Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Halloween 2009

Nate(in full costume), along with the kids, our pastor and his wife

You'll soon notice that Layla was having a hard time smiling that day

What a smiley baby!

Phew! I feel better having posted that before Christmas! Only two days left! Oh come, oh come Emmanuel!

Squeezing It In Just Before Christmas

I'm trying to post all my pictures of fall and such before Christmas Day! We like to do things last minute around here, can ya tell! Halloween pics to come!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Can you tell I'm busy this week? My second YouTube post wouldn't tip you off, lol! Layla came down stairs this morning and said she read most of this book last night by herself. She did it again for me this morning, only needing help with the longer words. It's fun to see her recognizing short words that she no longer needs to phonetically sound out. This is one of the kids' favorites, so I'm sure her memorization of parts of this book helped her "read" it! No matter what, she has made great progress since September.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Spirit

This has to be one of my favorite non-traditional Christmas songs. When I got the CD eons ago, I didn't even like the song. Now after years of playing it each Christmas season, I have grown extremely fond of it. Don't mind the weirdo digital video. It's the only one I could find with this song!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Great Timing

This afternoon, for a very short time, things seemed to fall perfectly in place. As the kids started the lengthy process of bundling up for going out doors, I nursed Gunnar and put him down for a nap. After that, I finished zipping coats, tucking in gloves, and smothering bare cheeks with good ol' bag balm (my kids faces always seem to get wickedly wind burned). I sent them out doors and set the timer, since the wind chill is well below zero. I looked on the front porch to see that the kids' Christmas presents were delivered. I was able to sneak the box to the basement without worrying about little eyes seeing anything! After that I was able to do a bit of meal prep and make some hot tea to have ready for a chilled, Layla and Julius. The timer went off and the kids reluctantly came back inside. They don't really seem to understand or care much about frostbite! As we sat around the dining room table, chatting and finishing up our tea, the baby woke up from his nap. Since then, "great timing" has fled our presence and we have returned to our normal state of chaos. I sure enjoyed it while it lasted! Don't worry, I enjoy the chaos, too!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Holiday Season Would Be Complete Without Some Tasty Gingerbread Men!

image from The British Larder

This weekend, as I planned out our meals to get through the end of the week without major grocery shopping, I knew of one tasty treat that I could make with the supplies I had on hand. By whipping up a batch of gingerbread men, I would not only have enough cookies to share with some friends and family, I would be making my children ecstatically happy in the process.

Since I was low on butter, I figured I would just decorate my cute little spicy guys with some decorative chocolate candies and skip the frosting this year. Last year our gingerbread men got all decked out in some tasty butter frosting and they were delicious. This year's gingerbread men were a bit simpler, but just as tasty, especially with a nice hot drink!

This recipe is adapted from Aimee's recipe at Under the High Chair. I love her blog and her recipes always turn out well, too! This recipe makes a lot of dough, so plan on sharing some Christmas cookie love with those in your life so you don't end up eating them all yourself!

Gingerbread Men

(or any other shaped cookie your prefer)

5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup molasses

Cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add eggs, one at a time to butter and sugar, mixing well in between. Add half of the dry ingredients and beat until combined. Add molasses and beat again. Finish with remaining dry ingredients. Divide dough into four or five pieces and press them about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up until three days. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out shapes. I pressed my little chocolate candies in the dough before baking. Bake for about 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Bake longer for crisp cookies or if using them as decorations. If you didn't decorate your cookies before baking, frost with your favorite frosting, sugars, sprinkles and candies. Enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fun Pics of Our Missouri Trip

Is It Here Already?

Yesterday and today, I was caught off guard by Julius' hunger. Every hour or so, he was walking around the house saying, "I wanna eat!" As I was preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the day, he was right by my side in the kitchen, asking if it was ready yet. The kids helped me make a pie this morning, that was for tonight's dessert, but Julius tried his hardest to get a piece well before dinner. I can't even count the number of times he said, "I want pie" throughout the day, in his cute little voice.

I am a little scared that this might be the beginning of that scary, insatiable hunger that parents talk about, from boys that end up eating them out of house and home. You know, the kind of boys that eat the whole pizza by themselves, that was intended to feed a small handful of adults. Or the boy that brings a whole loaf of bread on a field trip, that is already made into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which he eats all of during lunch. That kind of hunger. I kinda thought I had at least a few more years until it kicked in. Julius will only be three in a few months. We are not a big, eat-between-meals kind of family, but after listening to him for the past day and a half, I think this mama needs to add some snacks to her meal planning.

Fortunately, we have had some chips, popcorn and cheesy puffs on hand, left-over from our road trip this past week. But that is not really the type of snack I want him consuming all the time. They are not very healthy and they are not that cheap. Every time I gave Julius something to snack on, I also made him drink a glass of water with hopes of it making him feel more full. Even tonight, after eating two pieces of homemade pizza loaded with meat and vegetables, a chunk of apple, a slice of pie and two glasses of water, he still insisted on a snack about 30 minutes after dinner! I ended up giving him a spoonful of peanut butter and another glass of water. He tried really hard for another piece of pie, but I told him he would have to wait until tomorrow.

This could also just be a phase that will end shortly, but just in case, I think I am going to scribble out a few ideas of snacks that I could have on hand that will fill the belly, in a good way. If I come up with anything good, I'll be sure to share!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Making Do With What You Have Can Be Delicious!

With our trip to Missouri behind us, getting the house up for sale, and the Christmas holiday coming around the corner, our household is really tightening up the grocery budget. Determined to make it through the week without buying much food, I really tried to get creative with what I had on hand. Nate's parents sent us home with a bag of leftover rolls that had gone stale. Stale bread makes great french toast. Combine that with the last of our frozen blueberries from this summer and you have one delicious dish. This recipe came from a fellow teacher at Nate's school. I made this recipe without the cream cheese and substituted brown sugar for the maple syrup since I didn't have either of those on hand. It still came out great! This recipe is perfect for any upcoming holiday brunch or just to have ready for some special house guests.

Blueberry French Toast


12 pieces of Texas Toast, cubed (feel free to substitute whatever type bread/roll)
1/3 cup maple syrup (we used brown sugar)
8 or 16 oz cream cheese, cubed - depending on how much you like
12 eggs (I used less because that all I had!)
1 cup milk
1 pint of blueberries

1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup of water
1 pint of blueberries
1 tbsp of butter

Grease a 13 x 9 pan. Place half of the cubed bread in the bottom of the pan. Cube the cream cheese and place on top of the bread. Add 1 pint of blueberries to the top. Beat the eggs, milk, and maple syrup together. Pour over the bread mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, cornstarch and water. Cook over medium heat until thick. Remove from heat and add butter and blueberries. Pour over the top of the bread mixture after removing from the oven. Let cool slightly before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

My Best Advice For Saving Money In Your Grocery Budget

Another way we are making do with what we have is making stock from my mother's turkey bones. Throw some leftover bones, a carrot and celery stalk broken into a few pieces, and a small onion, quartered, into your crock pot with a few tablespoons of vinegar. Fill with cold water and cook on low for the next 12 to 24 hours. Cooking your stock this long allows the most nutrients to come from the bones. The crock pot allows you to simmer the stock that long in a safe way. Strain out the bones and vegetables and use the stock to make your favorite soup. You can do this with any type of bones. And for a lovely golden color stock, leave the outside skins of the onion on. This is a wonderful way to make a meal from something that many would just throw away. It will save you lots of money and give you added nutrition as well. One of the reasons that people in many Asian cultures are so healthy is that they have bone broth with every meal.

Because the stock simmers so long, don't be afraid to use a small amount of bones. We will sometimes purchase two pork blade steaks for around three dollars. After eating them for a meal, we will take the small bones from each steak and make stock for split pea soup. Even though the bones are small, the stock is still very flavorful. So the next time you are at the grocery store, check out meat that has some bones in it and you will end up getting two meals from where you only used to get one!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Good Times in Missouri

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday! We headed to Joplin, Missouri this Thanksgiving to celebrate with Nate's parents. We had not seen them since Memorial Day, so we were anxious to get down there.

The drive to Missouri should take about 12 hours for two adults who are able to take minimal bathroom breaks. But, for a family with three little kids, that 12 hours turned into 14 1/2! Nate and I counted 8 stops on the way down. Eight! That is kind of ridiculous! But when you have a 4 year-old, 2 year-old and an eight month-old, things frequently become ridiculous. That's the fun of life with little ones! The stops were for coffee, fuel, diaper changes, nursing, food and just plain insanity breaks of being trapped in the van that long! And all those things never seemed to happen at just one stop, so every hour or so we would stop again to do something that we didn't do at the last stop.

God's blessing was definitely upon us during this trip. In the St. Louis area, God allowed Nathan to stop the car just in time to avoid the crash that happened right in front of us! Poor little Layla was very bothered by that accident and said she couldn't get it out of her head. We had to convince her that the people didn't seem to be hurt, only their cars. On the way home there were a few accidents as well, but on the other side of the expressway.

We were relieved to arrive in Joplin. Since we left around 4:30 am on Wednesday, we were able to get there by supper time. It was nice to finally eat real food, too! Nate's mother had a delicious roast with carrots, onions and potatoes. Yum! I think I ate two helpings!

In the middle of the night on Wednesday, we discovered a trip to Missouri is not complete without some puking! Last year at Thanksgiving, Layla was the one puking. This year, Julius decided it was his turn. By the next day we think he was nearing the 15 mark of number of times throwing up. Yuck! On and off the rest of the weekend, Julius would surprise us with his throwing up. At least we got some breaks in between!

The turkey did not thaw in time for Thanksgiving, so we made our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday, instead. This seemed like divine intervention since Julius threw up all day on Thursday, but not once on Friday. It is much nicer enjoying a Thanksgiving feast without running to catch puke! Dinner was wonderful! The stuffing tasted the best! Yum, I could eat more right now!

The kids loved their time with "Beepaw and Damma." I know, these are weird names for grandma and grandpa, but they are the names Layla came up with before she was even 2 years-old. Since she is the first-born, she has taught Julius and everyone else that those are their names! Nate's dad even has "Beepaw" on his license plate.

Layla and Julius loved coloring, reading, playing dominoes, making Christmas decorations, watching "Elf", playing at the park, and playing Lincoln Logs with Beepaw and Damma. I think their favorite was going to the petting farm. This was the best petting farm I had ever been to. You could only come by appointment, so there was only two other families there. There were so many animals, it was great! The kids got to take numerous pony rides and feed and pet a variety of animals. The kids loved the baby lama, calf, emu and buffalo. My favorites were the jersey cow, baby lama, and the miniature donkeys. The calf named Curly thought I was his favorite for a while. He wouldn't leave me alone! I was holding Gunnar in his baby carrier trying to peel this calf off me with my free hand. He seemed to love my corduroy pants. He kept rubbing his snotty nose up and down my legs and kept pushing me around. Nate and his mom finally came to my rescue and the farmer tied Curly up for a while. It was so much fun to watch the kids run around and feed all the animals. It really made our dream of having some farm animals that much clearer!

It is always sad to leave Beepaw and Damma, but it wasn't that bad this time because we knew we would be seeing them at Christmas. Only four weeks away! Can you believe it!

The ride home went well, considering the distance traveled. We managed to keep it to only 5 stops on our way home, but a few of them were 30 to 40 minute stops. We let the kids play at a McDonald's play land in the morning, we ran around at a rest stop for a bit in the early afternoon and about an hour away from home we spent about 30 minutes at a Taco Bell because everyone about had it by that point. Julius even managed to puke twice at the Taco Bell to finish off the trip with a bang!

Before we left for Missouri, we managed to put our house up for sale. It is such a relief to have the sign in the yard. We have our first showing scheduled for Sunday. Hopefully those people like what they see! Keep us in your prayers that our house will sell quickly!

We are enjoying our celebration of Advent and our anticipation of Christmas. Don't forget to enjoy the anticipation of Christmas just as the Jews anticipated the coming of the Messiah! Oh come, oh come Emmanuel!