Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Morning Tea with Grandpa...So Blessed!

Super Duper C and my dad are sharing some morning tea after a fun slumber party!  Don't you love my Dad's crazy morning hair!  I have a picture of Dad etched in my mind from childhood...crazy morning hair, a mug of tea in his hand, an old, worn t-shirt tucked into his pajama pants (which were pulled up a little too high...sorry Dad!!!), ankles showing from shrunken flannel pajama bottoms (Really, can we just all agree that pajama pants are never long enough...or if they are, they shrink so much when washed...they are more like capris?!), and his moccasin style slippers!  There was always a smile and hug to go with this morning ensemble!

Having been a teacher and seeing the struggles that some kids have at home...or shoot...even turning on the news and seeing just how much devastation and hurt there is out there...I can't help but brim with gratitude, feeling so blessed to have loving, nurturing, caring, and supportive parents!  Not everyone has had the chance to know the joy of parents that take that title seriously.  I don't think I even realized the magnitude of my parents' love until after C was born.  Being a parent is a gift from God that not only strengthens us as people, but Also softens us as human beings.  I have experienced emotions as a parent that were not otherwise possible. 

My parents will never cease to amaze me, and I am ever so grateful to have experienced growing up with them, the opportunity to be their friend now as an adult, and the opportunity to have C experience their love and friendship too!

I love you Mom and Dad! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quote: Christopher Robin to Pooh, A. A. Milne

Promise me you’ll always remember:  you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Christopher Robin to Pooh
A. A Milne

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Inspired Recipe: Spaghetti...Family Favorite

Although my husband thinks I am a little crazy for feeling this way, I long for fall in the middle of summer. Fall is my season. I'm not ashamed to shout out a big, "Woo hoo!" when the weather starts turning. Summer is beautiful and full of all things wonderful, but fall holds a very special place in my heart.  Fall gives me the warm fuzzies for so many reasons...the chill in the air, the warm cozy nights in by the fire, the candles burning, the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows, the return to coats and scarves, the holidays, the family gatherings, and gosh darn it...the yummy, comforting food!  I thought I'd share one of my all time favorites that is perfect for fall...and all year through!

I'd have to say, hands down, one of my favorite meals to prepare (and eat of course) is Spaghetti and Caesar salad.  I mean really, who doesn't love spaghetti?!  There's just something about it that feels like home, and for a large family gathering, it seems to hit the spot for everyone. Actually, it is one of my very favorite "beginner" meals, as I vividly remember standing in the kitchen with Brian, married a little over a year, and preparing to have our entire families over for dinner in honor of my 25th birthday.  I was still arthritic, so our every day was not your average newly wed's life.  My body didn't do well with standing for long periods of time, and I had no stamina.  I had recently discovered a desire to cook that I didn't know I had after watching hours of The Food Network (while immobile on the couch).  With this inspiration, we wanted to cook something fun and family friendly for everyone to enjoy.  I was not quite as experienced then, and boy was it a learning experience.

I don't think the Mr. would be thrilled that I'm sharing this picture, but it is too priceless.

We started chopping, and all of a sudden Brian ran upstairs.  What was he doing?  Well it turns out he thought it was a good idea to bust out some ski goggles to protect his eyes, as the onions were making our eyes water like crazy.  I laughed so hard, I nearly peed my pants.  It was a genius move though...totally helped.  We were new at this, what can I say?  (In the years since, I have found that if I run the faucet with cold water and stick my face right next to the cold running water, the tearing up is a bit relieved, as it is if I walk over to my sliding glass door and stick my head out for a moment.  What is your favorite way to avoid crying onion eyes?)

Anyhow, we were finishing just as folks started coming in the rushed...and not the way I wanted to welcome them into our home!  In hindsight, I can now vouch for the luxury of planning ahead and making certain elements of a meal prior to the day you're serving it.  Who knew?  Ahhh well, you definitely live and learn, and hindsight is definitely 20/20.  Fun to look back on.  I assure you,I've we've gotten better!

Being that I was not able to last long while standing (boy did my arthritic feet hurt), Brian helped with a lot of the prep and cooking. We shared a lot of giggles, and it was only just the beginning.  Good times!

Below are the recipes for Spaghetti Sauce (my own tweaked version) and Mini Turkey Meatballs  inspired by Giada De Laurentiis.  I sure hope you love these recipes as much as we do.  Definitely family staples.

Spaghetti Sauce

*I usually double this recipe to have enough extra to freeze for a few more dinners down the road!  Love to see bags of this stuff in the freezer!  Quick and easy dinner of those know...the kind where you look in the freezer and say, "Hallelujah!" when it's time for dinner.

1/4 - 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped (Just depends on your garlic preference here.  I use 4, and it is not overpowering.)
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped (I use regular long carrots...I noticed baby carrots have a difference in flavor.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 - 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes in rich puree (plain or with Italian seasoning)
1 - 14 oz. can of tomatoes (diced, crushed, fire roasted, or Italian seasoning)
*When I double the recipe, I usually use 5 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes and/or diced tomatoes, a mixture of plain and Italian flavored. 
2 dried bay leaves
4 - 6 fresh basil leaves (Tastes great without it just depends on if I have it in the fridge or a basil plant that is alive...oy!  I also add dried basil in a pinch.)
2 - 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent. Add celery and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and stir well.  Continue sauteing until vegetables are soft.  Add in tomatoes, bay leaves, and basil.  Simmer partially covered (to avoid the splatters!) on low heat for about 1 hour or so. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

Cuisinart CSB-76BC SmartStick 200-Watt Immersion Hand Blender, Brushed Chrome

Use a handheld blender to blend this sauce until smooth.  I use THIS nifty handheld blender right in the pot, and it is magical.  Before I got this blender as a gift, we would blend the sauce in the food processor.  I will NEVER do that again!!!  Can I hear a HALLELUJAH for handheld mixers?!

If you are not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour portions into plastic freezer bags. I try to freeze in portions that would be about the amount we would need for a dinner and a little leftover.  This will freeze up to 6 months.
I serve this sauce over spaghetti or linguine, as they stand up nicely to this thick and luscious sauce!  It's also delicious over tortellini and ravioli and as a dipping sauce for breadsticks and the like.  Accompanying the spaghetti is often a side of Ceasar Salad with Homemade Croutons...or little flavor bombs as my husband likes to call them.  Yum!


If you'd prefer some meat in your sauce, here is what I do.

Although the meatball recipe below is scrumptious, sometimes I'm not in the meatball making 
mood.  So, I combine all the ingredients for the meatballs below in a mixing bowl, excluding the 
olive oil and Simple Tomato Sauce), and brown it in a pan.  Then I add this meat mixture to 
the sauce I am using for the evening.  Once added, I let it cook for about 15 more minutes 
to ensure all the flavors marry.  One batch of meatball meat is enough for one batch of sauce.


Mini Turkey Meatballs
Recipe inspired by Giada De Laurentiis
(Tweaked by Yours Truly :)

*I eyeball a lot of this measuring...after making it enough times, I just don't take the time to measure it all perfectly!

1 small onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound ground dark turkey meat
*I use ground turkey breast.
3 tablespoons olive oil
26 ounces Simple Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, or store-bought marinara sauce

Add the onion, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, ketchup, parsley, Parmesan, Pecorino, salt and pepper to a large bowl and blend. Mix in the turkey.

Shape the turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a large plate or baking sheet. 
Heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and saute until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Pour off any excess oil. Add the marinara sauce, about 3 cups. Return all the meatballs to the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend, 15 to 20 minutes. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Transfer the meatball mixture to a serving bowl. Serve with toothpicks.


Hope you give it a try.  Set aside a couple hours, and have fun. 
Linking to a party at... The Idea Room and Under the Table and Dreaming

Friday, September 24, 2010

Musical Hallelujah: By Our Love - Christy Nockels


Found this to be such a breath of fresh air.  Do you need one?

I stopped all that I was doing, sat myself down, and listened. What a much needed reminder that my life is not my own.  I am to be His hands and feet.

Have a listen...let it touch your heart!

Christy Nockels - By Our Love, Life Light Up

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Feeling Thrifty: Value Village Toy Report

I just love the word thrifty. Sounds so much like nifty, and who doesn't want to be nifty?! As a child, I remember shopping at Value Village all the time with my mom.  The three of us (my sister would tag along in the stroller) would walk there from our house (just a short walk of a few blocks), and we would go on the hunt for great deals.  Clothing, toys, jackets, little items for the house...we just never knew what we would find.   It all seemed so normal.  Anyhow, I have such fond memories of these adventures, so it was about time I headed back there. 

As a parent, I think second hand stores are such an under utilized resource these days.  Everyone is out for the newest, best, biggest, and most tricked out version of whatever it is they want their child to have.  We were so blessed by our family with Cooper's arrival and subsequent birthday and Christmas gifts and haven't really hurt for much.  (B and I both agreed when we were pregnant with C, we would not go overboard with toys and gifts and clothes.  It's an easy thing to do as a new parent...have you seen the toy isles, the ads, the commercials...?  So much, so fun, so awesome, so not needed.  We are purposefully trying to live simply.)  Now that C is almost two (Eeeeek!!!), his curiosity and need to be challenged is ever evolving, and I am so thankful (and so is my wallet) to turn to these types of stores for perfectly wonderful resources and treasures to entertain my little man. 

After rekindling my friendship with Value Village this past weekend, I wanted to share a few of the toys I found.  My mom and I were so pumped with our finds, we were almost giggling at the great stuff we were finding.  I even had to put back three or four items because I was drawn to so many.  Our cart was bursting at the seems.  (My philosophy is to snag it, put it in the cart, and mull it over as I peruse.  If you are not completely sold by the time you head to the register, put it back.  No harm.  No foul.) 
Not pictured above is an amazing metal Tonka Dump Truck similar to the one pictured HERE.  The few stickers on it are just the slightest bit worn, but it is in otherwise perfect condition.  Seeing as to how THIS plastic one is roughly $30.00, I was stoked to snag this truck for about $7.00.  I am saving the dump truck for Christmas, as Cooper is in love with dump trucks and construction vehicles.  We can't drive by the corner they are building the new Lowe's without, "Ooooooohs," and, "Ahhhhhs," and squeals of joy.  I imagine him seeing it under the Christmas tree and running to it with lots of excitement and a grin from ear to ear.

The rest of the purchases are pretty great as well.

It looks like this Elmo's Teaching Bus usually rings in at around $35.00, and I believe I got it for a whopping $2.99.  It has become our go to car toy.  Each button either says the name of the letter, plays a little tune, or has a fun little saying.  I've noticed it has taken Cooper a little while to get interested in learning his letters, but he is slowly and surely coming around.  He and Elmo are just starting to get aquainted as well, so this toy was especially fun.

This Plan Toys Oval Xylophone is usually somewhere around $20.00 - $25.00 new, and I made the big purchase at $1.99.  I love this company, so even though I knew Cooper was a bit beyond this type of toy, I thought it was worth bringing it home for such a steal.

I couldn't quite find this Little Tikes keyboard's price after looking for a few minutes, but seeing as to how THIS comparable keyboard (along with stand and stool) is selling for around $60.00, I figure the keyboard alone would be somewhere between $20.00 - $30.00, don't ya think?  We ended up getting it for around $3.00!  It is the best!  Cooper just loves this thing.  His favorite button to press is Demo All.  It plays all the demo songs right in a row, and let me tell ya...he busts a move!  The little songs are so catchy.  We could just hang out and dance forever with this keyboard playing.  I imagine him being even more interested in all the features as he gets a little older as well.  There is a record button...oh the possibilities.

I am looking forward to doing a little more birthday and Christmas shopping for our little man soon and have a couple more stores in mind.  I hope you are inspired to think outside the box and find some treasures of your own!  Happy thrifting!

Linking up to Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Free Baby Sling from Seven Slings

Thanks to a tip from The Coupon Project, I just ordered a FREE BABY SLING from Seven Slings.  FREE!!!  All I had to do was pay shipping ($12)...not bad.  Of course Brian reminded me that it wasn't free, it was actually $12.  Of course I said, "No, the sling was free, and the shipping cost $12."  We like to have little "discussions" about that kind of stuff.  So ridiculous.  Then we laugh at ourselves.  Do you ever do that with your husband?

Anyway, the good news is that all you have to do is go to Seven Slings, choose one of their slings valued at $39, and enter the promotional code "onefree" at checkout.  That easy.  No tax...woo hoo!

I ordered Green you love it? 

By the way, I am in no way hinting that I am pregnant.  But we do hope to have a little brother or sister for Cooper someday...and I've always wanted a sling!

*** Editor's Note: Just got a note back from The Coupon Project regarding this deal.  Just an FYI.  Just as a heads-up, I'm emailing back and forth a gal that says this should not have gone out on coupon blogs. I'm trying to get to the bottom of it. So know that this post has a decent chance of being removed. :( UGH!  On a happier note, glad you got your sling!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sharing My Hallelujahs...We're No Longer Private!

So Hallelujahs is no longer private. I will be posting on Facebook once and a while, and look forward to sharing random rumblings and life adventures with more folks! I do plan on keeping some family life private for Coop's sake, but a little sharing will be fun! I plan on being a little more consistent and look forward to sharing family life, recipes, and DIY projects I tackle. Thanks for sharing this adventure with me! Enjoy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Value Village: Pre-owned baby!

I just rekindled my friendship with Value Village. I'm not kidding. We're like this. (Picture my two fingers crossed, with big emphasis on the word this.) Totally scored today! Will post pictures soon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Organic Cherry Tomatoes

Aren't tomatoes beautiful?  I bought these organic cherry tomatoes about a week ago at the regular grocery store.  They were gorgeous, and I couldn't resist.  Growing up, I was never really a huge fan of tomatoes.  As I've married and begun my own family life, I've found a love and passion for food and cooking, and tomatoes have become one of my favorites.

The cherry tomatoes (that come in beautiful reds, oranges, yellows, and sometimes purples) are such a great pop of color and sweetness to any dish really.  This week, we've enjoyed them in tacos (Wow, what a burst of flavor in comparison to the romas I've been using lately!), amongst lettuce in salads, and alongside cucumber for a fresh bite.  Upon biting them, they give quite the squirt of seeds too!  Cooper enjoyed biting into a few just to watch them shoot out a trail of green seeds!

Just the color of these tomatoes alone gets me so excited for this time of year.  Summer ending and fall beginning!  I am so looking forward to it.  The (don't shoot me) rain and cool weather, the cozy clothes, the scarves, the pies, the traditions, the birthdays, the feeling in the air!  I just love it.  Favorite time of year....leading up to favorite time of year!  He he he.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just A Little Potty Update...

Well, he did it!  Cooper was completely potty trained before we left for Brian's family reunion in Minnesota on August 21st.  I was amazed.  Car parking facilities, airports, road trip, cabin on the lake...Cooper was a total potty stud at every location.  I was so happy for him, and he was so proud of himself.  Every time he had to go, he just loved making the run to the potty. 

On the day of the anual L family golf scramble, we even took a little potty with us in the golf cart just in case.  Cooper didn't miss a beat.  He had to go mid course, and we busted out the potty.  Potty life was moving along quite nicely.

However, we returned home from the trip on August 29th, and Mr. C, the potty expert I knew and loved, had vanished.  He was no longer consistent and seemed very uninterested.  It has only continued to get worse.  Seriously like someone flipped a switch.

So without letting myself get stressed about it anymore, we are just not making it a big deal.  I am initiating the process in the morning, before and after naptime, and night time, and I am encouraging him to let me know if he wants to use the potty at the start of the day and a few times throughout.  I'm not pushing it, but I'm not letting go of the idea all together. 

It was getting quite frustrating when we first got back, simply because I just didn't understand.  He seemed like a different person...potty training, behavior, attitude.  He's not even two yet, so it's not as if I have some huge expectation for him to perform or anything.  But to see him having been so successful, and then to see him just completely lose interest, I was so baffled!

Anyhow, the potty adventures continue.  The M&Ms are still around, C still gets excited here or there to use the potty, and he even tells me his buddies (his stuffed animals) have to go potty.  (We, of course, take the stuffed animals to use the potty, but I don't let them actually touch the potty!).  Even so, I think we have a long way to go. 

I need to pray for patience and flexibility (physical and parenting) more often!

Love you buddy.
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