Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall Recipes II

A friend recently asked for this chili recipe, so I thought I'd share it with the world. It evolved from a variety of recipes, all made very simply.

During the winter, we have this at least once a month. Always with cornbread though, not tortilla chips (those are for Chililicious, remember?). I love having dinner already in the crockpot before the bewitching hour of 4 pm. I have very few crockpot recipes though, so if you have a dependable one, please send it to me!

Crock Pot Chili

  • 1/2 pound of dry kidney beans or two 16 oz cans, rinsed and drained.

  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes (or whole decide)

  • 1 lb ground chuck, browned and drainedChili

  • 1 small onion chopped

  • 1 green bell pepper, diced

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 2-3 Tbsp of chili powder

  •  1 tsp black pepper

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • Salt to taste.

Soak beans overnight if using dry. Brown meat in a skillet (add a little red pepper and chili powder if you like; we do).  Put all ingredients in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. You can add a few drops of Tabasco Sauce. Play with the seasonings to fit your family. Bri and I like a little more cumin, the boys a lot less. Serve with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and hot corn bread.

Corn Bread Muffins/Loaf

Got this one from Annabelle.  The boys and I love it, but Bri still prefers a box-mix. We use the recipe below, but usually make it as a loaf or in a round cake pan.


 2/3 cup cornmeal

1 ¼ cups flour

1/3 cup sugarCorn-bread-recipe-md

1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1/3 cup canola oil

1 cup milk

Mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the oil and milk and mix just until moistened.

Spoon into miniature muffin cups sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, filling ½ full. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes two dozen mini-muffins.

Halloween Dessert (a PB Rice Krispie)

I don't know the real name of these, probably everyone else on the planet is already familiar with them. I had them for the first time at our friend Kathy's house, and then she brought them for Nolan's baptism party this year. I finally asked her for the recipe. They are great for Halloween because they are kind of orange and black.

Melt 1 cup of butterscotch chips with 1 cup of Peanut butter (original recipe (ie: Kathy) said one bag of chips, so experiment. We used one cup and they turned out great, but they might have held together better with more chips).PB-RK-web

Mix with 5 cups of Rice Krispies. Pour into a buttered 9x13 sheet and press down with wax paper.

Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave and then pour over the Krispies.

Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting in very small squares. Very rich, but oh so good.

(um...yeah, it makes a lot more than shown in the photo. They disappear fast!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Favorites

Yeah, this was going to be a regular thing here, but then life happens.

Since I never left our tiny town this summer, very few new items joined our household. Overall that's a good thing. But these three items were "found" in August and have each been great additions.

 Popsicle Molds

Popsicle mold  Make your own popsicles with fruit juice or, our favorite, leftover smoothies. Our original set was more like this one, which I prefer because it caught drips. The boys obviously prefer these rocket ships though, and I do like that we can wash the ones that are used and refill them without waiting for the whole set to be used (does that make any sense?).8060_40

Sigg Water Bottle

No more plastic bottles in the recycling bin or concerns about BPA. And this kind is great for sending to school with little ones. 

Mini Buddha Board

I was thrilled to find this in a local store. I knew my boys would love the Buddha Board but I had always balked at the price. This mini version is $10. It's packaged as a card, but it is still a good size and keeps a certain three year old I know fully occupied at the table while his momma is cooking. Bonus: no mess & no papers to add to the Art Collection.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another list

Ten things to be happy about, as in 10 things I should focus on so I don't pull out my hair over the fact that our country is already in the worst debt of its history and about to bail out the greedy boys on Wall Street who made poor decisions. This may be necessary to keep the rest of our economy going, but it is made all the more bitter by these being the same individuals that constantly call for less regulation  and worry that "liberals" are going to tax them and give away all their money to those in need. Don't worry boys, we're just going to tax the people who actually work for a living and give it away to your bad debts.

A-hem. Sorry about that.

Truth is, that is only one of many things annoying me at the moment. I'll spare you those other rants. And thanks to school starting, all my boys have colds. Poor Nolan is reduced to choosing between milk and oxygen since he can't breathe out his nose. But I'm trying to keep in mind one of my favorite quotes:

"Abundance is not something that we acquire. It is something we tune into. " -Wayne Dryer

Here's my attempt to tune out of what Anne Lamott so eloquently refers to as Radio Station KFKD and into gratitude.

1. Despite the colds, we are still mainly healthy. And for that I am always immeasurably grateful. And I haven't had a migraine or facial pain in weeks.

Sweet seanee web

2. This little boy. Or "man" as he insists, when he isn't insisting that we play "baby" (which he does insist on daily). I'll be honest, he is a real challenge for me. I sometimes feel I can never give him enough. He can be so delightful, so funny, so affectionate, so joyful, and also so stubborn, so frustrating. But he is also a huge blessing to me. I love the way he talks, I love just watching him put on his shoes, and I love that today I overheard him singing, "Fly Me to the Moon" while playing:-)

My twins web

3. Then there is his grown-up twin, Brian. Who can also be incredibly stubborn and frustrating, but is equally patient and kind and somehow able to make me smile when I least want to.

Tonight the two older boys didn't immediately come when called to the table, so I suggested we just eat without them, especially since they were going to complain about the meal anyway. Nolan was content, and we got to have an actual conversation by ourselves.

 Then Brian made the comment, "So you've made a full switch to fall, huh?" I didn't know what he meant and then he pointed out that so far this week I've made soup, chili, and tonight's Harvest Pie. Totally cracked me up because, even if this week marked the official start of fall, it's still in the 80s here every day:-)

Aidan web

4. This boy. Today his buddy David was "Star of the Day" and Aidan was SO happy for him.

He gets homework now. Being the geek that I am, I was excited at that prospect, and so was he. When Bri's staff was over for a BBQ last week, I overheard him proudly announce  to all of them that he got his first homework assignment. Then we realized it was just a packet of busywork to complete each week. Urr. I don't know what I was expecting--something slightly more creative. But he's gotten into the groove of it, and at least this afternoon there were no complaints or whining.

He opened his first savings account last week, and received his first allowance too. He immediately spent it on Heat Blast from the Dollar Store. "Ben-10" was recently banned from our house. We don't get Cartoon Network anyway, so it was pretty easy. He still loves playing it (pretending he has the power to turn into different aliens), which he's always done more of than actually watching it.  A friend mentioned that it might be more violent than I thought, so I watched a clip with Aidan and was taken back, not by any action, but by the attitude. The kid was totally rude to his grandfather! Every child is different, but Aidan has always been one who absorbs the stories he hears or sees. He has the O'Malley gift for remembering dialogue, even unintentionally. So nix on that for now, though he is still campaigning to see the live-action movie version. Anyone out there who has seen it and can give a recommendation?

Nolie web

5. This baby. I'm going to refer to him as my baby for the rest of his life, so he might as well get used to it. Today my little sister reminded me of the bliss that is a toothbrush when a baby is teething. Elizabeth, your nephew thanks you! We also discovered that making "Mork from Ork" noises (na noo na noo) totally cracks him up. Can't wait till he is over this cold.

6. This photo makes me so happy:

Love this photo web 

and so does this one:

Like father like son web  

7. Learning. I'm taking an online photo class by Candice Stringham at Jessica Sprague's website. It is extremely basic, just six lessons, but I've accepted the fact that I might never read my manual and I already understand more than I did a week ago. So it is good. Here's our first homework assignment (Aidan was more than willing to jump off the deck 101 times for me so I had a lot of shots from which to choose. He also had to wear his Star of the Day crown for the experiment):


There are a lot of very kind people who read this site, and I'm grateful for all the kind words about various photos of mine. I've actually received a few questions about photography, to which my main reply is ---you have me confused with someone who knows something! I am still so in the infant stage and am learning by making mistakes. I imagine someone who knows a lot about photography probably cringes when looking at my photos (seeing how the metering was off or how it could have been better).

I have a long list of photography websites that inspire me but which I rarely have time to visit. The two I have learned the most from are nonprofessionals who therefore write in layman's terms, The Pioneer Woman and  Karen Russell. What I do know, I learned at their sites, and from kind mommas who have answered my questions (like Amy helping me discover the WB button on my camera, and Susan Weinroth who directed me to AV mode).

8. Honey Crisp apples should soon be are available again.

9. A new pair of jeans. I think it has been at least 3 years since I bought a new pair. Now I just wish I had bought two.

10. Good friends. The one good thing about being overwhelmed is that you learn to say yes when people offer help. I am so much better at that than I was just a few years ago. Maybe that is one of the gifts of parenthood.

When Brian was away, a friend had us over to play and for lunch. Ah, the respite from making and cleaning up a meal, with some adult conversation on top. It was just what I needed to refuel for a few more days of solo parenting. Another friend dropped off a bag full of peaches from her backyard tree. We are still enjoying the ones we froze in our smoothies.

This week a good friend called from a store to see if we'd be interested in this:

A as Darth Vader web 

Why, YES, we would! So she grabbed us one of the last ones, and now Aidan won't have to wear the magican's cape and paper Vader mask we were planning on. Can you tell how much he likes it?

I'm never a fan of waking up a baby, and with his current cold, I find it even harder to pull Nolan out of a hard-won nap to go pick up one of his brothers. So I am grateful to Brian for taking an earlier lunch so he can pick up Sean, and for friends who offer to drop Aidan or Sean when heading the same way---as so many have done, and for my neighbor Carol, who more than once has come over so I can leave Nolan sleeping while I run to pick up Aidan.

A good friend and I have recently agreed to exchange some writing every month (thanks to Ira Glass, this post from Finslippy, and the permission that the writing be really bad). I've been trading weekly progress reports with another new mom on our post-pregnancy fitness goals. And Angie recently brought to my attention that there were exactly 100 days left of 2008 and wouldn't I like to participate in a challenge. So I'm recommitting to some old goals I'd let go of recently. Luckily I didn't choose getting to bed at a reasonable time or I would have already blown it. This post is much longer than I intended. Sorry.

What inspires me most is also the thing that scares me the most: change. And while all my efforts described in the last paragraph might not result in much change, I am already so proud of a huge change for me in just acknowledging my goals out loud (yikes! Least I fail, I usually prefer to keep them to myself) and in asking for help in achieving them.

When I listen to news or read the paper, the misanthrope in me comes out. But when I look around, I see how good most people really are, and how most of us all want the same thing. To be of use, to contribute to the world and feel connected in it. So that is my wish for all of you reading this.  Thanks for helping me in my retuning.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's for dinner

Inspired by This Week for Dinner, I've decided to start keeping track of what we have for dinner.

Too often 5 pm rolls around and I don't have an idea of what to make. I want to eventually have a master list of ideas for each season, and this will be the springboard.

Footnote: I'm married to an Irish man who doesn't consider a meal without meat to be a meal. And he considers potatoes and corn to be vegetables, not starches.  I also have three sons under the age of 7, so while we avoid processed food and make most of our stuff from scratch, I'm all about ease and low-maintenance meals.

So here we go:

Sept. 14-20

S: Chicken enchiladas (Bought a rotisserie chicken for S & S dinners--yummy & easy)

S: Chickenchilious with lime chips, limes and cilantro. Leftovers one night and as lunch most of the week as well.

M: Hamburgers/Italian sausage with pasta salad (L.O from lunch bbq w/ Brian's staff)

T: Pizza take-out

T: Lasagna (made double batch and froze one) with salad and good bread (also lunch LO)

F: Pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and baby peas.

S: Honey-Mustard Salmon with green beans and tomato/cucumber salad (Bri had left-over pork)

Sept. 21-26

S-  Mostaccioli w/ Meatballs

M- Chili with Cornbread

T- Harvest Pie

W- Leftover Harvest Pie (Hamburgers for the boys, since they've been good sports M&T)

T- Pork chops with baked potatoes

F- Pizza with salad and homemade bread sticks

Sat- Ribs with corn on the cob and potato salad. We went out instead:-)

Sept. 27- Oct. 2

S- Ribs with corn on the cob and potato salad and fresh tomato slices.

M-Lasagna (already in freezer)

T- Chicken w/ brown rice and carrots

W- ?Leftovers?

Th- VP DEBATES: Fajitas or Taco Bar with Spanish rice and Sangria??

F- Pizza night

S- Fish sticks and veggies/ Mom and Dad at date night

Sunday- Pork Tenderloin

Thursday, September 18, 2008

David I Hardly Knew Ye

8463 I'm late to the fan club. I only discovered David Foster Wallace this year, which is why I was all the more shocked and saddened by the news this weekend that he took his own life.

I had heard of Infinite Jest, but it came out just as we returned from Russia and I was decidedly done with 1000+ page novels.

A few months ago I read  The Best of American Essays 2007, for which DFW was the guest editor. I remember reading lines of his opening essay aloud to Brian, because it was funny and accurate and so consciously uncomfortable with the whole enterprise of the book.

That led me to other essays and stories by Wallace. Some are available online:

Good People at the New Yorker site

Incarnations of Burned Children at Esquire (warning: impossible to forget, despite wishing you could)

He grew up in Illinois and got his MFA at UA, where Bri and I went to grad school. The littlest connections always make me take note.

Two quotes of his are on my board here:

"Both destiny's kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person's basic personal powerlessness over the really meaningful events in his life: i.e. almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can't even hear because you're in such a rush to or from something important you've tried to engineer."


"In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what's human and magical that still live and glow despite the times' darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it'd find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it."

Our friend Dzhon, who was a much bigger fan, shared this link to Wallace's commencement address at Kenyon.

I'd just begun to discover his work, but I find his passing a great loss for readers and profoundly sad.

Monday, September 15, 2008

6 Months

Our baby is six months old.

6 months web

At six months old, Nolan ... growing so big.  Weight and height: 19 lbs, 10 oz; 27"

Nolan rockin web

I tried this baseball cap on him, that his brothers wore when they were all a month older, but no, it was already too late. They both had big heads, but man, this boy. BIG head.

Luckily, his Cubs cap from Gramare fits.

Nolan lovin the zoo web

...has discovered food. He has rice cereal made with prune juice each morning, and some pears or apples for lunch, and we've just started adding a veggie at dinner time. starting to sit on his own.

Teddy bass web obsessed with catching the teddy bears on his bassinet's mobile. He now sits in the bassinet. It's the perfect place for him while in our bedroom, and he gets so happy when he successfully captures one of those teddies!

...had his first visit to a zoo.

Nolan's 1st balloon web

...and his first balloon.

First teeth008edweb (Yes, I cropped out my hand that was pulling his lip down.)

...has his first two teeth. They broke through within days of each other. After a few touch-and-go days when I thought our nursing days might end abruptly (ouch!), Nolan's gotten the message and we're friends again.


...wants to chew chew chew all day long, on anything from his hand to his toes. Poor guy. I think it's only gotten worse since he cut his first two.

Dad n nolan at zoo web mesmerized by his daddy. Seriously has the head-turning ability of an owl if it involves watching his father:-) When Brian came home after 2 wks on a wildfire assignment, he thought Nolan didn't recognize him. I remember sitting everyone down to dinner, and Brian still holding Nolan, saying, "I'm not going to put him down until he knows me." But I think he knew immediately, and was just making sure he wasn't dreaming.

Nolan 6 months ed web laughing, laughing, laughing. There are few things in this world equal to the delight on the face of a little boy, say 6 or 3 years old, when he is able to make a baby laugh. Some random noise or movement will cause Nolan to laugh hilariously and then his brothers will try to recreate that exact noise or sneeze or whatever it was endlessly.

...has been joining us for story time and just lays between us, delighted. I know the days are coming shortly where he'll demand the book and tear pages, but right now he just listens and watches intently. chatting up a storm. "Aaaaa" which Aidan interprets as "Aidan" obviously.

A & N bit blurry web 

On almost a daily basis someone says something along the lines of what an easy-going baby he is, or how happy he is, or how content. We joke he should be ---he gets everything he needs or wants immediately! But we also know how very lucky and blessed we are.

Nolan on deck web 

He really is a happy, content little guy. It's seems too soon for him to be six months already, and as cliched as it sounds, it seems impossible to imagine he's only been with us that long. I'm looking forward to the time when he no longer wakes for a night feeding, but I'm also savoring this (brief) period when he is not yet mobile!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Playing catch up

That feels like the theme lately.

So much I'd like to capture here, Brian's homecoming, our SLC weekend, Nolan's big 6-month milestone. Random thoughts. Political rants (but I'll resist that). I need a good photo of all 3 boys to replace that one I love of Aidan and Sean walking hand in hand. Question to parents of 3 or more kids: how do you ever get a good photo of everyone at the same time??

Aidan's watermelon smile

Some have asked for the final playlist of Aidan's Rock CD:

  1. The Monkee's Theme Song
  2. Pay Me My Money Down by Bruce Springsteen
  3. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
  4. Jackie Wilson Said by Van Morrison
  5. Kung Fu Fighting by Countdown Dance Masters
  6. Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
  7. Our House by Madness
  8. Ben-10 theme song
  9. Bad Day by the Chipmunks (my apologies to all)
  10. Come Sail Away by the Styx (purposefully in the #10 spot to help me get through #8 & 9)
  11. Sweet Home Chicago by J. Rogers (because I couldn't find the Blues Brothers version!)
  12. Bang on the Drum by Todd Rundgren
  13. Mr. Roboto by Styx
  14. R.O.C.K. in the USA by John Mellencamp
  15. Zombie Zoo by Tom Petty
  16. You Can't Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones

All the CDs went out a few weeks ago, so if you haven't received yours, I didn't get your request.

Aidan's constant request is for #13. Unfortunately it is a long song, so we rarely get to hear much more.

This is the best time of year here, just beautiful outside. But I hope to get back on here soon...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

His Turn

Sean's first day of preschool web

He's still my baby.

Nevertheless, he's going to preschool 3 days a week for a couple hours. He is beyond ready, my little social butterfly. And still, despite having talked about it with excitement for days and danced his way to the car that morning, I had to peel him off me when it came time to say goodbye.

He had to have a superman backpack, just like his big brother's, even though it will remain empty other than on "show & tell" days.

Rayce and Miles, two of his best buddies, are in the class. Nolan gets some rare one-on-one time. It's all good. But good doesn't necessarily mean easy.

Seanbackpack web

On an easier  note, Brian is on his way home after 16 days (not that I was counting) in Oregon fighting a wildfire.

I know the boogie man doesn't really exist, and even if he did, the likelihood of him reading this site is pretty low, right? But I still thought I'd feel better, while lying awake at 2 am listening to all those sounds I never notice the house making when Brian is here, if I hadn't announced his absence.

His return, however, deserves announcing from rooftops. He's been missed mightily.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Written last spring and not posted till now.


It's 4:55 pm, the last load of laundry's in the dryer, the oven's preheating for a pork roast, Nolan's sleeping, and I'm emptying the dishwasher. Brian's out of town till 6 pm, so I've arranged for Aidan's T-ball coach to take him to practice. He's sitting on the front porch swing waiting. Sean sits coloring at the table near me.

I'm feeling productive, happy that this isn't one of those evenings when I'm wondering what to make for dinner at 5 pm. Feeling a little cocky, a little like, "Hey, look at me, juggling ten balls in the air at the same time."

A few minutes after five, I learn the coach has forgotten to pick up Aidan. So I wake the baby, search unsuccessfully for Sean's shoes, buckle everyone into the minivan, and we race to the ballpark with Nolan screaming.

We return home. Nolan's cry is finally answered and he nurses away. I sit on the couch and realize Brian will be home soon. The dishwasher is still open and only half-empty. Clothes sit wrinkling in my dryer. A well-heated oven sits empty. Sean is begging for an apple. I laugh thinking of my friend Amy who says she was able to nurse and empty a dishwasher at the same time. I'm not there yet, and won't be able to move from this spot for at least 20 minutes.

All the balls now lie at my feet, despite all the effort it took to get them in the air.

But it is all right. I look at this baby's face and I know I am right where I need to be, doing exactly what I was meant to do.

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