An afternoon with the Kansas Freezer Meal Queen

This morning I’m sitting on the couch, looking like a Buddha in yoga pants and a maternity t-shirt, humbly contemplating the blessings of true friendship that I have.

Friends from back home in Texas who, even four years after I abandoned them to the storms and mosquitoes, still regularly keep in touch and send gifts to my boys. Friends from all over the Internet, some of whom I’ve never met, who care for my family and are helping welcome our new son.

I have one friend who sends me morning text messages checking up on me when she somehow just knows it’s going to be a rough morning. I have another who sends me silly Facebook messages and keeps me laughing.

And I have this friend who, even though she juggles four kids, a yard full of dogs, a household and her own successful, busy blog, still took an entire Sunday out of her schedule to shop for and prep a freezer full of meals for my family and me.

Superwoman here, she’s working on running 500 miles this year. She’s mastered a gluten-free lifestyle for herself and her family. Her birthday parties are epic. And she can turn a cart full of groceries into nearly a month’s worth of meals in one afternoon.

Greta presents Freezer Meals!

Yesterday after a tasty brunch we hit up a few stores for supplies. Greta was kind enough to refrain from making fun of me as I huffed and puffed and grunted my way down the aisles. I had chosen eight or nine different casserole recipes that used groups of similar ingredients and spent about $150 on food and pans – not bad for a dozen dinners (that will yield plenty of leftovers)!

When we got to the house, Greta roasted the chicken, browned the ground meat and boiled the pasta, all while looking cute in her coordinated pink apron/shoes/phone combo. I sat in a chair at the table, ate chocolate and whined about my pelvis.

She makes cooking look cute.

Over a period of about three hours, we assembled a variety of baked chicken pasta dishes, a couple of Mexican-inspired tortilla bakes, and one very badass macaroni and cheese. There’s some greek chicken pasta in there, some pizza pasta, an enchilada casserole that I’m using all of my willpower to avoid cooking RIGHT NOW and a tater tot casserole that will be my guilty pleasure one day.

casserole collage

My kitchen was a glorious wreck through much of the process, although it cleaned up right quick when we finished. Looking back, the whole experience was an absolute blast and I look forward to being able pay it forward and do this for another mom one day. In the meantime, I plan to make “Freezer Cooking Day” a new tradition around here.

If you’re interested in giving freezer cooking a try, you just need about an hour on the Internet, some good organizational skills, a great friend to help out and one afternoon a month.

I hope to show off some of these meals on Fridays after the baby is born – you know, once I can form coherent sentences again. In the meantime, check out a few resources if you’d like to get started on your own freezer stash!

Our Best Bites

Happy Money Saver

Denise Rudolph’s Pin Board


Full term and fabulous

Yeah, ok, so not really. When the OB asked how I was feeling today, I told him I felt like an irritable, sore gummy bear. And it’s true! I have very little patience. My pelvis is coming apart in places. My belly is so big I can’t reach my feet to tie my own shoes and I’ve officially got two chins.

So here we are, nine months and twenty pounds into our pregnancy. My rings still fit but just barely. I haven’t been able to breathe out of my nose for at least the last three months. I am SO. OVER. IT.

But damn, my hair looks good. So there’s that. (I took this pic this morning. If you compare it to the one I took a couple weeks ago, it looks just about the same, which kind of cracks me up. I have A LOT of purple maternity shirts, yes?)

Almost done

And the little guy seems happy to bake away in there. He measures up around the 77th percentile now, a sizeable jump from the 47th percentile last month. According to the ultrasound, he looks a lot like Homer Simpson – which totally explains the cravings for donuts and beer.

Anyway, now that we’ve gotten our twin blizzards out of the way and my husband is officially forbidden to travel anymore, I do declare that we are ready to have this baby. Not that the declaration influences him one way or the other, of course. I think he’ s perfectly content to continue harassing my rib cage.

But really, Baby Homer, anytime is fine. Mom and Dad are ready to meet you. Big Brother is beginning to think Mom is lying about there being a baby in her belly. Aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins are looking forward to tickling your toes and snuggling you – and several of them are even flying all the way up here to do so!

Your friends from all over the world, the ones who read this blog and comment and keep your mom sane through everything, they’re ready to see you too. They’re ready for Mom to stop whining about being pregnant and just post baby pictures already, dammit. They’ve even sent gifts for you – outfits and toys and this beautiful, handmade blanket from sweet Jennifer who writes Just Jennifer and lets mom sit at her lunch table on Twitter from time to time.


You are already so loved. See you soon.

Chick O Cheat

I gotta tell you, the last thing this mama wanted to do tonight was go trick or treating. I was barely getting by on the three hours of sleep I’d gotten after last night’s Madonna concert and still being waterboarded by my own snot thanks to this lingering cold.

For some reason, my husband was determined that we go, so after a short nap I dragged myself out to the truck to head over to our friends’ neighborhood for what ended up being probably one of the best Halloween evenings ever.

Last year, Monkey dressed as a gnome and rode around in the wagon for most of the night. His dad would carry him up to each house for treats and he’d just stare at all the happy, friendly candy pushers.

This year, he quickly figured out what an awesome deal this whole Halloween thing was.

You mean, I just wear some silly outfit?

And I get to pull the wagon around in the street?

And if I walk up to a house and yell, “Chick O Cheat” they’ll give me candy? (Don’t forget to say thank you! See you later!)

And Mama will let me eat my weight in M&Ms as long as I turn over all these orange square things?

So up and down the sidewalks we went through a neighborhood full of clowns and witches, fairy princesses and well-muscled super heroes. The dads toted small coolers full of autumnal brews while the big kids filled pillowcases with sugar-laden treats to be bartered for extended bedtimes later.

The moms wheeled the smaller kids around in wagons and strollers, stashing the good chocolate in their pockets when no one was looking. Ok, so maybe just one mom did that. Shut up.

After we’d filled the buckets and baskets, we headed back to our friends’ house for some pizza and warmth while the kids sorted their candy and the men chilled on the porch with their drinks and cigars.

On the way home, Monkey was asleep before we hit the highway. His father slipped him quietly into pajamas and under the covers before stretching out to gently snore on the couch.

And Mama is tired, and still feeling under the weather. But she is also round and content and grateful to be able to live such a beautiful, simple life with some truly excellent people.

Ain’t no party like a MonkeyMash party…

In nine days my son will turn two and like all other parents I’m left scratching my head and wondering where that time went.

I brought home a little squeaky thing in the summer of 2010 and I’ve watched him grow into a great kid. He loves his friends and family. He’s affectionate and silly. He enjoys conversation, food and playing – all with contagious gusto.

To celebrate the two years we’ve spent loving him, we decided to throw a combination Fourth of July/Birthday party, timed perfectly with the visit of his MawMaw and cousins. In an effort to keep things on a smaller scale, my husband and I each only invited one friend. Of course, when you add in spouses and children, we still ended up with a house (and yard) full of love and laughter.

My husband manned the grill while the big nephews and I worked on a little science experiment from Pinterest. Supposedly, pouring in juice in a certain order causes the colors to stay separate from each other.

We followed the directions on the Pin and ended up with purple juice. Tasty purple juice, but not the effect we were going for.

It was The Gamer’s idea to change the order of the juices and TADA! It worked! Even the adults wanted the pretty drink, so I got quite skilled in my presentation by the end of the party.

Outside, it was complete soggy insanity as nine kids ranging in age from one to 11 ran through sprinklers and wading pools.

Our poor bubble machine tried in vain to keep up, but the best it could do was sputter a sad little sphere here and there.

As the sun began to set, Monkey’s friends “helped” him open his gifts while sitting at the cute little picnic table his MawMaw sent him. When his Daddy wheeled out his gift from us, a shiny new Radio Flyer tricycle, the gasp from the short crowd was audible.

They helped him onto it and patiently waited for their turns. And oh, the silliness.

Later we did the usual ice cream and cake, then brought out the glow sticks for a mini-rave in the front yard. We tried glow bowling, which is harder than it looks in the dark, and then tromped up the hill to see the fireworks from the amusement park next door.

Monkey loved the fireworks, shouting “BOOM BOOM” with glee each time a new explosion lighted the sky. He’d scream, “Get it! Get it!” and reach out to try to grab the colorful bursts.

When the evening was finally over, we said goodbye to our friends and trudged home. While my husband snuggled with Monkey and waited for him to fall asleep, I chatted with my mom and nephews and helped them prepare for their journey back to Texas.

As the clock ticked its last few minutes before midnight, the house was blessedly silent, save for the occasional blast outside from those last few fireworks people just had to set off.

We slept, exhausted and content.


More Red White & Two photos here!

The Invisible Elephant Saga, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Zoo

On Tuesday I’ll be 33. According to some think tank in the UK, that’s the age most people report to have been the happiest.

I certainly plan on doing my best to support that position with the help of some silly, smart, spectacular people in my life. Several of those people accompanied me to the Omaha Zoo on Saturday, a trip that’s been on my “Midwestern Bucket List” for some time.

The zoos of today are a far cry from the rows of caged, stressed out animals from my youth. Zoos are heavily involved in education and conservation and have made many improvements in their animal display areas.

One such improvement is adding in more space – more space for the animals as well as more space in between them. And that means more walking for us, which, in most cases, we can totally use.

The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is a great sprawl of a place. When we arrived we were instantly dwarfed by the huge desert dome at the front. Inside the dome, I stood face-to-flapping-wings with a cave full of hundreds of bats. I walked through a dark swamp with alligators and nutria and felt like I was back at home in Southeast Texas. (Not that I ever actually walked through a dark swamp there. Alligators don’t tickle when you disturb their naps, even if you try to pacify them with marshmallows.)

We visited giant apes, some who were curious about us…

And some who were too busy contemplating the complexities of life to bother with our stares.

*Sidenote: Have you ever looked into a gorilla’s eyes? I got to, and the intelligence behind them was almost overwhelming. I wanted to hug this guy and tell him I loved him. I figure he’s not a hugger though, and I get that.

We took a little time to let our Monkey attend to some, uh, monkey business. He was in such a mood all morning, wanting nothing more than to be left alone in his wagon to eat. He ate nonstop for the first two hours of the visit, but eventually wanted to get out and look around.

Now here is where the aforementioned saga actually begins.

The entire first couple of hours at the zoo were spent in a descent through ramps and elevators, through the desert and swamp and apes and all, until we reached this guy.

At first it looks like he’s all, “Hai! I’m a bear!” but really he’s laughing at us. He’s laughing his dirty bear butt off because he knows what comes next.

The zoo map tells us that up the hill are rhinos and elephants and sea lions, oh my. The kids want to see all these fantastic creatures and so do we, so up the hill we hike.

We see the rhinos, muddy and quite fat. We watch the sea lions swim around in their pool and wish we could jump in because the temperatures are climbing. Then we begin the trek up yet another hill to see the elephants.

Only, the elephants aren’t there. Instead there’s a pretty sign that announces, “Future Elephant Site.”

By now we’re hot and sweaty and pissed because nobody likes invisible elephants. They’re useless. Our friend Tyson quipped that all of Nebraska must be uphill and it occurred to me later that this must be where all of our grandparents lived when they had to walk to school.

Monkey studied the map for awhile as we took a break to recover from the hill hike. I love his friends’ faces here. You cannot imagine the immensity of the effs they do not give at this point.

One of the older members of our crew, obviously seasoned in the ways of the zoo, suggested a train ride so we could rest our haunches and cool off.

I could have hugged this man. Not only did he do most of the pulling of the children up the hills in the wagon, but he saved our sorry selves with that suggestion.

The train route took us back up the hill so we got to enjoy the sights without huffing and puffing.

Little prairie dogs scurried up out of their burrows alongside us to stare as we chugged past. Monkey and I snuggled, waved at them and mugged for the camera.

When we left the train, we were reinvigorated and ready to finish our trip. But then the clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees and it looked like it might storm, so the entire visiting population of the zoo crowded into the aquarium.

Our reactions to the massive mob were quite different. Some of us (the smart ones) moved quickly through and ended up on the other end enjoying sno cones.

I was not one of the smart ones, and ended up in a human traffic jam with my little six-year-old sidekick. We made the best of it though and got to see monster crabs, deadly jellyfish and happy stingrays.

One of our crew didn’t make it through though. Yup, that’s my kid, passed smooth out in his wagon where he stayed until we picked him up to put him in his carseat. Homedude was done, y’all.

The best days are those where you’re too tired to walk at the end, but you have a head full of memories and a disc full of pictures that will always remind you that you’re loved. Thank you Greta, Tyson, Henry, Ivy, Essie, Ervin, Maggie and Jim for joining my family as we visited all the wild and wonderful creatures Omaha had to offer.

Now, can someone please tell me WTF this is?

Red Dragon, Lunchmeat and why there won’t be a Monday Meals Post

I want to tell you about that time that I purposefully placed turkey cold cuts on my face.

That time was yesterday.

It started out as a great day. I kissed my boys goodbye that morning and headed to meet my friend Greta for lunch and girl time.

I enjoyed a fruity Blue Moon and a spicy Red Dragon roll while GFunk and I chatted about family and future plans.

She gave me my birthday present, a really cool bird’s nest necklace that she made herself. No one has ever made me jewelry before. I totally love her. She’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, both inside and out. Also, she’s hilarious after a cocktail.

After negotiations with my husband via phone, I managed to eke out a few more hours to hang with my pal, so we went to see The Five Year Engagement.

Y’all, I’ve never watched a more awkward movie in my life. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know. The previews were good though. Ted? The talking teddy bear? I’m so there for that movie. And the Judd Apatow flick that’s like the sequel to Knocked Up? Hilarious. Can’t wait.


About an hour into the movie, I started to feel weird. My throat got really dry. My head started pounding. Eventually I had to excuse myself to drive home so my husband could make it to work on time.

The drive across town was miserable. My face felt like it was ballooning out. The road kept blurring.

But I made it, and walked into the house where hubs handed over kid duties, kissed me goodbye, and left for work.

I got the kiddo settled with cookies and juice and took my temperature. 101.4.


I downed some ibuprofen and over the next 20 minutes just kept feeling hotter and hotter. I took my temp again. 102.


Later, while I was prepping dinner for my son, I stuck my head in the fridge. My face was on fire. My gaze alighted on a package of honey smoked turkey lunch meat. The thought crossed my mind that it would feel really good on my sizzling skin.

So I took a piece out and slapped it on my forehead.

Y’all, it felt great. I smelled funny for the rest of the day, but those few minutes of instant relief until the medicine kicked in were worth it.

Eventually my fever made its way down to 99, and I put the baby to bed and went to sleep myself.

I woke up this morning still feverish with a splitting headache and a throat full of lava. Right now I’m riding the Nyquil wave, so I’m feeling minimal pain but I just realized that I have nothing scheduled for Monday Meals, and there’s no way I’m cooking today.

So maybe you could go visit a few of my favorite recipe spots instead. Try here. Or here. And definitely here.

Or you can have a cheeseburger. Here ya go.

Oh man. I can’t wait to read this tomorrow when I’m less delirious.

How was your weekend? When you’re sick, how do you handle it?