Thursday, January 26, 2012

Two For One

I betcha thought I forgot about ya'all.  Nah.  I couldn't do that!  I've just been cutting back on my 'screen time'.  I've been noticing that I've really been having trouble concentrating lately and feel 'foggy brained' a lot.  When I spend less time on the computer it seems to clear a bit.

Anyway, I've got something great for you today!  Two recipes in one post!  If you're the type of person who enjoys hearing about recipes then this is for you.  If not, I know you've probably already stopped reading and are moving on to the next blog.  But, that's OK.  I love you anyway.   And, I'll be back with some non-recipe posts very soon!

So, for those of you still here, I tried 2 new recipes this week.  Two!  This is huge for me.  I get stuck in a rut when it comes to meal planning....making the same things over and over.  And, while I see recipes quite often that look appealing & I think 'Gee!  I ought to try that.', if I don't have the stuff on hand I usually shelve the idea and forget about it.

But, I found 2 this week that really sounded yum.  For one recipe I already had everything I needed, and the other I was so intrigued by that I made a special grocery run to get the items I needed.  So, without further ado....

Recipe #1
Creamy Crab with Home-made Fettucini

Yup!  You read that correctly.  HOMEMADE fettucini!  For Christmas my in-laws bought me pasta maker attachments for my stand mixer.  And, this was attempt #2 at making my own pasta.  (The first was home-made pot pie noodles).  I'm still perfecting the art.  And, I won't take the time to explain it all now.  But, if you are curious, I think this tutorial does a great job explaining it.

From that same site I found this recipe for Spicy Chicken Pasta  and I followed it almost to a 't'.   I made a few small substitutions and changes.  Here's the recipe as I made it.

  • 1 pound home-made fettucini
  • 1 pack frozen (imitation) crab
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (I used slightly less than a whole jalepeno)
  • 1-2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup light cream + 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 4 oz (half a brick) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ teaspoons hot sauce
  • 2½ teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I sauteed the (thawed) crab in about 1-2 Tablespoons of butter for a minute or 2...just until heated through.  I set that aside and then in the same pan added 2 more Tablespoons of butter and sauteed the onion & peppers.  Then I set those aside.  Next, I added the last 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan along with the flour to create a roux.

To the roux I first added 1 cup vegetable stock and then the cream. I heated that mixture.  To that I added the cream cheese and once it was melted  I added the hot sauce and seasonings.  I continued to simmer on very low heat until it was thick and bubbly.  I then added back in the sauteed crab and veggies and the chopped roma tomatoes.  

Toss with cooked homemade fettucini.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but it was yummy!
Recipe #2

And, just last night I made another new recipe that I found in the Sunday News 'Food' section.  I love Indian food, so this one really caught my eye!  The author of the column said he found this recipe in a book called 'Slow Cooker Revolution'.  If all the recipes are as good as this one, I may need to add that cookbook to my list of books I'd like to own.

Chicken Curry in a Hurry 

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced (I used a heaping T. of pre-minced garlic in a jar)
  • 2 T. ginger, minced (I used a heaping T. of powdered ginger)
  • 2 T. curry powder  (Um.  Just realized I think I forgot this!  Might explain why it didn't taste as 'curry' as I expected)
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 (15 oz) can chick peas, drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (14 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 T. Minute tapioca
  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • lime wedges
Combine onions, oil, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, and spices in a bowl.  Microwave 5-8 minutes until softened.  Transfer to a slow cooker.  Add chick peas, water, coconut milk and tapioca.  Mix well.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into the onion mix.  Cover and cook 6 hours on low.

Transfer chicken out, cool slightly, and shred into bite size pieces (It was SO tender!).  Add the tomatoes and raisins.  cover and heat 10 minutes.  Add the peas and shredded chicken and heat 10 minutes more.  Serve over rice.  Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.

Sorry.  No picture of this one.  But, trust me!  It's delicious!  I had leftovers for lunch today and it tasted even better the second time around.  I realize now after typing out the recipe that I missed the curry in my preparation.  How can I miss the curry in a Chicken curry recipe????  I even remember thinking it was strange that I hadn't put in any curry.  Duh!

I also almost forgot about the cilantro at the end.  If you like cilantro, you MUST do this.  It adds so much to the dish.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Find Along the Side of the Road

I love furniture....especially old furniture or furniture that has a very classic look.  I bring home furniture abandoned along the side of the road like some people bring home strays.

This makes my husband crazy.  We really don't have room in our house for more furniture.  

But, I couldn't pass this one by that I found today....

These pictures really don't do it justice.  According to the label on the back it's a Pennsylvania House Bowfront Chest in Antique Dover White.  It's missing hardware (easy enough to put on), there's a large chip missing on the bottom right, and the drawers are sticking a bit and might need some repair.  

But, it is heavy!  (I'm still not sure how I got it into my van by myself) and the drawers have dovetail joints.  It's a quality piece of furniture.  Since there was no sign on the furniture definitely saying it was 'free' I hesitated before taking it.  But, it was at the end of of really steep driveway off to the side of the I hope I did the right thing.

Now I need to decide if I'm going to keep it or not.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Unreachables?

I've been meaning to write this post while things were still fresh in my mind.  But, it's been well over a week since my husband and I watched a documentary called The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.  It's a documentary that I'm still thinking about.

The night my husband and I stumbled aross this we had been flipping through channels and hadn't found anything to watch, so I was actually preparing to go to bed.  As it turned out we had free Showtime that week & my husband had flipped to that.  I came in to the living room to say 'goodnight' to him & found myself sucked in.

My first reaction when I saw what he had on tv was "What in the world are you watching?!" because the documentary starts out with the same kind of crazy, in your face antics like you might see on the Jerry Springer Show.  I sat down on the couch stupefied but unable to take my eyes away.

Initially, this documentary seemed to exploit every stereotype there is about impoverished 'hill folk' in West Virginia.  Cussin', drinkin', smokin', dopin' cheatin', stealin', unmotivated, unworking trouble-makers is all you see at first.  It appears that the White family, who is featured in this film, is going to be a caricature and not much more.

And, don't get me wrong.  This family is rough.  One of the first scenes I saw was of one of the White sisters, Bo (who looks 60ish but is actually in her late 40's), sitting on the couch discussing her favorite drug of choice, marijuana.  The camera pans over to her son Derek (who might be late teens/early 20's) who laughingly joins in talking about his favorite drugs - anything in pill form.  His mom sits and smiles & laughs along with him.  

It's not all that surprising to learn as the film continues that of the 14 total White siblings,  only 5 (now middle aged) are still living.  The matriarch of the family, 84 year old Bertie Mae, is said to be a Christian woman who somehow managed to raise a family of outlaws who'd just as soon shoot you if you looked at them sideways.  The patriarch, D Ray, was hailed as a talented tapper/clogger (in the Appalachian style) and was murdered in 1985 in a shooting stemming from an argument.

Tragedy follows this family closely.  And, their lives have become a never-ending cycle of drugs, alcohol, and trouble with the law.  But as this documentary continued, something shifted.  It went from being almost a laughable mockery to being an in depth look at how cycles of poverty, abuse, & hopelessness are perpetuated.  A deep sadness built inside me as I watched more and more of it.

Perhaps one of the saddest things about watching it was seeing the young children in the film.  The children don't have one positive influence in their lives.  They see first hand all the grit and the horror.  Their parents do nothing to shield them from it.  It is simply their way of life.  

Tylor is about 8 years old in this film.  You meet him as he's literally bouncing off the walls in the background while his mother, Kirk, is being interviewed.  She is discussing in raw, profanity-riddled detail how she stabbed her former boyfriend.  Tylor parrots many of her phrases complete with profanity,  which is met with  'Aw.  Isn't he cute?' glances from his mother.

Kirk, later in the film, gives birth to a beautiful baby girl (child of the stabbed ex-boyfriend) who is born addicted to drugs as a result of Kirk's drug use while pregnant.  There is a scene in the hospital where the precious newborn is laying in her bassinet while Kirk talks about all the dreams she has for her daughter.  She pauses to snort some pills right then and there brought in to her by a family member.  Kirk and her family seem shocked and angry that child protection services takes the baby and places her in foster care.  

Kirk finally realizes she will need to enter rehab if she has any hope of bringing her baby girl home.  Family members try to talk her out going to rehab, but she is determined.  They give her a grand send-off party with a night of binging on drugs and alcohol.  

You do see some very touching scenes between Kirk and Tylor as he realizes he will be separated from his mother.  Despite all her shortcomings, it is obvious there is a deep love between mother and son.  And, if there is any redeeming quality in the White family at all, it is that there is a fierce love among them.  Family seems to be the one thing that means anything to them at all.

The film was produced by Johnny Knoxville (of MTV fame).  It is full of profanity, drug use, graphic scenes, and some brief nudity.  It's not in any way, shape, or form a Christian film or done from a Christian perspective.  

However, it still manages to touch on something important - there is profound hopelessness among this family and among many other impoverished Appalachian families.  They see no way out, no opportunity to make their lives better.  And, they simply give up.  Jesco, the oldest living son of Bertie Mae & D Ray, has continued his father's passion for the folk art of tapping & has built something of a following himself (Hank Williams III appears in the film as a friend of Jesco and the family).  Jesco sums up the depth of hopelessnes when he states that he feels like he is already a dead man who somehow is still living.

This hopelessness engulfs the viewer.  I came away from this film feeling like these people were truly unreachable.  They have some concept of Jesus and Who He is (in a very skewed way).  Pictures of Jesus are scattered throughout Bertie Mae's home.  From time to time a family member will make reference to Jesus or to God, but they miss the mark so completely.

And, I have been wondering.  How do you reach those who don't want to be reached or who seem so far from redemption?  How do you reach those who have generations and generations of dysfunction bred into them?  How can anything change?

I tried searching the internet to see if I could find something written as a Christian response to this film.  I came across things that took a political viewpoint - folks arguing opinions about welfare, pregnancy among the impoverished, etc.  But, everyone seemed to use this film as a way to get on a soapbox and not much more.  

My initial feeling as a response to this film is that there doesn't seem to be much that a Christian can do.  It would take a working of the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of people so deeply entrenched in a life of sin and despair such as The White's.  Perhaps all I can do is pray.

And, don't get me wrong, I believe prayer is powerful beyond anything that we can comprehend.  Yet, as I was looking through the Bible I came across these verses....

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (emphasis mine)
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us."


2 Corinthians 5:14
"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all...."

2 Corinthians 5:16
"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view."

These scriptures seem to call for a more active role in reaching those who seem unreachable.  The Whites have given up on themselves.  The world has given up on them.  But, as Christ's ambassadors, we can NOT give up on them.

I will probably never meet the White family personally.  For them, perhaps all I can do is pray.  But, is God calling me to be aware of others around me who seem unreachable?  We know that God does not wish for any to perish.  So, I have to believe that there is no such thing as unreachable.  

And, I want to know more of how I can live this verse....

2 Corinthians 4:6
"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

And when the darkness seem inpenetrable we need to remind ourselves (and our enemy) that Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Starting a New Chore System

So, I'm trying my hand at a new chore system for my children this week.  The truth is I've gotten kinda sloppy about my expectations for them.  And, they really do thrive on knowing what is expected & having goals to work toward.

I also knew I'd need something fairly simple with very little maintenance required on my part.  In all honesty, usually the reason chore systems fall by the wayside in our house is because of my own neglect.

  Plus, we haven't been paying our children any sort of regular allowance, but Dave Ramsey said something in the latest video we viewed at financial peace that made a lot of sense to me.  There are certain chores/ responsibilities that come with being part of the family that a child doesn't need to be paid for.  But, he also recommends having chores that can earn a child money because they look at money in a whole different way when they've had to earn it.

So, here's what I've come up with.  I've taken bits and pieces from various sources.

First are the regular/ daily chores (unpaid).  These include

  • Setting the table
  • Clearing the table
  • Pajamas under pillow & beds made
  • Dirty clothes in hamper
  • Feed/Water cat & dog
  • Unload lunch bags after school
  • Put away toys/etc. when finished
Next here are some of the chores a child could be assigned during the week that are paid.

  • Unload dishwasher
  • Clean room
  • Vacuum living room
  • Sweep kitchen
  • Clean toilet upstairs
  • Clean toilet downstairs
  • Empty small trashcans
  • Empty diaper trash
  • Empty kitchen trash
  • Clean living room
  • Clean computer room
  • Mop floor
  • Vacuum bedroom 
  • Load dishwasher/ Wash dishes
  • Gather/start load of laundry
  • Fold laundry
  • Put away laundry
  • Spray & Clean bathroom mirrors & sink
  • Sweep & Mop Bathroom Upstairs
  • Sweep & Mop Bathroom Downstairs
  • Wipe down chairs
As my boys get older & more responsible more chores will move into the regular/ expected chores.  

Here's the system I'm going to try to manage the chores

  • Each day I will clip a paper to the refrigerator for each boy.  On it I will write which of the pay chores I'd like them to do that day (2-5 chores depending on what needs done, if we have plans later that night, etc.).  Each boy is responsible for checking off each chore as it's completed (some may require mom inspection prior to checkoff).
  • Daily chores & Pay chores & Homework need to be completed by 7:00 that evening.  If they aren't, that child will lose their screen time for the following day or have mom choose one more chore to complete that night.  They still need to complete any unfinished tasks that evening.
  • On Saturdays, chores need to be completed by noon.
  • Each pay chore is worth 25 cents.  Each boy can earn up to $6.50 max per week.  If I do not assign enough pay chores for the boy to earn max amount but they wish to work toward that goal they may request more chores.
  • Payment is made on Saturday afternoons.  Children will bring me their chore sheets from the week (each day either saved on the magnetic fridge clip or perhaps in a jar for safekeeping).  Chores will be tallied.
  • Children will divide their payment into 3 categories (with help of mom & dad).  10% is for tithing/giving, 40% is for saving, & 50% is for spending.  (A child may choose to put more in tithing or saving if they'd like, but 50% is the max for spending.)
  • So, if a child earns their full commission/payment in a week of $6.50 it would break down as follows:   Tithe= 65 cents, Saving= $2.60, Spending =$3.25.
  • Children may spend their spending envelope as they choose such as bringing along to the grocery store to buy a special pack of gum or candy.  But, mom will no longer take special requests at the store. :)
Wish me luck.  I'm hoping this keeps the boys motivated & since it's mostly boy managed, that we can keep the system going.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nicknames... Sometimes I Call My Kids The Strangest Things

(I have to put in a word for my friend, Kendra, who is doing her very first giveaway on her blog, 'Fus For Thought.  She started her blog last year as a place to share some of the amazing deals she was getting using coupons.  She's since revamped it to talk more about her life as a mom to 4 & their family's recent decision to homeschool.  I'm sure she'd be thrilled if you checked out her blog and entered her giveaway!)

I seem to have this tendency to play around with the names of people who are near and dear to me.  

My husband, John, is usually Babe or Honey.  My friend, Jamie, will sometimes get called Jamie Ju (she really dislikes that). My friend Sarah is Saracita and my friend Melissa is Melishka.  My sister-in-law is Aunt T (although that name actually can be attributed to my children.  When the oldest boys were small they couldn't say her full name, Christina, and she became T or Aunt T).  My own sister, Sharon, is Share Bear.

And, then there are my children.  I can't seem to stop playing around with their names.

Wyatt, my oldest, has gotten off fairly easy.  When he was a baby we would called him Boo Bear or just Boo.  We called him this so much that when he said 'Hi' to people he would actually say 'Boo' instead.  As a matter of fact, he still does that to this day.  Now, I will occassionaly call him WyWy.  But for the most part, he's Wyatt.

Edison, #2 boy, gets a few more nicknames thrown around.  We call him Edison, Ed, or Eddie about equal amounts.  And, then my tendency to play with names kicks in and I'll also refer to him as Edison Medicine or Eddie Spaghetti.  

Charlie, Boy #3, actually has the given name of Charles.  But, we've called him Charlie almost from the get go.  Lately he has wanted to be referred to as Charles on certain days because 'that's his real name'.  I also call him Chars, Charlie Barley, Charlie Barley Ruchi or, if I'm feeling really playful Charlie Barley Ruchi Pip Perri Pembo No Sa Rembo (You'd have to read the children's book, Tiki Tiki Tembo to understand that one!)

And, then there's Joseph, or The Baby as I still refer to him (although my husband reminds me that he is most definitely not a baby anymore.)  I really love the name Joseph and don't care for the nicknames Joe or Joey.  However, that doesn't stop me from coming up with odd things to call him.  We do sometimes refer to him as JoJo.  And, that has morphed into Hojo Mojo, just plain old Hojo.  I've even taken that one a step further into Hoji.  And, more recently I've taken to calling him Bobo or Bo.

So there you have it.  No names are safe with me!  

Do you use nicknames?  Have you come up with any odd ones?  I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How Do People Perceive Us...And Does It Matter?

John and I are taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course at our church.  This is a refresher course for us because we watched his video series in a small group setting years ago.  While we still live below what it seems many people would consider the 'average' standard of living, our finances have improved in the years since we first were introduced to Financial Peace.

We wanted to take the class, review some of the concepts, and become more intentional about our spending/saving again.

But, as we were getting ready to leave for the first night of the course this past Sunday, I had an urge to change my purse before we left.


Well, my generous & gracious sister-in-law gave me a Coach purse a couple months back that I've been using.   As a matter of fact she's been generous to me in many ways - the majority of my wardrobe right now was passed on to me by her... and the clothes are in new or next to new condition.  

I had admired the purse when I saw it at her house.  It's a fun lime green color.  And, a couple weeks later she brought it over to me and said I could have it.  She doesn't use it anymore and she has a collection of purses so she didn't feel she'd use it in the future.

I was truly appreciative of this amazing gift.  Up to this point, my purses have been thrift store or yard sale finds.  And, I generally use the same purse until it is worn out.

Fast forward to our first night of Financial Peace.  I suddenly felt strange carrying this Coach purse to a course that focuses on good stewardship.  I personally have never spent more than $20 on a purse, but for anyone who knows the brand, they'd of course think I spent way beyond that.

And, this winter I'd bought myself a new coat at TJ Maxx.  It was the first time I'd bought a new coat in 15 years!  15 years!  I truly needed it.  And, I did try to pick a coat that looked classic, yet up to date.

So, here I am, ready to walk out the door in my new coat, wearing clothes that are nice (but I didn't buy), carrying a Coach bag.  And, I wondered what people would think about me.  Would they think I was wealthy?  Would they think I was a spender?  Neither of these things describe me, but I was afraid this is how people might perceive me.

I nearly changed my purse before leaving the house.

But, I didn't.

1.  I'm probably putting a lot more thought into what other people might be thinking about me than what people are actually thinking.
2.  I'm not sure it matters.  
3.  My pride was getting in the way.

That's right.  My pride.  Because I almost felt like I needed to carry a sign saying, "But, I'm really a simple girl!".  I take pride in trying to live simply.  And, while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be if I set myself up higher than someone else.  

The fact is, many people have been generous to John and I and our boys over the years.  We are incredibly blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who give freely.  I know not everyone has that.

Instead of worrying so much about what people think, I want to instead try to find ways that we can be generous to others,how we can be a blessing.

Things are still just things.  What really matters in how people perceive us is in our words & our actions.

That's what I really need to focus on. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Looking Ahead

I haven't been able to get myself back into the groove of writing regular posts.  I've been trying to get back into our regular routine since Christmas & New Year's is over & can't seem to manage much more right now.

But, I have been thinking about some stuff that I'd like to write in the coming weeks.  Here are a few teasers....

 - My Year of Faith....Why I think this year is going to be one of revelation

 - How I'm Doing It - Folks I know have been asking me how I've been losing weight & I plan to share some tips & experiences with my new healthier living lifestyle

 - How Do People Perceive Us And Does It Matter? - Why carrying a Coach bag (a gift to me) makes me wonder if people look at me like I'm someone that I'm not.

 - The Unreachables?  My thoughts on a documentary focusing on one Appalachian family.

 -Nicknames - Sometimes I call my children the strangest things.

Hopefully the juices will start flowing soon!  I'll be back!  

P.S. - I did get a new hair cut!  Wanna see?  Thought I'd try out some longer bangs to start off the New Year.  I do like them, but not sure how long they'll last because it annoys me when they get in my eyes.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What Do You Eat on New Year's Day?

I grew up thinking everyone in the country ate the same thing on New Year's Day.  It was (embarrassingly) recently that I realized depending on where you grew up & what culture your family hails from effects what your traditional New Year's fare may be.

Here in our area known for it's Pennsylvania Dutch heritage our meal of choice is pork & sauerkraut.  Add a side of mashed potatoes & you have the New Year's Day meal.

My pork loin & sauerkraut cooked slowly overnight in my crock pot & when we get home from church I'll be whipping up some mashed potatoes.  

What will you be eating today?
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