Thursday, April 29, 2010

menu monday update

Our first week working the menu planning plan from E-Mealz has been pretty darn successful!  I love looking at the plan to see what's for supper tonight or tomorrow and knowing it's all (or most of it!) is in the frig or freezer and ready to go!  I already knew that part would be lovely.  I was just a little concerned about having so many new recipes all at once - and the percentage of which we would like.

Yay!  They've been good.  While we find we can live without Chicken Divan again (kids and curry, not so much) we LOVED the Chinese Chicken Salad:

1 rotisserie chicken, deboned, shredded
1 bag slaw
4 green onions, chopped
2 oz bag slivered almonds, toasted
2 bag ramen noodles, noodles only
Asian salad dressing (All Seasons Asian Sesame salad dressing)

Mix shredded cabbage, green onion, chicken and almonds.  Right before serving, pour dressing over all and sprinkle with noodles.  Serve immediately.

Serving suggestion:  serve with fresh bakery bread, (make it garlic or not as you like)  Jamie wanted fortune cookies too which we bought but forgot to serve!

It was quick and yummy and a nice twist on that ramen noodle salad you've maybe already had or made.  The rotisserie chicken makes this one nice for summer time not-cooking in the kitchen season.  If your family won't eat that whole bag of slaw, cut this recipe in half because it doesn't really keep after the dressing is on, though Jeff insisted it was "just fine" two days later.

We had "Ben's Tostadas" tonight and are ready to make "Sweet 'n Sour Pork Roast with Jasmine Rice and Sauteed Asparagus" for tomorrow night, which should be a good choice for another rainy day.  I'm looking forward to trying "Pepperoni Loaf" with the kids Saturday.  "London Broil with Company Potatoes and Peas" for Sunday.  Doesn't that sound yummy?

I picked up next week's menu plan on the website today - we'll work on our modifications this weekend and go again.   I think E-Mealz will be a good menu planning solution for our family right now.  yay!  a win! 

wordless wednesday on thursday: chalk art

sometimes when jamie comes home she just sits down in the middle of the driveway with chalk and this is what happens.  It's been happening to her since she was very small.  It's only now I have to take the picture from the 2nd story window!

[and no, it doesn't matter where the driveway crack happens to be.  I really should get that fixed anyway!]

Monday, April 26, 2010

menu monday

So I started doing my own menu plans and shopping lists a couple weeks ago and while I was procrastinating around the interweb:  BAM!  I ran into E-MEALZ Easy Meals for Busy and Frugal Families.  Menu plans and shopping lists all ready for me each week for just $1.25 each.  Hmmmmm...

I believe it was a Sunday night and I was tired and probably cranky so "Sign me up, ma'am!!"  I chose the "Wal-Mart" lists for 4-6 people.  The shopping lists even include prices with an approximate total for each week.  We shopped yesterday afternoon and found the prices to be very, very accurate.  

As I'm reviewing the week and planning what we'll eat when I'm realizing that I will have to do a little modification as seven (7) meals is likely more than we'll really need for each week.  I usually plan to cook 4 or 5 times. And I'm a little overwhelmed with 7 new recipes although they are all pretty simple with quick and easy prep.  The shopping list has the recipe number listed beside each item so it would be very easy to just eliminate some recipes each week and still use the shopping list very effectively.  

I'm thinking it's probably not a "forever" solution for us since I'm such a control freak, but with Jamie's graduation ahead, Jeff's changing work schedule and my aggressive Mary Kay business goals for the next several months - this looks like a helpful tool for the feed-the-gang thing we have to do day in and day out.  

They also offer quite a variety of menu plans including couples menus, point-system plans, low-carb, vegetarian and many different specific store plans.  If you're interested, E-MEALZ Easy Meals for Busy and Frugal Families has a referral program and I get "credit" if you click through from a link on my blog.  (magic!)  

Let me know what you think - I'll post my first review of the recipes back here next Monday!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

"sharing" (without being nosy)

I have a few thoughts about "sharing" and other things said in the "best interest" of others and under the guise of prayer requests and just plain ol' gossip.  Obviously, just my opinion.

If you must speak, and by "speak" I mean talk, text, email, publish, post, blog and generally speak by your actions towards another person in private or public...

If you must speak:

#1  Make sure you are talking to the right person.

If it's not your story or the story of the person to whom you are speaking, you're talking to the wrong person. 

This is really the foundational principle.  Every other decision you make will rest on this.  "Am I talking to the right person?" 

If you cheat or stretch this rule, you will almost always be sorry.  Unless you never get caught or have no conscience.  

[Let me know if you need more help on this one.  I'm being serious - I'm not sure that idea is expressed very clearly.  Let me know what you think.]

#2  IF you are talking to the right person, please don't bother hiding behind a prayer request unless you are ready to dedicate time everyday to pray specifically for that person... 

AND you are ready to respond to anything God might direct you to do or change as a result of that prayer...

AND you are ready to follow up and continue give your time, talent and treasure to care for this person and others in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

(this could be just the beginning.  and that could be a very good thing for all involved.  praying for other people is good - and it's very nice to say so. just don't offer be a counterfeiter, that's all.)

#3 IF you are talking to the right person, listen much and speak little.  Smile, looked concerned or whatever facial expression seems most appropriate to you at the time and nod.  Repeat.  Do the same tomorrow. 

Offer brief, honest expressions of your sympathy and concern.  (eg.  "wow - that must have been hard for you." "oh, I'm so sorry."  etc.)  This does not imply your absolute support for everything she has said or done or everything that has happened.  It may just communicate your love and concern.  Learn real sympathy - to suffer with your friend. 

Earn the right to be heard by respecting your friend's sadness, grief, anxiety, care, burden, anger, humiliation, whatever-it-is.  Over time.  If you are really listening, it's not your turn to talk yet.  She'll let you know - probably a little at a time.

#4  IF you are talking to the right person, be prepared to never speak of it again.  To anyone. 

That's what confidentiality really means.  Look it up if you don't believe me. 

[Don't bother me with obvious exceptions:  when a person is threatening to hurt themselves or others; other illegal activity.  Really?  how often is this going to happen in a regular person's lifetime?]

If you really, really want to tell someone else - go ask the right person for permission to tell their story to _____________ (insert name of person you want to tell).  I think this includes your spouse.

If you want to be able to use your own judgment about whom you tell, then ask the right person for permission to tell anyone you choose.  Really.  And use those exact words when you ask.  "Is it OK to tell anyone I want?  For any reason I think is a good one?"

So I get pretty worked up about this subject.  Please, please don't be offended just take anything that's useful to you and leave the rest on the floor.  I have been talked about plenty and have certainly done my share of talking.  I did it this week, in fact.  I'm trying to do better.

For me, that just means talking to the right person.  It seems harder, but it's really so much easier.  And right-er.  And more useful.  And more Love.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

family update

(I've missed at least one update - sorry!)  We had a few gray days, cool, windy days early last week.  Then one morning rain and POW!  everything was GREEN!  We've had beautiful spring for many days in a row now.  Sunshine and blue skies and temps in the upper 60s and 70s.  The trees finally have small leaves.

Speaking of trees, a guy came by the other day out of nowhere and offered to estimate any yardwork I might need to have done.  Do you have any idea how much it would cost to take that Large-ish, ugly-ish evergreen that has so many dead limbs out of my front yard?  $950!  I had no idea.  If I want the stump removed (why would I want to keep it, I'm wondering???)  They'll take that one and the one from the corner of the house that a previous owner wanted to keep for some reason, for another $150.  Wow.  It's not really all that ugly...

Alex's cello teacher gave him the prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No 1 to learn for his high school youth symphony audition.  It is really cool to hear him play!  His teacher offered to work with him a couple of Saturdays before the audition (for no charge) so that he would feel more confident and prepared.  So nice.

The boys went with me to run a couple errands after a successful Mary Kay event last Saturday morning and we stopped by the DQ for cones.  Our family doctor, back in town after several years in Kenya, was in the parking lot.  Nate unfolded himself from the back of the van and was proud to stand about a head taller than Dr Deb!  He is taller than all the girls in our house and is outgrowing his jeans.  Again.  I noticed yesterday that Alex is taller again as well - he just seems to grow more slowly and steadily than Nate so we don't notice as much.  He's glad for every fraction of an inch!  Mia had her first doggie dish at the Moorhead DQ while were there - they do a little bowl of ice cream with a milk bone on top for our furry people.  She was in doggie heaven for about 30 seconds.

Ashlee passed her driver's test early last week and is on the road!  She was very excited.  Jeff and Marissa met for coffee last week - she is doing well.  Enjoying her new apartment - we thinks she likes living on her own.  She's been picking up some extra hours at Olive Garden to make a repair on her driver's side car window.  It's always something - but she's especially glad for our dry weather!

Jeff and I had a lovely dinner with friends out near Hawley and their son.  It doesn't seem possible that he will be graduating from college this spring.  He's grown into such a handsome and kind young man.  He visited with us over supper and played cards with us after.  They have a beautiful place in the country.  It was so nice to get out of the city for awhile.  When we left it was so dark out there - cool to really see the stars without so much light pollution.

Kathryn played the piano for worship at Salem last Sunday.  Her first time there.  She really enjoyed it and is pleased to be on the schedule to serve there regularly through this summer.  

I've had a nasty cold since about last weekend so I've been working with limited voice all week - but I'm too busy and having too much fun to be sick so I've been alternately running here and there and resting and it seems to be working out just fine!  So far no one else has caught it - we're hoping to end the school year strong.

Jeff begins a new schedule at work next week.  Due to a change in their scheduling software, he's on days only with longer hours at one time.  So he'll be working Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as a regular schedule, picking up additional hours as they are available.  He is still planning to return to school in the fall, but he's looking into some options other than teaching as well.  Perhaps something in the healthcare field like physical therapy. Just exploring the options for the second half of the game.

We can hardly believe the end of April is in sight - then we turn the page to May and it's a rush downhill into summer!  We're looking forward to a visit from my parents at the end of May, early June for Jamie's graduation.  Let us know if your summer travels will bring you this way - we'd love to see you!!


wordless wednesday: whiteboard cow

whiteboard cow
april 21, 2010

The whiteboard cow made our daily announcements (and pronouncements) for about a week.  She was succeeded by the whiteboard dragon.  Joseph (and his technicolor dream coat) is calling the schedule now.  Our whiteboard art is generally initiated by Jamie and assisted by all the boys in the house, but mainly Jeff.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Jamie, Jeff & I watched "To Kill A Mockingbird" this afternoon (and evening) - what a great movie!  It's one of my favorites - and the book is at the top of my list of must-read American novels.  New movie trivia:  a young Robert Duvall plays Arthur "Boo" Radley!  I don't know how many times I've seen the movie and never noticed it.  Today Jeff said, "Doesn't he look like a very young...?" And sure enough, a quick Google search later - it's Robert Duvall - with not a single line to deliver!  Still love the movie after all these years.  I think I find a new favorite scene every time.  I love Jem & Scout together - their relationship is just so easy and seems SO real.  And Gregory Peck - so perfect.  The entire courtroom scene.  And I'm still scared every time Scout & Jem are coming home through the woods in the night! Do you have a favorite scene?  Did you know Robert Duvall was "Boo?"  Comment below!

Alex performed with the jr high FM Area Youth Symphony for the last time this afternoon for their Spring Concert.  It was fun as ever.  They performed "Prelude in C" with guest pianist, Mary King - area music teacher still giving lessons and today, performing, at 98 years old!  So cool.  Mr Cole is always looking for new, creative and fun opportunities for learning and musicianship.  This afternoon, they performed the US debut of the "Catcerto", complete with the large screen video of the cat playing the piano you see in this video.  It was very fun.  Alex hasn't decided whether or not he will audition for the high school youth symphony program for next year - the audition pieces are very challenging!  He did begin lessons with a cello teacher this week which will help him prepare for the May audition should he decide to go for it!  He will continue playing with Moorhead High School program and may audition for the community group in years ahead.

Nate & Jamie helped the youth group at Valley prepare breakfast early Easter morning - then we all went to services together at Salem.  We had a delicious mid-afternoon meal and enjoyed Easter baskets (will the kids ever outgrow them?)  It was a beautiful spring day - I posted some pics on facebook.

Each month seems to bring another string of appointments - dentist, orthodontist, lessons, etc.  Jamie had an exciting visit the Dr Deb this week for help with a wart that keeps coming back on her index finger. Dr Deb scraped and froze the bothersome little thing and sent her home to use the usual wart remover treatment for a month.  Then she'll go back for more digging and freezing!  Brave girl.  Jamie's graduation announcements arrived this week - look for yours in the mail!  Open House and Grad dates are posted in the sidebar over there ------>  We're looking forward to celebrating with Jamie!  We're all looking forward to a visit from my parents at the same time.  She will be leaving to work at Pine Haven right after graduation.  She has been assigned to half time on the "Outdoor Crew" and half time on the "Indoor Crew."  She is so excited.

Jeff & I have been slowly building a social life.  ;-)  I have been having coffee about once a month with an old friend I hadn't spent time with in years.  We just talk, talk the minutes away and are surprised when our hour is gone!  Jeff & I had dessert at our house with her and her husband last month.  This Friday we're going to their house for dinner.  They are both educators and conversation is lively, entertaining, thought-provoking and just plain fun.  We're looking forward to the visit.

The beautiful weather has been brought all the kids out - our basketball hoop has been busy and we're having more visitors than ever.  I'm glad our house is a good place to come - but I'm pretty sure Jeff would rather not be chasing little kids and girls out of our basement window wells!  (yep - too much fun in the side yard this afternoon!)  

Mia finds the silliest sleeping positions!
With the windows open, Mia has been making everyone crazy barking & growling at every new noise.  We've become more aware of her age.  We adopted her when Alex was 5.  The vet estimated her age at maybe 2 at that time - so we figure she's about 11.  She has had seasonal allergies for the last several summers that make her very, very itchy.  We were hoping that she could get by with just the antihistamine this year, but it doesn't seem to be helping so looks like we'll need to add a steroid again.  (She loves taking her pills since I found Pill Pockets at her vet's office.  Genius.)  She also seems to be having back pain off and on.  And now has added a weird circling behavior and sideways walking thing more and more often.  Poor old puppy.  She's such a good dog.    

Hope you're having a lovely spring where you are - let us know how you're doing!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Menu Planning and The Week Ahead

So I got inspired by the vast and rich blogging world to make yet another attempt to tame the meal planning, shopping, cooking plan.  We're starting with our favorites and adding in from there.  Get your own Monday Menu Planning ideas and nifty form(s) at I'm An Organizing Junkie.  

MONDAY:  Frozen bag of Dinner from WalMart.  Chicken, sauce and pasta all in one bag.  I thought it would be a skillet dinner, but it was all microwaved - in one bowl.  A masterpiece in 10 minutes.  I added rolls and veggies and it was family dinner for mom and kids.  We even did an acceptable job getting the kitchen cleaned up before Jeff came home from work at 9:30.  I LOVE having supper with my kids.  I love still having us all in the same room at the same time for the same reason - each contributing to meal and conversation and debate and more food and cleaning up and sharing.  

The boys have spring fever.  I had to pull them in from driveway basketball for supper and away from hitting golf balls across the college practice field next door for HOMEWORK.  (worst part of mom-ing ever.)

TUESDAY:  Tater Tot Hotdish.  Nothing new or fancy about this one and you get in trouble if you try at my house.  Hamburger.  Cream of Mushroom soup.  Arrange the Tater Tots carefully on top, maybe add a little cheese if you can work it in.  Bake it.  Eat it hot with veggies or salad for something green.

Nate's study group for his AP American History Test starts at 7:15 am today.  They will meet Tuesdays & Thursdays to prepare for the test in May.

Alex has his 1st cello lesson Tuesday at 5.  Probably I'll take him there, run home to put the hotdish in the oven and send Jamie to pick him up before I leave to be at our Mary Kary studio by 6 for our Tuesday night event!   

Jeff is working 5 - 9 Tuesday at the Relay - he has been picking up extra hours as he can and will have more hours in his regular schedule starting in May.  We're looking forward to seeing what his final schedule will look like.

WEDNESDAY:  Jeff will figure it out - probably leftover lovelies as the kids have supper at church on Wednesday nights (I think that's a smart thing the church does!) and I will be driving to Grand Forks with Karen to do several facials at an event we're putting on at the Holiday Inn Express there.  Hoping that goes well so I can do my special Happy made a goal dance when I get home.  [In my ideal week I would have 3 events with 9 - 12 women at each.  I would meet 3 people who would like to know more about being an MK consultant like me with whom I can have a cup of (shade-grown) coffee.  If I can do $300 in sales in the midst of all that, that would be truly Wonderful.]

Jamie picks up her graduation paraphernalia at school today!

THURSDAY:  Tuna Melts.  These are the most yummy thing to do with leftover Easter Eggs.  You dice up the hardboiled eggs, add tuna and then whatever you like to make a salad like tuna/egg salad with mayonaise or miracle whip or what you like. I like to add chunks of any kind of cheese that will melt into the sandwiches.   Put the filling in hamburger buns or any you like.  Wrap in foil and heat in oven at about 350 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes or until everything is hot and melty.

These are good with pickles and raw veggies and potato chips and whatever you have around that's delicious.

This one won't be a sit-down dinner either!  Jeff & I will be at Qdoba with friends and then I have ANOTHER MK Event at our Studio - A Chocolate Affair. I have guests scheduled all week and hope all my appointments hold and are fun!

FRIDAY:  we still need something quick and easy for Friday.  Maybe the pizza & salad standby.  Nobody ever complains about pizza.  How could they?  It's perfection on a cardboard tray.  We often schedule Friday food around watching a special TV show or movie together.  Sometimes the boys (including) Jeff get pretty involved in some video game!

SATURDAY:  White Bean Soup with Ham made with the ham hock from last sunday's Easter dinner!  yum!  Add some corn muffins.  This is one of our main sit-downs of the week - everybody sit down at the table - we're all going to eat and talk and visit and laugh and have fun together.  And then clean up together, too!   :-)  Sometimes Kathryn is free to join us.  We're looking forward to having Marissa here as well.

SUNDAY.  Well, with all this excellent monday menu planning, someone will surely think of something by sunday.  I'm thinking crockpot.  I'll keep you posted.  Or better yet.  Give me some suggestions.  

Alex has a dress rehearsal at 2 for a 4 pm Youth Symphony Spring Concert.  He is deciding whether or not he will audition for the High School Youth Symphony in May.  He will be working to prepare with his new teacher - they really play at a whole 'nother level in that group!   

I'm making a master list this week of dishes and meals we all enjoy - with the aim to leave room for some experimentation, creativity and healthier choices.  I think it's going to be fun. Send me your favorite suggestions if you think of it!!