Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Because We All Know If I Try to Write This On An Actual FRIDAY It Will Take Three More Weeks To Post.

That said, let's have a little bit of Tuesday Quick Takes, shall we?

Lent starts tomorrow. Hmm. Let's talk about that tomorrow.

I have been promising this recipe to people left and right, but never actually giving it to them. So, FINALLY, here it is: Italian Sausage Soup. (Oh Yes. It Is Delicious.)

2 cans chicken broth (low sodium)
2 cans stewed or diced tomatoes
1 yellow onion
2-3 zucchinis 
1 lb Italian sausage (spicier the better) sauteed (buy the uncooked kind, remove the skin & Saute in a little olive oil)
Few cloves of garlic
Some basil or Italian seasoning
1ish cup pasta or barley

1. Brown your meat, drain fat
2. Saute all the veggies & spices
3. Throw all in pot & let simmer at least 1 hr
4. Add pasta last 20mins or so

I just made another pot tonight and I LOVE THIS SOUP. it's definitely better with some kick, though. I've found that using a mild sausage makes it just kind of meh.

Have you ever heard of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots? Me either. Well, not until recently, that is. You should check her out.  I have been appealing to her in prayer over the last couple of weeks for some "stuff" that has been weighing me down, and you know what? She is a powerful pray-er, that Mother of God. Go read about her. Ask her to pray for you.  No one is closer to the Son than his Mother.

Speaking of things "weighing me down," (or not, in this case) Biggest Blogging Loser is racing toward its final weeks. I think we only have three to go. Thus, the Month Two Update: (Month One Update here.)

Jan 3, 2011                     Feb 3, 2011 (-17.2lbs)                               Mar 3, 2011 (-28.2lbs)

I have been a little, shall we say, irked lately with some of these social networking sites. No. Excuse me. It's not the websites that I have a problem with. It's the people who use them.  Facebook. Twitter. Comment boards. Let's just say this: just because you have a forum wherein you can say ANYTHING publicly does not mean that you SHOULD. Some conversations are meant to be private! Remember that "All I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten" poster? It's one of those kinds of things. You would think that being kind and courteous and sensitive to the feelings of others is common sense, and yet the fact remains, common sense just isn't so common anymore.

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you..." (Mt 18:15)

The other day, when I went to pick up Chris from preschool, I stood outside the door to wait until I could hear that the teacher was at a break in the lesson. They were talking about the weather. It was a cold, rainy day. So, they were talking about the rain and about what happens in places where it's even colder than it was here, and Miss Bonnie asked if anyone had ever been to the snow. And then. Then! Do you know what I heard then? MY SON raised his hand and told a whole story about how he went to Tahoe to the snow. MY CHILD. VOLUNTEERED TO SPEAK. This is the child who has to be forced to say hello and goodbye to the kids in his class each day. I was so proud of him. So. Proud.

So. I'm ten days away from finishing the 30 Day Shred entirely. This is deserving of its very own post, which it will get in due time, but in the meantime....what should I do next?  The original plan was to start up with Couch To 5k, but I would LOVE some recommendations for something that I can better work into my schedule. (These days, said schedule means "after all of the boys are asleep, in the comfort of my own family room.") Thanks!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Because Who Doesn't Want An Excuse to Eat Donuts For Dinner

A few months back, I was flipping through a copy of Rachael Ray Magazine that my mom had left with me, when I found this recipe for Espresso Dusted Beignets. Never in my life had I eaten such a thing, and the picture made them look SO GOOD. Light! Flakey! Sweet! I set it aside thinking that I'd rip the page out and try my hand at this New Orleans fare at some point.  And then I forgot about it, as I have a way of doing.

Not long after that, Tim says to me, "I was flipping through that Rachael Ray Magazine and I saw something that you should make!" And so, we decided to give it a try for Christmas morning. Because, you know, I didn't have enough going on that day and I might as well get up super early to make the dough, let it rise, heat up the oil and on and on and on.  Unfortunately, for all the work, they were kind of...meh. Actually, let's be honest. They were really Meh. Light and flakey they were not. Nor were they sweet. The instant coffee did NOTHING for the flavor, other than make them extremely bitter, and being the type to follow a recipe EXACTLY the first time I make something, there was just not enough powdered sugar to lend any sweetness at all. They were big and bitter.

I was a little put off.

Now here we are, two months later, and it's still with me. I can't try something in the kitchen, have it fail (or even have it be "not good enough") and just leave it.  A quick search of the Food Network website revealed something that should have occurred to me from the start: If you want a good recipe for southern cooking, perhaps you should start with a southerner. Genius!  Enter this recipe from Paula Deen.


They are so yummy. So easy. So not bitter.  I used a little heart shaped cookie cutter (we made them on Valentine's Day) instead of cutting them into squares, and they were just so cute. We plopped them in paper bags! We shook them up! And they came out like little powdered puffy hearts of cuteness and deliciousness. Make them for a brunch. Make them for dessert. Or, heck, make them for dinner like we did!  The only recommendation I would offer is to halve the recipe if you're not cooking for a big crowd. This makes A LOT of beignets. I gave half of the leftovers to my in-laws and I still have a huge ball of dough in the fridge, so you know what that means! Beignet Dinner Number Two coming soon!  This time I think we'll do some in powdered sugar and some in cinnamon sugar. Dip them in some jam or berry syrup and you have the most delicious, home-made jelly donut.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Whatever You Had Planned For Dinner Tonight....Make This Instead

As in many families, the kitchen is the hub of our home. EVERYTHING happens in there. So, just over a year ago when we moved into a lovely new house with a FABULOUS kitchen, I was in Heaven. We'll call it a state-of-the-art gift from the previous owners, shall we? And that's exactly what it is. A gift. Sure, it's lovely for our little family, but it goes further than that because there are ALWAYS more people here than our immediate five.  Whether it's Tim's family (all local), our priests or friends from church, neighbors, or my parents, the kitchen is always full. And this doesn't include holidays or birthdays when we're even more crowded!

Yes, we would be that family on House Hunters who comment on how "this kitchen would be GREAT for entertaining!" But at least for us it would be a valid consideration. That makes it less obnoxious, right?  And we won't even discuss how much more fun it is to play "I have my own food network show" while cooking in a nice big kitchen than it was in the kitchen NOOK that was carved into a corner of our old apartment.

Don't even try to tell me that you don't pretend you have your own Food Network show.

ANYWAY.  Having this new kitchen made cooking so much more fun and opened up a world of opportunities for me to try new things. One day last winter during my monthly Costco Meat Counter Prowl, I decided to buy a package of short ribs for minestrone soup. (Yum. Minestrone soup.) Now, I don't know if you've ever bought short ribs there, but surely you know how it works at Costco. Go big or go home. And so I had to come up with something to do with the rest of those ribs.

Thank you, Chef Google.

This recipe is possibly the easiest, most delicious, and DEFINITELY best smelling thing you could ever possibly do with short ribs. Honestly. Here it is, with my modifications:


  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce (I used one 14oz can and one 14 oz can diced or stewed tomatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley (instead of parsley & thyme, I use 2 1/2 T Herbes de Provence. DO IT THIS WAY.)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, cut into rings
  • 3 pounds beef short ribs 


  1. In a large pan over medium-high heat, stir in tomato sauce, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in parsley, thyme, bay leaves, brown sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes. Add onions and short ribs, and stir together until the mixture comes to a boil.
  2. Cover, reduce heat to medium low (LOW), and simmer; stirring occasionally and skimming fat from surface, until meat is tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaves before serving.

**DON'T turn up the heat and DON'T brown the meat first. I made that mistake last time. Just trust me. Throw it in raw, cover it with sauce, put the lid on and LEAVE IT ALONE FOR TWO HOURS.**

YOU GUYS. You will love this. The meat falls apart as you remove it from the pot.  Put the extra sauce on the table and pour it over your meat & mashed potatoes. Oh Sweet Heaven.  And! If you have extra sauce (it makes a lot) marinate and bake some chicken in it a few nights later. It's just as delicious.

You know how sometimes you cook dinner, eat, clean up and every thing's done and then you go into the kitchen a while later and the Dinner Smell just smacks you in the face? And you think, "ugh. Dinner." You know that feeling?  With this dinner, when you walk back into the kitchen, you think, "yum. Lavender." Now that's a nice way to end the day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Afternoon Hodgepodge

Thanks for all of the encouragement on my last post, friends! I can hardly believe it when I look at those two pictures side by side. Never would I have imagined that my body could change so dramatically in just one little month.  I was looking at our wedding photos today, eyeing my smaller self with envy and bound and determined to meet that girl again. That said, I won't say that I want that body back. That body hasn't accomplished what this body has - what I want is the strongest, healthiest this body that I can get. Rumor has it that even once you get back to your pre-baby weight, you often don't fit into your pre-baby clothes. And that's fine.  But it sure will be nice to get rid of those clothes because I don't like the way they fit anymore, rather than because I've given up hope on even trying them on.

It's Friday and I'm tired. But the inlaws are coming over for Waffle Night tonight, which means it's time to head out to the store for some last minute groceries. We have Waffle Night frequently - it started out as our Friday Lenten observance last year.  A nice, filling, meatless dinner that brought the whole family together. Did you know that I make the Best Waffles You've Ever Had? Me either. No one tell Tim's family that my recipe is straight off of the back of the Bisquick box.


A couple of items, for your viewing pleasure:

1.) Maggie linked to this article the other day and it's FANTASTIC. A great read for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Lots of food for thought.

2.) Have you seen this? A couple of my friends posted it on facebook. It gave me a good chuckle. Go read it now. You need a laugh.

3.) Back to the kindergarten angst for a minute - check out this article on Catholic Schools. Further food for thought. Last night I attended the Kindergarten Info Night at our parish school, which stirred up all kinds of new drama and unsettledness in my heart. Mostly because I just loved it. So. Much.  More on that to come.

Happy weekend, friends. Enjoy the commercials.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Kind Of Feel Like Someone Stuck Me In The Dryer.

Have you ever gotten to the point in the 30 Day Shred where it's easier to just do the exercises the hard way rather than doing the modifications?

I have.

Have you ever put on your jeans one morning to find that they're falling off of you, even though you just wore them yesterday? And when you investigate the situation, you realize that for the last couple of weeks you were wearing the next size down without realizing it and that today you just grabbed the wrong pair (the ones you THOUGHT you'd been wearing?)

I have.

Have you ever lost 17.2 pounds in one month?

I have.


....January 3, 2011.....                             ....Feb 3, 2011.....

I am totally in this thing to win it. But please believe me when I say: I've already won.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I Even Brought In the $100 "Processing Fee." Now THAT'S Commitment.

Lately I’ve been walking around in a daze with visions of kindergarten classrooms dancing in my head.  While I’ve only toured two schools, I wasn’t planning on touring any. Tim and I always thought we had it decided: we believe in and support the mission of Catholic education. As such, the boys would attend our parish school. Later we would choose one of the two local Catholic high schools. And then they’d go on to college.

Oh – I forgot step number one: we’d plant a money tree in our backyard. (I jest.) (But not here.)

It’s important that you know how much this was part of the plan for us, because without that knowledge you can’t possibly understand the emotional shift that had to take place when we decided that it might be a better idea to look elsewhere.  You see, by the time all three of our boys make it into Catholic grade school, we will be paying $1500 each month. Twelve months per year.  And that’s if tuition doesn’t go up between now and then.  I don’t know how families do it. I really don’t.

Slightly Tangential Rant:  The case could be made, (of which I will provide the Reader’s Digest Version here) that the cost of Catholic elementary education does not fall in line with the pro-life teachings of the Church. Think I’m going extreme? Bear with me. As Catholics, we are encouraged (expected, really) to be open to God’s creative work in us and have large families, and are also encouraged to support our parishes by attending our Catholic schools and educating our children with a catholic worldview.  But the cost of Catholic education continues to rise to the point where it is pricing itself out of reach for these large Catholic families. Are we expected to choose? Have a large family OR send your kids to Catholic school? Or are the Catholic schools getting to the point where they are going to price themselves out of existence? The price tag is already out of reach for many – how much longer can they go on like this?  I don’t know. I have three children. Not a large family by any means. And yet, large enough to get us to the point that saying that it will be “a challenge” to get them through grade school is the severest of understatements.

Sure, the response is that providing this education for your children requires sacrifice. Well, OBVIOUSLY. But tell me what kind of sacrifices a family can make that will scrounge up an extra $1500 each month.  That said, Tim and I have started weighing the sacrifice of NOT sending the boys to our parish school (School #1) in the interest of saving and being able to send them to Catholic high school.  Accepting this change in thought has been heart wrenching for me. I like to make plans and stick to them. Changing things up after several years of planning to do something a certain way (okay, even after 5 minutes of planning to do things a certain way) has been PAINFUL.  But we decided to look into a local charter school (Free!) about which everybody raves.  It’s a school of choice (we’ll call it School #2) and it’s in such high demand that admission is conducted by solely by lottery (kindergarten) and waiting list (upper grades).

I toured the school a couple of weeks ago and, although I pretty much hated it initially, I’ve come around to the realization that what I hated the most was that it wasn’t School #1. What I liked the most? Well let’s see – how much the parents love it…the test scores that are head and shoulders above the other schools...the fact that 100% of the students in attendance are there because their parents have CHOSEN to send them there and have taken the time and energy to ensure their admission.  There’s more, but the point is? I came around.  I had gotten the point (as angsty and stressful as the process was) that I wanted Chris to attend that school. Even though it would be hard to choose not School #1, it would be a very smart move to choose School #2.

Last Saturday, Tim and I attended the admissions lottery. We went in knowing it was a gamble (it is a lottery after all) but I think we both really just expected that his number would fall within the admittance range. There had to be nearly 200 families there, each clutching their numbered tickets anxiously. The room buzzed with eager anticipation for the principal to take the stage. When she finally did, she explained the procedures that would follow and then announced how many spaces were available in the kindergarten lottery.  (You see, they accept eighty kindergarten students each year…four classes of twenty…but priority is given to incoming siblings.) Based on the collective gasp that sucked all the air out of the room, I was not the only one who was surprised by the number.

Twenty Six.

TWENTY SIX SPACES AVAILABLE, to be filled by TWENTY SIX children of the TWO HUNDRED families in the room.  Our ticket was number 73. As it turned out, the first ticket drawn was number 34. Thus, families numbered 34-59 jumped right up and ran to the admissions table. Families numbered 60+ dragged their lifeless bodies over to the waiting list table. Some just left and gave up altogether.

All is not lost. Christopher sits at number 13 on the waiting list and, while it seems unimaginable (based on the interest and the SHEER JOY of the parents in the room) that they would burn through that many spaces on the list by September, it’s possible that he’ll move up. (One of his preschool classmates is number 70!) One thing is for sure – he will hold his space on the list until he moves up to the top spot, whether that happens this summer or when he’s in fifth grade. At that point, we can either accept the spot and move him (thus securing sibling spots for Jake and Nate) or decline.

While I want to say that OBVIOUSLY we won’t decline, now I don’t know. I hear that if you get called up in the middle of the school year you have to accept the space immediately and TRANSFER SCHOOLS, otherwise you lose your spot.  If someone can explain to me how that would be in the best interest of my sweet, sensitive boy – moving him away from his new friends, new teacher, new environment to be the new kid among an even larger community – then great. But I can’t see how that is possible.  Right now, Tim and I are praying that whenever he gets called up, it won’t be in the middle of his kindergarten year. Or the middle of any year, for that matter.

In the meantime, today I brought in his registration to School #1. I’m happy that he will be going there, really I am. It’s a smaller, more close-knit community. He already has friends who go to school there. We’re over there all the time anyway, so he is very familiar with the grounds and most of the people. We even have family members who work for the parish.

I won’t pretend that I’m not anxious about this – that I’m not worried about his getting called up to School #2 in the middle of the year – that I’m not very concerned about the financials of this whole thing.  But I will say this – I prayed. I prayed so hard about this.  I BEGGED God to help us make this decision because I didn’t trust myself and my emotions about the whole thing. I plead for him to make clear to me which school was the most appropriate one for my boy – the best place for him to be. And what did he do? He took one out of the equation.  He took away the one that I would have chosen.  I have to trust, now, that my prayers have been answered rightly. As Tim encouraged me the other day, “we have to take heart in the knowledge that God will provide for the plan he has for us.”

Sigh. Sometimes I wonder why it’s not easier to trust the One who loves us so.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why I'm Participating in Biggest Blogging Loser In 7 (Not-So-Quick) Takes

I've been wanting to document why, exactly, I've decided to participate in Jennie's Biggest Blogging Loser contest, but the post that I write in my head is about 700 pages of angsty weight-on weight-off struggle. You don't want to know all of that. So, since it's Friday, and since my children are either sleeping or playing outside with my mom, we'll give it a condensed whirl.

1.) Never in my life have I been thin. As such, my weight has (for as long as I can remember...even in my early elementary years) been on the forefront of my mind. Looking back, I see that even when that weight rested at a healthy number, I would still worry and stew over it because I didn't look like my friends. I remember going in for my high school sports physical, getting weighed by the doctor, and being told, "Wow. You don't LOOK like you weigh THAT much." Compliment? Criticism? Backhanded compliment? I don't know. But here we are fifteen or so years later and I still remember it, for what that's worth.

2.) In college, two of my dearest friends and I participated in the Weigh Down Workshop. What a fantastic ministry this is, and I highly recommend it. Through it, I finally learned the value of my natural hunger and fullness signals. It's amazing to me that I had to TRAIN my body (and my mind) to do what it is created to do naturally. Focusing solely on hunger and fullness, I lost fifty pounds. That's TEN five-pound bags of flour. I can't figure out how to carry that much weight around, and yet I was doing it for a long time.  I loved following the Weigh Down principles and that program was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. It seemed to me to be Weight Loss Truth, and I couldn't understand how or why anyone would choose any other program to try to lose weight. I was young and naive and didn't give much credit, at that time, to the fact that maybe (JUST maybe) people are different and have different needs when it comes to these things.

3.) Weighing fifty pounds less than ever before, I wore a bikini in Hawaii.  Then I moved to San Francisco to be closer to Tim. Then I married Tim. Then I got pregnant. Then I gained 85 pounds.  Seriously. Eighty. Five.  I was frustrated by the weight gain at the time, but didn't worry too much because I had the key to weight loss. After Christopher was born I remember telling my doctor that I'd "lost weight before. I know how to do it." And I did. But not well. And while I was struggling with hunger and fullness while breast feeding, a nagging feeling began in me about nutrition.  You see, the Weigh Down theory is that God, who created you, created your body to know what you need. It knows when you're hungry, so your stomach growls. It knows when your satisfied, so your body feels full.  It knows what nutrients you need so when you're hungry you will desire certain foods to meet those needs.  I believe all of this to be true. Really, I do. But I also know myself well and I know that my mind is A LOT stronger than those body signals. Sure maybe my body wants the protein in the scrambled eggs....but my taste buds want that giant chocolate muffin from Costco. I began to realize that, as great as Weigh Down was for me, if I was good at listening to the signals my body was sending I wouldn't be overweight in the first place. I began to think there was something more that I needed.

4.) Around that same time, other bloggers who I was reading were starting up with Weight  Watchers and having great success.  I wanted nothing to do with it. My mom did Weight Watchers when I was a kid. I remember she had to go to meetings and weigh herself in front of other people. NOT FOR ME.  But those bloggy friends were having too much success for me to ignore and (AND!) they were doing it all from the anonymity of their computer screens. I signed up on my second wedding anniversary - Chris was nine months old. The weight loss was sudden, dramatic, and easy. By his first birthday, I had only 20 pounds to go to my pre-baby weight.

5.) One week later, I discovered that I was pregnant with Jacob. Scared to death about gaining 85 AGAIN (especially since I was starting 20 pounds up) I was VERY careful about what I ate during that pregancy. After Jacob was born I hit the weight watchers hard, lost all of the Jake weight by his 7-month birthday and only had ten pounds to go when....yup. When I discovered my pregnancy with Nathan. Jake was ten months old.

6.) And now here we are. Nathaniel is 14 months old. His first birthday had me at the highest first birthday weight of all three boys and, while it didn't drag me down, I was aware of that fact. Aware enough for it to bug me, but thinking I'd get to it eventually. I was ignoring my Weight Watchers (but pretending I wasn't) and pretending the Weigh Down principles didn't really exist. While I had goals for the weight loss, I wasn't reaching them. I was just pushing them back. And back. And back.

7.) Jennie's contest came just at the right time. It's given me the kickstart that I needed and the motivation, too. Since our first weigh-in on January 3, I've lost 15.8 pounds. My clothes are getting bigger and going shopping in my closet is getting more and more fun as I rediscover my style (believe it or not, I used to have style....not just this winter's "fleece chic" look I'm sporting.)  I'm in control and so very happy to be regaining the confidence that I had before.  The competition is stiff, for sure, but the benefits are beyond awesome.

(And winning a few dollars to replace the hideous chandelier above our dining room table is pretty motivating too!)