Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: My True Love Gave To Me...

Memories of My Childhood Home

My dear dear hubby went to the florist last month to buy me some carnations (one of my favorite flowers)but when he got there he saw these lilacs and knew they were the perfect thing. My childhood home (on the other side of the ocean from where I live now) has lilac bushes all over the yard and having fresh cut lilacs on the tables is one of my favorite childhood memories. Thanks, Sweetie, for giving me a taste of home!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tackle it Tuesday: Kid Stuff

First off, the tackle from last week on developing good habits is going well, but we're still all having our share of setbacks. The kids have had a pretty good attitude about it all. My eldest even came up with a fun rendition of the "daily chores" you can read here. Now on to this week.

My little princess learned a hard lesson yesterday. Praise the Lord she wasn't hurt doing it. She learned that you can't open ALL the drawers of her dresser AT THE SAME TIME. (Oh, and big brother, who was in the room with her at the time, also learned that lesson ... although he managed to not be under the dresser when it fell.) Part of this week's tackle came last night, after I got Princess out from under the 6 drawered monster. That was picking up all of the items that were all over the floor. Some were there before the fall, others were there because of it. (She had a bunch of stuff on top of her dresser that fell with it.) This HAD to be done right away because one of the things that fell was a cheap dollar store mirror and when it fell it smashed to pieces. So, the floor is cleared and vacuumed, but then I crashed and had no more energy for finishing the job. I hope to get in there today and put away the rest of the clutter.
My sons have a school program tomorrow night and I have to dress the first grader as an Indian. I worked late last night on sewing some homemade fringe onto a pair of his brown jeans. Today I will finish making him a spear to carry and will round up everything that he and his brother need to wear tomorrow night so it is ready to change into after school.
The last tackle was one I just finished. Princess asked me if I would please play with her so I set the timer for 30 minutes and we played a quick game of Sorry. It was fun and we even finished with 5 minutes to spare.
I'll try to post pictures of the finished bedroom later.
To see the offending dresser, click here.
To see what others are tackling this week, head on over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Menu Plan Monday May 28- June 3

This is just my second week at posting my menu over at Laura's. I was feeling rotten most of the day yesterday and never did get to planning the week's menu and posting it. I am doing this early Tuesday morning but postdating it for Monday (cheating, I know, but I like to have my posts on separate dates.) I had one request for my paella recipe from last week so I will add it to this post. We stuck to the menu well last week except the day I scheduled quiche turned out to be cold and rainy so I decided to do beef stew in the oven instead. I thought our soup and stew meals were done until next fall, but it looks like we still have a few more cool days before we are entrenched in the 100 plus degree weather of summer.

Here is the plan for this week:
Monday- cheeseburgers, potato salad, chocolate cake
Tuesday- Chicken & gravy (using leftover rotisserie chicken from Sunday), rice, broccoli
Wednesday- hotdogs and beans in crockpot (I'll be out all morning at Ikea and the kids have a school program at night so we need something quick to eat when they get home from school), leftover potato salad, cucumber slices
Thursday- Baked burritos (prepare ground beef with package of burrito seasoning, fill flour tortillas with the meat. Make a cheese sauce with a simple white sauce and add shredded taco cheese and stir until melted. Pour a little on the bottom of your casserole dish, arrange burritos on top and cover with the reamining cheese sauce. Bake at 350 approx 20 minutes or until everything is bubbling hot) Serve with sour cream, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, salsa etc.
Friday- quiche (one ham and broccoli with cheese, the other bacon and cheese)
green salad
Saturday- breakfast for dinner: sausages and eggs
Sunday- spaghetti and meat sauce, garlic cheese bread, salad

Here's the paella recipe from last week. It turned out great and was a nice welcome home meal to my hubby after a long day.

Landlubber's Paella (no seafood)

1 red bell pepper
5 ¾ cups chicken broth (1 lg. can)
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
cut into bite-sized pieces
salt to taste
shake or two of powdered garlic
1 tomato, cut into cubes (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
Colorante (or use lots of yellow liquid food coloring)
2 cups rice (not long grain)
1 small can of peas or 1-1.5 cups frozen peas
olive oil

Cut up chicken and bell pepper (cut pepper into strips). Put enough olive oil in a paella pan to cover the bottom. As oil begins to heat, put in the pieces of bell pepper and lightly brown in the oil. Then remove the pepper from pan and set aside on a plate. Add chicken to oil and lightly brown; then add the tomato and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth, peas, colorante and garlic. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes at a light boil. Add rice and salt; cook 10 minutes at a good boil. Add the bell peppers, arranging them nicely on the top and cook on low 10 minutes more. Cover and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tastebud homesickness

My friend Julie (at least she used to be Ü) changes the photo on her header bar with great regularity. I stopped by this afternoon and saw the most incredible close up shot of a S'more. You know, that ooey, gooey, chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker sandwich that is synonymous with barbecues, Memorial Day, 4th of July and other assorted summertime get togethers where there is an open fire or grill to toast those delicious white globs of sugar.

Here is what I posted in her comments:
OK, I just HAVE to come out of lurking to comment on that incredible picture in your header bar. THAT IS JUST SOOOOO UNFAIR!!!! I am referring to the fact that unless you can and want to spend a small fortune (and I am not kidding) at the American import store -- NONE of the ingredients in that S'more are available in Spain. No graham crackers (boo hoo), no "real" marshmallows (boo hoo hoo), and no Hershey's bars (Waaaaaaaa!) There are substitutes for all three (Maria cookies, strawberry flavored marshmallow that only melt .. they do not toast, and many other brands of milk chocolate.) Somehow trying to put the substitutes together make you end up with "Whatwas that?????" rather than "S'more ... and make it snappy!"
I am jealous .. and I hope you change your header soon. Great photo though. Loved the angle.

Living overseas affords my tastebuds an incredible array of great food choices, things which I miss when I am not here. Some of my favorite things here are lentils, chorizo (sausage), several different cheeses, Napolitanas (pastry filled with cream or chocolate), churros with super thick hot chocolate, lemon soda, Casera (another soda that is practically no calorie and has a very light flavor), croquettes, spanish tortilla, and the delicious long loaves of bread that we buy almost daily.

There are a few items that my tastebuds miss from the good old U.S. of A. A few, but not an exhaustive list by any means, are Reese's peanut butter cups, Reese's pieces, York peppermint patties, mild italian sausage, breakfast sausage, some cuts of meat like Swiss steak and thick, butterfly cut pork chops, cheap turkey available year round, Marshmallow fluff, Froot Loops, and all things cranberry or grape flavored. Many of these things I don't really think about and miss that much because I am enjoying the "unique to Spain" things. It's just that every once in a while I am hit with a taste memory that triggers a craving that cannot be satisfied. I will be dreaming of s'mores tonight I think.

Good thing I have friends coming to visit me in July. I'm thinking I need to add marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey bars to the grocery list I am giving them for one of their suitcases.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Another contest

5 Minutes for Mom is having another fabulous give away. I can just picture my little Angelina Ballerina wannabe running around in one of these tutus. I was number 116 to throw my name in the hat so I don't expect to win but it was fun to look anyways.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Coping with Mom's New Motto

What do you do when you are an eleven year old boy and Mom has just decided to stir things up at home and post (gasp!) a list of things that have to be done before you can play????

If you happen to be my little 6th grader and Star Wars freak, you turn that list into something you won't mind reading or looking at. This is what #1 son came up with complete with the "official" star wars lettering on top and a couple of clip art pictures of Darth Vader et al. I had to laugh when I read it. I have to admit it is much more interesting than my version.

Do these before playing with galactic play things, watching moving picture device or reading.
Ready for Yoda inspection, clothed, fed, red (sic) Bible
Do these before using electronic devices, watching moving picture device or video game machines.
Jedi temple schoolwork finished. Ten minutes in galactic zone. Food containment devices cleared.
School objects containment device ready for Jedi training, food containment devices cleared, Give Darth Vader 5 minutes of labor to declutter the Death Star.

Is it just me or is this vocabulary a bit beyond the average 6th grader?

Tag, You're it!

Well I've been tagged by Brenda to tell you all 8 random things about myself. I've seen a 7 random things meme going on at several blogs that I lurk on but I guess someone thought 8 would be even better. Hmmmm. I guess I'm up to it. I have to warn you ...brevity is not my forte.

“Rules:” After posting these rules, each player proceeds to list 8 relatively random facts/habits about himself/herself. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, leaving them a comment on their blogs to let them know.

1. OK, I've never liked the game of tag. (Perhaps this kind excluded) I am quintescentially non-athletic so tag or any other game that requires me to run, catch someone or something, sweat, breathe heavily etc is not high on my list of favorite things ... and it has been that way since elementary school (which, by the way, I always used to call Grammar School -- is that a New England thing?) My favorite thing to do during recess as a kid was to act out stories with my friends. The all time fave was the week after they showed Roger and Hammerstein's Cinderella on TV (usually shown once a year -- hey I'm old, it was before vcr's and tivo). We would have a blast belting out "In my own little corner in my own little chair" "Impossible" and "Why would a fellow want a girl like her?" (the stepsister's song) on the playground.

2. Following the make believe theme here .... I've been a sneaky friend since I was five. Or maybe I was just sneaky at 5 and have hopefully outgrown it! My neighbor and I would play make believe and of course we each had to have a "boyfriend". We were both madly in love with Davy Jones on the Monkees. We would fight over who got to have him as her boyfriend. Then I would slyly convince Heidi that the cute short one that she meant was really named Peter and eventually she would go along with it and we would both (at least in our minds) be "dating" Davy Jones! Yikes! We were only 4 or 5 years old ... which is the age my daughter is. Heaven help me!

3. One of my favorite ice cream flavors is peppermint stick, hard to find in the supermarkets at any other time other than Christmas. Last December I was in the states and thought I could get a little "peppermint fix" but I couldn't find it anywhere! Boo Hoo. Had to settle for mint chocolate chip.

4. I have two children that I have never met. CJ was due Feb 29, 1999, and Coren Leslie was due January 30, 2000. I miscarried CJ July 11, 1998 and Coren on July 1, 1999. I named them, in part, to combat the messages I was getting (especially from my doctor and nurses) that just because they did not develop enough to have a visible physical form that somehow they were "non-persons". I often wonder if they are boys or girls, or one of each.

5. I always wanted pierced ears, at least ever since the little italian girl in 2nd or 3rd grade had them. I had to wait until I was 23 and then it was my "statement of independence". (Just think "As long as you live under our roof ...")

6. I know how to count to 99 in Japanese, I used to be able to sing "Jesus Loves Me" in Portuguese, I can order a half grapefruit in French, I can order you to "get that dog off my lawn!" in Swedish, and I am fluent in Spanish. Thankfully, the Lord called me and my husband to be missionaries in Spain. I'm not sure I'd be very effective with the rest of my language repertoire.

7. I sang my first solo for special music in church when I was 4 or 5. It was "The Old Rugged Cross." I write music (although I haven't written anything lately) and love to sing but haven't been able to sing in public for the last 5-7 years without my voice going completely "froggy" on me.

8. My favorite meal is Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings ... but mostly the turkey and gravy. A close second is a great steak (I can just taste the filet mignon now). When I was a girl my grandmother would take each of us 3 grandkids out on our birthday to a restaurant of our choice ... just she and the birthday child. I always chose one of two steak houses in the area. She would get me a Shirley Temple to drink (ginger ale with a cherry in a fancy glass) and I would savor my steak covered in A1 sauce.

OK, Some of these might be "double tagged" but here goes: I tag Carol, Jon and Kelly, April & Travis, Ed, Heather, Kelley, Tina, and Larry.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: This Little Piggy Went To Market

Seen at the supermarket a few days before Easter.

WFMW: Taming the Sock Monster

My oldest son (11) was forever coming to me to say he didn't have any clean socks to wear. I knew he didn't have as many as his little brothers but I suspected that there was another reason why his socks weren't getting washed in a timely manner. They weren't getting to the hamper, or if they were, too often only one sock in the pair would get there while the other one was busy exploring the depths of some corner of his room or a little dusty hideaway under the bed. I did two things to try to fix the problem and so far it seems to be working for me (and my son). First I went out and bought him a package or two of new socks so that he had enough to last for several days. Then I gave him one of my mesh bags for washing lingerie in the machine. He has this hanging by his bedpost and every night when he takes the socks off they are to go directly into the bag. Every few days (at least once or twice a week) I stop by his room and grab the bag and add it to the laundry that is going into the machine. It is also thrown into the dryer and then returned full of clean socks for him to match up and put away in his sock drawer. We haven't had a sock crisis yet and I'm not finding his dirty socks all over the place either.
This week I decided to buy two more mesh bags at the local dollar store and give one to each of his brothers (ages 6 and 9) to see if we can get them trained too. This will make folding the laundry so much easier when I no longer have so many little boy socks to match up.
For more great Works for Me ideas head on over to Shannon's blog.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tackling Better Habits With FTF

Once again, my tackle for this week's Tackle It Tuesday is one that cannot be accomplished in a day. However, if I am successful the results will also last much longer than, say, a clean fridge. My kids and I are having some serious laziness issues. Please note that I included myself there. I fully understand that I am the first one that needs to change. Yesterday morning my son was rushing around gathering supplies that he needed to bring for an art project at school and when all was said and done and we arrived at school, the bag of supplies was still hanging on the front doorknob at home! I commented to my husband that we just HAD to do SOMETHING to help the kids and I get organized and get things done ahead of time.
After some thinking yesterday morning I came up with a plan and our new family motto. It is F.T.F. which stands for First Things First. I made several little notes with FTF on them and placed them all over the house, especially on the things that we love to be distracted by ... the TV, computer, game cube, VCR, kids' toys etc. I also made a reminder list for the kids and for me of what needs to be done BEFORE we engage in "play" (this means no email or blogging for me until the FTF are done). Here are our preliminary lists which may have to be altered over time but will serve as a place to begin establishing some good and necessary habits.
Morning- 1. Be dressed and fed 2. Bible Read, 3. Have your room House Fairy ready (bed made, floor picked up)
Afternoon- 1. Homework done 2. Lunch dishes cleared 3. Ten minutes in the zone (I divided their bedroom into 5 zones to focus on straightening up for 10 minutes)
Evening- 1.Dinner dishes cleared 2. Backpack and shoes ready for school tomorrow 3. "Give Mom Five" (We set the timer and work for 5 minutes picking up the living room or whatever area needs attention)
Morning- 1. School Snacks made 2. Bible Read 3. Laundry started
Afternoon- 1. Kitchen cleaned from lunch 2. Dinner planned 3. Reboot laundry
Evening- 1. Bed cleared and bedroom straightened 2. clothes, etc prepared for tomorrow 3. Sink shined (kitchen straightened from dinner)
I know if just these simple habits are established it will make a huge difference in how smoothly our home runs. I'll let you know how we are doing in a month or so. My biggest challenge will be what it always is ... CONSISTENCY.

Head on over to 5 minutes for Mom for more posts on what others are tackling this week.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

I've been enjoying lurking over at Laura's and reading everyone's menu plans for the week. We've even tried a couple of new recipes that the family has given thumbs up to. The crockpot chicken with 40 cloves of garlic was a hit as was the Taco chicken dinner in individual foil wrappers. I haven't been very good at keeping up on menu and grocery planning so I thought I would go ahead and plan a menu for this week, post it, and see how I do at following it.
Monday: Lasagna
Tuesday: Chicken parmesan, mashed potatoes, squash
Wednesday: paella, salad
Thursday: Quiche, salad
Friday: homemade pizza or pepperoni calzones
Saturday: Left overs
Sunday: Broasted chicken (take out)

If you have time, please browse around the blog. It is fairly new and I am still working out some of the kinks to get it how I want it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Taking time to notice God's handiwork

As we were getting the kids ready for bed last night, #3 son looks towards the window and says "Mommy, it looks like someone painted the sky!"

Well, far too often in my busyness I would have glanced quickly at the window, made some mumbled comment like "Yeah, sure is pretty." and then proceeded to hustle him into his jammies and off to brush those pearly whites. Fortunately, that was not the case last night. I looked out the window and the sky was indeed very pretty. The clouds were very wispy and the palest color pink against the blue sky. It was so delicate that it did look like someone had painted it with water colors. I stood there enjoying it for a minute and then opened the window and stuck my head out and looked to the right. Wow! The sunset was making the clouds in that direction the most gorgeous bright orangy-pink. I grabbed my son and informed him that we had to go out on the balcony for a better view. We stood there for a few minutes and basked in the beauty of God's creation. I took a few pictures which will give you a little bit of an idea but I don't think the camera really captured the moment. I hope I and my son will both remember not to be so busy and distracted that we miss God's little blessings all around us.
Oh! and true to the old saying "red sky at night, sailor's delight ..." today is an absolutely gorgeous day!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

If she only knew

My little princess turned to me the other day and said "Mommy, I think I need some chocolate."

Sigh. If she only knew.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

WFMW: Toy Storage

I wish I had the solution to the storage problem of my kids' toys. The biggest problem in the boys' room is that there are too many items that don't have a designated home. Things are a little easier in my daughter's room. Since she is the only girl I have done fairly well at managing to keep the amount of her toys to a manageable amount. And almost everything has a home so she can put it away. One of the best things I've done is to use all but the bottom two drawers of her dresser for her clothes and save the bottom two drawers for "toys". The next to the bottom drawer has all her dress-up clothes and purses. The bottom drawer (shown in the picture) has some cool divider boxes from Ikea and is used for her kitchen stuff and play food. It is easy for her to get what she wants and even easier for her to put it all away when she is done. Hey, that sure works for me! Head on over to Shannon's for more great ideas.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another Tackle: Freezer Jam

Last week was my first post on the weekly feature over at 5 Minutes for Mom. I had high hopes of tackling several month's worth of expense reports (truly an elephant of a task) but managed to only get down a one-month sized bite. But that's OK, cause at least that one report brought in an extra check (a big one too!)that will certainly help this month. I do plan to work on those other reports a bit at a time but, being the procrastinator that I am, it will most likely be those deadlines that give me the ultimate kick in the pants that I need.
This week's tackle was actually accomplished last Wednesday. It is the day our city has it's weekly outdoor market and the weather was great, hubby was home,and I had a bit of cash in my pocket, so we made our way over to the market and stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies. I usually try to make strawberry freezer jam in the spring to have all year long and I think we're getting close to the end of the strawberry season here so I bought two boxes of berries from a stand where they were the cheapest. Well, sometimes you get lucky but normally you get what you pay for and unfortunately there were quite a few moldy berries at the bottom of the each box and I had to throw many away. But the rest made some delicious jam.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

You made me what I am today

Dear #1 son,

12 years ago I celebrated my very first mother's day. You were still growing within me and had several months still before you made your entrance into this world. At that point, the only "child" I had in my house was our big fat kitten, Ricki. That mother's day morning I tried to "help" Ricki (who was already quite a large cat) down from the windowsill and I remember he clawed me rather badly leaving horrible scratch marks down my front and belly. I remember thinking that I would be explaining them the next day as I went for an ultrasound that I hoped would let me find out if you were going to be little AmyLynne or the as-yet-to-be-named male child. Of course, you turned out to be the latter and your name still eluded us until the day after your birth.
I have watched you working so hard in the last two days to prepare a special "movie of the kids" for me for mother's day. I love the creativity and imagination that God has given you and the way you are using those gifts to bless me on my special day. I love the special one of a kind books that you write and illustrate for me every Christmas. They always show that you have taken time to learn something new about me and the things I love. Today I walked in to find a large bouquet of some of my favorite flowers that you managed to sneak out of the house and buy at the local florist shop. I was so proud of you for looking up the vocabulary in your dictionary and figuring out how to buy what you wanted all by yourself! What a privilege to be the "first girl" you ever bought flowers for. And all with your own money! Wow, do I feel loved!
You and I have navigated the waters of mommyhood and sonship together these last eleven and a half years. I've made many mistakes and have learned with you what I should do better with your younger siblings. You have been gracious to me and so forgiving when I have failed you. Thank you for rolling with the punches so well.
Today as I hugged you and thanked you for the flowers I looked straight into your eyes. This will be the last mother's day that I'll be able to do that. I'm sure I will spend the rest of my life looking up to you. I'm also sure that it will not be solely a matter of height. You are turning into quite the young man and it is hard to remember that little 7 lb. bundle of joy that I met for the first time Sept 19, 1995.
I just want you to know how special you are to me and to say thank you for making me what I am today ... a Mom.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

WFMW: Homemade Mother's Day (and Father's Day) Cards

Sunday was Mother´s Day here in Spain. Being in a new church ministry this year we quickly learned what they were used to at the new church. The church had a small gift for each of the ladies (there were 6 of us). Hubby took charge of choosing the gift and then,armed with my trusty curling ribbon, I helped him to spiff up the presentation a bit. I also made a request to my three boys to sing a special song for the service and they did a nice job.
Being THE sunday school teacher makes it a little awkward when it comes to helping the kids make your own mother´s day card but I just took a deep breath and dove in. I found some heart shaped boxes of chocolates at the grocery store for 1 euro each and cut red construction paper into a heart a bit larger than the box. Then I printed out Te Quiero, Mama (I love you, Mom) and cut that into a smaller white heart. I had the nursery kids "decorate and sign their names" on that heart and then glued them to the front of the chocolate box. They also had a coloring paper that said Happy Mother´s Day and had a verse at the bottom. The older kids (my class) made more complicated cards. For Father´s Day (which is in March here) they made cards that looked like a man´s shirt and tie. Instructions for those adorable cards can be found HERE.
For Mother´s Day they made purses. Once again, the instructions are found over at FAMILY FUN. We glued verses in the inside (Proverbs 31: 27-29) and they decorated them however they liked. My very detail oriented sons had fun filling "my purse" with cell phones, lipstick, wallets overflowing with cash (I wish!) and the youngest one even had a couple of swords in there. All in all, I think they turned out rather nice.

Homemade cards .... works for me! Head on over to Shannon's for more Works For Me Wednesday tips!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Tackle it Tuesday: Expense Reports

I'm hoping that merely posting to the world my plans for today (actually this is my project for the week) will help me to actually get it done! We are several months behind in filing expense reports for various expenses that we have paid for out of pocket and now need to be reimbursed to us. It's not a picture type post but maybe if the total is impressive enough I will post the end result. The due date is this Friday in order to get the reimbursement in our next paycheck so let's see how many months reports I can finish by then.
To see what others are tackling today, go check out 5 Minutes For Mom

Update: Well, I only finished one month's report before the deadline but the total was almost 4 figures! There was even a plane ticket on that month. Hello ... we don't have that kind of "extra" cash lying around to spend and not get back right away. No wonder I've been feeling a bit strapped lately. Now I'm motivated to just keep working on the next few months even tho I've missed this deadline, I can get them ready for the next one in just 2 weeks.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

WFMW: Birthday Book

Well it's time for another edition of Works For Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer This week is dedicated to birthday ideas. You'll want to read some of the great ideas before you plan your next birthday celebration. Here's one that works for me.
A few years ago I bought a nice bound book with blank pages. I made it into a "birthday book" for my husband. I brought it to church a few weeks before his birthday and passed it around for the teens that he teaches to write a birthday greeting for him. Most wrote nice notes letting him know how he has touched their lives. Then I gave it to him on his birthday and instead of a bunch of cards that he would read and then toss, he has this nice book that he can look at again and again over the years and be reminded of the people who love him. Since his birthday is in January, if I happen to stumble upon the book during the holidays I try to bring it to family gatherings and have people sign it then. This year I didn't remember the book until his birthday so we were limited to just the kids and me but they each drew Dad a picture and wrote a short note. Here he is with my 9 year old's rendition of MacGyver.