Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Le-Le-Le-Leftovers! (And A New Recipe For You)

The leftovers.

They were deluxe.  So packed with flavor!  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

And packed with color as well, and those of us who are concerned with nutrition know that when dealing with fruits, veggies, and natural foods, the more color the wider variety of nutrients!

We topped our leftover mojo marinated meat with sliced avocados, onions, and my mom's freshly made Pineapple Mango Salsa.  She often makes this to go with tilapia or salmon, but it was fabulous as a topper for these wraps!

Pineapple Mango Salsa

1 small can of pineapple tidbits, drained
1 mango, cut
1 mini red gourmet pepper, chopped
1 mini orange gourmet pepper, chopped
1 mini yellow gourmet pepper, chopped
a little more than 1/2 a jalapeno, chopped finely
2 to 3 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 2 limes

(zero points for you Weight Watcher folks out there!)

Smiling just thinking about it - two new favorite meals!  Would sit here and think about all that goodness for a minute longer but I have to run, it's time for one of my very favorite parts of the day.  Picking up my little fellow from Pre-K and seeing his face light up when he sees me in the carpool line!! Oh, the joys of being a mommy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Want My Mom To Be My Personal Chef

Though I guess she actually was for 18 years and then some, when I was home on college breaks!

Bottom line, that lady can cook.  When she says she's cooking, we all show up.  Honestly, our little foursome shows up when she's ordering pizza because we are always down for a free meal, but when she cooks I get a little crazy with excitement.

She had been telling me about this meal idea she saw on a blog (my mom is the one who introduced me to blogs in the first place, and got me into this!), and my mouth was watering just thinking about it.  Saturday she put it on the table and son (as they say here in the South), was it a-ma-zing.  Let me tell you a little about it.  I promise I am not trying to make you covet.

First she put two boston butts in the crockpot with a huge bottle of Mojo Marinade and let it cook for 8 hours.  Mojo Marinade has a citrus juice base, and when the meat was done it was sweet and juicy and falling apart.  

Then she basted bread with butter and olive oil and toasted it in the oven so it was crusty and crunchy.

Then she cut up mangos and sauteed some onions...

And also made a side of yellow rice and black beans which were so tasty.  She used some colorful gourmet peppers in the black beans. 

I piled the meat on that crusty bread, topped it with onions and mangos, and then dipped it all in extra juice.  It was so good that just thinking about it I feel like we need to have a moment of silence in appreciation of its good taste!  I could not stop eating and dipping and eating and dipping.

To top it off she also served this salad, modeled after the one served at The Columbia Restaurant, a famous Spanish restaurant here in Florida.  It has lettuce, tomato, sliced ham, sliced cheese, and my favorite, green olives.

The kids helped her squeeze fresh lemon on the salad...

Then she added freshly grated Romano cheese and served it with the The Columbia's famous 1905 salad dressing, a garlic and lemon infused vinaigrette. 

Everything was so fresh and filled with flavor, I was sopping up all that sweet juice from the meat with that crusty bread, and letting the taste of mango and onion and olive and tomato fill my senses.  The best part?  

It's not over yet.  Tonight my mom is serving the leftover beef on tortillas, and using the rest of the colorful gourmet peppers and mango to make some salsa to go with it.  

And I'm coming over!    

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Enjoying An Afternoon Storm

A major storm ripped through this afternoon.  Once we were safely inside, it was so enjoyable.  I love how storms slow us down a bit.  I love the dark shadows they cast through our home, and how lit candles cast a cozy glow to sit and read or write by.

I chose fall-scented minis to burn because even though it has been a hundred million degrees here this week, school has started and that makes me crave autumn!  Yes, it's a month away.  And yes, in Florida it takes even longer to get here and it is nothing like the colorful Maryland autumns I grew up with.  But after a week of excruciating heat and humidity, last night Irene brought us refreshing breezes and today's storm made things dark and cool, and I decided to pretend.  Soon my house was filled with scents of leaves and spices and other things warm and comforting.

The Creamy Pumpkin was my favorite scent.

And a batch of our family's favorite Pumpkin Chip Muffins was just right for this rainy afternoon.

I was safe inside a home filled with people I love.  We were warm and dry.  We had food and shelter and most importantly, love.  Once again I was reminded of God's love, and the peace He brings even amidst life's stresses and storms.  He loves us, we love Him, and we love each other.  Those are constant, even in the storms of life.

After the storm, the retention ponds were full but the sun shone brightly and glistened off the water.  The grass, which is often barely surviving after months of brutal heat and Florida sun, was vibrant and green thanks to this heavy rain and several other recent showers.  The storms had actually nourished it and made it grow, just as storms of life often do.  The sounds of life were everywhere, with birds singing and countless frogs calling.  The air was fresh and once again there was calm.  All things were bright and beautiful.  The contrast within a few hours was amazing.

We often see growth and beauty after life's storms.  We are often amazed when the sun does shine again after a period of darkness.  There are so many parallels to be noticed during storms, so many lessons to learn.  And it truly is a blessing how they slow us down, bring us in, keep us close, and make us trust.  Praying for safety, provision, and comfort for those being affected by Irene tonight.  And thankful for a cozy, candlelit afternoon by storm. 

Good Cheer!

As I sit here finishing the last of my Saturday morning coffee with the quiet sounds of an old Bob the Builder movie in the background, I can't help but laugh when I think about yesterday morning.

It was a disaster.  Even more so than earlier in the week when these crazy weather patterns caused Madi to wake up with biggest bloody nose I have ever seen and I almost passed out before putting every last shred of her bedding in the wash.  We are on a roll here.

First of all, why is it so bright and sunny and inviting to wake up early in the morning during the summer, and then the minute school starts it is dark as night when it's time to get up?  Sigh.  Yesterday morning I woke up at 5:45 because I had to use the bathroom (young people, your day is coming).  I should.have.just.gotten.up because I knew it wouldn't be long before my alarm went off.  But it was so dark, and my bed was feeling so comfy, and it was Friday, and I wanted to enjoy just a few more minutes of sleep.  Shortly thereafter when my alarm went off, I hit snooze on my old hand-me-down "Dream Machine" that used to belong to my parents and has to be at least 20 years old, if not more.  (I have no idea why I don't just go to Target and buy a new alarm clock or just set my phone alarm like a normal 32 year old, but no, I use this vintage alarm clock that literally has wood paneling on it.  I have issues.)

Anyway...I hit snooze, and the Dream Machine failed to wake me up 9 minutes later, or 9 minutes after that...instead my son walked in at 6:58 while I was in one of those deep sleeps of the exhausted, and was already running late.  I stumbled out of bed and let me tell you, I was in a fog.  So when I was getting a glass out of the cabinet for his orange juice and I saw that heavy glass from the high shelf coming down at me, I knew I should probably try to catch it, but my brain could not tell my hands to do it fast enough and glass hit granite in an ear-piercing shatter.  So then I was half-asleep fumbling around with vacuum attachments, trying to clean up shards of glass and make sure no one cut their foot open and needed stitches on the fifth day of school.

By that point I was really running late.  And girls, you know what that does to us moms.  I start barking out orders and trying to get everyone to get a move on, but apparently I'm mute or speaking Portugese because no one seems to be hearing a word I'm saying.  And I have all these ideas, ideas I think are pretty good - like Trevor brushing his teeth or Madi letting me brush her hair - but no one else seems to think they are as brilliant as I do.  Instead, they want to do things like lie on the floor which only makes me more crazy.

By some small miracle, I got them ready in time and even stopped to snap a picture of them because they looked so cute no one would know that these beautiful children don't always listen to their mother, who is sometimes a raving lunatic holding a vacuum hose in one hand and hairbrush in another.  And who uses an alarm clock from 1990.

After they left I sat down feeling like a loser mom, and it was only 7:40.  And if I am honest, for some reason this past week was one where thoughts of the world's troubles and our own personal stresses kept threatening to surface.  Do you ever have those weeks?

As I sat down, I opened one of my devotional books, Jesus Calling, and it took me to these verses...

Psalm 105:4 Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

And the entry for that Friday, August 26th, read like this...

Trust me in the midst of a messy day.  Your inner calm - your Peace in My Presence - need not be shaken by what is going on around you.  Though you live in this temporal world, your innermost being is rooted and grounded in eternity.  When you start to feel stressed, detach yourself from the disturbances around you.  Instead of desperately striving to maintain order and control in your little world, relax and remember that circumstances cannot touch My Peace.

Seek My Face, and I will share My mind with you, opening your eyes to see things from My perspective. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid.  The Peace I give is sufficient for you.

As I read this, I felt my frazzled mind and heart calm down.  I prayed for those sweet kids  I had sent out the door, who make my heart smile even on days when they make me want to bang my head against a wall.  I reminded myself that even though a day doesn't start well doesn't mean it can't end well.  And I recognized that even though there is certainly trouble in the world and stress in our lives, I can still be of good cheer.  So that's what I told myself as I did a sink full of dishes...be of good cheer, Jennifer.  Be of good cheer.

And you know what?  The rest of the day was good.  Not perfect, what day is?  But really, really good, with both kids coming home in cheerful moods and family time and even some Sonic ice cream treats before the day came to an end.  :)

I don't know what you are facing.  But I know life can be messy, tiring, and sometimes downright hard.  I know some people who are walking through incredibly deep waters right now.  Many others are just encountering the never ending pressures of life. Wherever you are, I just wanted to drop by to give you a hug and pass along some of the encouraging words of our peace-giving Savior.

 Be of good cheer, friend.  Be of good cheer.  He has overcome the world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fresh Goodness At Its Peak

Jimmy and I have been enjoying the fresh honeydew melons that have been in peak season, as well as the abundant cantaloupe!

It's amazing how at their peak honeydew melons are very green, juicy and sweet, instead of bland and white.

These little melons even had their own billboard on I-4 proclaiming that they were at their best!  Has anyone else been enjoying them?  

Fresh goodness is on the list of things I enjoy in life.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Found My Courage

I even found enough of it to go with Jimmy to drop the kids off at school, something I just couldn't do on Madi's first day of kindergarten!  I'm thankful I did, because it was special to send a grown up and confident Madi off to First Grade, and hold my best little buddy's hand as he bravely walked into his first day of Pre-K.  Last night during prayers at bedtime he was a little nervous, and I put my hand on his heart and told him he could find his courage there.  This morning he was very composed as he walked into his first day of school; his only request was that Mommy walk him to his seat.  When he sat down, I placed my hand on his little heart once again and reminded him it was there that he could find his courage.  What he didn't know was at that moment my heart felt like it was being squeezed, and I was working hard to find my own. And what I didn't know was that Jimmy took a photo of our little fellow's last little kiss on my cheek before he started this new season of his life.  I know this is a snapshot of life that I will forever cherish, just as I have cherished the almost five years I have been able to invest wholeheartedly in a brown eyed boy who stole my heart the moment I first laid eyes on him.

I have been praying all summer for the kids' teachers and school year, and one night last week during bedtime prayers I suggested to Trev that he pray about school.  He said okay and then prayed, and I quote,

"Dear God, pwease help my Darf Vader shoes wight up a wot."

It wasn't exactly what I was thinking, but from the looks of things this morning, God answered his sincere little prayer!  Those Darth Vader shoes lit up the sidewalk as we walked him into his first class.  Madi was also sparkling in her Twinkle Toes, and carried a new lunch sack with a little love note tucked in from Mommy.  She is smitten by her young and darling new teacher, and woke up at 2 am wondering if it was time to go to school yet! 

Both kids went in sweetly, and came out with reports of a great day!  I'm still trying (nagging) to pull as many details out of them as I can, but it seems Trevor was most impressed by the playground and according to Madi her favorite thing was everything, and she really liked the work.  As for me, I had to hold back tears as I left Trev at his little desk, and drove off with an urge to go bawl my eyes out.  Instead I dug out a gift card and had Jimmy take me to Starbucks so I could drown my sorrows in a coffee and oatmeal.  Which was actually really fun because a random, kid-free coffee date sort of felt like we were back in college again! But then we went to Aldi for cheap groceries and Sam's Club for cheap gas, and I was back to being a certified grown up. With two kids in school.

After school the kids had fresh fruit and homemade cookies, and then I read Curious George's First Day of School to them.  By dinner I didn't even want to think about cooking, so my sweet husband ran out for some local cheap Chinese food, which may just have to be a back-to-school tradition!  Soon we are going to do our nightly school reading (think we are going to continue on in Charlotte's Web), do baths and bed, then start all over again the morning before the sun is up.  1 school day down, 179 more to go.  Well, at least to get through First Grade and Pre-K, that is! I am beyond thankful for the teachers God placed Madi and Trev with, and the fabulous first day they had.  I am excited for this school year in many ways.  I am a bit overwhelmed at the thought of it, knowing how busy we will become very shortly.  However, we are just going to take it one day at a time, give each day to God, and when we think we can't get it all done we'll just follow the classic advice on the paper I set out on the breakfast table this morning...

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

Praying for a beautiful school year.  

And that Trevor's Darth Vader shoes will light up a wot.  

And that my kids will shine for Jesus as brightly as the twinkles on their toes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Once Again, The Wheels On The Bus Were Chocolate Donuts

Because Madi and I decided to make a school bus cake again this year to celebrate the beginning of a new school year!

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  Leading up to this day last year I was so emotional at the thought of sending my little girl, who up to that point had been home with me, to kindergarten.  This year she will be a big first grader and Trev, who isn't quite old enough for kindergarten, will go to Pre-K for 3 hours a day.  Right now they are tucked into dreamland and their clothes are laid out, their backpacks are packed, their homemade banana pancakes are cooked and in the freezer waiting for a quick reheat in the morning, their paperwork is completed, and our cute little school bus cake is sitting partially eaten in the refrigerator.  As I pause for a second and ponder all of the emotions I was feeling last year, I realize that I don't completely even know how I'm going to feel tomorrow morning as I send both my little loves out the door.  What I do know is that I'm totally exhausted...though very excited....but out of nowhere tears just sprang into my eyes and there is a huge lump in my throat...and that a good night's sleep is probably in order for this momma who ready or not has two school age children that were babies just a blink ago. 

Now there are tears on my cheeks.  Good night, my friends. It's time for me to find rest tonight.  And find my courage in the morning.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pencil Box Project

When some cute little chalkboard pencil boxes went on sale at Michael's for 79 cents, I picked a few up.  Madi wanted two of her girlfriends to come over to have an art day, and I thought they could decorate these for fun!  One of the girls was unable to come, but Madi and her friend Grace had a good time bedazzling these boxes.  Those two are into glitz and glam!

I decorated one for her sweet friend who wasn't able to make it.

I also made one for my American Girl loving daughter.  I found these American Girl stickers at Michael's as well, and really liked what they had to say.  They reminded me of Madi.

*A brave girls sticks up for her friends.
*A loyal girl stays by your side and never leaves.
*A kind girl cares about others' feelings.

*A fair girl treats everyone the same, and tries to see both sides of the story.
*A proud girl stands strong and knows when she does a good job.
*A strong girl never gives up.

Fun, inexpensive, and even inspirational.  Simple little project you may want to do with your little ones sometime!

Summer Homework

So one thing I am learning is that moms have homework in the summer.  I remember the first time I had summer homework; it was required reading that had to be done for a high school English class.  Of course, like any respectable teenager I put it off until the last minute but literally had nightmares all summer that it was the first day of school and I hadn't read a single page!  (Those were the first of many school related nightmares that I still continue to have 10 years after graduating from college, but that's for another blog entry or maybe my future therapist.)

Apparently times have changed, because my kindergartner had summer work to complete before entering the first grade.  (Evidently the whole "No more teachers, no more books!" thing went out around the same time starting school after Labor Day did!)  Madi had to read 25 books and do 10 hours of computer work, 5 English and 5 math, during the summer.  Really it wasn't bad - the computer programs are educational and fun and we like to read around here anyway - but I decided I wanted her to complete it all by the beginning of August, and I made the same goal for the rest of my mom homework. For once in my life I did not procrastinate, and by the first days of August my mental list looked like this...

Madi's summer reading: Completed and exceeded
Madi's 10 hours of computer work: Completed and exceeded
Trevor's physical and shots: Completed despite loud wailing that made everyone in the office and perhaps the city aware of our presence
Trevor's Pre-K paperwork: Completed and turned in, felt like I was buying another house, wow
Madi's school supply list: Purchased (cha-ching)
Madi's school uniform clothes: Purchased (cha-cha-ching since nothing fit anymore thanks to a major growth spurt, thank goodness Grammie and PawPaw helped with some of this and that we found good deals and sales)
School shirts and agendas: Purchased
Boxes of hand-me-downs: Clothes that now fit Trev have been gone through, washed, and put in drawers (thank the Lord for this blessing!!)
Dresser drawers: Cleaned out, old clothes they have outgrown packed to give away, new clothes put in
Backpacks: Purchased for Trev, Madi's held up beautifully so it is going to school another year, guess Grammie had the right idea sending her to kindergarten in Vera Bradley ;)

My motivation for getting this all done and not doing my usual last minute wonder woman in a frenzy act was so that our last few weeks of August could be spent sharing moments like these...

We squeezed every last drop out of summer.  And besides, on Friday we went to school orientation and I received two more mortgage sized mounds of paperwork to fill out again anyway! But we also saw their cute classrooms and met their sweet teachers and you know what?

I've got a feeling it's going to be a fantastic school year.