Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter traditions

Haven't gone an Easter without making these....and I don't even really like coconut.  Oh well, I can't argue with tradition.  For the first time, Ryan actually hung out with me and helped make some treats tonight.  It could be that I bribed him with M&Ms?!?  Oh well - a small price to pay for having some company in the kitchen.  (Dear God, please do not give me a girl that doesn't like to cook.  I ALWAYS loved cooking with my Mom.  *right, Mom?*).

Anyway, we made some birds nests and had a blast.

Then we took some bread crusts out to feed to the birds outside.  Ryan was excited to know that the birds were going to come eat them all while we were sleeping.  Sorry, birds...our dumb dog ate them before you could get to them.  Maybe we'll get a bird feeder.  Hmmmm.  Highly unlikely - Troy is afraid of birds (he won't admit it though).

What was Seth doing this entire time?  VERY serious about his game:

We're excited for a play-date, painting/decorating intervention tomorrow.  I told Ryan that Henry was coming over to play.  His response:  "And Thomas? And Percy?  And James and all the other trains?"   Sigh - I'm really annoyed with Thomas the Train.  I told him that this *real* Henry was WAY better than a train - the lightbulb went off:  "Ok, my friend Henry from my class!  We have to share."  I've got my fingers crossed :-)
Almost 11 - staying up to make stinkin cookies for my friends at CG.  The boys and I are doing a little treat delivery at work tomorrow.  Girls - I know you're reading this: ready or not, here we all come!

Searching for the best macaroni and cheese

I've been on a quest for years to find the tastiest mac n cheese dish.  I've tried dozens of recipes - some have been okay; others have been just odd and gross.  My husband's favorite is one I made WAY back when: a nasty one with tons of that block processed "cheese product".  Gross.  I'm beginning to be a bit of a cheese snob.  Well, I rarely find a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe that we don't like.  This Classic Mac and Cheese recipe came close to the top of the list.  Just a warning that the cheeses it calls for are unique ("expensive"). 

6 TBS unsalted butter, plus more for dish
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces.
2 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black papper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (about 4 oz) or 3/4 cup grapted Romano cheese (about 3 oz)
3-4 cups elbow macaroni (I like the Ronzoni whole grain)

1.  Heat over to 375.  Butter a 2 quart casserole dish; set aside.  Place bread ina medium bowl.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter.  Pour butter into bowl with bread and toss.  Set breadcrumbs aside.
2.  In a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, heat milk.  Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat.  When butter bubbles, add flour.  Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
3.  While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk.  Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes think.
4.  Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmet, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and MOST of the cheddar and Gruyere/Romano cheese (resevering some cheese to sprinkle on top); set cheese sauce aside.
5.  Cook macaroni 2-3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions; drain, rinse.  Add to reserved cheese sauce.
6.  Pour mixture into prepared dish.  Sprinkle remaining cheeses and breadcrumbs over top.  Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Home economics

I get overly excited by the smallest things; but that's what keeps life interesting.  Like this:

This is a cool painting that my really talented friend made.

I always loved these colors, which is why when another really talented friend Natalie L suggested that I find some pillows for inspiration in redecorating our living room, I was drawn to this one:

And I needed some new kitchen curtains....and of course couldn't find any that I liked.  I went to my fave fabric store hoping to find something that would kinda-sorta match and I actually did a happy dance in the middle of the aisle when I saw some fabric....which was 50% off.  Boo-yah!  I figured the ladies at the checkout counter would be so excited for me when I showed them the E painting above - about how well it coordinated with the fabric - but they weren't.  No one was having a very friendly day there, or maybe I was just overly excited and they didn't share my enthusiasm. But I decided to try my hand at sewing.  Hadn't sewn in a LONG time and thought I was going to have to google "bobbin threading" cuz I just couldn't remember; but like riding a bike, it all came back.  Mom, aren't you so proud?  Anyway, take a look at these curtains.  Aren't they the PERFECT fabric?  (don't look at my 4th grade-looking seams)

Seriously - look at the E, then look at the fabric.  Repeat.  One more time.  AHHHHHH! Happy times!  And the best part - the curtains cost a whopping $9 in fabric (and they're lined!).
And my other happiness - our counters are coming in only 5.5 days now. Finally.
And my other happiness - my aforementioned talented painter friend is going to come help me pull all my designs together with some more paint on the walls.  After weeks of sick kids, months of very sick husband, living in a construction zone, working too much, falling behind in all aspects, potty training boot camp, a jammed/broken/fractured/whatever toe, I'm seeing HAPPY COLORS again :-)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More tips

Back by popular demand, here are some more tips that make life easier:

  • Keep a few large marshmallows in your brown sugar - keeps the sugar soft and moist (Ew, I hate that word).
  • Car essentials:  Keep these things in your vehicle:
    • A roll of mini diaper disposal bags in your glovebox.  Great for keeping trash and little odds and ends until you can throw it away. They work well for placemats or napkins while eating in the car (who DOES that!?!?).  Plus, most of them are scented so they add a discrete scent to your car and they barely take up any room. 
    • Save your extra napkins and straws.  You'll need them. 
    • Paper towels (or a reusable cloth) and a mini spray bottle of all-purpose cleanerBoy, you'll use it.  I love clean cars and any time I'm a passenger I clean out the cupholders, windows, etc....(and sometimes I do it when I'm the driver!). Plus, handy for cleaning up spills, dirty faces, etc.  Wipes could do the trick, but we can get pretty wasteful with wipes.
  • When your doctor or pediatrician calls to confirm your upcoming appointment, answer the phone and ask them to scan and e-mail or fax (or mail) you any forms that need to be filled out.  Then have them completed and ready to go at the appointment.  This is a huge time saver and stress-reducer.  I almost ALWAYS have a new form to complete or an "update" form and having them completed when I signed in is so much better than trying to dig out all the information in the waiting room with sick or scared kids.  They've always been willing to do this and are always pleasantly surprised when I arrive prepared.
  • Use raw spaghetti strands to light hard-to-reach candles.  (Light the spaghetti, then transfer flame to wick).  I've actually only done this one. I know the CG girls are going to make fun of this one, go ahead.
  • Store your sheet sets inside the pillowcase.
  • Get a brightly colored wallet - SO much easier to see floating around in your purse.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oh be careful little ears what you hear....

Maybe you'll find this twisted tale kinda funny.  It's not, but it is.  The other day (pre-toe injury) I was up on a stepstool hanging a picture.  I asked Troy to come grab the hammer from me.  He is in an odd mood, grabs the hammer from me and pretends to be a tough guy and goes to fake-hit me with it.  (you might be thinking this is wierd, but remember that I married a football player/'s not unusual to get swim-moved, hip-checked, stiff armed, or chest-bumped while minding your own business around here).  Anyway.  Uh oh..Ryan saw this little move.  His eyes got HUGE and he jumps up:  "Daddy, you do NOT hit Mommy.  Daddy that is NOT KIND.  Daddy you have to be kind to mommy and not hit her with a hammer....." Daddy and I are both laughing and explaining to Ryan that we are just being silly, and that Daddy would never hurt Mommy, etc.  Ryan will NOT let it go.  He keeps telling the story: "Remember when Daddy hit Mommy with a hammer when she was up high just trying to make the house fixed all better?"  He's telling everyone.  So I have a little chat with him to tell him that we don't even need to keep talking about it because it was just a funny game we played, Mommy is not hurt, Daddy is funny, Daddy would never hurt Mommy and all kinds of things about having fun together.  So two days later we go to the store and the stinking friendly cashier starts chatting up Ryan while I'm distracted with items in the cart.  Sure enough I hear this sweet little voice:  "My Daddy hit Mommy with a hammer when she was just working hard trying to make the house all better!!!  Well we don't talk about that now.  We don't need to tell that story to people."  Grrrrrreat.  Looks even worse now.  Ryan's story plus my limping = awkward times.  I love the talkative stage.

Friday, March 19, 2010


So I'm pretty sure I broke two of my toes last night - or at least jammed them badly. Its been 24 hours and they are still throbbing, swollen, and black/blue.  Here's how it all went down:
There was a balloon by our fireplace and I went to kick it up in the air (don't ask why).  Oh, I kicked it alright, but NAILED the fireplace with my poor little foot.  I heard the crack in my toes.  I hit the ground and was writhing in pain.  Troy, sitting 5 feet away, barely even acknowledges me.  I think I heard him cringe, but that was it.  I was down for several minutes...being surprisingly tough:  no swearing, screaming, or crying...but at one point I did say something like "I'd rather be in labor right now."  It H.U.R.T.  Troy did nothing.  Sorry, he's a great husband, but just has zero ability to intervene when I'm injured.  I've seen this from him before so I know not to expect much.  He has the "I-hope-she's-okay-quickly-so-I-can-laugh-hard-out-loud" problem.  Sympathy?  Nope.  Help?  Nope.  Super guy, horrible nurse.  Anyway.....I finally get to a point where I can sit up and I decide I'm done painting/decorating; I'm just going to take my sorry little toes and go to bed.  I tell Troy this and he says, "You need some ice".  Blah, whatever, dude.  Then, GET THIS!  As I'm heading up to bed I hear him call out "Ohhhhhh, ewwwwwww" and he inhales really sharply and cringes.  I'm thinking: 'Oh, he's realizing that I'm in pain and limping and he's going to help me up to bed.' But NOOOOOOOO.  I come back around the corner and see him grimacing in front of the TV.  He says "Ah, did he get hurt?!?!?"  Oh!My!Word!  He is watching the basketball game and some stupid player went up for a layup, missed the shot, and came down hard.  HE WAS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT THE STUPID BASKETBALL PLAYER THAN ME!!!!  Some rich, popular, 7 foot, 250 pound big, tough, guy playing in the NCAA tourney gets more sympathy than me.  Funny thing was that Troy didn't even realize that he reacted more strongly to his basketball player than he did to me.  I shot him a very non-Christian look and maybe mumbled a few things to him about hoping his bball best friend would start cooking and cleaning the house for him while I was unable to walk the next few days. 
Man, what are these guys thinking sometime?
Troy - I still love you and I've forgiven you for your incredible oversight, but my toes are not so forgiving.  I'm thinking about slipping some laxatives in his breakfast tomorrow; don't tell him.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

13 sticks of butter

My sweet little niece, Sydney, is a big one-year old now.  We had a fun birthday party for her this weekend and her Mommy let me make the cupcakes.  It was SO FUN making something for a little girl for a change!  In case you are wondering, it takes 13 sticks of butter to make 125 cupcakes and buttercream icing; isn't that amazing? Here they are:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A tale of two cities

A tale of two cities today. 
Earlier today I was discussing with my sister how interesting it was that some of the happiest moments in our lives were completely simplistic, unexpected, and surprisingly without fanfare.  Mine:  I was sitting by an open window November, 2008 (do you remember how warm it was - 60-70s for a few days), folding a zillion onesies and baby socks after bringing Seth home from the hospital. Both boys were napping:  Ryan getting used to his big boy bed and Seth in his swing next to me.  I was dead tired and sore, surrounded by mess - but it was the most beautiful mess I've ever seen: little clothes, gifts from family and friends, thank you notes to be written, Mom in the kitchen making tons of food. And this feeling of peace, contentment and happiness just washed over me and I'll never forget it.  I was so happy to be blessed by such a wonderful family. 
My sister shared her similar moment: "I was sitting in the nursery on a gorgeous summer day, when my first little boy, M, was tiny. M was peacefully lying on a blanket on the floor (in the sunlight to fight his jaundice, as instructed). I was just watching him look around, wave his little hands and feet, make all those little baby noises. Nursery lullabies were playing. I rocked and rocked, not caring that there were other things I could be doing. I just loved my baby and the moment of joy."
Do you remember those moments?  Do they jump out of your memory so clearly that they make you gasp?  Do they bring tears to your eyes? tonight.  I've had sick kids for a LONG time now and I had screaming/crying for 3 straight hours tonight- no joking.  That's a first.  I've never had it that bad before.  I was out of my mind.  I couldn't do anything to help them.  Troy was at conferences.  Boy did I lose it.  Patience was shot, I was in physical pain, mentally exhuasted, and angry that I couldn't fix the situation.  But think about it: that was 3 hours and I was ready to kick the bucket.  I put Seth to bed and as he kept crying in his bed, he was holding my hand as we prayed....and I prayed and prayed and prayed for more patience, strength, wisdom, energy.  Pretty humbling that God can put up with me for 29 years of my crying/screaming/annoying/disobedient behavior, but 2 little boys about do me in after only 3 hours.  Hmmmmm.  My prayers changed really quickly to ones of thankfulness and awe.

Share your quiet but amazing moments of joy, will you?  Please! I think we need to celebrate them! 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A lesson in patience

So if you need to learn to be patient, long-suffering, humble....I've got just the idea for you.  Teach a college course once.  Tonight was Night 1 in a class I'm teaching.  Keep in mind these are senior bachelor students.  Overheard tonight in class:
  • "Is she 16?"
  • "Some teachers tell us that if we have perfect attendance we don't have to take the final exam, but you have the final exam listed in your syllabus.  Is that for real?  Do we really have to take it?"
  • "Can we get extra credit?"  Heard this one 3 times.
  • "Do we really have to buy the book?"
  • "Why don't we get next week off for Spring Break?"
  • "This teacher is ridiculous!"
  • "I have to drive from Boone every week so if I leave a few hours early, don't take it personally."  Uh, ok....but only a few hours!?! 
  • "This is going go be WAY harder than I want for a spring term".
  • "I wonder if she's married."  "Ask her."  "No, you ask her."
  • "I'm on a few medications so if I act annoyed and irritable, its just a side effect."
  • "Just how tough do you grade?  If I put all the possible choices down, will you count it right?"
Sigh.  Overall, they are a good class with lots of fresh, happy faces, I'm just always surprised by the things they say...that I wouldn't have dreamt about saying to my professors.  (Probably would have gotten demerits, but that's another topic.)

It's arrived

I don't know how I've lived without it for the past 5 years.  Especially since every Sunday, I have to find room in the freezer for this much food:

Our meals for this week, minus a few fresh sides made later: chicken strips, ham steak, baked ziti, cheese tortellini, potato corn casserole, garlic grean beans, pasta salad.... )

My husband found a great deal online, and the newest addition to our family has arrived.  Isn't she beautiful?

Oh, the possibilities!  My fridge/freezer can have some breathing room now.  Buying a quarter of a cow (that's always sounded so gross...but we eat meat....and buying this way is healthier - we know the 'organic' farmer - and more econical.  Buying bulk sales.  I can double even MORE meals!  Store more baby food! I'm just so excited.  Welcome home, new friend.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Makin' a splash

Oh, mud puddles, we love you. You're so messy and dirty. You simply cannot be walked around. We MUST play with you. We go out of our way to stop by and introduce our shiny white shoes to you. We can't help ourselves: we fall into you. You're just so fun. We love the splashing. We love the uckiness. We love the bright sun reflecting off your goo. Thank you, God, for the miracle of mud puddles.
- Love, Ryan & Seth
Thank you, washing machine, for working overtime this weekend.
- Love, One Girl Among (muddy) Boys

Friday, March 5, 2010

Vacation spots?

Where to go for vacation? Where, oh, where? Oh help! It seems like every place we want to go is somewhere we want to take the kids to in a few years. I need some suggestions. We plan to go to Arizona and see some family there this summer but we also plan to spend a week somewhere in late June. I know it sounds random, but we're thinking about San Antonio. Ever been there? What are your favorite family vacation places? If I pick your idea, I'll take you with us. Doesn't that sound like a deal?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy Wedding Day!

Dustin and Natalie - congratulations on your big day! Hope you have a wonderful, happy, special day that you'll never forget. Sad that we are not there, but we are sending our love:

Monday, March 1, 2010

God - thank you for my boys

Dear boys,

Ryan: you are silly, unpredictable, and just the perfect combination of rowdy/wild, and sweet/cuddly. You like things JUST SO. You like to say "looking gooooood" as you get dressed every morning. You tell me you love me a dozen times a day, out of the blue. You are obsessed with little scraps of paper, flash cards, tickets, recipes, receipts. You sing songs that make me smile. You preach to me stories thare are not exactly "right", but it shows how smart and insightful you are. You love your brother, your Dad, and your Zekie and your green blanket. You are a picky eater, but you thank me at every meal for my "tookins" (cookings). You are thoughtful, funny, creative, stubborn, and talkative. I am thankful for you and all the happiness you bring to my day.

Seth: you are simply wild. You never stop moving and you've been that way since before you were born. I can see what you are thinking in your eyes. You're the little boy who works at something undeterred until you've demolished it. You are determined and tough one minute, then giving "ahhhhs" the next. You are growing up so quickly and your personality is going to be bigger than life. You love playing with your brother, you love to entertain your Dad and me. You keep me guessing and keep everyone on their toes. You're the #1 reason our dog is fat. You are going to be sensitive and quick to react, an entertainer and a peacemaker. I am thankful for you and that your sweet smile makes even the day-to-day routines a joy.

God: I am thankful to be simply One Girl Among (my precious) Boys.