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Welcome to Making It Count Tuesday, which is every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month. Originally hosted by Sarah and Pam, it's new home in now here at RoL.

If you are new to Making it Count, you simply start with any one of those fabulous ideas you've found online. Then, do it. Make it. Cook it. Create it. Take it from the screen, give it life and let it bless your world. When you're done, snap a photo, write about it and share it with us.

Make your time online count!

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I was originally planning to post about my Instagram/Postal Pix project for this week's Making It Count but I used it for my Operation Clean and Organize post instead.


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So today I am posting about a new recipe I tried. I was in the mood for soup and since Brian was feeling under the weather I thought chicken soup would be perfect but I wanted to do something different from the "normal" chicken soup. I was browsing through recipes online and came across Tyler Florence's Chicken Meatball and Tortellini Soup. I remembered watching him make it on Food Network and he has the recipe here along with a video clip from the show. However, I also have his great cookbook Dinner at My Place and it has a slightly different version of the recipe.


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I used the ingredients listed in his cookbook, which includes milk and fresh bread crumbs. You can also find that version of the recipe on Tyler's website.

The only change I made was for the meatballs. I used 4 low-fat chicken-apple sausage and ½ a pound of ground turkey. (I froze half of them.) Once the meatballs were made, the rest of the soup was super easy to make and everything smells sooo good.

Here is the finished product.


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I added a small grilled sandwich to go with it.


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Brian loved it. I believe his exact words were, "I could eat this every night!" I wouldn't go that far, but this will be a regular in our family meals list!


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Now it's your turn.

1. Choose a tutorial, recipe, or idea that has inspired you. Do it and blog a little about it. It doesn't have to be elaborate -- we just want to see what you've been up to!

2. In your post, link back the original idea whenever possible. We want to be sure that cool idea credit is given to the proper person. Please do not link to Pinterest. Linking to the original blogger insures that proper credit is given where it's due.

3. Make sure you link back here somewhere in your post so others can find us and play along.

4. Link up below. Make sure you're sending us to your actual post, and not to your general blog address. Don't forget to use your own original photo (not someone else's!) as your thumbnail image.

You have a week to post your link, so if you can't get things going by Tuesday, no worries, put it up when you can. We'll be here.



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~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

AND

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It's been a busy week (AGAIN) so it is time for another Saturday morning {pretty, happy, funny, real}/7 Quick Takes Mash-up.


- 1 -


{happy}

All the kids are officially back in school. Bella started the 5th grade - and moved out of jumpers and into skirts. (Although, after this photo day she is wearing her favored uniform pants since she doesn't like skirts. Oops, a little like her mama.)


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Andrew started Pre-K and was all smiles when he found out he got to get out earlier than Bella. (He only goes half-day.)


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- 2 -

It's funny that I imagined myself having all this free time and I had my plans of continuing to clean and organize, I thought of all the projects I'd start and blog posts I'd write but I've done nada! First of all, between three kids attending two schools with three separate school schedules, I spend a good portion of my day lugging kids in and out of the car. In fact, yesterday when I took John-Paul to school, I must have been on auto pilot because I accidentally drive him to School A instead of School B. Luckily, I had enough time to turn around and head in the opposite direction. Anyway, add in a few errands into the mix and I have to drive right back to School A & B for the 1/2 dayers and literally don't get back from "taking them to school" until 1:30, unless it's a speech therapy day, then add an extra hour. By 3pm I'm finally putting the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. Thankfully next week Brian and my father-in-law will be doing a couple of the shifts so that should ease things up.



- 3 -

My other misconception was that mothering would be easier with only Matthew in the house. Egads, I am more exhausted just watching Matthew than I am caring for all four. He is at that "Cyclone Stage" where he runs around the house leaving a path of destruction everywhere. At least with the kids at home he is occupied playing with them and there is always another set of eyes to lets me know when he is causing trouble. We are both getting adjusted. In the meantime, this is what happens when I try to get some housework done.


{funny}


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Put in a load of laundry - find him on the table throwing puzzle pieces.


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Put my breakfast dishes in the dishwasher - find that he gave himself a yogurt facial and shampoo.


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Try to make dinner - it's his invitation to dump out the kitchen cabinets, again.

The first few times, this is cute and photoworthy but as I pick up the dumped cookware he runs and dumps out a book shelf. As I am putting the books back on the shelf, he opens the dishwasher and climbs inside. I get him out and wipe his dirty feet prints off the washer and he runs over and dumps over the trash can. I pick up the trash and find in the rubbish the remote control, my serving spoon and his lost shoe. He's too young for a time out chair and I'm not into spanking but even a little swat on the bottom does nothing. I tried throwing him in his crib and fencing him in but he climbed out and knocked down the barricades. I don't remember any of the kids being this persistent in giving me a heart attack. I don't understand how someone so small and cute can be so strong and relentless. So we'll see how we manage together as the weeks progress.



- 4 -

Okay, since I am getting my complaints off my chest, let me just add one more thing. Normally, the boys get along fairly well but every once in awhile Matthew likes to tease John-Paul by taking one of his toys and running away with it. John-Paul, unable to fully verbalize his displeasure, will resort to screeching at the top of his lungs and grab his toy back. Matthew in turn will yell and screech at the top of his lungs. They were so loud I got flashbacks of those nature shows where the monkeys, chimpanzees, or gorillas go crazy. The boys sounded just like this...



I ran into the room and broke it up and I swear I am still shocked that the neighbors did not call child protective services or the animal control center.



- 5 -


{real}

Somehow all this craziness has made me want to enjoy some of the quieter moments of mothering and homemaking. On the weekends or during a moment of uninterrupted, blessed naptime, I have been feeling domestic and cooking and baking more. I think it is partly because of the weather. Normally we have warmer weather in September but there are still those days when the fog starts to creep in...


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It looks like this.


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Until it completely covers the mountains behind us.


That is when I am most likely to go baking crazy.


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Here we used up all the over ripe bananas with Banana Blueberry Muffins, Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies. In fact someone was asking me for the recipe for the cookies (I tried making them a little lower in fat) so I'll post it next week.



- 6 -

I also dusted off my bread machine and have been making fresh bread for the family. Last night we had Italian wheat bread. The smell of bread baking is lovely!


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It went fast.



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{pretty}

Well, with all the mommy craziness, I certainly need more of God's grace to get through it. I took this photo at the Mission's garden and it reminds me of a mama and her baby.


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It also reminds me of St Therese of the Little Flower. I have to remember that my life with Matthew (and all the kids) is my specific road to sanctity. God knows exactly how selfish, self-centered and impatient I am. He gave me just the little guy I need to help me chip away at those faults and give me opportunities to practice patience, charity and selfless giving. (It also helps to repeat my motto, "And this too shall pass.")

With that, I must get off the computer and practice some virtue in the form of a stinky diaper that needs to be changed, breakfast dishes that need to be washed and countless piles of laundry to be tackled. ;-)

Have a great weekend!


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Recipe: BC's Easy Guacamole

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My father-in-law brought me a big bag of avocados this weekend so I pulled out my favorite guacamole recipe from my sister BC. I love it because it is quick, easy and delicious. (I think it is about time I type out the recipe and get rid of the paper it is written on.)

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Here is the recipe:

4 avocados
1/2 medium red onion
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/2 lime
2 cloves of garlic (or dash or two of garlic powder)
1-2 dashes of olive oil
1 or 2 Jalapenos (optional) (My sisters and bros like it hot but for Brian and the kids, I leave out the chilis. I know. I put my Mexican heritage to shame.)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together. Eat with too many tortilla chips. Yum!


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Recipe: Banana Blueberry Bread

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One of my family's favorite bread is Banana Blueberry Bread. I found the recipe in a much loved cookbook Pillsbury Best Muffins and Quick Breads Cookbook: Favorite Recipes from America's Most-Trusted Kitchen that I received when I got married. I especially like this one because it is lower in fat. Here is the original recipe and my modified version.


Original Recipe

-- 1 cup sugar
-- 1/2 cup oil
-- 3 mashed ripe bananas
-- 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
-- 1 teaspoon vanilla
-- 2 eggs
-- 2 cups all-purpose flour
-- 1 teaspoon baking soda
-- 1/2 teaspoon salt
-- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Modified Recipe

-- 3/4 cup sugar
-- 1/2 cup oil
-- 3 very ripe bananas
-- 1/2 cup apple sauce or vanilla yogurt
-- 1 teaspoon vanilla
-- 2 eggs
-- 1 cup all-purpose flour
-- 1 cup whole wheat flour
-- 1 teaspoon baking soda
-- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
-- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
-- 1/2 teaspoon salt
-- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Directions:

1. Heat oven 350. Grease and flour bottoms only of pans. (I use nonstick spray and skip this step.) In large bowl, combine sugar and oil; beat well. Add bananas, yogurt, vanilla and sugars. Blend well.

2. Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; add to wet ingredients. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in blueberries. Pour into pans.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes (for mini-loaves) and 60-70 minutes (for a regular 9x5 loaf pan) or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans. Cool 30 minutes or until completely cooled. (Make sure to cool on a wire rack to avoid bread getting soggy.) Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator. (I just realized it said store in the fridge. I never have. It's gone before it gets a chance to spoil.)

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I made this bread the other day but we were out of blueberries so Brian asked me to use chocolate chips instead. Chocolate?? You don't have to ask me twice! It was even yummier. :-)

Here are my "helpers" in the kitchen. ;-) And the finished product.

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The Next Iron Chef 2011

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Are you ready for some cooking drama?? Good because tonight starts The Next Iron Chef 4. This is the first year that I actually know (almost) all the chefs.

Also, a bit of trivia that I just learned from a friend, last year's Iron Chef winner Marc Forgione is the great-great-great nephew of Francesco Forgione, otherwise known as Padre Pio. Very cool.

Happy watching! And let me know who you're rooting for!

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**Taming the procrastinating, ADD, mess cat within me.**

It's been hard working on my organizing project since things have been so busy lately! This time of year will only get busier so if I don't post on this topic that often, you'll know why. However, I have been able to work a little bit on my pantry. My kitchen is on the small side, and technically, there is no pantry. I have the usual cupboards for dishes, plastics and pots and pans. Anything left over, I can use for food storage.

The one cupboard that gives me the most trouble is a tall and narrow cabinet on the side of the fridge and behind the swinging door that leads into the family room. The shelving is weird - the top has short shelves and there is a huge empty section on the bottom. I could try to redo the shelving but time is short and I needed a quick fix that I can live with right now.

The cabinet is mostly used for snack foods, lunch box items and taller bottles (oils, vinegars, cooking wine, etc) that don't fit in the other cupboards.

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I went to Target and purchase six stacking containers and one mini-drawer container. (Unfortunately the two stores I went to had only four white stacking boxes left but I found two black ones on clearance for 75 cents. I can live with two tones.)

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I put all the lunch box items in the containers and labeled them.

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The smaller items like boxes of raisins and fruit chew and the items the kids don't eat (protein bars) are put in the mini-drawer container.

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On the door of the cabinet I keep my pantry inventory list for food in my fridge and freezer.

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For my labels, I printed on Avery Labels #8163 and stuck it to a colored index cards and trimmed the edges. For this door label, instead of an index card, I used a blank stationary card with a pretty pattern and cut it down to size. (I picked up a box of the cards at Target in the $1 section.)

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I ordered the personalized pantry lists from Jen at iheartorganizing.blogspot.com. They are available through her etsy shop.

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Large size: View image

Then I placed them in sheet protectors and attached them to the door with blue painters tape. That way I can easily remove and update a list.

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The last problem I had with this cabinet is that there was no way to keep the door locked so John-Paul wouldn't dump out all the containers and snacks on the floor (after he sampled a few.) I finally figured out a solution. I purchased a package of Command Mini-Hooks.

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I placed one next to the cabinet handle then I took a large rubber band and looped it through the handle and hung it on the hook. Now JP can't get his little fingers into the cabinet and open it up. Problem solved!

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Well, that's all I have time for today. In the next weeks I'll be finishing organizing the food cabinets in the kitchen and organizing the garage pantry. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts and ideas! Enjoy your day. :-)

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7 Quick Takes - 9/16/11

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Hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary.


- 1 -


First I want to start with an exciting take. I am going to be an aunt again. Yay! My little sis EML is expecting baby # 4 in April. Wow, she'll have four children under the age of four. That scares the beejeebies out of me! But if anyone can do it, (and with with amazing results) my sister can!


- 2 -


Okay, and to put a smile on your face, here is a photo of my little niece Greta announcing the upcoming arrival of her sibling. How cute is she? I love the expression on her face. LOL!


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- 3 -


My own little guy turned five months old this week. We've nicknamed him Mr. Smiley because he lights up whenever you talk to him. He's a happy kid!


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- 4 -


For the last five months I've been working to lose weight and get healthier. The good news is that I've lost all the baby weight and weight the same as when I got pregnant. Yay! The bad news is that I way the same as when I got pregnant. Boo. Now on Phase 2, I want to continue losing and get to a healthy weight. It's a lot more than a few pounds. I hear other moms in a size 12 or 14 saying how fat they are blah, blah, blah. Save it, honey. Size 14 is my goal weight! Just saying.... ;-)



- 5 -


I've been doing Weight Watchers and have been averaging a pound a week with just the food changes. I do better when I add in exercise but I'm still slacking on getting into an exercise routine. But I'm working on it.


- 6 -


You know, if I was to blow my diet I think this would be my weapon of choice - these chocolate and peanut butter brownies. Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard...


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- 7 -


Okay, got a busy day ahead of me so I better get to work. Have a great weekend!

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E-Book: Family Menu Planning

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Speaking of books, I recently came across the blog Family Menu Planning Book.com by Catholic convert Elizabeth Hawbaker and saw her e-book Family Menu Planning: A Practical Guide to Mealtime Management. I just downloaded it and I'm loving it so far. Some of the shopping tips I already mentioned here but there is a lot of great info that will help me with my meal planning. The e-book is only $3.99 for the Amazon Kindle version. It is worth it.

Note: You don't have to actually have a Kindle to read the book. You can download kindle onto your PC or smart phone. I have mine on my iphone and I'm using Amazon Cloud (until Apple gets their cloud!) so I can read it on any computer.

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**Taming the procrastinating, ADD, mess cat within me.**

Over the last week I was hoping to work on organizing my pantry and making master shopping lists. However, all four kids have been sick with colds and sore throats, which has made the baby extra cranky, so I didn't get very far. I did, however, realize how much I not only needed to organize and replenish the pantry but I needed to throw out old expired items. Yesterday I wanted to make quick BBQ chicken in the slow cooker. I saw this recipe on Pinterest. It looked super easy and I had all the ingredients.

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Well, I had the ingredients but they weren't exactly fresh. My vinegar was expired not just by a couple months but by a few years - as in, I bought it about three pregnancies ago! (Yeah, you can see how often I used to cook homemade.) But that was fine. I had another kind of vinegar that I could use instead. Wait, that was expired too but not by so many years. However, it had a lot of gross gunk in it and I wasn't going to use it.

Okay, forget that recipe. There was this easy recipe that I found that didn't require vinegar. It sounded a bit weird to mix Italian dressing with BBQ sauce but all the reviewers raved about it. I ran to the garage pantry to grab a bottle of dressing. Brian likes it so I keep an extra bottle for him. What?? I ran out? Oh. Em. Gee. What kind of pathetic kitchen is this?!?

By this time my 20 minute window of opportunity was up and the baby was crying and JP spilled his milk. Ugh! Finally I just threw in the frozen chicken in the crock pot and poured a bottle of BBQ sauce on top (it was a miracle I had that) and flipped it on for 3 ½ hours. Soooo, my pantry needs more work that I thought. It'll be at least another week before I post about them.

I did, however, finish my shopping lists. I used to keep four post it notes on the fridge. One for each store I shopped at - Target, Costco, Trader Joe and the local market, although I usually only go to the market for quick last minute things. This made a quick run to the store easy because you grabbed the post it you needed and left the ones you didn't.

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However, once I put up my menu board, it took up too much space, so now I use a narrow magnetic notepad sectioned off into four. Since I no longer make sporadic shopping runs, I don't need separate post its. I organize my shopping lists, check over the week's menu and do my shopping once a week.

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Since I usually always buy the same items at Costco and Trader Joe, I use my iphone Shopper app. (The ads can be annoying so I paid the $1.99 to be ad free.) I made a template shopping list for each store. When it is time to shop I take down my fridge list and mark off what needs to be purchased to create an e-list for that week. I've used the e-list on my phone while I shop but I usually have one of the kids with me and they like to play with my iphone so instead I email the list to myself and print it out. It makes things so much easier!

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(Apple photo)


For my Target shopping, a master list didn't work because it varied so much from week to week - from new shoes for the baby to a school notebook for Bella. A blank list worked best. However, my Target was recently redesigned and it is taking me some time to get used the new location of favorite items. I decided to make a shopping list with categories according to the layout of the store. That way I can start at one end and work my way around to the other side. I've used it a few time and it is so much easier to get things done.

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Well, that pretty much wraps it up. This is the system that works best for me. What works for you?

Over the next week I'll continue working on the pantry - oh, and don't even get me started on the bug infested wheat flour I had to throw away! Oh, well. On the plus side, the chicken with only BBQ sauce was a hit! Brian took leftovers for lunch and he said his coworker wanted to know where he got that delicious smelling BBQ chicken. If he only knew. ;-) Happy organizing.

UPDATE: For shopping list tips check out the blog Family Menu Planning Book.com by Catholic convert Elizabeth Hawbaker and her e-book Family Menu Planning: A Practical Guide to Mealtime Management. I just downloaded it and there is a lot of great info that will help me with my meal planning and shopping.

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**Taming the procrastinating, ADD, mess cat within me.**


**(To read the introductory post, click here.)**


It is week two of Operation Clean and Organize and this week I've been working on a menu board. Some moms prefer to make a monthly menu but that doesn't work for me. Planning one week ahead is all I can handle right now!

I looked at various styles of menu boards to see what appealed to me. I previously had a dry erase board but over time the erase ability of the board deteriorated. I thought of using a magnetic board because I really liked this one but it was too big and I wanted it to be weekly not monthly.

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I decided to make my own smaller magnetic weekly menu. I spent a total of about $20 for a magnetic board the right size to fit on my fridge, a pack of Avery Printable Magnetic Sheets, and "Days of the Week" magnets that I found at Target in the Back to School seasonal section.

Next I sat down and made a master list of all the meals, side dishes and veggies I normally cook. In a Word document I made four columns of labels and typed up the list of foods. I wanted to keep track of days when I had appointments so I would know to plan easy or slow-cooker meals on those days. I also wanted to mark days when I had to pack the kids' lunches for school.

I color coded the labels: main dish - blue, sides - orange, veggies - green, appointments - purple, and school lunches - red. I made sure to have a number of blank labels to fill in later as I tried new recipes. Next, I printed and cut out the labels. Lastly, I arranged the meals on my board along with a shrunken down copy of Bella's school lunch menu.

Here's what it looks like.

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The first week using it has been great. We'll see how it stands the test of time. :-)

That's it for this week. Next week I'll be working on organizing my pantry and making master shopping lists. Share your own ideas in the comments and happy organizing!

POSTSCRIPT:

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that this organizing business is getting fun. Who knew? But you must make sure that your motherly duties are attended to first. Otherwise you will have to find out that your earlier statement of "he should be able to eat his yogurt alone without making too much mess while I make a quick post" was not only false but stupid thinking. So be forewarned. Wait until the kids are asleep. (And this was after I cleaned off his hair and face.)

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UPDATE: For meal planning tips check out the blog Family Menu Planning Book.com by Catholic convert Elizabeth Hawbaker and her e-book Family Menu Planning: A Practical Guide to Mealtime Management. I downloaded it and there is a lot of great info that will help me with my meal planning.

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