Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memories, Dreams and some Happy Moments!



"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. 
Live the life you’ve imagined."
Henry David Thoreau 

Lots of thoughts running through my head and I haven't had a moment to "pen" them until now.  

Saturday April 30, 2011
I came home to the SWEETEST sight on Saturday afternoon. I had to work from 8-12 and after work I was going to help my niece who is struggling badly with morning sickness.  
My sweet sons Jade and Ethan 
 completely cleaned the house. Everything shined from the kitchen stove, to the dining room table. Nothing was out of place, each room was neat and tidy and I even opened up a kitchen drawer to find a lid for a bowl and all of the drawers were neatly organized as well. 
 I felt SO spoiled and most of all loved!!

Since it had been a long week, we decided to take the kids over to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to swim at the Recreation Center there, browse the shops and end our day eating fajitas at the Merry Piglets Cafe.
for last years adventure click (here)

 It was SO funny on our drive as Ethan commented,
"are we going to see the Double Rainbow sign?"
Last year when we were heading on our yearly backpacking trip, we were listening to the "Double Rainbow" song in the car and just as we were listening to it, we came across a street which was named "Double Rainbow" as well.  
It was such  a funny moment of synchronicity.
Even more funny was when we got home from our hike, Tracy and I were watering our garden and there was a "Double Rainbow" in the sky we got to enjoy as well.

 Tracy and I LOVE to go on drives
and talk about all aspects of life and we very much were looking forward to our 90 minutes of driving to Jackson.   

 Tracy and I could read books and websites every day about 
simple living and NEVER tire of it.  
It truly has become our passion.

We love to dream about being debt free and living in some kind of a cute, cozy house that is "Lagom". We love thinking about being able to truly LIVE life and pursue our dreams and do the things that make us happy all of the time...not just a weekend here or there.
 Someday all of our hard work will pay off and we can truly be heading to the mountains to climb, backpack and experience all that the mountains have to offer each and every week of our life! (here)

I love the following quote: 
"So our lives get frittered away by a social engagement here, a luncheon there, an evening of television here, or the habit of working evenings or weekends or both on projects that we don't have all that much interest in.  And the things we really want to do, in our heart of hearts, get put on the back burner".

SO happy to be on the downhill slope of just having a few more years left until we are completely debt free and then we will truly be able to LIVE the life we have imagined!

Until then, we will  LIVE, savor and enjoy each precious moment we have...
creating happy, memorable moments each day and week, because it truly is all of the "little moments", especially those with children that make life SO big!


Here are some HAPPY moments 
from our month of May 2011
ARTICHOKES!
We had a happy moment, when our neighbors dropped off a bag of three artichokes for us as their family doesn't like them.  How anyone could not like artichokes, I don't understand.
Artichokes are truly one of our family's favorite food!



Jade turns 17!
May 12, 2011 
Jade Marshall turned 17!
Lucky cologne, Mountain Smith duffle bag, 
treats, and a dinner 
of homemade egg rolls, fried rice and 
Oatmeal Fudge Bars were the highlights of the day!

Rain, Rain, Rain,
were what the majority of our days were filled with.
I was amazed at how much rain we had (flooding levels are high everywhere).
These gorgeous tulips blooming in my yard, were just beautiful and  brightened my every day as I drove up to our house.  It's amazing how such a simple thing like flowers, can instantly change a gloomy day into a HAPPY one!


COMMENCEMENT Dance 
2011
Jade and Karissa
decided to go to one more dance of the year together.  We found out about this 4 days before the dance, so we were scurrying around trying to find Jade something to wear.
He looked SO handsome in his black/grey vest, silver tie and freshly cut hair.
They had such a FUN time together!
These moments are priceless, especially considering the challenges that they both deal with each day of their lives. 

Happy moment of being able to find vacuum bags for my 21 year old vacuum cleaner. Tracy was able to order these off Amazon.com and surprise me!  
SO happy to have freshly vacuumed carpets and rugs.  
Vacuuming makes me HAPPY and happiness is being able to keep using my trusty, well-used vacuum cleaner!  
(it has had every repair possible and is so ugly, but I LOVE it!)


END OF SCHOOL year 2011 
Jade and Mrs. Packard...
 this amazing woman has helped Jade soar to wonderful heights this year. 
Her patience and love for him, has been amazing! 
What a blessing it is to have such wonderful people in my children's lives!

Jade has been blessed with SO many amazing friends! His friend Moriah graduated and is going to be going to Fashion/Art school in California.  This note she wrote Jade made me cry.

I love this woman! 
Ethan had Mrs. Robison for two years in a row at school!  

I'm SO sad for Ethan to move on...
I can honestly say she is the best teacher any of my sons has ever had!  
She has developed a sense of reading in her students that Ethan will actually squat on a chair and read for hours and some days we can't pull him away from his books to eat dinner.
Ethan has a great friend named ALEX that he is greatly going to miss over the summer!  
These two kids have SO much fun playing and interacting together! 

Summertime is bitter-sweet...
bitter as the kids don't get to see and play with their friends...
sweet as I get ALL afternoon to spend with my kids, playing, reading, working, laughing and creating memories!

Grateful for all of the LITTLE things 
in life that truly make life SO big...
Grateful for DREAMS to give direction to our lives
to guide us to be able to accomplish the things that we want most to do!

And I think to myself...
what a wonderful life I have!

Friday, May 27, 2011

My favorite night of the week!

 
D8 NITE!
 Here comes the weekend…

”Every shape of every word you say that breaks the silence of an ordinary day.  Every look that seems to mystify, every single smile that spins me to the sky. It makes me wanna run, it makes me wanna hide. 'Cuz  you're the only one that makes me come alive...” 
Roxette Tourism Album "Here Comes the Weekend"


(photo circa 1994)
I am SO grateful that we are at a point in our lives
 where Tracy and I can connect with each other on a weekly DATE together!  

I have been looking through photos and scanning them into computer and I came across this photo. This was the summer after I had Jade and life was exhausting from getting on a schedule of having a new little bundle of JOY and a nursing baby and there weren't weekly dates happening at this point in our lives.   
SO, I surprised Tracy when he came home from work 
with a little "Candlelight dinner" and movie treats to enjoy an evening at home after Jade was asleep.

Those were the days when we listened to the song "Here comes the weekend" and I would dream about the day, when Date Night would once again return to our lives.

 **********************
 It’s been a long, tiring month
A month that has had every week (especially, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) filled to the max with school activities, scouting events, family, work and church obligations that it’s been two weeks since I have been on an official FRIDAY NIGHT DATE with the love of my life Tracy!!

Thank goodness for nightly two mile walks around our neighborhood with my sweetie to at least “catch up” and talk without interruptions from the kiddos.

Today, after a week of COLD, dark, dreary days, the sun is shining so beautifully and YES, even though at this moment that I am typing this it is only 36 degrees outside, I am SO excited beyond measure for a
HOT date that I have to look forward to tonight with Tracy!


Too bad that I don’t have 73 degree weather to look forward to like we so very much enjoyed on our date  2 weeks ago on May 13th...

 where I was able to put on a cute skirt, short sleeved shirt
and wear my Chaco sandals, but I am thrilled!!

There is just something 
about driving in the car being able to completely listen to each and every word that we are saying without interruptions from kids, or phone calls.
Listening to music of all genres (depending upon what mood we’re in),  
enjoying gorgeous scenery and amazing sunsets,  
staring at each other and not able to do anything but SMILE as we are talk about our goals and dreams together, 
sharing an entrĂ©e for dinner,  
walking hand in hand, 
completely in tune to only each other and no one else  
AND 
having one night a week where laughter and smiles are in ABUNDANCE
where nothing else matters but each other and we are able to give each other undivided attention.  

These precious moments in our week 
called D8 NITE 
are treasures to me!

Happy Weekend…
 happy putting the school year to rest for the summer, 
happy 5 days off of work in a row 
to spend with my sweetie AND sons creating wonderful memoires…  

Life is oh SO good 
and I am blessed beyond measure  
with all of the things that truly matter in life!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oatmeal Fudge Bars....Oh so yummy!!

We recently celebrated Jade's 17th birthday 
and made these delicious Oatmeal Fudge Bars
Jade does not like cake at all and so his birthday usually consists of brownies. However, this year he wanted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and so we compromised and made these delicious and decadent bars from a recipe I got from a lady I work with.

WOW!!  
Tracy kept snitching bars from the pan for 2 days.    
Once you eat one, you can't stop.

These are SO quick and easy,
use basic ingredients 
(I have plenty of Sweetened Condensed Milk in my food storage, 
so I consider that a staple item)
they make a large cookie sheet of bars and so these are wonderful and yummy to take to an event that you need a lot of treats, without a lot of work.


Oatmeal Fudge Bars 
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
3 cups rolled oats
Mix together ingredients and  
press 2/3 of mixture onto a greased cookie sheet

Melt together in a pot on the stove until smooth:
2 cups chocolate chips and
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
Spread melted chocolate mixture on top of cookie dough and then drop remaining cookie dough in chunks on the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown  
Let cool for a few hours before serving 

Decadent, yummy and absolutely delicious!
Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Here's what's cookin' at our house!

 My sweet little Ethan Kip
has after school activities each Monday and Tuesday and my work has been extremely busy, and so I offered to work extra to help out.
SO, Monday's and Tuesdays for the past month and half have consisted of leaving the house at 6:30 each morning, working until 2:30 and then staying in town until 3:45 where I pick up Jade from track practice (since we live 10 miles out of town)
Needless to say, on these days I get home between 4:15 and 4:30 (and if I haven't planned ahead) I feel overwhelmed trying to throw something together for dinner that is yummy and goes together quickly.
While I am very much a Chili lover and would much rather make Chili if I have time, I have fallen in love again with one of my tried and true recipes of Taco Soup!
This uses ingredients I always have on hand,
goes together quickly and
while you're cooking it you can also
make batch of Corn Bread and by the time 6:00 comes, dinner can be gracing your table top that's delicious, nutritious and a hit with almost anyone!

I also whip up a batch of Refreshing Lime Drink as well...
for recipe click here


Taco Soup
1 pound ground beef
1 onion chopped
1 (16 oz.) can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1 (16 oz.) can kidney beans (with liquid)
1 (17 oz.) can corn (with liquid)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup taco seasoning

In a large soup pot brown ground beef and saute onions; drain well.
Add tomatoes, kidney beans, corn, tomato sauce and taco seasoning.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
(the longer it simmers the better).
Put soup in bowls and garnish as desired with shredded cheese, sour cream and corn chips. This also goes GREAT with corn bread!


Sweet Corn Bread 
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp. salt
1-¾ cup flour
1-½ cups milk

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and stir.
Add in cornmeal, baking powder and salt and stir until just combined
Add flour alternatively with milk. Put in greased 9x9 pan.
Bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
This is WONDERFUL and tasty
and kids and dads don’t seem to mind eating soup or a “bean” dish if they have yummy cornbread to eat.

**Helpful tip**
I mix 1/4 cup dried milk powder with 1-1/2 cups water
in a pint jar and shake well to use in place of regular milk...
you can't tell a difference and it uses food storage powdered milk.

Yummy...Delicious...Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Motherhood...

 “The best things in life are nearest: 
Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, 
flowers at your feet, duties at your hand,
the path of right just before you. 
Then do not grasp at the stars, 
but do life’s plain, common work as it comes,
certain that daily duties and daily bread 
are the sweetest things in life.”  
–Robert Louis Stevenson


What a perfect week to talk about Motherhood 
as I have been scurrying around for the past week doing Motherly duties pretty much non-stop, that there hasn't been a moment to sit and pause and breathe until now!

I've been busy attending track meets, 
getting Jade registered for 11th grade high school classes, 
visiting with family, making goodies for my sons, 
humoring my nine-year old Ethan while he shows me all about his new TRON game, 
driving kids here and there for end of school activities,
trying to keep up on laundry that piles up faster than I can get to it,
trying to plan a FUN day for Jade's 17th birthday, 
DANCING around  listening to "Club can't even handle me right now" a zillion times  
while hustling around trying to get  my teenage son Jade ready to attend the commencement dance this weekend (that we just found out he was going yesterday...WHOO, lots to do!!). 

I feel overwhelmed, but I'm loving every minute of it

Lest I let anymore time slip by, 
I need to pause for just a moment and share my Mother's Day in Photos...

Even though it pretty much rained non-stop on Mother's Day is was full of SUNSHINE from the sweet acts of kindness from my kiddos and Mr. Smith!
 My morning started off with a hearty breakfast in bed 
prepared by Mr. Smith and my mini-chef Ethan Kip.

(Mr. Smith decided to document the morning in photos well...all I can say is, thank goodness LOVE is more than looks as I never look too great when I first wake up in the morning!)

I was awakened by the most excited little kid who was SO thrilled to surprise his mommy!   (Tracy informed me that Ethan was unaware that it was Mother's Day this weekend as Jade came home on Friday with a wrapped gift he had made for me and Ethan was sad he didn't have a gift for me and so awesome dad came up with the idea of breakfast in bed...it couldn't have been more perfect!) 

Jade has the most amazing teachers in his school that helped him with this awesome 
"I believe" project. 
Since Jade struggles greatly with writing and typing, he told his teacher what he wanted to say and she typed it for him and also helped him put it all together.  
It was fun to read the things 
he likes and appreciates about our family and extended family (and funny to see how he interprets our life).
It is definitely something that will proudly be displayed on my art ledges when they get finished... 
love it!!

 Does it get any sweeter than 
hand written sentiments from your kids? 
I have just one word for this...PRICELESS!!  
(definitely will be neatly tucked in my box of treasures)

He pampered me all day long and kept bringing me my "coupon" when I was doing tasks so he could do them for me.

Mr. Smith always does some clever, thoughtful thing...
I got the sweetest set of love birds 
and the most awesome homemade card that made us all laugh...

"The servers' down!
Time to relax and enjoy your Mother's Day!"

Funny thing about this card is it is SO true with the mother that is crashed on the couch...yup, that's me...
While I run around the house pretty much non-stop taking care of everything, all I have to do is sit down for 15 minutes to enjoy a movie, or relax on the couch and the next thing you know it, I am OUT like a light, sound asleep!

Savoring life's plain common work 
and all of the things in life that are nearest to me...
 realizing that my most greatest gifts call me
"Wife" & "Mom" 
and feeling abundantly blessed for all of the  
JOY 
that I get to experience each and every day 
because I have Tracy, Jade & Ethan in my life!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Artisan Bread...


Yes, 
it really is true, that with just 5 minutes effort each day, you can have fresh baked bread to enjoy!

I've truly had my eyes opened 
with bread making these past few months.
While I have always made bread from scratch,  I have recently found a different technique that has fascinated me and I'm really enjoying it a lot.


December 2009... 
Tracy and I were on our weekly date enjoying reading magazines at Barnes and Noble. I really enjoy reading Mother Earth News as they always have such interesting articles for gardening, cooking/preserving food, raising farm animals, etc...  The cover of this magazine is what struck my eye
"Easy Crusty Bread in 5 minutes a Day!".  
I loved the article so much that I commented that I would love to own that magazine, but didn't want to pay the $4.99 price for just one article.  HOWEVER, I awoke to a pleasant surprise on Christmas morning to a sweet little package from my Sweetie and this magazine was part of the package.
I read the article over and over and drooled over the YUMMY looking bread in the photos.  However, since all of my bread recipes call for some kind of sweetener for the yeast proofing, whether it be honey or sugar,  
I had a hard time believing that the recipe in this magazine could really turn out and make yummy bread, since it only called for
water, yeast, kosher coarse salt and unbleached flour.  
So, my magazine sat.

Fast forward to March 2011...
wouldn't you know it, I came across the magazine in my cleaning and organizing spree and decided,
"What do I have to lose...if it doesn't turn out, I'm only out a little bit of flour, yeast and salt".  
LOVE this part of the article that states that baking bread at home saves hundreds every year and costs about .50 and 5 minutes a day!! 

Tracy's favorite kind of bread has always been some type of  "French boule" or "baguette" as he loves the chewy, crunchy crust, but moist crumb inside.  Every time we walk past the Artisan bread section in our local grocery store, he comments on how YUMMY it looks!
However, the price of $4 to $5 a loaf, usually makes us pass on purchasing any.
SO, one afternoon, I decided to venture out and try my hand at making Artisan Bread.   
I mixed all the ingredients together,  
put them in a gallon ice cream bucket that we had saved from a Young Men's activity that Tracy was in charge of,
let it sit at room temperature and then
put it in the fridge for a few days to let it age.

I had SUCH a happy family when we finally baked our first batch of bread and it was so yummy and amazing with it's chewy crust, moist inside and slightly tangy taste and I even let it sit out all night without wrapping it and it was still just as moist and yummy the next day.

This tastes every bit as good (if not better), than any boule or baguette you would purchase at a bakery and the cool thing is YOU have made this in your home!

AND, it really only take 5 minutes of preparation to make this bread.  One batch of ingredients will bake 3-4 loaves of bread, depending upon how much dough you pull off and it will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.  
I have been saving a little of the dough and adding to the next batch I make up and the more it ages the more delicious it becomes...  
kind of like sourdough bread.
We decided to venture out and grind up some of our wheat into flour and do a batch with 1/2 unbleached  flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour and it has proven to be a winner as well!  
Many delicious bowls of soup have been enjoyed with a slice of this wonderful artisan bread and
many simple lunches have been enjoyed with a slice of this bread made into an open-faced tuna sandwich.

The past 2 months, I have had my ice cream bucket in the fridge ready to pull out and able to make bread anytime we like  For those hectic days when you have to work a long day at work and you come home and feel overwhelmed with what you're going  to make for dinner, you can  break off a piece of the dough, shape it into a ball, put in on your baking stone that has been generously covered with corn meal and have this rising while you cook the main course... 
AND the best part of all, you don't have to really make any kind of a mess!


Artisan Bread
All you have to remember is....
3 cups hot tap water
1-1/2 Tbsp. coarse Kosher Salt
1-1/2 Tbsp. yeast
 6-1/2 cups unbleached flour (Or you can do 3 cups whole wheat flour and 3-1/2 cups unbleached flour)
Mix it all together, cover and let it sit at room temperature 2 hours and then refrigerate in a container with a lid. 
(after you get down to the last little bit of dough, scrape the sides of your container down and  start the cycle over again by mixing up another batch of ingredients, cover and let sit at room temperature 2 hours, put the container in the fridge and then you have more dough to keep enjoying)

SO easy to make...
just pull out the container of dough from the fridge,
pull off a grapefruit sized piece of dough,
coat in flour and tuck the ends under and form into a ball and place on a baking stone that has generously been coated with cornmeal.
Let rise for 30 minutes,
 put a METAL pan in the bottom of the oven  
heat oven to 450 degrees
before putting the bread in the oven
pour in one cup hot water in the pan as this will create steam that will create the hard/chewy crust.   
Cut 3 slits in the top of the bread with a sharp knife to let it expand during cooking and bake 35 minutes.
Let it cool on a wire rack.

Another bread WINNER at our house...
I hope it's a winner at your house as well.
Enjoy!