January 30, 2009

Snow Day #5, Baking, & a Quick Trip

This has been one VERY crazy week. I don't think I have ever had an entire week off of school due to snow and ice. I am not complaining, I will be in June, though. 
Take a look:
This is the road leading out of our subdivision.  There were over 10 pine trees down in this area alone the morning of the ice storm.  

These pictures are from our deck.  It was such a beautiful snow!

Look at the boys!!  They weren't out 15 minutes.  I went to the office to look out and check on them, in just a few minutes they were snow pups!  

Keeping guard!

We had some bananas that were past eating stage, so I made some banana bread on Thursday. Actually this is banana coconut bread.  I saw a recipe somewhere about adding coconut, and I thought why not.  This turned out to be really good.  I slice it up and wrap the pieces in wax paper.  Then I put it in the freezer.  It is easy to then grab a piece for lunches or when you want a snack.  This way the entire loaf doesn't get eaten in two days!  :o)

Today I baked some cookies to take to my brother's.

Big Bear and I are leaving in the morning for a quick trip to Chicago!  My brother invited us up to spend the night downtown on Michigan Ave. at a very special hotel!!  Then on Sunday we are going to China Town to see the Chinese New Year Parade!!  I am so excited.  I have never stayed at a hotel on Michigan Ave. before, and then the parade!  I don't know which I am more excited about!
I'll let you know how it goes!

Enjoy the weekend!

January 28, 2009

Snow Day #3. (Update)

We had an ice storm last night. Our power has been off for about 12 hours now. It is beautiful outside, but it's COLD!!

Big Bear said our 'cold war' prepared us for this. Easy for him to say from the heated office he is sitting in right now! The pups and I are all bundled up on the couch. I've been reading, and listening to the ice fall off the roof. I'm trying this post from my phone so we'll see if it works!

I hope all who are in this storm's path are safe.

Think we'll have school tomorrow?

Update: The power came back on late last night. (Whew!). Thanks for all of the emails of concern. I'll post more later when I get on the computer.

January 27, 2009

Snow Day #2

This is some CRAZY weather! School was called off last night and there wasn't a flake in the sky. Then we woke up to several inches. Big Bear had a difficult time getting out of the driveway this morning.

Now it is raining, sleeting, and just plain nasty! Take a look at this map:

I'm afraid we are in for a long haul with this one. I just wish Big Bear was home. Believe it or not he has a meeting with a new client this afternoon. I couldn't believe someone actually wanted to meet today. He says she's a first time home buyer and is super excited to get started. Has she looked outside?  She must live in town, not out in the county like we do.  Roads aren't plowed out here yet.  The temperature outside is 27 degrees.  Shouldn't this be freezing?

Seems like a good afternoon to bake.  I won't be going anywhere.  My car couldn't get up our driveway right now if I wanted too.  

Stay safe EVERYONE!!

January 26, 2009

Snow Day and Soup

Today we had a snow day!  It is only the second of the year, so far.  We are under a winter storm warning starting tonight.  I may have a few more days off. 

Being that I was home it was the perfect day to make some soup.  I have wanted to find a recipe for a vegetarian tortilla soup.  I finally found one at a food blog I stumbled across last week, Two Peas and Their Pod.

I made some changes to the recipe.  I added some black beans, black pepper, and cumin.  Next time I make it I think I will add some crushed red pepper.  I thought adding a fresh jalapeño would give it a little kick, but there wasn’t any.  Both of us really enjoyed this soup.  It makes a HUGE pot.  We have lots of good leftovers!

Question:  I know this seems to be turning into a food blog, but there is NOTHING to say about our adoption.  I have been wondering if I should create another blog.  Part of me thinks no.  Since I have nothing very exciting to talk about and I enjoy cooking, why not put it out here?  What do you think?  Would you start a ‘food’ blog?  I’m torn.

Well for now here is another recipe. 

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 large russet potato, diced (leave skin on)
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 bag of frozen corn
3 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
(if you can't find these, add in a can of green chilies)
3 15 oz. cans of vegetable broth (low sodium, fat free)
½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Fresh lime juice

1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)

1½ tsp. cumin

1 tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. red pepper

Tortilla strips (slice and bake at 400 for 2-4 minutes)

Sour cream
Diced avocado
Lime wedges

1. In a large pot sauté the onion in 1 T. of olive oil. When it is tender add in the garlic and jalapeno. Sauté for about 2 minutes.

2. Add in the potato, zucchini, and corn. Sauté until veggies are soft.

3. Pour in the tomatoes and vegetable broth. If you are using plain tomatoes, add in a can of green chilies. Stir well.

4. Add in fresh cilantro and lime juice.

5. Serve hot with toppings.

January 25, 2009

Referral Baking # 1

Usually after all of the baking I do for Christmas I am over baking for a good long time.  That hasn’t happened this year ~ for some strange reason.  I am still baking.  When trying to think of an excuse to bake – I know who needs and excuse – but it helps me feel a lot little less guilty!  Anyway, being that referrals came out this week I was reminded of when Lisa over at Tate R Bug used to have referral baking posts.  I really enjoyed her baking posts, so I think I am going to try that for a while.  I hope you don’t mind if I copy your idea Lisa. 

I had a plan, now I needed a recipe.  I have become addicted to cooking blogs.  I had NO idea there were so many out there.  I was searching through a few sites looking for something that said ‘BAKE ME’.

With the roller coaster ride of rumors this week my friends have really been on my mind a lot.  Especially:

So when I saw a recipe for Potato Chip Cookies I thought how perfect.  You see Special K introduced chocolate covered potato chips to the group last year.  They are amazing.  When I saw this recipe I thought of Special K and all of my buds.  I continued to look for a few days, but kept coming back to the potato chip cookies.  I was afraid that my family wouldn’t care for them.  Nothing else said “Bake Me” so I decided to give them a try.

It was simple enough ~ almost too simple. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I knew I needed to add chocolate.  I thought about adding chocolate chips to the batter, but decided to drizzle them with chocolate.

The cookies have a crisp buttery slightly sweet texture, then add the saltiness of the potato chips with the hint of chocolate ~ Yum!!  I didn’t think Big Bear would like these because he does not really care for potato chips.  I was wrong.  He loves them.  

Girls, guess what I will be bringing to our next get-together?!?!!

The recipe is from Baking Bites.  LOVE this site.

Potato Chip Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 cups crushed potato chips

6 oz. chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the egg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt, then stir into butter mixture. Stir in potato chips.

Drop tablespoonfuls (1-inch balls) of dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches between each cookie to allow room to spread.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until light golden.

Cool completely on a wire.

Place melted chocolate chips in a Ziploc bag.  Drizzle over cooled cookies.

Store cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

January 24, 2009

A Scare...

Every day for the last seven years the first thing I do when I get home from school is let the dogs out into the yard.  There has never been a problem with them getting out.  NEVER!

Twice within a week I have been in the house doing – whatever – when I hear Kaeliegh out in the front yard.  The first time all three of them were in the front yard.  This SCARES me to death, because Kaeliegh is never aloud outside without a leash.  She is from a sheltie rescue and no matter how much training I do, I can’t get her to come consistently when called.  Therefore I will never be comfortable having her off a lead.

The first time it happened we figured the electric company came to read the meter and just forgot to close the gate back and latch it.  Luckily all three of them were right outside and came right away when I called.

Yesterday afternoon I came home from school and let the dogs out.  I was busy in the house making a lot of noise, running a food processor.  I had been home nearly 45 minutes when I again hear Kaeliegh out in the front.  I open the family room door, she runs in so scared but extremely happy to be back with me and inside.  I went out to holler for the boys – they are NO WHERE!  My heart sank.  If one is out off lead they won’t go any where, but when they are together they are off.

I searched, hollered, frantically called Big Bear at work, doing anything I could think to do.  I walked down towards the woods.  Nothing.  This has never happened.  Bailey and Tucker have never been gone more than a few minutes.  They have run down to the woods after deer, but they have always come back.  This is the first time EVER they were G.O.N.E! 

Finally I got in the car and drove up the road.  Luckily I spotted them down a hill about a half mile away.  I got out of the car and called them.  They looked at me, looked at each other, and then came running – Thank God!  I walked them back to the house.  They were so happy, excited, and exhausted!  After getting them in the house I walked back to my car that I left up the road.  This was when the tears started.  I know I am really lucky to find them in just over an hour.  They could have been gone! 

Now Big Bear and I are wondering what is going on.  Is someone trying to set our dogs free?  Is someone trying to get into our house?  It can’t be the meter reader guy twice in less than a week.  I do know that a pad lock went on our gate today.  I can’t risk loosing my gang.

I also know that I am SO proud of Kaeliegh!  I can’t believe she didn’t take off with the boys.  She is a true homebody, Mama’s Girl as Big Bear calls her.  Damn Straight!  She is a Mama’s girl and I am Dang Proud also so very thankful.

January 22, 2009

Swore I wouldn't, but I did...

...I fell victim to the rumors. Many months ago I believed a rumor of a 10 or 12-day referral batch. When referrals came out it was a two-day batch. I hit bottom and I hit HARD. I SWORE I would never again fall prey to the rumors. It hurts too much.

When this last ‘referral craze’ went around I jumped right into the web of rumors. Big Bear and I started to actually think we could see a referral before summer. Our thought was if CC** could do three weeks worth of referrals this month then that would put us three weeks out from our LID. For about 48 hours all I could think about was our referral, how much we had to do, and all the trouble with my social worker and renewing our paperwork. I woke up at 3am thinking about the possibility of getting our referral before we get our paperwork. (That’s a whole separate story that has me pulling my hair out!)

In all honesty I am not really surprised by the revised rumor of a two-day batch. It’s happened before. I am sad. I am especially sad for my friends who should have been in this batch. All of you are in my thoughts.

As for me, I’m going back to burying my head. The only time I’ll be visiting RQ is to check out the baby pictures, and that is it for me. I’m much more sane when I’m blissfully ignorant about when and how many referrals are coming in.

January 6, 2009

Guess What I Did Today?

Here's a hint~

Yes! I did it!!

I went for a swim this morning!
It wasn't nearly as cute as the picture.
I did manage to do 25 laps in 45 minutes.
That is just over 3/4 of a mile!!!
It is a LOT better than I thought I would do after being out of the pool for three months!!

January 5, 2009

This and That

We received an email from our agency last week stating ~ if we wanted to ~ it was time to renew our 797C. Our current paper work expires on April 26, 2009. Our agency stated in the letter that we do not have to redo the paper work we could wait until we are closer to a referral and they would contact us six to eight months from referral to begin the I800. I DO NOT want to have to do the I800!

I contacted our social worker. I was told that in our state we can’t send in our paperwork until 45 days before our current 797C expires. I don’t know about anyone else, but that is cutting it a bit close for me. Does this mean 45 Business Days or 45 Days total? If we are talking 45 business days then I need to have my forms ready to go by February 23rd. Even if she means 45 total days I need to have all of the forms by March 10th. Either way, I am going to have all the ‘i's’ dotted, all of my ‘t's’ crossed, and everything waiting to be mailed first thing on February 23rd. Now I just need to figure out how to get our social worker here!

Hopefully this will be THE last time! Don't they say, "Three Times is a Charm"?

I have had a cold for the last several days. Great way to spend the last days of vacation, but at least I don’t have to be at work and feel like this.

I have to brag on Big Bear for a moment. On Saturday night he asked me what I wanted for dinner. Do you know how when you sick comfort food is the only thing that sounds good? Who the heck wants a salad when you’re coughing up a lung? Not Me! Any way, all I could think of that I wanted was macaroni and cheese. We don’t have any in the house, because we rarely eat it. I asked BB if he would go get a box.

Well, not only did he run to the store, but he made homemade Mac & Cheese. It was delicious!

Sorry~ but I have the best hubby. :o)

Now, to work off the Mac & Cheese, cookies, and junk that I have consumed WAY too much of lately, I am getting back to the pool this week. I NEED to get back in the pool! I haven’t been swimming at all the past few months. I went one day last week with a friend of mine. It felt really good to be back in the water. Now I just need to be more committed.

The hardest thing is getting up so blessed early in the morning. If I didn’t have to work I could swim whenever I wanted to, and sleep too. I guess I can sleep when I’m dead. I need to be healthy, I want to be healthy when Polar Cub comes home.

I’ll keep you posted on the swimming.

January 4, 2009

A Dream...

The other night I had one of those dreams that seemed to go on all night long. It was a strange dream.  I typed this post the morning of the dream because I didn’t want to forget it.

The dream starts out in the superintendent’s office. It seems he is suing three teachers and I am one of those teachers. The other teacher is her:Have you seen this woman on Samantha Who, Jennifer Esposito?  Well she was a teacher in my dream. She kept yelling, “Who cares we’ll just go get another job!” I told her I couldn’t because I was just given my daughter! I can’t make ANY changes. I couldn’t concentrate on the meeting because I was just given our daughters passport! I know it isn’t the normal referral, but it was in my dream. 

This passport was FULL of information and pictures. I didn’t care what I was being sued for, I just wanted to read the passport. I left the meeting and was suddenly back in my classroom. One big difference, there is now a bed in my classroom. I am lying on the bed and see my child’s picture. I was quite shocked looking at the picture. It is not a pretty picture of the baby. Her nose was all I could focus on. It was a pig nose with one nostril MUCH bigger than the other one.   I couldn’t read any of the information because the students in my class were behaving so poorly.

Finally I send two boys to the office, I RARELY send kids to the office but they wouldn’t let me read my passport!!! I lay back on the bed to look at the picture again. The picture seems better, not so scary looking this time. Her one nostril isn’t as big as I thought!

Again the kids start misbehaving, so I have to get up again. I am dragging this kid in his desk all around the room, trying to find him a place where he will be quiet. Remember, I teach high school, so this isn’t a little kid, I am pulling around a huge kid. I am so frustrated because all I want to do is read my baby's passport!

Finally I get back to the passport. It is loaded with all sorts of information about my daughter. As I turn each page I learn more about her, and she becomes more beautiful in each picture. There are pictures of her grandparents and her parents. I can vividly see the pictures. Her grandmother is stunning. There is a map of where she is from. She is from an island up by Mongolia! (I’m telling you, I couldn’t make any of this up if I tried!) I know there are no islands by Mongolia, but they were there in my dream, I saw the map!

I was still reading the passport and then I woke up, but I had such a peaceful, happy feeling. I had such a beautiful little girl. It didn’t matter that I was being sued, that I had an unruly class, or that her referral picture was not the picture of my dreams. 

I finally saw my beautiful daughter!

January 3, 2009

Dryer Woes

Six or Eight months ago I mentioned to Big Bear that our dryer needed help.  It was taking FOREVER to dry anything. Nearly every weekend I would complain about how horrible our dryer was and how much I wanted a new one.  It was to the point I had to dry clothes two – three cycles before they were truly dry. 

On the Monday before New Year’s Day I did two loads of laundry. It took me All day to dry one of the loads.  The second load ended up like this:

The clothes would not dry!

I told big bear I couldn’t/wouldn’t do another load of laundry until something was done about the dryer.  I went to Wally World and bought a rack to hang clothes to dry.  (Shoot, had I known they were only ten bucks I would have gotten one of these a long time ago. I like this thing.)

On New Year’s Day we went out to Sears.  I looked at new washer and dryers, he looked at a new dryer hose.  

I fell in love with this:

We bought this:

When we got home Big Bear pulled out the washer and dryer, replaced the hose, and cleaned out under the washer and dryer.  I knew it would be gross under there, but YIKES!  It was nasty!!  We did find lots of money, several missing socks, and enough dog food to feed Kaeliegh for two days!  :)  (Disclaimer:  NO!  I did not sweep up the food and feed it to Kaeliegh!  It all went in the garbage!)

The hose itself wasn’t the problem.  It was the section in the wall where it leads outside.  Big Bear pulled a chunk of compacted lint out and we crossed our fingers that would fix the problem. 

The next day I did a load of towels.  I thought I would give the dryer a FULL workout to see if the problem was fixed, or if we needed to purchase a new dryer.  :o)

Well, the dryer is not only fixed, but it works as good as new!  Big Bear had a sly smile when he said, “You should have mentioned earlier that there were problems with the dryer!”  Grrrrrr… 

Secret:  I am not supposed to mention about when I went to do the load of towels the return hose was not put back correctly so water went EVERYWHERE all over the floor of the laundry room.  I am not supposed to write about how we had to pull out the washer and dryer AGAIN to clean up all of the water all over the floor.  Luckily I was in the next room and I heard it, otherwise we would probably STILL be cleaning up water!  Just don’t tell that I told that part of the story!  Ok!?!  :o)

January 2, 2009

Candle In the Window

I heard a story long ago about candles in the window.  It was something like travelers knew a home was having a priest for Christmas service if they saw a candle in the window.  There is also the tale that you knew you were welcome in a home with a candle in the window.  At Christmas we don't put out lights, but I do put candles in all of our windows.  I just love the warm glow they give the house at Christmas.

A couple of years ago I was reading this blog and Abby's mom wrote a post about keeping a candle in the window until her daughter came home.  I haven't forgotten that post.  This morning when I was taking down the candles I thought of Abby's mom again and decided it was time to light Polar Cub's candle.
I don't know if she will be home by next Christmas, but this candle will burn in Polar Cub's room until she does come home.  Thanks for the great idea!

Christmas Cookies 2008

Christmas cookies have always been my thing.  I have been baking the Christmas cookies for my family since I was a sophomore in high school.  In my younger days I would bake all night the two days before Christmas Eve.  I can't do that any more.  Now I take the four days before Christmas Eve and bake all day.  I love to turn up the Christmas music and bake away. This year I had some help from my nephew.  It was so much fun.  I can't wait to do this with polar cub in a few years.  

I lay out the ingredients on the dining room table. This does not include all of the refrigerator items: three dozen eggs, four pounds of butter, ricotta cheese, and a pound of cream cheese.

Peanut Butter Balls have been on our family cookie tray since I was in high school.  They are always a family favorite.  This is always the first Christmas treat I make.  Friends from Ohio call them buckeyes, but to us Illinoisans they will always be Peanut Butter Balls.  :)

My nephew Turtle-nose helped me decorate sugar cookies on Christmas Eve.  It was a wonderful afternoon.  All the baking was finished, we had the Christmas music cranked up, it was pouring the rain outside, and I was so happy and content spending the afternoon with Turtle-nose.  (Big Bear and I have called my nephew Turtle-nose since he was a toddler.)

These cookies are a family tradition.  I remember my mom making them when I was little.  Both of my grandma's LOVED when mom would bring them for Christmas. 
I can't believe what a hit Snowballs are on both sides of the family.  They are always the first ones gone from the tray.  They are so stinkin' easy.  I always double the recipe.

This was the NEW cookie of the year - every year I try one new cookie.  I saw this recipe on a blogger friend's site.  I wanted to make them for Thanksgiving, but didn't get the chance.  I made them for Christmas.  Turtle-nose was baking with me the day I made these.  He hardly let me take a cookie off the baking sheet before he had to try them.  When he tried these he literally hit the floor.  He fell in love with this cookie.  

I didn't add any sprinkles before baking because I was going to add the lemon glaze that came with the recipe.  Later that afternoon my dad and brother stopped by.  Turtle-nose made them try one of these cookies, and all three said they were perfect just like this.  My brother said he couldn't wait to have a cup of coffee and some of these!  :)

Thanks L for the AWESOME recipe!  These are a huge hit in my family

Christmas Wreath cookies are so easy to make, and they look so great on a cookie tray!

These nuts are a HUGE hit everywhere I bring them.  Big Bear calls them Christmas Nuts.  I usually make several pounds during the holidays!
Cherry Winks have been around as long as I can remember.  My grandma made these, and they are a family favorite on my side of the family.  This is one cookie that will be around for a long, long time.  This year Turtle-nose made these with me.  He tried one, and they are now ANOTHER favorite of his.  :)

There are a few cookies I forgot to take pictures of while baking. I labeled them on the trays below.

These are the two trays I took to my parent's.  The quality is not the best because I forgot to take a picture, so my nephew (Frog-face) took it from his iphone.