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It’s summertime!!!

18 Jun
It's here! It's finally here!

It’s here! It’s finally here!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JUNE 24, 2013:

Yay!!

Yahooo!!!

Woot, woot!!!!!

Today is our last day of school. Tomorrow is our first day of summer vacation.

At times during this school year, I seriously did not know if I’d make it through to the end of the year. But I did,  we did, and now it’s summer!

I.love.summer.

Today I will make the same type of disclosure statements to you that I made last summer.

I promise that my posts may not always be on time.

I promise that I won’t be sharing them on Facebook at 6:30 in the morning each day.

I promise that they may not always be on the same posting schedule as they are during the school year, so there may not be three a week.

I promise that I am putting my family first and spending lots and lots of time with them.

I promise to sleep late, wear sunscreen and eat supper on the beach. Often.

And I promise that if we do anything super-cool, or eat anything super-delicious I will share it with you so that you can do it too!

Enjoy your summer, enjoy your family, and remember that summer will be over in the blink of an eye.

Make the most of it!

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Another fun gift from the holidays

13 Jan
They opened these Nerf Rebelle gifts from Santa so fast, with such excitement, I barely had time to snap this photo of the box!

They opened these Nerf Rebelle gifts from Santa so fast, with such excitement, I barely had time to snap this photo of the box!

This year, two of the girls asked for “weapons” on their Santa lists.

They’d seen commercials and ads for the new Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow and the Nerf Rebelle Pink Crush Blaster; both in perfect “girl colors” of pinks and purples, blacks and turquoise.

With the advent of strong female characters like Merida and Katniss in recent movies such as Disney’s “Brave,” and “The Hunger Games,” it wasn’t all that shocking to us that they’d instantly fall in love with such toys.  A bow and arrow, with a female pulling back to aim, was nothing unusual to see, although many years ago such a thing was unheard of.

Being Girl Scouts, my kids have shot a bow and arrow many times at camp. They’re actually quite good at it, and we’ve seen many “bulls-eye” hits between them. They enjoy archery very much and it’s always a favorite activity at camp. It was even part of the physical education curriculum at our middle school for our oldest daughter.

So on the one hand, when I could’ve been shocked that they were asking for these “weapons” along with their dolls, dollhouses and Snap Circuits, on the other hand, I was rather thrilled. I was actually happy that Nerf had come up with “weapons” that were attractive to girls and that let girls do something that’s exciting, active, and sporty, rather than stereotyping those types of activities as being just for boys. I equated this gift item on their lists to them to asking for a squirt gun or a Super-Soaker pool toy, which we’ve never had a problem with.

On Christmas morning, they were so excited to see their Nerf toys among the gifts that had been delivered. They were definitely a favorite choice all throughout the school vacation weeks, even though they’re designed to be outside toys. We have a decent-sized hallway and one of the kids’ doors has vinyl decals in the shape of circles on the door; a perfect target. Being Nerf, the “ammunition” was soft-tipped and completely safe, as long as no one was aiming at anyone’s eyes; a rule we set right away.

Although this gift request was one that initially made me do a quick double-take, it turned out to be a favorite, and I’m glad that Santa delivered. It’s nice to see the girls imitating Katniss and Merida when they play and it’s nice to see them utilizing skills that they’ve learned as scouts. It will be lots of fun to bring these toys outside in the springtime. We have a fenced-in yard and the fence would be an easy target for practicing.

If you have a daughter and she expresses interest in the Nerf Rebelle toys, you too, may hesitate as you consider whether or not you’re “weapons” people, but I encourage you to give it some thought, and maybe give it a try too. You might be surprised as you see your mini-Katniss and Merida characters utilizing skills you might not have even known they had.

Monday Musings: Keeping it all in perspective

11 Nov

This time of year is so busy for me.

The October/November/December and April/May/June months keep me running, covering several stories a day most days, some of them at night, and then typing them too, but it pays off in the summertime because I get lots of time off to be with my family.

When you mix in all the other “stuff” that takes place during a week: sports, scouting, church, and work-related or school-related meetings, it gets crazy. Sometimes at the end of a day, my body is sore and my legs hurt, as if I’ve run a marathon, even though it’s just daily running around.

I’m sure you can all relate. I know I’m not the only one running ragged.

This past week was one of those weeks. Everyone seemed to have everything. There were nighttime meetings and unexpected doctor appointments mixed in. By midweek I was exhausted already, and we had a big weekend ahead.

I happened to be looking at my calendar for the end of the week and noticed that somehow I’d written two meetings at the same time for Thursday night at 7:00. I looked and looked at the calendar page (yes, I still use a paper “planner” type of calendar) and I tried to figure out which meeting I should attend.

One of them I’d skipped last month to be able to attend the other, so maybe I’d go to the one I’d skipped. But then one of them had a pressing event coming up that we needed to talk about. Maybe I should go to that one.

All of a sudden I noticed that at the top of that day’s block, I had written “Grandma Rose’s Birthday” in big letters as well. Mixed in with interviewing the mayor, seeing a student council sworn in, Girl Scouts, and two meetings, my Grandma Rose, the kids’ Great-Grandma Rose, was turning 93 years old.

That doesn’t happen every day.

She’s had a rough time lately, recovering from a recent stroke, moving from her home.

I decided that instead of picking another meeting to attend, instead of dragging myself to one more “thing,” I would attend neither meeting and instead, pay a visit to Grandma Rose that evening after dinner to help her celebrate her birthday.

That night, I was running behind in my day by the time Don called after work to check in. I had no card, no flowers, nothing I’d envisioned in my head had gone the way I’d planned. But I told him that I still wanted to make this work. I still wanted to make her day with our visit.

He came up with a great idea: rather than flowers, we could bring a party to her: cake, coffee, paper goods, and celebrate for real, right there with her. When I called her that evening, just to make sure she’d be home, she was so happy to hear that we’d be coming for a visit. I didn’t tell her about our “party in a bag” that we were bringing to her.

She was so happy to hear the news. She couldn’t wait.

We arrived at the same time as my parents, my dad is her oldest son, so it really was a big party, with eight of us in her apartment eating cake and drinking coffee, just hanging out all together. We stayed quite a while, but eventually it was time to leave.

It made me happy as we were walking out the door, to hear her say to my dad, “I had a good birthday,” when we left. I knew then that I’d made the right decision, that I’d made the right decision by putting my family first. When we got in the car, one of the kids said, “That was really fun.”

The meetings will always be there, but Grandma Rose is now 93. No one knows what the future will hold.

This week’s events put things into perspective for me. Sometimes we need to remember to slow down, to stop and remember what is truly important to us and make sure that we’re keeping our priorities in order. I cringe to think of Grandma Rose’s night had we not gone. Her apartment was so alive and full of life with all of us there.

I’m glad that her birthday memories will be full of those memories and I’m glad that we too, will have the memory of how we were able to make her night, to make her birthday just a little bit more special, just by choosing her.

Sometimes your presence alone, is the gift.

Sometimes your presence alone, is the gift.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Fajita Quesadillas

10 Jul
Fajita Quesadilla veggies

I love the look of fresh vegetables when they’re mixed up and cooking!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JANUARY 25, 2012:

Today’s recipe is again, one that I did not grow up with! Imagine that, four recipes in two days, and not one of them was from my childhood! This recipe is a combination of recipes from two different people and it makes a great meal or an appetizer for a football game.

We actually had never had quesadillas at our house until about four years ago or so. Elizabeth had a friend at preschool whose house we used to go to for playdates often. My friend Jody used to make cheese quesadillas a lot when we went over for playdates. (In fact, this past fall I featured my friend Jody’s Butternut Squash Soup, which was also a playdate lunch. And just so you know, my traditional playdate lunch at my house is mac & cheese from a box with chicken nuggets. we were spoiled at Jody’s!)

Anyway….we started making quesadillas at our house on a regular basis. You can put anything in them so we’ve done just cheese, chicken and cheese, tomato/chicken/cheese, peppers/beef and cheese, and we’ve done bbq chicken/onion/cheese. However, on New Year’s Eve this year my sister in law Jessica made us Fajita Quesadillas which had all kinds of peppers, mushrooms, onions and cheese, and they were so fabulous!! We had to try them at home. So last week, we had them.

Cook up some chicken tenders first. Then shred or dice the cooked chicken.

My sister in law and I are both lucky because we both live near an Aldi’s and you can get everything you need for your Fajita Quesadillas at Aldi’s.  The ingredients vary, depending what you’d like in your quesadillas. You need soft flour tortillas, we use the large ones.

This is another meal where I pull out some frozen chicken tenders, so convenient! Cook them up if you’d like chicken in your quesadillas.

While your chicken is cooking, grate a bowl full of cheddar cheese (a block of cheese is usually plenty.) Slice up your veggies and cook them on top of the stove.

We use a countertop griddle to make our quesadillas two at a time.

Once you’ve got your ingredients pre-cooked, you’re ready to begin the last step. Butter your soft flour tortillas on one side and lay it on the griddle, in a frying pan, or use a Quesadilla Maker (which we do actually have also, but we prefer the griddle most of the time because we can make two at a time.)

Butter one side of the top flour tortilla and place it on top of the others on the griddle and flip (we have a big metal spatula for flipping!)

Once both sides are golden brown and the cheese inside is melted, you’re ready to cut your quesadillas into triangles and eat them!

finished quesadillas

Once the quesadillas are golden brown, cut them into triangles and eat!

God Bless our First Responders

1 Jul

Today marks a sad day, as it was recently announced that 19 out of 20 firefighters in an Arizona fire crew were killed fighting a wildfire blaze in Arizona. You can read the full article here.

As you go about your day today, and about your week this week, please remember those firefighters and their families. Count your blessings, hug your kids and thank a first responder.

 

The Firefighter’s Prayer

When I’m called to duty god
wherever flames may rage
give me strength to save a life
whatever be its age

Help me to embrace a little child
before it is too late
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate

Enable me to be alert
to hear the weakest shout
and quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out

I want to fill my calling and
to give the best in me
to guard my neighbor and
protect his property

And if according to your will
I have to lose my life
bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife

Prayer from:  http://earth.vol.com/~anderson/cfdweb/prayer.html

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Balsamic Chicken with Rosemary (A South Beach recipe)

12 Jun
This was both simple and delicious!

This was both simple and delicious!

This is a recipe we tried and liked some time back. It’s a South Beach Diet recipe and it was simple, easy and delicious! At this time of year we need quick and easy with all of the end-of-year meetings and events, so I pulled this recipe out again. In this photo, ours is served with couscous and a sauteed vegetable medley of broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini.

BALSAMIC CHICKEN

From the South Beach Diet Book

INGREDIENTS

6 Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 – 6 tablespoons white wine (optional)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Refrigerate overnight.

Refrigerate overnight.

DIRECTIONS

Rinse the chicken and pat dry.

Combine the rosemary, garlic, pepper and salt in a small bowl and mix well.

Place the chicken in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil, and rub with the spice mixture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spray a heavy roasting pan or iron skillet with cooking spray. Place the chicken in the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over.

If the drippings begin to stick to the pan, stir in 3-4 tablespoons water (or white wine if using).

Bake about ten minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the portion registers 160 degrees and the juices run clear. If the pan is dry, stir in another 1-2 tablespoons of water or white wine to loosen drippings.

Drizzle the vinegar over the chicken in the pan.

Transfer the chicken to plates. Stir the liquid in the pan and drizzle over chicken.

Serves six

Per serving: 183 calories, 26 g. protein, 4 g. carbohydrates, 6 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat, 270 mg. sodium, 65 mg. cholesterol, 0 g. fiber

Monday Musings: An only child for a day

10 Jun

This past Saturday two out of three kids had plans for the day. The whole, entire day.

One did not. Elizabeth had the whole day off.

Don had a lawn to cut, a pool to clean, gutters to fix, a garden to weed.

I had a list a mile long of things I needed to pick up from all over the place.

She had two very not-exciting agendas to choose from: his or mine. She chose to hang with me for the day, which suited me just fine. It’s not often that I get a ton of one-on-one time with my kids that does not involve a visit to a doctor’s office followed by a field trip to CVS for a prescription for whatever the illness of the day is, and even that is sometimes a package deal.

So even though we had lots of errands to do, I was hopeful that she’d still enjoy her day. I joked with her that she was an only child for the day, and off we went.

We started out with a fast food lunch at the location of her choice, something we never do. I even ordered a kids’ meal for myself, in order to get her two toys instead of one, which she thanked me for, because it meant that she could give the extra to her little sister. We chatted about her upcoming birthday party plans and made a list of things we’d look for in our travels. We talked about a movie she just saw. She told me about how it’s made by the same people as two other movies she likes and I asked her which of the three movies she liked best, and I really listened to her answer, impressed by what she said.

We held hands going in and out of stores and I thought about the fact that soon she’ll be too old to want to hold my hand much longer.

She pushed the carriage, crossing items off the list as we went along. We scoped out good bargains and got a good gift that we needed. We went back to that same fast food spot, but in a different location, and she got an ice cream cone, another treat.

All in all it wasn’t anything crazy or unique that we did, but it was a fun day no less. I know that had I realized in advance that she’d be alone for the day, I would’ve tried to make more of it than it was, somehow try to make an event out of it, because I know how I am. But I didn’t have advanced notice and the day was what it was, and only that. Yet, she seemed to enjoy it, and I know I did too. It made me thankful for the time I got to spend with her and reminded me how lucky I am to have my girls in my life, each special in their own way.

But most of all, it reminded me to enjoy every minute I have with them, even if it is just a trip to the doctor’s office. Life goes by fast and every minute counts. We don’t need to make an occasion or an event out of the time we spend together, and if we wait for those times to become occasions and events, we’re likely to miss the moments that are right before our eyes, as life passes us by.

That smile kept me going all day long.

That smile kept me going all day long.