Monday, January 31, 2011

Other Peoples Trash....

Saturday, it was 75 degrees in Oklahoma!  Seventy-five degrees!  Every now and then, we, oklahomans, really score a special day in deep winter and we had two on friday and saturday.  It was so nice that I decided I was going to walk up to the road and pick up the trash that losers throw out their car windows into my yard and the yards around me.

Well, I took a big, black trash bag and filled up the entire thing.  I almost couldn't carry it back down the driveway.  I looked like a skinny santa claus in a bright orange osu t-shirt and torn out jeans.  I was sweaty, hot and more than a little peeved once I got into the garage.  Sweaty and hot because it was seventy-five degrees outside and more than a little peeved because I get tired of picking up after losers....

Years ago,  when I was teaching at a school in Indiana, I had the opportunity to attend the coolest outdoor educational experience a kid could have.  We bused these kids about an hour north of Fort Wayne to a little camp and for three days they stayed in little cabins with parents at night and during the day, we, teachers taught them special classes.  The english teacher had them read nature poetry and then try their hand at writing their own poetry.  The math teacher had them figure the height of trees using some formula I don't know...and I, as the science teacher, had them do lots and lots of things!  I had so many ideas that I had to get parents to help!  I had a parent teach tracking and they casted their own animal tracks, they made cells out of food and then ate the results, they identified plants and trees.  I felt that we needed to do something that taught kids how important it was to not litter so I had five families, different kinds of families, to save one weeks worth of their trash.  They only saved the items that wouldn't smell bad and they washed out the cups, bottles, things like that, after a week, I collected the trash in a special labeled trash bag.

At outdoor ed, I split the kids into five groups and gave them a trash bag and a tablet of paper.  Their job?  To examine the trash and make a profile of the family by what they could deduce from the trash.  Most of the groups sat and stared at me in disgust!  They didn't understand?  What are we supposed to do?  I explained again that our trash tells a lot about us. So after quite a bit of urging, the kids donned the gloves and sat out to work.  They opened the trashbags and began to take a look at what they had.  One sack was filled with baby food jars, diaper wipe boxes, and pizza boxes.  They deduced a young family owned that trash.  One sack was filled with bottles of geritol, coffee cans, church bulletins and kleenex boxes.  They deduced an older woman owned the trash.  One by one, the kids began to realize that even with the 'cleaned up' trash, they could still get a pretty clear picture of the person it belonged to.

Well, today, I got a pretty clear picture of the people that litter.  They are fairly young, teenagers probably, that drink mountain dew and dr pepper.  They smoke marlboros and dip skoal.  They drink a lot of soft drinks from Sonic, McDonalds and Subway.  And most of all!  They sure do drink a lot of Budwieser!  Not just Bud, Coors, Pabst, and even occasionally a Heineken!  I'm going out on a limb and say very few of these disgusting litterers are anything like me.  A middle-class, middle-aged woman. 

White trash were the two words that kept going over and over in my mind.  When I was a kid, the worst thing someone would call you was 'white trash'.  That was the lowest of lows.  White trash, it must be different than red trash or black trash.  Why in the world do I care what color of trash throws their trash out the window into my yard?  I realized how racist that really sounded....white trash.  Like I'm making levels of trash....   I got ashamed of myself for thinking that thought.....  I decided that calling anyone trash was a terrible way to think.  These people, probably just stupid kids, are not trash.  They're just misguided or maybe they don't want to get into trouble for having beer when they get home, or cigarettes, or skoal.  Maybe it flew out of the back of their truck, maybe I should just stop being so superior and get back to work......

So I just sorted out the trash into the recycling bin and got my diet coke and sat out in the sun........

Friday, January 28, 2011

Playing Hookie! Don't tell!

Today, my son and I are going to play hookie in the afternoon!  I'm planning to pack a picnic lunch and take him to the nature preserve at our local university to hike and look at nature.  I can't help it, the weather man just said it will be almost seventy degrees by four o'clock! 

On a day like today when I was back in college in the eighties, my friends and I would do the morning classes and then sneak out after lunch to don our bikinis and lay out on the roof of one of the dorms.  I had a friend who's window looked out over a vast expanse of black tar roof!  Now, in the summer, one did not dare set foot out that window for fear of literally frying, but in january and february it was the best place to lay out under the sun! He! He!

We would slather ourselves with a combination of baby oil and iodine, a secret recipe from one of the girls grandmothers, that would dye our skin so even if we didn't really get tan, we thought we did.   Then, with beach towels, drinks and snacks, sunglasses and of course, a boom box, four or five of us would bare our winter bods to the sun! What a glorious day it was!  That rare winter treat in Oklahoma of a seventy degree day! Of course, that was before any of us worried about wrinkles or skin cancer.  It was such a carefree time!

One more reason to love living in the middle of the united states! So you see why I can't stay inside, I just can't!  I have to get out and make some vitamin D!  I have to get my happy vitamin to last me until March because that mean, old weatherman also said by Monday or Tuesday of next week, we'll probably have another winter storm with highs around twenty-five to thirty degrees.

Where I grew up, we had a saying, 'make hay while the sun shines.' That means 'get while the gettin's good.'  Get out in the sunshine and great weather because, in Oklahoma, it may be gone!  Well, I'm planning on getting it today!  So if you call or come by my house this afternoon, you'll just have to sit on the back porch and talk to Kate until I get home!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Love of Reading

Got my son a kindle for Christmas.  I saved up my swagbucks so I got a good deal.  I used to tell the kids that Santa didn't bring electronics because the elves couldn't make them but now that they are teens, that story doesn't fly anymore!  They do still get Santa gifts, as long as they still believe!  My daughter had trouble with this until my son said, " You'll get one less gift unless you tell mom you still believe in Santa!" She decided letting me play Santa was a small price to pay for one extra gift!

I didn't know what to think about the Kindle at first.  I thought I would never want one and would resist not having a book in  my  hand.  Until I got his and began to play with it!  Man, could I really use that!  And there are so many classics that are free to download that I could read and re-read.  I'll never give up my old fashioned books but I can see how this new technology is going to quickly overtake the market.  I usually don't go anywhere without a book in my purse.  With a Kindle, I could take a library with me!

I also realized this semester that my k12 kids can download my class book on their e-reader device!  Textbook companies beware! Soon you won't get away with charging over one hundred dollars for a book that will be out of date tomorrow, it will be available to download for twenty-five!  I really believe this is going to revolutionize the textbook industry.  When I was a Chemistry major in college, I remember lugging around a backpack full of books.  Organic chemistry class had three different textbooks along with various notebooks and that was just one class!  If I had a Kindle back in the eighties, that would have been sweet and my back probably wouldn't be out-of-wack today! 

I don't always jump on the bandwagon for new products.  Just because it's new technology doesn't mean it's better than what's out there.  I don't own every new kitchen gadget because, quite honestly, sometimes those new gadgets are actually harder to work and clean than doing it by hand.  I teach in physical science that a machine is supposed to make your work easier, but many of the new gadgets do the opposite.  Not so with these new reading devices. I've been really surprised.  I look at his Kindle with envy. I want one!

I'm pretty sure the next Amazon swagbucks are going to buy me a Kindle!  I love reading and so do my kids so anything that gets them and me to read more I'm all for!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gonna wash that gray right out of my hair!

I am about three weeks from going back to my hairdresser for a cut and color and BOY do I need it!  Now I've said earlier, I'm not a high maintenance woman but it is becoming very obvious that I need to see Cassandra a bit more than maybe the every couple of months that I go. 

I'm really tempted to just go and buy some temporary hair color and just color it today.  But I know that if I do, something will go wrong and then I'll have some 'splaining' to do as Ricky used to say to Lucy!  I've spent many, many appointments apologizing for doing something stupid to my hair.  I've given myself highlights that ended up looking like Marilyn Monroe cast-offs.  I cut my bangs more times than I can count.  The list goes on and on.  I'm sure Cassandra breaths a sigh of relief when she sees me coming without a hat on for my cut and color!

I'm beginning to see a lot more gray than I had a few years ago.  I am absolutely sure that sunlight must cause gray hairs.  If I part my hair on the other side of my head, there is not nearly as many gray hairs but, alas, I can't part it on the other side because I have a stupid cow lick that won't allow it! 

I guess I should find the silver lining (no pun intended....well, maybe just a little pun!) in having more gray hair.  My gray hair is thicker and it has more body.  My young person hair is fine.  So now, I have very fine hair that doesn't have any body to it mixed in with this new older person hair that is wanting to stand on end!  It's just an interesting combination to say the least! 

Oh well, I'm just going to keep it shoulder length so I can pull it back into a ponytail or bun and let the hair go wild!  At least I have hair my husband says, as he has lost a large portion of his! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saying no...

I think one of the most dreaded words in the English language is no.  It may be the most dreaded word in the world as many, many languages use some form of no.  It's a hard word to say, it's a hard word to receive.  It is a cold, someties cruel two letter word that can break a heart, break apart dreams and generally cause bad feelings wherever it goes.  It is sometimes welcomed, sometimes wished for and often the hardest word to say. 

As I get older, it seems saying no gets easier.  I have stopped trying to please others as much as I did when I was younger.  Now don't start thinking I have ever been a push-over.  Never have I been one to run with the crowd.  I overheard my mama say about me one time, 'I always know if she gets into trouble, it's her own idea.  No one can make her do anything she doesn't want to do!'  That actually kind of made me proud!  I guess I always have marched to my drummer, one everyone can't see!

When my kids were little, I didn't have much of a problem saying no to them.  'No, you can't eat candy all day long.' 'No you can't jump off the house wearing your superman cape.' 'No you can't knock down that wall so the birds can build a nest in your closet!' Yes, I actually have been asked those questions!

I never had a problem saying no to my students questions either.  But now that my kids are getting to be teenagers, it seems I have more of a problem saying no.  I feel bad when I say my daughter can't go spend the night at a friends house.  I feel bad when I've taken the son's ipod, kindle, phone, etc because he back talked.  I feel bad but I know that I must say no to them sometimes or I will raise two very ill-equipped adults.  They must learn that the world will say no to them a lot more than I ever will. 

I would honestly love to indulge my children in everything.  I love them more than my life.  And that is why I must say no.  I love them so much that I must say no to them.  To teach them that they won't be getting everything they want in life and they won't be getting it right when they want it.  I say no to keep them safe.  I say no simply because it isn't convenient for me to drop everything and do, get, drive them wherever they want right when they want it.  

Saying no to the person on the phone who wants me to do something that I really don't want to do is easy compared to saying no to my child.  But I will continue to say no and stand my ground.  I only hope one day they thank me.......maybe when they have children of their own!

Monday, January 24, 2011

January Doldrums...

I'm tired of January!  I'm in the dumps and everyone else around me is too.  We're grumpy because we're cold and it seems that the fun of Christmas left us about six months ago.... The weather is not helping the mood at my house!  Even Kate the big, black dog has taken to laying in her heated doghouse instead of chasing the birds and squirrels.

We need February!  I need hearts and chocolate and cherry pie!  It seems that February around my house is the month to eat.  While January is my month to do some of the things that I hate to do, like dust the top of the china cabinet, oil the woodwork in the hallways.  Yuck!  I need to come up with something fun and exciting to do in january!  While February has valentines day, mardi gras and President's day (think cherry pie, people), January has Martin Luther King jr day and the super bowl.  Big woop!  Those are not good days....MLK day is a day off from school but mostly it's just parades and oftentimes it snows.  The super bowl is on Sunday night! What good party have you ever had on a Sunday night?  I'm not in college anymore, I do have to get up on Monday morning, get everybody out the door and get to work!

Of course, January is fudge month for me so that's a highlight!   Maybe I'm just on a chocolate downer right now....but it just seems that the month of January is a big let down! I'll be thinking to come up with a great reason to have a holiday or party in January.....because right now, I'm just ready for February!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fish Tacos

I've had several requests for this recipe and I can't seem to find it in the blog so now I'm just going to repost if I have already posted!  This is one of my kids favorite dinners and it is sure a lot cheaper than eating fish tacos out!  I don't like many fried, breaded things so I developed this recipe without frying the fish.  I think the secret is the dressing on the salad!

Fish tacos

1-2 pieces of frozen tilipia per person
1/4 cup lime juice
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
1 chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper (I use the frozen chopped ones I have from summer)

Place all the above into a ziploc bag and let thaw while marinating. Once the fish have thawed and marinated for about an hour, place all ingredients into a skillet and cook on low heat until the fish falls apart.  Stir it all together and cook off the water for about 5-7 minutes.

while I am marinating the fish, I make a package of Zatarain's spanish rice. I make it with a can of chopped tomatoes with chilis (Rotel).   Keep covered and warm as you stir up the salad.

Salad topping:
4-6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1-2 tomatoes, chopped small
1-3 tablespoons chopped onions (depending on how much you like onion) can be green onions
1/4 cup chopped red pepper

Mix together in a bowl and toss with dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons lime juice, to taste
1-tablespoon taco seasoning
Stir until smooth and thin like salad dressing.
toss with salad

I place a bit of fish on a warmed tortilla, then rice and grated cheese and top with the salad mixture.  I usually make guacamole (or get it from the freezer) and serve with salsa.

My kids brag about this dish to their friends and people they don't even know!  I know I've hit on a keeper recipe when that happens!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Year of the Pie!!!

I like pie, cakes, muffins and brownies, not so much cupcakes.  Now I know some of you are gasping and hyperventilating right now because those little over-icinged delights are your favorites.  I'm not sorry, I don't like them!  To quote my daughter, 'by the time you get to the cake, you realize there is nothing there!'  Too much icing, too little cake.  Not enough substance for me. Kind of like some people I know.  By the time you get to what they are really like, you realize that there really isn't anything there but some pretty stuff on the outside. 

I also don't like the insane colors they put on cupcakes. Really? Who needs a red, blue, green mouth anyway.  You go to a party, you get handed a cupcake without a plate and then you get to struggle with the paper wrapper all the while knowing if you drop that little thing, it's going to ruin your entire wardrobe as it rolls off your lap.  Once you finally get the paper peeled off, where do you stick the paper?  It has icing all over it and crumbs all in it.  Too messy for me.  Give me a piece of square cake and a fork. 

I read last week that it has been declared the year of the pie.  Yeah pie!! I love pies, any pie really.  Except mincemeat.  That just kind of grosses me out.  Oh, and fake apple pie.  I think if you can't afford apples, just don't make pie.  I couldn't tell you my favorite pie, I pretty much love a lot of them.  They are messy so you can't eat them without a plate.  I love that.  No messy wrapper to dispose of  and if the pie is extremely good, you can just lick the plate clean.  My son does that, he learned it from my husband.  I was not pleased....

Kids learn a lot of things from their dads that don't necessarily please the mom.  Moms try to teach manners, dads teach kids to eat over the sink and drink out of the container.  Kids need both or we'd wind up with sissy boys who lifted their pinkies when they drank or sat at the table in their underwear licking their plates.  It's a good thing to have both!  Especially when mom makes pie!!!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Getting colder....I'm tired of winter!

This week is supposed to be our first real snowfall in Oklahoma.  We had a little last week but not enough to even cause a rush to buy toilet paper and milk.  In Oklahoma, when the weather gets bad, everyone gets freaked out and makes a mad rush to buy toilet paper and milk.  I worked at a grocery in college and it would just crack me up!  We would sell a week's worth of milk in one night if snow was in the forecast! 

Now, I've said before, Oklahoma is not someplace you want to be in a snowstorm because we are worse than woefully prepared.  Our idea of a sand and salt truck is two guys pitching it out the back of a pickup truck! We just don't get enough to justify buying all that snow removal equipment that northern states have.  Another reason is that, even though it might snow twelve inches on one day, the next day may be sunny and sixty degrees! Remember, I'm from the birthplace of Will Rogers who said, 'if you don't like the weather, wait a minute."  Some attribute that to other famous people, but in Claremore, Oklahoma we say they copied it from Mr. Will Rogers. 

When I was a kid, I came to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum with my grandparents and I guess my parents.  I don't really remember them being with us.  I was probably twelve years old and in that 'I just wish my parents didn't exist' phase so I've blocked them out of the memory.  Anyway, I remember looking up at Will Rogers genealogical tree and my grandma pointed out a name.  Grandma said, that's your great-great grandmother, maybe she said great grandmother or great-great-great grandmother, I can't really remember.  All I can remember is that somehow, we were related to Will Rogers!  That sure made the museum more exciting!

What I found out later, was that Will's family actually blocked my family from getting indian land because of a family dispute and it ended up going all the way to the supreme court! Of course, my side of the family lost so we aren't claimed by the Oklahoma cherokee tribe.  So when people ask me if I'm indian, I say 'we are with the South Carolina cherokees!  Since the Oklahoma cherokees didn't want us, I'll just rejoin the South Carolina cherokees!

It's funny how history so long ago still hurts today.  To not be accepted into the tribe because of a family dispute! My grandmother was angry about that for many, many years and I guess I'm still smarting about it now! 

Oh well, snows supposedly coming tonight. To quote my famous cousin.....I think I'll just wait a few minutes.......

Monday, January 17, 2011

Years ago, I worked for a small, private school.  I loved the other teachers and kids, we were kind of like a big family.  I taught fifth through eighth grade science and math.  After a few years, it got really hard to see kids graduate from eighth grade because I had been their teacher for three years!  They didn't want to go and we, teachers, didn't want them to go.

I realized that the only way I could be a successful teacher was to see those kids go off to high school.  How could I hold them back from achieving their potential?  As my kids grow older and older, I can see how becoming a parent is very much like being a teacher.  If I don't let them grow and go, I will never be a successful parent.  They have to be able to stretch and grow, learning new things, experiencing new experiences and I have to be able to let them.

It's really hard, especially as they are getting old enough to be doing a lot of things without me.  I keep reminding myself that these two kids, who were gifts to begin with, do not belong to me.  They belong to my creator and I've just been incredibly blessed to be a part of their lives.  I can't hold them back because of my fear for them.  I have to let them soar!

So I bite my tongue when they want to try something that I wouldn't do.  I bite my tongue when they like things that I don't really like.  I need to let them become their own persons, not a miniature me.  I am sure that they will be successful adults.  I am proud of them, so very proud.  I just hope I can guide and not control my children.

Friday, January 14, 2011

High Maintenance - Not!

I have never been high maintenance.  I think I'm just too lazy. Plus, it really doesn't matter how much I work, it always seems that I look the same.  My hair is fine and it and I decided a long time ago that we just couldn't get along.  Even the two sides of my head can't seem to get it together, lets just say, feathered hair never quite looked feathered. 

I finally decided this week why I'll never be high maintenance.  It just boils down to I am too lazy and have better things to do! Like play with my kids, go outside and play with the dog, scrub the toilet!  I was having a conversation about the best kind of makeup.  This person was explaining all the steps they take to apply makeup each morning.  As they continued to explain, my mind began to wander.  How many steps did she take just to apply the foundation?  What in the world is a primer?  Is that like Kilz?  I buy that at walmart to paint on stains before I paint the walls!  Apparently, there is a primer you are supposed to apply to your face between the lotion and the foundation! Well, that's why I don't look so good each morning.  I just slap on some Olay lotion and some Olay tinted moisturizer and go fix my kids breakfast!

I'm sure if I was as rich as Oprah, I would be more high maintenance.  I'd have my hairdresser, Cassandra, come over each day and fix my hair.  I'd have her put some primer on my face too.  Doesn't really look like I'm ever going to be as rich as Oprah anytime soon.  I'd honestly rather do anything than stand in front of the mirror and primp myself up.  I don't like disappointment and if I stood more than ten minutes fixing myself, I'd surely be disappointed.  I'd still look like me and I wasted all that time! 

I'd rather plaster a smile on my face with maybe a little lipstick and call it a day!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Taking stock of the pantry!

January means that I try to maintain a very frugal budget.  I believe starting off the new year this way sets the tone for the rest of the year.  One way I do this is to try and use out of my stockpile in my pantry.  It's time to clean out the pantry and wipe down all the cabinets.  I use as much out of the pantry as possible during this time and begin to purchase new items for the stockpile.

I have quite a few recipes that use out of the pantry stockpile I've created.  Taco soup, potato soup, chicken tortilla soup, just to name a few.  I also try to use up pasta and boxed meals so they don't get old.  Canned goods can live indefinitely in your pantry but I like to keep a rotation going so I'm not always leaving old things in the pantry.  When I purchase something, I place it in the back of the pantry behind what is already there.

I do the same thing in the freezer.  I am planning to use up the cheese in the freezer this month.  I've noticed that my local grocery has cheese on sale this week and I have coupons for the brand that's on sale.  I'll be going in this week and stocking up.  I'll plan cheese quesadillas and creamy tomato soup next week for dinner.  I'll also be making a few casseroles for the freezer that includes cheese.

I just recently cleaned out the freezer when we moved it into the new garage so at least I don't have to defrost and clean it!  That is one of those jobs that I absolutely hate to do!  As my stockpile of frozen berries gets smaller and smaller, I have more room in the freezer for storing quick meals for our family.  I cooked two beef roasts over the weekend; one with carrots and potatoes for dinner and one to freezer for later, I'm thinking barbeque sandwiches.  I have leftovers that will make a great hash later in the week. I took the strained leftover beef broth and froze it in one and half cups for making rice later.  I don't usually purchase rice mixes because I can use this leftover broth to make long grain rice and it tastes just as good but is a lot cheaper and has less sodium than the mixes.

January is always a month of getting things in order for me.  I'm starting this year in my kitchen!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Update on love languages!

Thought I'd update you on the love languages that my husband and I have been working on with the kids.  Now, I know it won't be smooth everyday but it really seems to be making everything around here work a little smoother! Each night we play the 'I appreciate that!' game that was described in the book.

It works like this, we go around the table and tell something that we did that day to help or show love to someone at the table.  It might be me cooking the meal or doing laundry or driving someone somewhere. It might be my daughter cleaning up her room or the bathroom without constant reminders.  It might be my son getting up without a big fight or bringing up wood without prompting.  It might be my husband who took out the trash or walked up the drive in the morning to bring me a newspaper.  It might also just be a kind word of encouragement or thanks.  The person who was affected by the act of service, touch, kind words or time says, 'And I appreciate that!'  It seems that simple little game gets everyone working hard to have something to say at the dinnertable.

It's a fun, easy way to remind each of us that our words and actions not only affect us but those around us. 

Like I said before, I'm sure it won't always be easy.  After all, I have two very hormonal teenagers.....but during dinnertime, it has given us direction and has lead to much laughter as we yell 'and I appreciate that!'

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eating from the Stockpile

I am a stockpile shopper.  I hate above all else to start making something and realize that I am out of one ingredient on the list!  I purchase things on sale and store them until we need them.  Now, I'm not one of those hoarders that you see on tv!  I don't have 100 shampoo bottles or enough cereal to feed us for ten years in my pantry.  I usually only keep a few extras because I have done this enough to know the sales cycles.  Retailers put items on sale in about a six to eight week cycle or a seasonal cycle.  For instance, facial tissue usually goes on special during the late fall/early winter, so I will buy ten to twelve boxes to get us through until they go on special again.  Cereal is about on a six week cycle so I only need enough to get us through six weeks until the coupons and specials are on again.

During the month of January, I usually go on a 'don't buy anything unless I really need it or can get it almost free' diet.  I like to try to save as much as possible since we just finished the Christmas season.  Our property taxes are also due in December so after I've traveled to Bethlehem to pay the taxes, paid for all the Christmas gifts, and all the other expenses that December brings, I feel that I need to be extra frugal.  Plus, in Oklahoma, I never know how the weather will be so staying home is a good thing!

I made my menu plan this month using things I already have in the pantry and freezer.  I download and print my menu plans from this website.
It has a monthly planner that I like.  It's blank so I just fill in the month and what I'm planning to have each night for dinner.

This week looks like this: Sunday lunch - pot roast, potatoes, carrots, green beans; dinner - homemade pizzas; Monday - shrimp lingune and salad; Tuesday - potato soup, homemade bread; Wednesday - roast beef hash(leftover pot roast), apple salad; Thursday - fish tacos, spanish rice, lettuce/tomato salad; Friday - cornbread topped chili casserole; Saturday - baked chicken and stuffing, broccoli.

The only thing I have to buy for this week is some lettuce and tomatoes for the salad.  I made two weeks worth of menus using just what we had in the pantry and I still have a few meals left for the third week.

January is looking like a good frugal start for 2011!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Apple Salad

During the summer, I don't have a problem getting my kids to eat at least five fruits and veggies a day.  We have ripe strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches and the list goes on and on.  We have tomatoes, squash, peppers, green beans and the list goes on and on!  Much of it comes from our own little four acres of heaven.  But when winter comes, sometimes I struggle getting them to each the winter fruit.  I make smoothies out of the blackberries, strawberries and blueberries I have in the freezer and I can get them to eat the fruit over pancakes, but when store bought fruits and vegetables don't taste the best, it is sometimes hard to get that all important five a day.

I keep a large assortment of canned citrus fruits in the pantry to add to green salads when the tomatoes at the store are $4 a pound and are as hard as tennis balls.  I buy apples, bananas, kiwi and little clementine oranges and the occasional pineapple.  I even resort to buying more juice in the winter to get at least a fruit serving at breakfast. But it gets to be a challenge because the kids get tired of the same old flavors.

My mom recently gave me a huge bag of gala apples.  Now, normally, when someone at our house eats an apple, it means that mom has cut it up.  The kids like it when I cut it up, take out the seeds and slice it thinly into a bowl.  At this house, it will get eaten if it's easy to find and eat.  It will not get eaten if it requires much work.  I keep peeled clementine oranges in a bag in the fruit crisper of the fridge.  If it's easy to see and reach and doesn't require much work, it will get eaten. 

I've been using the apples in my famous apple salad.  When I told my daughter this week that we were having stew and apple salad, I got the 'gross' look.  That's a look I see often when she isn't going to like dinner much.  She doesn't complain and she usually ends up eating it but I could tell that she thought the apple salad would not be her favorite part of the meal. 

It's really quite easy and stores well. 
Apple Salad
4-5 diced apples, cut up into bite sized pieces.  I don't peel them and I often use an assortment of colors and varieties
1/4-1/2 cup craisins or raisins or any dried fruit you like
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans, or walnuts or any nut you like
6 oz. yogurt, this can be vanilla or another flavor.  I like vanilla.

Mix and serve.

This was my daughter's favorite dish of the week.  We've had it twice this week and I took the leftovers one day as her afterschool pick-up snack.  She said this is her favorite afterschool snack of all time!  This beat out cookies!

I'm planning to use up all those apples and work on getting my kids their five a day!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Love Languages and Teenagers

My husband and I over the years have taken various classes and workshops to help our reationship, teach us how to be better parents, yada yada yada....   We've learned that I am a lion/beaver and my husband is a lion/golden retriever. That wasn't very helpful in the long run!  But we had a good laugh! We've learned so much, I can't remember it all! Sometimes I wonder how much I've forgotten!

One course that we studied that I really thought was eye-opening was the Five Love Languages of Couples by Gary Chapman.  Once we identified our different love languages, of course, they were not the same, we learned to give each other the types of love that each person needed.  In a nutshell, you really need to read the book, Gary Chapman identifies five different love languages; physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts and quality time.  Each person has a variation of these five languages of love.  A person whose love language is acts of service would feel loved if someone baked them a pie or cleaned up their room.  Those things wouldn't necessarily make a person feel love if their primary love language was words of affirmation. 

When the kids were little, I read the five love languages of children.  I felt that we had pretty much figured out what the kids primary love language.  For my son, it was physical touch.  For my daughter, it was gifts.  Now that they were teenagers, I began to wonder if I was missing something.  I found out that Gary Chapman had written the five love languages of teenagers.  I have been reading it this past Christmas break. 

I had the kids take the test that identified their love languages.  Boy, that was fun!  My son kept calling me Angie from the George Lopez show.  He has been teasing me all week as we play the 'I appreciate that!' game during dinner.    They laughed and laughed while taking it, made funny little remarks about mom and dad, and kept saying, 'I know I'm loved, why do I have to do this?'  Anyway, they finally got the test taken.

It was kind of eye-opening.  They each had different love languages that I had thought!  The ones we thought they were, were actually close seconds but each of them had a different love language.  My sons primary language is now a three way tie with gifts, acts of service and quality time.  My daughters was quality time and words of affirmation.  It was an eye-opener to me.  My husband and I are now going to try to give them more of those languages. 

I'm pretty sure my kids know that we love them but sometimes I think they need to see my husband and I try hard to figure them out.  I'm not sure it that is an act of service or quality time.  Oh well, I'm sure that they appreciate us trying!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Days are Getting Longer!

I swear the days are already getting longer!  The sky stays pinker and pinker each night.  As my seed catalogs start arriving, I begin to hallucinate about spring.  It's a gardeners mind-game we play.  We can already see the daffodils and green onions sprouting and it's the first week of january!

I know that we'll probably have several days of snow and ice here in Oklahoma yet.  We've not seen any so far this year and only an okie fool would think that we won't be seeing any!  But as I look out my front window at the bright sunshine and the many variations of brown on the landscape, I just know that spring is out there.  I see a bright blue male bluebird checking out the house my husband has put up for him.  He's thinking spring.  He's thinking girl.  Maybe we'll have little bluebird eggs in that house in a couple of months. 

About the time the daffodils begin peeking up......

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Simple meals

Well, we're back into January. Christmas and New Year's is past.  It's time for simple meals again.  Soups, stews, pancake night and simple one pan meals.  Simple, low calorie, low fat and low cost meals to once again get us back on track after all that rich, fattiness of December. 

One of my favorite meals during this time is chicken and noodles.  I also like chicken noodle soup and chicken and dumplings.  All of these require chicken broth.  That can add to the cost of the meal if you purchase canned chicken broth.  I simply make my own.  I either use a crockpot chicken or if I've purchased a rotisserie chicken, I use it after I've deboned it.  Whichever type of chicken you use, it's really easy to make homemade chicken broth using your crockpot.  Just dump in the chicken bones, skin, and everything that isn't meat!  Cover with about eight cups of water and turn on your crockpot to low for six-eight hours or overnight.  I usually don't add any seasonings because I season my chicken during cooking and the rotisserie chicken usually comes heavily seasoned on the skin. 

After cooking for six-eight hours, I let the crockpot cool and place it in the fridge to congeal the fat.  I then skim off the fat and strain the broth.  Now, I pick out the bones and let Kate, the big, black dog, have all the chicken parts except the bones.  She loves me extra special on that night!  After straining, I place the broth in freezer bags for noodles, soups and in containers to cook rice in.  If I have leftover chicken, with a fourteen year old boy in the house, that doesn't happen often anymore, but if I happen to have some, I'll go ahead and dump it into the labeled bag so all I have to do is thaw, season and add noodles or dumplings and veggies. 

Making my own soup broth allows in me to control the fat and sodium content in our foods.  I am really trying hard this new year to reduce those two things in our diets.  Not using prepared foods is a great way to start!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Looking back....

About a year ago, I started this blog for something creative to do and get some much requested recipes to friends.  I was a stay-home, home-schooling mom and felt I needed desperately to put feelings to words on a page or go insane!  I'm still a home-schooling mom, who now works part-time from home as a virtual school teacher.  I've not been as  diligent at posting since I started working, in part because it seems once I spend four hours a day on the computer, I just don't have the need to stare at the screen anymore!  I want to be face-to-face with a person, or Kate the big, black dog!

I've learned a little about myself this past year.  I like to work from home.  I'm planning to do this gig as long as they let me!  I can be a workaholic if I'm not watched closely.  Because of this type A personality I have, I have never moved into the type of career that could easily invade my family life.  Working from home very well could so I just set a timer in the kitchen and walk away after a certain time.  I like simply being a wife and mother too!  I learned this year that if I don't have an 'outside' job, I still have a very important job.  I care for my family, I schedule my families time, I do maintenance for the family, I clean for the family and I am great at all those things!  I had fallen into the trap of believing that if I didn't 'do' something, I was unimportant to everyone.  What I found out this past year is that I am invaluable to three people in this world, my husband and my kids.  Everyone else can replace me, they could never replace me! 

When I came to this conclusion after several months of soul-searching, I gained a peace that I hadn't had in a very long time.  I no longer looked at housework as drudgery.  I no longer hated laundry day. I looked at serving my family as my ministry and my attitude and those around me were blessed!

It seemed once I came to that conclusion, I got offered this part-time job.  It was as if God wanted me to understand that what I do isn't as important as who I serve.  I realized that my family needs to always come first, even if that means no vacation for the year.  At the end of my life, I will not embrace my job accolades, I will embrace my family. 

I was told this summer at one of the numerous camps that I sponsored that I was an encourager.  This person pointed it out as I encouraged young people to try new things or follow their dreams.  I had never thought of myself as an encourager before!  It opened my eyes a bit about myself.  I have always been a teacher, even when I didn't plan to be.  Teaching just always seems to draw me back.  Good teachers are encouragers.  Good teachers get you to stretch yourself to try things you didn't ever think you could try.  Great teachers show kids that you can get knocked down, get the breath knocked out of you and still stand back up and try something new!  Great teachers show kids that it's ok to fail if you gave it your best. 

I don't think I'm a great teacher yet.  I'm still  a work in progress but I hope that I'm becoming a great teacher to my kids.  I want them to be able to reach their goals, get knocked down and get back up again.  This past year has been an interesting journey.  I can't wait to see where this year will take me!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Years!

Hope your next year is full of joyous experiences and happiness!  For my family, it's time to start eating simply again.  I'm making black eyed peas and ham today on the woodstove for supper.  Supposed to bring you luck in the new year.  I don't really believe in luck, I just like black eyed peas!

If you don't want to cook an entire pot of peas, this recipe is good for a quick salad.

Two cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
One can corn, rinsed and drained
1-2 tablespoons diced green onions
1-2 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup italian dressing
Mix together and place on a bed of lettuce.

I sometimes add a tomato if you can find a good one right now.