Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear 2011,

Dear 2011,

You've been an interesting year. In nature, you've been a bit difficult. (Insert eyes rolling viciously at the prior statement's understatement here.) I'm not sure though if you've been truly painful or if it just seems that way because the horror of some of the other trying times in my life is fading in the recesses of my memory. I suppose either way you go it's alright.

In spite of the extra stresses that you've thrown at me, I have learned to be truly happy in my little sphere of life. It is not what I expected for myself at this point, but it is beautiful. We are happy and safe. We don't have much, but our needs are always met, and as my seven year old says, "we have enough, Mom. Don't you think we have enough?" I have my kids, and they have me. Just as important -- to me, at least -- I have a job that allows me to be home at almost any time that my sweet girls are.

During the course of your stay, my kids have grasped more tightly to their new normal. They have put down roots and found their niche in this life of ours. They have learned to feel normal again. M learned that she's brave enough to go to church with a family friend when her sister is sick. She is finding her own strength and sense of purpose, and in it, she shines! L is finding her own voice as well. While this can create a bit of friction, she is learning to stand up for herself in increasingly appropriate ways. It is grand to see her finding her own inner strength.

Over the past year, I've been able to continue my education. This last semester, I finished up all the requirements for my minor and all except three classes for my major. If all goes well, I'll start the teaching program in the fall. It's been a long road, but when I reach the end of it, I'll have my degree in a field that I am passionate about and in an area that will allow me to be home with my children as much as possible. Despite the challenges, it will be worth it.

It's been a challenging year musically as well. This year, I have: accompanied the choir for our local church congregation, sang a duet in our worship service (for the first time in close to a decade,) and I have begun accompanying our local congregation periodically on the organ. All of these things are a great challenge to me. I'm grateful that I've had these opportunities to stretch though. It's both a trial and a blessing. I am becoming more than I am.

Even in the most trying times that you've sent my way, I've seen the hand of God guiding my life, strengthening me to face my challenges, and making up the difference when what I had to give just wasn't enough. I've seen miracles over and over, so while I might hope for a few less surprise challenges in 2012, I can leave you, 2011, without regret. I've made my share of mistakes, but I'm learning to be my best self.

With heartfelt farewell,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Thing About a Date is ...

It's pretty much an acid-bath of uncertainty at any age. I've decided that it doesn't matter that under normal circumstances, I'm a calm, composed thirty-something with a lot to offer the world. Put me in a dating situation, and it seems that I am instantly reduced to that sixteen year old who spends hours anticipating ... and stressing ... and wondering ... (There's a reason for this; I was born with a certain natural grace that allows me to land cleverly or narrowly extract myself from near miss situations. If I'm really nervous, I am perfectly capable of falling off my own shoes. As I've said, natural grace tends to kick in inches from the ground. Add to that the fact that I'm much better at expressing myself in writing than verbally, and well, there're all kind of possibilities.)

The whole "What do I wear?!?" dilemma only seems to get worse with age. Instead of just trying to find something that helps me look my best, I get to add in the whole "I'm a thirty-something mom. I look like a thirty-something mom. How do I dress in a way that doesn't scream 'THIRTY-SOMETHING MOM!!'?" (How's that for fancy punctuating?)

Then there's the additional clothing aspect that falls along the lines of "How do I dress in a way that says although I don't have my teens & twenties figure, I've still got a decent shape without having my clothes cry 'Hold me; I'm desperate!', 'if you don't, my clothing will -- I hope ... ', or worse yet, 'cough, cough, *floozy*, cough, *state street* sneeze'?" It's a concern that extends to the opposite extreme as well. Avoiding floozihood should not necessarily mean downplaying all visual assets.

Best of all, there's the whole "I think it's a date; it sounds like a date, but does HE think it's a date?" piece of the puzzle. If there's one thing that clear about dating, it's that nothing is very clear. Is it a date-date? Is it a friend-date? Is it a fancy hang-out? How do I tell what he sees it as? Does it matter? What do I call this going out with a member of the opposite sex without my children or any other companions thing?

Sounds fun, doesn't it? Actually, it usually is, but the anticipation's a killer!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dried Beans, Part II ...

Remember this?

I've loved making most beans in the crockpot. So much more simple ...

Not long ago though, I read this entry on Lynn's Kitchen Adventures about soaking beans in a saltwater solution. Now, I've tried plain water and water with baking soda, but I've never tried soaking them in saltwater. In fact, my first thought was, "But 'THEY' say salt toughens the beans!"

Never one to be satisfied with leaving the intriguing alone, I decided to give it a shot. Now Lynn says 2 Tbsp. of salt to about 4 qts of water, but I don't have a bowl that big. My BIG plastic bowl only held the pound of beans, 2 Tbsp. of salt, and about 12 c. (3 qts.) of water.

This time, instead of cooking the beans in the crockpot, I cooked them on the stove. (They were the red kidney beans -- it's that whole funky toxin thing. I just feel happier knowing for sure that they boiled the requisite 10 minutes.)

The beans turned out fantastic! I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by this as this package of beans is SEVERAL years old. They weren't tough at all. Really, with this method, I had less waste. More of the beans softened. I threw 1 bean out. That's it -- out of the whole batch! The texture was perfect. I used some to make baked beans with and froze the rest.


* Salt soaking the beans is a beautifully effective way to soften them up. Just rinse them after they soak and cook them as usual.

* Freezing the beans without any liquid works well if you are tossing them in soups or a bean salad.

* I prefer freezing the beans with a bit of liquid for most recipes. I've found that about 1/2 c. to 3/4 c. of the cooking liquid works out about right.

* Dried beans are not only less expensive, but they're easy -- especially if you cook up a big batch and freeze them ahead.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Feeling Woozy ...

Stomach of Steel


At least it used to be ...

NOTHING bothered me.

Don't believe me?

What if I tell you that I have worked as both a CNA and a Medical Assistant and thoroughly enjoyed it?


What if I tell you that I worked on the Alzheimer's unit? (We're talking bodily fluids galore. Not a twinge.)

Still not sure?

How 'bout if I mention that I was usually the one who bandaged up my VERY accident prone little sister while she was hysterical over her current loss of blood?

Watching my almost two year old gash her head open? Distressing, but not nausea-inducing ...

Stomach of Steel

until ...

Last February.

You know the time when this happened?

I thought that, as far as the quease factor goes, I handled things pretty well.

Sure, I did have to sit down as they were stitching her up so that I didn't embarrass myself by falling down (It was the logical thing to do. We'd have looked strange if I landed on her and they accidentally stitched us together. :) Right?) and I did almost gag when I saw her poor filleted finger covered in all that blood, but it was a wierd one time fluke.

I thought.

Funny thing though; the flood gate seems to have opened. Took me a while to realize it though ...

Finally, a month or two ago, I was forced to admit that steel has quivered into jello. As a good friend told me about her AWFUL surgery -- something that would have been simply interesting in times past -- I felt my world closing in on me, and I very nearly lost anything residing in my stomach all over the front lawn.


Nearly vomitting AND passing out just from hearing about something with a "Wooze" factor? SO not like me! Must be the sun ...

But wait--

there was that one time. Oh, yeah -- and that time that ... And, well, ...


Apparently, that's me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Death and Destruction

It's the last two weeks of the semester.

Know what that means? Things in my world die. It's a problem.

See this?

This would be the cast iron skillet that almost bit the dust -- twice, on two completely separate occasions -- thanks to end of semester mush-brain. (Yes, I believe that is the technical term. Why do you ask?)

Luckily, cast iron is durable, and, after a great deal of elbow grease and a wire scrubbie or two, the pan has been stripped and reseasoned -- twice. It's not the same, but it will do ...


the plants haven't been nearly so lucky. There've been at least two that have taken turns fertilizing the dumpster. Which leads to this semester's current dilemma ...

I realize that this plant (and the others around it) are still a lovely shade of green, but let's face it -- the leaves are awfully thing and equally wilty. To be honest, I'm not sure how many weeks it has been since it was last watered.

My daughters have seen enough College Final Casualties to recognize the symptoms, and my L took me to task:

"Mom! You need to water these plants, the pink and green vine is pretty much dead!!"

She's right.
As I said, things die ... It's a problem.

The kicker is that these plants are from my grandmother's funeral. I feel a bit more obligated to make a real effort to keep them alive. Sadly, my brain's woefully inadequate limits are challenged after completing the basic checklist:

Kids fed? Check.
Kids' homework done? Check
Dishes clean? Check.
Laundry washed? Check.
My homework? Never-ending, but under control.

That's pretty much where it ends. Did you see water the plants anywhere on the list? Me neither. Sad, really ...

Oh well; here's hoping they live to die another day ...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Windblown Wisdom ...

Things I've learned while the winds raged and the power failed ...

* Charging my cell phone each night would not be a bad idea.

* Keeping my mp3 player charged is important as well. While we have a hand crank radio, it was nice not to have to pull it out.

* I like being able to hunker down in our own home comfortably, knowing that we have what we need to be safe, healthy, and happy. Having faith that there's a God who loves us and is watching over us doesn't hurt either.

* The prospect of being without power long term (they thought it would be forty-eight hours or more) does not feel like a real emergency when we have what we need.

* Candlelight is still charming.

* I'm thankful that my parents taught me to use candles, etc. with common sense as a child.

* Christmas carolling by candlelight with my daughters is one of the most magical experiences that I've had.

* I've got a lot to be thankful for. There is beauty -- even in the hardships.

* I'd infinitely rather be without power than hot water and functional sewers.

* One of my random talents that I've acquired over the years is a knowledge of how to layer blankets to maximize or minimize warmth. Strange, but infinitely helpful in this situation.

* Cold isn't so bad, and I've been colder.

* I need to invest in a charcoal bricket camp stove and a bag of brickets. While I've got an emergency burner and fuel, you can cook almost anything on a grill with relative ease, and being able to roast marshmallows and hot dogs might be a fun distraction for some stir-crazy and slightly worried children.

* Kids take their cues from their parents. If I make it a big deal, my kids will too. If I stay calm and remind them of all the things we have to help us make it through, they tend to look at it as a fun and exciting experience.

* Sometimes having very little in the fridge is not a bad thing. We were able to eat a lot of it yesterday before it went bad, and very little actually went to waste.

* I'm immensely thankful for those who are willing to take a job that requires them to sacrifice their own safety, sleep, and warmth to ensure mine. The power company has been truly amazing with how quickly they have dealt with massive amounts of damage.

* It's lovely being able to do laundry anytime and with relative ease.

* Washing dishes by candlelight is rather fun -- when the water is already heated, I don't have to fetch and carry it, or haul it out either.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A New Month of Excitement ...

December in our neck of the woods came in with a vengeance. As if to announce its presence, the new month rode in on the back of some ferocious canyon winds. The damage to several cities is immense. Our city is apparently one that was hardest hit. As I looked at the major amounts of damage to both landscape and property on all the neighboring property, I have been reminded over and over how very blessed I am.

Our trees lost a few branches, and I have now have a puncture wound in my bathroom window screen from tree shrapnel. That's it. No siding lost, no power lines actually down, my roof is still there and solidly attached, and even my plastic snow shovels and the small Christmas tree on my front porch stayed put. They didn't even move.

Although the power went out for good just before six a.m. yesterday morning and stayed out until just about an hour or so ago (over thirty hours) we had plenty of warm clothing, extra blankets, and even food to eat. I had candles, my mp3 player was charged, so I could listen to the news, and I was able to charge my phone at work so that we weren't completely cut off.

We had lots of wonderful family and friends who offered us a warm place to stay, however, it was the girls' night to go with their dad (who had power and heat) and I just snuggled under the blankets here at home and spent some time reading -- just for fun. I know, unusual. Being an English major means that it's something of a rare thing for me to choose what I read.

The girls came back this morning. After a couple of errands in the warm car, we bundled them into a whole pile of blankets each, had Family Home Evening (er, ... morning) where we sang, read, and put up the nativity set. I also taught them to play Phase Ten. It was a blast.

We were all thrilled to get the power back, but I think that there were some great memories made during the blackout.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Flower Power

What happens when an old frame meets a bunch of spray paint, ribbons, and lace?

The frame gets a new flash of style ...

A set of vintage stripes ...

Lovely lace  and rosie ribbon ...

And a new life with a useful purpose ...

Decked out in some of the flowers that I made for the girls' hair a while back ...

Wearing all the flowers ... (Yes, I went a little overboard with the flower-making ... )

More flowers ...

And the whole picture ...

Linking up with:

Blue Cricket Design


Positively Splendid

Beefy Gravy & Bread

At our house,

We like comfort foods, and Beefy Gravy is one of the kids' favorites ...

In a large skillet, saute your ground beef, onions, & garlic. Once your beef is browned (I like to cook mine through during this step) ...

Stir in your dry ingredients. Keep stirring for about five minutes or so. (It will look like the flour is all absorbed before this, but keep stirring ... Trust me on this one. The results are more pleasant if you do.)

Measure out your milk, and add the Worcestershire sauce to it. Gradually add your liquids to the pan, stirring steadily as you do.

Keep stirring. (I know, there's a lot of stirring in this recipe, but it's sure worth it ... ) Bring your stuff to a simmer (still stirring) and let it simmer (just keep stirring, stirring, stirring ... ) for about 5-10 minutes while it thickens to your heart's content.

In the meantime, toast your bread. Since I like it done at the same time, I usually just lay the bread out on a cookie sheet & pop it under the broiler for a couple of minutes. A toaster works fine too ...

This dish is pretty versatile. The gravy is delicious on toast, but is equally yummy served over pasta or rice. If you're a meat and potatoes kind of person, try it over mashed potatoes or even as a topping on a baked potato. We've even eaten it served over sauteed mushrooms before.

Beefy Gravy

1 lb. Ground Beef
1 Tbs. dry minced onion or about 1/2 medium onion diced
1-2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 Cup flour
1 tsp. beef bouillon powder (If you are using a wet bouillon base, just combine it with your milk.)
3/4 tsp. salt
Ground pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. onion powder
A dash of Cayenne Pepper
2 1/4 c. milk (Skim works fine.)
1/2 - 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Linking with:

The Shabby Nest

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Growing Girls ...

In the past week and a half, L has grown an inch and a half. In the last two days, her sister has grown a half inch and at least one shoe size. As I'm looking at their shoes, the length of their Sunday dresses, and at M's floods, I'm trying to remind myself to focus on being grateful they are growing instead of worrying about the cost.

It's a blessing that they are healthy and well-nourished so that their bodies can grow. It's a blessing that their physical development is going as it should; and, of course, it's a blessing that in the next few years, at least one of them is likely to be taller than me and MAYBE one of us will be able to reach the top shelf WITHOUT standing on a bucket or a step stool. (Yup, we're classy like that ... For years, I wasn't able to buy a step stool, so I used whatever food storage bucket was handy. Now it's a habit ... )

It is fun to watch my girls growing up. It was a little strange yesterday and today when M leaned in for a hug and bumped me in the chin. Didn't see that one coming, but it was kind of fun. I'm so grateful that God chose me to be their mom.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"L"ism ....

All I've got here is a rootin' tootin' milk bubble ...

What happens ...

when you trap a child in the house for four and a half days?

They forget how to self-entertain.

Naughtiness! Oh, the naughtiness ...

Mutiny -- bath time is at the top of the "never again" demands. "LOOK at me! Do I look dirty to you??"

More mutiny -- blatant rebellion when told to get out of the tub.

Madness sets in ...
MAHHHH-MEEE, I can't get out of the tub, and it's a sad, sad story. Do you want to know why it's a sad, sad story? Because I'm too cold to get out. Wait a minute, that can't be a sad, sad story. Mom, how can being too cold to get out of the tub be a sad, sad story?
Do you know why I can't get out of the tub? Because I'm too cold!! (At this point, I pointed out that she'd just get colder then ... )

 MAHMMMM -- do you know what happens if I get colder? I stay in the tub. Do you know what happens if I stay in the tub? I get colder. What happens then, Mom? (Insert appropriate answer here.) MAHHH-MEEE, now repeat it back to me! (And then the cycle continues. It's like the song that doesn't end; it just goes on and on, my friend .... Yup, now I'll bet you are joining in the madness. Catching, isn't it?)
I'm trying to make my shadow disappear. Go away, Shadow! GO AWAY!!!!! WAIT! I love you, Shadow. Please stay with me shadow ...

MAHHMEEE -- I'm cold! I don't want to be cold anymore. (Me: Then get out of the tub ... ) On my list it says that I can't! (What list might that be dear?) No list! But I can't get out ... 

My First Furniture Re-do

This is an old coffee table from my parents. When my mom had young children at home (and there were several of us) she'd put the fancy Christmas Nativity on the floor, flip the table over and put the lid on top (of the bottom of the table). Over the years, this table served to protect multiple things that my mom wanted safe -- and visible.

I've always thought this would make a terrific bench. It can bear quite a bit of weight. I decided that I didn't want to wait one more winter. So outside we both went. After making sure it was clean, I pulled out a can of paint primer.

(I'm new to the whole spray paint thing, so I didn't realize that you can find huge cans of just primer at Home Depot for pretty inexpensive.) This dual paint primer gave it a good base coat. Before:

After a coat of primer:

I probably could have done a second coat of primer before starting with the actual color I wanted, but since I wanted it to look a bit (just a bit -- I'm not into big huge bare spots ... ) distressed, and I actually like that hint of shading that you can get when it blends well -- kind of like built in shadows -- I figured that one coat would do.

** Note to self: Bees like spray paint. Who knew? AND if your fingers are covered in paint, bees will like you too. Fun-filled allergy excitement ...

After the base coat, I gave it a couple of coats of an almond colored spray paint. I like the muted ivory look that it has. I also dragged the plastic off the grass and onto the cement. The grass was super long that day and pushed the lightweight plastic up against the paint.

It's a work in progress, but at least we're on our way now ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some Amazing Ladies with Amazing Stories ...

I love to blog, and I love to read blogs. Some of the blogs that I most enjoy are the ones that approach life with brutal honesty -- you know, the blogs that share all the beauty, humor, sorrow, and even the fantastic flops and failures that are part of the human experience. Don't get me wrong ... I like the blogs that are always chipper and cheerful, where NOTHING goes wrong, but let's face it ... I was born with a klutz gene, and I regularly fall on my face, both literally and figuratively. The blogs that I relate to most are those written by people who also experience (and share) some of the challenges of life ...

Today, I wanted to share the blogs of three beautiful women who inspire me on so many levels. I hope that you'll take the time to stop by and read some of their stories. These three mothers rise beautifully to the challenges that they and their children face. All three have children with autism. Each has had to make difficult decisions; each has had to find a way to advocate for their children. There is a strength and beauty in their character that inspires me to try to be better than I am, to become more than I've thought I could be.

Melanie over at The Lutz Family Fun Page is an amazing mother of four beautiful children. As she's been presented with challenges in her children's lives, she has been proactive both in advocating for her kids and in seeking out resources that will benefit her kids now AND as they grow. She is one of the strongest women that I know, and I feel blessed to call her a friend.

Bobbie, who writes over at both A Dog 4 Deeds and Bobbie's World - y tres mas has been through more in her early years than most people that I know go through in an entire life. She has done amazing things with the challenges that she's faced. In advocating for her sweet son, she's had to leap hurdles that would have left me in tears. I love the brutal honesty with which she shares her stories. There are beautiful moments and true miracles, but she doesn't sugar coat the difficulties either. It's been lovely getting to know this cousin of mine better these past few years.

Tera has recently started a blog about her own journey with her sweet son. Branson's story has brought Tera her own set of challenges. Another cousin of mine, Tera has always been so cheerful and sweet. Even as a kid she is one of those people that was always just kind. She's quite a bit younger than me, and I am always amazed to see such strength and wisdom in one so young. (No, I'm not as old as Methuselah, but sometimes I feel like I've had enough life experience to make me so.) The love that Tera has for her children brightens my heart.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 6

Monday: Leftover Chicken Noodle Soup (made by a cute neighbor because my daughter was sick ... So blessed!)
Tuesday: Kids'll be with their dad; I'll probably make some pasta for me.
Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner -- Smoothies and muffins
Thursday: Tuna Casserole
Friday: Pasta
Saturday: Quesadillas
Sunday: Sandwiches

Overheard: A Conversation Between Two Daughters ...

L (7 1/2 yrs): Somehow, this is what I imagine: When we die, I imagine us having to knock on a door and then someone lets us in and we walk into heaven. That's just what I think it will be like.

M's reply?

M (9 1/2 yrs): Wait ... So, L-- how do you think Mom will die? Old age? Get stabbed, or what?

(By the way -- if I have a say in the matter -- which I don't -- I'm pulling for a long and healthy life and going quietly in my sleep due to old age ... )

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Think I've Found My Happy Place ....

Not long ago, I found a blog design site through a blog giveaway. Now, I have to tell you -- as a general rule, I don't tend to enter giveaways. There're usually lots of hoops to jump through, and the odds of winning anything are not good, but as you may have noticed -- my blog was in need of serious help, so I thought that I'd stop by the sponsoring site and dream.

Is that not the cutest bee that you've ever seen? I loved her site! Cute enough, but not too cutesy or cluttered. I left a comment in response to her post about the giveaway and figured that was probably the end of things.


Not long after I visited her site, Kassiah from the Creative B emailed me and said that I'd won a blog makeover. Being blog design illiterate, I had no clue what that possibly entailed. I tried not to ask for too much, because A) I figured a free blog design would mean just the basics, and B) I had never really tried to narrow down what I wanted -- I just knew what I liked when I saw it. I did ask for a button all my own. (I know ... I'm a nerd, but I've REALLY wanted my own blog button -- something that was me in a little box ... )

Kassiah was AMAZING! She totally went above and beyond what I expected. She put a lot of effort into getting to know me and my blog. She took the time to get a feel for my personality, etc. She knew what questions to ask to get me to narrow down my super-eclectic tastes -- which is good, 'cause I was pretty well clueless.  

In putting together my new blog design, Kassiah went all out! I don't think there is anything that was overlooked. She helped me figure out what elements I wanted. From top to bottom, and page to page, my blog doesn't just sound like me anymore -- it looks like me. Slightly bookish, a little eclectic, and just a punch of color. The fonts are so fun, and my posts have a signature. (A button AND a signature?!? Seriously ... blogging nerd HEAVEN!)

I know that I've raved just a bit, but I think that I've found my happy place. :) At any rate, if you have a minute or two, head on over to The Creative B. She does great work!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Even the Elderly ...

like to rock the boat sometimes. Teenage rebellion doesn't always age gracefully. For example, did you know that ...

If you're in older, apparently it's okay to jog slowly across a busy road ... in the dark ... in all black clothing ... against the light -- as long as you have made yourself a boyscout style sash of reflective tape. Oncoming traffic is bound to be so impressed that they'll halt in awe of your one diagonal, reflective stripe. Ooh! Shiny ...

Irony is found in the very elderly man driving down the freeway -- at a whopping speed of 50 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone -- blocking all followers from passing or merging as needed. While this may not seem ironic, add in the final detail; his car is sporting a license plate that states "DEVLSH". Aw, the triple irony ... either his idea of living on the edge is deeply different from that of his teenage self or living on the edge is the death wish of driving so slowly that he's likely to be run down as he creeps along or perhaps, he just likes to stir the pot by driving people around him to anxiety and anger ...

Honey-Baked Curried Chicken

We've reached that time of year where meals consist almost solely of what's on hand, and trips to the grocery store are few and far between.

Thankfully, food storage cooking (and by that I mean anything edible that is currently residing in your home -- be it in the pantry, cupboard, or freezer) doesn't have to be boring or overly repetitive.

It's all about variety -- and having some great basic ingredients on hand ...

Enter: Honey-Baked Curried Chicken

3-4 chicken breasts (any kind of chicken will do)
2 T. butter, melted (I've left this out at times, and it seems fine)
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. dijon mustard
1-2 T. curry powder -- to taste
1 t. salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While that is heating, place your chicken in a baking dish. If you are including the butter in your recipe, you don't really need to grease your pan.

In a small bowl (or liquid measuring cup if you prefer not to dirty another dish) combine the honey, mustard, butter, salt, and curry powder. Stir it well to combine. (See the little, brownish lumps on the chicken? Little clumps of curry powder that I didn't get stirred in well enough. It doesn't hurt anything, just makes it look like you've added capers ... )

Pour your sauce over the chicken. Cover the pan, and bake it for 30 minutes. (If you're using chicken that cooks frozen, up the time to about 45 minutes.)

Open your oven, and take a quick second to enjoy the aroma. YUM! Pull off the foil (or lid) and return your chicken to it's cooking place. Bake it for another 20 minutes. (Again, if you are using chicken that was frozen when you put it in the oven, up your cook time a bit.)

Since I don't have a meat thermometer, we just do the old-fashioned check method of "Chicken is done when it's no longer pink and the juices run clear.

What's left of the mashed potatoes ...
Pair it with some salad or veggies, and perhaps some mashed potatoes or rice.

This time, we decided to use the last of the potato pearls with a bit of butter and some garlic spread seasoning mixed in. Easy as putting the kettle on and dumping in some spices. Love garlic mashed potatoes.

The best part? The chicken was so large that I have enough leftover for Curried Chicken Salad sandwiches.

Linking up with:

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Dreams ...

If I could have anything that I wanted, my dream life would include:

* a home in the country -- maybe a farm or a ranch. I'd love to live that kind of lifestyle; as has been said of other things, I just know I'd be darling at it.

* being a stay-at-home mom.

* maybe even homeschooling -- yes, I think it can be done and done well, but it would depend on what best fit the needs of my kids.

* living somewhere green ... LOTS and LOTS of trees and blooming things.

* less drama, more peace ...

* somebody kind to share my life with -- okay, I know my kids are kind, but if I ever marry again, I want a kind man.

* a home library

* to write ...

* to have enough ...

* lots of time to cook and bake -- with lots of people to enjoy it ... (I don't need a whole pan of anything asking me to pick up a small piece everytime I walk into the kitchen.)

* always remembering to look for the good in life and in people, to see life just a bit more innocently ...

While I know that many of these dreams may never come true, I'm thankful for the versions of them that have had a place in my life. Having these dreams to dust off occasionally brings a brightness to the future; I'm not coveting what I don't have, but these dreams do help me to find hope in the possibilities. Who knows what the future holds? Whatever it may be, it will be just right ...

Menu Plan Monday 5

Monday -- Chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans
Tuesday -- Sandwiches (probably chicken salad or egg salad)
Wednesday -- Homemade pizza (pepperoni) and fruit
Thursday -- Shepherd's Pie
Friday -- Breakfast for dinner (either Biscuits and Gravy, Chocolate Gravy and Biscuits, or Whole Wheat Pancakes depending on if the girls are home or not ... Never really sure.)
Saturday -- Mushroom Barley Casserole, STBD (Sides to be determined ... )
Sunday -- Homemade Tomato Soup

We've hit that time of the year when food storage comes in pretty handy. Luckily, we can still have a lot of variety. Vive la pantry!

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Menu Plan Monday

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oops ...

It's been a crazy couple of weeks; I'd fallen off the blogging bandwagon. :) Between Halloween, the kids' schooling and mine, some rather large decisions to be made, etc. certain things have been thrown to the back-burner. Thankfully, things seem to have settled a bit more into our normal, chaotic routine. It seems that perhaps there will be more time to post soon ...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Favorite Busy Day Make Ahead Meal

I'm a mom, a teacher of sorts, and a full-time student ... It makes for a bit of chaos. Add in homework for kids and mom, play practice for the girls, etc. and there are nights when there is neither time nor willpower to come up with a fantastic healthy dinner. Fortunately, my kids love simple meals  and are okay with freeze-ahead foods. One of our family favorites is burritoes. (Does that word actually have an "e"? Yup, it's that point in the semester when my brain officially turns to mush and this English major forgets how to spell.)

I realized a while back that it's really just as simple to make my own batch of burritos (I'm thinking that I'm going with no "e" ... ) and freeze them. We like 'em simple. Refried beans (the black ones are our favorite) and sometimes a can of drained black beans, cheese, a can of green chiles, garlic powder or minced garlic, dried, minced onion, chili powder, and some cumin all make something that looks a lot like the picture above. I realize it doesn't look appetizing, but have you ever really looked at the guts of a burrito? Not pretty, my friends!

While homemade tortillas work really well, lots of times we just use the store-bought variety. Roll the filling up in a tortilla shell, place in a single layer on a cookie sheet or two (more space between the burritos will allow them to crisp up a bit on the sides too), and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and a bit crisp.

After they've cooled, place the leftovers in a freezer bag, label, and freeze. They reheat well in the microwave. Having these burritos on hand has saved us more than once. It's pretty simple to come up with a side dish, or even just add a salad and some fruit, to make a well-rounded meal. I like having them on hand for when the girls are gone.

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