Quick Takes

Friday, June 27, 2014

First Avalon said this was going to be a tree house, but then the tree started sprouting funny things like carrots. And flames. There was a whole (extremely detailed) plot line that she was explaining to me as I made lunch the other day. "So is the tree on fire, or is it a fire tree?" I asked, wanting to know if she could understand the difference. "Of COURSE it's a fire tree, Mama, because God speaks through it. Don't you know that story?"

I'll just stop fishing around and checking on her language development, shall I? I think she's doing okay.

I was so excited about the free Lucy Maud Montgomery download on Amazon yesterday! It has long been my plan (and still is!) to search out the entire print set...because I just NEED to own those books, I really just DO. But it hasn't happened yet because that's a lot of books and I have a hard enough time justifying my book purchases as it is. I don't like reading stuff on my phone, mostly because I always feel guilty that I'm modeling phone-gazing rather than reading. If I'm ignoring the kids, it needs to be because my nose is buried in a book, civilized-like. But I couldn't pass up FREE!

So I downloaded it and then I realized it came with audio recordings! We spent an hour playing outside, listening to the first three chapters of Anne of Green Gables. And I had my hands and attention free, which would not have been the case if I had been reading aloud while the kids played. I got to rest my brain and modify Lainey's phonics workbook and weed the garden and mix up some homemade mosquito repellent. AND Anne was seeping sneakily into their little subconsciences all the while. 

4. Aaron and the boys were gone until super late last night, with back-to-back summer league games. And where I would ordinarily have let the girls stay up late and have a movie night or something, I put them to bed on time and had some blessed peace and quiet and Downton Abbey. I FINALLY started the first season last night and now I know why y'all are all hooked. But it is most definitely something that Aaron wouldn't enjoy watching with me. Which makes it perfect for basketball game nights!

 The guys didn't get back until nearly one, and they did not come home quietly, exactly. I didn't mind too much because I can't fall asleep until Aaron gets home anyway. But when they decided to continue being noisy and forage in the fridge and shut doors loudly over and over for the next hour while I was trying to sleep? Much grumpiness. Unluckily for them, I spent my wakeful hour plotting revenge. The very next time this happens (and it happens, sadly, VERY FREQUENTLY) I am going to wake them at five thirty when I get up, and make them get up and start their day, too. 

I'm deep in the midst of birthday plans for Lainey. She's been saying for a long time that she wants a Tinkerbell party, so I've been collecting Tinkerbell party ideas. Really good ones! That require me to buy very few things! Then suddenly she changed her mind and now insists that she MUST HAVE a Hello Kitty party. I tried to talk her out of it. "What if we still had the Tinkerbell party, but I got you a Hello Kitty present? Would that be okay?" 
"Okay, Mama." She said with a sigh. "Only I just really wanted a Hello Kitty party."

Hello Kitty party it is, baby! I'm on it! With the caveat that she cannot change her mind again, or I will lose mine. 
I'm not thrilled about the theme, mostly because I can't think of any Hello Kitty activities and I could think of TONS of Tinkerbell ones. But I am very excited about the Hello Kitty dress that I'm planning on making for my birthday baby. Enough time has finally elapsed since the play that I'm ready for a new sewing project! 

 Aaron took pity on my lamenting and Pinterest-searching for Hello Kitty party activity ideas, and looked online and found a kitschy game arcade type place where all the machines take nickles, and they have really good birthday party rates, so he's going to take the boys later today on a reconnaissance mission to see if it would be good for Lainey's party. Oh, the sacrifices they make for their little sisters! 
(But seriously, if this place works I won't have to plan any activities at all! And I could make little Hello Kitty bags of nickles to give to all the guests! And other ideas! Y'all know how I get about birthday parties...)

More Quick Takes here! 

Wordless Wednesday: Always Learning

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yesterday's summer schoolwork with Mama. I can only hope that they'll be this excited about it when they're older. Right now they start clamoring to DO SCHOOL WITH YOU the instant that breakfast is over.

Fuel-Pull Stuffed Peppers Recipe and Assorted Ramblings

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I have been doing so much cooking, y'all. Between the small horde of hungry people always in my house, the fact that getting take-out for so many people costs a million dollars, and the fact that Aaron is doing the THM diet hardcore with me and so is WHAT CAN I EAT, BABE-ing me all the livelong day...I pretty much don't leave the kitchen. Ever. And I kind of love it!

(No, seriously. I love feeding people. Fortunately.)

I mostly learned how to cook by playing around with Aaron's great-grandmother's recipes as I sorted through them when she moved into assisted living. Grammy's recipes were a treasure trove of Crisco-y goodness, much appreciated by my husband who was pretty sick of the three meals that I knew how to cook previous to our marriage.

I've learned how to cook for a big group through trial and error in the past few years (and let me tell you, such a thing cannot be un-learned. I am now actually incapable of making a meal that serves less than eight people) as Aaron started bringing boys over here more and more frequently.

Somewhere along the way cooking and baking became automatic. And therapeutic. I worry every day if I am doing a good job as a wife/mother/teacher...if I'm nurturing and loving and patient enough. It's all so vitally important, but so abstract. Dinner is tangible. At the end of the day I know I've fed everyone, even if I don't know that I did anything else right.

My current challenge is learning to feed everyone WHILE staying within Trim Healthy Mama guidelines. Which is, essentially, not combining fats with carbs. You can have one or the other for any given meal, but not both together if you want to lose weight. Also no sugar or corn, which is significantly more challenging, but sooooo healthy for everyone.

(And it's super effective. I'm currently below my goal (pre-marriage) weight and now have my sights set on a new! even! hawter! goal. All while loading my coffee with heavy cream on the daily)

Now that Aaron is doing THM with me, I can't get away with making regular meals for everyone else and a little something on the side for myself, the way I have been for the past year. And I love it, but cooking this way can be tricky, especially if you're trying to please a fast-food addicted crowd. Last night, for example, I made a chicken parmesan casserole (hit!) and cheesy garlic bread (miiiiiiiiss!) and what was billed as strawberry shortcake pie (HIT!). Luckily my guys are patient about my kitchen experiments, and the hits usually outweigh the misses.

I'm getting fairly competent at the low-carb meals and the sugarless deserts, and not so bad at the low-fat meals. What still gets me are the low-carb AND low-fat fuel-pull meals. It always makes me think of Susan in Rilla of Ingleside.

Susan is a somewhat disgruntled woman at present, owing to the regulations regarding cookery. Her loyalty to the Union Government is being sorely tried. It surmounted the first strain gallantly. When the order about flour came Susan said, quite cheerfully, 'I am an old dog to be learning new tricks, but I shall learn to make war bread if it will help defeat the Huns.'
"But the later suggestions went against Susan's grain. Had it not been for father's decree I think she would have snapped her fingers at Sir Robert Borden.
"Talk about trying to make bricks without straw, Mrs. Dr. dear! How am I to make a cake without butter or sugar? It cannot be done, ­not cake that is cake. Of course one can make a slab, Mrs. Dr. dear. And we cannot even camooflash it with a little icing! To think that I should have lived to see the day when a government at Ottawa should step into my kitchen and put me on rations!'
"Susan would give the last drop of her blood for her 'king and country,' but to surrender her beloved recipes is a very different and much more serious matter.

(Which mostly just tells us that I've read Rilla of Ingleside way too many times, but also reminds me to add it to next year's curriculum because I LOVE it and it's the perfect book to read while the kids study WWI. The boys will whine about having to read a girl's diary, but if they're not already into it by the time Susan tries to kick the cat with both feet and falls on her behind, they will be shortly thereafter!)

But that is exactly how I feel about fuel-pull meals. I can make slabs. Without icing.

My best attempt so far was converting a stuffed peppers recipe to be fuel-pull. Stuffed peppers are an awesome carb-free meal, smothered in cheese and sour cream and stuff. Making them tasty without all that is hard, though! This is what I came up with:

I used:
Green bell peppers, seeded
Jar of sugar-free basic pasta sauce
Pound of ground turkey
4 or 5 zucchini, sliced and quartered
Sliced mushrooms
Half an onion, chopped
Several garlic cloves, chopped
Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind)
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil, chopped
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350, turn on some Etta James.
Prep the peppers and stab them a time or two so excess juices can run out. Normal people steam their peppers before stuffing them, but we like our peppers to be a little crispier, so I didn't. Put the peppers in glass baking dish.
Brown the ground turkey and season with salt and pepper. Then put it in a pot with the pasta sauce and begin to simmer.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and basil, cook for a few minutes. Add in the mushrooms and onions, saute for a bit, then dump the whole thing into the pasta sauce pot. Simmer this for a good twenty minutes.
Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet, then add the zucchini. Salt and pepper it and cook until it gets soft, then dump it into the pasta sauce pot.
Simmer for ten minutes or so, then fill the peppers with this. I used a slotted spoon so they wouldn't be too juicy, and then ladled a bit of extra sauce over the tops. Sprinkle a little Parmesan over each pepper.
Bake at 350 for about thirty minutes.

I made some regular spaghetti and served it with the leftover sauce to the kids, because they aren't dieting and I wanted them to feel full. Aaron got several more peppers than anyone else so he could feel full. I ate one pepper and felt full because I was too busy to sit down and eat any longer than that.

So. It isn't carb and fat FREE, but it is extremely low in both of those things and counts as a fuel-pull meal. And it tasted pretty good!

link up!

Mischief Managed

Monday, June 23, 2014

Words cannot even describe how glad I am that it's a new week. Last week was...not my favorite. Mostly because I spent the vast majority of my time fighting with this:

Bottomless Box of Folders. Since we left for the senior trip right after graduation, we didn't have to do our end-of-the-year progress reports until after we got back. So I had this nice little schedule plotted out of doing a report here and a report there, during naptime and after the kids went to bed, all gradual and easy. And it did. not. happen. Not even a little bit, because I was so busy and having too much fun to sit down and do what is easily the most procrastination-tempting task EVER. And then when I finally did suck it up and get to work, it took FOR EVER because I was also supposed to be editing for everyone and fixing the formatting on each report to make it uniform. Which serves me right for being an English teacher and having OCD.

We didn't have many boys last week (only three! I don't think I have a normal perspective on 'many' any more!) and it wasn't a basketball camp week, so it all worked out well enough for Aaron to deal with the kids mostly while I holed up in front of the computer until my eyes bled and my brain liquefied over hundreds of pages of Google Docs. It was super.

BUT the reports are finally finished, I hauled my box of folders back to my classroom, and I can rejoin the land of the living once more. All of my energy apparently got sucked into the computer screen, and I really missed being with my chickies, so I accomplished very little this weekend other than laying around and catching up on snuggles. Hence rejoining the land of the living in full force today looks suspiciously like a lot of laundry.

Which does not bother me at all, as a matter of fact, as long as I don't have to write a meaningful, balanced, unique reflection including personal anecdotes on each individual towel, or anything.

Theme Thursday: Sports

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Another Theme Thursday that has a perfect theme for me! Because, sports!

Well, not perfect for me personally. I mean, I can't sports. Unless you count Extreme! Lightning Fast! Reading! as a sport, which you probably don't and that's okay. But I do love all of my athletically inclined tribe, and I love watching them play, and I love being marginally involved in sports the way that I am as Mrs. Coach and one-woman booster club and rabid team mama.

(A hundred million years ago, before I knew Aaron, I would get all teenage-daydreamy about what kind of guy I would end up with and one of my favorites was the one where I was married to a coach of some sort. It's just always appealed to me somehow. True story. Life is funny like that sometimes!)

This is a huge part of our family culture. During basketball season (and off-season too, really) the girls are practically raised in gyms. They con basketballs away from the players and practice dribbling, or con the players into holding them up to the goals so they can make shots. And they're already all more coordinated than I am, so that's good. I dress them up as cheerleaders BECAUSE I CAN, but really what they look forward to is when the game is over and they can get out on the court and get buckets with their brothers.


But don't let me give too romantic an impression of this sports-infused life...


Bags of jerseys to be washed. There are always bags of jerseys to be washed.

Weekend Wrap-Up and Photo-Dump

Monday, June 16, 2014

Friday: after basketball camp and weekend chores (read: mowing and yardwork, cleaning the bathrooms, and cleaning their rooms) we took the kids to a free outdoor concert at Levitt Pavilion, which is one of our favorite things to do in the summer. I packed up a picnic dinner, they brought a frisbee, we stopped and bought a few boxes of ice cream drumsticks on the way...can you ask for a better summer evening?

Saturday: Lainey actually agreed to go with Gran to a VBS swimming/ splash activity morning (I was never really clear on the details, honestly, and the most I got out of her afterwards is that it was fun and she ate a popsicle.) which I think was good for her, since she can be so timid about anything unknown or outside of her comfort zone. While she was having fun all independent-like, the rest of us spent the morning at Trader's Village, which is a gigantic flea market. With rides. And Michael Jackson impersonator performances. And shops where you can buy real ninja swords and live parrots and phone cases. Suffice it to say, everyone liked it. Avalon fulfilled a dream of her heart by getting to ride a "roller coaster" and loved it every bit as much as she's always known she would. She wanted to ride the Pharaoh's Revenge swinging ship, but the dude wouldn't let her on, EVEN THOUGH she was tall enough if you counted her hairbow. She teared up tragically, and I did my best pouty face, but homie wasn't budging.
So, whatever, we rode the Scrambler (oh, I get it mama! Because it mixes us up, right?) which had the exact same height requirement and a much nicer operator.

(And Aaron stocked up on the best grilling rub in the world, which I guess you can only get at Trader's Village, and we have been out of for TOO LONG and then grilled everything he could get his hands on for dinner that night)

Sunday: we got to give Aaron the presents that we've been working on all week - the girls have been diligently making some macaroni-covered trophies and I got a Groupon for a massage for him, because his back ALWAYS hurts and yet he will NEVER willingly spend money on himself when he could just grit his teeth and leap tall buildings at a single bound anyway. I guess he liked it, because he had me get another one for his dad, who promptly said, "Why did you spend money on me? I do need this, though." Hmmm, like father, like son, yes?
We did church, and lunch, and a long and glorious nap, and then had a Catan night while the girls built a fairy house in the backyard and stayed up very late because they were being so good.

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