Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wheat-Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread


As you know, I've been baking my own breads, wheat-free, from scratch. It's a lot of work, so I thought I'd buy a pre-made, wheat-free mix. Bob's Red Mill is my favorite brand of wheat-free flour products. This bag was expensive though: $6.19!! But, if I made it myself, it would also cost a lot because I would still have to buy the regular wheat-free flour, which is anywhere from $3.50 - $4.25 for a bag this size.

I was really impressed with how easy this recipe is. Since all the dry ingredients are all in the bag, I only had to add water, oil, and eggs. The final product is delicious and just like real bread, but it must be toasted and have butter on it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Baked Apples


I wanted to make a "healthy" dessert option for myself for Christmas Eve, so I chose this baked apple recipe from Cooking Light. The recipe is meant to be part of a Christmas Morning Breakfast, but I thought it would work for a dessert too. But, after making Chocolate Mousse, I just didn't have it in me to also make the baked apples. So I made the recipe a couple days later for breakfast, and it is very good, especially with vanilla ice cream!


2 cups dried cranberries
1 ¼ cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 Gala Apples, cored and chopped (about 3 pounds)

Combine all ingredients in a large microwave-safe dish. Microwave at HIGH 20 minutes or until apples are soft, stirring occasionally. Yield: 6 cups (serving size ¼ cup).

Chop the nuts and apples the night before, and combine with the rest of the ingredients in the morning. Serve these juicy baked apples over slices of Spiced Pumpkin Bread, warm bowls of oatmeal, or pancakes. Ida Red and McIntosh apples also work well.
*Note, I used 3 Gala apples and 3 Granny Smith.

Recipe from Cooking Light.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cider Glazed Carrots


This is the second time I've made these delicious carrots. The recipe is from Cooking Light, and is meant to be part of a larger holiday meal, which is why they mention boiling the carrots the day before.

Cider Glazed Carrots
9 cups (3-inch) julienne-cut carrot (about 2 ½ pounds)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons buter
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Place carrot in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 1 minute or until tender. Drain.

Combine brown sugar and remaining ingredients except parsley in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook until butter melts, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium; add carrots. Cook 3 minutes or until carrots are glazed and thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with chopped parsley; toss to combine. Yield: 12 servings (serving size about 2/3 cup).

-Cider vinegar gives these carrots the flavor of an apple cider reduction, but in a fraction of the time. To get a head start, boil the carrots a day ahead. Refrigerate tem in a zip-top bag, then sauté just before serving.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My New Telephoto Lens



Hubby got me this image stabilizing telephoto lens for Christmas!! I really wanted it, and now I have it! Thanks hubby!

With my new telephoto lens, I was able to get this close up picture of one of our bird houses.
I also got this picture of the snow, without having to put shoes on!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Initiation

I guess it's a tradition of one of hubby's great uncles to put stupid stuff in the Christmas cards he sends out. I've been married to hubby for seven years now and we have never received anything special in our Christmas card. I didn't even know Uncle M did this. However, this year, he decided to initiate us to his ways. On Wednesday, I opened the card from Uncle M to find these pictures included:

Hubby looking smashing at some high school function.

And hubby with girlfriend at said event. Yep, that's not me; I didn't know Donivan in high school. Luckily she looks pretty nice and harmless - except for the fact that she's wearing an old-fashioned wedding dress! If it weren't for the blue and silver fabric and the column behind them, it could be a wedding picture! Thanks Uncle M; I sure got a laugh out of this.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning Hash Browns



Christmas Morning Hash Browns
10 potatoes, grated
8 oz. sour cream
½ cup melted butter
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 cup grated cheese

Mix together in a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

You can make this the night before and keep in the fridge until ready to cook in the morning. And to make it even easier, I used frozen shredded hash browns. But since the hash browns were frozen into a chunk, I did have to remix it this morning (after keeping it in the fridge overnight), but still that’s was easier than doing the potatoes from scratch. If you do this, I suggest two bags of shredded potatoes for a full recipe. I made a half recipe this morning since there’s only three of us, and I wasn’t sure if hubby would like the potato dish. He turned his nose up at me when I told him what was in it, but this morning, he was able to gobble down a big helping. I LOVE Christmas Morning Hash Browns.

Recipe from my Aunt Amy

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chocolate Mousse


I just made Chocolate Mousse for our Christmas Eve dessert. I think it will be delicious (I can't eat it because of the raw eggs - I'm pregnant, and because of the immense amount of dairy in it), but I wanted to make something special for our guests.

I have two tips: note that the recipe calls for egg yolks, not whites. So, use the yellow part of the egg. I know this seems silly, but yours truly first did it with egg whites. Luckily I caught my mistake before I ruined the whole recipe. My second tip is to always crack your eggs into a separate bowl first, one by one, and once verifying that there are no egg shells or blood (yes, this happened to me today), then dump the egg into your recipe. I was sure saved by this today. That bloody egg was gross!

Chocolate Mousse
6 ounces (175 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) heavy whipping cream
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
Garnish:
Fresh Raspberries
Shaved Chocolate

In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Set aside but keep the bowl over the warm water so the chocolate will stay slightly warm.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Refrigerate, covered, until needed.

Place the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Boil until the sugar dissolves, a minute or two. This produces a sugar syrup. Then, whisking constantly, pour the boiling syrup over the egg yolks. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly (can use a hand mixer on low speed) until the mixture is thick and light in color. This mixture should be hot to the touch. (About 10 minutes)

Remove the bowl from the heat and, working quickly, scrape the egg mixture into a clean large bowl of your electric mixer. On medium speed (or with a hand mixer) beat until the volume has doubled and the bottom of the bowl is completely cool to the touch. Turn speed to low, and beat in the warm melted chocolate until well combined. Fold in half the reserved whipped cream and then fold in the remaining cream. The mixture should resemble softly whipped cream. This can be used immediately or refrigerated, covered, until needed. If the mixture seems a little runny, the chocolate may have been too warm, but after refrigerating for an hour or so, it will firm up. Can be made and refrigerate a day ahead of time.

Recipe source: The Joy of Baking - the website says the difficulty level of this recipe is easy, but I disagree. I would say difficult because everything has to be done just so and there are so many different steps and different pans involved.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Poppy Seed Bread


I made this Poppy Seed Bread, wheat-free, and it is absolutely delicious! And, it's been the easiest to make out of the pumpkin bread and banana bread that I've recently made. I even made the glaze out of Splenda instead of sugar (you gotta cut back somewhere), and it was still just as delicious. I even got hubby to sample a bite (he still refuses to try a piece of fudge), and he said it was good, in fact, very good. He confessed to me today that he had a small slice last night! (He NEVER eats my wheat-free confections.)


Poppy Seed Bread

3 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups oil
3 eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
1 ½ cups milk

TOPPING:¼ orange juice
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. almond extract

MAKES 2 LARGE LOAVES
Combine flour, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds, in a large bowl and set aside. Cream sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Add dry ingredients to the sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Bake at 350 in 2 greased loaf pans for 40-60 minute or until they test done.

Combine orange juice, sugar, and almond extract and drizzle this mixture over the top of the baked bread. Cool. This bread is also good without the glaze.
~Recipe from Kitchen Keepsakes and more Kitchen Keepsakes by Bonnie Welch and Deanna White.

*My tips: I made the glaze with Splenda instead of sugar. Also, to make it wheat-free, I used Bob’s Red Mill wheat-free flour and xanthan gum (3/4 tsp for each cup of flour). Note, my loaves don't look large like the recipe says because the wheat-free flour just doesn't rise like real flour.

More Bible Story Pictures


This is the last set of Bible Story pictures I have to share with you. This of course is Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay and being told that there's no room in the inn.

Doesn't Mary look lovely considering she's about to give birth? Was she already dilating? Was she experiencing contractions? Was she hoping for an epidural? Did she and Joseph complete their birthing classes? I bet sitting on that donkey helped things move along. I hope I look as lovely and calm upon arriving at the hospital for baby #2. What about my hubby? Will he be as agreeable as Joseph looks here? Sure, my wife can give birth in the stable.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Bible Story Pictures


Here's Jonah in the belly of the whale/fish. Even in Biblical days, they had a problem with littering - notice the broken cistern in the belly of the whale.


Here's Naomi and Ruth waving goodbye to Orpah. They look so jovial; I just imagined the scene being a little more sad, but hey, it's a children's book.


Here's Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. Fine. But, John the Baptist was only six months older than Jesus - why the beard and white hair?

More pictures tomorrow!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bible Stories - Adam and Eve

We got a nice book of Bible stories from Costco this year for our Little Guy. I was wrapping it today and looking at the pictures, and I just have to share some of them with you.


This is the first picture the book has of Adam. I like how the bear's gift of flowers covers up Adam's unmentionables.


Here's Eve. Isn't she the most beautiful Eve you've seen? She's fresh from a shower and has applied her bouncy curls frizz control cream. She swept back some of her hair and secured it with fresh flowers. She has her fake eyelashes on and even applied gloss before going out to get to some food.


Then she shared her food with Adam, who apparently has tried some of Eve's bouncy curl cream. He looks drastically different from the first picture of Adam. Maybe, being a Jewish boy, he got a perm. I like how there's a koala in the picture.


Here we see Eve and Adam in very fashionable clothes, provided by God. Eve is in a nice sleeveless sun dress with a slit up the thigh, and Adam, well he just gets a short skirt.

The pictures in this book are great, and I'll be showing you some more in the days to come.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Snow Day


Here's a snowy picture of the sun coming up in our backyard. Have a good day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Biggest Loser

I'm so glad that Michelle won! She really deserves it and she looks great.

I'm so glad America voted for Ed! I think Heba looks great, but I hope she learned the lesson that she doesn't get everything she wants simply because she's Heba.

I think so many of the at home contestants look great! Colleen looks so much like Reese Witherspoon - she looks great!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mint Chocolate Fudge and Raspberry Chocolate Fudge


I experimented with my mother's Chocolate Peanut Butter Two-Tone Fudge recipe and made two-tone versions of mint chocolate and raspberry chocolate fudge. I think the peanut butter is my favorite, but I think everything with peanut butter is my favorite.

Since I did not want a whole recipe of each mint and raspberry, I made half a batch of each, and that is what the recipe reflects.

Mint Chocolate Fudge and Raspberry-Chocolate Fudge
4 ½ cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 jar marshmallow cream
1 cup unsalted butter
1 – 12 oz. package chocolate chips
1 – 12 oz. package white chocolate chips, divided
1 ½ tsp. mint extract
1 tsp. raspberry extract
Green food coloring
Red food coloring

Line a 9x11” jellyroll pan with waxed paper. Combine the sugar and evaporated milk in a large saucepan (3-4 quarts suggested). While stirring the entire time, heat sugar mixture on high until it boils, reduce heat (to keep from boiling over) and keep boiling for 8 minutes. Add butter and marshmallow cream to the sugar mixture and stir until smooth.

The sugar mixture will be split into three bowls: half of the sugar mixture for the chocolate layer; a quarter of it for the mint layer and a quarter of it for the raspberry. Into a large bowl, pour half of sugar mixture over chocolate chips and 1 tsp. vanilla. Into a second large bowl, pour a quarter of the sugar mixture over the half a package of white chocolate chips and mint extract. Into a third large bowl, pour a quarter of the sugar mixture over half a package of white chocolate chips and raspberry extract. With electric mixer, beat the first mixture with the chocolate chips until combined. Pour chocolate mixture into jellyroll pan. Set in fridge for 10 minutes. This will be the bottom layer of the two-tone fudge.


Add green food coloring to the mint mixture. With clean beaters, beat the mint mixture until well combined. Pour mint mixture over half of the chocolate mixture.


Add red food coloring to the raspberry mixture. With clean beaters, beat the raspberry mixture until well combined. Pour raspberry mixture over the other half of the chocolate mixture.


For best results, let set in the refrigerator overnight before cutting. Store in refrigerator in air-tight container.

*I suggest getting everything out ahead of time so you don't waste time as the fudge mixture needs to stay warm/hot enough for you to smooth it out into the jellyroll pan.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Two-Tone Fudge


This two-tone fudge is pure sin. You have to make it! My mother made this fudge for every holiday growing up, and I have never tried to make it before because I was scared away by the amount of sugar in it. I've never made any fudge recipe before. I had to call my mother three (or maybe four) times yesterday while making the fudge to clarify what I was doing. Thanks Mommy - you were a great support. So, here I have typed up the recipe with lots of details for you.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Two-Tone Fudge
4 ½ cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 jar marshmallow cream
1 cup unsalted butter
1 – 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla, divided

Line a 9x11” jellyroll pan with waxed paper. Combine the sugar and evaporated milk in a large saucepan (3-4 quarts suggested). While stirring the entire time, heat sugar mixture on high until it boils, reduce heat (to keep from boiling over) and keep boiling for 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add butter and marshmallow cream to the sugar mixture and stir until smooth.

Into a large bowl, pour half of sugar mixture over chocolate chips and 1 tsp. vanilla. Into a second large bowl, pour the other half of sugar mixture over the peanut butter and 1 tsp. vanilla. With electric mixer, beat the mixture with the chocolate chips until combined. Pour chocolate mixture into jellyroll pan. Set in fridge for 10 minutes. This will be the bottom layer of the two-tone fudge.
Clean beaters and beat the peanut butter-sugar mixture until well combined. Pour peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate mixture that has already set in the fridge for 10 minutes. For best results, let set in the refrigerator for 24 hours or overnight before cutting. Store in refrigerator in air-tight container.

*I suggest getting everything out ahead of time so you don't waste time as the fudge mixture needs to stay warm/hot enough for you to smooth it out into the jellyroll pan.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mrs. Prindable's Candy Apples


This past year at the fair, several stands boasted that they had chocolate-peanut butter covered apples. My mouth was drooling for this confection. But, none of the stands actually had these apples, and I went to the fair on two different days! My sweet mother who was with me at the fair and witnessed my angst at not getting my desired dessert, sent me these handmade confections in the mail for Christmas. I received a box of sixteen candied apples; four of each kind:


Dark Chocolate Coconut


Milk Chocolate Crunch Apples - this is the one I've tried so far; it's delicious!! The apple was very fresh and the candy oh-so-good!


Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Pieces


White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup
Thanks Mommy!

Boundaries with Kids

I have just started reading the book Boundaries with Kids. This is an obvious break from my normal reading matter, as it is NON-FICTION!! I thought I would share my first revelation with you.

I've only read the first couple of chapters, but what I've learned practically so far is this: I need to have boundaries so that I can teach my kids to have boundaries (big concept, I know). But, up until this point, I think I've fallen into the category of a push-over. I realized yesterday that I allow my Little Guy to have control of my day. He determines when I wake up (yesterday I was woken from a dream with, "Mommy, read this one." My Little Guy proceeds to hand me a book he wants me to read to him.) Because I couldn't stand the crying that ensued when I said I needed a minute, I gave in and read him the book three times. I had a horrible morning. I felt tired (he woke me up very early), and I felt that since I had to wake up so early, I was entitled to something special - be it food, extra sleep, or whatever. But, I never got that special something.

I decided that I will wake up at 6:10am, but I will not get out of bed until 6:30am. I can do whatever I want with those twenty minutes (today I slept, but hey, that's okay, I did it on purpose and it was my choice). If my Little Guy is awake before 6:30am, then he needs to play by himself and he will not be allowed in my bed. I have crackers and water ready by my nightstand for him if he claims he's hungry.

My new plan went very well today. But, my Little Guy woke up at 6:45am as opposed to 6:00am, which made it a little easier. I actually did get in about 15 minutes of reading and a little extra sleep. I was in control of my morning. It felt great.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Test Your Spelling

I grew up in the age of spellchecker (did I spell that right?). I blame spellchecker on my poor results. Go to this website to take the test and see your score. This English major got 13 out of 25 words correct! Embarrassing, I know! Let me know how you do.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Biggest Loser - Vote for Ed!

I know Ed wants us to vote for his wife, but I can't stand Heba. She is a spoiled brat. She has never learned boundaries in her life; no one has ever stood up to her (which is why she got so upset when Phil ate the Reese's Peanut Butter cups), and no one has ever told her no. I think Ed is scared to have to live with a wife who doesn't get what she wants, so he's pleaded with us to vote for her, but I just can't! I don't particularly like Ed, but I don't think he looses great numbers, and if he's in the final, then Michelle might have more of a chance of winning, which would be great.

Christmas Shaped Bokeh


I was delighted to put up my Christmas tree and use it as my bokeh light source. The snowflake shape I had used in my previous bokeh attempt did not weather well and looked distorted, so to keep things simple (and in the spirit) I cut out the shape of a cross for my bokeh shape. Choosing the subject of my picture was a hard choice, and this angel which turned out the best, was actually my last choice. The subject needs tons of lighting, and I find that the picture works best with the camera set on manual, with a shutter speed of 1/50 and aperture of f/1.8. The camera will say that this is grossly underexposed, but somehow it seems to work. Well, an hour of messing around with this solved my itch to do it for a while!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Typealizer - the personality of my blog

This Typealizer website will analyze your blog and tell you its Myers-Briggs personality profile. The profile for my blog came in pretty close to my actual personality:

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers
"The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever. The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work in their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it."

P.S. While I don't wear cute clips in my hair like the lady pictured above, my hair is out of control like hers. Amazing how they got that right.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Book Review - Sweet Talk by Susan Mallery

I read Sweet Talk awhile ago, but just realized that I never did a “review.” Since it has been so long since I’ve read it, all I can tell you is this: I liked it! And I’m on to reading the second and third books in the series. Mallery’s characters find romance and have to overcome personal and social issues in their way. Mallery has good secondary characters and so far I haven’t read a book of hers that I haven’t liked.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Book Review - A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr

Marcie Sullivan travels to Virgin River to seek out the man who saved her husband Bobby’s life when he was critically injured in Iraq. Since saving Bobby, Ian Buchannan has withdrawn from everything and everyone and is living the life of a hermit. Ian gave Marcie three more years with Bobby before he died from his injuries, something that Ian feels guilty about, but Marcie is thankful for. Marcie feels she can’t move on with her life until she thanks Ian. She didn’t expect to find a man who was hurting and didn’t understand her gratefulness at saving her husband’s life. Can Marcie continue to reach out to this rough and brute man?

Since this is romance, you know the answer to that. Being snowed-in in a little cabin with no electricity, and bang, you have yourself a romance. A Virgin River Christmas is the fourth book in Carr’s Virgin River series, and is probably my least favorite of the books so far, but it is still a good book. I thought Marcie was a little too gold-hearted and not real enough. Also, in all the other Virgin River books, before the main characters engage in sexual relations, birth control is discussed or used, but it was never addressed between Marcie and Ian. I was bummed because I thought Carr was setting a precedent in her previous books.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book Review - Ready for Romance by Debbie Macomber

Ready for Romance is one of Macomber's earlier romances. I read it about a month ago and simply have not "reviewed" it yet. It's a cute and quick read. It's a decent read if you're out of everything else you really want to read. That's all I have to say!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pioneer Woman's Scrumptious Apple Pie - the verdict

It was delicious! I like it even better than apple pie with a pastry crust. My plain ol' hubby, however, still prefers a "normal" apple pie. That's okay - more leftovers for me!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pioneer Woman's Scrumptious Apple Pie


I'm not satisfied with this picture, but this is the best I got. This is Pioneer Woman's Scrumptious Apple Pie. It has a nummy crumble topping, also topped with caramel topping. I'm counting down the hours till I can eat it (I'm bringing it to the Thanksgiving gathering). My husband was actually quite dismayed to see that this was not a "normal" apple pie, but he promises to try a piece. I'll let you know the verdict. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Gratitude Project Concludes: Happy Thanksgiving!


I am most thankful for my God who forgives me over and over again. Without him I would be lost. I am thankful for my family and to be pregnant again. Pictured above is my husband and Little Guy's hands. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 26

I am grateful for the chance of a new friendship. I got to talk for 30 minutes while on the elliptical machine at the gym to a woman I've never talked to before. It was quite enjoyable and better than reading or listening to music.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 25

I am thankful for the beauty of God's creation. My mums finally bloomed a couple weeks ago. So here's some pictures of the yellow one. (These are mums right?)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Banana Bread


I made this banana bread for Bible Study treats. I always want whatever I bring for snacks to be delicious, and this banana bread did the trick. All of it was eaten, and I heard someone say, "darn - it's all gone!" That makes me so happy! I also brought a pumpkin pie from Costco, which was very good, and almost all of that was eaten. I brought a pitcher of orange juice, and I heard someone exclaim, "ooo, juice!" Again, this really fills a happy place inside me. Last, but certainly not least, I brought a little bowl of peppermint patties and Hershey's new truffle kisses. The peppermint patties were all eaten, and there's a lot of the truffles left. I'm so happy the ladies ate chocolate at 9:30 in the morning! (I'm not the only one!)
Here's the Banana Bread recipe:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 3 Tbsp. cold water
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Makes 1 Loaf
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and bananas. Beat in remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased 9-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

*Recipe from Kitchen Keepsakes and More Kitchen Keepsakes
**
I also made a wheat-free version of the banana bread, which turned out great. Just use your favorite wheat-free flour and 2 tsp. of xanthum gum in place of the regular flour.

The Gratitude Project: Day 24

I am very thankful for a hot shower every day. Truly, this is something I think about at least every other day. I am genuinely grateful for hot running water.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 23

I am grateful for my little boy and the extra 40 minutes of sleep I got this morning due to the fact that he sleeps in a big boy bed now and let himself out of his room and played with toys for 40 minutes before needing my attention.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Book Review - The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

Former Marine, Logan Thibault, walks across the country to meet the woman in a photo he carried with him through three tours in Iraq. Since finding the photo of this woman in the desert in Iraq, Logan has experienced good luck – having survived the most car bombings in the Marines, and then surviving a boating accident once stateside. He feels he must at least meet her.

Upon his arrival in Hampton, North Carolina, Elizabeth Green hires Logan to work in her and her grandmother’s dog kennel business. Logan finds that she has a son, is divorced, and that the photo belonged to her brother who was killed in combat. Logan and Elizabeth share a passion for each other, but once Elizabeth learns Logan has not been forthright about the picture, their relationship is at a crossroads.

I have been waiting a long time for a new Nicholas Sparks book, and The Lucky One wasn’t all I thought it would be. I am grateful that it is not a true Sparks’ love story (by his definition, a love story must have tragedy at the end), but I wouldn’t categorize it as a romance either. I feel like Sparks just farted out this book because he hadn’t written one in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I expected more from Sparks. I thought he could have gone deeper with the development of Elizabeth and Logan or at least showed us more of their relationship. Everything seemed to happen so fast. If you’re a Sparks fan, you’ll have to read it just because.

Book Review - Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr

Whispering Rock is Carr’s third book in the Virgin River series. Mike Valenzuela, a wounded LA cop, moves to Virgin River to recuperate and find a new life. What he finds is Brie, Jack Sheridan’s youngest sister. She spends a few weeks with Jack and Mel as she recovers from a divorce and a violent rape. Mike, being a victim of a violent crime as well, is just the man to help Brie ease back into society.

My pitiful summary is not worthy of the greatness of this book. Throughout all the Virgin River books, Carr has strong and believable characters that go through real problems. Carr tackles difficult social circumstances, from divorce and infidelity, a young woman dying of breast cancer, home births, widowhood, to rape. Carr develops her characters very well as they live through these difficult life circumstances. Well worth the read!

The Gratitude Project: Day 22

I am grateful for my hubby. He is pretty handy around the house, plus he cooks better than I do! Right now he is putting together our Little Guy's new bed, and it didn't come with any directions, but I know he'll be able to make it work.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 21

I am grateful for my friend who came over to my house with her kid today, even when I told her my kid had an occasional cough. Thanks for not treating us like we had the cooties!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 20

I am thankful for the opportunity to stay home with my son. Today he had a cough, and although that's all he had and has been acting normal, I thought I probably shouldn't take him to the gym, so we just stayed home. It's nice to have a flexible schedule.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is That a Baby?

It's finally happened. Today at the gym, a complete stranger walked up to me and asked, "Is that a baby?" My Little Guy was already in the kids' room, so I knew she wasn't referring to him. Luckily for her (and me) "it" is. "It" being my round tummy. I don't mind that she asked, but don't people normally say, "are you pregnant?" or "when are you due?". At least I got a little chuckle out of the experience.

The Gratitude Project: Day 19

I am thankful for the childcare available at my gym. I paid for unlimited hours a year ago and it's been so worth it. My Little Guy loves to go play there.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What to do?

I'm pregnant. So needless to say, I'm wearing maternity tops. Now, maternity tops come in two basic styles. You either have to buy a turtleneck or a scoop neck that goes down to your belly button and shows everything. Seeing as how it isn't quite turtleneck whether, and the place I was going yesterday (Bible Study) keeps the room really hot, I had to opt for one of the more revealing shirts. I've noticed a problem with these tops. When I'm eating, crumbs fall...into my cleavage. This happened at Bible Study yesterday. Now, what is the protocol for this? When this situation happened at the family reunion, I knew my cousin had seen it, so I just reached in and retrieved the crumb. I was among family. I was safe. Now at Bible Study, there were at least twenty women sitting so that they could have possibly seen the offending crumb fall. Do I pretend it didn't happen? What if someone did see? Is it worse to leave the crumb in my cleavage or to go digging for it? It's like those 'would you rather' games where you have to choose between two terrible fates. I hate those games. Does the size of the crumb matter? I think it should. Monday's crumb was very small. I left it there.

The Gratitude Project: Day 18

I am grateful for my mother. I was reminded of her while doing my Bible study. The study guide said patience is the delaying of judgment. I immediately thought of my mom. She doesn't judge people, and she doesn't hold grudges. You're my role model, Mommy!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Book Review – Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr

Shelter Mountain is the second in Carr’s Virgin River series. John Middleton is about to close down the bar one night when a battered and bruised woman, Paige, arrives carrying her three-year-old child. The small town of Virgin River has no motel and John can see that the woman is in pain. He offers her a place to stay above the bar in an extra room. He convinces her to stay until her injuries heal and a friendship blossoms. Paige’s abusive husband will not leave her alone and she needs the help of John and her Virgin River friends to stay safe.

Again, Carr’s characters are real and in-depth. I was glad to see a non-stereotypical male lead. John is huge and bald like Mr. Clean. He is extremely shy and has big, black bushy eyebrows and likes to scowl. He has not slept around a lot and is unsure of how to begin that part of his relationship with Paige. The secondary characters and side stories are just as interesting as John and Paige’s story and we get to see more of Jack and Mel from the first book.

Recommendation: Three out of three stars – go out and read it!

Book Review – Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Virgin River is the first in Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series. I’ve read the first three books and I LOVE them. Out of all the series I have read, this is my favorite!

Melinda Monroe, a midwife and RN, moves to Virgin River to recover from the tragic loss of her husband and to meet the town’s medical needs. When Mel sees that her accommodations in Virgin River are less than desirable, she gets ready to leave, but not before she meets Jack Sheridan, a retired Marine Corps hero. An abandoned baby compels Mel to stay and the town and Jack start to grow on her.

The characters of Mel and Jack are very real and likeable. Carr does a great job of weaving very interesting secondary characters into the story. She goes deep with the emotion and character arcs of Mel and Jack. This book was a pleasure to read. I’m hooked!

Three out of three stars – go out and read it!

The Gratitude Project: Day 17

I am thankful for my family - those that live here in my house and those that live far away. I'm thankful to be able to talk on the phone to my mom who lives so very far away.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 16

I am thankful for friends. I got to go out to a nice restaurant last night with the moms from our mommy group (without the kids!).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day15

I am grateful for the non-judging nature of children. I got to watch my Little Guy play with all sorts of kids at the mall play area yesterday, and he equally engaged all the children there no matter their size, color, or clothing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 14

I am grateful for my husband. He listens to me with a caring heart. Thanks honey!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Biggest Loser's Vicky - a loser in more ways than one

I was shocked, floored at Vicky's display of meanness on last night's episode of Biggest Loser. She's ruining the whole show. My jaw was literally on the ground the first five minutes of the show. I have never seen someone be that outright mean, and in front of other people. She's proud of how mean she is - you can tell because she gets that little "I'm pretty satisfied with myself" smile after she says something mean. I cannot believe she is a mother. I feel so sorry that Phil had to be the object of her meanness. He really is just trying to lose weight and live a happy life. Well, I won't go on and on about Vicky, but I had to say something.

The Gratitude Project: Day 12

I am thankful for finding a new author I really enjoy - Robyn Carr. I have read Virgin River, the first book of her Virgin River series (will post a summary soon) and have almost finished the second book in the series. Thanks to Susan Wiggs for recommending Carr.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 11

I am grateful for the men and women who have served in the military and who have given their lives for this country. Thank you. I am reminded of a quote from the movie Pearl Harbor where Doolittle says, "There's nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer." I know not all our wars/conflicts were fought with "volunteers," but I am in awe that we have fought this thing in Iraq and Afghanistan with volunteers. Thank you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 10

I am thankful for my friend Patty. Last Friday and then today at the gym we were both there at the same time and got to talk while we exercised. I just like that gal.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shaped Bokeh


I've read about bokeh on Pioneer Woman's Photography site. Then today, I read about shaped bokeh on Digital Photography School's Forum. Amy-Rose King, a photographer, gave a brief tutorial on how to do this shaped bokeh and made it sound so easy. So I thought, I can do that! Well, I should know by now that it's never that easy for me. After tons of photos and trying lots of different things, these are my two best photos. You should really check out Amy-Rose's picture leaf bokeh. It's an AMAZING photo.

The Gratitude Project: Day 9

I am thankful for the food we have to eat. At almost every meal we eat, we say a prayer of thanks for our food. Because we are trying to teach our Little Guy the prayer, we keep it simple, "Thank you, Jesus, for our food. Amen." Now he says it with us, and I realize, I truly am grateful we have food to eat. Okay, we have a lot of food to eat, but that's another post for another day, which I'll probably never write.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Book Review - A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber

A Cedar Cove Christmas is Debbie Macomber’s annual Christmas novel (albeit a short one) and continues on a the ninth book in her Cedar Cove series. The story of Mary Jo Wise, a pregnant woman in an unfamiliar town, mirrors the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his birth. Mary Jo travels to Cedar Cove to find the father of her child. He is nowhere to be found and Mary Jo finds herself needing to stay the night and the only place in town is the home of Grace Harding – in the apartment above the barn housing the animals for the live nativity scene. When Mary Jo’s baby decides to come on Christmas Eve, Grace sends for the ambulance, but there is no time to transfer to the hospital, and Mary Jo ends up giving birth with the help of firefighter Mack McAffee (read – future love interest of Mary Jo – but Macomber doesn’t delve into that in this short Christmas novel). (Sorry for the long run-on sentences there!)

I very much enjoy the Cedar Cove series, and some books are better than others, and this one is a real winner. I was sorry when I finished it because there is no more Cedar Cove to read until…well, Macomber’s website doesn’t say when we can expect the next Cedar Cove book to be out.

The Gratitude Project: Day 8

I am thankful for this easy and uncomplicated pregnancy. I didn't even have morning sickness, which I did experience with my first pregnancy, so I know what a blessing this is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 7

I am thankful for my health insurance. Today I am going to get a one-hour pregnancy massage, and because of our health insurance, I only pay $8. Whoo Hoo!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 6

I am thankful for the library and all the free resources I can get. I get lots of books and my Little Guy gets his children's DVDs. He asks to go to the library every day, and I feel bad telling him, no we can't go today. We already go about twice a week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Book Review - Janet Evanovich - multiple books

Oh my. I cannot believe I read all these pre-Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. The first book I read of hers was Thanksgiving, and it was simple but cute. Sometimes you need simple in your life. So, I ordered all the Evanovich books from the library that I could, and I’m sorely disappointed. They are all the same. I can’t even do a summary for each book because it would be unnecessary. Here’s the list of the books that I just read: Thanksgiving, Back to the Bedroom, Love Overboard, Manhunt, Naughty Neighbor, and Wife for Hire. Here’s the plot for each book: a strong-willed (and often red-headed) slender woman with large breasts meets the man of her dreams, but she doesn’t know it at first. Said man is over six feet tall with broad shoulders and slim hips. This man is very sexually experienced, but until meeting said woman, has never felt this way before, and he falls in love with the woman within hours of meeting her. They have sex early on in the plot, then the woman is not so sure of things, and emotionally and physically distances herself from the man. In the end she decides she can’t live without him and they get married. I’m embarrassed to say I finished 6 books with the same plot, but none of my other books were available from the library yet and I like to read something as I fall asleep. One positive thing I will say about these novels is that since the plot is so predictable, they are easy to put down, for example, when my son needs attention, etc. I can easily put the book down (which really isn’t a compliment).

I can’t wait to read an in-depth original novel. I can’t wait until my turn comes up at the library to read Nicholas Sparks’ latest novel, The Lucky One. Currently, I am number 32 out of 265, so it will be soon (I started out in the hundreds). I also just finished Debbie Macomber’s A Cedar Cove Christmas, which was SO delightful, especially after this Evanovich silliness. More to come on that. Also in my future, I heard of a good author, Robyn Carr, from Susan Wiggs’ blog. I’ve ordered Carr’s Virgin River series from the library and the books are already there for me to pick up tomorrow! I’m so excited!!

The Gratitute Project: Day 5

I am grateful for my son. He brings me such joy, and I am glad I get to spend my days with him.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 4

I suppose I should be patriotic and take the easy answer that I'm thankful to vote, and really I am - it's just that I mailed in my ballot last week, so the hype is over for me. Last year when I forgot to vote in the primary, my husband was really upset and reminded me that Americans are fighting and dying for our freedom, including our freedom to vote. That really got to me, so I take my voting more seriously now, even when there's not a presidential race.

On top of that, I am thankful for my house and for a roof. It has started raining and will not stop all week, or so we're told, and I am thankful to have a dry place to live.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 3

I am grateful for my Bible Study and for the people that provide the childcare. Both me and my Little Guy really like to go. This is the only regular time I have away from my Little Guy where I'm not sweating on the treadmill. It's nice to come home and already be dressed and showered for the day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 2

I am thankful for my husband and his job which allows me to stay home with my Little Guy.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Gratitude Project: Day 1

One of my favorite authors, Susan Wiggs, is starting a Gratitude Project. Every day on her blog, she will post 3 things she's grateful for and she welcomes readers to put what they are thankful for in her comments section or on their own blogs. My goal is to post one thing a day until Thanksgiving that I am grateful for (and it can be silly or serious). Today I am grateful for having grandparents who live nearby who will watch my child while Hubby and I go shopping. Thanks Grandma!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ham and Lima Bean Soup


This is one of those recipes that is vague in directions, but is easy enough that you should be able to get it. My mother-in-law gave us a left-over ham from last Sunday's family reunion, which was perfect, because my husband has been craving Ham and Lima Bean Soup. Campbell's used to make this soup, but for several years we have not been able to find it, so that means we're left to make it on our own. He's actually been the one to make it, and yesterday was my first time making it by myself. There's a lot of chopping and dicing involved, but other than that, it was easy. And, my MIL and FIL came over unexpectedly right at dinner time, so guess what...they got to eat it to, and there was plenty for everyone. (Man, if they had dropped by the night before, they would have seen Donivan too full from lunch to eat any dinner, and me eating rice noodles - I really lucked out yesterday. I was even contemplating not taking a shower yesterday, but decided against it. Someone was looking out for me!)

Ham and Lima Bean Soup
2 pounds Lima beans, soaked overnight
Ham diced up
1 onion diced up
2 garlic cloves diced up
2 celery stalks diced up
2 carrots diced up
4 TBLS dried parsley
10 cups water
2 big scoops of chicken bullion base
Cornstarch
Combine everything in the biggest pot you own and let it simmer for as long as possible. I added the cornstarch (mixed with cold water) toward the end to thicken it up a little. This is a soup that is even better the next day or after you freeze it because it becomes really thick.
Enjoy!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Emeril's Key Lime Pie


This is one of my husband's favorite pies. Emeril's recipe is so easy (and I purchase the pre-made graham cracker crust pie, so it's even easier). I know it's not really Key Lime Pie season, but we're attending a family reunion tomorrow, and I assumed everyone else would bring pumpkin and apple pie, so I'm bringing Key Lime Pie for something different. Hubby even thinks this recipe tastes better than Costco's Key Lime Pie. The recipe calls for lime zest as a garnish on top, but we really don't like zest, so I skip it. Also, the recipe makes a little more than can fit in the pie plate, so I just pour the rest into a greased, small custard dish and bake it along with the pie and enjoy it as my quality taste test sample.
Since I'm taking the pie to a reunion tomorrow, this is the only picture I could get of it. I would rather have taken a picture of a single piece, but I just didn't think taking a pie to the reunion with a piece cut out of it was cooth.
After wrestling that plastic lid on, I couldn't even bear to take it off for the picture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Biggest Loser

I faithfully watch the Biggest Loser, but this season has been the most disappointing. I'm only rooting for one person, Colleen. Normally there are several people I like on the show, but this season, it seems Colleen is the only one worth rooting for. Last night so much ugliness was revealed by several of the players. We've already known for some weeks that Heba is a vindictive liar and can't let go of things, but last night I was shocked at Vicky (the wife of the former brown team). First, she had no team spirit to win the challenge and declared the prize of videos from her family as not worth it. Her poor family! I know she got a video package last week, but what mother wouldn't want to see her kids again after a week? Then she revealed that the only reason her and her husband are doing the Biggest Loser is to win the money. She plans for one of them to win at the finale, and one of them to win the at-home contest. I was shocked at how shallow she is. There's something else about her that bugged me from her attitude last night, but I've yet to put a name to it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Annie's Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese


It's so hard to see hubby and my Little Guy get to eat delicious macaroni and cheese (they eat Kraft's Deluxe version) and not have any myself. So I bought Annie's Gluten-Free Rice Pasta and Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese. Since I also try to stay away from a lot of dairy, I added rice milk to the cheese mixture instead of cow's milk. Oh, okay... I also added some freshly shredded cheddar cheese. I wanted it to be really good, what can I say? The consistency was very satisfying, but I can't really comment about the taste, seeing as how I can't smell, and therefore can't taste very well. But, when I do sneak bites of hubby's mac and cheese (don't tell), I think his is better.

And yes, I ate it all. I'm pregnant; I can do that.