Friday, December 31, 2010


This year, I:

Spent a little time in the hospital with Matthew.
Had three minor foot surgeries.
Grew closer to Cole.
Spent a week-long vacation with my inlaws.
Organized the first annual camping trip with my family.
Took a bazillion pictures.
Saw my husband receive a much-deserved promotion.
Made new friends.
Put myself out there.
Read a ton of books.
Watched a good friend a fabulous sister become parents.
Fell in love with Hawaii Five-O.
Supported health care legislation.
Sent Matthew to kindergarten.
Sent Jack to preschool.
Kissed my children.
Reconnected with friends.

Next year, I hope to:

Read more books.
Watch the economy improve.
Pursue financial freedom.
Kiss my children.
Take a bazillion pictures.
Be confident.
Be happy.
Be happy.
Be happy.

Thank you for following me another year.  I wish you health, peace, and prosperity in the coming year.  I hope your faith helps you achieve your goals, as it always helps me pursue mine.  God can do magnificent things, and above all, I hope I remember that.

God bless you...Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The longest season...

To say that I am not a fan of winter would be a gross understatement.  In October, when it cools off here, I start to feel anxious and panicky about winter.  It feels like such a long time until Spring, and the best description is that I feel claustrophobic. 

Getting his gear on is a pain, but his adorableness is worth it!

I can get through the holidays because there's so much fun thrown in.  And January is a month we simply have to 'get through.'  Then February is a short month and we pack some fun stuff in there as well.  By March, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Mostly, I just 'survive' winter.  Someday we'll move south.

My husband is hot.  (Literally and figuratively in this photo.)

But once in awhile, a day like today comes along.  It's sunny, and warm (30 degrees) and beautiful.  I open my kitchen window a crack and breathe in the outside air.  I go outside without the cold biting my lungs and freezing my nosehairs.  I actually enjoy the day.  It refreshes my spirits and I am grateful for it.

A path from the front door through the new tunnel.

A facebook friend just said he heard on the news that February and March are going to be among the coldest and snowiest on record.  I'll get through it, if God gives me breather days similar to the one we had today.

My husband's handiwork.

In other things to be grateful for, the photos are of a tunnel Cory built for the kids.  He so totally rocks.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Turning pages...

I’ve read a few books since the last update. Last week, I received four of my library requests at once.  I am pleased to say, I am on the final book (although I didn't read Freedom (see below)), and read the other three in a single week.  Oh, how I love books.  (Although I am thrilled to have learned that I can suspend my requests so there's not so much pressure in the future!)

Here are the latest and my comments on them:

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory

I love this historical period and the novels that so many talented authors present to us.  I really appreciate this author (The Other Boleyn Girl), but the style of Alison Weir is preferable to me (The Lady Elizabeth and Innocent Traitor).  If you love historical fiction and haven't read either of those, I highly recommend them.

Fall of Giants, Ken Follett

I liked it. It’s the first book in a trilogy. This first book takes place during WWI. It’s pretty history-intense, and the personal plots are a little thin, in my humble opinion. It didn’t compare to either Pillars of the Earth or World Without End in the way they captured my attention, but I did finish it and I will try the second book in the trilogy when its released.

Dirty Sexy Politics, Meghan McCain

This was a really fun non-fiction book. It’s the story of the daughter of John McCain’s experiences during the 2008 campaign. She’s a young American who is fairly disenfranchised with the Republican party. She thinks the party could use some energy and needs to try harder to keep up with the issues of the young people in this country. I like some of her ideas, and it was really fun to get a sneak peak into what happened behind the scenes and her take on the political process, and her view of Sarah Palin. I highly recommend this book.

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

My friend Molly insisted I read this book.  She's a avid reader like I am, and I've loved every book she's recommended.  I read the synopsis of this book many months ago, and decided against it.  But when Molly pressured me, I agreed to try again.  I read a lot of books…many of which I enjoy. But it’s been a long time since I read a book that I could not put down.  I was horrified at the subject matter, but there was no way I could stop reading it; and I can’t wait to read the next book, Catching Fire. There are evidently parallels to the world we live in today, but to me they are not obvious, so I'd love to discuss this in a book club someday.

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

Ugh. Couldn’t do it. Partially because I was coming off the intensity of the previously mentioned book, but it was a total bore. I read the first 70 pages before I quit. I don’t get what the hype was over this book...I thought it was very laborious to read, and the reward wasn't worth it.

I'm currently reading Sold by by Patricia McCormick, for an online book club.  I'm a third of the way through and will give you my thoughts when I finish it.

I recently thought of a book I read a long time ago, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It’s such a good read. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend this as well.

On reserve for me at the library are Catching Fire and Mockingjay (the second two books in The Hunger Games trilogy), Ape House by Sara Gruen (author of Water for Elephants, which I adored -- read it if you haven't!), Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman, The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard, The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (a recommendation from my friend Krista, another avid reader), and The Red Queen by Phillipa Gregory.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:8-12

Saturday, December 18, 2010

He learned how to play...

...Uno.  And now, that's all we do around here. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Family Guy

I was reminded on facebook today about a story I really need to write down and remember.

Matty was about two and a half; Jack was a baby.  It was a Sunday evening in the fall; we had been watching the Vikings game, but it had ended.  I was in the kitchen, baking, and Cory was playing on the dining room floor with Jack.  I suddenly noticed that Matty was standing next to the recliner, leaning into it with his elbow intently watching an episode of Family Guy that had come on after the game.

I freaked out.
"Cory!  Change the channel!  Look what Matty's watching!"

Matthew sauntered into the kitchen, looks at me and says, "Mommy!  Me and Poppa watch this show when you're not here!"

Uh huh.  Really?  Cory and I exchanged some glances (mine, furious; his; embarassed).

A couple hours later, I was on the computer downstairs.  Matty clearly wasn't done talking about it.  He stood next to my desk, put his hand on his hips and said:

"Mommy.  When you're here, you change the channel.  When Poppa's here, we watch that show.  OKAY?" 

I had to tell him, behind my hands to hide my laughter, that he wasn't the boss and that show is never appropriate for children.

He crossed his arms, gave me a "hmph" and stormed out.

It hasn't happened again.  Now that he's old enough to tattle.  :D

Sharing the Love: Peanut Butter Bark

This is Cory 's (and my) new favorite holiday treat.  It's so super easy and totally delicious.  Try it!

1 lb almond bark
1 c peanut butter
1 c peanuts
1 c rice krispies

Melt almond bark and peanut butter and mix together until smooth.  Pour in bowl over peanuts and rice krispies.  Mix well.  Pour onto wax paper until cool. Break into pieces.


Friday, December 10, 2010

And the Traditions Winner is... childhood friend and dear cousin, Liz!  Watch your mail, girl!

I wish I could send each and every one of you something special for sharing your holiday traditions and memories with me.  It was absolutely positively my favorite blog post ever.  I will go back and read those over and over.  Advent calendars, holiday food, the anticipation and excitement...delicious.  Thank you a thousand times over for sharing!

For those of you who commented on my blog for the first time, thank you.  It was a delight to hear from you...feel free to comment anytime!

I wish you a blessed holiday with nothing but happiness and love.  And tradition.  God bless.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


This drawing has been postponed until tomorrow.  Momma had a crazy busy day.  Thanks for understanding!

Don't forget to comment on this post to be entered for my Christmas gift giveaway tomorrow.  What's the prize, you ask?  I have absolutely no idea.  Something I love at the holidays.  To be revealed tomorrow (I hope you sleep tonight in anticipation!).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sharing the Love: Beef Stew

I had to blog about this one.  For me.  I make it once a month or so and every single time, I have to call my mother.  I can never remember how long to simmer the stew, or how many potatoes to use.  Meals without a recipe are really my favorite to prepare.  But since I love it so much and want to share it with you, I am going to attempt to write it down. 

Beef Stew:

2 T olive oil
1 lb stew meat
1 medium onion
2 - 3 beef boullion cubes
6 - 8 c water
3 - 4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 - 2, carrots sliced or cubed
Seasoning salt
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste

Cut beef into bite-sized pieces.  Season liberally with seasoned salt (I love the Tastefully Simple variety, but Lawrys will do just fine!). 

In large stock pot, heat olive oil.  Add stew meat to pot.  Once browned, add the onions and allow it them to cook for another five minutes or so.  The longer you brown your meat, the darker your stew will be.  I suggest browing it until its almost burned.

Once onions and meat are browned to your satisfaction, add six - eight cups of water to your stockpot (about half full).  Bring to a boil and add beef boullion cubes and bay leaves.  Cover, reduce heat, and continue to simmer for an hour and 15 minutes.   Check the pot periodically to make sure its not reduced greatly.  Feel free to add more water if it is.

After it simmers, add carrots and potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.  Mix the flour with half a cup of water (I shake it in a closed Tupperware), and add to the stew, to thicken.  Stir until its to your desired consistency. You can always add more flour/water mixture if its too thin.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remember to remove bay leaves before serving.

I recommend serving with homemade flat bread!


Thursday, December 2, 2010


I love traditions.  I love love love traditions.  I've been compiling a list of some of my favorites.  I'll be sending a Christmas gift, in a random drawing, to someone on December 8...all you have to do is share one of your favorite traditions -- holiday or otherwise.

My mother used to make Betty Crocker blueberry muffins.  Warm, with a dab of butter, they taste like my childhood. She also used to make caramel rolls on Saturday morning, and cool them on a flattened brown grocery bag.  We'd have them for breakfast on Saturday, and also on Sunday morning.  Oh, how I loved those caramel rolls.

My dad always brought my mom a poinsettia on Christmas and an lily on Easter.  It always made her cry.  I love that memory so much; I've been adding both plants to my holiday table.

My dad didn't like getting up early and rushing before church on Christmas morning.  So, while we went to my Grandma K.'s on Christmas Eve, Santa would come to our house.  My dad would take the "long way" home from town, and we'd be jumping out of our excited skin the whole way.  We'd walk in to loads of gifts Santa had left.  My dad would take his time starting a fire, and my mom would mix some punch (7-Up and green sherbet).  Then we'd do the whole hurrah that night.  In the night, so that we'd have something to wake up to, Santa would come back and fill up our stockings.  Ah, love.  That is a most cherished memory.

Now that I have kids of my own, we've been building our own. Because of shared custody of Cole, we've had to be creative.  We have him Christmas Eve, and Kelly has him Christmas Day.  So, the past couple years, we've had a wonderful family Christmas on December 23.  We go see a movie, have a special dinner (complete with eclairs) and Santa visits us that night, so that we have our own Christmas morning as a family.  I bake a strata and it's a delightful, wonderful holiday with tradition all our own.  We spend either Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with Cory's or vice versa, depending on the year.  But, always, Christmas morning, we go to Christmas Mass with my inlaws.  The liturgy of a Catholic service fills my heart with the real reason we celebrate this holiday and I find, every year, I am so thankful for all of it.  The love, family, and tradition.  I hope my kids remember theirs as fondly as I remember all of mine.

Enjoy the season, my friends!

Sharing the Love: Peanut Butter Temptations

Just in time for the holidays, my guiltiest pleasure.  These cookies are so good.  Peanut blossoms, shmeanut shlossoms.  These are WAY better. 

I got this recipe from my friend Jill a few years ago, and its really the best cookie.  It's soft and moist, not hard and crunchy.  Today, when I was making these, I realized that the Reese's recipe on the candy package is very similar to this one.  Please do yourself a favor this holiday season and make these babies.  You won't regret it. 

Peanut Butter Temptations:

1 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 bags of mini peanut butter cups

In mixing bowl, beat butter, sugars, eggs, peanut butter, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Cover and chill dough.

Roll into walnut-sized balls.  Roll balls in sugar, if desired.  Place in lightly-greased mini-muffin tin. 

Bake at 375 for 8 - 9 minutes.  Immediately after taking out of oven, gently press one peanut butter cup into each cookie.  Cool for 10 or 15 minutes minimum before removing from the muffin tin onto cooling rack to cool. 


Monday, November 29, 2010

Life is Fragile

I have drafted a wonderful post about tradition, which I will post later this week.

On my mind tonight, however, is how fragile life is.  Two weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a friend's husband.  They married in 2004 and adopted a little boy the same age as Jack, as well as are raising a 10 year old stepdaughter.  She had the life so many dream of...a husband, a young family.  Then, in a moment, at 40 years old, he died of a massive heart attack.  And her life changes forever. 

Today, we are mourning the loss of my brother's wife's dad.  He died unexpectedly this afternoon in a tragic accident.  He's 60, surely retirement was in his near future.  And while I didn't know him well, I know my brother and my sister-in-law.  And I know how close they are as a family.  And its impossible to not put myself in their situation and know the grief I would feel if I lost someone that close to me.  And my heart aches.

So, while I'm celebrating the holiday season, I'm also remembering those who have to deal with loss, now and in the past.  And in the midst of their celebrations, must feel tremendous vacancies for their loved ones.  If you are one of them, my prayers are with you.

Life is fragile, be kind.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sharing the Love: Rice Hotdish

This is a family favorite (also called chow mein casserole).  So good on a cold winter night and so super easy.  It has always been Matthew's favorite.  :)

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup (or cream of mushroom)
1 can water
1/2 heaping c uncooked white rice
3/4 lb ground beef
onion and celery

Brown ground beef with onion and celery.

Mix beef with remaining ingredients.  Bake uncovered at 350 for an hour and 15 minutes.  Serve with chow mein noodles, if desired.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I am insanely grateful for so many blessings in my life.  I'll give you a Thanksgiving thankful list as they pop into my head.  :)

1.  My parents, my siblings, my inlaws.  My kids.  My co-mom.  My family.
2.  Cheese.
3.  Sleeping in.
4.  Jesus Christ.
5.  Kindergarten and preschool.  Teachers.
6.  Summer.
7.  New, renewed, and timeless relationships.
8.  Jen, and my childcare swap.
9.  My husbands' job.  The other firefighters.
10. Business.
11. Twitter and Facebook.
12. The Ellen Show.
13. Prime time television.
14. Couch to 5k.
15. Knowledgable doctors.
16. Peanut butter and chocolate.
18. Laughter.
19. The color green.
20. My good health.
21. Paying it forward.
22. Grace.
23. Omertà.
24. Solitude.
25. Love.
Edited to add an important 26. Employment.  Prayers for those of you looking for work.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.  God bless you now and forever.

This and oh, that teenager...

Tonight, Cole was helping the babysitter take care of the boys so I could go to a funeral (another post for another day).

The bathroom was  a disaster (bad), but the kids were freshly bathed (good).

He let them play with the batcave in the bath (questionable), but he rinsed out the tub (good).

He didn't put the trainset back together like I requested (oy), but he did help them clean the toys in their room (yay!).

I got home at the rugrats' bedtime.  I was fighting with them to turn off Monsters Inc. and go brush their teeth.  Cole said, "Hey!  Want me to tell you guys a Thanksgiving story?"  He closed their door for about ten minutes, lest my audience distract him.  Then, when he opened the door and I heard Jack arguing that he was going to have a bad dream, and didn't want to go to bed.  I heard Cole say, "I'll give you something Poppa always used to give me so I wouldn't have bad dreams." 

He came out of the bedroom, got a bowl and re-entered their room.  He asked them both to lie still and close their eyes.  He then sprinkled fairy dust on them.  As he closed their door, he said, "Now, guys, if you dream about pumpkin pie, you'll taste it."

Oh, that teenager.  He's not perfect, but he's wonderful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Elf on a Shelf

If you have small children and are looking to start a Christmas tradition, I strongly recommend this one.  This elf (named by your children, in our house his name is Fredison) comes to visit during the holiday season.  Every night, he goes back to Santa and reports the kids' behavior.  When he comes back, he assumes a new position in another room.  It's such a treat for the kids to wake up each day to see where he's landed for that day (although I've been surprised how creative I've had to be!).

I snuck him out of the box earlier today and put him in their room, and then put the box back in the Christmas bin he came in.  When Matty found it in the decorations, he was floored that Fredison had already magically positioned himself in their room.  They spend time talking to him, and heaven knows I need actual elf eyes to keep them in line!  Ha!  Take that, rugrats.

It comes with a book that we read when we take him out, so they remember the drill.  And we re-read it at the end of the Christmas season, when the elf goes back to spend the rest of the year with Santa.

It's a sweet, magical tradition that I'm so happy we discovered when our kids were still little.  I'm certain its one they'll remember all their lives!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sharing the Love: Scotcharoos

My mom made these when I was a kid.  All the time.  They're so easy and yummy.  If you've never made them, give 'em a whirl:


1 c sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1 c peanut butter
6 c rice krispies
1/2 bag chocolate chips
1/2 bag butterscotch chips

In medium saucepan, mix the corn syrup and sugar.  Over medium heat, heat to almost-boiling.  I always take it off the burner as soon as it boils around the edges and I'm sure the sugar has dissolved (if it heats to a full rolling boil, your bars will be hard as a rock.  Trust me.).  Mix in the peanut butter until smooth and creamy.

Pour the peanut butter mixture over the rice krispies (I always cut the cereal by 1/2 a cup because I like mine extra chewy).  Mix well.  Press into greased 9x13" pan. 

Melt chocolate and buttercotch chips in the microwave for 90 seconds (if they burn, it'll taste very bitter...check and stir every 30 seconds, as microwave speeds vary).  Pour over scotcharoos and allow to firm up before serving.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I have been given many gifts in my life.  None of them compares to the gift of friendship.  My life is so full of amazing relationships:

A friend willing to help me out at a moment's notice.  Without even asking for it.  Who doesn't take no for an answer, and I feel no guilt because I know she wants to.

A friend spending hours and hours and hours talking about life.  About stuff that matters, and stuff that doesn't. 

A friend so loyal it actually makes my heart hurt.

One who accepts my gifts without question, because she has to.

One who loves my children as much as she does her own.

One woman who gets me.  Who has the same world views and spirituality.  A gift beyond measure, to be understood.

A friend who shares.  Who allows me to share back. 

A group of friends, a safehouse, a hiding spot, where I never doubt that I am loved. 

One who does not judge me, but challenges me. 

Friends who allow me to help them buy or sell a home. It's my business, but it's your life.

A friend who reaches out.  One who I thought was disinterested.  And yet, we add value to each others' lives by being there.

A friend who thinks of me.  Without strings or expectations, simply because she cares.

One who makes me laugh until I cannot catch my breath.

One who admires me, even if there is nothing admirable in my character.  Who respects me, who believes in me.

I could not make it without you.  If you found yourself in there, then I am grateful for you.  Thank you for being kind to me, my friend.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Teenager and His Mom

A couple months ago, my stepson's mom (my co-mom), Kelly, told me that she and her boyfriend had put in an offer on a home 45 minutes away.  She was concerned about my reaction, and I think I surprised her when I was immediately supportive.  Cole had already mentioned it, so the surprise factor was missing for one thing.  (And when he told me, I cried.  So I had already crossed that off the list.)

Kelly is a wonderful mom and a really good friend.  She's always been so supportive of me and I would not have been able to be a successful stepmom to Cole without her kindness and support.  She always backs me up.  Always.  And we're a strong united parenting force, and for the rest of my life I will be so grateful for our relatively uncomplicated blended family.  (Disclaimer: No relationship is perfect, and ours is no exception.  But it's really good.)

When I thought about Cole moving away (except for the eight months we were in Iowa, we've never lived more than four miles apart), I was so sad.  The boys will miss him so much.  I will miss him so much.  He's such a wonderful person.  The past year of his life have been amazing.  He's grown into a person I can have regular conversations with.  He's helpful and kind, and calm.  We talk things through and he shares his life with me.  I adore him.

Kelly has spent the past ten years or so raising Cole in a small house in a nearby town.  She has worked hard to make sure his needs were always met.  Now that she's expecting her second baby with her boyfriend, they have definitely outgrown her little house.  And when I think of how supportive she's always been of our life changes (the job in Iowa, our new homes, jobs, etc.), I knew I couldn't withhold my support now. She's going to have a big house with plenty of space for all of them.  And she deserves that. 

Cole is really excited about the move.  And I'm sort of grooving the idea of him going to a smaller high school.  I never missed living in a small town until I had kids of my own.  There is something amazing about growing up knowing all of your classmates.  I will miss that for the rugrats. 

Our visition will naturally change. But when I think of his age (and the fact that he'll be a freshman in high school (high school!  how did that happen already?!), I realize that visitation will probably happen in the  next couple years anyway.  And now that he's older, and presumably well-adjusted, and understands his important role in our family, I think it'll be okay.  We'll hog him on holidays and in the summer, and whatever other time we can steal away.  He knows how much we love him and how much we need him in our lives.  The timing is better than if he were eight or nine.

At the end of the day, it's not perfect, but it's okay.  When I weighed the pros and cons, I realized that it will suit all of us better to be supportive of Kelly and her new opportunity.  I really am so happy for them.  And while I'll miss seeing The Teenager as much, I can't begrudge anyone this change.

Over and over I am grateful that my life gave me all this.  That Kelly has been so kind and loving and more than anything, so supportive of my role as Cole's stepmom.  I wish them God's blessings in their new home as they settle in later this year and wish them nothing but happiness.  I'm willing to shelve my selfish feelings and our time with Cole for their growing family.  Because many times over, she's done that for me.  I am SO blessed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall Photo

The teenager, the fivester, the threester and a stick.  Oh, how I love my boys.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

These Boys

They make me smile.
They make me nuts.
Their innocence humbles me.
They ask me hard questions.
They give me easy answers.
They see things I don't see.
They trust me.
They have so much to learn.
They are good friends that fight alot.
They are my Purpose.
I love them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The President

A note from my sweet overseas friend:

"Hi Leanne

So, elections-time again - go tell your friends to be proud of the President! He had REALLY hard odds, and people might be disappointed (the media tell me the Americans are disappointed), but I am convinced that no other person in that chair would have been able to do as good a job as Obama. With any other president everything would have been much worse.

That's all, happy elections :-)"

Boy, I love her.  And the president.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reading Update

It dawns on me that I haven't shared my reading list with you recently!  These are the books I read the past two months:

Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay
Liked it.  I thought the first half was better than the second, but it's definitely thought-provoking and reminds us that there has been/is much suffering in the world.

Spellmans Strike Again, Lisa Lutz
Loved all four books in this series!

The Millenium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Loved all three books in this series!

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
Good, not great.  I found myself skimming it, and it was pretty sad.
Comanche Moon, Larry McMurty
I love all of his books, although nothing will ever top Lonesome Dove.
Pigs in Heaven, Barbara Kingsolver
I'm having a love affair with this author.  She's amazing.
Books on reserve at the library:
Ape House, Sara Gruen
Choosing to See, Mary Beth Chapman
Dirty Sexy Politics, Meghan McCain
(this woman intrigues strong gay woman with a powerful father, both of whom are Republicans.  I'd like to get inside her head for a moment and find out why she supports a political party that )
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
The Good Daughters, Joyce Maynard
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
At home I have:
Streets of Laredo, Larry McMurty
I, Elizabeth, Rosalind Miles (love me some good historical fiction!)
How about you?  Read anything good lately?  I love recommendations!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


This year's costumes.

Jack was going to be a puppy, but fell in love with this skeleton costume at Kmart.  And since it was 50% off, I let him get it.  He might be the cutest skeleton ever.  He said his mask was "stinky" but wouldn't take it off. 

Matty first wanted to be the Scream ghost, then a ninja, but fell in love with this Transformer costume...evidently is Bumblebee, but I didn't know the he had ever seen Transformers and knew who Bumblebee was (am I already losing touch with my children??)

Cole wasn't going to dress up, but we convinced him to do a pirate costume.  I don't think this even looks like him.  He's such a cool kid.  (new Cole post coming soon.)

I love my dressed-up boys.  So much.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just Keep Swimming...

I miss my Halloween babies.  I almost shouldn't pull up old photos because they make me cry.

Matthew -- October 2005 (5 months)

Jack -- October 2007 (6 months)

(startling how similar they looked at this age!)

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hockey Mom

I grew up in a hockey family.  My dad played Old Bucks on Friday nights.  My brothers played in high school.  I watched more Zion (Illinois) ZeeBee's hockey games my sophomore year than my own high school team.  I'm loud in the stands -- so loud, in fact, that my dad stopped sitting by me in or around 1993.  Last year, my mom bought me an LDC hockey sweatshirt for my birthday.  My first one ever.  I love it, even though it has my maiden name on it, which was a happy accident on her part, since I've primarily let my maiden name go (another post for another day...).

I needed to blog about what just happened to me.  It's significant.  Huge.  I became a Hockey Mom.  When Cory and I were dating, I told him I wanted six boys.  A hockey team.  It was a running joke for a long time among those who know us.  We have three boys, and the middle one is now starting his hockey career.

It's time consuming.

It's expensive.  (my estimate, if he plays traveling teams -- by the time he starts high school hockey, we'll have spent between $5,000 on registration fees alone, not including gear or the actual travel expenses.  And that's just one kid. If Jack plays, we're going to have to sell our cars and refinance our home. Oy.)

But it's WICKED FUN.

Seriously, watching my little boy on the ice this weekend, my eyes just teared up.  He's decent on skates, but there's no way to know what his ability will be.  So long as he enjoys playing, I'll spend the time and the money.  There is no comparison to sitting on those bleachers, watching my boy handle a stick for the first time.  I can't even imagine how it's going to feel when he plays a game. 

I am a Hockey Mom.  An answered prayer, one I had completely forgotten about.  Gratitude.

(Now I just gotta figure out a system to air out hockey gear.  Ick.)

Sharing the Love: Meatloaf Pie

I wish I had a photo of this's so good.  I'm putting it on my menu for this week!

1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 c chopped onion
1/4 c bread crumbs
1/2 tsp sage leaves*
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 (1 lb 8 oz) pkg refrigerated mashed potatoes**
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c diced tomato, optional
2 slices precooked bacon, chopped, optional***
2 medium green onions, chopped, optional

Mix beef, onion, breadcrumbs, sage, salt, and egg until well blended. Press in bottom of 8" square ungreased baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes evenly over top. Sprinkly evenly with cheese (I added the cheese at the 30 minute mark instead).

Bake uncovered at 350 for about an hour (the recipe says 50 minutes, but my meatloaf was still a little pink then). Meat thermometer should read 160 degrees in the center of beef mixture.

Sprinkle with tomato, bacon, and onions.

*I always skip the sage
**I usually use sour cream/chive potatoes, and I'm partial to Bob Evan's brand.
***Two slices is for wusses.  Put at least four. 


Friday, October 15, 2010

Plymouth Fire Department 50th Anniversary

This year, we are celebrating the Plymouth Fire Department's 50th Anniversary.  I am proud to be part of such a great organization.  Thankful for Chief Kline's acknowledgment of firefighter spouses who stand behind those who work hard and commit to such an unstructured (and sometimes inconvenient) job.  It meant a lot to me, and likely to the other spouses in attendance.

The highlight of the evening was a "Panel Discussion" but should have been called "Reminisce" or similar.  Two retired firefighters, Chuck Scharlau and Butch Evenson joined two current firefighters, Rick Luth and Tom Evenson in a heart-warming, hilarious, and completely charming series of stories -- some sad, some happy -- of their experiences over the years.  It's good to listen to the old-timers.  I wish someone had videotaped their accounts, because it was as much the delivery as it was the content.  At the end, we gave them a much-deserved standing ovation for their years of service. 

The light was terrible, this was the best shot I could get.

It was a great night with friends.  I am sorry I didn't take more photos of everyone out in their finest, but it just was a quiet night for my shutter.  I do, however, have it forever imprinted on my heart.  Gratitude.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sharing the Love: Farmer's Strata

This is one of my favorite breakfast dishes.  I made it for the first time for a bridal shower when I lived in Arizona and have made it countless times in thirteen years since (wow!  has it been thirteen years?!).  We made too much, so my sweet friend Peg ate it for days afterwards.  (Miss you, Peg.)

Additionally, it's our Christmas morning and Easter morning breakfast.  You make it the day before, so it's easy peasy on holiday mornings!

(ugh. i am not a food photgrapher!)

1 lb sliced bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 c chopped ham
1 small onion
10 slices white bread, cubed
1 c cubed cooked potatoes
3 c shredded cheddar cheese
8 eggs
3 c milk
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
salt & pepper

In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp, add ham and onion.  Cook and stir until onion is tender; drain.  In a greased 9 x 13 baking dish, layer half the bread cubes, potatoes and cheese.  Top with all of the bacon mixture.  Repeat layers of bread, potatoes, and cheese.  In a bowl, beat the eggs; add milk, Worstershire, mustard, salt and pepper.  Pour over all.

Cover and chill overnight.

Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.  Bake, uncovered, at 325 for 65 - 70 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. 

My notes:

*I use other ingredients sometimes.  Feel free to add green pepper, mushrooms, sausage (spicy breakfast sausage is Cory's fave), or substitute swiss (Gruyère, Andy?) for cheddar.  Make it your own. That's the beauty of a brunch strata!

*frozen hash browns work great for the potatoes.

*Crusty bread is better that regular white bread.  French bread, or my absolute fave: asiago cheese loaf.  YUM.


Monday, October 4, 2010

The Captain

My husband would never brag.  If it were up to him, he'd never even share with the general public big things that happen in his life, but he's married to me and let's face it: I would.  This post is dedicated to my husband -- the hardest working, hottest firefighter anywhere.

We spent the first couple years of our marriage formulating a plan for our life.  We are very aware that life doesn't always go according to our will, but in accordance to my character, we roughed it out anyway.  We talked about children, our careers, retirement. 

In order for Cory to advance his career as a firefighter, we knew there were a lot of things he'd have to accomplish: education, training, hard work, consistent commitment.  He's done all of that.  He obtained his fire science degree by taking two classes at a time (at the same time as working three jobs + be a parent and husband), attended additional trainings and has taken every opportunity the fire departments afforded him.  It's been a lot of hard work.  And a lot of sacrifice.

Today, for the first time, we are celebrating a major reward of that hard work: the fireslayer was promoted to the position of Captain at the airport fire department.  There were several other very qualified candidates for the position, and we wish them our best.

I have no doubt he'll do an excellent job in this position and I am so proud to be his wife.

Thank you, God, for this opportunity.  Please continue to protect him and firefighters everywhere as they serve their communities.  Give them courage and return them safely to their families.  Give Cory wisdom and humility in his new postion.  Amen.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Easy to Love. With an L.

These guys fill me up.  Every day.  As hard as life is sometimes, I can count on them for a smile or a hug. 

Matty:  Mom, do you have any tricky letters in your name?
Me:  Well, I have an L...
Matty:  L's are easy. That's just two lines.

I'm glad my name doesn't start with a tricky letter like S.  Or P. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sharing the Love: Flatbread

My mom always made flatbread with soup.  I remember most:  ham chowder, navy bean with ham, and beef stew. A loaf of this bread for dunking makes those meals even more comforting (if that's possible...ah, soup.).  She probably didn't use a breadmaker when I was a kid, but that's the recipe I'm sharing with you.  Knead and rise, knead and rise?  No thanks.

Sandy's Flatbread

9 - 11 oz warm water
2 T butter
3 1/4 c flour
2/3 c oatmeal
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 T brown sugar
2 T (one pkg) yeast

Put ingredients in breadmaker according to its instructions (mine is in the order I listed them, with the yeast in a valley in the flour and the other ingredients heaped around the edges). 

Run the dough cycle.

When dough is risen, shape the into an oval on a lightly-greased baking sheet.   Puncture all over with a fork.  (No idea why...maybe that's for show?)  Rise for 30 minutes in a warm kitchen.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Slice bread in strips, butter and dunk into soup.

Notes: I'm terrible at measuring.  While it's mixing, if it seems dry, add water.  If it seems too moist, add flour.  Wow.  Helpful, huh?  Also, honey is a fine substitute for brown sugar.  This bread is best the same day.  You could freeze it that day, but it seems to dry out quickly.  If anyone has suggestions for that, I'd love to hear them!


Sunday, September 19, 2010


To start out a new week -- and take a little break from the recipes -- I thought I'd post something topical.  I recognize that this is a hot topic, and I know the opposing side of my argument.  Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments, as always.

We've been having a bit of a conflict in the US of A.  Well, we've been having a few, but this is the one I want to talk about.  In case you've been living under a rock, I thought I'd inform you that there is a group of Americans who want to build a Muslim community center in Manhattan.  The proposed site is near Ground Zero, and many Americans think it's disprespectful to the memory of the lives lost to build it near the place of the September 11 attacks.  Truth is, there was a mosque there previously (as well Muslim religious facilities within the Twin Towers themselves). 

The argument has become: does religious freedom exist in America?  "Tasteful" or otherwise, the project has been deemed perfectly legal.  The outcome is yet undetermined. The funds aren't even in place to actually build the community center, and the plan isn't to construct it in the immediate future.  But, in my humble opinion, that's not the real issue.  The issue is whether or not we're assuming that all Muslims are terrorists.  It turns out that a great many Americans are making that assumption.

Then, just before September 11 of this year, a pastor in Florida by the name of Terry Jones tried to start a "holiday" called National Burn a Quran Day.  Luckily, he called it off, but not before he posed as a Christian representative to the rest of the world.  If the terrorists are a case of extreme Islam, then Pastor Jones is surely an example of extreme Christianity.  And I feel sad about that image.  I realize that most Christians don't feel the way Pastor Jones does, but with the press he received and the attention we all gave validated his opinion.  So loving, isn't it...burning another person's holy book?  So kind, isn't it...spewing that kind of hatred for an entire group of people?

I've always maintained that one of President Obama's major accomplishments has been restoring our reputation in the world.  I think he is a great diplomat, and the rest of the world listens.  In the midst of the controversy, he made a statement (in part, please feel free to seek out the entire speech):

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

Last week, out of the blue, I got an email from a friend of mine in Denmark.  She and I have recently become reacquainted and I assume she knew little of my political opinions prior to this email.  When I asked her if I could post her email on my blog her response was:  "Go ahead and post it, whatever it takes to change the mind of just one person ;-)"

So. Here it is. Enjoy.

"By the way, I wanted to congratulate you on your president (Obama) again! I heard parts of his speech on 9/11 - or the day before - in which he insisted that we should not fight muslims but terrorists and that if you could build a church or a synagogue, then you could build a mosque as well. I really do believe that he is doing a HUGE leap for world peace saying those things. People in the entire world listens to what he is saying, and I know that for the many Muslims in Europe, this is so important. Especially the young Muslims here, when they become teenagers they often get this "who-am-I?" feeling, because they realize they are not REALLY turks (or whereever their parents come from) and if they feel excluded from the West as well, their only identity is being fundamental, extreme Muslims. However, when Obama says those things about being equal, I think they feel welcome and included and part of the society they live in. And it is strange, that what the American president says has this effect on Europeans - but that's just the way it is :-)"

So don't take it from me.  Take it from my sweet friend in Europe, who offers us another perspective and gives us something else to mull over.  We are not the only citizens of the world.  I think we'd do ourselves a service by looking outside of our own lives and loving everyone.  And as Christians, let our light truly shine.  Not only when it's painless and comfortable, but all the time.  Instead of carrying around signs of protest that speak of hatred and fear, can we not reach out with love?  Especially in a time when the world is fragile and people are hurting...can we not seek out peace?

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:15-16

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pork Schnitzel

I made these tonight, kind of by accident.  I thought I had no meat for dinner, but I found a pack of four pork chops in my freezer, so I called my mom and asked how to bake them.  (I think I've made pork chops twice.  Both times on the grill.)  She gave me this recipe out of the Betty Crocker cookbook and it was superb.  A definite make-again.

Pork Schnitzel
4 - 6 pork chops (mine were bone-in)
6 T vegetable oil
1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c bread crumbs
2 tsp seasoned salt*
2 tsp paprika
2 eggs
1/4 c milk

For Schnitzel sauce:
1 can chicken broth (divided)
2 T flour
1 c sour cream
1/2 tsp dill

Mix eggs and milk.  Pour into shallow bowl.
Mix flour, bread crumbs and seasonings in shallow bowl.

Season chops with seasoning salt.  Dip them in egg mixture, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture until completely coated.  Pour 3 T vegetable oil into frying pan.  Add pork chops (two at a time) to oil and cook over medium-high heat 4 - 5 minutes/side, or until juices run clear.  Remove from heat.

In small bowl, blend flour and 1/2 c chicken broth for thickening sauce.

When chops are cooked, pour the rest of the chicken broth into your frying pan.  Use the broth to deglaze the pan.  Slowly pour broth/flour mixture into the pan, and heat to boiling.  Turn off heat and stir in sour cream and dill.

Serve sauce over pork chops.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jack-Jack's Turn

We've been so focused on kindergarten around here that we didn't start talking to Jack about starting Sunday School and preschool until this week.  Which is about right for a three-year-old's attention span anyway!  It's been a TON of fun for him, although he's still a little uncertain about me leaving him alone. That won't last, though, I know it.  He had a great time at his orientation for preschool tonight.  I cannot believe this day is here.

His new SPARKS Bible from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.
CrossRoads Pre-K at New Hope Church.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sharing the Love: Apple Crisp

A friend asked for apple crisp recipes, so this is my recipe. It's ultra traditional and best served warm, with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel.  (In your fall apple baking, don't forget about this beauty!)

Apple Crisp:

10 c apples, sliced
1 c sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c water

Mix apples, sugar, flour and cinnamon and pour into lightly-greased baking dish.  Pour water over apple mixture.

1 c oatmeal
1 c flour
1 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 c butter, melted

Mix the above and spread over apples.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly.