Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Best (Mock) Steak Soup

A friend made this mock steak soup recipe for me and ever since then I just can't get enough of it.  It's one that we almost always have all of the ingredients on hand (and I mean, actually we have almost all of the ingredients, not like all those other blogs claim 'you have all of these ingredients on hand' and then they call for things like coconut oil, quinoa, and the blood of a virgin...yeah). 

It's so very easy to double and triple (for your especially large crowds).  It's also so very easy to substitute other things in place of what the actual recipe calls for.  Please enjoy this recipe.  I have to give props to my friend Lisa (mom of 6, all of whom love this soup). 

Soup Ingredients
2 cups water
1 medium chopped onion
2 stalked chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 lb. can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tsp salt
10 oz package frozen veggies
1 lb ground chuck, browned
4 tablespoons beef base granules or 2 of the bouillon cubes

Sauce Ingredients
1 stick melted butter, plus 1/2 c flour. 

Cook soup ingredients on low in crock pot for 8 hours. Then make the "sauce" and stir into soup to thicken.  Cook another 30 min-1 hour on high.

Suggestions for substitutions

2 cups water (part broth?) 
1 medium chopped onion (frozen onion?)
2 stalked chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 lb. can diced tomatoes (rotel?  stewed tomatoes?)
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tsp salt (garlic salt?  seasoning salt?  celery salt?) 
10 oz package frozen veggies (I especially like half frozen corn, half frozen green beans)
1 lb ground chuck, browned (ground turkey?  our favorite is ground pork!) 
4 tablespoons beef base granules or 2 of the bouillon cubes (only have chicken bouillon?  give it a shot!)  

Photo from  Recipe from the kitchen of Lisa Loewen. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Potty Training 101

Well it's been a fair time since I've been on this thing, but we had an earth-shattering event in our house recently and I thought it was blog-worthy. 

We are all three POTTY TRAINED!! 

Yeah, it's really something.  Here's the long and short of how we went about it. 

First of all, we got the potty chair for Christmas last year.  Sometime late summer, Gracie started telling us that she went potty or that she wanted her diaper changed or she would come with us when we went to the restroom and she would watch us and say things like, "Mommy potty?" So we started noticing an interest in certain bodily functions. 

I had planned on potty training over the three day weekend in November for Veteran's Day.  Unfortunatly my husband had an untimely surgery. (Seriously, didn't he know I was trying to potty train a toddler?!? Just kidding.)  So we bought one more package of diapers and went on about our lives. 

Then the first week of December I noticed the diapers running a little low, so I requested to take Friday, December 14th off to make a nice long three-day weekend to potty train.  (Yes, you read that correctly.  I am a total fool and took a vacation day to potty train my child.)  I had been reading the "Potty Train Your Child In Just One Day" book.  While I did not follow the book to a "T", I did use some of her ideas - particularly teaching the baby doll in the first part of the first day.  (I bought the Once Upon A Potty doll on Amazon because it was the cheapest at the time.  It got the job done but it is definietly a cheaply made doll.) 

The night before I wrapped the doll up and put the present in the bathroom.  When Gracie woke up I very excitedly told her that I thought she had a present in the bathroom and I took her in there.  She opened up the bag and saw the baby and the potty.  (She named the doll Potty Gracie, but I decided that might get confusing later so we called it Potty Baby.  My daughter is very original.)  We spent all morning playing with the baby and teaching it how to potty in the "big girl" potty.  When the baby pottied in the potty we would try to give her a treat but since she couldn't eat it, Gracie got it.  This was setting up for the afternoon.   

After her nap there was another present in the bathroom - panties.  We immediately opened them and put them on.  The book suggests using some kind of action figure or princess or somethng that they can relate to.  Since really the only children's figure that Gracie knows is Elmo I picked out butterflies and flowers.  I often said things like "let's not get those butterflies wet, ok?".  She ran around in a t-shirt and underwear all day (a suggestion in the book).  We had on her favorite shirt - her Corky shirt.  We ate super salty snacks all day (potato chips, crackers, cheese, etc.) and drank lots of juice, milk, water, and even tried some juice mixed with club soda and strawberry milk.  I constantly asked her if she needed to potty.  I would race her to the bathroom and we would sit on the potty for (literally) hours at a time reading books, playing games, singing songs, finding pictures in her look-and-find book....

I think I cleaned up 12 messes the first day. 

She had gone in the potty one time on Friday.  At the end of the day I thought I was crazy and foolish and felt like I'd just run a marathon and lost.  Jacob and I even discussed that night if we should stop now and give it some more time and try again later. 

Then Saturday it was like something clicked and for whatever reason she only had 2 accidents.  Then Sunday the ONLY accidents she had were at the church nursery where it's like 8 kids to 2 adults.  (And while the adults are awesome and wonderful people who are good to my daughter even though she can be a terror sometimes, they probably didn't watch her quite as closely as I would have as far as potty training goes...something to keep in mind.) 

Then Monday she was off to school.  One accident. 

Throughout the rest of the week she kept it pretty clean.  She would have one accident occasionally and had a number of days with zero accidents.  I considered her completely trained by Thursday, one week after we started.  She had gone a couple of days with zero accidents and when she came home again Thursday with the same pants she started in, I declared her potty trained in my head. 

The only minor set back we've had was when she went to stay with my parents over Christmas.  My dad was watching her for a couple of days by himself and there was one day with 3 accidents.  I was a little upset, but I know those things will happen.  I was just upset that it happened with someone else; I felt very guilty. 

Here are a few things I suggest if you are going to potty training in the future: 
  • Go pantsless for the day. The little one, that is. 
  • Model (as in, teach them by DOING not just by telling)
  • Join in ("Mommy needs to go potty.  I'll race you to the bathroom!") This also means that you should drink lots throughout the day.
  • Have them help as much as possible ("You pull up the front of your panties and I'll get the back," or "Mommy is going to pull her pants down.  Can you pull your pants down?") 
  • Go through the steps with the doll (run to the bathroom, pull panties down, sit on the potty, check out the potty, celebrate, wipe, dump and flush)
  • If your kiddo is scared of flushing (or if they aren't) use the phrase "Feed the fishies" when flushing the toilet.  We fed the fishies a lot and Gracie loved it.
  • Give something they will LOVE for their reward.  This could be anything from frosted animal crackers (Gracie) to little dollar store toys for each time they go, crackers, grapes, or for some kids high-fives.  I am all about the bribery, but I don't always think you have to spend big bucks on the bribery. 
  • For bedtimes and naps, if you are nervous for awhile put a diaper on over their panties them.  What I heard and read was that they FEEL the panties against their skin and not the diaper.  If you put the diaper on over the top then you will have peace of mind, but they feel the panties, not the diaper. 
  • Don't use pull-ups.  I've heard mixed reviews on this one, and to each their own, but the thing that got me was this - can YOU even figure out if it's ok for them to go in their pull-ups or not?  I mean, it's not ok is it?...but it's alright so...should they go?  I don't know... See?  How confusing would that be for a 2-year old?  I've also read from moms with multiple kids who have tried it multiple ways that going cold turkey is by far the easiest and fastest. 
  • Give it time.  Don't get frustrated if they aren't 100% within 24 hours.  About the above book (which is apparently quite controversial, even with some of our own family members who told us it would never work) I took the approach of, hey, if it takes her 2 or 3 days or even a week to be fully potty trained, I'll consider it a success.  It's loads better than the 6 or 8 months or even a year that some kids take.  I didn't take the "24 hours or bust" approach.  I promised myself that I would at least give it the 3-day weekend.  That was a good idea because I was ready to call it quits the first day, but we just plugged away for 2 more days and THAT was the successful time. 
Now what do I wish I had done differently?  Here are a few thoughts: 
  • Give an extra reward for poo.  She got peepee pretty quickly but she had accidents with #2 for longer.  I think a little something extra special would have been more incentive. 
  • Spent more time on the potty the first day.  Even though we spent about half of the day sitting on the potty, I wish I had made her sit there more.  The first day she had no idea what the feeling of going potty was until she'd made it in the potty a time or two.  A couple of successes on the potty the first day would have been good.  We only had one.  It was doable, but I think there would have been some leaps and bounds if she had just had a couple of other successes that day. 
  • Buy fun things for bathroom time.  I didn't have special soap to wash hands with, no bubbles (an excellent time-passing suggestion I had heard), sticker books, etc.  All we used were books. 
  • Don't have them spend time with ANYONE else for a few days.  Skip church.  Skip working out.  Take a day off so they don't have to go to day care.  No one is going to do as good of a teaching job as mommy or daddy.  Unfortunately this isn't exactly feasible with me...but I do wish I had been able to do it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"It Makes Them Hard"

I went on my first run of the year tonight.  I always start out going such short distances and by the end of the summer I can go a couple of miles.  You know, a couple of nice, slow miles.  :)  Tonight, I don't even think I went half a mile and it was VERRRY slow.  Probably someone could walk faster than I ran tonight.

The "parenting fail" of the day was when Gracie fell off her bike.  She has a teeny tiny little tikes bike. Observe a similar bike I found online:   

Now hers of course, has metal handle bars with ribbons coming out of the ends and a yellow banana seat.  You know my kid has to have a bike with a banana seat.  The basics are there - plastic, crazy colors, and four wheels.  Well, Gracie fell off of it today.  And not just a little bit.

She flipped over the handlebars.  And landed on the concrete.  Face first.

Don't worry, her shades broke her fall.  (That girl has more pairs of sunglasses than Jacob and I combined!)  She must have bit her tongue, because there was a little bit of blood there, and a small (honestly, it was pretty tiny) goose egg on her forehead.  The sunglasses escaped with a minor scratch.  

In my line of work there is this civilization that we call "scanner land".  "Scanner land" is made up of all the people, many of them with (honestly) nothing better to do than to listen on the radio so that they can call us and ask questions about things that they heard going on in their neighborhood or that their sister's license plate was read over the radio and they want to know why.  I'm sure there are citizens of "scanner land" who are perfectly normal, pleasant people who enjoy listening to some occasional radio traffic while reading the newspaper and drinking their morning coffee.  I just never talk to any of the normal ones. 

Well tonight, "scanner land" got a treat.  I'm not much for sexual innuendos, but tonight they got to hear me say "it makes them hard" over the radio.  How. Embarassing.  What I MEANT to say was, "it makes IT hard".  IT, people.  IT. 

No one called in about that one.  I guess I made things perfectly clear. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

I had my gall bladder taken out



I mean, he knew about it, but jeez...I might deserve a medal.  He even offered to stay and I was all "no honey, I can do it". 

They put me on a 10-pound lifting limit, so my 23-pound Gracie spent the week in her crib.  I took her food and milk.  And books.  She loves books.  JUST KIDDING!  My mom and sister came over to help, so my child and I were both cared for.  I took the week off work.  The whole week.  In the end, I'm glad I did.  I originally was going to take off Tuesday and Wednesday and possibly/probably Thursday.  Jacob came back Friday and on the phone Thursday night he was like a puppy dog begging "pleeeeeeease take off tomorrow night!" and since I am a total pushover I did (truth be told, I didn't feel 100% on Thursday anyway).  Then, I didn't see the point in going back for ONE STINKING DAY so I took off Saturday too. 

Here is what I learned from my surgery:  don't wear contacts or a tampon to surgery. I wasn't allowed to wear my contacts, which they didn't tell me beforehand.  So I was totally prepared for that.  Riiiight.  I ended up putting my contacts in a urine specimen cup.  No lie.  I was also told that I was required to take a pregnancy test, and I was all "oh, I'm not pregnant.  I'm on my period." after which nurse A said "we're still required to do the test," and nurse B said "you're not wearing a tampon are you?" after which I SHOULD HAVE SAID NO.  But I have this horrible moral conscience and I am flipping honest so I said yes.  Then she broke the news to me: "You'll have to take it out." what do I do, do you guys supply me with underwear or do I wear my underwear or what?  Nurse C: "No.  You just stick a pad between your legs."  I'm telling you, these nurses know how to throw a party.  I'm sure they're a lot of fun on the weekends.  The only bright side to that is that I was completely sedated for the surgery.  I have zero memory of anyone looking down there and seeing a pad just hanging out sans underwear AND I also have no idea who all knows I was on my period and who doesn't.  Other than nurse A, B, and C, that is. 

My anesthesiologist (anytime I need to type that in the future I'm going to put ASO so I don't have to type a word that long again, ok?) was the same guy who did my epidural.  He walked up and since I was completely blind because I HAD TO PUT MY CONTACTS IN A URINE SPECIMEN CUP I said, "Who's that?"  And nurse A said "Bob, your ASO."  (She did not say ASO, she actually said the word that I am using the abbreviation "ASO" for.  Just to be clear.)  And here's how it played out:
Me:  BOB!  You gave me my epidural. 
Bob:  Oh?  That's nice... (totally doesn't care)
Me:  AND THEN you brought me peanut butter chocolate cookies in the hospital the next day. 
Bob:  Oh I did?  Huh... (slightly interested)
Me:  Because I had my baby on Christmas Eve.  You brought us cookies on Christmas Day. 
Bob:  Hmm...I wonder what I was doing around then... (interest is piqued)
Me:  You were trying to get out of going to church. 
Everyone:  *pointing and laughing at Bob because he just got called out by a blind girl with a bum gall bladder who is on her period and now everyone knows it.*

I mean, it was a good time.  I'd do it again.  If I had two gall bladders. 

PS - we just got Jacob's bill in the mail from his hospital stays.  Holy. Crap.  Fun fact:  An appendectomy, with NOTHING ELSE (no anesthesia, no recovery room, no hospital stay, no food, no pain medicine afterward, etc.) is $14,000.  Yeah.  And he was only in there for like, an hour and half.  Thank goodness for health insurance.  Is it too late for me to go to school to be a surgeon? 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Recipes and whatnot

I wanted to share a few recipes that I found off of pinterest that I have loved. 

Fruit leather.  I tried this a few days ago.  I used strawberries and blueberries, both frozen.  It was fantastic.  I baked mine at 170 for about 10 hours.  That's a long time for one to use their oven, so next time I'm going to try different flavors and I'm going to make 3-4 pans at once, you know, to make a nice supply of it.  ALSO, I did not add any sugar at all to my "stew" mixture.  None.  Turned out great. 

Homemade coffee creamer.  I have now made 2 batches of the stuff.  LOVE it.  The first batch, I used a 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, (homemade) vanilla extract, and 14 ounces of cream...on accident.  HONESTLY!  I meant to fill up the can halfway with cream and halfway with milk...except I didn't.  I just kept pouring, so I rationally said to myself, "Self, you might as well just pour the cream in and call it a day with the milk."  I am very persuasive.  It. Was. Delicious.  The second go-round (which was today) I made it with 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 can fat free sweetened condensed milk, 14 oz of almond milk (still creamy but A HUGE cut down on the fat & calories) and then about 8 ounces or so of cream (because I was running out of room) and a splash of (homemade) vanilla extract.  It was still delicious, but I must say...using all cream was SOOOO good.  Like candy in my coffee.

Light Broccoli cheese soup.  I added carrots and used 1% milk, but this was pretty darn tasty (not to mention cheap and easy).  Especially for being light.  I had it over a baked potato tonight for dinner.  I made half a batch and there are tons of leftovers. 

Oreo Layer Dessert.  This was possibly my favorite food I've made off of Pinterest.  It was not too heavy, quite light actually.  A little crunch from the oreos, nice and sweet from the cream cheese mixture, and fluffy from the whipped cream.  Yummo!  TRY THIS. 

Ranch House Pork Chops.  This is probably going to be a new "normal" recipe in our house.  We loved this!  I made the rosemary parm mashed potatoes on the website with it.  I HIGHLY recommend these together.  The "gravy" from the pork chops with the mashed potatoes...yum.  So good. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Friday Fun Facts

  • There is something big happening in my life.  I promise I will share eventually, but I kind of like to stew on things myself, and then share them in my own time.  I'll get there, I'm just not there yet.  
  • I counted up the words that Gracie can sign today.  It's 10.  I'll try to list them.  Milk, more, please, eat, baby, banana, water, book, cracker, and I saw her sign "drink" for the first time today.  That girl is so stinkin' smart.  
  • She can SAY mama, dad, hi, dog, cat, car, cow, baby, and if you count "ball" (she says "dall").   
  • I'm starting to hate politics more and more.  I got really into the debates and the election back in 2008, but I just hate that no matter what, I'm not going get what I want.  I'm not even sure what I want exactly.  I WILL say though, that I hate the disputes.  I don't mean debates, I mean the nasty disputes between people.  Neither side is going to change their mind.  Why keep fighting?  
  • I am really frustrated that people think they can make decisions in me and Jacob's life.  I'm sorry if this is pushy, but the fact is that there is not a leash on either of us and we are free to make decisions on our own.  That's something that you are going to have to come to terms with.  Not me. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Take Two

Well, we're back in the hospital. 

This is night #2 of take two.  For starters, yesterday was not a good day. 

We checked into the ER at around 10:30 or 11:00.  Jacob had chest pains.  His family doctor thought it was the wisest thing for him to go to the ER.  They initially treated as a heart patient, since we just didn't know anything other than he'd had an appendectomy 4 days ago and now his chest was tight. 

They ran all sorts of tests.  I remember blood tests, x-rays, an ultrasound, and a CT scan.  From those, the only abnormal result that they could find was a high white blood cell count.  The ER doctor either didn't know what was wrong or just wasn't confident enough to tell us one certain thing.   #Annoying

We were stuck in the ER until around 5:00 when they told us that we were going to the hospital at least for the night.  Great. 

You know, I almost wish they would have know what was wrong - good or bad.  It was really, really hard to sit there and think the worst.  When doctors have no answers it's absolutely frightening. 

We checked in, they ran a couple more tests, and finally this morning they said that his stool sample (sorry) came back positive for a bacterial infection.  A couple of hours later they told us it was contagious.  Awesome. 

BUT at least we had an answer.  And there's been some humor today.  For example, when I pushed closed my chair-bed, and said, "See?  THAT'S how it's done.  Show 'em who's bad!" or something along those crazy awesome lines.  Jacob said, "Aaaaaand my wife is a gangster." 

You know.  That's how I roll.