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  1. Sunday, August 30

    Week 136 Menu…and more gratitude!

    Today for the Gratitude Challenge I’m supposed to take a photo or video of a person, place or thing that makes me feel grateful. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to photograph, and then I realized it was right behind me, chatting and humming away.

    Ever since Cate was a little baby, she has had the biggest imagination and can play {literally} for hours on her own. I love that about her for so many reasons. Here is a video of one of my most favorite sounds.

    Okay, on to the meal planning!

    Aaron & Lindsay’s Chicken Tortilla Soup Extravaganza (plus another link to a follow-up post on this recipe)…I didn’t do this last week, we ended up with lots of leftovers throughout the week, and we only ate out once…love those weeks!

    – Tortellini, with maybe pesto…a few of you did something similar last week and that sounds good!
    – Salad and bread of some sort

    – Beef stroganoff w/egg noodles
    – Veggie

    – Leftovers

    – Camping at Big Sur!

    Please share your menu plan for the week! Since I’m on a gratitude theme, I really am so grateful for your menus. I browse through them every week, so thank you.

    Also, for you camping aficionados out there…any tips or recipes for cooking while camping are most welcome! Nate and I don’t have a great track record and we’ll be camping for three nights! Also, Labor Day ideas I’m sure would be welcome, too!

  2. Friday, August 28

    Call for Recipes: Chili Cook-Off!

    We had chili last night and it struck me that I’ve never done a chili call for recipes. This is definitely a dish I know people have recipes they are proud of and want to share. So, it’s time for a good old fashioned Chili Cook-Off! Well, as old fashioned as sharing recipes online can be, anyways!

    I’ll share my chili recipe. It’s not fancy, but it’s good and EASY. And you can just use whatever you have lying around, it’s a very flexible recipe. For you chili die-hards out there…yes, I’m breaking all kinds of rules. So, be nice. This is a FRIENDLY chili cook-off…anything goes, there are no rules!

    Measurements are approximate, this recipe is easy going.
    • About ⅓ of an onion, chopped
    • Bell pepper (about half of one…red tastes better, but green offers a nice color contrast…you choose!)
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped or minced…if you don’t have fresh garlic, just sprinkle some garlic powder
    • ~3/4 lb ground beef
    • 1 can kidney beans (15 oz size…don’t know if it’s exactly 15, but around there)
    • 1 can of baked beans (small/med size can…yeah, I know baked beans probably offends some chili purists…I like the sweetness they offer and I like this type of bean, so whatever)
    • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
    • ~1/4 - ½ cup salsa
    • ~1/2 cup spaghetti sauce (yup, spaghetti sauce…I make sure it’s a neutral one, without lots of italian spices or veggies like mushrooms in it - if you leave it out, just up the salsa amount a bit)
    • ~2 tablespoons chili powder
    • ~1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • HEAT…red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, tabasco sauce, whatever you have on hand…I usually don’t add this to the pot b/c we have little ones, so Nate and I sprinkle a little cayenne pepper in our individual bowls.
    1. Saute the onion, garlic and bell pepper in olive oil until soft – I season with salt and pepper at this point. Add ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook until browned. Drain off fat. Add everything else and simmer for a little while. Serve with shredded cheese, corn chips, corn bread, whatever you like!

    Time for you to share your favorite chili recipes! Any kind of chili counts, variety is a good thing! So, bring it on! You want to win the blue ribbon, right?

  3. Thursday, August 27

    Sensing Gratitude

    One of the Gratitude Challenge tasks this week was to focus on the five senses, taking note of the gifts that come to us through each port of entry.

    To stop, at any given moment, and focus on one sense is not something I often do. It really forced me to observe the world differently, to take notice of small things that are beautiful and miraculous in my life. And it made me oh so grateful for each and very sense that I have, allowing me to appreciate what I have now and not take it for granted.

    Sight. Watching my children watching the world.

    Taste. What would I do if I couldn’t taste this?

    Sound. The best part of fireworks is the feel-it-in-your-bones loudness of it all. I literally squealed with delight when I saw these a few weeks ago. They were so loud, in fact, not a soul knew I was squealing. It doesn’t get better than that.

    Smell. The smell of fresh baked cookies. Let’s be honest, the smell of fresh baked ANYTHING.

    Touch. Feeling the weight of this tiny child on my lap, this amazing little person that for some reason I am entrusted with. Knowing the time that she fits on my lap will pass in the blink of an eye, and appreciating it even more for that very reason.

  4. The Gratitude Challenge: Days 7-11

    It’s been a few days since I did a Gratitude Challenge post. Time flies when you’re having fun! I have been doing the assignments each day, which have involved a lot of writing and contemplation. Here’s a quick summary of each day’s assignment so you can join along!

    Day 7: The Gratitude Challenge provided me with a Flip camera (thank you!) and my assignment was to create a video blog post talking about how the challenge has changed my perspective so far. Obviously that post isn’t up yet! Don’t worry, I’ll do it. And, yes, I’m grateful for the camera…even though I have to put a video of myself up here. Maybe I’ll hire an actress…

    Day 8: Send thank you notes to five people who deserve a little recognition.

    Day 9: Enjoy the people around you. Take a moment to appreciate their unique talents, abilities and personalities.

    Day 10: Pick one of your five senses to focus on each day and discover how many gifts come to you via that single port of entry.

    Day 11: Try to see the world through the eyes of a child. Think about the things you take for granted on a daily basis, and express gratitude for the necessities that sustain your life.

  5. Handy Kitchen Tool: Magnetic Clips

    I spotted these magnetic clips at Bed, Bath and Beyond last year and thought they might come in handy, so I grabbed a pack. I soon discovered that not only are they handy, they are indispensable!

    I bought another pack last week to add to my collection. If 7 clips are good, 14 is GREAT! You simply don’t realize how often you need a clip in the kitchen until you have an abundance lying around waiting to be used. And not only have I discovered the handiness of clips in general, but being able to “store” them on my fridge means they’re always right at my fingertips and not lost in a drawer somewhere.

    Someone is bound to ask about the ‘Fun Recipes for You and Child’ paper hanging from the black clip.  So, I’ve typed them up for you! Click more to read the recipe for Playdough, Flubber and Koolaid Playdough.

    (>> Find out more…)

  6. Tuesday, August 25

    Blendtec Total Blender…I’m in love.

    I have wanted a super duper blender for YEARS. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my desire for a super duper blender on this blog several times.  I am happy to report, I am finally the proud owner of a super duper blender and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

    One day my Auntie Barb (who is a happy VitaMix owner and got me on the quest for a super duper blender in the first place) mentioned the Blendtec Total Blender. I did a little research and decided that the Total Blender was my super duper blender dream. Since I have this food blog, I thought I’d give a shot at getting one of these blenders for a product review. I emailed Blendtec and they responded immediately. And sent me my dream blender! (By the way, Blendtec told me I could keep the blender or give it away on my blog. Now, I love all of you dear readers very much…but…there’s no way I’m giving this blender away. I just can’t part with it! Maybe next time. And now that you all hate me, let’s get back to the post.)

    Here are the reasons I love the Blendtec Total Blender:

    – First and foremost, our smoothies are soooo good. The texture is amazing. No more Jamba Juice for us.

    – Preset buttons…there is a computer chip in the Total Blender with a bunch of presets. You want a smoothie? Just hit smoothie. You want soup? Hit soup. It does all the slowing down and speeding up for you and knows just how long to go for.

    – You don’t need a little stick thing to push everything down. If you get the right combo of fluid and liquid and/or put things in the right order, you never need to push your ingredients down into the blender. It’s amazing. Once in a while we don’t get the balance right and have to do a little urging, but not very often.

    – It blends things to bits. Or I should say PULVERIZES. You can toss strawberries in whole, leaves and all…and you don’t even notice there are LEAVES in your smoothie. The motor is super strong, so this would outlive several normal blenders in succession. Definitely makes it worth the investment.

    – It’s really easy to clean. No parts to unscrew and get all yucky.

    – If you make soup, it blends so fast it heats the soup up! Although, when I made my tomato soup (which was yummy, very fresh tasting), I did heat it on the stove afterward to get it really hot. I’m still perfecting the art of blender soupmaking.

    Only one thing so far that I didn’t love about the blender – peanut butter. I don’t know if my peanuts were just old and yucky or if I was doing something wrong, but my peanut butter was gross. I may try another type of nut butter, but I’ve decided homemade peanut butter isn’t for me.

    I didn’t know it until after I got the Blendtec, but this blender is the one that was made famous on YouTube with the “Will it Blend” series. They do crazy stuff like blend iPhones, it’s funny. So, not only is my blender awesome, it’s famous! 😉

    So, there you go. As I indicated, Blendtec did provide me with the blender, but I was not paid for this post. I really love it. And if I was a bazillionaire I’d buy you all a Total Blender right now. Aren’t I generous?

  7. Sunday, August 23

    Week 135 Menu

    I bought a pizza stone last night. And a pizza peel. I am SO excited. I can’t wait to try them out, so we are definitely having homemade pizza this week! Thanks to Lindsay for convincing me to get a stone and a peel. Okay, so she didn’t have to do much convincing, I was easily sold.

    Paninis (probably chicken…Cate’s been asking for these, so why not?)

    – Homemade pizza
    – Salad

    Aaron & Lindsay’s Chicken Tortilla Soup Extravaganza (Here’s another link to a second post I wrote about this soup. It’s that yummy. And photogenic.)

    – Leftovers

    – Cookout (hamburgers and/or hot dogs and/or BBQ chicken)
    – Corn on the cob, watermelon, that sort of thing…

    – Eat out


    Okey dokey, pokies, please share your menu for the week! For those of you who haven’t been planning or posting…I’ll cut you some slack, it’s summertime. But come September it’s back to the grindstone, ya hear?

  8. Saturday, August 22

    The Gratitude Challenge: Days 4-6

    The Gratitude Challenge is going along swimmingly. Just a quick update on the last few “assignments” in case you want to do any of them yourself!

    Day 4: “In your journal, write a short message of thanks for some of the “negative” things in your life…describe how it’s added something positive.”

    Day 5: Take 5 minutes to write in your journal about the wonderful things you have in your life right now.

    Day 6: “Take a few minutes to call someone you haven’t talked to in a while {whom you appreciate}.”  I called my Grandma. I am so grateful for this strong and elegant woman. I am grateful for her generous heart, for her example of what it is to be truly good, and for her hands that are constantly helping others and reaching out to the ones she loves.

  9. Thursday, August 20

    Cabot Whipped Cream

    Oh. My. Goodness. The canned whipped cream by Cabot is soooo good. I was skeptical when my mother-in-law whipped out (pun intended) canned whipped cream. Normally that stuff stinks.  But not in this case. DELISH, I tell ya. Delish.

    Cabot is based in Vermont, but it looks like their products are available nationwide…in fact, when I did a Google search for the whipped cream, it was on Walmart’s website, so I’m thinking it’s in stores everywhere. I haven’t looked here in California yet, but I’m going to. Here’s what the can looks like, so you can find it too.

    Also, we used cake dessert cups from Whole Foods for the dessert pictured…those were also quite tasty! Let the sliced strawberries sit in some sugar for a bit, stack everything and voila! Easy and fast strawberry shortcake knock-off. For a non-chocolate dessert, I was surprisingly satisfied, which is saying a LOT coming from me.

  10. Wednesday, August 19

    The Gratitude Challenge: Days 1-3

    For the next three weeks I’m going to be participating with a great group of bloggers in The Gratitude Challenge. We each received a gratitude kit, with tools and activities aimed at making us more grateful and focused on living in the moment. As part of the Challenge, I’m going to report on some of my experiences here on my blog. I look forward to you sharing your thoughts and joining me on this little journey.

    Years ago I kept a gratitude journal. Each day I would write down 5 things I was grateful for. I’ve long since slacked-off on this habit, but I never stopped believing in the positive influence that journal had on my life. I am really looking forward to the next three weeks…it will be good for me to specifically focus on the things that I’m grateful for once again.

    Day 1 (was Monday): I signed the pledge and have now told you all about it. I’m committed and ready to go!

    Day 2: We are supposed to write in our gratitude journals a list of things we’re grateful for…using the alphabet, A to Z. I thought this would be easy…but some letters were tricky! I actually broke out the dictionary to find words, and found something for each letter. X was the most fun…Xanthan Gum. I really am grateful for that stuff…makes homemade frozen yogurt oh so yummy!  If you’re feeling like getting into a grateful mood, sit down and make your own A to Z list…and share your favorite letters here!

    Day 3: “Write a blog post about something you feel grateful for in your life today.” That’s easy…all day I’ve been feeling unbelievably grateful for my 20-month-old Anna. She toddles around chatting up a storm (her little voice brings me so much joy) and makes us laugh countless times a day. Oh, I just love that girl!