Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Conversations with my kids

On careers.

This is my friend, Leigh Archer. His picture is in a real estate publication my daughter picked up at the store yesterday. She was looking at all the pictures on the back and when she got to him she said, "Whoah! I know that guy!" I told her who he was and she was awed. Rock start status, I tell you.

Then, later that evening, my 13 year old son picked up the same publication and asked me what I was doing with it. I told him that Anna had picked it up and noticed someone we knew. Here's how our conversation went after that.

John: Who's that?
Me: It's Leigh. He goes to our church.
John: Why's he on that ad?
Me: He sells houses.
John: Is that why he's so rich?
Me: What?
John: He has a nice car.
Me: Yeah.
John: He has a nice house.
Me: Yeah.
John: He has nice glasses.
Me: Yeah.
John: He always looks like he just took a shower and he's from Canada.
Me: So based on all those things, he's rich?
John: Yeah. He's cool. I wanna sell houses.

Monday, January 30, 2012

One Bite at a Time: Bite #23 - Regularly turn off your tv

I sort of chose a gimme task for this past week's project, regularly turn off your tv. It's something we already do, but since it's not that intentional, I realize it has the potential to get out of hand. When we're all at my in-laws, the tv is almost always on. That's really the place I need to enforce this one.

The thing that is intentional, though, is the lack of satellite tv at our house. My husband made a promise that he would never pay for television and so far, he's kept his promise. I've noticed that when I'm at my in-laws there are so many options, some of them very educational, it's easy to pick something that seems harmless and waste a couple of hours. It is harmless if that happens only occasionally, but if we had that many options at our house, it would be a regular thing. Especially with my need to get what I pay for.

So, in our home, where we have about 5 channels of less than mediocre programming, we are content with a regular movie night, provided by Netflix. My husband and I have complete control over what our kids are watching and have the freedom to be intentional about it. Sometimes, it's something fun, and sometimes we have a hidden agenda to educate. No matter, we are all together, popcorn in hand, enjoying something that was a planned event.

Regularly turn off your tv - check. What does your family's tv habit look like?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

William Morris Thursday - My girls' wardrobe

I'm linking up again this week with Jules' William Morris project. Get the full scoop here.

I know I said I would be done with my coffee table project by now, but neither my schedule nor the weather has cooperated. My theory is that the two have conspired against me to keep it from getting done. The days it's been nice out, I haven't had time and this past weekend, when I had a full Sunday to get it done, it looked like this.

I don't know if you can tell by this picture, but that's some other town's dirt in the air. Not sure if it was Midland or Lubbock, but it wasn't ours. It doesn't do that very often, but when it does, I don't go out. For anything. I stood on the porch just for a minute to get a picture of the sun and my legs were stinging from the sand in the air.

So I stayed indoors and did some organizing. Not as much fun but so necessary. I have 3 girls and two of them are 19 months apart, so I feel like I am overrun with girl clothes. To make matters worse, both of the kid's grandmas like to pick things up for them now and then and I have a great friend that passes most of her girl's stuff down to them. That makes for mounds of clothes in my house. An unnecessary amount of clothes. I've known for some time that they have too much, I just couldn't bring myself to pare it down. Well, trapped inside my house this weekend, that's what I did.

Here's all the clothes they own. Well, I should say all the clothes they own that are in season. There's more in the attic for summer. The piles toward the top of the picture belong to my youngest daughter and the piles in the bottom half of the picture belong to my two oldest daughters.

Oh, wait, I went in their room and there were clothes everywhere. I mean, everywhere. I didn't get a shot of it, but I did get a shot of the big basket that I hauled out of there and then had to sort because I didn't know what was clean and what was dirty. In their defense, I haven't modeled very good habits when it comes to the whole business of clothes. They come by it honestly.

I put that into the wash and then sorted it. Then, I had the girls pick their favorite outfits. I probably let them pick too many, but we did make a sizable dent in it all. Some of the rejects will go back to my friend and some will go to the consignment shop in town.

Here's everything hung up in their closet. I have to admit, after the girls chose everything they wanted to keep, and we loaded that same blue laundry basket with it all, I felt like it was still too much, but once I got it in the closet, it looked normal. Normal, of course, by first-world standards. ;) I was thinking about buying a Martha Stewart closet system like the one Andrea posted about last week, but since I don't have the extra cash right now, I rummaged around my house and found cheaper, flimsier versions of the components I needed and that will have to do for now.

They're only 5, 8 and 9, but they are already showing a propensity for shoe hoarding. God help me.

All the usual dresser stuff, panties, socks, pj's, t-shirts and leggings, went into this dresser. Which I will be refinishing as soon as I can find a hole in my schedule to do it. It's a hand-me-down from my sister's husband, who gave it to us for our son's nursery 13 years ago. I haven't even begun to suck the life out of this thing. That's what a well built piece of furniture is worth.

This is the girl's other closet. Obviously, I have given them free reign to use it as they please. Eventually I will take it back and organize it. Not today.

And that's my completed project from this week. I've been so motivated by everyone's accomplishments, I think this just might be the catalyst I needed to get it all done. Thanks Jules!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The problem with choices

In our house, we've been trying to give our kids more choices. When they are acting up, I give them a choice between changing their behavior or continuing - with consequences. It works pretty well when I don't get lazy and resort to ordering them around like a drill sergeant.

My youngest, April, is pretty used to the drill. This morning, she was making noises at the table while we were trying to do school. I gave her the choice of making noises in the other room by herself or stopping the noise and staying with us at the table. She sighed and chose to stay with us.

Later on, I was giving her her reading lesson. She told me she had to go to the bathroom and when she came back she had this to report:

April: I was going to the bathroom and God told me I had a choice whether I wanted to wipe or not.

Me: Oh, great. Well, what did you choose?

April: I chose not to.

She later admitted that she was just joking. I didn't check to see.

Monday, January 23, 2012

One Bite at a Time: Bite #3, Establish a morning routine

Get it here

Since I'm only 3 weeks into this 52 Bites thing, it seemed pretty natural to me what project I should complete this week. Project number 3 is "Establish a morning routine." Lord knows my mornings are usually a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of affair unless I have something in my schedule that requires a plan. Schedules, let alone a specific morning one, have never really been on my radar, but I realize if I'm wanting some different results in my life, I have to change some things.

I am not a morning person, per se, but I can easily adapt to something that's required of me over a period of time. That's what happened when I started having kids 13 years ago. Even after all these years, I still wake up a hot, groggy mess, but I can function when I need to. Thank you, coffee. My current schedule requires that I wake one child at 7, fix breakfast for that child and either send him off to school with my husband or take him myself. While I'm doing that, my other 3 sleep until I wake them up.

And that, folks, is about the only schedule I have. It's a little more hurried when I have someplace to be or Tuesdays when I'm hosting coffee, and a little more laid back when it's just a regular day. And on the weekends, I sleep in. Period. Granted, I can't sleep much past 8 anymore, but that one precious extra hour has become golden to me.

When I read over the section about establishing a morning routine, I started to dread it. I know my day will go a lot smoother if I have some time to myself every morning, but I've just never done it so I can't imagine being able to establish a habit in that area.

Here are some suggestions, from the book, to include in a morning routine:

Take a shower
Drink a glass of water
Make your bed
Read your Bible
Take Vitamins
Read encouraging quotes or a devotional
Review your family purpose statement
Listen to a particular song
Sit outside for a few minutes with a cup of coffee
Dump your brain

Hmmm, I can see I'm going to have to wing it. Which is what I should be doing anyway because no one can make a morning schedule for another person. It has to be personal. The only thing I do regularly is drink a cup of coffee so that has to be in there somewhere. And a list. I love making lists so maybe I'll sit with my coffee and make a list for the day. I guess that would be considered dumping my brain. I do remember a time when I used to sit on the edge of my bed in the morning for about 10 minutes doing nothing. My husband used to call it 'sitting', but I think all that was was me waiting for my brain to wake up so I could actually function. Eventually, with the increasing needs of my children, I didn't even have 10 extra minutes to sit on the edge of my bed. Things have calmed down a bit since then and now my kids are more predictable sleepers so maybe I'll revisit the sitting. I'll just have a cup of coffee in my hand and I'll make a list for the day.

So here's my new morning routine:

6:45 Get up, wake John up, sit, drink my coffee and make a list until John comes in for breakfast at 7. (He takes a shower every morning)

Since this morning routine just involves me, it seems pretty simple. Fifteen minutes of me time may not sound like much, but I think it might be just what I need. Then, when everyone else wakes up, I'll  start my regular chores and things that involve everyone else. I'm not very good at keeping to a routine so I guess having a simple one to begin with is the way to go. If I can keep it up, and it helps, maybe I'll add some things to it. We'll see.

I guess I should change this week's project to 'come up with a morning routine'. I can't really say I've established it yet, but it's written down. Now, to do it.

What is your morning routine?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The crate that became a coffee table, Part 1

Pancakes and French Fries

Today I'm linking up with Jules' William Morris project. I didn't choose this item on my list because it's the only one that fits in with the "have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" theme, but because I couldn't stand to stare at it for one more day without taking some action. Believe me, I have plenty of overstuffed drawers, cluttered closets and dirty cabinet doors clamoring for my attention. It's just that sometimes, my personality type needs a fun project to be motivated to do a hard project. And this crate was just what I needed. I'm planning on using it as a coffee table/blanket storage chest for all those nights the kids make pallets in the living room and I end up with a huge pile of bedding the next morning that I have to deal with. This chest is going to solve that problem.

This is the crate that my husband got from the locker room of the junior high in our town. Our church bought the building and when they cleaned it out, my husband called dibs on it.

It appears to be some sort of military crate that was used for shipping supplies. The date on the label says 12/69. We've had it sitting on our porch for about a year. I knew when I first saw it, I wanted to transform it into a coffee table, but Mr. Park wasn't too sure. He kind of ignored my dreaming out loud and promptly started storing stuff in it. Fast forward to last weekend, when I forced the issue. I told him I wanted to start working on it and he told me he didn't think it was a good idea. We debated the issue until my husband confessed that he thought it was too flimsy and wouldn't hold up to a life in our living room, which we both knew would include being a stage for spontaneous performances. I released him to shore it up however he saw fit and he was instantly on board.

Unfortunately, for him, that was going to require a lot of tedious work. Fortunately for me, he can do pretty much anything he sets his mind to. I kind of felt bad for him, working all day last Saturday cutting and hammering and running back and forth to Lowe's for more supplies, but he was right, it needed it. Besides, I was the one who ran to Lowe's. ;)

The first thing Mr. Park decided this crate needed, in order to be the perfect coffee table, was to have  a little taken off the top. I wanted to put caster wheels on the bottom, so it made sense to make it shorter.

I have to agree, that's a lot better height for a coffee table. Especially since our couches sit kind of low to the ground.

The next thing it needed was inside reinforcement. Mr. Park cut plywood pieces to reinforce the inside walls and screwed them in place.

Even though this part of the project was mostly about what my husband wanted to do to make this thing structurally sound, I had some pretty firm ideas about how I wanted it to look. I knew I wanted caster wheels on the bottom, so those skids that were there had to go. The only problem was that they were holding the whole thing together and a few pieces of thin plywood inside weren't going to do the job that they were doing. So after a little consultation with his brother, Mr. Park decided to turn the box upside down, remove the large skids and replace them with smaller pieces that matched the braces on the sides.

Once he removed one of the skids, we saw that they had been attached with nails from the inside.


While I sawed the ends of the nails off with a Dremel, Mr. Park cut and attached the new braces in place.

As we lost the last bit of sunlight, the first part of this project was complete. Now all I have to do is settle on the wheel style I want, find hinges for the lid and stain the whole thing. Stay tuned next week for the completion of this project!

Linking up here...

Pancakes and French Fries

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Bite at a Time: Bite #6, Create a family purpose statement

Get it here

After last week's haircare post, I wasn't sure where I wanted to go next in the 52 Bites book. There's no set format for doing the projects. There are 52 of them, but they can be done in whatever order and at whatever pace you prefer. I like that flexibility, but I also have a hard time making decisions when faced with a lot of options. I was still undecided during church yesterday when we stood up to do our declarations. After saying them out loud again, I realized they had become more of an empty mantra rather than something I was intentionally living by. I remembered that there was a project in the book about creating a family mission/purpose statement and decided that that would be a good place to start this week.

In the book, there's a link to a mission statement builder on Franklin Covey's website. I went through it and came up with a rough statement, but wanted to start our family with something more foundational. I'll be working on a more practical, day-to-day statement, but this is where we're going to put our focus for now. I've listed the point, and then expanded on how I've interpreted it's meaning and how that will apply to our family.

1. We experience love daily.
In our home, there will be an atmosphere of love. Love will be something we can always count on. My children can be confident that they will feel loved every day.
 2. We give love on all occasions.
In our interactions with each other, we will make love our highest priority. We won't be controlled by fear or anger. We will let love dictate how we should handle situations.
3. We open ourselves to be fully known.
Our home will be a safe place to be completely open and honest. We won't hold things back because of the pain it might cause to share it. We will trust each other with every part of ourselves.
4. We see others through the lens of love and destiny, not condemnation and judgement.
In our family, we will do and say what's best for each other in a loving way so that we can be the people God created us to be. We will not condemn or judge each other, but speak truth so that we can overcome the areas that are holding us back.
5. We value family, no matter the cost.
Our family will be our top priority. We will do what it takes to know each other fully and be intentional about our time with each other. Even if that means sacrificing things like lots of extracurricular activities.
6. We are free from the weight of performance.
In our family, love is not based on how well you perform. There will be freedom to try new things and explore what we are passionate about, knowing that if we fail, that will not determine our worth. Each one of us is a valuable member of the family based on who they are, not what they do.  
7. We value people over purpose.
We will pursue our dreams, but not at the expense of our relationships. Success can only be achieved if we can go after the things we are passionate about, while maintaining full and healthy relationships with the people around us.

This year, I will be going through all the projects in the One Bite at a Time book and sharing my experience on Mondays. You can keep track of my progress here.

Linking up here:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana: an illustrated recipe

Y'all know how I love a good illustrated recipe, right? Well I've got one for you. This is what my son requested for supper tonight. It's his favorite and I love it when I can do something special for him. He's 13, you know, and lately, everything I do gets a dramatic eye roll, but not this soup. Personally, I think he wants to kiss me after I make it, but instead he flashes that cute grin at me, eats 2 or 3 bowls full and I'm a happy momma.

This is my version of a soup called Zuppa Toscana and it's served at The Olive Garden. The Olive Garden isn't my favorite restaurant, I'm more of a Carino's kind of girl, but they do make a mean soup and paired with their salad, it's a perfect meal. I found the recipe by doing a search about 10 years ago and found that there are a lot of versions out there. Whatever version I started with, I've tweaked it into what I'm sharing today.

Here's a group shot of all the participants.

There's 1 lb sausage, 6 strips of bacon, an onion, a clove of garlic, 2 medium baking potatoes, a quart of chicken broth, 1/3 cup whipping cream, 2 cups of kale.

Start by browning the sausage and setting it aside.

Take your onion, dice it and add it to your soup pot. Next, take 6 slices of bacon and cut them into one or two inch pieces. Add this to the onion and brown until the onion is translucent. Don't you love that word? Translucent. It's almost too fancy a word to describe the color of an onion.

Once your onion is, say it with me, translucent, add the garlic and cook another minute.

Here's a little something I've learned with garlic. The only garlic I could find was a couple of cloves in the bottom of my fruit bowl. They had become quite accustomed to that bowl and were getting ready to sprout when I so rudely decided to use them for my soup. See that little sprout coming out?

Some people may not be bothered by such things, but I find them to be a little bitter. So here's what I do. I just cut the suckers in half and remove that sprout. They come out pretty easily. Then I just dice as normal and add them to the pot.


Mmmm, here's the bacon, onion and garlic cooking away and making my kitchen smell like Italian heaven.

How you do this next part is entirely up to you. You can add a quart of water and then add whatever chicken bouillon you prefer, or you can just add a box, or can, of chicken broth. I started out with the water and bouillon method and later added some broth from a box to make more because I have a big family and they like to eat soup.

This is the bouillon I like to use, for what it's worth.

Unfortunately, I was down to only a couple of tablespoons and I was having a hard time getting the last tablespoon out of the jar because this stuff is pretty pasty. If this ever happens to you, just add a few spoonfuls of your broth to the jar, screw the lid on tight, and shake, shake, shake.

Then you can just pour that last bit out. Viola! But you probably already knew that.

Now that the broth is going and getting hot, take the potatoes and cut them first lengthwise, and then into 1/4 inch slices. Add these to the broth and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, get the kale ready to add. This is kale.

If you're not familiar with kale, it's a leafy green vegetable that's full of vitamins and minerals and I think might even be a super food. It's really dense, but when you add it to this soup, it softens and turns a beautiful bright green color and frankly, makes the whole soup.

The kale I bought was organic and therefore covered in dirt. I decided to cut the leaves away from the stem and then rinse them in the sink. The stems are really fibrous and tough.

After you've rinsed the leaves, roll them up and cut them into slices. This is called chiffonade. I don't know if you can put an 'ing' on the end of that word, but that's what it's called. Another fun word to say if you want to impress people. But basically it's just an easy way of slicing a leafy green so you don't have to slice each individual leaf. Just gather up as much as you can and roll it all together and start slicing.

You'll end up with something like this.

As a side note, I have found that you can't buy just a little kale. It's sold in big bunches and you may not use it all the first go around. If that's the case, my friend Ali has a recipe for you. She's the co-author of The Cleaner Plate Club blog in my sidebar and the book by the same name and she makes the yummiest kale chips. I've witnessed several small people in my house literally fight over them until they were gone, 2.5 seconds after I set the plate down!

Here's where I decided I didn't make near enough soup and added a box of chicken broth. This is where I also realized that most of the sausage I had set aside to add at the end had been eaten. I know what you're thinking. And there's nothing I love more than crumbly sausage, but I didn't eat it all. I'm not the only one living in this house, you know. No worries, I just browned another tube of it and added that to the soup. It needed to be doubled anyway.

There. That's much better.

At the end of 15 minutes, the potatoes should be done since they were sliced so thinly. Doesn't that look delectable?

I know it does, but there are 2 key ingredients left to add before it's really ready. It's time to add a cup  1/3 cup whipping cream and the kale strips.

Here it is, folks. A veritable souply masterpiece!

And here's Mr. Park, eating the kale outta this soup!

Here's the recipe all written out:

Pam's version of The Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

1 lb. sausage
6 strips of bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 medium baking potatoes
1 quart of water and chicken bouillon or 1 quart chicken broth
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 cups of kale

Brown sausage in a skillet. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan, saute bacon and diced onion until onions are translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add broth.

Cut potatoes lengthwise and then into 1/4 inch slices. Add to broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, cut the kale into strips. After 15 minutes, add sausage, kale strips and cream.

Serve while hot.

Linking up here: