Tuesday Recipe

I decided to make the Mexican Rice and Beans for dinner since I had both sets of our parents coming tonight. It was so good, fast, and easy. This meal is always a crowd pleaser! I used a medium heat chunky salsa but you can easily tailor this meal for your specific tastes. I love corn bread as a side for this dish, although we had a cabbage salad tonight and it was delicious together.

Here it is:

Mexican Rice and Beans

2+ cups beans ( Kidney and Black beans)
1 1/2 cups corn (frozen)
1 jar of salsa
2 1/2 cups V8 juice
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
Shredded cheddar cheese for the top (after cooked)

In a 9x13 inch baking dish place all the ingredients together and stir until mixed.
Cover with foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours or until rice is cooked. Sprinkle your shredded cheese over the top of cooked casserole and place back in oven until melted.

Perhaps next week I will make the no bake trash cookies, simply to make Katie smile!


Help! Save Me from the Boring Peanut Butter Cookie

Apparently the peanut butter cookies I made tonight were boring. This according to Daniel. For the record, I thought they were fantastic. Chewy, almost caramel like in the middle with the perfect slight crisp edge. Fairly good peanut butter taste - I guess that could be improved - but all wrapped up with what I thought was a balanced sweetness against the saltiness of the peanut butter.

But then, I do have Daniel "the peanut butter cookie snob" on my hands.

One of the Army Recruiters called me on Friday to ask if I would make him peanut butter cookies. Specifically. I am so afraid I am going to disappoint him, but I am going to have to risk it as they are all made and beautifully nested on a plate now. What I am asking you for is your "not boring" recipe for peanut butter cookies. To save my booty the next time. Just use that "E-mail Us" link on the left side of our page and you could be my hero, baby.....

Creative Play
I've been finding that my kids need a set time where they can be creative. For us, later morning seems to work best. Every one has full tummies, burned off a little energy around the house and now needs "something" to do. Sometimes structured creativity can be good, like what we did yesterday. In one of the old Sesame Street books I bought at the Salvation Army, Eve found a recipe for "Cookie Monster" cookie dough along with instructions on how to make some of the show's characters. We had to adjust it a bit since we choose to not eat jelly beans, but that allowed even more room for creativity. We used some coconut dyed with food coloring along with peanuts, dried cherries, carob chips, and sprinkles as our decorating tools. Daniel and I sat down with the kids and spent an hour playing and decorating - it was fun! There was freedom to be creative yet it was a structured environment.

Other times I let the kids have total freedom with their time. Today was a watercolor paint and marker bonanza! I try really hard to withhold any personal need of my own to keep things tidy and clean because it just isn't going to work that way.

I have classical music on pretty much non-stop throughout the day but during this creative time I like to talk about what we are listening to. Yesterday we discovered what an accordion looks like and how it is played while we listened to it sing away on the radio.

I enjoy this time during the morning hours - I do my kitchen chores, laundry, start dinner preparations, or write a letter. I do the things I need to do while being close and available to the children. Amazingly enough this creative time often seems to last for a couple of hours. It makes me feel good to know that their little minds are working away in freedom and creativity while still being close enough to me so we can chat and have fun together.
Random Bits of Good News
This past Thursday I had a prenatal visit with my midwife, Kristen, and received some good news - our baby is head down! I was fairly certain that this was the case. I thought I could feel little hands moving around in there and I can definitely tell where the feet are. If I am right we may have another thumb sucker on our hands - it seems that those tiny baby hands spend an awful lot of time up by it's face. I am also able to feel the baby turn it's head to the sound of Daniel's voice when he talks to it, which I totally love.
Can I just tell you I'm dying to know what I am having.... I am so tired of saying "it". "It" has a gender...!

Anyways, I was thrilled that the baby is head down since I have heard that stress can cause a breach baby. My life right now, and for the past nearly four years, is anything but stress-free. I don't know if you have heard (Ha!) but Recruiters in the military have a highly stressful job. Apparently Recruiters account for 10 percent of the suicides the Air Force sustains. Couple Daniel's stressful job with his incredibly long hours away from home (he is responsible for nearly the whole state of Vermont), two small children, pregnancy, not knowing where we are going to be living or what Daniel's job will be in six month's and you have stress.
But, the great and redeeming quality is knowing that we only have six month's left. And while it may be stressful - it is only six months. I can't convey the relief I will feel when this tour is over. I miss my husband.

On an entirely different note, can I tell you about the gorgeousness that is my refrigerator right now?! Gorgeous. (Does anyone else understand how the inside of a refrigerator can be thought of as gorgeous?)
It was a whole lot of work as I took every piece of removable plastic and glass out of it and scrubbed. I scrubbed, organized, threw away and made that fridge to sparkle. Now, I randomly open it when I walk by just to see how beautiful it is. And it smells like lavender, thanks to this good-lookin' bottle of happiness... I find myself wanting to clean anything and everything just so I can smell this lovely scent some more. If you haven't tried Mrs. Meyers cleaning solution, you really should. I can't say as it works miracles with the actual cleaning process, but you won't really care because the smell is so intoxicating. From looking at the website I found out they have the Gingerbread scent in for the holidays. Sign me up! Who knew cleaning could be so sweet smelling!
Our Free Day

At the beginning of this week Eve asked me to run through all the activities we had planned for each day. When I finally arrived at Friday I said with relief: "Friday is a free day!" When Eve asked me what a "free day" was, I explained that it is a day when we have nothing extra to do. While this may be a relief to me, it is not so much to my little social butterfly. In obvious denial she asked again what we were going to do. I said "Oh, a little housework and just kind of chill." Needless to say she wasn't anticipating Friday very much.
My issue is I don't know how to just chill very well. I found my self wandering around the house today trying to relax and not do extra chores. I did play with the kids, Eve read me a book, we did a couple of crafts, I have taken a ton of pictures, and had a cup of tea. Still, I feel guilty for not baking or cleaning, for not organizing something. My hands are restless for busy work. But this day is set aside to recuperate from the week, and we all really need it. I just have to convince myself that it is okay to relax and not do the unnecessary that feels so necessary. I guess I accomplished that objective when it came to getting dressed since I'm still sporting lounge pants and a comfy J. Crew shirt. It's the small victories we have to celebrate, right?

The Stud

Respect is a big deal around our house. If you were a fly on our wall you would hear me reminding Eve or Judah often about talking to each other respectfully, or treating each other with respect. It is a vitally important character trait to have as an adult, and there is no better place for them to learn this than in our home. The problem is that I am still learning about respect, and here I am supposing to be the good role model for my children.

I, lately, have uncovered my need to be more respectful in a cleverly disguised place. Being on time. I hate being late, hate it. So, why am I always late? I have decided it has got to stop. I just know in my heart that punctuality is a sign of respect. Respect for those who you are meeting, and those who are with you. I really have felt convinced that I have been disrespectful to my children, especially Eve, by getting her to her activities late. And I don't want her to grow up remembering that Momma was always late or even thinking that it is okay to be late. Because it is not.

Yesterday morning was my first stab at being on time. Swim lessons for Eve at ten o'clock. Swim lessons that only last for one half of an hour so there is no margin for error. And you know what, I did it. I left my house twenty three minutes early. Unfortunately, in my determination to be on time I forgot to bring a towel to dry my girl off, but Daddy swooped in and saved the day.

I won't always be perfect, but my heart is convinced and I have made this decision: I will be on time as a sign of respect first to my family and to teach my children another way how to live the words I tell them so often.

Tuesday Recipe - Taco Bake
Hey, it's still Tuesday right?! I had an engagement tonight and I didn't get a chance to snap a photo of this meal before I left. But, between the four of us there is about one quarter of a 9x13 pan of Taco Bake left... it's really good stuff! I also made Schoolhouse Gingerbread which turned out amazing. Moist and so flavorful, although I am wishing I had been home tonight to make some applesauce, or perhaps some maple whipped cream to go along with it.

I would like your opinion - since this is all about you - would you rather have the recipe for a really easy Mexican Rice and Beans casserole (as in can be prepared and in the oven within 10 minutes flat) or a really gooey, sinfully delicious, incredible recipe for Unbaked Chocolate Oatmeal Trash cookies? Just let me know!

Here is the recipe for Taco Bake - remember this is the recipe that made Daniel realize he was truly glad he married me - we do simple, simple delicious food here.

Taco Bake

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 package of taco seasoning
3 cups bisquick
1 cup milk
1 small green pepper - diced into small pieces
2-3 tomatoes - thinly sliced

Mix together and set aside:

1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup onion finely chopped ( 1 small onion)

Cook the meat along with the taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water. Set aside when done.
Mix the bisquick with the 1 cup of milk and press into a 9x13 greased pan. Make sure to press up the sides a bit with the bisquick.
Spread the seasoned meat over the dough.
Sprinkle the green peppers over the meat,then lay the tomatoes over top of the peppers.
Spread the cheese topping over the tomatoes evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until edges start to brown slightly.

Okay, so I never said it was lowfat. I am sure there are ways to decrease the fat content of this meal, but I could never disrespect my Taco Bake in that way. If you can, look past the fat and see the two vegetables, the protein, and two sources of dairy. If you have done that, well then welcome to my world. It is a happy, well fed place to be.


Daddy Time
Daddy time is precious around here. It's been quite sparse lately so today was a welcome reprieve. Daniel is such an amazing father to our children, he's never afraid to get right down and be real with them. He is a wonderful teacher and storyteller; he's loving and kind yet requires their respect, which they readily give because they feel so loved.
I am longing for the days, that are surely to come, when recruiting duty is a distant memory and Daddy time is no longer a novelty but a regular part of our daily lives.

Can you see from these pictures how secure and happy our children are with Daniel? It is so apparent to me that love is the basis for of their relationships with Daddy. And I, for one, couldn't be more thankful.
Who would've thought...
Yellow pants could be so cute.

Eve has the fake smile down to a science. The problem is this type of smile kind of makes her face look like a raisin. So I have employed "the lovely thoughts" routine. When I want her to smile or just have a pleasant face for a photo I encourage her to have lovely thoughts. It is nearly foolproof, as long as you don't mind the occasional look, like this one, which I like to call -

So Far Today...
So far today I have forgotten to put baking powder in the pancakes, sprayed smoothie over the entire front of my body, and dumped a half a gallon of milk all over my kitchen floor. I almost cried but I didn't. Judah keeps saying: "Oh-kay Momma?" over and over again. That's a good question, my son....

It's nearly four o'clock now with no other major catastrophes, so I am doing better. But, just to play it safe I am going to stay away from sharp objects....
The View From Here
My world is gorgeous right now...

Three Baby Belly Shots
Eve's Baby Belly

Judah's Baby Belly

Number 3 Baby Belly

This baby belly is starting to get in the way. I keep under- estimating how much clearance I need when I go by the couch, a chair.... basically anything that is at that height. Tonight it conveniently caught some water dripping off my glass thus saving me having to wipe up the counter. So thoughtful. It's at the point where I don't have a belly anymore, I have a shelf.

These pictures were taken at about seven and a half months, although Eve's was closer to eight. I keep analyzing to see if I am carrying different, bigger, higher, lower. Why? I don't know. Just because, I guess.

What's your opinion on my shelf? Daniel says it sticks out more than the other two.... And while you're at it, will you please let me know what I'm having. My neighbor (who was right with Judah) says it's another boy. But, I think it's a girl.
I guess time will tell.
Eve and her Little Leaf Friend
My New Englander
Tuesday Recipe - Gasp ...On Tuesday!
These chocolate chip cookies have made me friends everywhere- Seriously. They are awesome.
But, there are two particular things you must know about this cookie.

First, you have to use enough flour. If they are made with too little the cookie is flat. I don't particularly like a flat cookie - if you do then this may not be the recipe for you.
The second important factor is using enough chocolate chips, as in the entire bag. Don't be a tightwad - dump them all in. A bag is like $2.50. It's for the integrity of the cookie, or something like that.

If you do those two things your cookie will make men's hearts everywhere melt. I know because I've seen it happen with my own eyes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cream together:

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
(I use all turbinado, but you could use half white/half brown)

Add and then beat until fluffy:

2 eggs
2 Tablespoons hot water
2 teaspoons vanilla

Sift together and add:

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Now, add that whole bag of chocolate chips

Bake at 375 degrees for 11 minutes, add time if you like your cookie more done. I prefer mine a bit undercooked.

Just as an aside - you could use these cookies as currency. They will get you nearly anything that you could possibly desire. But, you didn't hear that from me, and of course I've never done such a thing...


Sleep is Calling My Name
As I walked by my bed this morning I had the strongest desire to just flop into it and fall right back to sleep.

Anybody else ever feel that way?
She's Baaack!
My girl is back! And all kinds of spicy too. Daniel went to a men's conference at our church back home yesterday so Eve tagged along to spend the day with her Mi-Mi. A seven hour car ride down and the same back... she is one tired cookie. And it definitely showed today..Whew!

I have to admit I felt so lost these last two days without my girl and my husband. Normally I am only missing one at a time but to be missing both at the same time... I felt at loose ends. I tried to keep things normal but Judah kept asking for his Ce-Ce and his Daddy- very confused as to why they weren't around. I pretty much felt the same way.

With that being said, Judah and I did hold down the fort like a couple of champs. We ate fish sticks and omelets for our dinners, and had lots of time playing one on one. I was able to find out who the messy one in our house is and enjoyed the lack of screaming that usually comes from Judah while being tortured by his sister. We shopped, hung out with Tarrah and the kids, took lots of pictures, and listened to the music Momma wanted to. But, it was so quiet here - no chattering, no singing, no belly laughs, and no four year old opinions on everything. I hated to walk by her room at night and see the open door - it just felt weird!
Today, we're back to normal.... plenty of screaming, singing, tons of chattering, just not a lot of laughs yet. Maybe tomorrow, after tonight's good rest. But for now, I have my husband to love on, and my girl is sleeping in her own bed, so all is right with my world.

Now, if only this baby would stop kicking so hard... it's rude to kick you know, especially when it's your mother!
A Evening with Judah, His Blankies, and His Thumb
Judah was such a ham tonight for my camera.

But, he tired quickly as you can see.

I always know when he's ready for bed by the amount of time his thumb spends in his mouth.

By the time 7:00 rolled around he was done in.

Blowing goodnight kisses.... Sweet, sweet dreams baby boy
Salvation Army Booty

I went into the Salvation Army looking for a set of clear glass plates, which I found but didn't buy. The particular set I found had eight large plates and I was being picky in wanting small plates as well. I'll probably go back for the set today. I can always mix and match to make my table setting interesting, all the while hopefully detracting attention from the fact that I don't own a complete set of dishes.
Although I may not have bought the dishes, I did come away with treasures. These little Japanese cups being one of my favorites. I also found a beautiful, hand-crafted cornucopia for my Thanksgiving table. I am absolutely thrilled about that piece and I already have a great idea of how to make it stunning, thanks to my local farmer's market.
I'd like to make a visit to the Salvation Army a regular part of my week. I am pretty sure can handle this because I am not a pack rat, or especially sentimental about "stuff", and I am keeping in mind that I will be moving in not so many months. But, since I do enjoy a beautiful home and my particular bent is toward the unique and older pieces, I think I will find this store to be a great resource.
My theory will only hold true as long as I remember to load Judah up on great snacks and keep him contained in the stroller. Otherwise it will be a lesson in torture.
Chicken Cordon Bleu

I guess this week Thursday is the new Tuesday. My house smells so awesome right now, but the most wonderful part about making this meal tonight was the new tip I learned. Apparently it's best to make Chicken Cordon Bleu while eating chocolate cake. Great news, don't you think?!
Without further ado here it is:

Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 Boneless chicken bre*st
4 slices ham (from the deli) - medium to thickly sliced
4 slices swiss cheese - medium sliced (buy good quality cheese - it does make a difference)
3 cups bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons melted butter
4-6 Tablespoons oil
**Mix butter and oil together in a separate cake pan

First off I season my bread crumbs with:

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup parmesean ( I used 1 cup freshly grated Romano)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper (or freshly ground pepper - just
grind until your arm gets tired, like I did)

Combine the bread crumbs and seasonings in a flat pan with sides (I used a brownie pan... mmm brownies)

Next, pound your chicken until thin (approximately 1/2 inch or less)
Lay on chicken one slice of swiss cheese
Lay on top of cheese one slice of ham
Roll inward starting from the smallest end to the widest end.
Secure with toothpicks.

Roll chicken in melted butter and oil mixture
Now roll in the bread crumbs. I really pat the bread crumbs on to the chicken - I like each one to be thoroughly covered!

Place on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil.
Bake for 30 -35 minutes at 350 degrees.

I had this on our table in an hour - it's amazing how this meal looks and tastes like I slaved over it when really I didn't. I did a little work and got to eat chocolate cake at the same time. My kind of dinner!


A Recipe is Forthcoming
I swear, I am going to post my recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu. The thought of hauling the kids to the store has been a tad overwhelming for this pregnant woman but today, today I think I can. I think I can, I think I can.... You won't believe how easy and delicious this meal is. And the smell when it is cooking is amazing. Simply amazing.

Because I need to start making these smoothies again and having a blender is pertinent, I must brave the stores. So, I'll kill all the birds with one stone. You'll end up with a wonderful recipe to try, my husband will be thrilled because according to him he could eat Chicken Cordon Bleu every night, Eve will end up with two shiny quarters in her pocket for helping push Judah in the stroller, and I get to enjoy a smoothie during the kid's rest time. It's win-win, wouldn't you say?
Apple Picking and I am Pregnant Yet Again
Yesterday marked our third year picking apples at the same orchard on Columbus Day.
As a military family it is cause for celebrating tradition when you've done the same thing at the same place more than two years in a row.... I'm finding this out. And I am big on tradition so this was super exciting.

I went and looked at pictures of Eve from the three years of picking and was amazed at how she has changed!

This was in 2005 when she was 2 years old.

This is 2006 - she was 3

This is 2007 - she is 4 and finding out apples don't come off the tree any easier than when she was 2!

Judah has changed a lot as well....

The first year we went apple picking I was pregnant with Judah

Last year he was my little "Roo" in the sling

This year he's picking and eating his own apples

While I am pregnant yet again and looking extremely "poofy" in Daniel's high loft vest. I was freezing!

I don't know about you, but I am seeing a pattern here.
If we were to live in Vermont many more years we may end up with the six children that Eve informed us yesterday she'd like us to have. I gently suggested that perhaps she have the six children herself and I'll come help her when she does. Sounds like a plan to me!
An Afternoon at the Cemetery
I know, a cemetery is not the typical place to spend the afternoon with your children, regardless it made for a lovely time. We had been leaf peeping for nearly four hours all over Vermont and really needed a place to let the kids stretch their legs. At the point of need we were in the sticks, so when we found this amazingly peaceful and beautiful place we called it good enough. It turned out to be more than good enough. I'd like to think that if those who are buried there could hear, that they would have smiled at the sound of our children's laughter floating up in the crisp fall air, replacing the sadness that hung over that place.

It was very interesting to walk around and read the names, the dates, and inscriptions on the stones. My favorite inscription was the one on a man's tombstone that read: "His life was like a shock of corn fully ripe." I don't know why but it made me laugh out loud.
Many of the people buried there were born in the 1700's and died in the 1800's. I was taken back by the thought of how long ago their lives were lived.
While perusing the stones I just couldn't help but feel incredibly sad as I saw the numerous stones marking the graves of babies and little children, along with too many young wives. All I could figure was death during childbirth.

Along with reading the gravestones our afternoon at the cemetery included a rousing game of peek-a-boo...

Isn't our girl sweet?

We gathered a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from what had broken off the bushes

Daniel taught the kids how to roll down a hill

Judah practiced his letters

We also had a picnic, picked out a name for our baby if it's a boy, and spent a little time tickling Judah.

Yesterday we found that being creative and open with our family time can lead to great memories and beautiful pictures.
One of my favorite parts of the day came at Eve's bedtime right after I had prayed. In my prayer I had thanked God for the nice time we had playing in the cemetery, so when Eve's turn came she whispered to me: "Mama, what was that place called we played at today?"

I said "A cemetery, darling."

"A cemetery, okay. What kind of people live at a cemetery?"

"Dead people. It is a place where people are buried after they die."

"Oh, okay Mamma"

She then proceeded with her prayer while I simultaneously laughed and breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that she didn't want to explore that topic any further.

Great, great memories.
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