Saturday, March 13, 2010

Recipe Corner: Mexican Lasagna

Do you love tacos? Do you love lasagna? Then you will love this yummy Mexican dish. Enjoy!

• 1 pound lean ground beef (cooked )
• 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
• 1 cup water
• 2 1/2 cups picante sauce
• 2 cups sour cream
• 2 (2 ounce) cans sliced black olives
• 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
• 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, combine beef, beans, oregano, cumin and garlic powder.
3. Place 4 uncooked noodles in bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Spread half of beef mixure over noodles. Top with 4 noodles. Spread with remaining mixure, and top with remaining noodles.
4. In a medium bowl, mix water and picante sauce. Pour evenly over layers. Cover tightly with foil.
5. Bake 1 1/2 hours in the preheated oven, or until noodles are tender.
6. Blend sour cream and olives in a medium bowl. Spoon over lasagna, and top with Jack and Cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered until cheese melts, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Useless Fact of the Day

The placement of a donkey's eyes in its head enables it to_______________________.
Take a guess in the comments....

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

***This wonderful book review was written by a close friend of mine, JennG.***

This book definitely belongs on my top 10 best reads of all time. It is a richly layered story that takes you in a few different directions, but instead of leaving you confused, you feel hungry for more when you finish. Lucky for you, the author, Steig Larsson, wrote two subsequent novels (sadly, Larsson died in 2004 shortly after finishing the three manuscripts).
The book is set in Sweden (amps up your international cred just by reading it!). The main story involves a craggy, old, very successful businessman, Henrik Vanger, who hires a journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, to write his memoir. Blomkvist quickly realizes this is a cover; the old man really wants him to work under the radar and dig into the disappearance of his niece, Harriet Vanger, which occurred over forty years ago; Vanger believes his niece was murdered but her body was never found. AND he is convinced someone in his large, disgustingly wealthy, and dysfunctional family did it. So Blomkvist finds himself knee-deep in family drama and intrigue.

 Blomkvist is no stranger to drama himself: as the book opens, he is being found guilty of aggravated libel of a shady, uber-rich industrialist named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Our Man in the White Hat Blomkvist knows the guy is a creepy criminal, but he found himself in a no-win situation and he lost. So before he serves his three month jail term, he finds himself getting ready to hunker down in the barren, northern outpost of Hedestad to open up some raw family wounds in the Vangar compound.

 As Blomkvist peels back layer after layer of dysfunction and intrigue, we meet one of the most complicated and unconventional heroines of fiction I’ve ever encountered- Lisbeth Salander (aka the girl with the dragon tattoo). She is a private investigator who is an all around genius and technological wunderkind, all wrapped up in a skinny, sullen, tattooed package. Calling her a broken individual from a horrendous background would be an understatement- as we slowly learn everything she’s been through, it’s astonishing that she is still standing. She is originally called on to investigate Blomkvist for Henrik Vangar; she then becomes interested in what the journalist has done, and especially about the crook Wennerstrom. Eventually she and Blomkvist meet and she becomes invaluable as he discovers the killer and almost loses his own life. She also deals out a little revenge, for herself and Blomkvist, along the way.

I especially loved Salander. She is as complicated as a character can be, she defies stereotypes, she has had to deal with unspeakable things in her past (some things we don’t get to learn until the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, also a fantastic read), and yet she perseveres. I found myself wanting to yell out loud and do a little fist pump during some of her triumphs in the book. Larsson does an unbelievable job taking on the voice of a young girl in her twenties; his sensitivity and insight are at times astonishing.

 About the only thing I could complain about regarding this book is having to figure out how to pronounce the foreign names of the cities and characters. Also, without a working knowledge of the country of Sweden, I found myself confused about what city was where, and how all the locations related to the overall story. Be prepared to stay up late my friends- you will not want to put this book down!

Recipe Corner: Bulgogi

Bulgogi is a Korean dish that your family will love! Enjoy!

• 1 1/2 pounds beef top sirloin, thinly sliced
• 2 tablespoons white cooking wine
• 1 cup pear juice
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon white sugar
• 2 tablespoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
• 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
• 1/2 onion, chopped (optional)

1. Place the beef in a bowl, and pour in the cooking wine, pear juice, and black pepper. Stir to combine, and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, green onion, and sesame seeds, and marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat or a stovetop grill pan.
3. Remove the beef from the marinade, and discard the marinade. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the heated grill, and lay the beef slices separately on the foil. Place the onions on another part of the foil. Cook the beef slices until they are evenly brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve over rice or noodles with cooked onion.

Useless Fact of the Day

Every hour _______________cells in the body must be replaced.
Take a guess in the comments....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mini Bloggers

My little girls have been watching me blog with great interest for the past two months. They would continuously ask me questions and even pretend they had their own sites. As the suggestions began pouring in from my kindergartener, my teacher brain kicked in. Why not give them their own blog? It would be educational on so many different levels. So after adjusting the security levels, I am now the proud mother of two mini bloggers!

I am always searching for new ways to make learning entertaining. Blogging will provide my girls with a fun opportunity to develop not only their reading and writing skills, but also their creative and technological minds. Of course the child’s age will determine the amount of help they need, but even if you are the one typing, it is their little minds creating. My girls are also having fun with the digital camera. They are taking pictures of things that interest them and from their perspective.

Do you have a mini blogger? Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

**Safety Note: You can adjust the security on your child’s blog so you can control who is allow to view it.***

Recipe Corner: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I absolutely love oatmeal cookies. This recipe is one of my favorites because you end up with very chewy cookies. Enjoy!

• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 cups rolled oats
• 1 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, butter flavored shortening, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake. Let them cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets to cool completely. Store in airtight container. Make sure you get some, because they don't last long!

Useless Fact of the Day

The human body has approximately _______________________ miles of capillaries.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Keep Your Kids Entertained While Getting Something Done

We all know that we shouldn’t use the TV as a babysitter, but we all do it once in awhile. Some days we just don’t feel like playing Barbie and other days we might just really need to get a load of laundry done. However, some days it seems nearly impossible to come up with anything to keep our children’s attention. When you need a quick, no-mess activity, grab some stickers, crayons, and a paper plate. Sit them at the kitchen table and let them decorate their plate with stickers and drawings. It will amaze you at how long they will focus on such a simple task. You may even be able to unload your dishwasher, without someone hanging on your leg. Easter egg hunts are also fun and entertaining. Hide 20-30 eggs in your child’s room and give them a basket. While they are having fun, sit outside their door and fold some laundry. You will be able to see and hear their delight and still get something accomplished. If your little one insists on helping you, make a pile of socks for them to match. This is a fun task for them and a helpful one for you.

Books on CD are great when you are trying to prepare dinner. Your children can stay in the same room as you, hear a great story, and you can actually cook! Every few weeks I take the kids to the library to pick out some books on CD. They work really well for during “nap” time too. Even if your child won’t sleep, they will at least get some rest. Dance parties are also fun. While you are cooking dinner, turn on some music and let your kids perform for their dolls or stuff animals. Not only does this keep them busy, but it also helps them get out their excess energy so they sleep better at night. My kids are now at the point that they don’t even need me to turn on the music. They just make their own!

My girls also love to do puzzles. Although this is usually entertaining enough, sometimes a little variation makes it even more exciting. When they need a little extra fun, I let them put together a puzzle on the computer. Websites, such as Webkinz and Nick Jr., have online puzzles made for kids ages 3-99. These types of puzzles also help develop fine motor skills and eye to hand coordination. Another variation on puzzles is to let them create their own. Give them a coloring book and crayons to use while you are getting your chores done. When they complete their picture, help them cut their picture into pieces. Then encourage them to put the picture back together. If you want the puzzle to last longer, glue the picture to cardstock before cutting.

How do you keep your children entertained while you get your chores done? Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Recipe Corner: Southwestern Eggrolls

These eggrolls may be bad for you, but they are so GOOD! If you like the southwestern eggrolls at Chilis or Ruby Tuesdays, you’ll love these!

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half
• 2 tablespoons minced green onion
• 2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
• 1/3 cup frozen corn kernels
• 1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
 • 2 tablespoons frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
• 2 tablespoons diced jalapeno peppers
• 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
• 1/3 teaspoon salt
• 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
• 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
• 5 (6 inch) flour tortillas
• 1 quart oil for deep frying

1. Rub 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over chicken breast. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook chicken approximately 5 minutes per side, until meat is no longer pink and juices run clear. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in green onion and red pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until tender.
3. Dice chicken and mix into the pan with onion and red pepper. Mix in corn, black beans, spinach, jalapeno peppers, parsley, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until well blended and tender. Remove from heat and stir in Monterey Jack cheese so that it melts.
4. Wrap tortillas with a clean, lightly moist cloth. Microwave on high approximately 1 minute, or until hot and pliable.
5. Spoon even amounts of the mixture into each tortilla. Fold ends of tortillas, then roll tightly around mixture. Secure with toothpicks. Arrange in a medium dish, cover with plastic, and place in the freezer. Freeze at least 4 hours.
6. In a large, deep skillet, heat oil for deep frying to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Deep fry frozen, stuffed tortillas 10 minutes each, or until dark golden brown. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Useless Fact of the Day

___________________is the only real person to ever have been the head on a Pez dispenser.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

People Skills

It never ceases to amaze me that so many individuals lack people skills. I understand that we are all different, but PLEASE, choose your job accordingly. If interacting with people is not your thing, why would you choose a job that requires you to do so? Last week I had the pleasure of encountering several people who had definitely chosen the wrong line of work. My first encounter was at my daughter’s elementary school. Once a week I pick up my kindergartener from school so that we can make it to gymnastics on time. And once a week I get the pleasure of seeing one of the teachers from her school walk by me looking completely miserable. I have never seen this lady smile or even look directly at one of her students. I not only feel bad for her (since she obviously doesn’t enjoy her job), but I also feel bad for the children who must suffer along with her. As a former teacher, I know how important is to make a connection which each child. Without this connection the children will never be able to reach their full potential. (**People Skills to work on: Connecting, smiling, engaging Suggestion: Become a writer, Go into researching, Teach adults)

My second encounter of the week was with a nurse at the doctor’s office. Now I don’t about you, but I never enjoy going to the doctors. However, I know that I can always count on the nurses to make me feel comfortable and at ease. This particular office though, I have never had a pleasant nurse (But I love the doctor). After I was called back I was greeted with a blank stare and a well-defined frown. Although taken aback, I looked at her and said, “Good Morning!”. She somehow managed a small nod in response. After walking back she stood next to the scale and waited. She didn’t ask me to step on, just expected it. And from then on out, we went through the nurses procedures in silence. She somehow managed to do her entire job and only say one word, my name. (**People skills to work on: Polite conversation, smiling, connecting, eye contact, act welcoming    Suggestions: Go work in the hospital with unconscious patients, Go into research)

What unpleasant encounters have you had? What do you believe are good people skill qualities to possess? Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Recipe Corner: Slow Cooker Mexican Meat

This yummy recipe is very versatile. You can use beef, chicken, or pork to make your favorite Mexican dish. My family loves it in a burritos and tacos. If you are not a fan of spicy, adjust the ingredients to fit your palette. I hope you enjoy!

• 1 (4 pound) chuck roast
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 1/4 cups diced green chile pepper
• 1 teaspoon chili powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
• 1 (5 ounce) bottle hot pepper sauce
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Trim the roast of any excess fat, and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place meat in hot skillet, and brown meat quickly on all sides.
2. Transfer the roast to a slow cooker, and sprinkle onion over meat. Season with chile peppers, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, and garlic powder. Add enough water to cover 1/3 of the roast.
3. Cover, and cook on High for 6 hours, checking to make sure there is always at least a small amount of liquid in the bottom. Reduce heat to Low, and continue cooking for 2 to 4 hours, or until meat is totally tender and falls apart.

Useless Fact of the Day

Camels have ____________ to protect them from blowing sand.

Take a guess in the comments below!

Blogger Awards!

Thanks to Codi at Melon Belly, I have been awarded a Beautiful Blogger Award! Codi, thank- you so much for reading (And Liking!) my blog. You all should definitely go check out her blog when you get a chance. I also want to say a special thanks to Christy at Just Thinkin for liking my blog enough to give me the Sunshine Award!  I really appreciate you thinkin about me!

Now for THE RULES:
 1.Thank the link to the person that gave you the award
2.Pass this award on to 7 bloggers you've recently discovered and whom you think are fantastic
3.Contact said Blogs to let them know they've won
4.State 7 Things about yourself!

About me:
1. I enjoy running and my goal is to run a marathon with my father-in-law.
2. I love gymnastics.
3. I love reading anything by Karen Kingsbury.
4. I have awesome friends!!!!!
5. I am not a fan of germs!
6. I enjoy baking, especially when my family comes to visit.
7. I am only 5 feet tall!

Now to pass it on to 7 wonderful Bloggers:
1. Aleksandra's Corner
2. Roslyn's Closet
3. The Pursuit of Mommyness
4. Terra on the Bookshelf
5. Our Crazy Life
6. Good Girl Gone Redneck
7. Life Requires More Chocolate

Monday, March 8, 2010

Carbon Footprint

Are you conscious of your carbon footprint? A carbon footprint is measured by the amount of carbon dioxide that is placed into the atmosphere as a result of your daily life. Virtually everything we do results in some amount of carbon dioxide being released into the air. Even leaving appliances plugged in or flipping the light switch has an impact on your carbon footprint. There are numerous things that we can implement in our daily lives in order to reduce it. Switching to reusable canvas bags for grocery shopping is a simple and practical thing we can all do. Not only are you helping the Earth, but you also will have an easier time carrying your groceries. Recycling is another easy thing we can all do. Check with your local waste companies, they may even provide you with a free recycling bucket.

Being energy efficient is also very important in reducing your carbon footprint. One of the Earth biggest producers of carbon dioxide is coal burning power plants. These plants are responsible for creating the electricity that we use in our homes. By consuming more electricity, these plants are forced to burn more coal and release more carbon emissions. “On average, every American is responsible for about 22 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations. That is far above the world average of 6 tons per capita.” (Clayton Sandell). We could reduce this easily by during down our heaters a few degrees or remembering to always turn off lights. informs us if we were to move our heaters down two degrees in the winter we would save the atmosphere 2,000 pounds of carbon emissions. Again, we are helping the Earth, but ourselves at the same time. Think about how much money you could save by wearing warmer clothes around the house! Also according to,” if every household in America replaced just three bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, we would all save $60 a year and collectively keep a trillion pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere”. My family has replaced nearly all of our bulbs and I can confirm that we have saved tons of money on our electric bill. Not to mention, they last for 6-10 years so you won’t have to replace them as often.

If you would like to find other ways you can reduce your carbon footprint go to . They have great ideas. Although we may not be able to do everything on their lists, every little bit helps. Are you interested in finding out your own personal carbon footprint? Go to  and input your information to find out. I completed the questionnaire and my family of four produces approximately 58 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year compared to the average American household of four that produces 110 tons of emissions. Although this may seem like a good time to pat myself on the back, it is far from it. The average worldwide household of four only produces approximately 22 tons of carbon emissions. What does your family do to help reduce their carbon footprint?

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Recipe Corner: Garlic-Basil Shrimp

 This wonderful recipe was provided by a friend of mine. She discovered this Ellie Krieger recipe in the Costco Connection magazine.  She says although the recipe calls for orzo pasta, she prefers to eat it over linguini. Thanks for the recipe Natties!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds large shrimp (20-25 per pound), peeled and deveined
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups cooked orzo pasta (or any other type of pasta), preferably whole wheat


- Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then add the shrimp and cook, turning over once, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.

- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil remaining in the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

- Add the wine and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

- Stir in the tomatoes and basil, and season the sauce with salt and pepper. (I cooked the mixture until the tomatoes started to burst open a little)

- Return the shrimp to the pain and cook just until heated through.

- Serve with the orzo (or pasta your prefer).

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 380 cals, 10 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 5.5 grams monounsaturated fat, 2 g polyunsaturated fat), 35 g protein, 35 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 215 mg cholesterol, 490 mg sodium.

Open Discussion: Portrait Studios

Every mother loves getting professional photos taken of their little darlings, but no one loves paying the steep prices. Do you feel that the quality of your photos depends on the price? Would you be just as happy taking your child to the Wal-Mart portrait studios as you would taking them to the Picture People?

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Silent Sunday

An oldie, but a goodie! 
Hooray for Captain X-Ray!
Strike a pose!

Useless Fact of the Day

Each year, the average family uses about 18,000 gallons of water to ________________.

Take a guess in the comments below!