Becoming the Domesticated Diva

Finding my inner homemaker… one flub at a time!

Zucchini Squash Casserole.. yumm!

Hello lovely readers!

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been trying lots of new recipes lately.  You see, we’ve been getting a produce delivery every week to our home and it’s really made a difference in the food we eat.  Plus, I get to make my son’s baby food from very fresh produce!  (More on that later!)  With all the summer veggies coming in I decided that today I’d share one of my new, easy favorites.. Zucchini Squash Casserole.  Let me tell you – worth every minute it took to prepare!  (which wasn’t long!)  🙂  Enjoy!

Zucchini Squash Casserole

  • 2 – 3 squash
  • 2 – 3 zucchini (in my recipe, I used golden zucchini – which is the same thing, just yellow in color)
  • 1 med. onion
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (I like the kind in the jar – just because it’s easier)
  • salt, pepper, Italian blend seasoning (the kind in the spice aisle – not the dressing kind)
  • 1 cup Italian blend cheese (or just mozzarella works also!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven 400 degrees.
  2. Dice onion and mince garlic (if you went with fresh).  Throw them in a saute pan with the olive oil until it is all softened.  (About 5 minutes).  While this is cooking – go ahead and cut your zucchini and squash.
  3. Spray the inside of an 8×8 square pan (or similar pan) with non stick cooking spray.  Put the onion mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Alternating the zucchini and squash, place them vertically in the pan on top of the onions.  Season with salt, pepper and Italian blend seasoning.
  4. Cover with foil and and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove foil, and yummy cheese and bake another 15 – 20 minutes until the cheese is slightly golden brown.

    IMG_0896

    Should look about like this..

  6. Carefully remove foil after a few minutes and then dig in!  Veggies are tender, cheesy and delicious!  Enjoy!

    IMG_0901

    mmmhmmm! 🙂

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Easy Garlic Chicken!

garlic chicken

I bet your mouth is already watering, isn’t it? 🙂

I’d love to take credit for that delicious looking picture.. but I can’t.  It’s from http://www.food.com – along with the recipe.  I did make a few tweaks from the original recipe though, and I must say – it turned out great!  🙂  So here goes!

Easy Garlic Chicken

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic (I usually get the kind in the jar – easier that way!)
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • several good shakes of Dash All Purpose Seasoning (no salt kind), or any other all purpose seasoning

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line cookie sheet or baking dish with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Saute the garlic and oil until the garlic is tender (3-5 minutes) in a small saute pan.
  3. Remove from heat and add brown sugar and all purpose seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place chicken on top of the foil and cover with the brown sugar mixture.

    yummmm.

    yummmm.

  5. Bake uncovered until chicken juices run clear.  Usually for thicker breasts, about 30 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!  🙂

    Finished product!

    Finished product!
    (If you notice I didn’t use the foil, I generally use one of these drip style pans while cooking chicken. I did spray the top of it however – easier removal!)

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Time flies!

Hello lovely readers!

Sorry for the time lapse.. seems like the weeks flew by in a second! I promise to make it up to you with some yummy recipes this week. 🙂

I’ve been looking into a few new things with this site: trying to get it on its own, monetize it a bit and do a few more fun things. Its definitely been a lot of work that’s taken time – and will continue to take a bit more time, but I love finding all this stuff out! And I can’t wait for my readers to see all the changes!

And now on to some yummy recipes! 🙂

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Rotel Chicken

So for tonight’s easy peasy, yummy to the max dinner.. I give you:  Rotel Chicken!

This is some seriously good food that is so super easy, you’ll wonder why you waited this long to try it!  The chicken is perfect for nachos,  burritos or just by itself with some rice.  And only 3 ingredients!

Yummy!

Yummy!

Rotel Chicken

  • 1.5 – 2lbs chicken breast (you can also use cutlets or tenders; I use whatever is on sale. :))
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 packet taco seasoning

Throw everything in the crockpot for approx 5 hours.  I usually put the chicken in mostly frozen, and leave it for 6 hours.  Shred it about a half hour before serving.

That’s it!  Easy, pretty healthy and delicious!  Let me know how it turns out for you!

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Planning ahead..

Having my baby 10 weeks early was certainly not in the plans.  I had every intention of working as long as possible so I could spend as much time at home afterwards.. but boy am I glad I started saving as soon as I found out I was pregnant.  By no means were my husband and I well off when we decided I should stay home with our child for as long as possible, we just knew it was what we thought would be best for our child.

I started taking half of my paycheck and putting it into an online savings account (ING which is now Capital One) and we lived off (mostly) my husband’s income.  It wasn’t easy saying no to some things, or limiting others.. but we knew it would work out for the best.  I was excited to see my savings pile up, and even more excited to see my belly get bigger.  🙂  And then November came, and things got crazy fast.  You never know how much to plan to spend on having a baby.. and trust me, things never work out as you plan anyway.  Now in the aftermath, where we are still getting bills 5 months later.. I’m just thankful for my little savings account.  We’ve managed to pay most of the bills (so far), have a few outings here and there.. and keep lots of food on the table.  Its not easy, and it is certainly getting harder… but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Here’s a checklist of things we did to prepare for those soon to be “stay at home Mom (or Dad)s”:

  • Start early.  Had I known then what I know now, we would have started to minute we even THOUGHT about getting pregnant, rather than waiting til I actually did.  The NICU bills are the worst, and those eat up your savings quicker than anything else.
  • Do your best to live off of one salary (ideally the one who will continue to work).  For us, I started with saving $150/week.. and then after a few weeks I would bump it up.  That way I had some time to adjust not having my own money to do things with whenever I wanted.
  • Plan for birthdays/holidays.  I started Christmas shopping in October when I still had a paycheck coming in.. which was lucky since I was done before my baby arrived at the end of November.
  • Do something fun away from home at least once a month.  This is important for two reasons – 1) since I’m at home a lot, it gives me something to look forward to and its a new adventure for the family.  2) It reminds us that we can still have fun on a limited budget.  We have gone to the park, to visit my parents down at their lake house, a date night dinner without our son, or to Disney.  We have Disney passes because we go often and receive a discount for renewal and in the park.  The cost is worth it.  Plus, we can’t wait to take our little one there!
  • Talk over your budget before hand.  You can be as detailed or general as you want, just make sure you are both aware of bills and whether or not you can actually do this.
  • Look for savings whenever possible in buying things.  I love http://www.southernsavers.com and http://www.retailmenot.com.  SouthernSavers is where I compare my weekly Publix ad and print off extra coupons.  I know everyone has their own couponing methods, but this one works for me – and I’ve started saving an average of $90/shopping trip, basically half of my bill.  Get to know your regular grocery store and their couponing policies.  It takes some time, but, hey.. I have the time now and if I can save that much money per week by spending an extra hour finding and printing coupons, its worth it to our budget.  I also love RetailMeNot because they have coupons for almost EVERY store, website, etc that you can think of.  I’ve gotten lots of deals this way.  Plus, they have a mobile app that makes it easy when you’re out.
  • Use what you have – or trade for what you need.  This one is big.  I think most of us are guilty of going out and buying whatever is new, cool, etc. – but think about what you may already have on hand first.  I’ve been spending lots of time cleaning out boxes we packed when first moving into our home and realized we have LOTS of stuff.  Some are things we’ve duplicated since then because we didn’t remember having it to begin with, or just wanted something new.  So now we’re of the mindset that if we can make it work, we do.  If we can use it up first, do that.  The things we don’t want or can’t use anymore, we toss, give away or try to sell.  Not only does it make our house cleaner, more organized – it makes us more appreciative.

What about you readers?  Have ideas do you have to help a stay at home Mom or Dad?  What have you done to afford staying at home?  OR – making money from home?  Can’t wait to hear your ideas!

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Orange Creamsicle Cake

So I was at Target a month or so ago and was rummaging through the $1 racks and found the *cutest* Easter plates and napkins.  I decided it was a sign.  I had to make something delicious for Easter with my family.  Not something for dinner, my dad always takes care of that.  But something for dessert.  My husband has been doing a lot of the grocery shopping for us since I’ve been home with our son, and with me watching our pennies and clipping coupons, I gave him the grocery list asking for two Duncan Hines ( http://www.duncanhines.com ) cake mixes; buy one, get one and a coupon – how could I resist? – but I didn’t specify flavors.  He came home with strawberry (a house favorite) and orange.  Orange?  We never eat orange.  What the heck was I going to do with an orange cake mix?

Well, I decided Easter was the perfect excuse to use my orange cake mix.  And boy am I glad I did.  I knew somewhere I could find a recipe for a “creamsicle cake” – and this one was perfect.  Moist and delicious – and easy.  Found it on http://www.cooks.com.

Creamsicle Cake

  • 1 orange cake mix
  • 1 small pkg. orange Jello
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 (8oz) container Cool Whip
  • 1 small instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. orange extract (optional)
  1. Mix orange cake mix according to directions.  Pour into 13×9 in pan and bake according to instructions.
  2. Remove cake from oven and poke holes in the cake 1 inch apart with a fork.
  3. Mix Jello with 1 cup hot water and 1/2 cup cold water.  (Follow instructions on package)
  4. Pour evenly over cooled cake.
  5. Mix Cool Whip, instant pudding, milk, vanilla (and orange extract if you want).  Beat until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Spread evenly over cake.

I didn’t use the orange extract (because I didn’t have any) and it still tasted amazing.

Good luck with your baking readers!  I’ll be sharing another new recipe soon!  🙂

Orange creamsicle cake!

Orange creamsicle cake!

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Part Three, HELLP Syndrome.

Final part of my little mini series..

I entered into week 29 feeling pretty good.  I was out of work due to my blood pressure, and was checking my blood sugar four times a day, but overall I was just feeling thankful for every little kick my little man was giving me.  It was a blessing to feel him, and although my singing voice was sort of gone due to allergies, I knew he appreciated it anyway.  🙂

The first day of week 29, my grandfather was admitted into the hospital with chest pains.  They weren’t exactly sure what was wrong with him, so they ran a bunch of tests, which didn’t amount to much.  They let him go home, with the promise to go back the following Monday to his regular doctor.  My family decided we weren’t going to do Thanksgiving that Thursday because we wanted my grandfather to be feeling his best.  So, my husband, brother and I had our own Thanksgiving that Thursday.. and a nice, relaxing Friday afterwards.  Until about 11pm.. when I started having chest pains.  I initially thought that maybe my little man had just moved into my rib cage, and since I’d never felt that before, I figured that must be it.  An hour later.. I took some Tums, thinking maybe I had indigestion.  Two more hours later, the pain had started to become unbearable and I woke my husband to take me to the hospital.  I spent the weekend there, working to lower my blood pressure, trying to get the pain under control and hoping to stop the sudden vomiting I experienced.  Saturday morning, the on call doctor came in to tell me she thought I had developed HELLP syndrome.  She had ordered x-rays to double check the pain wasn’t coming from my gallbladder and I was told the NICU doctor would be in to see my husband and I because she was pretty sure they were going to have to take my son later that day.  Luckily, my liver enzymes started climbing back to normal, as did my white blood count.  I was told to go home and stay on complete bed rest – the doctor was hoping I could go at least 4 more weeks.  I lasted two more days.

By the time I got to the hospital a couple days later, I had severe pain in my chest again and my blood pressure was through the roof.  I was thankful for the steroid shots I had gotten that weekend to help my son’s lungs open once he was born, because two hours after I got there, the doctor told me he had to go ahead and take my baby – or else. (I found out later that it would mean I may be in ICU myself).  I was able to stay awake long enough to see him after he was born, and then I was hooked up to magnesium for the next 36 hours to help return my liver enzymes, blood pressure, and white blood count back to normal.  Once I was able to get off the magnesium and the worst was over, I was able to see my son.  And a few days after that, I was finally able to go home.

So what exactly is HELLP syndrome?  According to http://www.webmd.com, HELLP syndrome is “a life-threatening liver disorder thought to be a type of severe preeclampsia. It is characterized by Hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes (which indicate liver damage), and Low Platelet count.”  Here’s what you need to know:

How does HELLP syndrome effect me?

  • Symptoms include:  headache, vision problems, upper chest pain, nausea, vomiting and seizures.
  • Delivering the baby is the only way to reverse these symptoms.
  • The exact cause is unknown, but it is closely related to preeclampsia.

How does HELLP syndrome effect my baby?

  • It effects the baby because it effects the mother so drastically.  It can not only cause renal failure, permanent liver failure, retinal detachment (where the retina removes itself from the supporting tissue), but also placental abruption (where the placenta lining detaches from the uterus of the mother).  That is why, depending on how sudden and severe the symptoms, delivering the baby is vital.

Is this common?

  • Not so much.  It is only present in about 0.2-0.6% of all pregnancies.  The actual cause is unclear, and it is often misdiagnosed, so many blood tests will be performed.  In my case, I had 3-5 blood vials drawn every 4 hours to check my liver enzymes and blood platelets.
  • Some factors seem to increase risk:  previous pregnancy with HELLP syndrome (19-27% recurrence), preeclampsia, women over 25, Caucasian,  and if you’ve given birth 2 or more times.

For more information on HELLP syndrome:

As for me, I had a perfectly healthy baby boy and I hope to have another baby in the next year or two.  I know that it may be an uphill battle, but I also know it could be easy peasy.  So I’m preparing myself now for a healthy, happy, problem free pregnancy by getting my blood pressure under control and making sure I am as healthy as possible before I start.  For any of you that have had issues, or happy stories to share – please comment!  I’d love to talk to you about them.  🙂

Just born!

Just born – 3lbs, 1oz!

Easter!

Easter – Over 14lbs!

I promise my next entry will be happier!  🙂  I’m actually pretty excited to share a couple recipes I found over the last two weeks – so I hope you’re in the mood for something sweet!

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Pregnancy oddities, part two..

Part two of a mini series.  🙂

Soon after we found out about the two vessel umbilical cord, things took a turn for the crazy.  It soon became a joke with our doctor that I would become a checklist of things one could get while pregnant.    I’d actually been on a “pregnancy approved” blood pressure medicine for over a year when I became pregnant to control my slightly high blood pressure.  But around week 22, I began to notice my blood pressure wasn’t being controlled by my medicine.  I went from taking 1 pill every other day (basically when I remembered), to taking 2 a day and it still not working properly.  Work certainly wasn’t helping my stress level, and I began retaining water everywhere.  My face was swollen, my feet were swollen.. I was a mess.  My doctor told me I had to do a 24 hour urine test to test for preeclampsia.  Unfortunately for me.. I had to do that particular test 3 times.  The last time was the week before I had my son.  My doctor was a little late giving me my final results:  I had developed preeclampsia.

In the middle of my 3 urine tests, I had to take the test to measure my blood sugar.  Due to my age and family history of diabetes, there was a good chance I was going to develop gestational diabetes.  And, sure enough.. I did.  So, around week 26, I had to start taking my blood four times a day and watching my diet.  Again I started researching what this meant for me and my baby.  Here’s what I learned:

How does having preeclampsia effect me?

  • That depends on how soon it develops.  Most women develop a mild case close to their due date, but its fairly easy to control and doesn’t effect mother or baby much.
  • If it develops early, it can cause life threatening problems.  Blood vessels constrict and reduce blood flow to your brain, kidneys and liver.
  • Symptoms include:  vision problems, nausea, severe or persistent headache, swelling, and pain or tenderness in upper abdomen.  (I experienced swelling and had chest and back pains so severe it took my breath and proceeded to get worse despite tylenol, stretching and laying down)

How does having preeclampsia effect the baby?

  • Limited blood flow to the baby can effect growth, can cause too little amniotic fluid to be produced and placental abruption (where it separates from the uterine wall).

Is this common?  How did I put myself at risk?

  • This happens in about 5% of pregnancies.
  • Having hypertension prior to pregnancy increases risk (check!), having a relative that’s had it, having a mass body index of 30 or more, being younger than 20 or older than 40, having blood clotting disorders, carrying multiple children.  So, in my case.. I only had one of the risk factors.

How does one manage preeclampsia?

  • Depends on when its diagnosed and how severe.  If its mild, and you’re at 37 weeks or more, you’ll more than likely be induced.  If its before 37 weeks, you will more than likely be put on bed rest and monitored.  If its severe, and you’re at 34 weeks or more, you will more than likely be induced.  If its before 34 weeks, you’ll be given steroids (which is what happened to me) and monitored extremely closely.  If it becomes worse, or you start to develop HELLP syndrome, they will induce (which is why I had a c-section at 30 weeks).  **More about HELLP in the next part.**

For more info on preeclampsia, check out:

How does having gestational diabetes effect me?

  • For the most part, it doesn’t effect the mother.  It is just a matter of controlling the diet and exercising – sometimes medication is needed as well.

How does having gestational diabetes effect the baby?

  • If the blood sugar levels are too high, it can effect the baby by causing too much glucose in the baby’s blood.  When this happens, the pancreas has to work overtime and the baby can become overweight.  This can eventually cause the baby to be overweight as an adult.

Is this common?

  • It is one of the most common things that can happen during pregnancy – approximately 2-10% of pregnancies.

Will I continue to have it after the baby is born?  Does it mean I’ll develop it later in life?

  • For most women, it goes away immediately after giving birth.  However, about a third will continue to have elevated blood sugar levels.
  • And about a third to a half of women who develop gestational diabetes will develop regular diabetes later in life, especially if you have the following:  obesity, gestational diabetes developed early in pregnancy, or had to be on medication during pregnancy.

For more info on gestational diabetes, check out:

The final part coming soon!

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Pregnancy oddities

Part one of a mini series..

While I was pregnant, I read a lot.  Like most pregnant women, you always wonder about every little thing that comes up.  You sneeze and wonder if the baby felt it, you have an upset stomach and you wonder if the baby will starve – completely irrational things, but things you wonder about nonetheless.  During my pregnancy, I spent the first few months in complete bliss.  I felt great!  Got to eat all kinds of yummies, didn’t have to worry about gaining weight (too much!), and didn’t have any morning sickness.  I had a couple migraines which led to me getting sick on my stomach (which then led to my eyes swelling shut because of allergies); but despite that, I had a fairly problem free pregnancy.  Until about 20 weeks.  That’s when everything started for me.  And for the next 10 weeks, I learned more about the oddities of pregnancy than I ever expected.  Because of this, and because I know it happens to other women, I wanted to share my experiences and what I’ve learned.  I never dreamed I’d go through these things… heck, I never even knew these things could happen.  But hopefully my sharing will help others when they go through them and don’t know what to expect.

It all started when I had my triple blood test – the one that checks for various problems your child could have at birth, including Downs Syndrome.  My doctor told me I probably didn’t have anything to worry about.  I didn’t have the normal “warning signs” – not over 35, no history of birth defects in my family, no diabetes, etc.  However, about 4 weeks later… the test came back with much higher than normal chances that my little one had Downs Syndrome.  I was devastated.  I couldn’t believe it.  So, my doctor recommended an in depth sonogram to look for any other discrepancies.

Off to the Winnie Palmer Hospital (http://www.orlandohealth.com/winniepalmerhospital) I went.  There, my doctor found that not only did my little guy have extra fluid on one of his kidneys (another symptom of concern), but I also had a two vessel umbilical cord (yet another symptom).  Because Winnie Palmer is a research hospital, my doctor recommended I try a new blood test that had just come on the market that separates the mother and the baby’s DNA and is able to check for the extra chromosome 21 which indicates Downs.  I was thankful for an option (called MaterniT21) that wasn’t invasive – but gave me another chance to know for sure.  And thankfully, a couple of weeks later I got word.  Less than a 1% chance that my son would have Downs.  By then I had come to realize that it wouldn’t matter either way, my baby was going to be getting lots of love no matter what.  But I did have to worry about these other things that were definite.  The fluid on the kidney was somewhat common with boys anyway – so I turned my worry over to the two vessel umbilical cord.  What did that mean?  How did it effect my son?  And how did it effect me?  Here’s what I discovered..

How does having a 2 vessel umbilical cord effect me?

  • It doesn’t.  The cord only effects the baby.

How does having a 2 vessel umbilical cord effect the baby?

  • Sometimes, it doesn’t.  The most common thing is a lower birth weight, because it does effect the back and forth flow from mother to baby.  The one artery does make up for the work of the missing one.
  • There is a very minimal increase in risk of stillborn birth.
  • Because the baby’s heart and kidneys form around the same time as the umbilical cord, there is a slight increase of abnormalities in these organs.  Your baby will probably be examined a bit more closely during the last trimester and/or after the baby is born.

Is this common?

  • More so than you might think.  It happens in about 1-1.5% of pregnancies.

How did this happen to me?

  • There’s no real answer to that.  It’s just something that happens sometimes.

Next week.. I’ll share what I learned about hypertension (high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes during my pregnancy.  And to all you new or expectant mothers out there, take care!  🙂

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The journey began..

May 19, 2012.  The day that changed my life.  🙂

As my long term readers might know, my husband and I decided at the beginning of 2012 that we were ready to start having babies.  We went on vacation to Washington DC in mid May and we knew there was a chance I could be pregnant.  By the time we came home, it was pretty obvious – especially to my husband.  🙂  Still, I almost didn’t believe the first test.. or the second.  For about three days, I took a test every morning.  Until the doctor confirmed with the blood test, I couldn’t believe it.  And then we got the total confirmation.  I was definitely pregnant.

preg test

No one ever tells you how emotional it all is. Or how consuming it can be.   You read about it and you talk about it with friends, but you never really realize how much it is until you’ve been there.  I have to admit, the first couple months – even up until month six at times – I was terrified of having a miscarriage.  I’ve had friends who had them and I thought it was probably the hardest thing someone would have to go through.  Then I look at those strong women and I see how brave they are to just get back on the wagon and try again; because although you’ve done everything possible right; sometimes, it just happens.  I was happy that I was becoming a mother – and that I could pretty much eat all the time, a big perk.  🙂  I was nervous I would do something wrong, not be a good mom, or that my child might develop.. something, anything.  I was excited about getting his room ready, buying him clothes.  At some point along the way, you realize that its not about you anymore, its about your child.  I rarely look at clothes for myself anymore, mostly because clothes for him are just so darn cute.

We wanted to wait a while before telling everyone – though of course it slipped out.  To tell my parents, we made up a sign:

2012-06-05_17-49-38_163

To a few friends, we were just too excited to wait any longer to tell them.  And to my boss, well.. about 7 weeks in my blood sugar dropped and I almost passed out in the Zaxby’s drive through, so that was the day I had to tell her.  Finally, after almost 3 months – we were able to share with everyone on Facebook.

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There were many more adventures to be had, I quickly learned.  So this entry is only the beginning…   🙂

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