Saturday, March 31, 2012

Super Undies!

Makes you giggle, doesn't it?  But I'm talking about a real product.  A few months ago, I went to a cloth diapering guru asking for ideas on how to get my oldest son JG out of overnight diapers.  With two boys in them every night, a good deal of our "Baby" budget category was flying out the window.  She suggested something they hadn't yet tried, "Super Undies."  They are on the expensive side for cloth at $30.00 a pair, but if you invest in them early on... they save you TONS!  Here are parts of the review I wrote for their budding business in the overnight cloth diapering category...

They are so soft!  I tried to wash by hand, and WOW they hold a lot of liquid!  I now machine wash after talking to customer service, and they have held up perfectly. They do take a bit longer to dry since they hold moisture so well.  My son also had to get used to the puffiness compared to a more slim overnight diaper, but he loved the softness.  Wanna know the best part?  I think because Super Undies are NOT a diaper, my son subconsciously quit wetting the bed!  With overnight diapers, he'd wake up to a soaked diaper (and sometimes bed) every morning.  Since having Super Undies for a couple months, he's wet the undies five times or less!  And for our family, they're so super that they also helped us figure out that our younger son no longer needs overnight diapers either -- or a Super Undies.  So one pair of Super Undies and two months took us from buying 60 overnight diapers a month to two boys who wear underwear to bed!

I would also add here that as a mom who never did cloth, these were the perfect solution.  There is no disassemble or reassembly for washing.  All you do is pull the cloths out of the little sewn in pocket, but they remain attached on side.  Pop it in a mesh bag for laundering, then just fold and push the cloths back into the pocket.  No pinning or anything.  Another good thing -- I'll have a pair for Eme when she is day trained but still working on night training!

If you want more information for yourself or a friend or you just wanna know more and watch a video:

Super Undies Nighttime Undies Potty Training Pants

Friday, March 23, 2012

Be a Wet Noodle

I know, weird post title.  What I mean is, be a wet noodle rather than a dry noodle.  Put pressure on a wet noodle, and it will give without breaking.  Put pressure on a dry noodle, and it will snap very quickly.  I'm talking about being flexible and truly believing deep down that "A man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9)  God is sovereign over every event that comes our way, and He has a purpose in it all for us all.  On top of that, we must completely trust Him with ourselves, our loved ones, our belongings, our time, our promises, our dreams, and so much more.  With ALL of our being we must trust Him.

That said, I am sorely in need of debriefing.  So let me offer you a real life example of Proverbs 16:9.

Hubz worked a ton of hours earlier this week due to a big project, so he had been planning to take all day Friday off.  This meant a family day of spending time together in the beautiful weather as well as getting a lot of things done around the house.  We love those kind of days!  We had planned to go to Target, Joanns, BJs, Safeway, Lowes, and the park.  We made plans to have dinner with some dear friends we haven't spent one-on-one time with in a while.  I was going to sew some adorable garters for a sweet gal's bridal shower Saturday. Hubz was going to do some yard work and start cleaning the pool up.  I was going to finish up some of the reading for homeschool this week.

'Lij made us hit the brakes starting at about 4:00 AM.  He came and woke me up, saying he needed his nebulizer.  Then at 8:00, he desperately needed it again.  Less than an hour later, he was still coughing quite a bit.  I knew I had to call his doctor.  Which meant a doctor's visit.  There's the first wrench in the day's schedule.  So we got out the door and to the doctor by 9:30.  His pulse ox was fine, lungs mostly ok.  So we did another treatment in the office.  Pulse ox was still fine, and his lungs were better.  But because he was still coughing like crazy, he had to be put on prednisone (not the best considering how much he's had it in his four years of life, but the coughing had to stop for his safety's sake).  All told, the appt took longer than we thought it would.  Quick trip to the park for a snack and to say hi to a good friend and her kids who met [beat] us there, THINKING it would give Target time to fill 'Lij's prescription.  Nope, they hadn't even touched it.  But we couldn't wait the 30 minutes.  Elijah already needed his next allowed treatment -- and we had no vials left in the van.  So we had to go home, knowing we'd have to make the trip all the way back for the prednisone.  Very frustrating.  We did squeeze Lowes in, so at least one thing got accomplished.

Got home, did the next treatment.  Elijah was STILL coughing and coughing after that.  Literally, the boy was coughing an average of every 15 seconds for hours on end.  And now retraction was starting to occur on the big breaths he'd take to cough.  Had to call the doc back -- which meant being sent to the ER where they could give him better meds.  Ok, second wrench had taken away the entire afternoon (though it ended up being much longer).  We stopped for prayer before we left and got a few others to start praying.

Arrived at the ER about 2:30, and Elijah was given his first dose of prednisone and three treatments of combination nebulizer drugs to help get his coughing under control.  Odd thing was that his pulse ox was still fine and his lungs sounded clear.  But cough, cough, COUGH.  They gave him some tylenol with codeine in an attempt to really get at the cough, and 'Lij was to have a breathing treatment every hour for 2 - 3 more hours.  Can you guess what happened?  He still kept coughing.  After a while, I noticed that 'Lij was starting to turn quite pink in the face, chest, and arms.  The nurse quickly got the doctor... no more breathing treatments allowed.  His body had had enough for the day.  So another hour was tacked on to the total so they could monitor and observe him (which I was thankful for!).  I was given the choice of whether or not to have him admitted because I voiced my concern of taking him home and his cough getting out of control again.  Called Hubz.  We and others prayed for wisdom.  Pretty soon after that, Elijah showed a marked improvement.  Still coughing some, but not every 15 seconds.  Seeing how he was improving in both health and spirits, I realized I might still be able to make it to Joanns on the way home...

Nope.  We could have left at 8:00 PM and had plenty of time.  But there was a mix-up with the med we were supposed to go home with -- wrench #3.  So it took a little longer to get it straightened out.  8:30 now...Joanns closes at 9.  And if I don't get there, I wont' have the supplies to make my friend's bridal gift!  The nurse finally came back to say the entire hospital, save for the critical care areas, did not have the medication.  (Uh, you might want to get some more!!)  She handed us a prescription, and we left at 8:55.  There was no way Joanns was happening.  Or anything else we had planned.  The day was just completely over.  Quick stop at CVS to pick up the prednisone transferred from lazy-Target and the codeine cough med.  Then home to give my sweet boy some jello, meds, and a bed.

And here I sit.  A bit in shock at how 180 this day was compared to what we had planned.  A bit emotional from being tired physically and from seeing my son cough so hard for so long with so much medicine pumped into his body.  A bit choked up at the awe of sitting in a quiet home...because that means 'Lij is asleep and not coughing at all.  A bit in wonder at what God's plan is in all of this and asking Him to increase my faith as well as my flexibility.  Prayer and meditation on Proverbs 16:9 are what kept me a wet noodle today, albeit al dente, but still flexible.  I only came close to snapping like a dry noodle once.  But it is amazing the softening affect prayer has.

So when your days are insane and don't match up to YOUR expectations in home and family management, remember to be a wet noodle.  Bend with the Lord's will rather than snapping with your own.  He knows you have a home to manage and a family to love on.  And He knows how you need to do it for your good and His glory.

(But I will say, if I don't get some bread, bananas, and salad up in this house soon -- we're gonna starve.  Because of how this week, and especially today, have gone, we have had MORE than our share of pizza, mac 'n cheese, and lack of fruits/veggies.  MUST get to the store!!!)        :-P

I end with all the things I am thankful for, because that is the BEST way to debrief!

  • For a God who is in control and loves my family and me
  • For the gifts of prayer and Scripture
  • That Hubz had been planning all along to take today off
  • For the new physician's assistant at our ped's office -- she's so sweet!
  • For medications to help my dear boy breath and stop coughing
  • For friends who are willing to help or help find help
  • For a new friend -- she and her hubby brought Elijah and I Chick-fil-A in the ER.  I called her, though we've only met once, and asked for food since they lived so close to the hospital and Hubz didn't have the carseats.  And they didn't think twice.  God bless them!
  • For the nurses and doctors who work hard to figure out how to best to care for 'Lij (I hate but love that I am familiar with several of them in the Pediatric ER -- hate because that means we've visited enough to where I have favorites but love because familiarity is welcome in tense situations)
  • For CVS pharmacy's excellent customer service in transferring and filling the prescriptions we needed -- really made me feel like my son was a priority
  • For the rogue nurse that hid three Motrin amidst my dinner because I was starting to have a pounding headache.  "You didn't see anything," she said, "And if you have a reaction, it wasn't me."  God bless her!
  • Finally, for the gift of breath, life, vitality, sweetness, silliness, sparkly eyes, and handsome curls of my little 'Lij.  It's been a long road since his first ER visit and hospital stay when he was just 6 months old.  And God has healed him time and again.  How faithful He is.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Frugal Valentine's Day

Note: My apologies to my dear co-author for just now editing and posting this.  Better late than never, right?  Use it as an inspiration to celebrate an un-Valentine's Day for your spouse!  :-)

Oh, Valentine's Day... the day we all want/expect to be romanced by our boyfriend or husband (I'm assuming all our readers are ladies).  I don't know if My Honey and I are getting old or are just content or both, but we're just happy to be home on Valentine's day.  Of course, the last time we went out for dinner on Valentine's Day, we arrived at the restaurant straight up at 5:00...and we had a two hour wait.  That is crazy!  This year, My Honey sweetly asked what I would like for Valentine's Day.  I told him if he felt like he wanted to get something for me, I would be happy with some simple flowers and a nice card.  The day before Valentine's Day, My Honey ran to the grocery store for me and came home with some sweet red and white flowers.  They made me smile.

So, when Valentine's Day came, I really wanted to make it special for him.  He has been especially sweet and helpful recently because I had surgery on my ankle in November.  I tried to think of ways I could make the day special.  I had purchased a card -- then found another card from last year that I apparently forgot to give him.  So I signed them both.  I put one on our bed for him to find when he was getting dressed for the day.  While he was in the shower I laid out his clothes for the day because I know that is something he really appreciates.  Also, while he was in the shower, I ran out to his car and put another card in it with a box of Hot Tamale cinnamon candy... one of his favorites.  I called during the day to see how his day was.  Then for dinner, I took the leaves out of our table so it was as small as it could be which made the setting more intimate.  I covered it with a red cloth and used candles and the flowers he bought me as a center piece.

 I made a yummy dinner of salmon, asparagus, and stir-fried veggies.  It was all ready when he got home.

I also had big band music on my Pandora radio station.  We really enjoy that type of music.  It is, to our minds, romantic.  We had a really nice dinner, enjoying the food and each others' company.  He mentioned how nice it would be to take a walk after dinner.  I haven't been able to do that since my surgery.  I told him I would try!  :)  So after the kitchen was cleaned up, we went for a little walk.  We stopped at Starbucks for a coffee and a small sweet treat.  It was a really lovely evening.  I think we both felt like it was romantic and a nice way to celebrate our love for each other.

So you CAN have a nice, romantic Valentine's Day celebration for not a lot of money.  I think I could have served hot dogs and mac and cheese, and it would have been just as nice a celebration.  You really don't need fancy flowers, an expensive dinner out, and presents.  You really just need each other and find the joy of being together.  One thing that struck me that night as I was going to bed and reflecting on the day... He did get me flowers, and he did give me a very sweet card.  But the day was wonderful for me because I focused on him and the things I could do to make him feel loved.  It is a lesson I hope I take with me through the year...making him feel loved makes me happy.  I'm so grateful the Lord taught me that!

Please comment and leave your own ideas for frugal Valentine's ideas!

Found: Granola Bars @ Home!

A while back, I tried Dining on a Dime's granola bars recipe.  It seriously tasted like a cookie (a very good cookie).  And I don't really prefer that my kids, who love granola bars, think they're eating cookies all the time!  I stumbled across a friend's Facebook post of a granola bar recipe she found.  I tried it last night.  It was SO easy and incredibly scrumptious -- in a granola bar kind of way!  They even look like real granola bars!  The recipe seems to be easily altered to suit your tastes.  This is beneficial, especially because our church has to be a nut-free zone due to a few kiddos with severe allergies.  So, just leave out the peanut butter or use soy butter as my friend did!  This recipe is also great because 1) you know what's going into your food and 2) it's economical.

More for the Munching: Make Your Own Granola Bars

My first batch, I did not use wheat germ (because that's not a staple for us).  Instead, I had saved the "cereal dust" from vanilla mini-wheats to use.  I also used cranberries and mini-chocolate chips.  I put whole almonds in a small portion of the granola mix for the "adult" bars.  :-)

Number one tip?  Make sure you have a BIG bowl!  Thank you, Nonie, for my special red bowl!  It's been a lifesaver!  <3

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Big Picture

Warning... this is long.  :-)

As women, we have a lot on our plates.  We wear lots of hats.  We run in 10 different directions at once.  I'm sure there are several sayings I'm forgetting to describe how women operate.  But what is usually at the center of those plates, the head under the hats, the starting point of the 10 directions?  "Me." 

Recently, I've been asking the Lord to help me be more aware of the big picture of life.  So often, we get caught up in "MY" world.  We forget that other people are living out whole lives.  That we live on an entire earth of people.  That we are but a speck in a vast universe.  We focus in on what is happening to ME and how what is happening "out there" will affect ME or what I think about it.  Our God is sovereign, and the way He has orchestrated our lives as relational human beings causes each of our lives to affect many more lives than just our own.  Someone (who affected my life a great deal) once said to me in what I thought was a passing moment of people watching, "So many people, so many stories."  And yet it still haunts me in a good way to this day.  What we do and say has so much impact, even on people we will never meet and never know what their life situation is.  On top of that, God orchestrates our every move according to the grand design He has for this world.  I think it is so important to remember these thoughts in light of how we are to live -- in a way that brings glory to Christ.  I wanted to share three examples of this to help us all ponder just how far reaching our actions are.

1) As I was driving to church last Sunday, the woman in front of me kept drifting into the lane beside her.  In an effort to stay safe, I quickly passed her.  I glanced over in her direction as I passed (curious to see why she was drifting), and I saw that she had her cell phone between cheek/shoulder, her right hand messing with her GPS on the dash, and the other hand on the steering wheel while not even looking at the road in front of her.  Did I mention we were on 95...not exactly a mediocre road.  This woman, in her carelessness, could have ended lives that day because she was so caught up in her world and not thinking of the big picture -- of the many other cars around her full of people.  She could have also ended her own life, leaving her loved ones in grief.  "Obedience [to rules] protects," I always tell my boys.  It protects us and others.  Our actions always affect others.

2) I never take my kids on a walk before dinner.  But yesterday, I wanted (had) to get out of the house.  I put dinner in the oven, made the protesting children turn off Dora, and kicked us all out into the beautiful weather.  I normally wouldn't put up with fussing -- fine, if you don't wanna go outside, suits me.  Your loss!  But yesterday, I pushed it.  I MADE us go out.  And now I know why.  As we rounded a corner of our street, I noticed a little boy in the middle of the road, probably a young 1 year old (definitely younger than Eden).  Barefoot and only in an unsnapped onesie.  Just wandering.  I looked around for adults or even a home with an open door that maybe someone was looking out of.  Nothing.  I was bewildered.  Do I go pick up the child?  Heavens, what if someone (due to our society) thought I was going to take him away?  I didn't want to get in trouble.  But I couldn't just leave him in the street -- I'm a mom, and I know people generally speed down our neighborhood road.  And we were on a blind curve.  To my shame, I actually took two steps down the sidewalk, I think because I stupidly decided someone must be coming to get him soon.  Then, praise God, reality came back to me a second later.  I realized it didn’t matter if someone thought I was taking a child that was not mine or if a parent was irritated I touched their child.  I could NOT leave that boy in the road.  As I walked quickly into the road to get him, a big black truck was rounding the corner.  By the time I had the boy to the sidewalk, a woman was coming out of a house down a ways – she had no idea her son had wandered outside.  (I don’t judge her at all considering how adept and curious my own daughter can be even when I am watchful…)  Though she didn’t even thank me or talk to me, only asking her son what he was doing outside (?), I am thankful that God put it in me to take a walk at an abnormal time of day…and that I followed through with that desire.  No one will ever know if that boy would have been hit by that truck because clearly that was not in God’s plan.  And this little incident gives us a clear example of how God uses our lives, choices, and actions (whether good or bad) to affect more than just ourselves.  His timing is always perfect, and we should trust that.

3) This third example is a journal entry by a woman I have never met, Emily Drager, who just lost her husband 2 weeks ago.  Her story has impacted so many people as it has shown forth how the hope and grace of Christ can carry one through tremendous difficulty.  From this, take away the thought that we should never NOT show compassion to others because we have no idea what their life holds at that moment.  You will affect them for good or for bad based upon what you do or say.  There is no neutral.
Yesterday I went to the the social security office to apply for survivor benefits for Erika and me. It was completely horrendous. Waiting room filled with vulgar people who acted like the world owed them a favor who made their disgust with me known when I was called in (for my appointment which was made in advance) before the walk-ins. With tears stinging my eyes, I went back to meet with the woman who never told me her name. Never really looked at me - only at all the birth, marriage, and death certificates I brought in a folder. She knew all she needed to know from those certificates, I guess. Oh and a few questions. And under penalty of perjury, I truthfully and dutifully answered those questions. Among them were "was your son born during the time of your marriage?"
"yes, but she's my daughter."
"did you and your child live with the deceased at the time of death?"
My child? The deceased? Wow, this is so clinical. "yes, we did."
"have you ever been convicted of a felony?"
"have any warrants out for your arrest?"
There were others I can no longer recall. Then she made copies of my documents and sent me on my way. Totally devoid of any human sympathy or emotion. Oh but wait, I needed to review the documents first and agree that they were correct and true, to the best of my knowledge. I tried to concentrate but had a great deal of difficulty. One sentence kept blaring off the page at me: MARRIAGE ENDED BY DEATH. My marriage is over? I'm unmarried? And ok, do you have to put it in all caps???

I rode the elevator down with some unsavory people - the very ones who rudely discussed me and my being called back before they were. Then I ran to my car since I knew my parking meter had expired. I thought, "If Chris had been here, he would have overestimated the time spent in the office, and we would still have plenty of time left on the meter... But if he was here, I would not be downtown today." I was spared a parking ticket. A mercy. But I balled anyway.

Then there was another mercy. Of the coffee sort. But actually, more of the human sympathy sort - the kind I so desperately needed. I stopped in to my favorite Caribou location - inside Byerly's in St. Paul. As Nick (who did tell me his name) apologized for some minor thing, I blurted out, "are you kidding? I was just at the social security office - this is like heaven to me." Then came the question that I should have expected, "what brought you there?" Again I blurted, "my husband died 2 weeks ago." What a way to bring the mood down... A soft look of compassion came over his face. He finished my coffee and informed me that it was on him today. Again tears. These ones felt different though - they were not hot and lonely. Yes, compassion feels very different.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Freeze Your Meat & Stretch Your Chicken!

Is it just me, or has chicken been incredibly expensive as of late?  It almost never goes on sale anymore -- I even talked to my butcher about it a few months ago.  It's not just me.  He had noticed it, too, and didn't really have a good explanation other than the economy and oil prices.  However, in God's goodness yesterday, Matt brought in a random newspaper that's been sitting on the sidewalk for a few days.  It had the Safeway ad in it which revealed that they were having their last day of a BOGO sale on ground beef, chicken, and pot roast!  Woo hoo!  I admit, I felt like I needed to explain to my cashier and other customers why I had 4 four-pound packages of ground beef, 4 packages of chicken, and 2 packages of roast in my cart at 8:30pm.  It was a good sale, and I had a just-off-bedrest-but-still-pregnant friend who wanted a piece of the sale, too!  Stop looking at me like I'm a voracious carnivore!  :-)

Obviously, buying that much meat at one time means freezing it!  I thought it would be a good opportunity to share how I freeze my meat to save freezer space and stretch the chicken.  (First video post for this blog comin' up!)  By taking advantage of this sale, I saved about $40.00!

For ground beef, I use my little kitchen scale and quart-sized freezer bags.  It's a very simple process.  First, take out as many bags as you will need and flip the tops inside out.  This reduces the amount of contact your icky hands will make with the outside of the bags.  Take your hand jewelry off, and wash your hands.  Weigh out a pound of beef.  Put it in a ziploc bag.  Repeat until all the meat is measured out.  Wash your hands well!  Then, flip the bag tops back up.  Mash each flat, getting all the air out and being careful when you get to the tops to not get any meat in the "zippers."  When you're finished, stack 'em up and freeze.  Once they are frozen, you can stand them upright in a container for organization or just leave them flat 'n stacked.

Bags and scale ready!
Hubz was my photo/videographer.  Can you tell?  ;-)  Thanks for the help, Samson.
Eight meals just waiting to be cooked!

Now for the chicken.  It has always bugged me that chicken breasts seem to be hard to cook evenly because of the varied thickness.  One end is thin while the other is a big bulge.  And a whole chicken breast, for me, is a bit too much to eat.  And chicken is EXPENSIVE!  And, for whatever reason, I can not stand the taste of reheated chicken (esp. microwaved).  Something happens to the flavor, and I just can't eat it anymore.  So I try to avoid chicken dish leftovers.  All of those things added up to me one day figuring out how to butcher my chicken in order to stretch chicken dollars and avoid lots of leftovers I won't eat.  The portion sizes of the chicken may be small for our "American" serving sizes, but they are truly more appropriate for what we should be eating.  Hungry hubby or boys?  Just let them have two.  The sides of your meal should also be substantial enough for good nutrition and will lessen the need for a huge chunk o' chicken on your plate.  Instead of trying to put it into words, Hubz videoed me so you can SEE it done.  Any questions, just ask!  :-)  (Ps - I've never purchased boneless thighs before, and that is way different than butchering chicken breasts for stretching and storing.  No video on those!)  (Another Ps - Hubz said I could make the videos all spiffy with Movie Maker.  But I didn't wanna wait!)

Chicken stacks ready for freezing!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Misperception and Failures

It's been fun to have women here and there comment about how they are enjoying the new blog.  What an encouragement to know people are reading and benefiting from our new endeavor!  A while back, I was telling one sweet lady a story about a failed beauty recipe I had just tried.  She said, "Oh, you should include that on your blog!"  A conversation about misperception and failures followed, and it was a great topic to discuss!  She thought it worthy to post in order to make sure people have a full picture of who I am.  Thanks for the idea, Colleen!

Let's start with misperception.  It's in regards to how people  It all began back when I declared that I was going to major in home economics.  The misperception then was that all I was going to do was spend my parents good money on learning how to bake chocolate chip cookies and sew something.  The mocking was most potent during my freshman year at Masters.  :-P  Over those four college years, the mocking subsided as all of us students matured and understood more about the work load we each carried.  I dare say that by senior year, many came to respect home economics majors because they saw the incredible work load of presentations/projects but also because they realized the value of what we learned in that department, both practically and spiritually.  But the misperception of holding a degree in home economics never ends completely, as I've found out.  Instead of being made fun of for baking chocolate chip cookies as Little Suzy Homemaker in home economics, you are perceived to be a Martha Stewart who knows it all and can do it all in Family & Consumer Sciences.

I am neither of these ladies.

Might I have a certain advantage knowledge-wise of cooking, sewing, home management, family finances, and the like?  Sure.  But that doesn't mean I'm perfect.  Neither is my memory.  And I did NOT learn all I know from my home ec classes.  Just ask my mom how often I called her when I was newly married for advice, especially as it pertained to cooking ( often I still call her...).  :-)  Mothers and grandmothers have a wealth of information that you just can't learn in four years of classroom, textbook teaching!  And experience is also key in all the areas home economics covers.  I learned a lot about the chemistry of cooking in Principles of Food Preparation, but I have learned so much more about cooking through 8 years of being the chef in my home.  It's been wonderful to see the science in action and figure out why some things work and why other things are epic fails.  The third way I have increased in my abilities beyond a home ec degree is the wonderful World Wide Web.  There is SOOOO much available at our fingertips to help each of us improve in the areas we struggle with!  Just incredible!

In no way do I want to demean my degree.  I highly value the knowledge and experience I acquired in college -- and the practical/spiritual training I received CERTAINLY changed me more in those four short years than any other time in my life.  (And I got a hubby out of it!)  But I just want to make sure that my friends and readers know I'm imperfect.  I fail every day in some area of home or family management.  Things are not always clean and straightened and perfectly decorated.  I get overwhelmed and behind in household tasks.  I have to seek out information and help often in order to discover new ways of doing things or how to do it at all.  All areas pertaining to Home Economics - Family & Consumer Sciences are areas that are ever changing.  We would be wise to be active in our pursuit of making our homes the most efficient, comfortable places for each of our families.  A four year degree just doesn't cut it when you're talking about a lifetime of home and family management.  Remember: knowledge, advice, and experience... all wrapped up in a neat bow of PRAYER! Then our management will grow to be a beautiful gift to our Employer.

As for the epic fail Colleen said I should tell you about...  I tried Dining on a Dime's recipe for leg wax.  (YES, leg wax.  Hey, don't fault me for being curious!)  I don't even really remember the recipe other than that it had lemon juice, sugar, and water.  You're just supposed to boil it for however long and then let it cool.  Well, lemme tell ya.  I let it boil, and boil, and boil.  It wasn't looking the way I thought it should.  I turned my back for a second, and smoke started pouring forth from the pot.  Oh heavens!  The pot went straight outside.  I had no idea what to do.  It [should be] common cooking knowledge that hot liquid sugar will burn the shananagins out of whatever it touches.  But if it cools, it will harden.  I'd never made hard candy until that night.  :-P  I did manage to save my pot (though I did somehow get a shard of hard candy in my eye while trying to clean it...NOT comfortable by any stretch of the imagination).  But there is still a pyrex bowl of dark brown hard-as-a-rock "candy" sitting on Hubz's work bench in the garage.  He said he'd try to get it out.  But I betcha I'll throw it away before that.  I'll stick to my razor and shave cream for now, thank you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Super Flavor Soup

...that's what JG said to call it.  :-)  Do you ever have times when you make something up for dinner based upon what you have available, but it doesn't quite have the wow factor needed to be worthy of making again?  And then you wonder what to do with the leftovers?  That happened to us this week.  I threw some chicken in a baking dish, topped it with black beans, corn, and salsa.  Baked it.  I even added 4 oz. of cream cheese to the bean/corn/salsa mixture like I've seen done before.  Meh.  I did this "recipe" once before, but I must have doctored it more last time because it was way better than this week's attempt.  There was quite a bit leftover.  What to do?  Ask my mom how to make it into a black bean soup.  :-)  With her suggestions, I ended up with one of the best tasting soups ever to touch my taste buds!  So, taking a slight risk in guessing how to make this soup from start to finish rather than out of leftovers, here's the "recipe."  And if any of you have suggestions for a better name -- perhaps one that identifies the dish -- do tell!

[Super Flavor Soup]

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked & cubed
2 cans whole kernel corn
2 cans black beans (or make your own*, as I did, to save money and nutritional value!)
1 cup salsa or picante
Chicken stock, as needed
4 oz. cream cheese*
Garlic powder
Cheddar cheese & Sour cream

Combine cubed chicken, corn, black beans, and salsa in soup pot and mix well.  Add chicken stock to your desired soup consistency.  Add garlic powder, cumin, and salt to taste (I did about 1 tsp each and 1/4-1/2 salt, I think) and cream cheese.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.  I say the longer it simmers, the better, perhaps at least an hour.  Garnish with cheddar cheese and sour cream.  Goes GREAT with cornbread (which I now use honey instead of sugar -- oh my heavens!).  And having just had it for lunch, I think it's one of those even-better-the-next-day soups!


1) Making your own beans is super simple.  Just buy a bag.  Put the beans in a crock pot and cover with a couple inches of water.  Cook on high for 2-4 hours, making sure to keep the beans covered with water.  Check for doneness starting at 2 hours.  You don't want to let them get too mushy, especially if you plan to use the beans in soups and such (ask me how I know).  I stop cooking mine when they are still a little firm to the bite.  Then I divide them into bowls to cool, about as much as you would find in one can of beans with some liquid.  Once cooled, put them in quart-sized freezer bags and freeze them flat.  Ta da!  A bag of beans for a buck with no factory added ingredients vs. 4-5 cans of factory beans that would cost you $4+.  For my black beans, I season them with a touch of salt, cumin, and chili powder before dividing the batch.  Delish!

2) I'm sure you could leave out the cream cheese if you have sensitive family members.  I just had to include it since that's what was in my original (failed) dish.