Friday, October 31, 2008


Today is the day. I've avoided being "tagged" thus far in my short blogging career, but no longer. Thanks to idnaturegirl for the fabulous opportunity for me to share 7 random things about myself. Enjoy. The one good thing- hopefully you will learn something new and can then qualify for an early bedtime. Good luck!

1) I have an incredible sense of smell and no spacial sense whatsoever.

2) I occasionally have this crazy delusion that I would enjoy building my own house from the ground up. That urge is usually cured (though temporarily) by any given minor home repair project.

3) Despite my English teacher's best efforts, I have found I actually like to write and can be good at it if given enough time and a topic I enjoy.

4) I enjoy being where I am in life. The current economy ( or any economy for that matter) can not afford to pay me enough to go back to junior high school and do the last 25 years over again.

5) I have been putting pureed zucchini in my spaghetti sauce for quite a while now. The kids can't tell, nor is anyone that reads this allowed to tell them because Joseph will probably stop eating all together. Tonight we're having spaghetti (traditional for Halloween at our house) but I'm trying spinach instead. If Joseph dies then I'll know totally green vegetables really are poisonous to him.

6) My favorite part of having children was child birth because I knew pregnancy was almost over. My least favorite part so far (and my oldest is almost 15) is potty training. I will go through a dozen pregnancies before I voluntarily potty train again. (That's just for comparison, I know I can't do the first without plenty of the second.)

7) I have a fantastic memory for completely useless trivial information and anything to do with numbers, but don't ask me to remember what is on my "to-do" list for the day if it's not written down (and sometimes even if it is written down). It's a wonder I get anything done some days.

Ok, so now I get to "tag" 7 other random people. How does one decide these things? I'm letting my family off the hook for this one. Nicci, you are family, but if that baby isn't here by Sunday consider yourself tagged! (Maybe that will work better than stairs and squats to encourage his entrance!) Here are my tags: Jenny B., Kathleen S., Carrie S., Lisa W., Katy G., and Sandy L., and Anna Lee S . Can't wait to see your 7 things!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Pumpkin Seeds...Yum!

Tonight we are carving our jack-o-lantern and I got to thinking about pumpkin seeds. I remember eating them at school once and thought it was cool you could toast them and make a treat out of them. I was always told to just spread them in a pan, sprinkle on a little salt, and toast them. Thing is, they never tasted very good to me. I'm not one to do a whole lot of cooking without a recipe (in fact, I've been asked on occasion to please not experiment!), so I just gave up the idea of pumpkin seeds as a snack.

Thankfully, there ARE creative people who DO experiment with foods, and other people like the results. One of them was kind enough to submit a couple of recipes to Light & Tasty Magazine a few of years ago. It changed my pumpkin seed life. I now anxiously await them every year. So, in honor of Halloween and this wonderful fall season, I share this recipe with you. I like the original recipe so much, I've never tried the others. You're on your own there.

This may have been more helpful earlier in the week, if you've already done your carving. Sorry. Buy a pumpkin on clearance on Saturday or beg seeds off your neighbor and try it out. Enjoy!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Light & Tasty Magazine Oct/Nov 2006
Prep: 10 Min., Bake:45 min. + cooling

2 cups pumpkin seeds
5 tsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

In a bowl, toss pumpkin seeds with butter and Worcestershire sauce. Combine the sugar, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne; sprinkle over seeds and toss to coat.

Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with foil; coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Spread seeds in pan. Bake at 250 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until the seeds are dry and lightly browned, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Facts: 1/4 cup equals 95 calories, 5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 6 mg cholesterol, 181 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 fat, 1/2 starch.

Optional Recipes:
1) Sweet- Combine 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. each ground nutmeg and ground cloves.

2) Savory- Combine 1/2 tsp. each salt and paprika, 1/4 tsp. each onion powder, oregano, and dried thyme, and 1/8 tsp. pepper.

3) BBQ- Toss the seeds with 1 tsp. barbeque seasoning (in the spice section of the grocery store).

4) Mexican- Combine 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp each onion powder, dried oregano, ground cumin, and chili powder, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Authors, again

I didn't know what I had done with Ryan's story from Pack Meeting when I last posted, but I found it. Yea, me! I figure I can't post one and not the other. So, here goes. Once again, spelling and punctuation are true to the original. Also, each line was written on a different page.

If I hadn't followed that dog...

I would not have gone to the ganck yard and...
I would not have gone to the grave yard and...
I would not have gone to the flower garden and...
I would not have gone to the deep swomp and...
I would not have gone to the swooer in new york sity and...
not have gone to the forest with lions.

Can I just say that I love reading stories the kids make up when they're young. The handwriting, spelling, and pictures (when they have them) are so precious.

Authors in the Making

We had Pack Meeting tonight. The theme was books and as it's Halloween, the boys were to dress up as a character from a book they've read. Steven went as Taran from the Chronicles of Prydain series. As a "keep-'em-busy-until-we-start" activity the kids were given little booklets with a writing prompt on them and then encouraged to finish the story. Steven and another scout (we'll just call him Thomas) decided to write a story together. I thought it was cute, so I thought I'd post it. All spelling and punctuation are true to the original.

Our two authors hard at work

Steven and Thomas' Property

If I'd known what was going to happen, I never would have opened the door.

One day it happened. It was Halloween night. I was walking home and an earthquake! When I got my scences back, I kept walking home. I came upon a creepy old house. I just had to go in. I found a whole bunch of cool stuff. After I sripded the house down I noticed a closet. I noticed it was unlocked. I opened it, and....

To see what happens see book 2.

Shan here- Wow, only 15 minutes of writing and he already has a series! (I promise they have both been taught "Thou shalt not steal". Maybe we should add "or sripded down a house"!) Steven and Thomas stood up and read it outloud to everyone. We were all anxious to hear what happened and then burst out laughing when we were told to wait for book 2. Maybe it was one of those times you just had to be there, but it's a cute memory for me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


So, it's Saturday, not too far from Sunday. My grape jelly experiment is finally over. I was never very good at guesstimating anything, so my projects tend to run long and require multiple trips to the store the first time I try something new. Grape jelly was no different. At least this project didn't require something from Home Depot. Allen's Grocery store is a lot closer.

I figured our box of grapes held enough for a couple batches of jelly- that would require about 9 pounds of grapes and give us about a dozen cups of jelly. I bought the appropriate containers and pectin. Thursday after school we started de-stemming grapes. I should have gotten out the scale. Turns out we had nearly 30 pounds (told you I don't guesstimate very well) of grapes. Two days later I have 32 cups of jelly and 7 cups of syrup. (Yea, I know, who eats grape syrup? We will because I was trying a different recipe that didn't use pectin. You just boil the juice and sugar until it's thick enough. After 45 minutes of boiling and stirring, I decided we had enough grape jelly to be getting on with and we'd just go for a little grape syrup instead. I'll let you know how or if it goes. My advice, buy pectin!)

The whole jelly thing was kind of fun. The boys loved helping me squish the grapes. It was strangely therapeutic- like popping the bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap. Then you boil the grapes and run them through a strainer (Victorio Strainer. For my siblings- it's the same kind we used to use for making applesauce with Mom.) to get rid of the skins and any stems that may have snuck in. That was Steven's favorite part. We ended up with one of those giant silver bowls full of grape juice. You have to let it sit overnight in the fridge because, something new I learned, grape juice will develop tartrate crystals. They look like lots of pulp that just appears in the juice. You can strain them out after the juice has sat overnight. So, grape jelly is at least a 2-day project. We made room in the indoor fridge for the huge bowl because my white counters already had purple blotches all over them and I wasn't about to risk the same with the white carpet as we walked the giant bowl out to the fridge in the garage. I felt very homemake-y for providing such copius amounts of homemade grape products for my family.

Day Two was fun. The recipe said to remove the tartrate crystals by straining the juice through several layers of cheese cloth. This is just a marketing ploy by the cheesecloth people. If you make grape jelly do not use cheese cloth. Many more purple blotches were added to the white counters. (Good thing they come right out with bleach!) There is probably a great product out there for this part of the process, but I don't own it. I ended up just using the little strainer I had in my utensil drawer. I used to use it to sprinkle powdered sugar evenly on brownies. I have a shaker for that now. Now it's pretty much used only once or twice a year to strain pulp out of someone's orange juice. It worked much better and made less of a mess than the cheese cloth. I made a double batch of jelly and felt very pleased with myself.

By Day Three (today) the excitement had pretty much evaporated for that big bowl of grape juice that was staring me in the face every time I opened the fridge. This afternoon I decided to try the no-pectin version mentioned above as I had used all the pectin I had bought and didn't want to go to the store. An hour later I found myself headed to the store to buy more pectin. The last batch went into jars about 7:00 tonight. I am very grateful to have the grape jelly in jars and the big silver bowl clean and back in the cupboard where it belongs. Greg was a total dear and helped do the dishes. It still feels good to have learned something new and have something tangible to show for it. Right now, though, any thought of eating anything grape flavored is pretty repulsive.

So, feel free to stop by for a visit sometime. We'll have peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches for lunch and pancakes with grape syrup for dinner. (I don't know what your mornings are like, but there is no way pancakes will happen most mornings here.) We could even try a little vanilla ice cream with grape syrup for dessert. If you come before Thanksgiving, we'd love to see you, but I'll probably just watch you eat. I know, you can't wait to get here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Camera Whisperer

Greg fiddled with the camera when he got home and discovered that if the planets aligned while you held your breath, stood on one foot, closed your eyes half way, held the camera at exactly a 29.7 degree angle, muttered threats to the camera under your breath and gently pushed the button, the camera would take a picture. Just kidding! He did discover that if he put pressure on just the right spot below the lens he could get a picture or two. So, below are a few of the latest at our house.

This is what has been happening when I take a picture.

The sunset this evening when facing west.

The sunset this evening facing east.

Our Fruit Cocktail Tree/Stick. Currently, our stick-in-the-mud. (Ok, bad joke.)

One English diorama. It's a scene from the book Cryptid Hunters where a storage canister, two children, a toy poodle, and a chimpanzee fall out of a cargo plane over the Congo. The children, poodle, and chimp survive by holding onto the netting of the canister. That's about all I know of the book. My favorite part is the airplane flying into the side of the box. Saved making an entire plane!

So, that's it for the pictures for awhile, unless Greg is home to work his magic on the camera or I get it fixed. We'll see which happens first. Now, I'm off to bake the bread and do a few dishes. Happy sleeping!

Happy Day!

I wasn't so sure how today was going to go. But, it has turned out to be one fine day, so I thought I would share.

1) This morning I was wiped out. Not enough sleep for too many days makes Shannon not much fun to be around, or something like that. Being Wednesday, Greg took the three youngest to school on his way to work for chess club. Spencer left for the bus at the same time. Erica had left 1/2 hour before. (Did I mention that I'm really starting to love Wednesdays?!) I waved my fabulous family out the door and went back to bed at 7:43. I've never done that before, but boy did it feel G-R-E-A-T (insert Tony the Tiger here!). I woke up at 9:00 and thought about getting up and then woke up again at 10:00. I didn't do much today and I would not like sleeping all day all the time, but once every 5 blue moons is a wonderful thing.

2) Last April, when we still lived in Mesa and had different health insurance, I took Spencer and Steven to the eye doctor. Mayo is great for a lot of things, but there are gaps in their insurance communication. The optometrist, Jon Wold for those that know him, submitted the claim which was denied. Mayo said to resubmit to a different address, which they did. It, too was denied. By now we'd lived in UT for several months and I had no computer access to Mayo as Greg was no longer an employee. I called Mayo and they resubmitted it, but it was again denied because they said we chose a doctor that was out of network. How could that be when I got the info from their website? No one seemed to know and I couldn't find Dr. Wold listed anywhere on the amount of website I now had access to. The doctors office wouldn't submit the claim again. We finally just gave up and paid the bill.

Fast forward to two days ago. I was deleting old emails (we had almost 2000 of them) when I came across two emails sent to me from the vision insurance people. Lo and behold, it listed Dr. Wold as an in-network provider. I still couldn't link them to Mayo, so I called today. Turns out that the vision insurance in AZ is contracted out by Mayo. When the eye doctor had submitted the claim to Mayo, Mayo hadn't forwarded it to their vision plan. Since the optometrist wasn't listed under the the medical plan they refused to pay. I'm not quite sure why they thought they'd find an optometrist under the medical plan when the medical plan doesn't cover vision. Probably just the communication gap I mentioned before. I spoke to Daryl at the real vision insurers this afternoon. He was fabulous- took my info and said they'd have a check in the mail to me next week. So, I did a little happy dance, because I was now fully rested, and ran out the door to presidency meeting (Daryl's only flaw was that the phone call took longer than I really had time for!) before heading off to school to get the boys. Can't wait for the mail next week!

3) The English diarama is DONE! Woohoo! That would be two days early. Even the paragraph to go with it is finished and taped on the back. It is off my kitchen counter as of tomorrow morning. I'd put in a picture, but the camera is still on the fritz. (That's a project for tomorrow or Friday.) Erica has even finished her Frankenstein portfolio. All we have left are all the goodies for the end of quarter parties and one for Greg at work, any excuse to celebrate and eat junk- and the weekend ahead is looking pretty fine!

4) The Laurels (16-18 year-old girls) decided to have their YW activity last night. We attended the orchestra concert of one of the girls. It also happened to include my daughter so I got a YW activity and a concert attendance all in one shot. That means that tonight I don't have a YW activity. Joseph went grape picking with his friend, Korey, yesterday. I'd never heard of that before, but they came back with the back of the car crammed to the gills with boxes of the sweetest grapes I've ever tasted. So, tonight I'm going to try my hand at homemade grape jelly and make bread for Greg's office party tomorrow. Should be fun.

5) Then I'm going to bed! It'll be less than 12 hours since I got up. Can't remember the last time that happened. My brain will probably be confused, but I'm sure I'll straighten myself out.

Wish all days could go this well. Since they don't, you've got to be grateful when they do. Hope your tomorrow goes as well as my today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Favorite Day of the Week

In general, Monday's are right up there as far as favorite days go. There are a couple of reasons. First, I'm a huge fan of routines. This particular Monday comes after a 4-day weekend for us, so I was MORE than ready to get back into normal life. But, the more favorite part of Monday is clean sheets. I know, simple pleasures! No matter how crazy life gets, I always (ok, 99.99999% of the time!) wash sheets on Mondays- at least the ones from my bed. If the kids don't get theirs up to the laundry room, they miss out. It's amazing how consistent they usually are. Ryan would be our huge exception but, being a 7-year-old male, he's not able to appreciate clean anything yet.

There is just something about clean sheets. I'm kind of a nut about smells, anyway, but clean laundry smells are some of my favorites. Today I was ahead of the game as far as laundry goes, and even had time to throw in a load of bath mats. They're hanging in the bathrooms to dry, so those rooms smell awesome tonight, too. The best part of the favorite part of my Monday is actually climbing into those clean, crisp sheets at the end of the day. Mmmmmm! Makes my eyes close just thinking about it! So, I'm off to brush my teeth in a "clean-laundry" smelling bathroom and then climb into my "clean-laundry" smelling sheets. Perfect end to the day. Sweet dreams!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I Planted A Stick Today

Yes, it's true. I planted a stick. It's as close to gardening as I got this year, so it's kind of exciting for me. I'd post a picture, but the camera has a short and won't take any at the moment (unless you want one that's black as a starless sky).

I was on Craig's List this morning to see if anyone had a rototiller for sale. (I always want very exciting things for Christmas.) However, either nobody has one or else nobody is giving one up. Don't know which. Didn't find a single mention of a rototiller, but I did find someone that had a free fruit cocktail tree. He's about 2 feet tall and has two branches poking out one side. It's apparently supposed to grow 5 different types of fruit on at least 5 different branches, but it only grew two this year (don't even know which fruit it was trying to grow). They complained to the company, who sent them a new one. They felt bad digging up ol' Two Branch and just leaving him to die, so they posted it on Craig's List. Poor thing's been out of the ground all week and the leaves on the two branches were all shrively. We're not sure that he's going to make it. (Don't ask me how I know it's a boy. It just is.) I dug him a nice deep hole, took out about a ton of rocks, placed him in it and gave him a nice slow drink of water. Now, we just wait until next spring. Erica hopes it grows fast so she can climb in the branches. I told her that maybe her kids can some day climb in the branches. For now, we're just going to be happy if it stays upright all winter and grows a few leaves next spring. If not, he was free and I got to dig in the dirt for an hour. Fair trade if ever I saw one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One Down, One To Go

I'm not including any of the German translation. Doreen (my German sister-in-law) wouldn't be able to stop laughing and breathe for the next three days. That can be the German teacher's problem. Point is, he looked up all the words and found things that corresponded fairly well for a first quarter Intro to German student and we all survived the trauma. Now off to bed. Finishing the English diarama is next.

I Love Fall!

I love fall. The days are crisp and the trees are pretty and you still get some beautiful, not hot, days and chilly, need-an-extra-blanket nights.
This was out our front door on Sunday:

And this was inside our front door on Sunday:

The snow didn't last. It didn't even stick, but the chilly weather did for just a bit. Yesterday it was in the 40's, today is supposed to be in the 50's , tomorrow in the 60's, and we'll hit low 70's by the weekend. Perfect! I get to wear jeans/sweaters and capris/t-shirts all in the same week!

These are outside our front door today:

Sorry, no inside photos today. (Life happened and I'm not sure when the last time the vacuum was out.) Use your imagination. No fire today, but we have lots of homework and baking happening. Ryan wanted cookies again and Spencer's German project is due tomorrow.
Happy October!

(This should be a separate blog, but Spencer opted for the recipe option-hallelujah! We're making lemon bars instead of Hamburg! He told me yesterday it is due tomorrow but not late until the 21st. It's going to be turned in tomorrow. We have Thursday and Friday off and I'm not going to have it hanging over our heads for 6 extra days.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Our blog has had a baby. In order to keep the peace, Erica has started her own blog. Apparently Greg and I are too old and boring and the layout of our blog doesn't meet her standards. We like the white and she doesn't. So, if you want color, check out her blog. It's (Notice the subtle reminder of how we are terrible parents by not letting our only daughter have the biggest bedroom. Hope she survives.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Ryan and I made cookies this afternoon and I noticed we have reached a milestone in our family. (Drum roll, please.) Every one of our children is now tall enough to help in the kitchen without needing a stool, step-ladder, box, chair, bench, plastic tote, bucket, etc. to stand on in order to see and/or help add ingredients. Neither does anyone need to be sitting on the counter in order to see when a taller someone is already using the stool, step-ladder, box, chair, bench, plastic tote, bucket, etc. The only issue we still have is when Ryan needs to get something out of a top cupboard. But, he is tall enough to just jump up. No more dragging stools, step-ladders, chairs, benches, plastic totes, buckets, etc. into the kitchen to block mom into a 2 square foot space and then leaving them there for her to trip over until she puts them away (because, apparently, it's my fault I mix on the counter instead of the lower table, thus making it my job to put the selected height enhancing apparatus away). What a liberating day!

I suppose I should have noticed this sooner, like when Ryan asked if he could make his own cookies this week and never once asked for help with anything. I'm not sure all the flour made it into the dough, though, because it was pretty runny. He's also not quite past the stage when any sized container counts as a cup. So, I'm thinking the right number of containers was added, but not necessarily the right amount of flour. But, I digress. I was in on the computer and helping other kiddos with homework, so I never got into the kitchen until after the "dough" was made (and mostly eaten!). I just assumed he sat up on the counter and made the dough. I guess he wasn't. He somehow grew taller without my noticing. How does that continue to happen?

Of course, this also means that everyone is now tall enough to reach into the mixer and eat the dough faster than I can actually put cookies on the pan. Oh, the trials we face!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Family Ties

I read on today that Sarah Palin and Princess Diana were very distantly related- something like 10th cousins once removed- through a John Strong born in England around 1605 and his wife Abigail Ford. Just for kicks, I opened up my trusty PAF program. Lo and behold, I have both of those names in my ancestry. Don't know which side or even if it's a direct line. So, my question is, am I any cooler because of that? I've never lived in a palace or had papparazzi follow me around or goverened a state (except maybe insanity or exhaustion, but they have no political clout) or run for Vice President of the United States. I do happen to be female, but so is 50% of the world. Really, I don't have any desire or need for any of that (except the female part. To me, that's pretty crucial). Does the fact that I'm not doing any of those things lesson my worth as an individual? I think not. The cool part about being here on this earth is that we all have our own roles to play. Right now, mine happens to be doing my best to run a household and be a wife of one and a mother of 5. To be honest, that's more than I feel I can handle some days, but I love my job and won't voluntarily trade it for any other.

I love family history work. There are some really interesting things to learn about others and youself. It always amazes me that if you go back far enough we are all related in multiple ways. I love finding those links. They tie us all together in a more real way to me than just saying we're all children of Heavenly Father. Thing is, He really does have a plan and we really all do have some part to play. Princess Diana played her part and did some very good things. Sarah Palin has done so as well and she has the possibilty(because she's alive not because she's on a ballot) to do more. I hope that when all is said and done I will have done more good than harm. We all have the potential to do great things, whether or not they are noticed by the world at large. I'm glad there are the Dianas and Sarah Palins of the world. Differences in people tend to spice things up. Knowing about your family opens some insight to yourself and maybe some inspiration to what you could be. The question is, though, not so much who you are related to. The real question is, what are you going to do with what you have?

Monday, October 6, 2008

School Projects

I am not feeling very charitable towards Junior High teachers right now. I have a fairly short list of things I absolutely detest. Right near the top is school projects (sorry if I offend any teachers out there) and at the top of the detestable school projects list lies diaramas (closely followed by the slugs we've been finding outside lately). I thought we'd had our fill in elementary school, but I was wrong. Spencer has had two projects assigned. He's had a choice, to some extent, on both. What does he choose? Diaramas, of course. Did I mention I detest them? I realize that, since he had some choice, it's not all the teachers' fault and I should not direct all my unkind thoughts in their direction. I am mentally sending some of my frustration in Spencer's direction, but who assigned the projects in the first place? Hence, the uncharitable feelings towards the teachers. And, to be fair, the German teacher is getting the majority of those thoughts.

The first is a project in English on a book he read. He's choosing to do a diarama of a canister falling out of an airplane with two people and a dog holding onto it. I'm stomaching it. He wants to carve the plane out of foam, etc, etc, etc. Fine. He's outside with a plastic knife and some planter foam as I type.

The second project is for German. It is worth 100 points. The helpful guidelines state that a simple project will take 1-2 hours and be worth 25 points. A complex project should take 6-10 hours and is worth 100-150 points. Spencer wants the extra credit, so we're going complex. Do the headaches and griping count as project time? The teacher sent home a list of 29 suggestions. They include obvious things like Choose an animate object and describe it in German. That, at least, fits into a German class theme. Or, "Convert a recipe to German or find a recipe in German and translate it to English. Then use it." Ideas 11-29 have the instructions, "In the ideas below, take the concept and apply it to German." Good Luck. Number 13 says "When does a fisherman use math? What does it affect?" Number 14 says, "How about advertising?" How about number 21- "Use Patty Paper to show the Pythagorean theorem or a tessellation." And my personal favorite: "Is math/algebra used in shoe design? What things change the geometry and design as the shoes get larger for bigger feet? Is there a perfect shoe size from a designer's stand point?" All of those things are obviously German related. Can you tell that the German teacher also teaches math? I'm thinking someone didn't want to come up with seperate projects for seperate classes. I realize everyone's time is precious, but come on!

Spencer, of course, has decided for his German project that he wants to build a 3-D model of a German town. A complex diarama, ahhhhh! I asked which German town, because I think he thinks there are cookie-cutter towns all over Germany and they all look the same. He thought he might like to do HAMBURG except it MIGHT be a little too big. Ya think! I'm liking the recipe idea or maybe number 26- "Make and fly a kite". Maybe we could shape it like Germany or something.

I have griped. I have vented. I feel somewhat better. I am still a little torqued, but I think I will live. Dumb (ok, I'm not all the way better) German project is due in 10 days. English project is due on the 24th. Spencer has 7 classes at school. What are the chances we'll be done with projects on the 24th? Not so good. You know it's a frustrating afternoon when you wish it was summer vacation.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


This one's for trublubyu. She asked me to tell about TVP. I must say here that I am far from being an expert. TVP stands for Texturized Vegetable Protein and is made from soy beans after they extract the oil. It is a product that I grew up on, that's how I know about it. I haven't really done any research beyond that. My mom used it as a way to save money and that's why I started using it as well. I have since learned to appreciate it for the dietary pluses. You can use it alone or mix it with other meats. I prefer to mix it about half and half. (There is a joke in our family that my mom would get the TVP ready and start cooking dinner. She'd get the froxen hamburger out of the freezer, wave it over the top of the pan, and put it back in the freezer. We'd have TVP and essence of beef. Just a joke, but we chuckle about it.) Since I mix it half and half with my hamburger or ground turkey, I get the same amount of "fill" in a dish, but half of the fat. Also, I've been told that soy helps lower cholesterol. Even if it doesn't, the lower fat intake is great for lowering cholesterol.

You can get TVP in several flavors and forms. I prefer to use unflavored flakes, but will also use the more granular form also. It's very good about taking on the flavors it is cooked with. I use about 1/2 cup to equal 1/2 pound of hamburger or ground turkey. If I have a recipe that calls for only 1/2 pound of ground something, I just use the meat and don't bother trying to use half TVP. If I need 1-1/2 pounds of meat, I use 1 pound meat and 1/2 cup TVP. I put it in a bowl and add just enough warm water to get it wet all over and then let it sit for a couple of minutes. You can supposedly add it dry to whatever meat you are cooking, but I HATE biting into something and finding a little crunchy something I wasn't expecting. Soaking it a bit beforehand prevents those unexpected surprises. Then I just add it to whatever meat I'm browning. It absorbs the rest of the juices so I don't have to drain the meat and then it tastes like the meat. (I use meat that is at least 90% lean. 93% if I can find it.) I only use it in casseroles, soups, or sauces- things it can blend in with other textures, or soften fairly well. I do not use TVP on its own (no TVP burgers, for instance, Blech!), nor do I like it mixed in with tuna. I have a memory of eating a tuna sandwich with little crunchies (other than relish) in it as a child and I just can't bring myself to try it again. Maybe someday.

Where to find it? That's usually my problem. I used to get it at the LDS canneries, but they stoped carrying it several years ago. Some grocery stores carry small packages (about 10 oz.), but it's kind of expensive. I think most health food store would carry it. I've heard there is a frozen product that is similar, but I've never tried it. I've also seen soy protein powder, but I don't know how you'd use that. Maybe in a drink? Some Sprouts in AZ carry it and some do not. You'd have to ask. As I mentioned, Sunflower Farmers Market near me just started carrying the more granular form. It cost $1.99/pound. I just bought 1-1/2 pounds and it comes to probably 3-4 cups in a pound. If I only use 1/2 cup for every 1/2 pound of hamburger, it comes out to about $0.25- $0.33 (where's that cents sign!) per 1/2 pound equivalent. That's a bit cheaper than hamburger and is better for you!

Not everyone likes it, and that's fine. I was worried about my kiddos liking it, but no one has ever said a word. I've been out of it for the past month or so and could only slightly tell a difference. Mostly, my food felt heavier in my stomach from the added meat, but that's it as far as I could tell. The amount of meat I used when I didn't have any TVP got to me more than anything else. I like being able to buy the big pack of ground beef at Sam's or Costco and have it last a couple of months. We went through it twice as fast without the TVP. I kept hearing little cash register dings in my head everytime I got out 2 packages of meat instead of 1. (Yes, I am basically cheap!)

Ok, that's about it. I hope I covered everything. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dear Blog, I hit a great sale today.

One of the stores I miss the most from Arizona is Sprouts. It's a produce/natural/whole foods store that generally has really nice produce for really nice prices. Three weeks ago we got an ad in the mail for a new store that opened here called Sunflower Farmers Market. The ad looked a lot like Sprouts' ads and even had the same Wednesday special- they honor last weeks' ad as well as the coming weeks' ad on Wednesdays. I decided to drop in. Lo and behold, it was my Sprouts store almost exactly reincarnated in UT! (Happy Dance!) The workers at the store have never heard of Sprouts, but they must be "related" somehow.

Ok, now for the point of this blog. I went shopping today and hit some most amazing deals. I usually call my mom when that happens because, well she's my mom and moms are happy for you on days like that. I can't call her right now (I know because I tried) because she is driving to visit us (yea!) and is out of cell range. I have to be excited and tell someone, so I'll tell my blog.

Dear Blog,

I hit a great sale today. Sunflower Market had Gala apples for $.39 a pound today, yes $.39. I wish key boards still had the old cents sign because I would use it! They also had cantaloupe 3 for $1. That would be 3 cantaloupe for $1, not 3 pounds for $1. Green leaf lettuce was only $.77 a head. Grapes were $.77 a pound. Beefsteak tomatoes were $.69 a pound. Pumpkins were 3 (pumpkins) for $10, but I didn't buy one of those yet- don't want it on the counter for a month. The best part is that the sale will still be on when I go again next Wednesday!

I'm happy about Sunflowers for a couple of other reasons, as well. The first time I went to the store I asked about TVP (texturized vegetable protein) because I like to use it when I make casseroles and I had just run out. (It has no fat and is made out of soy which helps lower cholesterol, but that's another blog for another day.) They didn't have any in bulk at that time, but today I was hurrying to the checkout and passed a bin of TVP. I don't know if it was that great of a price, but I really appreciated them listening to my request and getting it. On top of that, the first time I went they gave out free reusable grocery bags. Today I actually remembered to bring them with me and they gave me $.20 off my total. I know, it's not much, but it's nice to get a little tangible reward for making an effort to cut down on our waste. They also told me that whenever I bring my own bags, what ever type they are, they'll give the discount. Maybe someone out there has better deals or better prices, but today, I'm feeling very happy about Sunflowers. I think it gets to be my favorite store today.

Ok, I think I have my excitement out of my system. Thanks, dear Blog, for being available and not out of range. You also provide the added bonus of being able to revisit this shopping trip again on a later date, maybe on a week when grocery prices aren't quite so low. Now, to go finish putting the groceries away and cook some of them for dinner! Have a great day.