May 15, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Milestones

Milestones

Tonight my middle graduated from preschool, in a ceremony that probably couldn’t have differed more from her older sister’s experience if they’d been consciously trying.  This, of course, is mostly because her older sister went to a six-student in-home preschool that was perfect for her.  I fell into it through a friend and former colleague of mine; in fact, my daughter took her son’s spot, since her family moved to Wisconsin over the summer.  (It was actually a two-year preschool, but my oldest was only there for the second year.)  It was very academic, which was exactly what my November-birthday, impressive attention-span oldest needed.

Flash forward two or three years and that option wasn’t available anymore, the teacher being busy having a third child and all.  I was sad about that (not the child, you understand)–I probably would have done a two-year preschool just to keep that teacher–but my friend Andrea recommended I look into a local high school preschool program, where the high school students are the under-teachers as part of a class taught by the head teacher.  I went with that, and while my middle didn’t always love it, it did exactly what I wanted it to do.  I wasn’t worried about academics for my doesn’t-love-crowds-or-strangers August birthday middle.  I wanted her to get used to being away from Mommy, taking direction from someone else, and being part of a group.  That happened, and the fact that she didn’t always love it wasn’t at all a reflection on the program.  She just would have preferred to stay home.

In any case, back to preschool graduation–tonight was loud and crowded, and since my hubby couldn’t make it, my awesome neighbors came and helped with the boy and kept my sanity (mostly) intact.  That saved me.  But my middle seemed to have fun, and my oldest loved it–she loves people–and so we celebrated a (small) milestone in our family’s life.

(And then, when we got home, my son sat on the potty before his bath–he LOVES doing this–and for the first time actually DID SOMETHING IN IT!  I’m not sure he knows how he managed it, but we take milestones of that kind any way we can get them.  YAY!)

May 13, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on “Of All Sad Words of Tongue or Pen…”

“Of All Sad Words of Tongue or Pen…”

Truly, ‘the saddest are these:  it might have been’!  That pretty much sums up last night’s dinner, folks; I thought of Whittier’s words every time I took a bite of these Strawberries and Cream Scones.  I picked them for dinner because my hubby had a doctor’s appointment right after work and wasn’t going to be home until later (and not only are these more my thing than his, but one batch of scones doesn’t feed all five of us so well anymore).  Because of that same doctor’s appointment, however, I decided to shower my girlies while the scones were baking, instead of after dinner (thus maximizing time with Daddy, since he’ll be gone later in the week).  And because I was showering the girlies, I didn’t monitor the scones while they were in the oven, and because I didn’t monitor them, I didn’t notice how brown they were getting until I opened the oven door with less than two minutes left.

Let’s just say that while they weren’t exactly burnt–not exactly–I literally thought about what might have been with every single bite.  Because it was COMPLETELY obvious that they would have been AMAZING if they had come out of the oven about five minutes earlier.  For want of five minutes…but now I’m mixing my allusions.  Sufficeth it to say, you should absolutely try these at home, but please keep an eye on them.

Don’t let them get so brown that only my father would prefer them that way.

 

May 11, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Appropriate or Inappropriate?

Appropriate or Inappropriate?

I’m referring to the book I finished last night, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, by Sonya Sones (yes, it’s really called that). Was it fitting that I finished it right before Mother’s Day–ok, technically very early Mother’s Day morning?  I’m actually thinking yes.  The mother in question dies before the book starts, forcing 15-year-old Ruby to move to the opposite coast to live with her father, who happens to be a famous actor (she is unimpressed).  It’s a book about coming to terms with grief and moving to a new town, and while I could see most of what happened coming quite a ways away, I rather think I was supposed to (or at least expected to).  Ruby is so stunned by the changes in her life, however, that you don’t fault HER for not seeing it sooner.  And she’s an entertaining narrator.  It does deal with some very contemporary teen issues, so I’d classify it as contemporary young adult for a reason, but it’s not explicit and those issues aren’t the primary focus.  Bottom line–I really enjoyed this book.  (I love verse novels.  Their brevity allows them to be poignant without being overwhelming.)  And the mother’s one appearance in the book is what sells me on it being a fitting book to review today.

By the way, I actually picked it up because I’d read another book by Sonya Sones–Stop Pretending:  What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy.  I read it long enough ago that I can’t give a detailed review, but I remember it being excellent.  From what I recall, it’s also appropriate for younger teens, although I can’t absolutely swear to it.  You should give it a try.

In the meantime, happy Mother’s Day!  I hope everyone out there who has ever mothered someone has felt loved today; I know I did.  My hubby and girls made me stuffed shells while I read truck books to the boy (“Big rig!  Tractor!  Garbage truck!  Dump truck!  Bus!”), I got coupons for hugs and other valuables that my 7-year-old made at school, hid on her bed, and has been excited about for days, and I talked to my own amazing mother for a few minutes (thank you, unlimited long distance).  It was a good day.  Not a perfect day, since my son spent much of church trying to break the sound barrier with his incredibly high pitched shrieking and my middle was ON ONE all afternoon, but motherhood is never about perfection, is it?  Motherhood is about love and gratitude for and doing the best with what we have.  It doesn’t bother me to do the dishes when I know my hubby and his herniated disk have already pushed it making the main course (standing and leaning are murder on his back).  And while I could cheerfully have strangled my two younger children at several different points today, I love them and I have them.  I have a mother and a mother-in-law who love me and love my kids, and I have a few treasured memories of my grandmothers.  I have also had over the years what every teenager and young adult needs–caring adults who are NOT my parents but have given me time, attention, and love anyway.  (At least one of those will never bear children of her own, but besides her two step-children, there are hordes of women in this world who knew her when they were teenagers and will never forget her influence in their lives.)  I’m not a perfect mother, but I do love my children, and I do my best for them (some days that best looks better than others).  I am just so very grateful for what my Heavenly Father has given me in my life.  May He bless all of you today!

 

May 9, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Miracle of Miracles!

Miracle of Miracles!

I know all you Fiddler fans now have that song in your head, but seriously.  Tonight my middle liked dinner–and it was MEXICAN FOOD!  Or, if not actual authentic Mexican food, it was certainly southwestern, being my sister’s Green Chile Chicken Casserole.  (She hated the black beans I served on the side, also possibly the corn, but hey.  Baby steps.)  Everyone else seemed to be a fan as well, including my friend’s two children who happened to be there.  Sadly, I can’t just post a link to the recipe, or even cut and paste; my sister emailed me a picture of the recipe card, since she was pressed for time. It was, however, good enough to be worth the effort of retyping it, so here you are!

Green Chile Chicken Casserole

1 1/2 C chicken broth

1 medium onion, chopped

1 C (or two small cans) chopped green chilies

2 cans cream of chicken soup

3/4 t salt

1/2 t cumin

1/2 t pepper

1 t minced garlic

Saute the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil, then add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Add 1 C sour cream.

There’s your sauce.  You also need 3 cups of chopped cooked chicken, 3-4 cups of grated cheddar cheese, and corn tortillas.

Spray a 9 by 13 pan and cover the bottom with a thin layer of sauce.  Layer tortillas, chicken, cheese, and sauce twice.  Finish with tortillas, sauce, and cheese.  Bake at 350 for half an hour or until nice and bubbly.  Serve with corn, some form of beans (I made these Quick and Easy Black Beans), and/or cilantro lime rice (if anyone else in your family likes it besides you.  If that’s the case, I’m kind of jealous.).

I actually used part Monterey Jack and part sharp cheddar, because if I did that I didn’t have to get out a new block of cheese.  I also used half sour cream and half leftover ranch dip, because I desperately wanted to get it out of my fridge.  (I couldn’t even tell.)  And I used Rotisserie chicken from Costco, because I had it to use.

Enjoy!  My sister should get a prize, since my poor middle has NEVER been known to willingly eat anything of a southwestern flavor before.  I halved it to be easy, but I still have tortillas to use, so I might just make it again.

In other news, I finished Kaye Gibbons’ A Virtuous Woman tonight, and I was actually impressed.  It was an Oprah pick, and it certainly shares a few common Oprah book club traits, but the ending was not as tragic as it could have been.  Actually, since the tragedy there WAS is introduced in the first chapter, it ended up being more uplifting than not.  A love story of sorts, it’s told by the husband and wife in alternating chapters.  I liked both of them from the start; I found the book much more compelling than I thought it would be.  (There is more language than I would prefer, but it’s not contextually gratuitous.)  Are you sensing a theme here? because I certainly am.  I always like a theme of pleasant surprise, though.  Who doesn’t?  My only real beef was that the very end was rather awkwardly written, partly because it wasn’t in either of the two voices.  I can appreciate why the author changed her approach, but it wasn’t as well done as it wanted to be.  It was still a satisfying ending, however, and on the whole, I think I’d recommend this one.

May 7, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Oh, It’s That Good

Oh, It’s That Good

Last night I finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and I’m here to tell you, you should really just buy it and read it too.  As in, now.  Go!  Because it absolutely is That Good.  It reminded me a lot of Seabiscuit, actually.  Not that the plots are in any way similar, but both are non-fiction, deal with topics that are on the fringes of my interests, and are magnificently well-researched.  They both tell compelling stories about the underdog, come to think of it.  And I couldn’t put either one of them down.  Holy cow!  Yes, it took a couple of weeks for me to read this one, but that’s only because I had a series of commitments that kept me busy in the evenings.  (And let’s be honest.  Non-fiction takes more concentration than I’ve got when the kiddos are awake!)

In 1951, a young mother died of aggressive cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins.  Before she died, scientists took a sample of her cells, which they were then able to culture successfully.  Henrietta’s cells became the first ‘immortal cell line’, and their availability for scientific research led to innumerable scientific achievements (beginning with the polio vaccine).  Which is a good thing.  On the other hand, her cells were taken without permission and used without the knowledge of her family; when that family found out, things got a little messy.  Rebecca Skloot brings us along for her research ride, exploring scientific legal and ethical issues in detail.  That ride is amazing.  Science has NEVER been my favorite subject, but this book kept me spellbound.  (Incidentally, the unscrupulous in the scientific community have conducted research in some horrifying ways.)  It also posed some fascinating ethical questions that have yet to be answered.

I’m pretty sure more than one person is getting this from me for Christmas.

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


New From: $6.01 USD In Stock

May 5, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on “Come on, Guys! You all liked it THAT much?”

“Come on, Guys! You all liked it THAT much?”

Yes, I know, that sounds completely ridiculous.  But I’d just bitten into one of these Shredded Chicken BBQ Sandwiches, and while my first thought was along the lines of ‘meh, I’ve got similar recipes that I like better,’ what I heard at the table went like this.  “Pretty good” from my hubby (and believe me, when he says it with that inflection it’s actually high praise).  “Mom!  Why haven’t you made these before?” from my oldest.  “I like them, too!” from my picky middle, who was forced to endure her entire bowl of peas before having a second one–and then pretty much inhaled the second one.)  Silence and chewing from the boy.  Which is why in my head I was saying “REALLY?” and out loud I was saying something like “Wow.  Okay then.”  In a resigned tone of voice.  It really doesn’t seem fair.  On the other hand, if I exert myself to toast the buns like it says to do–something I was completely too lazy to do yesterday–I might enjoy them more.  They weren’t bad.  It’s just that there are a lot of different kinds of BBQ sauce, and I prefer either smoky or tangy.  (If I were from the south, I could probably tell you which type this type WAS, instead of just what it wasn’t.  Oh well.)  The fact remains, however, that this recipe was quite the hit at my table.  Do with it what you will.

In other news:  I’ve started reading to the middle at night while her oldest sister reads to herself.  In the first two days we got through all three of the ‘Pippa Mouse’ books that were mine when I was a kid, and she LOVED them.  Tonight, after reading a library book that’s due tomorrow and not renewable (a last hurrah), we started Charlotte’s Web.  (Whether or not she’s going to want to raise a pig for bacon after we finish is anyone’s guess.)  She sounds like she really likes it, although she was somewhat disappointed at how few pictures there are (the Pippa books have illustrations around the edges of every page).  We’ll see how it goes; in the meantime, now that she’s staying awake longer, she’s stopped waking up at 6:15 every morning.  Which is a good thing.  (Also, I’m enjoying the snuggle time.  Too bad I can’t clone myself and cuddle with her sister while she read to herself.)

And one snack review, because last night my hubby and I demolished the entire bag of Kettle Maple Bacon potato chips that I’d bought so hopefully.

Meh.  They weren’t bad, so they get a thumbs middle, but they mostly tasted like BBQ potato chips.  Every once in a while there was a faint accent of maple or bacon, but overall–meh.

May 1, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Rock and a Hard Place

A Rock and a Hard Place

That was my middle’s story today.  My good friend Britt ended up coming for lunch (with her two youngest), and so I opted to make my dinner plan for lunch for just the two of us.  The kiddos got other things, the plan being that mine could then have our lunch for their dinner (my hubby was working a bit late).  Which was unfortunate for my middle, since she is NOT a fan of Mexican food.  There were leftovers in the fridge that needed to be eaten as well, but since she’d already had this Creamy Ham and Macaroni for lunch (SERIOUSLY good and a family staple–use sharp cheddar and you’ll be in lactose tolerant heaven!), she was left with a choice between ham and lentil soup and the Mexican food; hence this post.  (I believe I’ve already mentioned that there is only one soup I don’t have to practically force feed my middle.  Ham and lentil is not it.)

My middle’s dilemma notwithstanding, my friend and I quite enjoyed Mel’s Black Bean and Butternut Enchilada Skillet.  It had a very mild kick, but nothing this wimp couldn’t handle.  I combined two brands of green enchilada sauce to have enough (homemade didn’t happen today), and after taste testing both, I actually found I preferred the cheaper one.  (So long, Old Elpaso!  It’s Western Family from here on out!) I used three cups of chicken and I liked the ratio (I also dumped in a little extra green enchilada sauce, because it called for two cups and I had two 10 ounce cans.  Why not?).  The one thing I would watch for is the squash.  My friends is a big fan of butternut squash, but no one in my family is exactly enthusiastic about it.  My hubby said he didn’t really notice it, which is impressive for him, but my oldest complained.  I found that the smaller pieces, the ones that were creamy soft, were perfect and just added a nice note of sweetness overall; the bigger pieces were more noticeable as SQUASH.  My friend Andrea–the one I used to cook with a lot, who has now given the ok to be called by name (although an acronym would have been kind of entertaining)–suggested I let the squash simmer in the enchilada sauce for a bit for just that reason, but to make that work I needed to hold off adding the tortillas (which I realized about one minute after it became a moot point).  I will NOT make that mistake next time.  Even the boy left a suspicious number of squash pieces on his tray, although I think he enjoyed the recipe overall.  Dice it small, let it simmer, and enjoy!

By the way, a public service announcement:

Cinnamon Sugar Triscuit Thin Crisps–thumbs down.  The kids like them, but Britt and I both thought they were weird.

Wasabi & Soy Sauce Triscuit Thin Crisps–mmmmm.  Tasty.  Thumbs up!

Kettle Brand Sweet & Salty Potato Chips–thumbs down.  They were neither sweet enough nor salty enough.  (“Blah” comes to mind…)

 

Apr 30, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Treating Laundry and Seeing Pigs Fly

Treating Laundry and Seeing Pigs Fly

Since I’ve been too busy to actually finish the amazing book I’m currently reading (I’ll get there eventually, don’t you worry!), this post is going to center on the ‘being mommy’ part of my blog–although really, laundry is for everyone.  Right?  Who doesn’t have stains that spray and wash doesn’t touch?  Stains, for example, that might stem (ha! unintentional pun!) from your children playing with dandelions, or from your children (or your spouse, or, you know, YOU) wearing your food?  Worry not!  One of my (7) sisters-in-law told me about her stain fighting method years ago, and I’ve never seen its equal.  (Brief pause to savor the “Princess Bride” reference.)  I’ve seen this demolish stains on clothes that had already been through the dryer; it works wonders on stubborn grease spots.  (It won’t get you anywhere with rust, though.  Sorry.  As far as I know, you’re out of luck there.)  It’s also easy.  Here’s what you do:

You buy a bottle of Clorox 2, the stuff that comes in blue bottles and has no actual bleach in it, when it’s on coupon at Costco.  You buy a box of Oxi-Clean, the powder detergent kind, when it’s on coupon at Costco.  You take your stained article of clothing–dry–and pour Clorox 2 on the offending spot.  You add Oxi-Clean on top of that and make a paste with it.  And then you soak it in warm-ish water, preferably overnight, and wash away!  (I tend to let my ‘clothes to be treated’ build up, treat them, stick them in the washing machine, and turn it on just long enough to cover them with water.  The next morning you can add the rest of your wash, fill the machine the rest of the way, and go to town!  If you have just one or two things that you need in a timely fashion, however, you can always use a bucket or a bowl.  I once used my gallon water pitcher, it being the closest receptacle upon which I could lay my hands…)

There you have it, folks!  Lifestyle secrets of the not-at-all-rich and (fairly) obsessive.  It is, I confess, a chore I find tedious, but it’s enormously satisfying to know that the pile of clothes that’s been bugging me for, well, longer than I’m going to admit, is even now soaking its way to a cleaner, happier, and more purposeful existence.

As for my second topic of the night?  Last week I was looking for a simple meal that my teething boy would reliably eat, and I decided to try this Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce.  (With penne, since that tends to be my go-to pasta for toddlers.  I LOVE spaghetti, but the boy has not dealt as well with the mess of eating it at a young age as his sisters did.)  I did NOT, of course, use actual heavy cream; straight heavy dairy fat is not nearly as enticing to me in savory dishes as in sweet, and I find I prefer the taste of evaporated milk.  It’s a worthy substitute.  I also didn’t have fresh basil, which would have been lovely, but I have Italian parsley growing in my front flower bed, and that worked just fine for me.  Other than that, I followed the recipe, and although I was a little skeptical about such simple ingredients producing something special (canned tomato sauce, for Pete’s sake!), I was amazed at the end result.  It had a lovely, creamy, tomato-y flavor, rich-tasting without being heavy.  The most amazing thing about it was–and here’s where those of you who know me will be looking for flocks of flying pigs and reports of lightning striking my corner of Utah–I actually liked it better before I added the cheese.

No, I am not joking.

It was good with the cheese, don’t get me wrong.  And it would have been better with more expensive Parmesan (I confess to feeling poor that day and using the canned stuff).  The thing is, once you add salty Parmesan flavor to a sauce, it becomes a serious contender for most dominant flavor, and in this case, the simple and subtle loveliness of the other flavors involved could no longer shine when the cheese arrived at the party.  I would recommend leaving the sauce without it and topping off your individual platefuls with the good stuff.  (If you care.  I would also recommend sticking with the canned stuff for a toddler and anyone else who doesn’t care about the difference.)  Either way, it’s easy and delicious and all of my children devoured it happily, both as dinner that night and as leftovers.  I highly recommend giving it a try!

Apr 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Surprise Hit

A Surprise Hit

You know the recipes that YOU really want to try, even though you’re not sure how well the rest of the family is going to like it?  That was these Pesto Ranch Crock Pot Chicken Thighs.  I like pesto better than anyone else in the family, and the recipe was delightfully easy (if you don’t count trying to trim the fat off of the thighs–and please insert whatever joke I’m too tired to come up with here _____), so last night I got out some boneless skinless frozen chicken thighs (gotta love Costco) to thaw.  When we got home from church I went to town on the trimming, getting them into the crockpot slightly ahead of schedule.  (Go me!)

And then, of course, I ignored them until dinnertime, which is the very best feature of a crockpot meal.  I was even super lazy and paired them with frozen green beans and a package of flavored instant mashed potatoes.  (I can take or leave potatoes, remember, and peeling them makes me sneeze, so don’t judge me.)  The verdict?

Wow.

The chicken got a thumbs up from everyone (except me, maybe–I was feeling more thumbs middle), and my middle even decided she liked the fake mashed potatoes and ate them WITHOUT COMPLAINT.  (Friends from Idaho–try not to groan so loudly that you wake the baby up.) This is earth-shattering!  The boy had barely touched lunch–Sundays are hard that way–and he just kept eating, and eating, and eating. What’s not to love about a dinner that successful–and easy?  I even bought a Costco jar of pesto and froze the rest in three different containers, so A)I can make it again more easily if I so choose and B)I didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a 6 oz jar of pesto.  The one thing I would watch out for is the saltiness–pesto is salty to begin with, and if you just use bouillon granules and water for the chicken broth, it ends up on the salty edge of what I prefer.  Low sodium chicken broth would be better.

There you have it, folks.  Easy-peasy!

 

Apr 26, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Small Blessings

Small Blessings

Remember how my hubby was supposed to take the girlies to see their cousin dance last night?  When she went early and we couldn’t make it in time, we planned on going today instead; her team danced at 9, 10, and 12.  The plan was for my hubby to take them for the noon dance, but between shopping for a birthday present (my oldest had a party to go to this afternoon, and we didn’t commit to it until the last minute because we hadn’t figured out the rest of the day) and some other timing issues, I ended up leaving the boy with his daddy and hustling the girlies into the car for a ‘cross your fingers’ type of journey.  As I gave the girls the rundown of what we would do if we didn’t make it in time, I decided to say a quick family prayer–that we would drive safely, that we would find a parking spot, that we would make it.  And lo and behold! there was the parking spot.  My middle–the one with the shortest legs in the group–was a trouper about booking it through the halls of the event venue (a local high school), and when we got into the room where I was, you know, pretty sure the dance was supposed to be, my sister-in-law was two people in on the bottom row of the bleachers.  We hurried up to her, all of us out of breath, to learn that my niece’s team was up after the current team performed.  Which meant that even though they were projected to go early, they actually performed a few minutes late.

There are those who will think all of this to be coincidence, and who will think I’m silly for believing that the Lord answered a brief, eyes-wide-open-while-driving kind of prayer.  I, however, think of my tearful little middle at bedtime last night, and I think of things that my girls have had to miss for once reason or another, and I think–the Lord is mindful of us.  He cares about our little family.  He cares about bringing family members together, and he’s thrilled when we make the effort to be there for each other.

I am grateful for small blessings.

Also in a serious vein, I would like to share with you something that a friend back in RI shared on Facebook.  This Andrew Solomon talk on     Depression, the Secret We Share moved me to both laughter and tears.  If depression and anxiety are the reality of your or a loved one’s life, please take a half an hour and watch.  It’s well worth your time.