Friday, July 30, 2010

Poor Mac!

This was sweet little Mac on Sunday morning...after a good dose of benedryl and an ice pack.
He seemed to have gotten a pretty good bite from some sort of critter!
 
On Monday, his eye didn't seem to be getting much better--even with dose after dose of benedryl.
So off we headed to our favorite pediatrician.
He immediately pointed out and removed...a stinger!
Say what???  
Am I that blind of a mom?  
Does my child have that crazy of a pain tolerance?
Yep!

So, now we are the humbled owners of an epi pen and a short supply of steroids.
Bees, wasps, and misquitos are things we want to avoid more now than ever!
Here's the quick progress that happened after getting a grip on the allergic reaction:
Mac has gotten a lot of comments on the "good shiner" he's sporting.

Uncle Cory taught him to say, "You should see the other guy!"

*Lessons learned:  
Swollen eyes are never good!  
It's always wise to get things checked out sooner than later!

Just when I get this mothering stuff all down...they'll be all grown up!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #33:  Head to The Cheesecake Factory today and enjoy a thrifty piece of delicious cheesecake!


Click here and follow the directions to get your coupon!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two more...

These blueberry recipes can bookend your day.
Muffins for breakfast.
Cobbler for desert.
Blueberries are so practical, versatile, and pretty much just delicious anytime!
We're hooked!


Better Blueberry Muffins
A perfect recipe to put the kids to work!

1 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 c. + 2 tsp. sugar, divided
1/2 c. oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. + 2 t. lowfat milk
1 large egg
2 T. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. fresh blueberries, washed and dried

Topping:
1/4 c. blueberry or any fruit jam
24 fresh blueberries, washed and dried

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine flour, 1/2 c. sugar, oats, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg, oil, and vanilla.  Toss blueberries with flour mixture.  Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir gently.


Line a 12-count muffin pan with paper liners.  Divide batter evenly; sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until tops are just set.  Remove pan from oven; top each muffin with 1 tsp. fruit jam and 2 blueberries.  Bake 3-5 minutes more or until golden.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes and serve.




Peach Blueberry Cobbler (Martha's perfect version here)

2 3/4 pounds peaches, halved lengthwise, pitted, and cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges (about 8 pieces)
2 cup blueberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ginger

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, (1 stick), cut into small pieces
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. with racks in upper and lower thirds. Stir together peaches, blueberries, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, the flour, brown sugar, lemon juice, ginger, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish; set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives to form clumps that are no larger than small peas.

Add cream mixture to flour mixture; stir until a soft, sticky dough forms. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces; arrange over filling. Brush dough with cream, and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake cobbler until topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 55 to 70 minutes. If topping is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour before serving.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

O.C.B.D.

I have it...bad.

O.C.B.D.

Obsessive.Compulsive.Berry.Disorder.

Can you tell?

It's not really my fault.
These grocery stores just keep having amazing sales on berries...and I can't resist.

Don't worry.  By the looks of things in my garden, next week it'll be O.C.Z.D.  Can you figure that one out?

So, here you go.  More of my Berry Obsession!

 "Good grief, MOM!  It's delicious!"

Blueberry Upside Down Cake
(Martha's real directions here -- I doubled her recipe)


8 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for baking pan
2/3 cup plus 6 tablespoons light-brown sugar
3 cups blueberries, picked over and cleaned
1 1/2 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large egg
1/2 cup milk, room temperature

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 inch spring form pan. Pour 4 tablespoons melted butter into the souffle dish. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons brown sugar over butter. Scatter 2 cup blueberries over sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. In another medium bowl, whisk together remaining 4 tablespoons butter, remaining 2/3 cup brown sugar, and the eggs. Whisk the milk into the egg mixture. Add flour mixture; whisk until batter is smooth.

Pour half the batter into souffle dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup blueberries over batter. Spread remaining batter over blueberries. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean of batter, about 45 minutes. Immediately unmold cake, inverting it onto a serving dish. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.


Peach Strawberry Shake
2 ripe, juicy Georgia peaches (my favorite right now!)
1 generous cup strawberries
1 c. yogurt (I used my homemade plain yogurt)
Agave nectar (if needed)
Ice

Put all ingredients in blender.  Blend until smooth.
Serve and enjoy!

Hope you're all having a BERRY good weekend!
How do you like your berries?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #32:  Try out these {thrifty} ideas for summer fun!


*Do yard work together.  Believe it or not, kids make great weed pullers with a little instruction!  Watering the garden and picking vegetables makes those veggies even tastier!

*Wash the car.  Get out the buckets and soapy sponges.  For best results, don't let the kids get a hold of the garden hose!

*Go on a bug safari.  Could you let me know when you do this one?  I'll need to send my kids over...they ain't gettin one here!

*Befriend a firefighter and police officer. This idea comes from a sweet new bloggy friend, Amber @ Three Meals & a Baby.  She and a group of church ladies recently baked goodies and delivered them to the local police station and fire department as a way of saying thank you!  We can't wait to do this as a family!  Here come some sugar cookies!

*Chalk Talk!  Get out the sidewalk chalk and create a masterpiece.  With as much as it's been raining around here, you'll have a clean slate everyday!

*Make some goopy goo.  Mix 1 cup water and some drops of food coloring.  Slowing pour in 2 cups of cornstarch.  Mix with a spoon or your hands.  Goopy fun!

*Go bowling...for free!  Check out this website for details:  kidsbowlfree.comWe did this as a family last summer and the kids had a blast!

*Visit your local parks and wading pools.  We were pleasantly surprised last week with a free lunch at the city splash park!  Then an church bus delivered free ice cream an hour later!  Yippee!

What's your favorite thrifty summer activity?
Please share!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Well, ain't that just the berries!
Our family doesn't usually eat a lot of jam because it's so loaded with sugar. 

However, with tons of fresh strawberries in the refrigerator, I knew we had to come up with a way to preserve their sweetness without the loads sugar! 

Call in the Agave Nectar and the freezer jam pectin!

I can't believe how well this worked and how sweet and fresh it tastes.  I've actually just let the kids eat it plain like strawberry-sauce!

Try it!  You'll be hooked!

Fresh Strawberry Jam with Agave Nectar

4 pounds strawberries (4-6 cups when crushed)
3/4 c. agave nectar
1 c. white grape or apple juice (any natural fruit juice will do)
1 package No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin (I used Ball brand)

Crush strawberries into small pieces.  Stir in agave nectar and juice.  Add fruit pectin and stir until well-blended.  Ladle into freezer containers and let sit for 30 minutes or until thickened.

This jam will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to three weeks and frozen for one year.

Enjoy this jam on toast, in oatmeal, on plain yogurt, on ice cream...with a big 'ol spoon!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

As easy as pie!

When you die, if you get a choice 
between going to regular heaven 
or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. 
It might be a trick, but if it's not, 
mmmmmmm, boy.

–Jack Handey

 
Fresh Blueberry Pie
9 in. baked pie crust (I'd share my recipe, but I'm sure yours is better!  I've got to work on better crusts!)

4-5 c. fresh blueberries
1/2 c. water + 2 T. water
 2 T. cornstarch
1/3 c. agave nectar
2 tsp. lemon juice

*This amount of agave nectar will keep the tart flavor of the blueberries.  Sugar can be substituted and increased as desired.

Measure out 1 c. blueberries.  Place in a saucepan with 1/2 c. water.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer 3-4 minutes until blueberries burst and juice starts to thicken.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water.  
Stirring blueberries constantly, add the cornstarch mixture, the agave nectar, and lemon juice.  Simmer for one minute.
Remove from heat and quickly fold in the remaining blueberries.
Gently pour in crust.  Allow to set for an hour before serving.
Serve with some generous scoops of vanilla ice cream!
 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Smooth{ie} Operator

Smooth Operator
Remember this song?
I seriously have no idea what the lyrics of the entire song are, I just know what sticks out when you hear it here and there...

Smooth Operator
Smooth Operator
Smooth Operator

I can deduct that it's probably not based on something real stellar...but yet it stinkin' gets in your head at the most inopportune times...like while trying to post a blog on smoothies. Ah!

So there you go, now it's stuck in your head too!  
(Call me if you don't know the jingle.  I'll sing it to you and you'll dislike me greatly!)
Every year, my parents' garden produces magnificently sweet strawberries.
I begged some strawberries off my mom last week so I could blend them with this great Costco find:

Almond Butter!

This exact smoothie recipe was recommended on my Whole Foods App and in two health and fitness magazines for it's awesome punch of vitamins, protein, and calcium.  It's super yummy and filling!

Why don't you try it and become a Smooth(ie) Operator!

 Strawberry Almond Smoothie

1 c. frozen strawberries (approx. 10-12 berries)
2 T. almond butter
1 c. milk
1 T. agave nectar--only if extra sweetness is desired

Mix all ingredients in blender and blend well.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

And the winner is...

ELIZABETH 
from One Girl Among Boys
When Liz says she's in it to win it, she's not kidding!
Also pretty sure that Liz reads more books than anyone I know! 

Congratulations!

Stay tuned for a BERRY special week!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thrifty Thursday! A tip, a review, and a giveaway!

Thrifty Tip #31:  Writing book reviews is a great way to enjoy a new book...at no cost!

Many of you have been masterfully writing book reviews on your blogs for quite some time, but today, I'm jumping on the book review bandwagon!  Truthfully, I'm a little a lot nervous!  My regimen of reading has been mostly consumed with children's literature or Christian living / ministry books the last few years.  It was surprisingly fun to read a novel again!

Here are a couple of the sites that offer books for bloggers:
(let me know if you have other recommended sites)

Waterbrook Multnomah: Blogging for Books
Book Sneeze


Here we go:

Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky is filled with hints of romances and much intrigue through many, many twists and turns!  Marnie Wittier is living the seemingly dream life as the owner of a peaceful coffee shop and quiet book store in beautiful California.  She has moved miles and years beyond her past regrets, hurts, sins, and sorrows and has become the picture of kindness and compassion to her new patrons.  Any hints from her past are quickly stuffed into a secret box where she dares not face them.
Marnie's life is suddenly turned upside down with the notice that her sister has passed away leaving a child in her custody.  Emmit arrives and Marie unwillingly dives into a life of caring for a 15 year old boy with Downs Syndrome.  As Emmit slowly wins Marnie's heart, more and more of her past secrets are brought to life.  Marnie is given a chance to heal from her regrets and experience restoration.  But will she take the opportunity or continue to run?

The story is suspensefully woven with tales of sins and regrets which can only be resolved through the forgiveness, grace, and redemption offered through Jesus Christ. Malachi 4:2  The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.

I would highly recommend this book for fun summer reading.  Not only is this a great story which you will be glued to, but you will be encouraged and challenged with spiritual lessons woven throughout the book.  A huge bonus for me was the reader's guide in the back.  Every theme and spiritual nuance is explained with Scripture and discussion questions are provided.

One more thing... I did discover that the author, Marlo Schalesky, is known for adding an unexpected twist at the end of her novels. This book doesn't disappoint! Don't say you weren't warned...

It wouldn't be right to let a good book like this sit on my shelf collecting dust, so would you like to read it?  Just leave me a comment!  One comment will be chosen at random on SATURDAY NIGHT at MIDNIGHT to receive my very gently loved copy!



You can also purchase the book here at Multnomah Publishing.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Company.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For the first time...ever

We have a pet at our house.

If you know me, you already know that I'm not a pet lover.
In fact, I've never ever ever...never...had a pet...in my life.
I could probably count on one hand the times I've even touched a pet.
(Except if you count the fish I had in seventh grade which died immediately and my dad put down the garage disposal...ug!  I'm not scarred or anything)

 My sweet friend Caitlin needed somewhere for Krull for the week.
She about dropped over when I volunteered...I did, too!

But this sweet little girl is totally in love.
Yes, Cloe looks like she's hit heat exhaustion.
This picture was taken after we'd been locked out of our house for an hour.
Too much puppy excitement, absent minded mommy, and a 95 degree heat index...lovely!

So cute!
I'm glad for the experience this week...
No worries, though, we're still just the dogsitters!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs...reinvented!

For some reason, our whole family recently got on a crazy meatball craving kick!
It was funny how it spread...
I finally got to try Swedish meatballs at Ikea while on vacation.
(which I think were better in my imagination that on the plate...but oh well, I was at an IKEA!)  From then on, the kids started asking constantly when we could have spaghetti and meatballs. 
Spaghetti and meatballs don't really feel like a fresh summer meal, so we decided to shake it up and reinvent the meal!  The kids were hilarious as they helped throw out suggestions for a new recipe...
I had to rule out adding green beans to the meatballs!  After a trip to the garden, we ended up with tons of fresh basil and our very first head of broccoli.  We headed to the store for tomatoes since ours are still too green.

Here's the result:  Summer Spaghetti and Meatballs


For meatballs:
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
3/4 cup grated Italian blend cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
4 T. olive oil  (more if needed)

For pasta dish:
1 pound whole wheat pasta
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, hot
4 tomatoes, diced
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, basil, eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and gently stir to combine.
Using a melon baller, form the chicken mixture into 1- 1 1/2 in. balls.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. (Skillet will be very full.)  Turn the meatballs over and brown the other side, about 3 minutes longer. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, add tomatoes, broccoli, and basil.  Simmer until vegetables are heated, about 3 minutes. Drain the pasta, and add to meat/vegetable mixture.  Toss gently.  Serve will fresh grated parmesan cheese.

For best summery results: finish off the meal with some yummy, sweet and juicy watermelon!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thank you so much for praying for our brother-in-law, Cory.
Your kind, encouraging words have meant so much.
If you'd like to visit Cory's caring bridge site, here's a link.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hope your weekend is finger-pickin' good!

Oh boy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Family vacations have always been an important part of life for both Cody and I.  We grew up in families that made time away together a priority.  Neither of our families had lush amounts of cash when we were kids, but our parents always found a way to make a family trip happen.  That's a tradition and priority we are carrying on for our own family.  Whether our vacation is just a day trip, an over-nighter, or an entire week away, it's important to spend time as a family.


So continuing with the vacation theme...
Thrifty Tip #30:  Take a family vacation and enjoy nature...it's free!

Earlier this spring, I read The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.  What she wrote on nature and family vacations really stuck with me:

"Helping my children to enjoy and appreciate God's handiwork in its many varieties requires a choice.  It means I must take time to expose my children to the beauty and grandeur of nature, to stop to enjoy and admire it with them, and to choose to allow the intangible reality of God's design to fill our souls...
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is exposure to this magnificent Creator through the wonderful things he has made.  Their appetites for life need to be built on those things that reflect the image of God through the work of his fingers.  Practically speaking, that means that one of the most important things I can do as a mother is get my children--and me!--outdoors as much as possible!
My goal is to make the Lord real--his character, beauty, love, justice, truth excellence, and purposes.  My goal is to touch my children's hearts with the overwhelming wonder of his presence.  As I seek to gently and lovingly expose my children to the natural greatness of God's being, my hope is that their own devotion will naturally arise our to the wellspring of their full hearts...
Spending time with each other away from the phone, television, and computer has not only broadened our horizons but has also helped us to develop more intimate relationships by drawing the cords of our hearts together with common memories."

Here's a look at the beautiful nature we took in last week:















Beautiful Lake Michigan

Lots of follow the leader.

Carson couldn't take the easy route anywhere!













A day at the beach on the bay.
Building Sandcastles!
Such good teamwork!
 A great boat at the park on the beach!
The water was so clear!
Our happy little family enjoying the beach!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vacation Recap: Day 1


Our FIRST train ride:  Chicago here we come!
Daydreaming about a special doll that would soon be in her hands!

 First stop:  The BEAN
Can you spot our little family?
Carson loved all the sirens and duplicated their noise quite well.

 
Making the four mile hike through downtown and along Michigan Avenue...I love this picture!

Here we come, Kit!
 
Fun photo opp with the newest American Girl!
 
McClain was a little overwhelmed with the pink...the dolls...the frills...the girls.
Cloe was pure excitement!

 
"How much did we just spend on a doll?"
(Cloe actually patiently saved up birthday money.)



 A little Pizza Deux for lunch.  We love Chicago style stuffed pizza!  
Our server really took a liking to our children.  She brought Cloe this huge chocolate chip cookie ice cream sundae as a "congratulations" on getting her new doll!  
Carson is reenacting getting his arm stuck in the chair.  We thought we were going to have to rip the chair apart for awhile!  Thank goodness, the server (who liked us) brought out some slippery lotion to help weasel his arm out!
The kids did so well walking back to the train and enduring all the photo opps I was trying to capture!
A special, memorable day for our favorite seven year old little girl!

Now on to Wisconsin...