Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Don't Look Back

Fun new video from She & Him (song from Volume Two)...

No bueno.

Last week I was driving home with my son in the backseat. Lately on car rides he has immersed himself with reading these cow comic books he got in a couple of kid's meals from our favorite, Chick-Fil-A. (Now, I must mention that we don't eat there all that often, but since I also get a kid's meal when I eat there, we always seem to have an abundance of the "prizes".)

Anyway, my boy loves these comic books with superhero cows. Go figure. In fact, he kept his little fingers as a bookmark in a page until we got home, and he showed me the t-shirt he wanted to order.

{It is also important to note that I have one of the least greedy five-year-olds on the planet. He rarely asks for anything, and when he does ask for something, it is almost always in a polite way, not with a typical whiny voice. Just one more thing I love about my kid.}

I looked at the page and sure enough, there was a cute t-shirt with all of the cow superheroes on it for $8.95. Realizing this would be a great opportunity to teach him about spending, I asked him if he would like to use some of his money to buy it. He saves money in his piggybank and has quite a bit saved up, but he has yet to spend any of it, even a little bit, other than taking out money each week for offering at church.

(Sorry about the world's tiniest picture of the t-shirt)

He thought long and hard and decided that yes, he wanted to order a shirt.

Awesome!, I thought. A great opportunity to teach him about spending. So we came inside, got on my laptop, found the t-shirt online, and I filled out the billing and shipping information, only to be hit with this whopper...

$7.75 shipping.

For a t-shirt that costs $8.95.

Are you kidding me?!

We all know that a little kid's t-shirt is not going to cost more than a couple bucks to send in the mail.

So the lesson was lost. I had to try and explain to my five-year-old that it was not a good investment if he was going to have to spend almost as much money to have the t-shirt sent to us in the mail. I guess I could've chalked up the money for the shipping myself, but I guess it's the principle of the matter. I didn't want him thinking it was a good idea to spend almost double the amount for something to include shipping that obviously was a rip-off.

I am always a fan of Chick-Fil-A. (You hear that, Chick-Fil-A executives??)

But not today.

No bueno.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hello, Little Dumplin'.

Hello, Delicious.

Hello, Comfort Food.

Hello, my little Crockpot.

You gotta love it when dinner turns out really well, especially if it is a new recipe. I loved it, the boy loved it, the husband will love it (it's a late dinner night for him), and the dog gave it two paws up when she licked the bowls with abandon. I never really had Chicken 'n Dumplin's as a kid, so I decided it was high time to try it. Now before you go feeling all sorry for me, don't -- my mom made chicken and homemade noodles a lot that were to die for as well as homemade macaroni and cheese. That's right -- I never tried the boxed mac 'n cheese until I was an adult. And no surprise there -- it don't hold a candle to my mom's macaroni and cheese!

I used this as a base, then I made some changes to it like the reviews suggested. Anything with "slow cooker" in the title always makes my ears perk up because it almost equals "easy". So here is really what my little recipe ended up being:

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used a package of 2 giant ones, but I probably should have used a little more, so I think anywhere between 2 and 4 is perfect)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of celery soup (I did buy the fat-free versions of both, which I don't normally do, and it turned out fine)
1 (14 oz.) can of chicken broth (here is where I should've maybe used 1/2 can since I used less chicken, but it still turned out fine)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 (10 oz.) can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, torn into pieces

I sprinkled both sides of the chicken breasts with seasoned salt and pepper, then put them in the bottom of the slow cooker along with the 2 Tbsp. of butter. I mixed the cream soups and diced onions in a separate bowl where I also shook in several shakes of the following: dried parsley, poultry seasoning, cumin, more seasoning salt and pepper. Then I poured it all over the chicken. Last I emptied the can of chicken broth in on top. (Like I said above, since I used less chicken than the original recipe called for, I probably could've gotten by with 1/2 the can and it would be a little less soupy, but we were too busy stuffing our faces to complain, so obviously it's fine either way.)

Turn the slow cooker on to high and walk away for 3&1/2 hours or so. Open it up, use forks to shred the chicken in the slow cooker, then tear the pieces of the refrigerated buttermilk biscuits and arrange them on the top, pushing them down a little to where the tops are still showing but the bottom half of them is submerged to soak up the goodness. Cook for another 1&1/2 hours.

That's it.

The reviews were against adding in frozen vegetables since it added extra water, but I do think throwing in a handful or two of baby carrots (you know, those extra petite ones in the produce section) would be delish.

Just so you know, I totally channeled my inner Swedish Chef and sprinkled those extra spices in with finesse.

"see dee shakey dee parsley on dee chick-chick...shakey dee chick-chick on dee chick-ee-boo...oh-kay...bork, bork, bork!"

(Don't tell me you've never channeled your own Swedish Chef -- 'cause you've been missing out if you're not as nerdy as I..)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Masterpiece Thea-tuh

You must say it that way in the proper British way, otherwise it's not near as fancy...

Anyway, I must give a shout-out to my {real-life} friend, Lindsay, for introducing me to the joys of Masterpiece Thea-tuh. I am now utterly hooked on the four-part miniseries, Downton Abbey. And, of course, this means I'm going to have to procure the DVD's of past Masterpiece Thea-tuh series since they are surely as addictive as this one has already proven to be. Seriously, I just watched Episode Two, and I'm bummed that I have to wait seven whole days before I get to find out what happens next!

Anyone else watching?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Always quilting...

Here's a baby quilt I finished a few weeks ago to show you. The pictures are NOT fantastic by any means because I was trying to get them done in a hurry and didn't use natural light or get up high enough above the quilt to do it justice, but oh well.

The front is all strip-pieced. My mom found this adorable print at JoAnn's -- it's very Land of Nod-ish with the pink bicycles and aqua birdies and happy sunshines. I just cut it into strips, added strips of another adorable pink print also from JoAnn's, and then some very subtle Kona grey stripes in there to kind of tone it down a smidge. It's about 36"x45". I used 100% cotton batting (my fave), and the backing and binding is all from a coordinating polka dot print. I chose to do loop-de-loop style quilting on this one.

I cut a little piece of the main fabric out to use for the label on the back (ironed down with fusible web to hold it in place) and just used a Sharpie to write the details down. I'm hoping that Sharpie stays on there through washings. I normally blanket-stitch around my labels, but I was running low on time so I chose to just hand stitch a running line on top of the label a smidge away from the edges in a brighter pink embroidery floss. I think it turned out pretty dang cute.

This one was already given to a good friend of mine at work that is due very soon with her first baby, a daughter.

Prairie Home Companion

It has come to my attention that some of you may have been missing out on one of life's joys.

So, of course, I am here to bring it to light and remedy that for you. {wink wink}

Prairie Home Companion, folks. If you've never listened, you might want to start.

Most every Sunday, my little family hurries home from church and I or my husband start cooking something for lunch. Right about 1pm, I reach up and tune in my little Crosley radio to our local NPR station, and the magic begins. We are immediately transformed into a little family from days gone by, gathering together and listening to a good old-fashioned variety show on the radio while we enjoy our lunch. It's really become one of our favorite times of the week, and even the little guy really gets into it. Today's show is an especially good one since it's featuring one of my favorite modern (yet vintage) crooners -- Nellie McKay (Garrison calls her a "Doris Day gumdrop", don'tcha love that?!) -- and a sibling set of fiddlers that are fantastic. According to the website, Sara Watkins will be on next week, another favorite of mine. Many of you might recognize her name since she used to be in the group "Nickel Creek". And last week, my girl Kristin Chenoweth dropped by the show.

Garrison Keillor is a master storyteller, and it's always comforting to hear his soothing voice telling yet another tale from Lake Wobegon, his fictional setting for the weekly stories. There's sometimes "Guy Noir, Private Eye" -- a funny detective always on the hunt for clues to solve the mystery. My favorites are the "commercial" jingles for Rhubarb Pie and Powder Milk Biscuits or even the Ketchup Advisory Board commercials, haha. The guy that does the sound effects is nothing short of amazing, and the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band is so talented and will have you tapping your toes under the table in no time. There is always good ol' Minne-SOH-ta humor, which we can appreciate after having lived there for a short while.

My husband and I enjoyed the experience a few years back when we took his aunt and uncle to a live taping while we were in St. Paul, Minnesota for a visit. It's in the historic Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul, and what a fun time. There are signs for the audience of when to clap, etc., just like in the good ol' days. The stage is set with a front porch of a farmhouse and moon as the backdrop, and some audience members even get to sit up there through the taping. They use those old fashioned big silver microphones which are really cool. The live tapings are on Saturday nights (I believe), and then our local NPR station replays it on Sunday afternoons (which I believe most radio stations across the country do as well). But if you miss out on the radio air times, you can always go online and listen to the podcasts.

So there you have it. Check it out, and enjoy some of the simpler things in life. Turn off the TV, and turn on the radio. You won't regret it!

*image found here

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A free tutorial

I've decided I need to incorporate some tutorials into my little blog, so here you go.
Tutorial #1.

"How to turn something BORING into something EXCITING"

(Oh, did I just lose some of you who were hoping it was a crafting tutorial? Never fear. This tutorial is so much more useful than how to crochet a pair of bunny slippers out of the cat fur you sucked off the sofa with your vaccuum hose.)

For this lesson, we'll use our last 48 hours as an example...

Yesterday the boy, the husband and I loaded ourselves into the car bright and early for a fun little roadtrip. Er, make that a little business trip. (Trust me, the little guy already knows how to negotiate a business deal, haha.)

Our destination?

The place most folk want to get the heck outta.

Any guesses?

That's right, kids.

Dodge City, Kansas.

Now, 'ol Wyatt Earp might beg to differ with my branding of this as a "boring" roadtrip. Back in the day, Dodge City was filled with hopeful cowboys and crazed outlaws, and it was anything but boring. Fast foward to 2011, and unfortunately it might not be on Travel Magazines' list of top destinations. The drive from here to there is pretty dang flat, it's in the middle of winter so there's no greenery to be found, and it's pretty much cows, cows, and cows to look at. (No offense, Dodge City. Had we more time to spend, we would've been happy to visit Boot Hill, down some delicious steak, and hobknob with the locals. I promise we'll stop on our next drive through.)

Let me tell you something: most people traveling out that way (from these parts, anyway) are headed to beautiful Colorado, usually straight for the Rocky Mountains. So stopping by Dodge City might make 'em chuckle and smile as they continue past, eyes on the prize of Rocky Mountain highs. (Dang, I am a poet.) But as a final destination, well, not too many people probably stop there. Except my husband -- who needed to be there for a short business meeting. And since it is a 6-hour drive and my husband is not quite the best road-tripper (as a driver especially, although as a passenger he is fantastic since he is a pro on his laptop and can also fall asleep at the drop of a hat which we all know makes the time on the road pass quickly) -- I volunteered for the position of chauffeur. Our son got to play hooky from school for the day (since he never gets sick and never has to miss otherwise). We piled in the car, and made the best out of our 640-something-mile-long, less than 36-hours-total roadtrip.

So let's get to the tutorial, shall we?

Step #1:
Be sure and talk up the boring subject until it sounds exciting (and you've managed to successfully convince yourself as well that it could be fun).

Dora and Diego are the best (and the most annoying) at this if you need to watch some cartoons for good examples; otherwise just tack some exclamation points on to whatever you are saying. For example: Dodge City sounds AWESOME!!! Dodge City -- what a neat place full of cowboy history!!! Ooooh, I heard there used to be BAD GUYS in Dodge City!!!

(By the way, the five-year-old was eating. it. up.)

Step #2:
Think outside the box.

Instead of counting cars (hello, boring) or counting mile markers (hello, boring), we counted GRAIN ELEVATORS! (Don't be jealous.) My five-year-old got quite into this. And he could never remember the real term for them, no matter how much I repeated it and made him repeat it, and instead called them "food makers". Cute. (Note to self: be sure and look for agriculture books at the library with pictures. The kid wants to know more, and my sad little attempts at explaining the process of grain from field to table was probably not the most accurate.)

Step #3:
Stop and smell the roses.

Now, speaking of "smelling the roses", that would've come in handy on this trip. Unfortunately I was trapped inside the car with two humans of the male species. Niiiiiiiiiiice. It meant a lot of emergency rolling down of the windows, yelling on my part, and howling with laughter on their part. I'm sure you've caught my drift by now. Throw in the fact that Dodge City is also quite the fragrant town, and we could've used a whole lotta roses. (In case you haven't been there, the air smells straight like cow poo. And lots of it. Bless their little hearts in Dodge City. And neighboring Garden City. Don't let that name fool you -- it don't smell like no garden.)

But instead I really mean "stop and smell the roses" as in -- stop and see all the fun that is lurking around the corner. Kansas is full o' fun.

Some things we stopped to see:

*the world's largest hand dug well!

my own handsome cowboy peering down in there

Trust us, it was deep, and if someone really did dig that 109-feet-deep sucker by hand, well, color me impressed!

By the way, we noticed that this particular town was a bit different from the other small towns we had driven through. All of the buildings on its little main street were new, as were most of the houses, and the trees were strange-looking as well. Then it dawned on me. The town must've been leveled by a tornado. Bless their hearts. Sure enough, I looked online when we got home, and in 2007 it was hit by an F5. You know what they call those -- the "finger of God". Nasty stuff. We don't mess around with tornados 'round these parts, and we've all been affected by them in one way or another, whether we personally have been in one or one of our communities was struck by one. So I'm glad to know that little town is rebuilding and will survive.

*the world's largest collection of....(?)....well, we're not quite sure exactly, but it was large!

It was basically a collection of a billion whirligig type metal sculptures, many of which had {ahem} political statements of their own, like the ones titled "Hillary" and "Laura Bush" that had swastikas on their heads. Yipes. Appropriate and tasteful? Hmmmmm, notsomuch. Interesting? Most definitely.

(Have YOU ever seen one in person? My boys are holding one for ya'. It had been a-tumblin'.)

*cotton fields!

*old oil mansions in small towns! (Okay, this part was in Oklahoma....)

Some fun things we DIDN'T stop to see but would've if we'd had more time:

*the Kansas meteorite museum -- I guess all the farmers pooled together and made a collection of all the rocks that fell outta the sky and landed on their property? My boy would love this as well.

*Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City

*the beginning of the Santa Fe trail -- I would've liked to have seen this since apparently you can still see the wagon ruts in the ground, but alas, it was an additional 7 miles WEST of Dodge City, and honestly, we were ready to get on the road for home.

*a museum featuring a hideout of the infamous Dalton Gang -- again, too far off the beaten path, but since my grandfather wrote down his own personal account of when the Dalton Gang rode into a neighboring town here in Oklahoma, I would've found it interesting.

*the world's largest hairball (I couldn't make these things up if I tried)

*Prairie Dog Town -- Kansas, I'll be coming back soon...

Step #4:
Make lemonade outta lemons.

Once we got to Dodge City, my husband had to skedaddle off to his meeting. It was 3pm, and the boy and I were pretty much trapped in the Holiday Inn Express until further notice (which ended up pretty much being all night since we didn't end up leaving). This was also finalized by the fact that my husband failed to grab my makeup bag in the pile of things to throw in the car, and we all know dang well I didn't really care to venture out in public with no makeup. Sure, I do it all the time when I go to the grocery store and Wal-Mart, but on our trip I wasn't too amused that I had no options.

But instead of being bummed about this incarceration, I flung off my socks and shoes, planted myself on one of the beds, remote in hand, and enjoyed an evening of mindless TV watching with my kid, "dinner in bed" (a la Subway sandwiches that the husband brought back for us), and pretty much having no "to do list" of any sort other than just to relax. Trapped? No. Forced to relax? Yes. (And okay. It wasn't mindless TV watching. "Gold Rush" on the Discovery Channel is one of the coolest new shows on TV. Those dudes are living the dream. I totally want to go to Alaska now and pan for gold.)

Step #5:
Don't spend big bucks. Free is where it's at.

Know what awesome souvenirs my kid came home with?

For starters, we brought home a TUMBLEWEED. Awesome! And hilarious! And one-of-a-kind!

And free.

Periodically I would look in the rear view mirror on the way home and crack my own little hilarious-to-me joke:
"Hey, is that a tumbleweed in your trunk or are you just happy to see me?"

I know. I'm awesome. My husband tells me all the time...

My kid also came home with all-natural-cotton picked straight from the fields. Cool AND educational. He wants to take it to kindergarten to show all his little buddies.

(Don't worry. We didn't steal from the farmer. We only took what was straggling behind after it had already been picked and bundled.)

And my husband and I got our own free souvenirs. At the oil mansion we visited, we got a free program from the pre-inaugural ball that was held there last night for our first-ever-female-governor that is about to be sworn in. Kinda cool, huh? That's right. We like to hobknob in the same places all the rich and fancy folk do. (More on this oil mansion tomorrow. It's good for a whole other post.)

Step #6:
Realize that there's more to life than all the bells and whistles and fancy iGadgets and commercialism and consumerism get my drift, right? Go for the simple things.

This step can't be bought and paid for. This one is straight from the heart of the world's most awesome five-year-old.

When asked about his favorite part of the trip (because he thought it was AWESOME and EXCITING, remember, to be trapped in the car in Kansas in the dead of winter with his quirky oddball parents on the way to a destination that not only smelled like cow poo but also that he would really see nothing of other than the inside of a Holiday Inn Express motel room), he answered:

"hanging out wif my Mama and Papa".


And that, my friends, is how to turn something BORING into something EXCITING.

(You're welcome.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Revving up...

So far this year I:

*organized the clothes in my closet

*did five bazillion loads of laundry...or maybe actually eight

*finished putting away the last Christmas decoration stragglers that had been overlooked

*vaccuumed all the pet hair off the red velvet sofa, a job all by itself

*drank a lot more water than I normally do -- trying to kick my chronic dehydration to the curb

*laughed at my little shadow -- Sally, the cat -- who follows me EVERYWHERE

*enjoyed my monthly Starbucks date with my gal pals

*worked on planning a possible little family vacation next month

*ate a delicious cheeseburger from one of my family's favorite haunts in NW Tulsa - Ted's

*took my kid to school two days in a row and picked him up as well, quite the luxury since I worked so much this past holiday season and rarely got to do that

*deleted masses of emails to clean out my inbox

*did some housekeeping on Facebook as well and dropped a few friends that weren't really friends but more acquaintances

*cooked dinner three nights out of four

*ate my daily allowance of BlueBell peppermint ice cream

*cleaned my boy's closet and drawers as well, pulling out all the clothes he has outgrown {sigh}

*tried out a new-to-me restaurant with a good friend -- crepes!

*almost finished a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle

*did a leetle bit of sewing

Not a bad start to 2011. If I could just keep up the momentum, it would be a very productive year indeed!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Only three little letters...

Every year I jump on the bandwagon and pick a word for the coming new year.

Last year's word: possibilities.

Quite appropriate. So much happened that wasn't planned, so "possibilities" is definitely an appropriate description.

2009's word: content.

That's a word that would apply to every year since I am always desiring to find contentment in everything.

I've thought about this a lot for 2011, and I've finally settled on a word. It took a lot of pondering and thinking, and it took a lot of giving up control on my part. In fact, you could downright call it a "leap of faith" picking this word. Last year all I truly wanted was a nice, quiet, uneventful year, and honestly, I got the complete opposite of that. Looking back, of course, with my 20/20 hindsight, I wouldn't have it any other way.

So this year, I'm giving up my control-freak-deathgrip on trying to plan it all out my way, and I'm allowing God free reign of our little family and where we are headed. My word for this year is...


I am expecting God to do big things in my little family.

I am expecting God to move in big ways through my little family. There may be only three of us, but God only needs a couple of willing hearts, right?

I would love big blessings, so it doesn't hurt to ask.

And let's be honest, I have this (not so) little underlying fear that by somehow picking this word, I'm setting myself up for the possibilities of any big bad things that could come my way as well. Of course, I am hoping for no big challenges, but if they come, well, I'll do my very human best to embrace the journey. Remember, my friends, lemons can churn out delicious lemonade, and if I have to have a few lemons thrown my way in 2011, well, then I'll just ask for big and beneficial lessons to be learned along the way and a big happy ending, of course...

I've heard it said before, and I know it to be true:

God has so much bigger and better plans for us than we could possibly dream. I know in my own life I've asked things of Him that didn't happen and became sorely disappointed and upset, only to look back later and realize that I was asking for such scrawny blessings in comparison to what He had planned. Who am I to know what is best?

So let's do this, 2011. Let's make it a BIG year.

*And forget the resolutions this New Year. I just want to try harder at doing my best, every single day, for Him, and for nobody else.