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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Review: How Children Fail

As my husband is a teacher by trade, he has read several books on children and education that he recommended I read. One of these is How Children Fail by John Holt. I found it to be profound and fascinating and recommend it to anyone who cares about what their children learn or education. (Plus at under 200 pages, it's a quick read.) John Holt was a teacher and this book is a collection of memos that he shared with other teachers and his administration. His memos were based on observations in teaching his own students and observing other teachers in their classrooms. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
  • The only answer that really sticks in a child's mind is the answer to a question that he asked or might ask of himself.
  • Our aim must be to build soundly, and if this means that we must build more slowly, so be it. The work of the children themselves will tell us.
  • The invention of the wheel was as big a step forward as the invention of the airplane—bigger, in fact... Above all, we will have to avoid the difficult temptation of showing slow students the wheel so that they may more quickly get to work on the airplanes...Knowledge that is not genuinely discovered by children will very likely prove useless and will soon be forgotten.
  • There must be a way to educate young children so that the great human qualities that we know are in them  may be developed. But we'll never do it as long as we are obsessed with tests...How can we foster a joyous, alert, whole-hearted participation in life, if we build all our schooling around the holiness of getting "right answers?"
  • A child is most intelligent when...he cares most about what he is doing.
  • When a child gets right answers by illegitimate means, and gets credit for knowing what he doesn't know, and knows he doesn't know, it does double harm. First, he doesn't learn, his confusions are not cleared up; secondly, he comes to believe that a combination of bluffing, guessing, mind reading, snatching at clues and getting answers from other people is what he is supposed to do at school; that this is what school is all about; that nothing else is possible.
  • Kids really like to learn (they) just don't like being pushed around.
Throughout the book he talks a great deal about the use of fear to get children to learn. Fear is not an effective motivator. It may have immediate results, in that children grasp at whatever means possible to find the right answer, but they don't usually understand or retain the process this way. As he described the children he worked with and their various learning failures I thought back to a girl I had worked with during my psych rotation of nursing school. She started out as bright, smart, cheerful, healthy and happy. After a weekend visit to her father, she was found abandoned and huddled in a little ball. No one knows exactly what happened to her. They suspected some extreme abuse, but she never came out of the secret world that she had run away to. I observed her more than a dozen years after the incident and she was still rocking and hiding somewhere else, only emerging occasionally to scream. This is obviously an extreme example, but I think that it holds true. Children can become so crippled by fear and stress that they don't learn. Afraid of failure and disapproval they often hide away within themselves, away from the unpleasant stimulus that they can't bear.
 Another method that he speaks against is tricks and formulas. I remember as a student being bothered by formulas. They didn't tell me why I was getting the answer I was getting. And when I would I ask why, my teachers would be annoyed and generally tell me in an exasperated manner, that's just the way it is. As a result I forgot most algebra as soon as I possibly could. No one could ever tell me where these answers were coming from, I was just manipulating numbers. The "right answers" were not relevant to me, so I didn't retain it.
 This book makes me resolved to be a better teacher of my own children. I want them to love learning. To do so, I can't push them into learning the things that I feel are important. If my daughter wants to learn about bears or bugs, I've got to run wear her curiosity takes us. And when it comes to things like math and reading, the essentials, I've got to apply things in ways that make sense to her and never give her the answer "That's just the way that it is."  or "because I say so."  When I don't know an answer, I must admit it and try to find it. She is and is becoming an intelligent person, and I must treat her as such. I must teach her that it is ok to fail, we just need to learn from our mistakes. So many people don't try because then they can use the excuse 'I didn't do well because I didn't try'. But if they put forth their best efforts and still fail, then how do they face their peers? Now I think to a great extent, all of us want our children to love learning, but effectively kindling that love in them is much easier said than done.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What To Do With Your Expired Coupons

So I had heard before that expired coupons can be used by military families stationed overseas for 6 months after their expiration date. However, I could never find out how to get them to them. I did a little searching on-line, but no where could I find a place to mail my growing mountain of expired coupons. This past weekend I finally stumbled upon the answer:
You can send your expired coupons to U.S. military bases around the world. The coupons are placed in various common areas throughout each base and families can use them for up to 6 months after they expire! We have family friends currently stationed in England who have confirmed to us that the coupons really do make it into the hands of the military families and are valued and appreciated.
For over 17 years, the Overseas Coupon Program has facilitated the transfer of coupons to U.S. military bases. To sign up to send coupons, just visit the website, and click on Base List to browse the list of bases that you can mail your coupons to. After you choose a base, send an email to to let them know you will be participating. You can find more details and information here. And since the packages ship to APO/AFO addresses, the cost to mail the coupons is the same as sending a card to Grandma in Texas. You can drop your coupons in the mail for the cost of a stamp or two and you will help our wonderful service men and women (and their families) at the same time!
Thanks Mama Cheaps for the great tip!

 How it works is you "adopt" an military base and you mail them coupons. That's it. They do ask that the coupons that you send are expired by no more than two months because it does take time for the organization to process, organize and distribute them. So instead of just throwing away those old coupons, why not help someone else out? And really I feel like it is the very least I can do for the families of those in military service. I am grateful for all that they sacrifice.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meatless Mondays

When perusing Skinny Bovine Kitchen I came across a link to Meatless Monday. Their goal is to get people to reduce meat consumption to improve personal health and the health of our planet. Hoorays! I can't go full vegetarian, but I can go meatless once a week. Here's a great quote from their site.
"Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel."
 So for the past couple weeks we've gone meatless on Mondays. One week we had Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers and last week we had Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Garlic Knots. I nabbed the garlic knot recipe from Skinny Bovine, and I have to say it was a big hit in my house. It went perfect with my tomato soup which I will share below.Tonight I'm going to try burritos with my own refried beans. I'll let you know how that goes.
 Once I had a terrible experience at the Olive Garden and was determined never to go their again, (which rule didn't last that long) however, I was very much in love with their Creamy Tomato Basil Soup. So I decided to make it myself. After some internet searching I found a copycat recipe that had 75% of your  RDA of saturated fat for the day in one small serving. Yikes! So I cut out the butter and cream, experimented with it several times over the last few years and finally came up with this recipe. My husband hates tomato soup, but he readily eats this and every time I take the leftovers to work I get comments about how great it smells. I will admit that it doesn't taste quite as good as the recipe with butter and cream, but it is still very satisfying. Plus, it's easy to make.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 large red onion
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 can of 2% evaporated milk (or you can make it from nonfat powdered milk)
2 cups of chicken stock
1 tsp of sugar
1 package of fresh basil (I have used 1 Tablespoon of dried basil before, but it's not nearly as good)

1. Finely chop onion and saute in a soup pot with olive oil. When onion is clear transfer to blender with a can of tomatoes (not drained). 2. Puree onion and tomatoes and return to pot. Puree second can of tomatoes  with basil and add to pot. (I found that if you try to puree both cans of tomatoes at once you will most often have a large mess. I've also tried fore-going the puree step. It is worth the hassle, because it really gives you a smooth creamy texture.) 3. Add milk, sugar and chicken stock. Stir until heated all the way through.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review: The Essential Mormon Cookbook

I received The Essential Mormon Cookbook: Green Jell-O, Funeral Potatoes, and Other Secret Combinations by Julie Badger Jensen as a wedding gift and in the years since then it has served me well. I find it amusing that so many times I have found a "new" great recipe in a cooking magazine, at a church function or from a neighbor and as it turns out the same or nearly identical recipe  to what was in this book all along. It's like this woman has been to every LDS ward function everywhere and taken note of all the good stuff.
 I love this quote from the intro "Written to gladden the heart, this book is meant to strengthen families and friendships and to encourage and inspire both new and seasoned cooks with confidence in their own abilities and creativity and to celebrate the good things which come of the earth..." Yes, that is what I believe cooking should be about! There are lots of great recipes in here, however I will put in the disclaimer that many of them are not what I would consider "healthy" or "low-fat". More like "comfort food". (But not all are like that.) A favorite recipe from this book that has been a hit with even some very picky eaters, is one that I've come across in at least four other places. That means it has to be good right? I changed it in that I put in the crock pot, because I love my crock pot. It makes my life easier.

Apricot Chicken
4-5 lbs of chicken (You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts, drumsticks, whatever you like)
1 cup of Russian dressing
1 cup of apricot jam
1 package dry onion soup mix
1. Combine last three ingredients in a bowl.2. Put all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on low for 4 hours.3. Serve with brown rice. Serves 8.
If you don't want to make this in the crock pot you can bake uncovered in a casserole pan @ 350 degrees for one hour. I generally only make this when someone comes over because it makes way more than my little family can eat.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why You Should Probably Be Taking a Prenatal Vitamin Even If You Aren't Pregnant

The process of growing and breastfeeding a child for six months sucks out 5 years worth of nutrition from your body. This means that if you are not supplementing your diet while pregnant and/or breastfeeding your body will remove mineral and other nutrition stores from your body in order to create/ feed that little bundle of joy. Your body will actually take calcium from your bones and give it to your baby. This is one of the reasons women are more likely to suffer from bone loss. (There also another  bigger and more complex explanation that has to do with estrogen, but I won't get into that.) So if you plan on having a child in the next five years, or even if you have had a child in the past few years, you need to build (or rebuild) those nutrient stores by taking a vitamin. (This is a tidbit that I didn't learn until I had to start teaching it to people,  and is a good reminder for myself because I haven't been good about taking them lately.)
If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, prenatal vitamins are good for your baby. Taking a prenatal when pregnant drastically reduces your risk of having a child with birth defects. The problem with prenatal vitamins is that for many women the iron in them has a tendency to make pregnant women nauseated. When I was pregnant with my son, every time I took a prenatal vitamin I started vomiting. There is a method of getting around this. If you take prenatal vitamin with a glass of milk, the protein in the milk decreases indigestion, and your body also when given the choice of calcium or iron, will choose calcium. It can't effectively absorb both at the same time. (There's a long explanation involving chemistry, but brevity I'll fore-go that one too.) The downside is that you're not getting the iron. (But that's better than throwing up all of it, right?) If you can't handle that go for the gummi vites and some folic acid.
 Other good reasons to take a prenatal vitamin: They make your hair and nails grow stronger, faster and healthier. I started taking a prenatal vitamin when I was fifteen for this very reason. (and I took them consistently until I got pregnant, the irony) Also, prenatal vitamins are super cheap. However, you should be forewarned that the iron can make you constipated, so make sure you are drinking plenty of water.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March Giveaway: Austenland by Shannon Hale

This book doesn't have much to do with the things that I normally blog about, other than it's a book. But it's an awesome book. One of my favorites, by one of my favorite authors. It's about a single woman in her 30's who inherits a trip to a Jane Austen-themed resort park. It's about her adventures there and her getting over her infatuation with the Collin Firth-Mr. Darcy. And it's hilarious. Sorry, that summary really didn't do it justice. Trust me you should read this book, especially if you are a fan of Jane Austen or the A&E Pride and Prejudice. (And PS I'm so excited for the upcoming sequel.) So, if you would like to enter to win become a follower and leave a comment on this post. The winner will be announced on April 1, 2010. You have until  March 31st to enter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

I love soup. I eat it about once a week, spring, summer, winter and fall. (It's just something that MLM deals with.) I have a couple cookbooks devoted just to soup. And everywhere that I read says that to have really good soup you have to make your own chicken stock, which is a 8-10 hour process. I can just buy the canned stuff and deal with it. It occurred to me last week when I found myself with a chicken carcass, I may have better things to do than spend an entire day making chicken stock, but my crock pot doesn't! So I did some internet searching and compiled this recipe from a few I found using things that I had on hand. And it smelled sooooo good. This stuff is ridiculously cheap to make and is better for you than what you purchase in the store because lacks the salt and preservatives.

 Easy Chicken Stock
1 whole chicken carcass
4 large carrots chopped into quarters
1/2 bunch of celery into quarters
1 onion, quartered
1 twig of fresh rosemary
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 lemon, sliced
6-8 cups of water (Depending on the size of your chicken, you want it to be just covered with water.)

Put everything in the crock pot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Remove stoneware from pot and cool. Pour through a large colander into a bowl. Voila! Chicken stock. If you're feeling ambitious (and I was), you can take a few of the cooked vegetables and blend them with a 1/4 cup of chicken stock, then pour and mix it back into the big batch. (My family can use every vegetable I can sneak to them.) Pour it into plastic containers and freeze for later use.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Skinny Bovine's Kitchen

Recently I stumbled on this blog. Britt is a stay at home mom who loves to cook and for health reasons can only eat healthy things, and like so many of us is trying to do it on a budget. Healthy cooking on a budget, now that's something of great interest to me.  In addition to recipes, she has tips on healthy eating throughout her blog. Last week I tried a few of her recipes and here are the results. (Just look at her pics because they turned out so much better than mine.) To see more of her awesome recipes check out

 Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers
1 dash olive oil, plus additional for brushing
1 cup finely chopped onion
8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular)
4 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, lightly toasted
15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) crumbled goat cheese
salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 ciabatta buns, split and toasted
your choice of toppings
Preheat grill. In a large skillet, heat a dash of oil over medium-high. Add onion - cook until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, garlic, cumin and paprika - cook until the mushrooms have released their juices, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Tear toasted bread into pieces and place into a food processor (or blender) - process until broken down into crumbs (I used 6 slices of bread because the pieces were small and when it came time to make the patties the consistency didn't seem stiff enough). Pour into a medium bowl. Add mushroom mixture, beans and cilantro into the food processor bowl - pulse until combined, but not smooth - leave some chunky bits.  (At this point I couldn't help but sing "Mix it in a mincer and pretend it's beef " from Les Mis.) Scoop mixture into the bowl with the bread crumbs - add goat cheese and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Mix ingredients together, then divide into four equal portions. with dampened hands, shape each portion into 4 thick patties. Lightly brush each side of all patties with oil. (I still couldn't get them to form patties very well. I just plopped a giant scoop of the mixture on my Foreman grill and it worked, although my patties seemed to be much flatter and wider than hers.)
Place patties onto the grill and cook until thoroughly heated through and the outside has crisped, about 8 minutes per side. Serve burgers on toasted buns and with desired toppings.

The Verdict: These were really, really good. Even meat loving man liked them, although he was kind of sceptical when he walked in the kitchen and I was in the mixing phase. I didn't even try to get the kids to eat them, they don't even like real meat. I will definitely make these again.

Engagement Chicken
3 lbs whole chicken
2 medium lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
sea salt (to taste)
ground black pepper (to taste)
optional: I also added 6 cloves of garlic to the inside of the chicken
  1. Place rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash chicken inside and out with cold water, remove the giblets, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander until it reaches room temperature (about 15 min). Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Pour lemon juice all over the chicken (inside and outside), season with salt and pepper.
  4. Prick the whole lemons three times with a fork and place deep inside the cavity (I cut them 1/2 way through). (Tip: if lemons are hard, roll on the countertop with your palm to get juices flowing.)
  5. Place the chicken breast-side down on a rack in a roasting pan, lower heat to 350 and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and turn it breast-side up; Return it to oven for 35 minutes more.
  7. Test for doneness - a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh should read 180, or juices should run clear when chicken is pricked with a fork.
  8. Continue baking if necessary.
  9. Let chicken cool for a few minutes before carving.
  10. Serve with juices.
The Verdict: This didn't turn out as well as I had imagined, but I claim all the blame. I pulled the chicken out of the freezer Monday morning and put it in the fridge. Tuesday evening when I started it was still frozen. So I defrosted it in the microwave for 30 minutes. I baked it for 10 minutes longer than recommended and the juices where I stabbed ran clear, so I thought it was done. When meat loving man started carving it became apparent that it wasn't. So I cooked it some more, and some more. I ended up cooking it for 2 hours total before I felt it was done enough.
 Rewind to when I thought dinner was supposed to be ready. I had put out a clean table cloth, used my best plates, opened a bottle of sparkling French lemonade and made delicious potatoes with garlic and fresh rosemary. And that's what we had for dinner: potatoes and lemonade. The kids had chicken nuggets with their potatoes and we had engagement chicken more than an hour later. The chicken was good, but it was quite the hassle. I was also reminded of why I only buy my chicken in skinless boneless form. I really don't like having to touch raw meat. (The next day I used the carcass to make some great chicken stock. It made my whole house smell wonderful.) So I may possibly make this again, but not often and I won't freeze and defrost the chicken.

Cilantro Lime Chicken and Black Bean Pizza
1 chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Combine all ingredients and marinate all day or overnight. Cook chicken in marinade in a saucepan sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with cumin and black pepper while cooking.
Pizza Sauce:
3/4 cup fat free sour cream
5-6 tablespoons cilantro, tightly packed
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
2 tablespoons green enchilada sauce
2 tablespoons green onion, chopped (no need to chop it finely - it will get that way in the blender!)
1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.
Pizza dough: 
1 tablespoon quick rise yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup very warm water (as hot as you can get it from your tap)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white flour
a little bit less than 2 cups whole wheat flour
a teaspoon or so of olive oil (or none if you prefer)
1. Combine yeast, sugar and water in large bowl. Stir until it starts to bubble.
2. Add salt and flour (and oil if you wish). Knead just until combined.
3. Cover and let rise - minimum 1 hour, but it's better if you let it rise for 2 hours.
4. Roll out dough. Top with desired toppings. Cook in oven at 400 for 10-15 minutes.
Putting the pizza together:
After rolling out pizza crust on a large cookie sheet, spread all of prepared sauce onto the crust. Spread cooked chicken and 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained) onto the crust. Top with cheese and salsa fresca.

The Verdict: I've never been to CPK, but I do like different kinds of pizza and was really excited to try this. It didn't turn out as well as I was hoping. My kids wouldn't try it. (Surprise, surprise.) My husband said it tasted like an enchilada sandwich. I liked it, but I think it would be better with some sauteed onions and chopped fresh mango. Or possibly fore-go the salsa fresca and just use some of the mango salsa from Costco. I will however, definitely be using her pizza crust recipe again. It turned out much better than my usual.

Spicy Pasta with Broccoli
12-15 ounces dry short pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 head broccoli (roughly 1.5 pounds), florets sliced into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup water + a little more
salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) fresh grated Parmesan, divided (optional)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, seasoned and cooked according to your liking
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain and place back into the pot off heat.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium. stir in garlic and crushed red pepper - cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broccoli and 1/3+ cup water - season with salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook until broccoli just begins to soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until the excess water has evaporated and the broccoli is crisp-tender, about 1 to 2 additional minutes.
Scoop broccoli mixture into the pot with the pasta and add 1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) parmesan and enough of the reserved pasta water to create a thin sauce. Serve with the remaining parmesan scattered on top. Serve with chicken on top.

The Verdict: This was very good and very easy. My daughter happily ate an entire plate. I will definitely do this again. It was super quick and used stuff I already had. (I used the leftover engagement chicken in it.) I only used 1/4 tsp of red pepper because I was afraid my kids wouldn't eat otherwise. Next time I think I will use a whole teaspoon of red pepper.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: Fascinating Womanhood

My mother-in-law gave a copy of Fascinating Womanhood: How the Ideal Woman Awakens a Man's Deepest Love and Tenderness by Helen Andelin to myself and two of my sisters-in-law for Christmas. (Probably because not a one of us is a shining example of femininity.) I have a love-hate relationship with this book. There are some great insights and wisdom found in these pages. There are also some things that if a person said this to me they would have unleashed some wicked fury.
 This book was originally written in the 1970's, when the feminist movement was really becoming big in America. When the media was saying that women needed to be liberated, Andelin glorified the beauty of and embraced the traditional role of wife and mother. (And it really infuriated the feminists.)
 I think the thing that I love most about this book is the quote from the author on the back. "A loving marriage is the foundation of a happy family, and a happy family the foundation of a stable society. Most of the problems in this world stem from troubled homes. If we are to have peace in the world, we must begin at home." Yes! Now that is sound advice.
 According to the author, the ideal woman (from a man's point of view) has the following qualities: she understands men, has inner happiness, has a worthy character, is a domestic goddess, is feminine, radiates happiness, has radiant health and is childlike (not childish). I can more or less buy that, and through the book she explains how to gain these qualities.
 I found the part about understanding men very interesting. She explains why you can't change a man and trying to do so is futile. A man needs to feel accepted by the woman he loves, his home a place where he can feel secure. If this happens he will love her more. Sure, a man has faults, but so does every woman, he doesn't want you to point them out. If you try to change him, he will only get defensive. Appreciate what is good in him and you are more likely to bring out his better qualities. In this section I also read many things that made me realize so that's exactly why Mr. & Mrs. X are so very unhappy. And there were a couple things that I have been doing right and it explained why they work. Good to know.
 I liked that she strongly encourages women to improve themselves, and not just in ways that are obviously for pleasing  their men. Women need to have self-control, unselfishness, charity, humility, diligence, patience, moral courage, and honesty. They need to get enough sleep, exercise, eat properly, drink lots of water, take time to relax and have a healthy mental attitude. They should keep up on current events and spend time reading good books. They should find joy in the small and simple things in life. However, these things do aid to make a woman fascinating to a man. Every woman can improve in at least one of these areas.
 Now for the things I didn't like about this book. In fact these quotes made me so angry that I highlighted them in my book. I never do that. "If chivalry is dead, women have killed it. They have killed it by becoming capable, efficient and independent..." Ok, I think that I could rant for a long time about why I have issues with that statement, but I'll sum it up in two points. 1) A man should be chivalrous because it is a reflection of his own character, not because of any quality or lack thereof in a woman that he should be courteous to. 2)What in the world is wrong with being capable and efficient? Is it better to be incapable and inefficient? 'Oh help, I am a woman and can do nothing in a satisfactory manner. As I am now so crippled in all facets of my being you should now love me and put me on a pedestal.' Um, no.
 "A man's feeling of worth can be undermined when he sees women in the workforce doing a better job than he, advancing to a higher position, or earning more pay." If he were a real man, he'd grow a back bone and get over it. Does a man really feel less about himself when he sees someone else doing well? He should either be content with his efforts or try to improve. There are lots of men and women out there who are better at or have more of a lot of things than myself, but that is not a reflection of me, my abilities or my worth as a person. Comparing yourself to other people will only make you unhappy.
 Throughout the book she also talks about the importance of a woman staying at home with her children. That is a woman's place and not elsewhere.  And she gives many arguments that we've all heard before. Now I agree that it is important for a woman to be at home with her kids, especially when they are young. And I do believe that the job of mother is the most important that a woman can have, however that doesn't mean that other jobs that she may have are so unimportant that they can be ignored. What would happen if I and every other mother that I worked with stopped working in the hospital? On the unit that I work on there would be a few single secretaries, one single nurse on days and a couple of men who work nights. Many units would have to shut down entirely. Who would be there to care for sick children? Who would be there to assist women in labor, or care for them after delivery? Who would care for every other person who is in the hospital? Not nearly enough people I can promise you that. Yes, my job as a mother is priority, but that doesn't mean that my other job lacks value and importance. And there are many other jobs that are also of great importance.
 I also detested many of the testimonials that are given throughout the book. If my husband started kissing my feet and saying silly sappy things, I would think he had hit his head or been possessed by aliens or something. It gives numerous examples of husbands who did things that a woman shouldn't put up with, but they just started applying the principles of FW and now everything is bliss. Really? Gag. Some women need to grow some back bones too, or tune into reality. And the book is very much in love with itself. 'Fascinating Womanhood can save any marriage'. Hardly.
 Having said all of that, I still think that it was worth the read. There are many principles here that if applied can improve your marriage and your life in general. However, some of the advice must be taken with a grain of salt.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Confessions of A Mother of a Picky Eater

I thought that my daughter was picky, until I had my son. That child would not drink formula. The only baby foods I ever got him to eat were bananas, pears and apple sauce. Weaning was a nightmare. Once I did get him weaned I worried about him because he won't eat anything. Really, he lives on fruits, crackers, cheese, chocolate milk and yogurt. He doesn't eat bread, vegetables or meats. (Now he will once in awhile eat a chicken nugget.) Occasionally he'll eat eggs, but never more than once a week. People think I'm kidding when I say that. I wish I were. I've tried all kinds of things. Many work for my daughter, few work for my son. Initially I brought this up with my pediatrician, who told me not to worry. He's healthy and as long as you keep offering him things, eventually he'll start eating them. "Studies have shown that you have to offer a child a food 8-10 times before they show interest." Yeah, well studies weren't looking at my child. Once he went for two days without eating anything but a few glasses of chocolate milk. All day long he demanded fruit snacks. No, you can't have fruit snacks, how about a banana? He refused that and everything else I offered. After two days of me not giving him fruit snacks (ok that's not entirely true, I did cave and give him one pack of fruit snacks) he decided that he wanted Ramen noodles. He ate two entire packages by his little 18 month old self. Not the most nutritious meal, but I was just so grateful that he finally decided to eat something. A few months ago I took him into the pediatrician (a new guy since we have moved) for a well-child check. Since I stopped breast-feeding he's dropped from the 95th percentile to the 16th percentile. Whah! Little boy that I love, please eat something! He hasn't lost any weight, but he hasn't really gained much either. (He's not considered failure to thrive or anything, it's just that this rate he'll end up being 6 to 8" shorter than my husband.)
 My pediatrician suggested that I start putting Carnation Instant Breakfast in his chocolate milk. I did this and he lost all interest in all other foods. Why should he bother with eating when his chocolate milk gives him everything that he needs? (Really, a person can live off of Carnation Instant Breakfast and not need anything else.) After a few days of this I decided that he was only getting supplemented chocolate milk twice a day. Every evening at dinner I give him a few tablespoons of what we are eating in a bowl. He doesn't want to look at it. He just screams "Take it, take it" and ends up eating fruit and cheese for dinner.
 Another way that I have managed to sneak some nutrition to him is muffins. In the past few months he has shown an interest in them, so I pack them full of everything I can: pumpkin, shredded carrots, apples, oatmeal, powdered milk, and orange juice. He loves them. Between these two things he's gained three pounds in as many months. Whoot!
 Today when my daughter requested a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, he wanted one too and he ate it! Or about 1/4th of a sandwich with apple slices and milk (not the chocolate variety either). But for him this is huge progress. I try to serve healthy well-balanced meals and just hope that someday my kids will be interested in eating them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to Cook a Great Steak Part 2: The Hand Doneness Test

A few people commented that they didn't know how to tell when a steak was done. My husband (a.k.a. Meat Loving Man) uses the Hand Doneness Test. He said he couldn't remember where he learned it, but I found this link at Simply that has some photos illustrating the method. Basically the fleshy part between your thumb and forefinger when your hand is relaxed is what a raw steak feels like. When you press your forefinger and thumb together that area feels like a rare steak. When you press your middle finger and thumb together that feels like a medium rare steak. Ring finger & thumb=medium steak. Pinkie and thumb= well done steak. If it's tougher than that, you cooked it too much. If you don't trust this method, you can use a meat thermometer. They range from $20-100.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rainbow Cupcakes

I found this festive idea in the March 2010 issue of Family Fun Magazine. They were fun, and my daughter loved them, but they turned out to be a little more work than I expected. It was worth it, but not something I would do on a regular basis.
  1. Prepare your favorite white cake mix, then divide the batter evenly among six small bowls. (About 1/2 cup of batter per bowl.) Following the chart below, dye each bowl of batter a rainbow color.

    Purple 9 red and 6 blue drops
    Blue 12 drops
    Green 12 drops
    Yellow 12 drops
    Orange 12 yellow and 4 red drops
    Red 18 drops

  2. Line 16 muffin pan wells with baking cups. Evenly distribute the purple batter among the cups, then the blue, and so on, following the order shown. As you go, gently spread each layer of batter with the back of a spoon to cover the color underneath.
  3. Bake the cupcakes according to your recipe directions. Before serving, remove the paper wrapping, and if you like, top each cupcake with a whipped-cream cloud.

        Monday, March 15, 2010

        Corned Beef and Cabbage with Mustard Custard Sauce.

        I thought I would try making something traditional for St Patrick's Day, but then I have to work on St. Patty's and the last thing I feel like doing after working 12(+) hours is making a large meal. Nor is my family to keen on waiting for said large meal that late in the evening. Instead I made this yesterday and it turned out really well, plus it was very easy. (My husband loved this meal and my daughter ate it as long as the yellow stuff didn't touch her food.) I found the recipe on and adapted as I saw fit. (Sorry no pictures, because my camera batteries are dead and as I was preparing to take one I discovered I don't have any more batteries of the appropriate size either. :S)

        Corned Beef and Cabbage
        4 large carrots, washed and cut into four pieces each
        3 lb corned beef briscuit with seasoning packet
        1 large onion, quartered
        1 tsp chopped garlic
        1/3 cup water
        1/2 head of cabbage, cut into wedges
        Layer first four ingredients plus seasoning in crock pot in order given, carrots on bottom. Pour water over top. Cook on low for three hours. Add cabbage. Cook for three more hours.

        I found this next recipe on That Went Well, and I have to say it is pretty tasty. The real reason I decided to make corned beef and cabbage is so I could try this sauce. My husband happily ate every vegetable that I put on his plate because he was dipping them in this sauce. That's extremely high praise in my house.

        Mary Helen's Mustard Custard Sauce
        2 tbsp sugar
        2 tbsp plain yellow mustard
        1/2 tsp salt
        2 eggs
        6 tbsp white vinager
        4 tbsp water
        Low heat stir till thickened. It should have a pudding consistency.

        Friday, March 12, 2010

        Pink Eye- What It Is and What You Need to Know About It

        Pink Eye is the common name for conjunctivitis, and it is very common in children. What it is, is an inflammation of the clear mucous membrane that covers the surface of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. The inflammation is caused by viruses, bacteria or a foreign body (like a piece of dirt or pollen). It's generally not serious and goes away within 7-10 days without treatment. (It is serious if you have a weakened immune system or if you wear contact lenses. I remember my dad had pink eye when I was a little girl. He wore hard contacts and would rub his eyes with his contacts in, causing little cuts on the inside of his eyelids, which made his case of pink eye killer. He was in terrible pain and we ate dinner in the dark for a week.)

        Symptoms of pink eye include:
        • Redness of the eyes
        • Swelling and redness of the eyelids
        • Watery, teary eyes
        • Itching or burning of the eyes
        • Sensitivity to light
        • Drainage
        Pink eye is highly contagious. If you or your children have pink eye, you (they) should stay away from school, work, church and/or daycare. If it is caused by a virus you can return when symptoms improve (3-5 days). If it is caused by bacteria, you can return after using antibiotic drops for 24 hours. Most often it is caused by a virus, therefore there is generally no treatment. Seeing a doctor is your best bet, just to be safe.

        Ways to Prevent Pink Eye:
        • Never share wash cloths, towels or pillow cases.
        • Stay away from bar soap.
        • Dust and vacuum frequently.
        • If you swim, wear goggles.

        Thursday, March 11, 2010

        Book Review: 101 Things To Do With A Cake Mix

        I have read a few Cake Mix Cookbooks, but 101 Things To Do With A Cake Mix by Stephanie Ashcraft is my favourite. My mother-in-law gave this to me for Christmas years ago and in that time I have tried most of the recipes. Only one of them I didn't like, the Tropical Getaway Cake, but then everyone else liked it, so it wasn't a total failure. Every time that I use one of these recipes and share the results I get lots of compliments. And all of them are very easy to make.

         The recipe that I use the most is for Luscious Lemon Cake. It's very moist and frequently requested. Over the years it's evolved a little, so it's not exactly what you find in the book.

        Luscious Lemon Cake
        1 lemon cake mix
        1 small box of lemon pudding
        1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
        3/4 cup of water
        1/2 cup of applesauce
        1/4 cup of oil
        4 eggs

        1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar
        1/3 cup of orange juice or limeade
        1 T lemon juice

        Preheat oven to 350. Mix all cake ingredients together and beat until smooth. Pour batter into a greased non-stick bundt pan. (Yeah, in theory a non-stick pan shouldn't need to be greased, but I promise your cake will not come out in one piece if you don't grease it. Also your cake most often won't come out in one piece if you just heavily grease a regular bundt pan. I know, I tried.) Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick out clean when stuck in the center. Let cool for five minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. Mix icing and drizzle over the cake.

        Wednesday, March 10, 2010

        How To Cook A Great Steak

        A few weeks ago I came across this article: How to Turn Cheap “Choice” Steak into Gucci “Prime” Steak on When steaks went on sale last week at the grocery store I had to give it a try. The Verdict: Pretty good, not as amazing as she made it sound. I've had better steak. My daughter, who I didn't expect to eat them at all, liked it. I do think that I'm going to use that garlic-herb butter on some steamed veggies.

        One thing that she doesn't discuss in the article is how to actually cook the steak, and frankly it's not my strong point either. My husband complains that when I cook steak, it's too dry. And he's right. I get multi-tasking, or children get demanding, and the meat gets overdone. The solution: my husband now cooks the steaks at our house. I prepare the meat, he cooks it the way he likes it and everybody wins. He developed his method of cooking steak from a few suggestions in The Art of Manliness Cookbook. (which you can download for free from this link, but you have to subscribe to their RSS feed first.)

        Indoor Steak
        Olive Oil
        Fresh ground pepper
        1. Place a metal or cast iron skillet in the oven and set for 475 degrees.
        2. Apply a thin coat of oil (a few drops), then pepper to each side of the steak. (Normally he salts it too, but not when I did the "salt lick" method beforehand.)
        3. When the oven reaches 475, turn a burner on high and remove the skillet (which will be VERY HOT) from the oven and place on the burner. Let heat for an additional 5 mins.
        4. Place steak on one side of the skillet and leave it there for 30 seconds; don't move it.
        5. After 30 seconds, flip the steak. Do not move steak for 30 seconds.
        6. Place skillet and steak into the oven.
        7. Depending on steak thickness and desired doneness levels, 2-5 minutes per side in the oven should be adequate. If unsure, pull out the meat early and check doneness via the Doneness Hand Test, or with an instant read thermometer. Remember: you can always put the meat back in the oven if it's not done enough, but you can't un-cook it.
        8. After removed from the heat, let the steak rest for 5 minutes before cutting/serving. Cover with tinfoil to retain heat during this time.

        The 30 seconds on each side helps develop a delicious crust by the Maillard reaction, the oil helps with heat transfer and crust development, and the resting the meat allows the juices to return to the cells of the meat, so when you cut into
        it the juices stay in the meat, not pool on your plate.

        Here's some more steak tips from The Art of Manliness: Grilling the Perfect Steak

        When all is said and done I still think that the best way to cook a steak is to marinate it in Sprite and grill it over a fire. Of course, that's generally not an option year round.

        Tuesday, March 9, 2010

        BBQ Baked Beans

        So last month when I did the pantry challenge, I discovered that I had a lot of canned pork in my pantry, and I wasn't really sure what to do with it. And I didn't ever do anything with it because the one thing I thought of required beans, which I discovered I was out of.  (Somehow I had never purchased dry beans before last week.) So now that we are doing regular grocery shopping again I thought I would give it a shot. When I was growing up, I remember my mom making these great BBQ beans with bacon and pineapple. I thought I could switch the can of pork for the bacon. So I called my mom for the recipe. She said "I don't know, just throw in some beans, some pineapple and whatever." Thanks, Mom for your detailed assistance. (I love you Mom!)
        "Beans are high in fiber, low in fat". (The first person who can name what cartoon character sings that line gets a prize.) Beans also have protein, calcium, iron, folic acid, and phytochemicals. Plus they're cheap. Something I should probably incorporate into my diet more often. So here's my very first attempt at making BBQ beans, and I was actually rather pleased with the results, much better than I expected. Not as amazing as I remember my mom's being, but I liked them, and they were very easy to make. They do however, require a little prep beforehand. You can also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the pork/bacon.

        BBQ Baked Beans
        1 lb of dry beans-cooked and drained* (See below)
        1/4 cup of dried onion
        1/4 cup of brown sugar
        1 cup BBQ sauce (the better your sauce, the better your beans)
        1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
        1 can (21 oz) pineapple chunks, drained
        1 can (14 oz) canned pork chunks, drained or 1 lb of sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
        2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
        1 tsp dry mustard
        Mix all ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours, or until beans are tender. Leftovers freeze well.

        Cooked Beans
        The secret to cooking beans so that they won't give you horrendous gas is to change the water and cook them long and slow. (Also eating beans on a regular basis decreases their ill-effects on the body.) I soaked mine overnight, then drained the water. Then I put them in the crockpot, covered them with three inches of water and cooked them on low for 8 hours. Then I drained and rinsed them again before adding them to the recipe above. This time I used a pound of red beans, but you could just as easily use white, pink, kidney or pinto.

        The Verdict: My husband and I really liked them, and I now I have found something else I can do with canned pork chunks that my kids won't eat. We love variety.

        Monday, March 8, 2010

        Appreciation Can Save Your Sanity

        I've talked about appreciation and gratitude before, and when I was in college I studied a little about its health benefits, but recently I found this great concise and convincing list. (I found this list in What Happy Working Mothers Know, and they referenced the info from What Happy Companies Know by Dan Baker & Cathy Greenberg and The HeartMath Institute)
        • Positive attitudes in heart patients increase survival by 20% after 11 years.
        • Positive talk between couples reduces stress by 15%, negative talk increases stress by 48%
        • Appreciation reduces physical symptoms and medications, improves hormone balance, and increases production of antibodies.
        • Appreciation syncs heart and mind, improves auditory discrimination, spatial awareness, and short and long-term memory.
        • Thoughts and even subtle emotions influence the activity and balance of the nervous system, which interact with our digestive, cardiovascular, immune and hormonal systems.
        • Negative reactions like panic and anger create disorder and imbalance in the nervous system.
        • Positive feelings like gratitude create increased order and balance in the nervous system, which results in overall increased body and brain balance and function.
        So the next time you're feeling stressed about something, think about something you're grateful for. It's better for your body, your overall well-being and it will help you to think more clearly.

        Friday, March 5, 2010

        BBQ Chicken and Wheat Salad

        Ok, for those who haven't ever had something with wheat berries in it, just stay with me. You need to try this. Using your wheat can be so easy and very delicious. Last summer when I went to a presentation by Liesa Card, she introduced me to the wonders of wheat without a wheat grinder. First you start with this recipe:

        To prepare wheatberries:
        • 4 c. raw whole wheat
        • 10 c. water
        • 1 T. salt
        Oil a large (4 quart or larger) slow cooker and fill with wheat, water, and salt. Cover and cook on low all night, 8-10 hours. Cooked wheat may be bagged and stored in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for months.

        Now you are ready to make all kinds of easy delicious things (one of our favorites is wheatberry salsa) using something that is super cheap, (I got mine for 33 cents per pound at Costco) stores for a long time, and is high in fiber, folic acid and protein.

        Yesterday I had success creating something new. I love it when that happens. :) I was inspired by a recipe that I saw in The Essential Food Storage Cookbook, but I made a few drastic changes, like adding food storage. Here it is.

        Barbeque Chicken and Wheat Salad
        • 3 cups of cooked wheatberries
        • 2 cups of cooked chopped chicken breasts (I grilled mine with lime pepper)
        • 1 (15 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
        • 1 (15 oz) can of corn, drained
        • 6 small green onions finely chopped (or 1/2 a red onion chopped)
        • 1 large red bell pepper chopped
        • 1 1/2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese
        • 1 large ripe avocado chopped
        • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce
        • 2/3 cup ranch dressing
        • 1 Tablespoon of lime juice
        • 2 cups of tortilla chips, crushed
        Mix dressing, sauce and lime juice. Mix first eight ingredients in a large bowl with dressing. Store in the fridge for two hours before serving. (Trust me I tasted before and after and it tastes so much better if you let the wheat have a chance absorb the dressing, although it is still good to just eat it right after mixing.) Serve with broken tortilla chips on top.

        I didn't mix the avocado in the big batch because my husband is severely allergic to them.

        The Verdict: I love this salad. My husband liked it. My kids wouldn't eat it and had orange slices and string cheese for dinner. :S But then my children are unfortunately more picky than the average children.

        Thursday, March 4, 2010

        Book Review- What Happy Working Mothers Know

        I don't agree with every point in this book, but man I wish that I had read it years ago when I was trying to balance working full-time, as well as being a good wife and mom. What Happy Working Mothers Know by Cathy L. Greenberg, Ph.D and Barrett S. Avigdor J.D. offers a lot of insight whether you stay home full-time with your kids or you're a work-a-holic.
         This book talks about how happiness is not a luxury, it's a necessity. I believe this is true, it's just that sometimes we're so busy trying to get everything done that we forget this. People who are happy do a better job, are more efficient and take fewer sick days, thus being happy increases the bottom-line. (I really wish more employers would realize this.) The book talks a lot about finding a balance and making sure that you take time for your family. It also goes in depth on the idea that if you can find a career that you find to be fulfilling, that makes you a better mom. Being a mom gives you management skills that make you a better employee.  And don't let other people tell you what you need to do to be happy. (I really can get behind that idea. When I worked full-time, a good portion of my shifts were on a few Mother-Baby units. I was always so irritated when people would give me flack for working and not being at home more. If women, like myself, aren't the ones teaching post-partum mom's how to breastfeed, then who would it be? Do they really want men to come and teach them how to breastfeed?)

         Throughout the book there are happiness tips, given below:
        1. Love yourself as much as you love your friends and family
        2. Life happens. What you choose to focus on becomes your experience. Choose to focus on the positive.
        3. Forgive yourself and others.
        4. Happiness comes from a full, balanced life that includes hard work, time with family and friends, exercise, celebration, and even solitude. Withhold any of these ingredients and your recipe for happiness will fall flat.
        5. Half the battle in life is finding something that you love to do. The other half is rejoicing over your successes along the way.
        6. Realize that you're not perfect and allow yourself a few mistakes.
        7. Set the same expectations for yourself that you give to your loved ones. Don't be too hard on yourself.
        8. Know when to say "no" and learn to do it without feeling guilty. It will increase your satisfaction with life.
        9. Life may not turn out exactly the way that you planned, but the detours are worth it because we learn more from our failures than our successes.
        10. Happiness starts when you realize that you are loved and appreciated for who you are, not what you do.
        I would recommend this book to every working mom out there (which really is every mom, even if you are at home seven days a week you still have a very important job) and anyone else who is trying to have a little more happiness and balance in their lives.

        Wednesday, March 3, 2010

        Everything I Know About Plants & Gardening

        Water, weed, good dirt is necessary, um that's about it.
        Today would have been my grandma's 86th birthday and I've been thinking about her lately. She had an amazing green thumb. Her house was always full of plants and she could revive almost anything. Once she grew a plant from a cutting that overtook her entire living room. She called the LDS Church office building to see if she could donate it to them. They asked "Well, is the plant healthy?" "Yes, that's the problem." They had to remove her double doors and carry the thing out on a large plank of wood to get it out of her house. Then they hauled it away on a flatbed truck. I'm sure that she had lots of botany secrets, but the one I remember was hair. Whenever she cut her kids hair she saved the trimmings and buried them in the dirt of her pots. Hair is full of protein and nutrients that will be eventually broken down by bacteria in soil and made available for absorption by the plants. So a few days ago when my mother-in-law trimmed my son's hair, I saved the hair in my new compost bucket. In the next few weeks I plan on planting a tree in my backyard. Hopefully the fruit peels and hair clippings will help it out.

        Tuesday, March 2, 2010

        Giveaway Winner

         Congrats to Sarah from Indiana, who won the giveaway for February. I do apologise to everyone who was unable to comment on the website because of technical difficulties. Better luck next time. I'll be having another giveaway in a few weeks, so stay tuned.

        Just A Reminder

        If you are having one of those days where you are really frustrated with your life just remember:
        "The way that mothers nurture their children may make babies smarter, healthier and better able to deal with stress. These are qualities that will carry through their lives and into the lives of their own children." -Louann Brizendine, M.D. and neuropsychologist
        What you do as a mom is so important!

        Monday, March 1, 2010

        Pantry Challenge Review

        In the past couple weeks this is what we have been eating: Navajo Tacos, Chicken Fajita Pasta, Beef Stew, Noodles and Company, Chili, Banana Oatmeal Bread, Cream of Mushroom Soup, Orange Buttermilk pancakes (made with powdered milk), Toasted Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Soup, Beef and Wheat Enchiladas and lots of leftovers. And eating food storage for lunch is easy because every day my kids want "Ramen doodles" or Mac & Cheese. I have to be very persuasive to get them to eat anything else. :S I've learned a few things from this challenge.
        1. I don't know if I will ever be desperate enough to drink powdered milk. I can
          cook with it, but I won't drink it.
        2. When I washed out the chocolate milk jug and filled it with water and hot chocolate mix, my kids didn't even notice. That one can save me a lot of money the way my kids go through chocolate milk.
        3. I really can live off my food storage!
        4. I can get away with spending only $10-15 a week on groceries, without even clipping any coupons.
        5. I got to the point where making homemade bread wasn't that big of a deal. And I don't own a bread maker.
        6. I have more food in my pantry than I thought I did.
        I do have to confess that I cheated. Saturday night my in-law's were in town and they had promised a few months ago that they would take my daughter to Pirate Island Pizza the next time they came. No food storage that night, but does it count if I didn't have to pay for it?