Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Dang (Greek) Quesadilla

So, am I the only one who thinks of this scene from Napoleon Dynamite when I hear someone say, "quesadilla?"
Sorry for the weirdness of this video. It's the only one I could find.

Anyway. When my brother was visiting last week, I wanted to try out a new recipe and I decided he would be my perfect guinea pig. I found this recipe on Pinterest (where else?) and I thought it looked healthy and tasty, and it met my requirements for a quick and easy weeknight dish. I modified a few things, however.

1. I could have bought boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked them and shredded them myself, but I cheated and bought a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Because ain't nobody got time for that.

2. I rarely (if ever) buy salad dressing, and after searching two grocery stores for the Lighthouse Opa Greek feta dill dressing to no avail, I threw in the towel and purchased a Tzatziki sauce. Probably not as low-cal as the former, but whatevs. 

3. I did not use an entire red onion. That would have been WAY too much, in my super duper professional opinion. 

Anyway! You will need the following:
assorted veggies and cheeses

Okay, I needed this. It was a long day.
 1. Slice the veggies and set to the side.
2. Spray the tortilla (one side only) with nonstick spray, and place on a pan over medium-high heat.
3. Spread the sauce/dressing over the tortilla, and add the veggies. Be careful not to overload the tortilla. As you can see, I totally failed at this.
4. After a few minutes, lift up the (unloaded) side of the tortilla. If it's browned, go ahead and cover the side with the veggies with the tortilla. Cook for a few more minutes, then carefully flip it over. Again, something I'm terrible at. If you're more skilled than I am, you likely won't have veggies and cheese falling out of your quesadilla all over the pan, and you likely won't be cursing.

5. When the quesadilla has been appropriately browned, slide it on to a plate or cutting board and slice it in half. Trust me, it tastes much better than it looks.
(Sorry. I forgot to snap a picture before snarfing down my dinner).
Happy eating! Original recipe here.

Ingredients:

4 — 9" La Tortilla Factory® Smart & Delicious™ Low-Carb, High Fiber Whole Wheat Tortillas
2 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, shredded (about 1½ cups)
½ cup reduced-fat feta cheese crumbles
1 cup low moisture, part-skim, shredded mozzarella cheese
1 red onion, diced
1 cup cucumber, chopped
½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
¼ cup sliced black olives
¼ cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
½ cup Lighthouse® OPA Greek yogurt Feta Dill dressing

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On Raising Children, or, "I Have Absolutely No Idea What I'm Doing."

Two kids and we're still clueless.
  Will and I have learned a very important lesson in the past three years. Never make any major decisions (specifically, don't make any decisions involving family planning) on either a really great or really terrible day. Just the other week, the kids and I were having one of our best days to date. Everyone woke up in a good mood, we had a healthy breakfast, Tony was showering Alessandra with love and affection and she was giggling in response, the kids played quietly together in Tony's room while I got some housework done, they behaved perfectly at the grocery store (and I received a few compliments on my happy little crew), everyone took a good nap, and I had a tasty, healthy meal waiting for Will when he came home from work. At the end of the day, I was going on and on about Tony and Alessandra's exceptional behavior, how rested I felt, how clean the house was, and so forth. On days like that, I'm tempted to say, "More children, stat! Let's out-do the Duggars! I've GOT this! And why stop with 'just' more children? I'll grow all of our fruits and vegetables, and we'll get some chickens, and we can buy meat from a local farmer, so we'll never have to go to a grocery store again!" Then, predictably, I feel the icy cold smack back into reality.

  That evening, no one slept well. The kids woke up crabby and demanding in the morning, I was out of sorts from not sleeping more than four hours, Tony threw a fit when I told him he couldn't have a "shake 'n milk" (chocolate milkshake, for those of you not fluent in preschooler) for breakfast, Alessandra had diarrhea, the house became a disaster in what must have been some kind of world record, the dog kept trying to steal food, I couldn't stop yelling no matter how many pep talks I gave myself...you get the idea. By the time Will came home that night, I was a frazzled, overwhelmed, near-tears mess. "Why in the world did I ever think I we could have more children? Clearly, I can't even handle the two we already have! And chickens? Seriously, Marisa? Alessandra just dumped her plate of scrambled eggs on the floor and Murphy ate it. Why do you want to have MORE eggs in this house? And when the hell are you going to find time to garden? And why am I talking to myself?"

  Now that Will's schedule is crazier and he's gone for days or weeks at a time, I've had to do some reflecting on the kind of mother I want to be. I have to be able to hold it together by myself for long periods of time. I have to have patience with my kids (I'll be honest and admit this is one of the hardest things for me to do; I have a temper, and I've found myself yelling at Tony far too often), I have to keep the house from resembling the city dump, I have to make healthy meals for my family, and I have to keep our faith the center of our household. I also have to be realistic, and understand that no, not every day will be perfect, but by the same token, not every day will be stressful and miserable, either. If I take a few minutes to myself every morning, beginning my day with prayer and and my oils, I notice a dramatic difference in my temperament. I'm more willing to tell Tony for the thousandth time that no, he doesn't get to watch more than one TV show (without making threats about what will happen if he asks me again), I don't mind carrying Alessandra all over the house while I do chores (if luck is on my side, she'll agree to go into the mei tai or sling), and the bottom line...if I'm calm and patient, my kids generally remain calm and happy, if not patient. Those are the days on which Will and I try to make monumental decisions. Not days when everything is perfect, because that's not reality, but not days when I'm ready to collapse in a sobbing heap on the floor, either.

  Yes, I have been dreaming of starting a garden of my own for quite some time now, especially considering how much money I spend at the grocery store every month on fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Unfortunately, our living situation right now isn't exactly ideal for growing and maintaining a garden. It's something I fully intend on starting once we move to Colorado, though. The chickens...not so much. While I love the idea of buying fresh eggs and meats from a farmer's market, I'm going to permanently temporarily scrap the idea of owning chickens. Yes, we would like to have more children one day. However, being that Will is going to be gone for a long stretch of time, and we have a cross-country move coming up in the next 9-ish months, and I have some unresolved health issues (specifically, spinal stenosis) that I need to take care of before I start growing another human, I'd have to say that now is not the best time to add to our family. That's the beauty of NFP; Will and I are able to prayerfully discern every month if it would be a good time to try to conceive (TTC. Since I'm an Army wife, I'm a huge fan of acronyms). If we don't faint at the idea of having a newborn in nine month's time, fabulous! If not, that's okay too. It's all about moderation. It's okay to be excited about babies, new projects, and new adventures, as long as you don't make rash decisions based on something you saw on Pinterest. *cough cough*

  As for now? My little brother, who is not so little anymore, flew in to Georgia this past weekend to give me a hand with the little ones while Will is in the field. My in-laws are coming here on Friday to spend the long weekend with us. My mom is planning on coming for two-ish weeks in September, when Will's schedule gets particularly brutal. I feel so blessed that our families are able to help us out, and the extra pair(s) of hands goes a long way towards maintaining my sanity. One of the most important things I've realized since becoming a mother is that I simply can't do it all on my own. I don't want to think about how much of a mess I would have been if I didn't have the help of my mom, my mother in-law, and my sister in-law after the birth of Alessandra. I'm pretty sure I would have completely and utterly lost my mind (or fallen asleep behind the wheel) if my mom, mother in-law, brother, and aunt weren't able to help me out when Alessandra was three months old, not sleeping more than two hours/night, and Will was at Fort Lewis for a month. It's okay to ask for help when you need it. There's no shame in admitting you need a hand every now and then, and you're not less of a mother if you just need a break from the chaos once in a while.

Chaos? What chaos? 
  Bottom line? It's great to be ambitious, but it's also great to give yourself a break now and then. There is no such thing as the perfect parent, or the perfect house, or the perfect way of life. Figure out what works for you and your family, and don't underestimate the healing power of an iced coffee in the afternoon and a glass of wine after the kids are in bed. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes-An Attack on my Sanity


1. I am displeased, to put it mildly. About 40 minutes ago, I was congratulating myself for being so "on it" this morning. Alessandra woke me up I woke up at 5am, made my coffee, made a healthy breakfast for the kids (scrambled eggs and toast with homemade wheat bread, how domestic can I GET), got a load of laundry going, read a book to the kids, fed the dog and put him out, and was about to get the diffuser going in Alessandra's room when I spotted....

2. A roach. On Alessandra's bedroom door. And not just any roach, mind you-a huge, menacing, colossal roach who appeared to be sneering at me as I cowered in terror. This mama doesn't do bugs. So, being the calm, level-headed, rational woman that I am, I screamed at the top of my lungs, grabbed the largest shoe I could find, cursed the Army for sending my husband to the field (because really, do these mutant bugs ever make an appearance when our husbands are home? Of course not), and proceeded to beat the life out of that thing on my precious baby girl's door. Then I tried to MacGyver a Kleenex, a shoe, and a pen into a contraption that would keep the now smushed-beyond-recognition roach from touching my fingers. In a moment of weakness, I considered placing a call to our parish and begging Father McCarthy to come over and do an emergency blessing of our home.

3. This is one of the main reasons I could never (permanently) live in the South. Look, I'm not trying to downplay the North's pitfalls. Growing up in Wisconsin, I remember having to trick-or-treat with a snowsuit over my Halloween costume because we were getting hit with snow flurries at the end of October. The seasons (if you even want to call them that) consist of approximately 7 months of blizzards and bitterly cold weather, a "spring" that's really freezing cold rain that turns the afore-mentioned snow to ugly gray slush, and a summer that's hotter than hell with enough road construction to make you want to rip your hair out every time you're foolish enough to venture on to the highway. I get it. But...Wisconsin doesn't have ROACHES. Anyway. Moving on.

4. My brother is flying in tomorrow, to give me a hand with my crew while Will leaves for yet another long week in the field. Tony is very excited about his uncle's arrival; every morning for the past 3 days he says, "Mama, today is Saturday!" I'm glad that tomorrow I'll actually be able to answer in the affirmative.

5. I am the worst Catholic ever. I missed a holy day of obligation on Friday, due to miscalculating afternoon events (mainly, the grocery store with two small children), I missed confession on Saturday afternoon, because I was in bed with agonizing back pain, and I missed Mass on Sunday for the same reason. I'm not feeling too great about myself right now, although I do realize that being unable to get out of bed due to excruciating pain is probably a valid reason for missing Mass.

6. I need to start blogging more, as in, not just the weekly 7 Quick Takes. I have a bunch of topics floating around in my head, and never enough time to sit down and write a thought-provoking post. Yet another reason I feel like the lamest person alive lately.

7. This meme sums up my feelings about Georgia drivers (or more likely than not, their response to me blasting the horn at them for trying to cut in my lane without, you know, checking to make sure another car isn't already there).
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, August 15, 2014

7 Quick Takes-Feelin' The Burn


1. This girl has been WORKING IT at the gym, and at home with PiYo. Yes, I jumped on the Beachbody bandwagon, after last year's failed attempt at T25. I know a lot of people talk up the benefits of T25 (and don't get me wrong, if you follow the program and the health plan, it works!) but it was just too hard on my joints. The jumping up and down and bouncing around really did a number on my lower back. After an MRI revealed a diagnosis of spinal stenosis (I'm seeing a spinal/ortho specialist on the 28th to discuss my options for pain management), I knew I needed to take it easy with the workouts. Sooooo 3x/week I go to the gym and do low-impact workouts, and at home I do PiYo. It feels good, but wow I'm sore.

2. I really need to ask...who is my reader from Glasgow?? I've seen your location appear quite a few times on my feed, and if you haven't already introduced yourself, please do so! I sincerely regret not visiting your lovely country when Will and I were living in Europe. Scotland was one of the very few countries we were not able to tour, much to my dismay.

3. Will's schedule is about to get uglier than my 7th grade school picture. Lots of time in the field for the next 2-3 months, which means cranky kids and a stressed out mama. Pretty sure I'll be on the phone (yeah right...on the keyboard) begging for family members to visit and keep me sane.

4. Whoever keeps leaving comments on my blog informing me that I'm going to burn in hell....kindly knock it off. It was amusing the first time; now it's just getting annoying. I really don't want to resort to The Man tactics and delete comments, as that is SO not my thing, but I can only read so much about the "Vatican 2 heresies" before I roll my eyes into the back of my head.

5. Tony has been on an argumentative kick lately. I don't mean he's picking fights with me, but more like he just disagrees with everything Will and I say. When we're driving in the car and I play a new song on my iPod (I'm on a Gaelic Storm kick right now), Tony will ask me what it's called.
Me: "This song is called 'Heart of the Ocean.'"
Tony: "No it's not!"
I have to admit, it's pretty funny.

6. Speaking of Gaelic Storm, Milwaukee's Irish Fest is this weekend, and Gaelic Storm will be performing there. I'm so sad I'm not in Milwaukee right now...I've missed both Festa and Irish Fest this summer. Booo.

7. I'm looking for new, healthy, and budget-friendly meals to make during the week. My go-to menu is getting a little tired. Feel free to post your favorites in my comment section.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, August 8, 2014

7 Quick Takes After Waking Up Far Too Early


1. I remember when I was pregnant with Tony, I was talking to my mom about middle of the night feedings, diaper changes, what have you. I expressed concern that I would be so tired I wouldn't hear the baby, and he would scream hysterically in his bassinet while I slept blissfully unaware a few feet away. My mom laughed and assured me that would never happen. She said every new mother always senses when her baby will begin crying, and it's not unusual to wake up in the middle of the night for no reason, only for the baby to begin crying a minute or two later. Well, not only was she 100% right (of course), but I still find myself doing that now. Alessandra is 16 months old, and anytime she makes a peep, I am jolted out of deep slumber. I suppose it's a good thing, but it's hard to remember that when it's 5:15a.m and I am unable to get back to sleep.

2. Thank goodness for essential oils. After said baby interruption, I grumpily cheerfully roused myself out of bed, and immediately headed into the bathroom to apply my morning oils. Within 5 minutes, I felt ready to take on the day.

3. Both kiddos have a dentist appointment this morning, with a pediatric dentist who received glowing recommendations from a bunch of Fort Benning moms. I'm sure everything will go smoothly, from our 30-minute early arrival to fill out paperwork to the laying back in the chair while the dentist checks out their teeth.
Sorry not sorry. What can I say, I'm an 80's/90's kid and an avid lover of Wayne's World.
4. After much consideration, prayer, and conversation, we've decided to forgo preschool for Tony for the upcoming school year. The main reasons being:

 a. While the school (part of our church) and preschool program look lovely, I can't get past the fact that it's every day of the week, from 8:15-12:15. That's a long week for a 3-year old, especially since he's stayed at home with me since he was born. Unfortunately, there aren't any 2 or 3-days/week options.

b. It's $300 per month. Could we make it work? Yes. Would it put a hamper on saving for the (most likely) more expensive Catholic school options in Colorado? Yes again.

c. My mom is coming to Georgia for a long-ish visit in September, and she made it abundantly clear that she didn't want Tony in school the whole time. Plus, we're going to my cousin's wedding in NC in October, then possibly back to WI for a visit, plus Will may be attending some intensive (read: he'll be gone for 2+ months) schools in the upcoming months, so we may visit my family again, which means more time away from school...

5. Yeah, just not practical. While I still don't feel that homeschooling is the best option for our family, I don't see the harm in doing basic preschool activities at home with him for another year. I've ordered a couple of coloring books/preschool curriculum from Seton, and we're going to give that a go.

6. Army neighbors are awesome. They do things like invite you over for Wine Down Wednesday night (is an explanation really needed?) and give you things their kids don't use anymore. Tony has been finger painting up a storm since our neighbor dropped off a bag of finger paints and Play-doh (thanks, LaQueshia!).

7. I've decided that I'm officially over summer and these mutant Georgia bugs that are torturing my children. Just a few weeks ago, Alessandra was bit by (most likely) a spider during the night, and her eye was swollen shut the next day. Yesterday we took the kids to get some frozen yogurt, and upon leaving the store, Tony was stung right underneath the eye by an unknown bug. OVER. IT.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, August 1, 2014

How to be a Good Italian Wife

  When I got married, I wanted to be the perfect Italian wife. Not being a full-blood Italian, I wasn't sure it was possible for me to accomplish such a feat, but I figured with enough practice and determination, I could pull that whole Italian housewife gig off without a hitch. Trust me on this, ladies. Billie at Bossy Italian Wife came up with this fantastic list, and I wanted to piggyback off of her's and share my own thoughts and suggestions. All in good fun? Absolutely. You know the saying, though..."happy Italian wife, happy Italian life." Or something like that. Buona fortuna, donne.

1. Enjoy eating. Period. If you're eating TRUE Italian food (seafood, lean meats, fresh veggies, pasta, cheese, and a little dolce to finish it off), you don't need to obsess over calories. Real Italian women will give you the malocchio if you even mention the word "Atkins."
If Monica Bellucci doesn't skip the prima piatti, neither should you.
2. Dress to impress, even if you're just going to the grocery store. Don't forget the red nail polish and red lipstick. Be bold or go home.

3. Keep a clean home. You don't want the other Italian wives talking about you.

4. Kisses for everyone! There's no such thing as being too affectionate.

5. Go totally overboard every weekend with Sunday dinner. Also, make sure you know how to make a mean tomato sauce (or gravy, whatever floats your boat) and batch of meatballs. Bonus points if you can your own tomatoes.

6. Keep your wine rack stocked with Chianti, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, and Orvieto. Keep your liquor cabinet stocked with Amaretto, Limoncello, and Sambuca. A little Campari never hurt, either.

7. Know the difference between sexy and trashy. You don't need to show an obscene amount of skin to have every eye in the room on you.
Sexy

Trashy
8. Never miss Mass.

9. Drink coffee every morning, and make sure you brew it with a Corning Ware percolator. Gotta keep it old school.


10. Wooden spoons. Love 'em, collect 'em, use 'em. 

11. Use over-the-top hand gestures whenever possible.

12.  Play Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett on your iPod. Dance and sing along to their songs with your kids. It's never too early to learn all the words to, "That's Amore."

13. Tell everyone you meet that they're too skinny, and they should come over for dinner. Make enough food to end world hunger.

14. Respect your elders.

15. Wear colorful bandanas in your hair, especially when you're cooking.

16. Do everything-cleaning, dancing, yelling, cooking, fighting-with passion. If you don't have the loudest voice in the room, you're doing something wrong.

17. Hang both a rosary and corno around the dashboard mirror in your car.
18. Have an image of Padre Pio hanging up in your home.

19. Make frequent trips to the beauty parlor for your hair, nails, and skin. Yes, even though it's 2014, it's still the beauty parlor.

20. Be on a first name basis with everyone at the Italian grocery store, the Italian bakery, and, of course, the beauty parlor.

21. Shower your children with kisses. Dress your daughter like the little principessa she is, and always tell your son that he is mama's special boy.

22. Rock a pair of Gucci sunglasses.

23. Never go anywhere without your teasing comb and hairspray. Repeat after me: "the higher the hair, the closer you are to Heaven."

24. Always keep the ingredients on hand for your signature pasta dish. This will come in handy when a friend or family member is sick (or dead), or you need to bring food to the church potluck.

25. Live life out loud. Period.

Friday, July 25, 2014

7 Quick Takes-I'm So In


1. "In" the blogging world, that is. See, a few weeks ago a group of Catholic bloggers on Facebook complained that a bunch of them were receiving spam comments on their blogs, from one particularly..."forceful" individual. Mock me if you must, but my first thought wasn't relief I had yet to be spammed. I thought, "okay, clearly I'm not visible enough in the Catholic blogging world. I never received a comment from this guy." Well, a quick glance over my blog last night proved otherwise. You can read the comment in its' entirety here. After a quick search, I discovered that a few blogger friends received the same comment last night as well. Folks...we've arrived. Or so I keep telling myself.

2. Speaking of Catholics, Will and I were thrilled to discover an announcement in our church's bulletin last Sunday after Mass. The Catholic school is now offering pre-K3 starting in September! I emailed the director of the school last week, and I'm scheduled to take a tour next Wednesday. This isn't something we planned for at all; it seems as though every single school in the area doesn't being preschool until the age of 4, so I had fully planned on keeping Tony home with me for another year. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. No decisions have been made, nothing has been carved in stone. While I definitely think Tony could benefit from a few days every week of socialization, I'm not sure he's ready yet for preschool. Plus, there's the tuition issue. I kind of had it in my mind that we would have another year to save up for Catholic preschool tuition in the Colorado Springs area (which is significantly pricier than Columbus, GA). We shall see, we shall see.

3. What makes me happy? Babies with chunky thighs and cloth diaper butts.
Right before she went through the entertainment center and grabbed Papa's Apocalypto DVD. Stinker.
4. Someone once told me that cleaning a home with small children underfoot is like brushing your teeth with Oreos. I agree and disagree. I mean, my house is *clean.* It's dirt-free, the bathrooms are regularly scrubbed, the dog hair is vacuumed up daily, etc. But man...the toys. There are toys EVERYWHERE. It doesn't matter how often I ask my children to put them away; within an hour, they'll be out and covering my living room floor again. It's infuriating and amusing at the same time.

5. Want to get your kids to eat something healthy in the mornings? Here I am to the rescue! One of our favorite morning treats is a smoothie I concocted sometime after Tony's first birthday. You will need: 1 cup of Greek vanilla yogurt, 1 cup almond milk, a handful of spinach leaves, 1 banana, and a handful of frozen fruit (we usually do blueberries, or whatever is in the freezer). Blend together, and serve to your kiddos. And yourself. This is a great pre-workout breakfast. Also, it's easy to improvise. We were sans bananas this morning, as they were over-ripe and attracting fruit flies (remember what I said about my house being clean? Feel free to laugh at me), so I just added a random cup of frozen cherries I had in the freezer.

6. Will and I recently registered with our parish (when we move to a new town, we usually attend Mass at a different church every week until we find one that's a good fit for us), and we received the welcome packet in the mail this week. I want to get involved, and I'm having trouble narrowing down 1 or 2 ministries. Help me decide, readers.
a. Mothers' Scripture Study
b. Rosary Prayer Group
c. Natural Family Planning
d. Nursery Care (I do this once a month already)
e. Right to Life
f. Council of Catholic Women

7. I shared this link a few months ago on my Facebook page, but it's so hilarious it deserves a mention on my blog. Go on, click this link. Go on, you won't regret it.

Happy weekend, everyone! For more Quick Takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary!