Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homemade Oreos! Yum

I got a chocolate cookie craving....and since I've been pretty stinkin' good with my diet for the past 4 weeks (even giving up an opportunity to go to Hickory Park last week with my CG pals), I figured I could go all out, well, just a little bit.  PLUS, we were hosting our Acts 2:42 group, and they NEEDED a treat, right?  They aren't hard at all - don't take too much time and are just plain yummy.  After I had them all made, our Acts group was cancelled (bummer!) so I guess I have to eat more than just 1....I can't let them go bad! 

Chocolate 'n' cream sandwich cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 coup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp unlsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg

Cream filling:
In a large bowl, using electric mixer, beat 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature until light and fluffy.  Gradually add 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar and 1/4 cup sugar, beating until combinded.  Beat in 2 tsp vanilla.


In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt; set aside.  In another bowl, sitr together butter, sugar and egg.  Add flour mixture, and stir until a dough forms.
Divide dough in half; roll out between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Stack on baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350, with rack in upper and lowe rthirds.  Line two baking sheets (stones) with parchment. Using a cookie cutter (whatever fun shape you want), cut dough into cookies.  Place on sheets 1 inch apart.  Bake until firm, 6-8 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cookies cool.
Spread half the cookies with 1 tbsp cream filling, top with remaining cookies.  Store in refrigerator in airtight container.
(Since there's butter in the cream filling, store in fridge.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Not feeling blue anymore!

Well, you shouldn't be if you took the Blue Monday Challenge?  Did you?  Did you?  What did you do?
To be honest, this Blue Monday started out pretty awful - MORE snow, Troy sick with all kinds of things, nope...I'm not even going to continue.  But the weather ruined my grand plans for this Blue Monday, oh they were GOOD plans, too. Sigh. So those plans will be postponed and I decided to have lots of little impromptu "happy moments" instead.  The day only cost me $10, but it was SO worth it.  You've GOT to read all the way to the end of the post, ok?  Don't get bored quickly. It gets better.
Since I'm a mom, the homefront was high on my list to "happy-ize".  Very simple - donuts for breakfast - big treat!  Then we had a taco/nacho bar (Troy's favorite, yes, I know he's sick but he ASKED for them.  What sick person wants tacos, you ask?  The same sick person who wanted hot wings last night.  I don't understand it either. But he didn't really eat them, so he'll have to be happy-ized when he's feeling better.)  Then two happy boys who finished their nachos, applesauce, grapes, apricots and yogurt (can you tell which 2 year old pick the side dishes? Again, happy-izing!), received my favorite chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Very happy.  NEVER is it as quiet at the dining table as when everyone is eating dessert.  Ah, peace and happiness for ME! 


(Doesn't he look 16 in this picture? What in the world!?!?)



Then, we had a pool party.  On normal days, its just a bath...but today we had a BLUE pool party (a few drops of blue food coloring in the water and presto!.  No, it doesn't stain the washcloth, the bathtub, or the skin, I promise.)


 Quick!  Get in our jammies and head downstairs!  We finished off the night with the boys favorite 1-2 punch of happy:  pocorn and a movie.  On the big screen tonight:  Veggietales - Jonah!





Then stories, songs, and off to bed.  A happy day for two happy boys.
Outside the homefront....
Despite my sister's wicked attempts at darkening my happy mood....

I had hinted to co-workers that I would bring treats today.  "Treats" - sounds so 2nd grade.  Anyway, I made the aforementioned cookies (seriously good recipe) and told my super-duper friends at CG to eat them and be HAPPY.  They had no choice - it was a directive:  you will eat this and you will be happy.  And they did, and they were (I think).  Three cheers for all my awesome friends at CG:  "the best CPA firm in Iowa"!!!!
I'm sure you're wondering by now....I thought she said the day cost $10?  Well, since you asked...The very friendly 8 year old boy that checked me out at HyVee yesterday afternoon forgot to take my 2 $5 coupons when ringing up my bill - so my debit card was charged $10 too much.  After a 47 minute consultation with his 9 year old girlfriend in the next checkout, a call to customer service and a friendly pop-in by the manager, I walk away with a $10 bill.  Not exactly what I had in mind, but I'm ok with it.  So, I tuck it safely away and I DO NOT spend it at Carribou upon leaving the store.  On my way home from work today, I see a frazzled mom with a not-so-nice car getting gas across from me at Caseys.  She's doing the sqeeze-release-sqeeeeeze-release method to get up to $10 of gas (yes, I'm nosy and I looked).  "Interesting!", says Me.  She's actually talking kindly to her kids - who have opened the car door to shout all kinds of requests for after-school snacks.  She turns them down by saying she's spending all her cash on gas and that they'll have some snacks when they get home.  "Ah HA", says Me.  As she goes in to pay, I sneak over to the car and stick my $10 bill under her halfway-up-the-windshield-wiper. So I know she'll see it.  Kids were confused and a bit creeped out by me, but I gave them the look of death to keep them in their seats.  I drive across the lot and wait for her to come out. (Kids didn't touch the money.)  She sees it and SMILES.  Looks around...and LAUGHS!  Happy lady, happy me!!!!  I fight the urge to jump out of my van and say:  "It was ME!  Aren't I so nice!  Don't you want to buy me a coffee with that money!  You'd still come out $8 ahead!!!"....instead, I drive off, feeling happy.  (And NO, I'm sure she didn't go back in and buy lotto tickets, smokes or a 6-pack. That would ruin my exhilaration).
And then I started thinking that my little gesture didn't actually COST me $10.  I didn't have to pay it - it was simply the coupon money, right?  So, was I really that magnanimous and wonderful after all?  Hmmmmm....happy feeling starting to fade.  I mean, I wanted to do something sacrificial!  So I ran back inside Caseys, bought a $10 giftcard, rushed home, wrote a thank you note, and included the note, the giftcard and a book (Stranger on the Road to Emmaus - we have an extra copy), and put it in our mailbox addressed to our friendly postman.  Now tell me, who deserves a thank you more than our Iowa postman these blue winter days?  Wowzers, what a job.  Don't tell me there's some rule that they can't accept gifts or that he'll think its a bomb or something...  Anyway, I hope this is a act of kindness with some lasting and eternal value.
Yes, I know I'm being silly and flippant throught my very long story here.  Moral of the story:  we have SO MUCH to be thankful for and HAPPY about and there are people we see every day that could use some happiness.  I hope you fought off the Blue Monday by bringing happiness to someone in your life!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blue Monday Challenge

BLUE MONDAY is Monday, January 25. According to psychologists, it is the most depressing day of the year. Why? Well, according to said experts:
  • The cheer of Christmas is long forgotten.
  • The days have been short and dark without a lot of sun for a long time.
  • You're angry with yourself for breaking all those New Years resolutions.
  • Maybe you overspent during the holidays - and your credit card billjust arrived.
  • Cabin fever and lack of motivation brings down the spirit.

So, what shall we do? How about we fight it! Ignore it! (Well, you would have been ignoring it had you not stopped to read this, sorry). Here's my "Blue Monday" challenge. I'm posting it a bit early so you have time to plan your offensive attack.

MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN TO MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY!

  •  Go introduce yourself to a neighbor you've never met.
  • Send flowers to a family member.
  • Bake for your co-workers (stay tuned, CG!)
  • Join a charity campaign.
  • Go give blood (no, thanks).
  • Buy someone a cup of coffee.
  • Send a note or card to someone you've neglected.
  • Visit someone lonely.
  • Just do something!

 Why should we be depressed? Don't do it! Count your blessings! I'll be posting on Monday to share what our family did - and I want to know what you did, too.

And if you still feel blue, think on this:

Isaiah 35:10 And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

John 17:33 I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.

Acts 2:28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.'

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sad and Happy

Sad little boy with pink eye:



Happy little boy without pink eye (yet):

Monday, January 18, 2010

Future teacher

Sunday School teachers, do you have any idea of the impact you have on kids? It's amazing! For the past 20 minutes, we've been listening to the teachings of a 2 year old. Ryan found his Lincoln Log instruction booklet, pretended it is a Bible, and has been preaching up a storm - forcing us to say our verses: "What's our last verse? Love the Lord your God with all your heart. Now, say is quieter. Now, say it louder. Now, all your friends say it together. Now, let's clap with it." Of course when I got out the video camera he toned down the fire and brimstone quite a bit. Sorry it's so dark in our house - apparently we need to turn on some lights....or I just need a new camera :-)
video

Blogger.com is working on fixing the video problem - stay tuned.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My bucket list

I was inspired to make my totally secular list of things I'd love to do before I die.  In no particular order, here ya go:
  1. Visit the 7 wonders of the world.
  2. Play the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No 2 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and get a standing ovation.
  3. Complete a marathon.
  4. Produce a good tv show...just for a week or so.
  5. Sing the national anthem at the Rose Bowl or the Army-Navy game. (this one requires getting a new singing voice)
  6. Capture Osama and convert him to Christianity and then kill him.  (ok, that one was weird)
  7. Have girl triplets.
  8. Live in New York City in a funky but ridiculously cool apartment right in the middle of the city.
  9. Learn to like every single food on the planet...starting with fruit.
  10. Be the athletic director at a major D1 school, and hire my husband to be the head coach, and give my boys full ride scholarships....and watch them both with the Heisman trophy.
Totally silly and worldly, and I had to limit myself from beginning on my dream list for my kiddos - another topic completely.  What's your list?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My sister says to blog more....

I have no blogging material, yet my sister keeps bugging me to blog....so she asked for this:

TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MY SISTER
  1. She has 5 kids: ages 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.  They are all blond little sweeties and she is an AMAZING mommy. 
  2. She can do EVERYTHING.  She's definitely my Mom's daughter (even though we tell her she is adopted...or worse things, like that she is Dan's daughter - don't ask). 
  3. She's an English teacher- disgustingly smart.  She said something at Christmas as part of a normal conversation with her kids to the tune of "it's a predicate nominative with the subjective clause preceding the penultimate plural consonant digraphs in the intrasitive conjective pronoun" or something like that.
  4. She makes THE BEST cookie bars and coffee cake - and she makes them for me anytime I visit.  And she sends them to me after I have babies, which makes me want to have more babies.
  5. Her kitchen is like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle:  everything has its specific place in the master picture.  If you turn the baking soda just a little too far to the right, nothing works.  She has 16 of everything - green beans, bread, bran flakes, you name it.  And they are all stacked perfectly - just like you would see in a magazine.  It's slightly obsessive-compulsive, but totally amazing. Organization is an understatement, for sure.
  6. She lost her wedding ring once at a grocery store and the person that found it thought it wasn't real because it was SO TINY.  Her fingers are like size 2, which I, sausage-link-fingers, am jealous of.
  7. She had "mono" during her wedding and honeymoon.
  8. She was stalked obsessively by a dorky kid from Illinois all through high school and college and she took pity on him and married him....and made him cool.
  9. Growing up, we shared a bed and she would let me sleep EVERY NIGHT with my arm under her pillow.
  10. She's a great Mom, Daughter, Sister and Friend. 
SMOOCHIES to you, sissy! 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tips 2 (organizing theme this time)

I'm on an organizing kick lately...have a long way to go, but I'm inspired.  Hopefully you'll find these cheap tips as helpful as I do:

1.  Use unused small tupperware for your junk drawer.  You rarely use the smaller ones, right?  I was tired of them cluttering up my cabinets for an occasional use, so I used them to organize little things that make a big mess - batteries, pens & pencils, loose crayons, sticky notes, etc.  Get creative?  By the way, if not stored properly, batteries will lose their power pretty quickly - they should be stored with all the positives in the same direction and without touching anything else metal (like paperclips or pens).  Also, some think that batteries should be stored in the fridge - not true.  Condensation can zap the life of a battery, too.



2.  Guest or extra sheet sets.  A great way to keep spare sheet sets together (hate searching for the pillowcase) is to roll or fold them up and tie them losely with a ribbon.  You can also include a coordinating towel and washcloth.  Don't go buy ribbon - chances are you have random pieces around, right?  Too short for gifts, sorta ugly, ones that came with a store purchase?  Everything will look nice, neat, organized, and you can grab an entire set in a sheer sweep of your hand!

3.  Invest in grocery organization.  This is a quick purchase from the Real Simple line at Target.  I know, Mom, you survived years of making your own lists on the back of first-draft church bulletins and I applaud you for that, but for $4 it was well worth a year of organized lists.  Simply check off what you need as soon as it comes to mind, add more to the established list, and go!  Plus, this helps remind me of those things that I always forget (trash bags, for example).  And, for list-loving girls like me, it's just plain FUN to check boxes.




4.  Organize your spices.  We all have many spices right, different sizes, shapes, and they fall out of the cabinet and we can never find which one we want.  (Yes, yes, yes, there are great inventions called "spice racks" but those are a joke - who ONLY has spices in a rack?  I've got about 64,593 other spices with no good home." THEN I found my saved baby food jars (without labels).  BINGO!  The small Level 1 jars are perfect.  Label them (bonus if you have a snazzy label maker) and pour your spices into them.  They stack beautifully, are see-through so you know when you're at your last pinch of cayenne pepper, and are so much easier to measure from than those crazy tiny tones containers.  Also, they hold more than the typical spice container, so you can stock up without the extra clutter.  Use the Level 2 jars for things you use a lot! 

5.  Paper towel rolls can corral electrical cords.  I'd like to blog a use for paper towel rolls every day, but that would just be dorky so I'll try to spread them out.  Slice a roll all the way down the side (carefully) and use it to store electric cords or keep in-use cords (behind your tv or computer?) under control.  We all know that extention cords are a pain to store...not any more!

6.  Scan excess paper.  This is one that I need to work on in 2010.  If you're afraid to throw away paper (its hereditary, I blame my father), scan and organize it elecronically, then shred it!  Rarely will you need the original document, right?  Sure, some things are important to save, but only a short list.  So get rid of the paper clutter - statements, insurance information, bills, certain reciepts, house paperwork, etc.  It's often a lot easier to find things electronically than in a file anyway, and it only takes a few seconds to scan.  Get creative when you scan, too. I like to tear good ideas out of a magazines - scan those, too!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Haircuts!

Buh-bye, Little Mr. Mullet and Big Mr. Sideburns!
Hello, short and simple cuts!


Free family entertainment

We've been hearing that BassPro was a really cool place.  Honestly, it wasn't even in our top 10,000 places to go in our lifetime, but we decided to go visit last night.  AMAZING!  The place was AWESOME!  It kept our boys entertained for 2 hours!  It was quite educational, too (for all of us).  Seriously, it's the closest thing to an indoor zoo that Des Moines has:

"Hello, bear.  I'm Ryan.  Want some of my chicken?":



We ate dinner at Uncle Bucks (good food and reasonably priced and super friendly service) and there was so much to look at that we barely noticed the wait for our food.  Dozens of huge fish hanging above our table.  "That's the biggest fish ever ever EVER":


An impressive, huge aquarium and waterfall:



A shooting range (laser), tons of animals, interesting items for sale, we had a BLAST for just the cost of a dinner out....we didn't even go bowling, but I wanted to. (I seriously doubt that bowling with a 2 and 1 year old would have been really fun..)  Totally recommend it!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New recipe

Here's a heathy recipe that's requested often in our house.  Steak with spinach couscous





3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pound flank steak
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 10-ounce box couscous (I like the parmesan flavored)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1/4 cup pine nuts (I don't normally include)
2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup Feta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season the steak with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Cook to the desired doneness, 6 minutes per side for medium-rare.  Let rest before slicing.
  • Cook the couscous according to the package directions.
  • Wipe out the skillet.  Cook the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the garlic, and pine nutes over medium heat, stirring until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add lemon juice.
  • Arrange steak and spinach on plates.  Sprinkle couscous and feta on spinach.  Pour oil/garlic/pine nuts/lemon juice over the spinach and steak.

(We don't eat nearly the entire box of couscous - maybe half?  Add I spray a little lemon juice over the plate in addition.)  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Whirlwind week

What a busy week we've had.  It's been a ton of fun and like usual, I forgot to take pictures of the majority of it.  From Curious George to friends to new appliances.... here are the highlights:
  • Got sick sick sick.  Thought my eardrum was going to burst and my throat was going to close up for good.  Neither happened, thankfully.  Starting to feel better today.
  • Had great friends over for New Years Eve!  We love you guys!
  • Took Ryan to Curious George.  It was the first time we have ever intentionally separated the boys - while I missed Seth, it was fun to focus on Ryan and see his happy little eyes and smile.
Trying to get onstage (you can barely see him, but Ryan is sneaking up the stairs to the stage):
    In the happy popcorn-and-George-zone:

  • Had a surprise visit by James & Marilyn Terry.  They were out-and-about and stopped by for a few minutes - was so fun to see them!


  • Spent an evening with friends that we hadn't seen in awhile and ate too much food.  Got a great new recipe for awesome buffalo chicken cheese dip.

  • Packed Troy up to go stay with a friend of his who is really struggling with some difficulty right now.  Was ecstatic to hear that he's been to a church, is asking a lot of questions now, and seems to have a great start on turning his life toward the right direction! 
  • Got a big big big surprise - a new washer and dryer. A.W.E.S.O.M.E.  I have NEVER been so happy to do laundry before.  I can wash and dry a load in 80 minutes.  That's 3 times as fast as my old system.  Woo hoo.  We are so thankful for people's thoughtfulness and generosity.




  • Decided to paint our family room and kitchen and have made some tentative color choices that will work with the couch, carpet, color of entertainment center, kitchen cabinets, flooring, and new countertops that we'll be getting next month (ba-bye ugly nasty counters).  I said just DECIDED, we haven't done it yet.  This room is going to be a PAIN to paint.  Cuz you can't have "paint" without "pain".  Sigh - I'm excited too see what everything is going to look like!!! 
  • Watched Iowa win the Orange Bowl (that's a little premature.  It's only 2nd quarter right now - but I'm being positive).
Happy 2010 everyone!

Friday, January 1, 2010

TIps


I know I'm a little weird, but I've determined that it will be easier to convert everyone else to my weirdness rather than becoming un-weird.  Sooooo, I'm going to give you tips on being weird - just like me.  I use these little time-savers, cost-savers, or repurpose ideas all the time.  I've had just enough people say "Weird!  You do WHAT?  What an idea", that I'm inspired.  Here you go:

1.  Putting out ice for drinks  (This was discussed last night, right girls?):  To keep your ice from melting into a pool of cold water and re-freezing in one big lump, pour your ice into a colander placed in a big bowl.  This allows the melted ice to settle at the bottom and keeps your ice fresh on top.

2.  Paper towels cores.  Save your empty paper towl rolls - slide them into a drawer and stuff your used plastic bags in them.  Keeps them handy and confined.

3.  Double your batches.  I know everyone knows about this but I'm surprised at how few do it.  Again, I'm weird.  Making spaghetti?  Brown twice as much meat, mix it with the sauce and freeze half of it - you'll have another night ready (spaghetti, lasagna, lots of pastas, grinders, etc) to go - all you have to do is reheat.  Same with chicken - cook it in the crockpot with some broth overnight and it will be ready for easy shredding/cubing in the morning.  If you made twice as much, you'll have shredded chicken for fajitas another night.  Chocolate chip cookie dough: make extra cookie balls and freeze.  Potroast:  shred the extra and freeze for BBQ beef or beef and noodles later.  I know, this is nothing earth-shattering, but its how this workin' mama survives!  The Ziploc vacuum bags are awesome for this purpose.

4.  Dental floss:  I know you would never use this for its normal purpose, right?  So use it to cut blocks of cheese, cheese cake, layer cakes...  Antacid tablets:  drop one of these in a little water at the bottom of your floral vases to get out those nasty stains that flowers leave behind.

5.  Homemade toilet bowl cleaner.  I've taken a lot of grief for this one at work (I work with some MEAN girls!!!! hee hee hee).  This concoction is quick, easy, cheap, and a lot less toxic that off-the-shelf-cleaners.  Mix some cheap (like $.99 stuff, people) hair conditioner - a few squirts - with water, and if you have it: a few drops of Shaklee Basic G.  I keep this in a toilet brush bowl that I got for a few bucks at Target.  It's always ready, smells good, and won't kill my boys if they spill it.  Plus, the "waxiness" of the conditioner helps keep nasty things from sticking to your toilet bowl.  I can't stress how BAD store-bought bleaches and drop-ins and cleaners are to have around the house, and while I don't really condone drinking conditioner...it's the better option.  It doesn't take much to do the trick!


That's all for now - stay tuned for another installment sometime in 2010.