Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chili, more chili, and cake, oh my!

A couple of nights ago we had a very hastily planned birthday party for The Engineer. (When your birthday is five days after Christmas, parties tend to be "hastily planned.")

I made chili. LOTS and LOTS of chili--two large pots of turkey chili, plus a small pot of vegan chili (no meat, extra beans.) Here it all is, simmering on the stove--with a small, improvised double boiler in the back, melting chocolate for cake frosting. My stove was happy being so well-utilized!

turkey chili with vegetables

I love this chili recipe, which I got from SnoWhite's blog Finding Joy in my Kitchen. She got it from another blogger, Lucy, who got it from somewhere else.... You know how it goes! I altered it to fit our tastes, and the recipe is at the end of this post. It's chock full of veggies, and uses lean ground turkey instead of beef. It's healthy and absolutely delicious. Here is a photo of the chopped veggies I used--three recipes' worth.

turkey chili with vegetables

And the finished product...

turkey chili with vegetables

I also made Oreo Cookie Balls, with Candy Cane Oreos. These are so easy! And somehow people find them impressive, even though the ingredients are anything but fancy.

Oreo Balls

The cake...mmm. This is my go-to easy chocolate cake recipe now: Too Much Chocolate Cake. I made one recipe as directed, as a bundt cake, sprinkled with powdered sugar.

chocolate bundt cake with powdered sugar

I made the other as a two-layer round cake, with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting

And as much as I like frosting, I preferred the simple bundt cake. It was rich and delicious. (The Engineer, however, who is not generally a frosting guy, really liked the frosted cake. This frosting is not terribly sweet.)

For recipes, just click on the names of the dishes above. The chili recipe is below. Enjoy!

Turkey Veggie Chili
(Or Vegan Veggie Chili)
Modified from SnoWhite


Ingredients:
  • 1 pound ground turkey (omit if making vegan chili)
  • Minced garlic (2-3 cloves or 1-1 1/2 teaspoons from jar)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (preferably of different colors)
  • Carrots, chopped (2 large or 10 baby-cut)
  • 1 zucchini, chopped (unpeeled)
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped (unpeeled)
  • Diced tomatoes with juices (2 regular cans or 1 large can)
  • 2 cans beans (any variety), drained and rinsed (4 cans if making vegan chili)
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (use more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Grated cheese (such as cheddar or monterey jack), optional (omit if making vegan chili)
  • Corn chips (such as Fritos), optional
Instructions:
1. Brown ground turkey with garlic in large stockpot. Drain if necessary. (Skip this step if making vegan chili, but put garlic in with the rest of the ingredients in the next step.)
2. Add remaining ingredients. Stir.
3. Cook on medium low until vegetables are soft. (Higher temperature is okay if you're in a hurry.) Simmer on low a few hours if you have the time. Stir occasionally.
4. Serve topped (if desired) with corn chips and/or cheese.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Trophy wife

When I started dating The Engineer, I was 21. I was surprised to find out he was 29. An older man! We got married a year later, and we both jokingly said I was his "trophy wife." I'd say, "When you're 40 and I'm 32, you're going to look so cool."

Well, somehow that day came a lot quicker than I realized it would. Today The Engineer is turning 40 years old. Of course, now the eight year age difference seems much smaller than it did then. I don't feel like a trophy wife--instead, I feel like an equal partner. The mother of his children. The love of his life. Glad to be married to the love of my life.

Happy Birthday, my Engineer. When you're 80 and I'm 72, you're going to look so cool.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yep, that's funny

I'm at the end of a very busy day, as I write this on Monday night. So instead of trying to convince my brain to come up with something brilliant, I'm linking you to an absolutely hilarious article:

Yahoo Answers' Dumbest Questions

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Micro: Chickie's Ratings

Chickie's rating system for movies and TV shows:

Animated: 5 stars
Live-action: 1 star


Ah, the simplicity of an (almost) four-year-old.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas collage

In an effort to share Christmas photos with you...without overwhelming you by their sheer numbers...here it is! A Christmas collage. Click it if you'd like to see a larger version.

Hope you're enjoying the weekend! We sure are.

Photobucket

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas wish

May your heart be full of joy,
Your home be full of smiles,
And your stomach be full of goodies.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I love running. (HOW did THAT happen?!)

I'm on Week 8 of the 9-week Couch-to-5K running program. I blog about my running at C. Beth Run.

I've always been someone who said, "Ugh, I hate running. I hate that feeling where my lungs are burning. I admire people who run, but I don't want to do it!" So how in the world have I gotten to this point that I'm actually enjoying it?

By "enjoying it," I don't mean I love every minute of it. The last few minutes of the run are distinctly un-fun. In fact, during the whole run, I look forward to it being over! But there are several reasons I've ended up loving running:
  1. It's so simple. No special gear is absolutely necessary except shoes. I can quickly get ready and get out of the house.
  2. It's fast. No trip to the gym, no one-hour training sessions. In under 35 minutes, I get a great workout. (And I only run three times a week.)
  3. I have a very, very active dog, and when he runs with me it gets out a lot of his energy. (As I write this on Wednesday, several hours after our morning run, Hammer is sleeping in the back yard.)
  4. It's something I can do without the kids--a type of "me time."
  5. Afterward I feel great--energized, with my blood pumping. I love looking in the mirror and seeing my flushed cheeks. I feel so healthy after a run.
  6. As a beginning runner, my stamina and speed have quickly increased. I know I won't always see such rapid improvement, but right now it's exciting.
  7. It gets me outside. I can sometimes be a hermit, and enjoying the morning sun (or clouds) starts off my day on a good note.
So here I am, nearly done with my Couch-to-5K program, but wanting very much to keep running. It's crazy...and wonderful, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's worse than a two-year-old's tantrum?

Answer: An almost-four-year-old's tantrum. That girl sure can scream! And those extra years have given her more stamina too....

Too bad she has such a mean mommy who drives her into such fits!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas...or Happy Holidays? (My opinion may surprise you.)

Every Christmas I get emails bemoaning the sad state of affairs we're in. Stores have banners proclaiming not "Merry Christmas!" but "Happy Holidays!" Schools have a "winter break," not "Christmas break." And occasionally a decorated evergreen is called a "holiday tree."

Now, I'll admit the "holiday tree" thing is almost as ridiculous as calling a menorah a "holiday candlestick." But I'm also going public with this belief:

I'm okay with "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings." You don't have to tell me "Merry Christmas" for me to enjoy shopping at your store or greeting you in the street.

I'm a devout Christian. I believe that the Bible is true, that Jesus really was born to a virgin, and that these things are worth celebrating and sharing.

But, really, is a huge "MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!" above the Barbie and Lego pictures in a Target ad going to convince someone to believe in Christianity? And as a Christian, does "HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!" really threaten the beliefs of my heart and mind? If it does, I think I've got a problem.

I think a lot of this is tied to a sense of dismay held by many Christians--dismay that America is "no longer a Christian nation." Well...we aren't. And we weren't ever meant to be. Sure, a lot of Founding Fathers were Christians. Plenty of others weren't. They very specifically did not create the USA as a theocracy.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." That's straight from the First Amendment. In order to be truly free to practice whatever religion we want (or not to practice at all), we've got to be in a country whose government doesn't recognize any particular religion as more true than any other.

If that means public schools want to call it "winter break" instead of "Christmas vacation," I'm fine with that. Just as I don't need Target ads to validate my belief in Christ, I'm not going to depend on public schools to give my children religious education. It's a break from school, and it's in the winter. Winter break. Works for me.

And that whole "free exercise" thing means that Target, Sears, & Wal-Mart can celebrate Christmas if they want (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or none of the above, or all of the above.) I'll wholeheartedly defend their right to make those decisions. I'd expect to be defended in my right to act according to my beliefs, too.

This December my family is celebrating the Christian version of Christmas, including sending out a Scripture-quoting card. And when I say "Merry Christmas," you can respond with "Happy Holidays," "Season's Greetings," "Happy Hanukkah," "Happy Kwanzaa," or "Yippeekiyay, it's Winter Solstice and the days are going to get longer again!"

I may not agree with your beliefs, and you may not care for mine...but I think most of us can concur that religious freedom is a beautiful thing, any season of the year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Micro: He may need a lesson in anatomy

Zoodle has been weaned for almost three months, but he still remembers his mommy milk, which he called "Mao." (I think this is a simple toddler mispronunciation, not an indication of any interest in Chinese communism.)

The other day he picked up a toy dinosaur, lifted his shirt, placed the dinosaur's mouth on his belly button, and said, "Mao."

I'm glad he never tried to latch onto my belly button. (And I'm glad he didn't have T-Rex teeth.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Smart Santa

Zoodle had no problem getting on Santa's lap, once he had a candy cane to hold.

Photobucket

Chickie, however, had told me beforehand, "Mommy, when I see Santa, I'm going to hide behind your leg." That was her plan, and she carried it out to the best of her ability.

So Santa got off his chair and said, "Mom, why don't you and your daughter sit here for a minute. I have something I need to look at behind the chair."

We complied, and The Engineer had the camera ready.

Photobucket

So we got Chickie's first picture with Santa. (She just doesn't know it yet.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Repeating tile blog backgrounds (free!)

I've really enjoyed making repeating tile blog backgrounds in the last few months. With a repeating tile background, you can have a fun graphic on your sidebars, one that repeats seamlessly without visible edges. They're fun to make!

I decided that once I've "retired" a repeating tile background, I'll make it available here so that anyone who wants to, can use it. And when I'm feeling creative, I may make tiles just for giving away, without using them myself. (I made a few last night; see below.) I'll update this post periodically, and I'll keep a link to it in my blog sidebar so you can easily find it.

So...how do you use these backgrounds? Blogger Buster has a fantastic, free tutorial that should really help you, if your blog is on the Blogger platform. Just click here. If you use Wordpress or another platform, you're on your own!

These backgrounds are free for the taking, for personal or commercial use. But do not sell any of these backgrounds or claim that you designed any of them yourself. If you'd like to put a link on your blog sidebar to this post, that would be fantastic, but it's not required. And if you'd like to leave me a comment letting me know where you used one of these, that would make me happy.

Click on the graphic you like to see it in Photobucket, where you can copy its Direct Link (URL.)

Flower repeating tile, dark:

Flower repeating tile blog background graphic spring summer free

Flower repeating tile, light:

Flower repeating tile blog background graphic spring summer free

Christmas gingerbread tile, white:

Christmas gingerbread repeating tile blog background graphic

Christmas gingerbread tile, light green:

Christmas gingerbread repeating tile blog background graphic

Christmas gingerbread tile, dark green:

Christmas gingerbread repeating tile blog background graphic

Christmas gingerbread tile, red:

Christmas gingerbread repeating tile blog background graphic

Stars tile:

Black stars repeating tile blog background graphic

Coffee tile:

Coffee repeating tile blog background graphic

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas lights...a holiday memory

Tomorrow it will be the third anniversary of one of the most bizarre days of my life, when I took The Engineer to the ER and we found out he had "something" bad on his brain. Thankfully, that "something" (an abscess) was successfully removed on January 2, 2007, and today he has no lingering aftereffects. We are so thankful!

The Engineer was admitted to the hospital that day, December 19th. I took Chickie with me to spend most of the day there each day, until he was released on the 23rd.

One of those nights I drove home in the dark. I was weary. It had only been a couple of days, but I was feeling the physical and emotional fatigue that overwhelms someone who has been suddenly knocked over by the sledgehammer of family illness.

I drove through our neighborhood, seeing the lights people had put on their houses. We hadn't put lights on the outside of our house, but I liked seeing our neighbors' decorations. I turned the corner onto our street.

And there, on our lawn, were two decorative deer, brightly shining with white lights, welcoming me home. I immediately burst into tears. I had no idea who had put them there, but they were just the lift my heavy spirit needed.

Several days later I found out which neighbor had put the deer on the lawn. He nervously asked me if that was okay. I don't think I managed to adequately convey to him how much the gesture had meant to me. Hopefully he was more convinced when, after New Year's, I repeatedly turned down his offers to take the deer off the lawn. By then The Engineer was recovering from surgery, and some days I was still coming home late at night from visiting him. The shining deer sat there, longer than Christmas decorations really "should" be out, bringing light not only to the neighborhood, but also to my heart.

Thanks, Marc and Melanie. Three years later, your gesture of kindness remains as one of my most treasured holiday memories.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Firsts

Yesterday was a day of firsts...

Chickie's first hot cocoa with marshmallows. (She managed to eat the marshmallows before spilling most of the cocoa.)

Photobucket

Zoodle's first time painting...

Photobucket

...and first masterpiece.

Photobucket

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Teach your children well...

...and they'll break things.

It's part of letting kids "help." Our most recent victim was the dryer.

Now, I should point out that this might have been my fault. The kids were helping me with laundry, and somehow the lint trap wasn't put in place for one dryer load. I'm choosing to blame it on the kids, since I don't remember ever forgetting to put that lint trap back. But I guess it could have been me.

Anyway, whoever's fault it was, we ended up with a dryer that wouldn't work. The Engineer thoroughly cleaned the lint/exhaust pipe, and found a couple of socks that had been sucked into the hole where the lint trap goes, but the dryer still refused to function. I contemplated calling a repair company. I wondered if we'd have to buy a new dryer. I avoided asking The Engineer the truly important, truly horrifying question:

"If I get a new dryer for Christmas, does that mean I'm
not getting my new mixer?!"

And then I started asking for advice from folks in a local online chat group. More than one person strongly encouraged us to try to fix it ourselves, giving us ideas of what might be wrong and of where to find information online. I started Googling phrases like "How to disassemble Amana dryer." Eventually I came across the official service manual, free for the taking. I downloaded it, printed it, and presented it to The Engineer.

And Monday night, he dragged the dryer into our open entryway and, using the service manual (which was surprisingly well-written), he took apart the front of it. He found one more sock, stuck in the blower. When the offending item was removed and the dryer was reassembled and reinstalled, I nervously listened from the other room.

My face broke into a huge smile when I heard that familiar sound of a beautifully-functioning dryer. I led the kids in a round of applause for our handy Engineer.

They're learning to help around the house. And they're learning that when something goes wrong, sometimes you can put a little elbow grease into it, and fix it yourself. Not a bad situation, after all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All I want for Christmas...

...is a good night's sleep.

Well, that's not totally accurate. I usually do sleep well. I just had a very rough time Sunday night, and as I write this on Monday I'm suffering from brain fog. And I'd better sleep well before Christmas rolls around--Monday night would be a good start.

Whew, good thing I normally don't have too many sleep issues. My blog would really suffer.

I hope my brain will be turned back on by Tuesday so I can have a decent post up for you on Wednesday.

Edited, Tuesday morning: Slept pretty well last night. I've got an ear infection, which is why my sleep has been interrupted, but it's much better now. Tomorrow's post should be bearable...though I won't promise brilliance!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Micro: A girl after my own sweet tooth

Friday I made sugar cookies with the kids. They both love putting sprinkles on cookies, and they are generous with those little bits of colored, sugary goodness.

Photobucket

Chickie was able to help not only with the sprinkles, but also with mixing the dough and cutting out the shapes.

Later in the day, I reflected on the somewhat complicated process of cutting, mixing, and decorating, and I asked Chickie, "What was your favorite part of making cookies today?"

She took a moment to think about it, then responded,

"Eating them."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Six Word Saturday

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's neato blog by clicking the button below.



My words:

I feel pretty, oh so pretty....

I was singing that song from West Side Story last night before The Engineer and I left for his work Christmas party. Really, every full-time mom should be required to attend one event in a pretty new dress, each year--without kids.

Christmas party dress

Chickie couldn't stop rubbing my hosiery-clad legs before we left. She wasn't sure what that smooth stuff on my legs was....

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Christmas card, from our family to yours

Photobucket

(By the way, I got a fantastic deal on the printed versions of these. I got 5x7 cards--including envelopes--for 39 cents each at Winkflash. Use the coupon code "HOLIDAY09" for 40% off all cards. Shipping is extra; for me it came to about 10 cents extra per card.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

These cups are nifty

You know how you go to a party and they've got a marker right next to the cups so you can label them? Well, at our party Tuesday, someone brought the coolest little cups. They're called etch-it cups. They've got a black space that can be "etched" with your name, just using a fingernail. (It's a lot like a scratch-off lottery ticket but the black part is nice and thin--not a lot of black dust under your nails.) So neat!

Photobucket

Over and over, guests raved over them. What a great invention! (I think we had 100% drink-labeling compliance!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas decorating...with help

Monday I was thinking about what I needed to do before the party we were hosting Tuesday night. Cooking, cleaning, kid-wrangling...and suddenly it hit me. I can't have a Christmas party at my house with no Christmas tree!

We're decorating procrastinators. But with a fire lit under me, I decorated the house yesterday.

Thankfully I have two kids who are old enough to participate this year.

It was Chickie's job to decorate the tree...

Photobucket

...and Zoodle's job to undecorate it.

Photobucket

We'll be putting ornaments back on the tree all season long. I guess it's a way to extend the merriment of decorating...right?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's that time again...

Christmas is coming! That means...

Tamales.

Mmm. Last year I wrote about the tamales Little Sis' grandma makes. Well, it's that time of year again, and Sunday I bought two dozen tamales from her again. One dozen went in the freezer; the other dozen in the fridge. Last night, we feasted on tamales. Mmm, mmm, mmm. (And did I mention, mmm?)

Our church is handing out baskets of Christmas goodies to the other businesses around us. (We are located in a business park.) So I volunteered to make bread and cookies. Little Sis was here to help over the weekend. (Thank goodness she was here!) We made 32 loaves of braided challah bread and 400 bite-sized peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

I also helped with a baby shower Saturday baking two green chili egg casseroles and a bunch of mini cinnamon rolls.

And tonight, our Bible study group from church is having our Christmas party. I volunteered to have it at our house and to make a ham and rolls.

Somehow when I volunteered for all these things I didn't realize that all three events--the shower, basket goodie deadline, and party--were all within four days of each other. I was busy in the kitchen over the weekend, and today I'll be busy again.

Which is why last night, those tamales tasted even better. I love my kitchen, but boy is it a treat to eat an amazing meal...cooked by someone else!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Micro: Fashion confession

I got this new shirt the other day.

Photobucket

Now it's confession time.

I got it at Wal-Mart.

But wait, there's more--the brand is Miley Cyrus (by Max Azria.)

So not only did I buy clothing at a place not known to be at the peak of fashion, but...Miley Cyrus? Apparently I think I'm 15 years old.

Why do I suddenly have an urge to buy some glitter makeup and skinny jeans?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Running running running!

I'm still running.

That statement has two meanings. I'm continuing my Couch-to-5K training. And I'm running, running, running, with all sorts of busy responsibilities this weekend (well,really, this month). My weekend activity mostly seems to be cooking-related, so at least I enjoy it!

Instead of coughing up a whole new post for today, I'm sending you to my running blog, C. Beth Run, today, to read about a big milestone I hit yesterday. I was pretty darn excited about it. Click here to check it out.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Six Word Saturday

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's great blog by clicking the button below.



My words:

Zoodle's first snowfall was pretty anticlimactic.

Photobucket

Photobucket


Friday, December 4, 2009

Advent calendar

I remember having chocolate advent calendars--with one piece of chocolate for every day of December until Christmas--one or two years as a kid. I can still remember the taste and smell of the chocolate. It wasn't even good chocolate, but I loved it.

So when I saw these little chocolate advent calendars in the World Market ad for $1.79 each, I knew I had to get some for Chickie and Zoodle.

Photobucket

But there was one problem--when I got out the calendars for the kids Tuesday, I realized I'd made a cruel mistake--I hadn't gotten one for myself.

So instead of just watching them eat their chocolate Wednesday, I grabbed a goodie for myself too. I don't get the fun of opening a window every day...but Dove dark chocolate probably tastes a lot better than the candies in the calendars.

Photobucket

Mmm...it really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Engineering an omelet

Last week I saw The Engineer holding a plate of delicious-looking breakfast--eggs with fresh spinach, tomatoes, and cheese. It looked fantastic, and I commented on it.

"Yeah," he said, "I was going to make an omelet. But I put the eggs on the griddle (which is totally flat with no edges) and it started going everywhere, so I turned it into a scramble instead."

I looked at my highly-intelligent husband, my Engineer who does design work for water and wastewater treatment plants, who is an expert at water flow (but apparently not egg flow), and started to giggle.

"Why in the world," I asked, "did you use a griddle for an omelet?"

Thankfully he laughed too. "I don't know," he admitted.

We got a good laugh out of his plate of scrambled eggs (that tasted just as good as an omelet would have.) And I decided that while I'd be happy to trust my drinking water to him, maybe food engineering is best left to me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A merry mess

For the first couple of days of our vacation last week, we stayed with The Engineer's nephew (only a year younger than him) and his family. They are a busy family! His nephew, J, is a teacher, and he works at a family jewelry store. J's wife, P, works as a nurse and teaches nursing at a college. Add in a six-year-old daughter and a five-month-old son, and I'm not sure how they do it all!

Yep, they're busy. And when I went into their house, I could tell. It was cluttered, with toys all over the place. When the kids made messes, P encouraged me not to worry about it.

Before we left, I said to P, "I'm going to tell you something, and I hope you don't take it wrong." That's probably not the greatest way to start a conversation, but I quickly continued. "I'm glad your house isn't perfectly clean. I feel like I can relax, without worrying that my kids are going to mess anything up."

P expressed relief and said she'd been concerned we'd think they were slobs. I'm actually glad they didn't stay up until all hours of the night trying to get the house "ready" for us.

In less than 20 years, their kids and ours will be grown, and we can give our homes the white glove treatment if we really want to. But until then, I appreciate J & P reminding me that a welcoming atmosphere has a lot more to do with how you treat your guests than with how organized your home is.

I haven't spent a lot of time with J & P, but I thoroughly enjoyed it last week. I'm looking forward to the next time our families can get together--whether it's at their messy house, or mine.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Funny name, serious game

When we got home Sunday night from our Thanksgiving trip, I was tired. Monday I had to take a nap.

Why? Because of a card game called Pinochle.

Pinochle can be played in any number of ways. Of course, the only right way to play is the way I learned from my parents and my Mamma and Papa (maternal grandparents.) The right type of pinochle is played with four people (two teams.) Beyond that, it gets too complicated to explain in a blog post...though I will tell you that pinochle decks are made up of 9s, 10s, jacks, queens, kings, and aces (two of each card in each suit), and if you're playing the right way, you'll use two decks, with the 9s removed. I guess the 9s are only there for people who play in one of the wrong ways. (I know this sounds terribly closed-minded, but this is pinochle--I can't be open-minded about something so important!)

As you can tell, I'm passionate about pinochle. It's a game that requires a lot of strategy, but there's also a whole lot of luck involved. That's one reason I enjoy it. I've been playing for about 20 years, and I feel like I'm finally getting better at the strategy part of it...but the game has always been fun, because being dealt a great hand is thrilling whether or not you're good at strategy. And having a partner makes winning more fun...and losing more bearable.

I don't get to play pinochle very often. Our way (the right way, remember?) requires four people, and because most people don't know how to play, so I usually play when I'm spending time with my mom's side of the family. We were staying at my great-aunt's house Friday through Sunday, and my grandparents were there too. So both nights, my aunt, grandparents, and I stayed up until after midnight both nights, playing this game. I got home tired...but oh, it was worth it!

I think it's time for me to find some friends here in town who want to learn the right way to play pinochle. I found myself quickly addicted again this weekend, and I don't want to go into recovery! I'd prefer to share the addiction with others. (Local readers...let me know if you're intereste

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Second Annual A to Z Thanksgiving Giveaway!

For Thanksgiving, let's play a little game, one we played around the Thanksgiving table when I was a kid. At the end of this post I'll name something starting with an "A" that I'm thankful for. If you're the first to comment, tell us something you're thankful for that starts with an "B." Second comment, something starting with a "C." (I'm pretty sure you're smart enough to figure out the remaining 23 steps!)

Feel free to post as many times as you'd like, but don't post twice in a row. Traffic might be low today since it's a holiday. Can we get to "Z" before the day is through? Let's try!

If you cross-post and more than one person uses the same letter, no problem--it's a good day to be extra-thankful.

And to sweeten the deal...whoever completes our alphabet with "Z" will get some sort of yummy home-baked treat from me. I'll contact you to find out what you'd like. (Be sure I have a way to get in touch with you.)

Remember, no posting twice in a row. I'll plan to come on and post a "Y" comment so that anyone is free to post "Z."

Let's get started!

A: I'm thankful for...
Awesome friends, both in-person and virtual. Happy Thanksgiving to my blog buddies!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We're outta here!

We're leaving this morning to visit various family members, and we'll be back on Sunday. I'll probably take a bit of time off from blogging. I hope you enjoy spending time with your loved ones!

But tomorrow there will be a blog post. It's the second annual A to Z Thanksgiving Giveaway! Click to read about last year's contest, and be sure to come back tomorrow to participate!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I am so excited!

I've decided what I want for Christmas.

Some time ago, I blogged about how I kind of wish my old mixer would break so that I could buy a Kitchen Aid.

Well, I'm tired of waiting. Sunbeam doesn't make the fanciest mixers in the world, but boy do they last. And last. And last. Far longer than I want them to. (In January we're celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary...and the Sunbeam's 10th birthday!) So come Christmas, I'll be retiring the old mixer.

But I've decided against the Kitchen Aid. Turns out there's a mixer that some people like even more. So in about a month, I will be welcoming this beauty into my home:



It's a Cuisinart. Isn't it pretty? One of the big benefits of the Cuisinart is that it has a three-year warranty (five years for the motor!) Kitchen Aids only have one year warranties. (One!)

Hopefully this beautiful mixer will still be going strong when The Engineer and I celebrate our 20th anniversary!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Micro: Note to self

Dear Self,

Your children are very creative and like to use their shirts for many things. In addition to providing protection against wind and cold, these multipurpose pieces of fabric are used as bibs, napkins, and Kleenex.

So, Self, stop buying your kids white shirts.

Sincerely,
The Practical Half(?) of Your Brain

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My sense of humor may not be shared by our insurance company

Six months ago we had a big hail storm. Since then, many of our neighbors have had their roofs replaced. We finally took the hint and got ours looked at and, sure enough, it needs to be replaced too. It's not leaking, but it's beat up enough that we could have problems with it later. It's covered by insurance, so we don't really mind this too much.

Friday they dropped off the materials; the work will be done Monday.

Photobucket

It rained and rained and rained Friday. And it struck me just how funny it would be if we had another big hail storm struck, as that material sat on our driveway.

I recognize that my insurance company might not agree about how funny that would be. But I think I'd get a giggle out of it.

I'm not sure what this says about me....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's peachy blog by clicking the button below.



My words:

I haven't started my Christmas shopping.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chickie and Zoodle

When Zoodle was born, we didn't think he looked like Chickie had looked as a baby. People have often commented that she looks like me, and he looks like The Engineer, so it made sense that they didn't look that much alike.

Recently, though, I've seen old pictures of Chickie, and it's struck me--Zoodle looks a lot like she did at his age. I dug up an old photo of her from when she was about the age Zoodle is now. What do you think?

Photobucket Photobucket

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thank you

It's been a busy day (writing this on Wednesday night), so I'll keep this short.

Thank you to those of you who commented yesterday (and who emailed me privately) with tips on how to get out the door easier, and tips on how to relax and not stress about it so much! I'm already starting to implement various suggestions. (Before I go to bed tonight I'm going to get those sippy cups ready for tomorrow!) You all really came through for me. Thank you.

And if you have trouble getting yourself and your kids out the door too, be sure to read all the comments that were left yesterday. Hopefully the advice will help you as much as I think it's going to help me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Help me!

Chickie will be four years old in less than two months. Zoodle is 19 months old. There are a lot of things that aren't fun about taking care of kids this age. I mean, I have to deal with snot and poop and sleep deprivation.

But you know what? I can handle all that. What I can't seem to get a hang of is how to get out of the house.

I get so frustrated trying to get myself and two kids out of the house--whether we're going to the grocery store, a playdate, or church. I thought of saying "or the library," but we haven't been there for months. Maybe if I didn't get so stressed out getting them out of the house, we'd go back!

There's just so much to do. I have to make sure sippy cups are found and full and in the diaper bag. I need to check the stock of diapers in the diaper bag. Between the three of us, we have to put on six socks and six shoes. Chickie should go potty whether she wants to or not, and Zoodle loves to confront me with a poopy diaper just as we're about to head out the door. On a good day, I have coffee or water for myself, and on a really good day I've straightened my hair and put on makeup. I've got to get two kids in their carseats, and make sure I have forgotten the diaper bag and my purse. After the kids are strapped in, I run back in the house, turn the burglar alarm off, grab whatever I've forgotten (shopping list, coffee, etc.), turn the alarm back on, and get in the car to back out. Sometimes I'm able to use our garage door opener to close the door; often lately it hasn't worked and I have to back out of the car to pull the manual release cord, and close the door.

So I end up leaving 15 minutes (or 30 minutes, or an hour) later than I expected, and by the time we're on the road I've often worked myself into an anxious mess.

So, super moms (or normal moms who have just figured out this part of parenting)--how do you do it? How do you get out of the house in an efficient, timely fashion, without going nuts? You may save my sanity with your advice, so thank you in advance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coolest cup around

Isn't this a pretty coffee cup?

non-paper cup

And...surprise...it's not paper! It's the "Non-paper cup" from the store World Market (called "Cost Plus" in some areas.)

The sleeve and top are both flexible silicone.

silicone lid non-paper cup

The cup itself is porcelain.

porcelain non-paper cup

My only complaint so far? It's hard to get lipstick off the silicone lid. But I can deal with that.

Starbucks gives a 10 cent discount for bringing in your own cup. (This is 16 ounce, or grande-sized, though I'm sure you could have them partially fill it if you'd prefer a tall-sized drink.) And if the thought of a dime discount isn't enough to convince you, just think of the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from helping the environment. (Or is that warm, fuzzy feeling from my nonfat decaf latte with two pumps of peppermint? Either way, it's nice.)

And if you don't want to buy your own super-cool mug (but why wouldn't you?!) ask for a real mug next time you're at Starbucks. If you're staying there to enjoy your drink, you can forego the paper cup and use the real thing. You won't get a discount--but they'll wash the mug for you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Micro: My little vintners

Chickie and Zoodle like to drink grape juice. (Well, it's really 80% water, 20% juice.) Unfortunately, they tend to put their sippy cups down and forget about them.

So occasionally Chickie finds an old sippy (with the toys, in her bedroom, etc.), and she takes a drink from it. She gets a cute, disgusted look on her face, and proclaims, "Mommy, this doesn't taste good!"

So I take it, unscrew the cup, and smell it, and am reminded that, yep...

Grape juice + Time = WINE.

I'm so proud of my little vintners...and very glad that so far they haven't acquired a taste for their product.

P.S. This is Post #600 for me. Yippee!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Accidental volunteer

Thursday I got an email from Kenny, our pastor, about a Saturday morning men's breakfast. I wondered why exactly I was on the list because, well, I'm not a man. Then at the end of the email, he said, "Women, please encourage the men in your life to get involved. :)" So Friday I asked The Engineer if he was going, and he confirmed that he was, but that he hadn't RSVP'd. I responded to Kenny's email,

Kenny--Sorry for the late RSVP but The Engineer WILL be there. Do you want me to prepare any food?

I was thinking maybe I could quickly whip up some muffins or something. Then I got Kenny's reply,

Hey Beth, that would be great if you want to prepare the food!

Um, wait a minute, I thought. Did I just accidentally volunteer to make all the food? For a breakfast less than 24 hours from now? Apparently so.

I'm sure I could have graciously clarified my offer, but Kenny let me know that only five guys had RSVP'd, and there would probably be a couple of extra. Yeah, I thought, I can make food for five or 10 guys.

So I sent The Engineer to the grocery store on his way home from work. I made some dough for cinnamon rolls, let it rise, and refrigerated it. I was actually excited; if I'm going to accidentally volunteer for something, it might as well be something I enjoy, like cooking.

There was just one problem. I was in the middle of a novel that had me spellbound--one of those I really didn't want to put down. I wanted to spend my evening reading.

So I did. As I assembled cinnamon rolls Friday night, and made Green chili egg casserole Saturday morning, I propped the book open on the countertop and multi-tasked a bit. And I didn't even substitute salt for sugar or make any other distracted mistakes. Everything turned out good.

Cooking and reading...two things I love to do. Who knew how easy it would be to do them at the same time? I hope all my future accidental volunteering experiences are just as satisfying as this one was.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's peachy blog by clicking the button below.



My words (and I'm cheating by doing TWO six-word statements this week):

Up early with Zoodle. (My turn.)
Sunrise makes early rising worth it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Zoodle's car noises (video)

Zoodle's really into car sounds these days. Or in this case, train sounds. Which are remarkably similar to car sounds. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Well, maybe there WAS a silver lining

Yesterday I posted about Tuesday's frustrating nap time and said there was nothing good about that situation. I wrote that in the afternoon, and by the evening I was rethinking it.

Because of the naptime drama, Zoodle was extra-tired and willingly went to bed before 7:00 Tuesday. I decided it would be a good time to spend some quality time with Chickie. I got out her stepladder and the mixer, and we made cookies.

It was good to spend that time with Chickie.

And they were great cookies.

I'd say that's a pretty good silver lining to Zoodle's naptime thundercloud!

Chunky Kisses Cookies

Want the recipe?

Chunky Kisses Cookies


Ingredients:
1 cup butter (unsalted, softened)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups chopped* Hershey's Kisses, any variety (I used Mint Truffle)

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix softened butter, brown sugar, and white sugar--cream together very well.
3. Add egg and vanilla; mix well.
4. As mixer is turning, slowly add baking soda and salt, and mix well.
5. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well.
6. Turn off mixer and very gently fold chopped Kisses into batter.
7. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.
8. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until edges are barely beginning to brown. Cool on wire rack.

*Note: To chop Kisses, first chop the tip (top 1/4 inch) off. Then cut the bottom part into quarters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I didn't like it when...

Yesterday...

I didn't like it when Zoodle got up at 5:45 yesterday morning.
But I did like when he went down easily for his nap by 11:30.

I didn't like it when I realized Chickie might have a little cold.
But I did like that she was drowsy enough to cuddle, then sleep, with me during naptime.

I didn't like it when I stepped in dog poop in the back yard.
But I did like that the weather was nice enough for us to play outside.

I didn't like it when the dog barked at the Fed/Ex truck and woke up Zoodle and me from our naps too early, and Zoodle proceeded to cry hysterically from tired frustration for nearly an hour (with occasional cuddles from me) before he stopped crying but didn't go back to sleep.
But I did like...
Oh, forget this Pollyanna crap. There was nothing good about that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When did I become so domestic?

My kids ate homemade yogurt and homemade bread at dinner last night. As I type this, there's milk turning into yogurt in the yogurt maker, and granola in the CrockPot. At some point in the evening, I found myself asking (again), "When did I become so domestic?"

I've enjoyed cooking for a long time, but I think I really got into it after we moved two years ago. Our first home was built in 1973, and it had a small kitchen that was not open to the living room. Not only did I have limited cabinet space, I was also very much alone in that kitchen.

Our home now has a spacious kitchen with plenty of space, and it's open to the living room. I can talk to The Engineer, watch the kids, and even watch TV while I cook and clean up.

It's interesting, though. I think about the cooking and baking I do, and I consider that "domestic"--but my house is usually not as clean as it "should" be. I'm not much of a decorator. I rarely sew. There are a lot of "domestic" activities I just don't care for.

And I think that's what it comes down to. I love cooking. That's why I do it a lot. Not because I "should." Often we women compare ourselves to the women around us. I think, "Wow, so-and-so keeps her house so clean!" Or, "Could I ever end up with a house as beautifully decorated as hers?" Or, "That mom does so many amazing crafts with her children!"

And I bet some of those moms look at me and think, "Oh, I don't know how she spends so much time in the kitchen; should I be more like that?"

But when it comes down to it, no one can do it all. So I figure, whether you love cooking, cleaning, sewing, working in an office, doing crafts with your children, or gardening, do it joyfully! Do it exuberantly!

And let's not beat ourselves up for not doing everything.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Micro: Five things I learned this weekend

1. The key to getting small children to stay still at Starbucks long enough for Mommy and Daddy to enjoy their coffee: A creme (coffee-free) Frappuccino.

2. It's hard to have an appropriate level of mercy for a dog with the stomach flu, when he wakes you up at 5 a.m. as he loses his dinner on the carpet.

3. Eavesdropping on your daughter's Sunday School class as she sings (well, yells) Jesus Loves Me? It may hurt Mommy's ears, but it also warms Mommy's heart.

4. If you let your kids sleep way too long during nap time, it will be hard to get them to bed later in the evening. But if it gives you the opportunity to finish a novel during said nap time, it's totally worth it.

5. A guy who will clean up the living room and put both kids to bed while Mom does some Sunday evening grocery shopping? That guy is worth keeping around.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's more important to stay on the path...

...than to get to the destination quickly.

I'm two weeks into my training in the Couch-to-5K program. Each week of training consists of three identical workouts (see here.) I'm working out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

Yesterday instead of walking/jogging around the neighborhood, as I usually do, I exited the subdivision and headed northeast, through another neighborhood, through some parking lots...and to Starbucks. The decaf iced peppermint mocha was a sweet reward for my workout! The Engineer and the kids drove to meet me there so I could ride home with them.

Yesterday's workout was hard, though. At the end of Week 1, I felt ready to start Week 2. It wasn't the same yesterday. I was challenged enough that I don't want to be more challenged on Monday. So I've decided to repeat Week 2.

I think it's far more important for me to continue consistently training, than for me to reach the end of the training in the allotted nine weeks. If it takes 10, or 12, or 14 weeks, that's fine...as long as I've kept with it! I'd far prefer to be getting consistent workouts (including repeating the difficult ones) than to get discouraged and quit. Getting in shape is the primary goal; it's okay if the secondary goal of being able to run three miles (without feeling like I'm dying) takes awhile.

I'm blogging briefly each day that I work out, as a way to keep track of it, and to share my progress. You can check that out here: C. Beth Run.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's sixtacular blog by clicking the button below.



My words...

Headed to Costco. (Hooray! Free samples!)

(I'm easy to please.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

And the winner is...

Thanks to trusty random.org, we have a winner! The recipient of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day is...

Commenter #2, Pixel Queen Photography (a.k.a. Sandi)! Congratulations, Sandi! Second comment.... I guess the early bird gets the worm! (Or in this case, completely worm-free bread.)

Sandi said in her comment, "I love these recipes! I've never strayed from the basic Artisan recipe so I'd love to give a healthier version a whirl. Thanks for doing this :-)."

Now, if you didn't win, I'm very sorry. I guess you'll have to buy it. It may be the best $18.47 (current Amazon price) you've ever spent. And the original book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, is currently $16.37. Both retail for $27.99. (I love Amazon's prices!)

Thanks to everyone who entered!

A goat for Christmas? Or maybe a chicken?

I'm excited about something we're planning to be involved in, as a family, this year. I'll preface this by telling you I'm going to be writing about a Christian missions organization. I know that my readers have various religious beliefs, and I like to give a heads up if one of my posts is going to be specifically about faith.

A friend of mine from high school, Megan, and her husband Joel work for an organization called Gospel for Asia. GFA's goal is to share Jesus' love with people in Asia, by providing support for native missionaries, and by giving practical help to many Asian families.

I really appreciate that money donated for the work in Asia all goes to Asia. People like Megan and Joel, who work on the administrative side here in the U.S., raise all their financial support themselves.

They have a Christmas program that I think is so exciting! The GFA Christmas Catalog gives people the opportunity to purchase gifts that will help Asian families or missionaries in practical ways. Here are some examples:

Gifts to help impoverished Asian families:

  • A pair of rabbits: $11. Rabbits reproduce...well, like rabbits, so one pair can provide lots of food and income for a family.
  • Water buffalo: $460. From transportation, to plowing, to providing milk, a water buffalo can truly change an Asian family's lives.
  • BioSand water filter: $30. A village can have cleaner water and greater health, with this simple filter.
  • Jesus Well, $1000. A Jesus Well provides clean water, and an opportunity for missionaries to share about Jesus, the Living Water.
  • House: $5000. Many Asians have lost homes to natural disasters, and a simple, new home can be provided for $5000.
Gifts to help missionaries:
  • Tambourine: $5. A simple tambourine can be used by a missionary to play worship music.
  • Bicycle: $110. Many missionaries spend a lot of their time walking from village to village, and a bicycle allows them to travel much more quickly.
  • Church building: $11,000. In the U.S., $11,000 doesn't even cover the chairs at many churches! In India, it's enough money to build an entire church.
I'm not yet sure what we'll be giving, but I'm excited thinking about all the possibilities! There is a lot more at the website if you'd like to check it out here. And here is a short video (under three minutes) about a family who gave, and a family who received.



For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me....

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

-Jesus, Matthew 25:35,40 (NIV)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jokes from a 3-year-old

Chickie has just hit the age where she wants to tell jokes. Here was one she told me yesterday:

"Why does a chicken sit on eggs? Because it doesn't have a chair!"

I think she probably heard that joke on the PBS show Sid the Science Kid, which ends each episode with silly jokes.

The thing is, she knows it's funny, but she doesn't know why. She's determined, though, to make up her own jokes. They are funnier than the original...simply because they make no sense. Here is one she told me yesterday:

"Why does a truck sit on a sheep? Because it doesn't have a chair!"

She uses this formula over and over, and the punchline is always the same. And I always laugh at my 3-year-old comedienne-in-the-making.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Whole wheat flatbread pizza

Have you entered the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook giveaway yet? I'll be choosing a winner randomly on Friday, so get over there and leave me a comment to enter.

To whet your appetite, I'd like to share a recipe. This is what we had for dinner last night (and a recipe I make frequently!)

whole wheat flatbread pizza

Whole Wheat Flatbread Pizza
Personal-sized

Ingredients:

Crust:

Master Recipe dough from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (Recipe here!)
Extra virgin olive oil

Sauce:
Tomato/pizza sauce, pesto, or alfredo sauce (I used Classico basil pesto, sold with pasta sauces)

Toppings:
Your pizza toppings of choice. (I used sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts--both jarred; fresh spinach; and shredded mozzarella cheese.)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using a baking stone (which is preferable), preheat for 20-30 minutes.

2. Make flatbread using the naan recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. (Recipe available here for free!) However, instead of ghee or butter, use 1 Tbsp or less extra virgin olive oil. Watch closely, as it's easy to burn the bread.

3. Spread sauce on flatbread, and cover with toppings.

4. Bake pizzas (on preheated stone, if available) until cheese is melted (browned if you'd like), about 6-8 minutes.

These pizzas are a hit in our house. The flatbread has a wonderful flavor and texture; we prefer it to traditional homemade pizza crust. I like that I can easily make individual pizzas with whatever ingredients each person wants. (Pickier kids can even have plain flatbread, or flatbread with cheese melted on top.) We are reducing cholesterol in our diets, so last night I only used a bit of cheese, and The Engineer still loved the flavor.

Now, get over to yesterday's post and enter the giveaway, and get your friends to enter if you'd like extra entries!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Review and GIVEAWAY! Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Last Christmas I got a book that changed the way I cook: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I think I "might" have mentioned it on this blog a "few" times.

I was not a bread baker until this book came into my life. (I know, "came into my life" sounds like I'm describing a love affair. And...I am.) From pizza to bagels to cinnamon rolls to braided challah to crusty white bread to breadsticks to...well, you get the picture...I've become a baker of really great bread, thanks to the techniques of Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois.

So of course I was a bit giddy with excitement when book #2 arrived in the mail last week.



Now, I admit I was a little nervous about Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I've had good luck with most of the recipes I've tried from the original book...but really never loved loved the 100% whole wheat recipe; it was just too dense for my taste. I was hoping that the second book would feature healthy recipes that also had a fantastic texture and flavor.

And so far...wow. This book has really come through for me! Jeff and Zoe have come up with recipes that are healthy but also incredibly tasty.

Here's the idea behind both books: You make up a large, wet batch of dough. Stir it up, no kneading required. Let it rise, and then store it in the fridge. The wet dough is designed to be used over the course of up to two weeks (depending on the recipe.) On baking day, preparing a loaf takes less than five minutes (not including resting/rising time and baking time.) Please note many of these loaves are baked with steam, and you should not use an "oven-safe" glass dish for your water/steam. You can read about my explosive experience here.

The first HBin5 recipe I tried was Apples and Honey Whole Grain Challah (p. 262.) I love the challah recipe in the original book, so I thought this would be a good one to try. It's made with 5 cups whole wheat flour and 3 cups unbleached white flour, and has the added goodness of wheat germ and apple chunks. Instead of butter, I used canola oil (one of the options provided in the recipe.)

Photobucket

I made four of these turban-shaped loaves and later used the rest of the dough to make a good-sized loaf in a normal loaf pan. This bread was a hit. I brought it to a church function, and we all loved it. The apple chunks and eggs in the dough gave it a fantastic texture and flavor; it tastes decadent, even though it's healthy.

Next I tried the Master Recipe (p. 54, and also on the Artisan Bread in Five blog.) This is a very simple, very healthy recipe, with almost three times as much whole wheat flour as white flour. I made a seed mixture with poppy, white sesame, black sesame, and sunflower seeds to use as the topping (optional but awesome.)

Photobucket

Photobucket

Once again, it did not disappoint--it was great! The bread was not too dense, and the seed topping really gave it an incredible flavor. This would make a delicious sandwich loaf too. The book gives plenty of other uses for the master recipe dough, and I have a lot of it waiting for me in the fridge, so I'll be doing more experimenting this week.

I highly recommend both of these books. Each stands alone; you don't have to buy the first book to get great use out of the second. I'd suggest you buy both, but I'm, of course, a fanatic! Thanks to the authors' blog, you can try the Master Recipe and the Whole Grain Brioche recipe for free, as well as various recipes from the first book. But really, the blog doesn't replace the books; it supplements them. Nothing beats having over 200 recipes at your fingertips, along with the extra information and instructions in the books.

And now to the really exciting part...

St. Martin's Press has provided one copy of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day for a lucky reader of C. Beth Blog!

Here's how you enter:

Leave a comment here telling why you'd like to have 100 healthy bread recipes. Please only leave ONE comment.

To get extra comments, spread the word about the giveaway (via Twitter, Facebook, your blog, word of mouth, billboards, etc.!) Make sure anyone who hears about it from you gives you credit in your comment! You'll get an extra entry for each person who mentions you in their entry.

I will randomly choose a winner on Friday, November 6. I'll close the comments before choosing a winner.

Open to anyone with a U.S. or Canadian mailing address. If you are from a different country, feel free to enter, and if it costs over US$10 to mail the book, I'll ask you to kindly cover the excess.

And remember, if you are entering because you heard about the contest from someone, be sure to mention them in your comment!

*Disclosure:While the publisher provided me with a free copy of this book for the giveaway, I was not compensated in any other way. I purchased my personal copies of both books.