Monday, May 25, 2009

A must read

I just finished reading 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa, by Stephanie Nolen. I don't know how I even found the book, but if any of you recommended it to me, thank you! It was excellent. I was really challenged to examine thoughts and beliefs that I know I have expressed or had at one time or another, about morals and values and justice and just a lot of stuff. I really do think that it is good to look at things from the perspective of others. You may or may not change your own view of a situation, but it is good to be stretched and to wrestle with stuff. There is a lot of "stuff" out there that I would rather just ignore and not have to deal with. It doesn't directly impact me, so why bother. I need to put down the Christian Fiction every once in a while and pick up something that makes me think.

In other news, I have really been wishing we were in South Africa again. It has been over 6 months since we came back home-two whole seasons. I have been terrible about keeping in touch with people. Oh, it is easy to come up with excuses about why this happens, but it really makes me sad. I just wish we could know what is happening in the lives of our friends on a more regular basis.

We did hear some fantastic news recently from Mark Harding regarding Mama Cathrine. She finally received the deed to the property, which means she can now look into putting up some new buildings. It feels so selfish to even say this, but I just wish we could be a part of it. I wish we could be there to help get things organized. To see dormitories going up so that 14 people will no longer have to sleep in a space meant for 3-4 people. Or a classroom that is roomy enough that all the kids could push their chairs out at the same time and not risk knocking someone down. Just knowing that there are possibilities now that they have the deed is amazing. If/when we hear more, I will be sure to pass it on.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dinosaur Discovery with Daddy!

Tyson and I(Darin) got to spend a Saturday morning together last week at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. They had a traveling dinosaur exhibit there for a few weeks and Tyson has been extremely excited about dinosaurs lately, so we thought it would be fun. After spending an hour making our way through the regular museum, we found our way to the 3rd floor exhibit room. Below are some pictures.


The dinosaurs were about 1/4 to 1/2 actual size and

their heads, necks and limbs moved as they growled.



There was an archeologist's tent complete with an outfit and tools.



Tyson putting on a puppet show for me.






As you can see by the look on his face, he thoroughly enjoyed the time, as did I. On the way home, he was already making plans for our next visit with mom and Jori.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My son, the graduate

We made it! A year of three school and a year of preschool and next year Tyson will be off to Kindergarten. He is so excited. Today was his little graduation ceremony and party and Darin, Jori and I all got to watch him get his certificate. His class also sang a few songs and he actually did the motions. (We tried to upload some video of him, but it isn't working after a day and a half of trying!)



We love you Tyson Alan and thank God for the wonderful year you had in preschool. We hope you will always love school as much as you did this year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

First trip to Meijer with coupons

I think that using coupons could easily become an addiction. Here are the things that I bought today using coupons.


The regular cost for these purchases would have been $29.28. I saved $13.50 and spent just under $16 for all of these things. I am pretty pumped about it. I bought three bottles of dressing for $1, the 3 pack razors for $1.49, I think I got both hot dogs for $1, the 2 cheese slices for $1.18 (total, not each!). I am way bummed because I came home and realized I could have saved even more. I am going to re-read Sarah's blog and try to figure out all the ways I could have saved. I even told someone in the store about her blog : )

I only bought things that we use or that we can donate to Love INC's food pantry. Hopefully next time I'll do even better!

In other news, this is what Jori wore yesterday to Pizza Hut. Darin was a little embarrassed because we picked him up at Innotec, but I have decided clothing battles are not worth the fight. This is her ballerina outfit. She likes to do "baller-ine" in it. I guess she's never heard of ballet.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recipes

Ok, I have promised my sisters and mom I would send them some recipes, so I thought I may as well put them on here for whoever still reads this blog to enjoy! I like things that are fast, simple, and still taste good.

This recipe for Thai Chicken came to us on a postcard from our realtor. We just got another postcard from her with a recipe for Balsamic Chicken, which also looks really good. I'll put it on here if we like it. This Thai Chicken is my FAVORITE meal right now. Darin also enjoys it, which is a bonus. I've been giving the kids something else because A: it is kind of spicy and B: after seeing them waste their portion the first time we had it, I got selfish and wanted it for leftovers.

Thai Chicken

1 Cup Salsa
1/3 Cup peanut butter
2T soy sauce
2T balsamic vinegar
2T water
1T molasses

1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder

4 chicken breasts(boneless/skinless)
2T oil
3Cups Rice (or more or less)
1T sesame seed (haven't used)
green onion

Bring to a boil 1st 6 ingredients, stirring often. Keep warm. Combine next three ingredients in a plastic bag. Add chicken strips/chunks to bag and shake to coat. In skillet/wok cook and stir chicken in oil until cooked. Spoon sauce over rice, add chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion if desired.

This makes GREAT leftovers. I have been using non-instant rice, and I can start that, then make up the sauce and chicken and it's all done at the same time.

Next is a recipe from Kraft foods. All of us but Jori really like it. She won't even try it, which is neither here nor there.

Creamy Chicken, Bacon and Tomato Pasta

3 cups pasta (calls for bowtie, we like using medium shells)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast cut in chunks
3 slices bacon (we do the precooked kind and have been using 5 or 6 slices) cut up/crumbled
1 can italian style diced tomatoes (not drained)
4 oz cream cheese (we use the 1/3 less fat)
1/2 cup water (maybe more, maybe less)
1/4 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese (haven't used)

Cook Pasta as directed. Meanwhile, cook chicken in large skillet over medium high heat until chicken is done, stirring occasionally. When chicken is cooked, add everything else except the parmesan. Mix well (you don't want cream cheese chunks). Drain pasta, add sauce and sprinkle with parmesan. We are not so fancy and I just throw the pasta in with the other stuff once it's drained. I also hold back some of the crumbled/cut up bacon and toss it on top before serving. I think real bacon would be better, but I like to keep it simple.

This recipe comes from Rachel and it is super fast, easy and the kids LOVE it. I have changed her recipe a little and will kind of write it both ways, but just know that you can add different things to change the taste and it will still turn out : )

Chicken Noodle Casserole

1 box of noodles (I do 3/4 box medium shells, Rachel uses a bag of egg noodles)
1 small can of chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can milk (a little more or less depending on how many noodles you have. you don't want it too soupy, but you REALLY don't want it too dry. Believe me, I know.)

Our additions:
Garlic Salt (to taste)
Shredded Cheese (like 1/2-3/4 cup mixed in, 1/4-1/2 cup on top, but whatever YOU want)
Potato Chips, crunched up (part of the original recipe, but try it with BBQ or Salt and Vinegar)

Cook pasta. Drain. Add everything into the pot (except for chips and cheese for the top). Put it in a 9x13. Top with crushed chips and cheese. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes-hour. This meal freezes really well. I like to make 2 8x8's and freeze one for later.

This recipe is from my friend Pauline. I know all my Rooks girls have it, and so does my mom. This is the best meatloaf. Really, it is. For the past few months, I have been doubling the recipe and making meatballs instead, thanks to my mom's super suggestion. Super handy for when I need a quick meal.

Meatloaf

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 T minced onion
2 T ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg slightly beaten, mixed with 2T milk

Topping:
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp mustard (calls for dijon, I use plain or spicy brown, whatever we have)
2 T brown sugar

Add first group of ingredients together in a big bowl making sure it is mixed well. Put in a greased loaf pan or shape into meatballs (I get around 20-24 with 2 pounds, but some are big and some are small). Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Take it out and add the topping (second group of ingredients). Return to oven for 45 minutes (loaf) or a little less for meatballs.

This is one recipe that I don't have to use measuring cups or spoons for! I know, you are all impressed. The topping is way good, but make it to taste. I like a little more brown sugar and Worcestershire in mine. Depending on how many meatballs you cook up, you may need more or less topping.

I love to serve these potatoes with our meatballs. The recipe was originally in the Edgerton Enterprise! I have dried making them "healthy" with spray butter, but they are not meant to be healthy. Again, I kind of estimate this dish depending on how many potatoes I use. I also like to slice my potatoes kind of thin to cut down on cooking time. You need a cookie sheet with raised sides.

Crunch Top Potatoes

melted butter or margarine (you need enough to coat the potatoes well. I have used too much before and the butter is pooled in the pan-tasty, but try to exercise some self control).
3-4 potatoes (more if they are small or sliced thick, less if you have a small pan)
1 1/2 cup crushed Rice Krispies (again, depends on how many potatoes)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use closer to a cup)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika

Put potatoes in pan and coat with melted margarine/butter. Mix other ingredients together and spread over the potatoes. Bake for 45 min-1 hour at 350.

Don't let my crazy directions dissuade you from making these. My kids love them!

I am going to stop for now. I do have some more recipes we have quite often, but I'll save them for another day.

More Kid Comments

I'm sure you've all heard this before, but we had corn on the cob for dinner tonight and both of our kids told us to watch out for the "bone" inside. Funny.

Tonight we read about King Hezekiah and King Josiah. ("The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes" is really whipping through the books of Kings and Chronicles.) Anyways, when he was praying Tyson said "and dear God, please help those Israelites to not say poophead and tooterhead anymore, but just help them to do what is right in the Lord's sight. Deut-er-otomy." In Wonder Years at church, he learned Deuteronomy 6:18a "Do what is right and good in the Lord's sight". I love how he managed to throw that in there and that he is praying for the old time Israelites to not have potty mouths.

Jori then managed to say almost every off-limits word in her prayer. "Dear Jesus, help us to not say poophead, tooterhead, oh my gosh, stupid..." Tyson managed to throw in "diarrhea" before we shut down the prayer time.

Books

Anytime I have to list my hobbies, like on job applications or "getting to know you" surveys, there is one thing that I write down over and over and over again: reading. I LOVE to read. I read so much, I have to stop myself from going to the library at times or I wouldn't get anything accomplished. I know a lot of you are readers as well, so I thought I would let you know about some books I have recently read in case you are looking for a good book to relax with this coming weekend.

I recently read three books by Leslie Gould: Scrap Everything, Beyond the Blue and Garden of Dreams. I enjoyed all of them, especially the last one.

I also recently read the following books by Rob Bell: Velvet Elvis, Sex God and Jesus Wants to Save Christians. They all gave me a lot to think about. I think it is good to read things that challenge us and make us wrestle with things.

Two books that I read that challenged my thoughts about God were The Shack, by William P. Young and Angry Conversations with God, by Susan E. Isaacs. I know some people are very much against The Shack and, conversely, some people have taken it a little too much to heart. I thought it was a very interesting look at the Trinity and the role each member plays in our lives.

When I went to Oregon in April, I took along the book There is No Me Without You, by Melissa Fay Green. This is a very long book (it took my the whole weekend, including flights!) but it's a true story about a woman in Ethiopia running an orphanage and it is eye opening.

This winter I read all (at least I am pretty sure it was all) of Frank Peretti's books: Monster, The Oath, The Visitation, This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness and Tilly. (I just checked his website and there is another book called House, which he wrote with Ted Dekker.) His books deal a lot with spiritual warfare, and are kind of suspenseful, but even Darin read Monster, and that book is huge! Tilly is totally different than all the other books in both subject matter and length.

My favorite most recent read was The Penny, by Joyce Meyer and Deborah Bedford. I just really enjoyed the characters and the whole story line.

Those are the books I can remember off the top of my head. Did I mention I LOVE to read?? I am sure I will have lots more suggestions this summer. Do any of you have a good book or two to add to my summer reading list?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Do you want to save money??

I am sure you all answered "yes" to the question above. Who doesn't want to save money? However, if you are like me, you may not be very good at it. Well, my friend, Sarah, just started a new blog all about using coupons called Give Me Neither . She is going to be giving tips on how to organize your coupons, where the good deals are at, internet coupons... So check it out!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nature Preserve

I finally took my kids to the nature preserve, right here in good old Hudsonville. I am not sure why we haven't gone before. I'm not going to say they loved it, because at one time or another they both whined about being tired and wanting to go back to the van, but they both said they'd like to go back sometime.

Here they are walking on the path and then running on the boardwalk. That was their favorite part.
I remembered to take my camera and thought I'd better use it. I did get a few cute pics of the kids.

But as you can tell, they quickly got sick and tired of mommy and her picture taking.

Here is a little video I took of them. They are getting so goofy. Tyson has started saying "Amen" when he finishes saying whatever he needs to say.
video
Finally, we made a birthday countdown chain today. Only 36 days til Jori's 3rd birthday and a mere 34 until Tyson turns 5! I can hardly believe it, but it's true.


Mother's Day Program

Tyson's preschool had a special mommy and me day last Friday to celebrate Mother's Day. We had a very special morning. We made a few crafts, read some stories and planted a flower. The kids worked very hard to learn some special songs to sing for all of the moms too.
Here are a couple videos of the songs the kids sang. Tyson IS one of a kind! video video

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kid stuff

If you don't like reading about cute things kids say, STOP READING.

The other day Jori was running up the driveway and coming into the house. As she got closer to me she started saying what sounded like "Shew. Shew." Then she said "Shew. That was close." I asked what was close and she said "My running. Shew". Then she put her hand to her forehead to wipe away the sweat and said "Shew" again. I am guessing she means "Phew" like "man am I tired". She is getting to be such a little drama queen.

This morning at breakfast Darin and Tyson had the following conversation.
Tyson: Dad, does that make you speak English better?
Darin: What?
Tyson: Does that make you speak English better?
Darin was kind of lost, but then he finally caught on. He was eating an English muffin! Ha ha.

While we were having a little dance party, Jori suddenly stopped and said "I ranned out of steam". I asked where she heard that from and she said "Larry". I am guessing she means Larry from Veggie Tales.

During the same dance party, Tyson ran off crying and the said "No body's watching my spin jump!!!" followed by a loud wail. Poor kid. The spin jump IS his signature move you know.

You know the saying "it tastes like chicken"? Apparently Tyson thinks everything has chicken in it. While he and Darin were outside picking weeds, they came across a frog. Tyson was asking Darin if animals and people can eat frogs and then he said "Do they get all the chicken out of it?" He told me that giraffes, hippos and rhinos also have chicken in them.

In other news, we decided to plant a garden this year. The kids have been super excited about it. We picked up some seeds this weekend and today Darin and the kids planted some tomato and cauliflower seeds. Once they grow, we'll put them in the community garden behind our house.