Monday, November 28, 2005

I Know You Are. But What Am I?

Here is the insult my six year old son hurled at his three year old sister this morning.

"You're a bucket full of ugly boogers."


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Annual Christmas Photo

Yesterday we attempted to take our annual Christmas photo of the kids. We dress them up, sit them near the tree, and take as many pictures as possible until chaos reigns. It didn't take long for the craziness to take over this year. With three kids, age six, three and 20 months, getting all of them to look at us with their eyes open and a nice smile on their faces was near impossible. Emma insisted on bringing a stuffed teddy bear into the photos, and pouted when I asked to take just a few pictures without the bear. After about ten or so photos, Zoe went running and giggling into the kitchen, whereupon I sent Brendan to chase her down. No sooner had we sat her down with Ian and Emma did she run off again, laughing at us hysterically. There was going to be no more cooperation this morning! So, we ended the photo shoot and I inspected our meager draw of photos. There were a few decent ones with which I was going to have to be happy with. Here are a few of the rejects. You'll have to wait for your Christmas card to see the one that made the final cut!

Friday, November 25, 2005

I Spy With My Little Eye . . .

Here is Emma looking through one of the favorite toys at Grandpa's house.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Three years ago, when I was pregnant with Zoe, Brendan and I went on a weekend getaway to lovely Racine, Wisconsin. It may not sound exciting or fabulous, but it was a great weekend. We stayed at an absolutely amazing bed and breakfast right on Lake Michigan. We had a view of the lake from the window in our room. The food was exceptional and the welcome warm. In my research on Racine, we discovered they are known for a pastry known as Kringle. It is an oval shaped flaky pastry filled with various yummy fillings in flavors like almond, cream cheese, cherry, pecan, raspberry, and various others. After buying one, taking it back to our room and trying it, we were convinced we had to have more! Before we left for home, we stopped at a local bakery called O&H Danish Bakery and picked up three more kringles, two for us and one for my parents who had watched Ian and Emma all weekend.

To make a long story short, last year and this year we've ordered four kringle at Thanksgiving, one for tomorrow, one for Christmas morning, and two for any other time we want. (It costs the same to ship one kringle as it does to ship four, and they freeze amazingly well.) The kids love the stuff, and so do Brendan and I. It is becoming a bit of a tradition as this will be our third Thanksgiving morning to eat kringle.

Here you see Emma and Zoe helping unload the box of kringle after it was delivered. They don't remember it from last year, but I think will be quick converts when they see the white icing on top. Ian was ecstatic when I told him the kringle arrived on Tuesday. He said it best with, "Yay! Kringle!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Funny Conversation of the Day

While laying Emma down for her afternoon nap today I noticed a bad smell.

I said to Emma, "That was a stinky fart."

Her response, "Thank you."

She takes after her father.

Monday, November 21, 2005

New Snack

My new favorite snack are orange flavored dried cranberries. I have the C'raisin kind and they are delicious! They sound weird, but they are great! And if you hate raisins so you think you'd hate these, think again. I can't stand raisins, but these are awesome!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Thanksgiving Recipe

I have never made a turkey, but I do make some mean Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts. Here is a beautifully simple recipe for sweet potatoes. I have gotten many rave reviews and requests for recipes for this dish. Enjoy!

Classic Candied Sweet Potatoes

6 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt

Place whole sweet potatoes in a steamer over a couple inches of boiling water and cover. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Peel and slice sweet potatoes lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Place in 9 x 13 inch dish sprayed with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, brown sugar, water and salt. When the sauce is bubbly and sugar is dissolved, pour over potatoes.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour, occasionally basting the sweet potatoes with the brown sugar sauce. Serve warm.

I don't always cut the potatoes lengthwise, you can cut them the other way, too. So easy and soooo good!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Friendship and Catholicism

I had two of my good friends and their kids over last Friday. We used to all be neighbors, but Jenni moved to Oswego probably 2 or 3 years ago, and Laura moved to Minooka just this past August. We get along great, but we don't usually delve too far into religious or political issues. We talk about our kids, TV shows, our husbands, our ongoing struggle to lose weight or keep it off, the neighborhood and those kind of things. That is, that's what we usually talk about. Until last Friday.

I don't even know why or how we got onto the topic of religion and the Catholic church, but we did. Among the three of us, I am by far the most faithful when it comes to attending mass, participating in activities of the church and giving to the church. Don't think I'm super devout or anything, I'm not yet. But, compared to Jenni and Laura, I am like a nun.

Anyhow, we began discussing the Catholic church and various things about it. Laura was reminded to sign her first grade daughter up for CCD (religious education) by a neighbor who mentioned that her daughter couldn't come over to play that day because she had CCD. Obviously, Laura is not a practicing Catholic. I have always known that about her. She only signed up for the church here in Aurora so she could get her kids baptized. Now, she wants to make sure her daughter gets in CCD so when she is in second grade, she can make her first communion. She had recently called the Catholic church in Minooka and talked to an old priest about joining the parish. At the end of her conversation he mentioned that someone would be calling her soon to set up a home visit. Now she's nervous that whoever comes is going to be making judgments and asking questions about how much they make and how much they intend to give to the church. She was really bothered by this and said she will give what she can, but since they just moved and have a bigger mortgage, they better not expect her to give a certain amount each week. I asked her why, when she herself feels you don't have to attend church to be "spiritual" or right with God, and since she obviously doesn't attend church even on holidays, she wants to make sure her daughter makes her first communion. Her answer, pressure from her mother.

Switch to my friend Jenni, who does attend mass sporadically, but doesn't see it as especially important. She is married to a divorced Catholic man who did not want to get an annullment, so they couldn't get married in the Catholic church. Of course, she thinks that is wrong. When she moved to Oswego and called the church to register, they asked her many questions, one of which was how much money they make. (A little odd to be sure, but I assume she could decline answering.) She was mad that they asked that, since they would give what they could. "But don't ask me to give to the church when we are struggling to pay our bills!" was something she said to me on Friday. She also thinks priests should be able to get married. I'm not sure why she calls herself Catholic when she so obviously doesn't agree with much of the church's teachings.

What really irked me was that they both were so pissed off that the church would expect them to contribute to the Sunday collection and other costs the church incurred. I didn't have a good response for them on Friday. I can't always come up with a good response in a somewhat pressure filled situation. I did tell them the church doesn't get donations like it used to. People have so many things they think they need or they don't think the church is a good place to put their money, and they give little to no money each week. The church has to pay their bills, too.

As I sat and stewed over our conversation this past weekend, I realized they are being extremely selfish. They want the Catholic church to be there to baptize their children, get them through first communion, and later marry and bury their loved ones, but they don't want to take any responsibility for supporting the church. They want the services, but don't want to have to do anything in return for those services. Ironically, the church would never ask for money from people who truly cannot afford to give. They would still minister to their needs without any thought of return. But, to whom much is given, much is expected. These are not people living in tiny ramshackle houses with little to no ability to pay their bills and buy food to eat. They have multiple TV's in thier newly built houses, nice clothes on their backs, and satellite TV feeds that cost upwards of $80 a month. They are people who go out to eat a few times a week. It is about the choices we make as to whether we can give more to the church each week. It is also about sacrifice, a concept that is often ignored in today's society. They want the church to do whatever they need, but they don't want to return to the church what it needs, namely their time, talent and treasure.

I didn't want this post to sound self-righteous. It is only recently that I started giving more to the church, and initially not by my own volition. But as I become more and more involved in my Catholic church, and learn more about the true teachings and beliefs and why they are held, I am finding I want to give, not just time and talent, but also money.

Sleeping In

Alleluia! Not one of my kids got up before 6:30 AM today! Hooray!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I had a very busy week last week and didn't have a chance to post any recipes. (Didn't have much time to post much of anything for that matter!) Anyways, Our Lady of Good Counsel school had parent-teacher conferences last Thursday. Some of the parents decided we should have a small luncheon for them, since they were going to be there all day. We decided on soup, salad, bread, and cookies for dessert. I volunteered to make the soup and made two big batches of pretty much the only two soups I make. I heard the reviews were positive, and I know I love both of these soups. So, chop, simmer and enjoy a hot bowl full of soup tonight!

Vegetable Beef Soup

1 pound beef boneless chuck, tip or round, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 teaspoons instant beef bouillon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 large stalk celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2 cup small pasta shape (like macaroni, ditalini, or alphabet)

Cook and stir beef in oil in 4 quart Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat until brown. Stir in 1 cup water, beef bouillon, salt, marjoram, thyme, seasoned salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until beef is tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in 4 cups water, the carrots, celery, onion, potato and tomato sauce. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Add pasta shapes, cover and simmer for 10 minutes more.

Yield: 5 servings

This soup is great as a leftover when the pasta shapes get all plump with the broth. Definitely stir after you add the pasta a few times, or it will all stick to the bottom of the pot. If you like other vegetables in your soup, add them!

Soup #2

This is the second soup I made for the teachers. It is a cream soup that is thick and flavorful. It will really warm you up and fill your tummy on a cold day.

Potato - Leek Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 large leeks, well washed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
3/4 cup milk or cream

Place the olive oil in a large saucepan. Turn heat to medium. When oil is hot, add potatoes and leeks. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring for 2 or 3 minutes.

Boil the water and add bouillon, stirring to combine. Add bouillon water to pan and cook until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Put soup into blender and add milk or cream. Puree until smooth. Reheat. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

This is the soup to make when you don't have a lot of time to make soup! I was told by the luncheon organizer that this soup got lots of raves. If you don't have leeks, you can substitute 3 carrots, peeled and chopped.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I'm A Winner!

I got a call today from our Market Day coordinator, Jane, and she told me that I won a free pie! November is pie month, and the more pies the school sells, the more money per pie the school can make. I prefer homemade fruit pies, but the cheesecakes and French Silk pies Market Day produces are awesome. So, I put in my internet order for a chocolate silk pie and various other food items, and my name was pulled to get a free pie! I chose the Andes Chocolate Mint Layer Pie. Mmmmmmmm, I can't wait to try it!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Happy Birthdays!

My husband's birthday was this past Sunday, and we had a small celebration to commemmorate the event. He turned 33, and for 54 days, I get to be a whole year younger than him if asked. The kids and I got up early and let him sleep in, then made some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and brought them up to Brendan in bed. The kids get a real kick out of this, and were excited to share the cinnamon rolls with their Dad. After consuming our cinnamony goodness on a plate, we waited until going to my mother-in-law's house for dinner to pass out presents.

Patti, my mom-in-law, made a yummy turkey dinner with my favorite barbecue green beans and hand smashed potatoes, with the beans and potatoes straight from her garden. After dinner Brendan opened his presents and then we had cake. I made his favorite, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I attempted to make a Darth Vader likeness on the top of the cake with mixed success. It looked like Vader, but was pretty simplistic. I might have done a better job if I'd have had more time to create and plan for a Darth Vader cake. The kids added a Batman, Lumiere (from Beauty and the Beast) and plastic balloons from Nana's special cake decorating stash. By the time the candles were added, the cake was quite festive. It was a fun day. I hope Brendan enjoyed it.

Yesterday (Monday) was my mom's birthday. She was out to our place in October when we celebrated her and my Dad's birthdays. I gave her a quick birthday call to see how her day was going. As usual, my parents went all out and my Dad got my Mom a Magic Bullet Blender for her birthday. They're very sentimental, really.

Busy Week

Wow! This is one of those weeks where I just have way to much to do, or at least it seems that way, but instead of getting it done so the stress levels can be reduced, I'm blogging (or watching the last 20 minutes of The Amazing Race and Law and Order S.V.U. at the same time). I didn't even have time to get to K-Mart to get the special toy of the day, Darth Tater, half price only today. Bummer.

Friday, November 04, 2005

On Crying

I have always been an emotional person. I cry when I'm happy, I cry when I'm sad, I cry when I'm scared, I cry when I'm mad. You get the picture, right?

Lately, I've been hit with the crying (or at least choking up) bug at really odd times. Is it a getting older thing? I took Ian, my six year old son, to swim lessons last Saturday. I stood peering through the glass at him while he sat on the edge of the pool with the other kids in his class and my eyes filled with tears. He just looked so little among the other kids, and that is not something I'm used to feeling about my oldest child. The funny thing is, he wasn't the smallest kid in his class by a long stretch. And in our house, he's the oldest, the big brother. I often see him with his little sisters, so I think of him as a "big kid." But here he was, nervous and excited about starting a new class, and all I could see was my little boy, still a little boy, not a big boy like I usually think. It struck me right in the heart. My eyes were filled with tears for the big boy I forgot was still little. In the daily grind and the responsiblities of turning our kids into productive and useful citizens, I forgot my boy was just a six year old, vulnerable, funny, loving, sweet.

A similar thing happened to me last week when I was driving from somewhere to somewhere else. I just completely choked up thinking about my husband, about how I don't know what I'd do without him. About how long we've been together and how much our lives have changed. About how I love him so much that my heart actually aches sometimes.

I don't know if this is a getting older thing, just a Heather thing, or maybe God's way of reminding me I am so amazingly blessed. It's probably a little of each.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Coupon Save-O-Rama Mama

I was going to wait until the end of the year to write about my coupon savings plan, but I had an incredible month in October and just had to share the news. I've always been a coupon clipper, but I also was very sporadic about it. Some weeks I'd cut them and remember to bring them to the store, but most weeks I just didn't get to it. In mid-August I decided in earnest that I needed to clip and use coupons regularly. As an incentive to help me keep up with the cutting and organizing, I started writing down in a (Scooby Doo) notebook the exact amount I saved everytime I went to a store and used a coupon. This tactic really helped because as I'd see the amount I saved get bigger and bigger, I wanted to save more and more.

My rule for coupons is that any coupons I had to cut out count, but the coupons stuck to the milk because it is expiring in two days don't count. Those are just bonuses. The same goes for "clipless" coupons, or sale prices on items at stores. They don't count towards my total. I also didn't count my Entertainment Book savings, because although I had to cut those coupons out, I had to pay for the book initially (it was a good investment, I saved at least $38 after re-couping my $20 investment). But anything else, if it came in the mail, a magazine, or in the newspaper was fair game.

My October total of money saved was $76.05! Never did I ever expect to save so much in one month! And I don't use coupons on anything just to use them. I use them on the things I always buy, and occasionally to try something new. I doubt I'll equal this month anytime soon, I saved $16 just at the new CVS, using special grand opening coupons that were only good there. But, people who say coupon cutting isn't worth it aren't shopping at the same places I am. Since August 18 my year to date coupon savings are $134.70. Pretty impressive. I think Brendan, the kids and I are going to do something fun with that money.

Ways To Stay Humble

My six year old son was watching me as I put deodorant on this morning. He patted my pudgy belly and said,"I might think you're having a baby with this belly." Ahhhhhhh, kids.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New Recipes

Wow! I have been really bad about adding recipes to the blog lately! I had planned on having an apple recipe for every week of October. I didn't get it done, so I'll add my two other apple recipes now!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons applesauce
1 medium tart apple, peeled and grated

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts

In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, oil, and applesauce. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apple.

Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups two-thirds full. For topping, combine brown sugar and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in oats and nuts, Sprinkle over muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 muffins

This recipe is delicious! If you don't like nuts, omit them. They are good that way, too.

Another Apple Recipe

This is great for game days, as an hors d'oevres, or just a snack!

Apple Brickle Dip

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 package English toffee bits (brickle chips)
3 medium tart apples, cut into chunks or slices

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugars, and vanilla. Fold in toffee bits. Serve with apples. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Yield: 2 cups

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Roundup

Halloween was fun! The kids anticipate it all month long, and it was all Ian and Emma could do to wait until 5:00 when they were going to get to go trick or treating. We started getting kids at 4:00, and Ian and Emma were eager to help pass out candy. Zoe went running in the other direction everytime the doorbell rang. She wanted nothing to do with the costumed people at her door.

After getting a waffle into each kid around 4:45, they suited up. Ian was Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith (must use the complete name!). Emma was Cinderella and Zoe a pumpkin. I took the kids out on our street and by the time we got back to our house, Zoe was saying "Twee Twee" and holding out her bag for treats. It was so cute. Emma repeated "Trick or Treat" over and over again until the person came to the door. It was funny seeing her anticipation and excitement at each house, wondering what she was going to get. When we got back to our house, the kids wanted their Dad to go out with them, so I stayed home and passed out candy to the hundreds of kids (and adults) that came to our house. I estimate we had about 300 trick-or-treaters, a pretty usual year for us.