Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Heather's Amazing Tacos...

Heather, Heather, Heather is my wonderful friend who left So Cal four months before we did. While we headed to the PNW, she headed to the Midwest and traded earthquakes for Tornado Alley! Heather has the dubious distinction of being the one to introduce my toddler (Buttercup) to Baby Bottle Pops, but turnabout was fair play and I had given her baby a french fry to gnaw, so I've always considered us even. When the kids got a little older, I tried to get them to refer to her more formally, as Mrs. L. Buttercup had us all in stitches when she looked at me as if I were touched in the head and said, "That is NOT Mrs. L, that is Heather! Heather, Heather, Heather!" So, Heather she remained.

Becoming friends with Heather gave me the opportunity to be part of the lives of a huge group of amazing women - her family. Heather's family doesn't claim perfection, but you can't find a more loving bunch of women anywhere. They've managed to define family in such a way that divorce didn't diminish them, it just increased their numbers. They are truly a testimony for how it should be done and I hope they know how much I admire them. When you get Heather, you also get her mom, her little sister, her big sister, her nieces (both older and younger) and nephews, even her aunts and cousins, as well as the husbands, brothers, and boyfriends (who quickly learn that these women are unstoppable). So, to all of you, I really miss you all and am glad to still get the news, both good and bad.

You can imagine in a world of women that a lot of cooking goes on and you'd be right. These women were always whipping up this or that (in between helping me maintain my McDonald's addiction!). One dinner Heather made for us was her amazing tacos. (Now, I don't know if she knew I was afraid of my stove, but her competence in the kitchen cause me tremendous envy!) I had a craving for her tacos a few months ago and sent off an email saying, "Please, please, tell me how to make the tacos." Honestly, I figured could do it now. Imagine my surprise when I got an amazingly simple recipe that wasn't intimidating in the least. It is truly amazing how you view the world with a little accomplishment under your belt, isn't it?

Well, I made the tacos tonight and they were amazing! Superman was so happy I finally made them as he'd never forgotten how amazing they were. They are different from most tacos, but they are really, really good. Take a walk on the "wild" side...you'll like them!

Heather's Amazing Tacos...
(from Heather herself--I just put her email to me here below)

I would love to share my favorite tacos with you!

1 potato for every pound of hamburger meat. [I used ground turkey]
1 package of Lawry's taco seasoning for each pound of hamburger meat [I had Fajita Seasoning]
corn tortillas
canola oil

Pour a little bit of oil into a pot. Peel and dice the potato into small pieces. Put in pot and fry until cooked (not browned but the until the white of the potatoes are a yellowish, you don't want to make them crispy like hash browns). Put in hamburger meat and cook. Drain and then put back into pot. Add seasoning with a little bit of water and simmer. Meanwhile, take small pan and pour oil in it. When warm, put corn tortilla in and mold into a taco shell until nice and crispy. If they are really crispy they will fall apart when you take your first bite, but this is the way I LOVE them! You can make them how you love them though! Lay out on paper towels to cool and drip oil off of them.

When I make the tacos I use sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese, La Victoria Mild Green Sauce, and cut up avocado! You can put whatever you like on them though this is my suggestion! YUUUMMM, I NEED TO MAKE THESE!

Notes: We didn't have avocado (darn!) or sour cream, but we did have lettuce, cheese, and salsa.

P.S. Heather, since you shared this amazing recipe with me, I'll forgive you for how long you spent moaning about turning 26!!!! (I know, it is time I let go of it, right?)

Tuesday, Tuesday, Touch Your Shoe Day...random musings...

Today is my day for random postings so, without further ado, here I go...

I love when my dad emails me about my blog. It makes me feel special that he reads it, even if I am grown-up. Since we're 1300 miles apart, it makes me feel more connected to him, too. As he doesn't comment on the blog, I never know if he's read it...now I do. Thanks, Daddy!

I'm wondering if I should ask Superman for a camera for the downstairs computer so I can Skype from there, too. Kate wouldn't mind talking with me while I craft. I wonder if we should ask my dad to get one or will he really be moving before too long? Skype is free...I wonder if he knows that. I wonder do cameras come with mics?

I'm so excited that I finally got to turn off my Qwest cell phone. May I say it was very frustrating to speak with a woman in India to do it? We definitely had a communication issue: "You want to turn off your phone?" "Yes, please." "Wouldn't you like to switch over to our amazing Verizon plans that Qwest now offers?" "No, thank you, I'd like to turn off my cell phone." "You want to turn off your phone?" "Yes, I'd like to turn off my phone." and so on until I thought I'd go mad. When she finally understood that I was, in fact, turning off my cell phone, I said, "And to clarify, there is no termination fee, right?" She said, "Well, I don't think so...would you like to call back tomorrow?" "Excuse me?" "Well, I don't think there is a termination fee." "We need to be sure there is no termination fee, this is supposed to be the last day of my contract." "Well, I don't think there is a termination fee, but if you'd like to call back in a day or two." "No, thank you...if your computer says there is no termination fee, then there is no termination fee." Now, my fingers are crossed that there is, in fact, no mix-up. It was definitely one of those "who's on first?" conversations.

I'm worried about a lot of my friends and their families. So many people I know are already being affected by the job losses throughout the nation. From neighbors who've been struggling to find work to friends who are watching work dry up, to friends who are waiting to hear if they'll have jobs next year to friends who've been desperately trying to sell homes, to my son, who's trying to secure the means to finish his last year of college and head off to Japan after that to family that is having to redefine normal after a devastating loss, I'm worrying about them all. It doesn't do me a lot of good, so I try not to dwell on it. But it is always there, in the back of my mind...

I'm worried about babies I've never met, Veiyah, Stellan, and all the others who are fighting for their lives. I worry about their mothers, their fathers, and their siblings. I worry about their families and wonder how you keep a family together when everything is focused on this one little being and normal doesn't exist any more.

Finally, I wonder if my friends from So Cal understand that the sky really looks like that...that is is not a Photoshop trick...I know I never knew.

I made the BEST EVER Pound Cake...

Seriously, this cake was the best ever pound cake I've ever had. It awesome all by itself and I can hardly wait for strawberries to be in season so I can add strawberry topping to it - yum. I found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen last week and I just can't say enough about how good it was...light (for a pound cake!) and moist, oh so moist! You just have to try it. Also, don't forget to keep the recipe for Strawberry Coulis to top it with when you can.

So with no more blabber from me, here is the recipe:

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
From Smitten Kitchen who Adapted liberally from Staff Meals from Chanterelle

Notes from Deb at Smitten Kitchen: The cream cheese doesn’t so much change the flavor profile but adds a bit more depth of flavor and an amazing crackly edge.

If you’re baking this pound cake in advance, as opposed to the day you are serving it, a little basting will go a long way towards keep it (or any other pound cake) moist. You can use a simple syrup (one part sugar dissolved in an equal amount of water), up the water in it if you’re concerned it will be too sweet and/or add a teaspoon of your flavoring of choice to it.

Serves (at least) 10

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) Philadelphia brand cream cheese*, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 10-inch tube pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Alternately, you can use a 12-cup bundt pan, and simply butter and flour it.

2. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, increase the speed to high, and beat until light and airy, at least five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla and mix, then the flour and salt all at once. Beat just until incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and shake lightly to even out the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 hours.

4. Place the pan on a cake rack and cool for 20 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

* Philadelphia cream cheese is often recommended for baking for consistency purposes, as in, bakers know this brand works, and because it contains less water than other brands.

Notes: I didn't use Philly cream cheese...I used the brand sold at Costco (so much less expensive that way), I think it was Kaskas. It turned out beautifully...

Now, go make this pound cake...I cross-my-heart promise you will love it! (Look, even Superman couldn't wait for me to serve it...it smelled that good while it was baking...)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Making Your Home Sing Monday...

Okay, so Monday is almost over, but I did work to make my home sing, so I'm posting better late than never! (To see what everyone else did to make their home's sing this week, head on over to Mom's The Word.)

The song my home was singing today was definitely Let the Sunshine In (without the Age of Aquarius part--remember the Fifth Dimension?). Spring has definitely sprung in Eastern Washington. This week is even Spring Break for the neighborhood schools. Did you notice I changed my title picture? Those are crocuses from my own front yard. The tulips are breaking through, as are the daffodils. The day lilies are sending shoots up, too. The koi are starting to emerge from their hibernation and the snow is almost completely gone. The cats are constantly at the door, wanting to go out...even the birds are hoping they can spend time on the porch now that the weather's warmed up. Sunshine is definitely the word of the day!

To help encourage spring, I've washed all the mittens and gloves and taken down my mitten holder. The sleds are put away, the skis are headed downstairs to be put away for the duration (not that we skied much). Winter coats and boots are getting cleaned and stored. Plastic is gradually coming off the windows and the extra winter bedding is going away. Superman has already been working out in the yard, cleaning up the debris that 90+ inches of snow can hide and making certain our plants can spring forth.

This week the curtain panels will get a spin through the dryer to get the dust off. The flower seeds will get planted for an indoor head start. The porch will be swept off and the spring flag hung up. The outdoor chairs that Superman made for me last year will get a coat of paste wax to undo a little of the winter's wear and tear. (This year they're going to get bright cushions, too!) I think the clothes line might even come out of storage this week. The kids are getting their bikes and skates and scooters out and the basketball hoop in the cul de sac has been seeing some serious action. Truly, the whole house is emerging from a long winter's nap.

So, here at the Nagle household, we're joyfully welcoming Spring with open arms. Our spirits are lifted as the grey sky has given way to blue and the brown is giving way, once again, to green. We are definitely singing Let the Sunshine In...

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I don't go to church. I never have. I was raised in a secular household by a woman who was raised Catholic, rejected it wholly, and had me baptised in the Episcopal church as a nod to tradition rather than a statement of and commitment to faith. I don't know if my birth father wanted me baptised, but I do know both grandmothers would have wanted it done. By the time my brother came along, though, there was a new dad and she didn't go through the motions. He was never baptised...I don't know how his father (my dad) felt about it. I've never asked. As for me, I can't lie to God, so I've never baptized my children in this church or that. I know that is shocking to a lot of you, but truly it is okay.

Here is the thing. Growing up in a secular household, I wasn't part of a church tradition, but I was always taught to listen, to hear the divine guidance I was being given. I was always allowed to tag along with friends to Vacation Bible School or other open church functions. I've also been to Jewish temples and Indian naming ceremonies. I wasn't taught that I needed to go to church to hear the word of God, but that the word of God was there for me every day. To me, churches are man-made institutions that are often elitist and divisive rather than inclusive and uplifting. When women greet you with "Oh, so what church do you attend?" in the same tone that used to be reserved for "What side of the tracks do you live on?" I think churches have a problem. Church should be a place where you can learn, question, and grow, not a club that helps determine social status. I don't want or need to feel superior to my neighbor, nor is that what I think God wants of us.

Again, maybe because I've never been a church member, it is all so clear ot me, but there are amazing people who attend all different kinds of places of worship, as well as amazing people who attend no place of worship. On the flip side, I've seen many, many not-so-nice people explain away their behavior by claiming affiliation with this faith or that and telling me they are saved no matter what. We used to refer to these people as "Sunday Christians". Are you familiar with the phrase? Do people not believe that God know what is in your heart, regardless of what you say?

Many, many people are confused by my failure to go to or belong to a church...they say it doesn't match my lifestyle, my morals, or my values. One dear friend even looked at me with a slightly confused look and admiringly told me I was a Proverbs 31 wife. (I'll confess now that it has been many years, dear friend, I had no idea what you meant and I went to learn about it after our conversation and I was so complimented by your assessment of me!)

My sister jokes that I like the word journey as of describing life, but she's right, I do. Each of us has a unique journeythat we're on and, if you believe that God is omnipotent, each journey is not a mistake or a deviation from his plan, but rather a fulfillment of his plan. Another dear friend sat with me one night and told me she found comfort in her own faith as she's thought of me. Why? Because she understood that the journey I was on was part of Jesus' plan and that she was to have faith in the outcome. It was the first time I'd felt a kindred spirit...I felt blessed by her understanding that I was doing my very best each day to live according to the plan for me. You see, she understood I have a deep and abiding faith and a clear recognition that I have been blessed in my life. I have gratitude in my heart and soul. No, I might not be able to quote chapter and verse from the Bible, but that doesn't mean I don't study, learn, think and pray.

So, why this full disclosure post? I mean why "come out" to the world about my non-church going ways? Don't I worry about what some of my readers will think. In a word: Yes. But, I think my journey is evolving yet again and I find it compelling and powerful that the women I've connected to in the bloggy world are either pastor's wives or devout church go-ers. Then, I recently discovered that a girl I went to Jr. High with is a famous Christian writer, very well published. I just saw a face at the library and recognized it immediately as the girl I knew all those years ago, sent an email and there you have it, another sign. All of these things point me in a new direction. I feel my journey shifting and changing...getting broader. Just as I don't think church-goers should make sweeping generalizations about those of us who don't attend services, I need to stop making sweeping generalizations about churches...too many wonderful people I know are devoted to their churches as places to reinforce their faith. My faith isn't changing, but maybe I'm learning a new way to explore it.

I know what I believe and who I believe in and I have a peaceful heart, but that doesn't mean that my journey is supposed to stop here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Another Game Night treat, another recipe for you...

Can you believe how quickly some weeks fly by? It seems like just yesterday I was making these cookies for Game Night, but it was actually a whole week ago.

I decided to try something new tonight. Bananas and Cream bundt cake with Brown Butter Glaze. I found this awesome recipe at Bunny's Warm Oven here. (I'm going to try the cinnamon-rubbed chicken she adapted from a Cat Cora recipe, too, but the dessert was a "right now" urge!) If you're like me, you can always use good recipes to make use of your over-ripe bananas, so you should add this one to your list. It was so quick and easy. Bunny adapted the recipe for the cake from Taste of Home and she added the glaze from Recipezaar. I had never browned butter intentionally before, but the even glaze was a piece of cake.

Bananas and Cream Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

Taste Of Home


1/3 cup shortening
1-1/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add bananas and mix well.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, stirring just until combined. Stir in walnuts.

Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan.

Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar. [I used the glaze instead, but I didn't do it as artfully as Bunny...I think that takes practice.]

Yield: 12-16 servings.

Brown Butter Glaze

For Glaze
1/2 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons milk

For glaze:
In a medium bowl, add powdered sugar and set aside.
Place butter in a small saucepan. Melt butter over medium heat until bubbly. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown. [I just kept stirring and stirring...I was afraid I'd burn it.]
Remove from heat and pour butter into the bowl of powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla, stir until smooth.

So, this makes an amazing banana cake (like a fluffier banana bread, if that makes sense). I think I used too much glaze, but the kids liked it just like it was (of course). Superman and I think the next time I make it, I'll leave the glaze off and let it become my go-to recipe for banana bread...it is that good!

Chicken and Tomato Casserole

As the weather has begun to warm, I've been ready for lighter fare. One of my favorite quick and easy casseroles is Chicken and Tomato Casserole. I'm sure others have made something like this, but I made it up in desperation one day. When you're at a loss, give it a try.

Erin's Chicken and Tomato Casserole

Two Chicken Breasts - cooked and diced...I cook mine in a little olive oil with salt, pepper, basil and garlic.
Two Cans of Diced Tomatoes (or Italian Stewed Tomatoes) including juice.
2 cups Green Vegetables (fresh spinach, frozen spinach, broccoli florets, zucchini)
1 Cup Grated Mozzarella Cheese
16 oz cooked pasta of your choice--I like penne or farfalle--something that tosses nicely.

Toss everything together in a big bowl and put in a 9 x 13 pan and top with more grated cheese (a combination of grated fresh parmesan and mozarella is really good, but use whatever you have).

Bake at 350 to 375 until hot and bubbly. (Cover with foil until the last ten minutes, then remove foil to brown cheese.)

Serve with warm bread (crusty French or a hearty multi-grain is good!) and butter.

Notes: The vegetable and cheese quantities are approximate. I use whatever I feel like that day. If I want a cheesy casserole, I add more cheese. If I am wanting more vegetables, I might add both spinach and zucchini. It is all really to taste.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The danger of SHOULDS....

Momstheword posted today about the choice between "making it from scratch or just buying it" and described herself as falling off the wagon for NOT choosing to have her husband pick up a pizza on the way home from work rather than making a pizza herself that night. I would argue that, at least right now, where she finds herself on her journey has prioritized other areas above "making it from scratch" and that is just fine. Knowing that other people makes things from scratch shouldn't make her feel badly about not doing the same. They aren't better than she is, they are just at different points on their journey. This doesn't negate the value of "making it from scratch", but instead, recognizes that right now other things are more important to her.

Two years ago I decided to start making our bread at home, but I have to tell you, I almost certainly wouldn't have made that decision if I'd still been working full time. I still would see the value in home-made bread, but it wouldn't have been valuable enough to me at that time and place to have made it a priority in my life. My life has changed a lot since I worked full-time and I've reached a place in my life, however, where knowing how to do these things has become a significant priority in my life and I've been making it happen. It is that simple and that complex. Instead of speaking longingly about it, or admiringly of those who could do it, I've reached a place where I can and need to become one of those people. So, I'm constantly learning to make more and more things from scratch.

But that is just me...for now...and it has its limits...

I'm learning to sew more and more things, too, but I'm not even close to wanting to follow in Amy at Angry Chicken's footsteps and start making my own lingerie. Frankly, I'm not even tempted to try. At this point, I'm curiously reading her blogs about the experience and I'll even admit to be intrigued by the idea, but that is it. Yes, the fabric would cost less than I pay for a pair of panties, but I don't think the hassle is worth it...yet. Maybe someday I will want to give it a go, but maybe I never will. Who knows?

What I do know, is that we need to be careful of the shoulds... Reading Angry Chicken's blog and deciding that I should be making my own lingerie and that I'm a failure because I don't would not be healthy for me and it probably wouldn't be Amy's goal. Instead, I read her blog with a sense of wonder because, until she posted about it, it never occurred to me that I could sew my own lingerie. One more limitation has been removed and one more possibility introduced. How fun is that?

There are so many shoulds attached to our lives these days that we need to be vigilant. Possibilities are exciting, shoulds can become burdensome quite quickly. Whether child or adult, our lives seemed defined by the things we should do. Children should be in sports all year long, children should learn an instrument, children should be in student government, children should do community service, children should be active in their churches, children should be home for dinner every night with their families. Parents should participate in their children's sports activities, parents should do fundraisers, parents should volunteer, parents should go back to school, parents should provide a home-cooked meal for their families every night. Everyone should be focused on college and buying a home and being green and being organic and so on. Also, let's not forget that we are all (children and adults alike) supposed to be calm, cheerful and attractive while we live the frenetic pace set by a life of shoulds. The list of shoulds is endless and exhausting and trying to fulfill them all makes us crazy and, inevitably, feel like failures. It is simply not possible to do everything we should do.

Rather than making ourselves feel guilty about what we should be doing, it seems to me we need to focus our energy on the things that really are on the top of our priority list. If we really feel that we need to be doing something we're not, or falling off the wagon of our own stated goals, we need to look at our real priorities, not what we think our priorities are supposed to be. Once we figure out what we're really doing, we can understand better why our actions aren't actually following our stated goals. Digging deeper helps us uncover our real motivations for behaviors that don't seem to jive with our priorities. Maybe our goals are just that: stated goals, while our true goals have not been acknowledged. Maybe our shoulds are in the way of our real goals. Maybe it is some combination of both.

Using Momsthewords' example, perhaps the simple desire for internal restfulness and unhurried interaction with family and friends after a hectic day was more important than saving money on pizza. That doesn't mean saving money isn't important to her, but it doesn't mean it wasn't important enough. If she finds herself making that decision more and more, maybe something in her life has gotten out of balance and the busy-ness is interfering with her real priorities. For me, the feeling of guilt for buying pizza can end up masking frustration over some other aspect of my life having gotten off track. Maybe I overbooked or maybe I'm not feeling successful in other areas, but whatever the reason, I feel like I need something to give.

Maybe, just maybe, buying the pizza was exactly what she should have done...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cupcakes and the end of "Birthday Season"...

I know I've been absent the past few days, sneaking in posts in the late hours of the evening, but there is a good reason. March 25 marks the last birthday of "Birthday Season" in the Nagle household. You don't know what "Birthday Season" is? Well, let me tell you. With the conclusion of the "Holidays" our family just segues into "Birthday Season". Two days after Valentine's is Valiant's birthday, followed ten days later by Charming's birthday and concluding 27 days later with Buttercup's birthday. This year was especially festive (and busy) because the kids all had milestone birthdays: one became a teenager, one became an adult, and one hit double-digits. (I'll admit, the whole "double-digits" one was a surprise to me, but hey, I went with it!) I'll freely admit it...I'm tired.

Yesterday was Museum Day, so we hit the museum to see our friends, then we suprised Buttercup (and Valiant - Charming was working) with Olive Garden for dinner (we had saved gift cards) and then I took Buttercup shopping for some clothes (that is all she wanted this year--she's growing up! No more Barbie Pink.) Tomorrow we join a bunch of homeschoolers for a get together and, in honor of Buttercup's birthday, we are bringing cupcakes. Now, of course, I could have bought the lovely Costco cupcakes and made this a quick and easy thing, but I decided I could do it myself (even though I've never decorated a cupcake in my life). Since Thursday is also the day I make some treat for Superman to take to his office for his Friday meeting, I just doubled the number of cupcakes I needed (which meant two boxes of cake mix) and went for it. Because I combined regular-sized cupcakes with minis, I ended up with close to 60 cupcakes. As if that weren't enough, I even decided to brave the dreaded pastry bag to make the frosting swirly. Buttercup wanted blue frosting for all of them, but I used up every last bit of vanilla frosting mix I had (next time I'll make it from scratch, but this was the powdered stuff), so I switched to chocolate and used up every last bit of it, too. I now know that doing cupcakes the right way uses a ton of frosting--I'll plan better the next time.

So, tomorrow evening Buttercup will have two friends over and they will have pizza and Cold Stone and birthday season will officially conclude...

... and, this year at least, spring break begins...sigh...

P.S. I promise to be back posting new recipes and new craft ideas, as well as some easy sewing projects in the next few days...I just have to get the candy confetti cleaned up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Buttercup!

Just in case you missed me today, I thought I should let you know, I had a bigger name on the other line (sorry...what can I say?). I've spent the day celebrating a very important anniversary...

On this day ten years ago, at 3:08 p.m., Princess Buttercup was born and our world was forever changed! I went from being outnumbered by MEN, to living in Barbie Pink. As you can see by her self-designed outfit for the post party celebration (following her 2nd birthday), Buttercup has always wanted to do things her way! What can I say, it works for her (especially the heels!)...


Happy Double Digits, Buttercup! We love you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sometimes it takes time...

...to figure out the best way to save the most money!

In January, Superman and I decided that we did not need me to have the cell phone plan I have with Qwest. Since our current plan expired 3/31/09 (have I mentioned I hate long-term contracts and am trying to get out of all of them), we started exploring our options.

The thing is, I just don't talk on the cell phone a lot. My current plan give me 500 minutes a month and I regularly average 30 - 50 minutes a month. Honestly, I think 20 years of working in offices broke this Valley Girl of her phone addiction. Anyway, I want a phone for security reasons, but I don't want a "cool" phone, I don't text, I don't take pictures, and I don't talk for hours on end. With any of the major carriers, it seemed that I was looking at $30/month plus a commitment and that just wasn't working for me. Then I thought about the solution we forced on Charming after he'd lost two of our phones (let's not go there). TracFone. Charming gets amazing coverage and his price is quite reasonable...there is no commitment, no monthly fee, and he's bought enough minutes that he's got service (even when he runs low on minutes) until 2012! Sounds perfect, doesn't it? So, I'd explored my options and settled on the $59.99 phone at Target that would give me double minute for the life of the phone, plus a $99.99 year that came with 400 minutes (800 with my chosen phone)...Adding up to a total of $173.97 inc. tax...or $14.49 per month...great deal, right?

Well, it got even better! Charming and I were at Target two days ago and noticed that the TracFones were on sale...so, the deal ended up being $29.99 for a Motorola phone that gave me double minutes for the life of the phone!! $29.99 plus $99.99 for a year of phone service! $141.35 for one year and 800 minutes! $11.78 per month for 66 minutes each month (if that is how I use them...it is all up to me). When you include all the taxes and everything, this will save our household roughly $25 a month FOR EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

If I hadn't been planning and shopping and aware of how much I paid for phone service, how much the phone I was looking at was going to cost, I would not have recognized the deal I was getting when I saw these discounted TracFones. The time I had to spend planning because I was stuck in my contact paid off big time. Getting an even better deal that I anticipated makes the decision that much sweeter and, to think, I almost didn't even think of TracFone.

So, I ask you, how many things are you doing the same way you because of loyalty to the way you used to do things? Stuck in a contract? Don't sweat it...use the time to make a really smart decision when you have the chance. You won't regret it!

Tuesday, Tuesday, Touch Your Shoe Day...my place for random thoughts...

It is Tuesday again and my brain has been whirring around a mile a minute and I think I'll just jump in...

After reading all the Making Your Home Sing Monday ("MYHSM") posts, it was very clear that all of the posters were experiencing various levels of discouragement, for lack of a better phrase. There was definitely something in the air and all the posts reflected it. Whether it was trouble staying the course or discouragement due to lack of measurable success, it was definitely palpable.

My own energy was low yesterday, so I was thrilled to get done what we got done and call it a day. After dinner, I sat down to catch up on blog reading (one of my favorite activities) and I learned about the problems baby Stellan has been experiencing and my first thought was, "God works in mysterious ways". (If you don't know about Stellan, head over to MckMama's blog and read about it...he's been a miracle baby from the get go.) None of us seemed to know of the change in MckMama's life before we posted, so we posted our truths, but Baby Stellan's problems help put into perspective all the struggles the MYHSM bloggers posted about. His struggles and his mother's anguish don't negate the validity of our own journeys. We shouldn't feel ashamed or embarrassed by our own struggles in the face of an obviously more serious one. They, too, are legitimate. We do struggle to stay the course, we do struggle to keep the faith that we're doing right by our children, we do struggle to be good wives caring for our husbands and homes without losing ourselves along the way, but maybe, just maybe, we're forgetting how blessed we are, even in these struggles. Perspective is a good thing.

So, say some prayers for Stellan and his family, and all the other babies and their families who are struggling right now, but say some prayers for friends and families whose struggles aren't life-threatening, but are sapping their spirit. We all have different journeys, different lessons to learn, and we can all use a little support.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Making Your Home Sing Monday...

Making your home sing Mondays
Well, after a long, crazy weekend during which I had NO time to get on the internet, let alone blog, we've finally arrived at Monday. Monday is the day we recommit ourselves to our homes and making home life joyful. It is the day we put the house back in order after the weekend's festivities. It is the day we refocus on our continuing tasks, assess our progress, and continue our baby steps towards our goals.

This week, our house will be singing, "High Hopes!" Just like the ant who diligently applies itself to task that seem insurmountable, we continue to apply ourselves towards the accomplishment of our stated goals. The trick is not to get discouraged when the week's progress doesn't go as planned. Just like the lady who said you have to try making 14 pies before getting competent at pies, we have to just keep at it without getting bogged down when things don't work out as planned.

So, the Nagle house will be singing along with the ant as we tackle rubber tree plants!

High Hopes

Writer(s): cahn/van heusen

Next time your found, with your chin on the ground
There a lot to be learned, so look around

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your gettin’ low
’stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

When troubles call, and your back’s to the wall
There a lot to be learned, that wall could fall

Once there was a silly old ram
Thought he’d punch a hole in a dam
No one could make that ram, scram
He kept buttin’ that dam

’cause he had high hopes, he had high hopes
He had high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your feelin’ bad
’stead of feelin’ sad
Just remember that ram
Oops there goes a billion kilowatt dam

All problems just a toy balloon
They’ll be bursted soon
They’re just bound to go pop
Oops there goes another problem kerplop

If you want to find out how others are making their homes sing, head on over to Momstheword and check them out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Fleece is Done!

If you read my post yesterday, you saw that I'd gotten this fleece for Buttercup cut out, but hadn't done more as I was letting the thought of putting in the zipper keep me from finishing the project. Well, I bit the bullet and the fleece is done. Phew! Buttercup is so happy and this is my best one yet. Doesn't it look cute on my little chef? (I've been working my way through the family...unless Charming wants one, I'm moving on to siblings!)

I recently read on a blog (I can't remember which one, darn it!) about an old lady who said if you want to know how to make a pie, make 14 pies. By the time you've finished the 14th, you will know how to make a pie. Isn't that the truth? Sometimes we quit after the first or second one of whatever it is we try doesn't turn out well, but I'm pushing past that and now I'm seeing success. No, I'm not very good at zippers, but I'm better than I was. I'll bet by the time I finish my 14th one, I'll have figured it out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Catching Up on Grace in Small Things...# 13-18

Some of you may have noticed, we fell behind on our daily Grace in Small Things.

Actually, I did. I think I like this new way of doing it more, so I may switch to a once a week posting of GIST. We'll see...

Anyway, here they are:

Buttercup finds grace in:
1. The fluffy fur on Biscuit.
2. Spokane
3. Blue Skies
4. Slippers
5. Water
6. Anti-itch cream

Valiant finds grace in:
1. The jacuzzi.
2. Books
3. Rain
4. Blankets
5. Cats
6. Napkins

Superman finds grace in:
1. Employment
2. Contentment
3. My Wife
4. My kids.
5. Spring
6. My workout buddy. (Guess who the Red Fox dumped me for?)

Charming finds grace in:
1. The opportunity to rearrange my room so my friends and I can hang out there
2. That people want to hang out with me.
(I have to get more from Charming...he's busy!)

I find grace in:
1. The first signs of spring...the little green shoots pushing their way through the soil.
2. The longer days.
3. My washing machine--seriously, imagine life without it.
4. Friends who keep in touch over long distances.
5. Bloggy support for personal challenges
6. Skype -- how cool is that?

We're still one day behind, but I think that is okay...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

30 Days of NO Fast Food! - Day 4

Update to our challenge...we're on Day 4 and are doing fine. I am really not missing the food and now that I understand why we were going out so much, I am able to redirect myself when I feel the urge. So far, so good.

Having said all this, I have a question for you all. Today when I went to Target with the kids, we shared a popcorn/soda combo while we walked around. Superman says we broke the challenge by doing that, but I disagree (obviously, or I wouldn't have bought it). I'll admit to bribing the kids by buying the popcorn, because I wanted more time to browse the clearance aisles , but our goal was not to go out for food when we left the house. After we went to Target, we went to Home Depot. Would Superman have been happier with us if I had bought them each a can of Pringles at Home Depot?

I maintain that we didn't break the challenge. What do you think?

Work in Progress Wednesday...

Over on 365 Things You Didn't Know About Me, Kate and I have gotten bored of talking about ourselves, so we've mixed it up a bit, getting to know each other in different ways. Wednesdays are now "Work(s) in Progress" where we share something we're working on. Since I thought you all might be interested in what I'm doing, too. I These are three of the projects I have going and I will have them all done by this weekend.

First, a coral colored fleece for Buttercup. I hate doing the zippers on these, so even though it has been cut out for a week, I haven't sewn a stitch on it. Since I promised her, however, it will get done.

Second, the two other pillows for the gym/Charming's room/guest room. I whipped up the other two in an evening and I'm going to try to get these two done tonight.

Finally, I am making a tote bag (the big light blue one in the picture on the pattern) out of the striped fabric and having a dark blue liner. It is all cut out and ready to be sewn, too. I got the fabric from the remnant section at JoAnn's and I had the pattern, so the whole thing will cost about $3.00.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What can you do with $1.48 plus tax?

You can make pillow covers. I found these dishtowels on clearance-clearance at Target and thought, "Hey, these could go on the futon in the Gym/Charming's room/Guest room. Said room is an off color because we painted it using "oops" paint from Home Depot. You don't know what "oops" paint is? "Oops" paint is paint they mixed but someone didn't want for some reason. They sell it for $5/gallon. Since we were trying to warm up the room, the paint was perfect.

Anyway, back to the dishtowels. These dish towels were marked down for $1.48 for two and I bought two sets, so I can make four pillows for the room. I had little red pillows that are perfect for covering, I even had that cute white button, and, viola, two new pillows for $1.48 plus tax. When all four are done, I'll have dressed them up for $2.96 plus tax. I think that is pretty darned good. What do you think?

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Are you wearing green? I hope so...this is definitely the day for it.

Last year, Buttercup was dismayed to realize that we were bypassed by the leprechauns...no mischief of any kind occurred in our house last year. Now as a family with Irish forebears on all sides, this is not a good thing. We think it was because we didn't talk about St. Patrick's Day before the day, we didn't have any decorations up, no acknowledgment of any kind. So this year, she's been on it...she was not going to let us get bypassed by those mischievous leprechauns again! I found these awesome shamrock ornaments at the after-Christmas sales (shamrock ornaments?) for 50 cents each, we found a shamrock for the door at Jo-Ann's for $5 and we got them up in plenty of time...as late as last night, the girl was talking up the power of the leprechauns...she had faith they'd be feeling our preparations and arrive on schedule.

Obviously, we did a good enough job because the leprechauns were back to their old tricks...gold candy spilled all over the floor for the cats to play with all night and milk gone green. And we want the leprechauns to show up?

P.S. Just in case you're wondering, the Corned Beef and Cabbage is waiting for Kate and Fig to come in April, since I messed up the cabbage last year and Fig doesn't like it. Kate and I figured between the two of us, we can get it right!

Monday, March 16, 2009

30 Days of No Fast Food - Day 2 - update

So, today was Day 2 of our 30 Days of No Fast Food challenge. I must confess here, however, that it was Day 1 for the kids, only because they didn't know about our implementation of the moratorium. (This means Superman and I received one day free of tears or pouting to begin with.) They didn't take the news too well. In fact, if any of you happened to hear a despairing shriek of unidentified origin at around 11:00 AM PDT, that would have been Buttercup expressing her dismay at our decision. To say she was not happy would be an understatement. Seriously.

It turns out, however, that Buttercup had the epiphany we'd all been looking for. Out of the mouths' of babes: "Then every day will be the same!" Wow! She was right...after thinking about it all day and then discussing it with Superman, we realized that the $200 we spend on fast food every month is really our "entertainment fund". Obviously, this is not a good thing on many levels. Realizing what we were doing, however, will allow us to change this habit for good. Valiant was quickly able to quantify our alternative possibilities for $200, while Buttercup has been holding tightly to her fast food outings...we'll see how it goes as the month progresses...

P.S. Buttercup's 10th birthday is March 25, so we've agreed that we can go out for a fast food breakfast or lunch on her birthday and tack on another day to the challenge...do you all agree that this is in keeping with the spirit of the challenge? Let me know...

Making Your Home Sing Monday...Teamwork

Can't believe it is Monday again! How time flies...it is time for Making Your Home Sing Mondays, hosted by Moms the Word...
Making your home sing Mondays

Anyway, the Nagle household is singing for sure today, but not because of something special we've done for today. No, we're reaping the benefit of all the hard work we've been putting in to getting back on track and taking care of business for the past month and a half. We aren't just giving desultory efforts to the things we do, getting things done only under duress. No way! We are functioning as a team, everyone is doing what needs to get done and we have had very little friction. People are happily going about their business. The song our house is singing today is Proud, because we are all so proud of how things are going.

With my expectations clearly established and patterns set in place, I have gotten out of the way and let the kids fulfill their duties in their own ways. Valiant is an early riser, so he headed downstairs and got some schoolwork done before the rest of us awakened. The pre-work I did, in the form of weekly curriculum sheets eliminated any room for misunderstandings and he feels great to have gotten it done so early. Then he headed back upstairs to get his bathroom sparkly clean. Buttercup is NOT an early riser, but she, too, headed downstairs to get some schoolwork done before she did her chores. According to her, she's done with cursive for the week, spelling for Monday and Tuesday, and is waiting on me for something (?).

Each of them is proud of what they've accomplished and how they've accomplished it and our house is happily singing along with Heather Small as she asks us, "What have you done today to make you feel proud?"

Happy Monday! (click on the badge to see how other people are making their homes sing today)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

30 days of NO Fast Food...

Here at the Nagle5, we love fast food. We don't eat huge quantities of food when we hit McDonald's or Jack in the Box, but we eat fast food far more frequently than we should. It seems, in fact, to be the last source of bleeding in our budget and Superman and I have decided that we need that to stop. Just so we're clear here, we (unlike so many others) are not condemning the fast-food industry, the quality or the lack of quality of the food, or anything else. We are simply making a budget/habit decision.

To put it another way, we did the math:
4 - 6 morning dates a month at $9 = $36 - $54
4-6 lunchs with the kids a month a $8 (really! we share) = $32 - $48
4 Friday celebrations (held on Saturday due to scheduling issues) at $25 = $100

Adds up to $168 to $202 a month on fast food. That is, in our opinion, far too much.

Now, we've tried saying, "We'll just cut back," but it doesn't ever happen. Given that, we've committed to each other that we will have NO fast food for 30 days, beginning today. In addition to spending less, we're also trying to figure out what running out for fast food is "feeding". Are we bored, are we lazy, what do we get out of fast food that, until now, we haven't been willing to give up? So, don't be surprised if I start writing about how much I wanted to go get an Egg McMuffin or how the kids would love a McChicken...we're on a Nagle5 journey here and I'm using our blog to keep us honest.

What about you? What might you be continuing to do that doesn't fall into line with your stated goals? Spring is a time of new growth, so why not let that apply to yourself, as well?

P.S. You can buy the mousepad at Zazzle: http://www.zazzle.com/no_fast_food_mousepad-144122390298714785

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Snickerdoodle Blondies - UPDATED!

Well, it is already Game Night again! (Can you believe it? I can't!) Today I decided to try a new recipe on my guinea pigs (oops, I mean "guests")! I saw this recipe for Snickerdoodle Blondies from Jamie at My Baking Addiction and had to try it.

Snickerdoodle Blondies
(adapted from Dozen Flours)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
a pinch nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and/or line a 9×13 inch pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside.

2. In large bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar for 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, and beat until smooth.

3. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan cookiebatter-ish, so it’s best to spread it out with a greased spatula or your hands). Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.

4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool before cutting. Makes 20-24 bars.

Notes: So, the flavor was terrific, but the bars were a little dry to me. I don't know if I over cooked them (I only cooked them for 25 minutes) or my eggs were too small or what. It just seems like I missed perfection with these by "that much". If anyone out there is a baker who could take a look at the recipe and give me a hint, I'd love to try it again...I was hoping for something more moist...maybe another egg would do the trick. ACTUALLY PUTTING IN TWO CUPS OF BROWN SUGAR INSTEAD OF ONE (OOPS!) SEEMS TO DO THE TRICK. WHAT A DORK! The flavor is so good, I am definitely going to be trying them one more time to see if I can get the texture I want. Jamie said these would be perfect with hot tea and I have to agree. I think if you were drinking a hot drink, they'd probably be perfect just the way they are...

So, now I can fully encourage you all to try these...they are really, really good!

Happy Steak & Potatoes Day!

So, I'm sure you all know that Valentine's is February 14, but did you know that Steak & Potatoes Day is March 14? What?! You haven't heard of Steak & Potatoes Day? Oh, then let me give you the background on Steak & Potatoes Day.

If everyone is honest, Valentine's tends to be a woman's holiday, where men are under the gun to produce tokens that are somehow meant to convey the depths of their feelings for the special woman in her life. It is pressure-filled and prone to exaggeration and missteps, yet they keep at it, year after year. Women are not under the same pressure at Valentine's Day. So, where does that leave the special men in our lives? Well, in our house, it leaves them with Steak & Potatoes Day. Look, men aren't too complicated in their wants...a good juicy steak with a well-done baked potato and they are happy. (If you go the extra mile and throw in a little extra special dessert, they are down-right thrilled.) Let's be real...he'd rather have the steak rather than a box of chocolates, hands down. It is just not difficult to have this silly little tradition and let your husband/special guy know you think he's special. No matter how stressed life gets, this we can all do. So, why don't you commit yourself to adopting Steak & Potato Day at your house? The effort will be appreciated...I promise!

[Picture from: http://piesandbass.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/steak_potatoes2.jpg ]

Friday, March 13, 2009

100% Whole Wheat Bread

If you've ever had a good piece of 100% whole wheat bread, you'll understand when I tell you there is really something really, well, good about it. So much more substantial that white bread, with a sweet, almost nutty taste, 100% whole wheat can be amazing. Unfortunately, so much of what passes for whole wheat in the grocery stores tastes like cardboard and can be used as sandpaper; it really is such a disappointment, keeping people from discovering 100% whole wheat bread.

Since I've been making all our bread for the past year and a half (save the occasional emergency run to the store), I've been working on getting a terrific 100% whole wheat recipe. My Azure Standard order finally arrived, so I have whole wheat again. This time, I got both Hard Red Winter Wheat and Hard White. I've only tried the Hard Red so far, so I'll let you know if there is something amazingly different about them - there is supposed to be. Anyway, the bread recipe I tried yesterday is pretty darned good, but I'll admit it was more complicated than the others I've tried. The taste was fabulous and it DID rise (something that is not guaranteed, it seems!). If you're curious, you should definitely put this on your "to try" list...

It comes from Crystal at Everyday Food Storage. (The Food Storage Network ladies are hosting Bread Month, so I'm looking forward to some more new bread recipes.) She also has a bread-making how-to video, if you're interested.

EZ 100% Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 Tblsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey or 1/3 cup sugar (I used honey)
2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (I used Hard Red)
1/4 cup wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
2 Tblsp nonfat non instant dry milk
1 Tblsp butter/margarine/oil (I used oil)
1 Tblsp vinegar
1/4 cup potato flakes (NOT potato pearls)

Mix ingredients in order listed in mixing bowl of mixer with dough hook attachment (like kitchen-aid) for 12-15 minutes. Let rise until double, 1- 1 1/2 hours. Punch down, and shape into loaf or rolls. Let rise again until double and bake 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and sounds hollow when lightly tapped.

If you are making this recipe in a bread machine, follow your bread machine’s directions for wheat or whole grain selection and add the ingredients in the order listed for their recommendations. (I used my bread machine to do the dough because I was making the Sugar Doughnut Muffins at the same time.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grace in Small Things - #11

1. Butter and a warm tortilla.

2. Having a DS.

3. Not being stupid.

4. A warm jacuzzi on a freezing night.

5. My books - they're really cool and I learn so much from them.

Sugar Doughnut Muffins

As I promised, I made Sugar Doughnut Muffins today. I found this awesome recipe to try and I've been counting down the days til Thursday. The recipe absolutely lived up to its name and I'm glad we won't have extra at home because I would eat them all myself.

This recipe originally comes from Amanda at Fake Ginger and if you haven't discovered her food blog yet, you are in for a wonderful treat. This girl makes amazing stuff and tries to keep it healthy when she can. Her post today is Chicken Piccata, another one I'm definitely going to try soon. This recipe was quick and easy. The muffins are like a light muffin or a dense cupcake--you can pick how you'd like to describe them. I think I overfilled my muffin liners because I got some seriously fluffy muffins. The original recipe does not make a huge batch which is nice if you don't want to be a pig and eat a ton of these "just because they are there". (Not that I would, you understand? I'm just saying "if".) Doubling the recipe only netted me 16 muffins. (Since I needed 15, guess who got to eat the 16th? Buttercup, Valiant, and I shared one. They're definitely not happy they can't have another one.)

Sugar Doughnut Muffins


3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar, for rolling


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg until light in color.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
4. Pour into egg mixture and stir to combine.
5. Pour in vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract.
6. Divide batter evenly into 12 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.
7. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
8. While muffins are baking, melt butter and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl.
9. When muffins are done, lightly brush the top of each with some melted butter, remove from the pan and roll in sugar.
10. Cool on a wire rack.

Remember, I doubled the above recipe to net 16 cupcake like muffins.

Disclaimer: I thought I should remind you, while I bake all these amazing goodies on Thursdays, the treats actually go to work with Superman on Friday. We work out, but not enough to cancel out this much goodness! Did I mention I've got a loaf of whole wheat bread in the oven as I type this? I'll tell you about it later tonight...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grace in Small Things - #10 (Wednesday!)

1. Perseverance

2. Friends at the Museum

3. Having access to technology to learn things.

4. MAC Wednesdays

5. My Structure and Development Class - I know when to use who and when to use whom!

Gee...can you tell who felt blessed by what? Sheesh...we're so easy...

Grace in Small Things - #9 (Tuesday - oops!)

1. Patience

2. Electricity

3. Sunlight reflecting off the new snow.

4. Finding your own footprints in the snow.

5. My printer

Another Day at the MAC...and a Bread Recipe

The Nagle girls headed to join the homeschool group at the MAC and had a terrific time. There were more girls there this time and Buttercup said she can hardly wait to head back in two weeks. As for me, I enjoyed talking to a lively bunch of women about everything from how much it costs to heat your home to the differences between public school, home schooling, and unschooling. Grown-up time is definitely a treasure when you make the decision to homeschool.

Anyway, since we didn't get home until 5:30 (we closed the place down!), dinner tonight was quesadillas and then I popped some ingredients into the bread maker to make some sandwich bread for Superman. Superman is a toast man and wants his toast in the morning...so this is how we handle it.

This is the easiest bread machine recipe ever and it makes delicious sandwich bread, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, or rolls whenever you want it. Like all my bread machine recipes, I use the dough setting on my bread machine and do the final rise in whatever pan I've chosen, rather than doing the whole thing in the bread machine. (Melissa, this part is especially for you!) Let it finish the dough cycle, pound it down, knead it a bit, and then form it into a loaf. Put the loaf into your greased loaf pan and let it rise. Bake it at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Take it out of the pan and let it cool. That's it.

Sandwich Bread

1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar (sometimes I just use 1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
3 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

That's it!

Put ingredients in order specified by your bread machine manufacturer. Use dough cycle and form loaf or cook on white bread setting. This bread recipe is very forgiving, so don't sweat it. Seriously, last week I forgot to put in the oil and I ended up with a denser bread...I just sliced it up and used it as grilled butter and parmesan hamburger buns. It doesn't get much more forgiving than that.

P.S. Thursday I'm making Sugar Doughnut Cupcakes...doesn't that sound amazing?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday, Tuesday, Touch Your Shoe Day...random thoughts and a doll birthday party...

As you've probably guessed, I've decided to let Tuesday be the day I share some of the randomness that fills my mind and my life. Some of it is mundane and some of it is profound. Some of it just, well, there, bouncing around in my brain.

I've been thinking a lot about a sentence I read on a new blog I found, "Cultivating Home" written by Hannah: "My response is my responsibility." It resonated with me and has had me pondering the way it truly effects all our lives. This one sentence is so profoundly simple and, yet, it is the key to everything.

Think about it...say it...process it. My response is my responsibility.

The simple truth is that we do not have control over the actions of others. The only control we have is in how we choose to respond to those actions. We have the choice, the power, to determine the course of things by our responses to each and every incident in our lives. Will our actions be contrary to our states values and beliefs or will our actions serve to reinforce our commitment to our values? Whether we are yelling at our children, getting angry at our husbands, or being hurt by our friends, truly it is our choice to respond that way. Even more importantly, we have the responsibility for the response we choose. If an argument ensues because we chose not to control our temper, that was our choice. If a battle ensues because we decided fighting was an appropriate response, that was our choice. If hurt feelings result because we allowed ourselves to make it all about us, then that was our choice and we bear the responsibility for the consequences. This is so powerful, don't you think? Every day, every interaction, My response is my responsibility. By consciously taking responsibility for how I choose to respond in any given situation, I choose the quality of my life every single day. Wow!

Not all is profundity in the Nagle5 household. Oh, no. We also find time to host doll birthday parties. Yep, you heard me: "Doll Birthday Party". My I be the first to say, "Welcome to Girl World!" For the second year running, Buttercup has hosted a doll birthday party for her two American Girl dolls, Josefina and Marisa. She baked a heart-shaped cake, frosted it and decorated it with sprinkles and candles, then bribed her brother and his friends with cake if they would sing, and even had presents (each girl got a magnifying glass to help them study the strange and wonderful things they might find in their world). (Poor Mr. R only has sons and could not figure out what the heck we were doing...especially when Superman got into the spirit and sang to the "girls".) A good time was had by all, the girls loved their presents and their party, and Mr. R's sons and wife got cake, too.

So, think about your responsibility for your response to the situations you find yourself faced with, but also think about doll birthday parties. You need to have balance in your life, you know?

P.S. Can Spring really be right around the corner when the weatherman predicts sub-zero temperatures for tonight? Sheesh!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies...

So, did your house sing today? The Nagle5 household did. Unfortunately, it kept trying to sing "Working Can Wait, This is Paradise"! We had an unexpected snow storm that was beautiful, but really stopped Spring in her tracks. Superman stayed home today, as he was feeling a bit under the weather. That, combined with the lingering effect of "Spring Forward", gave us all a late start this morning and we really started off slowly. Still, the kids and I pulled it off. They liked the new schooling/chore schedule I've come up with and I feel happy that they're getting so much done on Mondays...a win-win all around. We labeled some popsicle sticks and got the holiday decorations moved out of the basement and into the garage! Unfortunately, I tweaked my back doing something I knew I shouldn't have done, so I stopped there. The pantry isn't done yet. Oh, well, progress, not perfection!

Since I'm kind of stuck on my rump, I thought I'd share one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes with you. I still remember where I got this recipe...I got it from a girl named Julie who lived in the apartments above us when Charming was 3. They moved and we didn't keep in touch, but I kept the recipe (and you'll be glad I did).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Cream together:
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar

2 cups flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (I don't need to tell you that I use more, right?)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in:
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips (Confession: I just throw in a few handfuls til it looks right!)
Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

That's it...how easy is that? They are so good and so easy. They have more depth than a traditional chocolate chip cookie, but aren't overpoweringly peanut butter-y. Honestly, they are close to perfect.

Grace in Small Things #8

1. Children being NICE to each other.

2. Sick Days

3. Viewing your friends through falling snow.

4. Flowers that a neighbor brought as they open up.

5. My wonderful old car.

Happy Birthday, Eveline!

Today is my sweet SIL Eveline's birthday. Her husband (my brother) just shipped out for a new duty assignment, so she is alone on her birthday! I wish we could be there with her right now, because she has been such a blessing to our family. I could not have wished for a better SIL. She is the perfect foil for our loud, passionate family...calm and lady-like in the face of our stormy natures. She is the perfect wife for my brother, a wonderful sister to me, and an awesome aunt to my children. Now, if I could only talk her into moving to the Pacific Northwest! Until then, phone calls, emails, snail mail, and now blogs will have to do!

Happy Birthday, Eveline!
We love you!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Making Our Home Sing Monday - Behind the Scenes

Making your home sing Mondays

Momstheword is hosting Making Your Home Sing Mondays, and this is our second one. Moms is talking about the art of hospitality and Kate over at LoveAphid is tackling some Spring Cleaning stuff. As for the Nagle5, we're tackling behind-the-scenes things, so our home will sing "Whistle While You Work" this week. These are those things you all might not see or know about if you visit, but they cause us some serious stress or, at the very least, angst if they remain undone.

This weekend I tweaked things to make them flow a little better. I tweaked the furniture in the supposed-to-be-the-dining-room-but-we-don't-use-it-that-way and removed a rocking chair, an ottoman and a rug and added instead a small table with two chairs. Now the kids can be upstairs with me when I'm cooking, even if they have some schoolwork to get done. Even Mr. R thought is was an improvement - wow! Additionally, we tweaked our food storage by bringing the extra freezer in from the garage and putting into our basement utility room. This way it won't be dirty all the time, won't be part of "garage stuff" and will be under my auspices. The decision to do this meant we cleaned out the freezer, washed the freezer (too many melted, leaking otter pops from the summer - ugh!) and put everything back in neatly.

As for today and the rest of the week, we are reorganizing our food storage area in our basement, getting our holiday items stored in their new home in the garage (and out of the basement), getting some seeds started for our summer garden (and this year we're using popsicle sticks in every single planter!), and continuing to refine our successfully-disciplined schooling schedule.

Our food storage has been a pantry project that took a year to do. First, we had to figure out what we used regularly and what we really don't use. Now that we've figured out what we use and don't use, I've got to make sure that I'm storing it in a manner that makes sense. Stuff you won't see if you come over, but stuff that I know needs to be handled.

So, the holiday decorations. Holiday decorations are one of those pain the in rear organizing issues. YOu need them, you need them to be kept safe and accessible, and at the same time you only need them once a year, so you don't want them taking up valuable real estate. The holiday bins are a pain...and where they are right now isn't working for any of us. They are hard to get to, so the kids just dump stuff near them rather than in them and, since I don't always follow up, I now have a big mess. Superman and I have decided that there is place in the garage that will be perfect for them. This week, we will get this project off our list once and for all, which will lighten everyone's hearts and definitely encourage some singing!

Our spring garden! Superman built a growing table, complete with grow light, to help in our quest to have strong, healthy plants to plant at the end of May (did you know that if your plants are stretching for light, they grow spindly stems and are weak their whole lives?). The kids and I are going to fill our pots with dirt and label a bunch of popsicle sticks today, in preparation for seed planting. (Superman is designing raised beds, so the number of seeds will be dependent upon his plans.) We're looking forward to red bell peppers, zucchinis, watermelon, broccoli, onions, corn, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and other stuff I'm sure I've forgotten. Additionally, we're trying to grow our own little flower plants rather than buying a flat at Home Depot. Definitely singing material! (We'll be like those singing flowers in Alice in Wonderland!)

Finally, we'll stick to our new discipline for schoolwork and chores. Everyone is so much happier when our boundaries are clear and enforced.

Nothing earth shattering, but all very important to the health and welfare of the Nagle5. Happy Monday to you!

Grace in Small Things - #8

1. The feathery feel of snow between my toes.

2. How well we work together.

3. The other people in my life.

4. The feeling of steam enveloping my face.

5. Fuzzy Slippers

Last night...

at 10:05 p.m. Baby Evelyn passed away. Her parents got to spend 4 hours with her free of wires and tubes and machines before she died. Their faith is strong and is a great source of inspiration for them, but this time will be difficult for them...please keep them in your prayers.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Grace in Small Things - #7

1. How cute, soft, and funny Biscuit is.

2. Snowflakes that look like fairies frolicking in the backyard.

3. I'm thankful I was born with the ability to fix things.

4. The opportunity to fret over tests and essays.

5. That I get to go to Stage Combat class.

Home-made Soft Pretzels

We here at the Nagle household love Wetzel's Pretzels, among other mall pretzels. If you are familiar with these pretzels, however, you know two things: 1) you have to go to the mall to get them and 2) you have to pay a pretty penny for them. Since we're staying away from the mall for all kinds of reasons, we haven't had any pretzels in a while. I was super excited to see this recipe from Mayaluna at MayaMade. The comments were all positive with regard to their own results, so I had to give it a try. I can tell you it was fantastic! We made regular salted pretzels, cinnamon sugar pretzels, pretzel bites, even pizza pretzels and they turned out really, really well.

Soft Pretzels

-makes 12-14 pretzels

1 cup of warm water with 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast and let sit for five minutes

Then add:
1 1/2 cup unbleached flour (I only had all-purpose)
2 tablespoons butter - softened
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix for three minutes and then add:
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I only had all-purpose, so that is what I used)

Knead the dough until it loses its stickiness. Let rise in a covered and oiled bowl until doubled in sized. Punch down and divide 12-14 pieces.

Roll into 18 inch snakes with tapered ends (roughly the diameter of your finger) and mold into traditional pretzel shape or whatever you want.

Place on greased baking sheet and let rise again. Preheat oven to 475.

Bring a pot with 4 cups of water to a boil and add 5 teaspoons of baking soda to the boiling water. Carefully lower the pretzels into the boiling water for one minute or until the pretzel floats. Remove with slotted spoon and place back onto the baking sheet. (Do not use an aluminum pot or spoon for this step!) Sprinkle with coarse salt (not too much - it sticks!)

Bake until golden - about five minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes and then eat them! They are really, really good.

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!

On this day, 39 years ago, I got the best doll on the block!

Happy Birthday, Adam!

P.S. Wasn't he cute with his grandpa?

P.P.S. (Hey, Adam, now you know what the kids feel like! Just be glad I couldn't show up at your work with a balloon bouquet!)