Crockpot Hamburger Soup

As promised in my previous run-on post aptly titled "Cooking Tangent" here is the recipe I pieced together yesterday!
*Disclaimer* Not my photo!  I forgot to snap one!

Crockpot Hamburger Soup


1 lb ground beef
2 cloves minced garlic (I use the pre-minced stuff in the jar, so about 1 tsp)
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 cup corn (I used frozen, but canned, etc. works just as well!)
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt & pepper to taste


Put the hamburger in a frying pan along with the garlic and onion and brown thoroughly.  I have been told that you can put hamburger in the slow cooker raw, but that just makes me nervous! So I brown ahead of time, plus then more of the garlic and onion flavor goes into it.

Once done, add to the crock pot with remaining ingredients and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 (Yes, it really is that easy!!)


I am on a very low carb diet, so I ate this exactly as it's described and thought it was wonderful, very filling!  However, my menfolk can eat all they want, so I did throw in a cup or two of some pre-cooked noodles about half an hour before serving it to them to "bulk it up!"

Cooking Tangent!

I officially feel like a crazy person.  It's a quarter to 11 in the morning, and I am making our lunch (which will not be eaten until around one) and our supper is already prepped and going in the crock pot.  Yesterday I had the meatloaf we had for lunch prepped for the oven and in the fridge the night before and supper in the crock pot by the same time.

Why so early you ask?  (Or at least for the purpose of furthering this blog post, I'm going to say that you do.)  Well, as I mentioned in my last post, cooking and cleaning with a toddler beneath my feet has become a challenge second only to diaper changes, which now resemble something like Olympic hog tying.  My solution, at least for now, is to be waaaaaay over prepared!

I am a big fan of planning out meals in advance (see my Go, Go Grocery Mom! post), but this month for some reason I set aside my calendar and sort of just went with the flow.  When getting my groceries I just basically made sure I had the ingredients to make every meal on my list.  Even so, I've been doing a good amount of improvising day to day.  While the improv can be entertaining and has led to some good new recipes, I find that I desperately miss being better prepared and so intend to return to my trusty meal planning in September!

Sorry, went on a bit of a tangent there, my original point:  Preparation, yay!  I have been particularly motivated this week (no idea why, just enjoying it!) and so I have been preemptively striking at our meals.  The crock pot is officially my favorite appliance eeevveeeerr!  I can whip together whatever we are having for supper that evening during Baby J's morning nap and remove one of the larger stresses from my day.  Lunch is a bit trickier because the timing between nap and lunch don't allow for crock cooking.  The exception being if I get everything together the night before and turn it on about breakfast time, but, since we just have the one pot, I generally prefer to fix and forget supper!  So, for lunches, I have been trying to do everything but the baking (if it's an oven dish) the night before.  Then about an hour before lunch time, just preheat and toss it in!  No worries about Baby in the kitchen while I cook!  

For non-oven meals, I simply try to get any of the major cooking out of the way ahead of time.  A week or two ago, I boiled all the wild rice and noodles we had in the house, divvied them up into meal sized bags and threw them in the freezer.  Now I just have to pull one out in the morning to thaw and heat it up with the rest of our goodies nearer to meal time (seems like it doesn't take long to just boil noodles, but seriously, this really does save me so much time and headache!).  Another example is for BLTs for lunch today, I went ahead and cooked all the bacon during nap, so at meal time, we will just pull out the sandwich fixings and dig in!

I am looking back at this post and remembering again how much I can chatter on!  The original reason I had for starting this was wanting to share a new recipe I semi-created yesterday!  Since this has become a run-on post, I will save future readers the pain of working their way all the way through this just for the recipe, so look for it in a separate segment, coming immediately!


The real reason I never seem to blog...

It's been horribly quiet around these halls lately and in my last post I tried to give a rundown of all the exciting events in my life that kept pulling me away and that I hoped to be more frequent.  Well, that obviously didn't happen!  The other day I was thinking about how much I'd like to blog and suddenly realized why it was that I didn't/couldn't/hadn't.

The truth is, my son went from a sweet (mainly sedentary) little sitter to a wild and crazy crawler, soon to be walker!  I went from being able to tidy the house, throw together quick meals, or even turn on the computer to jot down a quick note, to devoting his every awake moment to ensuring his safety and development.

It is insanely awesome to watch how much more he learns to do every day, but it does mean that all my daily cleaning is jammed into the one to two hours he naps in the morning (generally don't even have those afternoon naps, since the Mr. is home and we always seem to have one thing or another that needs to be done)!  Add that to the fact that if I dare to turn the computer on in his awake presence, I am in for a plethora of mashed buttons and "up! up! up!"s and we have a recipe for no-blogginess!

During my usual free hours in the evening, I have been admittedly exhausted from all the running after all menfolk in my home!  Today I went insane with cleaning all day and was rewarded with a sparkling kitchen, a good deal of laundry folded and put away, some delicious meals for both lunch and supper! (The crowd goes wiiiilllddd!!)  So!  Here I am actually making a mention of my life in text, aaaaaaand now I'm off to whip together a meatloaf and maybe something for the crock pot for tomorrow to keep my "I'm ahead of my own game" roll going!  No rest for the wicked, right?! ;)


Long time, no write

Woo Hoo!
For those of you who read ViP on a daily basis (or at least did, when I was making daily posts), firstly, thank you for your support! Secondly, my apologies for the weeks worth of disappointment you must have been feeling.  As it is prone to do, life happened.  For those of you with natural sympathetic natures, worry not.  Nothing untoward has befallen myself or the J family.  We actually were gearing up for a very happy occasion:  Baby J's first birthday! (Post all about it to come in the near future!)  Also, about the time I quit blogging, my Keurig was "broken."  Turned out it wasn't actually broken, but for some reason it was not brewing, and I left it be for several weeks assuming it was, in fact, broken.  Low and behold, on a whim, I decided to give it a try again, and BOOM!  Coffee returneth to my world!  Of course, now we're out of coffee... but a trip to the store will but that aright also!

As I longue in my chair, working on rejoining the blogging world, I would like to extend a personal thank you to B from Modern Day Juggler for telling me (often) how much she missed my blog.  This one is for you!

In a few weeks I will be coming up on the 4 month-iversary of becoming a "Domestic Diva" (that label provided to me by a good friend and former co-worker).  So I thought as my return post I would do another status update on my life, my self-inflicted rules, and my sanity!

As with any job or lifestyle, there are definite ups and downs to the homemaking world.  People often ask me if it's everything I imagined it would be or if it's harder than I thought it would be.  The answer to both is yes... and no...

My life and duties as a stay home parent and homemaker are pretty much what I anticipated they would be, but that doesn't necessarily make it easy.  I had anticipated certain challenges to accompany the lifestyle, but expecting something is not the same thing as experiencing it.  Don't get me wrong!  I love my life, I love being here for my husband and son (let's be honest, they'd be lost without me!), but the day to day can get just as wearing as the office 9 to 5 grind.  

As I have mentioned before, I don't get to clock out at the end of the day, I don't get lunch breaks or weekends off.  My best fantasy right now is simply sleeping in on a Saturday!  I desperately envy Mr. J's ability to sleep through almost anything.  There are days I miss the challenge of a tricky project at the office or the companionship of co-workers.

Yes, the sacrifices they are many, but if I take a brief moment and remember what I would be missing instead if I was at work:  Baby learning to crawl, lunches with both my men folk, stroller walks...  The sacrifices are worth the time we gain as a family.

So how are the Guidelines working out?  As with all guidelines, they have hits and misses.  While our daily schedule is more or less the same every day, the weekly cleaning schedule has become much more organic and on an "as needed" basis (i.e. I clean my kitchen floors 3-4 times a day (Baby J is a self-feeder!) while our bedroom gets a tiding once every other week or more).

I have remained fastidious in my goal to be showered and dressed daily.  I find I feel all kinds of yucky if I don't get my cleanliness on, even on previously sacred Saturdays!  

As for the house cleaning... Our house is lived in.  Sometimes there are dishes in the  sink or piles of laundry on the floor, but, for the most part, it remains presentable.  One part of my original point in that particular guideline is undeniably true however:  Any day I decide to let something slide, I feel less and less inclined to do it the next day or the day after, etc.  So!  Keeping up with the little things does make a difference in the long run!

The TV does stay off most of the day, everyday, though I have begun making an exception for about a half hour or so of Sesame Street (on Netflix!) after supper time for the little guy while he chills with his bottle (though soon it will be strictly sippy cup) and I clean up the supper disaster he has left on my floor.  Once in a great, great while I'll put on some kiddy movie if he's not feeling well or is especially tired that day and we'll just snuggle on the couch, but in both circumstances, the tube keeps his attention for only about five minutes at a time.

Saturdays are definitely the best day to do nothing with the whole family.  Though we often have events or even errands that need to be done that day, we do our best to make them as relaxed as possible.

I cherish my alone time with Mr. J.  Every night after Baby goes to bed, I clean up his toys, have some mommy decompress time and sometimes even get in a quick nap before the mister makes it back from work.  Then he snacks on something while we chat, have a drink if the mood moves us, and play a card game or something equally sociable and relaxing.  (Currently we're on a Canasta kick!)  I can not stress enough how much this helps us stay strong as a couple.  We're not doing anything fancy or strenuous, we're just simply taking the time to relax with one another, share our days, and reaffirm that we really do like one another!

Being active and getting out of the house and about the world are two of the things I struggle most with.  Having a crawler who gets into eeeeeverything can limit some of the places or things that are appropriate to do.  That in conjunction with the fact that we are a one car family (which Mr. J takes to work morning and evening) makes it a bit difficult to go and do all the things I dreamed of doing.  Some day soon, we'll figure something out as a more permanent fix, but until then I make do with walks with the stroller around our yard, etc. for some outside activity that's enjoyable for us both!

I will be the first to admit I'm not as good as I should be about taking that necessary "me time," but I have been organizing monthly "Mommies' Night Outs" and Mr. J does his part while he's home in the afternoon, even if it's just a ten minute break to go out to the garden and pick lettuce!

Through all the ins and outs, adjustments and sacrifices, and the joys (oh the joys!) of taking on this new lifestyle, I think that I have discovered more about myself than I had ever expected to.  Some things that I already knew (like I like to craft or I am very patient) have been amplified in my awareness, while other things (like actually enjoying alone time(I've always been a huge people-person!)) have sprung up unexpectedly!

Overall (and just writing this post has really helped me clarify this in my own mind) I love my life.  I am happy with my new challenges and the satisfaction I find in making our world a little brighter in the J household!


The Power of the Written Word

Today, I have absolutely nothing domestically related to share.  Well, I do, but that won't be what this particular post is about, because I am just not there in my mind.  Why not, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you!

I have been reading a particular book series since my Junior year in high school (The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan for those who are just dying to know).  A few hours ago, I finally read the last word in the last sentence on the last page of the last book...ever.  Boom.  Suddenly, the nearly twelve year journey I had been on was at an end (this makes me 29 for those of you who are frantically trying to do the math to figure out just how old I really am.  I, personally, try not to think about it (Math or my age)).  

James Oliver Rigney, Jr.
Pen Name: Robert Jordan
Jordan and I, we'd been on a pretty wild ride together.  I mean our relationship has lasted longer than my marriage, longer than the Mr. and I have even known one another!  We've laughed and we've cried together.  One of us even died, but the story went on (thanks to his wife and editor, Harriet, and Brandon Sanderson, the author who stepped up and completed the works.  Way tah beeee!).

This all has me feeling a bit drained, mentally, physically, emotionally, but in that generally satisfied way that comes with knowing you've completed something.  At the moment, I'm having a hard time deciding how I feel.  Mainly I think I may be in shock that, after all this time, it's over... for now.

The greatest theme in this particular series has been that there are "neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time.  But it was a beginning."  The final words, perhaps inevitably, were "There are no endings, and never will be endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time.  But it was an ending."  

The journey may have ended for me, this time around, but (as I have done several times over the years, when a new book was set to be released) I can start the journey all over again, back at the beginning.  I can share these and other stories with those I love.

I digress.  This, believe it or not, Ripley, isn't specifically about the series I've been nattering on about for 20 minutes (though to readers, it's probably more like two?).  It's about the kind of devotion that the written word can instill in people.  For me, it was these books (and I'll be honest, many, many, others, but this was the Big Kahuna), for others it may be a simple poem or a news article that really reaches down and grabs something in you.  For those people who maintain they "don't read" and don't have a care to, I pfft! at you.  Have you ever seen a movie that was just da-BOMB (...I am so not pulling off that slanguage...)?  Guess what, somebody put the proverbial pen to paper (these days "fingers to keys" is more likely) for that too.  Songs too!

The point is, that there is so much power in words.  We can use them to entertain, sadden, hurt, or delight.  We can create entire new worlds or explore the one we're living in with just some nouns and consonants pushed together!  Whoa.  That is epic.  

As a self proclaimed writer (though maybe my degree (English-Creative Writing) gives me more street cred than that?), I am very careful about what words and use and how.  Like Spiderman says (or, rather, the writer who created Spiderman's dialogue) "with great power, comes great responsibility."  I don't know if I will ever be one of the greats like Tolkien, Jordan, Martin, or Lewis (What?  I loves me some epic fantasy.  Way better than a angsty girl in Washington obsessing over a sparkly vampire man-boy), but that's not the point.  

The point is the transcendence beyond yourself that can be found in the written word (even if you watch it in pictures on the TV screen) and isn't that worth more than words? (Like the play there, words are more than words, get it? *wink, wink*)


Traveling with a Tike

As promised in my much belated vacation notice, I am going to share a few of the ups and downs experienced during Baby J and I's road trip to visit family in what everyone from the tri-state area refers to as simply "the cities"  (Minneapolis/St. Paul = The Twin Cities).
Firstly, this post is brought you roughly 12 hours later than the original intended deadline thanks to an incredibly long day of attempting to re-right my house after a weekend away.  More on that coming up...

So!  First road trip!  (Just Baby, Dubby, and I, Mr. J has to work on Sunday evenings, making it difficult for him to get away for a weekend trip.)  I tried to plan everything carefully to make sure it would go as smoothly as possible.  Some things worked, others not so much.

Tidy entire house before leaving, hoping to have a clean, relaxing place to return to.

This was an amazing idea in theory.  There is nothing more exhausting than returning from a long weekend away, especially one including a lot of driving, to find your house a disaster that you can't relax in.  In practice, this would have been much more successful if the entire family was going on the vacation.  Mr. J did his best to clean up after himself, but dishes and laundry (my nemesi!) needed to be done, of course, and all the counters needed to be cleaned off and wiped down and the floors all needed to be swept and mopped.  (I don't know if it's just my husband, or if all men are oblivious to the existence of crumbs?)

Neatly pack everything I could think of.

This one sounds like I over prepared, but, really, it worked out pretty well.  Changes of clothes and jammies for two nights and two days for both of us, a handful of toys (nothing that I would cry about if it got lost), plenty of diapers, wipes and formula, two bottles that could be easily cleaned and alternated, wet and dry dog food (Dubby has some allergies and it's better to make sure we have the right stuff on hand, even though there was another dog where we were going), all our necessary toiletry items, Baby's highchair (strap to the chair model), and the pack-n-play.  I even managed to get everything into my average sized suitcase and the diaper bag!

Arrange driving times around Baby's sleep schedule.

I did this thinking it would help him get as close to regular naps in as possible.  According to "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" (my pediatrician brother says this is the book for sleep everything), sleep in the car is not as high a quality sleep as stationary sleep (in the crib, etc.), but I knew for a fact that he would not be able to stay awake once we started going, regardless of whether or not it was nap time.  So, my plan was to leave right at the beginning of his usual afternoon nap time, hoping he would sleep roughly his normal two hours, which would be 2/3 of the total drive time.

It was a bit hit and miss.  Both on the way there and the way home, Baby did sleep almost immediately once we were underway.  Both ways he made it about an hour and half, so only half the drive.  I had placed a few toys within arms reach and he played with those for a bit longer.  Then boredom set in and he began getting cranky.  Taking this a queue, we made a pit stop and he got some time out of the car and some fresh pants.  This helped for a little while, but he was still sick of the car and wanted to be done.  Queue second stop to whip up a bottle and feed him, even though we were within a half hour or so of our destination.  This still wasn't the ticket to happiness for Baby, but it got us through to the end! Both times, once we arrived and got out of the car (for good this time), he perked back up!

Attempt to keep roughly on a normal sleep schedule to keep a happy baby!

Again, a hit and miss effort.  The drive-time naps went so-so and he managed to take his morning naps on time and roughly for the normal duration the two days we were there.  Beyond that, however, there really is no hope for a sleep schedule on vacation!  Bed times were an hour (or two!) later than usual and the afternoon nap was painfully short or non-existent all together.

Night time was the worst.  I'm not sure if the issue was being in the pack-n-play in a strange place rather than his crib at home, the fact that Dubby and I were in the room with him (he is used to being in his own room, alone), or a combination of the two, but staying asleep was a struggle and he frequently needed comforting/to be fed/etc.

Thankfully!  Baby J is a sweet, happy little guy and he managed to maintain his usual demeanor, despite the yucky lack of sleep on his part.  Me?  I had coffee, the excitement of seeing loved ones, and super mom skills at functioning like a human being regardless of the level of sleep deprivation. 

Have FUN!

This one was a hands down success.  The little bumps in the road didn't deter from getting to spend time with beloved family that we rarely see.  Many met Baby J for the first time and everyone agreed that he was the cutest baby!  I'm naturally inclined to agree!  We talked, we brunched, we shopped and otherwise enjoyed ourselves.

For the future?  The only major change I may give a try is going immediately after a nap rather than before.  Perhaps then the happy, awake time would eat up the beginning of the trip and the tired cranky part would result in a nap for the end?  Another perk will be as Baby gets a bit older, he can be trusted with his own car snacks and drinks, cutting out some pit stop time...then again, it will also increase his ability to vocalize things like "Are we there yet?" and "But Mommy, I have to potty now!" 



Terribly belated notice (since we're back now), but Baby J and I were on vacation from the 20th through today, making no time for my usual entertaining posts!  I will be back tomorrow with some personal stories and tips and tricks I picked up on about traveling with a little one!


Joys of Parenthood

Last night, I spent over an hour trying to get my son to sleep.  He's getting at least one new tooth in, causing all kinds of angst and discomfort on his part, which in turn causes it on my part.  After I finally got him down and walked out of the nursery, I was muttering to myself about teething being just another one of the "joys of parenthood" (sarcasm abounds).

Then I started the nightly routine of picking up his toys and the blanket we use for a play mat on the living room floor and started smiling.  Everything about parenthood, even the hard, annoying, frustrating bits, is a joy.  It's a joy simply because I get to be a parent.

I'm the girl who always wanted to be a mom.  It was simply part of who I was and deep down I was always just a little afraid that I wouldn't have children.  Despite that, I was still terrified when I found out I was pregnant.  I mean, holy crap!  This was happening!  I can only imagine what people who hadn't dreamt of being a parent for ages went through.

Now that the initial shock has worn off, I am learning to appreciate all that parenting encompasses.  Teething tantrums, self-feeding messes, and the epic diaper blowouts all come with their own (completely strange) innate joy.  Every screaming fit I endure and mess I clean up is a reminder that I have a healthy, happy (and very vocal) child.

To all my fellow new parents, I know how hard it can be to smile during the worst of it (like when your child constantly pulls your hair out of your scalp because they don't understand the words "owie" or "no" yet), but what other parents have been saying long before us is true, "It's all worth it."

So laugh at every poopy diaper you change and every midnight feeding, you are enjoying the joys of parenthood!