Preschool Journal: Babies, sharks, and crayons on the beach

More entries from the unusual mind of a 4 year old boy (also known as my son’s preschool journal — titles transcribed by the teacher).  Can you tell he has a baby brother at home?

A super funny baby that doesn't even have a mouth.

A super funny baby that doesn’t even have a mouth.

 

A big baby. And it's an unhappy baby.

A big baby. And it’s an unhappy baby.

 

A big fat baby with super long hair.

A big fat baby with super long hair.

 

I was trying to draw a shark.

I was trying to draw a shark.

 

Crayons are flooding into the ocean. Kids are playing with them at the beach.

Crayons are flooding into the ocean. Kids are playing with them at the beach.

There you have it — proof that my son can draw something other than really squirmy snakes.  He may not be an artist, but I love the creativity behind it.

Do you miss art class, say good riddance to it, or do you still get your crafty on?

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Thankful

thankful pumpkins

Happy early Thanksgiving!  This post is a little bit silly and a little bit serious.  I’m thankful for…

  • Two little boys who are full of energy
  • Antibiotics.
  • Coffee.  (Coffee coffee coffee)
  • A warm, dry place to live.
  • A husband who’s recently rediscovered his love of cooking.
  • Nights that both kids go to sleep on time.
  • Somehow getting used to waking up at 5:20am.
  • Tea time in the afternoon.
  • Boot camp at work (Relax… NEVER!)
  • Hot cocoa on cold days.
  • Handknit wool socks.
  • The Zen of knitting
  • Gas prices dropping.
  • My boss and co-workers.
  • Hugs from my boys
  • Being a government employee so I get days off that no one else in the family does, and I can nerd out at home by reorganizing, knitting, reading, watching girly TV shows, and cooking up a storm.
  • Great friends in real life and online (like you!)

What are you thankful for this year?

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Reading while Driving #bookchat

reading

Reading while driving is the best!  No, not like that guy!  Listening to audiobooks, of course.  I love to read, but it’s hard to find the time with little kids always demanding your attention, so a wonderful side-effect of my long commute time has been a re-immersion into the world of books.  I’ve been listening to quite a few books on CD to pass the time during my new commute.  Here is a brief description of each one from my library’s website, and my thoughts.

unknown americans

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave Mexico and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panama fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she’s sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American.

In one way, this story so mundane, just the everyday lives of people and their normal struggles with school, work, relationships. But if you’ve never thought about what it’s like to be an immigrant in the US, this book will give you a very intimate look into that world. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective, and I loved that the recording used an ensemble cast to represent all the different voices of the story.  Read it and expand your world.

 

night circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, narrated by Jim Dale

Waging a fierce competition for which they have trained since childhood, circus magicians Celia and Marco unexpectedly fall in love with each other and share a fantastical romance that manifests in fateful ways.

My thoughts — All the narrators I’ve heard so far have been excellent, but Jim Dale is in a category all his own.  How can I describe his voice?  I think listening to him say “chocolate” might actually be better than eating chocolate.  Amazing.

This book was so fun to listen to. The author created an amazing magical world that I became totally immersed in while reading. I was disappointed in the ending though — it was as if the author got so focused on writing about the setting that she forgot to come up with a resolution for the main plot line that was as well done as the rest of the book. Worth the read – I think Harry Potter fans would especially enjoy it.

 

lifeafterlife

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways.

My thoughts — I abandoned about halfway through — listening to the main character die over and over again was just too depressing. I also found it really predictable — I correctly guessed twice how she would die next, and I am really not good at that sort of thing. Two thumbs down.

 

13moons

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

At the age of twelve, under the Wind moon, Will is given a horse, a key, and a map, and sent alone into the Indian Nation to run a trading post as a bound boy. It is during this time that he grows into a man, learning, as he does, of the raw power it takes to create a life, to find a home. In a card game with a white Indian named Featherstone, Will wins a mysterious girl named Claire. As Will’s destiny intertwines with the fate of the Cherokee Indians, including a Cherokee Chief named Bear, he learns how to fight and survive in the face of both nature and men, and eventually, under the Corn Tassel Moon, Will begins the fight against Washington City to preserve the Cherokee’s homeland and culture. And he will come to know the truth behind his belief that only desire trumps time.

This book is the perfect antidote to too many British novels and narrators in a row! I love historical fiction and Charles Frazier does it very well (remember Cold Mountain?). Highly recommend, especially if you’re interested in Native Americans, the Trail of Tears, or the Civil War time period.

Linking up with Jana, Steph and Anne.

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Preschool Journal: Snakes

At parent-teacher conferences recently, we learned that each of the students at my son’s preschool spends some time each day working on their “journal.” They do a drawing and the teacher writes down whatever the student says about it.

By far the most prevalent subject in my son’s journal was snakes. I’d just like to point out that I don’t think he’s ever seen a snake in real life, except from behind glass, so I guess that free magazine from the Missouri Department of Conservation really made an impression on him.

Snakes.

Snakes.

 

Snakes.

Snakes.

 

They're squirmy snakes.

They’re squirmy snakes.

 

A really big snake.

A really big snake.

 

A snake barn.

A snake barn.

 

Snakes squirming around a farmer.

Snakes squirming around a farmer.

 

Snakes are squirming all over the leaves.

Snakes are squirming all over the leaves.

Stay tuned for more exciting entries from the Preschool Journal.  What do you think — Is he obsessed with snakes or does he just like to scribble?

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November goals, and October goals in review

Monthly Goals // Beauty School Dropout

Photo Credit: caljuggler via Compfight cc

It’s monthly goals time again! I have to tell you, I’m loving just having ONE goal to focus on at a time. I think it’s really helped me make a habit out of some things that I’ve been trying to do regularly for years.  I’ve been following along with Steph’s monthly goal setting challenge, and the theme for October was food.  I set one main goal, don’t eat after 8pm, and a side goal to blog more about food.  I give myself an A on both!

I used the Lift app to track my goal of not eating past 8.  Check these stats out:  (green dots mean I did it!)

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Woo hoo!  I’ve gotten to where I’m not craving sugar every night at 9pm anymore, which I consider a major accomplishment.  I eat plenty for dinner, so I know it was just an emotional eating thing — looking for a “reward” for surviving the nightly marathon that is my kids’ bedtime routine.  (Yes, I know that it’s ridiculous, but I don’t know how to make it any faster.)

I did pretty well with food-blogging, too!  One new Cooking School post (Back-Pocket Recipes) and two recipe posts (pumpkin spice steel-cut oats & choose-your-own-adventure enchiladas).  I think I’m going to try to get back in the habit of doing at least one Cooking School a month for a while.

And for November, the theme is getting organized. There are so many things that need organizing in my life.  How to choose…?

After a lot of thought, I finally decided that I should deal with the boxes.  We moved in August, so of course we still have tons of unpacked boxes in the garage and basement.  My goal is to unpack 30 boxes — or one box a day.  I don’t think I’ll run out!

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(This barely scratches the surface of all the boxes in various places in our house.  I’m hoping to have lots of good before & after pics to show you next month!)

Just like last month, I also have a little blogging side goal.  I’d like to get a bit more organized so I can write posts in advance and respond to comments in a timely manner.  (Sorry about that, by the way!  I read all my comments and I love hearing from you.  Sometimes I just get distracted before I respond, then a week goes by, then I feel like I’ve missed the chance to respond.  Argh.)

So yay — it’s November!  Let’s get organized.

Do you try to get organized in November so you can relax and enjoy the holidays?  Or do you love the hustle-bustle of last-minute preparations?  

Life According to Steph
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Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing

MW Sarah

My interview about Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing is up today at Emily C. Gardner’s lovely blog, Primitive Roads.  I loved thinking through the answers to Emily’s questions, so check out the post if you’d like to read more!  And now I’ll ask you some of the same questions:

How has your current season of life impacted your writing? What is your writing battle cry?

See you at Emily’s!

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3 Ways to Wear… a patterned pencil skirt #capsulewardrobe #unfancyfriday

Just for fun on a Friday…
Part of creating a capsule wardrobe is finding lots of ways to wear the same items. I’ve had this leopard-print skirt for a couple of years and I always get compliments on it when I wear it, but I am always unsure about how to style it. I’ve been playing around with it on Polyvore and I think I’ve found a couple of very doable options, as well as a crazy one I might try if I have the right occasion.

The first option is my standard look — when in doubt, pair a print with black.  Good basic office look, with ankle boots to make it a little more current.

 

Rawr

 

Next up, something slightly more daring — mixing print with a bright color. Basically this is treating the print like a neutral, which I hear is what you’re supposed to do? #fashionclueless

Not so casual Friday

 

And finally — in true SEC football style, we’ve got the “football fancy” look that those Southern girls have down pat and we Missourians are just learning about. Honestly, the shirt probably needs some sequins or something.

Football Fancy

 

Have a great weekend!

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Choose Your Own Adventure Enchiladas

choose your own adventure enchiladas

“Mom’s Chicken Enchiladas.”  Ever since I moved away from home and had a kitchen of my own, I’ve been making some variation of this recipe.  More recently, I’ve been trying to eat fewer processed foods, so my latest varieties have involved various substitutions for the two “cream of” soups that my mom’s original recipe calls for, while still maintaining the flavor and texture of the original.  (Mom’s recipe doesn’t actually list enchilada sauce as an ingredient, but trust me, it’s supposed to be in there.  She always used one can of mild and one can of hot and mixed them together.)

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I’ve included some of my favorite variations, but feel free to make this your own!  Let’s go on an enchilada adventure…

1.  Choose your pan.  This recipe makes a 9×13 pan-full of enchiladas, or you can make two 8×8 pans of enchiladas and freeze one for later.

2.  Choose your tortillas.  I like corn, but flour tortillas are fine too if that’s how you roll.  (Enchiladas…roll…ha!)

3.  Choose your protein.  Chicken, ground beef, shredded beef, shredded pork, beans… I’m sure it would be delicious with seafood or venison too, but I’ve never tried it.  You’ll need about 1 1/2-2 pounds of protein.

4.  Choose your veggies (and cook them).  My mom’s original recipe uses one onion and one green pepper, but I say the more veggies the better.  Lots of colorful bell peppers would be great, or even some sauteed spinach.  Go for about 1 1/2 cups of veggies.

5.  Choose your sauce.  So many options!  For the enchilada sauce, you can go red or green, store-bought or homemade.  I like red sauce with beef and green sauce with chicken.  You’ll need about 2 cups (or 2 cans).

6.  Don’t forget other stuff.  The original recipe also calls for 1 can each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup, so for a healthier twist you could make your own or use a cup of sour cream.  You’ll also need 4 oz. of green chiles and about 2-3 cups of shredded cheese.

7.  Choose your assembly method.  Rolling the enchiladas would be traditional, but they taste just as good and are much easier when assembled in layers.

Here we go!

Coat your baking dish with cooking spray.

If you’re rolling your enchiladas, turn to the next page: In a large bowl, combine protein, cooked vegetables, soups/sour cream, and green chiles.  Soften corn tortillas in chicken broth or fry ever so briefly in oil (so bad for you but OMG good), fill each one, roll up and place in baking dish.  Cover with enchilada sauce and top with cheese.

If you’re layering your enchiladas, turn to page 17: In a large bowl, combine cooked vegetables with soups/sour cream, and green chiles.  Begin layering ingredients, in this order: tortillas, protein, sauce/veggie mixture, cheese, and then drizzle enchilada sauce over the whole thing.  Repeat all layers.

Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly, 30-45 minutes.

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What’s your favorite kind of enchiladas?

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Five weird reasons you should buy my house

Reasons you should buy my house...despite its quirks!Our house has been on the market for about 6 weeks now, and it hasn’t gotten too many looks yet. I know someone will fall in love with it if we can get more prospective buyers in the door, but in the meantime, I thought it would be fun to do a post about the upsides of the house’s little quirks. (Every house has some, right?)

 

1.  There’s no bathtub in the master bathroom and the bathroom is too small. How often do you take a bath — really?  That’s a bogus complaint.  Onward.  The bathroom is fairly small, and seems even smaller because it’s divided up into a tiny room with a shower and toilet, and a powder room area with the mirror and sink. Why this is awesome: you can use the sink or get ready while the other person is in the shower or using the toilet. Bathroom multitasking at its finest!

 

2.  A bathroom/laundry combo – yes, it’s another multi-tasking room on the lower level (just inside the door from the garage). Oddly not pictured on my realtor’s website (hmm… wonder why?) but it does serve one purpose very well – you get a little reminder not to leave your wet laundry to moulder in the washing machine whenever you step inside to use the facilities.  Handy, eh?

 

3.  There’s a balcony off the master bedroom.  Cool, right?  It even has a beautiful view of a dogwood tree that flowers beautifully in the spring.  Except… we never used it.  Maybe I should have put a coffeemaker in my bathroom so I could sit on the balcony with my first cup of coffee in the morning?

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4.  Some people seem to think there’s not enough storage.  True enough, the house was built in the late 1970’s and doesn’t have the gargantuan walk-in closets that some newer houses have.  But the master closet is big enough (and we even put in an awesome closet system!) and do your kids even need walk-in closets anyway?  Consider smaller closets as my gift to you learning to embrace minimalism.

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5.  The kitchen.  Okay, no quirks here.  You know you want this kitchen.  That’s a five-burner gas stove over there!  Now, who’s gonna buy my house?  (Open house next Sunday!  All photos courtesy of Scott Rose, Realtor.)

 

What quirks does your house have?  Have you ever sold a house before?  (It’s my first time — please tell me I don’t need to worry and it will sell soon.)

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Cooking School: Back-Pocket Recipes

Photo Credit: CHRISSPdotCOM via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CHRISSPdotCOM via Compfight cc

Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment!

I love to try new recipes, but we’re all busy people, so it’s nice to have some familiar recipes that you know how to make and that you know are crowd-pleasers — whether you’re cooking for your family or dinner guests.  For this latest installment of Cooking School, I thought I’d share some of the meals that I make over and over again — recipes I keep in my back pocket (or have memorized!) that I couldn’t live without.  Here are the meals that I keep in a regular rotation:

Breakfast:

Dinner:

  • Chicken enchiladas (I’m usually too lazy to roll up the enchiladas, so I guess it’s really enchilada casserole.
  • Tacos – just plain ol’ ground beef with onions and taco seasoning, bowls of lettuce, tomato, cheese, beans, avocado, salsa and sour cream.  Everyone can make a taco or taco salad that suits them perfectly.
  • Stir fry (with rice or noodles) — you can mix up the flavors so much by using different sauces!  This is a great way to use up leftovers, too.
  • My go-to Sunday dinner is roast beef (I learned that one from my grandma).
  • Homemade pizza (Williams-Sonoma dough recipe, spaghetti sauce, cheese, and whatever you want for toppings)
  • Grilled chicken (make extras for salads and wraps).
  • Southwest quinoa salad

This post was inspired by a similar post from my friend AfricanKelli (check out her Top 8 meals!) and 15 Recipes Every Parent Should Know from Dinner: A Love Story.

What are your back-pocket meals?

Like what you read?  Check out some of my other Cooking School posts:

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