Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Am Also Thankful For Pie

I have had a thankful song in my heart for days now. I am strongly desiring the holidays to have true, deep, heartfelt meaning. In my opinion it is a tragedy to allow tradition to become so routine that we lose sight of the purpose. Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Christmas? Is it about eating turkey? Getting gifts? Decorating a tree? May it never be. However I see that for many in our society it is "just tradition." And what grieves me even further is the rise in stress and anxiety for so many that this Season brings. I have been carefully guarding my heart from this tragedy by meditating on the blessings in our lives. Every one of us that lives in the United States is blessed. Even the poorest of our society are rich compared to the impoverished in other countries. I had a half a day last week where I mourned and angered over the economy's affect on our mutual funds. And then I got over it because at the end of the day there are two major points to consider: #1 I cannot change it and #2 I am lavishly blessed.


So this year The Prairie Daddy and I are talking about how to teach The Prairie Kid the true meaning of the Season. And the best example to follow in how to live our lives is the example of The One who this is all about...Jesus. Jesus gave Himself. We have decided to find ways to give of ourselves this Season (more on that in other posts if I feel lead). I am hopeful that tomorrow we can share our lives and hearts with others in a way that breaks through the routine of tradition. I pray and hope that in addition to turkey we can really be thankful in the core of who we are for what we have been given.

Do I think we have to cast out tradition in order to accomplish this though? Nope! I think that the Lord is honored by thankful hearts accompanied by a feast. I think it comes down to our hearts and our motives! I am very much looking forward to turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and rolls. AND PIE!!! I am a sucker for pie!

My family has a recipe for Cranberry Pie that I have shared with my in-laws. Every year now I make this pie to bring either Thanksgiving or Christmas. I actually don't even like it but I am not a big cranberry fan. However it is a hit with those who do like cranberries and I really enjoy making it.

I make a huge mess when I make pie crusts, so I have to "gear up" for the disaster. After lunch today I had prepared myself and bravely entered the kitchen. Once the crusts were assembled I could have fun with the fillings since they don't have the same "a
tornado tore through my kitchen" affect that the pie crusts have.

Here is a picture of the Cranberry Pie in progress (and the huge mess my crusts made. Like how I blamed the crusts and not myself?)

This is the filling before the topping was put onAnd then you smooth the topping over the berry mixture

And wah-lah, a beautiful pie every time

Here is the recipe:
Cranberry Pie

Mix together 2 C. whole fresh cranberries, 1/2 C. sugar, 1/2 C. pecans (cut once) and place in an ubaked pie shell.

Then blend 1/2 C. sugar, 1/4 C. melted margarine and 2 T. melted shortening, 1 egg and 1/2 C. flour. Spread over top of cranberry filling.

Bake at 325 for 45 mintues.

And then I made a new recipe...
Pumpkin Eggnog Pie

Can't wait to sink my teeth into this puppy...

Here is the link to this recipe:

I wish you and yours a very meaningful Thanksgiving Day tomorrow.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snow Sparked Kitchen Comfort

Last night we had a blast with our friends. There were 6 couples including ourselves. We laughed so hard at Tim Hawkins that my cheeks are literally sore today. It was a great ab workout!

We did something unusual today. We slept in and stayed home from church. And we woke up to some unexpected snow this morning. It must have prompted some culinary desires in me because I have been baking and cooking since I got up. Made a big breakfast for my boys and then decided to keep going.

There was a new recipe I tried this morning and seriously cannot believe it was so easy. The cookies are very light and cakey. I don't usually like cakey cookies I really enjoyed these.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 box Spice Cake Mix
1 can Pumpkin (15oz., not pie filling)
1/2 bag Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes. (Yes, seriously, it's that easy!)

I also whipped up my favorite soup. This stuff is one of the healthiest, yummy things we eat at our house. I don't know that you could pack more nutrients into one bowl. And The Prairie Kid loves it too! Here's what I did:
Filled a big pot 1/3 full with water. Put in some beef base, garlic, 2 bay leaves, 2 T. dry oregano, 2 cans stewed Italian tomatoes, 1 can kidney beans, 1/3 large bag frozen mixed veggies (peas, carrots, green beans, corn), 1 lg. can mushrooms, 2 cups shredded home grown zucchini, 1/2 bag lentils. I will let it simmer all day but it was ready in an hour and a half for lunch. I added more beef base and water so that I had plenty of broth and then some Tabasco sauce for more flavor.

I'm off to eat!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Things You Don't Say To Your Wife

Tonight we're going out with a bunch of our couples friends to dinner and to see Tim Hawkins. He is a Christian comedian that is in our area tonight. He is hilarious and I am really looking forward to seeing him in person.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Remembering The Romance

***Disclaimer: This is a really long post! But there are great pictures so please don't miss them just because you could care less about my writing!***
A few days ago I had the chance to sneak a movie in during nap time. I had ordered "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" from Netflix. I love period films, pre-20th century, and almost anything with castles in it. I am sad that Jane Austen didn't have 30 books to turn into movies. I have become fond of the BBC movies based on Charles Dickens writings, and I am thrilled that Netflix keeps telling me about all of the other movies that I may love in these genres.

I wish I liked reading a bit more but for now, especially in the season of having a preschooler, a quick movie works well.

So, back to watching "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." Toward the beginning of the movie they showed a castle. The movie called it Fotheringhay, which is the castle in which Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at. But as I looked at the castle I thought, "no way! That isn't Fotheringhay! That looks like Eilean Donan! I have been there!"

I waited until the end of the movie and jumped online to look up the castle they used for the movie. I was right! It was Eilean Donan! This was my FAVORITE castle in the highlands of Scotland. And I began to reminisce the trip my mom and I took together 5 years ago to Great Britain. I decided that since this trip romanced my heart so much with the rich history and the magnificent castles that it would be fun to do a blog post about the castles we visited on our trip.

Really, this post is all about me getting to walk down memory lane. But the fun thing about blogging is that others can join in! So if you are like me and are naively swept off your feet by towering spires, drawbridges, and great halls then please enjoy the walk. I know that the reality of life in corsets and ballgowns was not all glamour. I cannot help but think I would have been cold all of the time if I had lived in a stone mansion without electricity. However, I find it much more enticing to forget the reality and be romanced.

My mother's grandfather was Scottish. We come from the McLaughlan clan. Before our trip I had never been interested in my ancestry. But since we would be in Scotland I found myself desiring to learn and see all I could about my Scottish roots. The first castles we visited happened to be our clan's castles. This first picture is of the "new" castle, built in the 1800's.

This next picture is of the old castle ruins, built somewhere before 1300

We then made our way north and saw our first REAL castle. This is Inveraray Castle in Scotland. Beautiful, isn't it?

I quickly learned that there were old castles, and REALLY old castles. Here is Inverlochy, which is obviously ruins now.

And now for my favorite, Eilean Donan, the castle in the movie. Awwwe. Memories. I do remember getting a little mad that I couldn't go all the way up in the towers though. As we exited the highlands and made our way into northeast Scotland we were able to visit this beauty, Cawdor Castle. This one had the drawbridge like you see in the movies.

Cawdor also had amazing gardens, like this one with the traditional hedges.
After visiting Cawdor Castle we drove to a town called Tomintoul. This was the area in which family records indicated my 3 and 4 x's great grandparents lived. It took us a little while to locate the actual property and parish church but it was worth the time it took. Here is the church my ancestors married in:We began to head south as we made our way through the country. Stirling Castle rose above the city of Stirling atop an unusual lone mountain. The views were spectacular.

We made plans to spend several days in Edinburgh so that we would have the opportunity to take a driving break and see what this large city had to offer. The Edinburgh castle was enormous, and like Stirling it towered over the city. There was a great audio tour that we were able to take and it was so enjoyable. Here is a picture of one of the rooms in Edinburgh Castle.

While in Edinburgh we saw a Monet exhibit and also a Faberge exhibit. And the Queen of England's official Scottish residence is in Edinburgh. Below shows this, called The Palace of the Holyrood House:As we crossed into England we stopped at Carlisle. This castle also was one of the places where Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) was imprisoned. We walked the very grounds that she walked within the walls. Carlisle was a fort used in many of the battles between Scotland and England. If you look toward the bottom of the picture you can see the grassy ditch that was once a moat.
We made our way into Wales where we were didn't tour any castles, however enjoyed the unique language and quaintness immensely. And then crossed back into England and stayed in York.

There were some unique historical learning opportunities in York. York was a city built on many previous cities. I learned that every time a people group was overtaken by another their city was burned and another rebuilt on top. And York had an odor about it that corresponded with the history. We got to see a very good representation of this "demolish and build" history in the under croft of the York Minster. Here is a picture of the York Minster (which is the largest cathedral in northern Europe):

The under croft, or crypt, was the old church under the existing church, which they had been able to dig out. I think going in the crypt was the coolest creepy thing I have ever experienced. There was an old, old small sanctuary that we walked through and the original baptismal bowl carved of stone. There was also a wall that had four layers of history, Roman, Norman, Saxon and something else. Below is a picture of a Norman column:

York was built over the top of a Viking kingdom known as Jorvik. Jorvik was conquered by the Normans in 1066, so there would have been various "layers" of cities between Jorvik and York. They actually excavated this town at some point. Today there is a Viking Discovery Centre that is home to an indoor ride through a re-creation of a viking village. The ride is complete with fake people, huts, sounds, and even smells. It wasn't pleasant riding past the public viking potties. No joke!

Here is the remaining piece of the York Castle:

North of York we visited the Castle Howard. This is actually still the part-time residence of an obviously well-to-do British family. Can you imagine? We were not able to tour the parts of the castle that are currently occupied by the family but they have graciously allowed for part of this monster to be open to public tours. I am surprised they had room to spare for public isn't like there are spare rooms in this place!

The property was gianormous. Check out this aerial view:

Here is a bedroom:
As we made our way toward London we stopped of at the famous Warwick Castle. At Warwick there were life-size wax people that made you feel as though you were truly peering in on what life was like at its peak. This was also the only castle that displayed and explained the cruelty of the old torture chambers. Freaky.
I was awed by this wax figure of Princess Diana, whom has a special place in my heart because my dear grandpa once told me he thought I looked like her.

Most people in the US might think that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles live at Buckingham Palace most of the time. And although they do at times, their main residence is outside of London. This is Windsor:

Shabby, isn't it? The place was enormous. We were able to see only parts of the interior, including the hall for banquets. We also saw the changing of the guard here at Windsor.

And in London we visited the Tower of London, seen below:

The Tower of London is home to the crown jewels. We were able to see them by standing on a conveyor belt that took us through the rooms where these elaborate jewels are kept safe and secure. This is just a fraction of the crowns that are on display: Westminster Abbey is the place in which royal coronations take place and where the deceased monarchs are buried. I was disappointed with my experience here because I found it quite odd that the interior of a church be a shrine for dead kings and queens. Here is the tomb of Elizabeth I:

Ahh. Now that I have re-walked the trip across Great Britain I am longing for a good castle movie! However, this post has taken up way too much of nap time to think this Prairie Mama is going to get a movie in!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ultimate Comfort

I was pretending to be the Culinary Master (remember my incredible sister?) yesterday and today. Yesterday I used one of her recipes to make a dessert to accompany a dinner I made for a family in town that has suffered a terrible tragedy. I believe this is one of my favorite recipes from her. First, it is absolutely delicious, rich, and the ultimate comfort food. Second, it is one of the easiest gourmet desserts to make (in my naive culinary opinion). So what is this dessert? Mocha Torte.

And today I made a ganache to pour over the torte. I decided to add some almond extract to the ganache for some extra fun flavor. So, here is the Ultimate Comfort ready to be delivered.

Mocha Torte with
Almond Ganache

Reflections: Since We Turned 3

The Prairie Kid turned 3 in August. I have heard in the past that 3 is harder than 2 even though there is that old saying "terrible 2s." I didn't think 2 was too bad. It for sure wasn't terrible. I thought the time from crawling to about 20 months was difficult. I had a child who had figured out how to move about and get into everything but who couldn't process mommy's verbal instructions and respond. I remember the day that I spoke instructions and saw the first obedient response. I knew I had finally been unchained from the physical burden of getting up and physically re-directing over and over and over again.

3 is different. There is a will. There is a thought process. There is creativity, sneakiness, and attitude. Is it terrible? No. But it isn't 2. There are changes that are awesome and changes that I would like to rip out of development and send them down the garbage disposal that I don't have.

So, I thought I could compile the Good, the Bad, and the Sad of "Since We Turned 3."

I will do this in the order that I approach life. I get the ugly stuff over with first and then have the freedom to enjoy the good. I eat my least favorite food items on my plate first, making my way to my favorite. I shell the ENTIRE dungeoness crab before eating my big pile of delicious meat. I try to get housework done before nap time so that I can enjoy a movie or alone time without the burden of undone work.

The Bad (or the not-so-desirable):

- the new will. The Prairie Kid is learning the consequences of being defiant. We sit in the Recovery Chair a whole lot more these days.

- being out of control of the body. The energy and craziness has escalated terribly. We tease that every day we'll have The Prairie Kid run a mile to get this excessive energy out. He runs, rolls, tears down, hits, jumps, pushes, tackles, wrestles, destroys...regularly. I wonder how many times a day we end up saying "slow down," "control your body," "if you do that again..."

- spitting. What's up with this? It is like the "most fun thing to do to aggravate my mom" behavior.

- couch cushions. Somehow the couch cushions are "not allowed" to stay on the couch according to The Prairie Kid. I decided to meet him half way and allow him to pull off the top back-supporting cushions but the big seat cushions are off limits. However, I am sick and tired of couch cushions being on the floor!

- breaking crayons. Why? Why do you have the desire to break EVERY single crayon in half? No more crayons for a while.

- candy. The Prairie Kid has become wildly demanding of candy. He doesn't get his way (and he never gets it when he asks for candy for breakfast) but the attitude and temper that flares up about candy is ridiculous!

The Sad:

- The Prairie Kid has learned to be self-conscious. He withdraws from entertaining a crowd and tries to hide behind my legs in public when someone talks to him. At a family get together he hit his head on the corner of the counter. The saddest part wasn't the injury but the fact that he ran and hid under the table like a bolt of lightening and he wasn't coming out unless Mommy came to the rescue.

- separation anxiety. Oh, I never knew this could kick in at 3. It was just before he turned 3 that he got separation anxiety. We're making progress but for the past few months it hasn't been pretty. He'd scream and cry and attempt to tear mommy's heart out with the pleas "Mommy! Come back!" "Mommy, don't leave me!" "Mommy, I can't like preschool!" "Mom, stay wif me!"

- bedtime blues. For 3 years I have had the "perfect child" at bed time for naps and at night. One time, for 3 days, he struggled to go to bed at night. But other than that, he had been amazing. We'd put him down, say "I love you," turn out the lights, and shut the door. That was that. Until 3 weeks ago. And now, every nap and every night is a struggle. I think this all started with a nightmare about a bear. One morning I went in to get him when he woke up and he said there was a bear coming to get him. Since then its been a struggle. He isn't upset about the bear anymore but he does cry and scream. This is what we commonly hear bellowing out of his room "Mom! I want wake up!" "Turn on lights! I can't see!" "Mommmmmy! Daddddddy!" Now he is doing this "self soothing" continuous moan to "rock" himself to sleep. It isn't fun to listen to this all take place down the hall. I long for this phase to end.

The Good

- cozy cuddles. The Prairie Kid was not much of a cuddler until 3. Now he enjoys laying with Mommy; holding, hugging, snuggling and giving great "smacky" kisses. He nests his little body into mine and hangs out. We hold hands. We rest our heads upon one another's. Ooooh how I love to snuggle.

- potty trained. Amen! Sure, we still have the occasional accident but we're regularly going poo and pee in the potty. We call this "clean and dry." YEA!!! We have only 1 or 2 accidents ALL week now! Woo-hoo!!!

- creative play. We pretend to be kitties, puppies, bears, snakes and more. We build forts and houses. We are learning to play hide and seek.

- jokes and sillies. The Prairie Kid learned how to do "give me five, on the side, up high, down low-too slow joe!" And he tries to tell knock-knock jokes. And he plays games like going back and forth calling me silly, and me calling him silly, and him calling me silly, and me calling him silly-willy, and him calling me silly-willy, and so on. I get a real kick out of this.

- praying. Oh how sweet the sound of a child's prayers. He says "dear Jesus. Kank you daddy workin' on the ranches and food, a-men." And sometimes he adds other fun things that are important to him, like thanking Jesus for football, or J'rmy, for the fun thing he got to do that day, or the people that might be sharing the meal with us.

- faith. I have often told The Prairie Kid that Jesus is with us all of the time. The other day he said, "Mom, I playin' with Jesus!" He asks in various locations like driving in the car, "where's Jesus?" And he talks about Jesus calming the storm when he sees a boat. And when he hears us slip up and say "holy cow!" he says, "No talk like that to Jesus!" And we have to set the example of repenting and asking for forgiveness.

- manners. This has always been a big one for me. My ultimate goal as a Mom is to teach my child to love God and love others. And I think respect and etiquette shows love to others. And now the manners have become so natural to The Prairie Kid that my heart leaps with joy every time I hear him use them without being prompted.

- recognizing God's creation. "oh! it's so cute!" was The Prairie Kid's response to seeing a picture of a baby. "Mom! Its sunny out!" "The clouds are pretty!" And my favorite was last week: I was strapping Doodle Bug into his car seat and he put his hand in my hair gently and said, "Mom, you're so cute! I like your haircut, Mom." And he took my sunglasses off and said, "Let me see you." NO JOKE! WORD FOR WORD! My 3 year old swept me off my feet!

- bless you. The Prairie Kid actually says "bless you" when you sneeze and expects the same courtesy to be given in return.


There are probably many more things that I could reflect on but I think I am going to change my reflections to food now because I am feeling hungry! I will not claim that 3 will be bad. It is always our choice to praise God for the good things, thank Him for the challenges that grow us, and remember that each of these developmental stages is important and normal. I love this child more than words could ever, ever express and I am thrilled to walk each stage right by his side.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Moms Together

Over a month ago a friend of mine asked if I would like to attend a meeting with her and two other friends of ours about starting up a new moms program in our little town. I was excited and went to the meeting. The next thing we knew we were spelling out the details. I volunteered to line up speakers for each monthly meeting and work on finding some funding. The other gals divvied up the other responsibilities. We decided on the first Thursday of every month, reserved the facilities, made a calling list and were on our way. Every month we will have brunch, hang out time, and then a speaker who helps moms learn something to apply at home.

So, on November 6th we had our first Moms Together. It was fun. The numbers were small but that is typical. Instead of a speaker for our first meeting I put together a fun media project of different funny mom clips and pictures. I thought they were so hilarious and I wanted to share with you a little mom humor. The above was one of those clips.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Worn Out

We had game night tonight at our house with three other couples and their kids. It was a wild and fun time. I think we all managed to be louder than ever before! The women beat the men at Cranium but the men got their first official "game night victory" when they beat us at Catch Phrase. The Prairie Kid barely had a nap today after going to a ranch auction and then had quite the evening with the other kiddos at our house. As I was loading the last post he quietly laid down next to me on the office floor. The next thing I knew, he was out!

Here he is so sweetly sleeping.

Blessings Out My Window

Tonight the sunset was breathtaking. I feel so blessed to look out my window and see such scenery. Even though I've been here for so many years I don't take for granted the incredible view. I stood on my deck or in my yard to take these pictures tonight.

Help! My kid loves The Lawrence Welk Show!

The title of this video says it all. Hang in there and watch the whole thing because it gets started a little monotanous but gets better and better!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Trumpet-Tooting Football Player in the Making

Here is The Prairie Kid on Halloween at his cousin's playoff football game. We enjoyed getting to go to several home games. The Prairie Kid loved the band and the games. All season he has played football with his toys at home and often pretends to play his trumpet. It has been a hoot!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Training Update

Its been a little while since I have mentioned The Prairie Kid's potty training. My last mention of it was telling you all about my failures and his having a hay day with me. Soon after I told the Lord that I didn't know what I was doing and I would like it if He would potty train my kid. And within the week The Prairie Kid was wanting to wear undies. Every week we progressed and now we're at a great place. We still have a couple accidents a week but he is sleeping every night with undies and in 3 weeks he's only wet the bed once. The accidents usually happen when he's playing and just doesn't seem to want to be distracted. Overall I have been really pleased with how its all gone. It is really awesome to hear the sweet sound of your son peeing in the potty. He even wipes off the rim with TP and puts the seat down.

Prairie Moon

The Prairie Kid was "helping" The Prairie Daddy install a new water filter at the kitchen sink the other day. I happened through the kitchen and caught a glimpse of the moon. It was a moment I couldn't resist getting the camera for. Isn't he too young for this?