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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Funny Things

I have to remind myself how funny my kids are so when they color on the walls, or scream at the top of their little lungs, I don't freak out.

This week has been classic.

D.: "Mom, what happens when you karilion?"
Me: "I don't know, What does karilion mean?"
D.: "I don't know, I was just testing it out."

Or this..
Baby: "Knock, knock."
Anyone listening: "Who's there?"
Baby: "Daddy, yeah." or sometimes she's tricky and says, "Mamma."
Repeat this "joke" 5-10 times.

The baby also thinks she's won a game of hide and seek when Andy comes home each night. She spends the day looking for him and screeches when he comes in the door. "Mamma, look I found Dad. Oh Dad. Yeah." Insert two tiny hands grabbing his face and kissing him. Yeah she loves her Dad.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Make Your Own Take Out.
I stole that acronym from Rachel Ray, but I love it. I wish I used the idea more, but sometimes eating out is cheap therapy. You know those days when you're about ready to strangle something, or someone....

I had 3 of those days last week, and today is the day I do the budgeting. Can we say "death bed repentance?" So here's a solution for me, and you, to curb the need to go out. Why go out when you can whip up something healthier, less expensive and still great tasting? Unless of course you have one of those days....

Here's one of my favorites from Rachel Ray Lettuce Wraps. I use ground chicken, but you can use cutlets too. I also substitute out my veggies. We don't like water chestnuts, but I can sneak in edamame and green or red peppers and no one complains.

Another recipe we love is based on Panda Express' restaurant recipe for Orange Chicken. I love it because the ingredients are stuff you have on hand, and I can control the sugar content. **NOTE: I usually don't fry my chicken for this recipe. I cook it in a skillet with a little garlic, onion and olive oil, then pour the sauce over it and simmer about 5 minutes. But, if you want real, authentic, the fried version follows.

1 pound chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
1 egg white
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Mix all this together and set aside

1 c. water
1/2 c ketchup
1/2 c sugar
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. PLUS 1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. grated orange zest
juice of same orange you zested
2 tbsp. green onion, chopped
red pepper flakes, optional

Veg. oil for frying
1 c. cornstarch to batter chicken

1. Once the chicken is coated in the egg white, etc. place in Ziploc with the 1 c. of cornstarch and coat chicken by shaking bag.
2. In bowl combine water, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch, juice from zested orange and sea same oil. Mix well.
3. Put a sauce pan over high heat; when pan is hot add 2 Tbsp. veg oil, onions and orange zest. Cook about 20 seconds, careful not to burn zest.
4. Pour the sauce into the sauce pan, cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook sauce until thick, about 12-15 minutes.
5. Preheat veg oil for frying. Put coated chicken into hot oil and cook until golden brown. About 3 minutes. Remove chicken with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
6- When all chicken is cooked, add chicken to sauce and serve.

Although I don't eat here a lot, I love the soups at Cafe Zupas. Click on my highlight to get their recipes on their blog. Nice huh?

You can't forget about the 100 versions of Cafe Rio Pork and Rice dishes. Find one of the versions I like here.

My other favorite is the Pecan Chicken salad from TGIF. Find it here.

None of these recipes are hard. I have made every one of them. They are all under 30 minutes to make and they are delicious.

Here's to trimming the fat in the menu and the budget.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Healthful Recipe Redo

I have had some fun this week. Each week I get to cook with my kids. Sometimes it does get chaotic, but this week has been really fun. S. Sue made Shepherd's Pie; La La made Beef Wellington; J-Dog and Andy grilled chicken. I figured I need to amp up the testosterone for the poor boy and I am told
b-b-q-ing is very manly. D. made her favorite, Sausage Chick Pea Pasta. We decided to make it healthier than my original version with Italian sausage (yum), Alfredo sauce (yum) and no veggies. Here's our spin to lighten the calorie load, add in some veggies and it still tasted great.

Isn't it funny how kids will eat veggies if they help make them? Maybe it's just mine...

Sausage-Bean Pasta
1 pkg. whole wheat pasta
1 pkg. Jennie-O smoked sausages
1 can white beans, or chick peas
1 jar low-fat Alfredo sauce
1 pkg. mushrooms, sliced (or a can of mushrooms)
pepper to taste
basil, oregano and thyme to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp. each)

Optional: Fresh spinach, chopped tomato, red peppers

Cook the pasta according to directions.
Slice the sausage into 1/4 inch rounds; cook in a skillet with olive oil, until browned
Add the Alfredo and beans to the skillet, with the sausage. Add seasonings, stir. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add in veggies of your choice.
Cook another 5-8 minutes, until veggies are tender.

Drain pasta and add it directly into the skillet, stirring to incorporate all ingredients. Viola.

I figure this cuts the calories and fat significantly from my original version. And D.'s made it a few times, she is already starting to get the ingredients out of the pantry on her own, and get out the supplies she'll need to help.

This is another meal everyone eats. I can usually sneak enough veggies in there that no one notices, except the mushrooms. They have a texture my kids can detect from a mile away. So the ones that don't like them pass them along to the ones that do. It's a fine tuned balancing act. I also served steamed veggies on the side. Last night we had pomegranate-pear-kiwi salad too. Expanding horizons everywhere with that one.

~Happy Cooking~

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Birthday Bash Round-Up

We celebrated the little girl's birthdays last weekend. It was a blast! Thanks to all of you who took time to celebrate with our girls. Of course there was a bit of chaos, and eye rolling (mostly mine, sometimes D.). But we had a great time and hope you did too. Thanks also for your generous presents. The girls are drinking out of their Hello Kitty water bottles, playing with new, fun toys, watching "Gnomeo and Juliet" and eating cupcakes in dress ups as we speak, or write....

Here's a snapshot of the fun!  

We had a cupcake bar. I thought it was really fun and creative.
Ok, so this isn't the best shot, but there's about 10 different toppings, 2 different frostings and 2 sizes of cupcakes for guests to chose from and make their own. I didn't want to be overwhelmed, but you could add more flavors of cupcakes or fillings for more variety.

The birthday girl...actually her birthday is still a few days away, but with a sister so close in date range, I combine the parties. I guess I'm used to this cuz the twins share their day, I share my day with J-Dog, Andy shares his day with my we are used to it. Even 2 of my nephews and a niece and nephew share the same parties. Their birth dates are all so close that it's just easier. My sister-in-law does an awesome thing with her kids. Even though their birthdays are in the same month and they share a party date, on their actual birthday she decorates the table for them and makes them a special breakfast. Way to go Erika! I am adopting this idea from you.

I did make a few of these Happy Birthday blocks. I put these by the kids' plate at dinner on their actual day. We had a Birthday Bear that sat on your plate when I was a kid. Kind of a fun thing to have your day recognized a bunch of different ways.

Here's the actual birthday baby. She is now officially 2. Yikes! She loved the chocolate cake and managed to get most of it in her mouth, instead of on the floor. Yeah!

Now I get a break for a few weeks.....then onto two ten-year-olds advancing another year closer to teenagehood. Double YIKES!

Love the Cupcake Bar idea. We'll be using it again.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Perfectly Stated

I am an avid follower of a few blogs. Many of my faves are listed here on the left. Go ahead and check them out sometime. One of my other faves I often haunt is called "Mindika Moments." And if you visit this link, Mindika's Thoughts and you are a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) or know a SAHM you may want to pass this link along. It probably applies to all moms really.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in a store with my kids and had someone ask me if they're all mine. And I live in UTAH. There are only 5 kids, which some days does fell like 500, but of course they're all mine.

I am not a fashionista, but applaud those who try. I just hate laundry and spending money on fancy things that just don't fit into my lifestyle right now. I am usually covered in something by 9 a.m.--spit, snot, applesauce, tears, ketchup, you get the point. I am not a slacker, so don't judge me on my jeans, or sweats or basketball shorts that I am wearing when I answer the door, or you run into me at Target.

Just read the post, it's really good. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Baby

It's this darling girl's big day today.

Can you tell she's having a blast already??

Don't worry, if you're coming to the party, she didn't make the cake.

She is so sweet. Maybe we've figured out the secret ingredient that makes her that way....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sweet Treats

Our big birthday bash for our two tiny girls is fast approaching. I've been trying to set a theme, pick colors and favors to make the day memorable. I won't post too much since some attendees read this blog, but let's say it's going to be Sah-wheet! Some of these may end up at the party too.

Easy Treats for Valentines Day , or any occasion.

Chocolate dipped pretzels. I love doing this with pretzel rods and then rolling them in colored sugar, sprinkles or mini candies. All you need is almond bark or candy chocolate (available at craft stores) and melt it in the microwave. Dip and place on wax paper, freeze for 15 minutes.

Cookie Sandwiches. My mom served these the past few summers. They are super fun, the kids love them. Simply place a small scoop of ice cream in between two cookie, press, and roll the ice cream sides in sprinkles or nuts. These can be made ahead and frozen for later.

Fruit Kabobs. You could dip or drizzle some pieces in chocolate or serve fruit dip on the side.

Yogurt parfait. This is awesome, because it's one of the 10 things J-Dog will eat. Layer fresh fruit, yogurt and cereal like Honey Bunches or Granola. Really good treat in taste and health.

Nut Clusters. Some nuts have health benefits. Almonds, walnuts and pecans, in moderation, can be good for you. Dip them in dark chocolate and even though it seems "naughty," it's a safe treat.

The twins Science Fair project inspired this post. They came up with "How does substituting ingredients affect baked bread?" We baked 3 different recipes of Zucchini Bread this weekend and swapped ingredients with the original recipe. It was really fun, and a lot easier than some past projects like "The Power of Magnification" or "Visual and Auditory Memory."  So for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of science fair, let me give you some advice: pick something you can handle and carefully "suggest" it to your student.

It's our third year in a row and we've all learned a lot. This weekend's lesson? Don't let kids use high powered appliances without supervision.

Happy Treating

Monday, January 16, 2012

K.I.S.S. It


Valentine's Day is approaching and let's face it, most of us are still crawling out from under the debt monster of Christmas. The idea that Valentine's Day was started because St. Valentine was murdered for not converting to paganism, and now that "in honor" of his death we celebrate love and affection, is just one of those crazy cultural things.

According to a Medieval story, St. Valentine was persecuted as a Christian by Roman Emperor Claudius II who wanted him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.

The legend provided no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail.

There is an additional modern embellishment to The Golden Legend, provided by American Greetings, and widely repeated despite having no historical basis whatsoever. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first "valentine" card himself, addressed to a young girl, the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed, or both. It was a note that read "From your Valentine."

Ok, so maybe it's like Mother's and Father's Days, created by the greedy capitalist greeting card companies to guilt you into spending money to say I love you, or Thank You, to the important people in life that make it worth getting out of bed each morning. Do we need a date on the calendar to remind us to send a sentimental (or sarcastic) card or greeting? Really? If we need that then what does that tell us about our relationships and our culture?

So, now that you've been given a history lesson and some political dramatization, back to the simple part.

How about this year, instead of overindulging on the candy, cheesy cards, flowers (that by the way, triple in price on Feb. 1) and t-shirts, let's try something simple.

*Bake cookies and send/take them to your loved ones, but don't do it on Valentine's Day. Come on, be original and pick a different day.
* Drop off an anonymous note and treat to someone you admire.
* Bring in the neighbor's garbage can.
* Text, email or write a note and leave it in a place your loved one(s) will see it.
* Make a donation to a charity you care about. It doesn't have to be a lot, but will do more than a box of chocolates.
* Make a special dinner. HINT: This is directed to the person who doesn't normally cook dinner. Get out a cookbook, choose a simple meal and surprise your partner with the thought that you cared enough to give her (or him) a break.
*Rent a movie and make some popcorn. Guys, "suffering" through a chick flick isn't the worst form of torture you'll ever have to endure. It will gain big bonus points.

This holiday should be about kindness and love, not about spending more money we may not have to impress someone you care about. Think outside the box and do something that will really make a difference.

Will you take the challenge??

Sunday, January 15, 2012

True Love

"Love, true love. Marriage is what brings us together today." (Can you hear the priest with the lisp saying this?) If you are a watcher of the best movies ever, you know this quote is from "The Princess Bride." I love this movie. Ironically it ties for first place in my book with "The Burbs" and "Tommy Boy." Diversity is good right?

Anyhow, how do you know when it's love, TRUE LOVE? When you are diabetic and your spouse knows you are having low blood sugar before you do. Let's go back to last night. I've been trying really hard to be healthy this year. I've struggled my whole life. I hate it. Insulin doesn't help. Well, it does in the fact it's extended my life for almost 30 years, but losing weight, it's not a helpful ally. So I've lost 8 lbs. That's something. I've been really good, and last night all I wanted was a mozzarella stick. It was late, I know it's not good to eat late, but I've withstood the "naughty" stuff for nearly eight weeks.

Andy got in the car and hunted down a treat. While he was gone I started feeling really faint. A sure sign that the old blood sugar is on its way down. Then the door opened and there he was my knight in shining armor, with my mozzarella sticks and a jr. jamocha shake--just the thing to treat my quickly dropping numbers. He didn't know I was falling when he left, but somehow he knew. We can communicate without communicating. Does that happen to anyone else? Surely it must. Buttercup and Wesley had true love.....right?

Only some of you will appreciate the next part, but stay with me. He also used a coupon to purchase said "treat" and the jr. shakes are $1.

Yep, It's True Love!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guilt is a Funny Thing

My husband, who rarely reads this blog, read it yesterday. Remember yesterday, me airing my frustrations....some about him...indirectly...oh, well maybe now he'll read it more often. He came home saying how guilty he felt that I was so stressed.

It's not entirely his fault. And I'm not just saying that because he may possibly read this someday. Life is what it is. Life can be fun. And sometimes little things relieve big pressure.

Things have lightened some since yesterday. Amazing what 24 hours can do. I have realized that my focus needs to be on enjoying the journey. Even though the journey may seem difficult, more times than not I end up learning something valuable.

I learned last night that walking away from a situation keeps you from saying and doing things you didn't want to say or do; taking a deep breath can refocus your thoughts; and most importantly, guilt can be a motivator. If it isn't how you want it, fix it. The only person that can control your life is you.

Sounds pretty simple now.....

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rolling the Eyes

Just pick it up. Whatever it is, the stinky sock, the unread magazine lying on the floor, the stack of dishes, the phone message from someone I'd rather not talk to. Seriously, this week has been unmotivating. Winter blues?? Maybe. Overwhelmed?? Definitely. The theme of my week has been just pick it up, I don't care if it's yours or not.

In the past two days I've been bombarded with "have to's" and "want to's" and "should have's" and I am exhausted.

Here's a top notch list as to why:
1 burned dinner
5 loads of laundry, two forgotten about and had to be redone
10 asks for donations for my upcoming fundraiser; 4 YESes--hooray
100 times asking my one-year-old to get off the counter--she dances and giggles, especially when close to the edge
5 times asking Miss D to get her shoes on to go to school. Her reply is, "I am still running away to California." My response, "See ya."
4 times picking up the same two bills to pay and file and 0 times actually doing it
1 forgotten math assignment
5 bargainings with the devil, 1 win
1 victory with insurance company over crazy bill

Do you ever feel just blah? That is my week. I need to feel inspired. All I feel is dread at the next task on my list. I did make it to book club and met a couple of new girls who added intellect and insight to our club. We had a great conversation that removed me from my current state, even though I am old enough to be their much older sister. It restored my faith in the next generation.

This year is filled with a great amount of uncertainty, and I guess that's why I feel so distraught. We are looking at many possible changes including work and school opportunities and trying to better ourselves and our position in life. It's not to say we don't have anything. We certainly do. Waiting on others to make decisions that will ultimately lead to our decisions is frustrating because of the lack of control for us. If you've read this blog regularly, you know I am not patient. I wanted what I wanted, and I wanted it yesterday. Maybe this is the year to learn the virtue of patience.

Getting this all out of my brain helps. What do you do to not roll your eyes and just move forward?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Funnies

Last night D. announced she was running away. She had her Tinkerbell umbrella, I Love Lucy purse, Barbie miniskirt and tee, no shoes or coat. She was on her way to California because "this place sucks and my older sister is mean."

Don't ask me what went on between her and her sister. I didn't ask. I did ask her if I could talk to her before she left. She sat on my lap. I asked her how she was going to get to California. She said she'd just "get a helicopter. I have a quarter in my purse." I told her she'd need more than that; she went for my coin jar. When she decided she'd just walk, her Dad told her to take two pairs of shoes.

With tears running out of her very blue eyes, down her very sad face she headed for the garage door. She's too little to push the button to make the door go up, so I figured I could buy myself some time before she figured out how to reach it.

I told her, "I will be so sad if you leave. I really wanted to celebrate your birthday." Her response, "Give my presents to the baby. You have the picture on the wall to remember me."

Wow! Drama Bomb! Her older sister (not the one she was fighting with) came to the rescue and sat her down to tell her a story about a little girl named Bessie who was 5 years old and ran away from home. She was killed (strike that, taken) by some bad guys. "Do you want someone to take you D?," asked La La. "No. I just want to run away from my sister." "Well (and I am not kidding) Satan is making you say that. What would Jesus do? He would forgive our sister, and we can have a tea party to make things better."

Finally La La convinced D. not to run away. As La La passed me in the hall I got a high five and an "I am so good with kids." Yep, she's humble. I could only sit and watch the drama play out, laughing in my head as to not anger my little devil child, and roll my eyes just thinking of all the fun that lies before me with four daughters.

Making memories to last a lifetime, but hey, at least CPS won't be visiting thanks to my older daughter who brought out cake and punch to keep my younger daughter from leaving. Good Day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcome 2012

Happy New Year.

Three days in and we've already had turmoil. Maybe you've heard about the couple in Mt. Pleasant that was killed during a home invasion? They were friends of ours. The husband was Andy's barber for years. It's so senseless, so unnecessary. I hope justice will prevail and their family finds comfort. Losing a parent is tragic, but losing both your parents in such a horrific way is beyond tragic...We love you Fullwood family.

There's more drama going on, but no need to publicize it. No, Andy and I are fine. We are all healthy. Let me just say that other people's choices affect the people that love them. Think ripple effect. The next time you decide to make a "big," life changing decision, just go with your gut. That's why we are given intuition.

Now onto lighter ramblings.
Roberts Crafts is going out of business. This week is 75% the entire store. Let's just say I saved $300 and leave it at that. Yes, the new 2012 budget will be revised and stuck to this year. But 75% off, that's practically giving it away. My girls have awesome stuff to give their friends for birthdays for the next year, and I will be Cricutting my heart out FOREVER.

I also hit the Kohls sale. If you haven't, do. 70% off winter white sale, plus a 20% off shopping pass. So I redecorated my two baths for $35. Two sets of towels, extra hand towels and rugs--$35. If you shop online, don't forget to go thru or to earn your cash back.

Harmon's is having their case sale. Be careful. If you don't need a case of whatever you are running low on, I'd skip this sale. There is a small price break if you buy by the can, but other stores can still match or beat it. If you need cases of corn, green beans, Milford Farms Chicken, Kraft pudding snacks, or black, kidney or garbanzo beans, then hit the sale for that. I suspect other stores will be having better sales in the next few months.

Saving money isn't the only fun I'll be having this year. I have dedicated one day a week is for me. This is not selfish, I just realized that I am at the very bottom of the list of priority people. Even after the dog, and we don't have a dog. I am going to take some language classes and ASL, maybe even Chinese to help J-Dog. I also have time to go to book club, something I didn't think I was going to do, and have time to get my hair cut and likely colored---no more gray in 2012. I am also joining a food growers co-op for fresh produce weekly. So there's some good things on the horizon.

Although we have no concrete plans, Andy and I have decided to go on a trip, away from our home state and without kids sometime this year. We haven't gone anywhere without the kids for nearly 5 years, and that was an overnighter downtown. We haven't be out of state together in 10 years. So it's time. Hopefully karma will help put this all into place. He gets to go on a few business trips this year, so maybe that will inspire something. The first one is to Dallas....maybe inspiration will be hard to find.

The little girls are having their birthdays this month. Baby turns 2 and D. will be 5. Can't wait. D. wants Angel Food cake--ironic?? I said how about Devils Food and Angel Food cupcakes. She thinks the Devils Food is for the baby. Ha Ha Ha.

Looking forward to creating a bunch of new memories. The kids got their Gift Certificates from us for Christmas and were all very happy. They are already planning the dates and places to go. So fun. Maybe this year I will be better about remembering the camera to capture our memories.

Thanks for hangin' with us.