Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy National Coffee Day!

It's here!  I am not sure how it snuck up on me this year, but thanks to my dear friend, Ranaye, I remembered just in time!  (I choose to blame my memory lapse on this fierce cold I am fighting and my general lack of sleep.)

My love for coffee is magnanimous.  It started just before college and... well... multiplied from there.  There is simply no match for that warm fuzzy sensation I get as the caffeine meets my blood stream.  Coffee has truly made me a morning person.  (How would I otherwise deal with the pandemonium that presents itself at 7:00 am when the little ones start to roll out of bed???)

In honor of this momentous occasion, here is a great recipe for a fabulous treat! 

Wolfgang’s Coffee Shake

5 oz Wolfgang Puck Culinary Iced Coffee
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup fresh cream

Add coffee, milk, sugar and cocoa powder. Blend well and top with fresh cream.

NOTE:  Wolfgang's Iced Coffees are only 120 calories each. They are organic, kosher-certified and flavors include Vanilla Fusion, Double Blend Mocha, Creme Caramel and Cafe Au Lait.

BONUS!!!  Several companies are offering free coffee today only... Don't.  Miss.  This.

Snag a FREE cup of medium coffee today only (9/29) from 7AM-11AM. Check out the 7-Eleven Facebook page for more info

Caribou Coffee
Buy 1 Drink and Get 1 Free (of equal or lesser value) with the coupon found here (can print coupon or show it on your mobile phone) today only (9/29). Not valid on bottled beverages.

Krispy Kreme
FREE 12 oz. cup of the new Krispy Kreme Signature Coffee Blends; valid at Krispy Kreme locations in the U.S. and Canada today only. No purchase necessary! Click here for more info.

Snag a FREE cup of coffee or cappuccino from 6AM-2PM today only. Click here for more info.

I don't have a problem with caffeine. I have a problem without caffeine!

All together now... tip your cups up! 

Also, this blog has been nominated for the Best Mom Blog Awards at!  Be sure to vote by clicking on the button below or by using the button on the top right side of this page!  And tell your friends!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Little Miss Clean.

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done. 

And well, I am not exactly a gardener (you can read more about that whole shenanigan here:  Greenthumbery.), but I do enjoy a good foul-weather day that forces me to actually get a few things done around the house.  I am sure this is God's way of keeping in line.

I fancy a clean house just as much as the next person, but it's definitely more of a challenge these days.  I once heard someone say that cleaning your house before the children are done growing is like shoveling before it's done snowing.  Couldn't possibly be more true.

However, it must be done (and frequently requires copious amounts of coffee). 

I quickly learned that my third child is much different from her older sisters.  She is cunning, precocious, and really, really fast.  (I imagine she is exactly like my husband was at the tender age of two and if you know my husband, you know exactly what I mean.)  She is continually bubbling over with incessant vitality and spirit (also the reason I am consuming greater quantities of coffee these days.)  She readily scales walls, cupboards, fences, and furniture.  I removed the ladder from my older girls' bunk beds to help curb her desire to climb.  Now she just climbs into the top bunk by scaling up the side.  (Is she part monkey???)  I am convinced that nothing could ever be completely my kind of toddler-proof.

She loves to eat my all-natural deodorant and once sucked the ink out of Sharpie marker.  Trust me, I have poison control on my speed dial.  Most importantly... I. Love.  Her.

I was making an effort to "green clean" before, but it's certainly become more of a priority in our home since this sweet baby arrived.  (You can read more tips here:  Super Secrets.)

Natural cleaning products are in abundance these days, but they are so darn pricey.  I have everything I need right in my kitchen.  I can clean my whole house with just vinegar, baking soda, salt and lemon juice.

Here are a few of my favorite natural cleaning recipes:

Drain Declogger

Pour 1 c. of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1 c. of hot vinegar.  Place a cloth over the top of the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes.  Flush with hot water.  Works like a charm!

Air freshener

Place baking soda with lemon juice in a small dish to absorb odors around the house.

Fabric Softener

Use 1/4 c. white vinegar in place of liquid fabric softener.  Softens and freshens clothes and removes odors. 

Sticker Remover

Sponge full-strength white vinegar over stickers several times and wait 15 minutes.  Then rub off.  Also works well for sticky residue left behind by labels or price tags!

Window & Mirror Cleaner

Mix 2 tsp. of white vinegar with 1 quart of warm water.  Use crumpled newspaper (black and white only, not color) or a cotton cloth to clean.  (Don't clean windows when the sun is on them or if they are warm or streaks will show.  Be sure to follow recipe.  Using too much vinegar will eventually cloud windows.)

NOTE:  You can recycle old baking soda used for deodorizing the refrigerator and freezer by using it to clean around the house!

Happy cleaning!!!

NOTE:  If you haven't already noticed this blog has just been nominated for Best All-Around Mom Blog at!!!  Please, go cast your vote by clicking on the button below (or at the top right-hand side of the page)!  Voting is open until October 15!

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Makes me go hmmmm.

There are definitely a few things (give or take) in life that I do not understand.  One thing, in particular, has me utterly perplexed.

Glow-in-the-dark flossers. 

You know, those little plastic contraptions that are pre-strung with floss to make flossing your teeth easier and more convenient.  You know, because it is already so difficult to cut the waxy string on your own.  You know, because you might pull a muscle. 

And now... they glow in the dark?

Seriously?  Who flosses their teeth... in the dark?  I fully understand these are marketed to children, but again I pose the question... in the dark

Pouring another cup so I can contemplate this further...

And just for good measure, because I find this entirely all too familiar...

Saturday, September 24, 2011


National Clean-Your-What Day???

I saw it on CNN.   This past Tuesday (2 days ago) was National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  I suppose it's a great effort.  Way to go, People-who-think-of-these-rather-obscure-things.  

What I find especially disturbing is that we are encouraged to perform this task... once a year.  Maybe some people need this sort of yearly reminder, but I am pretty vigilant about thoroughly cleaning out the fridge very week or two, right before I make my big grocery trip.  (Can't stand the thought of putting fresh food that just cost me an arm and a leg into a grimy fridge).  

I am not saying my fridge is always pristine (believe me, a week or two is all some things need to cause trouble in there).  And there is occasionally the thing that falls down behind the other thing that I completely forget about until it has gone all  "science experiment" on me.

I guess I'll embrace this occasion to think about food safety.

Hubby and I are entirely obsessive about food safety...  especially leftovers.  (When in doubt, throw it out!)  I also really can't stand being wasteful, so there has to be a healthy balance.  When it comes to leftovers, I never make more than what we will eat in the next two days.  Any prepared food older than two days gets tossed.  (Most experts say 3-4 days, but I use the two-day rule to play it safe.)  Generally, I am pretty good about making sure our leftovers get eaten so we don't waste anything.  If I make a big batch of something, I freeze a portion of it right away to save for another time.  (Really, most everything can be frozen.)

I have a couple of trusty friends that help me out:  "Masking Tape" & "Sharpie."  Everything in my fridge gets a dated label.  Everything.  Ketchup.  Mayo.  Leftovers.  Nothing is exempt from the treatment.  I used to think I could remember when I prepared everything, but when life gets busy (which is pretty much always), time rolls by like a steam locomotive and before I know it, I have no earthly idea if I hard-boiled those eggs yesterday or last week.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I can't help but think of all that food coming my way.  More than probably any of us can handle.  

Freeze what you can.  Be safe.  And happy eating to all. 

Continue the coffee love by joining my facebook page:
Blue Jeans & Coffee Beans.

This post is a part of Simple Lives Thursday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Test Drive.

Chilly September morning.  Warm coffee cup in my hand.  And test-driving a new brew.  Maple Walnut from Cameron's.  Woodsy, nutty, rich and syrupy... just like I have always imagined a backwoods Vermont maple sugar house to be.  Enchantingly divine.  The only thing that could possibly make this moment better would be this cozy Handwarmer mug(This is soooo on my Christmas list!)

And speaking of test-drive... have you seen this?  A jet-powered school bus that reaches a speed of 367 mph?  I can completely relate.  Give me my morning coffee and I can conquer the world!  (Only maybe at slightly less than 367 mph.)

Hand over the coffee and nobody gets hurt.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


My daughter has one of those nifty play kitchens in her room.  Honestly, it's been some of the best money we have ever been spent because this kitchen is one of those things that has actually been played with like crazy and it's now been handed down to kid #3. 

And when seen through the eyes of a child, it has become much more than a kitchen.  My girls have showed me that if you remove the sink, it can be used as a washing machine, stuffing the laundry down inside what should be the refrigerator.  If you pull it out from the wall and someone stands behind it, the kitchen is transformed to a drive-up bank window.  The stove also doubles as a school desk.  Who knew???

Did I yet mention it is a "Dora the Explorer" talking kitchen?  Not my first choice, but we got an amazing deal on it at the time.  There's nothing necessarily wrong with Dora except for the fact that she YELLS ALL THE TIME!!!  (Just like that.)  Clearly, someone has not properly taught that child how to use her "inside voice."

And the batteries are dying.  So Dora has been behaving especially erratically.  And I never think about changing her batteries until around 2:30 am, because that's when Dora delivers an impromptu cooking lesson... "LET'S MAKE BANAAAAANA NUT CAAAAAKE!  YOU NEED BUUUUUTTTEEEEER!  MAAAANTEQUIIIIILLLLA!... and so on and so forth.  I have it memorized by now and quite frankly, I don't think her recipe would make a very good banana nut cake. 

However, dead-battery Dora has taught me a thing or two.  Sometimes, I just need to take some time to recharge my batteries.  When my juice is low, my behavior can be just as erratic and off-the-wall. 

Recipe for Recharge.

1.  Grab a cup of coffee. 

2.  Go here:  The Prayer Garden.  (Take some time and click on everything.  Every page holds hidden treasures... and make sure your sound is turned up.  You won't want to leave...)

(For future reference, The Prayer Garden link can also be found on the left-hand side of this page under "Happy Places.")

"God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired, 

they walk and don't lag behind.

Isaiah 40.29-31 (The Message)

This post is a part of Simple Lives Thursday.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Water, Water, Everywhere...

... and not a drop to drink.  -The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When I was young people drank something I like to call water.  And we didn't purchase it in bottles.  And it wasn't flavored.  And it wasn't carbonated.  My parents paid for it each month by way of a utility bill.  It came straight from the tap.  And it was good.

It seems that now more than ever we are daily bombarded with a barrage of beverage choices.  Soda pop, juices, sports drinks, etc.  I can even purchase artificially flavored powders to dump into my pre-bottled water just so I won't have to bother tasting the water.  Seriously.

Maybe it's just me, but I cannot imagine anything more thirst-quenching than a good ol' glass of cool water.  These days, we filter our water mostly because it just tastes better.  (I like the Brita Ultramax.)  Given that our bodies are over 70% water, it just makes good sense to drink it.

When we are dining out, I order water.  Yes, it saves me money, but I am one of those people who actually prefer it.  You will hardly ever find me without my stainless steel water bottle by my side. 

Water.  Is.  My.  Friend.

I especially dislike how fruit juice is touted to be such a wholesome drink option for my kids.  In most cases, it contains just as much or more sugar than a can of soda!  In a perfect world, I would rather them be consuming whole fruit with a glass of water or milk... a more beneficial choice. 

However, my husband is crazy about his juice... and so are my girls.  In an effort to curb the sugar intake (and pad my pocketbook since the cost of fruit juice is frighteningly absurd) we use the half and half principle.  Half juice.  Half water.  Yes, it's diluted, but my girls don't know any better.  Even my hubby has grown to love his juice less-than-full-strength.

So I raise my water glass to good health, joyful moments and hot coffee!  Cheers!

This post is a part of the Frugal Tuesday Tip and Fresh Bites Friday.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Oh, sweet Saturday.  It was one of those days.  Any woman would understand.  That feeling of being completely overwhelmed by life and the daily tasks at hand, not knowing exactly where to start.  (I should also mention that I was running on little to no sleep from the aforementioned sleepover which may or may not explain what happens next.) So I tear into my chores with the vigilance of a soldier.  I throw the stray shoes from the entryway into the closet (saving the sorting for later), tossed the first load of the laundry mountain into the washing machine, and began washing dishes like mad. 

I was feeling oh-so-pleased with myself.  You know that feeling you get when you are actually getting things done.  Things were going well... too well. 

And that's when it happened.  I heard of rush of water.  A deluge.  It sounded just like it was raining... in the house

I soon discovered a waterfall in the basement.  Not only was water pouring in, it was directed at the neatly stacked boxes of books, pictures and keepsakes we had stored in the corner.  Ay yi yi.  I automatically assumed there was a bathroom plumbing problem and naturally started to have a breakdown.  My awesome hubby soon found evidence to the contrary...

Apparently, this overzealous mama overfilled the washing machine (BIG oops!), causing it to overflow in the first floor wash room, which, in addition to flooding the entire room, leaked into the basement.  Well, at least it wasn't raw sewage, right? 

I immediately went into rescue mode, moving soggy boxes and salvaging what I could.  Most things were okay and in the process, I found a few long-lost treasures that I was sure had gone missing in one of our many moves, including the Unity candle from our wedding (still intact!), the missing piece to the Christmas tree stand (which had gone rogue years ago), and a box of my old journals. 

As it happened, I was able to rid my basement of two large piles... one for the trash man and one for Goodwill.  Not an expected event, but I will still call it a good day.

Exhausted and happy, I did the only logical thing I could think of that night... collapsed onto the couch and read the manual to my 9-year-old bread machine.  I know.  Weird.  I was looking for a new recipe to try in the machine and that's when the lightning struck...  MY BREAD MACHINE HAS A DELAY TIMER???  May I remind you that I have had this thing for 9 years... it was a wedding gift.  I am even one of those people who actually uses my machine quite regularly to make everything from pizza dough to peach jam to... bread!  Imagine my surprise. 

Consequently, I arrived home from church yesterday to a warm, freshly done loaf of bread (and, of course, a crock pot of hearty beef stew).  And it was heavenly. 

As much as I love surprises, I would love for Monday to be slightly more predictable.  I have had all the excitment I can handle for a couple of days. 

It's amazing how the world begins to change through the eyes of a cup of coffee! ~Donna A. Favors

This is my grandmother's old bread recipe and it's amazing... perfect every time!

Grandma's Bread (bread machine)

3 c. (level) flour (cracked wheat or white)
2 T. sugar (slightly rounded)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. butter (divided into 4 pieces)
2 tsp. active dry yeast (slightly rounded)
1 c. + 2 T. milk

1.  Warm milk to lukewarm.  Place in pan.  Spoon in dry ingredients (do not mix in).  Smooth out.  Pat pan to settle dry ingredients on top of milk.

2.  Make a slight well in center and spoon in yeast.  Place 4 pieces of butter in corners.  Close lid.  Set crust setting (light, medium or dark) and bake.

Makes 1.5 lb loaf.

For a downloadable/printable copy of this recipe and many more, visit my Recipes page.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Three Ring Circus.

Well today is the big day.  I am helping to host an uber-sleepover for scores of screaming little girls.  I know what you're thinking... "What is she thinking???"  Well, clearly I was not thinking when I accepted such a mission. 


I can tell you that my little sweeties are beside-themselves-giddy.  And just knowing that thrills me to pieces.

Rest assured... 

There.  Will.  Be.  Coffee. 
A whole lotta coffee.

So until Monday, my dear friends, I leave you with this...

(Watch all the way until the end.  You won't regret it.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

For the love of breakfast.

Breakfast.  As they say, it is the most important meal of the day.  As much as I would love to serve up a hot meal at the crack of dawn each morning, I don't exactly foresee that happening.  (Mom, I have no earthly clue how you were able to accomplish such a feat!) 

"Big Breakfast Day" is a delicacy reserved for Saturday mornings... a special treat to celebrate the end to our week.

I am always on the lookout for new ideas to simplify our morning routine and get a quick, healthy breakfast in all those growling tummies!

One of my favorite staples are these healthy breakfast bars, a simple granola-type bar that takes about 5 minutes to mix together and a little longer to wrap up.  They are super portable and perfect for grabbing on-the-go!  I always stuff a couple in my handbag when heading out, because no matter where we are, or how recently they have eaten, one of my sweet little girls will... be... hungry. 

The bars are rich in protein and just sweet enough that you will forget they are good for you!  My kids gobble them up like crazy.  (I form them in a round patty shape so my little ones call them "cookies!")  I have been making the bars for several years now and I could never go back to eating a store-bought granola bar.  They don't even come close!

I always double or triple this recipe and keep our freezer stocked with these treats! 

Breakfast Bars (EASY!)

2 ½ c. old fashioned or quick oats
½ c. whole flax seed
¼ c. dark cocoa powder or ½ c. semisweet chocolate chips (organic is best!)
½ c. natural peanut butter (unsweetened)
½ c. honey
½ - 1 c. HOT water

1. Stir ingredients together. (If adding chocolate chips instead of cocoa powder, add them last so they don’t melt too much.)
2. Form into individual sized patties, like hamburgers. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in freezer or fridge. OR press mixture into a 13 x 9 pan and chill in freezer for about 20 minutes. Cut evenly into squares and wrap in plastic wrap.

Makes about 16

Note:  I prefer using the chocolate chips over the cocoa powder, simply due to the fact that I have small children.  The dark cocoa powder can be a brown gooey mess in those little hands!  Preserving my own sanity...

Note, Part Deux:  To quickly (and cleanly!) form the patties, place a big heaping tablespoon of mixture on plastic wrap.  Double wrap over the top of the mixture and mash down with the heel of your hand.  Finish wrapping tightly.

For a downloadable/printable copy of this recipe and many more, visit my Recipes page.

As always... serve with coffee.
This post is a part of Simple Lives Thursday , Fresh Bites Friday , Make Your Own! Monday and Healthy 2Day Wednesday.

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Treasured Moments.

Autumn has truly arrived in style this morning (never mind the calendar).  I love the chill that runs through me as my bare feet hit the cold hardwood floor, awakening my senses. I welcome summer's end on this rainy fall day.  On a brisk morning such as this, I sincerely hope there will be time to curl up with a well-loved book in my window seat.  My coffee, all the while, is never far away.  Positively idyllic. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where's the Beef?

Tuesday.  Another perfect day to indulge in a sweet cup of Chocolate Caramel Brownie coffee.  Heavenly bliss.  I don't think anything could ever completely replace my love for a Starbucks Sumatra, but this might come close!

It's going to be a rather full day at my house.  Definitely a 2 cupper. (Meaning I will need at least 2 cups of joe just to get my posse out the door this morning.) 

On the agenda? 

Post office.
Car wash. 
Grocery store. 

Oh, the grocery store.  Love and loathing.  My three little darlings count it success if there are melon samples in the produce section.  I count it success if we make it to the checkout with two or less trips to the bathroom. 

It is no stretch of the imagination that my grocery bill is growing and the contents of my cart are dwindling.  For a Type A budgeter like myself, this is cause for alarm.  Getting the most out of my food dollars, while making healthy choices, is crucial. (After all, somebody is going to have pay for these kids to get through college!) 

One of my favorite tricks revolves around ground meat.  I never buy less than 90% lean ground beef.  When you buy lower quality meat, you are paying for fat that cooks away and leaves you with less meat, not to mention it's not the best choice for your health.  (Investing in yourself now, will reap many rewards later, including money saved on preventable health conditions.) 

Many recipes call for 1 pound of ground beef, but I always cut the amount in half and substitute the other half with brown rice or veggies, depending on the recipe.  I use Minute brown rice because it is quick and studies show that it offers the same health benefits as the regular.  You can try this tip with any recipe that calls for ground meat. 

As a rule of thumb, 1 c. of cooked brown rice is about equal to 1/2 lb. of ground meat.  Use less, if you want to add lots of veggies.

For example, when I make enchiladas, I add 1 c. cooked brown rice to 1/2 lb. of ground beef.  Saute some red peppers and onions in olive oil until tender.  Add to the ground beef and continue with your recipe as written.

If I make any kind of pasta dish, I omit the rice and load it up with shredded carrots, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, etc.  Cook veggies in olive oil until tender before adding to meat mixture.  (If it were up to me, I'd be satisfied with a veggie sauce, but hubby loves his meat!)

For beef stroganoff, I add lots of mushrooms and onions in with 1/2 lb. of meat.  My whole family adores mushrooms so I can never go wrong there.

I do this with sloppy joes, tacos, lasagna... pretty much everything(Also, a great way to sneak veggies to my unsuspecting girls!)

This trick really stretches our meat dollars and it's a healthier way to eat, too.  I watch for sales and buy ground beef in the biggest size possible to save more.  I wrap and freeze it in half pound increments right away so it's all ready to go.

Off and running for the day! 

Given enough coffee, I could rule the world...

This post is part of the Frugal Tuesday Tip.

On Tuesdays, I am linking up with other bloggers to share a Frugal Tuesday Tip. Go here to learn more about it and get more Frugal Tuesday tips!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Daily Grind.

Back to the grind.  After a perfect weekend, it is today that we commence our oh-so-hectic schedule.  Dance classes resume for the year beginning today.  While I find it exceedingly fun and rewarding for my little angels, it is also a bit of a busy bear for this mama.  Is it worth it?  Of course.  (Especially come June recital when I see those girlies dancing their little hearts out in tutus and lip gloss!)  Is it easy?  Not a chance.  Not without a little planning anyway... and of course, a cup of coffee.

For the next nine months dance classes will put a permanent dent in our family dinner time every Monday and Tuesday.  I will arrive home well after 6:00 pm with 3 hungry kids in tow and a famished hubby on his way home from the office.  By that point, I am exhausted, spent and most certainly not in the mood to cook.

Three Options.  Dining out.   (I don't know about you, but my money tree doesn't seem to be quite so fruitful ever since I had kids.)  Frozen pizza.  (Ugh.)   Preparing ahead for a home-cooked meal.  (Now, were talkin'!)

These are the days I thank God for my crock pot.  At this stage in my life, I am certain that my survival depends on it.  Mondays are dubbed crock pot day (as are most Sundays!) and thanks to the large volume produced from many crock pot recipes, we enjoy mouth-watering leftovers on Tuesday night, too.

I enjoy a Sunday beef pot roast as much as the next girl, but my crock pot has so much more potential.  Spaghetti is one of the few meals that every person in my family will actually eat... even the picky one!  Serve with a light lettuce salad and you've got a winner.

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. chopped onion (1 medium)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 16 oz. can tomatoes, undrained and cut up
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 c. fresh mushrooms 
2 T. corn starch or quick-cooking tapioca
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Dash salt
8 oz. spaghetti, cooked and drained

1.  In a skillet cook ground beef, onion, garlic and mushrooms until meat is brown and veggies are tender.  Drain.

2.  Meanwhile, in a 3 1/2 - 4 quart slow cooker, combine tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushrooms, tapioca or corn starch, Italian seasoning, black pepper and salt.  Stir in meat mixture.

3.  Cover and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours or on high for 4 - 5 hours.  Serve over hot spaghetti.

For a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker, double all ingredients.  Prepare as above.  Makes 8 - 10 servings.

I think if I were a woman I'd wear coffee as a perfume. ~John Van Druten

You know, that's not exactly a bad idea...  Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember.

10 years.  Really?  Because I remember everything like it was yesterday.  Every.  Disturbing.  Detail.  Burned into my psyche, like a bad tattoo.  I did not have to be anywhere near Ground Zero to experience the reverberations of my country's greatest tragedy.  It changed me.  It changed the world.  It changed everything.

10 years ago, I was still in college, newly engaged to my now-husband, and living in downtown Minneapolis.  I was fighting a nasty flu bug and made the decision to skip class and sleep in that morning.  Given my illness, I could have slept all day, but instead I awoke to a phone call from my fiance.  He was in between classes and told me to turn on the tv.  He wasn't sure what was going on, but everyone was talking about something horrible in New York City.  I turned on the news just in time to witness the South Tower collapse live on tv.

The whole thing was so very disconcerting.  Nobody seemed to know for sure what was happening, but we all knew it was bad.  Very bad.  My tv was on all day every day for days on end.  I couldn't stop watching.  I couldn't turn away.  It didn't seem real. 

I remember sitting in the urgent care waiting room later that day, still sick, watching the non-stop live media coverage.  My stomach was already churning, but my condition was exacerbated by the horror laid out before me on the screen.  I wanted to vomit.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted my mother.

I remember sitting with my fiance on the grand stair steps leading up to my university library in the middle of the city and gazing up into the empty sky. On any normal day, it would have been dotted with planes streaking across the wide, blue expanse. But suddenly "normal" didn't exist anymore. To this day, that eerie sky remains one of my most haunting memories.

I remember wanting nothing more than to be home with my family and all the people I loved, just to hold them close. The future seemed so terribly uncertain.  Suddenly, I no longer had a desire to travel to Hawaii for my honeymoon.  I just wanted to be safe and riding on airplane didn't seem that it would ever be safe anymore. I wasn't even sure I would see my wedding day.  What was next?  When was round two?  Would we be annhilated by nuclear warfare by the time June rolled around?  I wanted out of the city.

I remember the confusion.  All of my life I had been taught to love your enemies and pray for the people who persecute you.  And I tried.  I really tried.  At one point, not long after the attacks, I carefully clipped a small picture of Osama bin Laden from a Time magazine and placed it in my Bible.  I looked into his eyes for a long time, searching for some sort of reasoning there.  (How could you do this?)  I prayed for him.  I prayed for the victims.  I prayed for their families.  I admit it seems a strange gesture now, but at the time, I was just trying to make sense of it all.

I remember the fresh sense of patriotism that welled up in all of us.  Americans standing united under God.  No one could break our spirit.  Nothing could stop us.  We were unbreakable.  Flags seemed to wave more proudly, our anthem sung more valiantly, and our heads held more highly than before. 

And before we knew it... 10 years.

So as I commemorate this day, I remember the victims and their families.  I pray for enduring peace and love that transcends all.  I pray for unending joy and bright futures.  And I pray for freedom. 

I remember.

"He heals the heartbroken
and bandages their wounds.
 He counts the stars
and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
we'll never comprehend what he knows and does.
God puts the fallen on their feet again
and pushes the wicked into the ditch."

Psalms 147.3-6 (The Message)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Simple Pleasures.

"Welcome home, dear Friday!  My, how I've missed you."

Life happens.  Sometimes it's good.  Sometimes a little less than good.  It has been an odd week full of unexpected circumstances that have driven me to a great deal of reflection.  And furthermore, I am replete with exhaustion.

However, amid the bedlam, I count the smiles:

1.  My sweet little darling (who is barely 2) was positively beside herself when she discovered "robots" near the doorway of the grocery store and carried on a whole conversation with the red one.  They were actually an army of newspaper vending machines, but upon a second glance, I could actually see how she arrived at that conclusion.  Wow.  Perspective changes everything.

2.  I finally convinced my daughters to give away their monstrous Barbie castle.  (This is probably my greatest achievement of the whole year.)

3.  My husband begged and pleaded with me to let him buy more coffee to replace the awful coffee I bought last week.  My frugal side finally gave in and I was pleasantly surprised when he brought home Cameron's Chocolate Caramel Brownie coffee!!!  SUPER AMAZING!

(Back story:  I decided to give Seattle's Best another whirl since they changed their packaging.  I'm not sure what kind of logic would suggest that a prettier bag could work that kind of magic on coffee, but alas it was all for naught.  Still not impressed.)

Ordinarily, I'm not a microwave-y sort of person, but this easy treat is definitely worth breaking with my traditions.  Everyone deserves chocolate once in awhile and so I leave you with this...

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

4 T. flour
4 T. sugar
2 T. cocoa
1 egg
3 T. milk
3 T. oil
3 T. chocolate chips (optional)
Splash of vanilla
1 large coffee mug

1. Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well.

2. Add egg and mix thoroughly.

3. Pour in milk and oil and mix well.

4. Add chocolate chips and vanilla and mix.

5. Place mug in microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high).
   (Cake will rise over top of mug)

6. Cool. Tip onto plate. Frost, if desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or drizzle with powdered sugar icing.

"Hello weekend! Let's be friends."

This recipe and others are available on my Recipes page.

"Turn your back on sin; do something good.
Embrace peace—don't let it get away!"

Psalm 34.14 (The Message)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A-Tisket, A-Tasket.

"...A green and yellow basket.

I wrote a letter to my love,
And on the way I dropped it."

I am prone to wonder, what exactly is "a-tisket, a-tasket?"  What do they do and where would I find them?  I am certain these answers will not easily be found at the bottom of my coffee cup.  Of course, it wouldn't hurt to try, but I digress...

I am particularly interested in the mention of "green and yellow,"  colors I happen to be rather fond of.  I find it pleasantly fitting that today also happens to be the NFL season-opener for my precious Green Bay Packers!!!

There is hardly anything better than football in the fall... except for maybe coffee

With three lovely daughters and a smokin' hot wife, my dear husband is completely besieged by estrogen about 94% of the time.  I'll admit there are days it must be pretty hard to be male around here, what with all the tea parties and the princess movies and the pink.   However... I must remind my hubby that it could be much worse.  God saw fit to give him a wife that is possibly even more fanatical about football than he is.  Our favorite family activity is watching football together, and yes, we have been known to rearrange our schedule for a football game or two.

When it comes to watching the game, my hubby insists on what we like to affectionately call, "football food."  (I know.  Brilliant title.)

Tonight's season opener demands something extra-specially good.  So what's on the menu? 

Garlic-Toasted Subs

Italian or French bread  (We like Italian because it's softer.)
Garlic salt
Italian seasoning
Black Pepper
Turkey, sliced for sandwiches
Italian blend of cheese, shredded or sliced Provolone cheese
Onion, sliced
Black olives
Tomatoes, sliced
Lettuce or Spinach

1.  Slice bread in half, as for making sub sandwiches.  Spread each with butter.  Sprinkle with garlic salt, Italian seasoning and black pepper, to taste.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 3 minutes.  Remove from oven.

2.  Top one side with sliced turkey.  On the other side, add in the order listed:  Shredded Italian blend cheese, onion, and black olives.  Bake for about 5 minutes more or until hot and cheese is melted.  Add tomato and lettuce or spinach and voila!!!  Better than Subway. 

We like to serve up these sandwiches with a bowl of fresh fruit and carrot sticks.

Now go enjoy the game... but don't forget the coffee! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Finding Fall.

Fall.  I love everything about it.  Everything.  The colors.  The crisp air.  The football.  I know that for all technical purposes fall has not yet arrived, but given the brisk morning temps so far this week, who could tell?

I love the palpable sense of change in the air of a cool autumn morning.  Pregnant with hope. Knowing that all things will soon grind to a halt, lying dormant for the duration of the chill, with the security of springing to life in due season. 

I love wrapping myself in a warm sweater and frolicking with my girls in the legions of leaves lowered by my beloved trees.  I love coming home to the aroma of a simmering crock pot and relishing every warm, inviting bite.  I love settling in with my sweetheart on a cool, dark night and reading a book together by the soft light of the living room lamp. 

I.  Adore.  Fall.

These autumnal conditions have also left me craving one of my mother's most enduring confectionary creations:  Harvest Bars.

Harvest Bars
4 eggs
2 c. pumpkin
2 tsp. baking powder
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
½ c. chopped English walnuts (optional)
1 c. oil
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (heaping)

1. Beat eggs slightly. Add all remaining ingredients. Beat until well-mixed.

2. Spread in 13 x 9 cake pan (greased). Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool. Ice with vanilla butter cream frosting. Top with nuts.

So go ahead.  Pour another cup of coffee and enjoy a warm slice of heaven, reveling in the changes to come.

"O my soul, bless God! God, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps,
made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings."

Psalm 104.1-3 (The Message)

Check out my "Recipes" page where you can find this recipe along with others in a downloadable .pdf format. I am adding something new everyday so check back often for more good stuff!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Super Secrets.

Housework is one of those things you do that nobody notices until you don't do it.  The truth is I don't mind it all that much.  However, keeping up with my mischievous 2-year-old on cleaning day (or any day, for that matter) can be a downright rat race.

Usually, by the time the dishes are done in the kitchen, my toddler has relocated the contents of the medicine cabinet to the bathroom floor.  Once that is back in order, I hear giggling in the wash room.  I rush in to discover dirty laundry littering the expanse of the floor and my sweet girl hiding in the hamper.  As I toss the last sock into the washer... more giggling.  Not good.  My adorable little rugrat has just emptied an entire bottle of Italian dressing onto the floor.  And we are back in the kitchen.  Right where I started.  *sigh*  What's a girl to do?  (Coffee comes to mind... strong coffee...)

Most days, I find myself wishing for a red cape, sparkly tights, and the ability to freeze time.  And since that doesn't seem to be very likely, I settle for the next best thing:  My All-Purpose Vinegar Cleaning Solution, also known as my super secret weapon.

Mix 8 oz. warm water with 8 oz. white vinegar into a spray bottle.

It's truly a triple threat:

1.  Absurdly cheap.  (A gallon of white vinegar is less than $2.)
2.  Completely safe and all-natural.  (One thing I don't have to worry about my precocious toddler ingesting.)
3.  Works like heck.  (Even my mom was impressed at how well it removed stubborn, cooked-on food from my stove top.)

The vinegar has disinfecting properties and makes odors disappear.  Once the cleaning solution dries, there is no trace of a vinegar smell.

I use this solution for everything, especially in the kitchen and the bathroom.  I keep a bottle in both places for convenience.  For tough jobs, let the spray work for a few minutes first and then the dirt will usually wipe clean.

For extra cleaning power, you can sprinkle a little baking soda to scour surfaces, too.  Works like Comet... only better!

Attention dirt and grime everywhere: Prepare to be annihilated.  Consider yourself warned.

Everybody should believe in something. I believe I'll have another coffee...

This post is part of the Frugal Tuesday Tip.

On Tuesdays, I am linking up with other bloggers to share a Frugal Tuesday Tip.  Go here to learn more about it and get some more Frugal Tuesday tips!


This post is also a part of Simple Lives Thursday.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Sweet celebration.

Labor Day.  A recognition of those who labor... by not working.  A day off for most, unless you are mom in which case there will never truly be a day off. 

Sophia Loren once said, "When you are a mother you are never really alone in your thoughts.  A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child." 

Applying my super math skills, I suppose that means I must think in quadruple.  Once each for me and my three little girls.  Now that is labor.  No wonder my life requires such profuse amounts of coffee! 

(Yesterday, I woke up late, skipped my coffee and consequently caught myself applying lip gloss to my lashes.  True story.  Whose bright idea was it to make the lip gloss tube so strikingly simliar to the mascara anyway???)

So let's do something easy.  Something non-laborious in honor of this beautiful Labor Day.  (And since it's officially a holiday we won't bother to count calories either!)

My girls will be squealing with delight when they smell this delicious treat coming from the kitchen!  It's a favorite at our house and so easy, I could not mess it up even without a cup of coffee.

Bread Machine Cinnamon Bread

1 c. water
2 T. butter or margarine, softened
3 c. flour
3 T. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast
3/4 c. raisins (optional)

1.  Measure carefully, placing all ingredients except raisins in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer.  (Add raisins at the Raisin/Nut signal or 5-10 minutes before last kneading cycle ends.)

2.  Select Sweet or Basic/White cycle.  Use Medium or Light color.  Remove baked bread from pan and cool on wire rack.

Bonus Tip:  After baking, drizzle warm bread with a simple powdered sugar glaze (1 1/2 c. powdered sugar + 2 T. water or milk). Let cool. Tastes just like a glazed cinnamon twist from the bakery!

Makes 1 loaf (1 1/2 lb) 12 slices

NOTE:  You can download a printable copy of this recipe by visiting the "Recipes" tab at the top of the page.  (I am working on uploading all my recipes previously posted in this format so check back often for new ideas!)

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