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Saturday, June 30, 2012

I don't believe in allowances

I was never a big fan of allowances.  Don't get me wrong...I think it's important for kids to understand about using money wisely but I also think money shouldn't be the main motivation for getting kids to do something.  Of course, having eight children and giving them all a generous allowance would have made it hard to pay the bills and put food on the table  :)  Really though, I think there are certain things that children should be expected to do just because they're members of the family...and that includes basic chores.  Everyone should be responsible for cleaning up their own messes and taking care of their belongings and helping keep the living areas clean.  I don't believe in paying kids for those kinds of things.  I don't believe in taking advantage of our kids either.  There are things that should be compensated in some way...whether it be in money, extra privileges, or something else agreed upon by both parent and child.  These include deep cleaning, extra babysitting, out of the ordinary yard work or periodic work projects.

Doing chores isn't fun for anyone but kids need to see that when everyone contributes, everyone reaps the benefits.  And we do certain things because we're a family.

Gotta have time for fun too!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pity Party

Everyone deserves an occasional pity party, even if things are generally going pretty well.  I don't know what it is...hormones?, the weather?, the cycles of the moon or some cosmic event?, or plain old overload, sometimes you just feel sorry for yourself.  That's ok.  We all feel that way.

The other day I was having one of those not-so-good days and I told my husband about it that night.  He quietly listened while I told him all my troubles and then was silent after I finished.  I waited another minute or two and then said that now was the time for him to reassure me and tell me that everything will be ok and I am doing good etc...  He laughed and repeated what I told him to say.  I felt better  :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Law of Diminishing Returns (don't be bored by the title)

I know very little about economics but when I read about the Law of Diminishing Returns,  I immediately saw how it can be used in "home" economics also.  The law states,  "The tendency for a continuing application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved."  (The American Heritage Dictionary) This simply means that the more effort you put into something, the better the results will be up to a certain point and then your returns actually decline.  Taken a step further, there's a time to stop, whether it's obsessively polishing silver (who has silver these days anyway!), planning a lavish party, decorating your house until it's perfect, and definitely...collecting anything.  It's possible to do too much or have too much!  The first example which comes to mind is Christmas.  You want to make a memorable, happy experience for your children and you go out of your way baking 12 dozen different kinds of cookies, planning all sorts of seasonal crafts and activities for the kids to make and do, spending two weeks decorating the whole house until it's worthy of a magazine cover, and searching for all the right presents.  The result is that you're sick of cookies, tired from all the decorating, tired of picking up all the craft pieces scattered all over the floor and the wonderful toys that you bought your children are looked at and then passed over for the wrapping paper.  Maybe two dozen cookies would have been enough.  Maybe one special outing and two or three crafts would have made the kids happy too.  Maybe decorating the living areas would be enough.  Maybe two or three well thought out gifts would be enjoyed without being overwhelming.

We need to put our time and effort into good, worthwhile projects, experiences and activities.  But that doesn't mean going overboard and stressing out so much that you can't enjoy yourself in the process.  The hard part is knowing when enough is enough. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How not to have an unexpected home birth

This post is in honor of my second child (whose birthday is today), who made his entrance in a most unusual the bathroom of our apartment.

How not to have an unexpected home birth -
1. When the doctor says that labor the second time should be about 1/2 the duration of the first labor, realize that this is just a statistic.  Reality doesn't always mimic statistics.  First time - 22 hours.  Second time - 3 hours.
2. When your water breaks, this is an indication that maybe you should go have things checked out.  Don't wait until contractions become regular.
3. Sometimes contractions never become regular.  More intense, yes.  Regular, not necessarily.
4. When you feel a great desire to go to the bathroom, it might be too late.  It WAS too late.
5. Calling the doctor during the actual birth will not make the doctor happy.  Well, I wasn't too happy with him either!

Thankfully, everything turned out fine and Baby was healthy and happy...and all my subsequent babies were born in the hospital  :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Color coding

When you have a goodly number of children, you need to have some sort of system to keep track of what belonged to whom.  I found it easiest to use color coding.  Can you imagine trying to sort socks when they all look alike?  I sewed a small piece (about 1/2 inch long) of 1/4 inch grosgrain ribbon on the inside of each sock to make sorting easier.  Clothes either had the same type of ribbon sewn in an inside seam or I used a Sharpie pen to write their initial on the inside label.  It really wasn't as tedious as it sounds.  I didn't painstakingly hand sew each tiny piece of ribbon.  A zigzag sewing machine made the job go by really quickly...far quicker than trying to figure out a sock's owner.

Drinking cups and cereal bowls were another thing we color coded.  It would drive me crazy to see a pile of cups on the counter when they were only used to drink water.  So, everyone had their own specially colored cup for water drinking throughout the day.  That was still a lot of cups but I only had to wash one set each day.  I'm lazy that way.  :)  I suppose you could use another way of identifying cups but thanks to Tupperware, I had an easy solution.  It was only logical that if all the cups had a specific owner based on color, that the Tupperware bowls should follow the same pattern.  It worked very well.  Oh, and Dad liked his glass quart jar to drink from so he was unique in his own way.

The only problem arose when a friend or guest would come over and inadvertently take someone's special cup!  Horrors!  Kids can be territorial when they want to be  :)  My kids still go for their own color when they come over.  Thank goodness I don't have to color code their socks and clothes any more!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Things I wish I'd known when I had my first baby

Nothing changes your life like a newborn baby.  For the first time, you are totally responsible for someone other than yourself and that is an intimidating realization.  Most of us go into this awesome responsibility pretty clueless and I was no exception :)  Here are some of the things I learned very quickly -

1. Babies cry.
2. Babies don't need most of the gimmicks and gadgets advertised in stores.  Their needs are pretty basic.
3. Breastfeeding doesn't come naturally!!!
4. Eat healthy and drink lots of liquid.
5. Sleep when Baby sleeps.
6. Your baby will eventually sleep through the night.
7. Always bring several diapers, wipes and changes of clothing whenever you go out with Baby.
8. You're going to be changing Baby a lot!  Forget about fussy and complicated clothes- easy access is most important.
9. Accept help.

10. Don't forget about your husband!
11. It won't be long before you develop a new routine with your new little family.
12.  You will fall in love with this little person and her first smile will melt your heart.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

An opportunity to serve

Who would have thought that one little request would make such a difference in the lives of my children.  Several years ago, a good friend (who was the recreation director of an Alzheimer's facility) asked me if my family would help her put on an Easter program for her residents.  That sounded like a good learning experience for the kids so we agreed to help her.  We had seven kids at the time, ranging from thirteen down to a baby.  We all had such a good time that we asked if we could put on a weekly program for the residents.  The director wholeheartedly agreed.  So began six years of weekly visits to the facility.  During that time, we added one more child to the family,  the kids grew up, they became comfortable with the sights and smells of nursing homes, they learned to love the residents and the residents thought of the kids as their own family.   The staff thought of us as their friends.  Residents who rarely left their rooms came to the gathering room every Friday to be with "their" kids.  One cantankerous old woman (who was known for her swearing) softened when her favorite little girl visited her each week and sat on her bed and played with her.  A 96 year old man loved our little red headed toddler and would anxiously wait for her visit.  Residents would sing along with the kids when they sang.  Every Halloween, they had a special Trick or Treat day where they dressed up and handed out candy to the kids.  It was an amazing experience for us all.  We learned about history from men and women who lived through earlier times.  We learned about nursing care.  We experienced the deaths of people we came to care about.  We became comfortable with people of all ages and conditions.  We learned about compassion and kindness. 

It was no surprise then that when my children were faced with choosing careers to pursue, most of them chose the health care field.  I think it can be traced directly back to that day when we put on an Easter program for a group of unknown strangers.  It changed our lives.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Graduation Day!

I know that when you're raising children, it's hard to see past the day-to-day stresses, challenges and frustrations of being a mom.  Is that a light at the end of the tunnel...or is it an oncoming train?  :)  Well, I'm here to tell you that things get better.  Kids DO grow up and make you proud. 

Me with my son and hubby!
I was at one of my son's graduation today and I was so happy that he completed this phase of his life.  It wasn't easy for him but he finished!   Great job!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Arguing is good for you :)

Did you ever think that arguing was a good skill for your children to learn?  I'm not talking about yelling, nagging, swearing, name-calling, below-the-belt kind of arguing.  I'm talking about the ability to persuasively, intelligently, and convincingly present your opinion in a calm and respectful way.  Studies have shown that children who learn how to effectively argue their point, starting at home with their parents, are better able to stand their ground when confronted with peer pressure to conform to not-so-good choices.  Intriguing thought, isn't it?  But it makes sense.  It takes a lot of courage and level-headed thinking to stand up to ones friends.  And, where are they going to learn how to do this?  At home.  And, how can we teach this skill?

1. We can set a good example.  We can show that we are respectful to other people while having a different opinion.
2. We can set ground rules.  No shouting, name-calling, swearing, or disrespectful talk.
3. We can listen to our children.  Having healthy communication opens the way to understanding.
4. Be willing to discuss rather than arbitrarily saying no to something.
5. Give them lots of opportunity to practice.
6. Impress upon them that it's ok to say "NO" to something they feel is wrong, regardless of the pressure to conform.

We want our kids to be able to successfully navigate the world they live in and one of those ways is to see that they know how to treat people respectfully even when disagreeing with them.  I wish more adults knew how to do this too!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Buying in bulk

Is it economical to buy food in bulk?  Yes.  No.  It depends.  :)  How's that for an answer?
Here's why...

Yes -
1. If you have room to store it.
2. If you have a large family.
3. If the bulk price is cheaper than the regular packaged price.
4. If the items have a long storage life.
5. If your family likes the food.

No -
1. If you don't have room to store it.
2. If you're planning on moving in the near future.
3. If it's more expensive in bulk form.
4. If it's perishable.
5. If it's food your family can't stand.

Having said that, I can tell you that I've done all the wrong things at one time or another.  I've stocked up on bulk food only months before a move.  I've bought food in bulk that was nasty tasting.  I've wasted fresh fruit because we didn't eat it fast enough and I didn't get around to doing anything with it.

However, because I raised a large family, buying in bulk was generally a money saver.  My "canisters" were 5 gallon buckets and plastic containers.  If you're going to spend the money to buy in bulk, you want to protect that food from insects and other critters.  So, you can't store things in their original bags. 

Now that my family is getting smaller, I'm having a hard time adjusting to smaller sizes.  Some things I continue to buy in large sizes because I like the product or I can easily repackage in freezer bags...things like crushed tomatoes and olives.  Weird, huh?  My husband still likes to buy large containers of things and I keep telling him that we don't need pickles in the gallon jar any more!  Oh well, we won't run out of pickles any time soon.  :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Hawaiian Haystacks

I love my retro plates!
Here's another family favorite that makes a great Summer dinner and meets my most important qualifications - it's fairly healthy, easy and quick!

Hawaiian Haystacks

1-2 cans chunk chicken breast, drained, 12.5 oz each (Kirkland brand)
1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup
3/4 soup can of milk
4-6 c. cooked brown or white rice
shredded Cheddar cheese
pineapple chunks
black olives, sliced
green onion, cut into small pieces
green pepper, cut into small chunks
shredded coconut
tomatoes, cut into small chunks
Chow Mein noodles
Maraschino cherries
Mix soup with milk in small saucepan.  Add can of chicken and heat through.
Layer ingredients, starting with rice and ending with coconut, Chow Mein noodles and a cherry on top.  Other ingredients can be added.  Use your imagination!  Serve with soy sauce.

This works well for a make-your-own type meal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Expectations

Let's just assume for a minute that your children are old enough to do basic chores around the house.  And, let's assume that your twelve year old daughter is assigned to clean up the kitchen after dinner.  Does she know what it means to clean up the kitchen?  Is your mind picture different than hers?  She might think that a clean kitchen means to wash the dishes and she's outta there.  You might think that the job isn't done until the floor is swept, the dishes are cleared from the table, the leftover food is put away, the counters are wiped clean and who knows what else.  Do you see where a problem and possible conflict might arise?

How might you avoid this kind of conflict?  If you just assign her a chore and tell her to do it, you are missing a vital step.  You first need to teach her what is expected and show her how to do it.  Work with her until you see that she knows the routine.  It can be helpful to make a chart that outlines the basics of a particular chore.  You can do this for any chore.  I kept a list on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door so the kids could check things off as they did them.  I also did this in the bathroom.

Also, there is a saying that goes, "Don't expect anything you don't inspect."  So, take a look when your child says she's finished and make sure the job is done. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Funny things kids say

Kids do and say funny things.  When they do something memorable, we laugh and think we'll remember the story.  News flash - we don't.  I wish I'd written down more of my kid's funny stories from when they were small.  You might want to keep a notebook just to jot down the silly and crazy things they say and do...makes good blackmail material too later on!  :)

For a very short time, I did that and here's an example, dated April 16, 19**.  The daughter in the story was three at the time.  "We were driving down the highway, past a field that had become a large pond because of heavy rains recently.  As we drove past, M said excitedly, 'There's a cute daddy and mommy in the pond!'  Because I was driving and couldn't look to see, I asked, "What are they doing?"  Her response startled me.  'Taking a bath!'.  It took me a few seconds to realize that what she had seen were cute daddy and mommy...ducks."

Another one, December 13, 19**.  "After a 24 hour power outage, the lights went back on.  K (age three) noticed the light on in her room.  She came running out and said, 'Oh wow!  The power of God turned on the light!'"

I love my kids!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Children are like camels

Children are like camels...
There once was an Arab who was crossing the desert with his camel.  When night came, the man set his tent and prepared for sleep.  It was a cold night and the camel pushed his nose into the opening of the tent and asked the man if he could warm his nose in the tent.  The man agreed (because he was a nice man).  It wasn't long before the camel put his forelegs in the tent too because it wasn't comfortable with just his nose in.  And again, the man agreed to accommodate the camel's request.  Then came the shoulders.  Soon, the camel managed to wiggle his whole body in the tent and the poor Arab realized he was outside his tent while his camel was warm and toasty inside his tent.

Moral of the story...small, seemingly insignificant acts can result in big consequences.

Too soon...

Some posts are easier to write than others.  This is a hard one.  I have been putting it off all day.  When I woke up this morning I got the news that one of my children's friends ended his own life the night before.  What a tragedy for him and his family and friends.   He was a well-liked, quiet, unassuming young man who must have been in tremendous pain to decide to take that step.

News like this causes a great deal of thought.  Friends talk about regret and wonder why they didn't see it coming.  Family wonders what they could have done differently.  Everyone thinks about the last time they saw him and are either glad it was a good parting or sad that they didn't give him that hug or tell him they loved him.   Many lives have been affected today.   Everyone feels the loss of a young life ended too soon.

When something like this happens, it is so important to talk with your children about it.  Find out what they are thinking.  Let them know they have your support and love.  This is especially hard for them.  

Life is fragile and so very precious.   Be thankful for the moments you have with your loved ones.  Never take them for granted.  Tell them you love them but even more important, show them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - My dream fixer-upper

Several years ago, my husband's job transferred him to a new state and we set to work finding a new home.  We both fell in love with a large home on two acres...plenty of room for our eight children and pretty inexpensive because it hadn't been lived in for a year.  Its main drawback was that it was a home stuck in the 1970's.  Previous owners made a few changes but most of the house was still vintage 70's.  I remember walking through the house with the realtor, pointing out changes that had to be carpet throughout, new flooring, counters and cabinets for the kitchen, new bathroom fixtures (heck, the entire bathroom needed to be replaced), new furnace, new septic system, new roof...the list was endless but we still saw the potential in that house for our family.  I'm a sucker for an unloved house  :)

So, we bought the house and over the first two years we took care of the major, structural roof, heating system and septic system.  I was fine waiting for the cosmetic changes because I wanted to get a feel for the house before I started making changes.  Well, two years after moving in, my husband got laid off.  All projects were immediately on hold.  When he got a new job teaching, the pay was quite a bit less than what we had previously.  So, the projects were still on hold.  I got increasingly frustrated because I hated the avocado green bathroom and the carpet and the kitchen.  Then I had a realization...we had a comfortable (although in need of remodeling) home that was structurally sound and well within our budget.  Our children were happy.  My husband had a job.  I could still be a stay-at-home mother.  Even though I didn't like some of the things about our house, everything worked and was in good enough condition.  Sigh...I needed an attitude adjustment.  I took that hideous avocado green bathroom and painted the walls a soft shade of avocado and the trim white, bought a shower curtain that picked up the green of the bathtub and walls, and basically changed the way I looked at it.  It wasn't ugly.  I didn't have to be ashamed of it.  I went through the rest of the house in the same way.  Those things I could change with very little money, I did.  If I couldn't change something, I changed my attitude.

We still live in that home and the bathroom is still avocado green but I don't mind.  Sure, someday I hope to have gleaming white fixtures but today I'll be content.  Slowly but surely, the things that need to be replaced are getting done and I'm thankful for the lesson my dream fixer-upper gave's all about attitude.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Chocolate Desperation!

2 minute Chocolate Desperation!
For the times when you HAVE to have chocolate to get through the day, this is the fastest way to indulge the craving (short of a handful of chocolate chips).  This recipe requires two items, Cool Whip (I use fat free) and chocolate chips and about two minutes of your time.

Chocolate Desperation
1 part chocolate chips 
2 parts Cool Whip
Today I used 1/4 c. chips with 1/2 c. Cool Whip

Put chocolate chips in microwaveable bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Stir until melted.  Mix in Cool Whip until blended (or swirled for a marbled effect).  Eat immediately if you can't stand the wait or freeze for about 1/2 hour and then eat.   Tastes like chocolate mousse!  Soooo good!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tidy Tuesday Bonus Post - Plastic bags

I decided this deserves its own post  :)   Usually when people declutter their space, they put unwanted things in large plastic bags to either give away or throw away.  Here's a good idea for not getting them mixed up.  For things to throw away, use black trash bags.  For things to give away, use white trash bags (you don't want anyone to see what's in there).  And sometimes there's a third category, papers that need to be shredded.  They go into a clear trash bag.  No confusion!  No oopsies!

Tidy Tuesday - Eating an elephant

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  How do you tackle a cluttered, unorganized house?  One step at a time.  The more I think of the comparisons between the two, the more I see.

Eating an elephant - First, you have to decide you want to eat an entire elephant.  You have to get the proper equipment to take down your elephant.  You have to make room to process the elephant after you bring it home.  You have to chop it up into manageable pieces.  Then you eat as much as you can at each sitting.  Then you have to clean up afterwards and put everything away until your next meal.  You're going to get sick and tired of eating elephant after only a short time but you keep at it because you have a goal to achieve.  Easy!

Tackling a cluttered, unorganized home - First, you have to decide you want to have a clean, orderly house.  Next you have to gather boxes and bags for the decluttering part of the job.  Look around and see how much space you have compared to how much stuff you have.  Your goal is to keep them fairly equal (space + stuff).   The less space you have, the more stuff you'll have to part with.  Break this process down into small pieces, maybe one room at a time or one wall at a time...whatever is manageable.  Do as much as you can and at the end of each work session, clean everything up and if possible, take the unwanted things immediately to your local charity.  Don't go back and retrieve things!  Begin the process again the next day.  You're going to get sick and tired of doing this but you have a goal to achieve and it's going to be worth it!

After decluttering as much as you can, approach organizing the same way...small, manageable steps consistently and regularly.  Hopefully, you'll be developing new habits along the way.  Unfortunately, unlike eating an elephant (where you eventually get through the whole thing) , keeping your house clutter-free and organized doesn't stop after the house is finally clean and neat.  It's like laundry - never ending.  :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Baby chicks

You have probably heard the story of the young boy who was watching an egg hatch.  It looked like such hard work for the little chick, slowly widening the crack and chipping its way out. The boy only wanted to help so he carefully removed the shell from the struggling chick, only to find that by doing so, the chick died.  Now, I don't know if that really would happen but it makes a good point anyway.

It's hard to watch our little children (and big ones) struggle and go through hard times and all we want to do is step in and make things easier on them.  We forget that sometimes the hard lesson is necessary to help them grow stronger.  We don't do them any favors by taking away those growth experiences.  They need them just as much as we need painful experiences in our lives to teach us valuable lessons.

Some times we have to intervene (like in areas of safety) but other times maybe we shouldn't be so quick to fix things.  We might be surprised at how resourceful and strong our kids are.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On my soap-box

I don't usually feel like getting on a soap-box but today I'm stepping up.  ( I wonder how big a soap-box is?)  Anyway, I've been thinking about values and morals and how our children can grow into principled, happy adults.  There are so many conflicting messages bombarding them and, lacking the experience and maturity to sort things out, they are often swayed by convincing arguments.

My soap-box message is this..if you have strong beliefs and traditional values, you are going to have to be the one to teach those morals to your children.  If you believe those values are the basis of a happy life, you are going to have to get that message across strong and clear to your children.  You cannot depend on the school system, the media or even your friends and neighbors to reinforce those values.  You cannot just assume your kids will be able to discern right from wrong without any input from you.  Start early and show what you believe by your example.  Teach them to be kind and tolerant of others but teach them not to be afraid to stand up for their beliefs.  Always be available to talk with your kids when they have questions and try not to look uncomfortable or shocked by anything they say.  :)

I hope I haven't offended anyone by posting this and I can't give specifics but the topic has been weighing heavily on my mind lately.  So, I decided to write...

Friday, June 8, 2012


My children were outside playing and I was visiting with a neighbor.  All of a sudden my sweet little five year old son shouted "Sh..t, sh..t, sh..t!"  To say I was completely surprised was an understatement!  We didn't use that kind of language.  My neighbor was laughing and then I realized why...she was wearing a t-shirt with those words printed prominently across the front.  (I don't know why I didn't even notice it before).  Needless to say, I had a gentle little talk with my son about how, even if you CAN read certain words, they might not be good words to say.  Check with Mom if you don't know what a word means. 

Over the years, I've had many a discussion with my kids over some of these very commonplace (and completely unacceptable) words.  Because many of these words have to do with the functions of the human body, we'd have what we called Bathroom Discussions..which consisted of very matter-of-fact and clinical definitions.  Funny how certain words lose their appeal when you explain in detail their actual meaning.  Most of the time my kids would just say "ewwwww" and that would be the end of it. 

Your kids are going to hear (and see) all kinds of words at school, with their friends, on TV, and on T-shirts :)  You can't protect them from what goes on in the outside world, but you can teach them at home what is expected as members of your family.   Good luck!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Thrift = Thrive

Did you realize that the word thrift is related to the word thrive?  Doesn't that put a different perspective on being thrifty?  In the old days, being thrifty was considered a virtue.  Families had to be careful with their resources in order to thrive.  And thrive they did, with much less than we consider the bare minimum today.

The best things in life aren't things!
If you continue with this line of thinking, being thrifty has a whole new meaning.  Not overspending on clothes and impulse items, looking for ways to save on the food budget, not wasting resources, waiting longer to replace cars and appliances, making do with with what you have - all these help you focus on the things that are really important in your life (like family and relationships and experiences) and will help you thrive!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Grimmer soup aka Taco soup

When a friend gives me a recipe that becomes a family favorite, we name the recipe after her.  That is why this is Grimmer soup (it's her last name).  This soup is cheap, easy and fast...all very important for my type of cooking  :) Today's soup took 20 minutes from start to finish.

Grimmer soup aka Taco soup

3 1/2 c. water
2 chicken bouillon cubes or 2 t. chicken soup base
2 raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size cubes
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 1/2 c. frozen corn
1 c. salsa
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
Tortilla chips, grated cheddar cheese and sour cream

In large pot, combine the water, bouillon cubes and chicken.  Bring to a boil and cook until chicken is no longer pink...about 8-10 minutes.  Add rest of the ingredients and cook for another 10 minutes.
In each bowl, put a handful of tortilla chips.  Ladle hot soup onto chips.  Top with sour cream and cheese.  You can also add black olives, green onions and/or avocado.  That's it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Books

Books are relatively small, right?  And a bookshelf or two or even a whole wall of books creates a warm, inviting atmosphere in a room, right?    But.  If you continue to buy books, you will eventually run out of bookshelves.  Then what?  Start stacking them on the floor?  Tacky.  Find a bigger bookshelf?  That will fill up too.  A bigger room?  A bigger house?  At some point, your love of books has turned into an obsession.  What was once a source of relaxation and knowledge has become a nightmare.  The only solution I know is to try to keep your input approximately equal to your output.  In other words, if you're going to bring 5 new books home, try to get rid of 5 old ones.  Maybe once a month (if you are a frequent book buyer) you can donate a box of books to your favorite charity.  For a book lover that can be hard advice but the alternative is to have books overrun your home and your life.

My husband is a professor of computer science and maintains a very large collection of computer related books.  However, technology changes frequently so older computer books become obsolete after only a few years.  Periodically culling those old books to make room for current books makes sense.  Old textbooks - don't even bother keeping them!  I like self-help books and how-to books and even these get outdated and eventually lose their appeal.  Out they go!   I'll admit, it was hard to get rid of most of the children's books after the kids outgrew them but hopefully, another child got some use out of them.  I did keep some of the favorites, but they are a manageable group.

 Make sure that the books you keep are the books you love. 

Monday, June 4, 2012


When I was growing up, my mother had a policy that she would never promise us kids anything.  I asked her about it several years ago and she told me that promises are too easily broken (for a variety of reasons) and so she just didn't make any.  That made sense.  Being true to her word was more important.  Instead of promising things, she'd surprise us with fun trips or activities.  I remember at least twice a year she'd wake us up in the morning and tell us that we were taking a day off school and going to Disneyland.  I loved those times!

I continued my mom's policy with my own children.  Building a relationship of trust is one of the most valuable gifts we can give our children.  They should be able to depend on us and the things we say.  Besides, who wants to hear, "But Mom, you promised!"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday night family meeting

One thing you probably know already is that as you start having children, the chaos factor rises dramatically.  There are schedules to maintain, appointments to remember, school functions to go to, lessons to get kids to, work commitments, places to go and things to do.  Add in a husband's obligations, and the mind gets boggled with the overload.  Somehow, you have to know and act on all this stuff.  Calendars are wonderful as long as everyone writes in their information.  But sometimes they don't and you find out at the last minute that you are supposed to bring cupcakes to your daughter's class at the same time you have a dentist appointment across town.  No wonder Moms get stressed out!

I can't remember it all!!!
You might want to consider having a weekly family meeting.  Usually Sunday is the one day everyone is home and it is technically the beginning of the new week so what better day to sit down with everyone and discuss the activities of the upcoming week.  You'll be able to see where conflicts are and hopefully have time enough to correct them.  Everyone will know in advance that Mom will be crabby on Wednesday because of that dentist appointment and to lay low.  The calendar can be updated so no one will be able to say "I told you I had to bring cupcakes on Wednesday!"  To which you'll respond, "No, you didn't."

Life can definitely be chaotic but there are ways to make it less so.  Isn't it worth it to cut down as much stress as possible?  Set aside 15 minutes or 1/2 hour every Sunday evening and see if it doesn't help.   Oh, and if you have a dessert or treat afterwards, everyone will be happy to participate!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stick to your principles!

One of my "followers" gave me a good topic to talk about today.  She said, "I had a son mad at me today because I told him I will not buy him an iTouch, nor will I help him earn one" and wanted my opinion.  OK, here goes...

Why don't you want him to have one?  Is he too young (he's 10)?  Is he irresponsible?  Are you concerned about the apps?   If it's an age thing, what age would be appropriate? 

Whatever your reason, tell him and be honest with him.  Keep it short and straightforward.  A 10 year old boy is old enough to understand your concerns.  He might not like your answer and he will certainly be unhappy about it but at least he knows why.  It's ok for kids not to get something they want, especially if you don't feel good about it.  But, remember to be consistent and not let him change your mind!

By the way, I agree with you.  :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Bestest Bread - Part 3

With the basic bread recipe (see post dated May 30th), we've made bread, cheese bread, rolls, breadsticks, cinnamon rolls and pizza rolls.  Today we'll use the dough to make pizza and soft pretzels.

Pizza - makes 2 very large pizzas
 1/2 recipe bread dough
Pizza or spaghetti sauce,  homemade or bought
2 lbs. mozzarella cheese, more or less depending on how cheesy you like your pizzas
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
pizza fixings of your choice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Set oven rack on one of the lower settings.
After dough has risen for the first time, punch down and divide dough in half.  For each blob, roll very thin on lightly floured counter.  Place on pizza screen or pizza pan.  I like the pizza screen because it makes a crisper crust.  Spread pizza sauce onto dough.  Sprinkle cheeses over sauce.  Top with pizza fixings. 
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until crust is brown on the bottom and cheese is bubbly on top.  The time will vary based on the amount of toppings you have on your pizza.

Soft pretzels - 1/4 basic bread dough recipe will make 8 pretzels

 After dough has risen for the first time, punch down and divide dough into 8 pieces.  With each piece, twist, pull and roll into long rope, 18-20 inches long and about 1/2" in diameter.  Form into a pretzel shape and place on lightly floured baking sheet.  Let rest for about 30 minutes.  While pretzels are resting, prepare a water bath.  Take a large pot and fill it about 2/3 full with water.   Add 2 t. baking soda.  Bring to a boil.  When the pretzels have finished resting, carefully lower one pretzel at at time into the boiling water, cooking for 30 seconds on each side.  Remove from water and place on greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle each pretzel with coarse salt.  When all 8 have had their bath, bake in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  Eat warm with mustard.  A true Philadelphia treat!

I hope you've enjoyed this series of things you can make with a basic bread dough recipe.  There are many  cinnamon pull-aparts, apple turnovers, meat turnovers, calzones... Be creative!  Let the kids join you in making their own treat!