Sunday, June 28, 2009

Conversation with a 3 year old

Marissa (3.5) has become increasingly observant about other people lately and isn't shy to speak her mind, as children rarely are. I have had to clarify for her recently that just because a woman has a plump belly, that doesn't mean she's pregnant. She should always ask mommy or daddy very quietly if she's wondering about that. And no, it isn't nice to say (out loud) that people are fat. Why? Well, because it hurts their feelings, similar to if you said they were ugly.

So the other day, just a couple of days after such a conversation, we had spent a little time around a lady who is, shall we say, a bit overweight.

In the car after we left (thank God), I heard Marissa piping up from the back of the van,

"Why is her bottom bigger?"

Shaking my head as if to remove cobwebs from my ears, I replied, "What did you say?"

She repeated louder. "Why is her bottom bigger?"

Oh my. "Bigger than what?" I asked, both anticipating and dreading the answer.

"Bigger than YOURS!" I heard back. Duh.

Oh my indeed. I stifled back a giggle and went into an explanation on how people are different, not everyone is the same size, some people have more weight on them than others, and we should never make comments about the size of someone's bottom, or anything else for that matter.

She exclaimed, "Well, I didn't say she was FAT!"

No, she didn't.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Beach - Take 1

I took the kids to the beach last Thursday for the first time this year - Corban has been asking to go for months and we finally got the chance. I thought it might rain, so we got around and out the door rather late, and ended up staying only an hour. The rain held off and the day was really quite perfect. This beach is just 25 minutes from our house and is pretty secluded. Most people either don't know about it (we never would have found it if we hadn't had friends that lived a block away from it when we first moved to VA) or don't go there because they prefer more luxuries, like bathrooms and lifeguards. We love it because it's so quiet, relaxing, and it's just beautiful.
So on this particular morning, we pretty much had the whole beach to ourselves. There were a couple of moms on a playdate with their boys, but that was it. We picked a nice spot and parked ourselves. Corban loves the water, Marissa likes the water, and Annika keeps her distance. She was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing and much preferred to just dig. Fine with me, I don't have to chase her out of the waves all the time!

It was pretty windy out there.

Corban dug a hole and little trench and Marissa helped him fill it with water. It kept them busy nearly the entire time! No fighting, squabbling, fussing, or screaming. It was a beautiful thing.

The trench in progress. Not sure exactly what the purpose was, but who really cares!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chocolate Banana Strawberry Muffins

This idea for this recipe came about from a need to use up some bananas and a large container of strawberry yogurt in the fridge. The original recipe, for banana chocolate chip muffins, came from Tammy's Recipes. They were unusual in that they called for mayonnaise instead of oil. When I made them awhile back, I didn't have any mayo on hand, so I used oil and applesauce as a substitute. From reading the other comments, people said they had used sour cream or yogurt also as substitutes. Soooooo, that leads me to the other night. I was lying in bed thinking about making muffins the next day, and I remembered I had this unopened container of organic strawberry yogurt in the fridge. Hmmmmm....that sounds interesting. Well, what goes better with bananas and strawberries than chocolate? I should add some cocoa powder and make chocolate muffins. I couldn't wait to try them. Turns out, they're fabulous! If I do say so myself.

If you do not have 1/2 cup strawberry yogurt, feel free to use vanilla yogurt, sour cream, mayo, or my combination of 1/4 cup oil + 1/4 applesauce. Any of those will yield a moist and tasty muffin. And if you don't want chocolate muffins, just leave out the cocoa powder. Modify as you will!

Note: I just made 12 regular muffins out of this, filling the tins almost completely....and they overflowed a next time, I'll not fill the tins so full and make a few mini-muffins as well.


1 1/2 cups flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1/2 cup strawberry yogurt
3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, yogurt, and mashed bananas. Gently stir into dry mixture until just combined.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tins 3/4 full. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 375 for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack.

I would recommend storing any leftovers in the fridge, just to prevent molding on such moist muffins. That would be a crying shame!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chicken Vegetable Rice Soup

Sorry about the greenish tint to that picture - I don't know what it was about the lighting, but all of my photos of this soup turned out that way. The soup really is yellow.

So, I got the original of this recipe from the Pioneer Woman, and of course changed it a bit as I desired. What resulted was a delicious, healthy soup that the entire family enjoyed and ate twice with no complaints. That makes a winner, in my book.


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 t. chicken bouillon (msg-free) OR 8 cubes bouillon
2 quarts water
1.5 cups brown rice, uncooked
3 cups water
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped pretty finely
1/4 cup celery, chopped (optional)
6 T. butter, divided
4 T. flour
freshly ground pepper

Start by getting the rice going. In a sturdy pot with a tight-fitting lid, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add brown rice (and a bit of salt and olive oil if desired), cover with lid, and reduce heat, simmering for 45 minutes, or until water is all absorbed.

While that's going, put the chicken breasts in a large pot and cover with 2 quarts water. Add bouillon (or cubes) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pot and let cool a few minutes. Then shred or cube it (I prefer shredding) and set aside.

While both the chicken and rice are cooking, chop up your veggies. Once the chicken is done, get out a large skillet and melt 4 T. butter. Add 4 T. flour and whisk until smooth. Add to chicken broth still in pot and stir. Back in the skillet, melt the remaining 2 T. butter and add all those veggies. Cook over medium heat until tender. Toss that shredded chicken in there and stir to combine. Then dump the whole mixture into the waiting broth. By now, the rice should be done. Pour that in the soup as well and stir. That's it! You're done! Oh, add some freshly ground pepper and taste to see if you need more salt. Mine was fine as was.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sausage Con Queso

This is one of the most simultaneously easy and popular things I've made. It's especially a favorite of men, I've noticed, but that's probably because they're less likely to be concerned about their weight or looking like a pig. :) It's a great go-to dish for parties or large get-togethers.


1 lb. sausage (I use turkey sausage)
1 lb. Velveeta
1 can Rotel (diced tomatoes with green chiles), undrained (I use the generic) OR 1 - 1.5 cups salsa

In a large skillet, brown sausage until no pink remains. Drain. Cut the Velveeta into chunks and add to the sausage, along with the Rotel. Stir over low to medium heat until cheese is melted.
Serve warm with lots of tortilla chips!

Note: After making a double batch of this for our small group, we had quite a bit left over. The next day, I boiled a 13.5 oz package of whole wheat macaroni and added it into the (heated) leftover dip until I had the right consistency - I had a couple of cups of macaroni left over. It made a delicious dinner and kept me from snacking on the dip with chips all week!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Shed

At the request of several family members, here is the picture story of the shed. It's not quite finished; we're waiting on the siding to come in, hopefully in the next week or so. I know Grant plans to wire it for electricity at some point, but probably not right now.

This is how it began.....a very solid foundation.

First wall framed in....Annika and I checking it out.

All the walls framed in now....looking good. The shed is 10' x 14'.

Grant's 71-year old dad, Hank, proved to be a monkey, climbing up to work on the rafters without a ladder. Amazing!

Grant enjoyed having his dad around to help for the initial building phase.

Part of the shingles are on now....the rest of the roof covered with a tarp for rain protection. Many thanks to our friend Nathan, who spent one Sunday afternoon helping Grant with the roof and shingles! Grant framed in a double door initially, but due to cost, that didn't work out. We now have a single door.

The kids wanted to climb up on the roof for a look around. Annika stayed with me.

Grant working on the rest of the shingles. Corban ended up with him, actually helping out with the shingling of the ridge. That was AFTER I went inside with the camera. He loved being up there and working with his dad.

Single door now, window opening cut.

This is it, all finished up except for the siding. This picture was taken today,
Didn't Grant do a fabulous job???? I'm so proud of him!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'll be honest....I've never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn't like. But there are definitely degrees of appreciation.....and this recipe scores the highest marks. Seriously, I really think they might be my favorite ones ever. I know.....that's an extreme remark to make.....but I'm sticking to least for now. (The little graduation cap was in honor of Corban's kindergarten graduation, for the record. Totally not required for a delicious cookie.) They're soft, moist, not too cakey, not too crunchy, just a delightful texture and flavor.


2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
2.5 t. vanilla
2 eggs
2.5 cups flour
1 (3.3 oz) package instant vanilla pudding
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 cups chocolate chips (I used part semi-sweet, part milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until well blended. Add in eggs and mix well. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, pudding mix, baking soda, and salt. Add slowly to creamed mixture, stirring only until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes. I only baked for 8 minutes. Turned out perfect.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oriental Chicken Salad

This came straight from Tammy's Recipes - thanks, Tammy! I made this yummy salad for dinner last week and Grant and I enjoyed it a lot. The kids....well, not so much. Corban normally loves salad, but he's a big ranch dressing sort of kid.....this dressing was NOT his favorite. Marissa picked at it and complained about the "sauce" also, and Annika just ate the chicken.
In the dressing, I used sesame oil instead of olive - more "Oriental" that way - but sesame oil is tremendously strong, so next time I'll use even less or use the olive oil just to see the difference.
Salad ingredients:
leaf lettuce, washed and torn
shredded red cabbage (optional)
sliced almonds
chow mein noodles
fried chicken strips (recipe below)
homemade honey mustard dressing (recipe below)
Fried chicken strips ingredients:
2 lb chicken breast
~1 1/2 c flour ( I found this to be a bit much, would use only 1 cup next time)
1 T seasoned salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 T garlic powder
1 t parsley flakes
1/4-1/3 c oil
Dressing Ingredients:
6 T honey
3 t white vinegar
8 t mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 T Dijon mustard
1/4 t sesame or olive oil

Slice chicken breast into thin strips. In a large bowl (or a ziplock bag), combine flour, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parsley flakes. Add chicken strips and toss to thoroughly coat.
Heat 1/4-1/3 c oil in a large skillet over medium heat (or just slightly above medium). Add chicken and spread out over bottom of skillet. Allow to fry for several minutes, then stir. Continue stirring and frying until chicken is completely cooked. Drain on paper towels to remove excess grease.
Combine dressing ingredients and whisk to remove lumps.
To assemble salad, layer plates with lettuce, cabbage, fried chicken, chow mein noodles, almonds, and top with the homemade dressing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


We've had a few things going on in the past couple of weeks. Grant has been putting in hours working on a really nice shed.....I'll post separately about that, because I have lots of pictures and I didn't want this post being too long.

Annika is now "plug-free" - meaning she doesn't use a pacifier anymore. All of our kids have been extremely fond of their pacifiers and reluctant to give them up.....and each situation has been different. We typically just use the plug for bedtimes once the child turns a year or so. Corban lost his for good at 19 months, due to a sore in his mouth that we wanted to heal. Marissa's was taken away just past turning 2, I can't remember exactly when. Annika presented me with a broken (nearly torn off the base) plug after her naptime last week, and I helped her throw it in the garbage. I told her that the pluggie went bye-bye and she didn't need it anymore. I do have a spare one, but that just seemed like a good opportunity, since we were wanting her to be rid of it long before the baby comes anyways.
The first night and following nap were tear-free - and I thought we were extremely lucky. Well, I guess reality sunk in, and she's been fussy about bedtimes ever since. She's getting a little better, but is certainly not the super-easy child to put to bed she was a week ago. But at least it's done. The following picture was taken just a day or so before the fateful day the plug broke. Isn't she sweet?

Also last week, Grant was presented a "Commander's Award for Civilian Service", which included a certificate signed by a Lieutenant General (3 Star) and a medal. This was a very distinguished honor - they don't give those out very often. It was given for exceptional service on a project he worked on during 2007 and 2008. The kids and I went to his awards ceremony and got to be a part of it, which was really nice.

Family shot before the ceremony

Getting the medal pinned on by a 1 Star General.

Corban has mastered climbing the rope on the swingset and is always coming up with new tricks to perform, one of which is making his way over to the fort. He's really good at it and very entertaining to watch. He does pick up more splinters these days....the price of being an active boy, I suppose.

Corban has also officially finished kindergarten - of which he is extremely proud. The rejoicing that took place the day he completed those last books was pretty exciting, let me tell you. We'll still work on reading over the summer, of course, and we'll be starting up 1st grade in August, but this will be a nice break.

For his little celebration we had, I made chocolate chip cookies (recipe coming soon) and decorated Corban's with little graduation caps. He was thrilled.

He also got a little gift, a bug cage for all the critters he's bound to catch this summer. He liked it, but confessed to me later, "It's really nice, but it would have been better if it was Playmobil".
Guess I flubbed that one up. I thought he had been wanting a bug cage for a long time. But he's still happy. It's all okay.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hearty Bean Bake

I got the original of this recipe from a dear friend at church, Mary, in a little recipe swap. I modified it for our tastes and it quickly became a family favorite. It's quick, economical, and yummy. Not too bad for you either, although I can't exactly claim canned biscuits as a health food.


1 lb ground turkey (or beef) - Grant likes it even better if I use 1.5 lbs
1 t. salt
28 oz can baked beans (I use Bush's Vegetarian)
3/4- 1 cup barbeque sauce
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. minced onion (or if you prefer, dice an onion and brown with the meat)
1 can flaky biscuits
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375. Brown meat (with onion if desired); drain. Stir in next five ingredients. Heat until bubbly. Pour into a casserole dish. Cut biscuits into 20 half circles. Arrange on top of casserole. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until biscuits are browned on top.

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