Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mexican Gumbo

Our family's favorite meal is a take-off of Qdoba's burritos (and naked burritos). I've posted the general recipe here in the past. (I just realized that I never put my recipes for the three salsas I make with it! I'll have to add those, too)

But C. has found a new favorite meal at Qdoba and I tried to mimic that one as well. I think I did a pretty good job!

I put out, for people to pick and choose from:

cooked rice
grilled chicken
pinto beans
grilled veggies

Then you top that with:
tortilla soup

and sprinkle:
sour cream
salsas (corn, pico de gallo, verde)
crushed tortilla chips

over the top. YUM!


Tortilla soup
(made by reading a ton of recipes on the web and combining them into this)
1/4 bunch cilantro
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
1 can tomatoes with green chilies (I use Red Gold brand)
6 c. chicken stock (I use 3 Knorr chicken boullion cubes and 6 c. water)
1 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
1 pkg. (10) corn tortillas, chopped finely

Heat stock. While stock is heating, puree cilantro, garlic, onion, and tomatoes in food processor. Add pureed mixture, seasonings, and tortillas into stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about an hour.


Corn Salsa
1 can corn (NOT creamed) or a few handfuls of frozen or fresh, cooked
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 jalapenos, chopped
1/2 purple onion, chopped
cilantro, minced
1 avocado, diced

season with salt, cumin, chili powder, and fresh lime juice to taste

Salsa verde
4 medium to large tomatillos, papery coating removed
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, stem removed, but seeds and membrane intact
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2-1 lime, juiced
salt to taste

Boil tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapeno in water for about 7 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then process in food processor. Add cilantro, and lime juice and salt to taste.


Pico de gallo

amounts depend on size and flavorfulness of produce

fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
purple onion, finely chopped
jalapeno, finely chopped
cilantro, finely chopped
lemon or lime juice to taste
salt to taste

Monday, July 30, 2007

8 Things About Me

Well, newmama tagged me, so I'll give it a whirl.

I did do a "Five Things About Me" meme back in February, so it might be a stretch to come up with 8 more, but I'll try!

1. I birthed all three of my children to the CD "Fumbling Toward Ecstasy" by Sarah McLachlan. So many of the songs on that album are so fitting. When I was in labor with my third, and nearing pushing, I asked for the CD and my husband asked whether to start at the beginning or just skip to track 9 ("Hold On", which begins with the lyrics, "Hold on. Hold on to yourself. For this is gonna hurt like hell.")

2. I met my husband in college. We shared the same major, although neither of us actually were accepted into the program (he made the grade cut-off, but didn't pass the interview; I missed the grade cutoff by 0.01 grade point!).

3. I was unbelievably innocent, naive, and a goody-goody in high school. I didn't realize just how much, though, until I went to my 20 year class reunion and all my classmates were reminiscing about all their wild times in high school and I wasn't part of ANY of them. No drinking, no drugs, no sex... completely dull! ;)

4. I am not a big TV watcher, but I am TOTALLY in love with "Big Love" on HBO. Yes, it is important to note that it's on HBO, because I am such a cheapskate that the fact that I'm paying extra for HBO for one show is alarming. But it is sooooo soooo soooo good! :)

5. I love to shop. I don't even need to spend money--I just love LOOKING at, touching, dreaming about new things. This is in direct conflict with my desire to decrease my impact on the planet. (well, maybe not since I never have money to buy much of anything, but...)

6. I hate to travel. I stress and obsess for weeks before a trip, and even when I have fun (as I inevitably do), I cannot wait to get home.

(I'm stealing ideas for these last ones direct from newmama!)
7. If I'd have been a boy, I'd have been named Matthew.

8. I was never a Girl Scout, but was a Girl Scout Leader for 2 years!

I tag anyone who is reading and is interested in revealing more about themselves...

Addicting bags...

OK, this is getting a little crazy ;)

I finished Everlasting Bagstopper #2:

And though I'm running out of cotton in my stash, I patched together some colors to start #3:

An IRL friend is going to swap a skein of cream for lavender and then I'll have two matching and I think 4 bags will work for me ;)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reusable Grocery Bag

From time to time, I'd see a knit (or sewn) pattern for a reusable grocery bag. In theory, I thought this was nice, but I have to say that the convenience of disposable bags kept me from doing anything about it.

But then the last time I was cleaning, I noticed that I have more cheap plastic bags than I will ever use in this lifetime, and I have more scraps of cotton yarn than I will turn into dishcloths, so I thought I might try to find a pattern to knit a grocery bag.

I wasn't thrilled will many of the patterns I found, and then the Knitty Summer Surprise came to my inbox.

And I fell in love with the Everlasting Bagstopper!

I immediately cast on.

And with two skeins of cotton yarn and some ribbon lying around the craft room, I created:

If you look closely, you can see the "oops" where I goofed in the pattern at knit club. Unfortunately, I make a LOT of goofs at knit club when I talk more than knit! But it's a GROCERY BAG, so I didn't rip back!

And I used it for the first time yesterday and LOVED it (and got great compliments from the bagger at Whole Foods). so I cast on for a second one--this one made from scraps of leftover cotton:

I'm addicted!

Harry Potter!

At least part of the reason I've been absent from blog-land in the last week has been all the Harry Potter stuff!

We went to the Movie (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) on opening day, as we have for the last four movies. After being so disappointed in #4, and thinking about the fact that this book is the longest of the seven, we weren't expecting much. However, we were pleasantly surprised! I think they did a nice job of cutting out the right stuff and focusing on the *most* important stuff. And the characters have matured so nicely into their roles, I think. (although I still dislike this second Dumbledore...) Luna was fabulous! And I even liked Bellatrix LeStrange, casting-wise.

And then, of course, was the final book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). We all had costumes of some sort and went to the midnight release party on Friday. C. went as Trelawney (I didn't get any pictures!), T. and M. wore Gryffindor robes, G. made a t-shirt advertising the Weird Sisters World Tour, and I stole a fabulous idea from Alison and made this t-shirt:

Fear of reading/hearing spoilers from some source drove us to read at lightening speed! As with the last book, we read it out loud, with G. and I trading off by chapter. We had a class reunion (G's), a birthday party (my nephew's 3rd), a Mother-Daughter Book Club, G's work, and C's class "interfering" with reading time, but still managed to complete the book Monday night.


No spoilers or anything will be included, though I'm happy to discuss things via private email with anyone! I'll just say that I wasn't disappointed (though I am sad that it's over) and that I want to go back and re-read the other six books AGAIN to pick up all the beginnings to the things that JK Rowling so neatly wrapped-up in this book.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Disappointing News

I thought I'd written about this, but couldn't find any posts to that effect.

I've been thinking about what to do with the rest of my life since my baby will be starting school in the fall. When I quit teaching in 1997, I swore I wouldn't return, but the fact of the matter is that teaching is a decent job for a mom (not PERFECT, but better than a lot!), and with all my tutoring, I'm actually finding the idea kind of nice! It doesn't hurt that every time I talk to a counselor at the High School, they ask me to come back!

Since I've been out of things so long, my license has expired. I can simply pay to get a substitute license (which I probably will do when M. starts school fulltime, as subbing is more flexible, and easier in many ways, and it'll allow me to decide if I really want to teach fulltime or not!), or I can take 6 credits and then renew my current license. My license allows me to teach any Science class in grades 7-12. I personally wouldn't feel comfortable teaching Physics, and (at this point) no really high level/AP classes in Bio or Chem either. But there's a lot of basic Physical Science, Biology and Chemistry classes offered.

However, since I've been tutoring, I've found that I really enjoy tutoring Math a lot more than the Science classes. Besides that, Math classes don't require the setting-up and tearing-down of labs! So I started thinking about maybe returning as a Math teacher (since I have to take 6 credits before my license is renewed anyway). In addition, what better time to take some classes than when M. will be in school parttime? I wouldn't be able to get a job for that short of a period of time, and there are a few Universities that are 15 minutes away...

So I sent for a transcript evaluation at UW-Milwaukee (closest, and cheapest for an undergrad degree--which this would be. No one would hire me right off the bat with a graduate degree and no experience teaching Math!)

My transcript evaluation came today and I'm quite disappointed.

I *did* get credit for my computer and Physics classes, as well as many of my Education courses. But things I'd still need to do/take are:
12 credits of Calculus (3 semesters)
Math 341--Intro to Lang. & Practice (3 cr.)
Math 431 or 531--Modern Algebra (3 cr.)
Math 451 or 453--Axiomatic or Transf. Geo. (3 cr.)
3 credits of Statistics
6 credits of C&I Teaching Strategies
2 credits of student teaching

Yikes... 32 credits. Let's see, at current rates (and it would go up since I wouldn't be able to start till next summer at the EARLIEST), that's over $10,000.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cold Brewed Coffee

I'm not really a coffee snob, but I'm not a coffee purist, either. In college, I started my addiction to General Foods Internationals French Vanilla Cafe, and I still drink a cup of it a day... But earlier this year, a friend of mine became a Direct Sales Associate with a company called Inspired Aroma (her number is 0356 if you order ;)). I went to a home party (ala Tupperware) and was fascinated by all that I learned about coffee and tea. I booked a party of my own, and earned (or earned credit toward) a coffee grinder, a milk frother, an espresso pot, and some other items. My goal was to save money (who wants to pay $4 at Starbucks when it should cost mere pennies at home?), and to be able to enjoy yummy coffee drinks more often.

Well, I have to say that I haven't used my stuff as much as I'd hoped. I do use the grinder, and I've used the espresso pot, but the milk frother was used only once. And my drinks didn't taste like Starbucks'!

When the weather warmed up, I wanted to try to make iced coffee drinks. I watched, after ordering one at a coffee shop, and found that they were simply made with a shot of espresso, some flavored syrup, and a lot of milk, then poured over ice. Easy enough!

But my espresso didn't taste all that great. It was okay, but not something I wanted to spend the time to make.

At the Inspired Aroma party, Nikki had talked about a product called a toddy maker. Toddy makers "brew" coffee without boiling the water. It results in a less acidic, bitter tasting coffee, and even people who can no longer stomach coffee are usually able to drink coffee made in a toddy maker. But that was another $40 and I'd already invested too much money "saving" money on coffee shops! Still, I was reading more and more online about how good cold-brewed coffee was.

I found a link that showed how to make your own toddy maker out of two fast food supersize plastic cups. I considered trying it, but then I'd have to go to a fast food place and order two supersize beverages! But last week I stumbled upon an article raving again about cold-brewed coffee and I found (somewhere!) the "magical" formula of 1/3 cup coffee grounds to 1 cup water, and so I ground up some coffee, put it in a glass jar with filtered water, and let it sit overnight.

The next morning I rubber-banded a coffee filter over another jar, and poured the mixture (slowly) through it. I then stored this concentrate in the fridge (covered).

Today I finally decided to give it a try.

I used a shot of french vanilla syrup (I've found that Torani really seems to be the best brand!) and some of my concentrate, then put in ice cubes and filled the glass with milk.

oh...my...gawd... I tasted the best iced coffee ever!

It just might be worth investing in a toddy maker for convenience, but I really strongly suggest that you try the cold brewing at least once. Supposedly you can mix the concentrate with boiling water for a warm cup (I'll try that some other time), but this was a wonderful iced drink!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Intricate Stag Bag--done!

Another thing I accomplished on our trip--finishing the stag bag!

Here's the front:

And the back:

I still want to make a lining and attach that at some point.

Back from vacation!

Wow! We accomplished a LOT in 3 1/2 days!

We left Thursday morning, after T's tennis class.

When we got to my mom's, she had made (as always) a wonderful feast for us. This one included BBQ ribs, fried potatoes, sauteed veggies, salad, and bread. After supper, my mom and G. took the kids over to my mom's friend's farm.

T. made a friend there:
They all got to ride--C. for a really long time:

(I love how that picture makes it look like she's going REALLY fast, while in actuality she was being led around in a walk)

On our trip up, we'd stopped and bought some (legal) fireworks, since I personally believe it's not summer unless you get to burn something! :)

The older two were introduced to snakes:

And then daddy lit the "big" fireworks:

Then T. got a tattoo:

Friday C. and I did some shopping (as much as you can do in Ironwood, MI!) and found a first-day-of-school outfit for her, and some bedside lamps for the master bedroom (pics when I get bulbs in them).

Friday night was the first of my reunion festivities. It was an informal gathering at a bar owned by a former classmate's brother. I knew G. would be bored, but I didn't want to go alone, so I dragged my little brother along. It was a REALLY fun time! Unlike my tenth reunion (which I found, at best, kind of awkward), it seemed as though we'd all moved on enough and were happy with where we are in life. I talked to a lot of people who I had not seen for twenty years!

Saturday was a family day at another former classmate's farm. Again, more fun and socializing with my classmates (and spouses) and the kids had a FANTASTIC time! There were pony rides:
And tours of the dairy farm:

(this is a giant pile of sawdust and straw mix--used for the cow's bedding--that all the kids were jumping down and rolling in...)

There was a hayride, baby bunnies, golf carts for the kids to drive, and general fun!

It was a truly exhausting day, though, as is evidenced by M--pictured about 5 minutes after getting in the car:

Saturday night was the actual reunion (posing for the class picture; dinner; reading the class prophecy, etc.), and then we drove back yesterday.

I'm still trying to recover (and do laundry and all that), but it was a very good visit. We'll be back in less than a month!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Miscellaneous catch-up

It's been awhile since I've posted. There's not been a lot of major things going on--just some minor stuff.

*All the parts of the intricate stag bag are done--I just need to sew them together (and probably make a liner):*T. is taking tennis lessons, and enjoying them again.

*I've returned to secret shopping to bring in some extra money. I shopped Whole Foods this week and it was kinda fun!

*We saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix yesterday and I think it was one of the best movies they've made!

*We're going to my hometown for my 20th class reunion this weekend. With the outrageous gas prices (is it over $3.50 a gallon everywhere?) this trip should cost over $100 in gas alone. omg...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables

OMG, these were SO amazing--and SO easy!

I got the recipe from Food Network (of course) at this link:

and made a few adjustments in the veggies I used.

Recipe, from the link:

1 medium yellow squash, sliced on bias
1 medium zucchini, sliced on bias
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch thick circles
1 red onion, sliced in 1/2-inch thick circles
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
2 portobello mushroom caps, gilled and peeled
3 green onions
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat grill to high.

Prepare all vegetables. Place vegetables in a roasting pan with the mushroom caps and green onions. Season vegetables generously with salt and pepper, and toss with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place vegetables, cut side down, on the hot grill and cook for a couple minutes on each side, or until tender and nicely marked by the grill.

Remove from grill and toss with an additional 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

(me again)

I don't care for eggplant, so skipped that
We don't have NICE, garden-fresh tomatoes yet, so I skipped that, too. I used:
fennel bulb
purple onion in thick slices
green onions, whole
portobello mushroom caps
red bell pepper
cubanelle pepper

For the peppers, I roasted them whole over the grill, then wrapped them in a bowl covered with saran wrap until the skin slid off. Next time I'll do that early and then cut them and return them to the grill, but this time I didn't. They had less grilled flavor that the other things, but were still yummy.

Ravelry--I'm in!!!!

Oh, cool...

If you don't already know about ravelry, go there RIGHT AWAY and check it out! I had to sign up to wait (they're going kinda slow at the start and adding people a few at a time), but it is the neatest thing! You can track your projects (photos, yarn, progress, dates knit, etc.) and link to people who have knit the same stuff, and their suggestions for yarns and substitutions and everything. It's got a huge database of yarns, so you don't have to type in everything, and it keeps track of the needles you use (wish it gave the option for straight, dpn, circular, etc., but not yet) and how much yarn it actually took...

Anyway, please go check it out! I think it'll revolutionize online knitting sharing! (oh, it's for crochet, too)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Stag bag moving along

This is the perfect project for summer knitting. The intricate part (the stag intarsia) is at the beginning of the pattern, so when you have time to pay attention :) and count, you do that. Then you pick up on the edges and do the chevron (which is also quite easy--just K2P2), and finally you do stockinette for the back. Nothing like mindless knitting to take to the 4th of July fireworks, or other places where you can talk and knit at the same time.

Unfortunately, I don't have enough of the turquoise and cream yarn to do the whole thing, so I have to do the back with a variegated yarn that has the same turquoise in it:

I'm hoping it won't look funny, and will actually be a bit like two completely different bags, depending on how I carry it. :)

"But I NEVER win anything!"

There's this cool new little store at the mall, called Moroccan Imports. We found a neat woodcarving for G's dad for Father's Day, and while we were there, we signed up for their mailing list/drawing to be held in the months of June, July and August. Well, I won the drawing for June! And I never win anything! The prize was a $45 lamp. Here it is, lit up:

A close-up of the jumping person:

The lamp has a metal base, and is made of goatskin, which, when wet, is stretched over the metal. It shrinks as it dries, and then they paint it with henna (mehndi). I like the idea, but I'm not really sold on the lamp itself... Wish I could have picked out anything I wanted from the store--their woodcarvings are SO cool!

Groceries 7/5/07

I got good and bad news today (same news). As I was checking out, the cashier told me "oh, they decided to continue the double coupons on Wednesday deal through September". That's good for the future, but sucks for today, when I had 5 $1 off coupons that could have been doubled! ARGH!

Total: $99.42
Savings: $55.09
Number of Items: 69
Pick N Save

best deals:
General Mills Cereal--buy 6, get $10 off, plus a coupon for a free gallon of milk and a free half gallon of orange juice on your next purchase, PLUS I had $3 worth of GM cereal coupons. Cereal cost of $22.24-$13 = $9.24, or $1.54 a box, and the cost of the milk and OJ brings it down to under $1 a box!

Aussie shampoo and conditioner and styling products--reg. $3.49 each, on sale for $2 each, minus $1 off each, bringing them to $1 an item (cheaper than White Rain, and so much better!)

Hebrew National kosher hot dogs, reg. $4.49, on sale for $3, minus $1 coupon