Monday, December 29, 2014

Menu plan for the week of December 29

Merry Christmas, everyone!  The kids are on break and we're having a great time hanging out together, enjoying each other's company.  It even snowed a couple of days ago, so while our Christmas was decidedly green, our new year will begin white.

After the excesses of Christmas celebrations, it's a little hard to think about food, so we're going simple around here.  Here's what's on the menu this week:

--Spaghetti/spaghetti squash with meat sauce, green beans
--Wild rice casserole, carrots
--Turkey pot pie (using turkey leftover from Christmas, and homemade turkey stock), salad
--Grilled steak, garlic toast, salad
--Oregano chicken, rice, steamed veggies
--Nachos with veggies

Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Survive Middle School and Monster Bots: A Review

In How to Survive Middle School and Monster Bots, Howard Boward is having a rough semester in Middle School.  He's having to dodge snowballs and bullies and trying to pull off a win in an upcoming robot-building contest.  Howard realizes the only way to win is to use his secret "monster goo," with possibly terrifying results. Will Howard play by the rules, or will he unleash a robot rampage that could destroy the town, or perhaps even more devastating, ruin the school dance?

I liked this book.  It's told from Howard's nerdy, typical boy, self-centered, point of view.  It was silly and fun, sort of along the lines of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but touched on real issues facing students in middle school, and I loved the subtle moral undertones.  I found myself laughing out loud several times. 

Bottom line: this is a great series for boys and girls in 4th-7th grades, especially fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Lost in Translation: A Review

I recently received a copy of Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders.  In this book, Ms. Sanders uses charming illustrations to bring to life more than 50 words that are not directly translatable to English.  In each 2 page spread, the author gives the word and its definition, along with its language of origin, and a drawing of the definition.  She also includes a brief paragraph of commentary. 

This is a cute book, and I liked it.  I found the words and their definitions interesting, for instance, in Tulu, which is spoken in parts of southwestern India, there is a word which means, "the mark left on the skin by wearing something tight."  In Indonesia, there is a word that "refers to a joke so terrible and unfunny that you cannot help but laugh."  We need that word around here.  A lot.

You can learn a lot about a culture by the words it uses.

This small volume would make a great gift for someone who loves language.  It also makes a great conversation starter.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Cozy Day

Feels like I haven't seen the sun in months.  In truth, it's been more like a couple of weeks.  A couple of weeks of cold, gray days.  And today is no exception.  Today is gray, and cold, and drizzly.  On days like today, all I want to do is cuddle up nice and cozy on my couch.

That is, if I could.

But alas, I have places to go, things to do, people to feed.

But if...

...if today was a lazy, snuggly, cozy day, I would need...

My fuzzy pants.  You remember about my fuzzy pants, yes?  How I would live in them if I could?  My fuzzy pants are absolutely essential to my cozy day.  And now?  I have polar bear fuzzy pants!  They match my boys' fuzzy pants!

Next, I would need a nice snuggly blanket.  Maybe something like this?  Soft and cozy and warm, but lightweight.  Ah....yes.

Striped Cashmere Throw
And yes, matching my fuzzy pants is a consideration.

I'm going to need something to do on my cozy day.  A book to read, or a fun movie to watch.  Lately I've been gobbling up anything and everything I can get my hands on by Mary Kay Andrews.  Right now I'm reading this one.

Just perfect for snuggling in.  Bonus--it's set in Savannah, Georgia in the summer, so I can feel warm vicariously.

And, of course, I'll need sustenance on my cozy day.  Something warm and hearty in the crock pot, like Taco Bean Soup or Lasagna Soup or even what I'm making today, Sunday Night Stew.

Sunday Night Stew
{From The Pioneer Woman}

And hot chocolate.  That's a must.


With Redi-Whip and shaved chocolate on top.  Mmmmm.

What else?  My comfy couch, a warm house, and a fire in the fire place.  Heaven.

On second thought, maybe those places to go and things to do can wait... If you need me, I'll be snuggled in, cozy and warm.

Your turn: What are your cozy day essentials?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Menu plan for the week of December 15 and beyond least I don't have to worry about food.  Here's what's coming up on the table for the Bluefield family.  Everything else?  Is up in the air.  It's all good, though.  Here's to another week (or two) of waiting for the King.

--Pizza, salad
--Grilled chicken, grilled garlic bread, salad, leftover veggies
--Spaghetti, carrots
--Sesame chicken strips, green beans, peaches
--Calzones, salad
--Grilled pork chops, parmesan potatoes, grilled broccoli
--Baked bone-in chicken, mashed potatoes, mixed veggies

And beyond...
--Sunday night stew (on Monday! Scandalous!), cream cheese mashed potatoes, salad
--Beef stroganoff, corn, salad
--Grandpa R's chicken rice soup, crackers, salad
--Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, salad, Brussels sprouts
--Dr. Pepper pork, 30 minute rolls, broccoli/carrot/cauliflower medley
--Shepherd's pie, whole wheat bread, applesauce

--Taco bean soup
--Turkey stock for canning
--Apple crisp
--Brownie pecan pie
--And more cookies

What are you eating this week?

Friday, December 12, 2014

This week in review

Some stuff happened this week.

Ok, well, a lot of stuff happened this week, including my husband telling me that it was a hardship for him to go to Mexico because the high temps were only (only!) supposed to be in the mid-sixties.  And rain!

And then, you know, there was the afternoon/evening I moonlighted as a taxi driver.  Driving, pretty much constantly, picking people up and dropping people off from 3:30 to 8:30 pm.  Those people are poor tippers.

And then, there were my girls.  Love them to pieces.

Followed by our group's reservation for volunteering at the Operation Christmas Child shoebox processing facility being canceled because they're FIVE DAYS ahead of schedule. So disappointed.

And now today I'm doing a favor for a friend in the morning, followed by this in the afternoon (love this Christmas tradition).

But none of that stuff matters because I GOT MY NEW FUZZY PANTS in the mail!  I looooove them.

That's MC on the left, followed by AKD, Me, and Bubby.
Our fuzzy pants all match!  This makes me happy.
Hubby is not pictured, because 1) poor guy was suffering through mid-sixties and rain in Mexico, and 2) if we took a picture of him in his jammies, it would not be suitable for posting on this family-friendly blog.

How was your week?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Holiday Survival Kit

Y'all!  This is a tough time of year for lots of people, for lots of reasons.  It's just like us humans to take something holy and wonderful and turn it into...well, all of this.  The compulsive shopping, the perfect decorations, the crazy!  The loneliness, the depression, the failed expectations...

I was recently introduced to Man Crates, and their awesome gifts for men.  Looking at all of their crates got me thinking about what I would include in a holiday survival kit to make it through the tough stuff.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I just don't stress out at this time of year the way many of my mommy friends do, and so maybe I don't really need a holiday survival kit.

I don't do anything at this time of year just because someone else expects me to.  If it brings me joy, I'll make it a priority.  If not, well, it's just not worth it.  

And yes, I'm in a fairly unique situation is this regard.  We don't have family, or a whole lot of friends, nearby, at least not friends who want to get together for Christmas celebrations.  So we don't have any parties to attend or any family obligations.  And over the past year I've gotten really good at saying no.

Which is not to say that I'm not super busy at this time of year, I am.  There are lots of things I would like to do before Christmas.  If I get to them, great.  If not, that's OK.

With that said, here's what's in my holiday survival kit:

Dove Promises--Mama's gotta have her chocolate.
If it has a little crunch, so much the better.  My favorites (you know, just in case...) are dark chocolate hazelnut and peppermint bark.

Lots of fresh veggies, lean protein, and water AND exercise--because when you're treating your body right, it'll treat you right.
Good-for-you food and exercise are the ultimate stress-buster.  This month, I'm doing this Countdown to Christmas challenge from Piper's Run.

My lists--oh, my lists!
If I don't write it down, I will forget it.  I need to make a list of my lists :)  It's on one of my lists, somewhere, to make this printable weekly agenda available to all of you...

Fuzzy pants--because it's all about comfort.
As soon as I have made it to the point of my day when I am no longer going to need to appear in public, my fuzzy pants are on. It's like my little reward for making it that far.  Sometimes? I get up in the morning, take a shower, and put my pajamas right back on.  Those are the very best kinds of days.

Inexpensive, easy, go-to gift--one thing that brings me joy is giving to others.
But breaking the budget on giving gifts to every.single.person to whom I would like to give gifts is a little bit of a joy-stealer.  And having to think about gifts for every.single.person?  Huge joy-stealer.  So I like to come up with a thoughtful, but inexpensive gift to give to everyone.  This year, it's these Hot Cocoa Gift Jars from the Magical Slow Cooker.  I love this, because if the recipient doesn't want it, it's easy to regift.

A good devotional--to keep me grounded in joy.
This year I'm reading The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas, both by Ann Voskamp.  I am loving this trip through God's love story.  These devotionals offer great suggestions for unwrapping God's love in the world, and keep me thinking about others.

A healthy dose of GRACE-- because I can't do it all, and I really don't have to.

Your turn: what's in your Holiday Survival Kit?

If you're still looking for a gift for a man in your life, check out Man Crates--the gift you open with a crowbar.  Not kidding.  I can think of some guys (and girls, hint, hint) who would love to receive one of these :)  They're not giving me anything to say that--I just think they're cool.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Menu plan for the week of December 8

We have another busy week ahead of us, my friends.  Not sure why all these medical and dental appointments are happening right now, and then we've got extra holiday celebratory stuff going on.  What it all means is I have to be very intentional in how I organize my time.  I'm scheduling all of my time this week, right down to when to do the laundry.  Deep we go.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

--Dr. Pepper Pork, 30 minute rolls, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots, mixed greens
--Slow Cooker Pepperoni & Chicken, oven roasted Brussels sprouts
--Out to eat
--Pizza casserole, green beans, salad
--Nachos with guacamole and taco toppings
--Grilled chicken, garlic bread, salad, mixed vegetables
--Grilled pork chops, smashed potatoes, grilled broccoli

Christmas Tree Meringues

--Taco bean soup
--30 minute rolls
--Meringue trees
--Christmas Vanilla Cake Roll
--Giant Monster Cookie

A simple vanilla roll cake with red and green dots and spirals of creamy buttercream. Recipe from

What are you eating this week?

Friday, December 5, 2014

This week in review

Y'all!  This was a busy week.  Made it through, though.  Here's what happened.

We started by returning from our Thanksgiving trip to find that none of our gas appliances, including the furnace, was working.  Thankfully, the gas guy was able to come out and bang on some things and we were good to go.

On Monday morning we had Bubby's surgery follow-up appointment.  The surgeon is pleased with how his scar looks, and is hopeful that the dent in his face will fill back in on its own.  Bubby's face is now, for the first time in almost 2 months, band-aide free, and we are thrilled to be putting this whole thing behind us.

Later in the day, I took AKD in to get his braces off, 3 months early.

On Tuesday, I headed off on a field trip to the science museum with MC.  It was all going well...until I lost 2 kids.  Oops.  Turns out they were on the bus?  While I was scouring the museum for them and trying to hold on to my other 4 kids?

On Wednesday, my first day actually home in more than a week, I made a list.  My list had 17 items on it.  I actually managed to cross 8 things off of it.  I was so impressed.  And then I added another 5, bringing me to a net 3 to-do items crossed off my list.  Whoo hoo!  Later in the evening I did a mystery shop.

Thursday morning I got together with my girls.  Love them.  That afternoon MC had a dentist appointment.

Friday (that's today!) I knocked another few items off my list, and took my Hubby on a mystery shopping date.  Now I'm watching a fun chick flick all by my lonesome, and telling y'all about my week.

How was your week?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Menu Plan for the Week of December 1

Hey y'all!  It's a new week, and a new month!  We just returned home from our Thanksgiving trip (great time was had by all), and found that none of our gas appliances (including the furnace) were working.  We're still not exactly sure what the problem was, but the gas guy came out and banged on some things, and now we're back in business.  However, the temperature in our house was down to 49 degrees, so it'll be a little while before it warms back up (even with the furnace and gas fireplace going).  So I'm sitting here all bundled up, typing in my gloves.  If you notice any weird typos, that's probably why.

So...December.  Can you believe it?  I need to figure out which Christmas treats we'll be making this year.  And by we, I mean me.  This weekend, I asked MC if there was anything in particular he wanted to do in December.  You know, like family fun activities.  He didn't have a whole lot of ideas, but he did say he wanted to make cookies.  When I pressed him on it, he admitted that what he really wanted was for me to make the cookies, and him to eat them.  So much for family fun activities.  *Sigh*  Good thing I love to bake.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

--Pizza casserole, green beans, salad
--Spaghetti/zucchini noodles with meat sauce, garlic bread, mixed vegetables, salad
--Fend for yourself/ramen/corn dogs, carrots
--Pizza or chicken pizza, salad
--Baked bone-in chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Tacos, taco fixings, including guacamole
--Dr. Pepper Pork, rolls, mixed veggies, salad

--Greek yogurt (I have to use a new starter, 'cause I ate all my homemade yogurt last week--it was so, so yummy!)
--Peanut butter granola bars
--100% whole wheat 30 minute rolls

Monday, November 24, 2014

What's for Supper

So...what's for supper?

What's that you say?  I'm supposed to be telling you what's for supper?  Ehh.  I figured it's your turn.  We've been a little...preoccupied...over here, and the meal planning brain cells are being used for other things.  Like keeping heads above water.

In mid-October, Bubby was running through the woods, tripped, and fell, impaling his cheek on a stick.  A trip to the ER and 4 stitches later, we thought we were done.  We'd keep the laceration clean, it would heal, and we'd move on with our lives.

Nope.  Over the next 2 days, Bubby's cheek proceeded to swell to well over double its normal size.  Monday morning we were at the clinic, where the doctor told us he thought there was a foreign body (aka part of the stick) in Bubby's cheek.  He told me that he thought it was probably just a little sliver, and would work its way out the same way it went in.  He instructed us to call if the swelling hadn't gone down in 48 hours.
You guessed it--48 hours later, no change, so the doctor sent us to the ER at the Children's hospital.  The ER doc and his plastic surgeon sidekick didn't seem to think it mattered whether or not there was something stuck in our baby's cheek.  Instead, they were concerned that it was infected.  They offered to cut it open and clean it out, but recommended that we start with the least invasive treatment.  We went home with foul tasting antibiotics and instructions to call if either it got worse or there was no change.

It got better.  The swelling went down, and Bubby's cheek started looking normal again.

Until a few weeks later, when we noticed the cut was sinking, forming a dent in Bubby's face.  And then another week later, when localized swelling started just right over the original injury.  And there started to be a lot of drainage.

Last week we went back to the plastic surgeon who said (as we had been saying for weeks) that it shouldn't be taking this long to heal.  Apparently, it was infected again, and the infection was feasting on the fat in Bubby's cheek!  On Friday, the plastic surgeon cut open our baby's cheek and cleaned it out.

Out of our baby's cheek came a piece of wood about the size of a dime.  A dime!  The surgeon said it was right on the surface, too.  Came right out.  How could everyone have missed that in 4 previous visits to health care professionals?

Anyway, now we're back to taking foul tasting antibiotics, and hoping that this time, we really are done.  Bubby was a rock star, and he's doing great.

My friends, I just don't have it in me to be planning meals right now.  So.  Tonight we'll have leftovers/fend for yourself.  I think we'll probably have turkey on Thursday, but the rest of the week is up in the air.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chicken Crust Pizza

What is it about pizza that makes it a less healthy food?

Well, first of all, pizza toppings tend to be high in fat and sodium. Now I'm not saying that those are bad things--we do need both in our diets--but pizza toppings tend to be some of the worst culprits, giving us way more fat and sodium than we need.

Then there's the crust--it's full of simple carbs that jack up your blood sugar and leave you craving more carbs a few hours later.

Not much I can do about the toppings, except to tell you to make better choices (more veggies, less processed meat).  But what if I told you I found a recipe for a gluten-free, carb-free pizza crust that actually tastes just like (or maybe ever better than) the simple-carb version we all know and love?

Oh yes, I did! I know you don't believe me.  Just trust me on this, and try it before passing judgement, m'kay?

You make your crust out of chicken.  That's it!  Chicken!  I know!  Crazy, but it works!

Chicken crust pizza topped with cheese, mushrooms, red peppers, pepperoni, and chopped tomatoes.
This particular pizza does not have sauce on it, because Hubby used it all for the traditional pizzas he was making.  Hubby was cooking, so how can I be upset about that?  Just making sure I get my sauce first next time!  He always puts on way too much sauce anyway...
Here's how you do it (adapted from here):

Pound a 4-6 oz chicken breast as flat as you can--1/4" thick is good.  Brush the chicken breast with olive oil and season (salt and pepper is good; crushed garlic is even better--but use your imagination.  Any pizza herbs or spices will be divine).  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Next, add your toppings.  Pizza sauce, tons of veggies, turkey pepperoni or sausage, and of course, a little bit of cheese.  I've been using real grated Parmesan and 2% mozzarella--so yummy!

Put your pizza back into the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts.

That's it!  I have heard, that if you want to make one large pizza for several people to share, you can just pound your chicken breasts out into a cookie sheet or pizza pan, making sure they're touching, and they will link together during cooking, forming a larger crust.  Then just add whatever toppings you wish.

Honestly, try it.  I'm pretty sure you'll like it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shoebox Collection Week!

Y'all!  When I said on Monday that it doesn't really matter to me what the date is, I didn't realize (well, of course I didn't), that it was November 17th!  November 17th!  Do you know what this means?  Of course!  This is national Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection week!  Ack!  I can't believe I almost missed it!  Of course, I'm planning on bringing my boxes with me to the processing center when I volunteer there next month, but you all might not be able to do that.  You might have to actually get your boxes to a collection center this week.

There is still time, my friends.  Make a box.  Or two.  Or ten.  Or a hundred.  OK, there might not be enough time to make 100.  But you can definitely do one or two.  Click here for my tips on packing a box.  Click here for OCC shoebox guidelines.  Click here to find a collection site near you.

As for me, like I said last year, this year I packed just 2 boxes, and then bought a bunch of filler items to take with me to the processing center.

Sorry I didn't get a better picture of the boxes and/or everything laid out.  I just didn't have the heart to unpack everything to show you, because believe me, these boxes are packed!  Not sure if I could get it all back in again.

What's in the boxes, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  In both boxes, I have:

  • a bar of soap
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • flashlight with lots of extra batteries
  • calculator
  • reusable cloth bag
  • glow sticks
  • gum
  • lifesavers
  • a picture of my family with a note and our address

In my boy age 10-14 box I have:

  • a small hammer
  • screwdriver set
  • tape measure
  • safety glasses
  • fleece gloves
  • a shirt
  • a survival kit that consists of fishing gear, fire building supplies, and cording

And in my girl age 10-14 box I have:

  • 8 yards of fabric in 3 different prints
  • a sewing kit consisting of needles, thread, scissors, etc.
  • extra thread
  • socks
  • small mirror
  • brush and hair binders

 And here's a peek at my filler items:

Your turn: did you pack boxes this year?  What's in your box?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Road Trip Tool Kit--Bubble Gum

It's not exactly road trip season, but a lot of people do hit the road at this time of year, visiting family for holidays, so I thought I'd share another secret weapon in our road trip arsenal, to be used only in case of emergency: bubble gum.
Hubba Bubba Original
Yup, that's right, bubble gum.

Let me set the scene for ya.  It's August.  Our family has just spent about 45 hours traveling vast distances together in our Suburban in the past week, when we hit what is perhaps the worst rush hour traffic we have ever seen.  We are sitting still more than we're moving, and when we are moving, we are inching painfully forward, less than a car length at a time.  Someone has to go to the bathroom, more than one someone is hungry, and pretty much everyone is ready to crawl out of their skin.  It's an hour and a half in to what is usually about a half hour journey through the city, and we are less than halfway through.  Did I mention I was driving and Hubby was on a conference call for work?  Yeah.  So much fun.

That's when I deployed the Hubba Bubba for...what else?  A bubble blowing contest.  Bubby was just 4 at the time, and could barely fit his piece in his cute little mouth to even chew it.  MC couldn't figure out the technique and kept spitting it out when he tried to blow.  AKD was competent, but I have to say I won, hands down. 

It was hilarious, as in my tummy hurt from laughing so hard.  While our contest was going on, we had to be quiet for Daddy's phone call, which just made everything funnier.  The bubble blowing contest provided just enough silly to snap us all out of our traffic-and-travel-induced funk.  And the best part?  Our bubble blowing contest kept us fully occupied for a good half hour.   A miracle, to be sure. 

Hubba bubba, I humbly thank you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Menu plan for the week of...whatever today is.

That's right.  I have no idea what the date is (other than that it's November teen-something), and can't be bothered to look right now.  Any of y'all have this problem?  It's been...oh...about 15 years since I've known what the date is.  And honestly?  That's OK with me.

Know what's not OK with me?  My husband eating my candy corn.  True, I don't like candy corn, so he probably thought I wouldn't want any, but ugh!  I told him not to eat it!  He should know me well enough by now to know that any candy corn he finds after Hallowe'en is mine, all mine.

Anyway, we're going to eat this week.  Not sure about next week, but this week, we have a plan.  That includes eating.  And here it is:

--Hamburger Casserole (aka that stuff with the soy sauce, involving lean ground beef and diced potatoes); salad, green beans
--Grilled chicken, salad, broccoli/cauliflower, carrots
--Hot beef sandwiches, buns, green beans, raw carrots
--Pulled pork sandwiches, salad, mixed veggies
--Corn dogs
--Baked bone-in chicken breasts, baked potatoes, mixed veggies
--Hamburger stroganoff

--Almond butter
--Scarecrow treats
--Pretzel turkeys
--Oreo snowmen

Monday, November 10, 2014

Menu Plan for the week of November 10

As I write this (Sunday night), we are staring down our first measureable snowfall of the season.  They're calling for several inches beginning right around rush hour tomorrow morning.  I say, bring it on.  If it's going to be cold, there might as well be snow on the ground so we can enjoy it.  I just hope I am able to get around, 'cause I got places to go, people to see.

This colder weather makes me crave warm, hearty, delicious comfort food.  Mmm.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

--Bone-in chicken breasts, baked potato or sweet potato, mixed vegetables, zucchini noodles
--Taco bean soup, crackers
--Spaghetti/spaghetti squash with meat sauce, garlic bread, green beans, salad
--Southwest chicken and beans, tortillas, mixed greens
--Pizza or chicken pizza, raw veggies, salad
--Carnitas, tortillas, black beans, lettuce
--Shepherd's pie, whole wheat bread and butter

Next Monday:
--In the words of AKD, "that stuff with the soy sauce."  Neither of us can remember what it's called, but it involves lean ground beef and diced potatoes, and we serve it with soy sauce.  So yummy!

--Greek yogurt
--Pumpkin pie
--Honey whole wheat bread

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grandpa R's Chicken Rice Soup

This is so much more than a recipe, my friends.  This is family history and fond memories all rolled up into a hearty, satisfying bowl.  This is us, sitting at a table in a cramped kitchen with Hubby's grandpa years ago, recording a decades-old, but never written-down recipe.  Whenever I make this soup, I can picture Grandpa R sitting at the table, gesturing emphatically, sharing the secret to his chicken rice soup.  It's all about the rice.

A few weeks ago, I shared on Facebook that I was making this soup, and a cousin of my husband's mentioned that she'd like to have the recipe.  As I told her, I can give you the recipe, but no way can I replicate the explanation that went along with it--that exists only in my memory.

This soup is thick and meaty, delicious, and the very definition of comfort food.  I hope you like it as much as we do.

First, you need 3 good-sized chicken breasts.  Grandpa was talking about whole, bone-in, skin-on, chicken breasts.  As in, I would call this 6 breasts, but back in the day, that's how they bought them, still connected to each other.   Put them in a big pot, and cover them with water.  Bring it to a boil and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.

When the 40 minutes have passed, remove the chicken from the pot, and set aside to cool until it can be handled.  SAVE the broth!   When the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and bones, and shred the chicken.

Measure how much cooking liquid, or broth, you have, and add canned chicken broth to equal 12 cups.  One can of broth equals 2 cups of liquid.

Put the chicken back in the pot with the 12 cups of chicken broth and add 1 c. of finely diced celery and 3/4 c. Uncle Ben's Converted rice.  It must be converted, or the soup won't taste nearly as good. Can't be having heathen rice in our soup.

Bring the soup to a boil, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

That's it.  I think Grandpa R was a little taken aback that Hubby had even asked for the recipe, it's so simple to make.  The house smells heavenly and the memories are sweet when I serve this soup.  As you can probably tell from the recipe, this makes a lot--this soup freezes extremely well, and I think it tastes even better the next day.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that sometimes, to bump up the nutrition, and make this a one-pot meal, I add a 1 lb package of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots during the last 10 minutes or so.  I have also been known to add 1/2 a cup of raw, chopped spinach to my bowl before ladling in the soup--either way it's delicious, and a tribute to Hubby's much-loved grandparents.

What's your favorite family recipe?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg: A Review

I recently read The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg.

In Afghanistan, girls and women are worth nothing aside from their ability to produce sons for a family.  The birth of a boy is cause for celebration; the birth of a girl, cause for shame and ridicule.  In a culture where honor is everything, and appearances must be kept up, what's a girl to do?  What is a family to do when they've produced no sons?  They create one.

While on assignment in Afghanistan, reporter Jenny Nordberg uncovered, quite by accident, the practice of bacha posh.  Literally translated as "dressed up like a boy," a bacha posh is a girl, temporarily raised as a boy and presented to the world as such.

This book brings us along on her journey to dig more into the practice of bacha posh.  Along the way, we are swept up in the lives of Ms. Nordberg's vivid characters, learning more about the hows and whys of bacha posh, and the effect on the girls, their families, and their society.

I found this book to be just fascinating.  I found it hard to put down, and that's rare for me, when reading nonfiction.  I needed to keep reading to find out what became of the families that Ms. Nordberg met along the way.  The author's story-telling is exceptional and her themes reach beyond Afghanistan, examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who are oppressed everywhere.

Bottom line: This book was fascinating and made me think.  Highly recommend.

I received this book for free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Menu Plan for the week of November 3

November 3!  What?!?  How can it be November already?  Yowza.

Well, here it is--we're firmly into soup and comfort food season.  Mmmmm...

Here's what's on the menu this week.

--Grandpa Rotman's Chicken rice soup, crackers, salad, cooked carrots
--Easy Mongolian beef (from the freezer), rice, salad, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots

--Nacho pot pie (substitute evaporated milk for the heavy cream), green beans, salad

--Tacos, tortillas or lettuce wraps, taco toppings
--Pizza or chicken pizza, raw veggies

--Grilled steak, mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts
--Bone-in chicken breasts, baked potato or sweet potato, mixed veggies, salad

Next week Monday:
--Taco bean soup

What's on your menu this week?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Do You Know What This Means?

Hey y'all.  I know we all just had so much fun last time, so we're going to play again.

It's time for everybody's favorite game: Do You Know What This Means?

Don't worry if you've never played before--you'll catch on quickly.

First up: Bubby visited 2 ERs and a clinic in less than a week.
 Do you know what this means?

Yup!  He has officially taken the lead in the family most-visits-to-the-ER competition.  
Also? He's our youngest.  Of three boys.
Also, also? We need to watch him like a hawk when it gets to be this time of year.  Last time he needed stitches was in mid-October, too.

Next up: We sat on a rock.  Together.
 Do you know what this means?

We are one good looking family.  And we kind of like each other.
Also?  That's a whole lot of boys.

Next one: I made this cake.
Do you know what this means?

That's right--I've been playing with modeling chocolate again.

These spiders infested my vehicle.
 Do you know what this means?

You guessed it--we're gonna need the number for a good exterminator.  Or maybe some hungry 1st graders.

And this happened.
 Do you know what this means?

That's right: I clearly have too much time on my hands.
And? My Bubby turned 7 this week!

And by the way, those spiders taste just like oreo blizzards.  Yummy!

 Isn't this fun?  This is even better than last time, amiright?

Alrighty, I parked in the middle of the garage all week.
Do you know what this means?

Uh huh, Hubby was gone this week.  In Mexico.
Also?  I am so very tired.

P.S. I bought those waxless cross country skis (those blue things on the right leaning up against the wall) for $1.99 per pair!  Score!

OK, last one.  I took a picture of my favorite bench (ok, it's the only bench) on my favorite trail in my favorite (Wisconsin) state park.  This is the bench where this happened.
Do you know what this means?

Yupperooni.  Hunting season starts tomorrow.

Wait.  What?

That's right, hunting season starts tomorrow, and unfortunately, my favorite bench (not that I often sit on it--usually I'm just staring past it on my way down the trail) on my favorite trail in my favorite state park is in a part of the park that's open to hunting.  I'm a little bummed that I won't be seeing my bench for the next few weeks, so I took a picture of it to remember it by.

Also?  Checked another one off the bucket list by walking all the way around this lake.  And then I had to go around the other way to see which way was easier (FYI, it's easier to start at the beach and go clockwise).

How was your week, my friends?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving

Y'all know I'm a sucker for children's books, right?  Love 'em.  Even more than children's books?  I love Christmas children's books, so I jumped at the chance to read and review The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey.

The story begins with Nick, dragged along with his father to do some last-minute Christmas shopping.  Gift giving is far from his mind, however--he'd rather think about all the things he wants for himself--when he chances upon a mall Santa, who tells Nick a story that changes his perspective.

The mall Santa tells the story of another Nicholas, who lived long ago.  In the legend, Nicholas sees needs all around him, and wonders how he can help.  One snowy Christmas eve, Nicholas remembers visiting the holy land and how his mother told him about the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus.  He remembers that Jesus is the greatest gift, and decides to give gifts on Christmas to those in need.

This is a really sweet story, and I love that the author emphasizes Jesus' birth as the reason for Christmas and the reason for giving gifts.  Nicholas is merely responding to God's gift with joy and generosity.  While the exact details of the life of the original St. Nicholas are unknown, I love this author's interpretation.  The illustrations are gorgeous as well.

Bottom line: This is a sweet story, which emphasizes the importance of giving.

I received this book for free from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Menu plan for the week of October 27

Almost November already!  Can you believe it?  It's been crazy warm around here--it just doesn't seem right that Thanksgiving could be just a month away, but there it is.

The craziness of football has ended, but we still have activities 3 nights a week, and basketball starts next week, adding one more evening to our running.  It's not crazy busy, but it is still busy.  And we've still got to eat...and AKD needs the laptop to do homework, so I'd best get to this week's menu.

--Pizza Casserole, green beans, salad
--Chicken broccoli braid, broccoli, salad
--Out to eat birthday supper
--Cheesy mini-burgers, brown rice, mixed veggies
--Waffles, bacon, fruit
--Tuscan chicken sandwiches, lazy bread, pesto yogurt, salad, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Chicken with peppers and artichokes, zucchini "noodles"

Next Monday:
--Taco Bean Soup

--Greek yogurt
--Berry parfaits (in a half-pint mason jar, layer 1/4 c plain or vanilla Greek yogurt and 1/4 c. frozen mixed berries.  Repeat layers.  Add the sweetener of your choice, if desired.  Allow berries to thaw.  Just before serving, top with 1-2 T chopped pecans or granola.  Mix and enjoy)
--Canned pinto beans
--Oreo truffle spiders (birthday treat)
--Lemon poppyseed and almond poppyseed friendship bread (because AKD needs a side by side comparison to decide which he likes better)
--Grilled chicken for lunches and snacks
--Granola?  I've had the ingredients for 3 or 4 weeks, just haven't gotten around to making it!  That's quite an ambitious list!  What's on your menu this week?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Menu plan for the week of October 20

Busy week, y'all.  Busy week.  But what else is new?  Let's get right to it, shall we?

Here's what's on the menu this week:

--Grilled chicken, salad, garlic bread, corn
--Chicken with peppers and artichokes, zucchini "noodles"
--Spaghetti and spaghetti squash, meat sauce, green beans
--Hamburgers, buns, salad, mixed vegetables, jello
--out to eat
--Breakfast for dinner
--Chicken broccoli braid, broccoli, salad

What's on your menu this week?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Glutton for Discipline

Howdy y'all.  Remember the other day when we played everybody's favorite game, "Do You Know What This Means?"  Remember?  That was fun, wasn't it?

Remember at the end, when I said some random passersby accused me of being a glutton for punishment?  This was on my 5th time up (177 + 66) steps that day, so I had a lot of time to think about that on the next (12 x 177) + (1 x 66) steps that day and the next.  At first, I agreed.  I was punishing my body.  It had been bad and I was being punitive.  But the more I climbed those steps, over and over again, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that wasn't what it was about at all.

The steps were not punishment, they were discipline.

Punishment is the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense.
Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior.

I would go as far as to say that discipline is about showing someone they can behave another way.  That it is possible to do something else.

This is the first time I ever really understood the difference. 

I wasn't asserting my authority over my body just because I could or because it made me mad, I was training my body to do what it should do.  I was teaching myself what I should be doing instead of...what I have been doing.

You know how I knew?  That this venture was about discipline, not punishment?  Because when I was done, standing at the top with frost on my shirt, sweat streaming down my face, and my legs feeling astonishingly jelly-like, I felt pretty darn terrific.  Almost like I could do anything.

3,405 steps climbed...and still smiling.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Menu plan for the week of October 13

Hey y'all.  I have something to tell you about which I am super excited.  Are you ready?  OK, here goes:  football season ends tomorrow.  Yes!  Football season ends tomorrow!  I am so very excited to be able to plan and eat meals like a normal person* again.  Because from Wednesday on, the activities start at 6:30 instead of 5:30.  Whoo hoo!

Alright, here we go:
--Slow cooker quinoa chicken chili, salad
--Hot beef sandwiches, buns, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Mexican chicken quinoa casserole, salad, green beans
--Cool ranch chicken tostadas with taco toppings
--Nachos (beef/turkey or left over cool ranch chicken), taco toppings
--Pork chops, roasted Brussels sprouts, applesauce
--Bacon wrapped wienies, mixed vegetables, roasted broccoli

Monday supper:
--Chicken broccoli rice casserole (from the freezer), salad, applesauce

--Friendship bread (double chocolate, almond poppyseed, 2 starters for the freezer, 1 starter to remain on the counter)
--Lazy woman's bread (buns for the hot beef)
--Non-fat plain Greek yogurt

What's on the menu at your house this week?

*Is it "normal" to plan meals?  I mean, I don't know how you'd negotiate the grocery store otherwise, but seems like there are a lot of folks out there who don't plan meals.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Do You Know What This Means?

This week, instead of a week in review post, I thought we should play everybody's favorite game: Do You Know What This Means?

What's that?  It's not your favorite game? Well! You must not have been playing it right.  Are you ready?  All right.  Here we go.

We'll start with an easy one.

There are flannel sheets on our bed.
Do you know what this means?

That's right!  It's getting to be good snuggling weather.  Also?  I just love this headboard and that wall color.

Ok.  See what's going on here? You can totally do this.

Next one: my husband attempted to roll a kayak in our living room.
Do you know what this means?

Yes!  My husband is a little strange.

And?  We're going to have to make room to hang a 6th boat from our garage ceiling.

Alright, up next: There's a bunch of random stuff in our bathtub.
Do you know what this means?

Absolutely!  We're not going to be taking a bath for a while.

Also?  The carpet guy still hasn't shown up.  Sure would have been nice if our new carpet had been in town on or before the scheduled installation date.

See?  Isn't this so much fun?  Last one:

These pictures are on my phone.

The waterfall at river level.

A staircase so tall you can't see the top.
The waterfall from above.
Do you know what this means?

Uh huh.  My calves are really sore.  Also?  I gained and lost a lot of potential energy this week: 17 x 177 +  6 x 66 steps worth over the course of 2 days.

Also, also?  Random passersby on the trail think I'm a glutton for punishment.

What happened in your neck of the woods this week?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

God Gave Us Angels by Lisa Tawn Bergren: A Review

In God Gave Us Angels by Lisa Tawn Bergren, as always, Little Cub is full of questions--this time about angels.  What are they?  Where are they?  What do they do?  What is their purpose?  As always, Papa patiently answers each of her questions, while the two explore the glorious arctic landscape.
For example, Little Cub asks, "What do angels do all day, Papa?" 
To which Papa replies, "Angels live to serve God.  Whatever he wants them to do, they do.  And he loves us.  So sometimes they bring messages from him to us.  Other times they guard us or even fight for us.  And they're always worshipping God."
I liked this book.  As always, Laura J. Bryant's illustrations are beautiful, and the text is engaging and easy to understand.  God Gave Us Angels is a great addition to the God Gave Us series, following the same question and answer format as the rest of the books.  I love this format, because it's so true to life.  Children ask questions, and while Papa Bear always seems to know the answers, I don't.  These books are a great resource to spark discussion of spiritual things with young children.
Bottom line: This is a great starting point to help answer your own child's questions about God and angels.
I received this book for free through Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review.
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