Happy Birthday, lil bro!

Since he is out to sea, and I didn't remember to send a birthday card in time, I want to take a moment to say Happy Birthday to youngest of us but who has the most letters after his name, by far. I am thankful to God for my siblings--they and their spouses are the best friends and uncles/aunts an oldest sister could ask for.

Happy Birthday, Matthew Lee! We are so proud of you!

“I bought my brother some gift-wrap for Christmas. I took it to the Gift Wrap department and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he would know when to stop unwrapping.” --Stephen Wright

Mother Doughs Best


My mom always saves me when it comes to recipes. She has cooked professionally for 20 years, and really knows her stuff. I called her with an idea I had for chocolate fritters, and she convinced me to go a bit of a different route:

Chocolate "croissants"











Strawberry cream cheese tart










The dough recipe she gave me is the same they used for the cream cheese danish at their restaurant, back in the day. She still makes these quite often, mostly with a cream cheese filling, and sometimes adding different fruit fillings. But the standout here is the dough. It is super easy to make. Rolls beautifully. Bakes wonderfully. Many, many uses. Tastes--oh, it is so yummy. It is my new secret culinary weapon!

This recipe made 16 chocolate croissants and one 10 inch tart.

Mom's Versatile Pastry Dough:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 butter or margarine (usually I'm all about real butter, but margarine worked fine)
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg
2-3 cups all purpose flour

Heat sour cream, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to bubble. Add butter and stir until butter is melted. Pour into mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Meanwhile, add the yeast to the warm water in a glass jar and allow to proof. When proofed, add to sour cream mixture and combine. Add egg and combine. Slowly add the flour and mix until elastic. Place in a covered bowl in the refrigerator over night. May use immediately in the morning.
This recipe is linked to:

The Story of the Baby Raccoons

Something happened to me yesterday. Something that is still affecting me today. Not sure what the whole story means yet, but I feel that God spoke to me yesterday. He said, "never, ever, take one second for granted, because life is very short".

I took dinner to some church friends who just had a baby. On the way back, through a slightly wooded residential suburb, a car was stopped in the middle of the road. Frustrated, noticing the driver was an older man, my former Florida resident bias against elderly drivers kicked in and I was like "Go, on!" Until I noticed the three baby raccoons crossing the road right near their car.

I couldn't stop smiling. R. calls me "Molly Raccoon" as a pet name. The three babies reminded me of my own three boys. I actually clapped in delight.

Then, the car in front of me pulled forward, and I SAW THE CAR'S BACK TIRE RUN OVER TWO OF THE BABIES! It was awful! A lady from across the street came running over, and we were both very upset. The two babies were both dying, one hurt more than the other, and the one that was less hurt was licking and trying to comfort the faster-dying one. So sad.

Then, this big dude in a white truck came, and said, "Ladies, they're wild animals", and takes this sheet of hard clear plastic from his truck bed and scoops the pair to the side of the road.

Meanwhile, me and the lady try to find the sole survivor. He was making very sad and scared noises and hiding in the bushes. I had to go, because I had supper for another friend in the car as well, but I was heartbroken.

So I called my husband, crying. He said, "Did you not grow up in the country?"

Yes, I know raccoons are pests to farmers and gardeners alike, but those three babies were so cute, and I saw them die RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. And how the one comforted the other. Death, right in my face.

Life is short.

"No Time for Blog, Dr. Jones"

Let's face it. I don't really have the time to keep my blog up, and I would much rather read other people's daily musings than my own. Escapism, per se.

However, I've been taking pictures like crazy, and maybe one day I will have time to post like I would like. So don't give up on me yet!

The Wearin' o' the Green

T. has been so funny since he turned four last week. He just informed me that it isn't "Saint Patrick's Day, it is Saint Spongebob's Day." Guess we need to wear some yellow!

Lego Birthday Party

I was inspired by Meredith at Like Merchant Ships, who shared her ideas for a ultimate Lego birthday party. I originally had big ideas for the party. I saved empty cereal, granola bar, and saran wrap boxes (among others) to spray paint and make into giant Legos for the party. I read about and planned for a Lego cake, which used marshmallows cut in half for the connectors on the Lego "bricks". Personalized key chains out of larger legos would be drilled and painted for party favors. Lego themed games would be played.

None of that happened. Time and a teething baby got me.

It turned out to be the best birthday party ever.













For decorations, I put out the bigger Duplo Legos all around, and we blew up balloons in primary colors. I tied the yellow lid from a Duplo set around the mailbox, along with more balloons.












The cake was colorful and I ended up decorating it with some of the Lego fruit snacks I bought for favors. (Note to aspiring Lego cake decorators: frosting a marshmallow?!? didn't work for me!) The adult guests had lots of fun putting the blue icing on their teeth and taking pictures of the results.


We ate hot dogs (with chili from home, thanks Mama and Papa Byrd!), chips, macaroni salad, corn chips and corn salsa, and cake and ice cream. It was stress-free on the food.

The weather man was forecasting tornadoes that day. Although it cleared up before the party, we decided to set up some activities in the garage. The kids played skee ball and rode bikes, and ended up heading outside anyway to play baseball.

I made party favor bags with bags I already had, filled with lego fruit snacks, mini gum ball machines, and Slinky's. I stapled an outdoor toy to the bag.












So, why was this the best birthday party ever? I relaxed and didn't try to make everything perfect. We let the kids interact and play as they wanted. We kept the food and decorations simple and used what we had where we could. This will be my new birthday party modus operandi.

Until baby's first party, that is.

Too Gone for Too Long

Faithful readers: I apologize for being away but we have been on VACATION! T.'s birthday party was last weekend (more to come on that later), and my in-laws were visiting. Now it is back to reality but we have lots of fun things planned to keep our spirits up.

Sweet Potato Fries


Kid friendly, daddy likes 'em, too: Sweet potato fries!

Ingredients:
4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and washed (we leave the peel on)
3 TB olive oil
1 tsp Cajun seasoning; or: (use more if you like them spicy)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
Slice the sweet potatoes into thick "fry" shapes. Toss in large bowl with remaining ingredients. Roast in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or desired doneness, stirring once. My guys love these with pan-seared chicken breasts, hamburgers, fried tilapia, just about anything!

All I need is the air that I breathe. . .

. . . and my little guys!

Googled

A few years ago, I googled my own name for kicks. I was relieved to find very little about myself out there for public view, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe on allrecipes.com that I had submitted. Since then, my name has changed and my California chicken spaghetti has received 165 ratings and has stayed at a solid 4 1/2 stars. I am so glad people like my recipe, and it made me wonder: Have you ever googled yourself? and what did you find?

Food on Fridays


Ann is hosting a Food on Fridays carnival at her blog. . .check it out for some menu inspiration!

Leftover Flank Steak, (or Chicken, or whatever) Ultimate Nachos









I love to throw nachos together and there are tons of variations, but one of my favorite ways is to use leftover steak (grilled, usually, but this time we had a large amount of broiled flank steak leftover because of a work/dinner mix-up). Leftover grilled chicken works great as well. Here is what I do:

Nachos:
This makes one large jellyroll pan full, enough to feed our crowd of boys. You can definitely use the techniques and make a smaller amount.

4 cups cooked meat (steak, chicken, pork) sliced thinly
4 TB cooking oil
1 TB taco seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt (or to taste, if your meat is seasoned)

One can seasoned black beans, drained and rinsed and heated through
3 Cups shredded cheese (cheddar or Colby jack is what I usually use)
1 1/2 Cups corn salsa (mix one normal size bag frozen corn, thawed; one chopped jalapeno; 1/4 cup chopped onion; 1/4 cup chopped cilantro; dash salt; dash Tabasco)
One tomato, chopped
Shredded lettuce
Sour cream
Chopped cilantro

One bag corn tortilla chips, restaurant style (we like Santitas)

Heat one tablespoon oil in skillet for each batch of meat. Brown the sliced meat in batches in the skillet, sprinkling with the taco seasoning and garlic (reserve enough for each batch from the above listed amount), and adding salt as desired. Hold the cooked meat warm.

Spread the bag of chips out on a jelly roll pan. Cover with the meat, beans, and cheese. At this point you can broil for a couple of minutes (watch closely) or continue with the rest of the toppings.

I *heart* Valentine's Day


I love to celebrate Valentine's Day with the family. . .we usually try to do a bit of a theme day with them. I like doing this much more than going out for a "romantic" dinner with hubby. Honestly!

For breakfast, I made pink pancakes, heart-shaped eggs, and sausage:



I decorated the table with a pot of tulips T. picked out at Home Depot (frivolous, but fun) and heart cut-outs I made on the computer. I also put a heart-themed quilt over the banister to display the gifts for the guys:



I am very frustrated right now. . .why is it so hard to format on blogger? There has to be an easier way to post pictures that line up and format correctly within the post. And why do they not insert where you want them to? If anyone has any tips or tricks, please let me know. I want to post more, but the picture insertion is way too time-consuming! Thanks, M.

Ten Minutes, Tops

That's about all the time I have at once to do anything these days. But, I've found that I can be productive in these ten minutes, if I work hard and ignore any interruptions, barring a bloody emergency.

It's that or get up at five a.m. and I'm not quite ready for that yet.

How about you? How do you find time to get things done while the kids are in their demanding stages?
After many downloads of various spyware blasters, virus cleaners, and malware destroyers, I think I'm back on line. I'll celebrate with the fun one word game:

Where is your cell? Purse
Your significant other? Faithful
Your hair? Graying
Your mother? Smart
Your father? Collector
Your favorite thing? Nature
Your dream last night? Childhood
Your favorite drink? Coffee
Your dream/goal? Heaven
The room you're in? Bedroom
Your fear? Failure
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Home
Where were you last night? Here
What you're not? Musical
Muffins? Love
One of your wish list items? Laptop
Where you grew up? Country
The last thing you did? Spoke
What are you wearing? Slobbish
Your TV? Warrantied
Your computer? His
Your life? Joyful
Your mood? Tired
Missing someone? Sometimes
Your car? Important
Something you're not wearing? Watch
Favorite Store? Thrift
Your summer? Pregnant
Last time you laughed? Morning
Last time you cried? Afternoon

Well, there you have it. I have lots of updates coming soon.

that was fast

our upstairs laptop has a bad virus. . .off to give it chicken noodle soup!

It's Freezing Friday: Mama Byrd's Vegetable Beef Soup




R.'s mom makes the best vegetable beef soup. . .I always eat bowls and bowls of eat when we visit. It has lots of beef and a great flavor. Over Thanksgiving, I asked her how she made it, and she was sweet to share her technique. Be forewarned, this makes a huge vat of soup, so adjust accordingly. Also, I don't have exact measurements (although I think I got it close), just the method. . .

One large (2-3 lb.) package stew beef (mine was from Sam's Club)
2 TB oil, for browning the meat
2 tsp. garlic powder
One can diced tomatoes, in juice

8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, diced
One can green beans
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 can canned peas, rinsed
24 ounces V8 juice
salt and pepper to taste

Trim the meat if needed and cut into dice-sized cubes. Brown in batches in large stockpot. Return all to pot after browning, season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and enough water to cover the meat. Cover and simmer at least one hour. Add remaining ingredients, along with more water to desired consistency. Cook over medium low heat an additional 2 hours or more. Salt and pepper to taste. It is good re-heated in the crockpot the next several days.

Watch 'Til the End if You Dare

video

Where Eagles Dare


(all the pictures in this post, with the exception of the Woody's pic, are courtesy of greatriverroad.com. I got excited and forgot to take pictures!)

Last year, we had the February doldrums and were looking for something fun to do. I poked around a bit online and found out about the bald eagle migration along the Mississippi River during the winter. The National Great Rivers museum was sponsoring a "Masters of the Sky" bird show from the World Bird Sanctuary. We finished up the day with a drive down the " Great River Road" to Grafton, followed by cheeseburgers and shakes at Woody's back in Alton off Rt. 67. It was so much fun. . .we had to take R.'s mom and dad in March when they came out for T.'s birthday (although in March there aren't as many eagles to spot).

Okay, so my birthday is this Saturday, and since we've all been down in the dumps since we got home from the holidays, we decided to celebrate early and do the eagle trip. Saturday was cold, around 30 degrees, and overcast. A perfect day for eagle watching, in my book. We got a late start, and went to Woody's first, where our healthy eating commitment of the last week went out the window. I just love the food there, even if the place looks like a dump. The guys LOVE the fried chicken. The fries are good, the burgers, the shrimp, the MILKSHAKES, I love it all. And it is so cheap! We all ate there for 23 bucks. (that includes one very hungry teenager!)



We drove down to Pere Marquette state park after that, and that was the only disappointing part of the trip, as the visitor center was closed, the scenic drive was closed, and the bathrooms that were opened were GROSS. We decided to drive back down to the museum, and on the way an eagle flew right over our car. More than made up for the slummy bathrooms.

The museum was great, as usual. We took off from there right around 5:00 pm, and on the way out toward the town, we saw the eagle's nest, with an eagle in it. It was awesome. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone. Our church playgroup might do this as a field trip in February.

Things to know about the trip:
  • Take a camera and binoculars
  • Dress warmly
  • Don't go to the bathroom at Pere Marquette
  • Have fun!

Up and Running!

We now have a mini laptop upstairs--hopefully enabling me to post more frequently. If you would like to read about the family life of a mom of a 13 year old, a 3 year old, and a newborn (all boys!) drop on by. I will include recipes, day to day musings, fun things to do with the kids, and Christian inspiration.