Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

This is maybe my last post for at least the next month.  BIG news in our house - we're MOVING backing to I-O-W-A.  We're so excited to be moving closer to family.  Ryan and I both were offered positions at the University of Iowa.  We couldn't have hoped for better timing with everything - both offers came in within 3 days of another another so we could make the most informed decision for our family.  I'm on a mission to use up the food we have in the house over the next few weeks.  Tonight we had a nice family dinner with our good friend Dixon.  I felt like this was one of the last times I'd have enough kitchen stuff unpacked and enough energy to try a new recipe.  Whenever I get back at it - I'll be itching to get in the kitchen!!!

  • 3/4 cup Original Bisquick mix
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (4 oz each)
  • 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups tomato pasta sauce (from 26-oz jar)
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend (4 oz) 
  • Directions:
    1) In shallow dish or pie plate, mix Bisquick mix, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese. In another shallow dish or pie plate, beat egg. Coat chicken with Bisquick mixture, then dip into egg, and coat again with Bisquick mixture.

    2) In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 4 to 6 minutes, turning once, until golden brown. Cover; cook 8 to 10 minutes longer, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F). Remove from skillet to plate.

    3) Add cooked  pasta and sauce to skillet. Place chicken on top of sauce. Sprinkle chicken with Italian cheese blend. Cover; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.  

    I made a double batch of this because I had over 1.5 pounds of chicken to use up.  Should make for good leftovers tomorrow.  : )  Enjoy! 
    1/2 the chicken done, the other half in the skillet.
    And finally - one pic of our little man on his 9 month birthday, just last week when we announced to our family that we're headed to Iowa!

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Chicken and Rice Skillet with Cranberries

    A few weeks ago there was a special at giant - buy 5 boxes of Zatarain's rice and get 30 cents off per gallon of gas.  I took advantage of that sale with a coupon that I had.  Spent $4 bucks for 5 boxes of the rice and also saved $1.70 off per gallon of gas (using the other gas points I had earned with other sales).  So I've been building a few of our recipes around the Zatarain's rice.  This one came straight from their website - I did not modify too much.  I could not find creole seasoning, so looked up how to make my own.  That recipe for creole seasoning is first - then I have the ingredients and directions for the dish listed second.  This was a GREAT dish!  Pretty easy to make and would make wonderful leftovers : ) 

    And so ends my stretch of July recipes... Things are about to get really busy again with teaching and the students coming back on campus (yep - full time job too!)  Aiden is up on his hands and knees rocking back and forth and a few days away (I'm guessing) from figuring out how to crawl.  The little man will be 8 months on Sunday!  I can't believe how quickly time is flying.  I'll be back in the next few days to post his 8 month pictures : )

    Creole seasoning - makes a little more than 1 tbsp, mix all ingredients together:
    3/4 teaspoon paprika
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon basil
    1/4 teaspoon oregano
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon thyme
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/4 teaspoon onion powder

    Ingredients for Chicken and Rice Skillet with Cranberries:
    1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch strips
    1 tbsp. of creole seasoning mix
    2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
    2 cups of water
    1 package of Zatarain's yellow rice
    1/2 cup dried cranberries
    3/4 cup chopped celery
    1/2 cup chopped onion (I still buy mine pre-chopped at the store - saves a ton of time!!!)

    Spring chicken with creole seasoning. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add chicken; cook 2-3 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove from skillet; keep warm.

    Stir water, rice mix, cranberries, celery and onion into skillet.  Bring to a boil.  Place chicken over rice mixture and it's been stirred.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and rice is tender.

    Remove from heat.  Let stand 5 minutes and serve.  We served ours with cooked dill carrots - very good!
    What ours looked like in the skillet before serving (while I let it stand for the 5 minutes)

    Monday, July 23, 2012

    Beef & Bell Pepper Fajitas

    Remember how I mentioned the other night that I was using some boneless sirloin for the thai beef recipe?  Well this recipe came from using up the other one that I got on the Buy One Get One Free deal.  It took a bit longer than some other recipes, but it was good and made a ton.  We'll both be eating well for lunch tomorrow!

    2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
    1 pound boneless sirloin, cut into thin strips
    1 pkg of pre-sliced onion and peppers mix from the produce section (I HATE CUTTING ONIONS!)
    1 package ZATARAIN'S® Spanish Rice
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes - flavored with chilies, undrained
    6-8 whole wheat tortillas
    Assorted toppings, such as sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese

    1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add beef; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Transfer beef to medium bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet. Add vegetables; cook and stir 4-5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Add to beef in bowl. Keep warm.

    2. Stir Rice Mix, water and tomatoes into skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and rice is tender.

    3. Return beef and vegetables to skillet; cook and stir until heated through. Serve in warmed tortillas with assorted toppings, if desired.

    Sunday, July 22, 2012

    Low Sugar Banana Walnut Muffins

    This cooking/baking thing has been on a roll lately!  To be honest, I think it's my way of procrastinating some other stuff that has to get done (like finishing the lesson plans for my class coming up... 7 days and counting until that is due!).  Oh well, at least we'll eat well up until that deadline AND my class stuff will get done... it always does.

    So tonight I had 2 very ripe bananas staring at me on the counter.  They had gotten brown enough that I knew neither one of us would eat them and I have not been to the grocery store for the week yet because I did enough menu planning from last week to last us through Tuesday.  So what that meant was I needed to use the bananas and I thought Ryan would enjoy something different for breakfast in the morning. 

    I found a regular banana bread recipe that was "low calorie" and made it WLS friendly.  Remember - I am a little more than 2.5 years out, so I know I can have a few traces of sugar.  If you are brand new post-op, I'd wait a few months before trying this and go with all splenda substitute instead of the half and half you'll see below. Feel free to email/msg me if you have questions!

    1/8 cup splenda for baking
    1/8 cup sugar
    2 tbsp butter, softened
    1 large egg, beaten
    1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (this is marked "made with splenda" and sold in a 6 pk of individual cups)
    1 cup ripe bananas, mashed (3 small or 2 large - make sure they are ripe ripe)
    3/4 cup all purpose flour (can use 1/2 cup all purpose and 1/4 cup wheat if you'd like)
    1/2 cup almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill brand - this is GREAT for upping the protein content)
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 cup chopped walnuts AND 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I made 6 with walnuts for me and 5 with Chocolate chips for Ryan)  If doing the full batch with walnuts, you'll want 1/2 cup.
    Baking spray or muffin wraps for baking
    This makes 11 or 12 muffins total

    1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin pan with baking spray or line with muffin wraps.
    2) In a large mixing bowl, combine softened butter and sugar, and beat with a mixer at low speed until well combined.  Add the egg, vanilla and applesauce, and beat another 30 seconds or until well blended. Fold in the bananas (I used the mixer again on low to get the bananas smooth - Ryan doesn't like the chunky bananas).
    3) Combine all types of flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in another bowl. Stir until combined.
    4) Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and mix until moistened.
    5) Add  batter to individual muffin cups, about 2/3rd's full.
    6) Sprinkle tops with walnuts or chocolate chips.  Again, for WLS people - walnuts add another round of protein in and the chocolate chips don't really work for us - unless you can find the sugar free ones, and I never can seem to find them! 
    7) Bake at 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes.  Let muffins partially cool before serving.  Ours went nicely with a small glass of skim milk : )

    Crockpot Thai Beef with Red Peppers

    Oh my gosh - this is seriously the best thing I've made in the longest time.  I don't know if I was just craving something that tasted like that old indulge and do not think about tomorrow chinese food or what, but this hit the spot.  There is some heat to it, but it's matched nicely by the sweetness of the sauce.  The other great thing - we had our garage sale yesterday, we were seriously soaked from the rain in the morning and exhausted by the time it was all said and done AND I still had the energy to throw this in the crock pot.  It was done in 2.5 hours with about 15 minutes prep time.  Easy peasy - my kind of meal!

    1 cup of FF, reduced sodium chicken broth
    1/3 cup lite soy sauce
    1/3 cup reduced fat creamy peanut butter
    3 tablespoons of honey
          - it breaks down in the sauce - so if you're WLS, you probably will not have a problem6 cloves of minced garlic
          - or 3 tsp of prepared minced garlic like I use - this pre-done stuff is a god send
    2 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger root
          - this was a new one for me, I found this also "pre-made" in the produce section by the pre-made minced garlic.  It was $1.99 for a small bottle.  Well worth it considering actual ginger root looks like a piece of coral - straight up!
    1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
          -  I used cayenne pepper - it worked just fine.
    2 red bell peppers, thinking sliced and cut into bite size or 1.5-2inch sections
    1 pound of boneless top round sirloin, fat trimmed off - cut into bit size pieces
          -  I always get a couple of these when they are buy one get one free at the store - which is where I came up with the idea for this recipe.   The original recipe I found called for pork chops - I think this was better : )  AND it used up some stuff in the freezer.  The original recipe also called for full blown calories and fat of some of the other ingredients - I modified to make healthier for us.
    1 bag of Uncle Ben's 90 second Jasmine or Basmati Rice
         - SO EASY to do it this way!  And a perfect serving size for 2 people.

    Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, minced garlic, red pepper, minced ginger, red bell peppers and bite size pieces of sirloin in crock pot.  I used a medium size crock pot and there was plenty of room.  Stir everything together and cook on High for 2.5 hours or on low for 5 hours.  Serve each individual serving over half a bag of Uncle Ben's 90 second Ready Rice.  Pour one spoonful of extra sauce over dish.  YUM!  Can't wait for leftovers at lunch : )

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Pancakes

    This was our Sunday morning breakfast this past weekend.  It was one of the recipes that came out of a google search with a few ingredients.  I had blueberries that needed to be used up and a few really ripe bananas - with those 2 things, I was on a mission to make a yummy (free because I already had this stuff) breakfast!  This recipe makes 7-8 pancakes. They are VERY filling, so easily enough for 2-3 adults.

    Before they go into the skillet : )
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon sugar or splenda substitute for WLS people
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten divided in half or 1/4 cup of egg beaters
    • 3/4 cup fat-free milk
    • 1 1/2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
    • Pam Cooking Spray
    • Sugar Free syrup

    • In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Combine the egg, milk, bananas and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.Add in blueberries and stir until mixed in.
    • Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a hot griddle coated with cooking spray. Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until second side is golden brown. Serve with sugar free syrup.

      **Quick Note** If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw.

    Bruschetta Chicken Bake

    Recipe #2 of my 3 so far this week (I'd like to point out it's Wednesday - this NEVER happens!)  I'm on a mission... and also procrastinating getting ready for our garage sale on Saturday.  Story of my life, things start getting done at light speed when I have multiple things to do an a deadline that I'm ignoring : )  Either way, we're benefiting from it... new home cooked meals, staying on budget AND we WILL have a garage sale!  (If I keep saying it, it will happen, right???)

    This recipe tasted like chicken Parmesan to Ryan and it tasted like deep dish pizza to me.  Either way, we LOVED it and will be doing this again for sure.  Super easy on the clean-up with the foil packets and makes enough for leftovers or 3-4 adults.


    1 can  (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes-garlic and basil flavor, undrained
    1pkg.  (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix Turkey or Chicken flavor - whole wheat for a healthier version
    1 tsp of prepared minced garlic - found in the produce section (they have it in a squeezable tube now - it's awesome!)
    5 or 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lb.)
    2 tsp of dried basil leaves
    1 1/2cup  KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
    Pam Original Cooking Spray
    Heat oven to 400ºF.   If using regular tinfoil, prepare 6 squares of foil, 2 sheets of foil each, and spray with cooking spray.  In 1.5qt. or larger mixing bowl stir tomatoes (undrained), stuffing mix and garlic just until stuffing mix is moistened. Place 1 chicken breast on center of each of 6 large foil square sprayed with cooking spray; sprinkle each chicken breast with a dash of dried basil, then spoon stuffing mixture on top of chicken and top with cheese. Bring up foil sides; fold to make packets. Place in pan with at least a 1 inch lip.
    Bake 40-45 minutes or until chicken is done (165ºF). Let rest in the packet for 5-10 min. before serving. Serve in the packet. 

    Creamy Tomato-Basil Shrimp Pasta

    I'm on a roll - 3 for 3 this week of new recipes.  This is the third recipe I've attempted and it was a success.  Still have to post recipe number 2 - that's coming!

    If you've ever had Bertoli, this tastes somewhat like that.  Pretty easy.  I changed some things about the recipe to make it work with what we had in the freezer/cupboard, but the original idea came from kraft foods website.

    1 1/2 cups of farfalle (bow-tie pasta) - 12 oz. box (use whole wheat or a mix if you want it to be healthier like we did)
    2 tbsp. Kraft sun dried tomato vinaigrette dressing
    8 oz. bag of Gorton's Grilled Shrimp Scampi - found in the frozen section
    5/8's cup of chicken broth (sub fat-free/reduced sodium if you want a healthier option)
    3 oz. of neufchatel cheese - cubed
    1 cup of cut grape tomatoes
    1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
    4 fresh basil leaves, ripped up or cut into slices

    Make pasta according to package directions.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of dressing and add frozen shrimp.  Cook shrimp on medium high heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.  Next add chicken broth and seasonings to skillet.  Cook an additional 2 minutes - continually stirring. Add neufchatel cheese; cook and stir and additional 2-3 minutes.  Add cut up tomatoes and shredded basil leaves; cook 2 minutes.

    Drain pasta.  Do not rinse after draining.  Add pasta noodles to skillet with shrimp and stir together.  Serve hot with lite garlic bread for an olive garden like dinner without all the calories and the price tag!

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Crab Cakes from scratch!

    So being from Iowa - I never considered that I would 1 - enjoy crab cakes or 2 - have the guts to try and make them on my own.  Well, Giant had a buy one get one free on their crab meat last week that I took advantage. Then I went in search of a recipe that I could handle that would use up the crab, give us some serious protein AND would push me outside of my comfort zone.  I have been cooking lately - I go in spurts, but it's the usual stuff that we had been making over the last 2 years.  I feel like this is the last true week of summer.  I start teaching again in August, the students come back to my "real" full-time job, Aiden is more and more active every single minute, my parents are coming to visit and we're having a garage sale this weekend.  Wow - all of that makes me feel anxious just typing it.  So when I planned our weekly menu this past weekend, I set out to tackle at least 4 or 5 new recipes because I know I will not have time again for quite some time!  I found a similar recipe for crab cakes on and modified it to fit my dietary WLS needs and make things just a bit more healthy : )  Here ya go...

    10 whole wheat Ritz crackers, finely crushed
    2 tablespoons of light mayo
    1/2 tsp  of honey dijon mustard
    1/2 tsp of old bay seasoning
    1/4 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
    1 large egg, beaten
    a pinch of garlic salt
    a pinch of cayenne pepper
    16 oz. of imitation crab meat - found in resealable packages in the meat/seafood area (2 pkgs, most pkgs are only 8 oz)
    1 cup of original flavor panko breadcrumbs
    3 tablespoons of margarine

    1. Mix crushed crackers, mayonnaise, mustard, old bay, Worcestershire sauce, egg, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.
    2. Stir in crab meat until mixture is combined but still chunky (I used a knife and fork to shred ours - it wouldn't make a nice patty if it was too chunky). Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
    3. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on a plate or in a large flat dish.
    4. Shape chilled crab mixture into 4 or 5 patties; coat completely with bread crumbs.
    5. Melt margarine in a skillet over medium-low heat; cook crab cakes until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side, flattening if they are too thick in the middle.  Make sure to wait to flatten until they have crisped up a bit or else they will fall apart.
    6. Serve with tartar sauce, lemon wedge or cocktail sauce.  I did mine straight up - no sauce or lemon and they were great!!!
    What they looked like in the skillet before I flipped them to finish off the other side : )

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

    It's been forever since I've posted a recipe!  We have been on the go lately and a lot has happened.  In May we went back to Iowa for 2.5 weeks, then the class that I was teaching wrapped up, I went to Maine for a conference in June and just a few days ago I turned the big 3-0!  In other exciting news (well, at least I think it's exciting) I've decided to teach my first couponing class.  I'm going to be teaching 2 to start, July 7th and July 8th from 2-5pm each day.  If anyone wants any info - feel free to msg. me or email me : )  On to the recipe of the night...

    I had boneless chicken thighs in the freezer that I wanted to use up.  I made this recipe up with whatever we had in the cupboard.  I really liked it.  Ryan isn't a fan of dark meat, so he would have preferred I used chicken breast - but all in all, it worked.

    6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
    1.5 tbsps of dried minced onion
    1 tbsp of dried minced garlic
    1 tbsp italian seasoning
    2 tbsps margarine or butter
    1 cup of white - uncooked rice (if you use brown, make sure to increase your cooking time)
    1 cup or 6 large sweet red roasted peppers

    pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a 9x13 baking dish combine dry rice, chicken broth, minced onion and garlic and margarine.  Stir together.  Lay 6 peppers down on-top of rice/liquid mixture and then lay 6 chicken thighs on-top of rice mixture.  Sprinkle tops of chicken thighs with italian seasoning.  Bake for 55 minutes.  Remove from oven and flip chicken over.  Bake for an additonal 15 minutes.  We served with a role and green beans.


    Friday, April 13, 2012

    Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Mexican Cheesy Rice

    Ryan made this for dinner last night.  It wasn't bad, but we were both hungry within a couple hours after dinner was done.  I think if we make this again, we'll have it with some sort of salad and/or fruit.  Chicken was easy and good - something that would be a quick thing to pull together for future dinners when we have very little on hand.

    Ingredients for Parmesan Crusted Chicken:
    ⅔ c mayo
    ⅓ c grated parmesan
    2 boneless chicken breasts, halved & pounded
    4 t bread crumbs

    Combine mayo & cheese. Spread on chicken, and then sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 425, 20-25min.

    Ingredients for Mexican Cheesy Rice:
    2 T olive oil
    1/2 T minced onion (dry - not fresh)
    1 c white or brown instant rice
    1 can diced tomatoes w/ chili’s, undrained
    1 can of chicken broth (14 oz)
    ½ c shredded cheddar

    Heat oil in skillet and sauté onion until brown. Add rice, tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Top with cheese before serving.

    Ham & Spinach Couscous

    Spring has sprung!  Out dinner plates tonight showed it : ) I love this time of year - everything looks and tastes fresh.  We've never tried couscous.  Beyond the ridiculous name, it's not that bad.  Heads up - it's a lot more filling than it looks : )

    ½ c water
    ¼ t garlic salt
    ¾ c diced lean ham
    2 c chopped fresh spinach
    ¾ c uncooked couscous
    ¼ c shredded cheddar cheese

    In a medium saucepan, combine water, garlic salt, ham and spinach; bring to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover & let stand 5–10 min or until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and sprinkle with cheese.

    We served with cooked carrots with dill, steamed asparagus and fresh strawberries.  We'll be doing this one again for sure.  It took a total of 15 minutes from start to finish to get it on the table.

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Happy Easter!!! DC Road Trip

    We took our first little family overnight road trip this Easter.  So glad we did!  We had a wonderful time in DC and figured out what we might need to do differently (additional stuff to bring/not bring) on our BIG trek back to Iowa we have planned in May.  We're going home for a full 2 weeks... so we have to make sure we have our ducks in a row.  There is no "turning around" for something once we hit the mountains.  Aiden LOVES traveling and checking all the new stuff out.  This child has to constantly be facing out so he can check everything out.  My biceps are feeling it from the time we spent carrying him around the American History Smithsonian museum and I'm sure Ryan's neck/shoulders/back are feeling it from carrying him around in the baby borjn on our walk around the National Mall.  Hope you had a great Easter!!!

    Sausage and Chicken Gumbo

    We have officially made and tried gumbo.  We didn't mind it, but it wasn't our favorite.  Glad we're stepping outside of the box a bit : )

    ½ lb turkey kielbasa sausage, cut in small cubes
    1 T oil
    3 T flour
    1 boneless chicken breast, cut in small pieces
    6 oz can crab meat, drained
    14 oz can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
    14 oz can chicken broth
    6 oz water
    2 c frozen cut okra
    1 T Worcestershire Sauce
    1 bag of uncle ben's brown ready rice (90 second kind)

    In large soup pot, sauté kielbasa in oil until lightly browned. Sprinkle flour evenly over kielbasa. Sauté until
    flour is browned. Add small amount of water if needed to prevent burning. Add chicken pieces and sauté 5 min, until barely done. Add & stir in crab, tomatoes, chicken broth, water, okra, Worcestershire sauce and rice. Heat thoroughly and simmer 15-20 min, until okra is just done.  Serve with french bread and butter.

    Spinach Chicken Salad

    This recipe turned out well - it was easy and quick to pull together for a good lunch.  We had baked sweet potatoes with it too.  I think you'd need something else, the salad didn't seem like enough for a "dinner" type meal.  The red onions were really strong in it and we're not big fans of red onions.  I think if we make it again, we'll use sweet yellow onions instead.

    1 c chopped steamed broccoli florets
    1 T red wine vinegar
    ½ t Dijon Honey Mustard
    ¼ t salt
    ¼ t pepper
    3 T veg oil
    1 pkg grilled and ready chicken - we use purdue all the time, love it!
    10 oz bag spinach - from produce section
    2 T finely chopped red onion
    1 Granny Smith apple, cored & chopped
    1 oz bacon pieces
    1/2 c chopped walnuts

    Steam broccoli and set aside. Whisk vinegar, Dijon, salt, pepper and oil together. In a large bowl, combine 1 T dressing and desired amount of chicken. Let stand 10 min. Add spinach, onion, apple, bacon, walnuts, steamed broccoli and desired amount of remaining dressing. Toss to coat. Serve with sliced French bread.

    Breakfast Pizza

    We had this last weekend for brunch and it was really good and easy!  We'll be doing this again for sure : )

    1 pizza crust - we used freshetta thin pre-made pizza crust
    1 package of bacon
    2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
    1 cup chopped ham pieces (we used leftover ham steak)
    1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    1 egg
    1 c milk
    1/4 t basil

    Place pizza crust on pizza pan. Layer bacon, ham, tomatoes, and then cheese on crust. Whisk egg, milk and basil together. Drizzle evenly over pizza. Bake @ 425°, for 20-25 min or until egg mixture is set. Serve with sliced oranges.

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Turkey Apple Crisp

    This recipe sounds totally funky, but it actually turned out being pretty good.  It tasted "fresh" and different - something to change up the usual.  Worth a try!

    1 can crescent rolls
    Light Poppy seed dressing
    Sliced turkey breast meat - we used Carving Board Turkey from the deli section
    4oz shredded cheddar cheese (1/2 of a bag)
    1 granny smith apple, thinly sliced

    Open crescent dough into 2 rectangles on flat baking sheet. Place desired number turkey slices & apple slices
    on open dough. Sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle 1 tablespoon dressing over each; fold up edges to make a rim around the outside. Bake for 20 minutes at 375.

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    BBQ Beef Puffs and Mandarin Orange Salad

    Cute name we came up with, huh?  I like it.  Anyway, this was super easy and very good!  We'll be doing this again for dinner for sure! 2 recipes with this post... must be the luck of the Irish ; )  And a pic of Aiden in his St. Patty's Day gear!  He has the Irish Eyes - no question there!  We LOVE being Irish : )

    BBQ Beef Puffs
    1 can refrigerated flaky biscuits - we used butter flaky pillsbury
    ½ lb ground chuck - we use 92% lean
    Barbeque sauce - we use Jack Daniels #7 (blue label), works for me with low sugar
    1 c shredded cheddar - We used 2% sharp cheddar
    Pam Original Spray

    Spray muffin pan with Pam spray.  Pat biscuits into flat 5” circles (or a bit bigger than your palm). Press lightly in greased muffin pan. Brown beef in a large skillet; drain. Stir in desired amount of bbq sauce (I used a bit more than half a cup); spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle muffins and beef with shredded cheese. Bake @ 375° for 20min. Cool in pan for 5 min. before serving.

    Mandarin Orange Salad
    1 bag of hearts of romaine lettuce leaves
    1 14oz. can of No Sugar Added Mandarin Oranges (Del Monte brand has this - they are awesome!)
    1 bag of honey roasted sliced almonds (found in the produce section, only 1 gram of sugar per serving)
    8oz bottle of Ken's Lite Vidalia Onion Dressing

    Drain oranges.  Mix all ingredients together and serve cold.  I used about 3/4's of the bottle of dressing and all of the almonds.  Very good!!!

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Ham and Corn Chowder

    Bracket season anyone???  Maybe I'll let you know who I have winning it all tomorrow - it's unconventional, but that usually serves me well ; )  That's what I did with my time tonight (filled out my bracket) after gabbing with my mom, spending an hour on facebook and hanging with my favorite little baby.  Now I'm posting my second recipe of the night : )  Anyway, Ryan made dinner tonight and it was DEEEEE-Lish!  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this dinner and I didn't have much faith to start.  I always thought "chowder" meant fish... then I thought it meant "potatoes"... nope, neither.  Turns out it just means "thickened soup" usually with some sort of cream or milk.  Heads up, this recipe only made enough for 2 servings, one for each of us.  So if you're serving more, prepare to double or triple it.

    2 T stick margarine
    ½ c onion, chopped
    1 t minced prepared garlic
    ¼ t paprika
    pinch  of crushed red pepper
    ¼ t salt
    ¼ t pepper
    1 small bag frozen corn, thawed
    1 can chicken broth (14oz)
    ½ c light half-and-half
    1 c diced ham - (We used a ham steak and then used the vidalia chopper to "dice" it.  Worked well)

    In a large stock pot, melt the margarine over med heat; add onion and cook until tender. Add garlic, paprika, red pepper, salt and pepper; cook 2 min. Stir in corn, broth and half-and-half. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 min. Puree half of soup in blender and return to pot, add ham and stir to combine. (We heated the ham in the microwave after dicing it for 1 1/2 minutes before adding to the soup.)

    Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

    Well... I should be doing my coursework for a class that I'm teaching next month... but it wouldn't be me if I didn't burn the midnight oil - and the deadline isn't until this weekend... so here is a new recipe we made recently.  It actually was REALLY good and I'm not an egg fan... not an egg fan at all.  Give it a whirl for a great vegetarian option : )  Very budget friendly too!

    5 eggs
    1 c light whipping cream
    ½ t salt
    1 small box of cooked, chopped broccoli
    1 c shredded cheddar cheese 2%
    1 frozen deep dish pie crust

    In blender, blend eggs, whipping cream, & salt.  Spread broccoli and cheese evenly into pie crust. Pour egg mixture over all. Bake @ 350 for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until knife comes out of center clean.

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    2 year pictures are here!

    Size 28/30 Lane Bryant Pants.  Size 12 now : )

    Last night, I was asked to go back to the weight loss surgery (wls) support group and give a presentation on "Defining Long Term Success".  It was a great event and gave me a good reason to pause and appreciate all that has changed about me and my life in the last 2 years.  1 month ago I was invited to participate in a "Drop Your Drawers" fashion show for wls patients where you walk down a cat-walk (yes... cat-walk) with a pair of your old pants.  And that my friends, is where my 2 year pictures are from (technically 2 years and 1 month - but I'm a new mom... give me a break!)  I've found that for me, sharing my story - both with pre-op and post-op patients as well as on the blog, helps to keep me motivated and on track. 

    I know this blog has diverted more than a few times from it's originally intended purpose (read about that in my first blog post) - but I have changed, so my blog has changed with me.  I might be making changes in the next few months to the blog to make it more "sectioned".  By that I mean - if you're interested in pregnancy/mommy/baby stuff- you can click on a section.  If you're interested in wls/recipes/healthy choices - click on another.  And then who could forget my deals/steals and couponing.  I have totally embraced living on a budget and hope to share my money saving ways as I have been doing.  I think that will be my summer project after Aiden goes to bed : )

    So here are some of the questions I was asked last night and my brief answers.  Thank you to everyone that has supported me along the way and will continue to support me in the future.  It is your love and support that has given me the courage to make this a successful, rewarding and truly fulfilling journey!

    What has surprised you the most about your post-surgical life?
    That I love cooking now!  That was the entire reason I started this blog - to document my attempts (some failed - here's one that did) at trying to learn how to cook and do something good for myself.  It might not look pretty... but it tastes good ; )  ---- the question was surprised... I suspected that I would be FULL of energy and ready to take on a whole new list of goals after surgery.

    What did you discover about yourself along your weight loss journey?
    How truly disconnected and in denial I was about my weight and the condition of my body/health.  Somehow I managed to protect myself from seeing what other people saw on the outside.  One good thing that came out of that is that my personality was not affected.  I never withdrew or changed who I was - I'm still a little bottle of sass ; )  But even now looking back at those pictures - I intellectually know that it is me, but I have no emotional attachment to that version of myself.  I never saw myself that way. 

    What have you learned about your support environment?
    Support comes in all shapes and sizes - just like we do!  Some people can offer support in one way, while another person can offer support in another.  My husband is, and always has been my number one supporter.  Without him, I would not have been able to do this.  My motivator is my son (even before he was conceived). See some of my pregnancy pics and my message about motivation here.  I knew how much I wanted to accomplish this for him, us and our family!

    Is there a difference in your lifestyle regarding weight loss versus weight maintenance?
    I need to watch calories now (see how I do that here).  I know what range I need to stay in to make my weight stay maintained.  I have never gotten hung up in the number on the scale - it is always 10x's better than what it used to be.  But I do track my weight and have done so every week for the last 2 years.  I've never missed a weigh-in and it's a strong motivator to go back and see what has happened - especially through the pregnancy (I worked hard to only gain baby weight!).  I expect to see some weight re-gain over the next couple of years, but that's ok.  If I see more than 5-10 pounds creep back on from my 170 mark - it's time to take a SERIOUS look at what I'm doing and not doing.  I would love to be in the 160's by next December, but I also appreciate where my body is at now and want to make healthy choices based on how I feel and not what the number says on the scale. 

    What are your top 3 habits for weight maintenance?
    1) Buy clothes that fit and ditch the big ones!  This also goes along with my love of shopping and finding a great deal (always on a budget).  If there is room to grow back into the clothes... I think you will.  I realized after surgery I was very emotionally attached to clothes.  Almost every outfit I had I could recall where I first wore it, how I felt that day and why.  With my wardrobe constantly changing now with the pregnancy and my weight loss - I'm starting to learn to remember the moments and memories - and let go of the clothes.
    2) Try - try - try new foods!  I have talked to some pre-op people that have said "I can't eat any meat - it just doesn't sit well with me".  That has not been my experience at all, but I have found that some things don't sit well the first time or two around.  I try very hard to not rule any type of food out.  I'm a lot more adventuresome in my eating.  If it doesn't go well the first time, try, try again!  Just prep it differently and see how it goes.  Make sure you only change one thing up at a time so you can truly identify what works for you and what doesn't.
    3) Be honest with yourself.  If you can't be honest about what you're doing or how you're doing it (or not doing it as the case may be) then you're really only hurting yourself.  I need to remember on a regular basis that I did this surgery for me and everyone in my life gets to benefit from it.  It has been the key that has allowed me to open so many more exciting doors - but that has only come with true honesty.  I value myself enough to tell myself the truth.  Good and bad.

    What are some areas in your lifestyle that still need refinement for better health?
    Read above about being honest... yep.  Here I go.  I don't work out.  Never have throughout this process.  I had a brief fleeting moment where I thought I would train for a 5K (wanna laugh??? go here to read about my 5k goals!).  Want to know what I did instead?  Obsessed about what music I could download to the correct beat so I could keep up a "good" pace while training for the 5k.  I'm not kidding... I spent 8 hours one day doing that (pre-baby of course!).  Now, with being a new mom - it is totally ridiculous for me to think I'm going to set a work out schedule of 1 hour a day and stick to it.  I know myself well enough to know that is not going to happen.  I'm not proud of that, but it is what it is.  I don't like working out.  I don't like how I feel afterwards.  I don't like the feeling of obligation that comes with a scheduled workout.  So - what I need to do is find a way to incorporate more activity (on a regular) basis that gets me moving and grooving.  I'll tell you what ... dance party with Aiden has put some serious muscle on my arms and has helped me slim down my waist fast after the pregnancy.  Eventually, I will find something that works for me - I think we're going to start with some serious stroller walking in the spring!

    Did your relationships change after surgery? If so, did you expect this?  How did you deal with the change?
    Some of them have and some of them haven't.  Some of those relationships might have changed anyway.  I think people do see me differently now.  I've been referred to as "tiny" and "little".  I still chuckle at that.  I don't see myself as tiny... probably because I don't associate 170 with tiny, but me being short adds to that I think.  I feel like people that know I've had the surgery watch me eat now.  They look at me and think "can she really eat that - or how can she really eat that much - or should she be eating that".  Those same things, or at least similar, might have been thought about me before, but now I'm aware of them.  I kind of have a love-it or leave it attitude when it comes to people now.  If you're not good for me or you don't add to my life in some sort of a positive way - you are not my problem to fix.  It is my job to surround myself with good people and move on from the rest.  I owe no one an apology about that.  It's less drama and healthier I think.

    What has been your greatest accomplishment after surgery?
    My son - Aiden : )  See his birth story here - nothing gross, I promise.

    What piece of advice or words of wisdom have proved most valuable to you?
    -Take pictures! (My one year pictures are here and my 16 month pictures (10 weeks pregnant) pictures are here) Looking back at pictures along the way has been an awesome way for me to reflect throughout this process.  I have them and can't wait to show them to our children someday when they are older.  I worked hard for this and want them to know that if they put their mind to something, they can accomplish it too. 
    -Get help.  Whatever that means for you.  One of the reasons I was so stuck in my weight for so many years was because I tried to "keep it all together" for all the wrong reasons.  I never wanted to admit that I didn't know how to do something or couldn't do something.  I still don't take "no" for an answer (well, not very well) - but now I ask for help and it has been a life saver!
    -Love yourself and "trust the process"... ; )

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Consignment Baby Shopping - How To's

    YAY!!!!  I'm so excited!  I just got home from another baby consignment sale and I scored big!  I mean, really B-I-G : )  I wanted to share what I scored and also some tips for anyone else considering shopping at sales like these.

    1) I had never heard of baby consignment sales before moving out here.  I read about them in the paper and heard about them on the radio.  It's kind of like a wedding expo - yes, some of them are that big.  However, there are also more local ones.  Tonight I went to one in Dillsburg, PA.  It was the first year that these sisters were doing it and they did a GREAT job!  I talked to their dad as he was helping me load up my car (yes, their father helped me load my car - great guy) and he said they are planning another one in the fall... let me get my calendar out now!  If you want info - visit their website here:  The sale goes until this Saturday.

    2) I found out about this sale and other sales in the area by using the website  You can set a mile radius you're willing to go for a sale and then your search will show you upcoming sales with websites linking you to further information.  I was sad when I searched for sales back in Iowa... nothing came up in my search.  I think it's time I go back there and show them how it's done!!!  My mom and sister and I would rock that!  Maybe the Dillsburg sisters could give us some tips?!?

    3) If you are pregnant or are a new mom, usually within the last 12 months, you can register with a lot of these sales to shop early.  (They know we need the most stuff).  I've always found registration to be free, but sometimes they will close once so many shoppers are registered.  You're also usually allowed to bring a guest shopper with you.  One thing I've noticed (and this is just my opinion) - husbands are better to take than mom's.  Now my mom is in Iowa, so she hasn't ever gone with me... and she is a die hard shopper (like me - she trained me), so this isn't really meant towards her.  But when I go to these sales, the husbands are great at spotting FUN things for your baby/kids and also help a ton with carrying things.  Maybe it's because the good husbands go (I've got one of those).  The moms (also known as Grandmas) do a lot of ooohhhing and ahhhhing over little outfits.  They have missed the message that if you wait on something or take too long to look at it - you've missed everything else.  You do NOT go to these sales for onesies.  These sales are all about speed, planning and strategy.

    4) Strategy.  Yes, I said strategy for a baby consignment sale!  Here are what I consider my go-to strategies:
    - If there are specific things you're looking for, make your list ahead of time and have your "shopper friend" keep their eye out for key things.  If you have a lot to get - divide and conquer!  Meet back in the middle after you've scoured the sections for what you're looking for.
    - Look up prices on specific things you want ahead of time.  For example: if you know the pack-n-play you're eying in the store brand-new is $139.99 and you see one at a consignment sale for $40, but it doesn't have all the bells and whistles the one at the store does - you can make an informed decision about whether or not it's a good deal.  (Think extra's on these things for daycare of grandparents houses!  If we lived closer to our parents, I would have snatched up extra of these tonight).
    -Buy things that you can wash and/or wipe down with Clorox wipes.  I totally stay away from any sort of stuffed animal or pillow or anything else.  I've found things to be very clean and well organized at all of these sales - but who knows what kind of germs are on any of them.  Better safe than sorry. 
    - Leave the clothes shopping for the 1/2 price day (usually the last day or last few hours of a consignment sale) or other garage sales in the spring and summer.  I've found a lot of the consignment prices for clothes are overpriced at these sales.  I'm not sure why that is, but it just is.  I usually only go for things if they are $3 or less unless it's a bigger item, like a coat or a new pair of shoes or a really expensive brand.  But even then, I usually only pay $5 at most for any one thing.  Maybe as Aiden gets older and stays a size for longer than a hot minute, I'll be willing to pay more.
    - Double check ahead of time what kind of payment they take AND if you are allowed to bring your own bags/baskets or if you have to use theirs.  Each sale has a different policy.  I went to one last spring when we just found out we were pregnant (totally unprepared) with my own shopping bags (not allowed at that sale) and very little cash (they only took cash... boo!).  Tonight's sale - you could bring all your own bags you wanted and/or use the wonderful baskets they provided and you could pay with credit/debit/cash or check.  Did I mention - I loved tonight's sale?!? 
    - Don't bring your kids.  There I said it.  I'm a new mom and apparently a "mean" one.  These sales are crowded.  The last thing I want to do is ask a parent to have their child get off the toy I want to buy for my son.  It makes me feel bad (but not bad enough that I won't do it!).  If you do have a young infant (like we do right now) - bring them in a baby bjorn carrier or have your "helper" hold them (although, they wouldn't be much help at that point to you).  Strollers at these things do NOT work.  They just don't.  And it will limit your shopping ability.  My advice is get a sitter (it will more than pay for itself), ask hubby to hang with the kids or have a family member/friend watch the kids while you go do some serious shopping damage.
    - Finally - bring a big enough vehicle with you.  You never know what you're going to find at these things.  There was an adorable slide and outdoor play set at the sale tonight that I just LOVED!  I knew Aiden would love it in our big back yard too next spring and maybe even this fall.  I didn't get it because I was at this sale by myself and I hadn't done my research on pricing.  The nice slide was going for $40 - not sure if that was a deal or not, but you better bet I'll do my research for the fall sales so I can scoop those up!  I hope we have a van by then, but if not - I'll plan to borrow someones to take to a sale just so I know I can load up if needed (and I drive an SUV people!).

    Alright - this momma is getting tired.  Real quick - here is the comparison of prices from what I got tonight.
    Busy Zoo Activity Toy.  Retail: $89.95 (newer version)  Tonight's Price: $18
    Baby Bjorn Carrier - original black. Retail: $89.99   Tonight's Price: $15
    Eddie Bauer Travel Bed.  Retail: 39.99  Tonight's Price: $15
    Mega Blocks Wagon. Retail: 29.99  Tonight's Price: $7.50
    V-Tech 3-in-1 Smart Wheels.  Retail: 49.99  Tonight's Price: $10
    V-Tech Spin-n-Learn Top. Retail: 15.99 (newer version) Tonight's Price: $4
    Fisher Price Mirror. Retail: $16.99 (newer version)  Tonight's Price: $1.50
    Sassy Crib and Floor Mirror.  Retail: $19.99  Tonight's Price: $1.50
    5 Pk of Body Suits (New).  Retail: $25.99  Tonight's Price: $5.50
    Carter's Joby Shoes.  Retail: $10.99  Tonight's Price: $2.00
    Carter's Shoes. Retail: 11.99  Tonight's Price: $2.50
    Bruin Stacking Cups. Retail: 4.99 Tonight's Price: $3.00 (Boo, I thought the cups retailed for more than that!)
    Carters footed sleepers (x2).  Retail: 31.98 for both  Tonight's Price: $3 for both
    Baby Gap Rain Jacket (not currently on website)  Usually Retails around $24.95  Tonight's Price:$5.50
    Carters 2 piece short set (not currently on website)  Usually Retails around $15.99  Tonight's Price: $1.00

    Total Retail: $479.76  Tonight's Total: $95  80% savings!!!

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    Mommy Reviews - Must have List for Months 2 and 3

    Aiden at 3 months - Feb 29, 2012

    Aiden at 2 months (waving at mom - ok, not really.  But it was the least blurry picture!)
    In my original Must Have List - Month 1 post, I stated that it was my goal is to do a few things on a monthly basis.  The first was to take pictures of Aiden sitting in the same chair with the same bear and a little picture frame that says what month it is.  That actually got accomplished! The second goal was to make a list of my "must-haves" for that month as a new mom.  After reading every review and product must-have-list out there when I was pregnant, this is my take on what is a must-have month to month now that he's here.  Posting about these must-haves each month is still a goal, but as you can tell from the title of this post, I am combining month 2 and 3 because month 2 did not get done!  Not a lot of change in what we thought was a must-have from month 2-3, so I'm good with it. So here is my "Must Have List" for Months 2 and 3!

    1) Baby Bjorn (my absolute #1!!!  And if you can swing it, get 2!)
    Let me first start by saying, we did not pay full price for this baby bjorn - but now that it is our Golden Ticket - I would if I had to do it again!  We got this baby bjorn at a baby-consignment sale last March for 5 bucks!  Yep, we were 6 weeks pregnant and I grabbed it up. I had no idea how to use it or how helpful it would be, but I figured it was worth 5 bucks!  So they retail at the store for around $150-$175.  Again, REALLY pricey, so if you can, get one second hand.  But with that said, having a fussy baby that will not let you put him down and has to constantly be "seeing the world" facing forward (difficult to hold in that position long term) - this is Awesome!  In the picture below we are at the PA car show and he slept in it for 4 hours!  Not a peep - he LOVES it!  I do dishes with him in it, do the laundry, put clothes away, organize the closets, and just walk around if he's too fussy for anything else.  We have a second one (different brand - Infantino) that I got for free for spending so much at BabiesRUs.  Ryan uses that one.  It's great having 2 because we are so different in height and size.  That way we don't have to readjust each time we need to put him in it.  However, the baby bjorn brand is much better and keeps him a lot more supported.  I'm going to another consignment sale this week and I'm going to be on the look-out for a 2nd baby bjorn for Ryan to have.  Don't care what it costs - gonna get it!

    And yes - before you ask, his head is fine. : )

    2) Pack-n-Play with Mobile
    This is our little man's favorite place when he's not with us during months 2 and 3.  See the little monkeys on the mobile? Well, they are Aiden's best friends!  He "talks" to them and looks at them all the time.  We say "Do you want your monkeys to dance?" and he smiles - then we crank the thing and he gets super excited and will just stare and stare at them.  It was really great watching him track the mobile when he first started paying attention to it (around week 5/6).  We're still going strong - and I hope he doesn't lose interest anytime too soon!  My only complaint - the mobile doesn't last all that long when you wind it (3 minutes at most).  Next child - I'm getting one on a remote with batteries!

    3) Snap and Go stroller (x2)
    I cannot stress enough how much this little wonder has improved our lives and saved our backs!  When we were first looking for a stroller, I read all the reviews and thought I knew what I wanted.  Then we went to BabiesRUs and I tried the strollers.... um yeah, I basically could not lift any of them or fold any of them up without Ryan's help.  I'm short, my back end on my SUV is tall, and I have zero upper arm strength according to my family.  These snap and go strollers are great for when you're using the infant seat/carrier.  It's just the frame and then the child stays in the car seat and it just "CLICKS" in.  We bought 2 of them, both off of craigslist.  We got one for 15 bucks and one for 20.  When we bought 2 - my friends thought we were nuts... but I'm SO glad we did!  There have been times where we "switch the baby" between Ryan and I when I'm out running errands and then neither of us has to go without a stroller.  They retail at BabiesRUs and other stores for around $75 (but I'd check craigslist - I see them on there all the time).

    4) 2 Changing Pads - 1 for changing, 1 for sleeping
    Alright, I know.  You might think we're crazy - but this works for our child!  We had a really tough time transitioning Aiden out of his swing to get him to sleep.  He was getting too heavy for the swing (the motor had a hard time keeping up) and would kick his way out of it at night.  I noticed that he would fall asleep on his changing table on the pad when I was changing him or putting away his clothes - but when I laid him down in his crib on the regular mattress... nope - not having it!  So I went and got a second changing pad ($26 for the Serta brand at BabiesRUs) and he's been sleeping in his crib like a big boy ever since!  We did this at 6 weeks and I wish I would have done it sooner.  I think the sides coming up a bit on the pad help him feel protected and cozy.  Again - whatever works!

    5) Kick-N-Play crib piano
    Ahhh - this thing is AMAZING!  It runs on 3 double A batteries and runs forever!  We've had it for about 7 weeks now and have only had to change the batteries once.  We use it constantly and he loves it.  I have it on the side of his pack-n-play so he can look at it and when he wants to kick it, he just spins himself around (turtle style) and kicks it.  The music is not annoying (hard to come by that) and there are 2 different volume levels.  This will keep him entertained and put him to sleep no problem!  We probably use it at least 1-2 hours everyday during play time.  It was $32 at babiesRus (fisher-price brand) and I remember thinking... this is really expensive when I bought it.  I'm telling you right now, I'd go back and buy 4 more if I had to.  It has been great!

    6) Swaddle-Me
    He has a burp cloth over the top of him in this picture, but the bottom is the swaddle me.  This helped us get him to bed from about week 4 to week 10.  He's now a "big boy" and just in footed sleepers and doing great with that - but he MOVES in his sleep.  This child kicks, does fist pumping and ab crunches all night long.  Not sure how he stays asleep doing that, but the swaddle-me's helped us keep him somewhat contained during week 4-10 when he would wake himself up.  Notice his arms are out in the pic... week 4, we could still get his arms in.  Week 5 - our little Houdini figured out how to get his arms out in no time and we gave up!

    7) Radio/Mp3 Player/CD Player in the nursery
    Aiden and I do "dance party" about once a day (man, I'm going to miss that now that I'm back to work : ( ... ) We have a CD Player in his room and run a Baby Einstein CD with classical music on a continuous loop when he's sleeping.  We also run a white noise machine with the sound of a heart beat.  The white noise machine we got is pretty awesome - it lets you pick a ton of different sounds and also hook up an MP3 player to it.  It has a blue night light (enough for me to do a diaper change at night) and is small enough that we can travel with it.  Between the 2, we use them all the time. 

    8) Mini Boppy Pillow for tummy time
    You'll notice that there is no picture of Aiden doing tummy time.  It's because he HATES tummy time.  We have a spitter on our hands - and the pediatrician told us that tummy time can be difficult for spitters.  Luckily he's a happy spitter.  Eat, major spit up, on to the next!  This mini boppy pillow that came with our activity gym (ours is pictured below) has really helped us get him used to tummy time.  He has amazing head strength - little bugger just doesn't want to push up on those arms!  (takes after me I guess... arm strength, optional.)

    9) Pacifier Clips
    These are great to have if you're going to be out and about.  We have used ours when he's in the baby bjorn - no way to keep the pacifier in his mouth after he falls asleep and also in his car seat.  Now that he's more "expressive" - he's great at shooting things out of his mouth!

    10) Monkey Mirror - well it's a monkey at our house. 
    But any mirror would do.  He loves cooing and gooing at himself in this mirror.  He has been reaching for himself in it (developmentally he doesn't know it's him) and the smiles have been awesome.  I read that mirrors are a great way to socialize babies - especially first borns, because they don't have a sibling to interact with.  We do more than our fair share of interacting with him too - we can't seem to get enough!
    12.5 weeks here.  This shirt is from his Aunt Erin - she loves her little "Stud Muffin"

    Notes on Clothing:
    Gerber runs small! Gap Baby runs big, but all of their pants seem to be "slim cut".  I don't know about you - but most babies packing on the pounds are not "slim".  Reee-diculous!  Gymboree makes the nicest quality clothes in my opinion and they run pretty true to size, but they are expensive.  Wait for a sale and buy sizes ahead! Carter's seems to be in the ballpark of accurate sizing, although some things run small.  Target Circo brand runs a bit big, but once it's washed it's usually dead on (a lot of shrinkage there).  Koala Brand from BabiesRUs/ToysRUs runs slightly large in their more expensive stuff, especially in the pants - but the cotton outfits shrink like crazy and always seem to be too short!  Little Me Brand (found at VonMaur - not sure where else) runs at least 1 size big!  When Aiden was born the Premie stuff was too big on him.  Jumping Beans at Kohls runs true to size, but also tends to shrink over multiple washes (I could care less though - I get stuff at such good prices there, it's okay if he only wears it 4 or 5 times).  Chaps - ahhhh - I love me some chaps! It is true to size and doesn't seem to have a problem with shrinkage. 
    Aiden at 8 weeks - outfit from Gymboree.  The shoes are my absolute favorite!

    Here's an example of where we're at:
    3-6 month Gerber onesies are too small and don't snap over his diaper anymore.  Carter's 3-6 month are fitting and a bit roomy. Gymboree 0-3, he's just growing out of and has room to grow into 3-6.  Circo is 3-6. Koala is 0-3 for pants and 3-6 for tops. Little Me he's just now getting into his 3 month and is absolutely swimming in his 6 month.  Gap Baby 3-6 month pants, but 3 month onesies (they also tend to be big around the neck... a lot of big headed baby at Gap???) Chaps 3 months - he wore the cutest little red sweater vest the other day and he looked extra preppy : )  Borderline too preppy according to Ryan ; )
    Ok - seriously, is this little chaps sweater not the cutest?  The model is pretty cute too I think ; ) 12 weeks in this pic.
    Repeats from Month 1 list:
    1) Video Monitor 
    5) Diaper Champ
    6) 2 different changing stations
    7) More than 1 days supply of bottles (12) and Avent Formula Travel Container
    8) Infant bath tub with newborn insert
    12 weeks - just about out of the "infant" sling in the tub.

    9) Plenty of burp cloths and footed sleepers
    10) Bundle Me for the car seat
    Aiden at 5 weeks - this Bundle Me was so great to have in the winter.  We just took it off last week, but it's been unseasonably warm this year.
    He's grown up so much already!!!