Saturday, January 31, 2015

Happiness. Lately. January 2015 (vol 8)

Happiness.  Lately.  January.  My monthly collection of "Happiness" - appreciating God's goodness in the little things and seeing his grandeur in the simplicity of my life and "Lately" - what I've been into and up to...

Happiness is...  

My super readers!!!!!!!!   Aaron and Dominic both accomplished the reading goals I had set for them for the first semester (which ended for us in early January.)  So I finally told them I had enrolled them in Book-It, the reading challenge from Pizza Hut where you meet reading goals to earn personal-size pizzas.  Needless to say, they were crazy excited!  And so was I because they're doing so well, and working so hard, and I got to take them our for pizza (I am their reading teacher, after all :) )

Related... Aaron got his first library card!!

Our new dining room table!  Russ and I had casually talked about looking for a new one, but hadn't taken it any further.  A few weeks before Christmas we were out and decided to zip through a department store after dinner (Indian food!) to look for two specific things... neither of which was a dining room table.  Anyhoo...   we spotted this, we spotted the sign that said "All Furniture 50% off," we spent 45 minutes sitting at it, rearranging the chairs, measuring it, and weighing the pros and cons on a new and different table.  And then we bought it.  It was delivered mid-January and so far, it's true love!   

the delivery guys were so great to the kids!

first lunch at the new table :)
first lesson planning at the new table ;)

The day the Yankee Candle scratch n' sniff catalog comes in the mail!

I'm on Instagram...but don't really know what I'm doing yet and still trying to find my way around.  I think to follow me you go to...  I think :)

Pretty snow and pretty pictures.

Mason jar love.  A friend recently Pinned something like 45 Things to Do with mason jars.  I love using my jars, and have quite a few.  So I quickly did two projects to make me a little more smiley in the kitchen!  

a Parmesan shaker and salt dispenser :)
Here are my other favorite pantry-pretty jars (they've been getting a lot of use this chilly January :)  

This cute little sewing project my mom found that I made in 1985, when I was 6!  Isn't it the cutest?!  I'm claiming it as proof that I've been crafty since the beginning and you can't take it out of me :)



The three oldest have started swim lessons up again.  While they're lesson-ing, I take Clare and James in the kiddie pool.  Clare describes our days at the pool as "this being fun!:  I describe it as "I must have been drunk or temporarily insane when I thought this would be a good idea and signed them up."  It is so stressful for me getting them all ready and out the door - there are swim suits and towels and swim diapers and regular diapers and diabetes supplies and snacks and changes of underwear and socks flying everywhere.  And I yell.  But so far, the two days we've done it have happened without anyone getting hurt or too badly scared by my yelling.  It's a big deal trusting the boys enough to take care of themselves and all their stuff alone in the men's locker room - and it's crazy trying managing the girls and James on my own in the women's locker room.  But I'll stop complaining now because exercise is good, learning to swim is awesome, and mostly, once I get over myself and just do what needs to be done, I end up saying - once everyone is home and in bed for swim-lesson-induced coma rest-time - this being fun!

The Sunday Homemade Dessert Project... one of the "things" we're trying this year is to avoid after-dinner snacks and desserts through the week and I will make a homemade dessert for Sundays.  While we haven't yet cut out other snacks entirely, we've had a lot less and I have made several delicious desserts.  I need some new ideas though - easy, tasty baking is my preference - so if you have any dessert ideas, let's chat in the comments :)  So far, I haven't made anything new.  We've had...

Pumpkin Sour Cream Bunt Cake, with cream cheese glaze  (it appears that this recipe has been removed from, so I'll include it below.  It's good!

Oatmeal cookies w/ M & M's (recipe from a friend) - so good for dunking into milk :)

apple spice cake - I've written about this cake before.  It's one of my family's favorites - both of the girls have already requested it for their birthday cake.  (It was James' cake too!)

brownies and ice cream (not homemade)

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (yes homemade!)

New to my kitchen...When I was making said carrot cake, I had posted a facebook plea for help - what is an easy way to grate carrots without the risk of loosing the skin off your knuckles or an entire fingertip??? The majority of the answers were "Cuisinart food processor."  So guess what?!  I inherited a never-been-used one from my sister!  Well, we're co-owners now, and with advanced notice she'll get weekend visitation privileges.  So, I have my first ever large and powerful and awesome food processor!!!!  Tell me all the wonderful ways I can use it because I'm afraid I'll use it for shredding carrots and let it sit, unused, not fulfilling it's destiny, if I don't get some tips and suggestions from you!!  Can't wait to hear them :)  

I'm reading... 

Still plugging along with The Dean's Watch, by Elizabeth Goudge for the Stella Maris book club.  I hope I'll finish it on time for the discussion, but it may take an all-day reading retreat to accomplish that...  

Waiting for Jack 1939 and The Cutout to come in through the library.  Both are mystery/political thrillers by Francine Matthews, whose books under the name Stephanie Barron I like very much, so I thought I'd give these a try.

Also reading Noel Streatfeild's, Ballet Shoes (The Shoe Books) to see if it would be a good read aloud for the girls.  I've never read any other them, but every time I hear about them I think of the book store scene in You've Got Mail when Kathleen Kelly is setting in Fox Books crying but it still able to direct shoppers to good children's lit :)  

Soon starting Little House in the Big Woods with the girls as well.  The boys have listened to the audio book several times, and I think Ruth has picked up some of it, but it will be fun to start the series again just the girls while the boys are at tutoring.  

Sooooooo... when exactly do I have time for all this reading.  I really don't.  I say I'm reading books if they happen to be next to my bed or the couch, but picking them up is a completely different story ;)

It's easier to watch Netflix, because then I can crochet at the same time :)  I've been watching Death Comes to Pemberly.  Russ and I just finished all seven season of Burn Notice (which I recommend with a few caveats...) and a friend recently recommended Leverage, so maybe that's next???   Also, watched the movie "Chef" recently - it was good and it's on Netflix now :)

I've been creating...  I finished up some of the yet-to-be-completed Christmas gifts that were looming over me.  Nothing says I love you and wish you a Merry Christmas like a gift that's a month late... ugh.  Also started some crochet projects for myself - the pretty and practical kitchen dishcloths and some cold-weather survival goodies - two  hats - one that I wear around the house to stay warm... (when it's below 10 degrees outside it just saps the heat from our house :( )

a button cowl/neck warmer (which I'll write about soon because it's my pattern and I think it's great!) and this gorgeous cowl....  

"Selfie con baby to show off my awesome I-love-it-so-much super soft and cozy cowl finished this morning (I mean, I love this thing so much I even put makeup on for the picture!)"

"Then baby tore off glasses, lunged out of my arms, and the selfie shoot was over.... Back to real life with kids who have no appreciation for cowls or makeup."

(Instagram drama at its finest...)

Cowl pattern from here.

In sad January news, we just finished all our freezer meals this past week.  It's back to meal planning and cooking for me.  My plan is to double whatever meals I make so that I'll have a few extras ready to go, but no more intense binge cooking and freezing this year.  Well, until next Fall that is :)  

(back in October)
(now.  sadness.
Though I guess we're still doing alright on freezer jam and apple sauce!)

James turned one!  The birthday boy had tortellini soup for dinner, that apple spice cake for dessert, and lots and lots of Birthday hugs!  Love this kid!  And seriously can't believe he's one.  (Wasn't I just on my mini hospital vacation/getaway a few months ago??)  

One snowy day, the kids got out the doorway puppet theater I had made a couple years ago.  They've been having lots of creative fun with it!!  (I've mentioned before how much we love the gift of Folkmanis puppets we received one Christmas!)

Earlier this month I wrote about what it's like when I go shopping for my hordes family.  Christine wondered if my kids were wearing summer clothes in January.  No, Christine, I've just been stockpiling photos in anticipation of a grocery post.  Here's a recent photo with more seasonally appropriate attire :)

A dear friend of mine (our families lived next door to each other for over twenty years) was home for Christmas and the month of January from Mozambique, where she is a full-time, busy and important employee of the Peace Corps.  It was so wonderful to spend time with her and to see my children get to know her a little better!  She and her husband keep up their own lovely blog - I encourage you to check it out for her insights on living in southern Africa and the super cute baby onesies she designs!  

And finally....  what's going on here at the blog??  Well, unless you are an illiterate hermit who lives under a rock (obviously, no, because then you couldn't read blogs and there'd be no power outlet for your computer anyway...) you will have picked up on the fact that I love soup.  The Soup Savvy Page is new and all soup recipes and soup-related things will be there from now on!!  Yay!

Also new are the pages where I'll try to gather posts about my crafty projects, the crafty projects my kids are working on, and posts with books lists/reviews/info.  

If you're not sick of my yet, you're welcome to start following me on Instagram!  hope to check out your Insta-pics too!  That would be fun!  Like I said, I'm still figuring it out... Maybe see you there!!  (lots of the photos here were Instagram repeats, but I promise it won't always be like that!  I don't want to be that blogger that says "here's a new post" and it's all the same things that have already been happening on facebook and insta and all the other places people are...)

And last of all, thanks again to the generous and supportive readers who nominated me for two of Bonnie's Sheenazing awards.  I really was honored - and so happily surprised especially to be nominated for the best lifestyle blog award!  (I'll to step things up around here to feel like I really deserve that!)  Thanks if you voted, and thanks for reading!  Don't forget to head over to check out the winners and runners up :)  It was another great list this year!  

*   *   *   *   *   *

  Feel like joining me in reflecting on and sharing some of the moments that made you happy and the things you've been up to this last month?  Link up your January list of Happiness. Lately.  I'd love to have you join me!   

Don't have a blog?  Let's chat in the comments!

*   *   *   *   *   *

Pumpkin Sour Cream Bundt Cake Recipe


3 c. flour
1 T ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. pure pumpkin puree
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 c. chopped pecans
2 T. butter, cold

4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
3 T. milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a bundt pan.

Prepare streusel.

Combine first four cake ingredients, set aside.
Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.
Add pumpkin, sour cream, and vanilla.  Mix well.
Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Spoon half the batter into the pan.  
Use a spoon to create a "ditch" in the batter around the entire bundt pan.
Spread streusel in "ditch," careful not to let it touch the sides of the pan.
Spoon remaining batter into the pan.  

Bake for 60 minutes or until tootpick comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes before turning out.

Prepare glaze by mixing all ingredients in a bowl until smooth.  Add more milk if necessary.
Once cake is completely cooled, drizzle with glaze.


Cheeseburger Soup (10 Days of Family Friendly Soups)

Happy Saturday!   My 10 Days of Soups are continuing right on through the weekend :)  But I'm taking it easy today (and hoping to publish my Happiness.  Lately. for January later this afternoon) so I'm leaving you with a delicious link from Alyssa at The Recipe Critic.

This soups is super duper tasty and definitely family friendly because cheeseburgers...   Obviously.

Sorry I don't have any pictures for you.  I hope you'll still check it out and treat your family!   


When I made this I used cheddar cheese instead of Velveeta.  It was delicious!

I haven't tried freezing this soup, but I'm sure it would freeze well.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter Veggie Bisque (10 Days of Family Friendly Soups)

This series: I've made a lot of soup in the past few years.  I've come to know what my family will eat and what they won't.  Why don't you put my experience to work for you?!  Hope you find something tasty!  (I think you will!)

10 Days of Family Friendly Soups :: Day 5

I have tried probably about half a dozen or more butternet squash soups.  I don't make the other ones anymore.  This is the best squash soup recipe I have found.  And I've sort of been writing about it ever since I started blogging over two years ago...  (Man, I either need some new material or just embrace the fact that good food is worth revisiting!)  

Winter Veggie Bisque
(a Family Circle Recipe)


1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced
2 T. unsalted butter
24 oz. fresh butternut squash, cubed
3 c. vegetable broth
2 T. sugar
1 t. ground ginger
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. cayenne
1/2 c. heavy cream - or - half and half - or - whole milk (whatever you have!)


In a pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add chopped onion, apple, and carrots.  Cook until soft, approximately 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly.
Stir in squash, broth, sugar, ginger, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne.  
Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until squash is very tender.
Puree entire soup.  (I prefer a hand-held immersion blender to a traditional counter-top blender)
Once blended, stir in cream and reheat.


I typically use a little less cayenne than called for, just so it's not too spicy for my kiddos.

I serve this soup with large twice-baked croutons.  (the sea salt and pepper variety are my favorite because they add the perfect savory kick to this sweet soup.)

My children don't agree, but I also think that crumbled feta in this soup tastes amazing!  I was encouraged by a friend to try it even though I couldn't imagine the two tastes together.  She was right - It really is good :) (Hi, Nicole!)

This is a great soup for babies that  have started on baby food!  (really family friendly!)

We all really like this soup and eat it so frequently over the winter, that when I make it, I make four batches - two in  each of two pots.  For our family of 7, I can get three meals out of this.

This soup freezes well.  Just thaw, reheat, and eat!

Eating with diabetes??  Carbohydrate info:  1 cup = 20 carbs.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Note: when the 10 Days Series is over, all soup recipes will be available on 
The Soup Savvy Page at the top.  So please feel free to Pin them now, or come back and visit the soup page another time!  You won't miss out on anything! 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pasta and Mini Meatball Soup (10 Days of Family Friendly Soups)

This series: I've made a lot of soup in the past few years.  I've come to know what my family will eat and what they won't.  Why don't you put my experience to work for you?!  Hope you find something tasty!  (I think you will!)

10 Days of Family Friendly Soups :: Day 4

For today's soup, I'm going to send you directly to the source - An Edible Mosaic.  I don't make any changes or adjustments to this recipe - I make it as is and it is delicious!   It's an excellent soup.  My kiddos gobble it up because it's spaghetti and meatballs, and I feel great about it because it's got lean meat and lots of veggies.    You'll love the recipe, and you'll love the photos over at An Edible Mosaic - they're much lovelier and tastier-looking than mine, as you shall see :)     



Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and a side of garlic bread or cheesy break sticks.

The little homemade meatballs cook right inside the soup, so it's a nice time saver not having to bake them before adding!

This soup freezes well.  However, freeze before adding the pasta rings.  Once the soup is thawed and reheating, add pre-cooked, al dente pasta.

When serving as leftovers, or if the soup is too thick, add broth, water, tomato sauce, or tomato/vegetable juice to thin to desired consistency.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Note: when the 10 Days Series is over, all soup recipes will be available on 
The Soup Savvy Page at the top.  So please feel free to Pin them now, or come back and visit the soup page another time!  You won't miss out on anything! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cauliflower Cheddar Ale Soup (10 Days of Family Friendly Soups)

This series: I've made a lot of soup in the past few years.  I've come to know what my family will eat and what they won't.  Why don't you put my experience to work for you?!  Hope you find something tasty!  (I think you will!)

10 Days of Family Friendly Soups :: Day 3

This soup started out as a fairly bland cauliflower soup recipe from a website that is no longer up and running.   So... since the website is dead, and I made some significant changes to it - like adding beer - I feel ok claiming it as my own :)  

Cauliflower Cheddar Ale Soup


3 T. unsalted butter
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1/4 c. flour
2 cups milk (any variety; I use skim)
1 1/2 c. water
2 c. vegetable broth
2 heads cauliflower, chopped (plus more to roast and add as a garnish)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
16 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz. beer
several shakes of adobo seasoning (name brand is fine or get a recipe to make your own here if you prefer - if you make your own, blend it in a mini food processor for a great consistency and blend)
salt/pepper to taste


In a large pot, melt butter.
Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the flour.  Stir constantly until until the flour is a light gold, about 3-4 minutes.
While stirring continuously, slowly add the milk, water, and broth.
Add the chopped cauliflower and bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.
Puree the entire soup.  (I recommend a hand-held immersion blender.)
Once completely blended and creamy, add the mustard and shredded cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.
Stir in adobo seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste.
Add beer and stir through.


Serve with roasted cauliflower garnish, additional shredded cheese, and whole wheat croutons.

Also tastes delicious with crumbled bacon (but I've even known to put bacon on random stuff like chocolate pancakes, so....)

This soup freezes well.  It's unlikely that it would need any thinning after defrosting, but if it does, simply add a splash of broth, stock, or milk to thin to desired consistency.  After it's heated through, you may want to give it another go around with the immersion blender... if you have one.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Note: when the 10 Days Series is over, all soup recipes will be available on 
The Soup Savvy Page at the top.  So please feel free to Pin them now, or come back and visit the soup page another time!  You won't miss out on anything! 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...