Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Healthy Smoothie

Jonah slept all night long.  I slept all night long.  I feel like Wonder Woman! (Minus the shiny hair, rocking bod, and cool hair band.)

I stayed awake at 6:00am after feeding Jonah, made the kids a much healthier lunch than they'll get in the lunch room, and went to breakfast with Shawn.  I gathered up clothes that don't fit the boys and took them to Goodwill.  I went to the gym, shipped a package of Shawn Cheek Bootcamp Sight Reading DVDs, and....wait for it....I washed my hair!  Maybe I AM Wonder Woman. 

After eating too much breakfast After an invigorating workout, I thought it would be a great idea to replace my ham sandwich with a healthy smoothie.  

How did I get it to be a lovely shade of green?  Andes Mints!  Not really, how could I justify this smoothie as a healthy meal replacement if I loaded it with Andes Mints. (Plus, I'd rather save the Andes Mints for when I watch reality TV in the bed tonight.)  The real reason it's green is because I loaded it with two cups of baby spinach.  I read a blog post recently that promised me if I added spinach to my smoothie I wouldn't be able to taste it.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE spinach, but mixed with yogurt and fruit....let's just say I was a bit skeptical.  Here's what I did...

In a blender I added,
2 small ripe bananas, sliced
1 cup nonfat vanilla flavored yogurt (Stonybrook Organic)
about 1 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries (Central Market)
about 1 cup frozen unsweetened peach slices (Central Market)
1/2 to 3/4 cup Apple Juice (Unfiltered Organic, Central Market, I tell ya, this is the best tasting apple juice around,)
2 T. Cold Milled Ground Flaxseed (Central Market, found on the health food aisle)
2 cups packed baby spinach leaves

Blend until smooth.  I don't have the most expensive blender on the market so I had to help the smoothie along by pushing the ingredients around while blending to get things going.  Just don't get your spoon caught in the blades!  The flaxseed has no flavor that I can tell.  It doesn't quite blend up, and can be a bit crunchy in your smoothie.  Shawn thought they were strawberry seeds so it obviously wasn't too big of a deal, and it's a natural way to add a lot more fiber to your diet.  This recipe makes two servings, each about 300 calories. 

Next time I'll try it with one less banana and more spinach.  I'm going to see just how far I can push it before someone asks why I put spinach in their drink.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review :: The Hunger Games

A few weeks ago several friends of mine from our Bible study group were talking about The Hunger Games.  I'm one that never likes to feel left out of the conversation by not knowing what's being talked about.  So, to not feel left out I got the first book of The Hunger Games Series on my nook color.  I quickly finished the first book and by the end of the week I had finished the other two in the series.

They're quick reads without a complicated plot line.  The characters are relatable and the setting is interesting.  The story takes place in the future in a drastically different United States known as Panem.  There are 13 districts and the Capitol.  The districts each specialize in a different product that serves the Capitol.  For instance, District 12 where our main characters are from specialize in coal mining.  They're usually poor and under the strict Capitol government.   Even though it's set in the future the Districts come off as more primitive without many of the comforts and conveniences of modern technology we use today.  The Capitol and it's residents however seem like something out of a Doctor Suess book. Everything is colorful and people are altered to have golden tattoos or overdone features.

Each year the Hunger Games are held for the Capitol's entertainment.  Two candidates are chosen from each district, one boy and one girl.  They are sent to the arena and must fight to the death.  The lone survivor is the winner and travels all over Panem for the victory tour.

This series is classified as young adult fiction but nothing about it other than the characters being teenagers strikes me as teeny bopper-ish.  There is no foul language or sex.  Just gory murder.  Even the murder doesn't seem so terrible.  It's like when an actress says they did nudity for their role in a movie because it was important to the story line.....  Murder in the Hunger Games is actually the whole point of the games so it is necessary and important to the psyche of the characters.  

I haven't read any of the Harry Potter series so I can't compare the two young adult fiction works.  I have however read the Twilight series and let me just tell you, The Hunger Games is by far more interesting to adult.  I've been a brooding teenager dealing with young love to a vampire boy.  Why would I ever want to experience that again?  Bella describing Edward as a sparkling marble statue over and over got a little monotonous.  After seeing the first Twilight movie I was finished.  I completely lost interest and didn't have any desire to watch the rest.  I finished reading the series only because I started it and once I start a series I have to finish it.  Like the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest series.   Yikes, I wouldn't recommend that series to anyone!

I'm looking forward to the first movie coming out in March.  In my opinion, movies are never as good as the book, but if you can go in with an open mind, knowing the director can not fit everything from the book into the movie, it can still be an enjoyable experience.  If I were you I'd buy these books immediately and start reading them tonight!  If you have a Nook I can even lend it to you.  And maybe when the movie comes out I can step out of my old person mindset and try going to the theater, fight the crowd, and the price, to see The Hunger Games.  If not, I'll just wait until it comes out on iTunes and watch it in our garage theater in my PJs.

Under my Facebook badge on the right side of my blog vote for your favorite book series.  I'd curious to know which one will be the winner!
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Food Memories :: Beef Stew

Is there a special meal, that when eaten, takes you straight back to your childhood?  

For me, that meal is my Granny's Beef Stew.  It's not a fancy meal.  The ingredients are stew beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Basic and simple, but the feelings this meal gives me are much more complex.  I remember sitting in her kitchen watching her serve up this stew to me.  As a child I didn't really like meat much, but this stew... I loved.  It was served hot on a cold day, warming me from the inside out.  Today when I take a bite of this stew I'm taken back 20 years to her table.   

When I married Shawn she put together a cookbook full of recipes she made me as a child growing up. Of all the recipes in the book, my family enjoys this one most.  When I tell them I'm making stew Carter will ask, "Is it Granny's stew?"  I never stray from the original recipe created in 1960.  I want to do it just like she did.  

While I'm cooking I imagine her chopping onions.  Am I doing it like she did?  Browning the meat in batches, peeling carrots and potatoes, and tending a simmering pot takes time, but with each step of the recipe I think about the many times she's done it for her family through the years. 

As the stew bubbles away on the stove filling the house with the smell of true comfort food, I remember
the special moments I spent at her kitchen table.  Even the task of washing dishes by hand doesn't bother me when I'm making beef stew.  I take that time to think of the people I'll be serving.  Will they know how much I care about them, because this recipe is truly a labor of love.  It's reserved for people I hold dear and love the most.  

 I believe cooking for someone and sharing food is the best way to show you care.  One day, when my kids get older I hope they don't just remember the stew I used to make.  I hope they know the tradition behind the recipe and the love that goes into the preparation.  I hope they let me teach them how to make it so they'll understand the love that has been passed down from generation to generation with each full bowl of beef stew.  

Here's the recipe just as it appears in my cookbook.

Beef Stew

Heirloom recipe handed down from : Norma Kay (my Granny)
Region of origin: Central Texas
Tradition: Winter evening meal  
Origin date: 1960
Prep time: 3 hrs.

2 T. oil                                               2 lbs. cubed stew meat or chuck
2 large onions                                    clove of garlic, chopped
4 cups boiling water                          1 T. salt
1 T. lemon juice                                1 t. sugar
1 t. Worchestershire sauce                1/2 t. each paprika and pepper
1 or 2 bay leaves

Heat oil in Dutch oven and brown meat slowly on all sides.  Chop onions and add with other ingredients to meat.  Simmer, covered, slowly, for at least 2 hours.
Now add:
6 carrots, peeled and sliced, 3 or 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed.  Simmer stew another 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaves.  Now pour 1/2 cup cold water in jar and add 1/4 cup flour and shake.  Push stew to one side and stir in flour mixture.  Simmer a few minutes longer until thick.  Serve with hot garlic bread or corn bread and salad.  
Serves 6 to 8

My favorite picture of Granny and Grandpa. 

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

iHeart Valentine's Day

I don't know what it is about Valentine's Day, but I love it!  I love little hearts everywhere....heart themed clothing, heart themed food, and heart themed gifts.  I love chocolates.  I love the kids little Valentine's day cards and the parties they have at school.  

We don't do anything exceptionally special on Valentine's Day.  Shawn and I certainly didn't get all dressed up and go out on the town.  In fact, I write this blog post surrounded by papers for an upcoming website project, clean folded laundry, a plate with tuna sandwich crumbs, and shhh....a half eaten box of chocolates.  We didn't even have a special dinner (did you notice...tuna sandwiches.)  

I've received some pretty cool Valentine's day gifts in the past.  In junior high I remember getting one of those giant CD/Tape/Radio boom box with the big speakers from my parents.  It was all set up on the kitchen table the morning of Valentine's Day.  Valentine's day is just fun!  It's not a particularly important holiday, but can be special with little gestures from the ones you love.  

This morning I spent some time writing down some of the reasons I love Shawn, Carter, and Evan on cut-out hearts.  It's an easy project that didn't take me much time.  All I needed was some white printer paper and a thin Sharpie pen.  What was written is the important part.  When the kids got home from school I took them each aside separately and read theirs to them.  

To Carter, I wrote that he was the first baby I ever loved.  He helped me learn how to be a mother.  I love that he has blue eyes and can remember just about anything he's ever been told. 

To Evan, I wrote that I love his gentle and giving spirit.  I love the gap between his two front teeth.  I love how he's so precise about small things like how his socks fit or the way he likes to line up his toys.  I love that he'll give anything to anyone without thinking twice.  

To Shawn, I love that he loves the Lord.  He's a great father to boys and a friend to me.  He's smart and can always make me laugh.  He always holds Jonah when I need him to the most, and he never complains about getting up early with the kids.  He holds my hand while he drives and he's the perfect match for me. 

Shawn gave me a box of chocolates and a card.  The card, when opened, plays Don't Stop Believing (he knows I like a good 80's power ballad.)  I like all that stuff, but the most important thing about his gift was what he wrote inside the card.  He said, "You are a great mother.  I don't see how you do all that you do each day.  I owe you forever."  He doesn't owe me forever...I won't hold him to that...but it's nice to hear.  I can't think of a better compliment than to tell me I'm a good mother.  

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review :: Who Was...

Carter received these three books for Christmas from an Aunt of mine.  He loves non-fiction so this was a perfect gift.  We've been reading together at night, just a few chapters at a time, and finished Who Was Harry Houdini first, then Who Was Leonardo da Vinci second.  (We have saved the best for last, Who Were The Beatles).  

I've tried to turn reading these book into more than just a lesson about the person.  When their birthplace is mentioned we go to our world map (a gift from another Aunt) on the hall wall and find it.  We use our fingers to see what route they may have traveled and how far away Texas is.  Evan had a lot of fun with the fact that Harry Houdini was born in Budapest....or as Evan kept saying over and over until it wasn't funny more, Bootypest. 

Shawn is really into Art so we have, on our computers, pictures of just about every famous painting from the sketches of da Vinci to the modern paintings of....well...modern painters.  When we were reading about Leonardo da Vinci, it was fun to go on the computer and talk about the different artists he worked with and the significance of their paintings.  It's interesting to hear an 8 year old's critique of a painting from the 1800s.  

I have big plans for reading all about the Beatles!  Shawn and I have a collection of vinyl records we've picked up here and there at garage sales, used book stores, and specialty record shops.  I have several Beatles albums that I plan on playing for the boys as we read.  I don't always approve of the rock star's lifestyle, but I can't deny that they made some great music.  

There are many more books in this series and I hope to add them to our library some day soon!  
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trophies, Cash, and The National Anthem

This Saturday was closing ceremonies for the 2011-2012 basketball season.  Each boy got a trophy before the game.  Carter is used to getting trophies for the various sports he's played, but it's still new to Evan.  Can you see the excitement in his smile?  

Carter played harder than he has in any other game this season.  Why you ask?  It's because Carter was the highest paid player on his team.   After a terrible showing the week before I gave Carter a little incentive to do well. 


 I offered him fifty cents for each rebound.  Shawn threw in that he'd pay him a dollar for every basket made.  Carter seemed pretty excited so I offered to also pay him fifty cents for any stolen passes.  (Can you tell who the cheaper parent is?)

Carter worked harder than I've ever seen in any game this season.  He was the Dennis Rodman of 1st and 2nd grade boys....minus the tattoos, piercings, colored hair, and attitude....well maybe a little attitude. 

He worked hard for every rebound.  He ran up and down the court with speed and determination.  He scored two baskets.  He even got a cramp in his side sometime during the third quarter.  He was sweating!  

Total earnings for the game...$5.50.  

After his game we were all invited to his room for a small ceremony to watch him place his new basketball trophy on the shelf with all his other trophies.  We were all gathered in the room and he starts messing around with his CD player.  Now, if you know Carter you know he's all about the dramatics.  He gets his CD player set, pushes play, turns around, and takes a deep breath as the National Anthem starts.  He slowly turns around and places his new trophy on the shelf as we all watch.  

I think he got a little embarrassed when we started giggling so he quickly turned off the CD player and turned around with his back facing me.  I started to feel bad and waited for some kind of cue on how he would handle this.  He lifts his head, turns to me and says, "I want my money now."


This kid got to carry both trophies out of the gym totally content that he didn't receive any cash.  

Carter and Evan each have one game left in the season.  And, while Evan is happy with a trophy and one final game, Carter and I are negotiating his contract for the last game. 

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