Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Photo Flashback...

Since I showed you a picture of my brother as he looks these days (in my Skype post earlier today), I was inspired to find a picture of us from days past for Alicia's Friday Photo Flashback.

This is a picture of my brother and me at my mom's condo. I think it was around Christmas time and I was visiting before the holiday. I was roughly 23, so my brother was 17 or so. I love this picture because we both look so happy. It was not a particularly happy time in either of our lives, so this picture is especially poignant.

P.S. Notice that I never went anywhere without a)shoulder pads and b) using the hot rollers...those curls were the best I could do!

Head on over to Alicia's to see what everyone else pulled out from their photo albums.

Man, I love Skype...

My little brother is on active duty with the Navy overseas and even when he's not, he and my darling sister-in-law live 1300 miles from us. I haven't seen him in a couple of years, but with the magic of Skype, the kids and I got to visit with him yesterday! How cool is that? This is a screen shot of a moment in our conversation...not bad for free internet video phone, is it? It was so good to see him as well as talk to him.

This week I've gotten to talk with my sister, my sister-in-law and now my brother...all for free and all via Skype. Please, please tell me you're Skyping?

P.S. I also got to see my sister's new haircut via Skype yesterday (she's 2000 miles away), but I was too busy gushing over just how gorgeous it was to take a screen shot ...what was I thinking? (Seriously, it was gorgeous.)

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Cinnamon Roll Cake

For Friday Delight this week, I tried a new recipe: Cinnamon Roll Cake. I love any recipe that starts with a cake mix and just modifies it...chances are good that I'll be able to have it turn out well and this recipe was no exception. This is another recipe I got from Jamie at My Baking Addiction...obviously, that girl is really addicted because she has the best recipes. This recipe showed so much promise that the kids made me make a cake for home and a cake for Superman to take to work...that meant we had cake to share with the neighbors. Everyone loved it and I'm sure Superman's team will love it, too.

Cinnamon Roll Cake
from My Baking Addiction

Cinnamon Roll Cake
Yellow Cake Mix
4 eggs
¾ cup oil
1 cup sour cream
Mix by hand [I used my hand mixer] and pour in 13 x 9 greased baking pan.

1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
Mix and pour over cake batter. Swirl into batter with knife. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Let cake cool 10 – 15 minutes before icing.

Cream Cheese Glaze
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
4-5 tablespoons of milk

While the cake is cooling, beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Slowly add milk until you reach the desired consistency. Spread frosting on warm cake before serving.

That is all there is to it...quick, easy, and delicious.

Go make a cake!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Chipster-topped" Brownies

I tested a new brownie recipe today. Jamie at My Baking Addition featured "Chipster-topped" Brownies from Dorie Greenspan a few days ago and I had to try it. The recipe was pretty easy to follow, but I could not get my cookie dough to float on the brownie batter, so mine weren't exactly "chipster-topped"...more like chipster-infused. Basically, you make the brownie batter, then you make the chocolate-chip cookie dough. You pour the brownie batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan, then top it with the cookie dough and "with a light hand" spread the cookie dough across the top of the brownie batter. Um, yeah, right! My cookie dough sank as soon as I put it on the brownie batter.

I was thinking as I made this recipe that I could have just used my own brownie recipe and my own choice of cookie dough recipe and done the same thing. This time, however, this is the recipe came from Beth at Supplicious via Jamie at My Baking Addiction or you can click here for the recipe. (Both of them participate in a baking challenge called Tuesdays with Dorie...I still don't really know who Dorie Greenspan is, other than the source of all the yummy baked goods the TWD participants make.) Interestingly, some of the people who commented on the original site said that baking the brownie portion for 15 minutes before adding the cookie dough made the layering much more successful. I think I would try it that way if I were to make these again. Honestly, however, I have other brownie recipes I prefer and I'll probably stick to those.

Having said all that, Superman said that these brownies would be absolutely perfect for Brownie Sundaes. The brownie portion isn't as sweet as typical brownies and would be a good foil for the vanilla ice cream. (Whipped cream and hot fudge topping strictly optional.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Late Bloomer?

Have you ever used or heard the phrase "she/he's just a late bloomer"? Have you ever really thought about where it came from and why so many people view that negatively? I have...maybe because I was a late bloomer and, so far, my oldest child has been a late bloomer. We have a one-size fits all society these days and there doesn't seem to be any room for diversity of any kind. How is it possible that we expect all children to be at the same developmental milestones at the same time and if they aren't, we label them "late". Are they really late? Maybe they're just right for them? Why is there so much pressure to be done with so much of life by the time we're 18, 20, 30, or 45...why aren't we just living life to the fullest, regardless of the years we've been here.

I really thought a lot about the concept of late bloomers when I started flowers from seeds. I planted them all the same day and put them all in the same window. I watered them all at the same time and, yet, some grew faster than others. Look at these Zinnias? One is so sturdy and strong and the other one is still little. Did I discard or dismiss the late bloomers as not good enough or behind? Of course not. When it came time to transplant my seedlings this weekend, the littler plant had "caught" up and was ready for transplanting, too.

Why are we so quick to label our children and ourselves? Honestly, I don't have any answers...I just know that in our house, we don't talk much about when we should reach milestone A or marker B...we just work towards individual goals. My kids will mature as they mature, just as I am doing...I can't rush it or slow it down. It is not a good thing or a bad just is.

What do you think?


I have at least 18-20 mosquito bites (I keep losing count) as my reward for all the yardwork I did over the weekend! And, it appears, that I now have an allergic reaction to mosquito bites. The 18-20 bites are swollen and range in size from a quarter to a half-dollar. They itch like the dickens and I've been dabbing After Bite and downing Benadryl to try to minimize the discomfort. (Translation: I kept falling asleep I'm due to take more, but I want to be awake to blog, so I'm holding off and trying to ignore my itchy body!)

Since I wasn't outside working at dawn and I wasn't outside working at dusk, it is now obvious to me that the saying that mosquitoes bite at dawn and dusk is a BIG FAT LIE! We have no standing water in our yard, but obviously someone in the neighborhood is not just me who has been attacked, but all of us are suffering. (I'm just the lucky one who seems to be reacting to the bites.)

When I got out of the shower this morning, I sprayed bug repellant all over. I am so done with this! Ah, I love the smell of DEET as it mixes with my perfume...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Making Your Home Sing Monday...

Can you believe it is already Monday again? It seems like the last week just flew appointments and museum day, plus a surprise movie for the the kids (we finally saw the new
Star Trek movie - amazing!) and a holiday weekend and the week is over already and it is time for...
Making Your Home Sing Monday the Memorial Day week edition. We're all going to be coming off the 3-day weekend and trying to get everything done in four days what normally takes five. But for me, I'm not rushing. I'm going to do my Monday chores, I'm going to plant the last of my garden, and I'm going to enjoy the day with Superman. Superman is my very best friend and I love any day that he's home.

Buttercup spent the entire weekend painting anything that wasn't fast enough to get away from her (shirts, clay creations, wooden and ceramic figurines). She found such joy in creating...she reminded us about throwing ourselves into our projects with enthusiasm and passion. Valiant found the same thing this weekend, when he decided to surprise us all and jumped out of bed Saturday morning and mowing the lawn without being told. The enthusiasm with which he greeted the task combined with the joy in his face when he shared with us his surprise were absolutely wonderful.

Whether you're painting little figurines or working on a project in your backyard or just cleaning the bathroom, there is joy and enthusiasm to be found. Joy in your surroundings and enthusiasm in a job well done. Even the most mundane task provides the opportunity to feel joyous. For me and my family, this is the attitude I'll be encourage for the week. I want everyone to feel that sunshine I saw in my children's facesAs for the rest of the week, the kids and I are heading to Michael's and buying some unfinished bird houses and painting them for our backyard. I have a cool craft project in mind that involves two terracotta pots (which I already bought!) that I'll try to get done to show you later in the week.

So, this week, we're singing Walking in Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. We're definitely walking in sunshine these days. To find out how everyone else is feeling (and give Nan a virtual hug to help her get over her cold), head on over to Momstheword for the Making Your Home Sing Party. Even sick, I know she'll appreciate you stopping by!

I hope you have a sunshine-ey week.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

So, you havent asked, but...

...I thought I'd tell you anyway. It has been more than a month since we turned off our satellite television and we don't get broadcast television at our house, so it has been more than a month since we've had television and...we don't miss it at all.

We do have movies on our shelves and Buttercup has been reacquainting herself with all the Disney Classics. She's also been exploring her creative side much more. Valiant hasn't seemed to miss it either, as he is more likely to be outside with his sister or busy with Superman and less likely to be sitting around doing nothing. I've needed to be careful that he hasn't simply replaced time in front of the television with time on the computer, but so far, it just hasn't been a problem.

I guess I was right..we really were spending $60 - $70 a month on something we just didn't value. It was just a habit.

Also, it has been a month and a half since I switched from a traditional cell phone to a TracFone and, honestly, it has been amazing. I haven't used up my minutes from my original purchase and the phone works well and has terrific coverage. Using as few minutes as I do, I'm actually thinking of revising my cost estimate down(!) and think my cell phone will actually end up costing us about $8/mo for the first year, including the cost of the phone.

Another $22 a month we just didn't need to spend.

Finally, a little note. My cell service and our DirecTV were all part of a 'bundled' package from Qwest. When I cancelled the cell service, I lost a little of the bundle difference, then when I cancelled our DirecTV is lost more. I anticipated that...what I didn't anticipate was that Qwest would use that opportunity to try to increase the price that we pay for our DSL service from $14.99 to $32 and change! When I called Qwest, I explained that we had "price for life" plan and that my DSL should not have gone up at all. Then I told the girl that this was going to be the nail in the coffin for Qwest, as Superman really wants to switch us to Comcast for faster internet and Vonage for phone service (still no television) and that we were gone if they were charging us $32 for DSL. Well, threatening with Comcast was all it correct their error, the girl said they'd give us six months of FREE DSL and then six months of DSL at $14.99, after which the DSL would cost $19.99 (which is the $14.99 without the $5 bundle discount that we were getting with all the services) for as along as we had our DSL service. I'm happy because my Qwest bill is going to be super low for six months, Superman is happy because that gives him time to find an awesome deal with Comcast, and Qwest is happy because we didn't leave. A win-win for everyone.

Another $14.99 a month we won't be spending for six months!

Add it up, it we're saving roughly $100 a month just by thinking about how we are doing things. No one feels deprived, no one feels as if we're doing without something we want. You've just got to love that!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Photo Flashback

Well, it is already that time again and this time, I'm not waiting until the last minute! It is time to join everyone for Alicia's Friday Photo Flashback! I came across the picture I'm sharing just a few days ago and thought it would be perfect to share with you all. I love it--even if I have that stupid "boy" haircut.

My mom married her high school math teacher...I never had a math teacher I'd consider dating, let alone marry, but maybe things were different back in the day. Anyway, he continued teaching at the high school and when I was came along, I became part of the school, too. I was the mascot at the football games and had my own little version of a uniform. (Look how cute those little white gloves are...)

This is an old, old picture (42+ years old), so I think it definitely counts as pre-digital!

A funny addendum to the story? I was sitting in the waiting area of a restaurant when I was in my early 20s and I overheard a conversation that a bunch of "grown-ups" were having about their highschool reunion. I quickly figured out which school it was and my interest was was that school. Then someone said, "Hey, whatever happened to that teacher that married that student?" The conversation buzzed around that topic for a minute and I couldn't resist...I jumped in with: "Are you talking about Teacher X marrying Student Y?" They couldn't figure out how I knew about something like that. I smiled and said, "I happened to them." It was pretty darned funny.

Lesson learned: Be careful who you're sitting around when you begin just never know!

Donut Muffins - Friday Delight

After a few weeks of a) forgetting to make something from scratch or b) giving them the same old- same old, I'm sending a new Friday Delight treat to Superman's team tomorrow morning.

This week I tried an awesome recipe from Bread & Honey: A Food Blog. I grabbed this recipe months and months ago, but hadn't tried it until today. I must say I'm glad I held on to it. It is good. I think this will go a long way towards redeeming my reputation in the eyes of those who count on me to make Friday morning meetings with Superman a little less painful.

As always, this recipe is much easier than it looks (I just don't do difficult brain doesn't work that way). Also, I made some changes and substitutions based on what I had in my house this evening -- I noted any changes I made.

So, here you go:

Donut Muffins
from Bread & Honey


For muffins:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk [I only had non-fat]
1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar [I used white]
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature [I used salted]
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs

For topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a standard-size muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg, and whisk to mix them thoroughly. Set aside.

Combine the milk and the vinegar in a measuring cup, and set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or, alternatively, in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters nearby), and beat on medium speed for a few seconds, until the butter is soft and creamy. With the motor running, add the sugar in a steady stream. Continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, until the mixture increases in volume and lightens to pale yellow. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until they are just combined.

[For this part, I just kept using my Minnie (that would be Minerva, my Kitchen Aid, to those of you who missed her joyful arrival to our home in February)--no wooden spoon for me.]With a wooden spoon, mix 1/4 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add 1/3 of the milk mixture. Continue to add the dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dries. Mix until the dough is smooth and well combined, but do not overmix.

Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin tin. Bake until the muffins are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-32 minutes. [Using a 1/4 cup scooper, I made 19 standard-sized muffins.]

When the muffins are cool enough to handle, prepare the topping: melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop, and pour the powdered sugar into a deep bowl. Using a pastry brush and working one muffin at a time, lightly brush the entire outside of the muffin with butter, and then roll it in the powdered sugar. [Instead of using a pastry brush, I just held on to the paper at the base of the muffin, dipped the top of the muffin in the butter, then dipped it into the powdered sugar.] Shake off any excess, and place the finished muffins on a rack or serving platter. Serve.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Request...

We so often see the word of babies in need spread across blog-land like, well, wildfire, but not so often for bigger kids. I heard about this little boy from a friend of mine (not a blogger - a real-live person!) and she sent me the link to the blog today. This family could use your prayers...

Clay Fite, a little boy in Texas, was burned terribly February 14 after he and his brothers helped along a burn barrel fire started by their father. The little boys added gasoline to the fire and Clay was caught in the resulting explosion, burning his entire upper body. Here is their very first blog post as they try to make sense of what happened that afternoon.

Well, here we are at the end of May and this little boy is still fighting hard to come home. It is not easy and it hurts, but he's still fighting hard.

So, if you have the chance, would you please go visit? Let them know that people are paying attention and praying for their youngest child, as well as the rest of their family.


P.S. They don't have a button, but maybe someone knows how to make one for them? I know I'd add it to my blog to help spread the word.

Catching Up...

Well, I haven't been saying much about it, but my technology issues have been making me crazy. Up until recently, I've been receiving and reading all my blogs via RSS Feeds through Microsoft Office Outlook. About a month ago, however, it sporadically stopped working. Pretty soon, I figured out that you all were, in fact, posting and I just wasn't getting the updates. So, if you've missed me, chalk it up to the fact that I didn't figure out you were still writing...yes, I can be slow...

Well, I give up! This weekend I'm moving all my feeds to Google Reader. I wish I didn't have to...I like reading my blogs when I read my emails and, when it worked, Outlook put them all in the same place for me. A girl has got to do what a girl has got to do, though, and I can't stand it another second. I need my regular fix and I must make sure I get it in a uninterrupted fashion. (I think blog reading will replace morning newspapers for the next generation, what do you think?)

Anyway, in the midst of all of this, I neglected to thank two bloggers who gifted me with awards...

Back on May 9, my friend at Generations Gone By gave me this lovely award...and on May 17, my new friend Renee at Always a Southern Girl passed it along as well.

Two bloggers in one month found something they liked in my blog! I could play coy and pretend I'm not tickled, but that wouldn't be me. Frankly, I'm definitely tickled a bright shade of pink.

Generations Gone By is a blog by my friend T, who really writes about life and intersperses it with tales of ancestors "lost and found" as she indulges in her passion for genealogy.

Always a Southern Girl is written by Renee...seriously, what more do I need to say than this: Any woman who includes this in her rules to live by, is a woman I need to know:

#3.) Please don't wear low rise jeans with a thong. We really do not want to see the view of your underwear.

In the bloggy world, awards give us the opportunity to share with you some blogs that we love, in case you haven't discovered them yourselves (or even if you have, that way, you'll know we love them, too!).

So, I'm passing this award along to a few of my favorites, in the hopes it will let them know, despite my technical difficulties, that I really love their blogs.

1. In This Season - DarcyLee is the mother of 4 daughters and is expecting her first grandchild! (How cool is that?) She shares a little bit of sewing, cooking, and life advice with us all and I just love her blog.

2. Tootsie @ Tootsie Time is a new discovery of mine. I love her gardening tips (and the pictures of her garden!). She's just so common sense and easy to understand. I'm always learning something new and being inspired by her.

3. The Train to Crazy - Andrea is the mother of a three little ones and writes about everything from selling homes to the myth of the supermom. I love viewing life from the perspective of a mom who's in a completely different place in life than I am. It makes me smile when her stories send me back 15 years and it makes me appreciate the journey my life has been so far.

Each of these is a new discovery of mine and, as you can see, each is a completely different type of blog. I hope you'll go check them won't be disappointed.

Thanks again, ladies, for gifting me with this made me feel special.

It's almost summertime, are your feet ready?

Nan of Momstheword and Five Moms and A Blog fame wrote about getting her first pedicure on Monday. Can you believe she waited so long? I couldn't, either. I love the way my feet feel after a pedicure. I introduced Buttercup to pedis (as we call them) when she was just four years old and we've been doing them ever since. There is just something so cheerful about brightly colored toes in a pair of cute sandals...they just say summer, don't they?

Springing for two spa pedis once a month started to really add up, though, so I had to come up with an alternative. For the price of one of our pedi outings, I outfitted us with all the stuff we need to do at home pedis. We girls put on a chick flick and we go to town.

We soak our feet first in a nice foamy bath, then we buff our heels and callouses (mostly mine!). We trim and file our toenails, then we use the cuticle remover and the orange stick and get those cuticles pushed back, and soak them again. Then we pull them out of the water for the last time, pat them dry, and rub them down with a soothing lotion. A little nail polish remover on the toenails (to get the lotion off them) and we're ready to start painting our toenails. We like quick dry polishes (a life saver when doing kid polish!) and are known to put on beautiful decals or rhinestones, too.

For the investment equal to the price of one pedi outing, we've been doing this for two years. Proof that being frugal doesn't mean you can't enjoy a little pampering. Just think out of the box and you can enjoy the things you've always enjoyed.

For Buttercup's birthday two months ago, I was her pedicurist and gave her the works (even the foot massage). She liked is so much that she said she's going to learn how to do all the elements of a pedicure, so she can be my pedicurist, too. Not only are we getting cute toes, but we're having fun together while we're saving money.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Dentist and a Beautiful Day at the Park...

After a mixed bag kind of dentist appointment and lunch with Dad, Valiant, Buttercup and I had some time to kill before we met our homeschooling friends at the MAC, so we headed to the park!

First, we admired how beautiful the day was. Doesn't this look like a postcard picture?

Then, the kids proved you're never too old to try for the brass ring! (This Loof Carousel is more than 100 years old!)

After that, we needed mini donuts (horseback riding is hard work!). The man operating the booth taught us all the "baker's dozen" originally had to do with the weight of bakery products - who knew?

We went to feed the squirrels...the same man like the kids and gave them peanuts to share with the squirrels.

We admired the Canada Geese ...

...and Mallard ducks.

Then, it was time to leave the park and head to the MAC...
...and Valiant wasn't so sad about getting a cavity (donuts, ducks, and merry-go-rounds can fix just about anything!).

So, how was your day?

Twenty Minute Chicken Parmesan

I'm still trying to add new things to our recipe line-up, and this is a recipe I've been meaning to try for a while. I made it last night for the family. I think it turned out really well...Valiant and Buttercup aren't used to breading on anything and said they'd have preferred just plain cooked chicken breast, but Superman and Charming really liked it and said it is a keeper. (Melissa and Beth, you'll be happy to know that this is a SparkPeople recipe, so you can actually enjoy it without guilt!)

Twenty Minute Chicken Parmesan
from SparkPeople - Serves 4

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs (I added 1 tablespoon cold milled flax seed)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine (I used olive oil)
1 3/4 cups spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded mozarella cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (I forgot this last night!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I didn't have this)

1. Place chicken between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap (I use wax paper); use a meat mallet and flatten to 1/4 inch thick.

2. Dip chicken in egg, then dredge in breadcrumbs.

3. Cook chicken in butter (olive oil) in large skillet over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Spoon spaghetti sauce over chicken; bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove lid, sprinkle the cheeses and parsley and replace lid...simmer for five more minutes until cheese melts.


I served mine on a bed of egg noodles and with a side of steamed broccoli.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Over the past two and a half years, I've been making my family's bread almost exclusively. For big gatherings, I'll still buy sandwich rolls and stuff like that, but for the rest, I make it. I've tried a lot of different wheat breads, trying to find one that everyone likes and I think this is the one. It is soft, it is tasty, and it is hearty. It is a mix of whole wheat and bread flour, so it is not 100% whole wheat, but it is a good compromise for a basic sandwich bread. Also, it calls for honey rather than granulated white sugar, which is a plus. It is a breadmaker recipe, which means I let the bread machine run through the dough cycle and then I form it into a loaf and let it rise in a loaf pan and bake it. (I never cook my bread in the breadmaker, I don't like the shape of the loaf.)

If you're looking for an alternative to white sandwich bread, give this a won't be disappointed.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
from All

1 1/8 cup warm water
3 tablespoons honey
1/3 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use Canola oil)
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used hard winter red)
1 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Please ingredients in breadmaker in order listed or according to directions for your breadmaker. Select dough cycle and start. When the dough cycle is finished (mine takes 90 minutes), remove dough, punch down, and then shape into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pan and allow to rise again. (Roughly 30 minutes, but it depends on how warm your kitchen is.) Cook at 325 degree for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and remove from loaf pan.

Notes: If you're cooking all the way with your bread machine, use the wheat bread cycle and select light color setting.

This will make you smile - I promise!

For the second time in as many years (that we're aware of), a mama duck has built her nest on ledge of a building in our small city. Last year, she encouraged her children to leave the nest by jumping off the ledge to the sidewalk far below. (Obviously, not a good plan...) When the ducklings took their turns to jump off the ledge last year, they were very lucky that a banker who worked in the building was watching. He ran downstairs and under the ledge and starting catching the babies as they jumped. (Sadly, he missed the first one.) Then he helped the mama duck and her babies across the street and watched them walk to the river.

This year, she decided to have them leave the nest on the occasion of the annual Lilac Day Parade and the man was again there, this time, with his family and friends. Again, he caught the babies...and even climbed up to get the few that didn't jump! Then the mama and the babies were safely escorted to the river by the man and his family and, this year, they were cheered on by supportive parade-goers.

Don't believe me? Click on these! (Your kids will love them...)

Last year:

This year:
Have I mentioned that I love where I love.

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just in case you thought it was only Buttercup...

...who has a way with words...

Charming emerged from his bedroom this morning, looked and me, and said, "Huh? look good."

It is a good thing I have these kids around to keep my ego in check.

Making Your Home Sing Monday...

During our Monday morning date, I lamented to Superman that I had no idea what I was going to write for MYHSM, that I didn't know how to inspire the family this week, that I had nothing to say. He responded that everything is humming along beautifully and that I should just keep doing what I'm doing because our home is our favorite place to be. Now, I don't know about you, but I can't think of a better compliment he could give me.

We spent the weekend working on the yard. After almost four years in this house, we feel like the brunt of hard-labor work in the yard is just about done. As Buttercup put it, "Mom, it took you three years, but the front yard looks pretty!"

(The view from our clothesline!)

I must tell you, if felt good to hear that from my oh-so-honest girl.

Almost all our energy is now directed toward the backyard. We had everybody working together on Sunday and it was wonderful. We did a ton of weeding, we planted plants, Superman got the sprinkler system up and running, Superman and Valiant got the waterfall for the koi working again (the pump died a week and a half ago), we're getting the garden ready for seedlings (more on that in a different post), and we got our clothesline up (and staying up) so I could hang the first load of the season on the line.

As I listen to my children, I can hear that the hard work was good for them...they slept hard and woke up in cheerful moods. So, in keeping with Superman's wishes, I'm not changing anything this week. If it is okay with you, we're just going to keep humming right along. We'll just be doing more of the same.

We have some more planting to do, we have house-cleaning, and schoolwork. It is museum week and our bi-annual dentist appointments this week. Charming will be getting used to being back home again and we'll be getting used to having him here. I guess if we're singing anything this week, it is "I Feel Good"

P.S. See Superman's shirt on the clothesline? It says, "According to my wife, I AM VERY HAPPY"

Want to see what everyone else is up to this week? Head on over to Mom's house...Momstheword hosts our Making Your Home Sing party every week and she loves a crowd.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

File Under: Only in the Pacific Northwest

A beautiful sunny Saturday...Superman notices a man out mowing his lawn.

He's wearing camo pants, a navy hat, and a 9mm strapped to his hip.

He must have a serious gopher problem.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It seems like just yesterday,

That she was sprinkling me with pixie dust...oh, how things have changed:

One morning this past week, my sweet little Buttercup climbed in bed with me to cuddle before we began our day. "Oh", I thought to myself, "she wants to cuddle like we did when she was wonderful." We lay there quietly for a few minutes.

Then she rolled over to me, looked into my eyes and said, "Mommy?"

"Yes, Sweetie?" I responded.

"Daddy really needs to color your hair again," she informed me.

"Thanks, Baby"

Ah, how I would have preferred a little pixie dust...

Friday, May 15, 2009

The toothpick that felled Valiant...

Oh, come on, you didn't think I'd let you get away without seeing the toothpick that was stuck in Valiant's foot, did you? Pretty bad, isn't it? This little sucker required him to get a tetanus shot and to be on antibiotics for a was all the way in--nothing sticking out. (You don't want to know how they had to get it out.) Makes you want to wince, doesn't it?

It is still Friday!

It is still Friday Photo Flashback at Alicia's, too. So, I'm inviting you all to walk down memory lane with me (actually, to life pre-my memory) and enjoy this picture a friend of mine restored for me. The photo was actually from a Polaroid-type camera and in really bad condition. My friend "A" did a terrific job restoring it, given what she had to work with.

This picture was taken when I was a few months old (2-3, I'm guessing) and that is my mom holding me on her lap. It definitely qualifies as pre-digital camera era. The things that strike me about this picture? My mom is one of those women who has always considered herself unattractive, but as you can see, she wasn't. (I, of course, was amazingly adorable at 2-3 months old, don't you think...wink, wink!) Also, look at the throws and stuff on the bed as well as the light on the wall...very 60s, wouldn't you say? (Especially since it was late '63 or early '64.) Her clothes are "in" again!

Now, I'm heading over to Alicia's house to see what everyone else brought to the Friday Photo Flashback.

What I did for fun on Friday (NOT!)

So, while you all were digging through your boxes of old photos and sharing them, you might have noticed I never jumped in. I meant to, seriously, I even had a picture in mind. I wanted walk down memory lane with all.

You might have noticed, however, that there is not Friday Photo Flashback posted here.

Well, there is a reason for that…Valiant decided that we would have more fun if we headed off to Urgent Care to get a toothpick removed from his foot! Yep, seriously. My younger prince stepped on a toothpick and it went between his toes and went through to the other side and you could feel it on the top of his foot. Exciting, no? (If you’d like, I could post a picture!No?Yeah, I didn’t think so.) Suffice it say, I haven’t gotten much done today.

(I do have a picture, but I can't get it off my you'll just have to wait and use your imagination!)

My first ever tutorial...

with pictures! (Look, you can even see the steam rising from the pan...these are ACTION shots, people!)

If you've never tried to make Spanish rice, you're not alone...I hadn't tried it myself until a few months ago. The recipes I have tried or the past six months were difficult, weird, or just didn't get me a result I wanted (or all of the above). Then I figured out how to take a little from each of them and get a result we all liked. Now that I know how to do it, I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out. Since I figured it out, I thought I'd share it with you...

Spanish Rice

This is how I make Spanish rice. (For those of you actually living in Spain, I don't know if there is such a thing as Spanish rice outside Los Estados Unidos, but hey, that is what we call it here.)

You'll need
butter (or cooking oil),
your favorite salsa,
some water, and
a saucepan with a lid.

(That's all...seriously.)

Put your saucepan on the stove and melt your butter with medium heat (don't burn it!). As soon as the butter is melted, put in uncooked white rice. (Notice there are no measurements--that is because this is a method, not a recipe...the quantities are up to you...the method will work with a lot of rice or a little. For the pictures, I'd guess I used 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of rice, but this is what makes this technique so easy, it is whatever you want...just don't be stingy on the butter/ need it.) Stir in the rice until it is coated by the melted butter. It will look like this.

Keep stirring your want it to brown and it will. (Keep the heat at the medium still don't want to scorch your butter.) This is what it looks like as the grains start cooking.
Keep stirring until most of your rice has browned.

Then add a half a cup of salsa (I made that up, I just poured it in until it looked good)

and a bunch of water, enough to generously cover the rice.

Then stir it all around, turn the flame/heat to medium/low, put the lid on and simmer until the rice is cooked, stirring occasionally. If the water seems to be boiling away and your rice isn't quite cooked, add some more water, stir it around, and let it simmer a little longer.

When it is done, remove it from the heat, fluff up your rice, and serve. How easy is that? I know it is not the "right" way to make Spanish rice, but it is the easiest and most consistent way I've found. Since you're using a salsa you like, you're guaranteed to get a rice you like...easy peasy.

So, what do you think? Do you do something different?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

So, how do you like it?

When I email you back in response to your comments? Since I'm trying to stay off the computer for x-number of hours each day, I thought I'd try receiving your comments via email, so that I don't miss any of them. Doing this also gives me the ability to send you an email response to your comments if you linked an email address to your Google ID (or if I know for sure who you are and I have your email address already). For me, I like the feeling of knowing someone actually read my comment and I wanted you all to have that feeling whenever you leave a comment.

So, do you like receiving an email response? Or would you prefer me to post responses in the comments section of the blog post? It is really up to you, so weigh in on this one for me.

The Macaroni and Cheese Room...

What would you do?

We dyed the slipcover for the couch brown long before we painted the room macaroni and cheese orange. (It was one of our first efforts to bring more color into the room--it was only partially successful and the dye didn't take very well.)

I switched to the "natural" color slipcover, but I'm still not in love with it. (I do have some fabric to make some colorful pillows, but still...)

Now I'm thinking of getting a black slipcover (actually, I'm thinking of testing it first by dying the ugly brown slipcover black before I actually spend real money on a new slipcover). What do you think? What is your vote? Should I stick with the slipcover in natural and add bright pillows or should I try black with bright pillows?

P.S. The floor is white-ish ceramic tile. The television stand is white, the bookshelves are white, and my craft/sewing desk is white.

Mini Meatloaves...

In an effort to get out of the rut I feel like I'm in, I'm trying new recipes. Last night I made mini-meat loaves and, I must say, they were a hit. I modified the recipe to suit our tastes and it turned out really well. Superman was so excited, you would have thought I'd thrown a steak on his plate (that is enthusiasm, let me tell you). The kids liked them and I liked them, so this is definitely a keeper.

Mini Meatloaves

1 pound ground meat (I used ground turkey, the recipe called for ground beef)
1 package Stove Top Stuffing mix
1 egg (the recipe suggested adding 3/4 cup of spaghetti sauce...I added egg instead)
1 cup of water
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (the original recipe called for 1 tsp)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (the original recipe didn't call for this)
1 teaspoon salt (the original recipe didn't call for this)

1 cup Cheddar cheese - grated

Preheat oven to 375.

Prepare muffin tins: I've used the type that only makes 6 muffins (you know, the super big ones) and a standard-sized one. You can grease the tin or use tin liners (I used liners for easy clean-up).

In a large bowl, mix together ground meat, stuffing mix, egg, water, Italian seasoning, garlic, and salt. Using a scooper, scoop the mixture into the muffin tins. (I used an ice cream scoop.) Bake for 25 minutes, pull out, top with grated cheese, and bake for five more minutes. Serve hot.

This is definitely a kid-friendly meal...with the added bonus of appealing to my meat and potato loving man. What else can I ask for?

P.S. I also made another loaf of Cinnamon Swirl was just so good, we needed another one.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo

So, I've been bored. Seriously, seriously bored. The weather is changing and my taste for baked goods is leaving along with winter. I can hardly wait for summer vegetables and fruits. I miss zucchini and cantaloupe and watermelon and things like that. When planning dinner tonight, I didn't want the same stuff we normally have...I headed to my recipe notebook, where I put recipes that tickled my fancy and looked to see what I could come up with. I ran across the recipe for Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo and realized I had all the ingredients. (Okay, I didn't have linguine and I was going to just use spaghetti, but then the rim for Buttercup's bike came into the bike shop, so we headed out anyway and I stopped to get linguine--but I digress...) I am really glad I picked this recipe. Superman loved it. The kids liked it (they decided they didn't like it while I was cooking it, so the fact that they admitted to liking it when I served it says a lot!) Bored like me? Try a new recipe!

Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo
Serves 4

Prep. 10 minutes/ Cook 20 minutes

1/2 of a 16 oz package of Linguine
1 cup of fresh or frozen broccoli florets [I used 2+ cups of fresh broccoli]
2 tbsp butter [I used olive oil]
1 lb. skinless boneless chicken breasts cut into 1 1/2" pieces [I used two breasts]
1 can (10 3/4 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese [I used fresh and grated it myself]
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1. Prepare linguine according to package directions in 3 quart saucepan. Add broccoli during last 4 minutes of cooking time. Drain linguine and broccoli well.

2. Heat butter [I used olive oil] in 10" skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until well browned, stirring often.

3. Stir soup, milk, cheese, black pepper, and linguine/broccoli mixture into skillet. Cook until mixture is hot and bubbling.

Top with additional Parmesan.

Seriously, this was really, really good and really, really easy. It would lend itself to all kinds of variations, depending upon what pasta and vegetables you have on hand. I'm definitely adding it to our rotation.

Notes: So, here is what I did wrong! I didn't read the directions carefully and cooked an entire box of linguine. That meant I had to double the amount of sauce I made, so I used 2 cans of soup, 1 cup of milk, and about 3/4 cup of Parmesan. (I really didn't want it to be overly cheesy..I knew the kids would mutiny.) The two chicken breasts were still enough meat and I had already put in 2+ cups of fresh broccoli into the boiling linguine ended up being fine. Oh, and since I had messed up, I had to switch the chicken to a bigger skillet (an extra pan to wash!). So, learn from my experience and read the directions thoroughly! It worked out well, though, as Superman is now excited by his lunches for the next two days.

Oh, one more thing: Superman and I both agree that the chicken should be seasoned when it is cooked. The directions don't call for it and so I didn't season the meat as it cooked. A little salt and maybe garlic would add a little more depth to the flavors.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Shriek of Dismay Heard Round the World...

Ack! I'm just so upset that Helen, that selfish woman who sent her daughter home so she could stay on the Campus longer, won the Biggest Loser! The only thing that would have been worse would have been Ron winning! Ugh!

But Tara looked terrific and I was very impressed with Mike...he did a great I must go eat something sweet to drown my sorrows.

(Okay, I'm done now...)

Don't Blink or You'll Miss It!

Our dogs are clean!

There is a young mom a few miles a way who does an awesome job dog grooming. Since I am not a good dog brusher (I have issues with consistency), our dogs really needed attention after 100 inches of snow this past winter and serious rain this spring. Didn't she make them look beautiful?

Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp

As promised, I have a recipe for Apple Crisp to share with you. If you don't know, Apple Crisp is like apple pie without the is really good and really easy. We use this recipe from Recipezaar and it always turns out well. (The submitter says it is from her great-grandmother, so it is definitely tried and true!)

Old Time Apple Crisp
Recipezaar #274904
40 minutes total time/10 minutes prep time

Serves 6 -8

4 cups apple sliced [We used four apples.]
3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup butter

Pre-heat oven to 375.
Grease 8 x 8 baking dish.
Arrange apples in the pan.
Mix remaining ingredients with fork; sprinkle over apples.
Bake until apples are tender and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Serve. [Some people like vanilla ice cream on top of warm apple crisp.]

Back to Baking...

I've been really wanting cinnamon swirl bread, so last night I baked is so good and pretty easy to make. The most difficult part is rolling the loaf for the final rise If you haven't already tried this breadmaker recipe, you really need to give it a try. If you've already tried it, you know just how good it is! (What makes it so easy is that you use your breadmaker to make the dough and you just pull it out and shape it at the cool is that?)

Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread
Recipezaar #22179

1 large egg, room temperature plus
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

  1. Put milk and egg into measuring cup.
  2. Add enough tepid water to make 1 cup.
  3. Pour into bread machine pan.
  4. Add the softened butter, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, bread flour and yeast.
  5. Set bread machine to dough cycle.
  6. Add raisins at the beep.
  7. Remove the dough at the end of the dough cycle.
  8. Roll dough to 10x12 rectangle.
  9. Brush egg white on surface of dough.
  10. Brush with melted butter.
  11. Combine cinnamon and sugar.
  12. Sprinkle over dough; leaving about 1 inch on each edge.
  13. Roll from short side.
  14. Pinch where it meets and roll ends under.
  15. Place in loaf pan.
  16. Cover with cloth and let rise for about an hour.
  17. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  18. Once the dough has risen, brush top with egg white and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
  19. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes.
We also made an Apple Crisp that I'll tell you about later. Have a terrific Tuesday...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Making Your Home Sing Monday...

It is that time again. Momstheword asks us all to weigh in on what we're doing to make our homes sing each week. This is, I think, her effort to get us to be conscious of our lives and the choices we have to determine the quality of our lives and our homes. I think that is a worthwhile goal. We should all be aware of and reminded of the power we wield in our homes. It is something that is easy to forget.

This week, I have to confess, I am doing nothing to make my home sing. Seriously. I have no plan, no great scheme. Oh, we'll do chores and we'll do schoolwork. Superman and I will still try to figure out how to pay all our bills and do all the things we want to at the same time. We'll be discussing the changes we see on the horizon, including the ones that scare us. The kids will still fight (did I just admit that?). Still, this week, I will do nothing to make my home sing. There is no threshold I must cross before I will sing. I am simply choosing to be happy and sharing that happiness with my family and friends. My happiness will not be dependent upon this or that happening. My happiness will not be dependent upon the weather, my children, my husband, or our circumstances each day. My happiness will not be dependent up my interactions with others - positive or negative. My happiness is my choice...and I choose to be happy this week. I hope it will be catching.

So, our house (or at least I) will be singing Don't Worry, Be Happy this week and I will be happy.

Head over to Momstheword's house to see what everyone else is tackling this week. She loves having a house full of friends.