Sunday, December 23, 2007

They say it's your birthday...

Cake #2 in our "4 weeks of Birthday cake" celebration appeared today as it is my birthday, the big 3-8! In our immediate family, we are "lucky" to have, count them 5!!! birthdays between Dec 12th & Jan 4th, which means a constant parade of cake to accompany the mountains of other Christmas goodies & sweets that are an ever-present part of this season. Needless to say, the scale & I are not on good terms right now :-)

For the most part, I've have a great birthday, except for the Green Bay Packers' less-than-stellar performance against the Chicago Bears :-( Oh well, it's not like the game really mattered that much. It's just that, it's the Bears (see my previous post) and a loss to them really, really hurts. Okay, I'm over it.

People have asked me over the years, "How do you like your birthday so close to Christmas?" Well, for one thing, I didn't have much choice in the matter :-) I guess I could celebrate it in the summer, on my 1/2 birthday, but even then, school was out for the summer, so as far as my Mom bringing cupcakes to school, that didn't happen. Sometimes it worked to my advantage like on my 16th birthday, when my parents combined my birthday & Christmas present and bought me a car :-) And also my parents always made sure to wrap my presents in birthday wrap, so as to further separate the day.

Speaking of my Mom, she likes to tell the story of when I was about 3, and we were visiting our extended family at Christmastime. We celebrated my birthday on the 23rd as usual. The following day, Christmas Eve, we went to my one Grandma's house and did Christmas with her. Then Christmas Day we went to the other Grandma's house, and did yet another Christmas, with more presents. The next day, the 26th dawns, and little me says, "Where are my presents for today?", like this was a really cool new trend. It's so hard being little, and reality hits!

Kyra is getting a small taste of this, as we celebrated Christmas yesterday (Sat 22nd) with my sister & niece who were in town for the weekend. Then today was my birthday. Tomorrow we'll do Christmas Eve with my parents. Then the next day we're off to David's folks' for another Christmas. And then Saturday the 29th is Kyra's birthday, with even more presents in store...Yikes! Can you say overload? So far she seems to be doing pretty well, but every once in awhile, our friend the Grump pa pum pum shows up for a little visit...Then we know it's time for a little snooze, something we all can benefit from :-)

And speaking of snoozing, I'd better head that way myself. Happy Holidays to all & Many Blessings to you & your family in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Grump pa pum pum

A very wise woman once told me all kids go through behavior cycles--3 weeks of being angels, 3 weeks of you-know-whats :-) In other words, if your child is testing your patience, just give them a little time, and they should work it out...

I don't know if it's our current stormy, gray weather--I think Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can affect kids too, or if it's getting ready to turn 2, or the hustle/bustle of this crazy season--probably all of the above. But at our house, a certain someone under 4 ft tall is really trying her hardest to make the Naughty side of Santa's list.

I'm sure you seasoned Moms out there are nodding your heads, and saying, "Welcome to parenting a 2-yr-old, dear. And if you think these days are fun, wait until she's 3!"

I know it also doesn't help that there are a 100 more things now around the house that are "No touch. Just look with your eyes."

And how could we forget my personal favorite stressor: How to make everyone happy by spending the maximum amount of time together, with the least amount of drama/chaos getting to & from there", all in the span of a couple weeks. It also doesn't help that this Mama must have been taking a nap when the Gift of Hospitality was being handed out, so the idea of "having everyone over to our house"--my dear husband's solution--just further complicates things.

So how do we Enjoy this Christmas season, not just Survive it? And no, consuming lots and lots of Christmas Cheer (think rum or Bailey's), is not the answer I was looking for :-)

Any suggestions?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Color my World

What do you get when you add Christmas Lights + the Zoo + a train ride and then add a whole lot of childhood delight?? A fabulous fun-filled visit to the Oregon Zoo Christmas Lights display!

It seems that Kyra just can't get enough of Christmas Lights this year, so when last night's forecast called for no rain, we said, "Let's go see the Zoo lights!" Grandma & Grandpa A & Grandma H & our friend, Lena, also decided to go with us, so after wisely bundling up with layer upon layer to keep the cold at bay, we were off :-)

If you've never seen the Zoo Lights, I'd highly recommend it, even if your age is over 2 :-) And an added bonus: if you're Zoo members at the Plus level or higher, entrance to the Zoo lights is free! You do still have to pay for the train ride, but they do give you a small discount--$0.25 off, each. Some people might choose to skip the train, saying the metal seats are way too cold (I say bring a blanket!), or it's not worth it because it's not a very long ride. However, Kyra happens to love train rides, AND you get to see all the lights without all the walking--Bonus when you have a little one, or people that can't walk that far.

All in all, we had a great time, and I think this might become a new Christmas tradition for us. Below I've included some pictures we took to capture the night.

The girl & her Grandmas

Mommy & Kyra

The Zoo Lights gang

Daddy, Mommy & Kyra

Happy Friday friends!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Joy

This little gem was posted on my friend Kippy's blog, and I just had to have it for myself! Enjoy~k

Friday, December 7, 2007

Yummy Pretzel Salad

I apologize as this week's Culinary Delight post is a day late...However, I think you'll really enjoy this recipe, and there's actually a fun little story that goes along with it.

One of the things that the staff at Sunset Pres does every month, is have a Staff Luncheon. Most of these are Potlucks, and each person is asked to bring something--I'm sure the whole potluck concept is one that is familiar to many of you :-)

And so it also shouldn't surprise you that there's typically a gap between the number of "bringers" & the number of "eaters"--I'm not judging, I'm simply stating an observation I've made over the years. And to go one step further, the
women are more likely to bring something than the men--again, only my observation/opinion.

This particular Staff Luncheon potluck happened to be one of the first, if not THE first for our new Worship & Creative Arts Minister, Jay McKenney. To this day I don't know if he wanted to make sure he made a good impression, or if Allison takes really good care of him--it was probably a little of both :-) Anyway, he shows up with this amazing salad in hand, and when someone made a comment about a GUY bringing something besides chips or rolls, he just smiled with that now-famous Mac grin.

So without further adieu, here's the Infamous (which is MORE than famous!--a little Three Amigos humor) McKenney Pretzel Salad. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Jay~

1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
8 oz whipped topping
6 oz package strawberry or raspberry jello
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup cold water
12-16 oz frozen strawberries (or raspberries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine pretzels, 3 tablespoons sugar & butter, and press mixture into ungreased 9x13 pan. Bake for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.

Combine cream cheese, 1 cup sugar & whipped topping & mix until smooth. Spread over cooled pretzel mixture being sure to seal edges.

Dissolve jello in the boiling water & add the 1/4 cup cold water & strawberries (or raspberries). Refrigerate until thick. Pour over cream cheese mixture and chill until set.

There you have it--So it's not a very healthy salad, but come on, it makes a great dessert, and who doesn't like dessert? :-)

Happy Friday everyone!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmas is Coming! Bring on the tree...

Today we continued our annual tradition of Christmas Tree Hunting, and it was made even that much more fun with the first snow of the season! Like in previous years, we made our way out to the Reichen Tree farm, where, as an added bonus, we ran into several past & present Sunset Pres friends, also in search of the perfect tree :-)

Grandpa & Grandma Anderson came along as well, and we both found beautiful Noble firs to grace our homes. Below are some pictures from our day:

Kyra & Daddy on the front step.
Let's go!

Catching snowflakes with my tongue

Daddy & Kyra searching for a tree

Mommy & Me in our nice warm hats!

All right. Tree: Check. Now only 24 Shopping Days left until Christmas!--Yes, I said 24. My dear husband swears if you wait until the 24th, it makes your choices just that much easier :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm such a sheep! Baa

This is pretty funny though!

Just a note, the site is getting a ton of traffic right now, so it may take a little time to load, and if you want to make your own elves, I'd suggest doing it late at night...Otherwise, give yourself lots of wait time.



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kitchen "Camping"

Growing up, my family spent many a summer camping out at our 40-acre property. But this wasn't your "Go to a nice civilized campground, with showers & a play area for the kids, both just up the path" camping. This was "Becoming One with Nature" camping. Accommodations: A-frame cabin--basically a wooden tent. Electricity? No. Indoor plumbing? Can you say, Outhouse, baby! So when it was time to clean up the dishes after meals, my sister and I were often pulled from whatever we would have preferred to do, and recruited for dish drying duty.

Sunday, this all came rushing back, as our faithful dishwasher decided to up & die! Now I don't know about you, but I'll be the first to say I've been extremely spoiled by having a dishwasher. Yes, I can wash dishes by hand, but you can guarantee if I'm buying something, I make sure to check the label first to see if it's dishwasher safe, before I'll buy it.

So, when the dishwasher refused to drain, even after cleaning out the filters, and running it empty several times, my dear husband said, "We're going to have to call someone".

This is where things get interesting. We inherited this dishwasher when we bought my Grandma's house, so we didn't really have a choice in its selection. Some would say we're extremely lucky, since Grandma put in a very high-end dishwasher when she replaced her old one--a Swedish model called Asko. You can't beat it for noise level, and it does a really good job in cleaning the dishes.

However, try finding someone in the area that services Foreign Dishwashers! The first guys I called said, "We only do domestics. Call Standard TV & Appliance. They do foreign". I called Standard, and they said, "Oh, we only do Bosch. Call these guys." So I did, and they said, "Well, the earliest I can have someone out in your area is next Tuesday." NEXT TUESDAY???? She did say she'd put me on the "sooner than later" list, but I don't have much hope...

So last night, David & I tackled, by hand, the mountains of dishes that had piled up--now there's some bonding time :-) And until Tuesday, we'll either use paper & plastic or go out to eat! Just kidding--they're making some really hand-friendly dish detergent these days, aren't they?

The other thing we have to consider is the threshold dollar amount for repair--Is it worth it to repair an older dishwasher, especially one that we've heard can be really expensive to fix? Or do you watch the sales, and purchase a new one? Merry Christmas honey! Here's a new dishwasher...

So much fun!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pasta with Artichoke Garlic Cream Sauce

Today's Culinary Delight is another dish, like last week's scallops, that is not the healthiest, but is so yummy! I promise, the next installment will be something really nutritious, like SALAD! Enjoy!

And for those of you who are curious, Katie ;-), it also just happens to be what we had for dinner tonight...

Pasta with Artichoke Garlic Cream Sauce

The original recipe at Nola calls for the sauce served over Oysters, but as we don't have any in the house, and I do not like them, Sam-I-am, we used pasta instead :-)
Serves 4

2 Tbsp butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
4 Tbsp white wine
2 cups Artichoke Hearts, drained, rinsed and chopped
1 Pint heavy cream
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes Hot sauce--can be adjusted to suit your tastes
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and Cayenne pepper to taste
Cooked pasta--any kind is fine

Sweat the onions and garlic in the butter for 2-3 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce until mostly evaporated. Add the chopped artichoke hearts and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the cream and reduce until slightly thickened; add the Parmesan cheese. Add the Worcestershire, hot sauce and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt & cayenne, and serve over pasta.

So there you go. By the way, next Thursday, as you know, is Thanksgiving, so I will try to deliver that week's recipe on Wednesday instead--cross your fingers :0)

Happy eating everyone!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thanks for the Memories or Please pass the Clutter?

As the weather starts to turn, I've found myself on a Decluttering Mission around my house. It's amazing how almost therapeutic it feels to see large stacks of "stuff" make their way to other homes (the trash, Goodwill, friends/family, etc.). And wow! I didn't realize this bedroom was so spacious!!!

So, the latest items to fall under my scope are my old journals from junior high/high school/college. Which got me to thinking: Is there any value to keeping these?

The FlyLady, who is both helpful and very inspirational, says, "All these things (old report cards, magazines you are saving just for one article, etc.) are doing, is creating more chaos and clutter. "

Without coming out and actually saying it, I think she's saying the chance that you will become famous, and people will be climbing over themselves just to get a hold of your old love notes, or swim trophies, is not real likely. So why let them take up your valuable space?

Well I tend to agree with this, for the most part, I'm finding myself having a very hard time tossing the journals. And what's really weird is that I've never considered myself to be "a journaler". So let me preface these particular journals by saying this: These were the ones my English teacher made me do. You know the ones: Fill 8 spiral notebook pages by the time she/he was to collect them, and you would get an "A" for that assignment. This meant some pages were: "3 sentences to go. Now 2 sentences to go" and the biggest handwriting you could get away with.

But in amongst these entries, are the soul-searching, gut-wrenching teenage angst of growing up: "He walked by my locker today, and SMILED!" or "I can't believe he likes that silly (insert 80s girl name here). Why can't he like me?" Or, "We had the best time over Christmas break. My whole family got together..." Or, "My grandma died today. I've never seen my Dad that upset." This is my take on life from 1983-1992.

How can I just toss this in the recycle bin? Granted these journals as a collected lot don't take up a lot of space, but for sheer "usefulness", they don't rank very high, and thus, FlyLady would say, "Out it goes!"

What do you guys think? Keep or toss?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Seared Scallops & Rice

Once again, it's Culinary Delight Thursday, and today's selection is so incredibly easy & absolutely delicious, you'll want to eat it every night :-)

Unfortunately, the cost of fresh seafood these days may warrant this being a "Special Occasion only" dish, or if you're like my dear friend,
Katie, you'll have to pass all together, due to a seafood allergy! But with that in mind, here you go:

Seared Scallops
Serves 4 (or 2 very hungry people!)


1 to 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops (approximately 16)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Splash of white wine
Splash of lemon juice
cooked rice

Rinse scallops with cold water and thoroughly pat dry. Note: if the market has not removed the small side muscle, be sure to do so before proceeding, as this part of the scallop is very tough.

Add the butter and oil to a 12 to 14 inch cast-iron pan on high heat. Salt and pepper the scallops. Once the butter/oil begins to smoke, gently add the scallops, making sure they aren't touching each other.

Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. The scallops should have a 1/4-inch golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center. Make sure not to overcook, as they can get rubbery very quickly.

Remove scallops from the pan. Add garlic, wine & lemon juice to pan, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. When about half of the liquid is evaporated, remove from heat. Drizzle sauce over scallops and serve immediately over cooked rice.

Enjoy, friends~

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Bug's Halloween

I know it's Thursday, and I promise the Culinary Delights post will come later in the day. But right now I wanted to share our Halloween 2007 with you.

Kyra is still at the age where Mommy gets to pick out her costume (probably the last year, I'm afraid), so when I saw this adorable Ladybug outfit at Target, I just had to get it. I was a little concerned about her leaving the antennae and wings on, but she did really well--Candy is a GREAT distraction :-)

And something that's quite rare in the Pacific NW, we had a beautiful evening for trick or treating! No rain, and not even cold--in fact we ended up carrying her coat because she didn't need it. Growing up, I can't tell you how many costume choices were dictated by, "How will this look UNDER a raincoat?"

Without further adieu, here are the pictures of the Cutest Ladybug ever--I'm not biased or anything :-)

Thank you, Grandma! Do I have to share?

Trying to avoid a sugar coma :-)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Go Pack Go!!!

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned my family bleeds Green & Gold. But not Oregon Ducks' Green & Gold my friends, but Green Bay Packers' Green & Gold!!!

You see, my dear husband was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so in his mind, there simply is no other football team. Period.

So if you follow the NFL at all, it's not hard to see why there is great rejoicing right now at our house. Our beloved Packers are 6-1, after beating a determined Denver Broncos team last night, IN overtime & IN Denver :-)

A little background: BD (before David), I was a faithful Seattle Seahawks fan, as we had lived in Seattle for a couple years, when I was growing up. Every Sunday afternoon you'd find me sitting in front of the TV, watching the game, and cheering for the Seahawks. Often this would cause my poor cat great distress, as she'd sit on my lap, and then nearly go through the roof when I'd jump up to celebrate a touchdown.

Then I met David, and the things you'll do for love...I traded in my blue & green for green & gold. In fact several years ago, when the Packers were playing the Seahawks in Seattle, we drove up to the game, and guess which team I rooted for--Yep, the Packers--I think if I hadn't, I would have probably walked home!!!

Anyway, now this obsession/sickness has been passed on to our darling daughter. Sigh. We can't even drive by a football field without her shouting, "Go Packers!" And every football game is the Packers. And every football team is the Packers.

With that in mind, I've posted some pictures below of Kyra in Daddy's Brett Favre jersey, carrying on the Packer Fan legacy...

Touchdown, Packers!

Off to spread the love...

Hoping I haven't jinxed them,

Monday, October 29, 2007

It has begun

The other day we were at a restaurant, and Kyra was in need of a diaper change. I'm always a little leery of changing her in public places, because you never know if they're going to have a nice baby changing station, or if you'll be making a trip out to the car's back seat.

This particular restaurant did have a changing station in their restroom, although it was right by the sink, and not in a stall--not very convenient if someone else needs to wash their hands...

Anyway, I was in the process of changing Kyra, and an elderly woman entered the bathroom, and went into one of the stalls. She did her business, and when she was finished, my precious daughter yells out, "Lady done going potty!"

Needless to say, I was mortified. Not knowing exactly what to say, but knowing I needed to acknowledge Kyra's identification of this process, as we're in the beginning stages of potty training, I said sheepishly, "Yes, honey" or "You're right", or something like that.

Then I hear this snicker from the stall, and know that at least this person has a sense of humor. Thank goodness! I also knew I couldn't get Kyra cleaned up, finished, and out of there, before this lady emerged from the stall, so I knew I'd have to face her.

The moment of truth came: She walked out, smiled and then said, "Don't you hate these (motion-sensor) towel machines that make you wave your arms at them? I always feel so silly."

Kristin wipes her brow in relief.

I know that those days are coming...When your child's innocent comments make you feel like you're in a Southwest Airlines' "Wanna get away?" ad. I only hope that when they do, I'll be surrounded by folks as gracious and understanding as this woman was.

Happy Monday, friends, & Go Packers!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chicken Risotto

For this week's culinary delight segment, I decided to post one of my favorite recipes, and one that doesn't last very long around our dinner table: Chicken Risotto.

Now before you go and say, "Oh, risotto's good, but it takes so much babysitting, with the adding of the liquid, etc!", I promise this recipe has all the goodness of a yummy risotto, without all the extra time & effort.

Chicken Risotto
From the Internet--site unknown


6 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
3 cups chicken broth (2 14 oz cans)
1 teaspoon basil
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

In large skillet (we use our cast-iron which works really well), melt 2 tablespoons butter.

Add chicken and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until browned, about 5 minutes.

Remove chicken from skillet.

Add remaining butter, rice and garlic and cook, stirring constantly until rice is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms and onions. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth and basil. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Gently stir in chicken. Continue simmering until chicken is heated through and rice is tender, about 5 minutes.

Top with cheese and serve immediately.

Be sure to get out and enjoy the beautiful sunshine on this great Fall Day, friends!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My twin...

They say everyone has a twin out there. I'm not talking about those people who were born as one half of a set of twins. The twins I'm referring to are often complete strangers, who happen to look a lot like us.

For instance, I've been told in the past that I looked like Pam Dawber, of Mork & Mindy fame.

I don't know that I see the resemblance, but that's ok.

Recently, however, we were sitting at the dinner table, and Kyra had just noticed her new plastic kids' plate had a picture on it. All of a sudden she puts her fork down, points to one of the characters on the plate, and says, "Mommy!" I said, "What is it, sweetheart?" She says, "No. That's Mommy!"

Here's what was on her plate:

Does anyone else see what's wrong with this picture, other than the fact that there are no girls in it??? And as I'm not accustomed to wearing a plaid shirt or a cowboy hat, for that matter, why she would think I looked like Woody, is beyond me.

I guess all I can do is take solace in the fact it could be worse...She could have pointed to her Bob the Tomato plate & said, "Mommy"...

Feeling like I somehow grew a pull-string,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Simple Pot Roast

Happy Thursday, and with it being a blustery day and all, I thought I'd post a good "down-home, warm-your-tummy" dish for this week's Culinary Delight.

Now I have to confess something: My Crock-pot has a high place of honor in my kitchen, second only to my coffee/espresso maker :-) I mean, if I can throw dinner together, and then not have to worry about it for 8-10 hours,
whoo hoo! more time to play with Kyra or take a nap!

So for a recipe to NOT involve the crock-pot, and still be one of my favorites, it has to be really good!!!

When David found the following recipe in Cook's Illustrated magazine, he said, "We should try that some time. It looks really good." To which I replied, "Oh honey. We already have plenty of pot roast recipes, and besides, it doesn't use the crock-pot!", and I filed it away with the rest of our cookbooks.

Then the other day, I knew we were going to be home all afternoon, because it was Sunday, and the Green Bay Packers game was actually on TV! It was also a day like today, weather-wise, so I pulled out the non-crock-pot pot roast recipe and decided to try it.

As it was roasting in the oven, and I was having to turn it every 1/2 hour, for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, I kept saying to myself, "I hope this is just awful, so I'll never have to make it again! What a pain! Nothing like my nice easy crockpot!"

Well, my hating it was not to be. In fact, it was down-right delicious! Grrrr! So, if you have several hours to dedicate to this "simple" pot roast", it's definitely worth the effort.

Simple Pot Roast
Serves 6 to 8

1 boneless chuck roast (about 3 1/2 pounds)
salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
1 small carrot, chopped medium--more can be added if you prefer
1 small celery rib, chopped medium
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup canned chicken broth
1 cup canned beef broth--can use 2 cups of chicken or beef if you don't have one or the other
1 sprig fresh thyme--
can use 1 tablespoon dried thyme
1-1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup dry red wine

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly pat roast dry with paper towels; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Brown roast thoroughly on all sides, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer roast to large plate; set aside.

Reduce heat to medium; add onion, carrot and celery to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add garlic and sugar; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth & thyme, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits.

Return roast and any accumulated juices to pot; add enough water to come halfway up sides of roast. Bring liquid to simmer over medium heat. Then wrap pot lid in foil (I know this sounds strange, but just go with it--it seals the gap between the lid & the pot to keep in the steam), and cover the pan tightly with the lid. Transfer pot to oven.

Cook, turning roast every 30 minutes, until fully tender and meat fork or sharp knife easily slips in and out of meat, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Transfer roast to carving board; tent with foil to keep warm. Allow liquid in pot to settle about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface. Boil over high heat until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Add red wine and reduce again to 1 1/2 cups, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using carving knife, cut meat into 1/2-inch-thick slices, or pull apart into large pieces; transfer meat to warmed serving plate and pour about 1/2 cup sauce over meat. Serve, passing remaining sauce & veggies separately.

There you have it. It's not meatloaf--remember today is National Meatloaf Appreciation Day, but it is in the meat family, and in my opinion, this is much, much better!!! :-)


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Visiting the Great Pumpkin

It's not often we get a beautiful, warm, sunny, blue-sky day in the fall. But when we do, we try to savor every last minute. And as it's also October, that means our annual visit to the Pumpkin Patch!!!

We decided to make a change from previous years, and try Lake View Farms, out in North Plains. Our
MOMs group had a play date there this last Thursday, which we weren't able to attend, so as a family, we thought we'd try it out.

Unfortunately it was a very short trip, as we didn't feel like paying $3 a person just to get into the pumpkin patch. I know that $3 pays for the train & boat ride, and $1 of that went towards the purchase of your pumpkin, but after all that, you still had to pay for the pumpkin itself. Maybe we've been spoiled, but somehow it seems wrong to have to pay to get into the patch.

So we left rather grumpy, and thought a little lunch might turn things around. After a stop at the
Rock Creek Tavern, we spotted a sign for another pumpkin patch just a mile or so up the road, called the Plumper Pumpkin Farm.

You know that feeling you get when everything just seems to come together? That's how it was when we got out of the car, and started walking towards the patch. And notice I said, walking towards the patch. Yes, you could literally park & be within a few steps from the patch itself. And the best thing was, they have no admission fee to the farm :-) I felt like we had left Pumpkin Disney & landed right at a family friend's farm, it was that great!

Now don't get me wrong. They too had the petting zoo area, and a corn maze, and pony rides, and a giant slide, but it didn't feel like they were pushing all these things on you. If you wanted to do them, you could, for a small fee. But you didn't HAVE to! They also had big bales of hay set up all around so you could take pictures, or have the kids climb on them, and a bunch of nice picnic tables to sit down at if you wanted a little snack time.

We finally chose a big round 19lb pumpkin, and 3 little ones that Kyra picked out herself--Our grand total: $6.25--$0.25 lb for the large pumpkin and $0.50 a piece for the little ones.

We also took lots of pictures, which I've posted some of them below--the first one is from last year's trip...I can't believe how much Kyra has changed in just a year!!!

Kyra & Daddy
Pumpkin Patch 2006

Kyra & Daddy
Pumpkin Patch 2007

Mommy & Me at the Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkins make great seats!

Do you have a license for that, young lady?

Hay there!!!

All in all, we had a great time and we'll definitely be going back there next year.

Happy Saturday friends!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Marshmallow "Rios" Bars & Honey Peanut Squares

As promised, here are not 1 but 2!! yummy desserts that you can probably whip up from what you have in your pantry---especially if you have little ones! By the way, you might know them better as Cheerios, but in our household, for some reason??? we started calling them "Rios", and the name stuck.

Marshmallow "Rios" Bars
originally from

Prep time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour
Makes 24 bars


3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 bag (10 1/2 oz) miniature marshmallows (6 cups)
5 cups Cheerios cereal

Grease 13x9-inch pan. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows; stir constantly until mixture is melted and smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in cereal until evenly coated. Using buttered back of spoon or hands, press mixture firmly in pan; cool. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store loosely covered.

Honey Peanut Squares--my husband prefers these!!
originally from

Prep time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hr 15 minutes
Makes 36 squares


1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey or light corn syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups Cheerios cereal
1/2 cup salted peanuts

Grease 9-inch square pan. In large saucepan, heat sugar and honey just to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter until smooth. Stir in cereal and peanuts until evenly coated. Press evenly into pan, using buttered back of spoon. Cool 1 hour. Cut into 6 rows by 6 rows and store loosely covered.

A confession: Neither of these treats last very long in our house, but luckily they don't take very long to make either :-)


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Letter of the Law

I was heading to a meeting yesterday, and in order to get there in a fairly quick amount of time, I decided to take the highway. What I didn't count on were the ramp signals, already on, at 1:15 in the afternoon!!

So, like a good little girl, I waited and waited and waited, in the lane for single occupant vehicles, which was quite long for that time of day. And let me tell you, you have a lot of time to observe the things around you when you're moving 0 miles per hour.

One of things I noticed was the traffic stacking up behind us. As one car was allowed to go, 3 more were added to the queue, until there was literally a solid line of cars stretching the entire length of the ramp, all the way back to the intersection.

I also like to watch the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lane to see if people are truly obeying the "more than one person in the car" rule. Actually, I don't know why I do this, because it inevitably just makes me mad, because there's always someone who feels like the rule doesn't apply to them...

And just as I'm thinking this, a big yellow school bus goes by in the HOV lane. Now normally buses are allowed to use that lane because they carry a large amount of people, thus meeting the criteria. However, this particular bus was completely empty, except for the driver.

Here then was the rub: Buses are allowed to use the HOV lane--it's even posted on a sign above the lane. But is it right for them to use that lane if they are not carrying any passengers? In other words, they are the same as any other single occupancy vehicle because only one person is on board.
Should they be allowed to use the HOV lane, regardless if they have passengers, just because the sign says they can? Or should they use the regular lanes when not carrying anyone else?

I know, I know. With all the problems there are in the world, some of you are probably saying, "Get a life. This is SO not a big deal, and not worth wasting any brain power on". But it was something that made me go hmm, and I was just wondering what other people thought...

Also, be very excited :-) This Thursday I promise to post a very yummy & easy dessert--so easy you'll wonder why you've never tried it before!


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Magic Meatloaf Part Deux

Dinner is over. The meatloaf has been sampled. The vote: 1 for, 2 against.

David thought it was great!!!, and promptly served up a thick slice between two pieces of bread, slices of cheddar cheese and a huge dollop of yellow mustard.

Kyra & I, on the other hand, thought it left a lot to be desired. I tried mine with more ketchup, as it seemed a little dry. Not a big improvement. Kyra took a couple bites, and that was it for her.
We finished up with an old favorite, Mac & Cheese.

So, if you like meatloaf, you'll like this recipe. If not, I apologize and promise I'll post something really yummy next week, like another dessert :-)


National Meatloaf Appreciation Day is coming--October 18th

Today is Thursday, and thus, another recipe day! However, I was doing a Google search on "National Blog day" (thanks Jay!), and I found a site announcing that this coming October 18th is National Meatloaf Day.

Now what's really funny about this is, I never make meatloaf. I'm just not a big fan ("Meatloaf, Smeatloaf, Double-Beetloaf, I hate meatloaf!" says Randy, from the classic movie, A Christmas Story) as most meatloaf is either dry like shoe leather, or drowning in ketchup. But David likes it, and as I had some ground turkey to use, I decided to pull out the old crockpot and make meatloaf!!

So, not only do I get to post today's recipe, but I can contribute my meatloaf experience to the Meatloaf Appreciation Roundup, and take care of dinner tonight :-)

Crockpot Magic Meatloaf
from the Rival Crockpot Recipe book
Serves 8


2 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey)
2 eggs
2/3 cup quick cooking oats
1 package dry onion soup mix (recipe to follow)
1/2 cup ketchup

Reserve 2 tablespoons ketchup. Combine ground beef, eggs, oats, soup mix and remaining ketchup. Shape into a loaf. Put in Crockpot. Top with remaining ketchup. Cover; cook on Low 8 to 10 hours (High: 4 to 6).

Dry Onion Soup Mix
from Ellen's kitchen

7 oz beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup instant unsweetened tea powder (I used the contents of 2 cold-brew iced tea bags)
adds color and tang without more salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups dry minced onion
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup parsley flakes
1/8 cup onion salt (if you don't have onion salt, just use a pinch of regular salt)
2 tablespoons yeast
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine in order listed, mix very well but don't use blender. Keep the mixture in an airtight container. Makes 2 cups (equivalent of 8 envelopes). 1/4 cup mix equals 1 envelope commercial soup mix.

Making onion soup? 1/4 cup mix to 4 cups boiling water. Stir well until powder is dissolved.
Onion dip? Add 4-5 tablespoons to 1 pint of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Let me tell you--it smells absolutely fabulous at my house!!

Looking forward to Meatloaf sandwiches,

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Good Intentions or Foot in Mouth Disease???

We've all been there. You're at a party, or a gathering where there are multiple conversations taking place at once. You can't help but overhear some of the other people, either by close proximity or the overall noise level.

All of a sudden, you hear something from another conversation that makes your jaw drop towards your knees. You stop, sometimes even asking the person you're talking to, to be quiet for a minute. You can't believe what you just heard. Did that person really just say that?

The following are real-life jaw-droppers heard recently:

  1. "I would never let MY child get that dirty in public. What an embarrassment!"--conversation between two women, overheard at a public park where some kids had discovered that dirt & a water feature could make some really nice mud.
  2. "My children don't like you"--overheard at a restaurant, said by one half of a "couple" who obviously were on a first, and most likely, last date.
  3. "If you were a better mother, you wouldn't let your children run wild in the store"--comment by an observer to a haggard mother of three very active little ones.
Do these people truly think they're being helpful, or is there a huge disconnect between their brain and their mouths?

And I guess the real question is: As observers (not actively involved in the conversation), do we have any responsibility, or do we mind our own business (and blog about it later!)?

To go one step further, what if you are involved in the conversation? What is an appropriate response? Do you mumble something, and walk away? Or do you use it as a teaching moment?

Would love to hear your thoughts,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thai Beef & Basil + Chinese Fried Rice Deluxe

That's right, folks! It's a 2 for 1 recipe day! And the cool thing is, if you do it right, the Chinese Fried Rice will practically make itself the next day from the Thai beef leftovers--assuming there are any leftovers :-)

Thai Beef with Basil
The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook
Serves 4


3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce--
if you've never used this before, just a warning--it's quite potent!
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 beef top round steak (1 pound)--you can also use top sirloin
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 jumbo sweet onion (1 pound), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 head bok choy (2 pounds)
3 long red chiles or serrano chiles, seeded and thinly sliced (amt. can be adjusted for heat pref.)
3 garlic cloves, cut into long thin slices--you can also use 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons minced, peeled fresh ginger--you can also use 1 teaspoon of dried ground ginger
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves--you can also use 1-2 tablespoons of dried crushed basil
2 cups cooked rice

In medium bowl, combine fish sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar. Cut steak lengthwise in half, then cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices across the grain. Add beef to fish-sauce mixture, tossing to coat well; cover and refrigerate beef 30 minutes to marinate--if you're using top sirloin, you can cut the marinate time down to 15 minutes.

In large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat until very hot. Add beef mixture and cook, stirring frequently (stir-frying), just until beef is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Transfer beef to bowl.

Trim and core bok choy. Separate leaves from stems, then cut each stem lengthwise in half. Cut stems and leaves crosswise into 2-inch pieces; wash and drain.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to skillet. Add onion and bok choy stalks and cook, stirring frequently (stir-frying), until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Add bok choy leaves and stir-fry until wilted, about 2 minutes longer. Stir in chiles, garlic and ginger; cook 30 seconds.

Return beef to skillet and add basil; heat through. Serve over rice.

Chinese Fried Rice Deluxe
Serves 4

This is a very flexible recipe, so feel free to add or omit ingredients based on personal preference or allergy (that's for you & your shellfish allergy Katie!!). Also the secret of making fried rice lies in the use of cold, cooked rice. Freshly cooked rice will only produce a sticky mess.


6 tablespoons cooking oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh shrimp, shell/devein--can use frozen shrimp, but thaw first (10 min. in bowl under cold running water)
4 cups cold, cooked rice
1/2 cup cooked peas--I would leave these out, since I don't like them, but Kyra does...
1/4 cup canned diced bamboo shoots
any combination of the following:
1/4 cup diced boiled ham
1/2 cup diced cooked chicken
1/2 cup diced roast pork, or leftover Thai Beef with basil :-)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons chicken broth (or 1/2 teaspoon bouillon powder)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Heat 2 tablespoons cooking oil. Beat eggs with 1/2 teaspoon salt and scramble in oil until firm, breaking into small pieces. Remove and reserve. Heat remaining oil. Add green onion and shrimp and remaining salt. Cook until shrimp shows pink. Break up lumps of cold, cooked rice and add to shrimp. Stir until rice is heated (you may need to add a little more oil), and the grains of rice are separated. Make a hole in the center of rice. Add all the rest of the ingredients except for soy sauce, chicken broth and sesame oil. Stir until thoroughly heated and mixed. Add soy sauce, chicken broth or bouillon powder and sesame oil, and mix evenly through. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with additional chopped green onions if desired.

There you have it! I hope you enjoy your "international" cuisine :-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Attack Ducks with Fangs

Have you ever done something, and then afterwards realize you shouldn't have? This was our fate today.

Kyra & I met our friends, Amanda & Klaire for a play date, and because we were meeting at a Starbucks within walking distance of a pond, we decided to walk around the pond after grabbing our coffee. I also thought I was being the most wonderful mommy ever, because I remembered to bring bread to feed the ducks!!!

We're walking, the sun is shining, and the conversation is good. We noticed lots of evidence of ducks, but not the ducks themselves, which seemed kind of odd. So we continued walking, and then decided to stop for a minute to see if we could find the ducks. At that moment we looked across the pond, and swimming towards us are between 5-7 ducks. Hurray!

I get Kyra out of her stroller, take the bread out of the bag, and I kid you not, I am ATTACKED by these ducks. They are literally rushing me. So I throw a big piece of bread behind them, back into the water, hoping it will distract them. Only 1 or 2 of them fall for that old trick. The rest look at me, as if to say, "How dumb do you think we are? We know you have a whole bag of bread left!", and start advancing on me.

Kyra is just standing there petrified, and Amanda is saying, "What's wrong with those ducks? I've never seen ducks act like that before!" Then I mistakenly gave Kyra a piece of bread to throw at the ducks. Apparently she was too slow, because one brazen hussy of a duck literally came up and grabbed it out of her hand!! I'm just glad she (Kyra) didn't get hurt, because I probably would have drop-kicked that duck across the pond and then gotten a huge fine from the PETA people.

Anyway, we quickly ran out of bread, so I put Kyra back in the stroller, and we kept walking. It wasn't until we were almost to the far side of the pond that I noticed this little sign posted by the water. Its general message was something like this, "I know it's fun to feed the ducks. However it really messes their systems up, so please don't."

In my defense, we were having a very enjoyable conversation, and I guess my focus wasn't on all the pond signage, all around the pond. Oops! I guess that also explains why those ducks were so aggressive, as I would bet most good people obey the signs...

So, Kyra, I publicly apologize for leading you astray--Next time I promise Mommy will read the signs...


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Night at the Airport

Katie and I were chatting the other day, and she asked me if my folks had gotten home okay from their Cruisin' Europe trip, as she'd expected me to have blogged about it.

Am I that predictable??


Truth be told, I had filed their "picking up from the airport" doings away for a future post, and had written about some other things.

So now, after they've been home for over a week, without further adieu, "the airport post" :-)

Their flight was to come in from Seattle at 10:10pm, so it made the most sense for me to go to the airport to pick them up---I'm the night owl in our family.

I made really good time getting to the airport, as there was no traffic at that time of night. I had brought a book, and expected to sit in the cell phone waiting area & read until they called. However, I was a bit tired, and decided to park the car, go in & get some coffee, and then read inside--it made sense to pay the extra $ to park the car, if it helped me to stay awake driving home.

Coffee People was still open, so I got a small coffee, and found my way to the waiting area by the security gates. I was stunned to see so many people at the airport, that late at night, and on a Monday! The waiting area was packed, and the crowd standing near the incoming passenger lane was 3 & 4 people deep. I wasn't too worried, however, as I was able to find a seat, and knew I had at least an hour before they were to arrive.

If you've ever spent any amount of time at the airport, you know it's a great place to observe people. Between the alarming number of young ones, who insisted on launching themselves on & off of the chair next to me--"why aren't they in bed?" I asked myself..., and the constant parade of interesting people, my book just couldn't compete.

Tell me, what would possess a person to fly in 4-inch heels??? Are you attending a stiletto convention in the sky? I would just love to see you have to run for your flight in those, without breaking your ankle...

And then there was this disheveled guy who looked like he was carrying everything he owned, just wandering around the terminal. Once he stopped a passing TSA agent, and it was just like in the movies when you see a guy on the street slyly approach someone, and say, under his breath, "You wanna buy a watch?"--I don't think he was selling watches, but it was too strange!!

The highlight of my evening though, other than when my parents arrived, was watching this one little girl (about 5 yrs old) greet her mom who had just come home. When she saw her appear in the crowd of people making their way to the baggage claim, she tore her hand out of her dad's grip, ran as fast as she could, jumped into her Mom's outstretched arms, shouting, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" Her mom then smothered her with tons of hugs & kisses, and held her tight.

Absolutely priceless. I literally teared up, right there in the middle of the airport! And although I didn't yell, "Mommy, Mommy" when my parents showed up, I secretly wanted to.

Oh to be young again, and not worried about what people will think about you...

P.S. They had a great time on their trip, but were absolutely exhausted, and all they wanted to do was sleep, sleep, sleep.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Where are your manners?

It might look like I'm piggybacking on Janet's post about holding the door open, but I've actually had this one in the back of my mind for a while now :-)

It seems like these days the use of simple manners, or even common courtesy is more a rarity, than the norm. Folks are in such a terrible "hurry", that they often "forget" how to be polite. And don't even expect to be let in, when we're all stopped in traffic, even if you have the "right-of-way". That is bound to inconvenience someone else, so forget about it!

So what has happened to our society? When did we become so "me, me, me"? Even the small act of saying, "You're welcome" when someone says, "Thank you", has seemed to disappear from our vocabulary.

To prove this point, a local radio station recently did an experiment to see what kind of response they would get when they said, "Thank you". They called 10 local businesses, asked where they were located, and then pointedly and cheerfully said, "Thank you." Only 4 of the 10 responded by saying, "You're welcome". The most popular response was, "Uh huh", with "No problem" and "thanks" close behind. The worst were a couple of the businesses that simply hung up without even saying goodbye! Now that's customer service.

Here's a challenge: In your conversations in the next few weeks, listen to what you say, and the others around you, when someone says, "Thanks". I think you'll be amazed at how absent "You're welcome" is...

All for bringing "You're welcome" back,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sweets for the Sweet :-)

Fall is definitely here, and that means pumpkin season is right around the corner!!!

Although I'm not normally a big fan of eating anything pumpkin, I have to admit, these Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars are to die for.

The recipe actually came from a local real estate agent, who included it with her monthly newsletter, so I don't know its original source...

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars


1 cup flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons soft butter/margarine
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (I leave these out as I'm allergic to them)
8 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Libby's pumpkin (solid pack)
2 Eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour & brown sugar in medium bowl. Cut in butter/margarine to make crumb mixture (reserve 3/4 cup for topping). Press remaining mixture into bottom of 8 x 8 pan. Pat down & bake for 15 minutes. Cool. Combine remaining ingredients in large bowl. Beat until fairly smooth and pour over baked crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb topping. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool & refrigerate overnight. Cut & serve.

Just a note: I brought these to our family Thanksgiving one year, and they were the first dessert gone, even faster than the pies!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Come read with me

Every Tuesday morning, one or more of our local library branches has Storytime for the younger set, and this has quickly become one of Kyra's favorite past times.

Last week the newest library in the Washington County group held their first story time to begin at 10:30am. They also weren't sure how well-attended it would be, so they opened it to all ages, from birth to pre-school.

Well it was so popular, that by 10:15, you could hardly find an empty spot on the story rug. Moms & kids were packed in like sardines. In fact, I overheard a mom afterwards on her cell phone saying, "Ack! I made the mistake of dropping by the library this morning, and they were holding storytime. There must be like 500 kids here!" Obviously a slight exaggeration, but there were a lot of bodies in a pretty small space.

We happened to get there a little early, so were able to snag a spot on the rug, near the far book shelves. Although this was good because we could see & hear everything, the nearness of all those books, just begging to be pulled off the shelf, was a little too tempting for Kyra.

As you can see in the picture below from their website, Kyra ultimately caved to the draw of the books. Every other child is at least facing in the direction of the story teller, while our daughter has her back completely turned away from her (she's the one on the far right, with the dark hair, by the book shelves--sorry about the smallness of the picture. I couldn't make it any bigger without losing the resolution).

So, maybe she's a little young yet, for organized story time, but it gets us a chance to get out, meet other moms with kids around her age, and she does love books. And regardless of how much she actually "learns", her great-grandmother, who was a librarian, would be so pleased!

I will leave you with words by a famous doctor, from one of Kyra's favorite books:
Left foot, left foot, right foot, right. Feet in the day, and feet in the night.