keyboard to give you an idea:

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As a blogger, I have to tell you, I appreciate the large size very much. I’m used to working on a 13-inch high resolution monitor, so having 17.3 inches of screen real estate makes a huge difference to me. When the children use it for school it won’t matter as much to them, but it’s great for my almost 31-year-old eyes. I also really like the fact that it has very loud DTS speakers, so we can all watch videos together on special projects like animal research and science experiments {or watch movies in the car on long trips… ;)}.

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Windows 8 didn’t bring me great joy, though. I am not a fan of their fa├žade interface- it’s like there’s two operating systems, but the pretty side {the main menu} only allowed you to do half of the things you need to do- otherwise it takes you back to the old window style navigation on another old style Windows desktop. Very weird. It was almost like Microsoft ran out of time and money to complete it- either that or they figure most people will never need to add network printers, arrange secondary monitors, or add pictures to their computer? I know enough about Windows to get around mostly, and what I didn’t know my husband did, so I never had any real problems- it was just strange the way Windows 8 had lots of gaps in their “simpler” interface.

But I can’t blame the hardware for that. Toshiba seems to make quality machines, and this one is actually pretty nice. The case is pretty, the screen is glossy, and the raised keys are nice, and I’ve had no video problems with this one like I’ve had when I’ve tried to use HPs and Acers in the past. The battery is so-so, and twice it shut down on me without warning because it ran out after a few hours- I guess I’m used to a huge warning like I get on my Mac. :)

I deleted most of the original things on the home screen. I wasn’t fond of the live tiles, but I liked how everything I use is easily found with one Windows keystroke {see it down there by the alt key?}.

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My very favorite thing about any Windows machine is this though:

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Windows Live Writer is the best program for blogging- it allows you to blog offline, without a browser, which is a huge advantage if you’re a blogger going on trips at all. I am torn between PCs and Macs for this very reason. I like seeing the way my blog looks, and I’m typing in Live Writer as we speak. It looks like a Word document, but it allows you to format your posts exactly like it looks online {most of the time}- unlike my Mac where I have to be on the internet and use a browser and Blogger’s HTML online editor. I think it’s a huge win for PCs if you ask me. I really like this feature, and that’s what I’ve been using it for the most over the few days I’ve had it so far.

So, the Mac vs. PC battle feels like a toss up for me now. I’m really impressed with the Toshiba’s performance so far-it does everything I want to do like Evernote, emailing, picture editing, and blogging, and it plays our special videos for homeschooling- something my Macbook cannot do thanks to the BJU Press app that plays the videos.

Here are the pros and cons on this specific PC from my perspective…

What I love about the Toshiba Satellite L75D:

it’s huge!
it’s attractive- easy on the eyes.
smooth edged corners {my Macbook was very sharp}
the keys are raised and separated- gives you more room for your hands
Windows Live Writer is great for blogging on the road without internet access
the extra number pad is convenient.
great speakers- DTS bar is very loud
easy to plug in additional devices like mouse, CD’s, SD cards, software thanks to Windows 8
great resolution/screen space
the Windows 8 screen key is invaluable
the ports are on the sides- easy to access
it has a CD-ROM drive- something I haven’t had on my Macbook Air
cheap ~$400 range- the price for a comparable Mac would be $2700

what I don’t love about the PC:

the monitor out plug is right where the mouse goes
battery life is so-so
windows 8 isn’t intuitive- I had no idea how to close programs or shut down the machine and it takes way too much effort to do so
its occasionally sluggish- sometimes it takes a while for typing to appear on the screen
it’s heavy – around 6 lbs.
Microsoft office programs cost $$
the multi-desktop aspect of Windows 8- if you can’t find it in the new “simple” interface, it takes you back to the old style.

I was also excited to try the other items Staples sent along. Can a girl who has never touched one use a router out of the box? I wanted to see… :)

I pulled out the WD router, and used the installation CD right away to help me set it up.

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I got this screen, so I followed the color coding and plugged it in to our modem.

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Unfortunately, the WD interface failed me- I did what it said and it wouldn’t connect. But I refused to ask Rob- I was going to do it by myself. ;) Then I clicked down in the corner of Windows and said connect, and the Windows interface helped me out and told me what to do, and it connected instantly. :)

Rob almost couldn’t believe I could hook up a router when it was telling me it was broken. He forgets that I’ve been married to a technical support guy for 11 years. :) That and he didn’t know Windows told me to look for the PIN number. {brownie points for windows 8!}. So that worked, and the internet was back up very quickly. So far so good! I didn’t break the internet, and the router works great. I also installed Norton Anti-virus without a hitch. We’ll see how it protects, but I haven’t noticed it slowing everything down yet.

I love our new leather backpack too- it’s super comfy and a gender-neutral classic.

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The boys can carry their work in it on the road, Rob can take it to work, or I can use it as a diaper bag/laptop/purse combo. I think it will be in our family for years. :) The brand is Solo, and it’s very well made- I just love real leather.

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But out of everything, I think we all agree this has been the biggest hit for everyone at our house:

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The kids press it after they finish each subject during school, and after I tell them to do something around the house now. It’s hilarious, but I love that it makes them excited to finish a task.  I would have bought one years ago if I knew the power it held. It’s like magic! ;) Goodness, I’m such a mom.

Thanks again to Staples for providing these items for us to review!

And…I’m giving away one magical easy button {I’m buying it for you because I love it so much!}.

Just leave any comment below to enter {with your email address} so I can contact you! The contest closes and the winner will be announced Monday, Sept. 30, 2013! {winner must be a U.S. resident}

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Full disclosure: Staples.com provided me with these products for review. The thoughts and opinions expressed are strictly my own.

fall has come {and gone}, dangerous foods, and bonus goals

After the rain Friday, the fall season {70 degrees in Texas} came five minutes later {and lasted for five more minutes}, but I’m still savoring the sweet end of September. Zane is 6 weeks old today and it’s a little ridiculous how much I love him. I love snuggling with him in the mornings and getting those sweet toothy little grins. Ahhhh. I’m so thankful they are small for a while. ;)

The women’s retreat I spoke at this weekend was wonderful. The Holy Spirit was there and He was so good, and answered the many {many} prayers that I would be able to speak and focus. I am so amazed by Him. Truly. He is so kind and full of mercy. Thank you for praying for me!!!

The sweet girls who made the retreat possible thought of everything and made the whole event so very lovely. They gave us gifts and in it were three of my favorite things- an Anthro mug, a Starbucks card, chocolate, and more. :D I’m loving the idea of curling up to a warm cup of coffee like last year.

I’m also enjoying these- they were down $2 per lb. from last year- can you believe it? Ahh. Pecans. Yum.

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Pecans are one of my favorite nuts ever, right behind walnuts and raw cashews. But they’re really dangerous- I can eat way more of them than I should. :)

But I have to say they’re probably not as dangerous as these babies:

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For the record, I had no part in buying those. ;) Rob and I went to Sam’s together, and he made me put them in the buggy because they were $6 for 6 lbs. Such a good deal and all. Except for my hips. ;) Luckily they’re not the best gummy bears ever…

And I need your help. I bought this before the baby was born and never drank it:

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I’ve never had kombucha before, but it’s technically expired. Is it like the expiration on milk? Will I die if I open it and drink it? Or does the fermentation get better with time like wine? I have no clue what it should taste like, so if it’s bad I might think that’s normal! :P Will it give me natural energy like it claims?

And here’s the before of a little project the hubs worked on this weekend. I can’t wait to show you the after!

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Now that the baby is getting older, I can do a little more if he’s in the carrier/wrap, so I’m giving myself a few easy goals this week to see what happens. If they don’t get done, it will be okay. I’ve been holding a baby for 6 weeks straight, so anything that gets done will be a bonus. :)

Goals:

midwife appointment- 6 week checkup
list 2 things on Craigslist
exercise 3-4 hours/ teach my 2 classes
try to avoid these Oreos {hardest one on the list}
store returns and gift shopping
take the children to a special outing/movie
bonus points: clean out my dresser/closet

And this week’s menus {staying with simple and mostly ready made}:
black beans and baked potatoes
pizza night
beans + rice
easy chicken tortilla soup
frozen freezer meal
barbecue sandwiches + sweet potato fries
dinner out

meals for me:
chicken + brown rice
baked potatoes
buffalo chicken sandwich on naan bread {my new favorite!}
chicken tortilla soup

 

Have you ever had Kombucha? Loved or hated it? What is it supposed to taste like?

What are your goals for this week?

baby poll giveaway winners

Remember that baby poll we took at 38 weeks? I didn’t either- hahah! ;) I blame it on the postpartum fog. ;)

Little did I know how much time I had left to go! It’s probably a good thing I didn’t!

Here are the winners! Please email me if you are:

Beautifulstory July 23, 2013 at 9:57 PM

August 4th at 6:29pm Weight 8lbs 6oz 

{this was the latest guess- and I still had 9 more days after that! no one would’ve anticipated that!}

cindy  July 20, 2013 at 9:32 PM

I am thinking a 10 lb baby this time around my 4th was 10 lbs Praying friend :)

 

I still can’t believe I gave birth to a 10 lb. 0 oz. baby 11 days late. It’s a good thing I didn’t enter the poll! :P

the friday five {experiments, tricks for avocados, and sleeping like a baby}

It’s raining here- incredible, wonderfully constant rain- and it’s perfect background noise for doing school and preparing for a big weekend. I’m looking forward to a break from school tomorrow- we’ve been spending most of the day in one room working hard, so the weekend means even more than usual. :)

We did get to finish early enough to do a cookie experiment yesterday. Now that the boys are old enough to read well, I let them complete an entire recipe on their own for the first time {reading + fractions = cookies… my kind of homeschooling}. Their cookies turned out better than mine! :)

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In honor of the end of the week finally arriving, I thought it would be fun to share five of my favorite links from around the web today! I try to pin them through the week, so if you want to follow along on Pinterest, you can find me over here! :)

1. The truth. I’m sleeping just like a baby these days… ahem.

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2. Avocados. What??? This lady is a genius.

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3. Bloggers don’t lie. Give us wifi.

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source

4. Preschool Worksheets. I’m using these with Ava!

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5. The best outfit ever.

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And that’s my Friday five! How about you?

What are five things you are looking forward to right now?
sweaters, 8 p.m. on Saturday night, October {aka birthday month!}, cleaning my house sometime this weekend, and having morning devotions again {I’ve missed them so much!}

Any great links you’ve found recently? Or blogged recently? :)

What’s your Pinterest link? I’d love to follow you!

anthropologie garage sales: better than black friday at GW

You know every now and then you hit one of those garage sales you get really excited about- one hosted by someone your age, with great clothes in close to your size, and fantastic taste. The garage sale of someone who shops at Banana Republic and Anthropologie who wants to get rid of their stuff in the next hour and wants to make a deal.  :) Talk about thrilling. :D 

I found a garage sale like that not too long ago, and it was like getting Goodwill prices at Anthropologie, but even better! :) 

I scored all of this for $10:


Which seems pretty decent, you might think- it is way better than GW prices for 7 items. But wait...

These plates were from Anthropologie:


And they still had the stickers on the back for $14 each. :) Plus, they came with plate hangers! I got them for all of $1.43 each,  right at 10% of their original price, not counting the cost of plate hangers! :) Every now and then I'll find a cute plate at GW for .99, but 3 anthro plates with hangers? Never happened.

The throw didn't have a tag on it, but it's thick and heavy, and it's perfect for a corner chair:


And I normally wear clothes I find for thrifty thursday pictures, but it's going to be a while before I can wear these. :) The dress was a silk tea-length from Hype {also sold at anthro for crazy amounts of $!}, and the scarf is yellow houndstooth from Banana Republic. All for $1.43 each. The pink top is super cute too- well made with embroidery at the bottom. It feels very high quality.


And at another garage sale at a friend's house, I found these ginormous candle holders for $5 for the set! {that's what she was asking on the sticker- I didn't even talk her down... ;)}


Now I just need to find 3 pillar candles at a garage sale- if I bought them at Walmart, I'd have to pay more than the holders cost! :)

I'm sad that garage sale season is nearly over- a fact that is hilarious to me, really, because I have very distinct memories of being in the 8th grade and hiding under the seat while my mom went to them.  I was mortified to be shopping at garage sales. And now I tell everyone the deal I found on this stuff in someone's yard. :) We've come a long way, baby! Hehehe.

Were you embarrassed to shop at garage sales when you were young too? Or did you grow up doing it and love it?
I would have saved a ton of money in college if I had bought my clothes secondhand. I guess you have to learn some things the hard way. ;)

What's your best garage sale deal ever? I really want to know- I love a good thrifting story!
I'd say we found the best deals ever at this garage sale 3 years ago!

What do you use in place of pillar candles? Any creative ideas or great sources for cheap large ones?

homeschool houses, diet sabotage, and my love language

Here's what we're doing every morning and afternoon these days:


School. Lots and lots of school. 

The upside of sitting in one room doing school all day? 

The kids are so busy working they can't make messes. That's a win, right there. :)

That and the whole "they're getting and education" thing too, I suppose. ;) And hey, we get to spend all day together. We like that.

We're 3 days in, and it is definitely work. Yesterday was our hardest day yet, but that could have been because my head was pounding and the baby cried most of the day. But the other days were good, even though we're averaging 6-7.5 hours doing school. I mostly sit there with them and try not to do anything else- especially housework. So the house is gradually getting messier. And I'm trying not to care. A messier house is okay at this point, right? ;) 

I'm trying to get back into a routine slowly, including grocery shopping and menu planning again. :) We had our last meal from our church friends last week {isn't that the sweetest kind of love? I think our church excels in loving- they're the essence of Christ!}, so we're back in the game, and trying not to eat out as much as we have in the past couple of months.

I spotted these at Sam's and knew exactly what I wanted to make with them! Welcome back to my life, pumpkin sauce. :D I need good, filling food to replace my ice cream habit. I've been going easy on my usual diet since the baby came, but it's time to start eating well again. :)

But Sam's Club somehow must have known about my desire to go back to semi-healthy ways, because they stuck these out in the middle of the aisle where I couldn't ignore them, and they marked them down to $3.41 each. 2 lbs. 9 ounces of double stuf goodness for $3.41?? I'm sorry, jiggly thighs. At least I'll have plenty of calories for the baby... ;)


It was like Christmas this weekend. 240 double-stuffed Oreos, and then I got this in the mail:


Can you believe my husband ordered this for me the day I posted it, and it came by Saturday? He also ordered me the earrings. That man rocks my world. I am so spoiled. :D He knows my love language is gifts. :)

He had ordered me the very same owl necklace* a while back along with a couple of others as a surprise {it's down to 60 cents with free shipping!}:



I love him.

I suppose I need to make him dinner every now and then as a thank you. ;)

So here's the plan for meals this week- I'm still keeping it simple with ready-made ingredients:

dinners:
black beans + rice
fajita tacos, leftover beans/ rice
spaghetti {no meat} + salad
brisket sandwiches + sweet potato fries + corn
pizza night
grilled cheese sandwiches

lunches:
beef hotdogs {they haven't had these in a while- they're so good/bad} or turkey sandwiches + fruit + carrot + chips

breakfast:
oatmeal
frosted mini wheats

me:
baked potatoes {I can't get enough of these!}
salad
beef fajita meat
chicken breast

Pizza night will be Saturday since I'll be at church. I have to say I'm a little nervous about this weekend- I'm speaking at my church in our first women's night:


Would you pray for me this week if you think about it- that I would be able to say what God wants me to say, and if it's His will, speak clearly and well, and not be nervous? :) And if you're in the ETX area and are free Saturday night, I'd love to see you! Email me or fb me and I'll give you the details if you promise not to laugh at me in person. ;)

What are your plans this week?

Favorite store-bought cookie?
Mine is Danish Wedding cookies {thanks to my Mom :)}- they're hard to find!

Pumpkin fan or not?
I don't like the pie but love it in cake without the spices.