Finding the Me in Mommy

How to get a 3 year old to listen to you…

Wow, that’s a topic, right?

It’s actually a pretty easy answer, in my experience.  Pick up the phone, call someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile, and ta da!  Your child will listen to every word you say, put in their two cents, and interrupt.  Over and over and over.

Actually, I think this method works on my husband too.

There is no joy greater than being a parent.  But there are some days when I feel like tearing my hair out if I hear “MOoooooooommmMMMMyyyyy!” one more time.

Needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), it has been one of those days.  Today is a day when we are not doing art projects, we’re not working on a workbook, and I’m not limiting television or Leapster time.

Because some days, happiness means breaking my own rules.


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My little loves…

I know Valentine’s Day is still a few weeks away, but it’s on my mind.  My 3 year old picked out “Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown” at the library today.  We talked for a couple of minutes about what Valentine’s Day is, and then he announced from the carseat, “You’re my best Valentine, Mommy!”

You know what, he’s mine too, he and his brother.  No matter how much I love my husband (and I do, of course), there is nothing that compares to how I feel about my sons.

Tonight I have listened to baby giggles, toddler train sounds, and a hilarious “Do you have a brain, Daddy?” question.  I can’t imagine anything better.

So I’ll gladly give up a romantic candlelight dinner in exchange for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sticky hugs.

So, my little loves, will you please be my Valentines?

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“A Discovery of Witches” crosses genres, but is it a good thing?

As promised, I’m starting the book review section of this blog.  I read constantly.  I don’t stick to one genre, and I will read the instructions to a toy or the back of a cereal box if I don’t have a book handy.

I just finished A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  I chose this book solely by the cover (I know, a sin among readers).  We recently took a little mini-vacation and I forgot a book.  That’s a really bad thing, because I’m a bit of an insomniac and without something to read, I will toss and turn, waking up my husband and my kids in the confined space of a hotel room.  So we stopped at Target and while my husband impatiently tapped his foot, I grabbed a book that looked okay.  I started it during our trip, but it was sloooooooooow going.  When we came back home, I went back to the book I had been reading before we left, a Kathy Reichs novel that guaranteed me some suspense.

I finished Cross Bones (Reichs at her finest, by the way), and restarted A Discovery of Witches.  It took about fifty pages, but eventually I felt invested enough in the story to want to keep going.

This isn’t the typical witches, vampires and daemons book.  In fact, there were several points in the novel where I forgot completely that there was a supernatural theme at all.  The author becomes very caught up in history, both where it relates to the characters individually and where it relates to the history of the supernatural creatures in general.  Let me just say, I love history.  For me, the best and most interesting parts of the book were when the author got lost in the historical aspects.  If you’re not a history buff, I have a feeling those passages will be excruciatingly dull and wordy for you.

I like some supernatural themed novels.  I love Harry Potter, I’m a fan of Kelley Armstrong, and Shanna Swendson’s Katie Chandler books are fantastic light reads.  I sometimes read long, descriptive historical novels and get so caught up in them that I’m sad when I hit the last page, like I did when I read The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.  And occasionally I read lighter, full-of-humor romance novels, like anything written by Jennifer Crusie.

The biggest problem with A Discovery of Witches is that it tries, in one really long novel, to satisfy and intrigue the fans of any of the above genres.  For me, it pretty much fails in all categories.  It’s too long and in-depth to be a romance novel, it’s too fluffy to truly appeal to the reader of more serious books, and the supernatural aspect feels like a throw-away to fit in with the current “in” topic.

And the biggest irritation of all, for me, is how it leaves you hanging at the end.  It’s like the author is taunting you with the knowledge that you have to buy the second, and third, and thousandth installments in this series to know what happens to the protagonist.  I, personally, didn’t care enough about the protagonist to feel inclined to purchase the next one.

I’d rather buy another Kathy Reichs.

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Beer. It’s what’s for dinner.

Yep, you read that right.  I’m part of a recipe sharing group on Facebook and there was a very intriguing recipe posted for Bisquick Beer Bread.  You use about half of a beer, and it’s Friday, so I figured it was the perfect night to drink the rest.

Well, then I googled the recipe to see if there were any reviews or hints or variations (it’s a compulsion, honestly).  I didn’t find any, but I saw a recipe for Beer Braised Crockpot Chicken.  While this recipe ruined my plans for a pre-dinner drink, it looked so good I just had to try it.  This one I did modify, a lot, because there were some ingredients I didn’t have, and it didn’t seem like it would have quite enough flavor without some additions.

I love crockpot meals.  My baby is always at his fussiest right when I’m trying to prepare dinner.  I just know he does it on purpose because whatever I’m making, he can’t eat anyway.  So, I can pull a fast one and trick him if I use the crockpot.

This was a good one.  As I was making the sauce, it smelled suspiciously like red beer and I wondered about eating red beer chicken.  But the flavors blend seamlessly into a sort of barbeque sauce.

As for the Bisquick Beer Bread, this is a recipe for which I have no suggested improvements.  Go ahead, read that again.  It may be the only time it is ever typed as part of this blog.  I loved it, and I plan to make it again and again and again.  Carolyn, your recipe is in a very small group of those that I didn’t alter. Thank you!

And you have my absolute permission (as long as you’re over 21, and I’m pretty sure anyone younger than that has more exciting things to do than reading my blog on Friday night) to open a second beer and drink up while cooking.  TGIF!

Beer Braised Crockpot Chicken

  • 4 to 6 chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup ketchup
  •  1 to 2 TB chili powder (I think, the more the better)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 TB prepared mustard
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 6 oz beer (I used MGD, but this would be really good with a stout beer)
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into medium sized pieces
  • 3 to 4 carrot sticks, cut into medium sized pieces
  • 3 to 5 red potatoes, cut in quarters
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced
  • Dash each, salt and pepper
  • 2 TB butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 TB flour

Place onion, potatoes, carrots and celery in the bottom of your crockpot.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, place on top of vegetables.  Mix remaining ingredients together until blended.  Pour over chicken.  Cook on low for at least 5 hours.  Wait!  I know it sounds like you’re done, but you’re not.  The original recipe said to add flour straight to the sauce, but anytime I’ve ever done that I’ve ended up with clumpy gross sauce.  So I used a buerre manie, which means kneaded butter in French, and is pretty much just a last minute roux.   In a small bowl, add flour to margarine and use a fork to mix it into a paste.  Add it to the crockpot in spoonfuls, stir, and cook another 30 minutes so it thoroughly blends in and thickens the sauce.

I’m not even going to guess how many helpings this actually is.  It fed 2 of us, because my husband ate three helpings.  I guess he enjoys beer for dinner!

Bisquick Beer Bread

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 6 oz beer (again, I used MGD, but I think a stout would be awesome)

Mix Bisquick, sugar and beer together until they form a dough.  Place in a greased loaf pan.  Cover and let sit until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

I baked this early in the day because I didn’t want the beer to go flat after I opened it for the chicken.  About 30 minutes before dinner time, I spread butter on the top and put in back in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Warm, buttery, goodness.  I think this tastes like a really dense sourdough with crumbly edges.

This bread is so good that I just had some for a snack a few minutes ago.  And let me tell you, it was made for garden vegetable cream cheese.  I’ve always said I love cream cheese on anything.  Apparently, that includes beer.

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I do my very worst sleeping and my very best thinking around three o’clock in the morning.   This morning, I bolted up from a sound sleep because I remembered that I had a half container of fresh blackberries in the refrigerator, and if I didn’t use them, I would have to throw them away.  Good reason to wake up, right?  I know, but I’ve made a personal goal to not throw away any of my Bountiful Baskets produce, and apparently it was weighing on my mind.

I consoled myself with the thought that I would make blackberry pancakes for breakfast, and eventually fell back asleep.

Morning arrived (far too soon, I might add), and my three year old was disgusted by the sheer thought of blackberries in his pancakes.  I truly don’t know why because he loves blackberries and he loves pancakes, but you know, he’s three.

I decided that muffins were my best bet.  I have a wonderful blueberry muffin recipe and I figured I would just substitute the blackberries.

When I started pulling the ingredients out of my fridge, I spied a partial bar of cream cheese and a jar of blackberry jam, so I decided that those things had to go in the muffins too.  The recipe that resulted has very little similarity to the original blueberry muffins, but if anything, these are better!

Better than Blueberry Blackberry Muffins

  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 3 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract (use vanilla if you don’t have almond)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 2 TB blackberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries, sliced

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  In a separate large bowl, mix butter and cream cheese with a mixer.  Add sugar, mix until fluffy. Add egg and almond extract, mix well.  Add half of flour, mix, add milk, mix, add remaining flour, mix, add jam and mix again.  Fold in fresh blackberries.  Batter will be thick.  Line muffin pan with cupcake papers.  Divide batter evenly and fill muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  This recipe makes 12 muffins. Serve warm with butter.  Because seriously, why eat a muffin if you’re not going to butter it?

Helpful tip:  Fill the muffin cups higher than you would  a cupcake and it makes a more impressive muffin top, which is lovely on muffins and not so fabulous on new moms.

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Praying for answers

I am filled with sadness about the tragic death of Sidney math teacher Sherry Arnold.  I have been following much of the media coverage, which is very unusual for me.  After working in the court system for several years and observing trials in criminal cases, I now typically avoid the ugly news.  Maybe I’m an ostrich with my head in the sand, but I’m much happier enjoying my happy days with my kids if I just don’t listen to the negativity happening outside of my home.

But this case gets to me.  Maybe it’s because of the lack of actual information, but for some reason I can’t quit speculating about what really happened.  I’ve spent a good portion of the last few days mulling over my experiences in criminal court and trying to come up with a theory about this case.  Confirmed dead, but no body found?  Charged with kidnapping, not homicide?  And who in the world are these two men from Colorado and why on earth did they target a Sidney math teacher?

It occurred to me tonight that amidst all my theorizing, I have neglected the most important thing.  What about her poor family?  They need answers so much more than I, an absolute stranger who just happens to have an interest in criminal law.

So, I’m going to try really hard to quit speculating.  I will use that wasted time to say many, many prayers for everyone harmed by this heinous crime.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Mrs. Arnold.   I pray that they will find the answers they need.  And if there are no answers, I pray that one day, the memories of their loved one will outweigh the tragic circumstances of their loss.

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Playing Chopped: Mommy style

I love to cook.  I really do.  But nights like tonight, I wish I could be content with ordering a pizza. I’m a Food Network junkie and I always watch the new Chopped on Tuesday nights.  Watching Food Network while eating takeout just fills me with Catholic schoolgirl guilt.

So, I needed a meal idea that was fast, easy and for which I had every single ingredient.  I meandered through my refrigerator and pantry, playing Chopped: Mommy style.  I found some ingredients that pretty much went together and tried to find one last drop of creativity within my tired, congested head.  I ended up cheating.  I googled some ingredients, and VOILA!  An idea!  Beef Stroganoff Bisquick Pie.  I started with the base recipe that I found on Yummly, but added and subtracted because I just can’t help myself.

The end result was delicious, filling, and oh, so, easy.  I highly recommend this recipe for nights when cooking seems like an impossible task.  And, at least for me, the ingredients are all staples that I always have on hand.

Here’s the recipe:

Beef Stroganoff Bisquick Pie

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 c chopped onion
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms, drained if you use canned
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp thyme
  • 1/8 tsp basil
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 1/2 c bisquick
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • dash each, salt and pepper
  • parsley, optional for garnish

Brown ground beef on stovetop, add onion, mushrooms and all seasonings while cooking.  Pour meat mixture into greased pie dish.  In a small bowl, combine Bisquick, milk, sour cream, eggs, salt and pepper and whisk until blended.  Pour over meat mixture.  Sprinkle parsley on top of Bisquick mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in middle of dish comes out clean.  Makes about 8 servings, unless your husband eats like a hungry teenager like mine does.  If so, or you do feed a hungry teenager, this will probably serve 4.

Oh, and don’t be as tough as the Chopped judges, please!

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It’s a sick, sick, sick day around here

So, just yuck.  Somehow we got the cold germ in our house, and passed it around.  Except my husband, we’re all sick.  Even my poor sweet baby.  I mean, it could be worse.  We could have the stomach bug….yuck.  Or it could be my husband who was sick since he’s the most difficult patient.  But still, there’s nothing like feeling like Helpless Mommy when your kids are coughing and sneezing and whining because they feel miserable.  Oh, and then there’s the fact that I feel miserable myself.  And did I mention that somehow, my husband is not sick?

And just so you know, we’re not sick just because the Packers lost.  But I must admit to a stomach ache over a few of those dropped passes.

On the bright side, today is the day I order this week’s Bountiful Basket.  I realize it’s a very small thing, but I get ridiculously excited to see what wonderful fruits and vegetables we’re going to get.  Now that I’m making baby food, I can’t wait to see what is in the basket that the baby can have.  Today, avocados, tomorrow, the world!  Or peas, maybe.

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It’s 2012, right?

So, I did it.  I’m now officially part of the current century.  I have a blog!  Hopefully, someone will read it…

Today is my lazy Sunday.  I should be thinking about dinner and cleaning my house before the Packers game starts in an hour.  Instead, I’m typing away at my computer.  See, there’s already an advantage to being a blogger!

So join me in the adventures of being a mom to my two amazing little boys, finding and trying new recipes (because I hate cooking something I’ve cooked before)  and my quest to find great new books and the perfect pair of shoes.  And, well, anything else I feel like talking about, really.


My 3 1/2 year old knows who scores the touchdowns!