Monday, November 30, 2009

International Christmas

Sarah has always loved watching people speaking in different languages. And she loves to imitate them.

When she was three years old, she was in a singing group. At the start of the season, they got to try-out for a solo part. I started playing songs from the CD they gave us 'Christmas Around the World'. Luckily most songs were American--'Up on the Housetop', 'Sleigh Ride', 'What Child is This?' and I worked tirelessly with her...but she showed little interest. Then I was searching through the tunes and 'Mele Kalikimaka' started (you know...'Mele Kalimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day'). She sang it almost right away, again and again.

On the day of try-outs, my little three year competed with kids double her age to solo that particular song. I waited nervously outside wondering how she did. Her leader came out and told me she really sang up there in front of everyone. I smiled, not knowing if she was just being nice or if my very shy Sarah belted out the tune.

Two days later, I got word that she would SOLO that song for the troop for the entire Christmas season. And yes, she sang it everywhere!

I thought it might just be the tune but then noticed she favored all the songs in anything but English.

Fast forward to this year. She finally gets to study a language (beside English), Latin. It is officially her favorite course. And for Christmas, they are learning different songs. Almost all of course in English but one, 'Panis Angelicus'. I cannot even pronounce the title, much less sing the lyrics. But Sarah, Sarah has managed to sing every word flawlessly.

And she loves to sing it over and over again.

I may need to introduce her to 'Petit Papa Noel' for some variety.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

For Your Viewing Pleasure--The Christmas Story as told by Muppets

One of my very favorite Christmas shows is "John Denver and the Muppets--A Christmas Together". I have two copies of the CD plus the music is downloaded to my iphone. I tried for years to get the video. Last year, my sister found a copy and sent it to me.

And tonight I found one of my very favorite scenes from the TV show. The scene that actually tells you what Christmas is all about.

Enjoy and welcome the Christmas season with this quick clip!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Overheard on Thanksgiving

"Can I just have one, two, three marshmallows?" Sarah when helping with the baked yams.

"Maybe the parade is a little better in person." Miley after watching the fourth interview of the latest NBC 'star'.

"Has the parade gotten bad or is it my memory?" Me watching the parade.

"There's a little boy running down the street" Random neighbor who walked into house to alert us Spanky had walked out the front door and taken off.

"There's too much food on this day." Dino seated at the table staring at the numerous gluten-free dishes.

"I still have more blessings." Spanky after saying his three blessings (we base blessings we say on age).

"I know what I'm getting you for Christmas, a shrink!" Husband to me after spending the whole day with us!

Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Praise God for all His blessings!

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Favorite Things

Unless you've been under a rock, you know Oprah will be ending her show in 2011 and this brings the big question---what will you know to buy without the Favorite Things List?

I am here to help! Below I am listing gifts your friends and family will love just like Oprah, and with a budget in mind, not like Oprah :) (oh and I don't get paid or free samples from the mentioned products so you know my thoughts are real!)

For the Cook:

This is Jamie Oliver's newest book and like all the rest, amazing!

Yes, this does have a big price tag and is therefore a very special gift but I promise this cookware investment is worth every penny. I have had 9 pieces in the collection for over 9 years and they are still as good as new. They cannot be beat when it comes to browning, poaching, simmering---they will make you want to cook!

For the Fashionista:

This is such a fun store! Every section is divided by color. Clothes, shoes, purses and of course jewelry are perfectly matched and ready to take home. And the prices let you get completely different sets without breaking the bank!

I am a big fan on Michael Stars tees--they can dress up the blandest jeans for a hot date yet are cozy enough to wear from pre-school drop off, to coffee with friends, to the park and everywhere in between! I am loving this new tunic. I am betting it would go great with long strand necklace from Charming Charlie's!

For the Fitness Buff:

Picture Wii Fit on steroids! This is loaded with games to keep you and the whole family fit on those cold winter nights! Much better than just crashing in front of the TV with a bow of chips!

I have mentioned this before. if you have dreams of running a 5k or even a marathon one day, this is a great place to get started! You will be a success with this one!

For the Music Lover:

I have a ton of Christmas music and this is by far the best CD of all of them! Not only do you get the fun Christmas tunes like "Here Comes Santa Claus", you also get the religious "Peace in the Valley" and the bluesy "Santa Claus is Back in Town". Buy this CD--I promise you will not regret it. No one does Christmas like the king!

For the Gadget Lover:

This is truly the gift of peace and quiet. On the pricey side, this is a gift the receiver will cherish along with be amazed at how easy it is to take a mental break from the rest of the world!

For the Young at Heart:

This movie was dedicated to the young at heart and still speaks to us 70 years later. Digitally remastered, this movie will take you back to a more simple time. When good and evil was clear and home was the best place on earth!

For the Teacher:

I love buying these boxes of 'cake' bread for my kids' teachers. Inexpensive yet yummy and unique. Give the bread with a print out of recipe in a fancy font. Teachers will love it!

And there you have it a few of my favorite things!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Encountering Angels

I firmly believe God places angels around us from time to time, and if they aren't angels in the whole 'eternal' sense, He fills some of our hearts with such joy and love, they may as well as be in that moment.

I will never forget my encounter when my third child, Dino, was a mere 10 months old. I had dropped the girls off at pre-school and first grade. I was tired and needed a break. Sadly items like milk, turkey and bread were more needed than my break that day. So I spent my precious time to 'relax' in our favorite grocery store (and still is if you can believe that ;) ).

Dino was in the cart strapped to his fancy cart cover I found on Ebay and he began to cry. He wanted to be helped, nursed and loved. I just wanted to get out of the grocery store.

Quickly he decided to distract himself with items in the cart. One of these items was the peppers inside the plastic bag.

Scurrying between aisles, grabbing the items from the list, Dino continued playing with the bag. I didn't know how long the bliss would last so I rushed.

An older woman stopped my cart and began to shake her finger at me saying my son should not be playing with a plastic produce bag.

"You know what, "I snapped bag. "At this moment, I really don't care. I have exactly 40 minutes to pick up my two daughters and this keeps him quiet."

She gave me a look of pity and I started to cry, really cry.

"I am so tired, "I sobbed. "He won't sleep. I have so much to take care of. I do love him and I don't want him to get hurt. I am just tired."

She put her cart to the side and hugged me. She began talking with Dino and then suggested we walk over to the bakery case and get him a roll. She found a big tough Kaiser roll and gave it to him. The plastic bag was gone and he was happily gumming a giant roll.

I thanked her and apologized for being so terrible earlier.

She hugged me again and told me she completely understood.

She explained, "Helping you just made my day. I just came back from doctor's and my cancer has spread. They are giving me 3 months."

My world froze when she said this. I didn't know what to say. She was dealing with the most tragic news a person can get and I here I was whining about my lack of sleep.

I hugged her and told her how sorry I was. She told me she was unafraid and eager to meet the Lord.

We soon parted ways but our chance meeting made a huge impact on my life.

The rest of the day I savored every scream, whine, fight and traffic jam. It was life and I was honored to be involved.

I never saw my friend again, even though I tried looking for her every time I shopped.

She has also made my grocery shopping sane, if not fun. The second I get in the store, even the kids know, we head straight for the bakery for a roll or baked treat of their choice. And every time they pick something, I smile and remember the lady who put everything into perspective.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Gluten Free Thanksgiving for All

I have always loved Thanksgiving. I love switching out dishes, trying new things. Thanksgiving is usually just as all family lives somewhere else and our girls are usually in 'The Nutcracker'.

This year, I am facing the issue of gluten. Gluten is in so many of my Thanksgiving favorites---the stuffing, the rolls, the gravy, the desserts. But the good news is many of the big dishes can get away with none--thankfully turkey is not usually wrapped in bread!

I have been scouring the internet looking for just the right recipe. I have decided to forgo the traditional 'pie' dessert and switch to creme brulee--simple, easy delicious and already gluten free!

I am also doing most of my favorites that I have put on my website, But many are still puzzling me. I usually do 'trial runs' of my dishes but to be honest gluten free bread crumbs are so expensive I don't think that will be happening. I did read of one blogger who uses toasted gluten free waffles for the stuffing but I am not sure still. It sounds interesting but I just don't want to chance it. I purchased some gluten free croutons from Whole Foods and noticed they had a stuffing recipe. Because I have had great luck with their recipes, I am going to give it a go :)

Anyway, here is my gluten free Thanksgiving menu.


Baked brie with a cranberry chutney (served with gluten free crackers)


Spinach salad with dried cranberries and walnuts (no dressing)

Main Meal:

Sauteed brocollini with garlic slices

Creme brulee

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Possible Clarity

Thank you so much for your kind words the other day on my last post. I know your prayers helped us!

I am not sure exactly what direction God wants us to go right now. My feeling is He wants us to work harder, to persevere (oddly, my daily bible title for the day after I wrote my post!). We are very happy with kids' present school situation. We love the school and also love getting to have them home for the homeschool days.

Mike and I are working with the children to create some real goals. We are talking with other parents, many of whom with the same issues, and setting up 'study' groups. And of course we are praying, a lot!

I wish I could just know what the future is, to know God's plan but then where what would be the fun in that? ;)

So for now, the word is 'persevere' and meet our challenges with hope and joy.

I hope you all have an amazing weekend. I am off to start trying recipes for our very first gluten free Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bending to the Wind

Tree branches, and even big tree trunks, tend to bend when faced with large gusts. The ones that are too old and rigid refuse to budge and end up breaking in half.

I am near a breaking point.

As I have mentioned a couple of times, my children go to a half-homeschool Christian school. They have classes two days a week, study at home two days a week and have electives one day a week. On the days home, work is planned by the teachers and we are there to carry out reviews, studies and projects.

I have always enjoyed it but this year has been a challenge.

The earlier years at the school, basics are pushed and pushed and pushed. I honestly think the school is slower than other schools because they just keep engraining the basics over and over and over again. Slowly, the studies pick up and this year Miley is in sixth grade doing the material most high school freshman are tackling.

She has a math book three courses above her grade level, a history and geography book I personally need to read twice just to understand, literature that includes King Arthur and Homer, Latin, and for bible, 'Pilgrim's Progress'.

It's not easy and she's not doing well, at all.

Yesterday, we worked for 10 solid hours, not including the work she did over the weekend. I'm still not sure we did a 'satisfactory' job. By 8 pm, I was about to just do the King Arthur questions for her but forgot why Sir Gareth was good and which examples from text to site.

Now if I just had Miley, I'd be OK. It would be very hectic, but we'd live.

But I have Sarah. Sarah is just starting to face to the tougher grades. She needs my help, desperately but I am trying to figure out just how oceanic and continental crust converge. Her grades are suffering too.

Then there's Dino. Dino is in the pre-k. Basics, basics, basics. Not too intense but he has some learning issues and getting him to put numbers in order from 1-10 is still a challenge. He really needs me.

Let's not forget Spanky. Spanky the busy, busy, happy, loud boy who wants to play and find anyway for us to drop what we are doing and laugh at his antics. My wild thing needs me too.

So what is a mom to do? We can't go on this path anymore. I have been talking with full-time home school moms asking for tips, and I have gotten a ton. The obvious tip is slow down but we can't do that because I don't make the schedule. Next tip, get up with Miley around 5:30 am so you can work with her in peace and then focus on the others during the day. Early morning is my God time and my exercising. Late night is when I spend time with my husband and relax. Work some after school and one weekends? I would do that if we weren't so booked with theater, ballet and music. Find ways to keep the younger ones busy with special games. Hmmmm...Spanky's favorite game when no one is around is 'empty the pantry, drawer or whatever happens to be open'.

I'm not sure what I am going to do. I know God is pushing us to make some sort of change. A more strict schedule the kids have to respect completely (even Spanky). A switch to complete homeschool so we can actually slow down (however I could lose my mind). Get up with Miley and find a new time to exercise or work with Miley at night and give up time with Mike. Dumping the extra activities so we would spend every waking minute on school (and driving the girls nuts). Spend a ton of money on crafts and new toys to keep little ones busy.

I don't know. I just pray for an answer soon!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dining Out Gluten Free

One of the hardest things about not having a very common food allowed in your diet is the all popular past time, dining out.

I panicked at first wondering where the heck we would go--do you know how many sauces are thickened with flour? And asking a waitress if something had gluten in it? Most chefs can't answer as gluten is in some of the oddest spots.

I did what just about everyone does--googled "gluten free and dining out". I was shocked at just how many gluten free spots there are out there!

I found a gluten free restaurant awareness site that listed many spots, I found a site that listed popular chains (did you know PF Changs has its own gluten free menu or that Olive Garden now has gluten free pasta available?), and then the best luck of all--a local pizza place near me has a gluten free option!

So it turns out dining out and avoiding gluten can be done, quite easily--you just have to google first :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Buyer Beware

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I am not observant enough at the stores. Maybe no one else has these issues. Since I have been on a cash-only basis, I have noticed many prices are not the same as I feel they are labeled in the 'racks'.

There is a clothing store I tend to buy a lot of items at once and they have great sales. Last week, I decided to take advantage of one of the sales, 2 pants for $12.99. Yet when they were rung up, the pants were $10 each.

I got out my cash and was embarrassed. I didn't have enough. I asked how much the pants were and told the cashier I thought they were two for $12.99. The cashier calls someone from the back who looks at the pants and explains those particular pants are not part of the sale; it clearly states 'select styles' under the sale sign; it just doesn't tell you what styles.

I put both pants back.

Today I was looking at dishes on the clearance rack (hey, I have four kids that tend to drop things, I don't care to spend big buck on china right now). Two styles were side by side. One was bright red flowers and a pretty white background. The description 'cherry blossom' was overhead along with small discounted prices. Beside it were dark blue dishes with pretty black designs and white flowers and the description 'indigo (something, I forget)'. These dishes were really marked down--we are talking $2.99 for a nice bowl. I counted out my cash and headed to the register.

The cashier began ringing up the items and I noticed 'cherry blossom' showing on the register screen and the bigger price to go with it. I commented that it wasn't right. These were indigo. She called for help. Another lady came back and said these were the 'cherry blossom' design'. The 'indigo' dish was a plain striped one--I saw no dishes like this.

I told the cashier to remove the items from my bill, even though it annoyed the 'in a big hurry' person behind me, bought my cheap spoons (we always seem to be out of) and left.

So I am wondering---does this happen to anyone else? Is this some sort of buying trick or should I possibly leave all the shopping to my husband? And who thinks of dark blue and black when they think of cherry blossoms?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What Do You Eat When You Can't Eat Wheat?

This question baffled me when I made my first weekly menu after taking Dino off gluten. No pasta, no sandwiches, no panninis, lots of potatoes.

That was how it started.

Then I noticed all the 'gluten free' products out on the market. There is pasta--Pasta Joy is excellent. There is bread--not the normal 'fluffy' bread but a thick dense bread that makes great panninis. And there is so much you can do with potatoes.

I decided to focus my meal plan on all we could eat and avoid the items we just could not eat.

Breakfast has almost always been eggs, salsa and chicken sausage. That was all gluten free. I mourned the loss of pancake day but quickly discovered some Van's frozen waffles that are wheat free-- the apple cinnamon are the best choice.

Lunch I learned to get a bit more creative. We have embraced the Tex-mex spirit of the state and have had more taco salads and nacho meals than I can count. Luckily, the kids are bigger fans of Tex-mex than Italian. We also became very big fans of fruit and cheese plates without any crackers. It took a while but I think the kids are not missing too much.

Dinner was very easy thanks to all the gluten free pastas and the 'low carb' meals so popular these days!

Following is this week's dinner plan:

Monday: Mike's b-day so we ordering out (I will post gluten free restaurants next week)

Tuesday: Chipolte with dried cherry sausage and roasted potatoes with a green salad

Wednesday: Taco Salad (tortilla chips, spinach, bison meat seasoned with taco seasoning (gluten free), and freshly shredded Mammoth cheddar) On the side, salsa and guac (gluten-free)

Thursday: Butternut squash with Kale Casserole (quite possibly my favorite fall dish using gluten-free brown rice pasta and no bread crumbs)

Friday: Sweet Chicken Soup (rather than noodles, I added peeled, diced sweet potato with the veggies in the beginning)

Saturday: Pizza (the crust is already pre-made courtesy of Whole Foods and only $4.95!)

Sunday: Chicken Curry Soup with a salad

Next week, I will be discussing learning how to eat out and being gluten free--it's not as hard as it sounds!

For more menu ideas, check out Jen at Chive Talkin'

National Novel Writing Month

Because I seem to have so much free time (ha!), I am going to join the NaNoWriMo for November and write a 50,000 word novel. Really.

Before I had kids, I used to love to write. I was writing stuff all the time. I even put together a writing group at a local book store. It was my form of relaxation.

Then I had kids, um 4 kids to be exact. And my primary form of relaxation was sleep. Any sleep!

I got more involved in my kids' lives. More involved in how to help them, feed them and shelter them. There is nothing wrong with that. I will continue to focus most of my energy on my children but I need a little 'me' time.

I am going to devote one full hour everyday to doing something that brought me so much joy before kids. I am going to write.

I know I will be rusty. I know most of my writing will not be Pulitizer Prize worthy. I know most of it will not even be worthy of publishing. But it will mine.

And it will give me joy. Joy I can share with my family.

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo out there?