Monday, February 28, 2011

10 Things I Learned This Weekend

1.  WIN OR LOSE, I AM A COUGARS FAN!
But if I have to be honest, I prefer winning!  This past Friday night our boys had the opportunity to play a State playoff game on our home court.  A win would have progressed them to Baker City with the top 8 teams in Oregon vying for a State Championship title.  We packed out our gymnasium, and cheered at the top of our lungs but when the final buzzer sounded our boys season came to an end.  It was a sad night, but I'm still proud of my Cougars.  And I have much to be proud of, they had a fantastic season, they were undefeated in their league, won the district championship and they were really fun to watch.  I'm sad they won't be playing for the State title, but I'm ready to cheer for them next season already!

The team, the crowds, the fans & the final score.
2. NO BAKE COOKIES ARE LIFE SAVERS!
I remembered at 7:00am on Saturday that I was supposed to bake cookies for a community outreach free oil change day starting that same morning!  So while I was fixing breakfast for my boys, and trying to get the whole family ready for the day - I quickly threw together a batch of no-bake cookies.  I love cookies that don't require baking. I love that they're quick and easy.  I love that they're delicious, and lastly I love that there was enough people there to eat them so I didn't have to bring them home with me... because I find them a tad irresistible.


3.  COFFEE IS AWESOME - EXCEPT WHEN IT'S NOT!
I love me a good cup of coffee in the morning.  I love the smell of it brewing, I love the taste with just the right ratio of coffee creamer (right about 70/30 for me - don't judge me!) However - when you're planning your outfit for your super cute and always stylish friends birthday party and you finally find something you're happy wearing... coffee is NOT awesome poured all down the front of said outfit.  Which is exactly what happened to me Saturday.
Coffee + clumsy = wardrobe fail!


4.  POTTY TRAINING IS AWFUL!
I think my 3-year old is trying to make me go insane.  I will not go into detail of the exasperation I've felt at the hands (or rather bodily functions) of my child because I may just get further depressed, but I need for this season to be over, and soon.


5.  I WAS ROBBED AS A CHILD!
I learned this weekend, that a golden birthday, is not in fact your 50th birthday as the anniversary would suggest, but rather the one time in your life when your birth date and your age are the same number.  For example, I was once 11 on the 11th.  I had no idea that was my golden birthday and thus feel like I was robbed of the grand occasion.  I can't even remember what I did on my 11th birthday so clearly it was far from golden; it wasn't even like a silver or bronze birthday.  In the list of metals... I'm pretty sure that my golden birthday was in fact the cheap nickel plated stuff that turns your skin green!  Not fair, not fair I say!

Nicole's golden birthday - 26 on the 26th

Me and the birthday girl!

 6.  GOLF HAS STOLEN MY HUSBAND!
Wii golf - he's addicted.  It is not uncommon anymore for him to still be on the greens in our living room at 11pm.   And no honey... I won't be your caddy.  Stop asking.


7.  OUCH!  CHARLIE BIT ME!
Okay, it wasn't really Charlie, but it was Elijah.  He just got his third tooth, the first of his uppers and somehow my finger and his teeth connected - and the kid packs a punch!  Owwww... And yes, I whined.


8.  NOT A ONE-MAN JOB!
Car seats - not for the faint of heart, or the weak of arm strength!!  I'd like to think that I purchased the world's toughest-to-install car seat rather than consider that I might be a total wimp.  I always tackle the thing with intensity and vigor - determined to conquer the proper installation process.  I push, pull, yank, grunt, sweat and then finally get angry in my failed attempts to tighten the straps adequately and then Dave has to come to my rescue.  Don't get me wrong, it's a FANTASTIC carseat... as long as you NEVER.HAVE.TO.MOVE.IT!  And move it we did this weekend - because we upgraded Elijah to Hayden's car seat (yay for no more infant carrier because frankly my arms were about to fall off), and we moved Hayden up to a booster seat that takes a regular seat belt.  Hayden's new car seat was delightfully easy to install - Elijah's new-to-him carseat, my installation nemesis - required his father's full attention.  Sigh.

VERY excited about his new carseat!  Please excuse his jammies, he wanted to "test" it out before bed!


9.  THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A QUICK TRIP!
Sunday after church my parents invited me to make a "really quick" trip up to Costco.  They were just grabbing a couple things, and since I needed to make a Costco run anyway I jumped on the shopping buggy.  Dave took the boys home from church and I told him that I'd be home in no time.  Somehow I forgot who I was shopping with.  Don't get me wrong - it was a delightful afternoon and I enjoyed Costco - but then I also got to enjoy Walmart, Best Buy and then another Walmart.  Our "quick trip" got me home just in time to put my boys in pajamas and send them to bed!  Ooops, sorry Dave.  Thanks for being gracious, and for being such a great dad, and for making the boys lunch and then dinner too.

Our family jokes about my mom's notorious shopping trips - and how she once spent 4 hours in a 4 aisle grocery store - but in all honesty, Dad's not a lot better.  He's the spontaneous "let's go here next" shopper while Mum is the "stay all day once you get there" shopper - together they're a dangerous pair, unless you have a lot of time on your hands.  (Truth is, I'd do it again in a heartbeat - they're a fun shopping couple!)


10.  IT NEVER STOPS GROWING!
I didn't think I could love my kids anymore than I already do.  You imagine what they'll be like when you're pregnant and you start to fall in love.  Then you see their tiny newborn faces and hold them for the first time and your heart doubles in size immediately - and then you get your first smile, and your first laugh and magically that love for them just intensifies.  I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on my love tank for my boys until this morning when Hayden spontaneously threw his arms around my neck and told me, "Mommy I love you sooooo much" and boom - magnified again.  Then he told me that he was going to go snuggle with his daddy because, "My daddy loves me so much and he'll be so happy to see me!"  That's a devotional right there!!

Daddy & son

You know, now that I think about it I'll cross out #4 - I might be able to muster up a little more patience for this kid!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hawaiian Chicken

Yesterday's snow day was the perfect opportunity for me to pull out of one of my husband's favorite dishes... Hawaiian Chicken.  When it's cold outside, sometimes you need to bring the "tropical" into your life via your food!  I got this recipe when we first got married from my fantastic sister-in-law Sybil and it never disappoints.


It's very easy to make, not a lot of prep time and the taste... and the smell of it cooking... oh it's heavenly!!

This is what you need:  (scroll to the bottom for regular recipe)

Chicken breasts, flour, olive oil, pineapple rings (or chunks), sugar, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, chicken bouillon, cornstarch, ginger root, bell pepper.


Start by adding 1/4 cup of flour in a shallow bowl.

This is optional, but I like to then add 1/4 cup bread crumbs (mine are Italian seasoned) to the flour.


Mix your bread crumbs & flour together and dredge your chicken breasts until they're well coated.


Just like this!

Heat a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

Brown your chicken breasts evenly on both sides.  Don't worry about cooking the chicken through - that will get done in the oven, but you just want to get a nice golden color on the outside.

Arrange your chicken in a baking dish (I use my 8x8 pyrex) and set aside.


In a 2-cup measuring device, drain the pineapple juice from your rings (or chunks...since that's all I had on hand).  

Add enough water to make it 1 1/4 cups.


Now add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and mix well.


Transfer the pineapple/cornstarch mix into a small saucepan and add 3/4 cup of sugar.

1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar.

1 tablespoon of soy sauce.

1 chicken bouillon cube (or 1tsp of poultry seasoning)

And 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root.  If you don't have the fresh stuff... go buy it ~ it's worth it.  If you're in a pinch you can use the ground ginger, but trust me - the real stuff - AMAZING!

I use my handy-dandy micro-plane zester for my ginger root (if you don't own one of these... I implore you, please go out and buy one immediately.  It's changed my life!) but you can use a regular grater too.


Now whisk this all together over medium heat until it comes to a full boil.

The color and consistency will change quite a bit as it comes to a boil.  It will start to thicken and become like a thick syrup.  Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer/boil for another 4 minutes and then remove from heat.

While your sauce is finishing up - toss in some of those pineapple chunks and slice up a bell pepper into nice rings and arrange over top.  The pineapple rings are far prettier, and they would have made this dinner look more sensational so I apologize - but I was already committed to this dinner when I realized I was out of rings.  I am so ashamed!

Now take your heavenly smelling, sweet n' sour-y, wonderful sauce and pour it all over the chicken.  Then pop it in the oven at 375'F for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Finished product... bubbling tangy sauce over the juiciest, tenderest chicken breasts with the sweetness of the pineapple and the crunchy texture of the bell pepper - it's heaven in your mouth people!!!

Serve it up over some rice and make sure you give yourself some extra sauce to pour over it all.
Mmmmmmmmmm....mmmmm!

Dig in and enjoy... we sure did!!


HAWAIIAN CHICKEN:
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup bread crumbs (optional)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 can of pineapple rings (or chunks) with juice
3/4 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon (1 cube) chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1 bell pepper, sliced in rings

DIRECTIONS:
1.  In a shallow bowl combine the flour & bread crumbs.  Dredge the chicken breasts until well coated.
2.  In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and brown the chicken on both sides.  Don't worry about cooking through - you just want a nice golden brown on the outsides.
3.  Preheat oven to 375'F.
4.  Drain your pineapple juice from the can into a 2-cup measuring cup.  Add water to make 1 1/4 cups.  Add the cornstarch and mix well.
5.  Transfer the cornstarch/pineapple juice into a small saucepan and add sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, chicken bouillon and ginger.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat and let simmer for another 4 minutes.
6.  Arrange chicken in a baking dish (such as an 8x8 pyrex).  Top with pineapple rings and bell pepper slices and pour sauce over top.
7.  Bake at 375'F for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Serve over rice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow Day

Oregon goes a little crazy about snow. Being a state that doesn't see regular snowfalls, the promise or even possibility of snow is enough to turn it into "emergency news." Consequently, the smallest amount of snow falling and sticking will shut half the State down.  All week long the weatherman have been predicting the "BIG WINTER STORM OF 2011" and the school where I work has been a buzz with students praying fervently for a snow day.

So this morning when I was awakened shortly after 5:00am by the sound of my cell phone ringing, I knew exactly what it meant.

School's canceled.

The weatherman actually got a prediction right, and the long anticipated winter snow finally arrived. Our elaborate staff phone tree got me three text messages and a phone call sharing the happy news all within a matter of minutes - it was glorious.

Snow days are definitely one of the perks of working at a school!

I contemplated briefly jumping out of bed to look at the snowflakes falling and my backyard covered in a sea of white - but instead I rolled over, switched off my alarm clock and fell back into a deep blissful sleep.

That is until 6:30am when my boys woke up.
Sigh.

Hayden checking out the snow fall.
Yep, nothing like a whole 1/4" of snow to shut down half of Oregon!

Hayden was pretty excited to see the snow, but not excited enough to actually want to go play in it.  I suggested he go out after we'd finished with breakfast but he informed me it was too cold, and he needed to play the Wii instead.

And regardless of how sly this tactic may have been on his part - I totally understand the "dislike of cold things" so I obliged him.

Plus he's hilarious to watch playing the Wii.

We got Wii Sports Resort with the purchase of our game system, and it has a sword fighting game that Hayden loves to play.  He has no technique whatsoever, he doesn't block hits or use any of the button actions to enhance his game - but somehow his crazy "shake the remote like crazy while running around the room" approach has sailed him through almost every level!  What's crazier still is sometimes he loses focus and leaves the room, or turns his back to the TV and still manages to win his matches.  He's a Wii-sword-phenomenon!

I captured him in action this morning.  Please excuse the lack of pants - he feels like pants are "optional" around the house.
I blame his father.

Strutting his fencing moves in Sword Showdown - Hayden vs. the Wii world.
He graciously let me take a turn after a while... and I learned that sword fighting is quite a workout.  Luckily there is no photo evidence of my attempts.
I got very sweaty very fast.
And I died...a lot. 

The snow completely melted by 11:00am - and then made a brief return in the afternoon - really nothing to be excited about - but I enjoyed my day at home with the boys.

We played games together.
We took naps together.
We laughed...a lot!
We stayed inside the house ALL.DAY.LONG
and it was lovely.

It might have been the best snow day ever actually!

When Dave got home this evening I had a yummy dinner ready (look for a new recipe post tomorrow!) AND I even had time to update this here blog.  Oh to have more days just like this!

Oh, and Elijah turned 9-months old today.  Happy 3/4 of a year baby boy!!!


Thanks snow... even though you didn't stick around at all - you sure made my day fun!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blast from the past

I'm still trying to recover completely from this blasted head cold that doesn't want to release its grip on me - so that's how I came to be alone on the couch Wednesday night with my throat lozenges, my blanket & my kleenex while the hubby and boys drove off to our midweek service without me.

And that's when Picasa sucked me in...again.

This whole face recognition tool I've discovered that creates folders for people and quickly locates every photo of that individual in my entire system regardless of when the photo was taken has been so fun for my organizing, administrative, creative mind!

All that said... I came across the following photo.

Me ~ AKA the fairy-princess-ballerina (1987)
 Meet 9-year old me.

My 5th grade year (or standard 3 for those in New Zealand) our school decided to throw a "square dance."  Throw away your preconceived notions of some barn dance with an overall wearing deejay screaming "swing your partner dosey doe" - this was a serious performance and I remember it was a BIG DEAL!  For a couple months our class spent time every day learning and practicing all the steps to perform a semi-choreographed recital for the entire school body, our parents and family members to watch.

I couldn't tell you one dance move I learned but I remember two things very clearly:

1.  It was a "fancy dress" ball which meant I got to dress in a costume.

I took this very seriously!  Opportunities to become a fantasy fairy-tale character were NEVER taken for granted by me!  I chose my costume carefully.  I practiced my poses - after all I was not just a fairy... I was a ballerina fairy and felt qualified to be so given the one year of ballet I took when I was six.  I'm throwing in the princess too because my favorite past time growing up was pretending I was a princess in real life that was being forced to live as a commoner with a peasant family because my royal family was in hiding.  Wow, I was a special child.

2.  Our teacher paired us all up into couples - and I was paired with Kade Hutchinson.

Kade Hutchinson was the CUTEST boy in my entire class grade school and the object of my first serious crush in grade school.  However, being that he was the cutest and most popular boy he was also the object of every other girl in my class' affection and I instantly became the least liked girl in the grade since I got to hold his hand.... and they didn't.

And I might have accidentally rubbed that in a bit.
Okay...perhaps not accidentally.

But let's skip ahead to the night of the fancy dress ball... I arrived ready to wow my dancing partner with my amazing costume (wings & fancy wand handmade by my mother) and to have a magical evening dancing away with my fairy prince while the rest of the girls in my class looked on with envy.

Kade came dressed as a fisherman.  (small bubble burst)

The dance started, the music played away and we went through our planned steps - all going well until Kade spun me.  As he lifted his arm to allow me to turn beneath it - my fairy wings got caught on one of the fishing hooks that were secured all around his hat...and we got stuck; his head bent down at a funny angle right into the middle of my back.

He immediately tried to yank himself free - but I was scared of him tearing my wings so I made him stop.  But I couldn't see behind my back to unhook us and he couldn't see above the rim of his hat... so we just stood there helpless.

Doesn't seem like a big deal now - but then it was traumatic.   Imagined or real, I noticed every smug glance from the other girls as they danced away incident-free with their partners. (bubbles bursting left and right now like bombs)

I don't remember how long exactly we stayed in the middle of the dance floor looking awkward but it felt like an eternity.  His teenage sister finally came down out of the balcony and rescued us and we returned to our dance.  Kade was apologetic but the evening was ruined for me.

Who comes to a fancy dress ball as a fisherman?  Really - where's the imagination??
That could have been avoided if he'd come as a superhero - that's all I'm saying!


Later that year we had another opportunity to dress up in costumes - I don't remember the occasion but I do remember that I chose not to be a fairy ballerina this time.

Princess Kelly ~ 1987
The princess thing though... well that stuck.
Once a princess forced to live as a commoner... always a princess!

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Parmesan Broiled Tilapia

I used to be terrified to cook fish.  I'd order it in a heartbeat when we went to a restaurant... but something about having to handle it and try to cook it at home made me nervous.

Then I discovered tilapia... the world's friendliest fish.

Hello Mr. Tilapia... why you're not scary at all!
Say hello to Mr. Tilipia - he's a white fish, very mild, and he cooks beautifully.  The following recipe is a fool-proof, quick and easy, and incredibly delicious way to cook him.

(for typed out recipe scroll to the bottom)


YOU'LL NEED: Tilapia fillets, parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion powder, celery salt, basil & black pepper.
I love this dish because it takes less than 5 minutes of prep, and less than 10 minutes to cook.


Preheat your oven to broil.  

Arrange four tilapia fillets on top single layer.  I usually buy the Costco individually vacuum sealed variety... but I only had two left so the squattier less pretty pieces came from a different store.


Now in a small bowl measure out 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  I used shredded, but the powder variety from the canister works fine too, as does the real thing freshly grated if you've got it on hand.


Next add 1/4 cup of softened butter.   


3 tablespoons of mayonnaise.


Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to all that.


Now throw in some onion powder, black pepper, dried basil and celery salt (if you like measuring - 1/4 tsp of each.)  I just eyeball it though... I'm lazy like that!



Mix it all together and set aside...but not for long.  Like I said, this is a really QUICK recipe.

Put your fish in the oven about 4" from the element and broil for 3 minutes. 

Flip your fish over and broil for another 3 minutes.


Your fish will look nice and opague white at this point - divide your parmesan mixture evenly over the fillets and put back under the broiler for.... yep you guessed it... THREE MINUTES!


In this last 3 minutes, your fish will cook through perfectly (a good test is prod it gently with a fork, it should flake easily).  The cheese will be bubbly and browned on top and the smell... well it will be DIVINE!!!


Now serve it up with your favorite sides, tell your 3-year old it's chicken because it's easier than trying to explain fish to him, beam widely while your husband "mmm's" and "ohhhhh's" through dinner and tells you he thinks it looks so nice he'd like to saran wrap it and hang it on the wall - and enjoy!


PARMESAN BROILED TILAPIA
Recipe from www.allrecipes.com
Prep time: 5 minutes    Cook time: 10 minutes     Ready in: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
4 tilapia fillets - roughly 4oz each.
1/4 cup softened butter
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp celery salt

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to broil.
2.  Arrange your tilapia fillets single layer on top.
3.  In a small bowl, mix parmesan, butter, mayo, lemon juice, pepper, basil, onion powder and celery salt together.
4.  Place fish in oven about 4" from element and broil for 3 minutes.
5.  Flip fillets over and broil for another 3 minutes.
6.  Divide parmesan mixture evenly over fillets and broil for another 3-4 minutes.  Fish should flake easily with fork.




Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What I Love Wednesday - Valentine's Edition

Even though Dave and I celebrated together over the weekend, I wanted to make the actual day special too.  So this week I'd like to post some of the things I loved about this past Valentines Day:

My valentine
1.  It wouldn't be a Valentine's "What I Love" post if I didn't say once again, how very, VERY much I love, adore, cherish and swoon constantly over my hottie of a husband.  I really like him! 


My table

2.  I love decorating for special occasions and making the table fancy.  We're not every day tablecloth people - but every once in a while it's nice to have it make an appearance, pull out my chargers, fold my napkins all fancy and pull out the "hoity-toity" wine glasses (the ones that can't go in the dishwasher - it takes extra commitment to use them knowing you'll be hand washing them later!)


My menu

3.  I love cooking a special meal - okay, I love cooking period.  But I really enjoyed my Valentines menu this year.

Appetizer Course:  
"Insalata Caprese" 
(fresh tomato, mozzerella, basil drizzled with olive oil and pepper)
Main Course:
Garden Salad
Parmesan Broiled Tilapia
Tomato, Corn & Basil Risotto

Beverages:
Sparkling Apple Cider

Dessert:
I was all set to make my creme brulee and Dave asked me not too... not because he doesn't love them, but because he can't say no to them, and he's trying to eat better.  I thought Valentines was a foolish time to start such a resolution... but since I'm not the one with the sweet tooth... I went without dessert even though it ruined my perfectly planned out menu in my mind.  See what a giver I am?

And yes Jodi... I realize you would have gladly taken them off my hands, but I still didn't make them.  Sorry. 


My Cards
4. I love cards.  But mostly I love all the wonderful, romantic, sweet and "oh my goodness he couldn't have said that better" sort of remarks and admiration's that Dave writes in my cards.  He used to write me long love letters (once upon a time) and as a words person - I just eat that sort of stuff up.  It's my dessert of choice really... some people like sugar, I just like sweet things said to me.  And Dave does a REALLY good job.  The coffee card, while sweet & innocent on the outside, made me blush on the inside.  *Dreamy sigh*


My baby
 5.  I love this boy.  He's cute, and squishy, and squeezable and he smiles ALL.THE.TIME!!  Plus, he's learning to give kisses and I don't mind being the recipient of those one tiny bit!


My boy
6.  I love this boy too!  He is funny & charming and makes me laugh.  He says things like, "that's a cute shirt mommy" or "I like your shoes" and "I wuv you mommy soooo much."  He loves to sing and make up songs with me and he also dances with me.  I'm going to keep him forever! 

He was very excited to get his first Valentines chocolates (thank you Grandma Tracy).  And please ignore the fact that he's sitting in his little brother's high chair... I didn't trust him with the white tablecloth - I'm that mother!



7. And lastly... because it's a major achievement, and also because I may have to use this blog as a reference point by the time I finally get caught up in my scrapbook to document this in Elijah's life... but he's rolling.  And not just a little... I mean everywhere.  He finally mastered the "back to the tummy" which has taken him a while, and tonight he just rolled around the entire room all night.  Goodbye to the days of leaving him in one place - he's mobile! 

It really was a wonderful Valentines day.  We had a great dinner together, Dave did all the dishes (I know, he's pretty wonderful), then we danced in the living room to love songs by Frank Sinatra & Etta James, we played with the kids and clapped and cheered for Elijah while he rolled from one end of the living room to the other.  We played silly games with Hayden and laughed til our cheeks hurt... we made the most of the night together ~ and we loved every moment!

I hope you did the same this Valentine's!
Happy Wednesday everyone!