Monday, January 30, 2012

Meatless Monday

I am trying out something new with our meals - one meatless dinner a week. Tonight was the first of this trial. Homemade tomato soup has been on my list of "recipes I'd like to try" and today was the day to finally try it out. I made roasted cherry tomato bisque with homemade Parmesan foccacia bread.

First I roasted the tomatoes and garlic with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Then in a dutch oven added the tomatoes, garlic and all the liquid, some water and chicken broth and simmered for about 10 minutes. I pureed the soup in my food processor, returned the soup to the dutch oven and added half & half. I was supposed to add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar but was completely out. Did you know you can substitute 1 tablespoon of red wine or cider vinegar plus 1/2 teaspoon of sugar for 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar? I certainly didn't know that. Thank you Better Homes & Garden for your awesome red check cookbook with list of substitutions in the back. I cannot tell you how many times I have referenced this list in the 7 or 8 years I've owned this cookbook. And while I'm at it I should thank my awesome friend Casey for gifting this cookbook to me years ago!!

For the bread - I used my bread machine for mixing and rising the dough, super easy. Love the bread machine! (thanks also to my sister for giving me her bread machine a few months back!!) I should have started the bread a little earlier this afternoon, however, because I was not able to let the dough rest as long as it should have before baking. We were hungry!! Despite this, the bread was AWESOME!

I think it looks like apple pie or something in these photos but trust me, this was yummy!

As for the soup, well, it wasn't bad or anything but - and maybe I should not admit this - I did not like it as much as the Campbell's Select tomato basil soup and the rest of the family agreed. With the price of tomatoes and the number of steps (and dirty dishes, ugh) and the amount of work this particular soup recipe involved, I'm not sure it will be a keeper for us.

I do think "Meatless Monday" is a keeper though and will continue on with this idea at least until I exhaust all of my vegetarian recipes.

The Rest of Our Weekend

We had more beautiful weather this weekend and took advantage of the sunshine on Saturday with another trip to Joyner Park to let the girls ride their bikes. It was a little breezy and cool but after 5-10 minutes of walking and riding we were all warmed up. 

Until Samantha gets the pedaling (and almost more importantly, the steering) mastered a little better we decided we would be better off sticking with the tricycle. It is more fun for Samantha anyway. I wish I had taken some video of my little speed demon as she coasted downhill. She was hilarious! Every person at the park we passed was getting cracked up by her.

I am super proud of Gabrielle. She did so well on Saturday! She wanted no help and was able to even pedal up most of the hills on her own. Once again, neither of the girls wanted to leave. Unfortunately all good things come to an end at some point.

Here in the Lingg household we are continually rearranging and reorganizing. It is a must as new toys and stuff come into our cozy little house. Ed's dad made an awesome cubby unit for us when we were expecting Gabrielle. When we had little babies, it was used for blankets, diapers, wipes and all of those baby necessities you want easily accessible. As the babies grew the essentials were changed out for toys and books. When we put the girls in a room together last summer, the cubbies became storage for their gazillion stuffed animals, as you can see in this photo.

The problem with this is the stuffed animals NEVER stayed in the cubbies. I am not exaggerating when I say ten minutes after putting the stuffed animals back in the cubby, even with the girls having to do it themselves, the stuffed animals would inevitably end up back on the floor. And not just a few of the stuffed animals. No. Each and every single stuffed animal from big to small was taken out of the cubbies and piled onto the floor between the cubbies and the foot of the bed. Ed and I decided we might as well move the cubbies where they would actually get used.

I love it here. Instead of the shoes being piled up on the floor just inside the doorway, they now have a home on the bottom row. Our bookcase in the office was overflowing with books so we moved some of those to the top row of spaces, and still actually have room for quite a few more books The middle row is holding toys the girls play with the most often right now, mostly stuff they got for Christmas.

And until we find a better solution the stuffed animals are right where the girls apparently prefer them to be -

on the floor!!

I have to admit, it does look like a cozy place to lay and play. Ed thinks it is time to downsize by a few animals, and I tend to agree, but the girls really do play with each and every single stuffed animal. Every time I sit and go through them I cannot find even one they would miss. Until they are older and can decide on a few to at least store away in the attic, I guess we will have to deal with being overrun with stuffed animals!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Friday Family Fun

My favorite day of the week - Friday!! The start of the weekend and time to slow down (sometimes to catch up on things too) and spend some quality time as a family.

We had the usual pizza for dinner but we did have a special dessert. I tried a new crockpot recipe for Lemon-Berry Pudding Cake. It came from a BHG Skinny Slow Cooker magazine. It was easy to throw together and turned out to be a delicious, light dessert.

Once the girls had their bath and were in the pajamas ready for bed we put together a new Dora puzzle. Both girls have really been into their puzzles lately. They were putting most of the old ones together so quick it was not a challenge anymore so I figured it was time to pick up some new puzzles.This new Dora puzzle proved to be more challenging. It is a lenticular puzzle so the pictures on the pieces change depending on the angle of which you are looking at them. The girls giggled as they tried to fit changing pieces together.

I also splurged and bought a new board game for us to play. This is not one I ever owned growing up but I can remember playing it at a friend's house. "Hi, Ho, Cherry-Oh!" The girls really enjoyed this game too. It was not too simple for Gabrielle to not still have fun playing but was a perfect game for Samantha to play with very little help.

The first round of the game went really quickly but the second round proved to be a bit of a marathon. Ed won the second round fairly quick but in our house we typically play until everyone has reached the finish line. That left us three girls left to play. It is amazing how many times the spinner will land on the bird and dog and spilled bucket! We all eventually agreed it was time to choose a new game as none of us were close to filling our buckets with cherries.

Poor Ed. The next game the girls chose was our Play-doh game. Definitely not his favorite.

But he was a pretty good sport about it. You create your own game piece out of play-doh and have the opportunity to smash your opponents game piece during the game. So you can probably see why the girls love this game but Ed not so much!

We finished the late night with a new bedtime story "The Goodnight Train" by June Sobel. Very cute book.

And then it was off to bed for all of us!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wacky Hair Week

This week was "Wacky Hair Week" at the girls' dance studio. Seeing all of the girls, and even the teachers too, with their wacky, crazy hair was very cute.

This was Samantha on Tuesday -

And Gabrielle last night -

We are having wacky winter weather this week as well. It has been quite warm most days, just barely cool enough for a sweater or light jacket. Today tops the cake though. High of 68, windy and on and off rain. On the way home from picking Gabrielle up from school to my right was dark, gray and stormy and to my left was blue skies and sunshine.

The girls woke up earlier than usual today so I was not surprised when Samantha fell asleep in the car on the way home.

I plopped her down on Gabrielle's bed when we got home and she has remained in exactly the same position for an hour now. Unfortunately I will have to go in and wake her up in a few minutes. A nap this time of day that lasts much more than an hour means bedtime will be impossible tonight. I do not look forward to waking her because she certainly takes after her Momma in that aspect. Samantha is not only difficult to wake up but she is also very irritated by it for quite a while after the fact. It has to be done though.

Hmm...would it be cruel to ask Gabrielle to do it for me?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Leftover Chicken? Try This...

Looks delicious, doesn't it? I found this recipe in my January/February 2012 issue of Everyday Food and have been wanting to make it for a couple of weeks now. You'll find the recipe when you click the photo link above but I took a few shortcuts to make this a really simple, really quick meal tonight.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • cooked chicken ( I used some leftover chicken from a rotisserie chicken we had for dinner on Sunday night)
  • vegetable oil
  • garlic (I used one clove, minced)
  • can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 - 15 oz. cans of chicken broth
  • corn tortillas
  • 1/2 avocado
  • shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • lime 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile heat a little vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Cook the garlic until fragrant. Add the can of diced tomatoes (including the liquid) and the chili powder. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked out. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Last I added my shredded chicken and simmered until the chicken was warmed through.

While the soup is simmering slice your corn tortillas (I used 3 tortillas) into thin strips. Toss with a little oil and bake for about 8 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the strips are golden and crispy. To make this an even easier meal you could always use bagged Tortilla chips, especially if corn tortillas are not something you normally would buy.

Now serve. Scoop some soup and add your toppings. We had the tortillas, cheese, cilantro, avocado and a squeeze of lime juice but I'm thinking some sour cream might be good as well.

From start to finish this took me only about 15 minutes and was quite tasty! So the next time you have some leftover chicken maybe try this!!

Wordless Wednesday {A Rare Moment}

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Scripture

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~Jesus.

I found today's scripture on the {in}Courage  website I follow. It comes from Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message translation). After a week of nonstop sickness in our house, taking "a real rest" sounds pretty terrific about now. I am glad today is Sunday and I am joyful Ed is willing to stay home with two still not quite well little girls so that I can go to church and get some spiritual refreshment and encouragement!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Little Artists

I am very thankful both of my girls love to color, draw, paint and do crafts. They both easily get captivated with television, and probably watch way too much of it. They both get sucked in to their video games and usually complain about their time being up. But even with all the toys that do this and that, buttons and gadgets galore, it is nice that they are equally satisfied, maybe even happier, by a simple coloring book and crayons. I loved drawing and coloring as a child and it makes my heart happy to see my children have that same love for artsy stuff.

Yesterday I was finally feeling well enough to clean the house. While I sick I spent two entire days on the couch. Literally. You can imagine then how the house needed some attention. Not to mention some disinfecting! The girls helped by putting away all their toys that had made their way into the living room and as their reward I let them do some watercolor painting while I continued cleaning.

Here are Gabrielle's two masterpieces:

This is Rapunzel, her favorite princess at the moment. Gabrielle has also been fascinated with drawing music notes lately as well.

And this next one really surprised me. On her own she decided to do a still life of fruit.

Pear, green apple, grapes, blueberry, plums and then some pink lemonade and a slice of pie thrown in there for good measure!

Samantha is currently in an abstract phase with her art.

I was told this next one was her still life of fruit.

Here is hoping they never outgrow their creativity!!

The Band's Back Together!!

Tonight was our family night. It was a little cold and rainy and dreary and half the family was still recovering from being sick all week - myself included. But we made the best of it. We were all well enough to go out for dinner (family night is always more enjoyable when I don't have to cook dinner and then clean up afterwards!). After dinner Gabrielle wanted to play games. We are a divided household where this is concerned because I LOVE board games but Ed is not a huge fan unless there is some serious competition happening. The compromise was to play Band Hero on the Wii.

It had been a long while since we have played the Wii and Band Hero. Getting everything ready took some time. Ed got out the equipment, dusted it all off and replaced the batteries in all the controllers while I got the girls ready for bed. Finally we were ready to jam.

Watching us play this game as a family has to be hilarious (listening to us play this game is probably a little painful for the ears however!). Even on the beginners mode it is a bit above the girls' capabilities. But they LOVE to sing and can get away with making up their own lyrics to whatever song Ed chooses to play. And they certainly LOVE banging away at the drums.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Better Days

Today certainly has not been the best of days. A cold I have been fighting off for a week now hit me hard this morning. Throbbing head, stuffy and runny nose simultaneously (how that is possible I don't know but that was certainly my case today), sore and scratchy throat. No energy. That was me. Samantha, who also has been dealing with the sniffles, was a little off this morning and as the day went on, I realized she was definitely coming down with something yucky. She fell asleep on her bed this afternoon. I had to wake her up unfortunately to clean up a yucky mess she had made in the bed while she was sleeping. Stomach bugs are the worst and to have that on top of the sniffles. Miserable.

After I got her cleaned up and her sheets off the bed she snuggled with her bink (thank goodness it had not gotten icky!) on her bare pillow on the floor. Ed put her to bed tonight and said she was very restless and was obviously having a hard time breathing due to her stuffy nose.

I'm hoping for a better day tomorrow. Hopefully Samantha and I will be well enough to at least get to a store after taking Gabrielle to school to get some medicine for myself and some Pedialyte and crackers for Samantha and maybe a couple of other staples, just enough to get us through a couple of days until we are all well enough to get real grocery shopping completed. And I'm praying that Gabrielle and Ed will stay well and the stomach bug in particular will not spread any further!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

For many of us, this was a long weekend. For me, it was a long weekend full of guilty pleasures (GP). No worries - nothing too scandalous.

Friday was our family night. The girls had a play date directly after picking Gabrielle up from school. It made for a fun, but exhausting day. Ed also had a long, exhausting day at work so we kept our family fun night as laid back as we could get away with. After going out for pizza (GP #1), we came home, changed into our pajamas and all snuggled up in Mommy & Daddy's bed for a movie (GP #2). Earlier on Friday I had dvr'd (what in the world would I do without my dvr!!) Disney's Robin Hood. This is Ed's favorite Disney movie and the girls had never seen it. They both really enjoyed it and in fact have been playing Robin hood ever since.

Saturday it was COLD! Samantha and I are both struggling to not let colds take over which seemed like a good excuse to not leave the house for any reason. ツ . Ed had another long day of work. The girls and I had already eaten dinner by the time he got home. While he was eating I gave the girls a bath and got them ready for bed. I then left them in Daddy's trusty hands for bedtime and I headed out to do some much needed grocery shopping solo (GP #3). It was heavenly to walk at my own pace, stroll around and browse the Super Target aisles while sipping on some Starbucks (GP #4). I decided to try out a new beverage. It was late and I did not necessarily need the caffeine so I opted for an unsweetened Green Tea. To be honest, I really did not think I would like it. I am a southern girl who loves her sweet tea. But the unsweetened green tea had been suggested by someone as way to still enjoy Starbucks without the high calorie coffee drinks. So what the heck, I gave it a try and surprisingly, I really enjoyed it! Now, will this unsweetened green tea replace my skinny mochas or my seasonal pumpkin spice lattes? Not a chance, but life is all about choices and balance, and the unsweetened green tea will be a nice, healthier alternative from time to time.

I came home to a quiet house. The girls were sound asleep and Ed was just about there himself. After putting the groceries away, I sat myself on the couch in front of the television and watched the Miss America Pageant (GP #5) while prepping my lesson and crafts for Sunday school. I can remember watching Miss America and Miss USA and even Miss Universe growing up and I still love watching those pageants just as much now! I love the talent part of the show, which I think they did away with broadcasting for a few years and I am so glad they brought it back, and I love the beautiful gowns. Maybe one day I'll have a reason to wear a glittery, sparkly gown and maybe even a tiara? LOL! 

Sunday was another relaxing day. We had church in the morning and then spent the rest of the day as a day of rest. I wish every Sunday could be like this one but unfortunately that is rarely the case. I was able to read the majority of the afternoon. For dinner we had frozen pizza (GP #6) and I watched the Live from the Red Carpet of the Golden Globes (GP #7). More gorgeous gowns!! And few "what in the world were they thinking wearing that???" Ha!!

Ed was back at work today but Gabrielle did not have school. I had promised Gabrielle we would do something fun - go see Disney's Beauty & the Beast in 3D at the theater. When I looked online and realized the matinee was going to cost us $27.50 I knew I had to change plans. I tried to explain to Gabrielle why but she instantly starting crying. I decided it was well worth the $27.50 to keep my promise and not break my little girl's heart. I did learn a valuable lesson however: Do NOT make any promises to my children without finding out all the details first!! After tickets, popcorn, candy and Sprites (GP #8) our afternoon outing cost us $36!! But it ended up being worth it. I wish I could have taken pictures of my girls while in the theater because they were just about the cutest little things ever. Gabrielle was sitting all prim and proper on the edge of her seat, with her little tray of movie goodies in her lap and her 3D glasses resting on the tip of her nose. She slowly enjoyed her treats, one at a time, being sure to not spill anything or make a mess. On the other side of me was Samantha, sitting diagonal in her seat, completely stretched out and laid back, feet propped on the armrest, shoveling popcorn and skittles in her mouth by the handful. She said her glasses were sunglasses and since we weren't outside in the sun there was no reason to wear them. Ha! The girls loved the movie and it was definitely a special treat for the three of us. We did see a few previews that looked promising, Dr. Seuss's The Lorax being the favorite for both girls, also in 3D. Since they did so well this afternoon I think we might have to make a point to see The Lorax as a family in March. 

And that wraps up my weekend of guilty pleasures.

Oh, I finally got my hair cut on Thursday - I had not even had a trim since September and my hair was out of control!! I wanted something different without going drastic so I opted for bangs. What do you think?

To be honest, my first reaction was "Oh well, guess I'll be wearing a lot of barrettes and bobby pins until these grow out!!". It's amazing how different a person can look by just adding bangs. I have not had bangs since, oh, I'd say 8th grade. It had been a while and I was a little in shock at first. But now the look has grown on me and I actually really like them. The above pictures are from the day of my haircut which is why my hair is exceptionally straight. I never get it that straight myself!! But I think I like the bangs even more when I wear it a little more naturally, with some curl and body to the rest of my hair. Now I'm thinking "Oh great, guess I'll be going in to have my bangs trimmed every three weeks!" Ha ha ha!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Scripture

"Everything is permissible" - but not everything is beneficial.
~1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV © 1984)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Gentleness Challenge

Gentleness. Speaking gentle words to my children is not something that often comes easily to me and that is not an easy thing for me to admit. I want to be the perfect mom. Calm and patient. Loving and kind. Gentle and soft with my words. Too often I am hurried by the stress of life, too much of a control freak, and too tired from either taking on too much or procrastinating until the last minute with my responsibilities. All of this adds up to an unhappy, impatient Mommy. I don't think I'm always harsh with my words - or at least I didn't until a comment Gabrielle made to me just before Christmas.

"Mommy, I wish you could be happier more."

Ouch! At the time I sort of laughed it off. I believe we were rushing around trying to get ready and out the door for some sort of Christmas celebration and when I'm trying to get everyone ready and out the door I'm probably at my worst. But that comment has lingered with me ever since and really bothers me.

I want my children to know I love them all the time. I want my children to really know being their Mom makes me the happiest person alive and I could not even fathom to begin to imagine a life without them. So when I came across this Gentleness Challenge on Women Living Well, one of the blogs I regularly read, I quickly and without hesitation accepted the challenge.

Has it been easy? Boy, I wish. I wish I could say that while reading the blog post this morning I didn't snap at Gabrielle when she came in to ask me for something. I wish I could say I didn't, once again, raise my voice trying to get everyone out the door this morning to get Gabrielle to school. But who said challenges were supposed to be easy. I guess they wouldn't really be called challenges if they were easy, huh?

I have, however, been able to stop myself midway when I find myself raising my voice, using a harsh tone, or about to say something hurtful to my children. And I pray that throughout this weekly challenge I will find new ways to replace my harsh words and tones with more words of love and gentleness. Children need structure and they need discipline and there is a time for firm words and actions - but taking out my stress and feelings of being overwhelmed on my children when they have done absolutely nothing wrong is not okay.

Hopefully Gabrielle will soon be able to say to me "You are a really happy Mommy!"

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!"
2 Corinthians 5:17

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."
Galatians 5:22,23

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Scripture

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
One of my favorite Bible verses. Regardless of what is going on in my heart or mind, or what is going on all around me, reading this verse always brings me comfort and peace. As I ponder on my goals for 2012 and pray for the Lord's direction, I am going to keep in mind the verse above.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

North Carolina Winters

Is today really January 7th? One would not guess it from the amazing weather we have right now. But I guess in NC anything is possible with each season. Last winter was FREEZING! It snowed a few times and now Gabrielle, poor lil' thing, does not understand it when I tell her snow is not the "norm" for where we live. She is only 5 and pretty much every winter she can remember has involved snow. She has experienced more snow than I did all of my 18 years growing up on the coast of NC. Naturally she equates winter with snow. But this winter, so far anyway, the weather has not been any where close to a slight possibility of snow. Today we had a gorgeous day of sunny and high of 67 degrees!!

My plans for the weekend involved catching up on some cleaning and finally putting away Christmas decorations. Well, my plans were foiled the moment I stepped outside to take out a bag of trash. It was way too beautiful a day to spend it inside cleaning, packing up decorations. We opted to spend the day outside!

First of course I had to get the girls dressed and their hair brushed which is when Samantha, being the "big girl" she is, decided to help Mommy out by combing her hair for me. It did not end well...

Fortunately after a while of turning the comb this way and that, pulling on this piece of hair then that one, I finally freed the comb from her hair and after several sprays of detangler managed to get it pulled back in a ponytail. Off to the backyard we went.

Once Ed arrived home from work, he loaded the cars with the girls' bicycles Santa brought them this Christmas and we headed to Joyner Park.

The park was busy - I don't think anyone wanted to waste the day inside if they did not have to - but the park is huge and there are over 3 miles of paved paths I believe so finding a good uncrowded spot for the girls to practice riding was no problem. The girls had only had two opportunities since Christmas at riding their bicycles. Our driveway slopes about half way down it so even on those two opportunities they only had a small circular path in which to learn to ride a bike.

There was definite some hesitation at first but once Gabrielle got the courage and confidence she was doing great and having a blast! Samantha was having fun as long as someone was pushing her but it did not take long for that to take a toll on mine and Ed's backs. I think we will have to get the tricycle out for a while until she gets a better grasp on pedaling. 

I love this next photo. The expression on Gabrielle's face is absolutely priceless. At this point she had a completed a small lap without any help and was so proud of herself. I was so proud of her.

 Here is a cropped, close up of the photo above so you can see her face better.
Gabrielle is a child that requires a lot of encouragement when it comes to something new. To be honest sometimes I get easily frustrated with her and I'm probably too hard on her at times when it comes to her cautious and timid nature. She is a very creative, artistic little girl and while she loves to play outside and run and swing she is not the active type as far as sports and those types of things. To get past her fear of falling and failing took quite a bit - but she did it! And she left the park fighting for more time and wanting to ride "just a little bit longer." 

This afternoon was filled with memories this Momma won't ever forget.