Friday, February 27, 2009


"Mommy, I love you, but I don't love you enough to eat your food."

~Statement made by my eight-year-old after sitting at the table with her siblings as the three of them wept and gnashed their teeth over a very yummy (from the parents' point of view) dinner of pasta with chicken, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and fire roasted tomatoes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stormy Day Activities

It was rainy and nasty outside so we made this today. Figured anyone willing to call themselves "Two Fat Als" had to know what they were doing. All I can say is, "Wow. Will somebody please, pass the butter?"

In Theory…

My kids are blooming pianists who, like most elementary musicians, would avoid their theory lessons if at all possible. Our music teacher is very laid back, desiring her students to enjoy playing the piano. She doesn’t sweat their lack of theory or send them home with loads of nomenclature to memorize. I however, was trained by a lovely lady who did, and while I hated it at the time, I now see its intrinsic value. I don’t want my kids to hate music lessons by the time they hit junior high but I do want them to learn the key signatures, chord progressions, and intervals. So I’m doing what the most sneaky of parents do: employing educational computer games. The following websites provide free music theory training that my kids find quite entertaining:

Creating Music is an elementary site for exploring music has online flash cards for all levels of theory education. provides students with interactive games for learning theory at the beginning to advanced levels for strings, guitar, and keyboard.

Ricci Adams’ has both lessons and games for keyboard, guitar, and brass.

Big Ears is a wonderful site for learning to hear note intervals.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spicing Up Lunch

For being the shortest month in the calendar, February sure does seem to drag around here.  Maybe it’s because the weather’s unpredictable and the neighborhood kids spend a lot of time inside, or maybe it’s simply because we’re between the church holidays, but we just seem to be blahhh.  Even lunch seems to be boring.   LB and I were perusing an old Pampered Chef cookbook the other day and decided to try out a new menu item:

Pepperoni Pizzadillas
(serves 4)

1 (8oz) packaged shredded mozzarella
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup tomato, seeded and chopped
1-1/2 cups chopped veggies—we tried mushrooms and peppers
1/4 cup sliced green onions
8 small flour tortillas
20 slices pepperoni
1 cup marinara sauce, warmed

Heat a grill pan or large frying pan for 5 minutes over medium heat while chopping veggies.  Combine cheese and seasoning in a small bowl. 
Cover one tortilla with 1/4 each of the cheese mixture, veggies, onions, and pepperoni.  Cover with another tortilla and slide carefully onto grill pan.  Cook about 3 minutes or until bottom tortilla looks browned.  Slide carefully onto a plate, invert another plate on top over pizadilla, and flip so grilled side is on top and you don’t spill the ingredients.  Slide back onto grill pan and cook until bottom side is crisp.   Repeat with remaining 3 pizadillas.

Cut in wedges with a pizza cutter and serve with a small dish of warm marinara.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

History at Ancient Prices

I know the beginning of the next school year is over six months away, but boy, am I glad I started thinking about it early! I was looking for Diana Waring’s History Alive on homeschool classifieds and decided to check the resale prices against buying it new from her site. Low and behold, she has a marvelous clearance sale going on! The History Alive products will now be published by Answers in Genesis so her self-published sets for Ancient Civilizations and Romans, Reformers, and Revolutionaries are now on sale for a fraction of the original cost. If you are going to be homeschooling anywhere near these eras, or even if you just like to listen to interesting history stories, check out Diana Waring’s recession-buster sales.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Prevention has done it again! The latest issues has a wonderful recipe for smart cookies: cookies with no trans fat, low saturated fat, and lots of taste. Of course I modified it a bit, but the taste is terrific.

Smart Chocolate Chip Cookies

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1-1/3 cups sucanat (the original recipe called for 2/3 cup each of brown and white sugar)
2 large egg whites (you can substitute a whole egg but it changes the fat ratio)
1-1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. Whisk canola and sucanat together in a large bowl. Add egg whites and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients until well blended. Add oats and chocolate.

Cover and chill dough for at least 15 minutes. Heat oven to 375 and lightly spray two cookie sheets.

Shape dough into 16 balls using a little pressure to make them stick together. Put 8 balls on each sheet, flattening each into a 3” patty.

Bake 7 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let cool a few minutes before removing to rack to cool.

Nutritional Info Per Cookie: 218 cal, 3 g protein, 32 g carb, 2 g fiber, 10 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 162 mg sodium (Can you imagine what the counts are on those yummy mall cookies?)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Facing Facebook

A year or so ago my cousin began gently harassing me to get a profile on Facebook. She explained that many of my relatives, including my own brother, were already on and it made family communication very easy. I agreed to check it out and then promptly forgot. After a few more months and nudges I finally bit the bullet and signed on.

Facebook does make it easier to keep up with my family and even reconnect with some members whom I haven't seen in years. Like "six degrees of separation," it's fun to see who's found who from camp, college, and high school. I've even been found by the girl who was my neighbor when I was a toddler! However it also puts people who were a mere flicker in my memory back on the radar screen, and I'm not really sure how I feel about that. All sorts of emotions that have been dormant for decades come flooding back into the present. Feelings of bitterness, insecurity and one-up-manship that I thought were long gone surface a little too easily for my comfort.

So what's a girl (okay, a middle aged gal) to do? First, I'm standing firmly on the conviction that I am content with my life. I love my husband, my job, and my station in life, and I will not be concerned over things that didn't bother me last year let alone ten years ago. And second, I will not shy away from people who "knew me when" because, as Brandon Heath so aptly sings, I'm Not Who I Was. God has been in the process of changing me into the image of His Son Who is kind, merciful, and (thankfully) graciously forgetful. Is that not the best thing I have to offer, anyway?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Got MUFA's?

Okay, I admit, at first glance I thought it was an abbreviation for a vile insult. But I've been educated by the knowledgeable folks at Prevention Magazine that a MUFA is a monounsaturated fatty acid, and a calorie-controlled diet rich in MUFA's is bueno for the belly. It appears that MUFA's help us store less visceral fat in the abdominal region, therefore lowering our risk of several serious diseases. So what are some of these MUFA's, you ask? Oils, olives, nuts and seeds, avocados, and, my personal favorite, dark chocolate made the list.

As I've said before, I'm a dessert fiend. Because I don't overeat them they don't "show," but I know that I need to make better choices when it comes to sweet treats in order to benefit my long-term health. This was tonight's yummy MUFA recipe:

MUFA-Over Ice Cream!
(Makes 5 servings)

1.5 cups skim milk
18 oz. fat free plain yogurt
3 cups Aldi frozen mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine ingredients in a blender or smoothie maker. Transfer to glasses or ice cream dishes and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Eat with a spoon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

8 Minutes

I can't believe it, but this year I've been out of high school for 20 years. Back in September I got this crazy idea that I wanted to see if I could get my weight at 38 to the same place it was when I was 18. Well I did it! Yes, today I can fit in my prom gown. Whoo-hoo! (Maybe that just means I got my mid-life body 20 years too soon!) Here's a picture of me with my Best-Beloved taken at Thanksgiving:

I only had about 10 pounds to lose (but don't forget I'm only 5' tall, so that was about 9% of my body weight) and of course after 3 babies and 20 years, things aren't exactly in the same place and my skin definitely does not have the same elasticity, but I am probably in the best shape of my life. Here's the kicker: it wasn't difficult. I am not dieting (although I should eat fewer cookies) and I'm only spending between 8 and 30 minutes per day, six days a week, doing moderate aerobic exercise. Usually I spend part of my morning with Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds 2 mile High Calorie Burn. Leslie has a bajillion workouts and most are available at your local library. But today I tried a new workout I found in Prevention Magazine. It's an 8 minute interval workout that can blast the socks off even a fit bod.

So do you want to get fit? Did you make one of "those" New Year's resolutions? Check out Prevention Magazine's 8 Minute Fat Blast for a great kick-start.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy (Belated) Chinese New Year!

The Chinese are officially into the Year of the Ox and my family is officially into Chinese food, however, I am NOT into the price of take-out.

When I was a teenager we ate at a nice Chinese restaurant almost every Sunday after church, in fact, we sat in the parking lot until they opened up the place. But our favorite Chinese restaurant, #1 Chinese, had the best food but zero atmosphere--just a counter for ordering and a room full of plastic picnic tables. I've taken my cues from #1 and don't worry about fancy Asian dinnerware or chopsticks, just stick with good food.

Here are a couple of our favorite recipes:

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry
Makes 4 servings

2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
3/4 lb. flank steak
1 medium head broccoli
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Tbs. oyster sauce
2 cups cooked white rice

Make marinade by combining soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add cornstarch and blend in with the back of a spoon. Stir in garlic and ginger.

Trim steak. Cut in 1/4-inch thick strips about 2-inches long. Stir meat into marinade. Cover bowl and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While meat marinates, cut up broccoli. Set aside.

Heat wok until hot. Add oil and coat pan. Add meat and stir fry 2-3 minutes. Remove meat to a plate.

Immediately add broccoli and chicken stock to pan. Cover and cook on high for 4 minutes or until bright green and crisp-tender, stirring once. Uncover pan and stir in meat, marinade, and oyster sauce. Cook uncovered for another minute or two until broccoli is just tender. Serve over rice.

Fried Rice
Makes 4 entree sized portions or side dishes for 6

Cook 1 cup of white rice ahead of time and completely cool it or you will have rice mush.

Heat 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet.


1/2 lb. thin pork chops cut in strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, depending on how spicy you want it
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Stir fry until meat is tender and hot, about 1-2 minutes. Add rice and stir fry another 5 minutes.


1 cup frozen veggies of your choice. We like peas, carrots, and corn.
Small cooked shrimp, if you want it.

Stir well into rice mixture and heat.

Just before serving, push rice into a pile on one side of the pan and add:

2 beaten eggs

Scramble egg until cooked through and then stir into rice mixture. Serve piping hot with extra soy sauce.

I usually pick up a box of egg rolls at Aldi (don't forget to have really good Chinese hot mustard on hand) and a packet of hot and sour soup mix at my local market to round out our feast.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tax Season

Well it's time again to pay my Uncle Sam and this year I'm getting it all ready for free. Our good ol' uncle has set up a site for finding free do-it-yourself on-line tax preparation and filing at Free File for anyone whose adjusted gross income is less than $56,000. I've always purchased Turbo Tax and used their e-filing option so I chose Turbo Tax Freedom Edition from the Free File list. It is available to anyone whose adjusted gross income is less than $30,000, or is on active military duty, or qualifies for Earned Income Credit. The interactive site sets you up with an account so you can safely come and go without losing your information and operates pretty much like the Turbo Tax Deluxe product. Depending on where you live, even your state filing may be free, and if not, Turbo Tax will file it for less than $10. I was very impressed.

If you prepare your own taxes, make less than $56K, and want to save about 60-bucks, check out Free File. It was definitely worth my time!