Saturday, January 30, 2010

Turkey Tettrazini

This is a wonderful recipe from Matt's mom. We have made it using both chicken and turkey. With the little blast of cold weather we have had around here lately, a nice casserole always helps warm you up! This freezes really well and makes a good amount (so you can have it for leftovers or lunches).

Cook and drain a box of pasta (we prefer bow tie but you can use any kind)
-see note on cooking the pasta below

Have ready the equivalent of 4 chicken breast halves cooked and cut into bite size pieces
-remember you can use either turkey or chicken
-about the amount that you would want in a typical casserole pan

Saute these ingredients together:

butter or olive oil for sauteing
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
minced garlic

1/2 cup chopped or sliced black olives (we usually add more)
small can of mushrooms (drained)- although fresh would probably be great
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 box of Velveeta cheese cut into cubes (we have also used the reduced fat and it turns out fine)

Stir and cook until melted.

At this point we usually add frozen peas or other veggies to add extra texture and nutrition.

Combine veggies/sauce, meat, and pasta. Mix well. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish.

Top with 1 cup grated Parmesan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until hot and bubbly.

Note: I usually do not cook pasta al dente. I like my pasta on the softer side. The one exception to that is when I am cooking the pasta further in a pasta bake or casserole. The pasta will get incredibly mushy and soft if you cook it too far. So...under cook the pasta just a bit!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Conversation at work...

One of the main reasons I love my job is when you get moments to interact with the students in a fun or social way. One of these opportunities presented itself today. I was headed back upstairs after getting crushed ice (yummy crushed ice, how I love thee) from the training room. I saw one of my students was talking to another teacher. Here is how the conversation went:

As I pass by
Student: There is one of my teachers now...hi Mrs. Howard

Me: Hi!

Other teacher: She says I am mean, tell her I am not mean...

Me: She is mean...but not as mean as me!

Student: This is true.

Me: Who is your meanest teacher?

Student: You are (turns to the other teacher), she is!

Me: Thank you!

As I walked away, I looked back at the other teacher to see her flabbergasted face. She could not understand why I would want to be considered a mean teacher... I love the fact that the student acknowledged that I was mean, hopefully that means tough and strict! Either way, it made me smile!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baby Elliot!

One of my dearest friends in the whole world had Baby #2 today! Martha and I met our sophomore year at Texas A & M. We both took Russian class together. To be honest, I "didn't like" her, but that is only because she was pretty fluent in Russian when the rest of us were struggling with the alphabet. While not hostile towards her, I was definitely jealous of the incomprehensible things coming out of her mouth! When our other friend Sarah and I realized she was a history major (girl's in the department were few and far between) we decided to be friendly. I am so glad we took that step because the past 7 years have been marked with genuine friendship. When she and her hubby decided to move to Philly for his school, we agreed that no matter how long it had been since we talked that we could call the other one up without any weirdness or apologies. This became an even bigger deal when they moved to England for Ben's school as well. We both take turns visiting whenever we can...

Martha, Ben, and Baby Liam (Nov 2007)

Martha, Ben, and Big Boy Liam (March 2009)

They had baby number two this morning, Elliot Clark Dunson! I know it will be awhile before we will see each other and meet each other's babies, but I look forward to that day whenever it may be. Martha, I know you will be as great with this little boy as you have been with Liam. I look up to your amazing motherhood skills and the devotion you show your husband and boys! Amish and Love you!

May we all be blessed with such amazing and lasting friendships that are not strained by distance!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I had to stop the Shred for a few days to recover from the previously mentioned mastitis. I picked it back up this week and I am really enjoying level 2 (although it is harder than level 1).

I find it amusing that when Barack Obama won the Presidential election how many people were excited about the fact that the people had their voice heard. Now that a Republican has won the seat in Massachuchetes, all of the sudden people want to surpress said voice of the people. So many friends were talking about "the death of democracy" and how "disappointed they were in the state" on facebook. The fact that you do not agree with the person who won the election does not mean that an idea is dying nor should you be disappointed with an entire state (which are they upset with by the way...the physical state or the people within it). Although I did not vote for Obama, I didn't feel that popular sovereignty was failing... Instead I felt that it should be a wakeup call for more conservative parties to start meeting the needs of the people instead of ignoring them. And speaking of conservatism in general...I vote Republican because it is the political party that I more closely identify with and because I more closely identify with the GOP I am going to support them in most of their endeavors. My identification as an elephant (whoop!) does not mean that I agree with every party line put forth by Republicans in power. Just a small aside...

Is it bad that I am counting down the school days more diligently than the students...88 days of instruction left (and that includes TAKS, video days, and finals)! I probably will not be teaching next year even if I have to continue working full time. I cannot fully devote myself to the kids at school and my own family. Having to choose between the two (because I personally cannot choose to do either half heartedly), I obviously choose my family. I am already completely bogged down and feeling more than a little overwhelmed...MacKenzie has been great about it and is the least of my worries, but the top of my priorities. I would really like to work from home or find a job I can do part time out and part time in...if there are any ideas out there let me know!

That's all for now!

Monday, January 18, 2010

12 week pictures

These pictures were taken almost exactly 12 weeks after MacKenzie was born...I grabbed the camera two minutes after the exact time. She has grown so much since then!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

12 weeks


I can hardly believe that 12 weeks ago you entered the world into our arms. We are so excited to have you with us, but are overwhelmed by how quickly the time is flying by. You have taught Mommy so much. I am definitely learning a thing or two about humility for two reasons. First, because you are so amazing to me I cannot help but be awestruck by the wonderful little person that you are. Second, you are teaching me about not being able to do everything that comes my way and to take time to stop and enjoy little moments for what they are.

In the past four weeks you celebrated your first Christmas. We thank you for the reminder of how we celebrate because of the birth of a small child many years ago. We enjoyed opening up presents for you, but are looking forward to you opening presents on your own in years to come. We spent time with all of our family around the holidays and you did a great job with all of the people who oohed and awed over you. Your auntie McKay and uncle Rob came and spent the night so you have had your Howard grandparents and them come to stay. Mommy enjoyed having Christmas break off with you, you are sleeping for longer stretches (especially in your swing) so Mommy was sometimes able to get stuff done!

She loves my kisses!

I so loved her Christmas dress...Daddy's little girl!

We are getting you out and about more often. Mommy got a nursing cover and now has no problems nursing you in public...I cannot believe I thought this was so hard at one point! Daddy took you up to College Station so he could go hunting and you enjoyed the time with your Grandma Dee. When the school semester started, Daddy was able to take two weeks off to be with you. He really enjoyed developing your special Daddy/Daughter relationship, but now he knows how there are some days we got a lot of things done and others that we didn't. Last night he left on a hunting trip with his Daddy. Mommy enjoyed having some quality time with you. This was the first night we have been alone together. It is nice to have special nights like that from time to the future we will make it a big girly time!

We love to make faces at you, stick out our tongue at you (so you will mimic us), and making you smile. If you are happy and playing, you will smile when we say words like "zucchini", "squash", or "gumbo" or if Mommy dances silly for you. You like to lay on your activity mat and kick your feet as well as sitting in your swing looking at the birds/butterflies that move around. We have also starting sitting you in your bumbo seat to get you ready for sitting up. You willoccasionally roll onto your side from your back and you have started rolling back onto your back. The night before I went back to work you gave us your first laugh. Daddy was holding you and I was making funny faces and talking to you and you kind of chuckled at us. We were glad you are so happy and delighted with us.

Trying on Daddy's hat...WHOOP!

Your doctor's appointment this month went well, we were not surprised to see how much you grew and were happy you were such a trooper with your shots.

Thank you for being such a blessing to us. We love having you in our lives!

Mommy and Daddy

Mastitis...Round Two

So I am going to the doctor again today to hopefully get a perscription of anti-biotics for what I am pretty sure is another round of mastitis. I started to feel pretty awful yesterday and all of the symptoms are there, so I was thankful when I called and they were able to work me in today after school. This second bout isn't as bad as of right now, but I want to get a head start on making it better. I think MacKenzie knew that Mommy didn't feel that great yesterday because when I got home from school she was content to lay with me and snuggle all night. I took her sleeping and snuggling as a sign that I needed to slow down. Needless to say, I have had to put a halt on "Shredding" in order to get better, which is too bad because I had just moved up to level two (which is really challenging).

Monday, January 11, 2010

One week of Shredding done

So I "Shredded" for 7 days straight. I ate reasonably well (except for Sunday) all week too. I stepped on the scale this morning (which I promised myself I would only do once a week) and found a total weight loss of...nothing. I am trying not to get discouraged because I am seeing definite tone and stamina improvement, but that is an awfully big number on the scale to be smiling back at me. Some people say that the first week is muscle building and the pounds will come off after... I would go by my pants and how they fit, but I am still not in pre-pregnancy pants and have been swimming in my pregnancy pants for some no indicator there. Regardless, I am sticking with the Shred. Matt and I are competing against each other to see who makes it to the end. I am trying to decide if I am letting him off the hook when he goes hunting this weekend...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two month check up...a few weeks late

The doctor's office was not open for regular appointments around the time of MacKenzie's two month birthday, so they had to schedule her checkup for this Wednesday. I was already back at work, so Matt took her. He said she did really well with her shots, but she has slept A LOT since then, I am sure that is a big thing for our little girl to take in. Her current stats are: weight 14 pounds 3 ounces (97th percentile), 25 inches long (off the charts), and her head was in the 50-75th percentile. I love how big our girl is and that her weight and height are measuring close together. I think MacKenzie will one day pass me up in height! The doctor said to keep on doing what we are doing because she is doing great! Once again I am proud of our little trooper and I am proud that I can provide her with what she needs.

MacKenzie in the doctor's office

Since Matt has been home with her, he has been trying new is sitting in the Bumbo seat...I think she likes it! I have already talked to him about putting the Bumbo seat on the counter like that so no need to remind us...we have it covered and it won't happen again!

She is developing so much!

An update on the 30 day shred...I am on day 4 all in a row! Now Matt has joined in too! We grunt and moan as we walk through the house, but we are both giving it our best! I am going to try weighing myself once a week, so no weight loss reports until next week. Anyone out there working on resolutions? If so, keep it up!!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Resolution 2010

So Matt doesn't really believe in resolutions, but I always set them. I have never been more determined to actually strive towards them though than this year. MacKenzie has been well worth the weight gain, but she is just as worth (if not more so) the weight loss, healthy eating and living habits, and organization.

As far as weight loss goes, I have stagnated post-partum. I feel like I look fine, one of the advantages of being tall, but I am not anywhere near my pre-pregnancy weight (which was probably a little larger than I would like to be anyways). I am not setting a certain weight goal because I do not necessarily know what my ideal weight would be. I am however hoping that I will soon be able to wear my pre-pregnancy pants and would like more overall tone. In order to reach this goal I have the next two months mapped out. First, I have become a "Shredder" as of today. I bought Jillian Michaels 30 day shred and baring no sickness hope to go 30 days straight. I have little goals set up for myself at the end of each 7 day week. This week, if I work out each day, I will be able to go buy some more workout clothes. The workout takes about 20 minutes which I figure is worth it for my overall health. However today was day 1 and the workout kicked my butt. Like Jillian says on the workout though...if I am looking for a 20 minute workout, I better be willing to make it count! After I complete the 30 day shred, I will continue doing level 3 about 2 or 3 times a week and I will be adding the Couch to 5K program for 3 days a week. I am exciting about getting back into running. When Matt and I were working in the food industry we could both run (and I don't mean jogging) a 5K no problem, now...not so much. I will try to keep things posted!

For eating healthy, Matt and I are both working on portion control, eating more lean meat, reducing sweets and treats, and eating more whole grains rather than wasteful carbs. We aren't cutting anything out of out eating choices completely, we are just limiting ourselves and trying to be good. Tonight we had a little bit of leftover tenderloin, whole grain rice pilaf, steamed broccoli, and salad. It was delicious and I feel pretty good about it! I have to be careful because I am still breast feeding (and would like to continue to do so) thus I cannot cut too many calories out of my diet. Any advice for healthy foods or recipes?

For general healthy living (besides diet and exercise) I would like to floss more regularly. The only teeny tiny cavities I have ever had were in between my teeth, thus I need to make sure to greatly reduce the chances of getting more. We also have invested in the Colgate SpinBrush ($6.99 at Target) to help us more efficiently brush our little teeth! I can't think of any other general healthy living options...any ideas?

For organization I have a tendency to be organized in spurts or when someone outside of the family will see the organization. I am great about it at work (and spent most of my 4 days back at work "fixing" everything that was "wrong" whenever I was gone), but not so great about it at home. I will, when able to, be spending 20 minute spurts of cleaning and organizing. My hope is that by summer, everything will have a place in the home, that we will purge out items we do not need, and that the extra bedroom will be exactly that and not a dumping ground.

So that is my resolution/goals for the short/mid term. I hope I can stay dedicated to these and be the me I would like to be!!!