Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Banana Bread, Cookies and Mac & Cheese

Lately I've been trying to get my cooking and baking back on track.

I enjoy cooking and baking.  And while I'm no Paula Deen or Pioneer Woman, I can follow a recipe with the best of them.

I've shared a few of my favorite recipes here  and here and here.

Today is the first day in a while that my schedule is pretty easy after school.  I only have one child to pick up from a practice.

Oh Joy!

It makes me as happy as seeing this....

 Helloooo Ryan. :)

 I know.  I know.  He has nothing to do with my cooking or baking or whatever.  I'm just saying that his cutie-patootie face brings joy like baking does.

Work with me, people.

So in honor of my schedule being a tad less hectic,  I'd like to share the yummy recipes I've been making today.  They've all been taste-tested in my house multiple times so I can put our stamp of approval on them.  And I didn't invent one of them.  Nope.  I found them and I'm going to share where I found them with you today.

Doesn't that make you happy?  If not, just look back to the picture of Ryan.

Go ahead.  I won't mind.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  So good.  So soft.  So yummy!  She says you can freeze them, then take one out for your child's lunch and it will be yummy, soft and thawed by lunch.  I haven't tried the freezer thing since they have yet to actually make it to the freezer before being eaten.

Buttermilk Banana Bread also from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  I've made this bread 3 times in the last week.  Once for my family, once for my daughter's volleyball team and today I made it to use up some bananas.  The recipe is for a loaf of bread.  I made mine in muffin tins.  I can't tell you how long they cooked, but I'd guess it was about 20 minutes.  The buttermilk must be the magic ingredient.  They are light, moist and gone in less than a minute.

Mac & Cheese from the Pioneer Woman.  Nothing beats homemade mac and cheese.  This recipe is one that my entire family enjoys.  My younger daughter requests it at least once a week.  She will be so excited when she finds out I made it today.  Add some ham and broccoli and you've got yourself a nice little dinner!  (And how big a goober am I that I actually went out and bought the same square dishes like The Pioneer Woman?  If you see the picture on her post, I have those dishes!  I'm trying hard to be cool and failing miserably!)

For all this work,  I deserve a cookie.

Or maybe two or three.

What have you been making lately?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


My oldest daughter, now a 7th grader, has played some sport since she was 5.  Soccer was our main sport with volleyball entering our lives just last year.

As a parent is is hard to remember what it was like starting out in a sport.  I played softball for years growing up.  Back then we had pitchers who threw the wicked twelve foot arc-type pitches.  The fast pitch stuff was for the traveling teams.

So here she is, after a year of lessons in volleyball, playing for her middle school team.

What a sweet bunch of girls.  They are equal parts competitive and cute.

Sporty and sassy.

And smart.  Let's not forget that these girls are bright.  That is the best part.

Sitting in the stands with the other parents, I want my daughter to do well.  I want to will her to be as strong as I know she is.

"Just hit the ball like your little sister is on the other side of the net.  Hit it HARD." 

There are plenty of smaller girls who are just muscle packed in a petite package.  My daughter is the lanky one.  Tall enough to cover the net, but without the confidence of some of the others.  That will come in time.  It would come sooner if she would let my brain vibes into her head.  I was willing that serve to go over as hard as I could.  It did.  She should listen to me.  Somebody tell her to listen to her mother.

She's forbidden me from yelling for her  since I embarrassed her during soccer season last year.  I can, however, yell for her teammates.  Above is one of our girls doing a jump serve.  That's right.  JUMP SERVE IN 7TH GRADE.  Sweet, right?

I've kept my promise to just clap for her.....

So far.  I may break out into a yell or something later in the season.  I'm unpredictible like that.

She listens to her coach and is thrilled when he compliments her on a hit or block.  He is tough and expects the girls to practice as hard as they play in a game.  I like that.

Everyone doesn't get to play in every game.

I like that too, even when my daughter is not one of the ones playing.  She learns by watching her teammates.

I want to get out there and play.

I think that would put her over the edge.  One can't really die of mortification, right?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Strawberry Season

Strawberry season is at the beginning of summer here in the South.

I'm partial to eating strawberries when they're in season where I live.

Call me a produce snob, it's just the way it is.

The beginning of the  week my 7th grader tells me she's been asked to bring in strawberries as part of a treat day in one of her classes.  This was Monday.  I write it down on my calendar.  I put it in my iPhone.  I add it to the Family Calendar on the fridge.  You'd think I'd remember.

You'd be wrong.

I forgot all about this until late today.  Make that I forgot and the 7th grader forgot until after dinner and baths and kitchen cleaning and me wanting to sit down and enjoy a little Tony DiNozzo on NCIS. He is so dreamy, don't you think?


Remember I said strawberries are in season at the beginning of summer?  Well, they are not in season any more and my trip to the grocery proved it.  I bought 2 packages of abnormally large strawberries (they really shouldn't be the size of a golf ball, right?).  Most of the strawberries were gross and mushy and generally yucky.  I ended up having to cut them up so as to preserve the good parts of the fruit.

Arrrggggg....I was a little perturbed right about now.

Once I cut them I had to figure a way for the kids to serve themselves.

Lucky for me I had some grapes and leftover pixie stick-like toothpicks.

Note to self.  Don't drop pixie stick-like toothpicks on the counter.  They are slippery little suckers.

This silly "hey, could you bring in some strawberries for our class buffet on Friday?" ended up taking me almost an hour.

And all I ended up with was half a bag of strawberry pieces and grapes.

I hope this isn't a foreshadowing of my weekend.

Happy Friday, Ya'll!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Run, Forrest, Run

This post will have pictures that have nothing at all to do with the subject.

I'm just sayin'.

Lately I've started running so my wild, crazy, goofy, teen-aged-in-dog-years puppy can exert some of her energy.

I run around the lake in my city.  It's not far.  I think it is just about 3 miles.  But it could be 12 miles and I'd never really know the difference because 3 miles feels like a really really long way to my legs.

The trails that skirt the lake are pretty nice.  They are almost always in the shade.  There are usually plenty of people who are running/walking/biking to look at.

There are golf carts driven by teenagers to dodge.  That keeps me on my toes.

I have dreams that I look like some amazing runner when I run.

This is NOT me.

From Athleta Sportswear
I believe that I actually look like I'm about to have an "episode".

An episode of what, I'm not quite sure.

But the image of me when running is one of a red-faced, middle-aged woman (ugh...did I really just write that?) trying to keep her dog from running into traffic   stopping in mid-stride while simultaneously trying to look like she really can make it around the lake without stopping.

That alone should be off-putting, but today a kink was thrown into my running routine.

A guy, I'll call him Creepy Guy, actually ran up beside me and asked how far the route around the lake was.

This is NOT creepy guy. 
First of all, I had headphones in and didn't hear him coming.  Note to self...teach my spastic dog to bark when Creepy Guy approaches.
Second, I had headphones in.  Isn't this the universal sign for Leave Me Alone?

I was nice, though, took out my ear bud and answered his question.  Then I hightailed it right out there.  I think I finished faster than I'd ever run before.  I didn't see Creepy Guy any more that day.


Poor puppy was practically being drug behind me as I sprinted  walked really fast with a hop back to my car.

I think I need a box of chocolates now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Spelling Practice

I used to teach elementary school.  I've taught 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  I've had experience in 4th grade, but my heart is in the younger grades.  I think it is because I'm much more proficient in their math.  Long division gets me every time!

If you have a younger child who is in need of spelling help OR you would like a new way to practice spelling words, here is an idea you could try.

You'll need index cards, markers in 2 or 3 colors or a highlighter and your spelling list.

In younger grades the spelling lists usually cover a spelling rule - like "-ai says A like in rain" or          "-ea says E like in clean".

Figure out what your rule is.  There may be more than one rule per list if your child is in 3rd grade or higher.

Have your child write their spelling word, highlighting the rule by writing it in another color.

You could even have your child write the word and actually highlight the spelling pattern WITH a highlighter.

Use different colored markers/highlighters for different spelling patterns. (I didn't do that for the picture, but for "ea" you could use green or orange to write those letters.)

Once you have written all the words down, use the cards to group the words by pattern or in alphabetical order.

IF one of your child's words doesn't follow a spelling pattern, write that one in RED ink.  You can tell your child that the red words don't follow spelling rules and they just have to learn them.

When your child gets older, you can have them use this technique to look for Greek or Latin roots/prefixes for words.  Knowing the derivation for roots/prefixes can help them when they are learning definitions or are trying to pronounce a really long word.

Happy Studying!

Monday, August 22, 2011


This past weekend was our first volleyball tournament with the oldest daughter.  Aside from having to be up way too early on a Saturday,  having to be coherent enough to follow the directions of my navigation system while simultaneously looking for the closest Starbucks and trying NOT to embarrass my daughter, the day was pretty fun!  I have no pictures to show...I was busy trying to learn to score for the volleyball games.   I can tell you that scoring volleyball involves a lot more than just flipping over a number when a point is earned.

Anyway, the games were fun--our girls had 4 games and won 3 of them.  Pretty good for a team that only had four practices under their belts before the tournament!  And this was just the first tournament of many this season.  My need for organization has reached the critical point.  If you have a child, or children who are in after school activities, you understand where I'm coming from.

This is my calendar for the remainder of the month of August.  The week hasn't started yet and already it is full.  (Actually it is full online...I haven't put the online stuff from school on my MOM'S MAKE IT OR BREAK IT - IT HAS TO BE WRITTEN HERE OR IT DOESN'T EXIST CALENDAR.)

I haven't put in this week's stuff in...I'm behind already!
In an effort to make my life easier, I am trying to become more organized and reduce the number of random paper piles around my house.  (Darling husband...are you listening?)

Here are my ideas.  They aren't original, by any means, but they are useful for me.  Take them, change them, or just read about them.  They are already helping me get a handle on the activities in our lives.

First up is my school notebook.

This notebook is for all the forms, lists, random notes that need to be kept but not on the refrigerator.

I've labeled the sections with the grades for my kids.

Then I put the papers I want/need to keep in page protectors.  This way I know where they are at all times.

My daughter's third grade teacher is doing something on a larger scale for each student this year.  Each child has a 2-inch binder.  A parent has volunteered to keep the class binders at their house.  Then, when the teacher has a paper or art work or whatever that is keepsake-worthy, she simply sends it to the notebook keeper's house and they file it in page protectors in each child's folder.  By the end of the year all the special papers will already be filed in a neat and organized fashion in their notebook.  Cool, huh?

The other file helper is my folder file.

My husband is a piler.  All over my kitchen are "organized" piles of stuff.  Drives me batty.

So to keep the peace and my sanity, I've gotten the cute folder file.  I've organized the bills to pay, bills that we need to keep and other papers he needs in spots in the folder.

Yea!  Counters are cleaned off and mom is a happier camper.  Well, they aren't cleaned off yet.  I have to actually put my file folder to use for that to happen.  But I'm on my way to clean counters and THAT, my friends, is what matters.

Look, the files are there...waiting to be used!
It has taken me 14 years of marriage and 12 years of parenthood to come up with these ideas.

I'm a slow learner.

Happy Monday, Ya'll!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Off To School Snack

Our sweet neighbors have a sweet daughter who is near and dear to my little guy's heart.

He says she's his "Best Katie".  To say he's smitten is putting it lightly.  (And who wouldn't be?  Look at her...athletic, smart and beautiful!)

He's shy around her, hugs her, plays Wii with her and generally wants to be around her when she's around.

Now being around Katie will be more difficult than just running across the square.

Katie is leaving for college.

Did you hear me?

COLLEGE!   And it is in another state.  Waaaaa!!!!!

Actually, it is a bunch of states away from us, but we are so excited for the adventure she is about to start.

She and her parents drove her up yesterday to get her settled in and I knew I had to make something to help sustain them on this trek.

I'm made Monster Cookies.  You may know them as Cowboy Cookies or Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies.  We call them Monster Cookies because they are so darn big.

Plus this recipe makes, like, a million cookies.

Well, not a MILLION, but a lot of cookies.  Perfect for snacking on while driving across multiple state lines.

*I'm sharing the recipe, but please forgive the lack of pictures while I'm baking.  Seems I forgot to take pictures until I was almost done.  The recipe is straight forward, so I figure if you all can follow a recipe, we're all good. *


1 C butter, softened
2 C sugar
2 C packed brown sugar
3 C creamy peanut butter
6 eggs
1 1/2 tsp corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 tsp baking soda
9 C rolled oats
1/2 lb M&M's
1/2 lb chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars and peanut butter till smooth.

Beat in eggs, 2 at a time, then corn syrup and vanilla.  

Mix in baking soda and oats until well blended.  

Stir in chocolate chips and M&M's.

See my mixing bowl?  It's still THAT full after 3 or 4 pans of cookies...

Place 2 in balls on cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly with a fork. 

Bake 10-12 minutes, then remove and cool on cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack.

Make these for someone leaving for a fantastic adventure.  Or for a college football team who happens to come to your house for a snack.

We love you, Katie!  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 7

On the seventh day, God said to rest.  Isn't that right?

God spent the first 6 days making the Earth, sun, moon, stars, sky, birds, fish, animals, plants,Man and then He took a day to rest.

Today is day 7 of school and I'm  ready for a rest.

Florida beaches in the winter.  There is nothing better.  I'm ready to go rest on a beach right now.  My kids are 12, 9 and 5.  They can take care of themselves for a few days, right?  I'm not a nut...I'm not leaving my children for days on end so I can go to the beach.  Put the phone down.  No need to call DEFACS. :)

When you first have kids, it is fun to think about all the activities your child(ren) will get to participate in.  Dance, sports, musical lessons...there are so many choices for our kids now.  It seems like forever until their chubby little hands can hold a ball, much less catch one.

And then it happens.  They reach the magic age of 4 or 5.  Maybe it is even younger for your kids...but either way, that  birthday comes and goes and you've signed your little darling up for a class/sport/activity.  So starts your love affair with your car seat.  Yes. I said YOUR car seat...because this is where you will be spending countless hours shuttling kids from one thing to another and back.

It is Day 7 of school and I must admit that my after-school calendar is looking a little crowded right now.  Last night I even went so far as to contemplate pulling my kids out of ALL after school stuff just so I wouldn't have to ride in my car all afternoon.  Selfish, I know, but seriously, having to start cooking dinner at 7:30AM so that it will be ready to warm up at 7:30 PM is a bit much. they are running on the beach.  Idyllic.  Carefree.  And all mom had to do was open the door to the rental house and say "Run!".  So simple.

I suppose it can't be avoided with three kids.  Even if each is in one activity, that is three different practices, three different game schedules, three different places they need to be at THE SAME TIME.

Did you see that last one?  I know you moms out there are agreeing with me.  It never fails that when you have multiple children in different activities, you will always have overlapping schedules.

God Bless carpooling!

I'm still a little frazzled...


But I keep reminding myself that I only have my 12 year old for a few more years, that my little guy is now 5 (where did that time go?) and my 9 year old is more ready for adventure than I am.

Here's to enjoying this crazy- wacked- out- oh- my- gosh -I -will -use -up- the -college- fund -in- gas schedule.

And thanking God for the days of rest...even when I don't think I'll see one for a few years!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tales of a Real *Real* Housewife

I don't even know how to start this post other than to say I'm a huge fan of Real Housewives of New York and Real Housewives of New Jersey.  (Hello Kelly Bensimon...I'm not a stalker, but I'd love to meet you!)
Even if you haven't seen the show, unless you've been living under a rock, you get the basic premise...cameras follow these women around filming the trials and tribulations of their lives.  And let me tell you, there are some trials and tribulations!   But don't you wonder if their lives were filled with such angst before the cameras got there?

I tell my husband I'd never make it as a Real Housewife.  I've got no drama in my life --- unless you count my fall after school schedule with the kids --- but really, my life is pretty normal.

Here's the life of  a Real *Real* Housewife...

Drop Off at school for all three kiddos.  Boy, let me tell you that the alarm goes off a lot earlier than I think it should, but somehow I drag myself and the cherubs out the door and get everyone to school by 7:30am.  What you don't see is me praying I don't see anyone I know since I know I've barely brushed my teeth.

The starting point for the Death March I take our rambunctious dog on each morning.  I started this 3.6 mile walk/jog with the pup in hopes it would help get some of her spastic energy out.  So far it is working.  Note here she is sitting patiently waiting to start.  What you don't see is her taking off at a full run, dragging my flailing body behind her.  All of this is going on while crazy teenagers on golf carts are trying to run us over in an effort to get to school.  It's a good time.

After the walk, pup is plum wore out.  She's enjoying the AC in the car.  I'm just thankful I came away from the walk/jog with minimal road rash.

So far my day is amazingly interesting, right?


This day I had an errand at the mall.
This is a sight rarely seen by those who are not young moms or moms with kids in school.....the empty mall.  I love an empty mall.  The only other people at the mall at this time of the morning are speed walkers and moms with babies in strollers who are looking to be anywhere other than at home and the mall seems as good an outing as any.  (I've got 3 kids.  I did my share of cruising the mall with baby in tow JUST to get out of my house.  It's called sanity.)

Heading home.  Look, lunch time and NO traffic.  This is something to record on the calendar since the big city near my house has horrible traffic pretty much 24/7/365.

Being a Real *Real* Housewife, I do lunch just like the tv girls do.  It's just that my lunch comes from Sonic in a greasy paper bag and I drink a soda with it while reading my Pilates magazine.  I think on this day I was hoping that by reading the healthy magazine I'd be off-setting my horrible lunch.

That doesn't work, by the way.

Back to car pool for pick up.  Pick up and drop off are like Groundhog's Day.   This time, though, I've come with refreshments.  Most days, when I pick up the younger two kids, we are headed straight from school to the tutor or tennis.  This day it is tennis....

Then there's traffic while I try to get my oldest from school while the 9yo is at tennis.  I hate traffic and many days I wish most of these people would just stay off the road so I could get where I want to go without having to deal with them.  That's not selfish, is it?

I mean, really.  I never ever see the Real Housewives stuck in traffic.  Maybe they are and it gets edited out.  I'd like to edit out this traffic.

Finally I get home and try to throw together dinner because I had forgotten all about dinner.  Who really needs to eat?

Cereal, anyone?

Be amazed at my culinary skill...BBQ sauce and pork chops.  Though you'd never know they were pork chops since it seems I drowned them in sauce.  Sorry little chops.

Then homework, then baths, then bed.  

All of this done with me not having had a shower in, oh, 2 days because I couldn't get everything in and something had to give.

Evidently this week it was personal cleanliness.

I plan on working on that one this week.

Happy Monday to all the Real *Real* Housewives!