Thursday, May 29, 2014

One God One Plan One Life: a 365 Devotional by Max Lucado--Review

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1400322634/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1400322634&linkCode=as2&tag=theacc01-20&linkId=LLMMHF5H7K4AI7YV

One God One Plan One Life is a 365 day devotional book is marketed to teens, and is easy to read, offering meaningful ways for teens to connect with God and live the life He has planned for them.  Each one page devotion consists of a Bible verse and a short, 2-3 paragraph devotion, followed by a one paragraph section called "one more thought."  The devotions touch on topics like faith, obedience, self-control, purity, bullying, and drug use.  We have been using the book for our family devotion time after supper each night with our children aged 13, 11, and 6. 


Pros:

--Each devotion is just one short page.  It's easy to read and easily holds the attention of our kids.

--Topics are thoughtful and relevant to our kids' lives--even the 6 year old--and challenge our kids to deeper thinking and understanding of who God is and what they're going to do about it.

--The "one more thought" section is an excellent starting place for discussion of each day's topic, often offering introspective questions.  These are topics that we need to talk about with our kids, but don't necessarily know how to bring up with them.


Cons:

--The Bible verses are short, usually just one verse, with no context.  This issue can easily be solved by reading the context of the verse from your own Bible.


Bottom line:  This is a great devotion for families of teens and tweens.  I definitely recommend reading it with your child, either out loud as we do, or separately with time to connect and discuss over the reading for the day.

Many thanks to Book Look Bloggers for providing a copy of this book to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Litte Help, Please: Birthday Treat Edition

Someone who is very important in my life has a birthday coming up, and I'd like to surprise her with a delicious birthday treat.  She loves chocolate.  And peanut butter ... in close proximity to chocolate.  She does not particularly care for cake, but she loves ice cream.  And chocolate.  Oh, I already said that, didn't I?  Well, she really, really loves chocolate.

I've decided on a Peanut Butter Cup ice cream cake, but I'm having a little trouble narrowing down my choices.  Will you help?

Here's what I've got.


Pb6
{Source}
Option A from Sugar Plum Blog starts with a peanut butter cookie base smothered in chocolate frozen custard (no, I don't know what the difference between custard and ice cream is, either), and topped with dark chocolate and peanut butter cups.



Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cake
{Source}
Option B from Eggs on Sunday has a chocolate cookie crumb base, topped with chopped peanut butter cups mixed with chocolate ice cream, and covered with chocolate ganache and more peanut butter cups.



Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Freezer Pie: Mix 1 large box of instant chocolate pudding with 1-1/2 cups of milk. Whisk in 1 8 oz tub of cool whiip. Fold in chopped Reese’s Peanut butter cups. Combine real Thin some real peanut butter in microwave, pour on bottom of chocolate cookie pie crust. Add filling and top with more chopped peanut butter cups. Freeze until 15 minutes before serving.
{Source}
Option C from Coupon Cousins is not an ice cream cake, but I think she would like it, just the same.  Chopped peanut butter cups folded into chocolate whipped cream and spread in a chocolate cookie crumb crust, then frozen

And then there's this.

So...what do you think?  Vote for your favorite and I'll make the one that receives the most votes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homemade Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancake Mix

In general, I prefer to make food from scratch.  It usually tastes better than commercially prepared food or mixes and it only takes a little bit longer.  One exception is when we're camping.  I buy "just add water" pancake mix for convenience out in the woods.  Because there aren't any refrigerators or dishwashers out there.

We were camping this past weekend, and I discovered as I was packing the food (2 hours before departure) that we didn't have enough "just add water" pancake mix left.  Oops.  Guess I should have checked that a little bit earlier in the week.  With no breakfast plan B available, I started looking for a pancake mix recipe online.

I decided to make this one.  But we were completely out of all-purpose flour (the Friendship Bread.  It disappears the flour.  I bought 10 pounds today and expect it to be gone within less than a month).  No worries.  We had plenty of whole wheat flour.  We had a container of what I thought was dry milk in the cupboard, so I was good to go.  Good thing I tasted it before putting it in the mix--turns out it was powdered lemonade!  Note to self: label, label, label.  Fortunately, I had some dry buttermilk in the freezer, leftover from this recipe.  Could anything else go wrong?   I sure hope not. 

Nothing else went wrong and the family loved the pancakes.  Hubby loved that all he had to do was add a few things to a ziplock bag, mix, and cook.  They turned out light, tender, and flavorful.

The beauty of this pancake mix is if you prefer to cook from scratch, like I do, you really are cooking from scratch.  You add the ingredients together and know exactly what's going in to the mix, but you also have the convenience of being able to get homemade pancake batter ready to go in a matter of seconds.  It's the best of both worlds--perfect to have on hand for rushed weekday mornings.  Or camping trips.

Let's get started.

Homemade Pancake Mix
{Source}
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancake Mix

5 c. white whole wheat flour* (substitute regular whole wheat or all-purpose flour if desired)
1 1/4 c. dry buttermilk (in the baking aisle near the dry milk)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. baking powder
1 T. salt

Mix everything together with a whisk.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator**

To prepare the pancakes:
Add 1 c. water, 1 egg, and 2 T oil to a scant 2 c. of mix.  Cook on greased surface over medium-high heat 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown.


* Find white whole wheat flour in the baking aisle near the other flours--it costs the same as regular whole wheat flour but it's made from white spring wheat and looks and tastes lighter.  If you don't like whole wheat baked goods because of the heavier texture, try white whole wheat flour.  You get the goodness of whole grains without the denseness of regular whole wheat.  You might not even be able to tell the difference between white whole wheat and just plain ol' white--my family couldn't.

**  I store mine in the fridge because my dry buttermilk says to store in the fridge, but it was just fine unrefrigerated for the 2 days we had it in our food bin before preparing it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Menu Plan for the week of May 26

You might notice that my menu plan is not quite complete this week.  Well, if you bother to count, that is.  That's because today is a holiday, and I didn't think I'd have time to type up my weekly menu plan, so I'm actually writing this a week ago.

Confused?  Don't worry.  We'll just move on. 

Here's what's on the menu for this week.
--Hamburger Stroganoff, corn, applesauce
--Honey-Pecan Chicken Cutlets
--Crock Pot Ravioli with Italian Beef
--Crunchy Black Bean Tacos
--Pizza on the grill

Snacks/Other:
--More Friendship Bread.  Because you have to keep baking that stuff every 10 days.  It's kind of like having a pet.  You have to feed it.  You have to stir it.  You have to bake it.  OK, not so much like a pet.  At least I hope y'all are not stirring and baking your pets!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Apple Cranberry Walnut Friendship Bread

As you know, my friends, Friendship Bread baking day was Tuesday.

And I will have you know that this is definitely official friendship bread, because I shared some with a couple of friends and gave away some starter, too.  See?  I can be friendly.

OK, to be honest, the only reason I gave any away was because my starter was very enthusiastic and I ended up with more than I had planned on--seven cups in all, as opposed to the normal 4.  But I did give it away instead of freezing it, so that's something isn't it?

Anyway, I made Lemon-Chia muffins and bread and Double Chocolate bread, because that's what the children requested.  I also made Apple Cranberry Walnut friendship bread, because it sounded good at the time.  And it was.  So good.

This delicious bread is spiced with cinnamon.  It's moist and not too sweet.  The cranberries provide a bit of tartness and the nuts lend a pleasing texture.  I love that this recipe, unlike traditional friendship bread, requires no instant pudding--I already had all the ingredients in the house.

Here's the recipe:


Apple Cranberry Walnut Friendship Bread
(adapted from here)

1 c. Friendship Bread Starter**
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. cinnamon applesauce (use plain if you don't have cinnamon)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh apple (about 1/2 a medium apple)
3/4 c. chopped walnuts (substitute pecans if desired)
  1. Preheat oven to 325* F
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except cranberries, apple and nuts.  Once combined, stir in cranberries, apple and nuts.
  3. Grease two 9x5" loaf pans or 6 mini loaf pans or 24 muffin cups.
  4. Optional: dust the greased pans with a mixture of 1/2 c sugar and 1/2 t. cinnamon. (I did not do this)
  5. Pour the batter evenly into loaf pans and if using, sprinkle remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture on top.
  6. Bake regular loaves for an hour, mini loaves for 30-35 minutes, muffins for 20-25 minutes, or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.  Cool in pan 5-10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
Enjoy!

** If you don't have a starter, you can make your own using this recipe.  Or you can just ask me for some--I'll have more than I know what to do with approximately 6 days from now.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Crash the Chatterbox: A Review

Why are you so stupid? 

You're worthless. 

You'll never be able to accomplish anything. 

You're a failure. 

No one could ever love you.

Do you find yourself constantly barraged by negative self-talk?  This is what author Steven Furtick refers to as the Chatterbox.  It is never still.  It just chatters on and on and on filling you with self-doubt, anxiety, and discouragement.


In Crash the Chatterbox, Furtick shows how to use the "noise-canceling" truth of God's word to drown out voices of negativity in four key areas: insecurity, fear, condemnation, and discouragement.

I loved this book, and I kind of feel like it should be required reading for anyone with chatterbox issues.  Which is ... just about everyone.  Mr. Furtick offers practical solutions, based in Biblical reality, that actually work.  The author reveals the lies the chatterbox seeks to have us believe about ourselves, shows us how to recognize their untruth, and gives scripture-based rebuttals for each of the chatterbox's deceptions.

If you apply the teachings of this book to your life, you will destroy the chatterbox.

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Make Ahead {Shake-able} Smoothie Packs

Last week I had some fruit that was not going to last very much longer.  Knowing that I was planning on making homemade fruit snacks this week, I decided to puree my fruit, freeze it, and use it for fruit snacks the following week.

But I messed up.  I had forgotten that fresh pineapple has an enzyme in it that causes gelatin to not set.  And pineapple, strawberries, and blueberries were what I pureed.  Bummer.

Not to worry, though.  I froze my puree in ice cube trays to use for future smoothies.  Yum.  It was just like the old days of making baby food.

So when AKD asked the other day if we had any of "those smoothie things," I was prepared.  He was referring to these:


{Source}
I only bought them that one time because they were free.  {Tangent: can you call it "buying" when you don't actually pay any money for them?}  But apparently they made an impression on AKD.  All you  have to do is add juice and shake.  It's kind of fun, actually.

But you know, all those are is fruit, pureed and frozen in small chunks, along with yogurt frozen in small chunks.  There's probably a lot of sugar and artificial flavor and other things I don't want my people eating in there as well...

So I told him, yes, I do have some of those smoothie things, and got out my frozen fruit cubes, along with a tub of yogurt, some orange juice and the blender.  He was skeptical, but was willing to try it.  {He was not, however, willing to add spinach or cilantro.}  And he loved it.  AKD told me I needed to blend up some more fruit, pronto, and get some more yogurt, too, while I was at it.

I, of course, said sure!  I'd love to!  Because I love to see my kids choosing to eat things that are good for them.

I bought a quart-sized tub of vanilla Greek-style yogurt and froze that in ice cube trays as well.  Once the cubes were frozen, I popped them out of the tray and into a freezer Ziploc bag.  Now when AKD wants a smoothie, he just pops 4 fruit cubes and 2 yogurt cubes in the blender with about a cup of orange juice.  It's the perfect recovery drink after sports.  Smoothies help rehydrate quickly, while replenishing energy and providing protein and fiber.

To make it even easier, and more like those smoothie things (or if you don't want to use the blender in the morning because it's really loud and will wake up your wife and kids and you're much too considerate for that), puree and freeze your fruit, yogurt, and greens (if desired) in ice cube trays ahead of time, then pop out when frozen.  Add the cubes, in whatever combination you like, to individual bags.  Then use a food mallet to crush the heck out of 'em. 


Stick the bags back in the freezer until you're ready for your smoothie, then simply pour the contents into a shaker or cup with a lid, add juice, milk, or water, and shake.  I love this method because it means we can have fresh fruit smoothies anytime. 

And since my people are somewhat inconsistent in their fruit consumption (one week we go through 10 bananas, the next week no one likes bananas anymore, but they'll eat half a quart each of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries before suddenly not wanting berries anymore ... it's impossible to keep up with their whims),  I can just blend up and freeze any fruit that no one's interested in eating so nothing goes to waste.  Win.

Easy.  And so yum.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The end of the {school} year push

This time of year is so busy.  Seriously.  Why {in the world} do my kids' schools have so much going on during May and June?  I mean, they do these things every year.  It's not like it's a surprise.  Spread it out a little, will ya?

I've always thought the busy-ness was to distract the kids, keep them engaged, or maybe to use up money that had been budgeted but not yet spent (because you know how budgets work--if you don't use it this year, they're not going to give it to you next year).  But I have a new perspective now thanks to a text conversation I had with a friend yesterday.

She was talking about how she feels about the end of the school year and mentioned that she was "feeling some terror and yet a little relief."  Terror because she knows the endless "I'm bored"s are coming (more about that later).

She didn't say why she was feeling relief, but I know.  I know!  It's because these last few weeks of school are so darn busy, with new demands and required appearances added every day.  For the next three weeks, I have something school related going on at least every other day.  The last week I will be at the school every day, I'm sure.  My son's 5th grade teacher sent out the May newsletter saying that she did not include the dates for June because they're still working out some details.  Woman!  I need to know these things!  At least tell me how many more things you're going to be adding to my schedule.  It's OK if you don't give me the details right now, but for the love of all that's holy, tell me what's coming! 

It's a relief when it's finally over.

And that, my friends, is when it hit me.  Those teachers?  They're brilliant.  They back-load the last month of school with so many activities that we're actually happy for it to be over.  They're distracting us from the fact that we are staring down 13 weeks of sibling squabbles and irrational demands and having to figure out what's for lunch every day and I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored, you're-the-mom-so-it's-your-responsibility-to-keep-me-entertained-at-all-times.  As if.

Teachers.  Sneaky.  Brilliant.  Not-paid-nearly-enough.  Love them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Menu for the week of May 19: Soccer-geddon Continues and Friendship Bread Starter Comes of Age

Y'all!  Only 2 more Mondays of school.  Crazy, right?

Soccer continues this week with 4 more practices and 4 more games over the next 4 days followed by a 4 day break.  I'm really hoping the weather forecast is accurate because it's saying the rain will clear up around 4 and start again around 7.  Since we're east of the metro area for which we receive forecasts, our weather is generally about an hour behind.  Which means, if the weather holds true to forecast, we'll be able to get both soccer games in this evening without being rained upon.  Here's hoping...

In other news, Tuesday (that's tomorrow) is Day 10 for my Friendship Bread starter, which means it's time to bake!  So very excited about that.  I'll be making 3 varieties.  I'm also planning on keeping the starter going this time, instead of my usual practice of baking it all.  We'll see how long that lasts!

On the menu:
--Sandwiches.  Or chicken nuggets.  Or maybe wraps?  Who knows... but I'd better get it together pretty soon, since supper's on the early side today.
--Nachos (make extra taco seasoned meat to freeze) with veggie fixings
--Crock Pot Creamy Italian Chicken (make extra to freeze) served over bowtie pasta, roasted broccoli
--Mini Sausage Quiches, mixed berries, carrots
--Tacos
--Pizza
--Ham-n-cheese Grilled Sandwiches

Monday:
--Hamburger stroganoff, applesauce, corn

Snacks/breakfast/other:
--Apple Cranberry Nut Friendship Bread
--Double Chocolate Friendship Bread
--Lemon-Chia Friendship Bread
--Salsa Verdi (for canning)
--Sausage Egg Biscuits
--Granola

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Proper Care and Feeding of Your Friendly Neighborhood Yeasts

As you know, if you've been reading, I recently made friendship bread starter.  Last week, I posted this on Facebook:
Judging by the boozy smell and taste of my friendship bread starter, those yeasts are having a GREAT time in there ... consuming sugar, excreting alcohol ... Little do they know they're destined to be EATEN. Party on, yeasty beasties. Five more days...


I've never noticed such a strong smell of alcohol from friendship bread starter.  Those yeasts really know how to party, and they are partying hard.  For days now.  I hope they don't, like, get alcohol poisoning or anything.

Yesterday, as I was standing over the starter after feeding it, stirring for.ev.er trying to get the lumps out, I actually started to feel a little woozy. 

And isn't it fun how woozy and boozy rhyme?  'Cause, I mean, they just go together.

I don't consume a whole lot of alcohol, so I have kind of a low tolerance, but can you get drunk from fumes?  That is some potent stuff.

Anyway, as I was stirring and stirring and feeling woozy and stirring some more, it occurred to me: don't the Amish abstain from alcohol?  Isn't consuming alcohol grounds for exclusion?  Is Amish friendship bread really just a subversive movement among the Plain Women to get their daily dose of CH3CH2OH?

Hmmm...

There are still a few small lumps in the yeasty beastie party room, because the fumes, man.  I had to stop stirring.

In conclusion, I would like a plastic whisk please.

Friday, May 16, 2014

This week in review

Hubby was out of town again this week.  Which means, if you're keeping score (as I usually don't but sometimes do when it all just seems too ridiculous), he's been home a grand total of 2 complete days so far in May.  I think he's home now for the rest of the month, but that could change.  I'll keep you posted.

***

I made my own friendship bread starter from this recipe.  This is the first time I've used yeast in a starter, and it's just been bubbling away, consuming sugars and excreting alcohol.  It's smelling (and tasting) quite boozy these past few days.  Today is feeding day, and baking day is next week.  I'll let y'all know how it turns out.

***

I went on 2 field trips this week.  Kindergarten took me along to the Teddy Bear Clinic on Tuesday.  The kids each brought a favorite stuffed animal to get fixed up in the ER.  And they actually fixed them!  Like sewed 'em up and put on eyes and stuff.  Very cool.   I wasn't scheduled to go, but was a last minute addition because of a last minute chaperonal cancelation. 

Then 5th grade took me along to the art institute and sculpture garden.  So much fun!  But seriously exhausting.  With only about 2 hours in the art institute, I feel like one could spend days there.  So much to see.  And it's not just the art.  As one of the other chaperones said, "I don't know what's more interesting to look at, the art, or the people looking at the art." 

And what's the deal with teachers putting the most...challenging...shall we say, students in my group?  I thought the teachers were supposed to keep those kids to themselves! 

In Ms. A's defense, she and I were in the same group, so she really was keeping the most challenging kids to herself, it's just that she shared them with me, too.  And in Mrs. T's defense, she also had a challenging kid in her (small) group, and we did end up in the same large group as well.

***

AKD had his first 2 games of the soccer season.  Game one was cold and rainy.  Like torrential downpours at times.  It was crazy, with boys slipping all over the place.  Our team played well, but lost.  Game two was not quite as cold, but the ref ended up calling the game early because it was too dark.  Like seriously, you could see maybe 10 or 20 feet by the end of the game.  At one point the ref said to the players, "I can't see a thing, so play with integrity." !!  By the time the game was over and we walked across the field to the car, it was pitch black.  AKD's team won that one.

AKD also had 2 practices, and Bubby and MC also had practices and games, which means we had a grand total of 4 games and 4 practices in 4 days.  There's a nice symmetry there, you know?

***

On tap for the weekend?  More soccer, a flag raising ceremony, and hopefully sleep.  Lots and lots of sleep.  And remind me to bring a flashlight to Saturday's game.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Missions

I'm on, like, a BUNCH of missions right now for Smiley360.  Click the links for coupons and more information. 

Cholula Chili Lime Sauce
Cholula® Chili Lime Hot Sauce

Hot sauce.  With lime!  Do I really need to say anything else?

Click here for a coupon


Baking Soda
ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda

Y'all know how much I love baking soda, right?  It's an all natural cleaner, deodorizer, and sanitizer.  I use it to freshen my carpets, boost my laundry detergent, and clean all manner of things.  Baking soda even saved my favorite soup pot!  Oh yeah, and you can even cook with it.  All this, for just $1 per box.  Amazing.

Click here for coupons and to learn more


PERK Vent Wrap
PERK® Vent Wrap Auto Air Fresheners

It's spring sports season, and you know what that means.  That's right.  Stinky athletes and their stinky gear need to be transported to games and practices.  Sometimes, my vehicle needs a little freshening up.  PERK vent wraps discretely freshen the air in your vehicle for 2 weeks.

Click here for a coupon


Nature's Bounty® Optimal Solutions® Hair, Skin & Nails Gummies
Nature's Bounty® Hair, Skin & Nails Gummies

Nature's Bounty says these gummies will make you look and feel better inside or out in 30 days, and they're putting their money where their mouths are.  They'll give you your money back if you're not satisfied!  They shouldn't be worried, though, because it works.  My hair is shiny and my nails are strong.  Added bonus?  The strawberry flavor is so yummy!

Click here for a coupon and to take the challenge.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Menu Plan for the Week of Soccer-geddon

Hi y'all.  No time to chat because today begins soccer-geddon for the Bluefield household.  Over the course of 11 days, my three children will participate in 11 (maybe 12, if they do well) games, and 8 practices.

Luckily, Hubby & Bubby brought home a bunch of dinner rolls from their Cub Scout campout, so we're having sandwiches this week.  And that's pretty much all we're having.

On the menu:
--Sandwiches of ham, grilled chicken, shredded chicken, or chicken salad, carrots, cuties, chips
--Salami sandwiches, tiny sweet peppers, apple wedges, pretzels
--Summer sausage slices or egg salad, crackers, cheese, carrots, watermelon
--Chicken/broccoli/rice casserole (make extra to freeze), mandarin oranges
--Itty bitty hamburgers on itty bitty buns, caramel apple salad, corn on the cob
--Steak, mashed potatoes, roasted broccoli, peaches
--Leftovers or out to eat

Next Monday:
--Hamburger stroganoff, corn, applesauce

Breakfast/snacks/other:
--Granola
--Whole wheat bread made with dough enhancer
--"Amish" Friendship Bread starter (kids have been asking for lemon-poppy seed and double chocolate friendship bread.  I'm going to try the starter with yeast this time)


What's on your menu this week?

Friday, May 9, 2014

This week in review

It's a little funny that I'm writing a week in review post here.  'Cause the thing is, I don't remember what happened this week.  Like, seriously.  I lived it, but I (apparently) didn't feel the need to retain anything about it.  So, whatever.  Here's what happened.  Maybe.  Or maybe I'll make it all up.

I did get to take a nap on Saturday.  That was good.  So good.  You may recall I was parenting solo at the time, with my husband whooping it up in Mexico for days upon days...upon days.  Parenting solo makes me tired.  So the kids popped in a movie, entreating me to watch with them, and I kindly obliged.  With my eyes closed.  Because y'all know mamas have extrasensory abilities.  We see with more than just our eyes.

MC started soccer on Monday, and Bubby started Tuesday.  It actually worked out well because AKD had soccer practice at pretty much the same time as them on both days.  At the same location!  Whoo.  It will not always happen like this, but it was a blessing that it did this week.

AKD discovered this week that he loves smoothies AND smoothies make an excellent recovery drink after soccer practice.  So I've been pureeing fruit for him and freezing that and yogurt in ice cube trays (just like the old days of making baby food, except now my baby is almost 14!).  All he has to do is pop some fruit and yogurt cubes in the blender along with some juice and he's got a yummy, nutritious smoothie.

I volunteered in Bubby's kindergarten classroom for what will probably be the last time this school year.  It makes me a little sad, because I have enjoyed very much watching him and his classmates learn and grow over this past year.  When I first started helping with writer's workshop, the kids were writing one sentence, and it would take them the whole 40 minutes.  Some of the kids were only writing one word.  Now, they're whipping out 4-6 sentences, no problem.  I am so amazed and impressed by these kids and their teacher.

I discovered this week that I can walk from my house to the state park.  I knew this before, of course, considering it's right across the road, but I realized this week that there is a trailhead about a mile from our house.  I knew that, too--it's just never occurred to me to walk there before.  It's been a fun change hiking the trails in the park instead of walking exclusively on roads.  Sometime before the end of the school year, I'll hike the big loop around the park (about 9 miles), and also hike from my house to the waterfall and back (about 6 miles).  Probably not in the same day.

My oldest, AKD, is now officially, as in documented by a medical professional, taller than me.  We've known he's taller for a few months now, but now it's in his permanent medical record.  *Sigh*  My baby is old.

On tap for the weekend?  A couple of mystery shops, I'll be working on a birthday gift for someone special, plus my family is giving me the best ever mommy's day gift.

How about you?  How was your week?  What are your plans for the weekend?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What to do: Hiking with Sirens

What do you do when you have over 2 miles left to go of your 5 mile hike and the weather sirens go off?  Not sure?  Well not to worry, because I've already done the thinking for you.  Don't think you'll ever find yourself in this situation?  No worries.  This easy method works any time you hear weather sirens and you're not in close proximity to shelter. 

{Source}
Here's what to do, in 10 easy steps.

Step 1: Don't panic!  OK, you can panic a little bit if it makes you feel better, but then PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, man!

Step 2: Kick yourself for not taking your phone along on the hike so you can get up-to-the-minute weather forecasts.  No, don't really kick yourself.  That might hurt, and then it would be more difficult to carry out step 10.

Step 3: Recall the weather forecast for the day and realize that, yes, severe storms were forecast, but not until later in the day.

Step 4: Try to remember how much later in the day.

Step 5: Assess current weather conditions.  Does it look like there's severe weather in the area?

Step 6: Realize that it's Wednesday, and it could be 11 a.m., after all, you left around 10:15 and you've hiked about 3 miles, and that's when the weather sirens are tested, on the first Wednesday of the month.

Step 7: Berate yourself again for not taking your phone or a watch along so you'd know what time it is.

Step 8: Try to remember if it's the first Wednesday of the month, and decide that it could be.

Step 9: Once again regret the fateful decision to leave all communication and time-telling devices at home because then you would know for sure if it's a first Wednesday and/or be able to call in the cavalry, that is, if the cavalry is not in a plane on the way home from Mexico.

Step 10: Just keep walking, because, after all, that's all you can do.

(Optional) Step 11: Arrive home and confirm that it is, indeed, a first Wednesday, and that the siren was most likely a test.

So there you go.  Aren't you glad you know what to do?  You're welcome.

{Source}

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Road & Business Trips

You know how, when you're going on a road trip, you sort of prepare yourself mentally for how long it's going to take?  And you know how, if the trip takes about the amount of time you expect, it's OK, but if it takes longer it's just awful?  For instance, I have been on 3-4 hour road trips that seemed longer than the 10 hour road trips we take semi-regularly.  All because of my mind-set.

Same thing for business trips.  My husband travels frequently for work, and when he's gone, I set my mind for how long he'll be gone, and if he's gone for that length of time, it's actually OK.  While I don't enjoy the absence of my best friend and co-parent, I do what I have to do to keep everything going around here.  And I do think it's getting easier.  Or maybe I've just lowered my expectations enough that it seems easier.

It's a lot of work, being a single parent.  And it's not just the actual physical work that makes it hard, although that's a big part of it, but the lack of support, not having anyone with whom to share the joys and challenges and the debilitating weight of responsibility. It's so emotionally draining to parent solo.  I'm not going to say that I don't know how full-time single parents do it, because I know how they do it.  They adapt.  They make the best of a less than ideal situation.  They do what they need to do.  And I do, too. 

Where it all falls apart is when the husband calls on Thursday night, after having been in Mexico since early Monday morning, to tell me that he needs to stay another 5 days, doubling the original length of the trip. 

Not that that's ever happened or anything. 

OK, you got me.  It happened last week.  My road trip through the land of single parenting had been almost over.  I could see our destination.  We were so close to the place where when the kids ask how much longer it's actually true when I respond, "five more minutes."  So close.

Devastating.  To be counting on reinforcements arriving.  To be told they're not.

But I adapted.  I made the most of a less than ideal situation.  I did what I had to do.  And now I'm told reinforcements will be arriving today.  Halleluiah, this road trip is almost over.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Homemade Guacamole

Yesterday I ate guacamole in honor of my favorite brother in law's Cinco de Mayo birthday.  I don't know if he even likes guacamole, but I will take any excuse to ingest that yummy creamy green goodness.  Mmmm.  I think I just drooled on my keyboard, thinking about it.

I had a guacamole/egg/cheese burrito for breakfast.
I had a big bowl of guacamole with a spoonful of leftover taco casserole for lunch.
I had carrots dipped in guacamole for an afternoon snack.
I even had a big spoonful of guacamole with my French toast.  That was kind of strange, I have to admit.

Anyway, the possibilities are endless.  You can use it as a dip or sandwich spread, put it on burgers, nachos or pizza, in burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, tacos ... at any time of the day.

So good.  Easy to make.  And so good for you!  Just go make some.  It's just as good for Seis de Mayo...


Guacamole
Not my guacamole.  Because, you know, it's gone.
{Source}
Easy Guacamole
  • 2 large ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and mashed**
  • 1 ripe plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped*
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 c)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1-2 T lime juice (or juice from one lime)
  • finely chopped jalapenos to taste (I use jarred, but fresh works too)
  • salt & pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a glass or plastic bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend.

* To seed the tomato, cut it in half the fat way, then use a finger to scoop out seeds from each half.
** Not sure how to pit and peel an avocado?  Click here.
*** Off topic, but not sure how to cut a pineapple?  Click here.

Happy guacamole making!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Menu Plan for the Week of May 5

I have a flaw in my menu-planning, grocery-procuring system.  I plan menus on the weekend for the following week, Monday through Sunday.  But I don't go grocery shopping until Tuesday.  So whatever I plan for Monday needs to be something for which we already have all of the ingredients in the house.

I've tried to plan for Tuesday through Monday instead, but I've just got this mental block thing going on.  I don't want to plan for Monday last.  It just doesn't seem right.

But I really need to be more diligent in planning ahead for Mondays, because I'm experiencing a major meal-planning dilemma this week.  I know we have enough food that we won't starve, I just can't figure out how to put it together in a delicious, nutritious meal.  So, what do we do around here when we don't know what to eat?  We have breakfast for dinner.  That, or the wildly popular Fend-For-Yourself (seriously, the kids cheer when I announce that it's Fend-For-Yourself night).

Usually breakfast for dinner in our house means pancakes or waffles, or even the occasional omelet, but this week, since Monday is a national holiday in Mexico, we're gonna go with an ethnic favorite: vanilla challah French toast.  Yes, I know that neither challah nor French toast is a traditional Mexican dish, but we do have all of the ingredients in the house (since I've been planning to make this on a Saturday for the past 3 weeks and haven't been able to get it together--hopefully a change of day, coupled with the desperation of not being able to buy anything new, will get this meal made), and it is ethnic.  To make up for my grievous lack of preparation for this important celebration, we'll be eating Mexican style foods for a good portion of the rest of the week.

Here ya go:
Vanilla Challah French toast Recipe
{Source}

The Menu:
 
--Vanilla Challah French Toast, fresh fruit salad, and whipped cream
--Beef Empanadas, tossed salad, corn
--Haystacks with the addition of seasoned kidney beans (these are kind of like taco salad, but each person gets to build his own)
--Super Simple Meat & Cheese Burritos and Bean & Cheese Burritos (make extra; freeze), vegetable medley, peaches
--Calzone with marinara for dipping, green beans
--Cub Scout Dinner, Campfire S'mores Cupcakes
--Pork Chops, potato planks, corn, applesauce

Campfire S’mores Cupcakes
{Source}
Next Monday:
(well, I did it once...let's see if I can keep this up)
--Hamburger Stroganoff, green beans, applesauce

Other/Breakfast:
--Challah Bread
--Homemade Fruit Snacks
--Cookies for Teacher Appreciation Week

Your Turn:
What's on your menu this week?
And did you see that up there?  Cookies for Teacher Appreciation Week?  What kind should I make?

Friday, May 2, 2014

This week in review

Hubby was in Mexico this week, so while we were inundated with non-stop rain and temperatures hovering in the mid-30s, he was suffering through sunny, 100+ degree weather, poor guy.  You might think I'm crazy, but I would so much rather have our weather this week than their weather.  Although, if I had to, I would be able suffer through, provided I had a nice air conditioned hotel room with abundant fresh fruit and a shaded pool and sandy beach nearby.  Fruity frozen drinks wouldn't hurt, either.

***

I started the week with 3 goals, and I failed miserably at two of them.  I'll let you figure out which one I actually accomplished:

1. Make it out alive
2. Go to bed by 10
3. Exercise 4 days

***

I planted zinnia seeds with kindergartners this week.  Nothing like making a huge mess to transport one to her happy place. 

***

I did two lunch mystery shops this week, which was kind of fun.  One of them was at a place that I had never been to, but was highly recommended by Beaver-ly--glad I got the chance to finally see what all the fuss was about.  I think this was the first time I had ever gone to a sit-down restaurant by myself, and although it was a little strange, it wasn't as awkward as I had feared. 

***

We've finally settled down into some semblance of normalcy after the influx of evening activities caused by AKD's soccer season.  This is a good thing.  We're stable.  Getting it done without pulling all of our hair out.  Unfortunately, next week, we add in MC's and Bubby's soccer games.  And the week after that, AKD's games start.  It's gonna be a mad dash for the end of the school year, my friends.

***

I'm tired.  So, so tired.  I stay up way too late when my hubby is out of town, and my mood, my outlook, my energy, my health all suffer for it.  I'm hoping this will be a nice relaxing weekend with lots of naps.  OK.  Not lots--two would be sufficient.

How was your week?  And what's the weekend looking like for ya?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I walked today

I walked today.

Even though it was cold, with a wind chill below freezing.
Even though it was raining.

I walked today.  In my white, black, and pink--of course, pink--plaid pajamas, I walked.

Why?  Because I needed to.

I have been feeling foggy and befuddled these past few days--not quite right in mind or body, with strange aches and destructive habits popping up in unexpected, unwanted places.  We've been stuck inside for days due to rain and cold, so my body and my spirit have not had the benefit of fresh air and sunlight or movement.  I've known practically forever that I do best when I'm getting outside regularly, but just recently I have been noticing how differently my body feels when I'm giving it good nourishing fuel as opposed to when I'm feeding it junk.

I needed a fresh start this morning.  And how better to make a fresh start than to be washed clean in the life-giving rain from above?  There is something so restorative, so healing, about being alone with God and your thoughts, the rain sprinkling down like the waters of baptism.

And so I walked.  In the rain, in the cold, in my pajamas.

And I realized.  I need to be willing to deny myself the mediocre so that I have room for the best.  I need to fill my mind and body with life-giving nourishment instead of settling for a quick fix that feels good now but will not last and cannot sustain.  I need to worship God in this earthy temple, with my all of my heart, soul, mind, and body.

I need to love myself as much as I am loved by my Creator. 

I walked today.  Away from confusion, destruction and sin. 
I walked today.  Toward clarity and love and redemption.

I walked today.

13 Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water that I will give them will never become thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14


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