Friday, September 19, 2008

A Big Semi-Anniversary Day!


A few days ago after reviewing posts I realized there's someone very special to me that I don't post much about. This blog has been mostly about the kids, homeschooling and food. Although he's not often centerstage on the blog he's centerstage here at home. And today marks a very special day for us.

Today my husband and I celebrate 20 years as a couple. We've been married nearly 16 years, and dated about 4 years prior to marriage.

As I reflect back on 20 years, my first thought is amazement realizing 20 years has actually gone by so quickly. I know that sounds so cliche, but it's actually true. I also thought back to where we were when we first met. We met in college on my second day on campus. He was two years younger than me and it seemed like a decade at the time. Being the self-concious person that I am, I didn't want to hold his hand in public because I felt like the age difference was too obvious. I don't think anyone would even notice now...he has MANY more gray hairs than me and maybe even a few more wrinkles.

We've really grown up together and grown in our relationship and friendship. He knows me better than anyone. I love spending time with him and love seeing him with our kids. Although I didn't really have a clue 20 years ago, I'm grateful that God knew what He was doing. He picked a great man for me and I'm looking forward to the next 20, and the next 20 and the next 20.

So to my sweetheart, if you're reading this...the last 20 years has been Fabulouso! You're my best friend! I Love You!

P.S. Thanks for the great breakfast. The pancakes with blueberry syrup were great!

Cooking Up A Storm-Baked Crunchy Chicken Bites



I'm not sure if it's the cooling weather and the desire for some inside comfort food, but we're cooking up a storm this week. Our oldest has enthusiastically tried some new recipes and we're enjoying his creations.
We have a fabulous math book called The Math Chef by Joan D'Amico & Karen Eich Drummond. Once a week the kids usually make one of the many recipes. This week we focused on metric conversions and made a recipe called Baked Crunchy Chicken Bites (or Chicken Nuggets to us). Occasionally I change up the recipe a bit and this is highlighted.
Note: 2T=30 ml
Time
10 minutes to prepare plus 10-12 minutes to cook
Tools
cookie sheet
2 1-gallon resealable plastic bags
medium bowl
wire whip
small bowl
rolling pin
cutting board
paring knife
oven mitts
Ingredients
vegetable oil cooking spray
1/4 c. flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg
2 Tablespoons 2% milk= ? ml of milk
2 dozen snack crackers (we used Saltine Crackers and used more than 2 dozen)
4 boneless chicken breast halves
Steps
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spray the cookie sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.
3. Place the flour, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in one of the plastic bags. Seal the bag and shake it to mix the ingredients well. Set it aside.
4. In the medium bowl, whisk the egg and milk together.
5. Put the crackers in the second plastic bag and seal the bag or close with a tie. Crush the crackers by rolling the rolling pin over the bag until the crackers are crumbly. Put the crushed crackers in the small bowl.
6. On the cutting board, use the paring knife to cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, about 1 inch by 1 inch.
7. Put the chicken pieces into the first plastic bag with the flour mixture. Seal the bag or close with a tie, and shake to mix. Wehn all the pieces are dusted with flour, remove the chicken from the bag.
8. Dip the chicken pieces two-by-two into the egg mixture and then into the cracker crumbs.
9. Place the chicken pieces in a single layer on the sprayed cookie sheet.
10. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (we baked for longer) or until golden brown. Remove cookie sheet from oven using oven mitts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fast and Easy Dinner Idea-BBQ Chicken Pizza


With the abundance of zucchini we've had I've spent extra time online looking for creative ways to use this summer vegetable. I found a quick and easy recipe on Martha Stewart Everyday for BBQ Chicken Pizza. Ususally I'm not one to take short-cuts, and do make just about everything from scratch, but with this recipe I was able to make a couple of changes makinig this an even easier quick-to-the-table dinner creation.

Instead of making my own pizza dough, I bought pre-made pizza dough and instead of cooking chicken and adding bbq sauce I bought an 18 oz. container of BBQ Shredded Chicken All White Meat w/Barbeque Sauce (fully cooked) at Trader Joe's.

Here's Martha's Recipe:

Ingredients
Serves 4
Olive oil, for baking sheet
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 pound store-bought frozen pizza dough, thawed (Trader Joe's has a great pre-made pizza dough available for just over $1)
1/2 cooked chicken, (about 1 1/4 pounds), shredded (about 2 cups) (Try Trader Joe's BBQ Shredded Chicken w/bbq sauce-if using then omit next ingredient)
1/2 cup store-bought barbecue sauce
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a large baking sheet; set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin and your hands to roll and stretch dough to a 15-by-10-inch oval (if dough becomes too elastic to work with, let rest a few minutes). Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, combine chicken and barbecue sauce. Leaving a 1-inch border, scatter chicken mixture evenly over dough; sprinkle with cheese, then zucchini and onion. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake until crust is golden and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

This was a yummy pizza liked by all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Your Light



Last night I looked out the window and saw such a beautiful sight. The full moon was rising over the mountain and the majesty of creation was breathtaking.

In the past I've tried to take pictures of the moon with my basic digital camera, but they've never turned out. I thought I'd give it another try.

I was so pleased the photo was more than just a circle of light in darkness. To accompany the photo, I started to think about what I'd write in the post. I figured the beauty of the photo would speak for itself and was just going to post the picture.

Then, while driving home tonight from a meeting at church, listening to TobyMac's, In the Light, I knew what God wanted me to see in the photo.

The moon by itself is not a brilliant shining jewel in the sky. It is a reflection of the sun, and it's the sun that illuminates it and gives the beauty.

That's what I want my life to be. My desire is that as the moon reflects the sun's light so might I reflect the Son's light. I want to shine the light of Jesus and reflect Him in all I do.

Matthew 5:14-16 reads, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

As Christians, many times we shine at church and within our Christian circles, but how much more can we glorify God if we let our light shine in the world to the people who don't yet know Him.

It is my desire that our family walk with a servant's heart. May God use every day to Shine through us so that He might be Glorified!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Invasion of the Fruit Fly


I should learn my lesson! In an earlier post about mice, I SHOULD have learned my lesson. But, NO! Once again, my "I'm sure glad I don't have THAT problem..." thoughts are bringing to FRUIT-ion a big problem in our home. Fruit Flies!

Off and on, we have a fruit fly here and there, but nothing major. Over the last couple of days we've become the fruit fly's best and greatest hang out. I think the word got out that we were having a birthday party last weekend with lots of great, fresh food and that we have an yummy compost bucket filled with fruit and vegetable waste. The annoying little buggers have pulled up in their station wagons filled with family and are making a home to spend their 10 day lifetime in pure bliss.

While they're having a frenzy of a good time, I'm going NUTS! Being the germ-phobe, anti-bug (in the home) person that I am, I'm having a hard time with this. I think they're mulitplying faster than I can vacuum them up. Last night I saw them perched on my kitchen window, so I pulled out the vacuum and sucked them up. No sooner did I do this, their relatives saw the vacancy and moved right in.

Then I decided to do some research on how to get rid of them and they decided to check out the computer too. I was batting them away between clicking on various links. I did find a great link with many helpful tips. Looks like I'll be cleaning the house from top to bottom today! If you're having the same problem check out http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Fruit-Flies.

Hopefully the problem will be in check in the next couple of days. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Little Things in Life

Isn't it just like God to remind you that he's thinking of you when you're a bit down or feeling a bit frazzled? Today was one of those days for me.

My sweetheart has been gone for almost two weeks helping his mom out while she's gone through surgery for pancreatic cancer and transitioning to life at home. We felt it best for the kids and me to stay home and continue with our daily routine.
We did very well the first week, but day-by-day we're realizing we really miss having dad around. We miss his company and conversation. I'm sure the kids miss him for all the fun things like wrestling and playing soccer. And although I'm a great multi-tasker and do get a lot done in a given day, I'm still falling a bit behind on outdoor chores, like lawn-mowing. (Now honey, don't think I only like you because the chores you do).
Yesterday, I was trying to finish the mowing of our 2.5 acres and ran out of gas. I was away from the house, but thought I'd walk to the garage, grab the gas can, fill up the mower and continue. I made it to the garage only to find all three of the 5-gallon gas cans empty. It was almost the straw that broke the camels back, but a kind neighbor lent me enough gas to at least put the mower away for the night.
On a normal day, I'm all about mowing and enjoying that time outside, but for some reason the loneliness combined with the unfinished task almost brought me to tears. I know I sound like a big "weenie" but at the moment... I'm sure another hormonal person may understand what I'm saying, it was all I could do to call a neighbor and ask for help.
Shortly thereafter I had to go off to Bible study. It was the first night of this new study. I was encouraged. We're studying Fingerprints of God by Jennifer Rothschild. I know He has his hand on my day to day occurrences and cares about what is going on. The gals in my group prayed and I felt uplifted.

This morning, after my quiet time, I came to my computer and checked my email and found a great note of encouragement from a friend. I then glanced to my right and found that overnight my gardenia had not one new bloom, but three. I really don't believe in coincidences, so seeing those beautiful blooms and smelling their incredible fragrance reminded me that in my loneliness He is there. He is ever present and ever caring! And I think He knew more than anything, I treasure and enjoy His handiwork in the beautiful white gardenias He brought me this morning. I will smile today knowing all is well, and who knows...maybe the lawn might even get mowed.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Quinoa- How Do You Pronounce It?

Quinoa, pronounced "Keen-wah"is a grain that contains more protein than most other grains. It has a nutty texture and makes a great salad.
I've recently discovered new recipes at http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/. The recipes have a fabulous mix of ingredients that may be new to some or new ways of using age old ingredients.
Last night we bbq'd beautiful t-bones on the grill (thank you George). We served them alongside gyoza and for a salad we made Apple Quinoa Salad with Curry Dressing. Our oldest son is our official "Chopper" and our middle boy is our "Mixer." I love having the helping hands. And together we get more done in less time- Wonderful!







Apple Quinoa Salad with Curry Dressing

Crisp apple, chewy quinoa and toasted almonds give this nutty and sweet curried salad a full flavor and hearty texture.
1/4 cup raw whole almonds
1 cup organic bulk quinoa
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped organic shallot
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dried currants or dried cherries
1 organic apple, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Toast almonds until fragrant in a 375ยบ F oven, for about seven minutes.
Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve and drain. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa, return to boil, stir, cover and reduce heat. Simmer until quinoa is tender but still chewy, about 15 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork and let cool.
For the dressing, whisk together honey, shallot, curry powder, salt and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with pepper. Whisking constantly, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream and whisk until emulsified. Add quinoa, currants, apple and nuts and toss well.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Did I Mention...I'm Looking Forward to Getting to Know This Gal Better


Wanna Be Farmer




Yesterday we were driving home and noticed a sign for a "Farmer's Market" at our local Grange Hall. Hmm... I thought, maybe we could sell some of our overabundance of vegetables at the "Farmer's Market."


I know I'm not exactly a farmer, but I'd like to be- sort of. I proudly wear my "FARM CHICK" shirt and listen to country music when I'm tromping around our 2.5 acres hauling composted material and trailing my wagon. Yeah, I'm a home school, new generation, momma of three, compostin', recyclin', growin' food for fun type of farmer. I thought that qualified us for the "Farmer's Market."


So I called the number for the local grange and then called the contact person for the event. I was told to just show up and set up our goods.


I got up at 6:15 to harvest. The fog was thick and the air crisp. It was a beautiful morning, quiet, the kids were asleep and I was on my own. I picked a variety of cucumbers, lettuce, kale, tomatillos, leeks, mint, tarragon, rosemary, oregano, and zucchini. I then cleaned the veggies, loaded them in the car, loaded some plant starts we've been selling, loaded the table, grabbed the basket of fresh baked cookies and the bottle cap necklaces the kids made last fall, and then lastly told the kids to get ready.


We headed out at 9:10. We arrived at the Grange to find only one other "Farmer" there. Actually he wasn't a farmer. He works for an organic farm and is employed to do the selling thing. He had really nice beans, berries and other veggies. He even had a tent. We had our mini-van, tail gate open, table set up and four kids (my three and a friend). At moments the kids would be helping or quietly hanging out. At other times they'd be arguing, yelling at each other, or swinging from the roof of the vehicle. Aren't we quite the farmers?


Luckily some kind folk bought some of our goods. We sold cucumbers, a couple necklaces, cookies and some leeks. We spent 1/2 of our income buying the kids the nice breakfast being served at the Grange Hall.


For all our (my) efforts we made a whopping $22. I know it's not great, but it was a fun experience. And more importantly it was family time together-screaming and all.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Back on the Fields

Soccer season has just started up and today was the first game(s) of the season. This is our first year having all three kids play. And...Dad is coaching all three kids' teams. Wow! What a committed soccer dad!
Yesterday our little girlie had her first practice. Her dad is still out of town so there was another fill-in coach covering. We showed up at least 15 minutes late for the 30 minute practice. I felt like the loser mom of the coach's daughter. Our little "Princess" did not like the way the shin guards felt on her legs and feet. Then she did not like the way the socks fit. They have seams! And then even worse came the shoes. She did not like the way the shoes fit with the shin guards and then the socks. We had to discuss why each pad was where it was on the shin guards.
It went a little like, "This pad protects your ankle bone. This pad protects the bone on the other side of your foot. I know it's uncomfortable, but you need to have them there so in the event you get kicked, BUT you won't get kicked. No, you won't get hurt out there. I'm sure. It'll be fun. Yes."
By the time we got out to practice she was ready.
I'm happy to report she had a great time! Soccer practice was a success.
So Today the BIG GAME... She loved it! And I loved being the mom of a little 5-year old pee-wee who kept yelling, "Hi, Mom!" And then occasionally run to the side line to give me a big kiss and a hug. Only the little ones. Bless them!
She scored two goals. She even got a little sweaty. She was proud and had a great time!
When we were walking back to the car she asked when her next game was. She said, "Mom, I'm all about two things with soccer- fun and scoring goals!" Yeah girlie! A few steps later she said, "Mom, I'm pretty sweaty. I think I need to get some doe-der-ant." A lady overheard her and started laughing. Isn't it fun listening to the littles?
The boys had great games too, but they're already used to the soccer routine. Neither one of them has ever complained to me about shin guards. Now that I think about it, they probably thought the shin guards were like cool warrior armor or something...and who wouldn't want that?

Kids on The High Wire


The Making of Mirette On The High Wire







Friday, September 05, 2008

The Best School Day I've Ever Had!

We're finishing up the first week of our home schooling year. It's been a very good week and the kids have worked really hard.
My main goal this year was to have more FUN! We're good at working on the reading, writing and arithmetic, but when it comes to not worrying about the "have to's" I don't think I've been as unstructured as I'd like.
So today after Bible, I told the kids, "We're not doing the bookwork today." You should have seen their faces.
Instead of hitting the books we read Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. It's a Caldecott Medal winner and the kids loved it. It was actually the second time we read it this week.
Like Mirette we tried walking on our own High Wire. We talked about what we had to do with our bodies to keep our balance like put our arms out and bend our knees slightly.
I then had the kids lay on white paper and we traced their "high wire" moves. They had a great time picking out what their "people" would wear, what color eyes they'd have, how dark their skin would be and how their hair would be styled. Our oldest child said his boy looked good bald, but we decided to add hair anyway. Our middle boy painted his boy's clothing to match his favorite clothing picks. He usually wears two shirts each day-one long sleeve covered with a short sleeve. His boy looks exactly the same. And our girlie is all about pink. So no surprise her girl is a Pinkie too.
Toward the end of the painting, our middle son exclaimed, "THIS IS THE BEST HOME SCHOOL DAY I'VE EVER HAD!!!"
Now, that's what I'm looking for! I want our homeschool experiences to be the best they've ever had. Learning should be fun!
In case you're interested, we found this activity in a book called Art Activities from Award-Winning Picture Books from the Teaching and Learning Company. It is written by Judy Hierstein and designed to be used with preK-3rd grade kids.
We'll post our finished products when they are dry and on the "High Wire."

I'm Ready for the Yard Sign!!

WOW!! What a political week we've had!! A week ago I never heard of Sarah Palin and now...I'd like to have coffee with her! She's my kind of gal- God-fearing, pro-life, wife, mom, strong, confident, pro-family, well-spoken, hard-working, dedicated, humorous, forgiving, determined...
Needless to say, I was extremely impressed with her speech at the Republican National Convention! The upcoming weeks and debates will be quite interesting. This is going to be an exciting race to watch.
And John McCain...what a Hero! I can't even imagine what he's been through as a prisoner of war and yet he never blamed his country for sending him there, but became more dedicated to the service of his country. I loved at the end of his speech when he called (disgruntled) Americans to do something to make the country a better place rather than complain. Serve, Serve, Serve!! That's the key to life. Take the focus off yourself and serve others. It truly makes for a better life!!

Monday, September 01, 2008

My Junk, Someone Else's Treasure

This was a great summer for cleaning out and "decluttering." I have much more I want to do, but we're going in the right direction.
My dad mentioned to me in June that he was going to have a garage sale. Oh, A GARAGE SALE! The wheels started turning. I had some unwanted belongings I could donate to the sale. I thought this would be a great opportunity to get rid of things clogging up the closets and hopefully make some extra $$ for school books this year.
I imagine my poor dad thought of all the work that he would put in trying to load all that "stuff" into his truck and secure it. Luckily he's master of the bungy cord! Then once he got it home he'd have to unload it, price it, and then wait for other people to decide if my junk was their treasure. But all I can say is, "Bless him."
With much help from a friend they were able to sell SO MUCH!! I was in shock when he told me how much sold! AWESOME!! New curriculum for the kiddos! Yeah!!
Thanks so much for all the help you gave us and when we're schooling we'll thank you for making it all so much more affordable!
Wanna do another garage sale?? Just kidding!

Putting the Labor in Labor Day Weekend


Isn't Labor Day Weekend a great opportunity to work so hard you feel like you'll collapse at any moment? I think that's what our family thinks LABOR day is for. This weekend was wonderful and full of completed projects. We are actually the type of people who lay in bed at night and say "It was a good day" if we completed many projects and worked ALL day.
I had many things on my "To Do" list and with school starting up this week I really wanted to get busy checking off the list.
To Do:
Pick beans outside
Pick all beets
Pick all the carrots
Pick cucumbers and zucchini
Clean up house
Clean bathrooms (little sweethearts have had a touch of a bug and let's just say in the middle of the night aim into the toilets hasn't been completely accurate)
Get miscellaneous (oops, forgot a couple things) items for school ordered and purchased
Start little project for Dear Husband (hope you're surprised)!
Can beans, beets, and blueberry jam (My mom was given many pounds of blueberries for FREE Yeah!)
Help out with the Sunday school program for one service
That's not very much... or is it??
Well as previously mentioned, our three little precious kiddos took turns on each day of the weekend throwing up. I really appreciate that they were so considerate knowing that if they were all throwing up at the same time, it would be very overwhelming. So they took turns.
Huge blessing...My mom decided to come up this weekend to help out. It really lifted the load.
So we canned 12 pints of blueberry jam, 4 pints of blueberry syrup, 13 pints of pickled beets with onions, 7 pints of lemon spiced bean pickles, and we even made some chocolate chip cookies.
Other than that we also completed the other items on the list. DH I hope you like the surprise! It'll be in a later post.
So as I lay in bed before I doze off, I'll think on this Labor Day Weekend. It definitely was a GOOD weekend!

It's All About Family




We had the opportunity to visit my dad's cousin and his wife. They're more like immediate family than distant family. They live close to DH's mom.
We were able to spend a couple hours catching up and soaking them in. I learned so many things in such a short period of time. Did you know that there are pencil sharpener collections?? I'm going to keep my eye out for some cool sharpeners. I now know someone who collects. Did you know you could make a zucchini pie that tastes like Dutch Apple Pie? I'm going to try it and will let you know how it goes.
We're very glad we had the opportunity to spend a couple hours with them. Life is short and these times are precious.