Our Simple Pleasures

celebrating life one moment at a time

Every time I type that word, I think of that scene from Ratatouille.

CLICK HERE FOR PERSPECTIVE CLIP.

I know…I’ve watched too many Pixar movies.  But they are AMAZING.

I digress.

A friend sent me this quote the other day.   As the world and our country terrify me right now, I need to focus on the here and now.  I have been watching my boys through a different lens this summer.

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Wow.  I mean, I know time flies and the rate at which these kids are growing up is astronomically fast, but WOW.  This quote has made me take a deep breath.  Stop what I’m doing.  Start conversations. Put down the phone. Get off social media. Just enjoy. Enjoy the small things.  Enjoy the way Kirby tries to figure out his next move in checkers.  Watch how Kirby and Punky get along.  (It does happen – sometimes.)  Take a deep breath and just inhale.  Enjoy the moments. Slowly exhale.  Get ready for the next one…they come quickly when you have nothing distracting you.   Here are a few snapshots of some “moments” so far this summer.  (My only regret so far is that I didn’t take more pictures of when Mom and Dad were here last week!  We had so much fun with them!)

 

We have 2 weeks of summer under our belts, and we are enjoying every minute…even the bickering ones, as I know some day I will miss those moments as well!   I know I am forever…

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Melissasignature

Categories: life

My boys love spaghetti.  Punky loves spaghetti.  Kirby likes any pasta that he can douse with Parmesan cheese.  Me, I have to be in the mood for it… which doesn’t happen very often.   I can take it or leave it.  Hubby likes anything I make usually so he’s always a “yes” vote.

Anyway, with the instant pot… I can add in the boys’ favorite spaghetti and meatballs in little time!   Here’s the recipe I have tweaked for our tastes.  Go ahead and try it when you get a chance – you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, I was a tad leery about putting raw meat in the tomato sauce, but it turns out fabulous!

I always start with a jar of Spaghetti sauce – we almost always use Aldi Mushroom sauce as our base.  Why?  Because we shop at Aldi all the time!   So, I take a jar of spaghetti sauce and add it into the Instant Pot liner.  Then, I add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (Here, I use my handy dandy immersion blender because Punky hates lumps in his spaghetti sauce)  After the tomatoes are nicely blended into a liquid, I add that to the Instant Pot liner.   I toss in 1 teaspoon of the following:  Salt (I always use Kosher salt), garlic powder, basil, oregano, and a 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  I add 1 TB extra virgin olive oil then stir until well mixed.

Being as though we always shop at Aldi, the 90/10 ground beef we get always comes 2.25 lbs, so I just use that amount for my meat balls.  In a separate bowl, mix the ground beef; 3/4 cups quick cooking oats (I love this because I HATE, HATE, HATE breadcrumbs in any meat mixture.  ** shiver **); 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated; 1/4 cup whole milk (Today I used cream, as that’s what I had, but I have used 1% as well); 1/2 cup minced onion (or diced because I can never get mine that small); 4-5 garlic cloves put through the Garlic Press;1 tsp salt; 1/2 tsp black pepper; and 1 teaspoon oregano.

Go ahead and get your hands dirty and mash that all together.  (Try not to pop any in your mouth…I know there are some of you out there like me who like raw meat, but I promise my hubby I won’t eat as much of it anymore.)

Take a cookie dough scoop (I have the medium one from Pampered Chef) and scoop up some meat, roll into into a meatball, about 1″ diameter, and drop it into the sauce – lining the outer edge of the liner then spiraling towards the inside as you continue.  It will look something like this when you are finished…

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Go ahead and close the lid, lock it, put the sealer in the sealed position and program high pressure for 6 minutes.  Yep, you read that right.  6 minutes.   Now, put a pot of water on the stove to start boiling for your pasta.  When the 6 minutes is up, go ahead and add your pasta to the boiling water.  When it has come to end the high pressure cycle, wait 8-10 minutes as it naturally releases pressure.   When it’s finished, go ahead, open up the lid and breathe in the yummiest meatball aroma ever!  Your noodles will also be done now.    Voila!   Add a salad or some garlic bread and you are set!    Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe!

Sauce:

  • 1 28-ounce can tomatos – diced
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil

Meatballs:

  • 2 1/4 lbs ground beef  (2 lbs works too, but Aldi always has the 2.25 lb pack)
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 medium white onion minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 5-6  garlic cloves pressed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Your pasta of choice for serving

Instructions

  1. Add all the sauce ingredients to the Instant Pot. Stir to combine the ingredients.
  2. Add all the meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Combine the ingredients by hand.
  3. Roll the meatball mixture into 1-inch balls, making them tight (approx. 24-30). I use a cookie scooper to form the meatballs and then roll each one in my hand.
  4. Add the meatballs to the sauce, starting in a circle around the outside and working in. Keeping the meatballs in as close to a single layer as you can.
  5. Close the lid on the Instant Pot. Set the Instant Pot for 6 minutes on Manual, High Pressure. The valve on top should be set to Sealed.
  6. Boil water for your pasta. Add the noodles to the water once the Instant Pot timer beeps.
  7. Let the pressure release naturally from the Instant Pot for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Release any remaining pressure. Drain the pasta and serve.

ENJOY!

Melissasignature

Categories: life

Ok, people who know me in real life know  that I swear.  I swear a lot.   Although I swear less than I did before I had children.  But, enough about me.   As I was cleaning this morning, I was thinking of all the things that I swear by… my tried and true things in life that make me smile.

I swear…

My stove top gets so clean by my Thieves Cleaner solution.  I can spray and wipe nearly everything away from my stove top.  In cases where I encounter stubborn splotches, I just have a bit more patience and spray on the Thieves solution, wait 5 minutes, and Voila… it’s clean.

My farmhouse sink is incredibly easy to clean.   Again, the Thieves cleaner, but then a quick sprinkle of baking soda, and few rubs, and rinse with warm water… voila… a new sink!

that dinner tastes better when presented well.   I have a bowl and serving platter obsession.  There.  I said it.  But, every night, I serve dinner on the table in my awesome bowls, on my platters, and then I sit back and look at how awesome everything looks.  🙂  I know, dishes suck, as I dirty many more things than needed, but I want my family to know they are special, and dinner was made especially for them… we celebrate family time…and go all out.  I know, I’m weird like that.

there is nothing like that sipping that cup of coffee on a weekend morning when sitting at the kitchen table with a clean slate before you… ok….I may have lied… I also have to be sipping that coffee from my Rae Dunn “Blessed” mug.  Now, that’s heavenly!

there is nothing like a surprise hug or kiss from hubby or the boys…just a little reminder that they love you.

when that tickly throat sneaks into your life…the one where you start questioning whether you are getting sick and then debating if you have time to be sick…yep, that one; there is nothing like a cup of “Thieves” tea… hot water (easily dispensed by my Keurig), a drop of Young Living Thieves oil and a drop of YL lemon oil… then sip away.  That throat will feel better soon.

that time making dinner was worth every second when you hear little moans and “yums” as they take their first bites.

Just fluffing up the pillows and straightening the afghans in the living room makes the house feel much cleaner.  Oh, living with boys…I am the only one who thinks this, but spending a few minutes at the end of the evening, refolding blankets and straightening pillows, makes a world of difference in your mood when you walk downstairs the next morning.  Am I right?

As far as that goes, staying up and putting that last load of dishes in the dishwasher also makes a huge difference in your demeanor in the morning…much less stressful walking into a kitchen with cleaned counters, table and sink.   Some days I wonder why we have to run the dishwasher so many times, but after rereading my post up there about using all of my bowls and platters, I guess I figured it out.  😉

mirrors cleaned with Method’s glass spray – the one that smells minty clean, get cleaner with no smears…and that is what makes a girl happy.

fresh cut flowers in my house make me feel happy inside and out.   This probably stems (no pun intended, of course) from growing up in my mom’s gardens, looking at my grandma and great aunt’s gardens… I love fresh flowers.  Someday, when my boys are a bit older, I can’t wait to put on a patio and surround it with lots of flowering, sweet smelling perennials…until then, I get to watch my boys and their neighborhood friends play wiffle ball, baseball, kickball, and any other tournament they dream up.  I like watching that too… but someday, I will have flowers!

…the more I sit here, the more things I swear by keep popping in my head.  I could certainly add my Instant pot and its awesomeness, but I think people may get tired hearing about that…I know my boys are tiring of it.

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What do you swear by?

Melissasignature

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: life

Holy Cow.

Do you have an instant pot?

You need one.

I know you think you don’t and you’ve gotten along this far in your life without one, but trust me.

You. Need. One.

What is it, you say?

This…

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I’m still learning the ropes, but holy cow.  I’ve made the following meals with my Instant Pot, and I can’t wait to make more…

Chicken Burrito Bowls (like Chipotle!)

Hard-boiled Eggs (They peel amazingly easy!)

Pot Roast

Chicken (for Chicken Cobb Salads)

Mississippi Roast (for Sammies with melted provolone on top)

Easter Ham

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Homemade Split Pea Soup (With leftover ham-bone and Easter ham chunks)

Rice

Baby Back Ribs

A Whole Chicken Dinner

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I’ve only had this gem for 2 weeks!  I am in love!   I can’t wait to make applesauce, yogurt, pulled pork, and some new recipes I pinned on Pinterest.

This is a game changer.

I am not one to serve cold cereal to my family on any given night.  (I don’t think I have ever done that since having kids).  I work all day and I want to feed my family good, nutritious, and tasty food.   I loved my crock pot, but come on… I don’t work a 6 hour day, so any recipe I had for meat had to be at least in there for at least 9-10 hours.  What does that mean?  Dry meat… don’t get me wrong, some recipes turned out, but most that did had soup mixes and cream soups dumped over them.  But with this thing, yummy meals are done in under 45 minutes!   Sometimes even quicker!

This Instant Pot is amazing.   First, it has a saute option, so you can easily brown things, or saute veggies or mushrooms, or onions before your meal goes into the pot.   Second, cleanup is a cinch.   The pot is stainless steel, so after a soak with warm water, everything just wipes off.  It’s also dishwasher safe, but I have yet to clean mine in there.

Cooking time is condensed to almost nothing.  Flavors stay in the food.  The color stays in the food.  I have been amazed.

My family thinks I am nuts, but they have loved everything I have made so far.  I’m sure I’ll come across a “fail” recipe, but until then…let’s keep instant-potting.  (Yes, I just verbed that.)

Do you have one?  If not, what are you waiting for?  I can’t be the last one to jump on this train…

Melissasignature

 

 

Categories: life

Hard to believe it’s been so long since I blogged last!?!?  Where does the time go?   Let’s do some catch up…. or………er, Ketchup!   🙂  I so crack myself up.

Anyway, I digress.  These two boys have been keeping us very busy.  I have been diligent about updating Facebook, but alas, this blog seems to collect a lot of dust.  So…..what have we been up to?  Here’s a few bullet points from our family these days.
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  • Punky is now in middle school **gasp.**   He’s rocking it and learning the  ropes just like a pro.  I am so proud of him.  I still think he is such an old soul – well beyond his years!
  • Kirby is now in pre-school.   He has an August birthday, so we decided to keep him back.  It has turned out to be an awesome decision on our part!   He is so much more emotionally mature than last year!   he is ready for kindergarten (even if his Mama is not!)
  • It is April 2nd and it is snowing in Minnesota.  It’s not right.
  • I am having an awesome year in the classroom!  My kids are amazing and I am loving every minute of it!   (Ok, maybe not during 7th hour when I have some very active boys, but I still love ’em!)
  • Trimester 3 has begun in the school year calendar here…meaning summer is only 46 school days away.   I already cannot wait to spend it with my boys!
  • Ok, my number 1 job is being a Mama!  And I love the fact that I get to spend so much time in the summer with them!   🙂
  • I started back at the gym and using Myfitnesspal.com.  I have a lofty goal of losing 55 lbs before I turn 45 next year.  I have met a tad over 10% of my goal and I’m still going strong!
  • Punky is my workout buddy and gym nag—he makes me go even when I’ve had long days at school.   I always love him for it after the workout.  But, I will admit I am not the easiest person to motivate sometimes.  😉  He does really well at this job!  He’s even more stubborn than I am!
  • I miss my family but I try to get down to Illinois as often as I can.  I was there over spring break with the boys and I so enjoyed seeing everyone and spending time with them.   We’ll go back home in a few short weeks to help my sister move to her new house…and I can’t wait!
  • My brother and sister-in-law’s twins are ADORBS and it kills me to be so far away, but everyone is good about posting pics and texting!  They are such an awesome addition to our family and I can’t wait to see them 24-7 this summer when we go on our bi-annual Murawski trip!   🙂  I have lots of ideas for this vacation!   I can’t wait!
  • Punky will play baseball this summer and Kirby will play Tee Ball again – much to his dismay.  He’s ready for the big boy leagues, but his birthday doesn’t allow him to be there yet…so one more summer of tee-ball.  At least this year, he can take advanced Tee-ball!
  • The Instant Pot.   Game-changer.  Wow.
  • Updated pics on the blog tonight.  I know — a little spring cleaning!
  • Did I say it was still snowing?    I am so done with winter.
  • It’s been eye opening trying to conscientiously slow time down….live in the moment… enjoy the small things…simple…..just be.
  • My Easter flowers are amazing!   I will have to upload them here so you can all see.   Priceless.    Love them!
  • I could go on and on for hours here, but I need to get some sleep.  Happy Spring!   (With lots of snow falling here right now in Minnesota!)

Here’s the Easter flower pics!   Enjoy!   Spring is coming!   ( I keep repeating this to my self when I look out the window today!   Ugh!

 

Melissa

Categories: life

These boys are amazing.  I am so proud of them.

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This summer, I started something new with my boys.  Project Gratitude.  It’s been amazing to watch this unfold in our family each week.  What is Project Gratitude?   Well, let me explain.

Each week, I sit down with the boys at the table and we discuss our next recipient.   We choose people we are extremely grateful for in our lives.  Our lives go by so fast during the school year, so we are careful to take the time now to thank those we truly appreciate.  We sit down and write thank you notes to the person we select each week.   I usually write a thank you note explaining our project and then thanking that person as well for the impact they have had on our family.   The boys then write thank you notes as well listing the reasons they are thankful for the person.  (I scribe Kirby’s as he is only 4, but Punky writes his own each week…  Sneaky Teacher-Mom making her kid write during the summer!  The horror!  (Seriously, the boys LOVE this project.)

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We then put our cards in envelopes and head to the store.  We know the recipients love our notes and kind words, but we add in a kind gesture back to them as a token of our gratitude and bring them a bouquet of fresh flowers when we deliver our cards.

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We have spent more time sitting and chatting with the people who are dear to us this summer than we ever have!   The stories, hugs, and laughter are priceless.  Punky loves that we get to talk with people more than we ever have.  He likes telling people how important they are to us.  He soaks up the stories and our visits like a sponge.   Kirby, like his big brother, gets so excited to visit people.  He remembers everyone’s homes and always points out to them on our next encounter after our visit that we were at their home.

The sweet kind words in the kids’ own writing and in their own words is precious.   I’ve learned so much from reading their notes.  Watching my kids interact with our recipients is awesome.  The boys talk about how good it feels after every delivery.  They are learning all about saying thank you and the importance of telling people how much they mean to them.

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Today was priceless as the cashier at Hy-Vee Floral wrapped the flowers up we got to talking.  She works at Edinbrook Elementary.  I said, “Wow, the boys’ grandpa worked there years ago.”   She asked us what his name was and when we chimed, “Kenny Schad” her face lit up!   She knew him.  “Oh, I loved working with Ken!  He was such a nice man!”  Punky did a double-take and said, “Wait, you knew my grandpa?”  His smile was from ear to ear.  She then told him how much his grandpa was loved and was a huge part of their school family.   Punky was BEAMING!  I couldn’t have planned that encounter any better!   It was perfect… God’s little sign that we are doing the right thing each week.   (We then walked out of the store with our beautifully wrapped flowers and promptly saw a dragonfly…which we KNEW was a sign from Grandma Miriam!)

This project has been more than I ever wished for with my kids.  We will continue to spread kindness and express our gratitude each week.  The boys always have their next recipient in the back of their minds during the week.   We’ve had a few revelations in that car about next recipients or more ideas to improve the project.

Today’s recipients were our daycare provider (Kirby’s choice), Punky’s 2nd grade teacher (his choice) and then the boys also wanted to acknowledge our neighbors across the street, so we did them as well.   The best part was when Punky added tonight as we were writing our neighbors’ cards that he wanted to make them dinner and deliver it to their deck one night as they always sit out on their deck each evening of summer.  So, we added that caveat to their card!   He has already made plans with them!  It’s so refreshing to see how the kids are taking this further and wanting to do this more and more.

I see this becoming something we just do… and for that I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

Categories: life

** Disclaimer – I never hit post after I wrote this the other night!   I guess you’ll get to read a few different things from me tonight! **

7/12/17

I have this sign in my kitchen and I look at it every day….take a deep breath…. then go discover things that bring me joy and happiness.

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My parents are visiting this week to see Kirby play tee-ball and of course, visit Punky!   It’s so fun to have them in town!   Today, we went swimming at the hotel they are staying at in Maple Grove.   The boys and I had a blast!  After swimming, we headed home to a yummy Greek salad and Ahi Tuna grilled lunch.   To.Die.For.

After lunch, we hit some awesome stores in Anoka – Happenstance and the Big White House.  I could seriously do damage to our checking account in minutes in either store!   Then we hit WalMart in Maple Grove… it’s a fave of my dad’s…and mom also manages to find treasures there as well!   This day, I too found some treasures we had to have……TMNT pinata and paper goods for Kirby’s 5th birthday in a few weeks… and a bathroom scale (which my mom and dad hijacked and bought me as a surprise, but more on that later!)

After WalMart, we headed home.  No one was really hungry after our yummy lunch, so Hubby and I headed up to Verizon to check out our plan and new phones as neither of ours was really holding a charge).   Mom and Dad watched the boys.    Gotta say, it took an hour and a half, but I liked being with Hubby!   🙂

When we got back, we decided to head out for dinner to save some time and energy.  It was already past 8:30 PM!

It’s so fun to catch the little things and truly take a deep breath and enjoy.   It’s something I am working on and am hoping to teach my kids this summer as well.   Moments I caught the past few days:  my dad watching Kirby and Punky play and smiling.   My mom eating up her time alone with each of my kids.  The giggles and laughs in the pool this morning.  Sitting next to hubby for over an hour tonight in the Verizon store… just being there together.  🙂

Enjoy the little things.

 

 

Categories: life

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