Sunday, May 29, 2011

Speed... An Acceptable Drug For Young People

The card game Speed, that is.  My almost 12 year old and I have been playing this lots lately - maybe there's someone in your life this could be quality time with.

To play Speed, deal out two piles of seven cards and place them on the sides of the table.  Split the deck so each of you has 19 in a pile in front of you.  Take three cards from that pile to hold in your hand.  At the same time, each of you take the top card from the side pile at your right and turn it over into the middle.  From the cards in your hand, play onto the middle two piles one card higher or lower than the card showing (if we turn over a 5 and a 10, for example, we could lay down either a 4 or 6 or 9 or J).  When you've played a card, replenish your hand from the pile in front of you.  The object is to finish your pile first.  If you get through the side piles (you flip one over from them when you are both out of plays), turn the center pile over to become the new outside pile.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monthly Menu

Ever since Sean & I have been married, I've used a monthly menu plan.   (I've posted a sample before.)  There were some years it was more on the back shelf, but because it's a great tool  and makes my life easier, I've been pretty faithful at using it.  I've got four weeks laid out, and just cycle through them.  Monday is my grocery day, so I pull out the list, adapt the week's menu to suit our week, and make my shopping list from that. 

When setting up the plan, I kept in mind a balanced diet, our weekly schedule (piano after school Tuesdays means a shorter prep time, Friday can be a meal that's not great for leftovers), and food likes and dislikes.  I plan for six days - the last W means weekend, which for us is usually flexible; as long as I've got the fixings for one meal on hand, we're good.

Where there are two meals listed, I alternate and make one one month and the other the next.  I often switch up which chicken meal I make, too.  I have the Company's Coming Chicken Cookbook and like lots of the recipes in there.

Week One
M - Spaghetti
T - BBQ Steaks / Shepherd's Pie
W - Honey Baked Chicken
T - Lazy Perogie Casserole
F - Fish in Brown Butter
W - Burgers

Week Two
M - Tortellini Alfredo
T - Hamburger Helper / Meatballs
W - Parmesan Chicken
T - Lasagna
F - Tacos
W - Stirfry

Week Three
M - Van Raes Mac & Cheese / Penne Rose
T - Perogies & Sausages
W - Chinese Chicken
T - Hamburger Casserole / Canelloni
F - Fish Sticks & Fries
W - Frozen Pizza

Week Four
M - Roast Beef
T - Sloppy Joes / Hot Beef Sandwiches
W - Any Chicken Recipe
T - Chicken Lasagna
F - Pork Chops / Mexican Fish / Experiment with Something New
W - Chicken Fingers & Fries

Do you use a menu plan?  What are some of your family favorites or standbys?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Do You Have A Suzanne?

You know how some people are social and love people and always like to have people around?  That's not me.  I know that we were created to be social beings and that we were meant to function better in community, and I'm not saying I'm exempt - but I enjoy my own company, I always have lots of things I want to do and read, and it takes a whole lot of alone time before I'm seeking out company.  (Except for my husband, for whom I am sometimes needy.  But that's a whole different post that probably will never get written.)

I do have friends, and I enjoy getting together with them.  We are in a small group, and have really enjoyed hanging with those people Saturday nights this past year.  I'm in a book club, too, and count those girls among my closest friends.

But today I want to tell you about a new friendship.  A friendship that I am so thankful for, and that I would wish for each of you.

One day a few months back, a casual friend of mine (someone I saw at church and was in book club with), asked about the possibility of getting together on a regular basis... I'm not sure she knew exactly what she was looking for, but someone to talk with about some of the deeper parts of life and to have honest conversation with was sort of the gist of it.

We began to get together once every two weeks, and over the span of the last few months, she has transformed into one of the first people I would call if there was something serious going on in my life.  The friendship has deepened quickly and so genuinely that it's hard to believe it's only been such a short time.

What makes a friend like this?  For one, I think that the openness on both our parts has allowed us to trust and feel comfortable with one another.  I heard an expression once, I forget where, about putting your friendship for sale - not making the other person invest much to get anywhere with you, but making it easy for them to get inside.  We both came at it with an openness, and risked the vulnerability that comes with sharing much.

Another thing that goes along with this is intentionality.  We get together every other Wednesday - we put it in our calendars and plan to spend time together.  We also are intentional about what we talk about - we catch up, of course, and tell our stories, but we also (and this is a third thing) are accountable to each other.

One of the first things we did was talk about our goals - for all the different areas of our lives, both short term and long term.  This is a great exercise for anyone to do, but for us it provided that understanding of what we valued and were working for in our lives, and laid the groundwork for setting new goals each time we get together.  Sometimes they are more specific than others - sometimes life gets a little full and just getting through it well is enough of a goal for the next two weeks.  I keep my book with both our goals with my Bible and journal, and some mornings I pull it out - it reminds me what things I was going to work on, and it reminds me to pray for her and the things she was wanting to build into her life.

Our time together isn't forced, and we don't aim to solve one another's problems; sharing our own experiences and offering suggestions as we work through issues that come up sure is a help, though.  Whether it's spirituality, mothering, managing money, or relationships with our husbands or others, nothing is off limits, and everything is safe.

If you don't have a friend like this, I highly recommend you start scanning your acquaintances for someone who might fit the bill for you.  It's a rich relationship, and I am grateful for the day she asked.

Monday, May 16, 2011

counting up thankfuls

I've mentioned before that one of the books I have with me when I spend time with my Lord in the mornings is a Gratitude Journal.  I've written about my motivation to start one, on a summer road trip.  And I've mentioned the book One Thousand Gifts and directed you over to Ann's website to find some wonderful encouragement.

One thing I haven't done - until today - is list here what I am thankful for, and link it to Ann's weekly gratitude post.  This is what I wrote today in my Gratitude Journal today, and because I was inspired to start numbering them (to 1000 and beyond), these are # 345 - 349:

  • A thoughtful gift from a thoughtful friend. 
  • Following an impulse and finding it blesses others and me as well.
  • Wedding showers and joyful times.
  • Sunshine on the deck and painted toenails.
  • No wind walks with Sean.

And this will take you to all my posts marked Thankful.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Attack of the Squirrels!

Or, Signs of Spring.

Here are a few shots from the backyard yesterday - you'll want to stay tuned right till the end for the squirrel bit.

Trees are starting to green...

Flowers are starting to sprout...

Birds are in the grass, searching for food...

And Sean's in the garage.  Taking apart and putting together.

On this particular spring Saturday, I was out at a costume sewing bee for the camp, and when I got home, these two had bought some paint and were about to begin a bird house & feeder paint job.

While taking down the duplex, a squirrel surprised Sean by jumping out of the building in his hands!  (He managed to stay on the ladder, happily.)  

About 20 minutes later, back comes the squirrel with four of his family members, to check out his houseless home.  They were stealthy on the way in, slinking along the branches nose to tail, then when they got to the tree they were chattering - I don't speak squirrel, but it sounded pretty ticked off to me. 

I was ready for an attack. 

After assessing the situation, however, they made their way over the neighbor's roof to another tree perch.  I'm still keeping my eyes open, though!

No bird (squirrel) house here, but can you see all five in this picture?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leftover Soup

I made some homemade vegetable soup a month or so ago, and along with what the recipe called for, I threw in the leftover veggies that were in the fridge.  It was a yummy soup (a P90X recipe), and it inspired me - so for the last while I've been saving those last bits of veggies, chicken and rice that were not going to get eaten as leftovers, and threw them in the freezer.  I even saved some 'veggie broth' - the nice green liquid leftover from cooking broccoli.

The other night I felt motivated and I simmered some chicken stock with celery, onion and carrot for an hour, then added all my thawed soup fixin's.  It ended up a little thick, but I just added a bit of water, and it made a great lunch for Madeline and I three times this week!

I meant to take a photo for you, but ate it all up before I remembered...

So my questions for you are: Do you ever make leftover soup?  Everything but the kitchen sink soup?  Any tips on ratio of liquid to leftovers?  How do you season it? (I used a bit of salt and some fresh ground pepper.) Thanks!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


May is National Scrapbooking Month, and May 7 was National Scrapbooking Day.  A bunch of my hardcore scrappy friends and I spent a 12 hour marathon at the church working with all our pretty paper and goodies.  I'm happy I've got a few pages to show for it.  Some were mostly done before, and I just had to complete them.  A few others just need some finishing touches and then I'll post them, too.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Can't Judge a Pepper by its Skin

I was looking forward to eating all the fresh veggies I brought home the other day.
This red pepper, especially... yummy!

So sad... 

I grabbed the camera so I could take some pictures to illustrate the obvious moral here - don't judge by outside looks; they may not match what's on the inside! 

I showed M the pictures when she got home, how nice it looked and how disappointed I was, and her first comment was - "Just like some people!"  Glad she knows that lesson!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


We went to Medicine Hat on the weekend (picking up and dropping off car parts) and had a nice mini vacation.  We stayed in a hotel, went water sliding, bought clothes for all of us, bought Sean's Father's Day present a little early, and had hours in the car to read.

So Friday I hit the library for some good lit, and came away after picking up two off the "Hot New Reads" stand.  Our public library has a system for getting the newest books into as many hands as possible - they offer them as seven day loans, as opposed to the usual three weeks.  Saturday I finished the first, and tonight I polished off the second.  Sigh. I hate finishing a good book.  Here they are, recommended by me:

I'd give this one 4 out of 5.  A scenario that seems unthinkable, and how it changes life for Jack and his mom.  Worth a read.

This one gets a 4 out of 5 as well, although I think I did like it better than Room.  I love learning history through fiction, and this was a great one for that. 


Thanks, Emma and Kathryn for coming along on our road trip this weekend - it was wonderful to spend so many good hours with you!

What have you read recently that you'd recommend?

We're the Green Team.

No, not that green, the other green.  The most memorable part of last night, our first game of the season, was that two of our players hooked up with the other team, and the coach, who didn't have his team list with him, didn't catch it....  So they had 5 subs and we had one.  For the second half.   I think we're all sorted now, and should have more players tomorrow.

And I told them we were the green team.  That ended up being so very helpful.

We know the other coach because his son was on our team last year - this year he volunteered to help and ended up coaching, just like what happened to me 2 years ago.  I do think it's pretty sad that of all the kids playing, only three teams had people actually volunteer to coach.  The rest end up getting roped in. 

What is your funniest experience with a kid's sports team?

PS - We're the darker, "Irish" green.