Friday, June 29

Life's a Bowl of...

Cherries! Is there anything better than cherries in the summer? I don't remember having these growing up, but our friend Jeremy loves cherries, and he introduced me to them when we moved to Nashville. Now I'm addicted! Firm, sweet, juicy, beautiful color -- the only bad part is the pit, but the fruit is worth it to work around that one little negative. Since I was born in the summer, I remember looking forward to the corn on the cob and strawberry shortcake that was sure to be part of my birthday celebration. It's no different now, but I've expanded my fruit repertoire to include nectarines, blueberries, pears, oranges, clementines, and more -- all of which are readily available right now! Josh and I love peaches and nectarines, and our Publix carries the best nectarines!! I was telling a friend a few days ago that when I go to the store and see all the yummy fresh fruit, I just can't resist trying some of everything! Then we end up having fruit at every meal just to eat it all before it spoils...which of course isn't a bad thing. I'm so glad fruit is good for you! Everything in moderation, right?

In keeping with my bowl theme, here's a picture of some Healthy Broccoli Soup Josh and I made last night. Josh went out to check the garden yesterday morning, and he came back with about 5 heads of broccoli that were almost past their prime (some of it was already inedible -- ever seen flowers on a brocolli head? nope, me neither until yesterday!). We had to come up with a way to use it all in a hurry, so we decided broccoli soup would be the best option. I checked out some recipes and came up with a mixture of a few that we made our own. I'm including the ingredients without definite amounts on some things b/c I tend to do a pinch of this and a pinch of that until it tastes right. Soup may not sound like a great summer option, but this has a nice light base (1/2 stock, 1/2 skim milk), so it's not thick and creamy like a winter soup.

olive oil
1/2 to 1 c. each of celery, carrots, and onions - chopped
2 small potatoes or a few handfuls of baby reds - chopped
1 package ground turkey breast
equal parts of chicken stock and skim milk (I think we ended with 4 cups of each)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. oregano (or a little under 1/4c. fresh if you have it)
1/4 tsp. chicken grill seasoning (could use freshly ground pepper here)
3 pinches of cumin
salt to taste
5 c. (about 2.5 pounds) of fresh broccoli, chopped
1/2 to 1 c. baby portabellas, chopped
1/2 c. fat-free cheddar, shredded ("fresh cheese" in Kaden-speak) [We added some muenster b/c we didn't have enough cheddar on hand. If you're flexible, there are many cheeses that would work.]
3 T. parmesan cheese ("sprinkle cheese" in Kaden-speak)
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
fat-free sour cream for garnish

Saute the celery, carrots, onions, and potatoes in the olive oil for about ten minutes. Add the turkey breast to cook it with the veggies. When the turkey is no longer pink, add the chicken stock and milk. Drop in your seasonings -- bay leaf, oregano, grill seasoning, cumin, and salt. Bring it to a boil quicky, and then drop it to a simmer until the veggies are tender. Add the broccoli and simmer until tender. When the broccoli's nearly done, add the cheese, mushrooms, and basil. Remove the bay leaf and serve in bowls. Sprinkle with cheese and dollop a little sour cream on top. Eat and ENJOY!

*This would also be a great vegetarian soup. Just sub veggie stock and omit the turkey.

Thursday, June 28

Thankul Thursday!

It's Thursday, so here I am to be thankful. :-)

1.) Our garden is growing, and it is so fun to eat our own veggies! We've gotten tomatoes, banana & jalepeno peppers, turnips, and one tiny-teeny carrot from the garden so far. I'm interested in "slow food" and locally grown produce, and it doesn't get much more locally grown than your own backyard! This picture of Josh was from the beginning of June, and I think we picked it a little too early. The ones we picked recently are much bigger.

2.) I'm thankful for new life -- I got to meet my good friend Amy's new baby last night! Josiah Silas is one cute little guy, and he was born on Sunday AM at home, which is something I'm considering for the next time around. We'll see how I feel when the time gets closer. ;-) It's always amazing to see how tiny new babies are! Even though I've had two of my own, you forget so fast how small and precious new babies are. God blessed Josiah (or "Sjo-Shiah" as Kaden says) with a wonderful family, and we're so excited for all of them!

3.) I'm grateful that Kaden's "big boo-boo"--a 2nd degree burn on his leg--is healing nicely. He burned it on a task-light globe while Grandma & Papa were here, and Grandma and Daddy nursed it back to health. They were the official bandage changers, designated by Kaden to care for his wound. He's still nervous to get it wet, and he reminds Laney not to touch it, but it's actually healing quite well. It certainly looked ouchy last week! I'm glad it wasn't any worse.

4.) Kaden's back to preschool today. He skipped two Thursdays to spend time with Grandma & Papa, but we're back in the swing of our normal life now. He was pretty excited to go to school today, and I've been enjoying a little quiet time with Delaney.

5.) I got some good feedback on the first book I edited, the project I just finished this week. It always feels good to get a good report from a new client (and old clients, too!).

Well, I have a quick little project to finish up before I start my next big project, which I think will start on Monday. Off to do some reading. Until next time!

Tuesday, June 26

The Bliss of Nothing

I had a wonderful day today. Why, you ask? Because I had nothing I HAD to do. I did work on my project for about an hour, and I FINISHED IT! (Praise the Lord!), but even that couldn't dampen my spirits -- I had the rest of the day to myself! (Around clothing, feeding, and occupying my children, of course.) But days when I can just be a Mom instead of a Working Mom are like a breath of fresh air. Sometimes my work stays at a nice even pace, where I can put in 2 hours a day and stay on top of things, and other times I take on a project that requires me to put in 4-5 hours a day. If that goes on too long, I sort of revert into survival mode -- making sure everyone is fed, clothed (except Kaden who much prefers nakedness), clean, and relatively happy ... but not having any time to doing anything fun, exercise, or keep my house in good working order. Four to five hours doesn't sound like a lot, but somehow, with all the other mothering/basic survival-type stuff, I end up feeling overwhelmed.

I really do enjoy what I do, and I love the extra money, so I'm definitely not complaining. It's just that when I come out of one of these really busy times, I relish a few days of Nothing. No appointments, no to-dos, no deadlines, just Nothing. Now of course, being in a state of Nothing does not include me lying around on the couch eating bon-bons (although I did sit on the couch tonight and organize pictures while catching up on some TiVoed shows -- heavenly!)...but I find that the things that might otherwise be mundane take on a special flare when I'm happy to be doing Nothing. Since I didn't have anything I HAD to do today, I couldn't wait to dig into some laundry, dishes, tidying, and floor cleaning...things that I don't always enjoy, but when I'm in survival mode, I long for days of Nothing to catch up. And today, my Nothing came -- and it was wonderful!

And apparently my happy mood was contagious because Kaden and Laney were quite happy and well behaved all day long. It added to the bliss of Nothing, and I am one happy Mama.

I have a few days of down time, and then I'm starting another project next week. God is so faithful -- my work has been very steady this year, and just about every time I'm finishing up a project (within the last 2 days), someone else calls me up with work. It's been amazing to see God answering prayers for extra funds. I love freelancing because of the give and take -- busy some days and a bit of Nothing here and there in between projects.

Do unscheduled days to catch up recharge your batteries, too...or is it just me? Find some time for Nothing (even a little here and there), and you just might feel recharged, too!

Well, this blissful girl of Nothing is very tired. Time to head to bed.

Saturday, June 23

Camp Grandma & Other Hesse Happenings

Whoa. What a busy two weeks we've had since I last blogged. Josh's family came into town late on Monday the 11th, and we had a wonderful time together. They just left around 9pm tonight, and I'm not quite sure what to do with myself after going from a house full of company down to just me and my two sleeping kiddos. (Josh started back to work last night, so I'm really all alone!)

In addition to all the fun we had with the Hesses, I have been logging around 30 hrs/week on a book I'm editing. I've had some late nights and lots of time during the day to work since I enrolled the kids in Camp Grandma (w/ Camp Counselors Auntie Rachel and Grammy and Outdoor Activity Coordinator Papa). I still have over 100 pages to read in the next few days, but I know I wouldn't have been able to get this far without all my helpers!

Here's a quick overview of what we've been up to...

The girls had an "ionic foot bath" at my nutritionist's office. Google it if you're intrigued...very interesting and very cool! I was skeptical until I saw the color of my water after we were done. Crazy!

We went boating for two days on Percy Priest lake in Nashville. Josh rented a ski boat from a friend at work, Josh's dad brought all of his skiing equipment, and we had a GREAT time out on the water. We went skiing, tubing, swimming, and also had a great picnic. We all had a fantastic time. The weather couldn't have been better, and we made some great memories.

The guys built shelves in the basement for Josh's tools (we have lots of space in the basement, but we had very little organization going on!). Now we just have to finish finding a place everything, and we'll be in great shape!

The girls went to an all-day scrapbooking party, and we had a blast. I never get to scrapbook, between freelancing and the kiddos, so it was a real treat for me. I'm still working on my sister's wedding scrapbook! (She got married in 2005...sheepish grin...but as I tell myself, we moved and had a baby between then and now, so I've been a little busy.)

Josh arranged for all of us to eat at the upscale restaurant he works at, Old Hickory. We had artisanal cheeses, tasty appetizers like smoked salmon and shrimp, delicious salads, entrees like veal and Kobe beef, sides like garlic mashed potatoes and lobster macaroni & cheese, and desserts like popcorn ice cream (yum!) and cheesecake. (And I know I'm forgetting a bunch of stuff.) They comped a lot of our food, but Josh said our meal would have been at least $700 if we had paid full price. We had a delicious meal that would have been even better if we had been smart and gotten a sitter for the kids. :-) They're not quite up to three-hour meals at fancy restaurants. (Oh, and Kaden got carsick on the way there, and we had to make an emergency stop at Wal-Mart to de-puke the van and buy all new clothes, including underwear. That's a story for another time, but just imagine me pushing Kaden through Wal-mart in a cart with nothing on by his pukey undies. Oh my. I got some serious are-you-crazy glances.)

Josh and his dad pressure-washed and stained our deck, with some help from me, and it looks awesome! We didn't quite finish the steps yet, but we're close. We stained the floorboards a reddish stain and did the railings in white. The white really pops -- the deck looks a thousand times better. The previous owners never sealed or stained it, so after 6 years, it was really looking tired. But it looks awesome now -- I am so psyched! Now we just "need" a fire pit and some deck furniture. :-)

Oh, and amidst all those things, we also celebrated Father's Day on Sunday and my birthday on Tuesday. We tried out the new Marblestone Creamery in Bellevue on Tuesday night, and it was taaaasty. I recommend the non-fat frozen yogurt with cherries and hot fudge. Delicious. (And halfway on a diet!)

As you can tell, we barely had anything going on while our company was here. I mean, we were practically just twiddling our thumbs with nothing to do! ;-)

Thanks to the Hesses for a great vacation (at home)!

Friday, June 8

Thankful Thursday (er...Friday!)

I am SOOO crazy busy this week with a project that I haven't had time to blog. It's a blessing, and I'm enjoying it, but I think I bit off more than I could chew! So here's a quick update, by way of things I'm thankful for this week...

1.) We have dental insurance (finally!). Josh and I had our first checkup with our new dentist on Monday, and Kaden had his first-ever dentist visit. We were SO proud of him. He climbed up in that chair, did everything the dentist asked him to do, and the dentist was so impressed! We were too. To contaminate our newly cleaned mouths, we quickly made a trip to Smoothie King. :-) As a sidenote, I have two cavities! I am incredibly bummed about this b/c they're my first ones...ever! But the dentist was nice and tried to make me feel better. He said I have really deep "fissures" in my teeth, and he's surprised I haven't had cavities before this. (It's a genetic thing -- Thanks, Mom!) ;-) Anyway, my perfect record is marred. Oh well. Josh was sure to rub it in since I'm Ms. Oral Health and he's a bit of a slacker. (Well, maybe he's just normal and I'm a little anal about my teeth. You can see why I'm still shocked!)

2.) Our garden is growing! My wonderful hubby spent the better part of two days off outside in the sweltering heat, re-staking tomatoes, re-planting squash, weeding, fertilizing, mulching...lots of work! I've been sequestered inside on my laptop, but I'm very grateful for all the work Josh put into our future bounty of veggies. I have a progress pic but no time to upload it ... maybe next week. :-) Oh, and we got our first baby pepper from the garden yesterday. I don't think it was quite ready, but Kaden decided it was.

Okay, I know that's a lousy list, but I'm telling you, people ... I'm too busy to be blogging at the moment. :-) Until next time!

P.S. Josh's family is coming on Tuesday, so no promises on blogging. We're going waterskiing with Kaden for the first time, so I'm sure I'll have more to report after that! Daddy is determined that he will ski at age 3. They have a special toddler contraption to make it easier (it's how Josh learned), so we'll see...

Friday, June 1

What's for Dinner?: Gluten-Free Veggie Quiche

Well, I've been teasing about this recipe for over a week now, so I suppose I should go ahead and just post it already. :-) I used to love Quiche Lorraine, and my mom made a very tasty one. Since my gluten-free days, I've tried quiche with no crust, quiche with a cheese crust (line pie plate with Muenster cheese -- SO GOOD, but SO FATTY!), and now -- quiche with a lentil crust! I think it could still use some tinkering, but I'll post what I did and see if anyone else has any breakthroughs. I made this two times, and I used a variety of veggies in the quiche. Anything in your frig will work, so it's a good leftover/clean-out-the-veggie-drawer kind of meal. Without further adieu...

Gluten-Free Veggie Quiche

3/4 c. lentils, cooked
1/2 c. mozzarella or cheddar cheese, shredded (I didn't measure this, so more or less or taste)
veggies of your choice (cherry tomatoes, scallions, carrots, spinach, garlic)
6 eggs, beaten (I used 3 whole eggs and 3 egg whites -- you may need more depending on how big your pie plate is.)
salt-free herb seasonings, salt & pepper to taste

Spray Pam on your pie plate. Layer in order: lentils, cheese, veggies, and eggs (add seasonings when you whip up eggs). Bake for approx. 45 min. at 350 degrees until eggs are set and top is browned.

It's no Quiche Lorraine, but it's WAY healthier. Great for my vegetarian friends, too! If you make this and have any suggestions, please comment -- I'd love feedback.

As a little something extra, here's a recipe for a yummy Vanilla Frappuccino from Hungry Girl (sign up for her daily email -- they're great!). Josh and I tried this when we watched a movie a few nights ago (Deja Vu -- we recommend it if you like a classic action/romance flick!)

HG's Vanillalicious Cafe Freeze

5 oz. light vanilla soymilk or skim milk
3 tsp. Fat Free French Vanilla Coffee-mate powder; dissolved in 1 oz. warm water
2 flat tsp. instant coffee (The original called for 1 tsp., but we liked more coffee flavor!)
1 oz. Torani Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup
3 packets Splenda (We used a little stevia instead.)
1 cup ice; crushed
2 tbsp. Fat Free Reddi-whip

Place everything in the blender (except the Reddi-whip). Blend on high until all the ice chips are incorporated. Pour into a glass and top with whipped topping. So tasty (and only 2 points if you're counting!).