Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rain! (kind of)

I am a Seattleite by birth, though quickly becoming a Southern Californian at heart. The little bit of the northwest that is in me loves the rain! But the valley girl in me loves it L.A. style - all at once, and just for a day or two. Rain here is an event, while rain in Seattle is a way of life. I prefer the event: the way everyone goes scrambling for an umbrella for the slightest little sprinkle, the fact that restaurants and shops clear out so that patrons can go cuddle up next to the fire (never mind that it's probably still 70 degrees), and, because I have a four-year-old boy, the puddle stomping that inevitably follows. Yesterday was such an event. I'm not sure if the precipitation was measurable, and it still didn't dip below 80, but we had rain! Or at least we did at Target. Parker is still convinced that it simply doesn't rain at our new home. By the time we got back from errands, all traces of dampness were gone and he announced "it never rains here mama". I hope he's wrong, I keep assuring him that he's wrong, but in the four months since we've moved in, the sky has yet to prove me right!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Because "Bruschetta Bake" was awful...

The kids and I have taken turns being sick for the last two weeks (hence the lack of fun posting material or even a cute photos), but one upside to being more-or-less confined to the house for so long is that I've had time to try a few new recipes. Unfortunately, my track record with ones from magazines or fancy cookbooks has been abysmal. My latest attempt, Bruschetta Bake (sounds good, right?!), was just barely edible. My sweet husband was still very encouraging but we will not be having that again! The tried and true are so much better. A few friends and I have been exchanging a few of our families' favorites so I thought I would share a couple with all of you.
Chicken Enchiladas: This is a great one for groups because it makes a lot and you're not throwing a lot of things together at the last minute. It also freezes well so if you're not serving a group, plan on using it for at least another 2-3 meals.
4 breasts of chicken, boiled and shredded
1/4 cup milk
1 can each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup
8 oz of sour cream
1 medium can sliced olives
1-10oz can of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
1-14oz can of diced tomatoes with onion and garlic
(OR, two cans of plain diced tomatoes and add your own dried minced onion, garlic powder and green chilies)
1 Tbsp chili powder
16oz shredded cheddar or mexican blend cheese
flour tortillas
Butter a few 9x13 pans.
Combine all but chicken, cheese and tortillas in bowl.
Add a small handful of chicken, about 1/2 cup of mixture and a sprinkling of cheese into flour tortilla.
When the pan is full of rolled tortillas, spoon extra mixture and more cheese on top (I'll often add a little extra milk to the leftover mixture at this point to make it cover better).
Cover with foil.
Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, until slightly browned and bubbling.
Uncover for the last couple of minutes.
I usually serve this with El Torrito sweet corn tamale mix - so yummy and easy! - and a green salad with tomatoes, avocado, pepitas, and El Torrito cilantro dressing. Sometimes Mexican rice too.
Chicken Parmesan: I always have these ingredients on hand and it doesn't take much more than 20 minutes or so to make. A very hearty and easy meal.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or more, or less, depending on how many you're serving - I don't really measure this one so much anymore).
1 egg slightly beaten
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella - I usually end up just peeling apart a few sticks of string cheese =)1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (only if you care about it being pretty!)
Use hand to flatten chicken to even thickness... OR, I will often just slice the chicken into strips. It's a little easier for the kids that way, we all like the extra breading, and it cooks a little faster.
Dip chicken into egg and then into crumbs to coat.
In skillet over medium heat, in hot butter, brown chicken on both sides.
Add marinara sauce (shield your shirt with the pan's lid - it will splatter!)
Reduce heat, cover, simmer 10 minutes until sauce is bubbling.
Sprinkle with cheeses and parsley.
Cover, simmer 5 minutes or until cheese melts.
I usually serve this over spaghetti or angel hair, along with broccoli or some other green veggie.
Dutch Babies: We're a family that loves breakfast for dinner and this is my favorite breakfast dish. I had never known anyone else who knew about dutch babies until I met Danny's family, so this is a tradition from both sides!
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of milk
6 eggs
1/2 stick butter
Melt butter in 9x13 pan while you're waiting for it to preheat up to 425.
Combine other ingredients in blender until well mixed.
Pour into butter pan and bake for about 20 minutes.
You'll know it's done when the edges are brown and towering above the pan.
Serve right away! It's still good after it's "fallen" but the kids especially love to see how high it can get.
My side of the family tops their dutch babies with syrup, but Danny's prefers lemon and powdered sugar. Both are good and both of our big kids are still divided on which way is better. Alyssa usually wants it Daddy's way, and Parker prefers it like Mama.
I usually serve this with sliced, pan-fried kielbasa or bacon and lots of fruit.
This makes enough for the 5 of us, but just barely now that the kids are eating more. When it was just Danny and I we halved the recipe and used a 9x7 pan.
As you can tell I'm no gourmet chef, but these are easy, yummy receipes our family has enjoyed over and over. Perhaps yours will too!

Monday, September 22, 2008

1 x a Mom

On Saturday we had plans to go to the beach with students from our college ministry at church. They actually camped Friday and Saturday nights, but we're just not that adventurous... how old we've become just 9 years out of college! Reagan already had reservations at Camp Grandma, and when Alyssa woke up with a fever she joined that party too, which left us with only Parker! As much as I love being mom to three, being mom to just one is fun once in a while. The feeling of relative freedom is suprising considering how much one child dominates your attention when you have only one. We were able to give Parker so much of our time while still enjoying fellowship with the students who graciously made him the center of the sand-castle building, frisbee throwing, dolphin watching, hiking and wave chasing. He was in heaven! I guess heaven was a bit of a drain on his energy though because by the time we got back in the car (before 6 pm mind you) he was out cold. We all enjoyed our day as a family of 3... and the girls had a blast with grandma too, even in spite of the illness.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A tear-jerker

I've often mentioned how emotional it was for me to watch Reagan's nannies say good-bye, and yesterday this post from another LA-area family currently in Vietnam brought all of those feelings roaring back. Tears poured down my cheeks as I watched this with thoughts of how much the Vietnamese people love their children. Though the current (hopefully very temporary) moratorium on Vietnamese adoptions is disturbing, it's comforting to know that the children left behind will not be without love.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A little nostalgia

Last week my parents sent us home with a box of Leogs from my childhood. When Parker woke up a little sick Saturday morning, we decided to construct The Castle. Not just any castle, but the set I spent weeks, maybe months, constructing as a kid. Back then I agonized over the thing. It really bothered me that I couldn't get the drawbridge to "draw" properly. I substituted pieces all over the place because I didn't quite grasp the importance of using exactly the right block at exactly the right time. I never did figure out how to make the fortress open up to actually be able to play with it. In fact, I spent so much time on construction that upon completion I insisted that it be placed high on a shelf so no one would ever be able break it. Consequently, I never played with it either - I'm sure there's a spiritual lesson there somewhere! The only noticable sign of wear is that a number of pieces are discolored from where the sun hit it as it sat upon its inaccessible perch.
So imagine my suprise when the building was complete long before lunch on Saturday! It must have been all the "help" from my son. We only had to cannibalize the space ship a little, and both the drawbridge and gate actually go up! I suppose that's what another 20 years of Lego experience can do for you. Once again The Castle is sitting on a moderately high shelf to prevent a certain almost-two-year-old from eating it, but the four- and five-year-old are having a great time playing with this toy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Before and After, Part II

The home improvement bug has finally bitten again, so I have a few more "before and after" photos to share. I was really on a roll while Danny was in Malawi, but since then... not so much. Now that school is back in session and we have more of a routine I've been able to sneak in a few hours of painting/picture hanging/light-fixture replacing here and there. Part of my lack of motivation stems from the fact that our home really was quite nice to begin with, if not just a little vanilla. In our downstairs bath here I covered the walls with a gallon of "oops" paint ($5!), replaced the Hollywood-style lighting (which unfortunately also involved patching the wall so ignore the lack of uniorm texture), hung a Home Goods mirror (love that store!), opted for some towel hooks instead of the boring bar, installed a new faucet (Danny's doing and the kids' favorite), added some cabinet hardware, and (tried to) hide the builder-basic shower with a drapery. I'm pretty happy with the results, and it even came with a Design on a Dime price tag of around $250. I'm nearly done painting our bedroom and bathroom so stay tuned! I know you're probably not on the edge of your seats, but the voyer in me loves to see the inside of other peoples' homes and maybe you're just as sick as me...
Before & After

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Big Day!

Parker has been dying to ride Disneyland's "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Tracks" since he was old enough to notice what a train was. Every time we go to our favorite park we measure him, an event usually followed by greater or lesser feelings of disappointment and distress. The boy has learned to cope - even with the sad news at the beginning of the summer that he was finally tall enough, but that the ride was closed for the day. But Thursday was different. Thursday he was officially 40 inches AND the train was running! I only wish I had a photo of the jumping and shouting that followed the measure documented below. And yes, the ride was every bit as wonderful as he had hoped. So wonderful that he rode twice in a row!
January 2007

September 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The coolest gadget!

For those blog addicts out there (Leigh Booth, I'm talking about you)... I've discovered a fun new time saver: Blogger now has a way to list your links based in order of those most recently updated. Maybe this is something that's been available for a while and I'm just now figuring it out (altogther possible - I'm not that techno-savvy!), but in case it really is new, I'm here to fill you in. My list of adoption blogs in particular has grown quite long and rarely do I have time to check each and every one. Some update only occasionally, while others are more faithful, and then there are those that haven't had anything to say in months, and just when you're about to delete the link they chime in! I think I'm going to like this format, but I've left the links the old way down at the bottom. Let me know what you think and I'll eventually delete one or the other. The only downside is that the new list won't accept feeds from private blogs. So, if you are a frequent private blogger and find yourself why down at the bottom, that's why. If anyone knows a way around that bug, please fill me in!


Thanks to the misadventure of a Mustang and a Semi (and a very generous insurance payout), Danny has the new baby he's been dreaming of for several years. Though he had to juggle rental cars (also covered by insurance!) for two months, he was able to order the Mini exactly as he wanted - even track it's "birth" online (gag me)- and finally picked it up last week. It's not the most practical of family vehicles, but I can count on two hands the number of times we had children in the Mustang over the past 6 years, and I just think of it as a very safe motorcycle. All in all, he is thrilled, and I have to admit that it's a pretty fun ride! Sunday night we went on a driving/dinner date up and through the mountains and canyons around our home. Believe it or not, we actually stayed out past 8pm, crazy partiers that we are! The kids have taken their own relatively tame rides with Daddy and Parker was especially impressed. He couldn't quite understand why Dad would want a "Minnie Cooper", however, and declared that when he grows up he wants to drive a "Mickey Cooper"!

Self portrait of me and my man. (Yes, we really do fence our lakes around here -we have to use most of them for drinking water.)