Friday, February 27, 2015

A grateful heart and a dental appointment (yes - they go together)

I am overwhelmingly grateful today. I got up super early to grocery shop, and I bought my food with such a thankful heart. We are fed. We are cared for. The only hunger my little people know is when I don't let them have a snack after naptime. There are too many people in the world this very moment who are hungry. Who are hurting. People with cancer and MS and people who just lost someone they love. People who are running away from problems, both literally and metaphorically. We are at peace, and the only fuss I make is when I feel a little too still. Forgive me for the over-sentiment this morning, but I had to let it out.

I took Milo to the dentist today for his first ever appointment (Just for a check-up - no problems. Again, I am so thankful). He was so calm, so cheery, and such a delight to everyone who met him. This little man didn't even gag when the assistant took his x-rays. What a little gem.

It's a happy face, not a lemon, on the apron.

Milo got a new toothbrush and a balloon. Little man heaven.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's only cookie dough.

Every now and then things like THIS need to happen. Even if your little people then get so amped up it's like you gave them crack instead of cookie dough. Which is horrible to even joke about.

But if you saw Lucy giggling and running laps around the living room you'd know what I mean and realize that these people almost never get sugar. And when they do, fun and mayhem follow closely after...

Homemade gnocchi update

UPDATE: Pan-frying the gnocchi for a few minutes on each side and then using 1/2 cup basil pesto was absolutely perfect. These were amazing and they are officially little people approved.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Homemade gnocchi

Do you know what I spent my morning doing? 

I made homemade gnocchi! Please be at least a little impressed with me as it took a while... As if anyone needs extra work on a gloomy Monday morning.

But my little people were so happy. Would you like to know why? Because they were doing this.

It's true. While I was rolling gnocchi dough, they were rolling play dough, and having a fantastic time doing it. Why don't I think of genius plans like this more often? 

Anyway, I started with a basic recipe, but it all went straight down the crapper and I had to basically come up with my own plan. I'll give you the general idea if you're interested, and you can go from here.

I took 7 small-ish red potatoes, peeled them, and boiled them for 30 minutes. Why 7? Well, that was the number of potatoes I had left in my 5-pound bag. Honestly, there's no art to this.

After boiling, and while they were still piping hot, I mashed them with my potato masher. I then sprinkled large pinches of salt and pepper across the top, and then 2 cups of flour. I made a well in the middle and cracked one egg into it. Then I took a butter knife and cut the egg into the mixture and used the knife to really mix it up.

Okay, here's where things get sketchy. I added a few sprinkles of nutmeg (because I love to spice up potatoes with it), and another 1/2 cup of flour. I kneaded it a bit in the bowl, and then placed it on my super-floured counter top and kneaded it a lot more. The dough should end up smooth and NOT sticky. If it is sticky, it will turn into gross little mashed potato blobs when you boil it instead of gorgeous little potato dumplings (Personal experience - I had to chuck my entire first batch). I know for sure I added at least 1/2 cup more flour, if not a full cup. This is where I really had to play around with my ratios and make sure that blob of dough did NOT stick to my hands, my counter top, my little people when they came within a five-foot radius of me...

Once I got the dough to a good consistency, I took small sections of it and rolled them out into long ropes, about an inch wide. Then I cut said ropes into little rectangles (I pressed each with a fork because I like that look, but it's not necessary. Apparently I'm just a sucker for extra work.) and popped them into a pot of boiling water. I did one-rope batches at a time. Now is where I really had to concentrate and keep an eye on the gnocchi, because when they floated to the top, I set the timer for two minutes. 

After the two floating boiling minutes (Why don't I write recipes with all this technical lingo I've mastered?), I scooped the gnocchi out a few at a time with a slotted spoon and let them cool on a dishtowel-lined tray. Then it was on to the next batch... And the next... And the next... You get the point. As each batch cooled, I moved it to a wire cooling rack (I wouldn't put them straight onto a rack, though, because when they're still hot they want to melt right through it.). 

That's that. It was quite the long process, and my kitchen was such a disaster after I was done that I almost packed my little people up and ran away. But I'm hoping it will be well worth it when I make THIS recipe for crispy potato gnocchi with basil pesto. And I know, the recipe says to just use a store-bought package of gnocchi and make your pesto, but I'm doing it the exact opposite way. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Me in the tub

Milo has been sounding out words, reading a bit, and spelling like a champ. In fact, Nate and I are about to lose the ability to spell secret things to each other... We have a set of tub letters, and both of my little people are enamored with them for different reasons. Lucy likes to hold the seven and the L and pretend like she's shooting people (sigh). She also likes the letter A because she recognizes it and tells me "A" every time (and, by the way, she already recognizes and points out the state of Texas to me all the time). Milo likes to create words and phrases, like this one that greeted me after I stepped out for a second tonight. Boy (thug-spelling) genius.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book review: Deadly Echoes by Nancy Mehl

As you know, I signed up to review books for Bethany House Publishers (thanks, Aimee, by the way – I got the idea from you). I’ll be honest with you, most of the time I don’t choose to read Christian fiction, purely based on the cheese factor. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want a lot of smut or violence in a book, but sometimes authors writing for a faith-based publisher take it a little too far.

Deadly Echoes by Nancy Mehl is a murder mystery novel, and I was curious to see how she’d handle the issues within. I was expecting visions of the murder victim dancing in a field with Jesus or other nonsense that says that even though awful things happen to good people it was God’s plan for that to happen (but I digress into a tangent…), but Mehl avoided those kinds of clich├ęs. Instead, she painted realistic, flawed characters with genuine struggles involved in an interesting plot.

“Feelings buried alive never die.” Sarah Miller finds herself as the guardian of her ten-year old niece after her sister Hannah is murdered. She deals with these tragedies while also addressing her past, in and out of foster homes after her own parents were murdered. She also struggles to reconcile who she is without comparing herself to others. I actually found myself tearing up every now and then when I realized that there are tons of people who deal with feelings of insecurity because they don't measure up to what they think is the perfect standard (myself included). This aspect of Sarah's character made her more human, although Mehl wrapped it up rather abruptly, in my opinion, almost like she was tired of writing it in to the storyline.

Sandwiched in the midst of all these layers is the connection between Hannah’s murder and their parents’ twenty years prior, and Sarah and the local deputy sheriff work together to uncover the truth. A host of law enforcement characters weave in and out of the story, and I found myself constantly wondering who to trust. Mehl built a good amount of suspense throughout the story, which moved me quickly through the storyline.

That said, it was a quick read. Not the hugest amount of depth, although the author developed a good basic plotline. I found myself questioning small details throughout, but not enough to spoil it for me. I will say this, though – had I seen the cover and only the cover, I would NOT have chosen this book. Nate literally asked me what on earth I was reading and whether it was for sixteen-year old girls (leave it to him to be brutally honest!).
See what I mean? A little much...

All in all, I’d recommend this, but not as anything too deep or thought-provoking. Every now and then it's okay with me to have a book that holds my interest but can still be read while my little people are awake, and this was it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The gorgeous morning light

We're not doing much and at the same time we're doing tons. I feel like I've been running so fast lately I don't even have time to sit down for five minutes and update my blog. I have days that I feel like I've done a full body workout, but I can't even figure out what I did. 

This morning we just slowed down for an hour and I made my little people go stand by the window in the gorgeous natural light. It doesn't take much to make these two look good...
I thought for sure Lucy's eyes would darken up as she got older. Imagine my surprise when they just kept getting bluer.
And these sweet, sincere dark eyes make  just about anyone melt. Somehow the sun made them look so much lighter than they normally do.

And then there were these hats... Because we are at least accessorized in the Jackson home, if nothing else.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Product Review: Quaker Steel Cut Quick 3-Minute Oatmeal

Every once in a while I get to do a product review for BzzAgent (cool site - you should check it out), and I'm always more excited when I get to review something that my little people will like. When I got the box of Quaker Steel Cut Quick 3-Minute Oatmeal Milo and I were both ready to try it. I talked it up the rest of the day and we made a plan to sample it for breakfast the next morning. Milo has been loving oatmeal during the cold weather, but I usually make it on the stove and it takes a few minutes (nothing major, though), so I was ready for something microwave-friendly.

I gave Milo and Lucy both their own bowls the next morning, and the oatmeal was a hit, although if you buy this, don't add the full amount of water listed on the package - we had a soup situation that had to be regulated before I could give it to either of them. When we got everything worked out, though, they both really liked it. In fact, Lucy, who has become a little on the breakfast-picky side, ate her entire bowl. I call that a huge win. Plus oatmeal is so fabulously filling that we were all satisfied for the rest of the morning.

So, all that to say, I think you should try it. The texture is a little heartier than the regular instant oatmeal and doesn't get as mushy, which is the main difference I noticed. Other than that, the taste was just plain wonderful (we ended up with the brown sugar and cinnamon - yummy). If you're super interested, let me know and I'll give you a coupon, because I love to share.

Happy Tuesday!

Quaker<sup>®</sup> Steel Cut Oats

Monday, February 9, 2015

The best big lady

Milo looked at me with his sweetest face the other night and said, "Mommy, you are the best big lady I know."

Big lady. For some reason I'm always the big lady to Milo, which, let's be honest, is a little hard on my self esteem. I know I've mentioned it before - he picks out the largest characters in every scenario just for me. For example, in a cartoon picture the other day he named Nate as the owl, Lucy as the falcon, himself as a little arctic fox, and me as the giant polar bear. I started to wonder what in the world was going on, and then I realized how awesome it is to feel little when there's someone bigger around to take care of you. It's a compliment, and he meant it with every fiber of his wise Milo being. I hope my little people always view me as a big mama bear who would tear someone up if necessary. Straight up. Do not mess with these nuggets.

All that to say, I'm okay with seeming large and in charge if it makes these people feel safe. And this big lady is wishing you a happy Monday.

The two cutest little people ever.

See what I mean?

This face is entirely too charming.

Have you ever seen such a handsome little cowboy?

Milo is such a good sport.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A little orange gem

My grandparents quit smoking with Tic-Tacs. I was young when it happened, so there may have been more to it, but in my mind, it's as simple that. And as far as I'm concerned, that's incredibly amazing and takes a world of willpower.

But that's not what I was thinking about when I was a kid. What I was thinking was that Tic-Tacs for them meant Tic-Tacs for us. Grandpa always had a few extra to shake into our outstretched hands, and we also got containers of orange ones to take home with us. Have you ever seen a kid with a container of Tic-Tacs? It's like pure joy all shaken up in one little clear box, and it registers all over a little person's face. I know because Milo and Lucy have recently discovered these little gems... (and I do mean gems because they're perfect for small bribes, a parent's secret weapon).

Anyway, all this to say, Milo and Lucy love orange Tic-Tacs. And even though the orange ones were never my very favorite (don't get me wrong - I wouldn't have said no to any color), I'm enjoying them more than ever now because they make me think so much of Grandpa and Grandma.

All this to say, orange Tic-Tacs. Nostalgia and utility all in the same tiny package. That's what I'm talking about.