Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2015

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I love Christmas and New Years. It’s my favorite time of year but this past year was just plain crazy. Being gone over Thanksgiving and then coming home sick meant December was halfway over before I came up for air. So, it seemed to me that Christmas came up rather quick and I felt quite unprepared!

That doesn’t mean we didn’t celebrate – even if I was sick (yes, again!) on Christmas.

Alyssa playing “Mary” at the school Christmas play.

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Kaitlyn and Caleb both had speaking roles and did a great job. (all photos of them contain photos of other children so I can’t post them here but trust me they did great!)

After the program, it was off to Florida and even though Kirk and I were both sick we still had fun on Christmas Day :)

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Receiving some gifts they really wanted:

Yes, Julianna REALLY wanted a microscope!

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Okay, so body puzzle wasn’t top on her list (that Leo doll to her left was) but she loves knowing what’s inside our bodies, so she thought this was pretty cool.

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A teacher set. She loves to play school.

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Getting $100 is pretty cool but getting halfway to a new laptop you’ve been saving for makes it even better! I think she liked it :)

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That is his happy face…

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My whole crazy family :) They were hoping to Photoshop me in – I was NOT feeling well and was more than happy to be on the other end of the camera.

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And because we’re from Virginia, it’s just fine to go to the beach in December!

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She loves her shells!!

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And Happy 2015 to you!

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As it is a new year it’s time for me to make resolutions. If you remember I love making them!

This year, I’m still working on them :)

Last year, I really wanted to re-do the house and we started off well. I still haven’t posted pictures but we re-made Kaitlyn’s room completely over the summer. What I didn’t plan for last year was a trip overseas and all the prep work that would entail.

The cool thing is – I did two things last year that I’ve always wanted to do:

1. Fly overseas.
2. Learn to sew.

I’m pretty excited to have those checked off my list even if they weren’t official resolutions!

BUT, this year I’d still like to
– read through the Bible
– finish decorating the house
– be more organized
– spend less money
– figure out what to do with writing
– try to learn a new language – this is something I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten to. The question is, which one?? Having traveled to Russia, I’d love to learn Russian but it’s an extremely hard language to learn. So Spanish?

Still working that out :)

To keep things even I have to post a picture of the other two girls!

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Thanksgiving in Moscow, Russia

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About two years ago one of my closest friends moved to Russia. I promised when she left that I’d come visit her but the truth is I didn’t have a Passport and I’ve never flown out of the country so even though I wanted to I was afraid it wouldn’t happen. Thankfully God had other plans and through lots of support and an invitation to teach preschool at a retreat my friend would be attending Kaitlyn and I were heading to Moscow!

Not without some bumps on the way, of course. Like I said I didn’t have a Passport so I had to apply for one which should be a simple and straightforward process except that after all of my papers for my Passport and Visa had been processed the Post Office lost my Passport! Well, there is some debate – it’s possible the travel agency didn’t actually adhere my label to my package because somehow the label on my passport found its way on to someone else’s package! So instead of receiving 2 Passports I received a suit jacket. For well over a week no one had any idea where my Passport was. By God’s grace and nothing short of a miracle my blank package was located in Atlanta and overnighted to me. Just five days before our plane was to take off I knew I would be able to go. Talk about cutting it close!

Getting ready for our first flight overseas (obviously BEFORE the 9 1/2 hours in the air):

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Oh yes, it was a long flight:

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But no rest for the weary. Due to the time change it may have been time for bed in Virginia but it was early morning in Moscow and we had a FULL day ahead of us and sleeping wasn’t on the agenda.

Our first day in Moscow meant we were full-on tourists with my good friend, Kristy as our tour guide and translator.

Kaitlyn and Kristy in the center of Moscow:

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And Kaitlyn in front of Saint Basil’s in Red Square:

 

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And all of us in front of Saint Basil’s.

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After a day of sightseeing we died er, crashed but then it was up early again for a little more touring and a three-hour Metro/Train/Walking/Taxi ride to the retreat center where our team would be working. Kaitlyn and I were there to teach preschool.

The train station. All the train stations were beautiful.

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On the train ride there:

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Our retreat center:

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Looked about that dreary every day but we never got any real snow which was great for our walking but would’ve been beautiful to see.

Where we ate:

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Some of our Russian food. The chicken soup was really good as was the noodles and beef but the Kasha was hit or miss for me as was the dinner. The drink is compote – a mix of fruit and sugar – mostly tasted like super sweet prune juice.

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Sadly, I don’t like fish at all so this was one of those “miss” dinners where we ate Russian dessert and Coca Cola because it’s the one thing I could order at the Russian store – water is usually sold as carbonated unless you know how to ask. Since I don’t speak Russian we drank lots of Coca Cola for 50 rubles ($1.00) since we could all say that!

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For Thanksgiving all the Workers put together a more traditional American dinner and they all did a fabulous job!

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Kaitlyn and Julia at the youth table.

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Kaitlyn in our room for the few nights we were at the retreat. At least I had a great roommate :)

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After the retreat it was back to the train and back to Moscow and time for some PIZZA! Yes! We got Papa John’s Pizza in Russia! After lots of Russian food it was so good to have something American :)

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On our last day we got to go souvenir shopping! It was outdoors in 10 degree weather and boy did we layer up. It wasn’t so bad when you dressed right but when we stood still too long we felt the cold! And this was November. I can’t say I’m ready to be in Moscow in January :)

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After a bunch of shopping and a little bit of bargaining I ended up with quite a few treasures that I was excited to bring home including a few sets of Russian Nesting dolls, a Russian hat for Caleb and a cuter, girly one for Kaitlyn.

One thing we did a lot of while we were there was ride the Metro but the cool thing is that each one was so different. Whether it was architecture or statues or just interesting marble on the walls – they were a site to see, that is if we could actually stop to see them! We were always moving so fast, getting on and off trains and trying our best not to stand out. But every once in a while we stopped to take pictures on the Metro. Yea, that screamed tourist :)

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The Russians believe it’s good luck to rub some of the statues – or at least parts of them – as you can see the dog’s nose is much shinier than the rest of the statue. Even while we stood there trying to take a photo people would stop by and rub the dog’s nose.

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And occasionally we would stop to take a picture in the Metro whether we attracted attention or not!

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There’s certainly quite a few other local pictures I could bore you with but I’ll stop there. Kaitlyn and I had a wonderful time even with the exhaustion and jet lag. I loved seeing Moscow and spending time with my friend, Kristy. We pray the Lord uses our time there for His glory and we appreciate the effort, support and prayers from so many to get us to Moscow and back!

New Family Pictures!

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New Family Pictures!

My good friend, Kristina loves to take pictures. She swears she’s still learning but I swear she does a great job :) What do you think??

Of course, she did have to work around my kids silly faces…

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Love my kiddos!!

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And my hubby, of course :)

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I liked our clothes colors with the yellow and white striped covering. Just fun.

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And by the lake.

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Individual shots:

Kaitlyn

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Caleb

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Julianna (of course the curtsy was her idea)

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Rachel

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Alyssa

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The trio together. Love that they are sisters who really love each other!

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My handsome boys:

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I love taking family photos. My kids, not so much. They try to humor me a little bit though and end up being good sports. But I was told by the photographer that she took quite a few shots were at least one of my kids was making a funny or weird face. Doesn’t surprise me.

At least they’re cute!

Thanks Kristina for some great family photos :)

Back to Life, Back to Reality… Back to School!

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Summer always feels like that alternate reality where there’s no school, we take vacations and everyone gets to stay up late every night. Well, except Kirk since work gets no summers off – that’s a hard one for a work-at-home dad to explain to the kids!!

But now summer is behind us and school has started once again.

It is hard (read, impossible!) for me to believe that I now have a high schooler. The fact that my daughter is old enough to be in high school just floors me. Thankfully since the kids attend such a small school our entrance into high school is a gentle one. Not that her school work will be but she’s also not competing with hundreds or thousands of kids and we’re all okay with that.

Here they are at our yearly front-of-the-door picture before heading out to school. Kaitlyn is heading into 9th grade, Caleb 5th grade and Julianna, Rachel and Alyssa 2nd grade. I tell you the triplets do NOT seem old enough to be going into a higher elementary class.

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Everyone’s excited to ride the bus. Oh wait, that’s just our van and we take it every day…

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And then in their classrooms (or at least at their lockers)

High School here she comes! Now her grades really count.

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Caleb in his last year in elementary school. Tomorrow I’ll be posting about his entering Middle School. Well, not really but it will feel like it!

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And all together in second grade:

Julianna – ready as ever to grow up. Look at her, she’s wishing she was the one in high school! Her quote at the end of the day “2nd grade was awesome!”

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Rachel is ready to learn.

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And then Alyssa. Ready to tackle the year ahead.

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This is the first year the girls have ever had a combined class. They will be the 3rd graders this year so hopefully they will be learning a little extra :)

I’m hoping to have more time to catch up on blogging and other things in the house now that the kids are back in school. Of course, I think I say that every year and then things get crazy and before I know it the year is over. I’m praying this year I get to enjoy it with them as they learn.

Cute Comes in Triplicate!! (and on Swings…)

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This year my girls helped make their Easter outfits. In sewing class, we began work on our skirts a few weeks ago and we got them done just in time for Easter Sunday. Alyssa isn’t taking lessons yet but Julianna and Rachel are and they are getting the hang of it. It’s pretty cute to see a 7-year-old run a sewing machine and I’ve just been thrilled with the idea that I can now sit down and sew something without freaking out.

It’s kind of a big deal :)

Well, to me anyway.

And since it’s Spring and we were outside taking pictures anyway and the girls were all dressed up and adorable it seemed like the perfect time to take their annual swing pictures!

Julianna Mabel: my girly girl and born leader. She loves to act older than she is. Right now she thinks if she wears clothes that say size 10 or shoes that are too big that she will somehow grow faster. She takes to most sports quickly and easily though I have yet to enroll her in any official sports activity – she just seems to enjoy all things physical. Doesn’t mean she’s not doing well academically though – she’s doing quite well and remains at the top of her class. She’s an overall sweet and loveable little girl!

April 2007 (5 months old)

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April 2008 (17 months old)

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April 2009 (29 months old)

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April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)

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April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)

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April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old

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April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)

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April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)

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In the skirt she helped sew:

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Rachel Gabrielle: Still my little artist, Rachel has also become a great reader and a sweet little girl. She’s shy though talkative to those who know her. She is also enjoying sewing but art is still her first love and she takes every opportunity to create a card or picture or other design for me or her dad or anyone else in need of a little bit cheering up. She loves being around her family and is always super cuddly – I love getting hugs from my little baby girl!

April 2007 (5 months old)

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April 2008 (17 months old)

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April 2009 (29 months old)

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April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)

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April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)

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April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old

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April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)

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April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)

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In the skirt she helped sew:

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Alyssa Elaine: my vibrant and full-of-life “baby” girl. As the youngest of the trio and the family she lives up to her title as the baby of the family. She still loves to play with toys and I find her often sitting quietly, in her own world playing with her Pet Shops or Polly Pockets or other small toy set she has. Reading has come harder for her but she’s learning and always retaining more information than I expect. Alyssa is still the loudest and she still loves hanging out with the boys but she’d never want to spend a night without her sisters!

April 2007 (5 months old)

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April 2008 (17 months old)

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April 2009 (29 months old)

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April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)

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April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)

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April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old

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April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)

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April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)

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In the skirt I sewed! (She found it interesting to watch and I think she’ll learn someday but not quite yet)

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What a change right?! It’s amazing to see how much they’ve changed and how quickly by little babies have grown up. In fact, those first pictures were taken on days I took the girls out to the swings just to keep my sanity and keep the girls happy while they were awake!! Now they can go outside on their own and swing till their hearts content.

All three girls on the swings – they find it amusing that in the right order their first initials spell “JAR”…

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The girls have been a joy to raise and I look forward to many more years with them – because, after all, 7 is still little right?!

February and March Updates: A Pop of Color

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I have not meant to go this long without blogging but life has gotten so busy that I haven’t had a whole lot of time to sit down and blog about it.

Life getting in the way of blogging, go figure!

Doesn’t mean I haven’t been hard at work on my New Year’s Resolution. It’s the opposite in fact, I have spent a lot of my time over the past two months learning how to sew and making plans for my house. But we got hit with quite a few snow days this winter (in case, you didn’t already know that…). Add to that sick days and me being called in to sub numerous times means many hours not spent working on the house.

Oh well, we’re getting there.

In February we reupholstered my kitchen/dining room chairs. A few years ago, my dad had graciously recovered them but in the years since the fabric he used began to shred and was in desperate need of replacing:

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Yikes! How did we sit on those for so long??!!

After a little bit of this:

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And a LOT of this (I mean a lot – we stapled these things like crazy :) )

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We came out with this:

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I know you love the orange!

It’s okay if you don’t – I promise it goes along with the bigger theme of colors which you can see in my awesome new pillow. While the chairs were my February project, the pillows were done in March so see, a little progress each month and I may actually get somewhere by the end of the year!

First set:

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Second set:

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Right now they’re in my living room on my brown couch – can’t say these go that well there but hopefully soon they will reside in my made-over family room – that project begins next week in April!

Thanks to my friend Krysta at Studio Solaris for the embroidery as well as for teaching me how to make pillows. I am by no means an expert but thanks to her awesome teaching I was able to complete 3 of these 6 pillows myself and feel confident enough to make some more which is a good thing since every single one of my daughters asked where her pillow was with her name/initials on it. Guess I know what to get them for their birthdays!!

Keep checking in – many more house projects and exciting new things coming soon.

Our Favorite Meals List Updated

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Almost two years I ago I posted our family’s favorite meals. Since then we have added quite a few and taken away some so I thought I would take the time to do it again. Especially since in January I got most of our meals off of one site and we found some great additions to our meal rotation.

A lot of these recipes come from The Pioneer Woman - over the summer last year I scoured her website for new recipes we could try (sensing a theme in my cooking?!) and found some great ones. I will say there were quite a few we didn’t like but I’m glad we tried so many because we found some new favorites. Our more recent additions come from Mommy’s Fabulous Finds and her list of 23 Crockpot Recipes.

Chicken Recipes

Angel Chicken

After Work Chicken Noodle Soup (I had homemade dumplings to this and it is so good!)

BBQ Cranberry Chicken (in the Crock Pot)

Bowtie Chicken Alfredo (Photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Chicken N Peppers Pasta Skillet

Chicken Pinwheel Pot Pie

Chicken Quesadillas (or any other quesadilla)

Chicken Taco Bake

Chicken Spaghetti (probably our favorite of all time – photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Grilled Chicken Bacon Sliders

Sesame Chicken (Slow Cooker)

– I serve that with Simple Sesame Noodles - goes great together!

Slow Cooker Black Bean & Salsa Chicken

Southwestern Chicken Chili

Tanise’s Chicken Casserole with Ritz & Rice (do NOT make this unless you are really feeding a crowd – it makes a ton!!)

White Bean Chicken Chili

Beef Recipes

Beef & Potato Nacho Casserole

Beef Stroganoff (in the Crock Pot)

Burgers N Fries Pot Pie

Easy Pleasing Meatloaf

Fried Round Steak

Hamburger Soup (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman – this is SOOOO good!)

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Mini Meatloaves (probably the 2nd favorite meal in the house especially when I had homemade mashed potatoes!)

Sour Cream Noodle Bake (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Slow Cooker Chili

Sweet & Sour Meatballs (in the Crock Pot)

Tater Tot Casserole

Updated Shepherd’s Pie (or any other Shepherd’s Pie – I always made extra mashed potatoes when we have mini meatloaves and use the rest for Shepherd’s Pie)

Wahoo! Chili with Beans (this is a Tastefully Simple recipe)

Other Meat Recipes

Apple BBQ Pork Tenderloin (really, really good!)

Crock Pot Sausage & Peppers

New Look Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Perfect Potato Soup (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Pork Carnitas (in the Crock Pot)

Teriyaki Pork Chops (in the Crock Pot)

Pasta/Italian Recipes

Baked Ziti

Bowtie Lasagna

Creamy Baked Ziti

Easy Beef Lasagna

Easy Calzones

Pasta Skillet Dinner

Pepperoni Pizza Burger (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

Sausage Spaghetti Spirals Recipe

Spaghetti Casserole

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Beef & Bean Burritos (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Beef & Bean Taco Casserole

Layered Enchilada Bake (a grown-up favorite!)

Mini Taco Bowls

Nacho Chicken (in the Crock Pot)

Pineapple Chicken Burritos (in the Crock Pot and surprisingly very good!)

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I’m always looking for new recipes that our family will enjoy. I couldn’t find a good link for: Chicken Parmesan or Sausage Hoagies but we make those quite often along with spaghetti and tacos – though I usually reserve those for when I’m not home so Kirk doesn’t have to cover a complicated meal by himself.

I hope this list gives you a few ideas when it comes to your next weekly or monthly meal planning. Let me know if there’s a website full of recipes you love or if you have a favorite one to share! Also, let me know if any of the links above don’t work :)