Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January 2017

I can't believe it's time for a monthly update!  January has revolved around school and catching up.  I'm happy to say that I finally don't feel terribly behind.  It's such a relief!  I plan to keep my schedule light for awhile so I can actually enjoy daily life rather than feeling like I'm barely surviving.  We haven't had company in a couple months and just got together with family/friends a few times.  In one way, I miss having more time with friends, but in another I'm OK with it.  I really, really need a break.  Plus, I feel like I'm in a season where my focus needs to be on getting Kylen graduated, concentrating on ALL of us eating better (not just me!), and enjoying our little family.  I know our son will be grown soon, and I want to be present in a fuller, more tangible way.

School
Co-op resumed a week in, so I've been spending some time on my art appreciation class.  Kylen's basketball teacher graciously offered to let him teach the rest of the year, which will be great to add to leadership and volunteering.  He doesn't need to do any prep, but running the class is somewhat challenging for him.  He doesn't think he's very talented at working with kids (I think he does great!), so maybe this will help build his confidence.

Something else new is that we're adding chemistry experiments.  So far, chemistry has been mostly book work and videos.  From now until the end of the year, he'll be devoting 1 1/2 hours each week to watching experiments online or doing them hands-on with Greg.

A piece of exciting news!  Kylen had his first real audition and was cast in the next CYT show, School House Rock Live!  I'm super excited about this one - it takes me back to my childhood.  There are multiple hours of weekly rehearsals, but it's been doable.  Getting in extra schoolwork after co-op on Mondays and weekends helps him keep up.


The Computer Desk
Greg has always worked on his laptop at our kitchen table.  It's easy to fold up and remove for meals and games.  But recently he purchased a pc with a large screen, and moving it around isn't practical.  After some discussion, we decided to try an area between the living and dining room that could fit a small desk.  Thankfully, we found one online that matches our decor, and Greg put it together over the weekend.  The loss of floor space isn't noticeable, although we haven't added a chair yet.  Technically, he has an office downstairs, but neither of us like the idea of him being "gone" when he's home.

Putting the desk together:


Other Happenings
Kylen attended three birthday parties, including his own!  (I posted about it here.)


Other than Kylen's birthday, I took few pictures this month.  See you in February!  :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Kylen Finished His Novel! :)

Kylen finished his first novel, Keys to the Kingdom, a few weeks ago!  This was a MAJOR labor of love and time investment spanning over a couple of years - working on it an hour here, an hour there; sometimes making progress daily, sometimes weekly.  He did so much editing, I decided to wait until it was finished to read it.  (Hopefully soon!)  171 pages, typed and single-spaced.  We presented him with a card and small plaque I'd been saving for the big day.  :)

I asked him to give me a description and pick out an excerpt from a favorite part.

Theo Thompson grew up listening to tales about a world filled with monsters, heroes, and magic. After the mysterious disappearance of his grandfather, Theo is called to take up arms in defense of the First Land. An old enemy, Ragor the giant, has mustered an army to once again wage war on all that is good. As the threat approaches, Theo must put on the mantle of Guardian and travel to the Shrine of Destiny, where he hopes to find the power to defeat Ragor once and for all. Armed with the magical Keys, weapons blessed by the Life Giver, he sets out in search of the Shrine. But, following close behind, a deadly assassin plots to destroy the young and inexperienced Guardian…


Excerpt:

As one, they advanced together towards the door. Suddenly, it was flung wide open and a hulking form emerged. It had to duck in order to squeeze through the door, which was about twelve feet high, but as the thing cleared the entrance it stood to its full height. It was a minotaur—a creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull. The monster wielded an enormous spear in its left hand, and a mace and chain in the other.
Theo pulled up short, as did the others. The minotaur looked right at him with a surprisingly intelligent expression and asked, “Are you the Guardian?” Its voice reminded him of rolling thunder.
Though his heart pounded, Theo was determined not to show any fear. “I am.”
The monster advanced slowly. Theo drew the Keys, but did not raise them to defend himself. “I am Gronskr,” he growled, stopping just an arms-length away. “The Life Giver charged me many centuries ago with the task of guarding the Shrine of Destiny.”
“Great. So, can I go in?”
The giant let out a deep, rumbling chuckle. “I’m afraid…it’s not that simple. You see, I am to defend this Shrine with my life, until a Guardian can best me in battle.”
“I don’t understand. Is this some kind of test, to see if I’m worthy?”
Gronskr shrugged his massive shoulders. “I do not know what the Life Giver’s intent was in placing me here. All I know is that, if you want to gain entry, you must defeat me in fair, single combat.”
Theo looked at the creature’s enormous bulk. “Doesn’t seem like a fair fight to me.”
The minotaur laughed again. “You have the Keys, Guardian. If you are the Chosen One, those are all you will need.”
Gronskr lunged toward him. Theo jumped out of the way, narrowly avoiding the initial charge. With a speed which defied his bulk, the minotaur swung his mace around in a tight arc. Theo ducked and backpedaled several steps. He knew that Gronskr’s advantage would be in his superior strength and reach, but he had to get his bearings, figure out a strategy.
The minotaur took a giant step forward, approaching more slowly this time. He brought his spear up and began jabbing at Theo repeatedly, moving the weapon back and forth with such rapidity that he was forced to give more ground in order to avoid the deadly tip.
Suddenly, he felt his back press up against the wall of the Shrine. Gronskr let out a roar of triumph and brought his mace swinging in from above. Theo once again narrowly dodged it and went into a full retreat. He knew that he had to find a way to end the contest, and soon. The Keys were pumping him full of energy, revitalizing his tired body and making him stronger. But it would not last forever. Sooner or later, one of them had to grow weary, and Theo was afraid it would be him.
Suddenly, in a flash of insight, he knew exactly what had to happen. Pretending to lose his balance, Theo reeled backwards. Gronskr charged towards him, eager to end the fight with sheer force. The Guardian waited for the last possible moment, then ducked under the minotaur’s swinging weapons. He rolled between the giant’s legs, coming back up on his feet behind his opponent. Theo raised his sword and plunged it into Gronskr’s unprotected back.
The minotaur roared in pain and anger. Though Theo had felt the blade strike bone, it would take more than that to bring the giant down. But now Gronskr would be angry, and hopefully that would push him to make mistakes.


For now, he has no plans to publish.  His writing improved over time, which would require major revisions to the first half.  We're so proud of him for sticking it out!!!  And he's already started a new novel (not a sequel, but a whole new story).  Awesome job, Sonshine!!!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Kylen's 17th Birthday

I can't believe our son is 17.  These numbers are getting waaaaay too high for me to absorb.

We did the usual laser tag with gifts and cards at home.  We'd still like to take him out for dinner at a restaurant of his choice.

My precious son is 17.  Hard to comprehend!

When did this happen?  17!  Anyway . . .

Before laser tag:



During laser tag:



After laser tag:



This didn't last long, and I may have contributed to it's shortened lifespan.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Healthy Chicken Fingers

We made this recently and all loved it!  I've tried to revisit the site several times since (called wellnessmama.com) and have not been able to, otherwise I would have included a link.  To stay on my diet, I usually skip the honey mustard dip, but it complements the chicken REALLY well.  My boys LOVE it!  The only downside to this recipe is that the chicken isn't nearly as good the next day.  My boys will still eat it, but the dip really helps at that point.


To make a super easy meal, I served it with a frozen side from the oven: Amy's Broccoli and Pasta Cheese Casserole.  I also made some frozen corn in the micro.


Almond Chicken Fingers
4 med. chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 eggs
1 tsp. water

2 cups almond flour/meal
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Olive oil


Beat eggs with water in medium bowl.

In another bowl, mix almond flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Heat oil in large skillet over med. heat.  (The original recipe used enough oil to submerge the chicken.  We just used enough to cover the bottom of the pan.)

Once oil is hot, coat chicken in egg mixture, then dredge in almond flour mixture, and place in pan. Cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from pan and keep in oven to keep warm while additional batches are cooking.  (We just piled them up on a plate lined with paper towels next to the stove.  We also had two large skillets going at the same time.)

Once all are cooked through, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper (optional) and serve with honey mustard sauce.

Honey Mustard Sauce
½ cup mayo
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup honey
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder

Mix all ingredients with a whisk until smooth.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Favorite Smells

Totally random post, but I made a salad with fresh lime juice today, and it got me thinking about my favorite smells.  I decided to record some!

Vanilla extract
Freshly cut limes
Oranges
Fresh ginger

Homemade bread baking
Coffee
Unrefined cacao butter

Bacon (who doesn't??)
Beef cooking in the crock pot or oven
Diced onions and peppers being sauteed
Minced garlic after about 30 seconds of cooking
Curry powder

Sunday, January 1, 2017

December 2016

December was BUSY!  I was behind the whole month, and I'm not sure why.  Normally, we would have had someone over at least once, but I never got caught up enough to make it happen!  I was running right up to Christmas Day, but I'm thankful there was lots of fun sprinkled in with the multitude of tasks.  :)

December started off festively with a Christmas party hosted by friends.  We arrived in time for a parade on their street, where they handed out fun glasses.  The glasses add a picture to the lights when you look through.  This one was Rudolf.



"Baby it's cold outside" was running through my mind a lot this month.  It was COLD!


Afterwards, we enjoyed food, games, and great company!


Next came our co-op's Christmas party.  They did a fabulous job!  There was a skit, potluck, games, drawings, and cookie decorating.



That night, we enjoyed watching a friend's basketball game!


Then, we had a wonderful Christmas outing I blogged about.


Something you may not know about me: I can't stand clutter.  I literally CANNOT stand it.  The longer my living area is a mess, the more mentally unstable I become.  And because we were so behind, I didn't finish ordering gifts until late in the month.  Because I started wrapping before I was done ordering, they arrived gradually over a couple weeks.  My living area was a mess that entire time, and it DROVE. ME. CRAZY.  Too much work to put away and get back out.  Every available surface was covered:

Cluttered dining table?  Check.


Desk?  Check.


Sofa?  Check.


Love seat?  Check.


Floor?  Check.  Not to mention chairs.  (I clearly need to downsize my supplies.)  Once I finished the last gift, my boys helped me put it all away just in time for Christmas.


Kylen went to a dance for young people.  They are held weekly at a church, and once a month there is a themed dance.  The themed dance for December was Masquerade Ball.  It included a competition for best mask.  I was surprised at the large turnout!


If you spotted Kylen, you have a good eye.  He's left of center at back in a white shirt.

A few days later, Greg and I needed to kill some time while Kylen saw Star Wars with friends.  We went on a lunch date!  I enjoy trying new places, so we checked out Cafe Carambola.  See reviews.


Greg said it was one of the best lunches he's ever had.  I liked it a lot, though not as much as he did.  I think it was a style that suits his taste extremely well.  I'd describe it as fresh, clean, colorful . . . He loved that the food wasn't greasy but still tasty.  There were unusual flavors, but they complimented each other.  The owners are a husband and wife team.  Greg found out the wife went to culinary school in California.  We were treated to some of the best customer service we've ever seen.  The husband came and sat next to us.  Then, he took us over to the case with salads and described each one in detail.  They seemed to know everyone who came through the door by name.  It's not a large place, but it is warm and friendly.

My corn soup was excellent, though a tad more spicy than I'm used to.  They like a little heat there!  The quesadillas were supposed to have minced jalapenos, but I asked they be omitted.


We'd like to return!  You can see the owner on the right though the window.  :)


That night, we had dessert at Freezia's.  They make rolled ice cream, a novelty that's been on my to-try list for awhile.


Cute wintry decor.


We all liked mine best, which was a vanilla base flavored with strawberries and oreos with caramel and chocolate.  The strawberries added a really nice fresh fruit taste.  I probably wouldn't go there again  in the winter.  There is something about the process that makes the ice cream stay cold longer.  Up to the last bite, there was no sign of melting.  Unbeknownst to me, my tongue got freeze burned!  I didn't realize until the next day when everything I ate felt like it was burning.


We like to devote one evening in December to lights, usually the 23rd.  We leave around 6, pick up coffee drinks, and drive around for a couple hours.  One of my favorite December outings.


On Christmas Eve, we joined Greg's parents for dessert and gifts.  :)  We contributed homemade orange rolls that turned out amazing.





I blogged about Christmas day here.  :)


We were invited to a day-after-Christmas party!  They had a "best sock" contest and white elephant gift exchange.  Some of us got creative with the socks!


Kylen decided to try the annual "Play in a Day" youth theater event.  They fully produce and perform a play in just over 24 hours.  Pretty neat concept!  Kylen had one line and sang in at least three songs.  We were fortunate to find two open seats in the second row.  At one point, he was sitting practically right in front of us!


Originally, we were planning to attend a New Year's Eve party, but it got cancelled, which was fine!  Gave us a chance to play our new games!  I made crock pot spaghetti and meatballs, and we enjoyed spirited competition right up until we heard people shouting and gunshots being fired.  We even contributed an air horn blast!  It was a great conclusion to a great year.  :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Breakfast Tater Tot Casserole

We enjoyed this casserole on Christmas morning.  Easy, delicious, and can be made the night before.


Breakfast Tater Tot Casserole
1 ½ lb. breakfast sausage
6 strips crumbled bacon (optional, can reserve some for top)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (can reserve half cup for top)

4-6 eggs, beaten (we did 6)
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1-2 cups milk (we did one)
2 lb. Tater Tots
Optional topping: half cup cheese, crumbled bacon
Optional garnish: 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Cook sausage on med.-high heat, breaking up and browning it.  Drain and layer on bottom of 9x13.  Sprinkle with bacon, if desired.  Evenly sprinkle cheese over sausage.

In large bowl, whisk together all other ingredients except tater tots.  Pour evenly over cheese.  Layer with frozen tater tots.  If not baking right away, cover and chill overnight in fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle position.  Heat uncovered 35 min. (45 if no toppings being added).  Add topping if desired and bake another 5-10 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Garnish with parsley, let rest 10 minutes, and serve.