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Friday, October 31, 2008

Foodie Friday - But I Won't Do That

This has felt like such a serious week around here. I promise a little more light-heartedness next week. I would hate for y'all to think that I'm just all serious all the time.

But by know, I do hope you know that I am serious about food.

I'm also fairly serious about politics. And that mainly goes back to my being opinionated and, well, letting everyone and their DOG know my opinions.

But I recognize that you didn't come here today to get an ear-ful of my conservative ramblings, so... moving on.

Today's topic is a family favorite of ours. Meatloaf.


video

An enthusiastic bunch, are they not?

And I'm talking about meatloaf like this...

Not Meat Loaf, like this...


Meatloaf (the food) for some reason makes me think of "Americana." You know, gathering around the table for lunch on Sunday after church. The good ol' days.

Oddly enough, this is not a dish that my mom made with any regularity... or at all. But I LOVE IT!

Especially from Boston Market. Do you have those where you live? Oh, they make a good meat loaf and serve it with kind of a marinara tomato sauce on top. Yummy.

So I had, for a while been on the look-out for a good meat loaf recipe. Then my good friends at Cook's Illustrated came through for me a couple of years ago.

What's interesting about this recipe, is that it is all beef. Most meat loaf recipes are a combination of ground beef, pork and veal. But, recognizing that not all home cooks have access to all these types of meat from their local grocer, the cooking geniuses at Cook's Illustrated developed this recipe using all ground beef.

There are a couple of interesting and unexpected ingredients (like unflavored gelatin)... but trust me. They have their purpose and it is worth the effort to try this recipe.

The recipe is quite long, so I decided to not post it here as well. You can find it at my recipe blog... here.

What makes you think of what we picture as the "good ol' days?"

Oh, and Happy Halloween, y'all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Expectations - Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

***

Another thing (besides passing the one year mark at my job) that got me thinking on the subject of my expectations with respect to my home life now that I'm working was a post at Rocks in my Dryer from a few weeks ago. She is doing a series on Thursdays called “What I’d Like for You to Know.” She brings in guest bloggers who share their own stories on specific topics. One was about working outside the home moms. Shalee’s post really was very spot-on. Only she gets up at some crazy ridiculous hour earlier than I do each morning.

So, my expectations? I have realized that they were completely unrealistic.

I guess I expected that it would be as easy as it was when Sarah was little – even though I now have two children and one is in grade school. I had no idea what a difference this made.

I expected that I would be able to clean my house on a day off or a Saturday morning – even though my day off is well-spent in Bible Study and my house is quite a bit larger than the one we used to live in. There are days that I miss staying in my pj's on my day off... but then I get to BSF and I don't miss it a bit.

I expected that I would eventually be able to justify having a housekeeper come and clean at least once a month – even though we are desperately trying to pay off some debt and it won’t ever be in the budget.

I expected that I would be more organized about keeping up with the household chores – even though I have never been organized about it… ever.

I expected that I would be able to scrapbook a little every night like I did when Sarah was little – even though almost every creative cell in my body is worn out by the time the kids are in bed. Sometimes I'm able to write/blog and sometimes not. Sometimes I go days without being able to read all of your blogs. And I miss you when it's like that.

I expected that my husband would help me out a little – and he helps me out a LOT. He takes on so much and I would never be able to do everything that I do if it were not for my man.

The bottom line that I go back to any time I feel discouraged that I am not living up to the expectations I have of myself is that they are just that… self imposed. I believe God has called me to work where I am. I do not know why. But I believe that there is a reason.

So, if that is true, then I MUST also believe that things around my house will be fine… or that the Lord will give my kids some divine amnesia where the house is concerned.

And I believe that my time outside of work is much better spent in Bible study and just being with my kids than making sure that there is no dust on the piano and no dog hair bunnies around the edges of the floor. It’s okay if the bare minimum only gets done most of the time. I will have times when the state of the house overwhelms me… and at that point, I do need to act… and fast.

But generally, just know that if you come to my house at any given time, there WILL be dust, there WILL be dog hair, and there WILL be laundry. But there will also be an open Bible and a well fed and well cared for family.

Even if they do have to live in a messy, if not dusty house.

And those, I believe, are some realistic expectations.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Expectations - Part 2

(Read Part 1)

What’s different?

The work schedule may look the same, but the life schedule is not.

I always thought it would be easier to work once the kids were older and in school. It just seems logical that you could work while they are at school. However, the landscape changes once you have a grade-schooler.

Pill, one of my girlfriends from college, and I decided that it is much easier to work when your kids are little, baby and pre-school age, than when they are older. When you are done at work you pick them up, eat some dinner and then pretty much, you’re done for the night. They go to bed early and you can even have a little bit of an evening to yourself.

Once they are in school age all the homework and extra-curricular stuff begins. There’s piano to practice, piano lessons, piano recitals, soccer practice, soccer games, and meetings at school… along with everything else we were already doing at church and any other special events such as a school musical with rehearsals and performances. They are not going to bed as early and have more to do in a day. And it only gets more involved the older they get.

So, that's where I am. The grade school stage with so many responsibilities outside of just going to and from work.

Here’s a glimpse into my weekly schedule:

Each day (M/T/Th/F):

5:15 am – up for quiet time and exercise before getting in the shower.

6:45 am - get Sarah up to get ready (including practicing piano) for her dad to take her to school at 7:45 am. At some point during this time, Nathan has usually emerged and is usually thrilled to be awake.

8:30-9:00 – get to work after getting Nathan ready and to daycare. The big question of my day at this point: “Oh coffee pot at the office, are you full or empty?”

Mondays:
Leave work at 5 pm & pick up Sarah from after school care (homework should already be done - but almost invariably there's a little to do still) and Nathan from daycare and head home. For now, this is our one night of calm. Figure out something for dinner and eat around 6:30-6:45 pm.

Tuesdays:
Leave work at 3 pm & pick up Sarah from school and Nathan from daycare. Maybe we have time to swing by home… maybe not.
Piano lessons at 4 pm until 5 pm.
Head home . Sarah does homework and I change and go to exercise class at 6 pm. The kids usually go with their dad to the gym so that he can exercise.
Meet back home at about 7:15 usually with Sonic in hand… it is, after all, family night – ½ price burgers.

Wednesdays (supposed to be my day off):
Leave home by 8:45 for BSF at 9:10 am… we’re NEVER on time any more.
Be at Sarah’s school by 11:50 (usually with lunch in-hand) to hang-out with her class during lunch to give her teacher a break.
Home by 1:20 to get Nathan down for a nap. Just in time to get him up again to go pick Sarah up from school at 3. (Some days he goes to day care for lunch and nap if I have a BSF Fellowship or an extra busy afternoon of errands and appointments planned.)
After school we run errands, go to the store… again… and sometimes have a little extra time to play before dinner. Or maybe we hang out at home and bake cookies.
Off to choir practice 7 - 8:30 then back home.

Thursdays:
Leave work at 5 pm & pick up Sarah from after school care (homework should already be done) and Nathan from daycare.
Drive straight to Sarah’s soccer practice at 5:30 and meet Mike there for passing of the “kid baton.”
I head to exercise class at 6 pm.
Mike gets the kids started on dinner and I join them when I get home at 7:15 or so.

Fridays:
Leave work at 3 pm & pick up Sarah from school and Nathan from daycare.
Usually we have the afternoon free to just hang out. Maybe run some errands. Maybe we just go to the park if it’s nice out.

Each night:

Get the kiddos headed toward baths and bed at around 8 pm (they should be in bed by 8:30-9 pm).
Check email. Blog a little. Tweet a little. Check Facebook. Clean up from dinner. Maybe watch a show with my man. Get sucked into an old movie on TBS or TNT. I totally intend to do something productive like clean... but instead I fall asleep on the couch by 11 pm and head to bed when my man wakes me up at midnight.



Know what you don’t see? Any time for house cleaning.

If it happens, it's got to be on the weekend. But I find that in my time off from work during the week and on the weekends and when I’m not shuttling kids from one place to another, I just want to hang out with them and be their mom. I am finding myself more concerned about relationship with them than about the state of my house.

Which is a good thing, I believe.

And then, I come to weeks like last week when it totally hits me that I've been basically out of town or out of pocket for 3 weekends in a row and my house is a wreck and has been for weeks. I realize that to get to the cleanliness point that I’d ideally like to be, it would take days. Days of not going to the office while the kids still go to school and daycare. Days of concentrated effort.

Days that I simply don’t have.

And feel like I never will have.

Then I get completely overwhelmed, discouraged and beat down.

****

Just one more installment... come back for part 3 tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Expectations - Part 1

I work outside of my home. Did you know that?

I had certain expectations when I took this job and started working outside of my home once again last fall. Expectations of the job, of myself and for my family and my home.

As I have watched the one year anniversary of taking this job come and go within the last month (get a glimpse of my first day here), I am in a reflective mood and thinking about those expectations.

It’s hard to nail down what they were because, certainly, I never uttered what they were in speech or in writing. But clearly as I look back, they were there.

I have been thinking back to my last job. I worked when Sarah was little. From the time she was 1 year old until she was 3 ½ and we moved to Virginia. I worked 4 days a week – 2 longer and 2 shorter so that I could pick her up from preschool. I had Fridays off completely. It was a demanding job and I worked my share of extra hours. But I was paid hourly and rarely felt guilty for staying at home if Sarah was sick. If I wasn’t there, I didn’t get paid… and I was okay with that.

Fast forward to today. I work 4 days a week – 2 longer and 2 shorter so that I can pick the kids up from school. I have Wednesdays off completely. It’s not a terribly demanding job, but I work hard and put in extra hours when necessary. I am on salary and do feel guilty for staying home if one of the kids is sick.

These work situations sound fairly similar, do they not? That’s what I thought.

But here’s the deal. Back then, my house stayed relatively clean, we entertained company fairly regularly, and still worked on my scrapbooks on a very regular basis.

Now, I feel like it’s a major accomplishment to just get the laundry done so that we can all have clean clothes for the week a few days. I feel like my house never gets clean. I don’t scrapbook anymore. I only blog to help me get my thoughts out of my head and on to paper so that I stay sane.

What’s different?

****

I don't know how many parts there will be. I'm not done writing yet. But stay tuned (if you're interested, of course).

Monday, October 27, 2008

A-Maze-ing. And a little corny, too.

Our local pumpkin patch is actually a working farm. Right here in the middle of Dallas/Fort Worth.

And it also belongs to a family that I'm related to. By marriage. I think. But we still paid. How does that work, exactly?

Mike was helping some friends do some moving on Saturday evening, so the kids and I took a break from housework and went on over to do the corn maze. It was a riot.

Would you believe me if I told you they just walked up to the first intersection we came to and did this spontaneously?



Well, believe it or not. They did.


And this was absolutely the cutest thing ever and totally makes up for most of the other three year old moments that we have around here...


video


We also bought pumpkins and I do have a plan for carving one of them. It involves their dad. On Wednesday night. When I'm at choir.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Foodie Friday

I have to say that this has been one of those weeks when I have been completely uninspired. I've been just absolutely exhausted the last day or two.

It's amazing how much energy PMS takes up.

But it's like I've always said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right."

Actually, I don't always say that. But it sounded good, didn't it?

All I really want to do tonight is lie on the couch and eat peanut butter M&M's. And maybe some chocolate chip cookies. And isn't that handy since I just made some yesterday.


I tried out the recipe that Holly left last Friday in the comments. Oh heavens. I think I have found me a new favorite recipe. I posted it on the recipe blog here.

Did y'all go back and look at the recipes that everyone left in last week's comments? There's some good stuff there. One even has a substitution for eggs if your family deals with food allergies.

Speaking of which, Kim from Just a Southern Girl posed some questions in last week's comments and I wanted to address those for her.

Kim finds herself in an interesting situation which most of us will never face. Cooking while living in a foreign country. Now, I will say that I did face this challenge while living in France one summer during college. As close as France is to the U.S., many things are just not the same.

Just try finding H.E.B. tortillas, picante sauce/salsa, and Dr. Pepper in southern France. Just go ahead and try. It's a little hard to make enchiladas without tortillas.

I'm just sayin'.

But back to Kim. Her concerns were 1) no Crisco, 2) different brown sugar, and 3) no chocolate chips.

If you don't have access to Crisco or other types of shortening, I'd just stick with good ol' butter. The difference is that butter has a lower melting point than shortening. Therefore, a cookie made with butter may tend to spread a little more than one made with all shortening. Just keep that in mind.

A couple of ideas for mitigating this issue is to: A) Let your cookie sheet cool completely before placing more dough on for the next batch. Placing dough on a completely cool sheet will keep the butter from beginning to melt before it gets into the oven and hopefully will keep the spreading to a minimum. B) Store your dough in the refrigerator between batches. Cold dough on a completely cool cookie sheet will go even further to accomplish this same goal.

Next, brown sugar. Brown sugar is just regular sugar with a certain amount of molasses mixed with it. Light brown sugar has less molasses, and dark brown has more. So, Kim, if yours is REALLY dark, my guess is that it has a lot of molasses already in it. And if you'll notice from the recipe that Holly sent, we are adding extra molasses to the dough. The idea is that liquid sugar (like molasses) will hold moisture and keep your cookies moist longer than solid forms of sugar (like regular white granulated sugar). Your brown sugar down there might accomplish the same result without adding any additional molasses. All that to say, I wouldn't do a thing to the sugar.

And if you really want to geek it up, you can read additional information on sugar here.

Lastly, no chocolate chips. I really can't help you there. The next best thing would be to see if you can just find some chocolate bars and make chocolate chunk cookies. Let me know if you're in dire need of some. We'll find a way to get a girlfriend her chocolate. :)

***
Tune in tomorrow when I'll post my stew recipe over on the recipe blog for Soup's On Saturday over at But I Had a Tiara. We finally had some cool weather this week and I was able to make it. And I used venison. It was yummy.

***

Lastly this week, I want to give you guys a little bit of a heads-up for what's in store. I'm planning a blog carnival that we're calling Way More Homemade Holidays. It's going to be a time when we can share our oddball family recipes, our family traditions, and some of our favorite memories from around the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table. Stay tuned for more details and a button is in the works and coming soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A letter to my husband's admirer

Dear Buffy,

I wasn't aware until recently that you knew where I worked. But it has become apparent to me that you do.

I know that it is you who must be bringing sweets to my office and leaving them on the kitchen table. Sweets like lemon cake with lemon frosting, chocolate chip cookies, and a box of bagles and cookies from Einstein Bro.s.

Only someone so devious would be working so hard to ruin my figure. I guess you think that I will eat so much that my waist-line will slowly disappear causing my man to find me less attractive and you more attractive.

Or you may think that bringing such delectable treats that I will eat will draw me to exercise more to guard my figure and spend less time with my man.

But, you shall not win. No, you shall not win.

I am not eating your diabolical treats. Well, not very much of them anyways.

I am making my own. So that I can fatten him up too. Then maybe you'll leave him alone.

So take that, Buffy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Weekend of girliness

I love my girlfriends.

I have several different sets of them, in fact. There's the church set, which by the way, I feel like I haven't seen in for-ev-ver. There's the quasi-church set that all come from different churches but make up our Friday night couples group. Then there's the college set.

It was the last group that I got to hang with this past weekend. And oh it was good.

We try to get together, just the girls, for one weekend during the year. It started out being twice a year, then we started having kids. You know how that goes.

We're an interesting bunch, really. We started out as a much larger group that met our freshman year in our dorm at Texas A&M... Leggett Hall. One dropped out our sophomore year, and seemed to even drop of the face of the earth. We've heard some things through our friend the grapevine about her chosen profession, so it's really quite possible that she did, in fact, fall off the face of the earth. One transferred out to go to another school and we lost touch. One married someone who just decided he didn't like some of us and she abruptly broke off all communications a few years ago.

So, after all these years, it's down to the four of us. We laugh and talk about our kids, about people we knew in college, about politics (although never too seriously, because we want to remain friends, you know), and about the sad state of the economy. We watch, yell, scream, and jump up and down during Aggie football games.

We marvel, even, that we are still alive after some of the stuff we did in college.

I was even the tame one - the goodie two-shoes of the group - and I think that it's a miracle that I'm still here.

And yet, we are. Here, that is. Alive and well.

Our weekend this year was spent in San Antonio where one of them lives. She, in fact, is pregnant with and fairly close to having twins. So we all travelled to her this time.

Our weekends rarely consist of a whole lot. So this one was typical.

We went to Alamo Cafe for dinner on Friday night. I had some incredible Chipotle Chicken enchiladas and some excellent guacamole. And I tell you, my friend Carrie can order a Margarita... she knows what she's doing. Even though our poor 12 year old looking waiter did not. He had the blankest look I think I have ever seen when she asked what kinds of tequila they had.

Saturday was partially spent watching the first half of the Aggies play Texas Tech. When we left at half-time to go to Sonic for a drink run and to check into a nail place nearby, the Ags were actually ahead. Once we saw the score, though, after half-time, we didn't even try to go back to watch the rest of the game. We needed retail therapy.

And I needed some flip-flops to show off my new toenails.

Prescription... La Cantera. Oh, now that's a beautiful mall. And it's where I found some beautiful flip-flops.



And would you believe I found them at Dillard's? I couldn't. Not every Dillard's has quite the shoe selection that this one did. I even found the pair of shoes that will go with the brown dress that I apparently need to buy for Mike's company Christmas... oh, excuse me, Holiday Party this year. Yes, I wanted to buy shoes for the dress I don't have yet.

It was at that point that I realized that I had to leave. I could no longer stand there in that shoe department and not spend money that I didn't need to spend.


Saturday evening we just hung out back at Beth's house and gabbed and watched Saturday Night Live.

You see? We don't do terribly exciting things. Seriously, most of the time was spent sitting around just being together. But it's just the being around one another that's so good.


Oh, I love these girlfriends.

And I can't wait until the next time we see each other.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A title would be good here...

Y'all are so sweet. I just enjoyed reading your captions for my little picture last week.

And since I just know you've all been just sitting on the edge of your seats just waiting to find out who won...

drum roll please....

From the Random.org integer generator:
Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:9
Timestamp: 2008-10-20 11:10:15 UTC

And that would mean that Kay at Notes from the Wall won.

However, my favorite caption was from MariaJoy. "Mom told me my face would get stuck like this if I kept doing it...shoulda listened to Mom!!"

So, I'm going to send both of you a Sonic card.

And good grief, but I've been trying all day to come up with answers for a meme that Kay tagged me with and I'm still working on it.

Look for a better and much more exciting post tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Foodie Friday - Preferences and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cooking is personal, ya know? At least it is for me.

It's a love language.

I figure that one way I can say, "I love you" to my family is to cook for them. Whether it's dinner that I'm just trying to get onto the table or sweets that I bake when I have a spare minute, it's a way that I can love them.

And it's especially sweet when that love is accepted and enjoyed.

But it's also personal just from a preferences perspective.

We all have our preferences about food.

I have several friends and two children who don't like tomatoes. I don't get it, because to me, there's just about nothing better in the summer time than sweet tomatoes. But that is their preference versus mine.

And I am getting to the point where I can look at just about any recipe and pick it apart and re-work it so that it meets my and my families preferences.

I got to thinking about this the other day when someone brought chocolate chip cookies to our office. Let me be clear... they were good or I wouldn't have eaten like 10 of them (jk... it was only nine). But they were not cooked according to my preferences.

These cookies were crisp. All the way through. Crisp like a tortilla chip (before it gets stale because the package has been sitting open in the Texas humidity). And my preference is a soft cookie that is fluffy and cracked on top.

I attended a Pastries and Confections workshop at the Disney Institute back in 1999 when I went to Disney World in Florida while Mike was in a conference for work there. I don't even know that the Disney Institute is still around, but it was a wonderful experience.

One thing I learned in this Pastries and Confections class was how to alter a cookie recipe according to my preferences. So I thought I'd share that with you today, in case you didn't already know.

It's all about the type of sugar, flour and fat that you use.

Crispy cookies that spread out usually use all butter and white granulated sugar.

If it's the fluffy soft cookie you like, then use all shortening and brown sugar. You can even use cake flour instead of all purpose flour for some extra cakey fluffiness.

Those are the two extremes and many recipes that I encounter are somewhere in the middle and include combinations of these ingredients.

For instance, Sara @ Greetings from Butterville shared hers just the other day here. It calls for all butter with all brown sugar. I am curious to make these to see what their texture is like.

Today I am going to share my chocolate chip cookie recipe with you, which I believe I initially took from the chocolate chip bag and then altered it for my preferences. It is below and it is also on the Recipe Blog.


Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup Butter Flavor Crisco
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips


1. Cream Crisco, brown sugar, milk & vanilla. Beat in egg.
2. Combine flour, salt & baking soda and mix into creamed mixture just until blended.
3. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. In 375F oven, bake 8-10 minutes for chewey cookies or 11-13 minutes for crisp cookies. Allow to cool 2-3 minutes on cookie sheet, then remove to cooling rack.


And just for fun, here's some history on the chocolate chip cookie.

So what about you? How do you prefer your chocolate chip cookies? Thin and crispy? Tall and fluffy? With or without nuts? (Notice my recipe is blissfully lacking nuts!) Care to share your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with us?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Note to self...

For the love of all that is good and holy, will someone PLEASE tell me that 3 year old boys have a "time of the month."

Because I need something to explain the mayhem that was my son this morning.

One minute smiles, but the next was a meltdown.

Clearly he woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

Only he sleeps in a day-bed and there's only one side to wake up on.

That does not bode well for future mornings.

Maybe having a regular bed with two sides would help.

Note to self: Buy son a regular bed with 2 sides.




On the upside, he has really been showing his stuff when it comes to musical aptitude.

He plays a mean air-trumpet these days.



He has also picked up a little air-trombone and air-guitar as well.

Although I'm thrilled that he is developing a love for music like his mama, I'm a little terrified of what this means for the pre-teen and teenage years when he is learning his instrument of choice.

Note to self: Build a sound-proof room addition onto the house.



And if all that wasn't enough, his reasoning skills are beyond what I think any three year old should have.

He asked for some more milk last night at dinner after his sister got some more. I explained that he still had plenty in his cup.

His reply was, "Daddy, I need you to drink my milk so I can have some more."

Although incorrect, it was a well-reasoned repsonse. And this seems pretty normal for him.

Unless it's his time of the month, of course.

Note to self: Figure out how to peek inside son's brain to determine its inner-workings.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today

Today is October 15th and that means 2 things to me.

First it means that yesterday was October 14th... the 7th anniversary of my first misscarriage. My second came not ever 2 short months later on December 4th of the same year, 2001. All while my daughter was less than a year old.

It also means that it is the National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Angie at Bring the Rain is doing a great thing at her blog this week. She wrote a beautiful post and then opened up the floor for all of us to remember our babies that some of us may have never been able to hold.

After I posted, I was going to just skim through the 500 plus comments. But I found myself reading each and every one. Tears rolling down my face at certain points. Grieving all over again with these other moms. Placing my hand on the screen as I prayed for certain ones of them as I felt the Holy Spirit urge me.

I prayed for a young lady who in the last 7 weeks has had her husband pass away just days before finding out that there was no heartbeat from her baby. I prayed for one who is still bleeding as her loss was so recent. I prayed for several that posted about suffering the continued shame and guilt of abortion. I prayed for a few who, like me, are at their anniversary date this week.

I know for a fact that many of you whom I have come in contact with through blogging have also experienced a loss such as this. I have said before that I believe I am in a very special position to pray for others who have been through similar circumstances. I encourage you to go over to Bring the Rain and post your story, or at the very least, pray over those others who have.



Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ, our comfort overflows.
1 Corinthians 1:3-5

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Begging for a Caption



This picture from our recent trip to Arbuckle Wilderness is just begging for a caption. Leave a comment with your caption and I'll pick one lucky winner to receive a $5 Sonic Card.

Oh yeah, I'm a big spender. Give me a break... economic times and all.

Comments will remain open until Friday at midnight (CDT). I will try to post a winner on Monday.



Visit 5 Minutes for Mom to see other Wordless Wednesday posts or to add one of your own.

As long as it doesn't involve camping

I don’t know if I mentioned at all, but our family took a little trip this last weekend.

We took off after Sarah’s soccer game on Saturday to go up to Lake Murray, Oklahoma. My parents gave us a gift certificate last year for the lodge there and we really needed to use it. Sarah had a long weekend off of school, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Oh it was a beautiful weekend. And if you need a quick getaway, that is a great place for it. The lodge accommodations aren’t five-star by any stretch of the imagination… maybe two. But there was a bed and no tent.

Because, you know, I don't camp. Roughing it for me involves a hotel without room service. And unless 6:30 am coffee service at your room qualifies as room service, this was roughing it.

But there is so much to do around there, especially with the kids.

And this was a first for me. I went totally without doing any research. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely accurate. I had one thing on my agenda and that was Arbuckle Wilderness, and I only had that on my radar because my parents gave us money to do that as well. We also figured we’d be able to rent Wave Runners at some point and take the kids out on the lake. Beyond that, we had no plans at all.

Well, the Wave Runner thing didn’t pan out. But we did some other fun things instead. Like…



Mini golf….







A horseback ride…









Hiking and swimming at Turner Falls





And of course, Arbuckle Wilderness







I realized only after we got home that this may have been the first time we’ve traveled for a vacation with just the four of us. Since Nathan has been born, either he was young enough that he stayed home, or our vacations have been with extended family.

And how wonderful that both of our kids are now old enough that we can go and do things without diaper bags, diaper changes, sippy cups, high chairs, or naps on the rare occasion if need be.

We are truly at a fun point in life.

And I hope to take full advantage of it.

Are you there yet? What kinds of things do you / did you do with your family to take advantage of this young childhood time of life? Give a mama some ideas.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Awestruck

There is no other word for what I am feeling right now. Y'all just HAVE to read this post at Beyond This Moment about the booklet she won in the giveaway I did here a month ago.

Y'all, our GOD... He is some kind of AWESOME!!!

Foodie Friday - It's Fall

I know, I know. It's technically been fall for a couple of weeks now. But if you live anywhere near me, you know that it certainly hasn't felt like it. Tuesday of this week was the first taste of fall that we've even come close to.

So many people in blog-land have been talking recently about how October is their favorite month or that fall/autumn is their favorite time of year.

I can't claim either of those things.

But I do love college football. Especially when the Aggies are winning.

Which they are not.

But I still love it and this is a typical fall Saturday in our house.



I will, however, agree with the rest of the blogosphere that the food of fall doesn't get much better. And one of my absolute favorites... chili.

And it was a big night in our household on Wednesday. The first chili of the season.

Now, I will admit up front that I don't do chili the way most Texans think it ought to be done. But where there is spice, there is much grace. In other words, don't beat me up because I use beans in my chili.

I didn't start out as a pro-bean chili person. But my (technically) non-Texan husband converted me.

Now I'm a believer.

Normally I just add stuff until it tastes right. However, for you and for the purposes of the ol' blog, I documented what I did this time. Click to see the full Chili Recipe.

As this recipe stands, it is a nice mild amount of heat (in this Texan's opinion). Hey, my kids like it, so it's not too hot, right? But the nice thing about chili is that it's easy to adjust the heat. For more heat, use the Extra Hot Ro*Tel and Ranch Style Beans with Jalapenos. For less heat, use the milder Ro*Tel or just plain diced tomatoes as a substitute.

One interesting thing to note is that a while back, I either heard or read somewhere to not add chili powder (and other peppers) to liquid. In order to get the most out of the flavor of the chili powder, paprika, cayenne or whatever you should add it to oil and cook it just a bit first before adding your liquid. I tried to research this a little bit and confirm it through my good friend google, but I could find no corroborating evidence to support my claim (ooh, I just sounded like a lawyer there). But I did find this site with a history of chili powder. It's kind of interesting.

If you live outside of Texas and can't get your hands on some of these ingredients, I've been there and I feel your pain. Here are some suggestions:

If you can't get any appetite pleasin' Ranch Style Beans, Bush's makes an o-kay chili bean to serve as a starting point. Just add some extra chili powder. Or you could make your own.

Ro*Tel or similar products are fairly widely available these days, I think.

Shiner Bock, however is sometimes a little bit harder to come by. I'm not going to say that just any ol' beer will do, because I just don't know. The whole thing might very well implode with the use of some vile non-Texan non-microbrew beer. However, for a non-beer alternative you could use beef stock.

What about you? Do you have a particular recipe you use for chili? Or are you just a fly by the seat of your pants kind of chili cook? Care to share your recipe?



***

As a side order of Foodie Friday business, I'm pondering doing a blog carnival in the first couple of weeks of November for people to post their Thanksgiving favorites. Watch for details as I iron them out.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Confirm, Ignore or Block

I think I mentioned recently that I joined the Facebook community. I understand it about as much as I understand Twitter (aka not at all), but I'm doing it.

I do have to admit, though, that it's kind of fun to see my friends and their status updates... you know, what they're doing through-out the day. Let's see if I can remember some recent ones...

"Tabitha* is wondering when showering every day became a luxury."

"Glenda* is avoiding science curriculum writing."

"Joe* is wondering if Dish Network is really going to call him back like they promised."

And my personal favorite..

"Sheila* was just listening to (her husband) pray with (her daughter) to ask Jesus into her heart."

(*names have been changed to protect the guilty)

My most recent Facebook status update:

"Donna is trying to decide whether or not she wants to reconnect with High school people on FB. UGH. High school."

So that's the deal. I have someone from my high school that is asking me to be their "friend" on Facebook and join a FB group of people we graduated with. I'm just not sure I want to.

Maybe you had a much different high school experience than I did. Maybe you were the popular kid. I just wasn't.

College is a different story. Not that you can really be "popular" at a school of 40,000 undergraduates. But I certainly had a much better time in college than high school. Of course, that may have been due to the introduction of Shiner Bock into my diet.

I'm just sayin'.

At any rate, high school is just not one of those "look back wistfully on" memories of my life. It wasn't terrible by any means. I just didn't like it.

High school was difficult academically for me and my little pea-sized brain. I actually had to work at it. And socially... I was a band geek - not a cheerleader. I was a flag corps officer - not a drill team officer. I didn't have many close girlfriends. And with my tomboy upbringing, I got along better with the guys. But dating, well, let's just leave it at this: What boy on earth would want to date the daughter of a Dallas police officer? Not many.

So, why would I want to reconnect with people from a time in my life that I didn't enjoy?

I'm really struggling with this for some reason and it seems like such a silly thing to be concerned about.

It's like I don't want these people to think that I haven't moved on in life from high school stuff. But I suppose the reality is that I haven't.

I supppose I am jealous of those who look back fondly on their high school experiences. Maybe I still harbor some ill feelings and possibly even bitterness over the thought that I missed out on something.

But if I really stop and think about it, I didn't miss out on anything. The friends that I did have were good friends at the time. And we had a good time together. And obviously, the Lord is not in the business of withholding good things from His children. He gave me what must have been good for me at the time.

So, high school friends on Facebook. Confirm? Ignore? or Block?

What do you do?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Secret Pain

There are white crosses in front of the church that originally started my daughter's school.



The other day she asked me about them. I found myself in a position that I never anticipated back on that day in 2001 when I heard her screaming her fool-head off as she was delivered out of the womb and into the world. I had to explain to my 7 year old daughter what abortion is.

And then, of course the conversation naturally came around to miscarriage. That was a hard one to explain as well. And emotional for me. I never imagined how difficult it would be to tell my daughter that I'd had two miscarriages after she was born.

But as I think about that conversation and the little bit of lost innocence in her I am reminded of something Beth Moore said this weekend. There are certain things that we need to know, but choose not to - it's called denial. And there are certain things that we insist on knowing that we shouldn't - only God should know certain things. This is one of those things that she needed to know. And although she was a little disturbed by what I told her, it was clear that she was ready for it.

I have also thought about what each of those crosses represent. The life of a child lost in abortion. But, friends, it's so much more. They also ought to represent to us the life of a mother that is hurting and wounded. Maybe the woman next door. Maybe someone you sit next to in choir or Bible Study at church. Walking wounded. Keeping their pain and hurt inside because it's not the kind of pain that is "acceptable" to talk about in church circles.

What if we were to break that pattern? What if we were to really reach out to the hurting in our midst? What if we were to give ourselves permission to acknowledge the secret hurts among so many women? What if we were to help them surrender their secret?

My sweet friend Melinda at Traveling the Road Home is trying to accomplish just that. She has a friend that, together with God, developed the study Surrendering the Secret which has recently been released in DVD form. She is giving away 5 sets of leader kits and study books and you could win one for your church's use.


You can read more about the giveaway here.

Although I don't know the pain of abortion, I have friends who do. It is a pain like no other. Let's break the cycle of the secret pain.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Foodie Friday - Tag, you're it

I got tagged by Sallye at thegardenexperience. She is so sweet y'all. And I do believe this is the first time I've actually been tagged for one of these.





Being tagged requires a response on my part. So, I'll play along...

Answer these questions with one word answers:

Where is your cellphone? Desk
Where is your signficant other? Work
Your hair color? Brown
Your Mother? Asia
Your Father? Asia
Your Favorite Thing? Brownies
Your dream/goal? An Inn
The room you're in? Office
Your hobby? Scrapbooking
Your Fear? Losing it
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Hawaii
Where were you last night? Debate
What you're not? Skinny
One of your wish items? Apple Macbook
The last thing you did? Eat
What are you wearing? NEW
Your TV? Off
Your Pet? Dogs
Your Computer? Home
Your Mood? Ecstatic
Missing Someone? Val
Your Car? Volvo
Something you're not wearing but love to wear? Straw hat
Favorite Store? SteinMart
Your Summer? HOT
Love Someone? Lots
Your Favorite Color? Blue
When was the last time you laughed? Earlier
When was the last time you cried? Thursday

Now I believe I'm supposed to tag someone else. In the words of my 3 year old son, "Hmmm. Let's see. How about..." Brittany because she is such a long time internet friend that I've never had the opportunity to meet in real life. I think I'm supposed to tag more than one... but I'm at work and don't have a lot of time.

Question...

Do you ever get tagged in real life? It happened to me last week. Something was said that required a response on my part. A gauntlet was thrown, if you will.

I made a quick spaghetti meal one night. You know, it's after work, I'm exhausted, the kids are hungry, and so I threw some ground beef in a skillet along with a jar of Classico spaghetti sauce (well, I poured the jar out actually... there was no breaking of glass) and boiled some noodles. Quick, easy, no fuss meal, right.

Until.

My man says during dinner, "For all the big deal you make about doing stuff homemade... you never do spaghetti."

Oh, that was a gauntlet if EVER I've heard one.

And it required a response.

So this past Wednesday on my day off of work, I made me some homemade spaghetti sauce.

Here's what I did.

1/2 onion, chopped
1 shallot, minced (not necessary, I just had it lying around)
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb ground beef (approx)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tamato sauce
1 (small) can tomato paste
1-2 tbsp sugar
1/4-1/2 cup white table wine
a bunch of chopped fresh basil
and oregano
and parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

I always saute my onions first in oil. Then add the shallots (if you've got 'em lying around) and garlic and saute until fragrant. Add ground beef (and any stray sausage you happen to find in your fridge that hasn't gone bad) and cook until brown. (that sounds weird) Then just start adding everything else. Be sure to taste as you go. And don't forget the salt and pepper... very important.


So, that's what I did. My man got home and I had him look around the kitchen and asked him what he noticed. It took a few minutes, but he finally raised his eyebrows, smiled and said, "A-haaah. No jar."

So, now, tag... it's your turn.

Do you make your own spaghetti sauce? I know there have got to be some italians out there who do. Care to share your recipe with us? Either leave it in the comments or post it on your own blog and leave a link in the comments. I'm not prepared to do a Mr. Linky at this point.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A List - because life is too random right now

1) Wow. The whole "I See What You're Saying" thing was an absolute blast the other day. I so enjoyed getting to see some other bloggers and get a feel for their personalities on the screen. I really look forward to doing it again sometime.

2) Thank you to those of you who prayed for my new airplane friend and I as we went to BSF on Wednesday morning. We had a little bit of a hard time getting going (aka Satan tried to interfere) but finally made it and she is very excited about starting the class. What a blessing it is to me to be involved in whatever the Lord has going on in her life. I'm sure He will do a work in mine at the same time!

3) My man is going to a VEEP Debate watching party tonight. (Yeah, he's a little bit of a nerd.) And I'm excited for him. (How big of a nerd does that make me?)

4) A girlfriend and I were talking on the phone this afternoon and in the course of the conversation we realized that our kids played against each other in soccer... this past Saturday. DUH.

5) And now the big news... You'll never guess what I'm doing this weekend.

I'm going to a Life Today taping for Beth Moore's Wednesdays with Beth.

I went once before back earlier last year in my pb days (pb = pre-blog). It's really an exceptional time of study in a much more intimate setting than an LPL conference. It's also a lot of teaching. She usually does 5 sessions in the weekend.

We SO need to have a Siesta Fiesta for a Life Today taping and have all us Siestas fill up that studio. How FUN would that be? Kim? Patty? Are you reading this?

It's so amazing how all this came together. My friend Keal and I are on the email list for the audience. You have to pretty much see the email and reply immediately to have a shot at tickets. The email came at about 1:30 pm while I was at lunch with a friend. I saw the email on my nifty iPhone but couldn't reply for reasons that I don't fully understand, so I called Keal. I got back to my office and both of us had replied by no later than 1:50. Neither of us got tickets.

Then we got word a week or so later that one of her friends from church did get tickets and she and I were going to get to go with them. THEN we got word on Wednesday that the entire rest of the group had to back out and now we had six tickets total. We have been working to put together all the girls from our Couples Bible Study group (you know, the Dinner Party group) and I think, even though it's last minute, all of us are going. Oh, I can't tell you what a blessing it has been to see how God landed all this in our laps. I can't wait to see what kind of WORD He has for us this weekend.

Anways, Beth Moore usually does one or two question/answer times, so the floor is open. Is there anything you want for one of us (me and my girlfriends that are going) to ask Beth Moore for you if we get a chance?