Thursday, February 28, 2008

birthday bash

Happy 32nd Birthday Arlene!

Tonight we hosted a family birthday party for Arlene. Donovan's brothers' wife. She is a sweet friend, and a great sister-in-law. She is also a fellow lover of Carrabba's so I wanted to try to duplicate something from our favorite restaurant.

It is amazing...the world wide web I tell you. Within 2 seconds of typing in the request for Spicy Sausage & Lentil soup at I had over 400 results. This is my favorite soup of all time at Carrabbas. Amazing!

Now while this is almost as good as the real thing at Carrabbas, Brace yourself for a little time spent in the kitchen. And some special ingredients.

Along with the Spicy Sausage & Lentil soup I baked some bread (also a copy cat Carrabba's recipe off of the internet) Some herb mix along with olive oil for dipping the bread into. And our main dish was Manicotti stuffed with ricotta. Donovan's mama brought a jello salad and an oreo icecream birthday cake. Mmmmm. What fun to celebrate Arlene in our family.

Here is the recipe if you are feeling energetic. I promise it is worth your time.

Sausage and Lentil Soup
1. In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of oil. Add one carrot - diced, two stalks of celery- diced, one large onion- chopped and two cloves of crushed garlic. Saute until tender.
2. Remove vegetables from the pan and and add one pound of hot Italian sausage, removed from the casing, to the pan. Brown the sausage, drain off fat.
3. In a large stockpot, place eight cups of chicken broth, the sauteed vegetables and the sausage meat. Open two cans of whole tomatoes, break them up by squeezing them with your hands and add to the soup along with the juice. Add two cups of dried lentils which have been washed according to package directions.
4. Season with one teaspoon of salt, 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds and one bay leaf.
5. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 30-45 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the soup and puree it using an hand-held blender, then return it to the pot. Correct seasonings and remove bay leaf.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Give me the cart or I'm gonna snap...Take 2

Do you remember when I was at Meijer and had the run in with the cart lady? I posted about it here. Well yesterday I had alot of groceries to get...because while gone the family drained all the milk, bread, and butter. Good for you Donovan - He even did all the cooking while I was gone. He didn't even eat out once. I guess he was making up for me eating out each meal and spending all the $. Anyways I got Jack on the bus for school and headed off to Meijer. Upon arriving I took one look at the greeter and knew I had entered the wrong door. I was getting William his own short cart....which made him feel like a real stud....since last time he didn't get one. Then got one for myself. The cart nazi came over to me and this is what she said,
CN (cart nazi): "Are you going to fill those both?"
Me: "why yes I am."
CN: "Well I'm just making sure...because those are a popluar cart. Ohhhh wait, You are the one who told on me aren't you?
Me: "well, uhhh, yes, I am. I just wanted to be able to take the cart I needed."
CN: "Well I really got chewed out for that. It's o.k. if you take both carts again. Just make sure you fill them both."
Me: Inwardly rolling of the eyes and proceed forward to fill both carts.

Later in my shopping experience after filling both carts........

CN: "Hey, those carts aren't very full." (Her way of joking I guess)
Me: "Ha ha ha." Thinking inside...Please go away.
CN: "I'm not going to forget you now. I'll have to give you a hard time from now on."
Me: "Yah, I'm thinking of starting to use the other set of doors from now on." --I seriously did say that.
CN: "Oh, Don't do that. I'm just kidding." Then she grabbed my cart and started pushing it towards the door for me since I was struggling to carry Suzy while pushing the cart with one hand. Little one year old was tired of riding. However I ran into a friend which was a welcome distraction. I told the cart nazi to please leave my cart and I'll get it.

I'm thinking of finding out when she works next and working in my next shopping trip around her days off.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Indiana meets Hollywood

While contemplating how I should blog my trip to Cali I thought about doing it in 2 parts so that this post would not be so long and put ya' all to sleep. But while at Meijer today I was met by the cart nazi again and seriously she just is giving me so much blog material that I must do this Cali trip in one post so I can post about Hitler's x-employee tomorrow.

We started our trip at 3 p.m. Wednesday last week. Our flight left at 6:55 a.m. Thursday morning. Hence the excuse to leave the night before and visit my favorite vice. Ikea. However after taking 5 hours to get to Chicago our shopping time was seriously compromised and in danger of being rushed. We ran into a blizzard with white out conditions just outside of Gary, IN and then ran into traffic that had us at a dead stop before we even got to Chicago. And if that wasn't irritating enough some streets in Chicago have 2 names. One direction is one name and the other direction is another name. We were lost for close to an hour in Schaumburg. But not to worry we were women on a misson. We finially got there with 2 hours until the mall closed. We totally forgot about eating because really how can you eat when there is shopping to do? We got the things I had wanted at Ikea and Bobbie got some things she had wanted at the mall. Then we headed over to Gino's East for some of Chicago's deep dish pizza. Delish. It was 10:30.

Do we look tired? Really? Because we only got 4 hours of sleep before we flew out the next morning. We were on a high. And not from drugs. From the very thought of not changing diapers for the next 3 days and having the experience of travelling together as friends, to meet a friend. We were in for some serious fun and we were well aware of that fact.

Our friend Jael picked us up at LAX and we headed over to Hollywood. We had hopes of eatting at "The Ivy", a little restaurant in Beverly Hills where the stars and celebrities are often seen....we were seated and the waiter brought us water. But after seeing the menu and figuring out we would all have to share one bowl of soup we left. Not before Jael and Bobbie stuffed as much of the free bread as possible in their mouths. They make me so proud. I only wish I could've gotten a picture of the cute cafe before we left. It was shabby chic and adorable. However the waiters already seemed annoyed with the country bumpkins so I couldn't swallow my pride long enough to ask them to take a picture. So we packed up and headed to The Cheesecake Factory and MMMmmmmmm was it delish. Our waitress brought us lots of free bread and even a free bowl of soup to sample. We ordered and I had a wonderful alfredo with chicken. It was perfect!

Here we are in Beverly Hills just after lunch ready to rock the town.

On Hollywood Blvd.

While looking around on Hollywood Blvd we checked out the Kodak Theatre where the Oscars were being presented on Sunday. We were looking around when a guy asked us if we would like tickets for the live taping of American Idol. Really?? Sure!! What's the catch. NO catch. Free. I like free and we headed over to CBS and watched the live taping of American Idol. COOL. Very COOL. Paula Abdul is cool. Being on TV is cool. I mean we were totally cool. There were about 50 people in the audience and I had to resist the urge to get up and sing a solo. Because really I can sing so totally cool. That is if you are deaf. They took all cameras and cell phones before letting us into the live taping. So if you don't believe I am really a star please come over so I can show you my 2 seconds of fame. Because it was video taped on high quality 1985 version VHS. So cool. By the way as soon as we were done with the show we took a picture of the only guy we could at American Idol. He is pictured above. After the show we headed back to Jael's house and crashed for the night. It was close to 1:00 a.m. when we got to bed.

One of the biggest highlights of this trip was Savers. This is a thrift shop out in the O.C. (Orange County) in La Miranda. We spent 5 hours here. Hard to believe? Not really. There was so much to see, try on, and buy! I got an American Girl doll for $3.99 (retails for over $100) Lucky jeans for $4.99 and Born shoes for $4.99. That is before the 30% discount I got because Jael had made a donation before we started shopping. I also got a cute childrens tea set from Ikea, several pairs of jeans, skirts, dresses, kids clothes, a toy clock from Pottery Barn and lots more.....Bobbie and Jael kept finding things for me to try on and I kept loving what they found. What a rush. People in Cali get rid of so much! Now we were on a bargain high. Lucky for me Jael had an extra suitcase for me to have to take everything home in.

After the bargain high we hit the mall in Brea. One of the many shops we went to was See's Candies, a famous chocolate company based out of South San Francisco, California. Again Delish! This sweet lady, named Cecilia gave us lots of free chocolates. And again I like free. It's amazing how friendly I can be when given free chocolate. I bought a couple pieces to bring home for the hubby and kids because I didn't feel right asking her to bag some extra samples. I do have standards people.

After chocolate we headed upstairs in the mall to this shop that sells Aveda. Love the smell, love the product. We played around with their makeup display and then the hair care display. Then we got a free hand spa. Can I say again...I like free?

And as if we didn't do enough in one day we went to see a movie. Fun. What a day. So carefree so relaxing.

The next day we went to Jael's daughter, Avery's last basketball game for the season. Then headed over to Jael's husband's parents house to pick some fresh Cali oranges. I knew Donovan would enjoy them. And hello! Free!

After the orange picking we drove to Newport to the beach. As you can see it wasn't quite swimsuit weather. It was o.k. we had fun checking out a surfing competion that was going on.

A little boy that had been surfing with his daddy. Made me lonesome for my little boys.

more beach pictures.

Enjoying the day. After the beach we headed over to Crystal Cove for some more shopping. Because we were trying to break some kind of shop till you drop record. We visited a Gap body store and found a swimsuit for me. Cool. What was cooler than that is these 2 friends of mine that each put $ towards my suit for my birthday gift. You guys are cool!!! Thanks!! After the Gap we visited a store called Trader Joes. A food store. Very cool food store. We then headed back to Jael's home because Bobbie was giving a jewelry show for Jael's friends living in California. Bobbie sells Lia Sophia, which is why I had such cool jewerly to wear while we were there. Thanks Bobbie. After the show we headed to the mall, because again we had not done enough shopping and were trying to get the world record for most shopping done in 3 days. After the mall we headed over to "in and out." A burger joint famous for making hamburgers from fresh, french fries right from the potato fresh. We stuffed our food in our purses and went to the movie theatre again. By the time we got home it was late and we had packing to do. Our flight left at 6 a.m. and the airport was an hour away. Can you say 3 hours of sleep?

Sunday morning while at the airport we saw this couple in line with us. Well actually stared at this man. They were behind us in line. 7 foot tall. Yep. Had to have a picture of this guy. Funny thing was - the first picture the guy who took the picture for us cut his head off. Seriously. We had to have someone taller take the picture. Coming home from Chicago was perfect. Good roads, good traffic.

And my home
coming. Balloons and all.

How sweet to be home. I missed them all so much.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Livin' large

Just your friendly fill-in host here again with a brief recap in reverse. The day ended with these two little girls snuggled in Suzy's bed. Isabella requested the sleepover concept so good ol' Dad obliged so here they are - livin' it up. When I turned out the lights Isabella started singing to Suzy and within minutes the little one was fast asleep - what a pair. The boys are having a sleepover in the master bedroom with me tonight but I don't think that there will be any singing - unless I break out with the "Lumberjack Song" or something along those lines.

We received a lovely invite to my brother's house tonight for a swell haystack dinner. Dad and Mom G were also included in the festivities. We got a firsthand look at the new baby G (still gestating) room which turned out very nice indeed. The sis-in-law has a good eye for paint color and what not if you ever need a decorator. And brother Jon (the facilitator) can paint a mean stripe or two when needed.

Jack stayed home from school today after complaining that "everything hurts". He likes to use aches and pains to his advantage sometimes - like when it comes to lunch time and the food in front of him isn't so appealling he says, "my neck hurts, I think I better eat a donut instead of these green beans". That was paraphrased but you get the point.

This morning Grandpa G picked up Jack and took him to breakfast at the Essenhaus (where they had donuts of course) and then he was going to just take him to school - but Jack complained of pains in the head and neck region so Grandpa brought him home instead. These kids are lucky to have Grandparents that are involved.

This morning I got up on the wrong side of the bed since my wife wasn't here to sleep on that side. Usually she wakes up on that side so in her absence I thought that I would give it a try. It actually sleeps pretty good over there - except for when someone cries from the downstairs bedroom at 4:00 a.m.

Well, that sums up life here in the fast lane where we will do it all over again tomorrow. Hats off to all you stay at home types that do this every day. I have said it before and I'll say it again, "This is the hardest, most demanding job there is". I am the biggest proponent of Moms being at home and Dads going to work for many reasons - not the least of which is that I'm not sure I could handle this day in and day out! I guess that's why God made us differently and equipped us each to do our gig (which for me would be going back to work on Monday). Sorry about the sappy, soapbox moment there - now I'm gonna go sing the "Lumberjack Song" while I scratch myself.

I love you honey, thanks for the lovely picture of yourself that you sent tonight :0). (She's in California for those of you that are out of the loop)

Peace and love man.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Home Alone...........

That's right, it's just me and the little people here at the home base while Mommy dearest spends some time away with her "little friends" in the vicinity of Anaheim, CA. Today I spoke with her several dozen times as I needed to check to make sure that our greatest asset was in good hands. She is. Every time I talked with the lovely wife she was clearly having the time of her life with her friends Bobbie and Jael. I will leave the details to her but I can tell you that they are having a splendid time there on the left coast.

As for me and our four little tax deductions - we are hanging in there thank you very much! Today I managed to get everyone to where they needed to be - on time and in good spirits. O.K., so only two of them needed to get on school buses but just the shear amount of thought that goes into the daily schedule around here is way too much for this old boy. Just trying to keep everything straight is a struggle when it comes down to it. Before the woman departed I said to myself, "this is gonna be cake". Today I found myself thinking, "this isn't cake!". I love being here at home with the kids but it takes a lot of thought (did I already say that?) and planning and self-motivation. After lunch me and the two shortest ones were laying around on the floor by the fire (it was contained in the fireplace) and they were crawling on me and stuff and it was great. After about 45 minutes of that I realized that maybe before I fall asleep right here on the floor I should get off my keester and get something done! So... I got up and sat on the couch for another 45 - what a great life (I'm glad the wife takes her job more seriously than I did today - I would never have clean skivvies!) I did eventually get a few little things going and then the bus dropped off 1 and 2. We went to the library and I got some pics with the camera phone since I forgot the other one (I'll never make a good blogger). So, enjoy the high quality camera phone pictures and stay tuned in the next few days for what is hopefully something worth blogging. How do you blogger people find good material anyways? It's like you think up things to blog about and then take pictures throughout the day....again, way too much thought and planning - I think I'll stick to sitting here on the couch and checking out my wife (when she get's home that is) and yelling at the kids (I yell things like - "I LOVE YOU CRAZY KIDS!") Oh, and maybe play a little cell phone PAC-MAN - I love that one!

Honey, if you are out there - I love you and miss you. You can stay until Sunday but after that you better get your little hiney back home to where I can look at it - is that O.K. to say on here?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why pack when I could be taking pictures of this cute little pumpkin pie?

Why would I want to leave this little one, and travel accross the country?

Good question...I was thinking today...and again after I uploaded these pictures tonight.

The thing that gives me comfort is knowing it's just a little 4 day trip. They are in good hands with papa at home. And thinking about sunny California.

I wanted to get some pictures of Suzanna Faye in her new bed that papa made for her. She loves it and so do I. I love how she goes running when it's bedtime. I'm already planning what he can make next. I ordered sheets off of eBay, and those came it's complete. And just in case you're thinking I love Suzy the best out of my 4 children and that's why she made the blog tonight (all 38 pictures)----Let me set you straight. Like all mothers I love them all the same. Really, I do. It's just that she was the only one home today. Grandma had William today. And the 2 oldest were at school. So what else could I do today besides sit around and take pictures?

What's that you say? Pack? Really, since I'm leaving tomorrow? I was thinking that briefly before I started those pillow cases you see up above in the picture. All of a sudden I got inspired to use that fabric I bought a while ago. And when inspiration hits....I gotta act on it.

And if you have a one year know just how hard it is to get a picture. Suzy kept on moving and leaning on her new pillows. Saying "piwwo" Oh yah, She was cheesin' it up. I'm pretty sure she liked having mama all to herself.

And then tonight Donovan had another basketball game. WE were running late as usual and I was yelling...I mean asking the kids nicely to put their shoes on. Then, I was looking for Suzy when I heard her in my room. This is what she was doing--Bringing my shoes to me. And do you see she is also holding her baby. I mean she is gonna make one great mama. I'm pretty sure she learned how to multi- task from me. WOW! Does it get any better that that people? Does it? She's cute and she brings me my shoes.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

lucky me

I woke up to this card this morning....... See why I married him??
This has been a week-end full of it starts.

Thursday kicked off a birthday extravaganza for me. It started that evening and just ended tonight. It makes me feel so blessed, loved and cherished. Thursday was my Uncle Paul's
birthday and since our birthday's are 3 days apart we have celebrated them together for the last 30 years. My aunt made a delicious pizza supper with red velvet cake and ice cream.

The next night was Friday night and my younger sister, Holly took me out for supper and shopping. WOW! What a fun night. We went to Carrabba's for dinner, because really why waste your time anywhere else when you are hungry and celebrating your birthday? This was Holly's 1st time at Carrabba's....and I'm so glad she loved it. As in really loved it. As in...eye's rolling to the back of your head, groaning while you eat... good. As in-left the waiter a $6 tip... good. I guess you get the point. And if you want a recommendation for a perfect dinner ask for the Mezzaluna Carrabba (it's not actually on the menu). What is on the menu is - Mezzaluna which is served in tomato sauce but if you order Mezzaluna Carrabba it comes with alfredo sauce and a side of grilled chicken. And please don't forget to order the sausage lentil soup - you won't be sorry. Can you see why I have this obsession with Carrabba's? Just talking about it makes me want to go back.....good thing they aren't open 24 hours a day. And then after we ate we had a blast shopping. My older sister, Melissa had mailed me a generous gift certificate to Victoria's I had fun spending that. And besides dinner Holly also gave a gift card for tanning. :) Wow-they know me well.

And just if you didn't think I did enough to celebrate--Donovan took me out the next day (Saturday) while his mama kept the kids. We went to Kalamazoo. We hit my favorite kids resale shop, had lunch, stopped at all my favorite vices....Target, Old Navy, Gap, etc.....It was so fun to connect with Donovan. We held hands, had un-interrupted conversations and everything. SO COOL. Thanks honey- I love you.

And then today....Was my actual birthday. It started off with breakfast in bed....brought in by the kids. Isabella made my favorite Cinnamon Streusel Frosted Mini-Wheats. What a blast to have the 4 kids all around me singing Happy Birthday to me. What a treat. Donovan even stuck a candle in my orange. They were all so excited that the day had come for me. My family is so cool. And after church Elsie had us over for lunch after church. She let me pick all my favorites and wow what a spread!! We had baked chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, bread, gravy, jello, and a red velvet chocolate cake. She put out the china and everything!!! Nothing says love like food- for me. And if that wasn't enough she offered to take William for me one day this week. And Dad (Glen) is taking Jack another day. Really? Babysitting too? Thanks mom and dad for a wonderful lunch, babysiting, and the birthday gift. You know how to make a daughter feel really loved!!

So here is the end of the day today. Yesterday I bought matching shirts for Isabella and I. Dorky or cute??

Thanks to so many of you for the birthday emails, phone calls and gifts. I had a neat meal basket from a friend...thanks Gina!! I had a neat bath basket from my favorite sister-in-law tonight at church. The card cracked me up!! Thanks Arlene. Thanks Rosetta for the gift--you spoil me, and thanks to Sherri for the gift you mailed. And..Thanks Bobbie for the awesome trip you invited me to take with you!!!! Can't wait. So here we go with year #33!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

school party

What a day...I love Valentines day. It was always esp. exciting when I was in grade school and we would decorate a shoe box in anticipation for the big day. My mama would take us to pick out our valentines at the store and then come home and print each classmates name on a card. Great memories. And today it was so neat to see my children's excitement in their classrooms.

Passing out the cards...

And Jack got to be calendar helper today, which was fun to watch. It was so cute to see him up there naming the days of the week, saying the month, year, etc. I took a video...with the intension of blogging it...but it's over a minute and I guess I think I might bore ya' all. Hats off to Mrs. Irick (Jack's teacher) who demostrates more patience than a saint. I love the respect and consideration she gives to each of her students. I love the creative ways she quiets the class down when it gets too loud. I love the way she keeps class parties simple, but fun for the kids. I love how she involves the parents. I love how she loves Jack and each of her students. I love how she mantains control of her class and keeps her cool. Yes people, She is just that awesome!!!

And then I dropped in quick to say Hi to Isabella........... Here she is with her homemade valentine box. The most challenging part of today was not to be with her while at her school. I wanted to be there to watch both of my children and their expressions and how they reacted getting their special cards, snacks, etc. But it was sweet that both times I came over to see Isabella there was not an ounce of jealousy that I was Jack instead of with her. She was simply happy to see me. She greeted me with a big hug and smile each time.

Hope you had a sweet Valentines Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

completed projects part 2

Humbling as this picture is, it must be shown. Otherwise you could not appreciate the completed task I have just done.

And in some ways I just think it deserves an award or something. I mean it really takes talent to get this much junk into one drawer.

This is my night stand: BEFORE

And here are the contents:

Mexican Train Domino game instructions (you never know when you may want to play dominos in bed)

6 bottles of lotion

5 magazines

4 books

4 spiral notebooks

4 coasters and coaster holder handmade by the kids

a cosmetic bag

a key

14 cough drop wrappers (gee, maybe I should set a trash can next to the bed?)

2 thank you cards

3 cough drops un-eaten

2 finger nail clippers

1 albuterol inhailer

1 pair of reading glasses that have not been worn in 2 years

3 tea-light candles 1/2 burned

1 bottle of KY sensual mist

1 hair clip

1 pair of earrings

9 elastic ponytail holders

7 pens/pencils

1 bobby pin

1 tube of chapstick

1 battery

1 abc necklace for baby

1 tape measure

11 CD's

1 baby calendar with stickers for the 1st year (because when else would I write down things about the baby except when I'm dead tired sleeping from taking care of her all day?)

and.....3 pictures

And just so you do not think I live like a complete slob...I must show you the AFTER:

It will be so nice to end the ever on going joke with my husband....who constantly pokes jabs at me for the overflowing drawer. Note: the first picture was after I had cleaned it out. All contents listed were IN the drawer. He would poke fun and say, Here honey, "Can you put this in your drawer?" Next week I will be taking a picture and posting it of his desk in our basement office.
Ahhhhhh....ALL that cleaning really wore me out. Now, I must go to bed and look at my clean drawer before falling peacefully asleep.

Monday, February 11, 2008

completed projects

I have had these wooden blocks for over a year....and after looking around the house for something to put on Suzanna's shelf for her new big girl room-I found them. I had done 2 sets of these name blocks for 2 good friends who both have green and pink for their little girls' rooms. And at the time I made them for my friends' little girls I had bought enough to do for Suzy too. Just never got around doing them, until this past week-end.

These are extra blocks that are 2 1/2 inches square. I wasn't sure what to do with I just made them abc blocks with extra pictures. I have them so Suzy can reach them, and she loves to play with them.

And here are the name blocks. These are 2 inch square. I also made them with the option of spelling Suzy, so I could stack the picture blocks on top.

So here's how you do it. The blocks you can buy at the craft store along with the mod podge. Print pictures and get scrapbook paper also. Then cut the paper and pictures to fit your block. Mod podge is basically glue, except it gives a nice clear shinny finish when you coat something with it. So apply thin coat on block (a foam brush works best), put on picture or paper and apply another thin coat over the picture or paper. Coat 3-4 times. It works best to do only 2 sides of the block at a time or you can end up getting finger prints on the block.

And here is Suzy boycotting her room. (Did she like it brown better????) She lay in bed Saturday night fussy and sad. She usually does not do that. So we figured she must be lonely??? We put her in bed with Isabella and here is what we saw later that night.