Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is it STILL my Birthday?

Molly's birthday is at the tail-end of birthday season

...after Cole's

 ...after Megan's

...after Kate's

...after Mommy's

...and after Daddy's birthday.

Finally...finally...it was time for Molly's big day.

When Molly woke up, she joined My Man and I in our bed and as she does each morning wiggled her way in between us and said, "I'm reawwy hungee." We realized then that Molly had forgotten that it was her 3rd birthday. 

Eventually, Kate joined us in the bedroom, and began to wish Molly a happy birthday but was interrupted by a sleepy woman who wished to enjoy her covers a bit longer. Kate, bless her heart, understood and climbed into our bed with Molly, as is her morning habit.

My Man, thus crowded out, as is his morning habit, exited the bed and got the ice cream cake out of the freezer so that it would be ready to cut when Molly finally remembered. 

Molly's memory wasn't nearly as active as her hunger pangs, which eventually drove her from bed and down the hallway where she met Meg who said, "Happy Birthday big girl!"

"Ith's today????" she squealed and turned to take in the kitchen and its decor. 

Oh what joy! 
(Can't you just see the weight of the moment on her face?)

Then...finally...the moment she had been waiting for since way back in March when we first sang to Kate, it was time to sing "Happy Birthday to Molly..."

She literally basked in the glow of that singular candle as we sang on...

"Happy Birth-day to youuuuuuuuuu."

She loved it so much we sang again...

After which she asked, "Mom did you get a picture of me bwowing out my candle?"
"Yes Molly." 

Then she opened her gifts and cards. She loved them all but was especially fond of a card that sang "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and later declared it her favorite thing of the whole day!
 (Thank you Mrs. Barbara!)

Once the cake had been eaten and the gifts had been opened, it was time to get ready for church. Happily, there was a dress in Molly's closet that seemed to be waiting for this little girl to turn three on a Sunday...of all days!

When we pulled into the driveway after church, Molly asked, "Is it still my birthday?"

After being assured that indeed it was, she was off to ride her new scooter under the watchful eye of her "brudder Cole"...

After lunch and more cake and a nap, Molly awoke asking, "Is it still my birthday?"
"Why yes, yes it is," we told her and we took her to McDonald's for a swanky birthday supper. 

Molly ended her evening in a new birthday nightgown as she showed Grandma, Poppy, and Granny some of her birthday treasures via internet camera. She even serenaded her audience with a rousing rendition of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" accompanied by her birthday card.

The next morning when she woke up, she checked to make sure that the decorations were still on display in the kitchen and requested ice cream cake for breakfast. My Man was the one who had to break the news to her,
"Molly, yesterday was your birthday. It isn't your birthday today." To which she replied pointing to the streamers that were still flying, "Well, it is still my birthday in the kitchen."

Then by all means...bring on the ice cream cake!

Happy Birthday
Molly Joy!

"Easy-Peasy" Black Bean and Corn Dip

Hear the marching bands warming up? Feel the tiny bit of crisp in the air? It's THAT time again!! We'll all be in need of some fine football food and here's Cole's contribution...

Black Bean & Corn Salsa
(Printable Recipe HERE)
 (a recipe for which he calls Aunt Sudeana frequently because we always loose the sticky note!)

This salsa is not at all hot, it's more along the lines of a sweet and sour and tastes super on tortilla chips but is especially wonderful on pita chips as well.

Here's what you'll need:

1 can of corn (drained)
1 can of black beans (drained)
2-3 green onions (just the green parts, chopped)
8 oz. feta cheese*

1/4 cup of oil (we like canola) 
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vinegar

Here's what to do:
Mix the drained corn and beans, the onions, and the feta cheese. 

Next combine the oil, sugar, and vinegar well. Finally add the oil mixture to the corn mixture. 
Mix well and...
start dippin!

*Note: If you don't like feta cheese, you should probably give it a try in this dip anyway, it takes on such a different flavor. If you just can't fathom using feta cheese, just leave it out, it'll still be yummy.

Happy Football Season!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Funny starring Barbie!

This will certainly "get her to the church on time!"

 Who needs the Barbie Hummer when GI Joe is so willing to lend a tank??

Coming later this week...
A Birthday, A Recipe, & A Beginning

Thanks for reading!!

Friday, August 26, 2011


I wasn't sure I had the energy for it, but one of my friends, on the spur of the moment said, "Hey, it's been forever since we all had a girls' night out, how does tomorrow night look for you?"
Tomorrow night...good?

"I think that'll work," I said aloud with a tiny bit of uncertainty. "I'll check with Darrin and if there's anything going on I'll email you first thing in the morning."

There was, in fact, nothing going on except that voice in my head that pushes me towards laziness. The voice that says, "Do you really think you've got enough energy to carry on conversations and attempt to be the least bit interesting? Don't you need to stay home and get ready for the next day? How will you feed your family AND go out for the evening? Do you REALLY feel like fluffing yourself at the END of the day when what you should be getting ready for is that lovely descent in to your PJs?" THAT VOICE.

THAT VOICE is the enemy to spontaneity and optimism. THAT VOICE that can think of a million reasons not to do something which, often, is the very thing that needs doing. THAT VOICE almost won, but it was the voice that actually passed across my vocal chords this morning and told my friend that I'd be there. My real voice AND that of my Man's which said, "You should go, you've not gotten out in a while."

By the time afternoon was rolling around, I began dreading leaving home for the evening. THAT VOICE was yelling loudly in my head "You're NEVER gonna get dinner cooked in time and if you do, you're gonna smell like garlic when you get there. Did you notice the questionable hair day that you're having, you'll have crooked hair all evening and they'll all think you look odd. Do you have anything clean to wear? You probably should stay home and work on the laundry."

I was just about ready to phone in my absence when my Man came home and helped me finish getting dinner ready and began feeding the kids while instructing me to go work on my hair and get ready to go or I'd be late. "I should stay home and help you," THAT VOICE said, having overtaken my real voice.
"Nope," said he, "you'll have a great time once you get there. Now go get ready."

I listened. He was right. I had a super time. I think most of us (8 or 9 present?) were in similar situations, husbands at home tending to children, (one husband tended to two sets of children...two infants and two TWO year olds...we prayed for him during the blessing!), hoping that we'd arrive home just as the kiddos were tucked snuggly into beds, but in the meantime, we just enjoyed the company of other women who are traveling similar journeys through life. There were no earth-shattering conversations, no sharing of deep inner thoughts, no souls laid bare, we left the world's problems to the world for the evening. It was simply enough to be in a familiar setting with familiar characters (and oh weren't we!!). It was both relaxing and energizing.

Two hours quickly passed and it was time to go home. The clock said that the kids should be getting tucked into bed just as I was to arrive. As I neared the house, I could see that there were night lights on in each of the front bedrooms -- a fabulous sign. However, when I entered the house, I could hear lots of voices. Not a good sign. THAT VOICE screamed, "I told you to stay home, these kids should've been in bed...minutes ago! I bet their teeth aren't even brushed yet! Oh and wait till you see the kitchen..."

I rounded the corner to find my Man on the phone. And then I saw the kitchen, the one I'd left in a mass of supper dishes and pots and pans and salad ingredients and crumbs. It was sparkling. My Man had a dish rag in hand (is there anything more attractive???), one daughter was preparing to vacuum the floor, and another had actually found the surface of my desk which is not an easy task at the fresh start of a school year. "Hi Mom! How was your GNO?" I tossed her a puzzled look. "Your Girls' Night Out! Did you have fun?"

Well how 'bout that! I seem to have been "hip" enough to attend an event worthy of abbreviating AND one that has the word "Girl" in it.  Not to mention a kitchen that hasn't been this clean in weeks, and kids that were happy to have me home, but were just as happy to have me off for a bit with my friends.

It occurs to me that it might be good for the kids to see what adult friendships look like, especially ones that do their mother so much good. This thought had not occurred to me ever before. I'm quick to try to model a healthy relationship with their father in front of them, but to model being friends, I really had never considered it.

Happily, I report that my GNO was so very "worth it." Worth dealing with THAT VOICE all day, worth fluffing, worth delaying pajamas for, worth a crooked hair do, worth the extra energy, which, it turns out not to have taken in the first place. Worth arriving home to kids who were still awake but were happily spending their extra energy making sure my GNO ended with a bang...they cleaned up after me and left me a good night note:
Tomorrow may be a tough one, or it may be super. However it turns out, I'm better equipped for it than I'd have been if I'd listened to THAT VOICE. Because whatever tomorrow tosses at me, I'll have this lovely evening deposited into my memory, I've got my crazy, loud, dear family who loves me, and I've got friends -- some of whom are many kinds of crazy, some who are delightfully loud, and all whom are dear.

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."  ~Albert Schweitzer

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hey!! I Made YOGURT!!

My friends think I've gone a bit overboard. Perhaps I have...but sometimes overboard is a fun place to hang out. It all started when I was listening to a podcast in which a woman mentioned that her family made its own yogurt. Then I remembered seeing a segment on Martha Stewart where a lady "taught" Martha how to make yogurt and I didn't think it looked too involved or complicated. Soooooo I did what all modern home cooks do...I Googled it.

No fewer than 1.5 million hits later, I found an acceptable "Yogurt Primer" on a blog called Keeper of the Home. I decided to give it a go. I grabbed my prairie skirt, donned my bonnet, tied on my apron, followed the recipe, and met with success.

My excitement knew no limits. I've talked way too much about yogurt to my friends (who already suspected that I'm a bit nuts), and to my family (who knew I was nuts long ago), and to my poor hubby (who knows better than to go on record about his wife's nutso condition). And so...to end my yogurt yammerings, I'll pass on my newly acquired knowledge...it's the only cure I'm afraid. Please bare with me.

Here's how I made HOMEMADE Yogurt...

You will need:
  • 4 cups of milk - you can use any kind of milk. I used whole milk for the first batch and am using 1% for this one.
  • 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt with ACTIVE Cultures. (Dannon works well and so does any generic brand)
  • a crock pot 
  • a heavy towel or two
That's it-- no foolin'! Two ingredients. See, it's already easier than you thought, huh? You may wonder why it is necessary to use yogurt to make yogurt. The active yogurt is the starter. You only need 2 tablespoons of active yogurt to make 4 cups of HOMEMADE yogurt. After you have your very OWN yogurt, just reserve as much starter as you need to make your next batch, should you choose to do so.

While there are only two ingredients in homemade yogurt, there are more than a few very easy steps involved in the process.

First, in a medium to large sauce pan, heat the milk to 185 degrees which will be just when the milk begins to come to a full bubble. I like to use my candy thermometer ($10 at most stores like Target or Walmart) for this step.

While waiting for the milk to heat do three things:
  1. plug in your crock pot and turn it on low to preheat,

     2. remove the starter yogurt from the fridge and measure it into a small bowl (like a cereal bowl),

     3. draw cold water into the sink or a large bowl to place your heated milk pan into.

Once the milk has reached 185 degrees,

place a lid on the sauce pan and transfer it into the cold water bath.

Make sure the water cannot get into the milk. Let the milk set until it cools to somewhere between  90-110 degrees. This takes about 10 minutes. Again, you can use the candy thermometer for this, or you can dip a clean finger into the milk. If you burn your finger, it's still too hot. If you don't have to jerk your finger out of the milk, presto...it's ready.

Remove a small amount of cooled milk, about a cup or so, and pour it into the bowl with the yogurt starter and mix well.

Pour BOTH the small bowl and the rest of the cooled milk into your preheated crock pot and stir gently.

Place the lid onto the crock pot and immediately unplug it.

This next step is a smidge odd, but ultra necessary and easy. Cover the crock pot completely with a thick towel or two.

The next step is my favorite one. Walk away for 8-10 hours. If you make this in the evening while you are cleaning up the dinner dishes, this means that you literally go to bed and sleep while the yogurt makes itself, or as we seasoned yogurt makers say, while the yogurt cultures.

When 10 hours or so has elapsed (longer is fine), wake up and tell your fresh yogurt--your HOMEMADE yogurt-- Good Morning!

After the culturing process is complete, set your crock pot (or inner part of the crock pot if yours is the kind with a removable bowl) into the fridge for the yogurt to cool.

Don't jostle it around much if you can help it. Just let it set peacefully. This allows the yogurt to become nicely firm and creamy. Let it cool for at least 4-5 hours or so (the longer the better).

Now, you've got yogurt--HOMEMADE yogurt, I know how excited you must feel! You'll want to dip it out into sealed containers for storing conveniently in your refrigerator. Don't forget to set aside some starter yogurt for the next batch if you're so inclined.

The yogurt-- the HOMEMADE yogurt-- is not sweetened like the flavored yogurts you may be used to. One of the perks of making your own is that you can sweeten it exactly as you wish with sugar, honey, artificial sweetener, or the peach jam you made from the South Carolina peaches you received earlier in the summer.  You can choose whatever fruit you have on hand, or no fruit at all! Other toppings include granola, your favorite dried cereal, wheat germ, the list is endless!

You can make as large of a recipe as you wish. Simply use 1 Tablespoon of active yogurt per 2 cups of milk. Generally the yield of yogurt is equal to the amount of milk you used.

In addition to avoiding all of the additives and preservatives that come in "store bought" yogurt, there is a huge cost savings in making your own. Last week I purchased 1/2 gallon of milk for a pricey $2.62 and the 32 ounce tub of plain generic yogurt for $2.18 of which I used only 28 cents worth which brings my total investment in ingredients to $2.90.

From my investment, I made 64 ounces of yogurt, the equivalent of nearly 11 of the 6 ounce containers sold at the grocery store. Those 6 ounce containers are around $0.60 cents each or $6.60 for 11.  Compare 60 cents per container for brand name yogurt to 26 cents for an equal amount of homemade yogurt and you can see why it's well worth my crock pot's time and a bit of my energy to do this for myself.

One of my favorite reasons to make homemade yogurt is that my kids are fairly impressed that their mom can actually make one of their favorite breakfast/snack foods. They've no clue about the yummy muffins I'm going to make this week using yogurt as an ingredient (stay tuned). They also don't know that there's a future science lesson about how that crock pot "makes" the yogurt!

If you'd like to read even more about yogurt, click here for a link to Dr. Sears' EXCELLENT online article called "10 Reasons Yogurt is a Top Health Food." He highlights many reasons why yogurt is super for all of us, but especially for growing children and for senior adults.

Here's to being more cultured!!

Click here for printable recipe...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why We Take Swimming Lessons

My Grandma has a definite opinion about water. It goes something like this, "DON'T go near the water until you've learned how to swim!" Unfortunately, it just doesn't work very well in that order. Grandma eventually came around to the idea of swimming and even took swimming lessons in her 70th decade and participated in water aerobics well into her 80th!

Swimming lessons have become a looked-forward-to non-negotiable portion of the summer for us.  Our town offers a swwweeetttt deal on swimming lessons. For a mere $5 per child, each child receives two weeks (45 min per day) of lessons given by an experienced group of lifeguards under the management of Mrs. Mary Jo.

Mrs. Mary Jo, mother of three grown kids herself, has been teaching Wright kids to swim for many years now and she's quite good at it.  We look forward to getting reacquainted with her each year as we head to the pool for the first day of lessons.

On day one, each of the big kids gets into the pool for their evaluation and is subsequently assigned to either the 9:00 or the 10:00 class. The better they do-- the earlier the class. I, a lover of my pillow on sunny summer mornings, secretly hope that they will sink like little bricks (just for a minute of course) and qualify for the later class. Usually, however, there is one kid in my gang who refuses to sink.
This one, I like to call her Miss NINE O'Clock...
Her brother was Mr. Nine O'Clock this year, but he was Nine O'Clocking it across town at a strength camp at the YMCA. It was his first year not in lessons with the rest of the kids.

This child...
was Miss TEN o'clock and won The Wright Kids' Award for "Most Improved Fish"!

Molly, may have had the most difficult task this year. 
Lessons for her age group were at 11:00 which meant that she had to wait...

...and wait...

...and wait...

...through two hours of the other girls' lessons before her's began.
The 11:00 class is for three year olds, but Molly participated last year as well. The catch with the little ones' class is that an adult must be in the water with them. I begrudgingly entered icy water last year so that Molly could begin her swimming career AND I also braved the very chilly water a few years earlier when Kate was in the little class and I was EIGHT months pregnant with Molly. The water level of the pool actually rose when I got in!! No kidding.

This year, I made other arrangements.  

Meet Rebekah...

Rebecca, oldest of four children, knew better than to be terribly charmed by Molly and therefore, lessons were quite a success.
(click picture to enlarge...)
Between Rebekah and Mrs. Mary Jo, Molly learned one of the most important lessons taught in the three-year-old class...
close your mouth before jumping into the water.
This lesson would help Molly later in the summer when I (the one who skipped lessons this year) lost my  grip on Molly in a large jet-propelled portion of a pool at the bottom of a water slide. (Cole who was standing nearby scooped her up quickly and the drama was kept to a bare minimum.)

Meg and Kate also learned lots this year...
(again, click to enlarge...)

During the two weeks of lessons, there were mornings when we struggled to get our lazy summer selves out of bed and to the pool by 9:00 am. There were mornings when I tried to convince myself that surely last year's lessons were sufficient to get us through this summer. 

Yet, each morning, we continued to haul our buggies to the pool and get into the turn-your-lips-purple water and each day after lessons were completed we felt pretty accomplished. (AND this was the first year in many that I didn't forget to bring towels for everyone and have to return home to retrieve them...I must be getting good at this mothering thing? Except for that earlier part about dropping my baby into a jet propelled swimming pool...)

During one of our pool excursions a few weeks ago, Kate was waaaaay short of the height requirement for these appealing slides...

There was a way around the little guy with the ruler ...a swim test. Kate had to swim 25 meters across the lap pool without stopping or touching the bottom. If she passed the test, she would be allowed to S-L-I-D-E. Would she make it? Would she have to spend the day watching the "big kids" slide while looking wistfully from the side of the pool? Would she be able to earn that coveted blue wristband which allowed munchkins into the upper realms of the slides? 

 Oh yeah!! (Happily it matched the suit...)
Thank you very much Mrs. Mary Jo!

The rest of the gang had a super day too...

Molly even got to tell the frog to make sure and close his mouth when he got into the water!

Swimming lessons well learned and much appreciated and worth every early morning!

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