Saturday, August 25, 2012

What up, life?

It's party day -whew! Time to bring on the Batman, the cake, and the three year olds. Then - a nap. (Who am I kidding - naps are a distant and beautiful memory.)

I have been wishing daily to blog and keep up with all of your blogs, but this whole working mom (with a new, much more intense job description - which I love, don't get me wrong) is way freaking harder than I thought. Every second of my waking hours seems to be full and yet I have a messy house, a stack of work I need to get to, and a husband I vaguely remember having adult dinners with.

The good side is this, I have never had to prioritize and organize so carefully in my life. I am an easily distracted person who has had the bad habit of bouncing from one project to the next instead of taking my mom's best advice - One Thing At a Time Until It's Done. I also prefer to start with something I like (like blogging, cooking, organizing the baby's clothes) instead of what is truly most important (getting food on the table - gourmet or not, packing lunches, making sure everyone has clothes for tomorrow). No more of that! Now I have to put first things first or they won't happen. It is a wake up call that I needed.

Could the house be cleaner, if I decided that sweeping, dusting, and organizing where second after basic needs? Probably. But, I have decided that those things are not my next priority. 

Better Homes and Gardens will not be knocking on my door. I haven't cooked a complicated recipe in three weeks. But, last night I sat and held my baby for half an hour, rocking him and talking with him and gazing into his deep blue eyes. Today, I am going to spend two hours focusing all of my attention on making sure my three year old has the Batmaniest, best birthday party he can imagine (I even hired a babysitter for the baby so that the three year old will get all of our attention for once). As long as I am keep us fed, clothed, and relatively clean - the next most important priority is time with my kids.

So, if you happen to come to my house and you notice the mess, here is what I want. When you see the dirty dishes in the sink, notice instead the art supplies and pictures strewn around the kitchen table where we were making beautiful pictures. When you see the pile of shoes in the living room, also notice the pile of storybooks on the couch where we were curled up reading. If you happen to go into my bedroom and want to focus on the papers overflowing the "to file" box, take a peek at the stack of baseball cards Stone and Simon spend hours enthusiastically organizing.

This part of my life is not as polished on the outside as I have previously expected from myself, but it is the sweetest, best part I have ever experienced.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Funerals and Weird Apples

I had to go to a funeral today. It totally sucked. Not that most funerals are fun, but this one was particularly sad because it was for a young (37) friend who left behind two small children. There are not a lot of uplifting things to say about a situation like that.

On the way home, Stone and I started talking about what we want for our own funerals. I want a memorial service that really reflects who I am:

I want a memorial party, not a funeral - somewhere nontraditional - like the ballroom at a cool hotel.
I want balloons - like a birthday party - big, shiny balloons at the entrance and decorating the ballroom.
I want an ice-cream sundae bar - with all the best toppings - hot fudge, mini M'n'M's, brownie bits, praline pecans, etc. People can eat while they mingle.
I want TV's set up around the room playing my favorite movies - like The Princess Bride and my favorite episodes of Friends.
I may, at some point, want a mariachi band. I am a little up in the air on that one.

The friend we mourned today was one of the funniest people I knew. He was always playing practical jokes, finding funny videos on YouTube, and telling ridiculous LaffyTaffy style jokes. He loved to find weird food and share it with us. He would say, "You will never believe what this is!" and then pull out a chocolate covered cricket or cabbage flavored Japanese candy.

Here is a little tribute to him - a bubblegum flavored apple I found in the produce section. It tasted 90% like a normal apple, and then there was a slightly disturbing bubblegum aftertaste.  The texture was the strangest part because you have this crisp, crunchy apple but your mouth tastes like you should be blowing soft pink bubbles. He would have loved it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Caesar Pizza

We had such a fabulous time yesterday evening at our Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics Party. Good food, friends, pageantry, laughter, tears - Olympic rings made of doughnuts. It was a magical evening!

Okay, I'm lying. That is what I wish the evening had been, if I had enough mental energy to plan an Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics Party. There were no friends. The food was good, but it was re-heated Moroccan stew, not party fare. Simon, despite my great hopes, had no interest in the ceremonies whatsoever. I found myself - a reading teacher - saying to my child, "Put down your book and pay attention to the television!" The baby was crying, the air conditioning was not keeping up with the ridiculous heat. It was not epic.

In some distant, misty memory I used to throw parties. One year for the season premier of Lost, I threw a fabulous party complete with tiny bottles of Oceanic Airlines liquor, buckets of Mr. Cluck's chicken, and fish biscuit shaped cookies for dessert (if you didn't watch Lost, that may not sound cool, but if you did watch Lost, you get how awesome that was). After reading a Civil War novel, I had my book club over for an authentic Civil War meal, complete with johnny cakes and the best beans you have ever tasted. I threw a tea party once that was so fabulously decked in flowers and dripping with tiny sandwiches that it rivaled high tea at the best hotels.

My party days are not completely over, I guess, since I am currently planning one. It is a Batman themed party for my three year old at which a naturalist will be showing the kids a variety of creepy, crawly insects (bat food - get it?).  Not exactly in the same vein as my former bashes, but I will try to make it equally epic. The times, they are a changin'.

Here is a throw back to a New Year's Eve party of yore - one of my favorite Pillsbury recipes. This is what you would get if your favorite Caesar salad hooked up with a light, flaky pizza bianca to produce the perfect appetizer baby. Salty bacon, creamy dressing, flaky crust, crisp veggies. Oh, yeah, bring on the party.

Caesar Pizza
2 cans refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Caesar dressing
1 1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
3/4 cup coarsly chopped broccoli
1/2 cup finely chopped cooked chicken
 1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 tbsp chopped cooked bacon
3 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Open both cans of rolls; unroll dough onto a rectangular sheet pan. Press the dough firmly to the sides  and bottom of the pan for form the crust (be sure to pinch along the perforations to seal them. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes. Cool completely. 
2. Mix the cream cheese and 1/2 of the dressing in a small bowl; spread over the cooled crust. Sprinkle with  lettuce, broccoli, chicken, carrot, bacon and parmesan. Drizzle with remaining dressing. 
May be refrigerated up to 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hot Water Cornbread

Here are a few things I cannot do:
1. Have potato chips in my house (because I have no self control and will eat the whole bag - yes, the whole bag - in one sitting)
2. Ride roller coasters (because I am olderish and no longer have the inner ear balance required to keep me from hurling)
3.Be aware of possible side effects

That last one is because I think I am a hypochondriac. Two days ago my neurologist prescribed a new prophylactic medication to treat my migraines. Said medication is a blood pressure medication which also helps with headaches. It is v, v safe for breast feeding mommies. The complication is that I already have so-low-I-verge-on-dead blood pressure. So, the doctor warned me that I might get dizzy, lightheaded, and tired.

Dude, why did you tell me that? Now I am dizzy, lightheaded, and tired and I don't know if it is because of the medicine or because I have talked myself into dizziness, lightheadedness, and fatigue (admittedly that last one may have something to do with the baby who went to bed at midnight and got up at 4:00). Do I call the doctor to say I am having side effects or do I tell myself to man-up and knock of the psychosomatics?

What, you are thinking to yourself, does any of this have to do with hot water cornbread? Well, nothing, really. Except that I was going to type out a recipe but decided that I am too lightheaded to accurately remember all of the steps so I will instead ramble at you about my medical issues and show you a picture of the hot water cornbread I ate yesterday at Kleer Vu in Murfreesboro.

Oh my gosh, it was so good! I don't actually understand how they make hot water corn bread and I don't want to know. I realize that no matter what recipe or technique I used, mine would never hold a candle to the crisp-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-middle, salty, sweet golden goodness that is Kleer Vu cornbread. Why even try to imitate it when I am a ten minute drive away from enjoying the world's most perfect version next to my plate of ribs, white beans, fried okra, and chess pie?

Back to the whole headache thing. The doctor says that if this doesn't work, I can try one other medication. And if that doesn't work, I can try botox. Seriously, botox. My dad thinks that idea is hilarious because he envisions me unable to make facial expressions like some over the hill Hollywood maven. I just think to myself, as someone who loves to cook and prides myself on the quality of my food, isn't injecting myself with botulinum toxin kind of ironic? Just, please, don't tell me the side effects.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cinnamon Pecan Pull Aparts

My sil posted a great meme the other day. It read, "Pinterest makes me love people I've never met. Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life."

I don't hate anyone on Facebook, but sometimes I get weary of all the political posts - especially as it gets closer to election time. It's not that I don't care about politics - I love politics. It's just that I have friends from both sides, and plenty from the middle, of the political spectrum and few of them seem to be able to play nicely with one another. I love a good, healthy discussion, but disrespect and fighting are not my thing.

This is why I think I should start my own political party based on something everyone can believe in: Cinnamon. We will have no philosophies beyond the belief that cinnamon is good for the soul and can bring people together in sweet, gooey bliss. We shall burn apple cinnamon candles, stir our cider with cinnamon sticks, and grow cinnamon ferns in our gardens. For breakfast we shall serve: Cinnamon Pecan Pull-Apart

Cinnamon Pecan Pull-Apart (a Pillsbury recipe)
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp maple flavor
2 cans refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing (each roll cut into four pieces)

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients save cinnamon rolls and icing. Add cinnamon roll pieces and stir lightly, just until coated. Spoon the mixture into a greased, fluted pan. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes. After cooling for 10 minutes, turn the pull-apart onto a serving plate. Spread with icing.

 Please check out my brand new Twitter account at

My favorite tweet of the day so far comes from Vanity Fair:

The weekend may almost be over, but we can still dream a little. A look at the best private paradises on Earth

I need a vacation! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer Reading Comes to an End

Today was the last day of the summer reading program at our local library. Simon had to "read" (aka listen to us read) 30 books. He turned in a list of 449 (there were more but we didn't get them all written down).  His favorite of the bunch was a book entitled Squids Will be Squids.

This is a fabulously funny book by one of Simon's favorite authors, Jon Scieszka. It is a parody of Aesop's fables that uses biographic information about that bard to envelope a series of sarcastic, whimsically illustrated fables that appeal to both children and adults.

I had to read 6 books this summer. My actual list included 9 titles.
1. Frederica, Georgette Heyer
2. Holidays on Ice, David Sedaris
3. Jeeves and the Fuedal Spirit, P. G. Wodehouse
4. Look me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's, John Elder Robinson
5. The Color of Water, James McBride
6. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
7. My Cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier
8. The Convenient Marriage, Georgette Heyer
9. Love Wins, Rob Bell

My favorite was Love Wins, by Rob Bell.

Rob Bell's book purports to be about Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Ever Person Who Ever Lived. It delivers. It is a searing look at "traditional" Christian beliefs that questions what some would consider the foundation of conservative American Christianity. It made me think and totally re-examine everything I was taught to believe as a child. I love that kind of book!

Don't forget to follow my new Twitter account at! My favorite tweet of the day so far:

"Drinking red wine could stunt fat-cell growth (woot!), the Journal of Biological Chemistry reports: " Awesome!!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ranch Chicken Burgers

Do people ever just annoy the crap out of you? I don't know what kind of crack was in people's coffee this morning, but they have been on my ever loving nerves! I need a chill pill, a bottle of chill juice, and a chill sandwich with chill sauce. Blargh!!!!  At least when people are stupid, there is still good food!

Three reasons you will love this recipe:
1. There are only three ingredients.
2. With chicken and low fat mozerella, it is a low fat alternative to a hamburger
3. The cheese and ranch dressing mix will caramelize in the pan, giving the burger a sweet, crispy crust that will have you licking your plate clean. 

Ranch Chicken Burgers
1 package ranch dressing mix (powder)
1 lbs ground chicken
1 cup low fat mozzarella, shredded

Combine dressing with mix and cheese. Shape into four patties. Cook in a skillet over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. We like ours on a crisp lettuce leaf instead of bread. to find my zen. It may be a long search.

BTW - you can now follow me on Twitter at

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Spice Mix for Blackened Fish

During my pregnancy, one of the things I craved the most was fish. Not just any fish, big juicy steaks of salmon, mahi-mahi, and tuna. Since those are no-no fish for pregnant women (due to the possibility of high mercury content), it was a longing unfulfilled. As soon as Julian was born, I started grilling up as much deep sea deliciousness as possible.

One thing I love is blackened salmon - the sweet, flaky salmon - the smokey heat of spices - that's a sexy combo. I found this mix of spices, intended for tilapia, on the Food Network site. I changed it up just a little, in keeping with what I had on hand, and used it to season some beautiful salmon steaks. Perfection!

Spice Mix for Blackened Fish
3 tbsp parika
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano

Thursday, July 5, 2012

French Toast Casserole

Sunday was a lovely day - it was a church potluck day. This one was a bit different as it was a breakfast potluck, giving everyone the chance to show off a different set of skills from the normal lunch or dinner on the grounds. I happened to be at my in-laws house when I was making my shopping list and told my mother-in-law that I was planning to make fab friend Lisa's French toast casserole recipe - a delicious custardy bread pudding with praline topping.

Sunday morning is not my forte. Perhaps it is rebellion against my upbringing as a church planter's daughter - being hauled hither and yon across Southern Africa every Sunday of my childhood -  that makes me sluggish and disorganized on the first day of the week. Whatever the cause, I have difficulty being on time for church. Now that I have two children, difficultly has become impossibility. Thus, As a result of being 25 minutes late to the potluck, there was quite a bit of French toast casserole left over. (You would think the promise of food would get me to church faster, but you would think wrong.)

Not wanting to spend all Sunday compromising my diet by stealing bites of pecan encrusted leftovers, I asked my husband to sneak the remains of the casserole into my mil's kitchen while the in-laws were still at church. It was greatly enjoyed, I understand, and my mil asked for the recipe. So, here it is....

French Toast Casserole

1 loaf French bread, cut into 1 inch slices
8 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups half and half

dash of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom

Place bread slices, overlapping, in a buttered 9x13" pan. Mix remaining ingredients just until blended and pour over bread. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

For topping, mix with a hand mixer:

2 sticks softened butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp dark agave nectar
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Spread topping over casserole. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

My fil advises that it is even better the second day:)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Basketful of Affordable Preschool Ideas (Under $30 total)

Simon's Stash is still an important part of my interaction with him. More than ever, since the arrival of Julian, Simon needs to have one-on-one quality time with me. Here is Simon's latest stash, along with a little cost analysis to show you how affordable it can be to grow your child's creativity and knowledge.  So many of the items are reusable that the actual cost of the basket is miniscule! (Reminder, I refill this basket weekly and we attempt at least one project per day).

First, a coloring project to create an alphabet banner. The banner came from Dollar Tree and the crayons came from Dollar General. Total cost: $3

Second, some really cool window markers. These came from Kohl's. They were on sale and I had a coupon. Total cost: $5

Third, stamps, stamp pads, and paper. The paper and two of the stamps were leftovers from when I used to scrapbook, so they will be declared "free" at this point. The ink and the other two stamps were in the clearance isle at Micheal's. Total cost: $4.

Four, supplies to make a collage. I have found that heavy duty paper plates work best for this project at the moment because Simon likes to use more glue that a normal piece of paper can tolerate. The plate came from a pack we bought for a party and the pictures were cut out of old magazines, so they shall be declared "free" .  The glue is from the Dollar Tree. Total cost: $1

Five, sidewalk chalk to be used on the front sidewalk and the privacy fence in the backyard. This came from Dollar Tree. Total cost: $1

Six, a Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle. This is a heavy wooden puzzle. Somehow the box got lost. Oh, well. More challenging for the brain = maybe we should lose more boxes. Total cost: $2

Seven, a bag full of Play Doh and Play Doh tools. This was a Christmas gift from a friend. Total cost: $0

Eight, the Boggle, Jr. game. This is a great game to foster early reading skills! I recommend it both as a mom and as a reading specialist. Simon thinks it is great fun. I ordered this from Amazon when it was on sale. Total cost: $10

Total Cost of Items I Purchased for Simon: $26

We have already enjoyed working the puzzle,

 coloring with the window markers,
and playing Boggle.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Butterfinger Pie

I have been calling this vasectomy pie...but that probably doesn't sound as appetizing as Butterfinger Pie:) I am 35 years old + I hate being pregnant + neither Stone nor I have a lucrative career + the earth is way overpopulated = we are done having children. Since he is a man among men, Stone volunteered to have a vasectomy so that I don't have to continue on birth control. Yay for Stone! As I am so grateful to him, I decided to make sure that there was something amazing in the fridge to welcome him home after surgery. I found the recipe for Butterfinger Pie on Pinterest and thought it was just the thing. My pictures completely suck because I had to take stills with the video camera due to a housewide battery shortage.

Butterfinger Pie

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (digestive biscuits would also work)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
6 Butterfinger candy bars, crushed
1 Butterfinger candy bar, chopped
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 (12oz) tub whipped topping

1. In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar. Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool.
2. In a large bowl, mix 6 crushed Butterfingers, cream cheese, and whipped topping with an electric mixer until thoroughly blended.
3. Spoon the cream cheese mix into the crust and top with the chopped Butterfinger.
4. Chill before serving.

This is really, really delicious! Well, it was really, really delicious. It took the two of us only two days to finish it off. Thankfully, I managed to eat my half without gaining weight since Julian has been nursing for 6-8 HOURS a day. As much as I wish I was exaggerating, I am not. Oh, least I can eat pie.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Good Man

Just a little over five years ago, I was sitting in my therapist's office discussing the events of the night before. My husband and I had been having a conversation during which we had been in agreement on some issue when I said something that he didn't like. He reacted by screaming at me until I cried, at which point he threw a bowl of hot food at me and punched a hole in the wall. Just a normal night in my first marriage.

I moved on to talk about how I had been longing to have a child, something I could not discuss with my husband because it made him angry (in fact, on our third date, I had brought up the topic of children and he had screamed at me while repeatedly punching the steering wheel of his car). My therapist looked at me and said, "If you have children, he will treat them the same way he treats you."

My whole world stopped. Her words were so powerful it was as if they were visibly hanging in the air. I realized, for the first time, I really realized that I could not ever have children with this man. Even if, after years of knowing how much he despised the idea, I could convince him to have children it would be irresponsible and reckless to allow him near a child. At the same moment I realized that I was not willing to give up on motherhood.

I tried to change my marriage into an environment suitable for a child. I stood up for myself - not only telling my husband that I would be leaving the house and spending the night away each time he was abusive, but actually following through and doing it. I nagged him to go to marriage counseling - he went once and yelled at the counselor.  I told a couple of close friends and my parents the truth about what went on (because hiding it gave him power to continue). It turned out, he didn't like these changes at all. He told me he wanted the old me back.

My marriage officially ended when I refused to sign a contract. My husband came to me and said that he couldn't live with the "new me" and that he had written up a contract I had to sign in order to stay in the marriage. I wish I had kept a copy of it because it was so unbelievably ridiculous. It included such items as:

1. I will submit to my husband in all things.
2. I will quit my job and stay home.
3. I will never return to Africa for a visit.
4. He will choose all of our vacation destinations. 
5. I will agree to never have children or talk about it.

I refused to sign. I got my own apartment and a lawyer.

After that I thought that I might never have children. I didn't think adoption was even an option for me because who could afford that on a single, teacher's salary? I could barely afford rent and food.

I wish that me could have seen me now, but she probably would not have believed it. I found a man who is not only the most patient, loving, forgiving husband anyone could imagine, but who also displays those qualities with the two beautiful boys who bless our household.

Everyone who knows Stone truly knows him - he doesn't hide anything or have deep dark secrets. He is an open book. It is, therefore, very telling that everyone who knows him also likes him a great deal. He is the sweetest man you could meet - hardworking, intelligent, compassionate, and crazy sexy.

Simon knows how lucky he is to have Stone. He tells me that Stone is more fun than I am - which is true because Stone is much better at playing Batman, baseball, and frisbee than I. But Stone is also good at reading stories, putting band-aids on boo-boos, and  making Saturday morning breakfast. Simon wants to be just like Stone someday, and I sincerely hope he will.

For Father's Day, Simon filled out this great template that I found at Two Journeys: One Life. Here is a picture before I let Simon put the finishing touches on - at which point the camera batteries were tot.

Here is what it says (Simon's answers in all caps):
My dad's name is DADDY
My daddy is 9 years old.
My daddy has BLACK hair and his eyes are BLUE
My daddy's favorite food is KETCHUP AND CARROTS
My daddy's favorite color is DARK BLUE
My daddy likes to wear BLACK
My daddy likes to eat CARROTS
My daddy is smart because he knows THAT I LIKE HIM
My daddy words hard at SCHOOL
My daddy always tells me THAT I LOVE HIM
I am happy when daddy LOVES ME AND PLAYS WITH ME
I love my daddy because I JUST LOVE HIM

So much love...more than I ever could have dreamed of! Happy Father's Day, Stone.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Keeping It Together: The Master List

Right now I feel supremely disorganized. Having a baby has thrown my whole routine into complete and utter disarray. My house is cluttered, my meals are sporadic, and my marriage consists of a business like relationship based on conversations like this:
"When did you feed him?"
"Eleven and three. When did you feed him?"
"Two and five. I think he is ready to eat again."
"Okay. I will go make Simon breakfast while you feed him."
"Great. See you after the next diaper change."

What gives me solace is that my friends, family, therapist, pediatrician, and lactation consultant are all in agreement that this phase will pass and my life will return to some sort of organized chaos rather than just all out chaos. I am looking forward to that.

I do have a few things that I cling to in an effort to stay sane. Some of them were tools I was using before the baby was born and some of them are new. Obviously, they have not made my life perfect but they do help. A couple of friends have mentioned that they liked the ideas, so I thought I might as well share some of them with you.

The first one is the Master List. This is a tool I have been using for a long time. Before you start looking at this and freaking out about how long it is, let me state empathically that these are goals. I do not complete all of these tasks each week. Ever. I don't beat myself up about what gets done. This is just a tool to help me focus my priorities when my brain is going in a million different directions. I also love checking stuff off of lists.

The top section of the list is a table showing the chores that need to be done on a daily basis:

Those are dishes, 1 load of laundry, pack lunches for the next day, take care of the day's mail, wipe down the bathroom counters (every other day), lay out clothes for the next day, clear off the dining room table, and spend 15 minutes picking up. These are our first priority for the day. Our next priority is the Weekly section:

These are vacuuming, dusting, mopping, cleaning the mirrors/doors, cleaning out my purse/work bag/ or the magazine pile, changing the sheets on all beds, updating the budget, updating our calendars, making the weekly menu, grocery shopping, cleaning the toilets, refilling Simon's stash, cleaning out old stuff from the fridge, and watering my orchid. This section was loosely adapted from FlyLady. Frankly, FlyLady has no concept of women who work outside the home - I tried her system and it depressed me.  Our next priority in the goal section:

These are things that are not housework related that we would like to get done. For example, getting the Father's Day presents and cards together was a goal. The last work section involves a list of each room of the house along with a few things that need to be done in each room.

For example, this week I would like to santize Simon's bathtoys and Julian's bathtub. The last section is where I keep track of Simon's schedule for the week. This is not the calendar as it doesn't include our appointments, etc. It is just a place for me to plan ahead how Simon will be occupied each day. I have found that the best strategy for dealing with my two boys during the summer is to get them out of the house and/or have a playmate for Simon. (I nearly laughed when a woman came up to me yesterday and said, "Oh, he's so little, is this your first outing?" Um, no. Julian had his first outing before he was a week old.)

Remember: these are goals. Do not fool yourself into thinking this is what I actually get done in my house each week. I am just trying to keep the chaos at bay as much as I can. Which, really, is very little....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chicken in Peanut Sauce

This is another pre-baby meal (I am still struggling to find time to cook "real" food since the baby got here - in fact, I struggle to do anything). One of my oldest friends is a global traveler who has lived in several different countries. Most recently, she is residing in the United States and preparing to move back to South Africa. Before moving to Jo'burg, she was in Cote d'Ivoire. It was from there that she got this fabulous recipe for Guinean peanut sauce, which she shared with me. Of course, given the peanut butter content, it is full of calories....but it is SO worth it.

Guinean Peanut Sauce
6 cups water
5 chicken bouillon cubes
1 large onion, chopped
pinch of oregano
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 large tomato, diced
1 (14oz) jar smooth peanut butter (she recommends natural peanut butter)
2 chicken breasts, cubed
4 habanero peppers
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp oil

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until tender. Add everything except the chicken and peanut butter. Bring just to a boil. Lower to a simmer and add the peanut butter. Simmer about 1 hour. Add the chicken breast. Simmer until the chicken breast is done (about 30 minutes). 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Really, Rolling Stone?

Along with my husband came several magazine subscriptions, including the iconic music magazine Rolling Stone. I love good music - regardless of genre - so you would think that I would enjoy flipping through this periodical. I also assumed I would enjoy it and gave it an enthusiastic go. After a few months of slogging through its pages, I had to face the fact that I do not like Rolling Stone. I opine that it is simultaneously pretentious and pandering. It just tries way too hard to be cool.

I should not, then, be surprised that this month's issue has interviews with both Charlie Sheen and John Mayer - two men who spout quotes on the level of middle school bathroom graffiti. I read both articles. Frankly, my curiosity is stronger than my pride. John Mayer did have a blogging related quote that I thought was interesting. He said, "I don't Google news-search myself. It gives you this sense that the whole world is thinking about you, when really it's just, like, the Hindustani Times and a mommy blog."

You could take it the way he meant it - that neither your opinion as a blogger nor the Hindustani Times amount to anything important. But, since he himself recommended interrpreting things as you choose (which, honestly, seemed like a very thinly veiled attempt to cover for the fact that he had no idea what Kanye West is actually rapping about), how about we put our own spin on it?

John Mayer thinks your blog is just as important as the Hindustani Times! :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chocolate Chip Shortbread

Here is a recipe from before I lost any control I had over my life (a.k.a before there were two children in my house - how are two so much more work than one?). I love chocolate chip cookies, so I thought the idea of making chocolate chip shortbread sounded like a delightful play on a familiar treat when I saw the recipe at Create with Mom.  Being eight months pregnant, I was not in the mood to do the work of making actual cookies, so I turned the recipe into bars by spreading the dough in a cake pan. I increased the cooking time by ten minutes. My little family greatly enjoyed these! They were not in the fridge for long. Please click the link to Create with Mom in order to see the recipe.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Baby is Here!

So sorry I've been AWOL - we had a bit of a surprise. Our baby decided he was done waiting to meet us and made a very sudden entrance into the world. He is two weeks old now and as sweet as sugar. We are so, so tired but completely in love with the two little boys we now have in our home. Introducing Julian....

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Things Your Child's School Counselor Wishes You Knew: A Message for Parents

I realize that this is the second post in a row with a guest writer, but as you can see from the change in the title of my blog - life has been rather insane here of late. I do have several of my own posts - recipes, ramblings, educational preschool ideas, maybe even a book review or two - in the works for you. However, I just couldn't wait to post this fabulous article written by my friend J.

Since I posted Words and the Single Woman ( a follow up to my own Stop Saying That, Please) I realized what a fabulous opportunity this blog affords for people with various life situations and areas of expertise to share their knowledge.

I asked my friend J, who is an outstanding school counselor, what she wishes she could say to the parents of the children she counsels. I thought her list was beyond brilliant. I personally plan to print this out and read it periodically to remind myself of what I, as a parent, need to do for my child.

Thanks to J for sharing her wisdom!

Things your child’s School Counselor wish you knew: A message for parents
-You are the most important person in your child’s life – not their friends, not their boyfriend/girlfriend, not their teachers – YOU! You have the most power and influence to steer your child’s life in a positive direction – please use that power and influence wisely.
-Your words have power. Children believe the things they are consistently told. So, if a child grows up hearing that she is “stupid,” “worthless,” or a “mistake,” there is little that I can do or say to change her mind.
-You cannot wait until your child is a teenager to try to discipline him/her; it is too late at that point. Please learn to tell your child “no” when it is necessary; it won’t hurt them, I promise.
-You cannot be your child’s friend, at least until they are an adult. Someone has to set limits, and it needs to be you. Your child is less likely to respect a parent who tries to be their friend. They, inevitably, will act like you are torturing them when you set rules and consequences; but, they actually crave structure and consistency. Stand your ground on the issues that matter.
-As difficult as it is to accept, some children have learning disorders or mental health issues that must be addressed. When I contact you to let you know I have concerns about your child, it is not a personal attack on your ability as a parent.  Please don’t take it personally. I am calling because I care about your child and want them to have the best life possible. These disorders are not your fault – you didn’t cause them – but, you simply cannot ignore them. Don’t be afraid to take the help that is offered to you.
-Bullies are real, but they are not as plentiful or as powerful as you may think. Your child’s best defense is a strong sense of self-worth and the level of trust they have for adults. I promise you, the school WILL address these issues, but we have to know about them.
-Your child’s teachers really do care and want your child to be successful, but we cannot do our job to our fullest potential without your support. After all, we are all on the same team.
-Your child will lie to you. Let me say that again to make sure you understand – your child WILL lie to you. It doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent or that you have a “bad” kid; the self-preservation instinct is strong, especially for teenagers. So, please don’t believe everything your child tells you about the school or their teachers, and I promise that we will not believe everything your child says about you.
-Electronic devices (phones, computers, video games, etc.) are a privilege. You are not required to provide these to your child, and I would strongly encourage you to monitor their activity while using these devices – and be prepared to take them away from your child if he/she can’t use them responsibly. It will be a battle, but, trust me, your child’s safety and innocence are more than worth it. While we’re on the subject, Facebook and other social media sites, are NOT designed for children. You wouldn’t believe the things that children say and do on these sites! You need to know all your child’s login information and check their site frequently. Make sure they have activated all the security features possible to protect their privacy. While these sites have gotten more secure, an active and involved parent is the absolute best security measure.
-When buying clothing, please remember that your child is just that, a child. I am appalled at the clothing that I see some of our female students wearing. I am trying desperately to help them preserve their self-image and learn to respect their body – clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination of a young man does not help in this regard.
-Children who succeed – academically, socially, or emotionally – are the ones who have a solid support system. Love them unconditionally! You will not always like the choices they make, but do not allow your love for them to waver. Tell them, often, how much you love them and care for them – it makes a HUGE difference – trust me.
-Children will model your behavior. I realize that everyone has different views and opinions. However, please do not teach your children to handle their anger in a physical way or to use inappropriate words (curse words, racial slurs, etc.) when involved in a conflict. Those things are a violation of school rules and will receive disciplinary consequences. Please do not be alarmed or upset when you get a phone call that your child is in trouble for these behaviors; the school rules are clear and consistently enforced.
-As a parent, you have the most difficult and most important job on the planet – I get that. You will make mistakes – learn from them and move on. And, please don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it – because you will need it – we all do.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Words and the Single Woman

A couple of weeks ago I posted about things that people need to stop saying to me since I have become a working mother. I wanted to make it sort of a feature, to allow others to post about their own niche in life and what words make them feel disparaged. The ultimate goal is to be more respectful of people in all walks of life.

I put the offer to guest blog out; the first response I received was from my friend L. I was curious what she would have to say because she occupies a very unique position. L is a doctoral candidate in Christian ethics; she is single with no children. Christian ministry in America is a world that is largely dominated by married, hyper-conservative, men. What things does L have to deal with as a woman in that world?

I found her comments insightful, and I hope you will too. Although some of them are specific to Christian women, there are many that I think would hit home with any single person. These are L's words and thoughts, and I ask that you respect them even if you don't agree with them.

Stupid Things People Say to Single, Never Married Women without Kids…

1. It’s Sunday. The pastor is encouraging people to pursue missions or some other avenue of God’s calling and directs the message toward, “All you single people and the youth group…” I am 34 years old. I teach graduate students. Many of my best friends in life are 10-20 years older than me. The one time I was part of a church singles group, the group had physicists, biologists, NASA employees, actors, teachers, physical therapists, accountants, and professional chefs. Our youth group days, although memorable for some of us, were over. Being single does not make me less mature than someone who is married and, therefore, deserving of being grouped each Sunday with the middle school and high school students (even great kids that they were)! It also doesn’t mean I have zero responsibilities and am automatically more free to pursue God’s calling than someone who is married. Being single simply means I’ve had different life experiences. I still have a job (sometimes multiples ones), bills to pay, a home to care for, relationships to maintain and people whom I must protect and care for—often doing it alone. When I’m sick, I take care of myself. When I come in at night, there are dishes, laundry, meals to cook, and trash to take out—and, unless I have a housemate, there’s no division of labor. It ain’t high school and it sure ain’t middle school, and answering God’s call sure isn’t giving up “nothing” in comparison to others. Treating single people as less makes no sensetheologically. First of all, is it only the people you see as “less” than yourself (implying they have less to give, so it should be easy for them) that you want to consecrate to God? Secondly, the doctrine of imago Dei should tell us that all who are created in God’s image are valuable, so quit treating single members of the human family as less than your equals (and young people, too, while we’re at it) or as less than adult, implying they are fancy-free with no responsibilities.
2. “When I was single, I was really selfish. You should get a relationship, so you stop being selfish.” Guess what? If you say something like that to a single person (tying their moral virtues solely to marital status, without even looking at the fruit of their life), you are are likely still selfish…. and insensitive… and just plain rude. Most of the single people I know are far from selfish. They volunteer, they pray for others, they call their friends when they’re sick or going through a tough time, and they care deeply about others. Would you like us to point out how selfish you are, when you take no time for your friends, expect them to babysit so you can go out (assuming that they have no life), or idealize the single life to meet your own unmet needs in your relationships? No, of course not. Such a generalization would not be fair. It’s certainly not fair for anyone to categorize a whole group of people as selfish. Jesus, Mother Teresa, and the Apostle Paul were all happily single, my friends. And, by the way, it’s also not really good to treat marriage like a detox treatment for “moral character flaws.” That might be...ummm... well, selfish.
3. “You must not be good with kids” or “I could never listen to advice about kids from someone who doesn’t have any” or “You should volunteer in the nursery and get some ‘motherhood’ practice” or anything along these lines. First of all, I’ve worked with several hundred kids on a professional and volunteer level. I might know a thing or two about getting them to take a bottle, changing diapers, or discipline techniques that worked for me. I’ve logged a lot more hours with kids than many parents do before having their first one. Secondly, the church nursery for one hour on Sunday isn’t motherhood practice—don’t make me a sinner or spiritually and immature and being married doesn’t make a person sin-free or spiritually and emotionally mature. Also, having different life experiences does not make me in any less need of a job or less qualified unless you want all applicants to be exact clones of your own life experiences. No one’s life experiences will be exactly like yours, but if they are a mature individual, who can emphasize with others, care deeply for them, and they have a decent amount of problem-solving skills and wisdom, God can use them, regardless of marital status.
9. And let’s not forget comments on the other end of the spectrum (ironically, sometimes from the same mouths): “Since you’re single, it shouldn’t matter when you take your vacation, if you have to work overtime, etc.” I have people who want to spend time with me, too. I have plans. I deserve to be treated with respect. The division of labor in the workplace should never hinge on marital status, but on job skills and qualifications. If I work there, I should receive the same privileges and consideration as anyone else.
10. “When I finally surrendered to God, he gave me the mate I desired.” The last time I checked, singleness was not a state of sin, nor was the desire to love and be loved. Quit implying that someone has a superior relationship with God based on marital status or that there’s some kind of magic, “spiritual formula” to getting married—God is a God of mystery, love, and goodness. I’m not single because he’s punishing me, and you’re not married, because you have some special knowledge of him that I haven’t figured out.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Steak Marinade

Moving to the United States for university meant leaving behind many of my favorite foods - meat pies, real chips, pumpkin leaves,  tomato sauce flavored crisps, Crunchie bars, steak and kidney pie, nsima, chambo, Chombe tea, bakery fresh bread, sausage rolls  - a good mix of post colonial Southern African dishes (not to mention the Korean, Indian, Portuguese, and real Chinese food restaurants I had to leave behind). I was very, very excited when I went to Steak and Shake for the first time and saw steak burgers on the menu. I envisioned what I knew as a steak burger - toasted, buttered bread sandwiching a delicious, juicy steak topped with tomato and onion. Imagine my surprise when my order came and a hamburger was placed in front of me.

"Excuse me," I said, "I ordered a steak burger."

"That is a steak burger - it's made from steak," the waitress answered contemptuously.

"No. This is not a steak burger. This is a hamburger. I don't care what cut of beef you use, when you grind it up it becomes mince. When you make mince into a patty and grill it, you have a hamburger. This is not a steak burger!" my answer seemed to further confuse the waitress (probably because she had no idea what "mince" meant - I had not yet learned to use the American term "hamburger meat.")

I do not eat at Steak and Shake anymore.

If I want a steak burger, I make it myself. I was happy to learn recently that my favorite cut of beef - silverside - is known as bottom round in the US. It is not cut as thickly as I would like, but it will do. This morning, I had one for weekend brunch. I chose to forgo the tomato and onion because my pregnant stomach just wanted buttered toast and steak.

I marinated my steak in a concoction I got from Better Cookery entitled "Sir Edward's Vest British Steak Marinade Ever". It was quite good (although I will say, I do prefer my usual marinade of Worcestershire sauce, chili oil, salt, and pepper just because it is what I am used to. ) You may click on the Better Cookery Link to see the instructions. Here are the basic ingredients.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/3 cup light soy sauce
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground pepper
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 can diet or regular Coke
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
2 tbsp chives

Now, if I could just make a decent steak and kidney pie....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Simon's Stash

Simon's stash for last week -

1. Speech therapy tools
2. Worksheets with colored pencils
3. Coloring sheets with crayons
4. Stickers and paper
5. Cotton ball lamb craft (Easter theme)
6. Jello mix
7. Mickey mouse puzzle ($1 from Dollar Tree - about 1 out of five puzzles I get there are warped, but they are so cheap it isn't an issue)
8. Memory game
9. Dr. Suess door knob hanger (for Read Across America)

We had great celebrating Dr. Suess all week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Few Valentine's Day Ideas

A few random Valentine's Day ideas.

These are the Valentine's Simon made for his friends.

I got the idea here. It took us several nights of work to get 14 of them completed. We started out by tracing his hand repeatedly, then I took a night cutting out hearts, one night was gluing down the hand with thumb and forefinger, one night gluing down the other two fingers, and one night adding glitter paint. We were quite pleased with the result, and it was excellent reinforcement of his ASL (American Sign Language).

This is a craft Simon made at school...

And a cute crayon melt Valentine he received from a friend....

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chicken Azteca

This is one of my favorite things to leave in the crock pot. Unfortunately, I don't make it very often because it is fairly fattening. Now that I'm pregnant, I figure I need the calcium from the cream cheese.

Chicken Azteca
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp cumin
1 cup chunky salsa
5 chicken breasts, cubed
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese

Combine beans, corn, garlic, cumin, salsa, and chicken. Place in slow cooker. Cook on low 5-6 hours. Stir in cream cheese. Cook on high until cream cheese melts. Spoon chicken and sauce over rice. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stop Saying That, Please

This is not my normal post. It is very personal and will probably offend some people. 

Here is my complaint: I am sick and tired of people disrespecting each other’s positions and choices in the world. Whether you chose to be single, to live with a partner, to be married, to have a job, to stay home with your children, or to become a monk, I believe you are a human being worthy of respect. You should not be told that you are somehow less because of that choice.

I would very much like to make this a series and ask my friends who have other lifestyles to voice their own concerns and needs. (Why, if you are single, do people assume that means you don’t mind working overtime? Why, if you don’t have kids, do people assume your life is somehow incomplete?)  

With the arrival of Simon in our home, I was thrust into the role of working mother. I have been shocked to find out how incredibly unsupported and disrespected that position has been. I have seen countless blogs, posts, Facebook lists, and Pins supporting stay at home moms – especially the lists of things not to say to SAHMs.

So, here, as a working mother, is a list of 6 things I need people to stop saying to me.

Things I Need People to Quit Saying to Me

1.  “I could never let someone else raise my child.”

Really? Me neither. Just because my child may be at preschool for part of his day does not mean that I am not raising him. I know what he does during the day, every day. I make all of the important moral/medical/lifestyle decisions regarding his upbringing. When he is in my care – for the majority of his day and the weekend – I make an extra effort to spend quality time with him because of our time apart. Let’s agree that we are both raising our own children.

2.  “My family made financial sacrifices so I could care for our child.”

The vast majority of parents make sacrifices for their children. You believe that making less money in order to stay home with your child is the best decision for her. I believe that my child benefits from peer interaction and education he is getting in preschool; the vacations we are able to take; the healthy diet we feed him; and the medical interventions he has received. Those are things my job pays for, and I sacrifice time with him in order to provide them because that is what I believe is best for him. Let’s just agree that we both make sacrifices in order to provide what we believe our child needs and respect that mutual spirit of sacrifice.

3.  “I guess your husband doesn’t have a very good job.”

Wow. That’s just so insulting (and, yes, it has been said to me – more than once.) Because I am sarcastic by nature, it is always on the tip of my tongue to say, “Yeah, I should have followed your example and married for money instead of love.” Of course, that is wrong because I know that the speaker did not marry for money; it just seems like they don’t realize the inference behind their words. First, you are implying that my husband should be judged based on his salary, which is kind of like a man judging you on the size of your breasts and the span of your waistline. It is insulting and outdated. Second, you are implying that I should be the one to stay home. There are many stay at home dads who are doing a bang up job. Third, you are implying that I must want to stay home but don’t have the means to do so. There are many women who work because they believe it is best for their families and themselves, not because they “have to”.  I am proud of the example I set for my son(s) as a working mom. I am proud that they see me and Stone as equal both in and outside of our home; I believe it will help them grow up to be strong, sensitive, independent  men. It is fine if that is not what you think your children need, but please don’t just assume that everyone else needs to feel the same way.  Let’s agree that we both doing what we feel is best.

4. “You are so lucky to get away to work for a break every day. I work 24/7.”

Um, yeah, because I come home to a clean house, dinner on the table, a nanny, a stylist, a personal shopper, and an on-call physician. Is that what you think? Please. Stone and I still take our kid to the doctor, the dentist, the speech therapist, play dates, and birthday parties. We bathe him, feed him, cloth him, discipline him, help him with his homework, and pack his lunch. We clean the house, run the errands, pay the bills, blah, blah, blah. None of that magically does itself while we are at work. Let’s agree that we all have a super long to-do list.

5.  “Staying home lets me really get to know my child.”

Again, I think this speaker doesn’t realize that she is implying I don’t know my child. There are a plethora  of ways to ignore your child – putting them in front of the TV, ignoring them while you chat with the other moms in playgroup,  even just tuning them out – that having nothing to do with whether or not one has a job. I don’t question your knowledge of your child; I am sure that spending your days with them has increased that knowledge. I also know my child better than anyone else in the world – I make a concerted effort to do so.  Let’s agree that we both know, and deeply love our children.

6. “It’s so sad how people have stopped following God’s plan for the family. A woman’s place is in the home.”

You have just foisted your religion on me. You may now remove it. I choose to follow a God who created all human beings equally, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. I opine that a God who creates an entire gender to serve another is not a being I would like to worship. If you chose to worship a misogynistic God, that is your prerogative. Please respect my right to worship my own God in my own way.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day, however you chose to spend it. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Salmon Patties

The two things I have craved most during this pregnancy are margaritas and fish. I can't have margaritas, obviously, so that is just an unfulfilled desire. I have to be careful with fish as well because of the risk of mercury. When I do get to indulge in some salmon or tuna or other fishy delight, I am a very happy camper.

I used the recipe from the back of the salmon can as a starting point for these and then just went completely off on my own. They were lovely. Stone said they tasted "fresh and perfectly cooked".

Salmon Patties
15 oz canned salmon, flaked (I also remove skin and any larger bones)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp lemon pepper seasoning

1. Mix all ingredients until they are well combined.
2. Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
3. Use 1/3 cup salmon mix for each patty, flattening before adding to the hot oil.
4. Fry until golden brown, flipping only once to ensure pattys do not fall apart.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

February Bulletin Boards

Fresh Baked Synonym Rolls

Step One: We had our students read an informational text about Lewis and Clark.
Step Two: Each student chose from the story a word he/she thought would have multiple synonyms.
Step Three: Each student made a synonym roll, starting the roll with the word he/she had selected from the text and continuing with synonyms.
Step Four: We chose our favorite synonym rolls and used them to create a bulletin board.

French Phrases

Step One: We took each French phrase from the Tennessee middle school SPI's and created a board with the word, definition, and a visual reminder.
Step Two: Students recreated the board on construction paper, creating original visual reminders.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Muffins

Stone is the primary breakfast maker in our house. Through the week, we tend to eat cereal, oatmeal, and toast - easy, fast food. On the weekend, Stone makes us biscuits, pancakes, omelets, and all manner of delicious treats. This morning he was making blueberry muffins. Since he was using real blueberries, we knew that Simon was unlikely to eat them (Simon disdains combining textures). So, I mixed up some chocolate chip and peanut butter muffins to round out the meal. The recipe came from and was as delicious as it was easy.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Muffins
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Mix peanut butter and butter in a large bowl. Add in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
2. Stir in flour. Add milk and chocolate chips, stirring until just combined.
3. Spoon by 1/3 cup measures into 12 cup muffin pan (use liners if using a metal pan - I use stoneware).
4. Bake 23 minutes at 350F.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sexy Mexi Casserole

Sometimes, being pregnant, I decide that I want to eat something weird - like Mexican food and pancake mix. Thankfully, this (unlike my craving for bacon wrapped cheese in chocolate sauce) turned out to be something that everyone enjoyed. 

Sexy Mexi Casserole
1 lb ground chicken
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans great northern beans
1 can condensed cream of tomato soup
cumin, cayenne  pepper, and cilantro to taste
2 cups pancake mix + water as indicated by box

1. Brown the chicken in a medium skillet over medium heat. 
2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, peppers, onions, and beans. Season to taste with cumin, cayenne, and cilantro. Stir in soup. 
3. Spoon chicken mixture into the bottom of a large casserole dish. 
4. Mix 2 cups pancake mix with water per box instructions (do not use the pancake mix that requires you to add milk, oil, etc - use the water only mix). Pour batter over the chicken mixture in the casserole dish. 
5. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until pancake topping is golden brown. Serve with sour cream and cheese if desired. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Crock-Pot Honey Chicken

This recipe was posted at Mmm...Cafe, and I found it on Pinterest. I adapted it just a bit to fit with my family's preference for spice:)

Crock Pot Honey Chicken
3/4 lb chicken, cubed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/8 cup tomato sauce
3 tsp red pepper flakes

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in crock pot. In a small bowl, mix honey, soy sauce, onion, tomato sauce, and red pepper flakes. Pour sauce over chicken. Cook on low heat 3 hours. Serve over rice. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chocolate and Pecan Filled Cinnamon Waffles

I gave up baked goods for Lent this year. If you are not familiar with Lent, it is a 40 day fast celebrated by Liturgical Christians (Catholics, Methodists, etc). In addition to restrictions on certain days - like no meat on Friday - you are asked to choose something to give up, or fast from, throughout Lent. This year, I gave up baked goods. Each Sunday is a feast day, so on Sundays I am allowed to break my fast and indulge in some baked good. I had seen the idea of making cinnamon rolls in the waffle maker and thought it would be a lovely Sunday feast. However, since this is my one baked good of the week, I wanted to make it ridiculously good. Thus, I kicked it up a notch by adding chocolate and nuts.

Chocolate and Pecan Filled Cinnamon Waffles
1 can (8 count) cinnamon rolls with icing
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1. Use the bottom of a cup to flatten out the middle of each cinnamon roll. The result should be a flat disk with a slightly raised edge.
2. Place one cinnamon roll onto your heated waffle maker. Into the center of the roll, sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts to taste. Top this with another cinnamon roll. Close the waffle maker, pressing down the lid to seal the "waffle".
3. Allow the "waffle" to cook according to directions for a normal waffle. Remove the "waffle" to a warm oven (200F) and repeat this process with the remaining cinnamon rolls.
4. Before serving, top waffles with any leftover chips, pecans, and the icing from the cinnamon roll can.

Results = ridiculously good

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jeff's Jiffy "Cracker Jacks"

This month's Random Recipe Challenge was to go back to the cookbook you used in your first challenge. I couldn't do that as I got rid of that particular book in the great Fit Two Children Into My House clean up. So, I went to my second challenge - for which I had used Loaves and Fishes: A "Love Your Neighbor" Cookbook. I tried to let Simon pick the recipe for me, but it turns out that my particular three year old has no interest in being random. He completely refused to open the book in any but the tradition fashion (he is also the only three year old I know who enjoys pointing out the spine, front over, end pages, and title page of a book - so really I was asking too much of him if I expected "random".") I did the random flipping and came up with Jeff's Jiffy "Cracker Jacks".

Jeff's Jiffy "Cracker Jacks"
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup honey
6 cups popped corn
1 cup peanuts

1. In a saucepan, heat honey and margarine over low heat until blended.
2. In a large bowl, mix popcorn and peanuts. Add sauce and stir.
3. Spread mixture onto a large pan.
4. Bake at 350F for 7-10 minutes.
5. When cool, stir, and it's ready to eat.

Simon and I made these while Stone was away at a Super Bowl party (I have as much interest in watching American football as in getting a toe cut off). I enjoyed the mixture a great deal, as did Stone. Simon, however, objects to sticky food and would not partake.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cheerio Bird Feeders

These were a great deal of fun and a fantastic way for Simon to practice his fine motor skills. I got the idea from Preschool Playbook.

We started with four pipe cleaners and a bowl of Cheerios (okay, not Cheerios, whatever cheaper, circular cereal we got at Aldi). I put a loop in the bottom of each pipe cleaner to stop the cereal falling off. Simon and I took turns threading cereal onto the pipe cleaners until they were full. We made a counting game of it. I put on five - he put on five. I put on six - he put on six, etc. I put a loop in each end when the pipe cleaner was filled.

Simon, with a bit of a lift, hung the feeders from our deck.

The birds haven't had a chance to get at them yet, since it has been raining all day. I am sure they will enjoy them once we get another bit of sun.