Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm so Proud of You, Mommy.

Those were the sweet words that were whispered into my ear last week, as Holland and I were stealing an afternoon snuggle. It made me laugh. It made my heart warm. It got me thinking.

It's so nice to hear those words. It is, isn't it?

Even from a three year old.

Especially from a three year old.

So I thought I would pass on some sweetness, just as Holland did:

I'm grateful for my husband who takes care of us girls so well. He generously gives me this life of everyday pleasures at home with the girls each day, ridiculously funny moments, and traditions of spontaneous nature.

I'm thankful for the gift of my friends...you who diligently care for your children, and constantly put others before self, and you who strive unassumingly to be godly wives. God's answered prayer, you are to me.

I'm amazed at those of you who battle sickness every day, yet find a way to smile and keep your eyes upward. You have learned that the greatest strength comes from God.

I'm blessed by our Grandmas: Nanette, Gram Jan, and Grandma Kris who teach, inspire, and give that extra hand whenever we need it.

I'm in awe of you who have resisted the temptation to wallow in fallen dreams, and even more, have turned those disappointments into peaceful contentment and been absolutely available to what God has in store for you.

I'm happy that I have such a warm-spirited dad, whose generosity to those he loves--and to those he is only slightly acquainted with--is sincere and far-reaching.

It is good to give thanks to The Lord!

Luke 2:49

And he said to them, "Why did you seek me? Did you not know I must be about my Father's business? Luke 2:49

At an early age He was about His Father's business. ...Can we not follow His footsteps, filled with His Spirit, to finish the task appointed, with heart aglow and hurrying feet, with strong hands and steady mind. With shield of faith and sword of the Spirit, with patience to run the race that is set before us? Can we not trust Him for grace that is sufficient, for strength that is perfected in weakness, for help that is sure, and for faithfulness that will not fail, in order that we may know the discipline of doing our duty?

-Victor Raymond Edman (1900-1967)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Apple Salad

I've been on a hunt for a good low-fat Waldorf Salad. Because of my new pledge to make-do with what I have in the pantry, I had to use inspiration from several different recipes, and then I added my own additions. I really like how it turned out, though next time I would probably leave the red pepper out (a bit too spicy):

Jen's Curry Waldorf Salad


1/4 C. nonfat yogurt
1 T. reduced fat mayo
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. salt
dash of red pepper
zest of one orange (about 2 tsp.)
1 C. chopped celery
1/4 C. dried blueberries
1/3 C. toasted pecans
2 tart apples, diced (about 2 C.)


Whisk together yogurt, mayo, curry, salt, orange zest and red pepper in medium bowl. Add apples, celery, blueberries, and pecans. Toss.

This reminds me another recipe...actually my favorite apple salad recipe, invented by Chelsea. I am taking a little bit of liberty and adding actual measured amounts, as the recipe she gave me has only ingredients listed, not quantity. She obviously assumes she is exempt from such tedious practices. I am using this exclusively without her permission. So don't tell her it's on here.

Chelsea's Apple Chicken Salad

Chop the following ingredients and place in a bowl:

1 Chicken breast, cooked
1 peeled, cored apple
1/4 C. walnuts
1-2 stalks celery
sunflower seeds (optional)
avocado (optional)

In a separate bowl, mix together salad dressing ingredients: Add to taste, though I did put recommended amounts.
about 3 T. mayo
a squirt or two of dijon mustard
a shake of dried dill
a pinch of salt
a dash of pepper

Add salad ingredients to dressing ingredients. Toss.

And now, feeling bad about using Chelsea's recipe without her permission, I am going to post a picture of her...a tribute if you will:

This picture is hilarious. It was taken at Candy Apple Orchard in Emmett. Notice Chelsea's finger (yes, the cut-out was unstable :o) and how cute are the girls, trying so hard to be big enough for the cut-out. :o)

What to do with all that Zucchini...

Our garden hasn't put forth a TON of zucchini, rather it has trickled in quite regularly--and for that I am grateful. I remember growing zucchini several years ago and was absolutely overwhelmed by the quantity of it. I REALLY love zucchini bread but can get rather uncontrolled when consuming it, so I tried branching out this year and have been pleasantly pleased with some of those recipes.

Last week, looking for a fairly lowfat bread recipe, I stumbled on a recipe for zucchini cornbread. The zucchini added enough moisture to allow for only 3 T of butter for the whole recipe! Also, I think the secret ingredient is molasses. But, shhhh. I didn't tell you that.

Zucchini Cornbread
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 egg white
2 tbsp molasses
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup shredded zucchini, with extra moisture squeezed out

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease an 8inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar.
In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, egg white, molasses and melted butter until smooth.
Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Stir until just combined, add the zucchini and stir to evenly distribute. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the bread springs back when lightly pressed.
Allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the bread to a wire rack.
Makes 9 pieces.

And last week, I roasted a bunch of our veggies: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, poblanos, jalapenos, and red peppers. Then Bri pureed them all and mixed them into the sauce and cooked up the meanest spaghetti I have EVER eaten! I am not an exaggerater when it comes to foods so this is a very sincere claim I have just made. The girls ate up without realizing they were consuming several different veggies at once!

And then my mom just sent me this great recipe...I haven't tried it yet, but thought I would post it anyway...my mom's recipes never need to be tested first. She is an awesome cook!

Zucchini Fritters

2 cups grated zucchini
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp oregano
dash of pepper
1 T grated parmesan cheese
2 tbls parsley
2 eggs
1 cup flour

Directions: Beat all together....fry in olive oil....like hot cakes.....drain on paper towels...Yummy!

Brian and I had a conversation about zucchini the other day. We are not in agreement about whether zucchini bread could be considered a vegetable or not. What's your opinion? Tell us in the poll so that we can resolve this once and for all!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hoods are Cool.

Or, so Holland thought. She was really excited that we both had our hoods on. So, we took a pic of it to commemorate the occasion. :O)

3 Little Pumpkins.


Meet Princess.

The newest addition to our fish tank. Holland went with Grandma to spend her birthday money. They made it home with this humongous plecostomus fish. He's about 14-15 inches long and I'm not sure our tank can create enough algae for him.....er...her. This thing looks ugly. And Holland named it Princess. How perfect.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This is what I heard when I rounded the corner. And this is what I saw:

But, let's go back to the beginning: two carefree girls are innocently walking themselves up the stairs to get their pj's on, when lo and behold, a mosquito is spotted. They come rushing back to us fearing for their very lives, sobbing and talking all over each other about the monster of a mosquito, waiting for them on the landing. In comes the hero: Brian, aka daddy. The Hero proceeds to back the mosquito in a corner, while the girls look on with a fascinating repulsion that only a couple of girls could muster up. The Hero proceeds towards me waving the monster in my face, while the girls excitedly trail behind. It's still alive and kicking. Then--- SQUASH. Sorry, West Nile fans...this one's contained.

So....the swashbuckling mosquito adventure ends with a motivational team huddle and an energetic shout of, "NO MORE MOSQUITOES!"

What a great dad the girls have. :o)

The Martians Have Landed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How Many Ways Can you Wear a Tutu?

We always have some kind of crazy fun when Grandma is here.Holland's not a big fan of the tutu, (or Tutut) as the girls call it, so she wore her ballerina headband instead. :o)

Our baby is Three!

Holland's birthday was so special! It's so amazing to look upon a sweet little life and know that God designed her Himself. Praise God for our little girl! She adds so much sugar to our family.

This morning, she awoke in her tent to breakfast waiting for her in the kitchen: mickey mouse and heart-shaped pancakes and bacon, or "steak" as she calls it. (notice the phenomenon known as "HMH", or Holland's Morning Hair) Her gift from us was her baby book. "My own book!", she squealed. And in that instant, the fact that it took me 2 years to finish it, seemed trivial. She loved it and she is at an age now that she can enjoy it! Mary and Chelsea came over and gave Holland a pretty little necklace and Holland has shown it to everyone who comes her way. Holland was especially happy to go on a lunch date with Brian and they came back with 6 new fish for our tank. She picked them all by names: the peacock cichlid, the zebra cichlid, etc. When she arrived home, Gramma Jan was there with balloons to answer the door! By noon, her day was already so exciting. After her nap, I made tostadas and then she opened more presents. Grandma Jan gave Holland a promise of an afternoon together and a sweet little card. She also got us these amazing vintage aprons that she found at an antique store. SO FUN. Grandma Kris sent some fun school supplies for both girls...which of course sent them squealing in random and sporadic circles all over the room! We go through school supplies in our house like a classroom of 30 kids go through school supplies. Uncle Mark and Aunt Tami and the cousins sent a bunch of Hello Kitty markers, papers, snacks, and fun stuff, too. They also got some jiffy popcorn and a movie that ended their day super well! The cousins made unique and sweet notes and pictures for the girls. All the kids have such creative minds and great handwriting!!!! I also saw Brian's eyes get their mischievous look when the girls opened their new water balloon launcher. You could literally see his wheels turning. I didn't even have to ask. So, Swannies...you better brace yourselves for a balloon war. :o) It was the cutest thing when Holland opened up the gift from Uncle Mauricio' and Aunt Anna...."OH MY GOODNESS!" She said, in a deadpan staccato-type voice. "A BABY!" Everyone who knows Holland knows her obsession with babies. Yes, we have confirmed that the obsession continues! :o)

Holland is happy to be three. Liv is even happier. This means that she is next in line to be a year older. She's been very impatient about having to wait for her birthday to turn five. Besides her recent devastating revelation that her friend Colin turned 5 before she did, and besides the fact that Holland's birthday (GASP!) arrived before hers did, Liv really turned out for the event and helped Holland have a great celebration.

Oh happy, happy day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Holland's Birthday Campout

We're not the typical campers, for a number of reasons. But tonight, on the eve of Holland's birthday, we are braving the four walls of our living room to celebrate our sweet 3-year-old's special day. The only live critters we have to be aware of, are the cichlids in their tank, and ferocious Chester, lying nearby. In the morning, after the girls wake, pancakes will be served to honor the birthday girl. Then she will be whisked away by a very fun dad, for a lunch hour of feasting and fish selecting. The girls are jumping on the air mattress (see...we're REALLY not campers :o) right now and Holland can be heard exclaiming, "I love this!" over and over again. I savor these times. Thank you, God, for making me a mom!!!!

Not Beyond Deception

Before becoming a mother, I always had the best intentions when raising my kids. I still do, though in striving to maintain good intentions, I think I may have stooped lower than I ever thought I would. I've done the unthinkable. I've deceived my children.

Yes, that's right. I've deceived. But wait...let me explain. Brian and I are really into eating healthy and do, for the most part. Our sweet tooths do get the best of us, but we are pretty good at keeping a good moderate handle on our sweets. I never thought mealtime would be an issue. "Our kids will love healthy foods because we do!" Or, so I thought. Now, I am wiser and know that kids do not come into this world loving broccoli. Well, at least ours didn't. So, we implemented a rule that we learned from Brian's sister, Tami. We insisted that the girls try 2 bites of everything on their plate. If the girls still don't dig the dish, then they don't have to eat everything. The last thing I want is the girls to grow up thinking they have to clear their plates. So, that rule works. But the 2-bite-rule wasn't quite cutting it in terms of the girls getting enough nutrients, so fearing that bribery was just around the corner, I decided I needed to get creative.

I saw a cookbook called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld a while back and when my former college roommate, who is expecting her first child (a girl...congratulations, Anna!!!), told me that she bought it, I decided to check it out of the library and try the whole "deception" route. I've actually experimented with this type of deception earlier in the summer. For special occasions, or just because we felt like baking, I would grab any type of cake mix and substitute all ingredients called for on the back of the box with a small can of pumpkin. The girls NEVER knew, and barely did I for that matter! With the pumpkin mixed in, I didn't feel so bad about loading the top with frosting. :o) But this cookbook really gets detailed. The concept is to puree' several batches of veggies in different freezer bags, and then pull them out as needed for a recipe. Last week I hid yellow squash in the girl's macaroni and cheese. I also made broccoli tofu bites. Both times I made Brian be the guinea pig. Now, the tofu bites were tasty in my opinion, but as Brian choked them down, he laughed at my hopes that the girls would eat them. To both our surprise, they did! But as soon as they saw the green under the breaded coating, they screeched on the brakes. After Brian tried the mac-n-cheese, he was surprised at how great it tasted and predicted the girls would eat it. He was right! It actually helped the texture of the cheese and made it very creamy and delicious.

So, today, with the help of my chefs-in-training, I have attempted the lemon blueberry muffins, with squash and flaxseed added. This was a HUGE hit with the kids and I loved the lemony, light, and not-so-sweet flavor. They were incredibly moist and oh so delicious!!! I think we have a winner! Please give a hand to my mini-chefs: Liv, Sydnie, Drew, and Holland. They are not only cute, but incredibly cheerful mixers, brave egg-crackers, and silly zesters. I really had to suppress my giggles when Liv picked out all her blueberries (Can you say, PICKY?). Little did she know that the muffin was loaded with squash, yogurt, and flaxseed meal...all things that could not be seen OR picked out.

Next week, I think I may try the burgers with mushrooms and zucchini, chocolate pudding with avocado, pink pancakes with beets, or blueberry Oatmeal Bars with spinach. I'm still trying to decide if Hot Cocoa with sweet potato sounds really good, or really bad. Please make your opinion known on my new poll!

Blueberry Lemon Muffins (with yellow squash)

1/2 C. brown sugar, packed.
4 T. soft margarine, chilled (trans fat free)
1 C. lemon yogurt
1 C. blueberries
1/2 C. yellow squash, pureed
1 large egg
2 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. flaxseed meal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking sode
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper cups. Beat the sugar and the margarine in a large bowl by hand. Stir in the yogurt, blueberries, yellow squash puree, egg, extract, and zest.

Add the flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir just until combined. Batter is supposed to be lumpy.

Divide the batter evenly among cups. Bake until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean when insterted in the center, 13-16 minutes. Turn the muffins out onto a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temp. for 2 days, or wrap individually and freeze up to a month.

I didn't have lemon extract, so we just zested a bit more and also juiced about 2-3 tsp. from the lemon and stirred into the batter. It still tasted deliciously like lemons!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Verano de Farwell

I am feeling homesick for summer already, and so took some pictures of our garden today so that I can look back and sigh, whenever I feel like it.

Back in March, Liv and I decided we wanted to grow some tomatoes and cilantro. So....having a husband and daddy who is incredibly generous and handy around the house, we went to Brian with our request for an 8X8 raised planter area. Not only was Brian equally enthusiastic about our green venture, he was apparently more so, since the 8X8 area actually became a 16X20 garden area.

Regardless of what you may think, it was NOT his attempt to mow less grass...he was just being very generous as always. really.

Right now we have an abundance of tomatoes and zucchini (finally) and peppers (yay!) But perhaps the most exciting find of all, while walking through the garden last Saturday, was my pet project of cross-pollinating the watermelon to create a seedless! I am so excited to see that it has finally started growing.

Isn't it cute?

The girls also got to have little garden spaces. Holland wanted a little space for her own: a bench and a "wall" of beans and a rock pathway, strawberries, and lots and lots of flowers. So...Holland's garden is a little full right now. :o)

Liv wanted lots of space to dig, (She can thank her Gramma Jan for this trait), and lots of veggies to pick. So in her space she has rocks, and a moss turtle, and strawberries and carrots and onions.

They both have had fun with our pumpkins and our sunflowers brought gasps from the girls every time they went outside. They were huge! I'm talkin' County Fair huge!

So...here are some glimpses:

Verano de Farwell!

The Subject of Teaching.

When teaching a new skill, clearly it is best to offer a variety of methods in order for your student to successfully learn information being taught. There are many ways to ingest information. For instance: auditory explanations, visual diagrams, showing examples through drama perhaps...and really, the list can go on and on. Thankfully, there are many ways in which we can learn. Some professors will even tell you that the best learning is done through travel. Or from making a personal connection.

It seems that Brian picked up on all this while he went to college. Or perhaps it just comes natural. Either way, I don't think it'll be long until Holland can ride her bike. :o)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What do you get when you have a fashion-conscious two-year, almost three-year old?

Galoshes on a beautiful, sunny, 80+ degree day.

But that's not all. I do think our little one is quite resourceful. I wonder if we can patent this idea:

Handles. :o)


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