Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's for Dinner?

There are three things that make me hold my head:  play-doh, not feeling 100% and listening to the clock strike four without a clue as to what's for dinner.  Unfortunately, all three things happened today.  I guess you could say it was the perfect trifecta of woe! :)  Gratefully, my day doesn't typically look like this!

In a moment of weakness :) I agreed to play-doh this afternoon.  Aaron & Ashley asked to pull out the colorful, crumbly, creative clay to play with while waiting for Norah to get home from gymnastics.  I actually shook hands with Ashley ... a verbal agreement that there would be hands-on participants in the cleaning-up process.  They really did have fun (isn't that the way with messy, squishing stuff?) and for the most part, the play-doh was contained to the table.  Aaron was vying for the world record in play-doh noodle length.  He made a string of play-doh a whopping 100 inches long!  That is an accomplishment.  Ashley made several meals including purple french fries and red cookies ... yum!  Speaking of "yum", Lydia ate some of Ashley's items.  Just a typical play-doh play-time!  As agreed, the big kids did help with the de-play-dohing quite a bit ... and Daddy got home just in time!

As for me ... I have an appointment to be healed tomorrow. :)  Just one too many days of a headache, a cough and the blahs.  Hopefully I'll be as good as new in just a few days.  I know my family will be glad to have me back and then they can say goodbye to the slumpy, grumpy lady who has been here the past couple of days!

And then there was dinner.  Aaron had requested earlier in the week to have my home-made chicken noodle soup.  While that might have some good healing agents that would benefit me ... I just couldn't get excited about hot soup when it was up to 90-something today.  So ... while I wandered from fridge to pantry to freezer and back to pantry, I was reminded of how glad I am that I make up a weekly dinner list.  Whew!  It is so great to not have to "come up" with something during that infamous hour before dinner.  Dr. Kevin Leman calls the epoch from 4 pm to dinner time the "piranha hour" and he's so very right on!  This is the one time of the day when I am d-o-n-e done and the kids are done and dinner is not done ... and that, my friends, is a recipe for disaster!

So, in an attempt to minimize the challenges of this time of day, I have long been in the habit of making up my dinner menus on Sunday and having the week planned before we even get started on Monday morning.  Sunday is my time to take a look at the calendar for the next seven days and see what nights have conflicts (or in most cases, what one night are we home!) and plan accordingly.  In light of our recent full family schedule, I have been planning lots of meals that can either be made ahead and served "fresh" from the fridge or crock pot dinners that I can plug in and forget about.  (Just so you know ... I'm working on a crock-pot Food For Thought for this weekend .... yummy!)  I also like to plan meals that I can get two dinners out of.  For example, I have a pork roast for tomorrow that will be enjoyed twice:  half for tacos and half for bbq sandwiches.  Any way that I can simplify my life is awesome and I'm more inclined to have this forethought if I actually thought about it before. :)

Here's a basic breakdown of my weekly planning:

I have a little spiral bound notebook that I use for both my list of meals and my shopping list.

No comments regarding my handwriting. :)

On the right side I have the the days of the week and then my meal plans including sides, salads and breads.  I try to be as specific as I can be so that I can shop accordingly and so that I don't have to get creative when I'm ... you got it:  done.  On the left is my shopping list for the week.  I make my list from the ingredients needed for the recipes and then add anything else that we need around the house:  pantry items, baking supplies, breakfast options and anything specific the kids asked for on their lunch check list.  By having my shopping list and menu list attached, I have saved myself the trouble of getting home only to realize that I need two pasta sauces, one for two different nights.  Often times, if I have planned to grill something, I plan the rest of the meal, but wait until I get to the store to decide what meat to buy.  That allows me to shop for something on sale or to check over in the Manager's Mark-down area (there are awesome deals there sometimes!)

As for meal ideas, I like having my little notebook because I can look back over previous weeks and get ideas for things people really liked.  It also works well because I can steer clear of meals that didn't go over too great, as well.  Most of my dinner ideas from just a few places.  I have my grungy recipe box which is bursting with grubby index cards.  :) I have a few cookbooks I like and use often.  One is my mom's family cookbook ... it's almost been used to smithereens!  The other one is  "The Dinner Doctor" by Anne Byrn.  I like it because she uses a lot of "ready-made food" to make really fresh dinners.  I also have subscriptions to two magazines:  FoodNetwork Magazine and Taste of Home Cooking.  I would highly recommend either of those for family meal inspiration.  And they're also good for browsing and day-dreaming about the day when mac-n-cheese won't be the top-rated meal from your kitchen!

I also have a fantastic app on my iPod ... my life-saver in the kitchen trenches.  It is called Epicurious, or Epi for short.  I understand that there is full-scale website you can use, but I like the handiness of this app and the fact that I can take it with me to the store and then back to the kitchen!  (And it's free!)  You really just have to check it out for yourself, but here is a basic description.  At the main menu you have the option to choose from a long list of meal-types (seasonal, holiday, health restrictions, ease of preparation, etc.)  Or ... and this is what I use ... you can type in your ingredients (say:  tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini) and then select if you are looking for a salad, main course, or hot side dish and then hit "search".  In the blink of an eye you have, literally at your finger-tips, 150 recipes that fit your description.  You can narrow it down further by adding additional info or just start browsing.  Each recipe has a source, a list of ingredients, detailed directions and, in many cases, a picture and ratings & reviews by other readers/cooks.  When you find one that might work, you simply add it to your "favorites" and keep browsing.  When you have a few recipes to choose from, you can go back to your "favorites" and compare and revisit your options.  When you find the winner for the night, you can view the shopping list and you are set to go!  It's great and so very easy to use!

So ... that is my meal-making in a nutshell.  I hope that you find it a tad bit helpful and I would highly recommend that you give it a try.  I can almost guarantee that if you did this for a month, you wouldn't go back to the "Hmmmm ... what I can do with a frozen pound of beef and this package of creamed spinach?"-style of dinner planning! :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hanes, MY Way

This past Sunday, when my Mamma Mia was with us, we decided to head to Subway for lunch following church.  It was a gamble going out at that time ... who knew if we would end up waiting with four hungry, tired, whiney kids?  Gratefully, as we walked in the door we realized that we were the only ones there!  We had beaten the lunch rush and were able to order quickly ... or at least as quickly as 3 indecisive kids can when faced with six types of bread, eight different meats, 4 different cheeses and a variety of toppings! It was kind of a painful experience, but we managed to get our sandwiches and make our exhaustingly meticulous choices for chips and drinks BEFORE the lunch crowd came through the door.  Whew!  We settled into a booth just as the rest of Grand Junction came to eat! :)

As we were sitting and eating and crunching and slurping (most of the crunching and slurping coming from the kids' side of the table) I noticed a lady sitting several seats down from us.  When she got up to refill her drink, I was better able to see her shirt.  It was black with lots of silver and gray swirling designs and at the top in calligraphy it read, "Sinful".  Now ... I'm sure that I am going to show you just how fashion conscience I'm NOT because I'm sure it's some famous brand, but I thought to myself, "Of all the things I could have written on my shirt ... I wouldn't want that to be one of them."

Now, I have inherited my people-watching skills from my mom, so I was certain to point out this interesting t-shirt to her.  And so began a giggling fit about what we would have on our shirts ... or better yet, what would other people suggest should be on ours.  If only we had our own line of clothing ... then you could buy one of our shirts with the following lines:


... I think you get the idea.

There are somethings we would want on our shirts:  Delightful, Sympathetic  and Cooperative. While there are other words that, while they would be honest ... they are not necessarily something you want broadcasted across your chest.  I would be hard-pressed to wear a true but tortuous shirt with the words Feeble, Droning or Needy on it.  Really?  Who wants that as a constant reminder?!?  Who wants a perfect stranger walking up to them and asking, "So, uh ... You are really Scatterbrained, huh?"

I am almost completely okay with close friends and family being aware of my shortcomings and flaws.  I figure they know me pretty well and can see my life from the outside of me, so they are often a good reflection of who I really am.  And seeing as they love me, I know that that they won't try to hurt me with those painful discoveries.  It helps that I also know their limitations and faults, so we are on an even playing field. :)  The other good part of having good friends and loving family is that they also help us to see our good qualities and our strengths.  When we can see ourselves through the loving and generous eyes of our loved ones, I think we get a much better picture of who we truly are.

Sara Groves has a great song about being caught up in who we aren't and needing to get back to our true selves.  Here are her poetic lyrics to "Undone".  It's not quite the same as hearing her sweet voice.

Baby can you help me get undone
The party is over and their hearts were won
There’s a zipper in the back
But I can’t reach it on my own
And I am dying to get out of this so

Baby will you help me get undone
I don’t even remember how I got this on
I started out pretending
Now I don’t recognize myself
And I could use a little help

You have no pretenses
All your walls are fences I can see right through
You have no two faces
You know where our place is and that’s why I need you
Oh baby

Baby will you help me get undone
I truly believe you are the only one
Who will be the best reminder of
Where I am coming from
So if you’ll help me now I want to get undone

Cause I started out pretending
Now I don’t recognize myself
And I could use a little help
Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby
will you help me get undone

I love the idea of my constructed personality being something I could un-zip ... if only it were that easy!

I truly can't leave out one other Person who has a pretty good idea of who I am and loves me in spite of my shortcomings.  Jesus really does love me just as He made me:  Insecure, Controlling and Impatient. He's working on my in those areas, trust me!  But when He looks at me, I know He sees me:  Graceful, Beautiful, Chosen.

What would your t-shirt say today?  Silly, Serious or Sentimental ... I'd love to hear 'em!

I'd like to thank my Thesaurus for help with today's post! :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DIY - Bulletin Boards

A few weeks ago, I conquered the unruly school shelf.  Which, I'd like to add, has continued to stay organized and tidy ... without any mommy-help.  It has been wonderful to have the kids keep track of their own school folders, papers, books, etc. and I have not made one trip to school to bring anything anyone forgot ... boo-yeah!  But ... we still had the problem of lost slips of paper, forgotten reminders of upcoming events and misplaced teacher notes.  In light of this, it became quite clear that a bulletin board was in order, but not just any bulletin board.  I wanted something cute. :)  So, I thought back to an article I had read in a recent FamilyFun magazine issue.  I don't have a subscription (yet!) to this magazine ... I had one a few years ago, but found that my life was too full to actually sit down and read it or put any of their wonderful, ingenious, creative ideas to work.  The typical, cyclical irony being that by the time I actually had the time to enjoy their ideas, my kids would be all grown up and the suggestions irrelevant.  But ... I digress ...

Seeing as I don't usually follow directions anyway, I figured I could fake it and make something that would work.  It ended up being so easy ... I made four! :)  So, if you can wrap a present, have a way to make things stick (a hot glue gun is my tool of choice ... I wouldn't recommend chewing gum!), extra fabric odds and ends, any extra embellishments lying around and an empty diaper box ... you're good to go!

My odds and ends ... and gizmos

First, I flattened the cardboard box down.  (For the smaller ones I made for the kids, I cut the box in half and had two forms for two separate bulletin boards.)  Then I laid the fabric on the counter, smoothed it out and laid the flattened box in the middle.  I then wrapped the fabric around the side and ran a bead of glue along the cardboard and then pressed the fabric into the hot glue and made sure it was really stuck.  I did this in 3 inch sections so that the glue didn't cool before I got the fabric attached.  I did one long side, followed by the opposite long side, being sure to pull the fabric tight.  Then I turned the cardboard around and folded the short end like you would at the end of a gift box and then pulled this almost triangular end up and glued it in place.  Maybe the picture will help you to see how very much the back looks like a Christmas present.

To the left is the long side and along the bottom is the folded end.

To make this a little trickier, I found that the fabric remnant I had wasn't wide enough to cover the box.  It was plenty long enough, so I cut it in half which left me with two pieces that could wrap around the cardboard the long way, but would only meet about half-way across the front of the box.  To fix this problem I had to lay the two pieces with the printed sides facing each other.  I folded one piece back and then ran some hot glue along the edge of the fabric and pressed the two pieces together.  Once it was cooled, I could fold the top piece back and I had one large square of fabric with a "seam" in the middle.  If you really wanted to be fancy, you could make a patch-work quilt look to your bulletin board by using a variety of fabrics and gluing them in the same way.

To hide the "seam" and make the bulletin board cutsy, I used a ribbon to run long ways along that line.  I cut the ribbon long enough to wrap about 2 inches around the back and glued them into place.  I chose one ribbon to wrap long ways and then I wrapped another ribbon perpendicular to the first, but I edged it  to one side a bit so I didn't have to worry about making sure it was exactly in the middle.  It was a little more pleasing to the eye, too!  You can see from the following picture that it even looks like a present from the front now! :)  The ribbons will also come in hand for hanging notes and cards as they can just slide under the ribbon without the need for tacks.  This idea is taken from the french bulletin boards that I have seen at craft stores and home decorating stores.  I didn't have enough ribbon to crisscross multiple times (remember ... these are all supplies that I had on hand), but maybe next time!

Notice the position of the ribbon ... now for the bling!

Down in my craft bin I found some loose silk flowers that my mom-in-law had given me for making cards.  The flowers have the little holes from being on the stem.  I also had decorative brads in my card making supply.  I layered two flowers together and slid a brad in the middle ... ta-dah!  Adorable three-dimensional flowers to girly-up my functional bulletin board.  

Next I had to affix them to the board.  To make this work, I had to get a little creative ... but once I got the hang of it, it became easier.  The brads weren't pointed enough to poke into the cardboard through the ribbon and fabric, so I had to make a small hole with a tack, put a little dab of hot glue over the minuscule hole and then press the brad through the flowers, through the ribbon and through the gluey fabric ... quickly!  I pressed it in place until the glue cooled and I was pleased to discover that the brads were glued to the cardboard underneath.  Yeah!

Here I am pressing the brad through all the supplies and making it secure.

I did five different flowers:  one at the intersection of the ribbons and then one on each of ribbons at varying spots.  When all the flowers were glued on, I turned the entire board over and glued a small section of ribbon in a loop in the back for hanging it on the wall.  

Ready for the fun, flowery finished product?

So fun!  And functional!!

Like I said, I also made three for the bigger kids.  They were thrilled and already have tagged mementos to their flowered, butterfly and football memory boards.

I hope this was inspiring (you can make this!!) and not too hard to understand (it's tough to put into words what my hands do and make it make sense!).  If you have any questions, let me know ... otherwise, have fun!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mamma Mia

For a little soundtrack to today's post, here's a lovely music video to inspire you ... or frighten you.  Either way ... be forewarned that it really doesn't add anything to the writing, but it might be stuck in your head for the next 24-hours :)  Proceed at your own risk!

I'll wait here while you enjoy this little ditty ... but just promise that you won't get all caught up in trying to find the most outrageous get-up ... and forget to come back. :)

hmmmm...mhhhh.mmm.....hhhhh....mmmm .... 
"how could I forget you?" hhhhhmmmm.mmmm

Are your back?  Well?  What did you think?  Could you believe the guitar player's shoes?
There really are no words to describe the 70's ... and to think this was the year I was born ... shiver ... 

This past week, Brett had a seminar in Denver and then he stayed over with his parents for the weekend.  While we all really missed Daddy, we had the sweet treat of having Nana up to stay.  My mom lives in Montrose, so we see her rather frequently, but it's not terribly often that she comes up to live with us! :)  Having her here was a bit of a mini-vacation for me because, while Brett is an awesome Daddy and super hands-on, he doesn't get to stay home during the day.  So ... starting on Wednesday afternoon, I enjoyed the bonus of not just having Nana around, but having her around all the time!

You moms know how great it is to have extra hands to help out, and while Brett jumps in and changes diapers, helps in the kitchen and keeps kids out of mischief ... the kids aren't only that busy at night ... but ALL DAY LONG!  It was so great to have Nana available to clean up kitchen rubble (a new term for the "after meal remains"!) while I tackled other pressing needs like diapers or bedroom explosions (hopefully that and not diaper explosions!).  Also it was a relief to not have to juggle our morning routine too much.  When it came time to walk to school, the babies could stay home in their pj's with Nana while I strolled up to school with the big kids ... sans the stroller!  I also managed to be gone for a couple doozy diapers ... good planning on my part, eh? ;)  I also appreciated the extra help during our bedtime routine ... between the two of us we still had the four kids in bed on time!  Whew!  But more than that ... it was a pleasure to have Nana here because life is always a little bit better when you get to share the bumps & jumps with someone else!

Just because we had company didn't mean that the kids were without their usual silliness and mischief, but with someone else with whom to stifle a smile, it made it easier.  Having a companion in the parenting department ... and someone who has been there already, helps me to keep a positive perspective ... and a stiff upper lip!  I figure if my mom remembers me pulling some of these shenanigans and she survived and I turned out okay (or so I'd like to think!) then we will all come through this just fine.

So when Lydia was shoving food all over the table and yelling, "mah!", it was a comfort to know that Nana was on my side and that between the two of us we could finish the full-contact meal successfully.  And hopefully with limited contact with Lydia's meal.

On Friday, Nana took Ashley to her little gymnast's open gym time.  Little did she know that she would be following our springing, cartwheeling, vaulting, jumping little gymnast all around Kidzplex as Ashley tried everything new!  Even if Nana wasn't jumping into the foam pit, it was still a tad bit exhausting to keep up with our little gymnast ... chaperoning can be a full-contact sport!

When we were watching the movie on Friday night, it was fun having someone else to witness the incredible non-moving-watching that transpired.  At one point only Ashley was left in the room with Nana as the other kids (including our neighbor buddy) were scattered to other rooms waiting for the scary part to be over.  It's a full-contact experience watching a movie with the Kellums!

We took a trip over to a park on Saturday morning and as predicted, the kids stayed independently busy for about 20 minutes.  Then it was time to swing kids, bounce them on the teeter-totter and help little ones up ladders and across monkey bars.  The favorite part of the playground was this crazy spinning pole with a seat that swung at an angle.  Hard to describe, but fun to ride!  We spent a good part of our time pushing the kids around and around on that whirling ride.  As usual our trip to the park was a full-contact adventure and just a tad bit tiring.

Keeping all these busy kids fed is another big job during which I appreciate the extra hands.  My mom is a terrific help in the kitchen either cooking, cleaning or keeping me company.  We spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend just trying to keep up with the hungry little mouths.  During our short time together, we served four breakfasts, four lunches, two dinners (Thanks JnJ for a birthday party!), three sack lunches and countless snacks.  And somehow, Nana was able to work her magic on a few meals to make the kids devour them!  I'm convinced that if I had served them next week, the kids would have showed a lot less enthusiasm, but because Nana made it ... it was awesome!  Getting kids to eat can be a full-contact event!

Throughout our four and a half days with Nana (I'm sure it felt a bit longer to here), we kept her movin' and groovin' but we also enjoyed our down-time with her.  The kids enjoyed someone to sit and color with, someone who was ready to drop everything and read with them, someone to cheer on a Madden Football video game, someone to snuggle with during cartoons and someone to sit next to/on top of during a meal.  I guess those are the special perks of a grandparent!

It's obvious that my kids love to be with their grandparents and I love seeing my kids with their grandparents.  I love to see everybody enjoying one another, loving on each other and the constant exchange of hugs and smooches and cuddles and high-fives.  Apparently being Nana and Grammy and Gramps and Grandpa is a full-contact job ... in a good way!

I would love to say that I have some fun pictures of our time with Nana this weekend, but ... I don't.  :(  I guess we were just keeping up with those monkeys!  We were just having toooooo much fun!  Thanks, Mamma Mia, for staying with us.  And rest up ~ because we want you to come back! :)  Smooches!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Food For Thought

 In light of yesterday being my wonderful, terrific, splendid, incredible, fabulous, awesome, marvelous, most excellent husband's birthday, (Happy Birthday, Mr. Sensational!) this weekend's Food For Thought will be pizza!  But not just any pizza ... Brett's Famous Pizza!  As many of you know, my husband's family has had the long-standing tradition of having pizza on Saturday nights.  Marrying into this wonderful family means that this tradition has now become our tradition ... yeah!  Since the Saturday after our honeymoon, Brett has been in charge of the Saturday night cooking and has perfected his most delicious pizza.  I have enjoyed being the beneficiary of this scrumptious meal!

I remember early in our marriage (during the pre-kids era) enjoying our Saturday evenings in the kitchen:  Brett cooking, me just hanging out and both of us enjoying listening to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion on the radio.  Speed forward about 10 years and we have an entire circus performing in our living room, I'm trying to keep the "helpers" out of the kitchen and we haven't heard any news from Lake Wobegon in ages ... hope they're all still alive! :)

I asked Brett if he would be willing to share his recipe for his perfect crust ... to which he replied, "Sure."  Aaron's response was better, "You'll be famous, Dad, on mom's blog."  Love that kid! :)  So, without further ado ...

Brett's Famous Pizza

3 cups flour (we use 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white)
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/3 cup hot water
2 Tbs olive oil
3-19 shakes of Italian seasoning
As much fresh garlic or garlic powder as you can stand :)

Here are Brett's specific directions for preparing the crust.  Ready?

Mix, knead & roll out.

Years of practice, I guess. :)

Brett likes to use our Pampered Chef pizza stone.  It is seasoned well and doesn't need any greasing.  He uses his hands to press the dough out on the stone into a circle and then lets it rise on the counter-top for about 2 1/2 hours.  You can let it rise for less if you want a thinner crust.  When the crust is to the desired thickness, Brett pops it into the oven at 375 degrees for 8 minutes.  This is the first baking time.

Next Brett puts on the sauce.  Here we used half tomato sauce and half pesto.  The tomato sauce is from Hunt's and is seasoned with basil, garlic & oregano.

That's the pesto from last week ... yum!

Then it's time for the toppings.  This week we had pepperoni and olive on the sauce side (a kid friendly pizza) and chicken, garden tomatoes and olives on the pesto side.

Such symmetry! :)

I thought I would share a few of our favorite pizza combinations:
  • Italian sausage & chopped red peppers,
  • Pineapple & ham (just buy ham from the deli ... cheaper than canadian bacon),
  • Grilled chicken, feta, spinach & tomatoes (sun-dried tomatoes are even better)
  • Supreme:  sausage, olives, peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc., etc., etc. :)
  • Chicken, green onions, blue cheese and jalapenos with BBQ sauce (for the brave readers/eaters!)
Now it's time for the pizza to head back into the oven for 7 minutes.  Because our oven is hotter in the back, Brett turns the pizza around for even baking.

Now it time for the cheese!  We do love cheese on our pizza.  We typically use just plain shredded mozzarella.

Brett is generous with the mozzarella!

Brett's faithful companion loves this part of the pizza-making process.  He's always on the ready for any morsels that might come his way. :)

Just one little nibble?

The pizza is headed back into the oven for the third and final baking time.  This time Brett doesn't set the timer ... he just waits to see that the cheese is evenly melted.  While we wait for the pizza to be finished, we get out our favorite pizza dishes, courtesy of Nana & Auntie Allie following one of their many trips to DisneyLand.  

It's a set of six ... and always bring a smile!

By this time the kids have washed their hands, the table is set and we have placed some of our favorite pizza toppings on the table:  crushed red pepper (for me), ranch dressing and honey.  Now it's time to serve it up!


After asking God's blessing on the meal we all dive in.  It is an absolute delight to enjoy home-made pizza each week ... and not because I'm not making it!  Thank you, Brett, for treating us to your culinary expertise!

We hope that this has inspired you to try your hand at home-made pizza.  But ... not at the expense of missing out on your company!  We'd love to have you join us around the table.  So if it's Saturday and you're in town ... give us a call! :)

Here is a parting shot of a satisfied diner enjoying his crust dipped in honey:

Now you're famous, too, Aaron! :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Learning Box

Do you have that house chore that you hate to do? ... oh, sorry ... we don't use the H-word in our house.  How about a chore that you detest, despise, dislike, abhor, find intolerable, recoil from, loath or are disinclined to do? :)  I do.

I am not a duster.  I only dust when it becomes absolutely necessary (the kids are writing their names in it) or when I'm trading out Christmas decorations.  Yep ... not much of a duster!  I also don't like to clean out the window sills ... yuck.  It grosses me out to wipe out the cobwebs and dead bugs.  Blech.  I am also a tad bit repelled :) by wiping down the bannisters.  And, boy, do our handrails need it.  The kids seem to confuse the bannisters with the bathroom sink.  By the time they get to the bathroom to wash up after dinner, their hands are clean, but the railings aren't. :)

Now ... did you know that if you have a task that you feel a bit aversion toward, that you also have at your disposable a great tool for discipline?!?  Not only do you get your point across to your kiddos about obedience and respect ... but you also get your house clean!  I got this idea from two different sources ... so you know it's good!  We had a speaker come to MOPS a few years back that introduced the idea and then I read Lisa Whelchel's book, Creative Correction, and she had it in there, too.  Me being me, I have expanded the idea a bit and catered it to our home and our family.  Here's the scoop:

The Great Learning Box

Choose two different colored papers.  You'll need 3-4 sheets of each.  We have one set that is plain, white computer paper and the other is a craft paper that has red writing on one side while the other side is blank.  Keeping the papers separate, cut them into about 2 inch squares.  Take one pile of squares and begin writing down all the chores that you cause you revulsion. :)  The more tedious the better!  We call these our "Bummers".

Here are some of ours:
Spot cleaning the floor,
Wipe down bannisters,
Wipe down doorknobs,
Dust furniture (in specific rooms),
Pick up sticks outside,
Dust window sills,
Gather trash,
Dust heat registers,
Sweep front steps/back patio,
Wash specific windows,
Wipe down toilet flushes,
Wipe down sinks/faucets,
Shake rugs,
Beat pillows,
Straighten family room,
Wipe down counters, sinks, tables,
Sweep kitchen,
Dust picture frames,
Sort laundry,
Pick up dog doo,
Dust baseboards,
Tidy outside toys,
Wipe down kitchen chairs,
Wipe down kitchen cabinets and knobs,
... You get the idea!

Next on the other set of paper, write down small rewards.  We call these our "Yahoos".

Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Sweet treat,
25 cents,
Bear hug,
10 minutes screen time (tv, video games, computer),
10 minutes extra book time,
10 minutes extra time before bed,
... Any small things your kids would love!

Now find a little box or jar that you can toss all the papers in and give them a shake.

We learn a lot with this little box :)

Now you have at your disposal a great system for rewarding and correcting your kids ... and getting your pillows fluffed, too!

Here's how it works:  Anytime that I catch my kids serving or taking on a necessary task without being asked, using good manners or doing something Yahoo-worthy, they get to pull out a red piece of paper and then they get whatever is written there.  You can be certain that they are a tad bit disappointed when they pull out "Smooch", but maybe next time it'll be screen time. :)  

As for correcting my kids, when they disobey, talk-back, are rude or do anything else that would be considered a "Bummer", they get to pull out a white piece of paper and do whatever task is written there.  Sometimes, depending on the age of the offender, I have them re-draw.  The job then needs to be done immediately (Sorry, your buddies will have to wait outside while you gather trash.) and completely (Oops ... that still looks dirty.  Try again!) or they are liable to get another job.  We have found that the kids are usually more compliant and respectful after a job (or two) ... I think that it gives them time to think about their offense and also get some of their grumbling out of their system.  And if not ... well ... there is always some task somewhere in the house that could use some attention!

Just a few more thoughts about making this work:
  • We use Clorox wipes for cleaning most surfaces.  I can trust Ashley to use them safely and I don't have to worry about spray bottles or harsh chemicals.
  • If the kids are having trouble with each other, I will have them choose a job to do together, side by side, possible holding hands.  :)  By the end of the prescribed task, they are almost always on better terms with each other as shown by the giggling and silliness.  If they are still having trouble ... then it's back to the box!
  • We have found that when the big kids (some times all of them at the same time) are at work, Lydia wants to help out.  Great!  She is learning from example how to wipe down door knobs, etc.  I'm sure she will have her fair share of jobs soon enough!
  • It's important to check their work and if it's not done well, they need to do it again.  This tool box also helps to teach responsibility and trustworthiness ... all good character traits!
  • I love that when I'm frustrated by one of my kid's areas of disobedience (for the Nth time!), sending them off to do a job gives me time to cool my head, too.  After they're finished scrubbing I'm much more likely to correct my kids with patience rather than anger.  We all win!
Now ... there are two extra slips of paper that I have included in our box.  They read, "Mercy".  If the offending child draws a "Mercy" slip, they get a hug instead of a job and a sigh of relief.  This is a great way to teach our kids about God's mercy for us ... we don't get what we deserve if we are trusting in God for His grace.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's the Little Things

As you may have noticed though out this blog, I do like spending time in the kitchen:  cooking and baking.  I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that my mom also enjoys cooking and baking and when we were kids, we spent much of our time right alongside my mom "helping out".  Our kitchen, growing up, was certainly the center of the home, the place where we spent time cooking, eating and being together.  I have wonderful snapshot memories of dancing cornish game hens, playing the "what's that seasoning?" game with Allison and preparing the huge, burrito buffet when the Gansers came to visit.

Not surprisingly, our home is much the same!  We have a stencil on the kitchen wall that reads "The Gathering Place" and I love that the kids gravitate to the kitchen.  We often joke that we have 2,200 square feet, but we all end up in the kitchen!  It's where we eat, chat and sometimes dance.  (Although, truth be told, there are times when I would rather be able to hide in the kitchen and have some peace and quiet!)

Seeing as I spend about half my day in the kitchen, I have learned a few little "tricks of the trade" that I thought I would pass on to you.  These are all just little things that make a big difference in the ease of preparing food and also in the final result.  They are not in any particular order ... just as they have come to mind:

  • I use a "garbage bowl" when preparing meals.  I got the idea from Rachel Ray.  I have a red bowl I bought from Wal-Mart for $1 and I use it for all the scraps that I cut off, peel and trim from the meal's makings.  It saves me multiple trips to the trashcan.  We are considering composting and I'm sure that this will come in handy for that sorting, too.
  • When I make steak fries (like tonight) I line the pan with aluminum foil before broiling the potatoes.  This gives me a quick clean-up at the end of cooking:  just roll it up and toss it away.  This also works for breaded chicken.
  • I prefer to use fresh garlic in my recipes.  I think that there is a difference in flavor.  I love my Pampered Chef garlic press.  A day doesn't go by that it isn't in the dish drain :).  I think that having stronger flavors in my food helps me to eat a bit less ... more flavor means less need to eat a lot because my mouth gets done from tasting!
  • I have another Pampered Chef tool that I love.  I use my little brown scraper all the time:  scraping pans, counter tops and the left-over dough from the bowl after making bread.  Saves me from gunking up the kitchen sponge.
  • I love to use coarse salt in my recipes.  It adds an extra little "pow" to any dish.  I love when toasting french bread to sprinkle a little salt after the butter.  Yum!
  • A pair of kitchen scissors are essential when using herbs.  It's a lot easier to use the shears to cut up the chives or basil right into the bowl in place of chopping them on a board.
  • To make super light and fluffy scrambled eggs, add a teaspoon of water after whisking them.  The added moisture keeps the eggs from drying out.
  • Peruse the day-old bread cart at the grocery store for yummy breads that are perfect for french toast.  It doesn't matter that it's a tad bit stale as the bread will be that much more thirsty for the egg batter.  That is where I find really good raisin bread that I would never buy at full price, but at half-price, it's a meal! :)
  • Before measuring out sticky ingredients, spray the measuring cup or spoon with just a little oil.  The peanut butter or honey will slide right out.  (I also us my Pampered Chef measure-all for sticky stuff, but sometimes this is still an easier clean-up.)
  • After cooking meat, I pour the grease into an old aluminum can that I keep in the freezer.  That is an easy way to dispose of the fat ... one solid mass.  I confess that I have trouble remembering each week that it's in there and I currently have 3 different cans ... but it is easy! :)
  • I like to use a squirt of fresh lime juice when making Mexican food.  A little splash makes the meal taste so very fresh!
  • Make your own home-made croutons.  First get some day-old bread (see above) in a yummy flavor (sourdough, foccacia, garlic, etc.) and then cut it into cubes. Toss it in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and a little dried italian seasoning.  Then spread the cubes out on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven at 225 degrees until they are dried out (20-minutes or so).  Turn them a few times to brown all the sides.  They taste so much better than store-bought!
  • I have a pepper grinder that I use ... there is wonderful flavor in fresh cracked pepper.  Little things like fresh pepper can change an entire recipe!
  • When you are cooking veggies, to stop them for over-cooking and losing their color, drain them in a colander and then dump them in a bowl of water and ice cubes.  This arrests the heat while keeping your green beans bright green.  Then you can use them at room temperature or re-heat them a bit for a hot dish.  They look so pretty when they are the right color!
  • This is a tip from my mom:  when serving a hot drink, fill the mugs with hot tap water before filling them with your drink of choice.  This will keep your coffee/cocoa/tea hot longer ... and it's great to hold on these cool, fall mornings.
Well ... that's all that's coming to mind today :)  I'm sure I will add some other tricks of the trade - you can look for additions from me and other readers by checking the extra page, "Tricks 'n' Tips", found to the left of this post.  Let me know tricks what you have in your apron ... 

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Do I Teach That?

One of my favorite parts of the day is from about 3:30 - 4:00 ... getting the kids home from school.  We live about an eighth of a mile from the kids' school and we have made the habit of walking up in the morning (as long as the weather is good and it's not a MOPS morning) and walking home in the afternoon (again, as long as the weather is good).  We have a double stroller that we got when Norah was born (thanks, Dad & Mom Kellum ... it's the only way I ever got out of the house when the big ones were little!!) and we load it up with the two little girls, some water bottles, and a few snacks before heading out.  There is a pretty good hill up to the school, so it's a bit of a work-out for Mommy, too - especially as the girls get bigger.  There have been a few times I was convinced that they girls had loaded their pockets with rocks before we left!  Huff and puff! :)  I figure if I walk the kids to and from school, I'm getting an extra 3 miles a day into my exercise plan ... and every little bit helps!!  But that's not why I like this time of day.

The real reason I love it so is because I get to be the first to see my kids after they have been gone all day!  I get to see their smiles if it has been a good day and I get to give them a squeeze if it was a little rough.  Also, we have about 10-15 minutes (depending upon how pokey we feel) to re-connect and fill each other in on the morning and afternoon, before they get distracted by buddies, homework, after-school activities or screen time.  This bonding time doesn't typically happen in the van because it's too quick and we can't look each other in the eye ... at least not while at the same time driving safely!

Anyway, it was just one such after-school walk that got us talking about a new big-kid challenge.  Norah informed me that in the 2nd grade music class they were learning a song that required the boys to learn to whistle.  Fortunately, the girls just have to sing:  tra-la-la-la! :)  This discussion, however, has inspired the kids to learn to whistle and we have had a lot of drooly, spitty, noisy practices.  Which, of course, reminds me of one of my favorite characters from Madagascar 2 ... King Julien.  He cracks me up!  Here is a little scene that comes up rather regularly in our home:

Ha!  "I want to become a world famous whistler!"  Such aspirations! :)

This challenge, learning to whistle, has brought to mind several other skills and abilities that I have found difficult to teach.  We have had several focused and determined training times at the kitchen table ... learning to blow a bubble.  The conversation goes a little something like this:

Me ~ First you have to chew the gum until it's really soft.
Them ~ Like this?
Me ~ Well, keep it in your mouth, but, yes.  Keep chewing.
Them ~ My mouth is tired.  Is it soft yet?
Me ~ It's getting there, but you have to keep it in your mouth.
Them ~ chew, chew, chew ... How about now?
Me ~ In. Your. Mouth. sigh ... Okay, ready?
Them ~ Yeah!  Oops ... It fell on the floor.  Can I get another piece?

Siiiighhhh ..... Eventually we get to the descriptions of needing to flatten the gum against the roof of your mouth and then pressing it against your teeth and finally starting a little stretched-out part with your tongue and then slowly and gently blowing a little air into that hole, but  ... we have yet to have a successful bubble.  We've had lots of gum shooting out of our mouths onto the table.  We've had a few pieces of gum with little pooches in them ... which then fall onto the floor due to our excitement.  We have had gum in someone else's hair (don't ask!) and we have had a few tears.  Who knew something as simple as blowing bubble gum would be so difficult?!?

And then there is the challenge of learning to snap.  I love the story of my little niece, Rebekah.  She was about 3 and was quoted as having said, "I can't snap, but I can button" which consisted of putting her pointer finger against her thumb and flicking it out.  That is definitely easier!  The only real consolation of learning to snap is that it requires no supplies, can be practiced anywhere and is not sticky, wet or messy.  Norah has been practicing to snap for about a year now and has accomplished a periodic snap, much to her delight!  Consequently, Ashley has been inspired to try and while she has the definite idea, she has been rather limited to muffled finger slides.  But again ... think for a moment about how to teach someone to snap.  And to think we have that phrase for something that is easy, "It's a snap" ... apparently you can't use that phrase until you are an accomplished snapper!

Being a parent is full of sticky situations and formidable feats ... I just never imagined that teaching my kids bubble blowing, whistling and snapping would be at the top of the list!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nervous Nelly Belly

My big, little girl (i.e. Norah) is famous for having a nervous nelly belly ... this would be one of the many ways that we are alike.  She, like her mommy, gets that floppy, butterfly feeling whenever she is up against something new, challenging, different, scary, difficult, unfamiliar or anything she has to do on her own.  Anytime that she is facing an experience that she knows is going to ask a bit more of her or that she knows will require her to dig a little deeper into herself or that in which she knows she will have to stand on her own two feet ... she gets that flippy, floppy feeling deep inside.  A nervous nelly belly.  Knowing her like I do, and knowing how hard it is to pull herself together and take on the task at hand, I am so very proud of her when she does.

Each day before school, I feel her little grasp get a bit tighter as the time approaches for her to head off into class.  In spite of her being excited about school and excelling, it is still hard for her to step off alone.  But she does it.

Each day of gymnastics, she starts dragging her heals and making little "stay with me" faces as class time approaches.  She absolutely loves gymnastics, but it is hard for her to head through that door on her own.  But she does it.

This summer at swim lessons, she clung to my hand as I signed her in each morning ... she has quite a grip!  She then would proceed to jump into the pool with a splash and enjoy her 30 minutes, but she was definitely reluctant to go off without me.  But she did it.

Can you tell that I'm just a tad bit proud? :)  Because of these good healthy challenges and these wonderful character building experiences, we have seen our sweet girl grown into a confident, mature and independent young lady.  And she's only 6 and 11/12 years old! :)

Seeing as little Norah is able to master her nervous nelly belly and take on the challenges ahead of her ... she has been an inspiration for me to step up and step out, too.  Did I say that we are alike? :)

When I was little, I vividly remember standing in the wings during a talent show at Ouray School and feeling sick to my wee little stomach.  I was dressed as a little angel and was all ready to perform a little song about "Five Little Angels" ... I don't think I made it on stage.  I also remember attending one day of ballet ... giant butterflies in my belly and a huge desire to disappear into the wood-work.

Even as an adult I have struggled with feeling anxious and uneasy in the face of new experiences or challenging situations.  I remember that sick feeling in my stomach before getting up in front of MOPS  to speak ... even though I knew everyone in the audience.  That unsettling feeling of being "out of my league" is still very vivid from when I have had to introduce myself to a group of strangers at a meeting or school function.   Even making telephone calls to people I don't know can give me a nervous nelly belly!  Then there are the worries about how people really feel about me ... am I like-able?  Feelings of insecurity and anxiety are a regular part of my day.

But, taking a cue from my fearless Norah, I decided one month ago to step out of my comfort zone and try a little something new ... a little something I wanted to do, but wasn't too sure about; something I felt God guiding me towards, while not being 100% convinced that I could:  I posted my first Snapshots message.  Boy, did I have a terrifyingly, enormous case of nervous nelly belly!

I was a bit scared ~ what if no one reads it?
I was a bit unnerved ~ what if no one cares about what I wrote?
I was a bit frightened ~ what if I run out of things to write about?

One month later, I can say, "Wow! Thanks, God!  What an amazing experience!"  He has been so very faithful to reassure me in the midst this adventure in a variety of ways.  Now I am ...

Humbled ~ Who new I'd have people across the continent and 
even the Atlantic reading what I wrote?!

Thrilled ~ I've been the recipient of many 
encouraging notes and fun comments!

Inspired ~ Everyday God gives me another
 little snapshot about which to write!

So ...
Thank you, faithful readers, for taking time during your busy days to visit!
Thank you for sharing with me your own thoughts and feelings!
Thank you for passing this site along to others who might enjoy it!

Having this "job" of writing has helped to give added purpose to my daily routine and a deeper satisfaction with this season of my life.  God has opened my eyes to the many mini-episodes of my day-to-day life ... and a little extra insight into how I can use the ordinary parts of my day to be an encouragement to others.  I'm excited to continue to grow in confidence and in purpose in my writing.  It's certainly a journey and I'm delighted to travel it with you!

In closing, let me ask you a question:  What gives you a nervous nelly belly?  Is it something new you need to try?  Is it a fresh challenge God wants to use to grow you up a bit?  Is it an idea that God has been percolating in your mind and heart?  Jump in and "just do it" ... God just might have a surprise for you, too!


I'm off on a field trip with my boy today ... so no new devotion today.  Catch you tomorrow! :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's On Tonight?

The other evening, Brett and I settled into our comfy couch :) to watch an old movie.  I had never heard of it before, but Brett had heard a little something about it and he brought it home.  Our intent was to watch it and see if it was something the kids would enjoy.  While the kids would have been bored out of their gourds watching it, we actually really enjoyed it!

The movie was titled, "The General" and starred Buster Keaton.  This 1927 film is set during the Civil War and Keaton is a train engineer who, while having been rejected from enlisting with the South, ends up in the middle of the war and saving the South from a surprise attack from the North.  In the movie Keaton is trying to get his train engine, "The General",  back after it has been hijacked by spies from the North.  He jumps on another train and so ensues one of the slowest chase scenes ever seen on film! :) What makes it different from, say .... "Gone with the Wind" is that it is a silent film!  It was very entertaining to see the actors and actresses use their facial expressions and body language to tell an entire story ... with just a few moments of subtitles here and there to clarify the story line.   Keaton was terribly entertaining as he was certainly a man who had mastered physical comedy.  Here is a brief clip with a little background on Buster Keaton and a few highlights from the movie:

We especially loved the scene with the cannon ... such a simple scene with plenty of suspense!  And to think that he used no stunt men and the train really was clicking along the track the entire time!  No special effects here!

Watching this movie brought back some fun memories of when Brett and I were first married.  In 1998, we came across the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movies of the past 100 years.  We decided it would be fun to see how many we had seen.  Surprisingly, some of our favorites hadn't made the list! :)  No where did we see "Quick Change", "The Princess Bride" or "Goonies"! :)  In spite of these apparent flaws, we found that there were a lot of good movies on the list that were worth watching.  If it weren't for the inspiration of this list, we might never have taken the time to see "The Maltese Falcon", "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" or "Some Like it Hot".

Of course, there are a few selections on the list that I am not interested is seeing, but for the most part, we have enjoyed each selection that we have watched.  It was fun for us to see movies that had historical value or that had pioneered some new method of movie-making.  I would highly recommend stepping out of line at the theater box office and searching out a few of these true classics.  You might be surprised by what you see!  You can find the complete list at AFI Top 100 Movies.

Pop yourself some popcorn, pop in a movie and find out what country Groucho Marx governs in "Duck Soup" ... and have yourself a good laugh!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Food For Thought

This week's "Food For Thought" is focused on yet another beautiful bounty from our garden ... basil! And this has nothing to do with "Faulty Towers" ... although I can't really say, "basil" without hearing in my head Sybil's shrill voice yelling, "Baaasil" :)

Just beautiful ... and tasty, too!
I have absolutely loved having a few herbs in our garden this summer and I am already plotting what I want to add next year.  Brett even asked this week about what we would need to do to have herbs inside this winter (yes ... we've gotten a little spoiled!).  So ... I am looking into what it would take to bring our herbs indoors.  If any of you have any pointers, I'd love to hear them!

Now there are any of number of ways you can enjoy basil, but this week we have enjoyed pesto.  I want to show you how easy it is to make your very own pesto and then I'll share with you several recipes we made using this delicious concoction! :)

First you will want to rinse and dry about 2 cups of fresh basil.  (As a side note, I have used fresh spinach when I didn't have basil and it was equally delicious ... and a tad bit greener, if that's possible!)  Place the basil in your food processor and add 3 cloves of garlic, minced; 1/2 cup walnuts (traditionally this is made with pine nuts, but walnuts work great) and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.  It would be ideal to use fresh parmesan, but the cheese from the green can works fine, too. :)  Put the lid on the food processor and give it a whirl until everything is chopped finely and well mixed.  Next, using the small opening in the lid, slowly pour about 1/3 cup olive oil into the processor as it is mixing.  

It really is that green!
You should have a soft paste when you are done.  It may seem a bit stiff, but it will soften and melt when it is added to your warm dishes.  You can use this immediately or cover it with a bit of plastic wrap and store it in your fridge for later.  It might darken a bit if you save it, but it is still just as yummy!

Now for the many mouthwatering ways to enjoy pesto ...

The traditional way would be atop a steaming pile of spaghetti.  It is wonderful in its simplicity.  Cook your pasta according to the box's directions and drain well.  Fill a bowl with pasta (we used fettucine) and top it with a spoonful of pesto and then mix well to coat the noodles.  You will want to use the pesto sparingly as it is very flavorful and a little bit goes a looooong way! 

Now I would be completely remiss if I didn't share my most memorable pesto story.  Yes ... I actually have a story about pesto :).  For my senior prom, I double dated with my best friend from school.  The four of us actually dined at my mom's bakery in Ridgway and my sweet sissy was our waitress.  My mom had made a three course meal for us:  a salad course, pasta with garlic bread and dessert.  Yum!  Just one problem ... A few minutes into my meal, I excused myself to the ladies room.  Before rejoining my party I took a peek at myself in the mirror and to my absolute horror I found that I had green teeth!  Aaaahhh!  All those delicious bits of home-made pesto had attached themselves to my braces leaving me with a leafy grin.  I was horrified!  I rinsed my mouth out in the bathroom and then refused to eat anymore of my dinner.  My poor mom, upon seeing that I hadn't eaten any of my pasta, feared that something was wrong with the food.  We had a good laugh about that later ... and it still makes me chuckle :).

The next recipe, Pesto Mashed Potatoes, tasted great ... but didn't look terribly appetizing.  So, instead of potentially grossing you out with a photo, I'll just give you the directions and you can see it for yourself :).   I found this recipe in a magazine, but I couldn't tell you which one.  It was one of those things where I thought, "That would be yummy.  I'll have to remember that one." ... and then proceeded to recycle the magazine.  So ... here is the rough version.  I rinsed and peeled five yellow potatoes and then cut them into large cubes.  I added them to a pot with a generous pinch of salt and covered them with water.  I put the pot on the stove and brought it to a boil and then let it boil over ... but I don't recommend that part!  You want to cook the potatoes for about 8-10 minutes until the cubes are tender.  Then I drained the potatoes in a colander and put them back in the pot.  Using a potato masher I mashed them until they were still lumpy, but mainly smooth.  I then added about 1/2 cup of milk and stirred them until they were well mixed and of an even consistency.  Then I added about 3 tablespoons of pesto and continued mixing until they turned a nice shade of green.  The parmesan cheese melted a bit and gave the potatoes a cheesy taste.  A very tasty alternative for sprucing up your mashed potatoes!

Finally, we made some finger-licking-good panini sandwiches last night ... and everyone cleared their plates!  That always makes Mommy happy! :)  This meal was inspired by the FoodNetwork Magazine for October 2010.  In this month's issue they included a mini-book with 50 different panini sandwiches ... they all looked great!  The kids asked what "Panini" meant.  I don't really know, but my definition would be "smooshed, steamy, scrumptious Italian sandwiches".

Here are the ingredients:

Dinner rolls, sliced in half (I found some sun-dried tomato hoagies that worked great)
Avocado, sliced
Tomato, sliced
Chicken, cooked and sliced (I brushed the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled it with salt & pepper before grilling)
Mozzerella cheese, shredded

Now to build the panini.  As you can see in the picture, I spread pesto on one side of the roll and a little bit of mayo on the other side.  Then I layered all the sandwich makings on the bread.  Next I carefully put the bread together and pressed it down, tucking back in any parts that tried to sneak out.

No don't worry if you don't have a panini press.  All you really need is a griddle.  I have a griddle that has raised grill marks that I used to grill the chicken and then I used it again for the sandwich cooking.  Heat the griddle to medium-high and brush with a smidgen of butter.

When your griddle is hot, slowly maneuver your panini to the pan (I could fit two hoagies side by side).  Now to make it a true panini, you need to have the "press" factor ... otherwise it's just a grilled cheese.  So ... are you ready for the Kellum Panini Press ... it's not yet patented, but maybe I'll do that next week :)

Sometimes you have to be resourceful! :)

All you really need is a hot griddle, a heavy pan and a kettle of water :)  Squish and heat!

When the sandwiches are heated on that one side, turn them over and "press" again.  When the first two sandwiches were finished, I put them on a cookie sheet, covered them and slid them into the oven on low to keep them warm while I did the other two paninis.

It truly was a delicious dinner ... and all those fresh ingredients made it even better!

Quizno's got nuthin' on us!

We have a little bit of the pesto left over ... I think we will use it on pizza tonight.  With some chicken, olives and tomatoes ... I'm salivating already!  What will you use your pesto for?  Let me know!


I just really have to tack this on .... and it has nothing to do with food :)  You will remember this week's post regarding the tent in the family room.  Well ... the girls have been in an extravagant building mood.  Put that together with the fact that the kids had no school on Friday and you get this:

To the untrained eye, this would appear to be a mess. :)  But to the experienced Mom (and with a whole lot of explanation from Norah and Ashley) I see a stable for Marty the zebra complete with a feeding trough (Lincoln Logs) and a bridle.  The brown pillow in the front is for the guard dog, Gimli.  At one point he was actually snuggled up in a blue bandana.  The pink pillows under the table ... errr ... in the stable ... is where the cowgirl/zoo veterinarian lives, sleeps, reads and practices her cursive. :)  

Here are the creative cowgirls ... all dressed up and ready to ... uh ... to do whatever tutu-ed cowgirls do:

Friday, September 17, 2010

KEBL Nights!

As you can imagine, our family life is full.  Just this week we had two baseball games, three gymnastic classes (gratefully, two were at the same time), Brett had worship team practice and we babysat Cousin Bethany one evening.  That left us with one night this week with nothing planned ... where we could hang-out as just our family.  In spite of this typical, crazy schedule we also want to make sure that the kids are spending some time in the Bible and learning more about Jesus (outside of Sunday School).  Our church has an AWANA's program that meets once a week, but with our schedule and the fact that the kids would be studying three different books with three different lessons ... we decided we just wouldn't be able to do that.  At least not very well.  (And if you know me, I don't like to do things 1/2 way ... it's either 100% or not at all!)

So ... in light of all these factors, last year we started a tradition of setting aside one evening a week for our family to study the Bible together ... kid-style!  It was a huge success!  We studied people from the Bible as well as different character values like serving and patience.  We also enjoyed some silly games like obstacle courses and bean-bag tosses - all tying back to and re-inforcing our lesson.  It was a great time for us to learn some things from the Bible, have fun together and make some fun memories.

And so ... it is with great excitement that we kick off our first KEBL night of the 2010-2011 school year.  What is KEBL, you ask?  Well ... we wanted a catchy and unique name for our family nights - something that the kids could have ownership of.  After some brain-storming we came up with KEBL which stands for "Kellums Enjoy Bible Learning".  Are we creative, or what?!? :)

This year we are studying popular Christian songs and worship songs with the purpose of making sure the kids know what they are singing ... and us, too.  Our kids sing a lot ... but what comes out of their mouths isn't always what the songwriter intended!  Ashley has her own sweet renditions of songs - verses flipped around and words with new endings.  I always get a chuckle out of her interpretations of "Jesus songs" as she calls them.   On a number of occasions, Aaron or Norah have leaned over to me at church and asked, "What does that mean?" or "What's that word?"  One time, Aaron whispered in my ear that he didn't understand the words to "Great is Thy Faithfulness" ... "The words are all mixed up, Mom ... it's like Yoda-talk" :).  Seeing as right smack dab in the middle of worship is not necessarily the best time for a discussion, we thought it would be fun and educational if we took some of the kids favorite worship songs and picked them a part a little bit.  I think the kids will be a tad bit surprised to find that many of the phrases and words in some of their favorite songs are verses take verbatim out of the Bible.  Which reminds me of a story...

One year I attended a Campus Crusade for Christ retreat at the YMCA of the Rockies outside of Estes Park.  I was probably a sophomore and I was just starting to get involved in Bible studies, attending church regularly and reading my Bible consistently.  I remember I was sitting on a log having a quiet time and I came across a verse in the Psalms that was the chorus of one of Steven Curtis Chapman's songs.  To think that he was singing the Bible!  I was stunned!  It was at that moment that I realized that music can (without us even knowing it) be a powerful vehicle for teaching us about God and His love for us.  It is also a great way to teach and learn about many of His other promises and hundreds of nuggets of truth hidden in the Bible.

On another rabbit trail :) ... that was one thing that I loved about our VBS this year.  We had a great line-up of catchy, western tunes that were fun to sing and chock-ful of Biblical truths.  The kids (and their families) were singing songs about God's peace, about how He made us unique and special and about how much He cares for us ... all while doing the two-step!  It was awesome!!

So ... seeing that music is powerful, I want to make sure that my kids are singing ... but I also want to make sure that they know what they are singing.  Hence this year's KEBL theme.  :)

For this week's song, we have chosen a ballad that the kids are very familiar with and maybe you are too.  It is titled, "Here I am to Worship" by singer/songwriter Tim Hughes.  It has been sung by a number of artists including Chris Tomlin.  We have a kid's worship version, too, from Cedarmont Kids.  I found the lyrics on the internet and then did some Bible searches for some of the words and phrases found in the song.  My hope is to show the kids, right from the Bible, where they can find these truths and promises ... so they know what they are singing and why.  And I'm convinced Brett and I will learn a thing or two, too!

We also made a word-search puzzle here for the kids to work on.  Simply follow the directions and put in words from the song ... ta-dah!  It's fun, educational ... and easy for Mom!

I thought I would include this week's song and the Bible references we will be using ... that way you can benefit, too! :)  Happy singing!

"Here I am to Worship"
by Tim Hughes

Light of the world  (John 8:12)
You stepped down into darkness.
Opened my eyes, let me see.
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You (1 Peter 3:15)
Here I am to worship,  
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that You're my God
You're altogether lovely
All together worthy,
All together wonderful to me
King of all days  (Psalm 47:2; 1 Tim. 6:15)
oh, so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above
Humbly You came (Philippians 2:8)
To the earth You created
All for love's sake became poor  (2 Cor. 8:9)
Here I am to worship, 
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that You're my God
You're altogether lovely
All together worthy,
All together wonderful to me
I'll never know how much it cost  
To see my sin upon that cross
I'll never know how much it cost 
To see my sin upon that cross
I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross
I'll never know how much it cost (1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 12:2; Colossians 1:20, 2:14)


On a different note ... I have had a few readers comment that it's tough to comment here at Snapshots :)  So ... I thought would give you a few pointers.  Many of you have commented via email and Facebook and that is just fine ... I enjoy those notes, too!  But if you would like to add your thoughts to my site - that gives us all an opportunity to dialogue and trialogue together :)  Here are the basic directions to commenting on my site ... if you are a experienced blogger, feel free to zoom on over to your other favorite blogs and enjoy learning something you don't know.  If you are new to blogging (like me) and need some help ... read on!

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