Friday, July 30, 2010

Esther

I attended a small Christian school in Kansas City for a year after high school, to earn my Certificate of Worship Ministry. For the last three months, I lived with a wonderful German lady named Esther.
I am so glad God let us spend those three months together. I was very apprehensive about taking on a roommate that I'd never met, but I needed someone to share the rent, and she needed a place to live so she could attend the school. Esther was older than me - my parents' age, but I enjoyed every moment that we were roommates. She really was a great example of walking with and trusting the Lord - she still is! Nearly 10 years later, we still keep in contact by email.
The reason I am writing about her today is that not only was she a gracious, classy lady.... She was also an amazing cook! I definitely didn't have a gourmet kitchen - I knew I was only going to be living on my own for 9 months, and so the kitchen was furnished as such. But nearly every evening she had some savory dish that she insisted on sharing with me. I tried to help, but given that they were her recipes from memory, and she didn't know English names for most of the ingredients, mostly I just sat back and let her go to work. I tried to get her to let me supply food if she was going to be cooking for me, but even that was difficult.
As an aside, I now realize why she said the things about the selection at the grocery stores in America. After visiting a small-town grocer in Germany when I visited her and seeing the huge, fresh selection.... It really is pretty pathetic what we have here.
So in honor of my dear German friend, I am posting two of her dishes that my extended family always enjoyed. And we call them by her name. I made the first one for lunch today, which is what got me thinking about her.
And Esther.... In case you are reading - I hope I have done these recipes justice, and haven't "Americanized" them too much. There are several other recipes you made for me that are in my recipe box. Even friends have recipes with your name on them

Esther's Pancakes
Mix up batter for your favorite pancake recipe (but leave out the sugar if it calls for it). To it, add finely chopped green onions (1/2 to 1 bunch) and about a cup of shredded Swiss cheese. Grease a skillet well, and pour batter into desired size. Cook until lightly browned on each side. (Note: because of the cheese melting, it will look like the batter isn't cooked all the way through.) Re-grease the skillet between every batch you pour.
An even easier version of this that I discovered (because these things are always on hand at our house): use 1/4 c dried green onion flakes and 1 c of colby-jack cheese.
These are great as a light meal, or as a side to a meat and veggie (think of them like a biscuit). When we eat them as a meal, my family (as in my parents and siblings, not my husband) eat them with cream cheese on them!

Esther's Chicken
Grease a casserole dish and layer vegetables of choice in the bottom (potatoes, onions, carrots, peppers, zucchini, etc). Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and paprika. Arrange chicken on top (can use "bone-in" chicken or just breast pieces). Sprinkle again with salt, pepper, and paprika. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350, or until chicken is cooked through.

These are super-simple. I hope you get a chance to enjoy them yourselves!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Overheard:

Paul: "I need to go to the chiropractor."
Nathan: "Daddy's going to ride a tractor!"
Me: "Not tractor. Chi-ro-prac-tor."
Nathan: "Tall tractor. Daddy's going to ride one!"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vegging Out

Given the fact that I have a son who is decidedly anti-vegetable, and a second son who is showing all the signs of becoming that way, not to mention a husband who is super-selective about his vegetables (he'll always eat green beans, but anything else he won't eat unless he's in the mood), I've had to get creative in the ways I serve vegetables. I've tried packing on the flavor.... Lemon herb carrots and sauteed green beans have worked to get my husband to eat them. But it hasn't done anything for Nathan. We'd manage to sneak a bite in, and it would pop right back out as soon as it touched his tongue. Even if we hid it under a bit of mashed potatoes or rice, as soon as he started chewing and tasted it, the whole mouthful would come back out. (Corn is the one exception. He will eat it all by itself.... If he's in the mood.)
I didn't want to be one of those parents putting pureed vegetables into everything. I'd rather my kids learn to eat vegetables on their own, without having to trick them into eating them. Maybe when they're older. But for now, I've found three ways to put them in dishes we eat somewhat often. This was born of necessity - these vegetables are going bad in the fridge, and I know they won't eat them plain, so I'm going to make them eat them regardless.
First off was meat loaf with shredded carrots and pureed green beans. The carrots I'd shredded for a cole slaw, but it ended up that I didn't need all of them, and the pureed green beans were baby food I'd made for Jacob that he soundly rejected (all 10 times). So when I squished up all the ingredients for meat loaf (beef, egg, oatmeal, mustard, seasoned salt), I just added those in. You couldn't tell the difference unless you looked really closely.... There was no difference in flavor.
Second dish I tried was tacos. We had cabbage, also leftover from the slaw. I was just going to serve it as a topping, instead of lettuce (like they do in real Mexico), but I knew Paul wouldn't eat it. So I threw it in with the taco meat and cooked it. Add a package of taco seasoning, and there was no difference in flavor. In fact, I think I may have added some carrots to this one as well.
Most recently, our fight has been about zucchini. Paul absolutely will not eat zucchini - to quote, "There's only one way to eat zucchini, and that's in bread." I got a bunch of zucchini from my grandpa, and given the fact that I just swore off sugar (mainly to help get rid of Jacob's thrush, but also for my general health), I won't be making bread any time soon. So I made fried zucchini the other night. Delicious, tender zucchini, sliced thin, breaded and fried (in bacon grease no less)(no comments about "general health" here)..... And he wouldn't even touch it.
So - and yes it was out of spite - when I made spaghetti yesterday, I shredded up a zucchini and put it in with the tomatoes. It cooked down and really wasn't that noticable. I'm not sure if Paul would have realized that it was in there had he not seen the peels and core in the sink. He did concede that it wasn't bad, and he didn't mind zucchini when it was in something.
So even though I'm doing sneaky cooking to get veggies in on my sons, it's working on my husband too. I'm going to have to come up with some more recipes. But I still would rather they would all three learn how to eat vegetables, because they taste good and are healthy for them. What is it the Bible says? "Man shall not live on bread alone"? (Completely out of context, I know.) All three of my men would like to live on bread alone. With a side of beef. But not if I have my way.

P90X for Real People

So if you've done P90X, you know how intense it is. And I'd just like to say that the instructors are not "real" people. They are not your typical out-of-shape mommy who can't even do 10 push-ups. (Maybe I can. But I'm too lazy to even try.)
So I thought I'd post a picture of my first experience with P90X. Just to make everyone else feel better.
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Promise not to use this against me.
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You can't get any more real than this.

In my defense.... I wanted to see what it was like before I started it. My sister told me I needed to be "somewhat in shape" before I attempted it, and I now see why she said that.

Also in my defense, I'm doing this:


I don't know if you are familiar with Leslie Sansone, but I LOVE her workouts. They are simple - no fancy foot patterns, just walking in place with kicks and side-steps. This 4 mile one is my favorite. It takes 50 minutes, but you feel like you've worked by the time it's over. I'm doing her workout for a week or two to make sure I can do the cardio part, then I'm switching over to P90X for more all-over toning (something that you don't get in a walking workout). And after two babies, these abs definitely need some toning. (Abs? What are those?)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Overheard:

"Apparently you're using the wrong bait in your mousetraps. Instead of peanut butter, you should be using your rolling pin."

(This from my husband after telling him that I spent all morning cleaning out my kitchen drawers. There was mouse poop in and under the bread basket, yet they hadn't touched my bread and had gnawed my rolling pin handle extensively. Bastards.)

9 Months On, 9 Months Off

Jacob turned 9 months this week. I can't believe he's that old already! Yet, at the same time, it feels like he's been in our lives for so much longer.
I FINALLY am back down to my pre-pregnancy weight. The weight is distributed a little differently now, so clothes (especially shirts) still fit weird. I took it for granted how easy (or not easy) it was to lose weight after pregnancy. I did it with literally no effort after Nathan - no exercise, no diet (not even watching what I ate, except for things that bothered Nathan from my milk.... coffee, onions, etc). This time, I have tried to be more concious of what I eat, and have tried to exercise.... To no avail. Not saying I was religious about any of it, because I have no willpower. It is really hard to eat healthy when you have a son who munches all the time. I am training myself that just because he needs a snack doesn't mean I need one too. And let's not even talk about how difficult it is to find time to exercise. Jacob and Nathan finally are taking naps that overlap, but it still only leaves me maybe an hour, and I can't leave the house, obviously. I've been choosing to do other projects that I can't do while they're awake - deep cleaning, mopping, sewing, etc. I would just do it when Paul's home, but A/I don't like doing video exercising while he watches (not that he says anything, I just feel very self-concious), and B/It's too hot to do anything outside, not to mention C/His work schedule (days 2-3 days, off 2-3 days, nights 2-3 days, repeat over and over) doesn't allow for me to exercise at the same time every day to get in a habit (when he works days it would have to be before 5:30A or after 8P, and nights would be after 8A and before 5:30P). Also, D/I've found that if I exercise after the boys are in bed for the night (the ideal time), the endorphins are really kicked in and I can't get to sleep until midnight or 1 (a problem when the boys like to wake up at 6 or 6:30).
Anyways. Enough excuses. My brother loaned me his copy of P90X. I'm sure you've heard about it, if you're on Facebook. Everyone's talking about it, and there's always an ad on the sidebar. I'm determined to do it, but I think I may need to work my way in to it.
So today's the day. Exercising shall begin. Video exercising it shall be. As much as I can get in during naptime, it will have to be. My first goal is to lose 15 pounds, with my ultimate goal to be back at what I was when we got married (30+ pounds). It may take me until after we're done having kids to get to my ultimate goal, but here's to trying.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ka-BOOM!!!

Last night we got quite a storm. It wasn't horrible in terms of wind or rain - we've gotten much worse recently - but it had some wicked lightning.
I thought the worst of the storm had pretty much passed, and I was up in Nathan's room with the boys, putting new sheets on Nathan's bed when we heard a huge Ka-BOOM! right on top of us. It was so loud that it set off Nathan's piggy bank that lights up and snorts when you put money in the slot. The boys both jumped and looked at me with big eyes, but I just laughed and said something about "That's a loud one!" They were both fine.
It wasn't until this morning that I saw exactly where the "Ka-Boom" had hit. There is a large elm about 30 feet southwest of our house, and apparently it took a direct hit. When I went outside and saw the branch on the ground, at first I thought it blew down (elms are stupid and lose branches easily), but I didnt' remember any wind. That's when I noticed how the other branches were scattered.....in a circle around the tree. Pretty much the crown of the tree had exploded.


I was standing right next to the house when I took the picture (to show how close it is) - see all the wood and small branches scattered to the right?


There are chunks of wood all over the yard - some on the opposite side of the house (they flew up and over), and even some out almost to our shed. (And if you've ever been to our house, you know how far that is.)

Nathan's holding a big piece that landed there - about 60 feet from the tree. There were some smaller pieces that flew twice as far.

The odd thing is, we never lost power - it didn't even blink. The only thing it did was mess up the color on the computer monitor (the blue looked red and greens looked yellow) - which I thought was odd. When Paul inspected it after he got home this morning (he worked last night), he thought maybe something in the static charge would have done it. But after tinkering with it this evening, he fixed it by degaussing it.

I know you may not find this that exciting, but seriously. My life is not that exciting. It's summer and hotter than Hades outside, so we've been hibernating in the air conditioning. And in case you think I'm a weenie about the heat: this is why we run the air conditioners.

This is how hot it gets upstairs in the boys' rooms. It's actually gotten up to 93 before. That's with the windows shut, and the ceiling fans running all day, and foil over the windows. When it's this hot, luxury becomes a necessity.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thirty!

Monday was Paul's 30th birthday. I wanted to throw a big party for him, but there were several factors that made me decide against it. First, I wasn't sure how "okay" with turning 30 Paul was. Some people have a hard time, and whereas I thought he was okay, he did say something that made me think. Also, we just had a party on Independence Day weekend, and I wasn't really up for two big parties in just over a week. Another thing is that it was on a Monday.... Not exactly a great evening for people to get together - and he worked nights all weekend, so we couldn't really do it the night before. And lastly - given the choice of going out on a real date with my husband, or having a house full of people.... I want the date. It's been way too long.
Nevertheless, it was his birthday, and it was a special one. So I decided the boys and I would make it special for him.
I ordered a birthday present for Paul. It showed up Friday. Note to self: Don't let a 2-year-old see what you're giving your husband for his birthday. Not because he will tell him (which he will), but because he will want to give it to Daddy right away. We had to go wake Paul up and give him part of his birthday present on Friday, because Nathan was sobbing because he was so disappointed he couldn't go show him. I just didn't have the heart to tell him no.

And, no, my kids never wear pants.

Sunday night we went in to town and got a bunch of balloons filled and tied them to his chair at the dinner table. I helped Nathan make a birthday card for Paul, which he decorated.

The balloons were a great idea, but a disappointing reality. The helium didn't last even 12 hours in half of them. The mylar one that said "Happy Birthday" is still good, though.





Monday morning, Paul had a meeting after work, so Nathan was up and ready to greet him when he got home at 10. He was waiting on the front steps when Paul pulled in the driveway.

video

Paul tried valiantly to stay awake, but only lasted about an hour before he fell asleep. We let him go to bed.
I went back and forth on whether to make Paul a cake or not, but finally decided to do so. I figured it was his birthday. But then I couldn't decide whether to make a cake or cookies or a pie - he loves all 3. But then I decided: birthdays need cakes. So I made a cake.... Sort of.

It's two giant chocolate chip cookies sandwiched together with frosting. Yummy.

(And in my defense - it was a very fast, last-minute job with Jacob trying to climb my leg the entire time I was frosting it.)

Monday evening we finally got to go on a date. A real date. A glorious date. It's been a year. We went on one for his birthday last summer, and then shortly after he started working 6 or 7 days a week, pretty much until the beginning of February. We didn't even get to go out for our anniversary in March. I loved it! I got all "skanked up" - I figured it's a real date with just my husband, why not wear a top he'll love? I actually put on makeup, too.


We were going to wait until Jacob was in bed to leave, because he doesn't go to sleep easily, and I didn't want to wish that on my sister. So of course, he didn't want to go to sleep. About 9:30, he finally gave up. Just as we were about ready to go, Nathan had a complete meltdown. So we put him to bed, too. By the time we left it was almost 10. We could have gone to see a movie, but at that point, pickings were slim. And neither one of us were sure how awake we'd be after an hour drive up to the city. So we opted to just stay in town and go out to eat. However, because of how late it was, a lot of places were closed. Neither of us really wanted to go to a bar to eat, so we went to Applebees. Turns out, this was a great choice, because appetizers are half price after 9, and that's what I got for my meal (I didn't know they were half price). So for an appetizer, a drink, 2 meals, and a dessert, plus tip, it was under $30. Granted the dessert was free because I told the waitress it was Paul's birthday. He got sang to by 4 girls and a loud drunk guy - the first time he's ever had to suffer birthday embarrasment at a restaurant.
We went to WalMart afterwards to rent a movie at RedBox. Disappointed by the selection, we went to the electronics selection to browse the cheap movies, and ended up buying 3. We had every intention of watching them when we got home, but by the time we got home, visited with my sister (who washed my dishes for me!!!), and got her sent home, it was after midnight and we both were fading fast. So we watched the movie the next day during the boys' naps.
I know it was Paul's birthday, but I loved it. I loved making it special for him, and I loved going out with him. I guess since I kind of missed my own birthday this year, I thought I'd make his extra special.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another Sunset

Have I mentioned how much I love the view we have here?

And I might mention that these are unedited, and untweaked. This is really what we see.

How Did They Do It?

One day last week, when Paul came home from work, the house was a disaster area (maybe even worse than usual). I told Paul, "I know you can't tell, but I was busy ALL DAY. I didn't do anything on the computer, and the only TV I watched was about a half hour while I nursed Jacob before his nap."
I asked him how he thought frontier women did it..... Alone on their homestead, having to take care of all the cooking, cleaning, gardening, laundry, helping their husbands, and meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of their children.
Paul replied, "Well, the infant mortality rate was higher."
"Because mothers killed their children?" I asked. (This particular day, Nathan had been in a bad, bad mood, and Jacob hadn't slept. It was REALLY wearing on my nerves.)
But seriously? How did they do it? With no conveniences - washing machines, dishwashers, refridgerators and freezers, disposable diapers, and tillers for the garden (just to name a few). They had to wash clothes and diapers by hand, couldn't order pizza or pull something out of the freezer after a hectic day, and couldn't call family nearby and say, "Can you watch the kids for me? I've got to get some stuff done."
Even more recently, how did my mom do it? She is the hardest working woman I know. There are four kids in our family, in 7 years. She managed to have a huge garden every year, and canned and froze enough from it that we never had to buy vegetables. (She also bought fruit from local orchards (or picked from neighbors) to can, so that we never bought fruit either.) She always had beautiful (weed free!) flower beds, and I don't remember the house ever being dirty - at least not like mine looks most of the time! She sewed a lot of our dresses. And she still helped Dad work in the field or work cattle.
We never went to day care or pre-school, but she still found time to teach us all our letters and numbers, so that we were well on our way to reading before we even started Kindergarden. I remember counting to 100 for my Kindergarden teacher, for the prize of a package of three crayons. Later on (from the time I was in 6th), Mom did all this while home-schooling four kids and doing all the secretarial work for Dad's trucking business.
How did they do it? I struggle just keeping the house in presentable shape. (I've decided that trying to clean house while the boys are awake is like trying to bail the Titanic with a teacup.) Most of my flowerbeds are overgrown with weeds. The garden, too. I try to help Paul out with projects that he's working on, but it's at the sacrifice of something else - cooking or cleaning.
I know I struggle with priorities (like blogging instead of cleaning, or working on an unnecessary project instead of weeding), but I think even if I worked sunup to sundown and didn't have the kids to take care of, I still would be behind.
I admire these women who can do it all. I hope one day to be one of them. I hope one day to be like my Mom.