Monday, January 31, 2011

Microwave Pralines Recipe and Monday Meal Plan

I made these pralines during the holidays. I wasn't sure how they would turn out since I've never made pralines in the microwave but they turned out really well and it was so much easier than using a candy thermometer and stirring nonstop. I love that they have only 4 ingredients, but I do wish that any of these ingredients were good for you.
Ingredients:
1 lb. brown sugar
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 T. butter
2 cups toasted pecan halves
Stir brown sugar and whipping cream together. Microwave in 2-minute intervals until the sugar melts, stirring occasionally. The length of time will depend on the strength of your microwave, but mine took about 10 minutes. Remove from the microwave and stir in butter and pecan halves. Stir vigorously until the mixture begin to thicken. Working very quickly drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper and let sit until firm. Makes about 36 pralines.

Monday Meal Plan

This is the last week that I had planned out, but we have a few meals from the previous weeks that we haven't eaten and my parents are coming in this weekend so I know we will eat out on one of those days so I think I will be able to stretch the schedule to last one more week after this one. That's longer I can prolong going back to Wal-Mart! Ryan went with Bailey today to pick up the necessary basics like milk and bread so we are set for a while longer.

Monday-Empanadas

Tuesday-Spicy Black Bean Soup

Wednesday-Roast chicken

Thursday-Potato soup

Friday-Chicken and bacon ranch quesadillas or chicken fajitas

Saturday-Peas, sausage, and cornbread

Sunday-BBQ chicken pizza on naan


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekly Reflection

Okay, I have to be honest-it isn't Sunday. I am backdating my reflection because it was supposed to be on Sunday, but I was still thinking then. Not surprising since it was three weeks after New Year's before I set my goals in the first place. Sometimes I feel like I move at a whole different pace than most of the world, but I don't guess that's a bad thing.

Today is not a poetry day, but it was a hard day in some ways and I kept going back to "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver-

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
It's comforting and humbling to remember that "meanwhile the world goes on". Everything continues in the same cycles and the same paths-helps to keep things in perspective.
This week has been a week to think about balance-mostly because it is so hard to keep. I have also noticed how the way I am feeling about things changes through the week-I feel like I am accomplishing less as the week goes on even though this isn't true. I think I have too many expectations for what I should do on the weekend and I get disappointed with myself. I tend to do things from least liked to most liked so I get all of the unfun stuff or things for other people done but then I am out of time. I also find that when I reflect back on the week the beginning of the week seems about a year ago-it is almost hard to remember so if I did something earlier in the week I almost forget about it. I'm not sure how to bring better perspective to time so this doesn't happen.
Read More Poetry
I did do this. I read through "Good Poems" and marked things that stood out to copy and reflect on more later. I went too fast, which totally defeats the point but it's a library book so I wanted to be able to return it. Balance issue here-I went too quickly and I knew I was doing it so even though I read I felt like it mostly did not get absorbed. I didn't feel particularly enriched by this, I felt more enriched by sitting and reading "Wild Geese" for 30 minutes today.
Take More Pictures
Did this-took a few during the week and then went and did Valentine's pictures with Bailey at the Lakefront on Saturday. Thank goodness, because the weather was bad Sunday and now it is freezing cold.
Create More
I spent more time this weekend playing with Photoshop. I bought some actions from Paint the Moon and edited the Valentine's pictures. Time passes way too quickly on the computer and even though I upgraded I am still hitting a learning curve. I finished on Sunday afternoon and I was able to move a lot faster. Balance issue-I spent all my time on the computer and didn't do anything else and even though I am very happy with the results doing computer stuff is just not the same to me as doing something hands on. I made Valentine's decorations for my house on Monday and decorated the mantle, but it seems so long ago. I also made cookies and granola this weekend, finally. I have been wanting to do the granola for a month and never go to it.
Exercise More
I guess more is relative. I exercised more than someone who did nothing. I did yoga once, but then I had to return the DVD to the library and I didn't do anything else. Bailey even asked to do yoga two or three times-I need to listen to her!
Reflect More
I guess I should revise this so it doesn't include getting up earlier because maybe that isn't going to happen. I felt like I alternated between working to be present and aware and totally wasting time and having no idea why this week. That could be why it took me two extra days to process enough to do my reflection. I feel like this goal is in progress.
Maintain a Welcoming Home
We did great until Wednesday and then we skipped a few days. This happened last week too-hump day is bad for cleaning. We caught back up on the weekend.
Connect More
I went to Bunco Thursday which was fun and made plans with one of the other ladies to get together in a few weeks and make bows. We also talked about doing a crafty group every few months and there was some interest in that so I am going to try to get some things together that we could do. I wanted to go to Dress a Girl around the World at church but Bailey woke us up in the middle of the night and then I slept too late so I didn't make it, but maybe next time. I sent out some cards of thanks for things this week too-sitting and writing what I am specifically thankful for was very centering-I feel like it is a little weird, but hopefully a nice weird. The world needs more of that. I am making an effort in this area, and it is an effort because I feel like I am putting myself out there more which is scary but I am finding things come back to me-different ways, different people, but back nonetheless.
Write
Still no. I have the same two sentences I did before. Still a great big chicken.
Be Open to Spiritual Growth
We missed small group this week because I made spaghetti bolognaise without reading the entire recipe, which I should have done because it had to bake for a long time and it wasn't ready for us to leave. I am still going through The Purpose Driven Life. I don't have too much to say about that except that I am trying. I am still in Matthew in The Message translation. I am still loving that verse...Just be there, as simply and honestly as you can.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Valentine's Mantle Makeover

In my reflection on Sunday I mentioned that I would like to decorate my mantle, and as soon as I published the post I saw an update for a mantle linky party in my blog roll. It was a sign-the universe wants me to decorate my mantle! I bought some red and black tulle at Wal-Mart to go across the top, and used stuff I had at home for the rest. I took the pictures out of my frames and cut Valentine's themed scrapbook paper to go into them, and used the same paper to cut some freehand paper hearts to string across the mantle. This is my first foray into Valentine's decorating, but I think it turned out pretty cute!

To check out more mantles decorated for Valentine's day you can swing by the linky party
http://www.thestoriesofa2z.com/2011/01/valentines-mantel-linky-party-mantle.html

I also swapped out the pictures in the frames on my sofa table for a Valentine's theme. I have a few more things I want to swap out to be more seasonal in my entry and living room, but I have to make one more quick Wal-Mart run before I can finish so those pictures will have to wait! I have been intimidated by the mantle, but now I feel like I have conquered it and am already thinking about Easter. Hmmm...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spaghetti Bolognaise Recipe and Monday Meal Plan

This is a recipe from one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. I have had it in my recipe binder for a long time but never made it before. I think this was the most delicious smelling thing that I have ever made. It was really good, but I think smelling it was better than actually eating!

Kinda Spaghetti Bolognaise - Serves 4
10 slices bacon
1 Tbsp dried rosemary
olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 wineglass red wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1 14oz. can of tomatoes
1 6oz. can tomato paste
1 lb spaghetti
Optional: Fresh basil, grated parmesan cheese



Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare the sauce in an oven safe pot. Fry the bacon and rosemary in olive oil until golden, then add the onion and garlic and fry for 3 more minutes until softened. Add the ground beef and stir for 2 or 3 minutes, then add wine. Reduce slightly, then add the oregano, tomatoes, and tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil.

Cover the sauce and place in the oven for an hour and a half. Toward the end of the cooking time cook spaghetti and drain. Just before serving add some fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.


I made this with a Cabernet Sauvignon which was perfect and topped it with real parmesan reggiano (a little goes a long way). Lovely! The hands on time was about 20 minutes.
Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday-Ham and cheese calzones
Monday-Spaghetti Bolognaise
Tuesday-Tortilla Chicken
Wednesday-Chickpea Potato Curry
Thursday-Jambalaya
Friday-Baked chicken and Lentils
Saturday-Roll ups with bacon and peas

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekly Reflection

I feel like this has been a good week overall. It started off well because we had Monday off of work and I had a chance to make some things and have family downtime. Bailey had tonsilitis again, which is always hard because there is nothing I can do to make her feel better any faster, but her antibiotics started working quickly and she is back to her normal self. She was outside today running all over the yard calling, "come here Momma!" It was nice to see her run and play instead of cry and whine. We also made a visit to the hospital Friday night, but everything was fine and my mother and father in law drove over to so we wouldn't have to wake up Bailey and take her with us. Sophie kicked the fetal monitor most of the time they were checking, so there was no doubt that she was moving around in there!

As far as goals go, I have been making an effort to think about them through the day and even though I don't "feel" like I have really accomplished much I did meet most of my goals for the week. I'm not sure what that means exactly about me or about my goals, but anyway...

Read more poetry-I have been reading Mary Oliver because I love the way she writes about nature and the simple things in life. She recognizes the wildness in things, which makes me think about being in the redwoods which was the wildest, freest feeling place that I have ever been. Ryan said he was surprised because he hasn't seen me read poetry in a long time. I told him that's because last year's goal was to understand poetry but this year I have downgraded to just reading.

Take more pictures-For some reason I don't feel like I have, but I have taken pictures every day. Not great ones. Not even good ones. But it is still better than nothing. Honestly, Ryan has taken quite a few pictures too, if not more than me-Thanks babe!

Create more-I haven't done any major projects, but I did make treats and the play doh and I spent most of the weekend playing with a free trial of Elements 9 (a major upgrade from my previous version which was Elements 4). I had a conversation with a friend and teacher at school about actions and that combined with the hospital visit was the perfect excuse to park my butt on the couch and fiddle with it for hours. I love all the possibilities, but I don't want something else that will be time consuming because as fun as it is there just isn't that same sense of gratification that I get when I spend the same amount of time making something with my hands.

Exercise More-I have been doing prenatal yoga with Bailey, which is not exactly relaxing but it still counts. And she is so cute-she says, "Yoga mommy!".

Reflect More-no, not at all in the way that I have intended. The way I intend to do this involves getting up when Ryan goes to get in the shower and sitting quietly. I haven't gotten past the getting up part yet, but it is still a goal! I will get up! I have done a lot of thinking and reflection in other ways though.

Maintain a welcoming Home-Yay for the chore list! I hate cleaning, but Ryan is now the official mopper so that makes it much better. We missed a day but got caught up the next day so this is going great. I would like to move a little further and decorate my mantle and put up some seasonal decorations, but for now I am happy to just have done the chore list.

Connect More-We started date night again after a long lapse and we are taking turns planning. This week is my turn to plan and I found a website with lots of great ideas beyond watching a movie or playing a game so I am excited about that.

Write-no, not at all. Sigh. Again. If I didn't really want to do it I wouldn't make it a goal, because I get frustrated at myself for never doing it. Wait, I did write two sentences! I can't be excited about that because really it is just sad, but it is still a beginning.

Be Open to Spiritual Growth-Last Sunday our pastor had a verse from Matthew in his notes that said (in reference to prayer)..."Just be there as simply and honestly as you can. The focus will shift from you to God and you will begin to feel his grace." This was The Message translation which I have never read, but I went to Books-a-Million after church and bought a small New Testament in that translation and have been reading it. I love that verse-I feel like it just sums up everything that I want out of myself and life right now. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can... We also started out Purpose Driven Life small groups this week. I am not so sure about that, but I am trying. Really I am. It would be easier to take seriously if the guy didn't wear such ridiculous clothes on the video-it makes me question his overall judgement.

I have given a lot of thought this week to what it means to be an authentic person instead of compartmentalizing all over the place. I have been thinking a lot about what it really is to just be, simply and honestly. I have been thinking about my colleague Karon Granger that passed away last month from the same cancer as my grandmother and another colleague and friend that had a baby just a few days later. I also read a post on time management in which the author talks about what her goals and priorities are, but also all of the things she doesn't do. I love this list-I love that there are great things on there that she is completely okay with not worrying at all about doing and that she is clear enough about what she wants to identify those things and put them out there. I keep going back and rereading it and I will probably end up printing it out and sticking it somewhere, because I found this so refreshing and honest and centering. I feel like there are so many things that I should want to do, and I would like to be a person that would do them, but I'm just not. And it's okay.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Homemade Play-Doh

Earlier this week I made Play-Doh for Bailey using a recipe from a great crafty blog Brown Paper Packages. We had all the ingredients here at home and it took about 15 minutes. Bailey helped me measure and stir the ingredients and picked the colors, and then I cooked it on the stove and mixed the colors up. I used gel based colors which I learned are not that easy to wash off, but mixing the play doh up was super easy. Today we pulled it out again, and it even smelled like the Play Doh from the store!

Recipe for DIY Play Doh:
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 t. cream of tartar
2 cups water
2 T. vegetable oil
Food coloring

Mix the first 3 ingredients together, then stir in water and vegetable oil and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the dough to wax paper and separate into sections. Add in food coloring and knead until dough is cooled and a uniform color. Glitter and Kool-aid can be added in for play doh that is sparkly and scented.


We did a little anger management, counting, and picking out colors. Fun!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fun Photo Wednesday

This is not a new picture, but I got it off of my mother in law's camera during the holidays and I think it is sooooo cute...Lots of changes from one to two!
Bailey having bedtime fun. PILLOWS!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chicken Salsa Soup Recipe and Monday Meal Plan

My recipe for today is one of my grandmother's. It is similar to Tortilla Soup, but is lighter and easy to make. She called for boneless, skinless chicken breast but I substitute shredded roast chicken instead. For me, this uses up part of the roast chicken leftovers or rotisserie chicken leftovers. Using roasted chicken makes this a super fast recipe. I was also able to use up the end of a jar of salsa in the refrigerator and stale corn chips from the pantry!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1-2 tsp. chili powder
dash cumin
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup thick & chunky salsa
2 oz monterey jack cheese
tortilla chips

Combine all of the ingredients but the cheese and tortilla chips and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Crush tortilla chips into the bottom of bowls and serve the soup over the chips. Top with cheese.


My meal plan this week was a challenge since I am trying to use as much as possible of what is in the freezer and pantry already. We are so bad about buying something and then finding an unopened bag of the same thing in the freezer. I actually made a 3 week plan and did a 3 week shop to work through most of what is left and to also find ways to use the leftovers and we did a fast 40 minute power shop through Wal-Mart this morning so we should be set for a while. We will have to go back for milk, bread, and cheese but I think Ryan and Bailey can handle that without me.
Monday-Chicken Salsa Soup
Tuesday-Global Salad with Tuna Sandwiches
Wednesday-Slow Cooker beef with Broccoli and Brown Rice
Thursday-BBQ Chicken Pizza on Naan
Friday-Black Bean Burger Wraps with Carrots
Saturday-Soft Tacos with Fajita Beef and Corn
Sunday-Ham and Cheese Calzones with Steamed Vegetables
What are you having for dinner this week?

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