Thursday, November 29, 2012

In Which I Almost Let Down UPS...

"Oh," said the new-to-us UPS lady, when I answered the door, "I was told that..." her voice fell away, uncertain.

"They told you a child would answer the door?" I guessed.

"YES!" said she sort of leaning to peek over my shoulder into the house.

"The children are eating lunch right now and today, for the first time in months I've gotten to the door ahead of them." I explained with no small bit of pride.

Unimpressed and visibly disappointed, she handed me the electronic clip board and said, "I was hoping to meet Kate."

Baffled that she knew Kate's name and unused to signing for deliveries, I had taken hold of the clipboard in error and was attempting to sign the little window upside-down.

"Here," said the UPS lady, turning the gadget around in my hands, "you've got it wrong...Kate would have known that I bet."

"I'm sure she would have," said I chuckling and a little shocked that Kate seemed to be such a rock star down at the local UPS warehouse. Taking the package from her hands, I thanked the lady and promised to send Kate to the door to accept our next delivery.

Then, remembering all of the times the patient UPS delivery folks let Kate practice writing her four-letter name on their clipboards through the years as they delivered book after book to our home, I yelled for Kate...

"Kate, please lean out the front door and tell the new UPS lady that you are Kate and tell her to have a nice afternoon." With that, my child, who will not be lost in the crowd that is our family, whizzed past me, eager to make a new friend.  I stood watching out the window as the brown-clad lady outside grinned brightly and waved heartily at my famous-at-the-warehouse daughter.

Yep, I thought, that's logistics!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Alfredo for Us All!

{This is not the POPCORN recipe that I hinted about a few posts ago, but I'm certain that this is a meal you will need in your repertoire as we journey head-long into December's bustle. It's one of my family's favorite, fast, we-really-need-to-go-to-the-grocery-but-there's-enough-here-to-make-fettucini-alfredo meals. The promised popcorn recipe will appear later this week...if I don't get stuck in a laundry pile or get drawn ever further into my latest read or break an ankle dancing to Jingle Bell Rock.}

Alfredo. It's the glue that holds this family together...well, if your talkin' food, anyway. Fettucini Alfredo, though a classic dinner in many homes, was new to me until, as a college student, I visited the Olive Garden for the very first time!

I was with a group of girls from my dorm when we made a road trip to the next town to celebrate something or other and it was then that I discovered Fettucini Alfredo. Many more times in my young adult life, I would enjoy this lovely, comforting dish whether in nice Italian restaurants, or from the just-add-water Lipton package.

One day I found myself seated across the table from a young man one evening at the Olive Garden who ordered none other than Fettucini Alfredo for himself! My heart had already been atwitter because of this fellow and now, we had fettucini in common too. Bliss.

A year later we celebrated our engagement over similar plates of Alfredo and breadsticks, and a year after that we enjoyed our favorite pasta on our honeymoon. We've since celebrated many occasions, new jobs, new automobiles, successful seminary exams, in the same manner.

It has been over 20 years since my Man and I began our fettucini Alfredo celebrations at The Olive Garden. It remains our restaurant and we can still be found faithfully celebrating our wedding anniversary each year at a table for two in our local Olive Garden. It is a rare occasion that we celebrate with our entire gang, however, because we've discovered that a table for six tends to lose some of the romance and charm that we've grown to expect from our restaurant over the years.

Still, our gang of four is as fond of the creamy sauce and pasta as we are, so after many, many, many attempts to replicate the Olive Garden's Alfredo sauce, we've finally settled on a contender.

{If you are interested in the sauce that the Olive Garden shares on its website, click here. We liked it well enough but it lacked the taste of the original AND we felt it too rich for our regular consumption...6 egg yolks and almost a pint of heavy cream for 4 servings!!! Yikes!}

Here's what you'll need for our Alfredo For Us All Sauce:
{Printable version here...}
1/2 stick (1/4 c butter)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese (I've just begun using the real thing, the kind in the green container will do in a pinch though.
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (dry from jar will work too)
pasta of your choice over which to serve your Alfredo sauce

Here's what you do...

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a sauce pan.

After butter melts, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup milk (or if you feel naughty use a whole cup of heavy cream, if you don't you can also use a whole cup of regular milk...just judge for yourself--you know what kind of mood you're in, I'm just here to let you know you've got options!!)

Let the milk/cream/butter mixture simmer for 3-5 minutes, but BABYSIT it, we don't want any scorched milk/cream/butter!

While you're babysitting the sauce pan, grate 1 1/2 cups of parmesan cheese...
{which always makes me think of Everybody Loves Raymond...}

...of course, you won't need as much as Robert up there! Just a healthy cup and a half...

When the milk/cream/butter has simmered, turn down the heat and add one clove of crushed garlic {if you prefer to use the minced garlic instead of a clove, use 1/2 teaspoon}.

Add the shredded parmesan....

and a pinch of nutmeg.

Taste to see if you need to add salt and or pepper and add accordingly. Stir to combine and let sauce remain over the heat for just a minute or two more to get good and hot. Finally, spoon over your pasta making sure not to serve anyone the garlic cloves.

Easier than you thought I'll bet. Tonight we went full-tilt on the cheese and served our Alfredo sauce over cheese ravioli from Sam's Club's freezer section.

Of course, if you like, you can add a bit more Parmesan to serve especially if you've got your own personal cheese grater!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh Thank You...

Divine Mercies
{a Puritan prayer of Thankfulness}

Thou Eternal God,

Thine is surpassing greatness, unspeakable goodness, super-abundant grace;
I can as soon count the sands of ocean’s ‘lip’ as number Thy favours towards me;

I know but a part - but that part exceeds all praise.

I thank Thee for personal mercies, 

a measure of health, preservation of body, 

comforts of house and home, 

sufficiency of food and clothing, 

continuance of mental powers, 

my family, their mutual help and support, 

the delights of domestic harmony and peace, 

the seats now filled that might have been vacant, 

my country, church, Bible, faith.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Popcorn 101 ... Old School

"Mom! What's that smell? It smells familiar but I don't remember what it smells like? What are you cooking in here?"

It was Kate, our constant blood hound, on the scent yet again. What she was smelling was popcorn and her inability to place the scent made me feel a little guilty for not having made such a simple favorite in such a very long time. Inspired by a unique recipe in a new cookbook, I'd just finished a batch and told her that is was off limits but that more was forthcoming. I promised.

I like popping corn on the stove top for a few reasons, the first being that we don't own a popcorn popper, the second reason is that buying popcorn kernels instead of microwave popcorn is much less expensive than microwave popcorn and much healthier. The final reason for my stovetop prep is that microwave popcorn is not a favorite of mine -- too much salt or flavor or something. The kids, however, love the microwave stuff and enjoy it as a special treat on babysitter nights which works out perfectly for us all!

Have you ever made popcorn on the stove top? It's so easy.
{Printable Here}

You'll need a thick bottomed pot or pan with a lid (lid part is important!). I use my soup pot.

Pour canola oil (or other vegetable oil) into the pot just barely covering the bottom.

Turn on the heat to high-ish (I set my dial between 8 and 9).

Toss 2 or 3 kernels into the pot, and listen for them to pop. Now you know the oil is hot enough to pop your corn.

Place desired amount of popcorn 
(enough to cover the bottom of the pan plus a little bit more or less as you need) 
in the pot and cover with the lid.

Grasp pot handle(s) with your hands and shake constantly over the burner until popping stops. This could take up to 5 minutes, but keep a good ear as it really depends upon the amount of popcorn you used.
The cloudy lid pictured above is caused by the kernels popping up against the steamy lid.
When popping stops, remove pot from heat 

and add salt 

and melted butter if desired. 

We also enjoy adding parmesan cheese to our popcorn for a bit more sophistication sometimes!
Stir your add ins into the popcorn to evenly distribute and then pour finished product into a serving bowl (s) leaving unpopped kernels in the pan to throw away.

There ya have it. 

You control the salt, butter, and oil and you don't have to worry about all of the other pesky ingredients listed on the microwave variety either! Now all you need is a good movie and a few napkins! Have fun!
(Rumor has it that there is a recipe coming soon which involves making this popcorn as the first step...stay tuned!) UPDATE: click here for recipe!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Take My Breath Away

The thermometer read twenty-eight degrees when I opened my eyes. It was exercise day and after two indoor sessions on the tread mill last week, I was determined to get back outside and hit the pavement. My Man ran in the cold yesterday morning and has been at it for years, so I sought his wisdom as I dressed.

"Will these fleece pants be ok or should I add another layer beneath?"

"You'll be fine with one layer, your legs won't get as cold as the rest of you."

"Three layers on top?"

"Yea, that should be fine."



"What do I do so that all of that cold air doesn't hurt my lungs?"

"Don't breath in as much."


"It'll get better after the first mile. There's not much else you can do," said my grinning Man.

I survived. Warm enough and victorious in my own mind ready to take on the rest of the awaiting day.

"The trouble with jogging is that by the time you realize you're not in shape for it, 
it's too far to walk back." 
~Franklin Jones~

Monday, November 12, 2012

My First BFF

  • She tutored me in math through college. 
  • She was my college roommate too, which may have been even more difficult than being my Calculus tutor.
  • She was a constant source of Cherry Coke money at the Seven Eleven.
  • She was victim more than once to my parking ticket infractions in our college town.
  • She is even now the source of my dining room curtains and our bathroom curtains. 
  • My babies have been wrapped in blankets she has knitted.
  • She reads MUCH more than I do AND she remembers EVERY word!
  • The birthday cakes she makes are nothing less than amazing.
  • Kinda like she is...
Even though she is the younger, she sorta took me under her wing when I transferred to the University where she was a freshman. She continued to keep me in her care until she transferred responsibility of me to my Man when we married (don't ya bet THAT was a relief!). To mark that occasion, she gave me a key holder (she spent 3 years helping me find mine) with a thoughtful note on the back...which remains almost 18 years later.

Happy Birthday to my sister, friend, teacher, and ever present voice of common sense, enjoy this last year of your thirties...I've got 40 all warmed up for ya!

My sister taught me everything I really need to know, 
and she was only in sixth grade at the time.  
~Linda Sunshine

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Better Promises

I reached, this disheveled morning, for a book which has become a friend to me and read a line that brightened my dimmed spirits. Darkness was the topic of the paragraph before and more particularly our fear of it and what to do to combat it...

...we rush around trying to light candles. Some are real: books are candles for me; so is music; so is friendship.

This morning my candles involve things familiar because the unknown hovers heavy. I went to sleep late last night comforting myself with thoughts of anything tried and true, old and reliable. Things that whispered promises of steadiness: cereal, laundry, sleepy children, old books, banana bread, flannel. I turned to an amusing book of essays and read, grinning, until sleep eventually took me away from the reality that would greet me when I awoke.

Waking, I still crave that which will be gentle to my skittish soul. If it had been laundered, I'd have chosen to wear a comfy gray shirt. Though made exactly like the green one I donned, the gray shirt just because it is gray is softer, soothing. My heavy coffee cup greeted me in the kitchen like an old friend on a cold morning and the smell of coffee brewing helped to shore up my resolve not to wallow.

Drama, on days like today, is an understandable fallback position as is looming fear, but I don't want either to be mine. I don't want to be one of those who scream with vitriolic bitterness, though perhaps that would provide temporary relief. I'm attempting instead, to walk determinately, if softly, in the other direction because today my hope has a headache and my reality suffers indigestion. Just for today I'll live in this bubble where I don't feel like a foreigner in my homeland, or like one who suddenly discovers that the joke is on her.

A friend predicted that the sun would still come out today and it did, so there's that. I'm fairly certain that it'll come out again tomorrow when I'll be stepping out of my bubble and into the murky future with all that it is sure to hold and it will be better than yesterday which kind of felt like a child's Christmas morning where all of the expected gifts were instead lists of chores to be done.

In the dimness of this morning I also grabbed hold of the surest, steadiest thing I know, the Word which  said,
"but now Jesus our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for He is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises." Hebrews 8:6
A better covenant based upon better promises and not just any old covenant and not from man. God has better promises for us and when my bruised psyche heals a little and my bleary eyes clear a bit I'll revel in those better promises and I'll place my hope in that far better covenant because nothing less than that is worthy of my hope anyway.

Until then, there's chili for lunch, warm towels in the dryer, and a little girl (who last night dreamt of snakes in her bed) napping soundly on her daddy's pillow.

*The line quoted above is from the book A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'Engle.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Old Mom, New Mom

I sat in a different pew this morning in church. My two little girls seemed especially squirrely and they were just beyond my reach. There was no pew quickly available to me, late arriving, to fit into with the girls and they were already tucked in beside of their favorite pew buddies. My goal was to sit as near to them as possible so as to administer the "big eyes" as was sure to be necessary.

I landed, after two attempts, in a pew across the aisle from my wiggly gals and their keeper and a few pews behind a small group of mammas who were actively juggling their young children. These young moms probably didn't realize that they were seated in such close proximity to one another because each one was seated among her own family members tending to them as moms are want to do.

At different moments during the service one young lady or other would capture my attention as she participated in worship. I wondered, as I observed from my perch behind them, if each knew what a fine job she was doing. I wondered if each of them knew that she was, at that very moment, fulfilling her calling, the one only she can fulfill...mamma to those precious, wiggly, beautiful, potential-filled gifts from God.

I remember in the early days as a parent, when it was me sitting there in that pew worried that my children would disrupt or call attention to themselves, or cry causing everyone to look my way...then it dawned on me that I was operating under that exact worry even now as I sat in my different pew shooting furtive glances across the aisle at my own farmed-out children.

I also remember that in those early days the mere act of getting to church fully dressed with the children also fully dressed, was huge! It took two fairly sleep-deprived, college-educated adults over two solid hours to get two small children ready and into the car on any given Sunday morning.  One would think that after such an achievement I'd arrive in my pew triumphant.

Not so.

Not ALL.

When I finally collapsed into my pew in those days, I'd begin to beat myself up a bit, the internal dialogue louder in my ears than the praise music, "You are a young healthy woman, what is so wrong with you that it was so difficult to get to church this morning?"

Then, I'd look around at my friends, also young mothers, who were sitting peacefully, or so it would appear, in the choir and in the pews around me. Their hair looked clean, their teeth looked brushed, they were all dressed so stylishly and their clothes fit their trimmer-than-mine bodies beautifully. Not one of them smelled of the spit up that was beginning to warm and ferment on my shoulder.

After all of the effort it took to reach my place in the pew, I was less than thrilled to be there for a while during those early years. Eventually, it got easier. Eventually I learned...eventually. I learned that this being a mamma job was NOT an easy job. It was the absolute most difficult task I'd ever been given and it was NOT easy day in and day out. I'm not sure why I'd expected it to be but those expectations were as unrealistic as my perception of my peers.

So today, as I sat in the pew watching the young mammas at work, I just wondered if they knew that their job is hard ESPECIALLY when they are doing it well. I wonder if they feel alone in their tasks sometimes, like I did. I wonder if they think that everyone ELSE has it all together and that they are the only ones who don't.

As a young mom, I knew when I got to my pew on Sunday that I had worked hard, very hard, but now, as an old mom I know WHY it was such a chore...SUNDAY MORNINGS ARE HARD WORK not because I am messed up or incapable or because I have something wrong with me but because SUNDAY MORNINGS ARE HARD WORK (just like Monday mornings and Tuesday mornings...). They are hard work for everyone and whether they look all fluffed and lovely or not, 98% of my peers have worked like crazy people to get to church just like I have.

Frankly, it's only out of sheer effort of restraint that when I arrive at church these days that I don't take a running, hooting, hollering victory lap of celebration around the sanctuary. Such accomplishments really should be celebrated. Next Sunday, do you think it would be appropriate for me to take a lap round the room to give all of the young mammas a high five during the greeting time? 

They deserve at least that!

"He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in His bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young." 
Isaiah 40:11

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