Friday, May 30, 2014

This Week In My Kitchen (a day late)

I am participating in this blog hop for the first time.  It is held on Thursdays, so this week I am a day late -- and hoping to "get my foot in the door!"  I posted yesterday's recipe, forgetting that it was supposed to be THE BLOG-HOP DAY.  Oy.

Our hostess is HEATHER over at Beauty That Moves.  I've enjoyed seeing her "kitchen" photos, and checking out the other blogs that participate as well.  Each one different... unique.  I love it.

Perhaps our kitchen is not as natural, or healthful as other participants... nevertheless, I love the time I spend in the kitchen.  It is indeed the heart of our home, and my hope is that my photos will reflect that.

 Welcome new friends -- and ENJOY!

:: Capturing my love of food, combined with the activity of a bustling kitchen.
A weekly collection of photos from the heart of our home. ::

Beauty That Moves
[click photo to join blog hop -- or see rules at bottom of page]

Baking muffins for Memorial Day breakfast.

Loading up after lots of kitchen activity.

Encouraging the kids to make
better decisions about what to drink this summer!
Water and/or sugar-free singles!

Aunt Kathy's Beans for our Memorial Day get-together.

Chicken Fajitas for dinner!  [recipe coming soon]

It's simple to join in:
  • On your blog, post photos taken in your kitchen throughout the week.
  • Words aren't necessary, your photos will tell the the story. Some of us enjoy adding a few thoughts to accompany the images... the choice is yours. 
  • Feel free to grab the brief description at the top of this post, or add a few words of your own to explain the project.)
  • Link back to this post so your readers can visit This Week In My Kitchen and join in. 
  • Come back here and link up your current post (not your main blog) so we can all visit your kitchen!
  • Join me every Thursday or the occasional Thursday if that works better for you.
  • Please be sure to only link up if you are participating in this series. Thank you!

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Recipe: Skillet Beef Chop Suey

Once upon a time, I told you that I would share this recipe.  I thought it was time.  It is still one of my favorites, and if I have all of the ingredients, it's an easy and delicious dinner!

Skillet Beef Chop Suey (4-6 servings)

1 lb. ground round
1½ cups celery strips
1 cup green pepper strips
1 large onion, wedged (I often use dehydrated onion flakes instead.  Before cutting the other veggies, I add a small amount of water to the veggie bowl & add 1Tablespoon of onions first, to hydrate.)

1⅓ cups water
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. garlic salt
⅛ tsp. black pepper

2 cups water
2 cups Minute Rice

Brown meat in large frying pan.  Drain grease.  Add vegetables.  In a bowl, combine water, cornstarch, soy sauce, garlic salt, and black pepper.  Mix well, and pour over meat/vegetable mixture.  Bring to a boil, and then turn to simmer until sauce is thickened, and vegetables are as done as you want them.  While this mixture simmers, prepare rice per package directions.  [Obviously the quantity of rice can be changed to suit your family.]

Serve meat and vegetable mixture over rice.  I like to have the soy sauce on hand for a little extra seasoning after I've served myself.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

graze update 5.28.14

We received our last graze package a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd [finally] give a last report.

Below, I've listed the four snacks that came in this box, and the... "comments" that my hubby gave them.  I confess, other than the popcorn (which my daughter ate), none of these snacks really appealed to me.  I ended up tossing them in my hubby's lunchbox as an afternoon pick-me-up -- so the exciting comments below (in italics) are his.
  • hot cross yum - orange raisins, sponge pieces (WHAT?), & cinnamon honey almonds - nah
  • lightly salted popcorn - a small personal sized bag, which my daughter said was delicious.
  • apple cosmo - apple, lime raisins, and cranberries - okay
  • boston baguettes w/ a bbq relish- not-so-much
Yeah, turns out they weren't really his cup of tea either.

You might remember that I said HERE that this would be our last box.  It didn't end up being a cost-effective option for our family.  You can read all of my graze posts HERE.

** I received no compensation for this post.  Just thought I share our experience with a new product.
Opinions are mine -- and my family's.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Date Night Theme: FREE

Recently, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave us some play tickets that they won and were not able to use... to Shrek the musical -- along with... a voucher for one FREE overnight at a hotel not far from the theatre -- all about 30 minutes or so from home.

My sweet hubby and I made a plan for the evening, which included him leaving work early, and us going out to eat before the play.  I planned ahead (you know, in case my hubby asked me where we should go for dinner) and asked my Facebook friends what restaurants they recommended in the area near the theatre -- but the answers I got were a little pricey.  Everyone even admitted this in their comments.  Pricey isn't exactly what we were going for.  After all, the theme of our evening had already been determined:  "FREE."  *wink

We decided on a favorite restaurant of ours that was on the way and therefore convenient:  Red Robin.  I gave the waitress my RR card, and she came back to our table with the news that we had earned a FREE dinner! See?  I told you!  A theme!

Dinner was delicious, and we were off to check into the hotel before the play.  Upon arriving at the hotel, we realized that the certificate that my brother-in-law gave my hubby had expired.  We decided that we would go in and ask the person manning the desk if they could honor our certificate.  If not, we decided we'd head home. Since this was a spur of the moment trip, and not in our budget, we decided we'd rather save the money for our upcoming vacation than spend it for a hotel 30 minutes from home!  But... guess what?  They honored the certificate!

After checking in, we drove around the city.  Although this city is only 30 minutes from home, it's not one we're familiar with.  We drove around the arts district near the theatre, where there was some form of artwork on almost every corner -- or a WALL nearby!  It was a beautiful evening, and my hubby and I like to explore new places, so we were glad to just circle around the city, enjoying the sights!

Finally it was off to the play.  It was held at a local Players Guild Theatre.  Our seats were in row "L."  Let me do the math for you.  That's the 12th row.  There were only two more rows behind us.  Small theatre!

Shrek (the movie) is a childhood FAV around here, but... I wasn't sure if I could imagine it in the form of a MUSICAL!  There was a lot of great local talent, though, and it was obvious that the cast had lots of fun with this musical!

You could say that my hubby and I are "cheap" -- and you wouldn't be wrong.  I have to say that we were kind of tickled not to be spending tons of money for a nice evening out and an overnight.  For years we have tried to teach our kids the value of a dollar and that:
  • in one respect, everything costs something -- even if it's just your time, or gas money getting to a free event!
  • but from another perspective, there are always things to do that don't cost anything.  You just have to learn to look for them.

Have you found any inexpensive (or FREE) things to do with your family (or your honey) that have become "favorites?"

Here's one of my favorite tips:  search the internet for summer festivals in your area.  It's likely that somebody has compiled a list somewhere documenting the details.  Take advantage of that information, and look especially for events that have no entrance fee.

We kicked off the "unofficial start of summer" with a free date night, and we look forward to many free events and adventures to come this summer!  How about you?

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Amazing Who?

Oh that Spider Man II.  He has alluded my dear daughter.  Her brother got to go see the movie and she wasn't able to go along.  But, he promised he'd take her...

So tonight -- a school night -- is the last night that it will show at the cheap theatre, and he asked her if she could go.  So, she asked me.  I happen to know that she has a Spanish test tomorrow.  She's feeling rather confident about it (she is good in Spanish) -- nevertheless, I told her that she had to study for her test until it's time to leave.

She grabs her Spanish notebook, and heads upstairs... to her brother's room.  I am just about to yell up the stairs that I don't think she'll be getting much Spanish studying done in her brother's room (he speaks only English - LOL), when I stop to listen and I hear...

...a back-and-forth, brother-sister, English-Spanish banter.  He is helping her study so that she can go to the movie.

Of course, in between, there is lots of laughter.  When I listen again, I realize that they have reversed the roles, and he is attempting to pronounce the Spanish words.

The whole situation: PRICELESS.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gravity Racing Challenge 2014

Last weekend was a pretty busy one for us as our entire Saturday was spent at Derby Downs for the Gravity Racing Challenge.   I showed you pictures of the much smaller event in Cleveland HERE.  Our team was there only to experience a "test run" and to get a feel for how the car was driving before the race in Akron.

Saturday was the actual event in Akron, and we had to be there bright and early so that our daughter could check in with her team, and be prepared for the parade at 8AM.  There are all of the participants (above) marching down the hill led by a local marching band.  I'm not going to lie... it felt like kind of a big deal to this former homeschooling mom.

If you've never been to an event like this, let me just tell you... it can be slow-moving if all of the cars aren't in position at the correct times.  Also, they run on a wet track, so although the rain halted them temporarily, they were back at it again after the puddles [and the HAIL] had been swept from the track.  Yep.  It was an interesting day.  For me, it was one of those days that I just could NOT get warm.  I had on a t-shirt, hoodie, fleece jacket, and quilted windbreaker -- and there were stretches when my sweet hubby donated his Carhartt to the cause!

While it rained, they had the chance to get all the cars lined up so that when it stopped raining... they were ready for a really long and consistent stretch of racing.  That was the best part of the day.

My mom -- and my family.

It was fun having my parents there too -- and they were good sports about sitting out in the rain!

Dad and I.

Our team didn't "place" this year.  We won three heats, and then we were beat out by our own district's intermediate school car.  Kind of a BOO!/Oh yay! situation if you know what I mean.

All in all, it was a good day of fun made complete by:
  1. our daughter's immense enjoyment of the entire experience
  2. a quick mid-afternoon run to Dunkin' Donuts for hot coffee and doughnuts {Seriously, this was KEY to finishing the day strong.  There were no hot drinks for sale at the track, and it was COLD.}
  3. the race for HOT SHOWERS upon returning home  {LOL, yes, we are wimps!}

(Crazy kid!)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thank You, and Taco Salad

Thank you for your kindness and encouraging words regarding THIS POST.  Judging by the comments I received both here and via other social media -- you get me.  It seems many of us are suffering from the blues. That in and of itself is a comfort to me because it lets me know that I'm not the only one that this year's crazy winter and spring has affected.  In other words, all the "crazy" hasn't made me... CRAZY.

So, Happy Monday.  It's a new week, and I'm rarin' to go.

Our family enjoyed a wonderful delayed Second Sunday that encompassed Mother's Day, and Jill's birthday.  Everyone came to our house, and I served a Taco Salad buffet.  Jill brought some ingredients to contribute, and Mom made the dessert: birthday cake.

The very simple buffet included:
  • mixed greens (bags of salad, and a bag of baby spinach to mix in)
  • taco-seasoned beef
  • salsa
  • taco sauce
  • shredded cheese
  • diced tomato
  • tortilla chips

We had enough pink lemonade (we usually stick to one or two sugar-free beverages for Second Sunday) for our "crowd" of 11, and coffee and tea to go with the birthday cake and ice cream.

This was a great after-church meal to pull together after a busy Saturday.  I set the tables when I got home from church, and then, all I had to do was re-heat the meat mixture I'd made the night before, dice the tomatoes, and put everything else in serving dishes.  My son made the lemonade and got extra chairs out for me.  I was glad he was around for a few last minute bits of help.

Hope you had a great weekend.  I've got more to share about our weekend later this week.  Stay tuned!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Holding Back the Truth

I haven't been really honest with you.  Instead, I've been absent.

I love to leave comments for bloggers who have spilled their guts and been honest.  "Thanks for keeping it real," I tell them.  And yet, I haven't offered much honesty, or much of my personal reality here lately.

Because lately:
  • I haven't felt especially inspired to write.
  • I haven't felt inspired to take pictures.  Between snow, rain, or a generally squishy yard, I've hardly ventured out to snap pictures in recent months.
  • I haven't felt as if I am in a position to spend money to do random projects (that I wouldn't have done otherwise) just for the sake of a blog post.
  • I have been guilty lately of comparing myself to other [more popular] bloggers, and thinking "why bother?"  {Comparison is indeed the thief of JOY!}
  • I have made some bad choices (in some simple "blip-on-the-screen-of-life" kind of ways) when it comes to taking care of myself, and doing right by myself in order to be FULLY HERE for my family.
  • I have let life get the best of me -- instead of giving MY BEST to life.
  • I have let the business of rocking babies (which I LOVE, and do well) be my excuse for not doing other things well around here.  {How do moms who work FULL time do it?}
  • I have let the weather (and allergies) dictate my mood.
  • I have let my inclination to be a homebody limit me.

If I'm honest, I guess I'd say that this is just the short list.

I guess if you're honest, too, you might say that you've had days, or weeks, or months like this.

Blah.  I feel like I just dumped a depressing load on you all.  I don't often give in to lots of these negative thoughts.  You know.... I'm supposed to be the "cup overflowing" girl, and that is generally how I really feel.  But -- as I was thinking all of these thoughts today, I imagined that I cannot be the only one who feels this way, and so I decided to share.

Forgive me if it's too much.  But, if there is JUST ONE of you who feels the same, then it was worth me mentioning it.  Together, we now belong to the "OOPS, NOW YOU KNOW I'M HUMAN" club.

If you, like me, need a little inspiration lately, try these thought-provoking posts:
*I Am Enough
*What Candace Cameron Bure's Waltz Teaches Us About God
*About Comparing Ourselves to Others

I'm determined that tomorrow will be a better day.  Next week?  A better week!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

We enjoyed an awesome weekend with our family, celebrating our niece's First Communion and May birthdays for her and two sisters -- as well as Mother's Day.  

We've been living a lot of busy-ness around here, and just trying to keep up.  I mentioned that my son's car needed some major repair, and while it's being worked on, I've been doing a little more of Mom's Taxi Service.  I am more than happy to do this, but the driving back and forth does have a way of eating up the day.

We did have torrential downpours the other night, and spent some time in the basement due to dangerous weather warnings -- with a bit of water added in the basement, just to keep things interesting.  Nothing too out of control -- but lots of scurrying to position towels and rugs to soak up the water, while moving larger pieces of carpet out of the way.  Then there's the matter of drying everything out to be used once again... you know, in between the bouts of rain.

Winter may have been especially long and seemingly unending, but spring... well, spring has been interesting so far -- to say the least.  This world of ours has been topsy-turvy and turned on it's ear lately, hasn't it?

This weekend will be a busy one, beginning with the Gravity Race Challenge that my daughter is participating in with a team from her school.  That will take up most of our Saturday, I suspect.  I'm looking forward to a rescheduled SECOND SUNDAY Mother's Day celebration with my side of the family this weekend, which will also include Jill's birthday celebration.

We are looking forward to the end of school around here!  What's up at your house?

Friday, May 9, 2014

T.G.I.F. and Happy Mother's Day!

We're off on a little road trip this weekend -- a trip we've been looking forward to for a while now -- spending time with family, and FOUR of our FAVORITE GIRLS!  It's supposed to be pretty warm -- and rainy. Of course, that rain might be a little reprieve from just plain heat... or not.  Nothing like going from frosty nights to Geez Louise -- it's really hot out here!  I've had to totally rethink my packing list for the trip!

We will miss celebrating Mother's Day with my mom on our traditional "Second Sunday," but we have already rescheduled for next week, when we will celebrate Jill's birthday as well.

Our daughter is counting up the last days of school (18 + 2 exam days), and our son is counting up the last of his money (kidding, sort of) as he prepares to have some pothole damage repaired on his car.  There is never a dull moment around here.

My baby-rocking days are dropping off for the summer.  I just have a few more scheduled.  That means my days are freeing up, and I'm hoping to get back onto a regular schedule of blogging... or maybe I should clean the bathroom sink and shower.  [I'll think about it and get back to you.  *wink]

The grass is growing at an alarming rate because of all the rain we've had, and the weeds are doing a fine job of keeping up.  We're starting the season out right with some mulch for the gardens.  We tell ourselves we'll get some every year, and it somehow gets away from us.  It really is a fresh start after a hard winter.  We have a few plants that we don't think made it: a Hibiscus, and two Bougainvillea.

We planted some fun Fiber-Optic Grass [it looks just like a fiber-optic Christmas decoration!] a week or so ago, and as we were adding mulch around that garden recently, I noticed that the grass is cropped back in places.  It becomes tangled pretty easily, and I asked my hubby if he had to cut it back to untangle the three pots before he planted the grass.  He just looked at me and said, "Ummmm, noooo.  That would be the rabbits.  Apparently, they like it!"  Great.  Score another one for the bunnies.

As far as scheduling life, I'm already projecting out to June (VBS and vacation), July (daughter's ministry trip), and August (don't schedule me for anything!)

How about you?  Have you gone straight from Winter to Summer in your neck of the woods?  Did you lose any plants due to the harsh winter?  Is your summer calendar filling up?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mothers and Sons

"There is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to a son, that transcends all other affections of the heart.  It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude.  She will sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame, and exult in his prosperity; and if adversity overtake him, he will be the dearer to her by misfortune; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him."             ~Washington Irving

Disclaimer:  This post was not written preferentially.  It was only written as a response to the above writing from Washington Irving, which I spotted on another blog in the recent past.

Thought provoking, yes?

My thoughts:
* What insight... from a man... on female emotion.  Do you feel it's accurate?  I do on many levels.
* Mothers who have [only] daughters may totally not get this.  In some ways, I'd say it's the same between mothers and daughters, and in some ways it's completely different -- but not because you don't love your son(s) and daughter(s) equally.  The dynamics between mother and daughter are just different.  I feel like a lot is "understood" between my daughter and I.
* Wouldn't it be interesting to hear Irving's mom's take on this?
* What if all young men perceived their mother's love this way?  We'd be living in a different world, I'd guess.
* I hope Washington Irving, with all of his insight as a son, did not take advantage of his mama.

What is your gut reaction when you read these thoughts by Washington Irving?

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Recent Frustration...

... is that I leave a comment on a blog, and soon after, I receive an email saying "Delivery Status Notification (Failure)."  Huh?  I confirmed with one blog friend that... even though I was seeing my comment on her blog, SHE could not see it.

I admit, I am STUMPED on this one, and need to do some research to find out what on earth is going on.

Have any of you experienced this?

Along the same lines (and perhaps related?) is the issue that during my Rafflecopter giveaway, I could not see most comments to my blog -- which was frustrating.  Is this typical with Rafflecopter -- or perhaps related to my other issue???

All helpful comments are welcome as I work to debug the system on this end.

TGIF!  Have a great weekend!

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