If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Munchies for Dinner

We brought home some amazing cheese from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm in Thunder Bay, Ontario. We got to peek inside their kitchen and it was fascinating. What an amazing place. Do stop by if you're in the neighborhood. The location of this farm is unbelievably beautiful. Surrounded by mountains and gorgeous fields, I was tempted to become a Canadian farmer!

We bought their rejects ends and pieces. I'm just way to frugal to pay full price! This was a great way to sample many different flavors. We really loved the Extra Old Gouda, the Nettle, and the Cumin and Clove (weird, but delicious!).

Arriving home to the terrible news that my best nursing school friend, Angi, had died, I didn't feel much like cooking. In fact, I didn't feel much like eating. These cheese and crackers along with the recipe, below, made for a quick and simple meal. It was one of the first things I was able to eat.

Now, Angi, I know, would have made a fantastic face at this recipe. "What the hell, Beavis? Figs!!???" I'd give anything just to be able to share it with her.

Fresh Figs with Toasted Walnuts and Bleu Cheese

Fresh figs are only in sason a short time. I adore them and look forward to their arrival every year. We were served something like this at the New Scenic Cafe in Duluth, Minnesota. It didn't take me long to figure out just how simple and delicious this recipe really is.

Fresh figs

Bleu* cheese, locally sourced, please. I used Amablu

Walnuts, coarsely chopped

Honey or real maple syrup

a baguette, sliced thin. toast if you really want to go over the top, but not necessary.

Wash figs, cut in half, set aside. Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Toast walnuts until they're fragrant and delicious smelling (you'll know when, be courageous and just cook by instinct--you can do it). Remove walnuts and set aside. Put pan back on the heat, add figs and cook until they are heated through and the juices start to release. This takes a couple of minutes. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup, and heat through. Place on a serving dish. Sprinkle with bleu cheese and walnuts and serve on thinly sliced baguette.

Messy. Yummy. You're welcome.
*I use the French spelling. Cause it's way more fun that way. And you can pronounce it BLAH and kids love that.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

So Terribly Sad

I'm trying really hard to get back into life, but I'm just unbelievably sad. My dear, dear friend Angi passed away suddenly last Monday. We had just returned from a camping getaway to Canada when we heard the news. Angi was 43 years old.

I honestly have been speechless only twice in my life. This is one of those times.

I want to write about all she meant to me. I want to write about the anger I have that a cardiac critical care nurse can die of a heart attack. I want to write about the ineptitude of doctors and my frustration with White Coat Superiority Complex. I want to write about why women still die of heart disease and how their symptoms are disregarded or diagnosed as hysteria despite how far we've come in other areas of medicine. I want to write about the clinical images I can't get out of my head of my friend, coding on a gurney before emergency angioplasty and lying in a morgue. I want to write about her husband, her teenage daughter, and all her family members and friends whose lives are empty now.

But, I can't. I can't minimize this life with mere words.

I can hear Angi in my head saying, "snap out of it Beavis", my college nickname from her that somehow remained far longer than her matching Butthead. I suppose not many people remember that show.

I can hear her laughter. I can still collapse in laughter because of just one word from her. Puddin' Long story.

There is a certain order of things and this just doesn't fit it. I will miss her more each day.

Military families make fast friends. Angi told this new Army wife that, "Army wives don't have time for BS." So, we made quick and very deep friendships not because we had to, but because we didn't have time for all the frivolous stuff. The Army moved Angi and Rick on, and we remained behind. I then found out how military families sacrifice way more than the obvious. These fast and deep friendships find you scattered all over the country as people are deployed, discharged, or move on. When others never leave their safe and secure hometowns or stay close in proximity to their college friends, our military families don't. If you can get anything out of this, other than to pay close attention to your heart health, I hope that you can have a deeper understanding of the sacrifices that military families make. I would never have guessed it, if I hadn't lived it. It's not just deployment or the danger of the job, it affects every aspect of your life, for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Notable Quotable

We can't do everything. ~Nora Ephron

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Flash in the Pan

I remember when I owned my business being floored by the PR and marketing world. While I knew it was pretty bad, I had no idea how bad it truly was. I was shocked by Paid Media vs Earned Media. We never paid for media attention. How silly of me to think that the news was actually news and not just an endless stream of paid advertisers! Many business spend their marketing dollars on "news" programs to make it appear that their highly sought after. And not only do most people believe it, they ask for second helpings.

I'm not a news watcher. The headlines make me crazy. Even public radio and TV can get under my skin. Donor is just another word for commercial and the bigger the donation, the more they get in attention.

We've come to a point in our society where young people are wrapped up in branding and marketing and turned into products. We steal their childhood before they even realize it's lost. Screaming teens are big dollar signs. Figure out how to create a hormone surge and they'll hand over their money. It's been going on for a long time, think The Beatles or Michael Jackson, but I think it's getting worse. Twilight, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber.

Big flash. And it all comes at lightning speed.

I anticipate one day that Justin Bieber will be in rehab for the fourth time or marrying his third wife, looking to find what's missing in his life. Oops. It's your childhood. Gone forever, but here's another Bentley. His head will look even more like Donald Trumps than it does now. The screaming girls will be gone, but the hangers on will still be there continuing to take just one more piece.

Flash in the Pan Corn

You can use any of your favorite spices or leave it out.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Quickly add a bag of frozen corn (or fresh kernels cut off the cob), 2 TB real butter, a pinch of dried thyme, and stir until corn is crisp tender. It doesn't take very long. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

At a restaurant, my mom will peruse the menu like it's her last meal. The wait staff will often appear three times before she's had enough time. My son is baffled by McDonald's drive through window. "Wait, WAIT, I'm not ready."

I'm not like that, although I do feel a bit pressured at drive through windows and often revert to whatever I normally order just because I didn't see that new salad that they've got displayed in a gorgeous picture by the window where you pay.

We're not frequent diners at places where you get your food through windows. McD's is a great, relatively low cal place to get an ice cream cone. It's cheaper than DQ and I think tastes better. But, I'm a little put off at the taped welcome voice that pushes the latest whatever burger or implores me to try an iced mocha today. I always say no thank you to the recording and then feel really stupid when the completely different voiced person then takes my order and seems to not understand why I'm no thanking them.

I think my mom reads from menus so deliberately and completely because she's from a generation that just moved slower. It's ok really, not a slam, I think it's a good thing. I love all things slow and really hate it when someone I'm with is compelled to look at their chirping electronic device rather than be with me. Really, what is it about those leashes that have made us all rude? What will 100 years bring? Absolutely no human contact of any kind?

So, anyway, back to slowing down. I can't eat grilled food all the time, so here's one of my go to recipes for summer. It simmers in your crock pot all day and is great for those days when standing over a 600 degree grill just seems wrong.

Pulled Pork with Beer and Garlic

Take a big old pork roast, loin is good, but way too expensive to cook until it falls apart. Put it in your crock pot. Dump in a good bottle of beer and more garlic than you think you can stand. Salt and pepper to taste and let it cook all day.

Shred, put on buns and top with bbq sauce and cole slaw. Freeze leftovers to do the same thing in the future when it's too hot or your too busy too cook.

Makes a great tortilla stuffer too.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Just One More Grill Marinade

A Smidgen of This Marinade

I'm always surprised by how very little liquid you actually need to marinate with. This marinade goes together quickly and was a hit with my family and one of Sam's friends when used on chicken. We especially liked the leftovers the next day cut up and tossed with a big veggie salad. I think it would be great on steak and pork too.

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 TB honey

2 TB vinegar, white or cider

1 1/2 tsp minced garlic

1 1/2 tsp grated ginger

1/2 medium onion chopped (or equivalent dried or onion powder)

pepper to taste

Place all in a zip bag. Add desired meat and let marinate for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. Longer is better. Remove from marinade and grill.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Suzie Homemaker Household Engineer and SuperWife

I hate to tell people that I'm a housewife. You get that look of condescension and perhaps a little pity. Some, a very rare few, will say, "hardest job on Earth." And they're right and I want to kiss them which makes for a very awkward moment in Minnesota Land of Very Defined Personal Space.

I've developed many answers over the years. Queen of the Mean Vacuum gets the most puzzled looks. (Where have all the funny people gone?) SuperMom is the shortened version that most people seem to appreciate and understand.

There are some days that I really feel valued and like I'm making a contribution. Yes, I do this (insert mundane task here) and because I do this (insert mundane task here), D doesn't have to worry about it. He can make the bacon in peace. But, it's mostly when I'm baking that I feel like I'm making a warm and happy home. Not warm in the literal sense of what in the heck are you doing turning on the oven when the air conditioning is on, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, then comes out Suzie Homemaker Household Engineer and SuperWife. I brandish my spatula and whip up some kind of sweet hug for my boys.

This was one of those days. As you can see by the picture, it was well received. I've separated the recipe by crust and filling. This is my go to single crust recipe. It takes 5 minutes and is flaky and fantabulous. And if you serve it to me, I'll know you've visited my blog! I can't keep this one to myself, it's just too good and too easy to not share.

Betsi's Super Easy One Crust Pie Crust

I'm sure you could double it and then roll out or piece together a top crust.

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 TB skim milk

Preheat oven to 400. Mix all with a fork, press in a pie pan, flute the edges, and poke the bottom with the same fork. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Then cool and fill to your heart's delight.

Sort of the Same Recipe for Blueberry Pie that one of Darren's Relatives Made, but Better Because I Lost the Recipe and Was Able to come up with a Delicious Version Myself Which May Even Be Exactly the Same as the Original

This is really easy, but don't tell them that!

2 pints of blueberries, place 1 in the pie shell, 1 in a sauce pan over medium heat

Add to the pan:

1 TB flour

1 TB butter

1 TB lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until berries just begin to pop. Pour filling over berries in the pie shell. Chill and serve. I love it just as is, but if you want to go completely over the top, serve with vanilla bean ice cream or real whipping cream.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Probably the Best Lowfat Blueberry Muffins I've Ever Baked*

*Bragging as a general rule is not accepted in Minnesota culture, but I'm putting this one out there. We loved them. Enjoy at your own risk. They're so good that portion control is a challenge!

We went blueberry picking with friends last Friday morning, followed by a picnic at Big Marine Park Reserve. Fun day! The blueberries hung like grapes, so picking was very easy. The three boys were especially good at it. The shortest one could get up under the bushes like a champ!

We love blueberries at our house. So, finding ways to use them has not been hard. We ate them fresh all day Friday. We had blueberry muffins and blueberry pie (recipe tomorrow). The blueberry muffins were a hit. This batch was so big there were plenty to freeze to take along on our camping trip.

Amazing Low Fat Blueberry Muffins
Why blogger won't let me use HTML today, I don't know. But, here you go, no spaces no matter what I do. I'm sure you can deal with it.
Makes 24 muffins
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup applesauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla-- I think you could go up to almost a tablespoon
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups light or fat free sour cream
2 to 4 cups of blueberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add wet ingredients (except blueberries) and stir until just well combined. Fold in blueberries.
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup real butter
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Mix topping ingredients until crumbly.
Line muffin cups with paper liners. Fill muffin cups with batter. I use an ice cream scoop disher to make it easy and to keep the muffins in a uniform size for baking. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mark Your Calendars

August 8 is officially been named Sneak Some Zucchini on your Neighbor's Front Porch Night, but I'm getting a jump on things. Be forewarned. If you're within a bike ride of my home, you might want to leave your porch lights on and and a kid with KoolAid in his SuperSoaker hiding in the bushes. Cause once the sun sets, I'm on my way.

We've been dive bombed already this summer by a neighbor and my plants are loaded. So, I went to All Recipes to see just what to do with all this shit bounty.

This recipe uses 8 cups, can I hear a Hallelujah? You can even use the big ones that your kids like to throw against the fence repeatedly until they explode.

And dang, if it doesn't taste like apple cobbler. Seriously, it fooled even the pickiest of eaters and if I had been smarter and removed the seeds, it would have fooled everyone.

Head on over HERE for the recipe. I want to make sure that Don gets full credit. I followed the recipe exactly which is really hard for a non measuring cook like me to do. I wouldn't change a thing

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Learning to Let Go

I don't remember who it was, some actress, maybe Lindsay Lohan, and I'd hate to mention anything that I admire about her, but I really think it was her. And if it was her, then I've found a redeeming quality in her that I'll cling to as she bumpily navigates her way through life.

Anyway, in the background of a busy day, I was stopped smack dab in the middle of a dirty bathroom because I heard the words, "Just breathe." You see, it was one of those days where my thoughts were muddled and jumbled and my To Do Lists had developed their own To Do Lists. There were Post-it Notes in my brain and all over my counter tops and stuck to mirrors. I was frustrated and overwhelmed and I just knew, it wasn't all going to get done. No way, no how.

And those words, they came through loud and clear, despite the fact that I was quite far from the TV and I abhor daytime television...........

So, anyway, back to the actress. She had the word breathe tattooed in white so it really was only apparent to her on the underside of her wrist. And immediately, I wanted to find the nearest tattoo parlor, which in suburbia would be a very long drive. Long enough that I would totally reconsider because there's nothing permanent that I would ever want applied to my skin, aside from sunscreen because I just hate having to put that on again and again and again.

Breathe, remember?

And I realized, I need this reminder from time to time. Dinner can be hot dogs and all will be well. I don't need to work my way through one of Julia Child's cookbooks. That's been done and it doesn't need to be done again. Dust is a wonderful household accessory. He can wear the same socks two days in a row. It won't kill him. Even Martha Stewart has weeds in her garden. And the dude in the Home Depot ad probably has just as many unfinished house projects as we do. The universe will not come to a screeching halt if the items on my lists don't get crossed off. They're lists and by their very definition, they never end.


So, here's a recipe that doesn't require much thought, planning, or preparation. Just toss it together. Grill or bake. And then sit down and breathe.

Chili Maple Marinade
Good on chicken, pork chops, pork ribs, or pork tenderloin.

3 TB maple syrup
2 TB chili powder
a little water
salt to taste

Dump together. Marinate if you have time. Grill or bake until done.

Serve with a big salad, straight from the bag, and steamed veggies (straight from the bag!)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One More Honey at the Table

Sam has been so busy this summer. There have only been a handful of days that he hasn't had a friend over or been invited to one of their houses. Mostly it's been our house. "You're so lucky not to have a brother," one kid yelled as they ran out to the pool.

Playdates have blurred edges at our house. If it's close to dinner time, there will just be an extra place at the table.

This recipe easily lends itself to adding one more chicken breast to the marinade and it's a definite kid pleaser.

Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken

1/3 cup mustard, Dijon is perfect, spicy brown would be nice, just don't use "that yellow stuff" as Sam says
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp minced garlic
2 TB light mayonnaise
2 tsp steak sauce
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Mix all, but the chicken breasts in a small mixing bowl. Place chicken breasts in a zip bag. Pour half of the marinade over the chicken. Seal bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate chicken and the reserved marinade for at least 2 hours. If you're using frozen chicken breasts, just let them defrost overnight in the marinade. Preheat your grill for medium high heat Remove chicken from bag. Discard marinade. Grill for 7 minutes per side, basting cooked side with reserved marinade. Be sure chicken is completely cooked through and has an internal temp of 165 degrees.

Monday, July 12, 2010

You Say Tomato...

If you get a cool day this summer, you must use your garden bounty to make this treat. I try to roast tomatoes whenever I can. This is a slow roast recipe. You can also roast them on your grill if it's too hot. Biz over at Biggest Diabetic Loser has a great recipe for grilled tomato soup that's to die for. (Thanks Biz!) Instructions for grilling tomatoes can be found at her wonderful website. Be warned, you will find yourself lost in her fabulous pictures and recipes.

Roasted Tomatoes

Use in pasta or rice salads, to toss with basil and hot pasta, or eat directly from the fridge. Great on cooked chicken or fish. Mix with roasted peppers and put on a sandwich. Mix with white beans, fresh basil......If you can't figure out what to do with them, drop them off at my house! Yum.

Line a big pan with parchment paper. Wash and slice your cherry tomatoes in half or chop regular tomato into bite size pieces (I've never tried this, but I'm sure it will work). Slicing the tomatoes is a tedious job that you can pawn off on your kids. Add several cloves of garlic, unpeeled or peeled. I was lazy the day I made this, so I left them unpeeled. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Then roast in your preheated 225 degree oven for 3 hours. Your house will smell amazing. Cool and store in a covered container in your fridge.

Monday, July 5, 2010


There are a few things that people do not tell you about motherhood. One of the biggest kept secrets is that your job title becomes the official K.o.S (Keeper of Shit). And it's not an honorable title.

Everyone will look to you when they can't find their own stuff.

And it's not just your kids.

I think a long time ago, when people had less shit, this was a much more desirable title. And then they built castles and it all went to hell.

I've been accused of stealing and secretively hiding away:

  • remote controls

  • fireworks

  • rocket engines

  • men's size small underwear

  • bike locks

  • keys to a car I rarely drive

  • the checkbook

  • the other checkbook

  • an iPhone

  • a game case for an Xbox game (even though my thumbs haven't evolved enough to use a controller like that)

  • a set of screwdrivers

  • a tape measure (that actually is MINE)

  • a boys size xl swimsuit

  • beach towels

  • the camera

  • the video camera

  • our passports

  • sunglasses

  • fishing gear

  • some sort of tool that I couldn't identify even if my life depended upon it

all for my own personal enjoyment and satisfaction.

The K.o.S title has even prompted me to only own purses that can hold just my shit.

We had my mom over for dinner and blowing up stuff for the Fourth. Panicked and stricken, Sam came bursting into the room with a dire emergency. He couldn't recharge his phone. "I've looked everywhere."* Darren and I were unfazed by the emergency phone cord loss. It happens almost every day. Mom wanted to call out the National Guard. But, I held strongly to the beliefs that

a. It's not my phone and if he wants the perk of having a phone he has to be responsible for said phone and all it's cords, attachments, do-dads and deelie-boppers (Those were all extra and were paid for out of said owner's allowance.)

b. Responsibility training is a difficult, but essential part of my job.

c. Never treat an only child as if they're the complete center of the universe if you don't have to.

I have to wonder if they ever ask themselves why I never ask them where my shit is.

*This phrase is a prerequisite when approaching the K.o.S. The speaker must convey the extreme peril of the situation and his already thorough searching.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

There's an incredible sense of helplessness when you, as a parent, have to watch from the sidelines when your child tackles an incredibly difficult problem. I'm not talking math, here. I'm talking the growing pains of being an almost teenager.

There is no specific problem facing Sam at this time, so no one need feel slighted, but after speaking with a friend about mean girl behavior already occurring with her young daughter, it just got me thinking. We moms have to frequently balance the mother lion in us with the teacher. And it's not easy. The mean girls don't go away as you grow older. And they're not just girls either. You'll have mean, bitchy, unfair coworkers, roommates, lab partners, and neighbors.

So, it's time to learn how to deal with it. And that's how my friend feels as well. So much easier to be friends with someone if their parenting style is similar.

I'm often frustrated with helicopter parents who hover above and rarely let their kid tackle things on their own. I'm more of a sideliner. I'm there when you need me, but I'm not going to do it for you (ie become Mother Lion) until you've given it your all.

Forgive me if this is your style, but maybe it's time for you to hear that you're hindering rather than helping your child. Type their report for them now and they won't be able to do it in high school or college. Make a laser for a science project in fourth grade and they'll want you to go one better in fifth grade. Fight their battle before they get a chance to and they'll always look to you first.

I don't care what baggage your kid carries or what abilities they have, our job has but one description: teach them to fly. And you can't do it for them.

I remember the mother of a handicapped child that told me the difference between parenting this daughter and her siblings. "Well," she said, "it's simple. You know how with your son when he's learning something, you kind of put it just out of his reach so that he has to struggle a bit to get it? Well, with her, I put it even further."

I thought that was amazing. Her point? She's always going to have to work harder to live independently, so she pushes her now to get her there so she's never robbed of a life of her own. Brava.

Another Dinner on the Run

I'm sitting here watching a rainbow of birds fluttering around the feeders in my yard: red Cardinals, orange Orioles, yellow Goldfinches, green Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, blue Bluejays and Bluebirds, and purple Housefinches. I love my birds.

Sam is at golfing with a friend, so I decided to come home and race around for an hour to see what I could get done and then take the rest of the time just for me. I've had a serious deficit of recharge time this summer and so has Sam, so we're working on that, together.

Last night the young man was headed out with his heroes to launch some rockets. So, dinner had to be early and quick.

My go-to recipe if I have ground lamb available is Gyros. Ordinarily, I make my own pitas (they're so easy), and Tzatziki sauce, but I was super time crunched. So, I bought both. (I know, GASP)

Easy Gyros

1 lb lean ground lamb
a small chopped onion
1 TB garlic
Lots of fresh parsley, basil, thyme,rosemary---if you have to use dry, go for it anyway. Just measure about 1 tsp of each in your palm and toss in the bowl

Mix all of the above together early in the day or the night before if you can. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Then brown in a skillet and drain off any excess grease. Serve on warmed pita bread with Tzatsiki sauce, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, thinly sliced red onion.

Be warned. These are so yummy, you may not speak for the entire meal.

My Tzatsiki Sauce
This is party size, scale down or enjoy as a veggie dip or burger topper (you're welcome), salad dressing, slaw dressing, etc. Does not freeze.

2 medium cucumbers
2 (16 ounce) containers sour cream
1 (16 ounce) container Greek yogurt (very important, but any plain yogurt will do)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Peel cucumbers and grate into a colander lined with paper towels. Squeeze out excess water.
Mix together sour cream, yogurt, garlic, and olive oil in a large bowl. Stir in cucumbers. Chill at least 30 minutes. Fresh dill is a nice addition.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Desperation Marination

Usually at the beginning of the summer, right before school lets out, I make a ton of marinades and put them in the freezer or I organize a Marinade Exchange, like a Christmas cookie exchange. This year, I didn't get either done.

This summer has been nuts. We haven't had one full day at home yet. My house is a complete pit. My garden has weeds that could double as produce (that of course the rabbits and deer don't touch!) and I've been grabbing the odd hours I can here and there to try to squeeze things in. Last night I found myself laying in the back yard at 9 pm, exhausted, and unable to get up. The boys had run to the bike store and to get some sand and river rock for the pool and water garden and I decided to play dead when they came home so I wouldn't have to help haul it from the car.

I could hear the dryer buzzing through the open windows and I knew if I didn't get the clothes out, Sam would have no shorts to wear the next day. But, I was able to Mom Rationalize that he could just wear his swimsuit or I'd get to them in the morning.

I came to with Sam peering over me with a mostly eaten giant bag of Peanut M&Ms saying, "I know you're not dead. You moved." Great. "SHE'S NOT DEAD, DAD." Bet the neighbors loved that.

And then I finally came to understand why that woman on the commercials who all these years has mystified me with her, "I've fallen and I can't get up." Aside from not falling, I was just like her. I couldn't get up. Now, it wasn't just that I was in fear that while I was sound asleep in the yard one of the dogs had left something undesirable for me to roll onto as I got up. Nope, it was middle age. It hit me right there in the yard.

Forty minutes later, I staggered upstairs, attempted to read, attempted to watch a little BBC news, and then attempted to shut D's bedside lamp off with mental telepathy. Didn't work. That's the last thing I remember.

Dire days like this require crisis cooking. This is a little marinade that was a success after a short streak of abysmal experimental cooking. (Don't ask, that's what ketchup is for.)

Candied Pork Chops

Now, bear with me because this seems a little weird, but we loved it. I figured that root beer and colas are featured in lots of bbq, why not try it in a marinade. I wouldn't attempt this on any other meat, well, maybe chicken. My experiments haven't gone that far yet.

Lean, center-cut, bone in pork chops, or pork loin chops, not too thick!---Now I'm getting inspired to slow cook this on a pork butt or cushion meat

One can or bottle of root beer

a good glug of Worcestershire sauce

hot sauce to taste

salt and pepper to taste

Marinate as long as you can. Remove chops and grill 5-7 minutes on each side until done. You could dump all in a bag and freeze it, thaw in the refrigerator when you're ready to use.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making Choices

It hits me smack dab in the soul when I hear or receive the snide comment of one woman to another. Apparently, mean girls do grow up, and they don't change a bit. It's all about choices and if you're secure in yours than you really shouldn't have to cut down someone else to make you feel better.

I've been on both sides of the Mom Wars, working vs. stay at home, and they're both equally hard. Just in different ways. And it's all about choices.

When Sam was little and I was home full time, we definitely lived on less. I didn't want to miss a minute in exchange for a bigger house payment or more stuff. So, our living room was empty for a while (great for a toddler on the go!). He still remembers playing elephant cage behind the hand me down love seat that was the sole piece of furniture in the room.

When I worked 24/7 for my business, I didn't have weekends, but I had the fulfillment of something that was my very own and a lot of challenges to face head on and solve. Great for me, but not so great for my family. Sam got lost in the shuffle and it took a year or so after we sold it to get him back.

But, this is what works for me. If you're a full time, work outside the home mom, and you're ok with daycare and weekends filled with errands and laundry, then go. Do. Be. But, if you feel tremendously guilty about all this, sell your stuff, make the sacrifices, and stay with your kids. It's a pretty simple choice.

Wandering around Facebook, linking from one person that I know to one that I used to know to one that I barely knew, to someone that person knows... I came across a snarky comment that precipitated this rant.

It saddens me that we're still fighting over this dumb issue. What a waste of time when we could be ruling the world!

Monday, June 7, 2010

I do know how to can things, but sometime I just don't have the time. I love freezer jam. It's easy and it tastes great, it's cheap if you already have the jars or containers, and it uses up fruit that you froze for the winter last year with good intentions of using it and then discover it right around the time that said fruit becomes ripe again one year later. (English teachers have fun with that sentence.)

I Don't Have Time to Make Jam, Raspberry Jam

3 cups prepared fruit (buy about 6 cups fully ripe red raspberries)
5-1/4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
3/4 cup water
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin Make It!

Run small canning jars or plastic containers through your dishwasher on a turbo heat, antibacterial cycle, be sure to use the dry cycle. Time it so jars are hot and dry when you're ready to fill them.

CRUSH raspberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. (Press half of pulp through a sieve to remove seeds, if desired. This is dumb, but it's in the original recipe, so if you really want to stain your hands your counter tops, and make a big mess, go ahead.) Measure exactly 3 cups crushed raspberries into large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 min., stirring occasionally.

MIX water and pectin in small saucepan. Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling and stirring 1 min. Add to fruit mixture; stir 3 min.or until sugar is almost dissolved and no longer grainy. (A few sugar crystals may remain.) Make some toast and taste it. This is required.

FILL containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze extra containers up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator before using. Be sure to put one in your fridge and make some Cream Biscuits (recipe below) for supper. You can thank me later.

Cream Biscuits
The shortening is in the whipping cream, no need to cut it in. Makes biscuit making so easy. Great camping recipe, they bake up easily in your Dutch oven. You can cut or just make drop-style biscuits (drop from spoonfuls) if you could care less if Martha approves of your biscuits.

2 cups self-rising flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and cream until the dough forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with additional flour. Fold the dough in 1/2 and knead 5 to 7 times, adding just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your hands. Gently roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter coated with flour, cut dough into biscuits. Place on baking sheet coated with cooking spray, leaving at least 1-inch between each biscuit. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What are We Doing to Our Kids?

A second, let me repeat, SECOND ninth grader at my son's future high school committed suicide. The first, through the parent rumor mill (not a completely unreliably source, but yet still taken with much salt), did so due to sheer exhaustion. The second, well, as yet I know no details, but I would suspect that the same contributed.

We live in a frazzled world and the pressures on our kids are beyond belief. My son is clipping away towards the end of his sixth grade year just barely keeping his head above water. Twelve hour days would be easy at this point. Yesterday, it was a 15 hour day and that's just school and homework. We vetoed a golf lesson, which would have been a nice break, but there just wasn't enough time. Math homework. Social studies project. Instrument practice. Book reports. Reading. At one point I caught him sound asleep on top of his homework.

What ever happened to watching the clouds roll by? Whatever happened to play? Isn't it truly a sign of the times that organizations are now offering classes about how to play with your kids or how important it is to get your kids outside? This was unheard of not too long ago.

There's something that's happened to parenting that is breaking my heart. I call it Competitive Parenting and there are no winners, just kids that lose out on childhood. "Well, we're so busy," the conversation usually begins. And then it's flop back and forth trying to one up one another. "High performance math? My son bypassed that and is now at MIT finishing his doctorate." "We have hockey, cheer leading, and a class on identifying trees tonight. Tomorrow is the science fair. Ben made a laser and shot a hole in the moon. Don't worry, we got a permit from NASA."

But, then there are the real conversations with parents focused on the happiness and well being of their kids.

And we're worried.

It's too much on their shoulders. It's. Just. Too. Much.

We've seriously considered chucking it all and heading for the hills, but it's too late for that. Sam loves his friends and a move would destroy him.

Meanwhile, we sit and wait for the next one to fall.

When we carry our babies we hope for health and happiness. Where does this get lost in the shuffle?

The news of this latest suicide lies heavily on me. I feel as if I'm working through a fog today. I'm emotional and scared and ticking off the tasks that Sam has yet to complete just today and none of them are ever going to make a damn bit of difference in his life when it comes right down to it.

In one day this Spring I received nine catalogs touting enrichment courses for kids. Camp this and class that. I tossed them all and I encourage you to do the same. Shred em. Put them in the recycling, go immediately to your calendar and write play on every day. And then do it. All summer.

And when the school year comes around again, ask yourself how you can help your kids learn the real lessons of balance, relaxation, stress relief, happiness, and joy. Remind yourself of those moments not so long ago of their impending arrival into your life when you wished for health and happiness and then make it happen.

Those lessons are just as important as anything else. Nope, scratch that, they're more important. And until we start making sure that they are, our kids are at risk.

Peace to the family. Peace to her friends, teachers, and anyone else torn apart by grief. Peace to all those touched by her life and wounded by her passing. Peace.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Excuse Me While I Pull My Heart out of My Mouth

The big adventures of childhood, independent journeys that help one grow and learn.


It all sounds good in theory, but when you're out adventuring, I'm holding my heart in my mouth and doing Lamaze breathing. I knew that technique would come in handy some day. It certainly didn't do anything but give D something to do while I labored away!

Baby steps. They just keep getting bigger.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Make Ahead Black Beans

I love to make things from scratch whenever possible. Reading a label and wondering just what the heck some of the ingredients are is one reason. Homemade food is healthier, cheaper, and doesn't take as much time as one might think.

I made these beans in the crockpot last week. We've had them as a side with fajitas, in burritos, and mixed with cooked Chorizo sausage and served over rice. I've got at least 2 more meals in the freezer.

Make Ahead Black Beans

Much better than canned! Season up or down according to your family's taste preferences. The beans require an overnight soak, so plan ahead.

1 bag dried black beans, soak in water overnight to soften Rinse in the morning.

Place in your crock pot:
1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 onion, chopped
8 cups of water (at least, make sure there's plenty to cover the beans)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin

Cook on low all day. One hour (if you've got it!) before serving, add:
salt to taste
1/4 cup white wine
1 TB red wine vinegar
1 TB sugar
a drizzle of olive oil

Taste and adjust seasonings. You may add green chiles, jalapenos, red pepper flakes, etc.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Cold Salad on a Hot Day

Honestly, I made this a week ago when it was cold and rainy. Try menu planning in Minnesota. I've been grilling in the rain and making soup when it's 75. Ugh.

I normally don't post recipes that still need a little work, but this one does. It's a great base recipe, but I need to work on it. Taste and season well, I've included my suggestions in italics.

Sweetpea Slaw

Place in a large bowl:
2 packages of stringless sugar snap peas
2 cups matchstick cut carrots (or thinly slice in your food processor)
1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage
One bunch of green onions, cleaned and thinly sliced

Mix and toss with salad:
4 TB seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
Juice of 1/4 lemon
2 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp salt--taste and increase if you wish
1 tsp sesame oil
red pepper flakes to taste

I think you could add any crisp veggie. Radishes would be nice. I'm up for your suggestions. It's really pretty, perfect for the heat wave we're having here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Have You Seen This Guy?

Sam Tsui. His Glee cover of Don't Stop Believing is fantastic too.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy May Day!

One of my favorite places to hang out in my house is my front porch. I dressed it up for Spring a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

20 Minutes Well Spent

Random Thoughts While Working Out and a Recipe

Lean Mean Meatloaf, Grilled Taters, and Green Beans with Mushrooms.

When I work out, my mind wanders. OK, well, that's not solely limited to when I work out, but I'm often finishing my water, cooling off, and checking out blogdom and finishing my mind wandering. So, here I am and here's what I thought about this morning.

  • I wonder how Norman is (Grandma's back in the hospital)

  • I wonder why some people ask you so many questions for so many years and then when someone asks you something about them that you should know because you've known them for so many years, you can't answer because you've only been asked questions and never allowed to ask them. (Run on sentence, I know, but I'm time crunched. Forgive me.)

  • I wonder why people who comment to me in person about my blog never comment here. Chickens.

  • I signed up for Facebook again. I was on for a limited time a long time ago and was contacted by a creepoid from my past and so I deleted the account. Now, with limited searches, I'm finding NO ONE I know there. I know, patience, Grasshopper.

  • But, I did have a great time last night chatting with the woman who made nursing school a BLAST for me. Love ya Ang. Glad to talk with ya.

  • I wonder if Jack LaLane is still alive and if juicing really is the secret to longevity.

  • I wonder if I'm going to have to mow the lawn and I wonder if there's something you have to do to the lawn mower after it's long winter nap. (D's in San Fran, the butt, probably skipping down Fisherman's Wharf at his "convention". I know, you're working, but still.... wouldn't Topeka be a more economical choice in these trying times... just sayin'.)

  • I wonder if I will ever finish any of my writing projects.

  • I wonder if I will ever have the vegetable garden that I dream and plan every Spring.

  • What's for supper?

Lean Mean Meatloaf

Sam will actually eat meatloaf. So, it makes a frequent appearance at our house. I love it. I grew up with boring meatloaf, sorry mom. Soda crackers, salt, pepper, and meat. Ketchup required. This has great flavor and the glaze is really delicious. I made it with venison, which I know grosses a lot of people out, but it really is healthier than ground beef. Use the leanest ground beef you can find if you don't have a mighty hunter in your home.

2 eggs

8 ounces tomato sauce

1 medium onion, finely chopped (or if you have an onion hater, like I do, use onion powder instead)

1 cup dry bread crumbs

1 1/2 tsp salt, to taste, I used much less

1/8 tsp pepper, to taste, I used much more

1/2 tsp fresh garlic

1 1/2 pounds ground venison or ground beef--I used 2 pounds because I didn't want to figure out something to do with the left over 1/2 pound

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all of the above together. Place in a loaf pan.

Mix together:

2 TB brown sugar

2 TB spicy brown mustar

2 TB cider vinegar

Pour over the top of the meatloaf and bake, uncovered for approximately 70 minutes or until at least 165 degrees in the center. Remove from pan and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Sage might be a good addition.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

But, Don't you Want to Hold Hands and Talk About Your Feelings?

The title pretty much sums up my daily meet and greet of Sam as he gets off the bus. He's happy to see me, he usually has something to show me or say to me, he gives me the update of how much homework he has, and then it's off to XBox Live to be "with" his friends.

And then I jokingly say, sometimes to him and sometimes to the basement door, "But, don't you want to hold hands and talk about your feelings?"

I love this fierce independence and friendships that are true and tightly bound. I love watching him become the man he will be in baby steps and independent flights. I love knowing that, when tested, he sticks to what is right. I love that he's strong and tender and really funny. I love that he can make his own meals, operate the lawn mower, travel to the park with friends, and make good decisions. I love that he opens doors for me and still likes to hang with me at least for a short part of the day. I love that he's obsessed with the History Channel, but will still delve into SpongeBob Squarepants, "just for" me.

Almost 13, I can't believe it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Well, What Do Ya Know, Bud and Henry!"

My Uncle Bud died. Well, Great-Uncle Bud, real name Eugene, but he was always Bud to me. He was my Grandpa Hank's brother. They looked kind of alike with their shiny bald heads and man, could they both rock the old man specs.

Uncle Bud was a complicated person, but who isn't? I wasn't old enough to perfectly understand the complexities of his early years. And I'm thankful for that. To me, Uncle Bud was the cool guy that was born on the Fourth of July. We saw him every year on his birthday, until he no longer could handle all the commotion that company brought. I've felt like something was missing every Fourth of July since then.

Uncle Bud lived on a river with a slow current and a pebbly bottom. Perfect. Kid. Paradise. He liked to invent thing. Although I don't know if it was original to him, he did have a potato cannon launching spuds for us kids one year. He made model replicas of a John Deer tractor with teeny tiny parts. My mom is a proud owner of one of the very few of these. He always had firecrackers and bottle rockets. He used to light the firecrackers in his hand and then toss them in the air. One finger was mysteriously shorter than the others. We kids never knew how he lost the tip, but we suspected it was fireworks related.

On one visit to our house, Uncle Bud and Grandpa Hank were sitting on lawn chairs in the yard. Grandpa's dog and our dog were playing. We'd never really thought much about the dog's names before. Buddy and Henry, were named just because the names fit and we like them. Grandpa tipped back in his chair and said, "Well, what do ya know, Bud and Henry!" And we laughed. Grandpa died when I was fourteen. I'm sure he welcomed Bud into Heaven and I hope they're laughing.

Bud introduced us to the hidden campground pictured above. I thank him every time I'm there and will continue to do so as I pass this treasure on to my son. (And, no, I won't tell you where it is without DNA testing to see if you're family)

The last time I saw Bud, he was in such pain he could hardly bear life. I'm so glad that's over.

Thank you Bud. For your love. You always made me feel like I was just the person you were waiting to see. I'll miss you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Couple of Cool Sickos--Thanks you guys!

This group does great work for a cause close (too close!) to me. I think the hardest part about having this disease is being misunderstood. Watch it through the end, please.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Always be yourself,

because the people
that matter don't mind,
and the ones that mind
don't matter.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just One More Page

I've been telling myself that all morning. I have a lot to do today, but with just a few pages of The Book Thief left, I'm having trouble concentrating on the work at hand. This book has absolutely consumed me and, unfortunately, I've had little time lately for concentrated reading.

This morning, I rationalized that I could read until my coffee was gone. I stretched that out almost half an hour. "Yes, there was still some left," I kept telling myself. There's always some left, lining the cup, right?

Then, after working out, I fit in a few minutes while I uninstalled some software and tried not to curse at my laptop that has been limping along for several months now. Sick laptops should never be left without someone sitting at their side, right?

If I don't get dinner in the crock pot, then we won't have dinner tonight, so I must dash. And then, I suppose, I should, for quality assurance and appliance safety, make sure that the crock pot is heating. I could sit at the counter stools, with book in hand, and just wait a bit...

My book reviews are all over at Good Reads. So, if you miss them here, you will find them, and a great community of book addicts, there.

*If you haven't figured this out, The Book Thief is a must read. Love it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Is the Easter Ham Gone Yet?

No, Now Eat your Dinner

If you're at the point where one more ham sandwich could literally make you go postal, then please disregard this post and have a nice day.

If you're still looking for creative uses of leftovers, then have I got a meal for you. Or if you're searching for something to make with all that ham you so thriftily placed in the freezer for future use...

This is not a picture worthy food. Unwritten law of food photography: comfort food is ugly.

Slap your Momma Beans and Taters

I really can't follow a recipe. D thinks this really funny, but honestly, I'm starting to think that this is some sort of learning disability or genetic problem. I can't follow a recipe. It's just not in me. This would be a great side dish for a summer BBQ. Named for a nurse I used to work with who couldn't believe Minnesotans thought black pepper was spicy. She used to say stuff was Slap your Momma good. And these are.

  • 2 pounds FRESH green beans
  • one onion, chopped
  • 2 cups (more or less) of leftover, chopped ham
  • fresh minced garlic--about a tablespoon
  • a good sprinkling (maybe 1 tsp?) of Tony Chachere's famous Creole Seasoning (thanks Heidi, this is now a staple in our house!) If you're Spice Phobic add a little and then season to taste at the table
  • 1 TB of really good chicken stock base (in the bouillon section of the store--not Dayglo Yellow) If you can't find good chicken stock base, then use chicken broth and leave out the water. Repeat after me, bouillon cubes are evil spawn of the Devil and must be banned.
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • water, to cover
  • about 2 pounds (more or less) red skinned potatoes, fingerling potatoes, or Yukon Golds, Rose Reds, etc--anything with a thin skin, NO RUSSETS

Place all, except potatoes, in your crock pot. Place on high for an hour, then turn to low and simmer until beans are close to done. I'm not sure this is a recipe you can just leave all day. I started it about noon and put the potatoes in and turned it back to high about 2 hours before we were going to eat.

If you're brave and decide to dump it all in and simmer all day on low, let me know how it turned out. My fear is that the potatoes might melt to nothing. You could probably do on low all day and then turn it to high and add potatoes when you get home, but dinner might be late!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Fundamental Moral Decision: How can we, in good conscience, deny health care to anyone who's sick? We can't.

by E.J.Dionne Jr.

The term “pro-life” is used with great seriousness in politics, and also as a political cudgel. If ever there were an issue on which those words have clear relevance and resonance, it is health-care reform.

Pro-life activists are deeply engaged in controversies around what care should be given at the end of life, and I strongly share their opposition to physician-assisted suicide. But who pays for end-of-life care when someone lacks health insurance? What sort of care can that uninsured person expect at the end of life? What good does it do to raise a ruckus around a general principle and not ask how the basic requirements of the sick can be met?

If a young woman is making up her mind about whether or not to have an abortion, is she not far more likely to choose life if she knows that she will receive decent health care while she is pregnant? Will she not feel more confident if she knows that both she and her baby will be able to see a doctor regularly after the child is born?

If we believe that all life is sacred, does that not mean that everyone should receive medical help in the early stages of an illness, before the illness becomes life-threatening? If we believe that human lives should not be bought and sold, doesn’t that require us to limit the impact that wealth and income have on access to life-enhancing and life-saving health care?

There is a terrible gap between the rhetoric people use in the health-care debate and the reality of our health-care situation. In particular, there is an enormous disconnect between the anti-government pronouncements we hear from opponents of universal coverage and the fact that government is already deeply enmeshed in our health-care system.

According to 2006 figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, government expenditures on health care in the United States already amounted to 7 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. That was identical to the Canadian government’s share, and not far off from Sweden’s 7.8 percent, Germany’s 8.1 percent, or France’s 8.8 percent. In other words, our government already spends a great deal on health care, and yet 45 million to 50 million of us still lack regular insurance.

As a society, we agreed more than 40 years ago that it was unconscionable for the elderly to lack health coverage. With Medicare, we socialized—yes, I used that word—the provision of health care for all senior citizens.

Medicare is not perfect, but what a world of good it has done. But why offer that guarantee only to the elderly? Shouldn’t their children and grandchildren have the same right to regular medical care that they do? Isn’t that what the elderly themselves want? How can so many who say they oppose “government meddling” in health care at one moment go on to declare their firm support for Medicare at another? They cannot have it both ways, although they keep trying.

Medicaid has also brought needed care to many poor Americans. But isn’t there something terribly arbitrary about saying that one group of poor Americans can rely on government for help, while members of another group, nearly as needy, are left to fend for themselves? What principle is involved here?

One of the best pieces of legislation signed into law by President Obama this year was the substantial expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It was an excellent step in the right direction. But what do we say about the parents of those children? If a parent gets sick and has no health care, how does that affect a child—even if the child is insured?

There are many roads to universal coverage. There are many practical reasons—related to controlling costs to government, businesses, and individuals—for supporting reform. But the most compelling argument, finally, is moral: A country that values life should not be placing so many obstacles in the way of those seeking health care.

An essential book for this fall is T.R. Reid’s The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. Reid, a former Washington Post reporter, embarked on an international search for better approaches to health coverage. Here’s what he concluded:

Those Americans who die or go broke because they happened to get sick represent a fundamental moral decision our country has made. Despite all the rights and privileges and entitlements that Americans enjoy today, we have never decided to provide medical care for everybody who needs it. In the world’s richest nation, we tolerate a health-care system that leads to large numbers of avoidable deaths and bankruptcies among our fellow citizens ...

All the other developed countries on earth have made a different moral decision. All the other countries like us—that is, wealthy, technologically advanced, industrialized democracies—guarantee medical care to anyone who gets sick. Countries that are just as committed as we are to equal opportunity, individual liberty, and the free market have concluded that everybody has a right to health care—and they provide it.

And we should, too.

E.J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist and senior fellow at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!