Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tonight, I AM the Queen!

Prince Charming is taking me on a date tonight! Yippee!

We didn't really date when we were "dating."

We definitely don't date now that we're married.

But, tonight, we have a date. He surprised me by setting everything up without my knowing about it. He even arranged child care in advance (thank God for our pastor and his wife!).

For two hours tonight (Only two hours, you ask? I'm a nursing mom.) I can forget about the fact that I got very little sleep last night.

I can forget about the fact that Sleeping Beauty flat out refused to take a nap today.

I can enjoy uninterrupted time with my husband instead of being interrupted with Cinderella's incessant chatter.

Two hours with just me and Prince Charming.


I'm not sure what we're going to do. I know it'll involve an inexpensive dinner (we're on a tight budget). It might involve watching some more episodes of the first season of Heroes (we borrowed it from a coworker; we don't have television).

All I know is, leaving the house or staying home, I'M GOING ON A DATE!

Without my kids!


I feel like the Queen! The Queen of a very poor kingdom, but a Queen nonetheless.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Yet Another Recipe--Baked Potato Soup

Okay. I'm addicted to sharing recipes. I admit it. I suppose that's the first step to recovery, right?

Only, I don't think I want to recover from this addiction.

Am I in denial? You bet!

This recipe is the ultimate comfort food. It's super easy and absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious! This one is also from Cooking Light.

Baked Potato Soup

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), baked and cooled
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

1. Peel baked and cooled potatoes; coarsely mash. Discard skins.
2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Sprinkle each serving with cheese, onions, and bacon.
Yield: 8 servings.

Here's how I make it:

*I don't have a Dutch oven, so I just use a large, deep pan.

That's it. This one is so easy, I don't modify it any more than that.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

How I Know I'm not the Queen

We rarely eat fast food. I don't really like the food, and I don't like feeding Cinderella anything that unhealthy.

The last time we got anything from a fast food restaurant, Cinderella got this silly pair of antlers in her meal. They look something like this:
Okay; not really, but you get the idea. It was a pair of antlers, with ears, attached to a head band.

Utterly ridiculous.

Until you remember where I live.

Anyway, the other day Cinderella was playing her favorite game of "Princess," and I was all excited, thinking I might get to be the Queen.

I thought wrong.

I wasn't even the bad step-sister, like usual.

Oh no.

I was the Prince.

This is usually my husband's role.

He wasn't home.

To crown me the Prince, Cinderella insisted I wear a crown of deer antlers.

Oh, joy!

I may not be the Queen, but I was the Prince for about 10 minutes.

I think I'll keep looking.

And yes, that is the tag sticking out of the front of Cinderella's shirt. She insisted on wearing it backwards.

She's three.

'Nough said.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

WFMW--Frozen Meals

Prince Charming and I are on a tight budget this year, due to the fact that I'm staying home with our princesses full time.

By this time of the month, my grocery budget is incredibly tight, and we're facing eating lots of spaghetti and tacos as the end of the month looms before us.

To prevent these slim pickings from becoming a trend every month, I have come up with a plan.

At the beginning of every late summer and fall month, when the grocery budget is fat and seems limitless, I still watch the sale ads closely, and plan at least one meal that can be easily doubled and frozen.

It's hardly any extra work to double a recipe, and it's such a nice feeling knowing my freezer is stocked with delicious, homemade meals like baked pasta, chili, lasagna, and a variety of soups.

Plus, it relieves the pressure from my grocery budget.

The key is to make sure you don't go over budget while preparing the extra meals now.

It's not difficult. Just buy meat and other ingredients when on sale. Be flexible.

When winter comes, you just defrost, bake, and actually get a chance to relax instead of slaving over dinner.

Believe me; it's worth the time and effort now.

Give it a try!

For more ideas, check out Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Space Heater

I don't know about where you live, but here, the nights have been getting perilously close to freezing temperatures. The days are still sunny and warm (70's), but the nights are very cool (high 30's).

Fortunately, I have a space heater.

It's a model I carefully researched and selected before making my final decision.

True, I didn't do much shopping around, and I didn't bother to try it out prior to use, but overall, I'm pleased with my selection.

It's worked well for 7 years, and it's still going strong.

"The brand," you ask?

I'll tell you right now: I'm never giving it away, and I'm not going to share it.

I love it too much.

You might actually have your own that you love as much as I love mine.

My space heater is my Prince Charming.

On cold and frosty nights I discover a love for Prince Charming like I've never had before: because of him, my side of the bed is always warm, even if he's on his side.

Unfortunately, this is also true in warmer weather.

Like the kind we had last week.

Last week, Prince Charming's allergies were working overtime to disturb my sleep (i.e. he was snoring like a banshee).

To counteract this effect, he slept on two pillows to elevate his head and keep his sinuses free and clear of any offending allergens.

No big deal, right?


After nursing Sleeping Beauty in the middle of the night one night last week, I came back to bed hoping for some cool sheets to crawl into.

I was met with a muggy heat instead.

Do you know the feeling I'm talking about? The feeling of too much body heat contained in a small area for too long?

Yeah. Not pleasant, is it?

I was miserable!

My side of the bed should have been cool and welcoming; instead, it was stickily unbearable.

I figured I could endure one night of this; but it happened again...and again.

After a few nights of this I finally discovered the why behind the problem.

Remember Prince Charming's two pillows? The top one had started to slide off towards the middle of the bed.

Prince Charming went with it.

Yep. He was sleeping in the middle of the bed.

That doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you share a queen-sized bed with another person, the middle of the bed becomes a no-man's land; no one is allowed in the middle. It's the only way to preserve your precious space.

Basically, I had no personal space left in the bed.

Prince Charming had breached the barriers of my space and claimed them as his own, heating them to the unbearable temperatures he so enjoys.


In defense of Prince Charming, he had no idea what he was doing.

Once I confronted him about this, he was kind enough to acknowledge the problem (with a few laughs) and has tried his hardest to comply.

We'll see.

Considering he doesn't even flinch when Sleeping Beauty wakes up, we'll see whether Prince Charming can remember to stay on his own side of the bed or not.

I love my space heater; I really do.

Sometimes, though, I wish it wouldn't work so hard.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Recipe--Chicken Souvlaki Salad

I love to cook.

I love recipes.

I love to share recipes, so I thought I'd share this one with everyone. It's super easy and so yummy! It makes a great all-in-one meal, especially with some pita bread and humus. This one is from Cooking Light.

Chicken Souvlaki Salad

2 tsp bottled minced garlic, divided
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast
3 cups cubed peeled cucumber (about 3 cucumbers)
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta
2 tbsp chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 lb)
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 cup grated peeled cucumber
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat grill or broiler
2. Combine 1 tsp garlic and the next 6 ingredients (through chicken breast) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal the bag and shake to coat. Remove chicken from the bag. Grill or broil chicken 5 minutes on each side or until done. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces.
3. Combine chicken, cubed cucumber, and the net 4 ingredients (through tomatoes) in a large bowl. Combine yogurt and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over chicken mixture; toss well. Yields 4 servings.

Here's how I make it:

*I'm lazy. I cut the chicken up and place it in a pan with the 1 tsp garlic through black pepper; I add a little water, and cook until done. Drain, and add to other ingredients.
*I find the red pepper to a be a little intense, especially for Cinderella. I usually cut back on the red pepper and supplement paprika for whatever I cut out. This makes the dressing a little sweeter.
*I have never bothered to grate cucumbers for this salad and it turns out just fine.
*I double the feta. Sometimes I use flavored feta.
*I used whole kalamata olives, sometimes with pits intact. I also don't measure how many and buy way more than the recipe calls for.
*Bottled lemon juice works just fine.
*If you have leftover chicken, it substitutes just fine instead of the marinaded chicken in the recipe.

This recipe is a staple in our house. In fact, we're having it for dinner sometime next week.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Day I Gave in to Advertising

I gave in to a radio advertisement today.

Sort of.

I was taking Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to the grocery store this morning, and we were listening to the country station (when in Rome...).

I tend to tune out commercials, but apparently Cinderella does not.

There was the stupidest commercial on for McDonald's today; a guy and his dog heading out to get a bacon-something for breakfast.

Cinderella, listening very intently, pipes up with, "Let's have a bacon sandwich for lunch!"



I ignore her suggestion, hoping it will just go away, and in an uncharacteristic moment, Cinderella drops the matter and talks about something else.

We made it to the grocery store without any more mention of bacon sandwiches; unfortunately, I had to buy bacon.

Cinderella again says, "Let's have a bacon sandwich for lunch!"

This kid has a memory on her, at least for unimportant things, like bacon sandwiches.

We get home; Cinderella plays with Play-Doh; Sleeping Beauty pretends to take a nap. After I give up on Sleeping Beauty, I ask Cinderella what she wants for lunch.

In my defense, I had completely forgotten about the whole bacon sandwich-thing. It had been 2 hours since it was last mentioned, and I had hoped against hope that the issue was dead.

Cinderella answers, nonchalantly, "A bacon sandwich."


I gave in. A BLT was starting to sound pretty good to me, too, so I made them. Cinderella's was just a BL, but I have to admit, she had a great idea.

I enjoyed every bite!

I may not be the Queen, but my darling princess thanked me with a smile that even a Queen would have envied.

And it was all for me.

And the bacon sandwich.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Works-For-Me-Wednesday--Baby Sling

When I became pregnant with Cinderella, I researched many different types of parenting. The one that resonated the most with me was attachment parenting.

So, we bought a baby sling.

Let me tell you, it was the BEST purchase we made for our little princess!

They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but this is the one we purchased, just in a different fabric. It's a SlingEZee from Parenting Concepts, though we got ours cheaper in a store.

Baby slings are great for getting fussy babies to calm down/sleep. They're perfect for going shopping. They work wonders for getting the vacuuming done.

My husband even enjoys wearing it.

And both my girls absolutely love(d) being carried around by Daddy.

You can wear infants in front facing you; you can wear them facing forward, once they can hold their heads steady. You can wear toddlers on your hip and even swing them behind you while you cook or clean.

This is one of the greatest baby innovations, ever!

Why don't more western cultures embrace this? It's been used for centuries in every other part of the world.

Why do we think these are weird?

Personally, I think they're great.

How about you?

See more ideas at Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Go to Bed, Idiot!

These last few nights I have stayed up way later that I should have, all on the pretext of making sure Sleeping Beauty was really asleep. There are few things I dislike more than having just gotten all comfy in bed and hearing the sounds of a baby wake. Grr!

Needless to say, though, when I stay up that extra half hour to ensure both girls are asleep, the half hour can stretch into an hour, even two.

I haven't made it to bed before midnight in three nights.

Have I mentioned before how I love to read?

When I find an enjoyable author, I have this bad habit of reading everything written by this person.

This time, I'm stuck on Philippa Gregory.

I have read everything my library system has by her, and I can't get enough!

Add three late-night read-a-thons with getting up every night to feed an infant, and a preschooler who can't sleep in much past 7:00, and you get a grumpy, exhausted, short-tempered mom.

Who, at this point, really wishes she was the Queen.

Queens get to sleep in. I don't.

Go to bed, idiot!

Me, not you.

Friday, September 14, 2007

My Infamous Chili Recipe

I've gotten quite a few requests for my chili recipe, so I thought I'd just post it here.

If you try it, let me know how it turns out.

I love this recipe! It's from the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with your Slow Cooker, by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good.

Colleen's Favorite Chili

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef, browned and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup finely diced green pepper
2 14 1/2-oz. cans diced tomatoes, or 1 quart home-canned tomatoes
30-32 oz. beans--kidney, or pinto, or mixture of the two
8-oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. beaumonde spice, optional
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 Tbsp., or more, chili powder
1 tsp. dried basil

1. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.
2. Cover. Cook on Low 8-12 hours, or High 5-6 hours.

Here's how I make it:
*I use 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef because I like meaty chili.
*I use kidney beans instead of pinto beans.
*I omit the beaumonde spice because I don't even know what it is.
*I use regular salt because I don't have seasoned salt.
*I only use 1 Tbsp. chili powder because I can't handle anything spicier.
*I usually cook it on High because I can't seem to remember to get it ready early enough to cook it on Low.

This recipe can be easily doubled; just make sure you have a very large (6-quart) slow cooker. I doubled the recipe this last time and my pot was literally filled to the brim. It naturally cooks down, but it was still incredibly full.

This recipe also freezes really well. Just reheat on the stove for even heating.

If you like this recipe, I've got plenty of others (not slow cooker) that are tried and true favorites in my family. I'll gladly share them, if anyone is interested.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

About Me

I figured it is probably time to introduce myself to everyone.

Here are 100 things about me:

1. I am 29 years old.
2. I am absolutely dreading my 30th birthday.
3. I was okay with 30 while my husband and friends turned 30.
4. I'm just not ready to admit I'm "all grown up."
5. I don't see myself as an adult.
6. I don't think I'm mature enough to be an adult.
7. I was born and raised in north Seattle.
8. Actually within the city limits.
9. I'm very particular about this piece of information.
10. I went to Holy Names Academy.
11. I absolute loved it!
12. Even without the boys.
13. I went to Western Washington University.
14. I studied Sociology.
15. I never graduated.
16. I got married.
17. And moved away.
18. My husband and I met on a mission trip to Jamaica.
19. We were best friends after that.
20. We've been married 7 years.
21. He's an elementary school teacher.
22. I taught at a Hutterite colony for 7 years.
23. I'm not certified.
24. I'm going back to school full time.
25. At Western Governors University.
26. I'm going to be a secondary math teacher.
27. I am currently not working.
28. I left my job to stay home with my girls.
29. I have two daughters.
30. I really wanted my firstborn to be a girl.
31. Boys kind of scare me.
32. Probably because I've never had one.
33. I also wanted my second one to be a girl.
34. That way they would have each other to play with.
35. And share a room.
36. My firstborn did not want a brother.
37. I have a younger sister.
38. We never got along growing up.
39. We do now, though.
40. I really want a third child.
41. I'd be okay with 3 girls.
42. We're under pressure to have a boy.
43. There are no boys to carry on my husband's family's name.
44. It's up to us and my brother-in-law.
45. All the other boy cousins are done having kids.
46. I am a child of God.
47. I grew up Catholic.
48. I'm not Catholic any more.
49. I committed my life right before my 19th birthday.
50. On a mission trip to Watts.
51. I was rebaptized soon after.
52. I love the Lord.
53. I have a difficult time staying committed to Bible reading.
54. And devotionals.
55. And quiet time.
56. I'm a "cool" Christian.
57. I'm not a right-wing fundamentalist.
58. Or a left-wing bleeding heart.
59. I'm somewhere in the middle.
60. I drink alcohol.
61. I swear on purpose sometimes.
62. Not often.
63. I always regret it.
64. I love all kinds of movies.
65. And most kinds of music.
66. I LOVE to read!
67. Especially classics.
68. I read those because I should.
69. I read other books because I want to.
70. I love to cook.
71. I'm quite good at it, actually.
72. I always manage to forget to make side dishes.
73. I love to sing.
74. I sing up front at church.
75. I have played the piano since I was 6.
76. Classical, mostly.
77. I should play better than I do.
78. Especially after that many years.
79. I am a grammar nerd.
80. And a spelling whiz.
81. And a math buff.
82. I love to make cards.
83. I can be very creative.
84. I have several scrapbooks started.
85. Though I've yet to finish one.
86. I'd rather make cards.
87. I have beautiful handwriting.
88. But a terrible signature.
89. I have a bad habit of chewing my fingernails.
90. Mostly my thumbnails.
91. I have long blond hair.
92. And blue eyes.
93. I wear glasses.
94. I used to be very thin.
95. Then I had two kids.
96. I want my body back.
97. I hate exercising.
98. I don't really want to be the Queen.
99. Which is good, because I'm not.
100. I am so much more...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Works-For-Me Wednesday--Fresh Winter Fruit

I've been tracking this blog for awhile and have finally decided to participate in WFMW.

This time of year there is an abundance of fresh fruit at our local farmers' market, especially peaches, nectarines, plums, and pears.

Why not try freezing some for use this winter? It's sooo easy!

Peaches need to have their skins removed, but nectarines, plums, and pears do not. To remove peach skins quickly and easily, place peaches in boiling water for 60 seconds then plunge them into ice water; the skins will slip right off.

Wash your fruit and cut into desired thickness (slices or chunks).

Place fruit into freezer bags (I used quart-sized) and sprinkle with ascorbic acid (like Fruit-Fresh). Pour enough apple juice into the bag to completely cover fruit, seal the bag, and freeze.

It is just that easy! Now you have "fresh" fruit for pies, crumbles, and crisps for winter consumption. Just thaw and drain fruit before use.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Musings over Ground Beef

Last night I was browning ground beef to make crock pot chili for tonight's dinner. I doubled the recipe to have plenty to freeze for those cold winter nights; therefore, I was cooking 3 pounds at one time.

First of all, ground beef has a nasty smell when it's being cooked.

Second of all, 3 pounds of ground beef has three times the nasty smell.

I was close to gagging.

Add that to the fact that I absolutely dislike touching raw meat, and it was close to bedtime, and I was having a very unpleasant evening.

As I was browning all that nasty-smelling raw meat, I began musing.

I am a fairly squeamish person.

I don't like to touch worms, I detest spiders, I refuse to remove the giblets from the cavity of the Thanksgiving turkey, and I don't want to be anywhere near vomit. Blood doesn't bother me, but gore does; hence, I don't watch scary movies, and I watch battle scenes through my fingers.

I won't even eat mushy cereal, including oatmeal.

I think I've done a good job so far not transferring this squeamishness onto my daughter.

Except the spider thing.

That one I can't help.

Cinderella absolutely loves worms. She's fascinated with Sleeping Beauty's bowel movements. She doesn't like mushy cereal either, but I make her eat it.

I don't want her to know my dislikes; I don't want to create a squeamish daughter, if I can help it.

I force her to eat zucchini, oatmeal, and eggs; foods I won't touch with a ten-foot pole, but which she actually enjoys.

She will not grow up a picky eater; if she becomes one later in life, that won't be my fault (or so I keep telling myself).

So, as long as I can continue to devise cunning ways to prevent my daughter from realizing that mommy's not eating eggs like everyone else, I will ("Mommy finished hers already." "Mommy gave hers to Daddy because he likes eggs so much.").

Who knew ground beef could cause such deep meditations?

The only thing left to ponder is why I'm cooking chili when it's going to be 92 degrees out today...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Learning Trust

Cinderella is a very well-behaved three-and-a-half year old...usually. She's incredibly trustworthy and honest.

This morning solidified my trust in her even more.

Sleeping Beauty woke up much earlier than usual; as a consequence, she was very grumpy and, at one point, inconsolable.

Cinderella was amazing! She's been waiting anxiously all morning for her first day of ballet lessons. She has a limited concept of time, so being told she has to wait three hours is torture. Fortunately, she has consoled herself and is busy playing.

Despite her impatience to go to ballet, she has been remarkably understanding and patient with me while I was trying to get Sleeping Beauty to go to sleep.

Usually, when she's impatient, Cinderella gets whiny and clingy; this morning, however, I could trust her completely to entertain herself and give her sister the peace she needed to calm down and go to sleep.

Sleeping Beauty is finally sleeping peacefully, and Cinderella can have some of my attention, if she can tear herself away from her play.

This morning, I'm glad I'm not the Queen. Queens have difficult times trusting those around them (usually for good reasons). Today, I don't have this problem; today, I have complete faith in my daughter.

We'll see what tomorrow brings...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Potty Trained is not Always Toilet Paper Trained

Cinderella has been potty trained since she was 2 1/2. Since both Prince Charming and I are teachers (I'm not certified), we waited until the summer to start potty training. Cinderella was ready, and we let her take her own sweet time. After about 2 months, we finally admitted she was fully trained and let her wear underwear to bed. We didn't need to wait this long, but I dislike having to do laundry in the middle of the night, so we waited until we were absolutely sure.

She was so proud of herself! She hated the thought of dirtying her pretty Tinkerbell underwear, so she was very cautious about using the bathroom. She would even wipe herself! It was wonderful! Until about 10 months ago...

When I got pregnant with Sleeping Beauty, everything changed. Poor Cinderella missed me. I was so sick that Prince Charming did everything for her, and she was fine with that...for awhile. Eventually, everything blew up and Cinderella wanted me to do everything. EVERYTHING!! She missed me so much she was craving any time with me, including bathroom time.

Now, I'm fairly certain no Queen has ever stooped over her child with bated breath to wipe her child's bottom. It is definitely not the most fun experience, especially when you have morning sickness. It's even worse when you haven't been forewarned about the poop, and even worse than that when you accidentally watch the poop being pooped!

Fortunately, she is finally willing to wipe herself once again. I decided it wasn't really a battle worth fighting until after Sleeping Beauty was born. If Cinderella needed attention in the bathroom, I was grudgingly willing to give it to her there.

No, I am definitely not the Queen. More like a bathroom attendant.