Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thank God for Library Day

Today George threw a bus at the back of Jacob's head. He promptly vomited all over the futon that's in the basement. I was concerned the concussion would be serious but he only threw up one time so we did not actually end up in the ER.

George also drew all over two walls in his room when he was supposed to be napping. He used the plastic stick that goes in the bottom of his brother's recorder. This doesn't come off the wall as easy as pen or pencil. I scrubbed it with Comet but it's still there. I'll have to repaint.

We did get peanut butter cookies made today. YUM!

Afterward, I was trying to play Nathan at a game of chess but my Mensa husband came in and "helped" Nathan. I got my butt kicked. I wasn't happy and I let him know.

As Kevin and George went out the door to the library, Kevin said "Mama's mad at me, George." George looked up at him and replied, "That's OK, she's mad at me too."

Later they tried to butter me up by bringing home 4 half gallons of Ruggles. We are all grateful God blessed me with an extremely short memory.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

5 years and counting...

December has way too many celebrations in our family. We have 6 birthdays of immediate family members, Christmas, New Year's Eve, AND our anniversary. If we had put a bit more thought into it we may have waited another month or two. It should be a very special day but it kind of gets lost in the hustle and bustle. I bet Jesus feels a bit like that too so we're in good company.

The 5 year traditional gift is wood. Kevin gave me a wooden basket he received in the Yankee Christmas at his sister's house on Saturday. I gave him a card. Pretty sad for such an accomplishment. 5 years as a blended family is nothing to sneeze at. Those of you who are in one know exactly what I'm talking about.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Busy Mom's Guide to Shopping Aldi's

As we all look for ways to stretch our grocery budgets, I thought this would be helpful to a lot of readers. I have shopped at Aldi's for over 4 years now. I can't get everything I need there but I do save tons of money with what I am able to purchase there.

A word for new Aldi's shoppers: Bring a quarter to get a cart unlocked from the cart corral. Also, bring reusable bags from home.

Dairy: I find their milk and cheese to be too bland. I would recommend purchasing these items elsewhere. Yogurt is another story....I have purchased yogurts in the past and they have not disappointed me. The eggs are fine too.

Fresh Produce: I have absolutely no complaints about the fresh produce. You will not find the wide variety you will get in the traditional grocery store, but you will be able to find most things you need. They also have bagged pre-washed lettuce that comes in very handy.

Baked Goods: Aldi's has a terrific Whole Wheat bread. However, the hamburger and hot dog buns are only available in white. Bread does have a lengthy shelf life.

Cereal: I have tried many of their varieties of cereal and they are all great. My daughter actually prefers their Cinnamon Toasters to the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The oatmeal is almost exactly the same as Quaker too. George loves it. I would caution you when it comes to the toaster pastries. They can't hold a candle to the Kellogg's brand and most of them will end up in your trash can.

Single Serving Lunchbox Items: Aldi's is a great place for picking up snacks for school lunches. We buy their HoHo's, Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafers, Puddings, Juice pouches and Fruit Cups.

Pastas and Noodles: Caution on purchasing the "white" pasta. I have tried their egg noodles (gross) and rigatoni noodles. Both fell apart on cooking. Turned into a big mess. I have it on good authority that the whole wheat pasta sold under the "Fit and Active" brand is quite good. The Aldi's brand mac and cheese is a nice substitute but be sure to whisk the cheese flavoring into the milk and butter before adding the noodles. The cheese flavoring tends to cake up a bit.

Cookies: The imitation Oreo's will please even the pickiest eater. They are the only choice to be had in the cookie isle. They come in double stuffed, fudge stuffed, and original. The Belmont chocolate chips are greasy and heavy. I do not recommend purchasing them. The oatmeal cookies with frosting are ok but use them up quickly. They are dry to begin with and do not have a long shelf life.

Bagged Snacks: Pass on the chips. They are mostly crumbs in the bottom of the bag. The Fit and Active mini rice cakes are well worth your purchase. They come in cheddar cheese and caramel. The multigrain tortilla chips are also a good investment.

Staples: Flour, sugar, oil. Save $$ by purchasing all of these items here.

Canned Fruits and Vegetables: You can not go wrong with any of the canned fruits and veggies. The pears are especially nice and soft.

Frozen: Definite YES to the following: Bagged boneless skinless chicken, canisters of popcorn chicken in original and buffalo, chicken nuggets in a family size bag, single serving stuffed chicken, french toast sticks, round sausage patties in a bag. The waffles don't taste as good as Eggo but the kids don't mind.

Meats: The cubed stew meat is actually much more tender than any I've ever cooked. Also, be sure to grab a turkey ham. These come in about 3 lb mini ham shapes. They are great for a quick meal.

I will follow this up next week with a week's worth of dinner menus for a family of 4.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Welcome, Jesus!

May you all come to know the most precious gift ever given.

John 1:14
The Word
became flesh and
his dwelling among us.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Festival of Lights

My eldest daughter fancies herself a Messianic Jew so she is embracing Hanukkah this year. I am not giving her gifts but I did make latkes last night as Hanukkah began at sundown. Here is an interesting link with more information: Christmas would be impossible without Hanukkah

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pat's Ginger Cut Outs

I'm not sure why these are called ginger because there isn't any ginger in the recipe. At Christmastime my mom's friend's basement had lots of Charley Chip cans filled with these cookies. They were another favorite part of Christmas. The dough makes about 12 dozen cut outs.


Wet ingredients: Half pound butter, half pound lard, 1.5 pound brown sugar, 3 eggs, .75 cup water with 1 t baking soda mixed in.

Dry ingredients: 1 T. cloves, 1 T cinnamon, 1 T allspice, 9 cups flour (enough to make a stiff dough), .25 cup lemon, citron, orange peel (it's not clear if this is supposed to be .25 cup each or .25 cup total of a mix), .25 pound walnut meal, .25 pound almond meal.

Combine. Chill. Roll and cut. Dust with colored sugars and silver dragees. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Annual Hard Candy Making Episode

One tradition that my sister is bound and determined to recreate every year is making hard candy. My mom used to do this with her friend Betty each year. I remember them doing it late after we went to bed but my memory is sometimes flawed. They would make watermelon, cherry, lime, cinnamon and other flavors. The candy was perfectly shaped into pillows coated with powdered sugar. A great part of Christmas.

We have never had much luck at this but we do have fun. Last night we got together at my house to work on it. NOW, (that I am still walking on hard candy shards on my kitchen floor despite having swept thrice) I know why she wanted it to be at my house.

The first batch did caramelize a bit. That's a polite way of saying it tasted a little burnt. It was a light brown so we decided to flavor it cinnamon. I stirred in the flavoring and dumped it onto my counter. We let it cool and ended up what looked like an oval brown piece of glass FUSED to my counter top. Using knives, two screwdrivers, a hammer and lots of hot water we finally got it all off.

[Nathan got a rise out of Kevin when he passed on the news as they drove to foot skills later that night. "OUR kitchen counter???"]

The second batch didn't burn but the plastic spoon did melt into it. I was able to take out the larger plastic pieces and we flavored this one with strawberry. I graciously let my sister take this entire batch home. I don't think it quite reached 310 degrees because it was a bit stringy.

The third batch definitely caramelized. We just threw that batch down the drain. Probably not smart.

Dawn was finally prepared to throw in the towel at this point but I gave it another go. I measured all the ingredients perfectly. I didn't take my eyes off the thermometer except to have a quick phone conversation with Kevin about mixtures, boiling point and heat transfer. After it reached 310, I dumped in one teaspoon of flavoring, mixed it, and dumped it onto a greased broiling pan. I covered it with powdered sugar. After the edges cooled, I sliced into it with a pair of greased scissors.

This batch came out something like what I remember. I wonder if it was ever this hard for my mom. After googling "hard candy tips", I think I can give you the best of the information I found:

"Experience is the best teacher"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Rachel!

Last night Rachel came by for about an hour while her mother was training at the hospital. We were under instructions not to feed her dinner. So we just had cake and ice cream. She also got to open her presents. A light up High School Musical Shirt and Squakers McCaw.

Squawkers has got to be the best birthday gift ever. I snagged him at Target at a Black Friday sale. He is regularly about $50 and I got him for only $25. You can teach Squawkers words and phrases. He is a very polite bird too and excuses himself each and every time he passes gas. The directions warn to be very responsible about teaching Squawkers new words. I am devious and already taught him..."Clean up this room!" and "Pick up your laundry!"

It will be interesting to watch what the kids do with him.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Christmas Slippers

At the beginning of the advent season, our pastor talked about the real meaning of Christmas; Love.

God is the source of all love and His love is made complete when we love like Christ. As Christians, we are to represent the love of Christ to the world. Or as he put it....re-PRESENT. The presents we give at Christmas should be a representation of the love of God poured out through Jesus Christ. No one I know is better at this than my husband. He does a phenomenal job at showing the love of God. It's one of the reasons I have such deep respect and admiration for him.

He is a great gift giver. He is very thoughtful and always picks something appropriate. The first Christmas we were married my husband gave me a beautiful gray robe and matching slippers from Victoria's Secret. As you can see in the pictures the slippers have seen their better days. But they were a L-O-V-E gift. Their sentimental value alone makes it very hard for me to think about parting with them. Now it's going to be impossible.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Kevin!

Tomorrow my dear hubby turns 41! We celebrated tonight with a dinner of mac and cheese, Encor riblets, latkes, homemade applesauce, and peaches. Dessert was yellow cupcakes baked by Brooke with chocolate icing. We really know how to do it up!

Gifts were a new winter jacket, a long sleeved bright orange "Cleveland Browns" running shirt, and what I thought were a pair of running tights. His late Aunt Gene sent him a gift too! (He liked that one much more.)

He spends his birthday tomorrow at both his jobs so we won't see him.