About Me

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I am a very lucky woman with a husband and son who are smart, witty and entertaining. Our son, B, attended public school for two years, and then we embarked on a new adventure in the Fall of 2010 - homeschooling. We don't have all the answers, but we know B and this has been the best thing for him. I blog to preserve our stories and our memories, share recipes, vent and ramble on about our crazy, yet blessed, life. Would you care to follow along?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Freecycle Pet Peeve

Do you Freecycle?  I hope so.  If you don't know what it is, look it up and consider joining.  It's fabulous!  Get rid of the stuff you no longer need or want and get other people's stuff that you do.  Although there are hard and fast rules to Freecycling, there is plenty left up to the individual and some of my fellow free cyclers' way of doing things can be irksome.  (Anytime I hear/read/use any form of "irk" I hear the line from Bolt - "You irk me, professor.  I am irked."  hehehe)

Freecyclers decide who will get their items in different ways: to the very 1st person who asks; to the person who can pick it up soonest; only to a person who offers frequently themselves; or to the person with the best story.  I understand and have done all of these, myself.  But my pet peeve involves those Freecyclers who do not posting their "TAKEN" message soon enough.

I understand that "no shows" occur and you want to have backups.  But once you get a few or several responses throughout the day you post an item, chances are at least one of those fellow Freecyclers is going to come get your stuff.  So please post a "TAKEN" message.  It benefits you and me - you don't get any more emails in your inbox and I don't pine away for something, wondering if I'm going to get it or not, and checking my email every 15 minutes to see if I got it and need to go get it now.  Because I will come get it that day.  If both the offerer and I are online at the same time, I've even picked something up in less than 30 minutes of it being posted.  But some people have to wait days or a week until the weekend or until they can borrow or rent a truck to pick something up and the offerer refuses to post a "TAKEN" message until the item is literally picked up.  That annoys me.  Lets not leave each other hanging, people!

So, I want to hear from you - do you have a Freecycle pet peeve?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Big Changes 'Round Here

Out of the 9 years since B was born, I have been a SAHM (stay at home mom) for all but 16 months.  When B was 14 months old, I went back to work.  Unfortunately, he had some health issues that forced his daycare to kick him out and his care requirements were even too much for his grandparents to deal with, so I had to quit my job and stay home with him.  It's been hard on us, having only one income.  The hubs is not like most hubs in this area.  He is not an computer geek, making 6 figures in the high tech world.  He performs necessary, but unheralded work, to keep Americans safe and bad guys at bay.  But B has gotten stronger every year and has been mostly fine since the age of 6.  Although we don't have everything we would want, we have everything we need and we are happy.  However, we would never be homeowners again if something didn't change.

So, four weeks ago, I went back to work full-time.  I had been looking for some time for something that would accommodate our circumstances.  Since we homeschool, I could not work a normal 9-5 job; no daycare was going to watch a 9 yr old during school hours.  After looking for something to fit our schedule for the 1st 9 months of 2011, I decided to sit down and pray to God for the answer we needed.  Three days later, His answer came.  A company that I had worked for before (the company where the hubs and I met) posted a position with late afternoon and evening hours.  It was something I had done before, so I applied, and got it!

What an upheaval this has been to our life!  We have been homeschooling since June 2010, so B and I have been together all day, every day.  The hubs works from 6am - 2pm so he can spend at least half of every day with us.  Since November 28th, our weekdays have been this:

4:45am - the hubs leaves for work
5:00am - I get up, shower and dress
5:30am - wake B up, he gets dressed and we both go down for breakfast and make lunches
6:15am - we leave the house and head to my parents' house, who have graciously offered to watch B for the 7 weeks I am in training (8am-5pm)
2:15pm - the hubs picks B up from my parents' house
6:20/6:30pm - I get home from work b/c traffic is unbelievable
8pm - B and the hubs go to bed.

Like I said - upheaval.  I miss all my time with my mens!  But as hard as it is for me, I can deal with it.  I have a goal; I have my eye on the prize.  The hubs and I have decided I will work towards saving for a house for the next year and a half, and we'll buy something when our lease is up in July 2013.  The hubs has been a-ma-zing, picking up all the cooking and house cleaning since I've been at work.  My parents are not only watching B for us, but are also homeschooling him!  This has turned out to be a blessing for all of us.  Ben is not missing 7 weeks of school and my parents are so happy to be involved in his schooling.  Teaching him, they've gain firsthand experience and confidence in their grandson's education.  They love the curriculum we've selected and have divided his subjects up between them according to their preferences.  My dad is a history buff, so he teaches B social studies and geography.  My mom, like me, is an English natural, in additional to being a retired x-ray technician, so she teaches B his Language Arts and Science.  B does Art at home with the hubs.

Once I'm done with training on January 13th, I'll start my regular work schedule - Sunday through Friday, 2:30pm to 11:30pm, with one, rotating weekday off.  Other than my 2 days off a week, the hubs and I will only see each other for the few minutes we exchange B in the parking garage of my work 5 days a week.  But we will muddle through.  Once again, we have a goal in mind.  B is an emotional soul (just like his mama) and we've seen the toll these changes have taken on him.  But I believe it will get better once I am on my regular work shift and it is just the hubs and I with B each day.  As wonderfully indulgent as grandparents can be, children's fundamental needs for structure, order, discipline and love can only be met by their parents.

I've truly loved these past 3 days off to just spend with B and the hubs.  I don't care if the house is a mess, whether the laundry gets done or not, or if I make a home cooked meal or we eat out.  We're together, we're laughing and loving, and that's all that matters.

My friend, The Persian Homeschooling Mom, begged of me that when I went back to work, I had to give her at least 1 blog post a week.  I'm sorry I have been so remiss in my responsibilities.  ;o)  I'll try harder to balance my family, my home, my job and my fans from now on.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I'm STILL Fuming

B and I had pizza for lunch on our afternoon out
So, there have been A LOT of changes around here and they are the reasons why I have not blogged in a while.  I apologize for that.  Hopefully as I, myself, get adjusted to the changes I will be able to work regular blogging back into my schedule.  So here's the deal - after 6 years as a SAHM (stay at home mom), I have gone back to work full-time.  It's quite an adjustment for all of us, to say the least, but I hope to post about that soon.  Right now, I want to get down what happened to us today before I forget.

I miss my B!  It's been him and me, most hours in the day, for quite some time.  And since we started homeschooling in September 2010, it's been even more together time.  I have completed 1.5 weeks of 7 weeks of training for my new job.  I am in training from 8:30am - 5pm, M-F.  Due to the location of my home and my job, I awake at 5am and return home at 6:30pm.  I wake B between 5:30-5:45am, drive to my parents' house, drop off B and go to work.  Today I needed to run some errands to get some Christmas presents and supplies to make some Christmas presents and B decided to go with me.  We were both excited to spend more time together!

We were out for 5 1/2 hours and so enjoyed our time together.  Our 1st stop was to a friend of mine who owns Macy Girl Bowtique to buy a few hair bows.  While shopping for the little girl loves of my life, B asked if he could have a bow, too.  Since the hubs and I are those kinds of parents who refuse to go along with the double standards that girls can wear and do anything they want to do but boys have to adhere to specific colors, sports and preferences that society feels is acceptable, I let him pick out a hair accessory.  It was a hair clip with a ribbon Christmas tree on it, and B put it in his hair.

One of the stops we made later was to a local Joann Fabric and Craft Store.  I was purchasing fabric to make Christmas presents for those little girl loves of my life.  When it was my turn at the fabric cutting counter, I placed my bolts on the counter and let the employee know how much I needed of each.  As I did that, B was adjusted the Christmas tree bow in his hair.  The employee assisting us watched B doing this and then turned to me, pointed at B and said, with a disdainful look on her face, "Is it a boy or a girl?"  Taken aback by her boldness and the fact that she called my child an "IT", I merely said, "He's a boy."  I have always wished I could immediately think of appropriate/snappy/witty comebacks to people who are rude or ignorant but, alas, I am so shocked by what some people have the nerve to say out loud that I am unable to respond in kind until I am no longer in their company.

The Joann's employee cut the rest of my fabric and B and I headed to another aisle to select more items on our list.  Finally, B asked me, "Why did that lady ask if I was a boy or a girl?"  And here lies the title of my blog post, b/c as I type this, I start shaking and tearing up with anger all over again.  I took a deep breath and explained to B that she asked that question b/c she is one of those ignorant people who think that boys are only allowed to wear/think/act a certain way.  Therefore she believes that a boy should not wear a Christmas tree in his hair and instead of having the balls to say to a stranger and a customer at her place of work that she disproves of a boy wearing a bow in his hair, she asked what sex he was.  I also told B that although I wanted to say something to her, there was no point in trying to get through such an ignorant and closed mind as hers so I didn't even attempt it.  I asked him if she hurt his feelings.  "No," he said, so I dropped the subject.  I did not want to make it a big deal to him.

But I really didn't dropped the subject.  I contemplated asking to speak with a manager, but decided against it.  I am a crier.  I cry when I'm happy, I cry when I'm frustrated and I cry when I'm mad.  I did not want what this employee did to be discounted b/c I was emotional while speaking with the store manager.  So, instead, I came home and emailed headquarters about the experience I had at their store.  I'll update you if I ever here back...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

DIY Star Wars Death Star Birthday Cake

Last month, I blogged about the Star Wars Jedi Training Academy Birthday Party I threw for my son 3 years ago.  Here is the tutorial on how I made the Death Star Cake.

I used the Wilton Ball Cake Pan. Made half Chocolate Fudge Cake and half White Cake for the Light and Dark Sides of The Force.

The chocolate side was heavier than the white side so I put that on the bottom. Shaved a little off so it would not roll. Thin layer of icing so top layer would stick.

Placed the white cake half on top and the ball is complete.

I used the bottom of a paper cut to outline the circle where the laser comes out of the Death Star.

This little serated knife from our pumpkin decorating kit cut out the laser hole at an angle.

Here is the cone-shaped hole cut out.

I used my large pastry bag and icing tip to cover the cake.

Squeezed the icing on and then used a spatula to smooth it out.

Here it is all smooth.

I used dental floss to put a line around the middle and then filled that line in with black gel. Used the same gel for circles in the hole. I didn't like the black circles and suggest making them with gray, instead.

I used gray icing to decorate rest of the Death Star and used green toothpicks to simulate the laser coming out.

Meatball-Stuffed Garlic Rolls

I recently joined Pinterest.  Wow!  That site, when it is up and firing on all cylinders, is fabulous!  Honestly, I just joined to see if I could get some more traffic to my blog, but I will get way more out of Pinterest than others will get out of my blog.  Well, while on Pinterest, I found this recipe for Meatball Bubble Biscuits on the blog Kathie Cooks.  Kathie's picture looked so good, the hubs requested that I make it for dinner.

We have done a lot this weekend - yardwork, electrical/lighting work, errands, visiting family - that by the time we got home at 2pm today, I really did not feel like going back out to the store for the ingredients I did not have for the Meatball Bubble Biscuits.  But, no matter how tired he is, if I want something the hubs will go out for me.  So off I went.  And man was I rewarded when I got home!  He emptied and reloaded the dishwasher and scrubbed the stovetop for me.  Last night while I was in the kitchen and the hubs and B were in the family room, I glared at that dirty stovetop.  I am so tired of cleaning it all the time only to get dirty again the next time I cook.  So I grumbled at it, "I wish, just once, someone else would clean you."  Although he did not let on last night, the hubs had heard me and set to scrubbing that thing as soon as I headed out to the store.  I love that man!

As usual, I did not follow the recipe to a "T", but made my own adjustments.  Kathie's recipe calls for pre-packaged, frozen meatballs and sliced cheese sticks.  I made my own meatballs using The Perfect Italian Meatballs recipe from Chow Ciao with Fabio.  This was the 2nd time I made Fabio's meatballs and I will never make meatballs any other way, again.  Although, I also tweeked his recipe.

The Perfect Italian Meatballs recipe calls for raw shallots.  I only like raw onions added to 2 things: red onion on a salad and red onion on a good Italian hoagie.  I don't even want onions on my pizza unless they have been caramelized first!  Other than that, I generally saute all members of the onion family before adding them to food.  So, I sauteed the shallots and garlic before adding them to the meatball recipe.

After wrapping my meatballs in the dough (no cheese sticks in my rolls b/c I have ricotta and parmesan inside my meatballs) and placing them in my 8"x8" square pan, I brushed the tops with melted butter (something Kathie does not do in her recipe) before sprinkling on Italian seasoning and garlic powder.

The kitchen smelled good and these babies were scarffed up quickly.  All 3 of us loved them.  I made a big batch of meatballs and froze the rest, so I am sure I will be making these again.  I think they'd be great for a crowd!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Tis the season to be jolly, not jerky."

B received a DVD in his recent LEGO Club magazine.  There are some really cool segments on it that show behind the scenes at LEGO factories and the new LEGOLAND in Florida.  Most of it is LEGO short films and one of them is by Spongebob Squarepants.  Now, we don't watch Spongebob in our house, much to the protests of my son.  I don't care for the show nor the examples that the characters set for my child.  However, he does see it if he's at a house where they allow it to be shown.  But I happen to love the Spongebob song on this DVD and had to share it with you.  I think we all need to heed the wise words of Mr. Squarepants.  Enjoy -  "Don't Be a Jerk, It's Christmas"

Random Things

"Paid" was one of B's words in October involving the rule of 2 vowels in a single sylable word usually have the long sound.  Anytime I said "paid" I couldn't help but break into song with "Just Got Paid", the N'SYNC version.  Ben watched me in awe b/c I know all the words and when I was done he said, "You're cool."  MY SON THINKS I'M COOL.

He cannot pronounce the Czech Republic correctly.  He says "Chess Republic" and I am trying very hard to be patient.  So, I told him to call it Check-Mate Republic in order to get the 1st word correct and then we will drop the mate and work on the spelling.

B says to me: "Spell How.  Add an I at the end and then a damn L.  Guess what you have?  Howie Damnel!  It's Howie Mandell!"  Uhm, no.  It's not.

He is now recognizing when he writes his numbers backwards and is correcting them immediately without me saying a thing.  :o)

I want B to work independently on certain things while I do something else.  He was writing a sentence and I got up to do something for 90 seconds.  I came back and he had not written a single letter since I'd been gone.  I asked if he was still thinking about what the rest of his sentence was going to be.  "No," he said, "I know what I'm going to write.  I was just waiting for you to return."  He wouldn't write it w/o me there.  *sigh*

The following have nothing to do with homeschooling and are rants of my opinion:

If the reason for your divorce is your infidelity, I don't think you should keep your ex-husband's last name.  Go back to your maiden name.  I get that it's a pain to change your name back, but it's your fault it has to be done.  Keeping the name disrespects not only your ex-husband but also his new wife.

If the man breaks off the engagement, the woman has a right to keep the engagement ring if she chooses.  However, if the woman breaks off the engagement, and the man bought her the ring, she should return that ring.

I feel better haven gotten those 2 things off my chest!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Perfect Italian Meatballs

Have you seen the video of Fabio's Chow Ciao Perfect Italian Meatballs circulating around the internet this past week?  I did and I decided to try his recipe for dinner tonight since I have not been satisfied with any other meatball recipe I've made so far.  It is FA-BOO!  I have never made a more moist meatball than this!  And they were so flavorful!

I served it over farfalle pasta with The Bread on the side.  I took several pictures of my plate but they looked like crap since my camera is on it's last leg and none of the pix are worthy of being posted.  Sorry.  :o(  I have "new camera" and "light box" on my Christmas list b/c my camera has been ruined from the salt and sand at the beach the last 2 years.

Regardless of the camera used, my pictures could not look better than Fabio's plated meatballs at the end of his tutorial video.  So, just go watch his video and make the meatballs if you happen to be unsatisfied, as I was, with your current recipe.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Well, *that* explains it."

The hubs sold his Bowflex this week.  His work has a Craigslist-like site where you can post things for sale or giveaway, and someone at his large company, that he had never met before, bought it.  Me, the hubs, B and my brother (who was over for a LEGO playdate with his favorite, albeit only, nephew) delivered the Bowflex this afternoon to the home of the buyer and his fiancée.  After carrying all the pieces into the house and talking with the buying couple, my brother, B and I came home and left the hubs there to help the new Bowflex owner put it together.

When the hubs came home an hour later, he told me that the couple was quite impressed with B.  They said that B was very mature and communicated with adults very well.  They were surprised he was only 9 years old.  The hubs was very appreciative of the compliment and told them that we homeschool B.  The buyers both said, "Well, that explains it."

I love it when others see the great kid I love and he makes us so proud!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mrs. Schlumpadump

My usually schlubby self - ponytail, no makeup. The ponytail was the main reason I cut all my hair off - why keep it long if I put it up everyday? I hate the feel of hair on my face.  I think I have tactile sensory issues like B.
A few days ago my friend, The Persian Homeschooling Mom, wrote this blog post that touched a nerve with me.  Actually, her 7th and 8th paragraphs did.  I'm one of the "shlubs" she's talking about.  And she's right.  I don't dress up nor fix myself up regularly like I did when I was single.

When I was single, I was living at home.  I had to pay my parents rent, but I was working.  I had no car loan, no debt and no one else to support.  My money was mine to save and to spend.  I did spend some on clothes, but only work clothes b/c my employers had dress codes.  If it were up to me, I'd have been in jeans and sweatshirts all the time!  I was always like that.  I was not a "girly-girl" and I have never had any fashion sense.  My mom was not a "girly-girl" and she had no fashion sense, either, so I had no one to teach me.  Plus, from 1st grade all the way through college, I wore a uniform to school! The only non-uniform clothes I owned were PJs, jeans and sweat.

In 1993, I started a new job and gained a wonderful friend in a co-worker.  She was beautiful, fashionable and new how to stretch a dollar.  She took me under her wing, shared her wardrobe with me and took me shopping at the "right" places.  I looked good.  I turned heads.  I married the sexiest man I had ever met.

Then I started moving up in the professional world and was no longer in the public eye.  I started wearing clothes that were more "conservative", more "comfortable".  I was never much of a partier and enjoyed reading more than going out and the hubs (being older) had gotten all of his "wildness" out of him before we met.  So without any place fancy or trendy to go, I didn't buy fancy or trendy clothes to wear.

And then I became a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom).  We went from 2 incomes supporting only 2 adults to 1 income supporting 2 adults, 1 baby and all his diapers, clothes, powders, lotions, toys, furniture, baby-proofing paraphernalia, etc.  Money was, as has been, tight, and I could not justify spending money on flashy/trendy clothes, especially when they were not what I was "comfortable" in.

But The Persian Homeschooling Mom gave me a wake-up call and reminded me that just because I want to be comfortable and don't have a club to go to, does not mean I need to look older, bigger, sloppier or frumpier than I really am!  There doesn't need to be a particular place/function/person to dress up or dress better for - I am worth dressing better for!  Target does not have a dress code; I can wear whatever the hell I want in there!  Whatever makes me feel good, feel proud; whatever makes my head turn when I walk past a mirror.

I recently cut my hair off.  I'm talking Jamie Lee Curtis short.  My hair is naturally curly and when it's long, it's big and bushy.  So big and bushy, that you'd never know if I was wearing earrings, so I never did.  But now that the hair is gone, I feel I need the accessory of earrings around my face since the accessory of all that hair is no longer there.  After running errands the 1st half of today, we were going to meet some friends out.  I decided to change my clothes since we would be outside and the temps are typical Fallish.  After changing my clothes, more of my neck was exposed and it looked plain, so I decided to put on a necklace.  I tried on 2 before deciding on one.  Then I put on matching earrings.  Both necklaces bothered me b/c they were on my skin and I am not used to wearing any jewelry.  But I made myself keep the necklace on.

As I looked at myself in the mirror I thought, "You look ridiculous!  You are going to watch a youth baseball game, not a play!  People are going to look at you and think you are pretentious for wearing this to a ball park!"  And then I thought of The Persian Homeschooling Mom, who decided to dress herself down for her book club meeting based on what she, rightfully, believed the other attendees would be wearing.  And I remembered the comment that I actually put on her post, admonishing her for changing what she wanted to wear out of fear of standing out too much.  So, I left the jewelry on and went to the ballpark.  

I have no idea if anybody looked at my jewelry or made any judgements of me because of it.  I wasn't self-conscious, because I forgot about it the moment I walked out the door.  I was just me - comfortable and relaxed me.  Only I looked a scoonch more put together because I took the time to accessorize.  And I liked it!  I took the advice I gave to my friend: "Have you ever heard the phrase, "Be the change you want in this world"? So dress to the 9s now, especially when getting together with us homeschooling "shlubs". Don't change or dress yourself down for us. Set the bar high for us and maybe we will rise. If we want to."  I raised the bar for myself today and was proud.  I need to take the time and do that for myself more often.  Thank you, friend, for helping me to see that!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Little Poet

B was sitting on his stability ball in front of a window this morning, bouncing, staring out and talking to himself while I did some house work.  After about a half an hour he said, "Mama, I wrote a song.  Do you want to hear it?" "Yes!" I answered.  He did not sing his song; he spoke it.  I would call it a poem, but he insists that it is a song:

Migration, migration.
Like a Winter vacation.
You'll find lots of food
To avoid starvation.
But when you go on
This big migration,
Just never forget -
It's God Creation.
And that's migration!

Milwaukee Pork Stew

I love this recipe.  It's so flavorful, filling and has a hint of sweetness.  I made it once for the hubs, long before B was born, and he did not like it.  (I cut this recipe out of a Betty Crocker recipe book that I bought at the checkout stand in the '90s.)  The hubs was not a soup man back then.  The past couple of years I have made more soups and stews and he is liking them during the Fall and Winter.  So if I had made this for dinner for all of us, he may have finally liked it.  But I didn't give him the chance.  I didn't want to set myself up for one of those dinners that I think is great only to hear complaints from both members of my peanut gallery and then have them request something else.  So I made them Baked Potato and Sausage Soup and kept the Milwaukee Pork Stew to myself.  (Although, if you look at the pictures of both dinners, the pork looks more like a "soup" and the potato and sausage looks more like a "stew".)  I halved the recipe, which is at the bottom of this post.

I cut a big, sweet onion into rings and then quartered them.

Cubed 2, thick-cut pork chops b/c that is what I had on hand, but you can use a pork roast, as the recipe calls for.  I mixed the flour with some salt and pepper and tossed the pork pieces in  the flour mixture to coat.

Browned the pork pieces on all sides in a medium-high heat dutch oven.

Then I added my onions, a diced shallot I wanted to use up and garlic.

Stirred occasionally and cooked until the onions softened. I had to give you a shot with the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan - my favorite part of cooking!  That's where all the flavor is!

I added the broth (beef b/c I had no chicken), beer, bay leaf, brown sugar and red wine vinegar.  I had no parsley so it was left out.  I had no caraway seed so I substituted celery salt.  Brought the pot to a boil, scraped up all the crunchies from the bottom of the pan, reduced the heat and cooked for 1 hr 15 minutes.

1/3 cup flour 
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 lbs pork boneless sirloin or shoulder, cubed 
2 tbsp vegetable oil 
4 large onions, sliced into rings and quartered 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1 tsp caraway seed 
1 bay leaf 
14.5 oz can chicken broth 
12 oz bottle of beer 
1 tbsp packed brown sugar 
2 tbsp red wine vinegar 
Mix flour, salt and pepper. Coat cubed pork with flour mixture. Heat oil in dutch oven over med-high heat. Cook pork in oil until lightly browned. Stir in onions and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stiring occasionally. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and cook over med-low heat 1 to 1.25 hours, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender. Remove bay leaf. 8 servings.

Don't forget to serve with The Bread!

Baked Potato and Sausage Soup

I made this for the hubs and B's dinner on Halloween.  I was in the mood for Milwaukee Pork Stew and made that for myself.  This recipe is easy and quick and simple changes can make it gluten-free or dairy-free if you want.

2 baking potatoes, baked and cooled 
8oz smoked sausage, sliced and quartered
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 a small onion, diced 
2 tbsp flour 
3 cups milk or chicken stock
3/4 cup frozen corn, rinse to thaw
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
Fresh ground pepper, salt and onion powder, to taste

Add butter to dutch oven and heat medium-high.  Cook sausage and onion in dutch oven until sausage browns and onions are soft. While they are cooking, cut cooled baked potatoes in half, scoop out flesh and mash with a fork. Save skins for an appetizer another night or just dice up potatoes with skins for this soup; I have done both. Once onions are cooked, sprinkle with flour, stir to coat for a few minutes to cook out the "floury" taste. Gradually add milk or stock, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Continue to stir until mixture thickens, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (the best part!). Add potatoes, corn and cheese to mixture and stir until cheese melts and everything is heated through. Add pepper, salt, onion powder and/or whatever other spice to suit your taste.  Serve with The Bread.

  • You can use fresh sausage that is GF and or DF in lieu of the smoked.
  • You can skip the flour or use a GF alternative
  • Use your favorite cooking oil in lieu of butter
  • The cheese can be left out and it will taste just as good
  • When I am planning this dish ahead of time, I'll bake the potatoes in the oven with another night's dinner to save energy.  If I am making this last minute, I throw the potatoes in the microwave for 8 minutes.
  • I made this the other night with milk b/c I was out of chicken stock, but I usually make it with chicken stock.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Green Machine

We did not have a ton of toys growing up.  I had my Barbies but when I wanted a Barbie house, I had to make one out of boxes.  Lots of kids I knew had all the latest games and toys and Ataris but we didn't.  We had roller skates and bikes and books.  I had Barbies and dress-up clothes, my brother had LEGOS and Army guys and we went outside to play.  When friends came over, we asked them to bring some of their toys and I was always asked to bring my dress-up clothes stash to sleepovers.  Looking back, we were fine, we had enough and were better for using our imaginations.  But back then, I always looked at all the things my friends had and wanted them.  And now B is like that!  Paybacks are Hell...  @@

But the coolest thing our parents did get us, was a Green Machine.  Do any of you remember the Green Machine?  It was the coolest, pimped up big wheel, IMO.  And I don't remember my brother and I fighting over it much.  And we fought over everything back then.  He didn't like me much (who does like their little sister hanging all over them?) and all I wanted was for him to like me and to play with me.  So I bugged him about it all the time.  Poor guy!  Anywho, we didn't fight much over that Green Machine but we did not want to run the risk of it being taken away.  It was nice to be united in our reverence for the Green Machine.

Last week, B and I went to Costco to get one of their gi-huge-ic pepperoni pizzas on sale for $6.99.  If they are still on sale next payday, I think I'm going to stock up the freezer with them!  As we were walking back up to the registers, I saw THIS - totally revamped, steel frame (not plastic, like the old one) and ages 6 to ADULT!!!!!  I think my brother and I need to buy one.  We'll share custody of it or leave it at mom and dad's house and schedule playdates over there together.  I'm so excited!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Recipe - Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Earlier this month, I made a recipe called No Peeking Peking Chicken with the leg quarters (the chicken legs and thighs) of a whole chicken.  I froze the rest of that whole chicken, the breast quarters (breasts and wings) and thawed them for tonight's dinner.  I cut off the wings and deboned the breast to stuff and roast it.  It was sooooooo good to eat, the house smelled so good while it cooked and it looked good on the plate (see pic above) - a trifecta!

Here are the two Breast quarters (a breast and a wing, each). 

I cut out, using a boning knife, the spine of the chicken.

Then I cut off the chicken's wings.

Using the tip of my boning knife, I cut the breast meat off of the ribs and breast bones.

The top left - breast and rib bones of the chicken.  Bottom left - I pulled out the chicken tenderloins.  Right - the boneless chicken breast halves.

I covered the boneless chicken breast with plastic wrap and pounded it flat and thin with the flat end of my meal mallet.

I made some stuffing and put it in the middle of the chicken breast. This is a lot of stuffing so that the chicken just covers it. I like it that way so that all of the chicken meat surface gets browned.  You could, however, put half as much stuffing inside and roll the breast up tighter for smaller rolls of chicken.

I placed the stuffed chicken breast in a foiled pan, rubbed it with Wegman's Basting Oil and fresh ground pepper and placed cleaned and trimmed Brussel sprouts tossed in Wegman's Basting Oil around it.  After 30 minutes in 325 degrees of a convection oven the chicken was only at 120 degrees.  The Brussel sprouts were done, so I pulled them out.  I upped the oven temp to 375 degrees and cooked the chicken for another 20 minutes.

The chicken is resting for 5 minutes to redistribute the juices and the Brussel sprouts look fabulous!

Plated up - stuffed, boneless chicken breast with roasted Brussel sprouts and canned chicken gravy. 

DIY Sock Monkey Costume - Pictorial Instructions

From left to right: Zach, Bob, Babe, Stephanie, Smith
B loves sock monkeys!  He asked for 1 the Christmas of 2009 and was so thrilled to get him.  B named him  "Bob".  We were floored at his name; It was the 1st time B had named anything with an actual name.  Up to that point, anything he'd named was a literal or descriptive name.  A brown bear was named "Brownie", a frog was named "Froggy", etc.  Then Bob got a wife, Stephanie, and they got a child, Babe.  Then a pirate named Captain Sockbeard, nicknamed Smith, joined the family as Bob's brother.  B decided Smith needed a husband, so Zach joined the family.  Earlier this month, Harold the purple sock hippo joined the family.  One of his arms fell off, so he is not ready to be photographed.  The hubs will be sewing the arm back on this weekend.

Starting November 1st of every year, B starts telling me what he wants to be next Halloween and changes his mind at least 3 times a week.  By the 2nd week of October I told him he needed to decide once and for all and there were no takebacks.  He decided on being a sock monkey.  Much to my surprise, I could not find a single company that makes sock monkey costumes for kids!  You can get them for babies, toddlers and adults, but nothing in between.  So, I had to make one.  In my opinion, the head of a sock monkey would be the most difficult part.  Thankfully, I did not have to worry about that.  Ben's fabulous godmother, knowing his love of sock monkeys, had given him a Winter sock monkey hat last year and Ben wanted to wear that as the the head of his costume.  Sold!

Hat from his fairy godmother.
Supplies I used:

  • A light grey set of sweats from Walmart.  I thought a charcoal or chocolate color would be better to match the brown in the hat, but B wanted the light grey.
  • One sheet of white felt
  • One sheet of red felt
  • A grey, long-sleeved t-thirt
  • Plain, white socks without colored heels or toes
  • Sewing supplies - pins, needle, thread, marking pencil
B wore this shirt last Fall and Winter but it's too small for him now.  I cut off one the arms for the sock monkey tail.
I cut off the heel and ankle part of a sock to use as the end of the tail.

I folded over the cut end of the sock and ironed it to hold the crease in place as I sewed it onto the end of the tail. 
The tip all sewed onto the tail.
I filled the tail with fiberfill
And sewed the tail shut.
I measured the white felt next to the tail to see how big a piece I needed for the butt. I marked my cut line with a blue cloth pencil and cut off the material below the blue line.
The material above the blue line - I folded it in half top to bottom...
...and then in half, again, side to side.  I had to use pins to keep it folded.
I used the blue cloth pencil again to mark the arc I needed to cut off to make the white portion of the butt and then cut it off.
After cutting, I removed the pins and this is what it looked like.  I could not have cut it as evenly if I had not done the folding.
The white oval was 7" tall in the middle, so I cut a 3" tall piece of red felt and cut the sides off where the corners met the white on the sides.
The I folded the red felt into 4th like I did with the white, marked my arc and cut.
I laid them out and pinned the red to the white where I wanted it.  I sewed the red felt onto the white with red thread and then sewed the white onto the back of the sweat pants with white thread.
I am a beginning sewer.  To make it go by faster, I weaved the needle 3 or 4 times through the materials before pulling the needle and thread all the way through.
Here is the butt all sewn on!
The sewn end of the tail was so long, I folded it over with a few stitches before sewing it onto the butt of the sweat pants.
The tail is all attached!
I put a pair of white socks on B's hands and marked where his thumbs connected to his hands.  He wanted to have his thumbs out of the socks to better hold his trick-or-treat bag.
I cut a little hole where the Sharpie mark was.
I cut the toes off of a pair of socks for the bottom of his legs.
Here is Bob and B in his costume. He put on the sweat shirt, as is, the sweat pants, the socks on his hands, a pair of socks on his feet and the pair with the toes cut off over the bottom of the sweat pants.
Here he is from the back.  The hubs said he should tuck the sweat shirt into the pants to better see the tail on Halloween.
Here he is scootering around at our Homeschool Halloween party yesterday.
I started on the costume around 4pm and was done by 8pm.  However during that time, we ate dinner and I took several breaks to walk around the house and give my old, hunched-over back and eyes a break.  ;o)  So it was probably took me 2 actual hours of working.