Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunday Sausage

This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember. We came upon it in a Yukon Czech cookbook from many years ago, and it has been a staple in my family ever since. It is incredibly easy, can be made in one skillet, and comes together in almost no time! Enjoy!

1 lb. Sausage
2/3 C. raw rice
¾ C. celery, chopped
1 medium/large onion, chopped
½ large green pepper, chopped (or whole, depending on how much pepper you want)
1 pkg. Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup Mix
3 C. boiling water

Brown sausage in a skillet. Remove sausage from skillet, reserving fat. Sauté onion, celery, and pepper in sausage drippings. When done sautéing, add meat, soup, water, and rice to vegetables. Place all in medium baking dish. Cover and bake 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Serves 6-8.

Recipe Notes:
-It is best to start the water when the sausage is about halfway done, so that it will be boiling nicely by the time the sautéing is finished. (Yes, I have actually forgot to start the water, and it put me back about 10-15 minutes.)

-The original recipe includes 1 Tbsp. sliced, toasted almonds that are sprinkled on top before baking, but my family never includes them. I’m sure they’re fine, but I’ve never been much of a fan of that texture in this particular casserole.

-If you want the casserole to brown up any in the oven, it is best to go half and half on the covering (25 minutes covered, 20 uncovered, etc.).

Ten on Tuesday

1. My Mimi’s appointment with her cardiologist’s PA went well. They decided that she would have a pacemaker put in, and her surgery will be tomorrow morning. She is quite content with this, as is the rest of the family. Also, her affidavit that she needs to get her birth certificate arrived today, so she can go back to get her birth certificate and license at any point. But, there’s a catch…after tomorrow, Mimi won’t be able to drive for another 30 days. And to think that she was so close! However that time is needed so that her heart can heal properly and the leads will become imbedded as they are supposed to be. One day, she will be a licensed driver with her birth certificate…one day.

2. This is the last time you have to see this for a while…June is almost over! (I had to throw that one in for laughs…)

3. The only reason that I have rationalized that I love July so much is this: my family’s 3rd of July party. We have had it almost every year since I was a baby, and my parents call it my party because I love it so much! I can’t wait!!!

4. I found out last Friday that Tevis will not be going to Colorado for the summer, which makes me really happy in the fact that I will get to see him more, but disappointed that he won’t get the job he was hoping to get while he was there. However, he got to spend a week at his aunt’s house in Texas, and will return this Saturday, which means that he will be at my house on the 3rd! Yay!

5. I will also get to see Tonisha on Sunday, which I am really excited about! I invited my other friends, Shea and Mary, but have yet to hear from them, which I take to mean as that they won’t be there. Hopefully, they will come, but if not, such is life...

6. I am really glad I had my graduation party a month-and-a-half ago. We did some intense cleaning then that we have managed to keep up pretty well, thus making our job easier for this week! Because of that, my mom and I have been able to focus more of our attention on cleaning our third bedroom, which is beyond the point of being cluttered. We have made sizeable progress in the last two weeks, just by getting some trash out and taking some clothes to Hope Outreach. It still isn’t presentable, but it will be there soon.

7. In my done list of cleaning, I can add my room! Okay, my room isn’t immaculate, but it is quite presentable, and I am happy with it! I am also done with much of the dusting. I don’t mind dusting, but it is very time-consuming, especially when I dusted my bookcase, which entailed moving everything off of it, shelf by shelf.

8. Cody and Kyle have been good helpers for the last two days. We have come over to my house to clean some, and they actually did some of the dusting. They also did a few other things that are just easier for them because they are so small. If nothing else, they are good at doing small tasks, like shredding papers, taking things to the trash, etc.

9. I have a few recipes that I need to post on here in the near future. Among the list is our 3rd of July grape sherbet, peanut butter cake, and a few other things.
10. Tomorrow, Cody, Kyle, and I will be joining Debra, Brendan, and Maggie for Farm Camp! I think that it will be a welcome change of pace for the boys, and they are very excited!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I lay awake and think about things. Random things, things I usually wouldn’t give a second thought to during the course of my day, only because I have other things to think about. Besides, the middle of the night is a great time to think, because there’s nothing better to do if you can’t sleep, and, especially if you live with other people, it’s quiet and won’t bother anyone else, unless you tend to think out loud.

Most of my late-night ponderings revolve around people in my life. Recently, during a night I had a hard time falling asleep, I began to think about Tevis, and me, and how we came to be. I tried to trace it back to the first thing that could’ve led me to him, but with each thing I kept finding something big that happened before that, and so on, and so forth. Then it turned into me thinking about how different my life could be if I had or hadn’t done something. It’s a crazy, and seemingly unrelated, chain of events that has led me to where I am now, but I am so thankful for each and every thing. This is a bit more personal than my posts typically are (It is also long. Please feel free to skip it, if you’re not up for that), but it is truly what is in my heart right now. From the beginning, here goes…

I think I finally summed everything up to this—the fact that I loved learning from a young age. Random enough? It’s the truth, though! In my life up to the fourth grade, I carried around a brain full of random knowledge and had no true outlet for it…until I was drafted for the 4th grade Quiz Bowl team that only played one game against Chisholm. I was in heaven from the get-go, and I flourished. I think I was probably the only one who enjoyed it, but that’s probably beside the point…Then came 5th grade when I was on the traveling Quiz Bowl team and Scholastic team.

During my time on both teams, I happened to make a few friends, mostly from Hennessey. We were friendly outside of competition, but they became my archenemies once I began any sort of competition against them. Not only was I friends with some of the people from the academic teams, but I also ended up going to Sunday school with a few of my Hennessey buddies, thus furthering our connection. As is typical, I developed a little bit of a crush on a boy who was one of my overlapping friends. (He shall remain nameless to protect the innocent…not like he’d probably see this anyway, but still.) Ah, yes, Mr. Hennessey. Rumor had it that he liked me, but I was never one to listen to rumors. I continued to like him for quite some time, although I never really told that many people, because it really wasn’t their business.

Fast-forward to my freshman year…I had moved on from Mr. Hennessey, although those rumors persisted through some mutual friends and a cousin of mine. By that point, I knew that nothing could or would ever work out. Then, my parents decided that it was time for me to join the Confirmation class in Hennessey, because it was either there or Enid, and Hennessey was closer. My main motivation for going in the beginning was the prospect that I just might see him. However, after the first few weeks of class, I came to the sad realization that I would never see him there, ever. (I don’t think he even goes to church there anymore, actually.)

So, there I was in Confirmation. I really didn’t know anyone, but I managed to make a few quick friends. Among those friends was a distant cousin of mine, Evan. After chatting quite a bit throughout our time in class, Evan and I became pretty good friends. It was nice to have a good guy friend/cousin like him to just be able to sit and chat with, as we often did after class, while I was waiting for my mom. Evan was also in band, and we always saw each other at the Hennessey Honor Band, where we usually hung out and talked. Well, there I was at the Honor Band during my junior year. I had long since been confirmed, and I had also gone to NCYC, which I believe truly helped me to be more outgoing. (Keep that in mind here in a moment.) We were about an hour or so from being done with the first day, and I was bored out of my mind, because they were in the middle of a percussion sectional. Suddenly, I heard someone whisper-shouting my name from a few rows back. Wouldn’t you know, it was Evan. He said that he was bored, and I was the closest person he could talk to, so we began chatting, when the saxophone player who was in the row between us interjected into our conversation. He seemed nice enough, so I began chatting with him. Also, the trombones had to play then. (Evan was a trombonist.)

Lo and behold, said saxophone player was none other than Adam Jones, my former boyfriend, who was also my first technical boyfriend. We had an instant connection, which seemed better than it really turned out to be. While it was so, it was perfect. I had never met another person like him, and we had so many random things in common, and I grew to love him. We had a bit of a long-distance thing going for us, but we made it work. I was in heaven. Then things began to change between us, maybe it was the distance; I’ll never truly know. Every time he had the chance, he brought up the fact that he didn’t want children, and the prospect of marriage seemed pretty sketchy to him. He said it had something to do with an ex-girlfriend, but I wasn’t too concerned about it, because, really, I was only a junior in high school, and I really didn’t have that on my mind. I just liked being around him, and he made me happy. I wasn’t picking out bridesmaids or baby names; I was having fun. And he obviously wasn’t. I should’ve known then that things weren’t going to work, but love makes you blind. Finally, there was one night that we had a bit of an argument that left me feeling quite discontent, and I should’ve broken up with him then and there, but I still had some glimmer of hope that it was only a phase.

I really began to lean on my friends during this time. I told them about everything, and they, being the friends that they are, didn’t want to break us up, because they knew how happy I was with him, until then. They began to doubt it, too, but didn’t really know how to break it to me. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I kept an open mind. Towards the end of 11th grade, we went on a Beta-Sequoyah Book trip that took us to Quail Springs Mall to see “Iron Man 2”. (Yes, that’s what it has come to in recent years.) There I was with Shea and Tonisha. We headed into the theater, with me leading the pack. I had to decide where we sat, and I really didn’t know why they left that up to me, because they both knew how indecisive I was. As we stood there, I happened to see Tevis sitting all by himself right in the middle of the theater, at least three rows in front of everyone else. Tevis had truly become a good friend of mine through the year; also, he sat by Tonisha and me at lunch. I also felt bad that he was sitting alone, so I decided to sit next to him, and yes, because I was leading our group, it was me who sat by him. He was definitely one of my best guy friends at school, and I was comfortable with him. In fact, it was then and there that I suddenly felt a new feeling for him that I had never thought possible. I began to wonder why he never really had any girlfriends, and why he always got the short end of the stick when it came to those things, and how he was such a nice guy, and I began to wish that I could be with him, because I knew that I would treat him right if I had the chance, and, OH WAIT!!!!! Yeah, there’s one thing that suddenly came crashing back to me: I still had a boyfriend. Even if it wasn’t going that great, and no one really knew otherwise except for Shea and Tonisha (and they wouldn’t have said anything at that point, either), I still couldn’t do that to Adam. I’m not that kind of person. Besides, Tevis was just my friend, my best friend, and I couldn’t alienate that by liking him. (I’d been down that road before, and it didn’t exactly work.) And I had a boyfriend. By time about twenty minutes had passed, I didn’t give him (Tevis) another thought, except for when I was confused by the movie and he explained it. (I never saw the original Iron Man.) Shea and Tonisha kept whispering and giggling, but why, they never said, and it really was making me mad, but I decided to let it go and watch the movie.

My relationship with Adam lasted all the way until September, although I only think it was because neither of us wanted to be the one to end it, because the last three months of it was a joke, in my opinion. All in all, the important thing was this: I wasn’t tied down to someone who didn’t care about me, and I was happy about it. Don’t get me wrong, I cried quite a bit, and it hurt a lot, but overall, I was much happier than I was before. That was when I began to really enjoy my senior year. I had never had as much fun with my friends as I did during my senior year. The last thing I wanted was a boyfriend. I had lots of guy friends (aka my Botany class buddies), but I really didn’t care about having a boyfriend. I had been there, and I got hurt, and I figured that I’d wait awhile before getting back on the horse. They say that it’s always when you aren’t looking that you find love, and I can vouch for that. Wouldn’t you know that that was when I began liking Tevis? I told myself over and over and over again that I needed to wait a while, and I didn’t want to jump into anything, especially if I could get hurt again, and I was afraid that he was only a rebound, and I didn’t want it to be like that with him, because I really cared about him.

So, I played it cool for a while, because I had no idea if he even liked me, and I wasn’t about to repeat past mistakes. We already sat next to each other in Botany (our only class together) and at lunch, and no one really thought anything of it, because we were good friends. During a few plant collecting ventures, and other down times in Botany, I began to like him more. On the day of football homecoming, I casually asked him if he would be at the dance, and he told me that he probably would. I didn’t expect too much out of it, but I was excited. It wasn’t until the dance had been going for about twenty minutes or so, when he finally walked in. It just so happened that he came over and talked to me then, but after a while, he went to talk to some other friends. Finally, a slow song started, and I decided to ask him to dance. (It’s the 21st century, and I didn’t have all night to wait for someone to ask me to dance.) He seemed a bit distracted when I asked him, when his friends told him that he had better dance with me. So we did, as we continued to for the rest of the night. After he left, my best guy friend, Caleb, was chatting with me. He really wanted to know if I could talk to a girl for him, when I ended up telling him that I liked Tevis. He got this big smile on his face, and said that Tevis wasn’t the kind of person to dance with anyone. Caleb probably was one of the driving forces behind us getting together, along with another best friend, Alex. Both Caleb and Alex did quite a bit of hinting for the next month. That was when we finally went on our first official date. At the end of the night, I finally broke down and told Tevis that I liked him. I also told him about the time at the movie back in May. He really surprised me when he told me that he had liked me since the 3rd grade, when he came to Pioneer, and he remembered the time at the movie. Yes, really :)

Who would’ve thought that all of those little things would’ve led up to that moment? I sure didn’t see it coming. In the time since, I have grown to truly love him more than I ever thought possible. He never ceases to amaze me every time that we are together. I have no idea what the future holds for either of us, and some days that scares me, but I know that it will ultimately work out for the best, regardless of the outcome. I also know that I am truly happy with him, and he is one of my best friends. There were so many little things that clicked into place, bringing us together little by little, and I am so glad that everything has worked out as it has. I wouldn’t trade what he and I have for anything in the world, and I am confident that he feels the same. I am blessed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

1) Last week, Cody and Kyle attended Vacation Bible School at St. Gregory’s, thus giving me the week off to recharge, so to speak. They both LOVED it, and finished the week with a grocery bag full of various crafts, new friends, songs, and God in their hearts! Gotta love it!

2) During my time off last week, I finally remembered to go to the high school to pick up my diploma and record packet. My packet was somewhat interesting, as it showed all of my standardized test results from 1st-11th grades. What I thought to be most interesting, though, were my Gassel tests from Kindergarten. It documented my responses to various questions and a few written things, and it provided a few laughs for me!

3) Last Saturday, on a venture into town to get Father’s Day presents with Gina and her boys, we stopped off at a donut shop in Enid to get a bite to eat before we began our adventure. (Note: This was the 3rd time that Gina and I had attempted to go there on a Saturday, and were too late the other times, so we were extra determined this time.) During the time that our order was taken, I was appalled by the overall rudeness of the lady waiting on us. I felt that her rudeness was unnecessary, and was a poor reflection of that particular establishment. It upsets me that some people in public service these days can be so blatantly and unnecessarily rude. However, our food was good, if that was any consolation.

4) At my mom’s request, Gina, Emily, and I made pies for our Father’s Day celebration on Sunday, but we did so on Saturday night. My parents had some last-minute plans, so I invited Gina, and later, Emily over to make pies with me. We had a great time, and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard! We finished the night with cherry and peach pies, and two pie crusts ready to be baked the next day for pudding pies.

5) Have I mentioned how much I don’t like June? Oh, yes, I did. I’m still not a big fan of it, and I still really don’t know why. Oh well, life goes on, and July will be here in two weeks!

6) Tevis has yet to leave for Colorado, but we haven’t got to see much of each other since his birthday. It could have something to do with the fact that he was at church camp for the better part of last week, but with any luck, we’ll get to see each other by the end of the week…here’s hoping!

7) To continue the saga from yesterday’s blog, Mimi didn’t have any luck today in her quest to get her birth certificate. The document from Social Security would’ve been perfectly fine, but one of the dates that were necessary was smudged beyond legibility. Drat. Again, it wasn’t a wasted trip, because my Aunt Pat got hers and my Uncle Paul’s birth certificates this time. (If they make any more trips down there, I think our entire family will have their birth certificates!) Also, they received the form for the affidavit for our lady who knew Mimi. It a good thing that we thought of her, too, because, if they took that route, said person had to be AT LEAST five years old at the time of Mimi’s birth, and the lady was barely five at that time. There is hope, still!

8) The weather today was absolutely glorious! The second day of summer, and it was barely 90 degrees outside…that is my kind of weather! Sadly, I fear that it will come to an end by this weekend. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

9) I had a fantastic opportunity to enjoy some nature time with Cody and Kyle this morning. We originally went out to the pasture around 10:30 to count cows, and enjoyed the weather so much that we decided to park our Kubota (our utility vehicle) back at their house, and walk back out to the pond right behind their house, just to soak up the great weather. We had a great time out there. We probably walked around for almost 45 minutes, just around the ponds. The biggest highlight of our adventure was the frog that the boys saw jump into the pond. I took some cute pictures of them on my phone that I really wish I could share with everyone!

10) On a final thought, I think I might take Cody and Kyle on our first outing. For the past few weeks, they have requested a trip to the library and/or the park, so we might just have to do that on Friday. They both have library cards, and I might just get a book for myself while I’m there!

Monday, June 20, 2011

License Woes

For the past week or so, my Mimi has been under a constant shroud of worry. (No, her health condition has vastly improved, and she will be seeing her new cardiologist this Friday to talk about the prospect of a pacemaker, and she is happy about it.)

She let her driver’s license expire and this has been vexing her since the moment she realized it. Actually, it expired back in March, but she didn’t realize it until her best friend and she were talking about licenses a couple of weeks ago, and how her friend recently got hers renewed. This prompted Mimi to examine her license to see when hers expired. This was when she made the alarming discovery. So, when she went to Hennessey to get her hair done, as she does every Friday, she stopped by the tag agency to get it renewed. Simple enough, right? No, not at all.

As it turns out, the Oklahoma legislature has recently passed a new law stating that, instead of the old one-year grace period on expired licenses, it is now a 30-day grace period. Being that her license expired on March 31, she was long past the 30 days. After the grace period has passed, it is required that you provide a birth certificate to receive your new license. Once again, it sounds simple enough, right? Of course, it is not.

Enter problem number two: my Mimi was born at home (on a farm near Goltry, OK) in 1918 with only a midwife and her parents present, and therefore has no birth certificate known to her. The nice lady at the tag agency gave Mimi information about obtaining a certified copy of a birth certificate from the Department of Vital Statistics. This was when Mimi, who was very troubled, called my mom. My mom comforted her with the fact that we would get a birth certificate for her, no matter what it took. So, last Monday, my mom, Aunt Pat, Mimi, and I all made a trip down to the DVS, because the website stated that the process could take 4-6 weeks if we sent the form in by mail or about an hour in person, so we decided to bite the bullet and go down there. Also, my mom wanted to get hers and my dad’s birth certificates, because she had wanted to do so for the past four years.

Before we left, everyone we told informed us that we should be in for a long wait, a very long wait, at that. When we finally got there, we headed into the building with a couple of bottles of water, some granola bars, and hopeful hearts. (We were in it for the long haul.) We got there early, which was great because there were only two other people in line at that point. After filling out some paperwork, getting a number, and going to the cashier, (a process that only took five minutes) we went into the waiting area for the birth certificates. We had barely sat down when our numbers were called, so we were trucking right along. My mom got hers and my dad’s certificates in a matter of seconds, while we were told to talk to a different guy about Mimi’s certificate. The man nicely told us that it was highly doubtful that she had a certificate, but nonetheless was having a manual search done as we spoke. He also mentioned that his records showed that some of her siblings had had the same problems in the past. We were told to wait in that area until the manual search was complete, at which time we would be called into a private consultation room with the results. After about thirty minutes of waiting, we were called into the room to be told that Mimi has no birth certificate on record.

Honestly, my mom and Aunt Pat had a feeling that there wouldn’t be one, but were unsure as to what would have to be done if that was the case, which was their main reason for wanting to go there in the first place. Mimi was terribly upset by the news, as could be expected. The lady informed us that she could have a birth certificate made, called a delayed birth certificate. This required three documents stating her age, with one of those three showing a connection to her parents. We were told that she could use one of her children’s birth certificates (how convenient that we had my mom’s right there!), her marriage license, and either an affidavit from someone who knew my great-grandma when she was pregnant with Mimi, or a Numident, which has something to do with Social Security, either of the last two showing her connection to her parents. That was when Mimi became even more upset, because, although she has her marriage license, it went through a torrential flood that smeared some of the writing. Also, she planned on bringing it with her, but forgot it. Furthermore, she didn’t know anyone who was older than her, being that she is 93, who knew my Grandma Hajek when she had Mimi besides her two older brothers, both of whom are deceased. Yikes…

By this point, Mimi was in tears and was literally shaking. She was frustrated, and I could understand why. This was when my mom and Aunt Pat did what they do well, they comforted her, telling her that we could go to the Kingfisher County courthouse on the way home to get a copy of her marriage license, and we would just try to get the Numident from the Social Security office during the remainder of the week. She was still upset, blaming herself for the whole thing because she let her license expire. We kept reminding her that our trip wasn’t wasted and that we did get my mom’s birth certificate, which actually helped the process.

After getting some lunch and a few things from Sam’s, we headed to Kingfisher to the courthouse, and successfully retrieved two copies of her marriage license. After my mom and I got home, my dad thought of a woman (who is 98 years old, and of sound mind) who just might have known Mimi when she was born. Also, he asked the question that was on everyone else’s mind: Why are they making a 93-year-old woman go through this monstrous process just to renew her driver’s license?

We all know that that is just the way that things work, but it still seems senseless. The only places Mimi usually goes are to church on Sundays and to get her hair done on Fridays, weather and health permitting. On occasion, she drives to other places, but she never goes very far. Also, she never drives after dark, just for personal comfort and the fact that she doesn’t see as well as she used to at night. In her 77 years of driving, she has only been stopped once, and, even then, she didn’t receive a ticket. She has never been in an accident, and doesn’t drive when she doesn’t feel well. She is a good driver. However, “they” do not know this. Also, if told all of this, there would still be nothing that they could do, because it’s one of those things that if you do it for one person, everyone would give them the same story. Don’t forget about the laws, either.

Anyway, tomorrow, my mom, Aunt Pat, and Mimi will be returning to the DVS to try again. During this process, people have asked why she couldn’t use her Baptismal Certificate as a form of identification, as she did when she and my grandpa Rudy applied for Social Security. Apparently, she could have, had she wanted her certificate about a year ago. Also, another person asked why she didn’t just use a passport as secondary identification to renew her license in the first place. Shortly thereafter, said person came to the realization that a birth certificate is required to obtain a passport, thus beginning the vicious cycle again.

My mom made the comment last week, “Most people my age are trying to get their parent’s license revoked. I’m doing everything in my power for her to keep it!”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets & Accessories

I have noticed that many of my recent posts have revolved around food, which isn’t a bad thing, to me. Ever since I have learned to cook when I was about 9 or 10 years old, I have enjoyed cooking. However, I think I enjoy working with my kitchen tools even more! In another of my infamous lists, here is a list of some of my favorite kitchen gadgets and accessories that I “can’t live without”. (I can, but I enjoy using them when possible!) Many of the tools are Pampered Chef products that my mom has amassed through the years. I am sure that it is possible to find these tools elsewhere, but I’ll denote each Pampered Chef item as necessary.

-Silicon Baking Mat & Cookie Spatula: I originally received this as a gift in a Dirty Santa gift trade a few years ago. Lots of my cousins didn’t think that I’d want it, because what 16-year-old in her right mind would want that? That shows how well they know me, because I was thrilled to pieces to have it. These two things take cookie making to an entirely new level of simple, especially when used together. The baking mat works just as well as greasing a pan or using parchment paper, but it saves on grease and is reusable, which makes it good for you and the environment! The spatula is the perfect size for cookies, and helps them glide right off of the sheet! Also, both are heat resistant up to almost 500 degrees!

-Smooth Edge Can Opener*: Have you ever sliced your finger on the sharp edge of a can? Have you ever tried to get that irritating little bit of food from beneath the lid of a pull-top can, but failed? Here is the solution to your problems! The opener hooks onto the top of the can, and after you turn the knob to open the can, its most unique feature, somewhat akin to tweezers, will pull the lid right off, rim and all! It even works on pull-top cans!

-Scoopers*: These scoopers are basically like certain types of ice cream scoops with the little arm inside that cleans the scoop out while portioning the food out. The PC scoopers do not, I repeat, DO NOT work for ice cream, unless it is softer. However, they are amazing for portioning cookie dough, making Cake Balls (recipe to follow in the future), and even portioning pancake batter. The uses are endless, and they also come in three convenient sizes.

-Egg Slicer Plus*: I have never used this item for slicing hard-boiled eggs. (Mostly because I have an extreme aversion/intolerance to them.) I have, however, used it to slice strawberries, and it makes a usually tedious job fly by. It has a cartridge of about ten wires set in its top half, which swings down to slice said food. I love it!

-Paring Knives: Out of all of the knives my mom has, the paring knives are one of my two favorites. I use them for all of my peeling and slicing needs. It is my favorite knife to use when preparing mashed potatoes. It has a small blade that can be easily maneuvered to go where you want it. Plus, the blade is sharp enough to fit your needs, but dull enough that, if you happen to bump your skin with it, it shouldn’t really cut!

-Mini Santoku Knife*: Anyone who has ever seen/used/owned an actual Santoku knife knows how large the real thing is (we have one of those also), but the Mini version is still a pretty decent-sized knife. It is my favorite chopping knife, especially for onions or peppers. It is my other favorite knife, and is constantly in the dishwasher!

-Nonstick Skillet: This thing is amazing! I recommend it for anyone who does any sort of cooking, especially with food that sticks (sauces, scrambled eggs, stir-fry, some soups, etc.) Literally, all it takes to clean this skillet is running it under some soapy water, giving it a rinse, and drying it. It amazes me how nothing has stuck to it yet, which is why it is also the most-used skillet at my house.

-Kitchen Shears: These shears work great for clipping off edges of bags, stubborn bag ties, clipping Box Tops, or even lopping off a chicken leg from a baked chicken! I always use them, but also have to clean them constantly (for the risk of cross-contamination).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Treasure Cookies

My mom actually happened upon this recipe about two weeks ago. She found it in a Country Cooking cookbook, but, after some searching, I have found that it is a fairly popular recipe on the Internet. After one taste, I was hooked, and so was Tevis! (which is why I made him some for his birthday) They are incredibly easy to make, with very little prep time! Enjoy!

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand Milk)
½ C. Butter, softened
1 ½ C. graham cracker crumbs
½ C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/3 C. flaked coconut
1 C. chocolate chips
1 C. white/vanilla chips
1 C. chopped walnuts

In a bowl, stir the milk and butter until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, flour, and baking powder. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Stir in the coconut, chips, and walnuts. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Cool on a cooling rack; store in a tightly sealed container.

Makes 4 Dozen

Recipe Notes
-We have yet to make this recipe with walnuts, mostly because we only have pecans. Also, I’m not a big walnut fan…I’m sure they taste great either way. Or the nuts can go, if you don’t like them!
-We haven’t tried it yet, but my mom and I think that raisins/dried cranberries would be great additions to the recipe, so, if you are feeling adventurous, go for it!
-For even quicker preparation, I have combined the crumbs, flour, and baking powder in one bowl and the coconut, chips, and nuts in another bowl, and set them aside for a while. It only took about five minutes to mix everything when I made the cookies, that’s how quick it can be!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

10 on Tuesday

1. In some exciting news, Scotty & Emily got a pool over the weekend! I, for one, am thrilled about this, because I don't know how many times my family or I have said how we wished we had a pool nearby on hot summer days. Thankfully, it is about four feet deep, but it isn't filled up that much. Also, Cody and Kyle are required to wear their lifejackets and have an adult in the water with them at all times, so we are okay on that end. On Thursday it should be ready for our swimming enjoyment!

2. My Mimi is starting to get better, although she isn't quite 100%. She is much more perky when we go visit her or when we call her, which is better than she was last week. No news about the Holter monitor just yet, though..

3. June has begun, and I'm not a big fan of it, personally. I never really have been. July, well, that's a different story, but I don't particularly care for June. Nothing too horrible has happened to me in June, but I still don't like it, end of story.

4. Yesterday, I went to town and celebrated Tevis's birthday with him. We had fun, and went to the movies. We intended to go see the new Pirates movie, but by the time we got there, we were about 15 minutes late for the 7:00 showing, and there wouldn't be another until 10:00, which was too late. We decided to see Hangover 2 instead, which I thought was funny, but definitely isn't for everyone. For his present, I got him a polo and I made him some Treasure cookies (recipe coming tomorrow!). He probably thought the shirt was cliche, but he did a good job of fooling me into thinking he was excited about it! :) (I know he was excited about the cookies! Lol)

5. What's with this heat?! 104 degrees (in Cherokee today) on June 7th, what is the world coming to?! We could really use some rain after harvest slows down for everyone.

6. This is turning into the Tragic Ten on Tuesday, because there's one more thing vexing me: I miss my besties!!! :/ I haven't seen them basically since graduation night, and I don't like it. I have a feeling that there may have to be a girl's night in our future! Actually, Shea really hasn't been home much since graduation, and I'm fairly certain that Tonisha has been either working, babysitting, or hanging out with her new (and first) boyfriend, so I really can't be mad at either of them! :)

7. In a completely random (though not depressing) thought, I am considering getting a perm. I go back and forth on the subject so many times, but I think that it could be nice when I go to college, because I wouldn't necessarily have to blow-dry or straighten it on a daily basis. I'm not too terribly committed to the idea just yet, only because I'm not a big fan of all of the chemicals, and I have yet to taint my hair with any chemicals, and I don't want to for a while.

8. After my parents and I finished eating supper this evening, the harvest crew for the field across the road from my house arrived. Actually, landed would be a better term, because it seemed much more like an alien invasion than a harvest crew. There were three huge combines, a tractor with a grain cart, a semi truck, and a fuel truck. Within about thirty minutes, almost half of the field was clear. They didn't waste any time, for sure!

9. In the past week, I have been reading some of my blog posts from last August/September/October, and Wow, I have come a long way, personally, since then! My life is quite a bit different, and it seems hard to believe where I was almost a year ago. It seems like it has been an eternity since then, and like I have actually changed some since then. My, what time can do to a person...

10. My final, most exciting, super-duper, amazing thing is this. I have been sworn to secrecy on my blog since I found out about a month or so ago, but here it is for the world to see! I am going to be an aunt again!!!!! :D
My older sister, Emily, is expecting a child due around December 19th, which, thankfully is the week after finals! I am so thrilled about this, and cannot wait to meet him/her!!!!! She will soon be 12 weeks along, and entering her 2nd trimester! I am fairly certain that, like with Cody and Kyle, she and Scotty will again choose not to find out their baby's gender. He/She will be the best Christmas gift this year!!! On a side note, Cody & Kyle are thrilled and are hoping for a little sister, I guess we'll have to wait and see! :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Carrot Cookies

Okay, so most people hear carrot cookies and think one of two things: Why would I want vegetables in my dessert, or Hey, vegetables in my dessert! I can skip the salad! All jokes aside, these are my favorite cookies of all time, mainly because they’re uncommon, and they are time-consuming. (Time-consuming things usually taste better for some reason…) It is a mash-up of two recipes, one from my Mimi, and the other from a Stir-Ups cookbook. One last note, the carrots make the cookies really moist, and the cookies have more of a citrus flavor than anything, so don’t fear the vegetable!

1 C. Sugar
2/3 C. Shortening
1 egg
1 C. cooked, mashed carrots
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 ¼ C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon flavoring
4 Tbsp. Orange juice

Start by cooking the carrots, adding a dash of salt to the water. Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg and mix well. Add carrots and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to sugar mixture. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper, actually.) Bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes.

2 C. (or more) sifted powdered sugar
2 tsp. orange rind, grated
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp to ½ C. Orange juice*
½ tsp. lemon flavoring

Cream all ingredients. Spread frosting on cooled cookies.
*Add orange juice until it reaches desired consistency.

Recipe Notes
-The orange juice can either be freshly squeezed, or store-bought, we haven’t noticed any difference. Using the freshly squeezed juice makes it easier for the orange rind for the icing. However, if you take that path, I recommend grating the orange rind before juicing it, because it becomes a bit tricky if done in reverse.

-Also, the icing has one of those look-and-see type recipes that really just depend on how it looks, and how thick/thin you want it. The powdered sugar and OJ are used in proportion to one another. Or, if you want to skip the hassle of making the icing, you can just 86 it and serve the cookies plain, which isn’t bad, either!

Makes about 2-2 1/2 dozen

Thursday, June 2, 2011

13 on Thursday

1) I have finally recovered from my long weekend at the lake. The preparation was tiring in itself, being that I was at the Confirmation service the night before I left, thus lessening the time I had to pack (and I procrastinated a bit). Tevis also joined us, which made it lots of fun for me, and my nephews for that matter. (Yes, we had separate sleeping accommodations the entire time.) On our way to Stillwater, Wyatt informed Tevis that they are now best friends. Yes, it was a good weekend.

2) One downside to being gone for three days is the amount of laundry that there is to be done after returning. Maybe by the end of tonight I will be considerably caught up on my laundry!

3) The other downside of spending three days at the lake, or really just outside, is the fact that I have a fair complexion, and almost no amount of sunscreen really keeps me from getting burnt. I incurred a few minor sunburns that are now turning into a darker shade of pale. (I do not tan, I only become slightly less pale.)

4) Gina (and her crew), Tevis, & I planned to leave the lake sometime on Monday morning. Right as we had mentioned that we were ready to leave, Gina and I got a call from our dad telling us that Mimi was going into the hospital because her heart rate was very sporadic, at one point reaching as low as the mid-30s. Upon hearing this, we left so that we could get home, and get cleaned up so that we could go see her. Since at least Friday night at the Confirmation service, Mimi had been having this problem. She would be sitting down, and suddenly she would almost pass out and become extremely shaky. After drinking some cool liquids and eating a little bit, she would come back just fine. On Monday morning, my parents were going over there, but called beforehand and she sounded a little bit iffy, so my dad had Scotty (who is an EMT) go over to check on her. She agreed to go to the hospital to be checked out, and after their examination, the doctor decided to put her on a Holter monitor for 24 hours so that she could receive the most accurate treatment. I know that she had at least three more episodes during that time, but she won’t know anything else about it until sometime next week, more than likely.

5) Yesterday afternoon, my parents, Cody, Kyle, and I went out to do my least favorite job—digging potatoes from our garden. I absolutely HATE digging potatoes, because it is always 90+ degrees outside, with an uncomfortable humidity level, and it is just exhausting in every aspect. However, tonight, my family enjoyed the fruits of our labor, and ate some of our new potatoes…nothing compares to the taste of them!

6) In other news from yesterday, my dad is finished cutting wheat for yet another year. He finished in record time-2 days! Also, this year he cut the least amount of wheat that he has cut in a long time. He decided to cut the majority of our larger field into hay. It is always such a gamble in deciding how much of the field should be cut for hay, because it’s either not enough, or there isn’t enough grain left over. Hopefully, all will work out.

7) Last Friday, I did something with my mom that I haven’t done in quite a while. We made cookies. Not the pre-made, pull-out-of-the-freezer type that we usually make (since Cody sells that kind for school every year). We made homemade cookies. We started by making two batches of Carrot Cookies (my personal favorite), and a new recipe my mom found, Treasure Cookies. I will post both recipes in separate posts, because I think they are both awesome! (Note: The carrot cookies take much longer than the Treasure cookies, but are worth the time)

8) I am now in my second week of babysitting Cody & Kyle. It has proved to be lots of fun for me, and hopefully, the boys. I really enjoy their company, and I think that it will be a good thing for me to spend some time with them before I go to college. Not that I’ll be far, or that I’ll be gone for a long time, but just that I probably won’t see them as much as I’m used to.

9) In being with Cody & Kyle, I have come across what has to be the coolest toy ever. Crayola has developed a nifty toy called a Color Explosion Glow Board. I have never seen exactly how one works until yesterday, but I am hooked! It has two clear plastic drawing boards, one sets about half an inch behind the other, and a set of eight neon markers made specifically for the board. Once you make your designs on the boards, here’s where the fun begins! There are two sets of black lights in the unit (one for each board) that can be turned on independently, together, or that can flash back and forth. I can sum this toy up in one word: AWESOME!!!!! For whatever reason, I am strongly considering buying one for myself…My inner child is alive and well!

10) Another fun thing from my time with the boys is the fact that they have cable TV, unlike me. (No, we don’t watch TV all day, because the boys need their outdoor time more than anything) Upon searching through the Guide, I found out that there are reruns of the TV Show “Full House” on at 10 & 10:30 each morning. It used to be on in reruns when I was younger, and I loved it then. It is still one of my favorites, and I think that it is becoming one of the boys’ favorites, as well!

11) This Sunday is Tevis’s birthday! Yes, I am older than him (barely, though). He hasn’t yet decided what we will do for his birthday (he is as indecisive as I am), but I know that we probably won’t do much to celebrate on his actual birthday, because he has to work. However, it is also his last day at his job, so I guess it isn’t as bad. He is excited about leaving his job (he works at Braum’s) because he has worked there for at least the past two, maybe three, years, and he hasn’t liked it very well. In much of that time, he was a dependable worker who, in my opinion, got taken advantage of on many occasions. However, he will be getting a new job (albeit temporary), in the next few weeks. I am not so excited about this, because it is in Colorado, which is where his dad lives. He will be spending the better part of the remainder of the summer with his dad, where he will get a job working in the mailroom at his dad’s company for 40 hours/week. (For some reason, I keep thinking of the movie “Elf”, when Buddy goes to work in the mailroom…) This job has a much better wage, which will help for paying for his college. I understand and respect this, but that won’t keep me from missing him!!!

12) In keeping the boys for only two weeks, the reality of me being an adult has hit me. I am beginning have a better understanding of what parenthood is like. I also am getting a small taste of what it is like to be employed. I have spent much time thinking about the future, like after I’m done with college, and what will happen then. I have begun thinking about the reality of being married, having a family, and a home of my own. All of the thoughts boggle my mind. They seem so scary, but also exciting. The little fantasy world of thinking that marriage is all roses and love and rainbows is turning into the reality of thinking that, while all of that may be true, it will not always be like that. Having children isn’t going to be like babysitting, because the children are yours for keeps, not just for a few hours, through sickness, health, good times and not-so-good times…kinda like marriage. My job has given me some much-needed perspective. Also, I have decided that, if it works out that way, that I would rather wait a short while after getting married to have children, just to give a better transition into married life. (Famous last words, right? I can already hear God laughing at me!)

13) While on the topic of parenthood, I have come to a grim realization. It obviously wasn’t a mother who invented the bicycle. A mother may have invented training wheels, but not the bicycle itself, and ESPECIALLY not the unicycle. In riding them, bicycles are a great form of exercise, transportation, and recreation, not to mention that they are great for the environment. They are not, however, good for my blood pressure while watching Cody & Kyle ride around on theirs. I finally realized why my mom made my dad teach me how to ride without training wheels, because she probably would’ve had a coronary before I learned how to ride. Cody is pretty adept on two wheels, and Kyle still has his training wheels, but they still managed to scare the bejeezus out of me! Cody loves to make sharp turns that I swear can only lead to scabbed knees or a crushed skull, and Kyle is intent on colliding with Cody or riding with no hands. After a few spills, and me almost getting ran over, we decided to put the bikes away for a while. Maybe I’m overprotective or a pansy or both, but if I have children, I will leave the task of teaching them to ride a bicycle to their dad, just saying.