Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday nights

Its been way too long since I last posted!  It is amazing how busy a stay-at-home mom can be.  I need to find a way to do a better job with time management for things like this blog.

The seasons have changed.  I'm already well into holiday preparation for this year's Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.  We have started our Christmas list of gift-giving ideas, started layaway for our kids' Christmas, lists of menus for meals with family and some shopping for stocking stuffers.  The weather has gotten colder and its that time of year - time for blankets, snuggling and hot beverages while sitting in front of a fire.

I particularly enjoy the fire, blankets and a nice mug of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate on Thursday evenings.  The hubs has to turn in early to grab some sleep before an entirely-too-early start to his Friday work day.  I tuck the kids in bed, snuggle under a blanket with a warm mug and kitty on my lap and settle in for a few hours of mommy-tv.  While the house is quiet and dark and I have the remote to myself, I can enjoy favorite TV shows (Grey's Anatomy and Parenthood) sans interruption.  This is a Thursday evening treat since they both air on Thursdays this season.  I usually have other things on the DVR to catch up on.  I am totally into escapist television, which includes the guilty pleasure of watching Days of Our Lives.  If its been a particularly busy week and I have not been at home to fold laundry or clip coupons - which is when I usually watch DOOL - I  might even indulge in an episode of Days whilst having the dark, quiet house to myself.

What is it about knowing the family is home, safe and sound, and sleeping that makes it that much more enjoyable?  Is it because I can't do many other things without disturbing their slumber so it doesn't feel neglectful to sit and watch pretty-people-with-problems TV?  No one's up and needing attention, a snack, a hug or an encouraging word?

I don't know the reason, but I do know that Thursday evenings are one of the days I look forward to - time to 'chillax' and unwind and look forward to the weekend ahead.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Busy weeks!! But, still cooking!

Last fall, our youngest son played football.  It wasn't his thing so he didn't sign up for this year's season.  I thought that would mean that this fall would be less busy!  How wrong was I?  At least so far.  Between church events, school happenings, cake orders, life in general, our schedule is full.

How is your fall season starting out?

Here are a few recipes I've tried in the last week or so.  None of them take much time, or at least not much brain power.  I've either been short on time or short on energy and they all turned out wonderfully.

Chocolate Mousse:
I love, love, love to watch Master Chef.  (My husband can tell you I have celebrity chef-crushes on two of the hosts.)  On a recent episode the contestants were challenged to make 3 chocolate desserts.  Mousse was one of them.  I had the ingredients on hand, and was inspired to try.  Disclaimer: the recipe I used from the cookbook "How to Cook Everything" contains raw eggs.  The recipe was easy to do and turned out well.  But, you might want to find a different version if raw eggs are not something you can or want to eat.



The stages of the recipe involve melting chocolate and butter, whipping egg whites, whipping heavy cream, delicately hand mixing the whipped ingredients with chilled chocolate.  And, the final product just has to sit in the fridge and set.  Yum.

Smitten Kitchen's Flat Roasted Chicken with Tiny Potatoes:
So good with only a handful of ingredients.  You'll be amazed at how much flavor you can get from simple chicken, potatoes, salt, pepper and olive oil.  My only difficulty was peeling the tiny potatoes.  They were flying out of my hands left and right.  It was worth the effort.  I did not have quite enough tiny potatoes so I peeled and chopped up a couple of regular ones.  There is a difference.  My 7 year old pushed the 'regular' potatoes around on his plate and refused to eat them.  Once the peeling is done, its in the oven and just let the magic happen.
Even after snapping the last picture, I put the dish back in the oven for a few minutes.  The chicken was perfect and even more delightfully roasted, but by then we were ravenous and I didn't stop to snap another pic.  

Did I spell that correctly?
My husband wanted to try this dish.  He saw it in the freezer section at the grocery store.  I said, "wait!  I've been wanting to try working with phyllo dough...let me try making it first."  He agreed and I did.  It wasn't hard, but has a few do-ahead steps.  Both the spinach and the dough have to thaw -- I used frozen chopped spinach and phyllo dough.  The process of rolling up the triangles takes a bit of time but wasn't hard.  If you've ever folded paper footballs, you have the skills needed to make this dish.  
Melted butter, spinach mixed with 3 cheeses, phyllo dough...yep, its scrumptious!  Husband approved.

I used a recipe from  It made quite a lot.  I could have easily halved this recipe.  Now, my freezer is storing some extras for quite snack.  Its football season so easy finger foods are always good to have on hand.  

Go Vols!!  
Oops - a bit side tracked, there.  I'm a die-hard fan of my beloved Vols.  We're having some rough years, but I feel certain we'll bounce back.  


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Magazines and Recipes and Homemade Cracker Jacks

I have several magazine subscriptions.  I am also a lover of books.  I'm never without a novel close by.    My magazine pile had gotten big so I decided not to start a new book until I had read the stack of magazines.  This was a serious decision.  Me without a book is like a teenager without a phone.  I like magazines because you can rip out pages with interesting crafty ideas (I don't keep many, I'm not a big craft do-er) and recipes.  Never would I dream of defacing a book this way.  Novels usually don't have interesting recipes or crafty ideas anyway.  I put my recipes in a simple binder with sheep protectors -- the ones I jot down, print from the internet and cut out of magazines.  That way they are all in one convenient place.  Here's my handy notebook:

Can you see I'm a little behind on sorting and organizing this notebook?  Its already overflowing.  After reading at least 6 magazines over the weekend, this isn't even all the recipes I have ripped out.  There's another stack hiding somewhere.  Organizing this mess is on my winter project to-do list.  I know you're thinking, "but isn't that what Pinterest is for?"  Read my previous blog post regarding my experience with using an electronic device to cook.  I like the sheet protectors, they make excellent splash guards!
Best recipe find of the weekend: Homemade Cracker Jacks.  
Easy, perfect.  Irresistible.  
You probably have the ingredients in your pantry waiting to be turned into this tasty snack.

First, pop about 8 cups of popcorn.
I used my Nordic Ware microwave air popper and about 1/3 cup of unpopped corn is the right amount.

Then, combine 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup butter and 3 tablespoons light corn syrup in a saucepan.  Heat until it reaches 255 degrees.  (A candy thermometer works for this step.)
Pour this delicious caramel over the popcorn and toss gently to coat.  Spread the coated popcorn on a greased cookie sheet and put in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Stir the popcorn and bake another 5 minutes.
Spread popcorn on another cookie sheet, lined with foil.  Sprinkle with about 1 cup of peanuts.
You won't want to, but let it cool before you dive in.
Just because I love these collage pictures, here they are all together:
This recipe is a keeper and definitely worth flipping through those magazines this weekend.  I am hooked.  The whole process took roughly 30 minutes.  It turned out so well, I made another batch to share!  

This recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens July 2013 issue.  If you've got that one laying around, collecting dust and waiting to be read, go find it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Homemade spaghetti, like from scratch

I like to make things from scratch.  This week, we had spaghetti from scratch -- all the way, noodles to sauce.  Here's proof:

Isn't that gorgeous?!?

At this point, we need to establish that I consider myself a messy cook.  I'm saved by the fact that I find washing dishes relaxing.  I know, I know.  That's not normal.  I don't like to dust or iron and I know people who do, so washing dishes is my thing.  It works out nicely, since I don't usually mind cleaning up the mess I make in the kitchen.

The sauce:
 A few weeks ago, I was given some very ripe Grainger County tomatoes.  If you are not from East TN, you might not realize the gift this was.  Grainger County tomatoes are the best tomatoes you'll ever have.  I don't know what their secret is but I love 'em!  This gift, I decided, would be an excellent time to try my hand at homemade tomato sauce.  I found a recipe on and off I go, except I'm out of printer ink and can't print the recipe.  I like to print them.  If they are short, I'll jot them down.  Not this one.   I had recently spent a play date at a friend's house where we used the app on her iPhone to cook.  I think to myself, I'll just follow the recipe from my iPhone!

There are no pictures to post of my tomato sauce making day because I was covered with tomato juice, seeds, sauce... my hands were never clean of all-things-tomato in order to take any pictures.  Not to mention the fact that I was following the recipe on my iPhone.  Note to self: when using your iPhone to cook, change the sleep timer to a longer setting because you'll risk ruining your phone when you are trying to turn it on and swipe the screen to retrieve your recipe with all-things-tomato covered hands.  You'll also risk ruining your recipe due to this usually occurring at a critical moment of needing to add ingredients, remove from heat, stir, whisk or some other necessary-to-a-good-outcome step.

You get the picture.  Well, you don't, literally, but you can see why there aren't any pictures to share.

The sauce was easy to make, though there were lots of steps and lots of simmering time.  It took about 5 hours to make.

Due to family schedules and plans, we didn't eat the sauce immediately.  I froze it until I had time to make noodles.  I felt the sauce deserved made from scratch noodles to pair with it.  Doesn't ever homemade marinara/sauce?

The noodles:
My neglected noodle making machine needed attention.

I followed the simple noodle recipe that came with the machine.  (It's nothing fancy, a "My Perfect Kitchen" Pasta Machine.)
3 eggs and 2 1/2 cups of flour.  
Put the flour in a bowl, make a well, and crack the eggs in the middle of the well.
Use a fork to combine the eggs and flour -- slowly adding water and/or flour until it comes together in a dough.
Put dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed it until its a uniform color and texture.
Put dough ball in a bowl and cover with a damp towel.  Let it rest for 10-15 minutes so that the ingredients can fully incorporate and meld together.

Next, just cut or tear off about a 1/4 or so of the dough and start using the machine to roll it out.  Keep the remaining dough covered with the damp towel.  This got messy for me.  I had to keep flouring my dough to keep it from sticking.  My machine has 7 settings for rolling it out.  You start with 7 and keep decreasing the number until you get to your desired thickness.  You can see the table knife in the picture.  I used it to cut the dough in to manageable lengths, as it gets longer and longer the thinner you roll it.  Then, you let the strip rest and dry for roughly 10 minutes, until it hardens or dries a bit.  Then, cut it into spaghetti and/or fettuccine noodles.
This process takes the longest time.  Did I mention it got messy?  I was flinging flour all over the place - it was on me, on the counter, on the noodles, on the floor...  

Keep repeating this process until you get a pile of wonderfully fresh noodles.  I'm not an expert on this. Mine weren't uniform or perfect in any way.  But, to me, that was the beauty of making these from scratch.  Their imperfections were what made them glorious and homemade.
These were my noodles resting and drying on a flour covered surface.  I just left them there for a few hours until time to cook them for supper.  I don't know if that was the 'right' thing to do.  The instructions were vague on this step.  But, it worked.

After all the time it took over two days to make the sauce and the noodles, the final product came together fast.  I pulled the sauce from the freezer that morning.  It just needed reheating.  As the water was boiling to the noodles, I reheated the sauce in a pan on the stovetop.  The noodles were still relatively soft so they took no time at all to boil - seasoned the water with a bit of salt, as usual.  

We won't talk about the fact that I burned the garlic toast or that this was the second night in a row I had burned the bread.  The bread wasn't from scratch, I used an Italian loaf I had picked up at the store.  Thankfully, I had sliced the toast thick enough that I was able to slice off the burned bits and we still had plenty of bread to go with our dinner.  
So worth it.  Yum!  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Raising Sons --

I was raised on a farm.  I'm no stranger to dirt and dirty.  I was a girly-girl but also spent hours making mud pies and in the 'baccer' patch with my family.  I have one sibling - a sister.  Despite my childhood spent on a farm with sheep, cats, cows, dogs and mud and a few boy-cousins thrown in, I have been surprised by a few things about boys and boyhood.  Raising boys has taught me a few things.   If you have boys in your life, these will not surprise you:

-there can never be too many toy guns/weapons.  If you don't have said toy guns/weapons, sticks and pinecones will work as swords and bombs.
-farts and farting noises are funny, no matter where you are.
-Camouflage matches camouflage.  It makes no difference if the camo you're wearing is nighttime blue or digi cam or regular camo.  If its camo, it matches camo.
-the dinner table conversation can and will be gross.  And, no one's stomach is turned by this conversation except yours truly.
-Shark Week is awesome.
-Requests to groom oneself is often met with "why?"  Stinky-kid syndrome is not a concern so brushing teeth, wearing deodorant, donning clean clothes and underwear is not a high priority.  We've taken care of the brushing hair thing by keeping short cuts that require little to no upkeep.

I'm sure that you can add to this list.  These were off the top of my head.  Here are my teachers of all things boy  ----->
This is their picture on the first day of school this year.  I'm now the proud mother of a 5th and 2nd grader!!

Just look at those faces - what's not to love?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Schedules ...

We have gotten back onto a school schedule, sort of...  I think our winters have changed and we are getting more snowy/icy weather than we used to.  We have been back in school and are back on a schedule with interruptions due to weather that seem to come almost weekly.  Add flu season to that and its all up in the air.  My 2nd grader missed two days of school last week due to illness and this week the schools are closed for 2 days due to high numbers of absent children due to illness.  My house is healthy and enjoying the break.  Due to all the days missed in December/January (see previous post) we had lost our winter-break, so these 2 days are unscheduled, but welcome.

I have been busy getting my 5 year old ready to register for Kindergarden.  We went to his annual well-check visit yesterday.  All immunizations are up to date and no health concerns noted.  I have scheduled his Pre-enrollment screening for March 30th and he will officially register in April.  Its amazing to me that he is almost in school.  I think that the last couple of years have been a blur and am thankful for some down time to enjoy his last few months of being at home.  We learned after our oldest child started school that it doesn't take long for peers to start making impressions and for their interests to turn toward their friends and less toward Mom and Dad.  I will miss these days.

My husband and I have had weekly discussions around our budget trying to decide if I'm staying at home, working part time or working full time.  We were discouraged thinking that I would be returning to work soon.  So, its been hard fighting the feelings of disappointment and some feelings of loss.  Last night, the boys were going to bed (we were taking our time since we knew there was no school in the morning) and they came to me in the family room to give me hugs.  Seeing their smiling faces and outstretched arms made me realize that we are truly a blessed family and that no matter what we'll continue to be.  I hugged and tucked them into bed with warm fuzzies.  Right now, I'm home and am enjoying it.  :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm new to...

I'm new to blogging.
I'm new to staying at home.
I'm new to having a schedule of my own making.

I could go on with the list, but you get the idea.  Last Sept. my husband and I made the decision for me to quit my job and stay at home.  We have two young sons.  I was in a high stress job in the field of social work that was taking more and more of my time and attention.  My focus was not on our family and that was not what we wanted when we started our family.  I had returned to the work force when our oldest son was almost a year old.  What started out as a second income to provide him a better life turned into a time consuming career - it just morphed into that after years on the job.  Enough was enough.

Now, I spend my time focused on the household.  I do not struggle with an identity crisis.  I like being "Ben's mom" or "Josh's mom" or "Brian's wife".  I like cooking, I don't mind cleaning (though I can often find more interesting things to do with my time), I don't mind staying around the house.  I feel very blessed.  We are in the middle of a month long snow storm that is unusual for TN.  I should clarify that we haven't had a month of solid snow, but the snow has hit just at the right times to make our Christmas holiday last a month.  I am thankful that in the midst of below freezing temperatures and hazardous driving conditions that I am not obligated to drive and/or stress about missed work and getting behind at the office.

I have learned a few things about myself these last couple of weeks.  When I quit working, I wasn't sure it was permanent.  Part-time work may still be in my future.  So, I was 'enjoying' my time at home.  I did make a schedule for myself and was rolling along well with a routine.  When Christmas break started, we had church activities as well as holidays to prepare for, so we stayed on a routine of sorts.  I am a worrier and procrastinator at heart.  So, while I am not stressed about missing work due to weather, I have learned that without at least a school schedule to adhere to, I have been able to talk myself into putting off tasks around the house as well as sleeping in past 8 o'clock which I haven't been able to do for years.  The worry part comes in with my mind drifting to summer when I have 2 months without anyplace to be at any given time--will I get anything done??

I had visions of being a supermom at home - doing activities with my children and cooking large meals.  I do cook.  I don't always cook large meals.  I am not supermom.  Part of me is still relishing being at home and not at work.  I was very stressed and am allowing myself time to mend.  I think our family isn't sure what to do with our time together.  We were so rushed for so long with busy schedules, we are having to relearn how to be a connected family and what that looks like for us.  Our close friends say that they can already see a difference in our lives and I hope that continues.  Maybe blogging will keep me honest - if I don't talk myself out of regularly adding thoughts to my blog.

So, how's this for my first effort?  (Don't answer that.)