Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Facebook

Three cheers for Facebook!

I created a page awhile back mainly to keep in touch with my little sister, who's in college and totally into the Facebook thing. I figured, what better way to see pictures of the guys she likes, right?

Now I've discovered an even more gratifying reason to have an account. I'm reconnecting with people I thought I'd never hear from again. There are those old friends from high school that I haven't seen in 11 years or more that I can look up and get a glimpse into their lives now, as well as see photos of their spouses and children. It's neat because I haven't had the time, energy, or desire to invest in those relationships in the past years, but that doesn't mean I don't still want to know "What ever happened to _____?" I hope they're doing well. And now I can see for myself, without having to really commit to a friendship.
That sounds terrible.....but it's true. I only have so much time on my hands here, people. What little time I do have for friends, I spend investing in the people around me currently, not those I might see every 5-10 years.
Anyways, my newest delight was finding my college pastor and his wife, whom I haven't seen since I graduated in 1999. They're from South Africa and had come to my church to minister. They are an amazing couple, less than 4 years older than me, and were newlyweds when I met them. We had a wonderful friendship and I thought the world of both of them. Right around the time I moved away from Arkansas, they had to go back to South Africa because of some visa issues and couldn't return. I can't remember the details, but through all that, we lost touch and I could never find them.
Until this week.
We have established contact, thanks to Facebook, and I am thrilled! They have 2 beautiful children, close in age to mine. They were so excited that I found them and that they can get caught up with my life as well.
It's been a highlight of my week.
So again, Hurray for Facebook!
And if you don't have an account, get one. We can be "friends"!
And who knows. Maybe you'll find someone you've been wondering about for years too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Is it a Lovey?

Many children develop an attachment to a particular object as a young child. They want to carry it around and hug on it and it comforts them when they're distressed. A "lovey", so it's called.
For Corban, it was a little black lab puppy that strongly resembled our dog. We had tried to get him to be attached to several other stuffed animals for months, but he had no interest in anything stuffed until his grandparents gave him the puppy when he was 13 months old. Corban loved Pup Pup devotedly, carried him around all day, couldn't sleep without him, and certainly didn't travel without him. That lasted three entire years! Now Corban is attached (thankfully to a lesser extent) to his little golden retriever Webkinz, Dakota, that Aunt Sarah gave him last Thanksgiving. In fact, he told me today that he plans on keeping Dakota until he's a grown-up.
Marissa never developed an attachment to a stuffie as a baby/toddler, but she has adored baby dolls for a long time and has certain ones that she insists on carrying around all day. She kind of rotates which ones are her favorites, but she's protective of all of them. She sleeps with at least five dolls. It's a crowded toddler bed, let me tell you.
Annika, now she dances to the beat of her own drum. She likes her cozy blankets and a sweet pink dog in her bed, but you know what really makes her happy?
You'll never guess.
Socks.
That's right. Socks. It doesn't matter who they belong to or what size, color, or even how clean they are, she adores socks. When I'm folding laundry, she grabs the socks. When Grant is changing out of his work clothes, she attacks his socks. (Remember the crawling video I posted? She was motivated to crawl to get one of his socks.)
Yesterday she mananged to snag one of Corban's socks on the floor of his room and was delightedly playing with it, chewing on it, waving it around, etc. I wasn't too happy about that, as the sock was not exactly on the clean side. I took it away from her and she wasted no time in letting me know she was extremely agitated, in fact, downright MAD.
I tried to pacify her as I changed her for bed, giving her a little cloth diaper I had in her dresser. She took one look at it and threw it to the ground, letting out a scream of rage. Okay, what was I thinking?
I grabbed a tiny purple sock of hers that had fallen to the floor and handed it to her. Instantly, she recognized it as the wonder it is, a SOCK, and beamed. I'm not kidding, the child grinned through her tears and was immediately her normal cheerful self. She took the sock to bed with her and was clutching it in her little fist when I went to get her this morning.
Now, I don't let her carry it around all day, but this afternoon she had quite a bit more fun with it.
It's amazing.




Note the sock clutched in her hand.


Let's see if the sock will go on there.


And of course she can crawl without letting go of it....


And pull up without dropping it.....


And it's always good for tasting now and then.

Now, the fact that she finds socks appealing isn't necessarily a bad thing. I mean, they're cheap, easily washed and replaced, and for now, she doesn't care about particulars. Never mind that it is a little more socially acceptable for kids to carry around blankets or stuffed animals/dolls.
It's probably just a short-lived phase, anyways.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cheesy Sausage Stromboli



I first tried this recipe a couple of years ago and we think it is really delicious. I use half whole wheat flour and turkey sausage to make it healthier...
and since the loaves are really huge, I half the recipe if I'm making it for just our family, and we eat it for two dinners.

Recipe

5-6 cups flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. salt
2 pkgs yeast (or 2 T. bulk yeast)
1 1/2 cups warm water (120-130 degrees)
1/2 cup warm milk (120-130 degrees)
2 T. melted butter (or use canola oil)
2 lbs bulk pork sausage (or turkey sausage)
4 cups (16 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
3 eggs
1 t. minced fresh basil or 1/4 t. dried basil
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add water, milk, and butter; beat on low until well combined.
Turn onto a well-floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and place in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink; drain and cool. Stir in mozzarella, 2 eggs, and basil; set aside.
Punch dough down, divide in half. Roll one portion into a 15 in x 10 in rectangle. Spoon half of the sausage mixture lengthwise down one side of rectangle to within 1 in. of edges. Fold dough over filling; pinch edges to seal. Cut 4 diagonal slits on top of stromboli. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Place loaves on a greased baking sheet.
Cover and let rise for 15-30 more minutes. Beat remaining egg; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Slice; serve warm.


See how huge these loaves are? You wouldn't believe how heavy this cookie sheet is!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My God is So BIG!!!

Yesterday after the kids had been playing in the sprinkler, Marissa decided she was ready for me to record her singing one of our favorite songs, "My God is So Big". Enjoy!
video

Miniature Peanut Butter Treats


I think I've found a new favorite cookie. My grandma used to make ones similar to these around Christmas and everyone loved them....but I never got her recipe. I made them this week as part of a dinner for a friend who just had a baby, and I'm definitely keeping some at home!

Recipe
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat, 3/4 white)
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
about 42 miniature peanut butter-chocolate cups

Combine butter, sugars, egg, peanut butter, and vanilla in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture. Cover dough and chill.
When cold enough to handle easily, roll into small (walnut-sized) balls; place each ball in greased miniature muffin tin. Bake at 375 for 8-9 minutes.
Remove from oven; gently press one peanut butter cup into each cookie to make depression. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool on rack. Store in a cool place.

I used generic peanut butter cups for this...which taste great but seem to be a little more "melty" than the Reeses brand....so I have to store these cookies in the fridge. If left at room temperature, they become extremely messy to eat. But oh so good anyways. The kids adore them....and I do too. I know they'll freeze beautifully, if you can make yourself save some.

Go check out LifeAsMom for more Christmas cookie recipes and a contest!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Easy Cornbread



This is another recipe I modified to make it healthier, originally from Allrecipes.com. Have you noticed I love that website? This is great stuff.

Recipe
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 425.
Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the milk, eggs, and oil and beat for 1 minute.
Pour into a greased 9" square pan and bake for 18-25 minutes, until bread is golden brown and tests done. If you cook too long, it will get dry, so start checking at the earliest time.


Delicious plain, but preferred with butter and honey around here. It's actually kind of a dessert. Or a tasty afternoon snack. Ummmm.


And just so you know what life is really like around here, this is what I saw as I was trying to take photos of my cornbread.



Yes, my son is walking around with one leg in each of his pillow cases.

Chicken Stuff



This is a recipe I got off Allrecipes.com and modified to make an all-in-one meal. Grant and I really like it, and the kids....well, they eat it better than a lot of things. Especially when they have a time limit and whether or not they get to eat strawberries is on the line.
It's very customizable to what you like or have on hand, by the way.
My recipe for cornbread is forthcoming.

Recipe
1 box of corn bread mix, or homemade cornbread
1 4 lb chicken, cooked and deboned - (rotisserie chickens from the store are great, a cheaper option is to cook one yourself or just use 1 1/2 - 2 lbs chicken breasts. Whatever suits your fancy)
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can green beans, drained
1 can mixed vegetables, drained
salt and pepper to taste

Make cornbread according to package directions in a pan (not muffin tins). Crumble well.
Chop chicken into bite-size pieces. Mix with soups and vegetables and desired seasonings (lemon pepper is nice if you didn't have a seasoned chicken).
Spread into a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch pan.
Cover with crumbled cornbread.
Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly.

It really is delicious!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Caramel Popcorn



I hadn't made this in a couple of years and just got a craving for it. Boy, is it good! I tweaked the recipe a little from the original on Allrecipes. Make this today!

Recipe
5 quarts popcorn (that equals 20 cups....I just used 2 bags regular microwave popcorn)
nuts, if desired
1 stick of butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 250. Put popcorn and nuts in as large a bowl as you can find. Line 2 baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Do this ahead of time, you'll be glad later.
In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil without stirring for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and vanilla, mixing well. Pour in a thin drizzle over the popcorn, stirring well to coat evenly.
Spread popcorn into the 2 baking sheets. Stick them in the oven, one on each shelf, for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring and switching positions every 15 minutes or so.
Try to keep your hands out of it until it's cool. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Guns and Thunder

We had our anniversary date last night. It was a bit unconventional, I suppose, but we had a fantastic time! After dropping the kids off at some friends' home, we headed out on our first "no kids" date in probably 10 months. We gotta get out more!

We headed first to a nondescript pawn shop/gun range for a little target practice. Now, I have only been shooting once before, and that was a good six years ago. I was a little nervous, but Grant had given me a good lesson on gun handling again and I knew it would be fun.


We used his 9mm Beretta that looks like this. Pretty nifty firearm, eh? I shot four magazine (10 bullets each, for all you non-gun people out there) and he shot six. We were running short on time at the end because the shop was closing, and he's a much faster shot than me.
Well, I have to say, although I didn't hold a candle to Grant's shooting, I did pretty darn well. Most of my shots would have done significant damage to a live target, anyways.
We'll be going back again, much sooner than six years for sure!

Next, we headed to the Outback Steakhouse, one of our favorite places...which was actually the place of our last date, now that I think about it!


Ever had one of these? This, my friends, is a Bloomin' Onion, one of the greatest culinary achievements of all time. Magnificent, lightly spiced and breaded then deep-fried onion with a succulent sauce....ummmm.

So that was the appetizer. We only finished half of it. Gotta save room for dessert, folks. The dinner was good, Grant's was better than mine, but the highlight of the experience was the.....

Chocolate Thunder From Down Under. Oh my merciful heavens, this dessert is wicked. Okay, so it has 1220 calories. We won't even think about the 78 grams of fat. We split it, okay? (not like our last date, when we went for dessert only and polished off one so fast that we had to order another one. My excuse? I was several days overdue with Annika. A pregnant woman's gotta eat!)
So it's this warm, dense, dark chocolate brownie studded with pecans, topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and rich fudge sauce and chocolate shavings. Whew, did I just gain a pound thinking about it?

Quick side story. Years ago, when Grant and I were swing dancing fiends, we stopped at the Outback near downtown Nashville (after a dance) for dessert before our hour trek home. We ordered our usual Chocolate Thunder From Down Under and coffee and waited. And waited. And waited. The restaurant was practially empty, we couldn't figure out what was taking so long. When our dessert finally appeared, we stared in shock. The ball of ice cream was only half a ball, as the rest of it was melted soup around the brownie. Our waiter disappeared before we could even say anything. We kinda shrugged and dug in, and Grant commented, "Wow, it looks like it was left under a heating lamp!" We had a good chuckle and kept eating. Apparently someone heard him, because in minutes the manager was at our table, apologizing profusely for the melted mess and told us it was free. We mildly objected, since we had indeed eaten the dessert with no complaints. No, he insisted that it was free AND he gave us a certificate for a free appetizer or dessert the next time we came to Outback.
Have to say, that was our most profitable restaurant experience ever!

All to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our date (Thanks Ben and Ellen for babysitting!) and hope continue our tradition of seeing superhero movies for our anniversary next weekend by seeing the new Batman movie.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy Anniversary!


Seven years ago, Grant and I pledged our love and commitment to each other in front of friends and family in a lovely military chapel in Tennessee. (Trivia: Fort Campbell is considered Kentucky, although it straddles the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. Both our wedding and our son's birth occurred at Fort Campbell, KY on the Tennessee side. Ha!) We had known each other for only 6 months and had been engaged for 11 weeks. Ours was a whirlwind romance to be sure. We had no idea what was in store for us. We were anticipating Grant joining the FBI in a couple of years, or maybe staying in the Army and trying for a Europe tour.

September 11 changed our lives dramatically. Two deployments later, we decided the Army life was too stressful for us and our marriage and Grant got out. Corban was born just a month after he got home and our lives just got crazier and crazier, with job hunting and traveling the country for holidays and moving to Virginia where we knew no-one and trying to settle into civilian life.

But God's grace prevailed through our deepest struggles and here we are, seven years into our marriage, with three beautiful children, a gorgeous home we built, a close circle of wonderful Christian friends, and a deeper love for one another than we even thought possible on July 8, 2001.

Happy Anniversary, my Beloved. I can't wait to see what God has in store for us next!

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