Friday, April 23, 2010

Silly Spaghetti Dogs

Confession time. Yes, I serve hot dogs to my oldest. She doesn't have them all of the time but they are on the lunch rotation.
Silly Spaghetti Dogs
I had seen some silly hot dog business on a few websites and decided yesterday that we needed to instill some of that same silliness into our lunch. I taught Peanut how to make Silly Spaghetti Dogs. She had great fun poking the uncooked spaghetti noodles in the hot dog pieces.

Silly Spaghetti Dogs
They do look a bit strange sitting there waiting for the water to boil.
Silly Spaghetti Dogs
Next I dunked them in the boiling water and waited for the noodles to cook. They were even sillier after being cooked. Peanut thought they were great.
Silly Spaghetti Dogs
They were so easy to make. Peanut got to help make them and then got quite a kick out of her lunch. This is certainly not something we would do everyday but now and then.
Silly Spaghetti Dogs
I do have to share a funny story regarding this creation. I sent my hubby a picture via our cell phones of Peanut eating her Silly Spaghetti Dog while he was at school. I try to do this off and on so he can see his sweeties throughout his chaotic days. Anyways...later we were talking about it and he asked, "How in the world did you get the spaghetti in the hot dog? Did you poke a hole with a toothpick and string it through?" HAHA!

I assured him that we had poked the uncooked noodles through so it was easy and I had not boiled them and threaded them through a needle to poke through the hot dog.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Comfort Food

It is fitting to write about comfort food right after writing about my bestie...right?

If you know me at all, if you have ever sent one of those silly quiz emails (That I can not resist! Don't judge!), you will know that my all time favorite comfort food is...drumroll, please....Mac and Cheese.

Why mac and cheese? Well, it goes back to my mom. She made a killer baked macaroni and cheese that we had for every holiday and on my birthday. It was a special thing and I loved it. She poured more love into that big ol' baked dish of cheesy goodness than actual cheese. I always remember her when I am making it for my family.

I also used to be a box mac and cheese gal too, but that has changed. Move over comes homemade! I discovered WHITE SAUCE... or the fancier Bechamel Sauce. (I feel like Julia Child saying that.) Mom would make a quick mac and cheese by boiling the macaroni, draining, add chunks of cheese, and some milk. Stir until cheese is melted. This is really good too but (Sorry, Mom!) I have found a new love.

I feel like the only one that doesn't know about Bechamel Sauce. It is YUMMY and so easy and worth the extra few minutes it takes to make AND you know exactly what the ingredients are. There is no mystery cheese powder floating in the air.

This is what I do....

Boil my macaroni and drain.
Melt 2 -3 T. butter in a saucepan.
Add 1/4 c. flour and whisk into the melted butter for a few minutes.
This will make a pasty substance.
Slowly add some milk and whisk until thick.
Add some more milk and whisk until thickened.
I add around 1 1/2 c. milk or so just add A LITTLE at a time. (I just guess at the milk amount or go until I have the consistency I want.)
I have heard if you warm the milk up it will thicken faster.
Then pour in the shredded cheese....again as much or as little as you want.
(If you shred your own from a block of cheese it will melt much better. The shredded cheese has an ingredient that keeps it from caking together and also makes it harder to melt to a smooth consistency.)
Stir until melted and pour in macaroni.

At this can serve it or pour into a baking dish, top with buttered bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees for 20ish minutes.

I will not go back to boxed macaroni...EVER! Even the $0.49 sale won't sway me because I can buy a box of pasta that will last for awhile for CHEAP and I always have the other ingredients on hand.

And now I will share my mom's beloved baked Macaroni recipe. My recipe is even in her handwriting! I don't need the recipe anymore, but I always use it because it is her writing...a piece of her. This I still make, but only on special occasions and only when there is a group of people because Hubby doesn't care for Mac and Cheese. (Polar opposites, I tell ya!)

Mom's Baked Macaroni and Cheese
4 c. elbow macaroni
2 T. butter
2 eggs, beaten
3 c. milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine first 5 ingredients. Beat milk and eggs together and pour over macaroni. Mix up a bit. Bake 40-50 minutes.

I just cube the cheese in small squares. I also have started adding bread crumbs or cracker crumbs mixed with melted butter over top to give it a crunchy topping.

Comfort food at it's best!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

THE Friend

It's time to share with you about someone whom I love to death. She is my best friend. She is just an amazing person yet I know when she reads this she is going to tell me I shouldn't have posted it. She doesn't think she is all that special but she is. She knows that there is only one real reason how she is able to continue on the remarkable journey that she is on. She will tell you straight up that it is not by her academic prowess (but she is STINKING smart), her discipline or anything of her. She is an amazing person but she knows she is making it through each day because she is doing exactly what she has been called to do by Jesus.

She is currently in the army and a pre-med student in her 2nd year of studies. I do not know how she does it all. When I am having a rough day, I remember my best friend and realize I can do this if she is doing what she is doing. On top of all of her crazy studies, she is an incredible mom. She adores the two beautiful kids that God has blessed her and her husband with.

How did I meet this Wonder Woman? Well, that is a funny story. It was 1997 and I had started seeing this guy that I met at college. He started telling me about his two best friends who were engaged to be married. She was having some medical problems at the time and he asked me to pray for her.

Welcome Home!
Now this guy (whom I currently have two beautiful little girls with) was, shall we say...edgy. He wasn't a preppy type in his style. He was more...maybe on the hippy side. So I being a conservative dresser was envisioning his two best friends in the whole world in my head and what I envisioned for her was a hippy. I imagined prairie dresses, hairy legs and arm pits...well you get the idea. I wasn't sure they would approve of their best friend's new gal and her collection of Amy Grant CDs.

As our meeting drew nearer, I knew what a big deal this was. They were his best friends and I was completely smitten with this guy and I wanted their blessing and I SHAVE MY LEGS! We were to meet on the weekend of their wedding. We headed to Ohio for the big weekend in which not only was I meeting the best friends, but the parents too. NO PRESSURE there!

The parent meeting was awesome. I adore my in-laws and it started right at the first meeting. They were so kind and welcoming so I was hoping for the same when meeting said friends.

We took off for the rehearsal dinner. We entered the banquet room. I scoped it out for this girl who I had perfectly pictured in my head. This guy with this infectious laugh and strong handshake introduced himself as "Future Hubby's" best friend. Then I was introduced to the sweetest girl who was clean shaven (heehee) and in a dress she probably had found at the mall.

From that moment we met a friendship formed and grew and over time we became best friends. I do NOT know what I would do without her friendship today. I can't even begin to count the tears we have cried together and the laughs we have had. When she hurts, I hurt and I know that is vice versa too. I love her kiddos to the moon and back as she loves mine. I feel like I have gained so much from her and given so little in return. I will never forget the moment she met my firstborn for the first time. She cried like she was seeing her own baby. It was one of the sweetest moments. She is an honorary auntie to my kids as I am to hers.

Due to our move this last fall and her very stressful school schedule, we no longer get to see each other much BUT it does make me cherish our times together even more. We may run up the minutes on our cell phones but we can always pick up where we left off.

At one point in time we did in fact live in the same town and her daughter was enrolled in my preschool class. One evening I had her family over for supper and gave them some belated birthday gifts. I had written in her hubby's card how thankful I was that they lived so close and how much it meant to me and if he ever moved her away I would be ticked off. After he read his card he said, "We have something to tell you. We are moving." Tears came and kept coming even after they said they were moving only 30 minutes away. We laugh about it now especially that we are 3 1/2 hours from each other but at the time I was devastated.

I do dream of a day when we will live on the same block and she will be my kids' doctor. I don't know if this will ever happen as it appears we are becoming farther and farther apart as far as miles go. One thing I know for sure, no matter how far the miles are she will always be my best friend. There are countless more laughs and tears to share. I'm hoping more laughs than tears.

I love you dear, dear, dear friend. I am so proud of you and what you are doing. You truly are a jar of clay!

2 Corinthians 4:7 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Chuck E. Cheese

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beauty in the Mess

My hubby is a news junkie extraordinaire. He knows what is going on in the world especially in the world of politics. If you are his Facebook friend you will know this from the news links he posts hourly.

I have a hard time discussing events of our world with him because frankly if it wasn't on Caillou or Curious George, I'm really out of the loop. So...he fills me in. He lets me know what has been happening while I have been changing diapers, filling juice cups, and maintaining peace between two little ones who need to share.

Some days though, it's hard to listen to. I mean really I do care. I care what is going on in our world, but when you are fed everything in a huge nutshell it is so overwhelming. (Let me mention that I overwhelm VERY easily which is a huge pet peeve of Hubby's.) There are times when I have to say, "Enough. That is all my mind can take."

He tells me every time there is an earthquake reported and is currently listening to all video clips regarding the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

This stuff really freaks me out. I'll be honest. I hate to be all "End Times" but...Wow! Between the many natural disasters happening almost daily and the economic downfall our's so much to take in.

Tonight I was watching the series finale of a show that I might not admit to watching depending upon whom I was talking to but I just couldn't help myself from viewing and watching this adorable "UGLY" duckling transform into a beautiful Betty....I mean swan. Anyways....the show closed with a song that I just loved. Typically R&B music isn't my style but this song was fun and it made me smile. I just had to share it here because frankly the world is a REAL Debbie Downer but then again it really always has been BUT there is still beauty in the world.

The flowers are blooming, the sky is blue, the leaves are unfolding before my very eyes, my girls are amazing....yes, indeed, amidst all of the heart ache and hurt, there is still beauty in the world. Thank you, Lord for your creative artistry and knack at amazing details.

(If you want to hear the song that inspired this post, here it is. Remember to pause my playlist at the bottom of the page before playing the video.)

Macy Gray - Beauty in the World

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts from a random week:

* This morning when I washed my hair, I noticed that my shampoo bottle is almost empty while my conditioner bottle was not nearly that empty. Someone has been using my shampoo because I HATE when they are not nearing empty at the same rate so I go to great lengths to make sure this doesn't happen. This bothers me alot. I I buy more conditioner and then always have this problem? How annoying is that!!! So I just use less shampoo and a GLOB of conditioner and gently remind Hubby that I have in fact restocked his shampoo and to leave mine alone!

* This probably goes hand in hand with the above issue. Each morning I open our front windows, I make sure that the two windows are level with each other when opened. I also make sure the blinds are level when I let them down. I do not like when one side is higher or lower than the other. Is that what you call anal?

* I have two grocery items that I can not give up even though they cost more to buy and probably are not green. I love the cleaning wipes! I use them all of the time. I hate spraying gunk all over but love these handy dandy little cleaning things. I also LOVE the Crisco you can buy in sticks. I hate plopping globs of Crisco in measuring cups. What a mess! The sticks are so convenient. I rarely use Crisco so I don't feel too bad about buying these rather than that big old can of lard.

* I finally jumped on board with reusable shopping bags. Kroger had the cutest ones 2 for $1.00 yesterday so I bought 4 and felt really good about myself. I am so tired of plastic shopping bags falling out every time I open my pantry door!

* The lilacs are in FULL bloom here. I wish I had a picture to share with you but I didn't have time to stop and get one today. I LOVE lilacs!

* The lifestyle change...not going so hot right now. I've been in a funk. The girls have been sick, we had Easter...I got out of my habit changes but I will get there. We're still eating healthier. My grocery cart had a lot of produce today which makes me as happy as a lark.

* I made homemade chicken strips the other night and they were lovely. Have you used Panko bread crumbs? I've heard so much about them but had never bought them. The chicken strip recipe I used called for them and all I have to say is, "SO LONG BREADCRUMBS!" Here is the recipe for Jill's Crispy Herbed Chicken Strips. These will be made again!

* Our realtor emailed my hubby to let him know that someone who had been in to look at our house had poked at a patch of paint above our fireplace that was a bit bubbled. We lived in that house for 7 years with that bubble and never bothered it. We didn't pick at it when we were looking at the house interested in buying it. But now someone felt the need to poke and we have a hole in the paint that looks redneck. Thank you dear, sweet person for doing that. Thanks for thinking that it was polite to POKE the bubble. It sure was thoughtful!!!!! Grrrrr!

(Up-date: A friend of ours stopped by to see the damage and it isn't just chipped paint. The person pushed hard enough to go all the way through and we now have a HOLE the size of a baby food jar lid!!!! The hole goes all the way there is nothing behind the wall, just nothingness! She didn't think it was something we would be able to just patch up. It could involve redoing the entire arched wall above our fire place!!!!! She said she pushed on the area a little to see how much give it had and it had none. This means that the thoughtful person SHOVED until it gave and made the hole. I'm having a hard time feeling kindhearted towards this lovely person!)

*That leads me to the house. We had two people very interested in taking a step towards putting an offer on the house 2 weeks ago. Here we are two weeks later and nothing. It is so discouraging. I know there are others who have been on the market for much longer and I try to remember that, but it is getting exceedingly harder. I've been in a mood for awhile now and I think this is why. I just know that with warm weather comes alot more upkeep and it is so hard to get up there. And then there is the whole thing about money. It is discouraging. And it doesn't help that I miss my house so much. I loved that house. I still do. Right now I miss my yard, my flower beds. Spring has really put this ache in me for the house. It is the sweetest home. I miss my park down the street. I miss our neighborhood. I miss it.

* What kind of person facebooks you to ask if she can stop by your house that is for sale to mow the yard for you and offers to do it for you off and on over the summer months? AN AWESOME, INCREDIBLE, THOUGHTFUL friend. Thank you so much!!!!! She even scored a blister and didn't mind a bit. Wow! I need to be more like that!!!!! It spoke so much to me about serving others.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Asian Yumminess

I found this recipe a while ago and tucked it in my memory bank for later use. I finally got around to making it last week and it was scrumptious! It was super easy too.

The blogger whose site I found it on used a rotisserie chicken. I had made a roast chicken for supper one night and just used the left-overs to make the salad. I also used whole wheat pasta in place of the regular.

And to make it even simpler, I cheated. I used a bottle of Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing which is currently my FAVORITE salad dressing.

The recipe made a BUNCH! I had two huge bowls of salad after I was finished. I also have a sweet friend with a new baby, so I shared my salad abundance with her. If I was going to make it again and just for us, I would halve everything except the oranges and almonds.

You click here to find the recipe for Asian Chicken Pasta Salad. You definitely need to try out this recipe. It will be in full rotation on my summer menus.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jessica's Theme

Tonight I was visiting a blog that I have mentioned here before Isabel Hope. Their story is heart breaking but they have faith and believe that God will see them through their heart ache. While I was reading her beautiful insights from this journey they are on, the second song in her playlist began to play and something stirred within me. I knew that song. It flooded my heart with memories and longing. Where was it from? Why did it move me so? Why were there tears forming in my eyes?

I checked the title and I knew. It was "Jessica's Theme" from the movie "The Man from Snowy River." Have you ever seen this movie? It is a good old chick flick straight from the 80's. I can pretty much guarantee my hubby would be sneaking peeks at his iPod if I made him watch it.

But why did this song strike such a chord with me? It took me right back to 1989(ish). My dad had to go out of town for work for a while and we had a pretty new VCR. My mom and I had a girl's night. We rented The Man from Snowy River having no idea what it was. We loved this movie so much! I believe we had also rented The Man from Snowy River 2. We fell in love with Jim and Jessica and rooted them on. I was in junior high so I was falling all over this Jim character. I dreamed of owning a horse farm in Australia.

This song took me right back to that living room and my mom. It stirred so many emotions in me and made me cry as I missed her so much again.

Isn't it totally amazing how music or a certain smell or taste can invoke such strong emotions or memories. It is so powerful.

The smell of smoke or the way the wind blows a certain way takes me instantly back to my mission trip to Grenada while I was in college. The smell of coffee in the morning can take me right back to spending the night at my Grandma's house as a little girl.

"Jessica's Theme" is a beautiful song. You can listen to it here. Remember to pause my playlist at the bottom before watching the video which is from the movie. If you are in need of a good romance you should try to locate this movie. I think I am going to hunt it down at our library for some quiet evening when I am all alone and can wrap myself in the memory of Mom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Recommendations

I just finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett last night. It was excellent. I actually picked it up from the library on Friday and couldn't put it down. It is a huge book so I was surprised how fast I got through it. Beware though if you read it, you just might never eat chocolate pie again, at least a pie someone else has made for you.

I wanted to share with you some other books that I have read over the years that have stuck with me and I would HIGHLY recommend to you. The only order they are in is the order they popped into my head.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Someone Knows my Name by Lawrence Hill

The Shack by William P. Young
PHENOMENAL!!!! (I must add that if this is ever made into a movie, Queen Latifah must play Papa because she is who I pictured while I read it.)

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
This was a very quick read, but it really did move me. It was an emotional book.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
(I have her next book on hold at the library, Broken Horses.)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This was one of the most powerful books that I have ever read. I had seen the movie first and was so incredibly moved by it that I made a bee line for the library to get the book.

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

What are some of your favorite books? I am looking for a new one to read and need some recommendations.