Friday, May 27, 2011

Deliciousness: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Wade is not a man of daring cuisine. He's not a man of spices, onions or vegetables. He's not a man who gets excited when I try new recipes.

However, he loves the spicy chicken tortilla soup at the Ground Round. This boggles my mind. And, even more mind-boggling, he asked me to try to find a recipe like that one.

So I did. It has kick. It has chunks of tomatoes. It has chilies. Did I mention it has kick and large chunks of vegetable? It does.

And he loves it! We've had it twice now, and both times he scooped up seconds. I am absolutely delighted, because I also find this soup delicious. None of the boys care for it, but after politely eating the small amount we require, they can be excused to make themselves sandwiches, leaving more for Wade and I!

So here's the recipe as I make it (notes about the original are at the end).

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 14.5-oz cans chicken broth
(or about 4 cups of water + four t chicken bouillon)
1 10-oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (we use mild)
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 16-oz can refried beans
1/2 c corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 1/2 c cooked chicken breast, chopped or shredded
1/4 c masa (corn flour, find it in the mexican section)
tortilla chips
grated cheese
sour cream

Dump chicken broth, both cans of tomatoes, refried beans and corn in a medium pot. Stir together and bring to a boil. Mix masa with 1/2 c water, and add to pot, along with chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes. When serving, top with cheese, crushed tortilla chips, and sour cream if desired.

Notes: The original recipe called for two cans of tomatoes with chilies, but we're not that daring, so I use one can with chilies and one without. If you love spiciness, use both cans with chilies! The original also called for adding 2 t fresh chopped cilantro before serving, but cilantro is outrageously priced here, and I didn't think Wade would like it, so I omitted it (although I think it sounds wonderful!). Also, the original did not call for masa, but I love what it does for chili, and I thought its effect on this soup would also be delightful, and it is.

Hope you enjoy this as much as we have!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Said the Toothpick

"Aren't you cold?" I asked Levi as he ran around outside in his shorts and sandals, while I snugged my coat a bit tighter around me.

"No. I think it's because of all my blubber."

School Year in Review

The 21 Balloons, a fictional account of a man who, while attempting to live in his hot-air balloon for one year, crash landed on the Island of Karkatoa barely pre-eruption and discovered a fantastic treasure of people and jewels, was the boys' hands-down favorite book of our 2010-2011 school year.

On Friday I got out all the books we read, studied and worked from this year and asked the boys to tell me their favorite and least favorite parts of the school year. Besides The 21 Balloons, which I read aloud to them, they also gave high ratings to:
• Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day -- I loved this science book also! Amazing facts, vivid pictures, fun experiments and hands-on activities all centered around the wonderful water world that God made.

• Ginger Pye -- another read-aloud, though I was somewhat surprised they recalled this as a highlight. While I enjoyed the story, there were a lot of tangents that didn't really apply to the plot, and sometimes the action stopped for quite awhile for these tangents.

• And The Word Came with Power -- this true story about a Bible translator living in the Philippines was also one of my favorites. Although I wondered whether the power and activity of the spirits would be a bit intense for the boys, they were captivated through and through.

Isaac also listed The Aesop for Children as one of his favorites. Luke and Isaac gave points to both of our history texts. And miracle of miracles, our struggling reader Levi said he liked almost all of our readers, both the independent reading and read-aloud books!

Of course there were items on their "did not like at all" lists too, but overall I feel like this was a good school year. We learned, we laughed, we sang, we read, we prayed.

Our books for next year have been arriving, and they make me all excited for next fall already, but for now, I'm going to revel in a school year completed and enjoy the break of summer!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Commencement Exercises

The school year ended with a clatter -- the clatter of books hitting walls, steps and floor, that is. Our quirky end-of-school observance stems from a scenario from my past in which I, in a fit of frustration, chucked my math book down the stairs. It was hugely satisfying.

One day when Isaac was feeling particularly fed up with school, I told him the story of my throwing the book, and I told him that at the end of the school year, when his workbooks were completed, he, too, could choose one volume to throw down the stairway -- but he had to do better than me, because he had to wait until the end of the school year. I think that this knowledge, the anticipation of debasing a source of aggravation, has encouraged him through the more mundane and obnoxious parts of the school year.

The day came and each boy was allowed to choose one book (a workbook -- NOT a textbook!) to hurl down the stairs with as much gusto as they could muster to celebrate their graduations. Levi and Luke chose their math books (children after my own heart), while Isaac choose his grammar workbook.

Thus concluded the 2010-2011 school year and the commencement of summer vacation.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Flower of Rarest Bloom

In the ten years since I received a Dieffenbachia maculata, I have never once seen my original plant nor any of its offspring bloom... until now. I wish I knew what inspired this particular plant to do what neither it nor its ancestors before it have done (at least not in this home). Maybe it wanted attention? Maybe the celestial soils aligned properly? Maybe it thinks it's dying? Maybe I'll never know. But I hope I don't have to wait ten years to see this again!

An Ode to Spring in North Dakota

No children are at the park today.
I think they all have blown away.
And yet the swing goes up and down,
And voices whistle all around.
Breezes caper here today.
Clouds watch over the wind at play.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Confession Time

My husband found me out this week. He discovered a gallon of apple cider vinegar under the bathroom sink and asked, "What is this?"

So I came clean. He already knew about part of my sordid hair care routine, but I fessed up completely and tried not to let his skeptically arched eyebrows deter me from disclosing the truth.

And this is the truth.

Not only have I been washing my hair with a baking soda and water mixture for the past half a year, I've also been conditioning with an apple cider vinegar and water solution for about a month.

I confess. When it comes to my hair, I've become one of those crazy all-natural anti-shampoo hippy people.

But I'm really not crazy!

The baking soda takes away the scalp itchies that have plagued me for years, and it reduces my frizziness significantly! And the apple cider vinegar makes my hair shiny and soft! And they're both cheaper than traditional shampoo and conditioner! How am I supposed to resist that kind of treatment?

Okay, I know you're looking at me like I'm a nut job and might just belong in a mental care facility, but before you lock me up, let me give you the details, so that someday when the truth comes out for all the world to know, there will be record that I was not completely off my rocker way back in the spring of 2011.

I begin by preparing my two solutions:
- one quarter cup of baking soda with one cup of water in a bottle with a squirt top, like a regular drinking water bottle (I've tried various concentrations of this mixture. Too little baking soda doesn't eliminate the scalp itchies; too much baking soda dries out my hair)
- one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in one cup of water

I take both mixtures into the shower with me. Once wet, I shake the baking soda mixture well, squirt it all over my head and rub it in vigorously. I don't worry about getting it all down the length of my hair; I just focus on getting the scalp clean. Rinse well.

Next I drizzle the vinegar mixture over my head and all down the length of my hair until all the hair is coated. I let it sit less than a minute and rinse it out well. At this point it already it feels smooth.

And that's it.

Go ahead and take me away if you must. But I feel better just getting that off my chest. Even if you are all looking at me oddly now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Meet Dug

We're putting in a new basement window. The hole is dug.

The boys like Dug.

Dug is lots of fun to play with.

At least until someone falls in, whacks their head on the concrete wall of the house and gets a doozy of a goose egg.

Oh well, Dug was fun.