My little goblins

Happy Halloween!


A little bit of this, a little bit of that

For playgroup this week we had a halloween potluck.

Interpretation: bring your costumed kiddos and some finger-food to share.

I woke up late (or as late as you can with three kids) and realized I had no idea what to bring. I think I made homemade rolls last year, but there wasn't time for that. I looked through the appetizer section of several cookbooks but nothing was jumping out at me, except spinach dip.


I had a couple of bread bowls in my freezer that would go well with spinach dip, but none of the recipes sounded just right, so I ended up winging it.

And I thought it turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

First, I (very loosely) filled my Vitamix with spinach from my in-law's garden (maybe 3-5 cups?). Then I added a scant cup of reduced fat sour cream, and one of reduced fat mayonnaise. Next I threw in a large scoop (or two) of minced garlic, and 1/4-1/2 cup of chopped onion. After processing it, I poured it into a bowl and looked through my cupboards to see what else might be tasty. I added a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a few drips of hot sauce, half a package of Lipton onion soup mix, and a squirt of brown and spicy mustard. I topped it off with some freshly ground pepper and probably a cup of Parmesan cheese from my freezer and stirred it all up. Then I decided that all the spinach had gotten more minced than I wanted, so I added another handful of spinach leaves ripped into small pieces.

It was great with bread, crackers, pretzels, chips, or whatever else you might like to dip.



I've said for years [in jest] that I have "Insufficient Bulimia"--I binge, but I don't purge. That is now its own official eating disorder: Compulsive Overeating. But I've never, never understood Anorexia.

The idea of denying myself food for some body shape ideal is totally out of my ability to comprehend. Especially when they continue to see themselves as fat, even when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

However, I am beginning to understand that last bit.


If you haven't seen me recently, you may not know that in the last six months I've lost about 30 lbs. {Losing weight was never my goal, but it has been an appreciated side effect. My goal was to increase my health both by eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains and by exercising more, so that my body will be able to do all the things I want and need to do, and it will last as long as my mind does.}

While I can tell that my clothes fit better (or don't fit, as the case may be), when I look in the mirror sans vêtements*, I really don't notice a difference.

Now, whether that's because I've persisted in seeing myself as I was pre-baby(s), or because my mind continues to conjure my post-gravid self, or because the change has been gradual enough that I didn't notice, I don't know and quite frankly don't care.

Because when it comes right down to it, as long as I'm healthy, I don't really care what I look like.

Which is why I'll never be anorexic.

*French for without clothing


The one that started it all

As I mentioned before, I don't like soup. Or, at least I didn't for a very long time. The following recipe is probably the first soup that I really actually liked.

And for good reason.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

In a 3 quart sauce pan, sauté 1 cup chopped onion with 2 cloves minced garlic in a little olive oil.
(I buy minced garlic at Costco, and I put in a whole big scoop--yum!)
Add 3 cups chicken broth.
(I use water and chicken bouillon, because I'm cool like that.)
Add 1 lb broccoli florets.
(I just pack in as much broccoli as I can, making sure it can all boil in the broth.)
Boil/simmer 10 minutes.
Mix 1/3 (+) cup flour with enough milk to make a smooth paste.
Add more milk to bring the total milk to 2 cups, making sure to mix it well so there are no lumps.
Add the milk mixture to the soup and stir it in.
Heat until it thickens.
Add some pepper and grated cheddar: the more, the merrier.
(Unless you're going for the healthy thing, then probably less is more. I'd guess I use about a cup +/-)
Put 1/3 of the soup in the blender and purée, then return to the pot.

Perfect in homemade bread bowls. Mmm, mmm, good. And healthy, too.


As per Pauline's request, I give you

Crusty Soup Bowls

2 T yeast
1 T sugar
2 cups warm water
2 t salt
5 cups flour

Combine yeast, sugar and water and let it sit. Add salt and 3 cups flour. Beat 3 minutes. Gradually add remaining flour to make stiff dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise till double, about 30 minutes. (I am inevitably in a hurry, so I turn my oven on warm, turn it off, and let the dough rise in there. It goes much more quickly.) Punch down and divide into 4-6 pieces (depending on the size you want). Form each piece into a ball and place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise till double. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool. Cut off tops, scoop out bread to make a bowl. Pour hot soup or chili into bread bowl and serve.


And the winners are...

Eliza and Pauline!
And since neither of them have little girls, I don't get to make any bows. :(

So both of you should comment, or email me, or talk to me at church on Sunday, and tell me what color you would like.


Hip, hip, hooray!

Yesterday was another visit with our favorite cardiologist. {Okay, so he's really the only cardiologist that I know, but I do really like him, especially after yesterday.} After listening to Louie's heart and looking at the EKG, he said that the VSD sounds smaller, and looks like the meds she been on have done their job and helped un-enlarge her heart.

Then we did an ultrasound.

This was, by far, the worst one. She has usually been all sorts of happy, or at least content, to let the tech do his (or her, depending on who's working) job, but not yesterday! We tried Sesame Street, her pacifier, toys, and putting her on my lap, but nothing worked until finally the angel nurse came in and blew bubbles which got the job done.

After the doc looked at the ultrasound, he said it shows that the hole is indeed shrinking, the left side of her heart is smaller, (as it should be) so we can discontinue her meds and check up again in 6 months! {As opposed to the one to two months we've been doing.} She won't need the RSV vaccine, and he expects not to need another ultrasound until he can no longer hear a murmur and wants to verify that it is fully healed, at which point she will "graduate" from being a cardiology patient.

Thank you everyone for your prayers and kind thoughts! I know that they've helped.


Have you noticed?

Despite my warning to the contrary, you may have noticed an upswing in the frequency of my posts of late. In fact, in order to coordinate my recent milestones, I had to stop myself from posting more frequently.

Why the change? you may wonder.

Maybe it has to do with the change in weather. Maybe I was just in a funk. {My reading has also picked up pace.} Maybe it has to do with Tom being gone more often, and for longer.

Or, it may be that my prediction and reasoning were correct: Two weeks ago my running partner hurt her ankle and running has been verboten (and will continue to be for the next two weeks).

So, I've been running alone.

And I miss her! It is oh so much easier to force myself out of bed when I know she'll be waiting. It is easier (and more fun) to keep running when I have someone to distract me with conversation {even if I am more out of breath from talking}. And I have come to prefer our route over the one through my neighborhood (despite the hill) but I don't dare do it alone.

But, I do enjoy blogging, and am relishing in this return to the written word. I have missed it. I am hoping I will still have it in me when she's back.


Also: If you have not entered my giveaway, please do! You can enter until midnight Wednesday and I would be more than happy to come up with an alternate prize if you don't like the ones currently offered (because I know they are not universally desirable).


2 years, 200 posts

Today is the two year anniversary of my blog. Or my blog's second birthday.

So, Happy Birthday Blog.

This is also my 200th published post. There are many other drafts and unfinished beginnings that will never see the light of day, but this marks the 200th post that has been finished and made the cut.

I have been pondering what I could do to celebrate these two achievements, and have settled on a giveaway. I'm a sucker for a giveaway myself, so it seems fitting to offer one to all of you. This being a celebration of twos, there will be two winners, and I have planned two options for prizes. If neither spark your interest, feel free to enter anyway and we can figure out an alternate prize.

And speaking of entering, there are two ways for you to do this.

First, leave a comment with your name, a way to get a hold of you {if your profile (or my brain) does not already contain this info} and which prize you would prefer should your name be drawn.

Second, in order to provide myself fodder for future posts, you may post any question you may have for me. The question can be anything that you can think of, and I will do my best to answer it. (I do reserve the right to use my discretion on inquiries of questionable content--this IS an all-ages blog.)

The winner will be chosen by random.org so that I am not accountable for the results.

Now, to the prizes.

On Tuesday this week, I was feeling bored and decided to attempt to make a cute flower/bow for Ella's hair. So I came up with these two little numbers.

While I did not follow any instructions, I am not so naive as to think that the idea is original. Ella would, of course, complain if these two were given away, so for the for the winner, I will create two unique, one-of-a-kind bows of this variety for you and/or whoever you choose to give it to. The bow is equipped with an alligator clip, but it can be easily switched out for a bobby pin, safety pin, broach pin, or what have you.

Several weeks ago, we made these for Young Women activity. I love mine, and will take color requests from the winner.

It's probably about a foot long and four inches high or so. I could measure, but I'm a little lazy. After painting, I sanded it to give it that "distressed" look.

Because both prizes will be made to order, both winners could, in theory, select the same prize. How nice am I?

Drawing will take place in one week; entries accepted until midnight Wednesday.



Or, more specifically, Caspar Babypants.

A few weeks ago we went to a concert (if you want to call it that) at our library to see Caspar Babypants. I had no expectations other than that there would be kid music involved.

I was dang impressed.

Chris and the other two guys (Fred and Dan, maybe?) were so cute with the kids, and the kids had a blast dancing, running, crawling and boogieing all over the library.

All the kids but mine, that is. They just sat and watched. I'm not sure why.

(Please forgive the inferior photo quality. I still haven't mastered my phone's camera.)

In their defense, I think they were both feeling a little under the weather, but it still took me by surprise that they did not join in the "rollicking, frolicking, carrot-shaking" that was going on.

But either way, I would highly recommend purchase of the CD if there are children in your life.

Or if you just like kid's music.


And speaking of baby pants, I don't get why someone thought it would be a good idea to put snaps between the legs on little kid's pants. I mean, I get that it's to facilitate easy diaper changes, but it's easier to just take the pants off.

The snaps almost make sense on overalls, because there's always the chance that a child will be wearing something over the overalls (a sweater or somesuch) that will make total removal difficult, but they never stay snapped on overalls.

And then your kid looks ridiculous tromping around in a bizarre dress-looking thing.

Or crying to you every five minutes to re-snap him.

Until you superglue them.

Yes, I did.



Soup season brings with it a host of accompanying pleasures, as well as some not-so-pleasant prospects.

Among the anticipated arrivals are sweater season, scarf season, boot season and bread-baking season (I can't bring myself to turn on the oven in the heat of summer-I use it as little as possible between June and September).

The unappreciated? Nylon season. Yuck. {Am I the only one who avoids wearing them as much as possible?}

The arrival of soup season also heralds the end of sandal season, capri season (I don't wear shorts), and fan season (or air conditioner season, if you're cool like that). {Pun unintended, but appreciated--by me, at least.}

And this may make me a nerd, or maybe just alert you to one of the many facets of my nerdiness, but I'm going to tell you about it anyway.

Each year, at the end of summer, I dismantle, clean, and repackage our fans in their original boxes. Our house is not one of abundant storage space, and unused fans take up an excessive amount when left assembled. Besides that, you may have noticed the insane amount of dust that can build up on fan blades left unattended for years on end.

As I do this yearly, the build-up at the end of each summer season is not excessive, and requires a mere wipe with a dust cloth before the fan parts are ready for storage. This year, however, we inherited a pair of fans from my in-laws that had not been in the habit of receiving this yearly treatment.

And yikes did they need it.

After vacuuming off the majority of the dust, the layer of grime left behind had me scrubbing--not wiping, scrubbing!--to get them clean. After cleaning and reassembling them (we do not, unfortunately, have the original packaging), I was astounded at the difference.

And then I wondered: Am I the only person who does this? Do people just accept and live with dusty, dirty fans? Does this really matter?

So I ask you: am I alone?

{And if so: Can we still be friends?}


the sooner, the better

As we were chillin' at home tonight--Lou napping, Rico wandering aimlessly, Ella coloring, Tom at school, and me avoiding the mess in the kitchen--I decided to put on some music. I pulled up Pandora {I'm a huge fan, can I just say?} and turned on some calm, soothing Josh Groban {yum!-to the ear that is}.

Ella promptly asked if I could turn on some Christmas music, and I happily complied, and created a brand-new, holiday-themed station. We're almost a full month earlier than last year, but I feel good about it.

And I don't think it will last throughout the month, {especially not when Tom's home,} but I guess we'll see.


The return of Soup Monday

As you might remember, I'm a fan of Pizza Friday because it gives me an excuse not to think.

And we all know I'm a fan of not thinking.

So, during the winter months I like to add in Soup Monday. It doesn't quite work year round the way pizza does, because somehow the last thing I want to eat in the middle of July is a warm, hearty soup.

"But wait, Janelle!"
You might say, (especially you, Mom) "You don't like soup!"

It is true. Soup and I generally don't get along. But I am slowly and surely building a repertoire of soups that I do like.

And so, in honor of the inauguration of the 2009-2010 soup season, I will share with you my version of Taco Soup.

{I would be remiss if I did not credit my wonderful aunt Debbie for the original recipe, but I've changed it enough that she might not recognize it.}

1/2 lb ground beef (or turkey)
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1/2 can tomato sauce
1 can water
1 can corn (I fill an empty can with frozen corn)
1/4 cup taco seasoning (recipe calls for "one package" but I buy it in bulk at Costco)

The recipe also called for 1 can olives, but I'm not such a fan, but Tom likes to throw some in his bowl. Also, you could use other beans, those are just my faves.

Brown the meat (you could throw some onions in if you were in the mood), add the rest of the ingredients and heat. Don't drain the beans or corn (if you use canned), but do drain the olives if you add them. Could also be made in a crockpot: brown the meat and toss everything in to heat.

Serve with grated cheese, chopped fresh cilantro (yum!), chips, sour cream (yuck!) etc.

Add a salad, or maybe some cornbread, and voila; dinner.

Also makes great left-overs. I don't know if I've tried freezing it, but you should be able to.

{And yes, I realize that today is not Monday, but I did make this on Monday, and was just emailing the recipe to a friend with whom I shared a bowl, and I thought I would broaden my audience.}