Monday, January 30, 2012

Breakfast Omelet - Sis 2

On Sunday mornings we usually eat a bigger breakfast than we do on weekday mornings. Sometimes my wonderful husband cooks the breakfast for me, so I can sleep in. One of our family favorite's is a breakfast omelet that he made up, or maybe he got it from his dad. I'm not sure. It does seem like something his dad would make for breakfast. My father-in-law is notorious for putting ingredients that you wouldn't expect into foods, most of the time they turn out yummy but sometimes not so yummy.
Anyway, this omelet has something I never thought to put on eggs, but it is really yummy.
Breakfast Omelet
6 strips Bacon
2 or 3 potatoes
8 eggs
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Chop bacon and cook until brown in frying pan. While the bacon is cooking shred the potatoes, like hash browns. If there is a lot of grease in the frying pan drain some of it, but you do need some left in the pan so the potatoes don't stick. Pour the potatoes in with the bacon after the bacon is cooked and cook on medium-low heat. Cover with lid, and stir occasionally. While the potatoes cook crack your eggs into a bowl, use a whisk to blend them up and add 2 Tbsp of water. When your potatoes are cooked through and soft enough to cut with a fork add your eggs on top of the potatoes. Stir, the eggs and potatoes a little at first, but then flatten out the potatoes and eggs and cover with lid. This will make the eggs and potatoes cook into an omelet. When the eggs are almost done add the can of cream of mushroom soup on top and spread around the top, then add cheese. Cover with the lid and the let the cheese melt. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Perspective - Sis 3

History is fluid. Have you ever noticed that the details of a memorable event change depending on who's telling the story--even depending on when they're telling it? Yet, each version of the event may be factually correct. What changes is perspective.

With my recent birthday money, I decided to sign up for an online, advanced fiction writing class, available through a local community college. The professor, a published novelist, is teaching us the foundational elements of good writing. I have a degree in English, so the material is not new, but I'm thoroughly enjoying the refresher and the impetus to write something non-work related.

The last lesson was on perspective, or in other words, determining from who's viewpoint the story is being told. For the exercise, we were to write three similar scenes using third-person omniscient, third-person limited, and first person perspectives. I'll share mine here. Notice how the emotional connection changes with each.

Third-Person Omniscient

“Oh, what a day,” Henry sighed as he sank into his easy chair. He laid his head back and closed his eyes. “Just a few minutes…” The silence felt wonderful.

It didn’t last long. Jimmy banged down the stairs and into the room. He slowed his step. “Dad?” Jimmy hesitated, noting the closed eyes. “Dad?” The eyes remained closed, but the corners of Henry’s mouth lowered into a slight grimace. Jimmy’s anxiety grew, but he plunged in anyway. “Dad, can I borrow the car tonight?”

Henry’s eyes were open now. “My car?”

“Um, yes…”

Henry looked at his son incredulously. The car was brand new. Henry had finally admitted that the old Subaru had out lived its design life. Just yesterday, he’d signed the papers for a new sedan. The thought of turning it over to his 17 year-old son for the night didn’t sit well. “What for?”

“I have a date with Sarah tonight,” Jimmy looked at his watch. “I told her I’d pick her up at 7. It’s 10 to and Mom’s gone with the other car.” Jimmy hoped his Dad hadn’t heard Mom say she’d be back in a few minutes. If Mom came home too soon, everything would be ruined.

Jimmy dreaded that, “I told you so” look from Sarah, which he knew he’d get if he showed up in the van. Just that afternoon, Jimmy had bragged that he could take the new car anytime he wanted. Sarah hadn’t bought it.

Third-Person Limited

Jimmy peeped into the room. “Good, he’s watching football,” he thought. “Maybe he’ll give in, just to get me out of the way.” Jimmy took a deep breath; his whole reputation was riding on this moment. He put on his game face and strode into the room.

“Hi, Dad!” he said cheerily as he stepped in front of the TV. “Are they winning?”

Dad looked a bit annoyed.

“Better hurry,” Jimmy thought. He didn’t wait for an answer. “I have a date with Sarah tonight. I’m supposed to pick her up in a few minutes. Can I take the new car?” He said it in his best, most amiable, good-son voice.

Dad stopped trying to look at the TV and gave Jimmy his full attention.

“Uh oh,” inwardly, Jimmy gulped, but he forced a bright smile. “I’ll be home by 10.”

“Nice try.” Dad said. And, that was that.

First Person

“Shouldn’t have bragged about the car…,” I thought as a I trudged down the stairs. If Dad wouldn’t let me borrow it, I’d look like a fool. Just what I needed. Sarah’s friends already thought she was slumming. If I showed up in the mini van, they’d really think I was dumb.

Dad was looking through the Costco ad when I walked into the room. He was always looking for deals. He didn’t look up, so I mumbled, “Um, Dad?”

“Yeah?” He had found a coupon for toothpaste: 10 tubes for $15, and was carefully tearing it out.

“Can I borrow the new car tonight?” The direct approach was always best with Dad. “I have a date with Sarah. I'm supposed to pick her and some friends up in a few minutes.”


I hated Dad’s “Hmms” He could say so much without saying anything. This “hmm” definitely meant, “Not on your life.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Starburst Handouts - Sis 1

I am teaching lesson 5 from manual 1 in Young Women's tomorrow. I like all of this lesson, but the part that stood out the most for me was

"We must [be happy] now, not at some future time when our present problems may be solved or when our dreams and wishes may come true. In this world of trials and challenges, that idealistic time may never come. True joy and peace are available at any time of life to all those who live as their Heavenly Father wants them to live."

Our older brother has been sending us emails this year to remind us that happiness is a choice. I completely agree, and I appreciate the reminders. I keep thinking of the lyrics by U2, "Don't say that later will be better. Now you're stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it."

So, I made a handout of both that quote from the lesson and the letter from the YW General Presidency, and I will attach Starbursts candies to the smaller one. I'll post the pdfs when I figure out how to do it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas - Sis 1

I have no idea how these compare nutritionally to the store-bought tortillas, but they taste WAY better. I HATE whole wheat tortillas from the store, and I'm not fond of the whole wheat version at popular build-it-in-front-of-you mexican grills, either. You can use all-purpose flour for these and they come out very similar to the Costa Vida tortillas. Cafe Rio tortillas, I've noticed, are yummier, and I'm quite certain it's because they contain more fat. If that's the taste you're going for, your could add more fat and cut back on the water. But I think that one of the myriad advantages to cooking at home is that you can control how much bad-for-you stuff goes into your food.

Whole Wheat Tortillas

3 cups whole white wheat flour
1/3 cup margarine
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
Approximately 1 cup warm water

Yes, I said margarine. I do use butter in practically everything, but honestly, I haven't ever tried butter in these. The margarine works well and it costs a lot less.

In a medium bowl, cut together first four ingredients until they resemble plain flour. Add most of the water and continue to cut together with pastry blender. Once all of the flour is wet, decide whether you need more water or not. It should be a soft dough, but not too sticky. Knead about 10 times. Roll dough into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, cover and let rest about 15 minutes.

Heat your griddle or frying pan. I use my pan, since I don't have a griddle, but I can only cook one tortilla at a time that way. On my stove, I find that the number 7 heat setting is perfect. That's about halfway between medium and medium high. If your surface is too hot, the tortillas will burn before they get completely done. If it's too cool, they get hard before they brown.

Sprinkle flour on a smooth surface and roll your tortillas one ball at a time, cooking one (or the number your surface will fit) while you roll the next. Roll to your desired thickness. I like them around 10 inches in diameter, but they are quite easily torn when they're that thin. Tortillas will bubble up while cooking. That's usually a sign that it's time to flip them. Turn the tortillas over and cook for about the same amount of time on the other side. You should have a few lightly brown spots, especially on the bubbles. Enjoy warm.

If there are leftovers, store them in the fridge inside a ziplock bag with a paper towel under the stack. We've never had them last for longer than two days, so I don't know how well they store, but I sincerely doubt that they last anywhere near as long as commercial ones.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Super-Human Strength - Sis 1

My little boy, Bear, had a very busy day yesterday, which tends to rub off on my day, too.

Most of it wasn't really out of the ordinary. He did come to me after we had finished making cookies and the first sheetful was in the oven, baking.

With a huge smile on his face, he said, "Make mess." He grabbed my arm and led me into the kitchen to show me the accomplishment he was so proud of. I had forgotten to put the flour bin away and he had taken advantage of my absentmindedness. As far as messes go, however, that one was not much to be proud of. A bit of flour on the floor and on his face only took a few minutes to clean up.

Later, one of his sisters decided to wear her Halloween costume from last year. She also felt the need to have her hair ratted and a scar drawn with makeup on her face. Ratted hair and fake scars are pre-requisite to being a zombie.

While she was drawing her scars, Bear was drawing his own, with my mascara. He proudly came to show me his makeup and he was so excited about it that I let him keep it on.

Another sister was downstairs, dancing along with Angelina Ballerina and Bear went to join her while I made dinner. They were happily dancing when I went down there a few minutes before dinner was ready.

Just as I was unplugging the rice cooker, he came upstairs with a strange but familiar smell on his breath and a weird pink substance all around his mouth. I do not own pink makeup, so I knew he hadn't done another makeover. He asked me for a drink of water, which I gave him and then I took him back downstairs to see just what he had been eating.

I found that our big metal cabinet which holds most of the stuff, including medicines, that we don't want our kids getting into was not locked. There was an assortment of bright pink and white pills scattered all over the floor. There was also a beautiful finger painting done in selenium sulfate topical solution--the source of the strange smell.

Needless to say, I made a frantic call to Poison Control, which I have programmed into my phone and have used on several occasions, mostly because of Bear. They told me they'd call the ER and tell them we were on our way. Most reassuring.

I shooed all four kids out the door in various states of disarray and we drove quickly to the ER, where they said that Poison Control had indeed called and they were waiting for us. Bear was hooked up to a heart-rate monitor, which, from that moment, I was constantly reattaching to his finger.

I could see the doubt in the nurse's eyes as I told him that my two-year-old had opened not one, but three childproof medicine bottles. I told him that I thought he had probably just pulled really hard on the lids, as that is his strategy for opening all other things, including the mascara earlier that day.

"So....what?" he asked, "Does he have super-human strength?" I can almost hear the DCFS knocking on my door.

When the doctor came in, she said that we would need to stay for four to six hours so they could observe him. Thank goodness my husband was supposed to be off work in just over an hour and he came to get the girls when he got done. Entertaining four kids in an ER room isn't terribly easy.

We spent a long three and a half hours in the ER. But at that point, the doctor decided that there was no point in doing any more observing. He was obviously not having any symptoms of overdose. The only behaviors he was exhibiting were annoyance with having to be attached to a machine and curiosity about all of the other machines.

They never did tell me what they would have done if he did have symptoms of overdose. I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

When we got home, I started cleaning up the mess and decided to see just how hard it is to open the childproof caps without pressing and turning. I put the lid back on one of the bottles and pulled on it as hard as I could. It didn't budge. Then I gave the bottle to Bear. He took the bottle and twisted the cap slightly. It popped right off.

So, does he have super-human strength? No. He's just a little too smart for his mom. At least now I know who to call when I can't open the stupid things.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Make Your Own Fortune - Sis 1

Happy Chinese New Year!

As part of our celebration this year, I "made" custom fortune cookies.

I did this once for my husband as a romantic gesture, but all of my attempts are lost on him.

I gave him a small gift basket with some of his favorite kinds of store-bought treats in it, along with a re-sealed box of fortune cookies containing flirty fortunes. He sat down and started eating.

"Aren't you going to try your fortune cookies?" I ask, a little more obvious than I wanted to be.

"I don't really like fortune cookies."

"Just try them."

He rolls his eyes as if to say that he makes the biggest sacrifices for me and begrudgingly opens the package of cookies. He breaks one open and reads the slip of paper.

"Did you write this?"

"Yes," I say in my most coy voice.

"Huh," he says, shoving another handful of raisinettes in his mouth.

But, however small an impression the fortune cookies made on my husband, they were an incredible hit with my kids tonight.

Our mom has a recipe for homemade fortune cookies and I have made them that way before, but this is MUCH easier and more surprising, as the cookies look just like the ones at a chinese restaurant.

First, I got a paper and wrote things like "You will soon be the new owner of a dollar bill" and "You will not be required to do your chore tomorrow" on it. Then I cut the phrases apart and folded them into tiny rectangles. If you want it to look more professional, you can type and print the fortunes.

I took a fortune cookie out of it's plastic wrapper and microwaved it on high for 27 seconds. (All microwaves are different, so you may have to experiment to get the timing right. If you start low, around 20 seconds, and the cookie isn't soft enough to open, set that one aside to cool and microwave another for a bit longer. You can use the first one again after it's cooled.) This makes the fortune cookie just soft enough to open, remove the old fortune and put your own inside. Unless you're used to dipping your hands in very hot water frequently, as I am, you might consider wearing clean knit gloves for this part, as the fortune cookies are hot. Hold the cookie closed until it is hard again and repeat for each fortune cookie that you want to customize.

If you are doing this for Valentines Day, you could drizzle chocolate on top and then sprinkle them with red or pink sprinkles. The element of surprise might be lessened this way, but they look cute.

Less Apple, More Crisp - Sis 1

About a month after we were married, I had a bunch of apples and decided I would really love to make (eat) apple crisp. So, I got a little butter, some sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon, mixed them up, sprinkled them over my peeled, sliced apples, and baked it all. I was sure that my new husband would be impressed and delighted by my efforts. Was I ever wrong.

"What are you making?"

"Apple crisp."

"Ohhh. (rolling his eyes back into his head) That's my favorite!"

I pull it from the oven with a flourish.

"What's that?"

"Apple crisp."

"That isn't apple crisp."

He sort-of choked it down that night. And he called his mom the next night to get her recipe.

I watched, dumbfounded, as he carefully measured out the ingredients, tapping the top of the measuring cup with the back of a butter knife, then sliding the excess of the ingredient back into the container. The only time I had ever seen anyone measure like that was when Mrs. R, bless her heart, was teaching home-ec in middle school. (I had been cooking for several years by then, and my style is more of a scoop, dump, and pray for the best style. Alas, I was the proverbial old dog, and I have never learned to measure properly.) I could explain it away by saying that he was in pharmacy school at the time, and learning to compound drugs, so he was used to being very precise, but I think that's how he always does it. I say I think because I'm not entirely certain that I have actually watched him cook anything since then. Lest anyone think he's a perfectionist, he certainly doesn't worry about cleaning up as he cooks.

When his apple crisp was out of the oven and cooled just enough not to burn our mouths, I found out why he didn't appreciate my apple crisp. But it wasn't perfect yet. He came up with a motto for our new family that very night: Less Apple, More Crisp. And I've been making my own version of his mom's apple crisp ever since.

My mother-in-law's recipe for apple crisp actually came from her mother, and I have no idea where it came from before that. But, due to our family motto, I've changed it enough that I doubt I'll have to deal with any intellectual property issues.

Apple Crisp

1 cup softened butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups whole white wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats


1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch salt (I don't remember how he measured that one)
3 cups peeled and sliced apples
1 Tablespoon butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place all ingredients for the crisp in a large bowl and cut together with a pastry blender. Use cold butter and white flour if you must, the ingredients (though not the proportions) in the original recipe, and you'll get a yummy apple crisp. If you do it like I said, you'll get one that is probably on the list of the seven deadly sins.

Press half of the crisp mixture into a 9x13 pan. I like to use pyrex, because it bakes so nicely. Reserve the other half of the crisp mixture.

Mix the sugar, water and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and heat, stirring occasionally until the water is clear and thick. Pour over the crisp mixture in the pan. Crumble the remaining crisp mixture evenly over the top. Bake for 45 minutes.

Whip some cream and prepare to go to the inferno for your sin of self-indulgence.

Salsa - Sis 2

I love Salsa! Not the dance, the food! (OK, salsa dancing would be fun if I were a better dancer, but today I'm talking about the food.)
The best salsa, is made with vegetables fresh from the garden, or a farmer's market. I love the taste of tomatoes fresh from the garden. My parents always had a garden while we were growing up. We were supposed to weed the garden for 1/2 an hour every day during the summer. Sometimes we did it and sometimes we just went out to the garden and played for a while and then said we had done our weeding. But I loved to go out and sample the vegetables from the garden, the cherry tomatoes were the best.
Anyway, back to salsa. Like I said fresh is always best, but I love salsa so much that I want to eat it all year, even in the dead of winter when there are no really fresh vegetables available, at least where I live. So I went looking for a good recipe that I could make from canned vegetables. This is the best one I found. It's simple to make and delicious!
Recipe from, adapted by me
1 (14.5) oz can tomatoes and green chilies
1 (14.5) oz can tomatoes
1 jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed
1/4 cup onion, chopped
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Put the onion and jalapeno in a blender or food processor and blend for a few seconds, until they are small pieces. Then add the rest of the ingredients, process just until blended. You still want to have small pieces, you don't want it to be too runny, or watery. Then pour into a bowl and ENJOY!

My Obsession with Sports Bras - Sis 1

I admit it. I have a small obsession with sports bras. Do I love the way they provide support while I exercise? Well, I'm sure I would if I were ever to try it, but, no. I love them because they are a perfect solution to immodest clothing.

Everyone knows that if your top is too low-cut, you can wear a tank top beneath, so as not to expose what is underneath that, even if it is, as in my case, rather small.

But what if you're wearing a swimsuit? Swimsuits are my natural enemy. I hate them. They hate me. Unfortunately, my children and husband love to go swimming. I do deter them when at all possible, however, I can't claim the wrong time of the month EVERY time.

So, on occasion, I actually have to wear a swimsuit. We have come to an agreement, swimsuits and I. They will show every ounce of fat that I have in all the wrong places and I will keep them submerged as much as possible. I think I do need to work on my negotiating skills, as I have so far been unable to get a single concession from the swimsuits.

I do have one modesty trick up my...err...strap? I wear a sports bra underneath my swimsuit. Finding a modest swimsuit--one that covers that entire area is not an easy task, especially if you're cheap, like me. I have, in the past sewn a traingular panel into a halter-style swimsuit a couple of times. And about two summers ago, my neice had me alter a swimsuit to remove a keyhole that was showing too much skin--not an easy task.

Oh, that I had thought of wearing a sports bra before that time. I now have a swimsuit that is similar to that one. And I wear it, keyhole and all.

Another advantage to the sports bra solution is that I tend to get cold often while wearing a swimsuit and most suits do not have sufficient padding, which causes other modesty issues. The sports bra helps to alleviate that issue as well.

And I don't limit myself to wearing them in the swimming pool. I also began to wear sports bras as alternative to tanks under low-cut tops. I don't like a full tank because it adds bulk to places that are bulky enough already. I did try those little pieces of cloth that you clip onto your bra, but if you have the slightest tendency to move during the day, they get in a twist. Sports bras don't do that. They stay where they belong.

So, yes, as I said, I am obsessed with sports bras. Now, what to do with the cellulite?

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies - Sis 2

A few days ago my preschooler came home from preschool raving about her treat that day. She said, "Mom we had the best snack today at preschool. It was oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips."
I thought that was kind of funny coming from a four year old; what four year old likes oatmeal as a treat. (My kids actually really like to eat oatmeal for breakfast, weird, I know, but good.) I guess it was the fact that it was cookies and they had chocolate chips. I have not been baking as much lately because I have been trying to "lay off" of the sugar, and we also just recently moved, so I have been a bit too busy unpacking boxes and organizing the house to bake cookies.
But I asked her if she would like to help me make some oatmeal cookies and she quickly agreed.
I got this recipe from a sister who got it from someone else, so I don't know where it was from originally. They are very yummy cookies, and I love the hint of cinnamon in them. Here is the recipe.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Cream butter and sugars together in mixer. Then add the eggs, bk powder, bk soda, vanilla, and cinnamon, mix well. Then add the flour, oatmeal and coconut and mix. If adding coconut, cut down the oatmeal to 1 1/4 cups, it will work better. Once the cookie dough is mixed well, add chocolate chips and stir in. Bake cookies at 375 for about 8 minutes, or until just done. Do not let these cookies get brown, unless of course, you like hard crunchy cookies. I prefer chewy cookies, so I let them get just barely golden.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Family Photos - Sis 1

I take my own family photos each year with the use of a cheap plastic tripod and my $50 digital camera from Walmart. Someday I want to have a nice digital SLR, but that just hasn't been in the budget for the last 10 years. Thankfully, they keep getting better and, according to the internet, cheaper, which means I should be able to sqeeze it into the budget by the time my grandkids are ready to have their pictures taken.

I have used professional photographers at times in the past. The word professional is used rather loosely, however. Once, about 7 years ago, we were fortunate enough to get our family portrait done by a real, honest-to-goodness professional photographer. And they were GORGEOUS! I love those pictures, but I have a great downfall. (Just one, mind you.) I am cheap. Although I'm sure the price we got was a fair, if not discounted one, I just can't bring myself to pay that much for a family photo each year.

I have also gone to Olan Mills, Kiddie Kandids (now extinct) and whatever they call that place in some Walmarts. I also see the photos my kids bring home from school picture day. I do buy the class photo each year, but I never buy the packages. The photos from those places are just too generic and unfeeling for me. And sometimes, they're just plain ugly.

So, as mentioned above, I use my tripod. A tripod was always good enough for our dad, so it's good enough for me. Here's how our typical photoshoot goes:

We find a good place to set up. Sometimes it's in our living room with a sheet tacked into the wall behind us. In this case we have to get really close together, so that no one is poking out into the non-sheet draped area. If we choose to do our shoot outside, we have a great deal more room to work with, unless we're trying not to show the weed-festooned yard next door.

I set up the tripod with the camera on top and set it to take a picture 10 seconds after I push the button.

Everyone stands exactly where and how they want to. I tell everyone to move to another spot about 10 times. Finally, I have a configuration that I think will look nice, and I've left a space a little bigger than myself to get into. I plan my route so that I can get to my designated spot easily and not disrupt the rest of the family's poses. 10 seconds is plenty of time to get into that position.

I push the button and run. Suddenly, 10 seconds is much shorter than I had previously thought and I find I must sprint straight to my pre-planned spot, throwing any and all children out of my way in the process. When I arrive at my destination, which has shrunk a great deal from when i chose it, I pull said children back into their positions and the waiting begins.

We all stand facing the camera, except those of us who do not face the camera. My husband and I practice our ventriloquist act through happily smiling teeth, "Look at the camera!" "Hey, you! Look at the camera!" "Over there." "See that thing with three legs? It's a robot and it's going to get you if you don't look at it right now and smile!" "Put your arm down." "Stop picking your nose." "Are you sure you pushed the button hard enough?" "Did it already take the picture?" "I guess it's not going to work."

So, I calmly begin to walk back to where the tripod is standing and the camera clicks. That's a good picture, if your goal is a headless person with some other very annoyed people in the background.

Then the process begins again. The key to taking your own family pictures with a tripod is to take a lot of pictures. That, and not to set your sights too high.