Friday, October 31, 2008

How to Capture a Kelly on Film

No Jessie required (though always welcome)!

Downtown Orlando, checking out a new building on Church Street.

The wind is always blowing downtown.

You're taking my picture?

I'm so embarrassed! What am I supposed to do here?

Awww . . . gosh . . . gee . . .

See? Easy peasy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Food Report

I'll get to the chow in a minute. Here's a couple of words I've had to type this morning while commenting on other blogs:

guestert - I'm guessing this is a guest who brings dessert. Or maybe it's the dessert a guest brings?

merple - proof that there IS a word that rhymes with purple!

We've had four meals from Dinner A'Fare so far.

Horseradish Encrusted Cheddar Beef Burgers: The family loved these. I didn't get to eat them because of the cheddar, but there were yums all around.

Pretzel Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Cream Sauce: The pork cooked beautifully and the sauce was amazing. The kids were finding anything they could (bread, veggies) to scoop up the sauce.

As with any new endeavor, there's a learning curve. This is the first meal I assembled and JoAnne hadn't told me that I need to mush the ingredients around in the bag to mix them before I wrap them up. When I added the ingredients to the bag with the pork loin, I didn't mix it up well. Since flour was one of the ingredients, this resulted in part of the pork loin having a clump of flour. Next time I'll know to distribute the flour evenly and shake the bag before sealing or adding other ingredients so it will coat without clumps.

Cheese Ravioli with Parmesan Pesto: I should have known better - follow the instructions! I didn't really need to heat the parmesan pesto sauce, but I did, and the result was a gooey, stringy mess when the parmesan melted. Seriously! I had to wait for it to cool and un-melt before I could serve it with the ravioli. I'm laughing because I just now read the instructions thoroughly and I was supposed to mix the sauce with the ravioli and not serve it on the side.

The family liked this one, too. Three and a half raviolis and they were full, so there were plenty left for lunches. Could probably have company with this one without worrying if there would be enough. This was their first experience with pine nuts - many thought they were beans. Hah!

Beef Vegetable Stir Fry: Easiest by far, this one was extremely tasty. I love that the meat was already thinly cut into perfect sizes! In fact, I haven't had to touch raw meat yet (and we all know how much I love to deal with raw chicken! Shudder). This took maybe ten minutes to prepare in a skillet, so I started the rice ahead of time. Perfect meal for AWANA when Glenna and I need to get out the door with dinner already eaten, or else we'll be forced to wait until we get home.

Tonight, Jambalaya!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wake up, America!!!

I watched this video yesterday and I have been sick to my stomach. Are people really listening to what Obama is saying? I did NOT want to mention anything political on this blog, but if I can change one mind or solidify one decision, I'll risk it.

Forget religious views. Obama is anti-American. He will rob us of our American identity and universalize us all. Our hard-won freedoms will be ripped away and we will be right back under the hammer of tyrrany.


Please read this post carefully and with an open mind, then listen to the words from Obama himself on the video she included. Forget religious freedom if that's what it takes, and think instead about your rights as an American. This man is determined to take those rights away.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to Capture a Tyler on Film

Many of you recall this lovely photo, taken by Jessie's mom the night of the costume party.

I want you to note Tyler's cooperative pose, cheerful smile, and overall willingness to capture the moment for posterity. This is what happens when the lovely Jess is added to the equation.

It was a completely different scene at our house the day before. We hadn't yet found the bow tie and his hair wasn't slicked back. He had tried everything on for effect, though.

Notice his hand stretched out in frustration. You're taking my picture? I'm on the PHONE here. What are you doing?

Stop trying to take my picture already.

Look, if you'll just cooperate, I could
get a picture and then you'd be done with it. Stop telling me to stop taking your picture! I'm your mother.

Fine. How's this?
Ok, hold it . .. Ack! It's blurry! And that's not a smile, that's a grimace. Could we try one more time! Drat this camera, it's taking forever. . . .

No, I'm done, I'm heading upstairs.

Wait! Come on, Ty, just one more try.

Mom, I'm done.
I think if you just sit still for one second, I almost have it. Let me adjust the setting and then I'll have it. This will only take a sec . . . .

Ok, you're done. I see that. In fact, I'm done too. Never mind.

So, the secret to capturing a Tyler on Film is to have a Jessie nearby. And a better camera. One with a speed shutter or something, because he was smiling and laughing between each of these!

Monday, October 27, 2008

An A'Fare to Remember

As I mentioned in a previous post, Friday was the day to try out a new dinner option. My family gets so excited when I do things like this but their excitement is not without apprehension. Not all experiments work well!

I rose bright and early and made my way to Winter Park. My appointment was at 10:00 and I didn't want to be late. Their web site states that you can have 12 meals prepared within two hours and I wanted to see if it that was a true time estimate. Two hours seems a little too good to be true.

I was cheerfully greeted at the door by Lisa and JoAnne:

They're about to celebrate their 2nd anniversary at this location.

Joanne gave me a tour of the place and showed me where my specific items belonged. She helped me into an apron and hat. The hat was actually optional since all of their stations are equipped with "sneeze guards," which I guess would also prevent falling hair from landing in the food, but since I know I shed too much for comfort I opted for the hat. Plus, it was a cool hat!

I had my own space in one of the refrigerators, plus a checklist of the meals I had ordered. They gave me a pen to check off the meals as I prepared them, and you know how that appealed to the left-brain part of my thinking!

Each station has anywhere from two to three recipes. The assembly instructions are in the black frames above the station. Below each section are individual refrigerators (or freezers) for the meat portion of the recipe.
At the end of the station you can see the boxes for gloves and zip bags. Each time you move to another recipe, you either scrub your hands again or put on a fresh pair of gloves. I opted for the gloves since my hands get so dry with repeated washings.

There are tons of measuring cups and measuring spoons all ready. However, you don't need to grab any of these because the correct measurement is already in the food bin, waiting for you.
Kidney beans, Pinto beans, Stewed tomatoes, YUM!

After you stretch a zip baggie over a crock so you don't have to wrestle with the bag each time you want to add an ingredient, you follow the assembly instructions and put the meal together.

I deliberately kept the recipe out of this photo since they're copyrighted, but you have ingredients to add for each bag printed above these instructions.

When all ingredients are in their proper bags (each recipe has anywhere from one to three bags), you head over to the wrapping station.

Before you wrap the bags together, you put a label with thawing and cooking instructions (shown in this adorable sorter, above) face down on the wrap. Then you bundle them together and stick them on your shelf, change gloves, and head off to the next station. Lisa had to give me a "swaddling" lesson on the wrap, since I hate wrap and never use it. I began to get the hang of it, though, and was fine with it by the end of my session. So each meal is in zip baggies or a foil pan with lid, then completely (even the foil pan) wrapped in food wrap with the thawing and cooking instructions on top.

In less than two hours, here was my loaded shelf! There are more meals behind these that you can't see.
I suspect it would have taken me even less time, but we did get to jawing about public schools, home schooling, and private schools. The woman in the green shirt in one of the above photos was particularly passionate about teaching children to their own learning style, and who was I not to talk about one of my favorite subjects? She's a dental hygienist who was given a Dinner A'Fare session by her husband last Christmas. Since she works several days each week, her time at home is precious. For almost a year, she has come to Dinner A'Fare for her meals. It has saved her time, money, and effort.

I hope it's the same for us!

You bring a cooler or a laundry basket to your session to cart your meals home. The dental hygienist opted for canvas bags. Since it's just her and her husband, she was making the smaller portions (serving 2-3 people) while I was making the full portion (serving 4-6 people).

Whenever we arrive home with bags or containers, Jack thinks we've brought something for him. Hence, his nosiness in this picture. Don't mind the pizza box in the background. I was on a new adventure and wasn't about to cook the night before!

All twelve meals (plus one dessert) filled a little over half of my freezer. There's still room for ice cream, waffles, and other items.

The evaluation:

I am in love with Dinner A'Fare. I came home and told the girls, "I want this to work out for the rest of my life!" Himself had one of the recipes that night (Horseradish Encrusted Cheddar Beef Burgers) but the rest of us were off to different activities. Still, he pronounced them the best burgers he'd ever eaten, and when the kids had them for lunch the next day, they heartily agreed.

1. I was truly finished in two hours. My 10:00 appointment ended just before noon; I had the recipes finished and in my freezer at home by 12:30. Normally, by 12:30 on shopping day I am coming in with one load of groceries, grabbing a bite to eat, then heading off to another store.

2. I am only purchasing edible food. All the bones, fat, and other things normally tossed have been removed. I love this part especially! All the prep work is already finished.

3. The meals are fresh (or fresh frozen vegetables & pasta for soups, etc) and foods I would normally make. I don't have picky eaters who live only on macaroni, so this works for us. Since they purchase the meat fresh, you must order your food ahead of time (no walk-ins). The only pre-cooked foods were chicken and sausage for Jambalaya.

4. The meats (except where noted) are fresh, which means when I cook the meal at home I'm not simply preparing someone else's processed dinner. This is the way I've always cooked, so it won't be horribly different for my family. (I had one cousin exclaim once, "Wow, you've bought all ingredients at the store, not meals!" She was used to family members who prepared meals from boxes and cans.)

5. In fact, except for a rice mix and (I suspect) the alfredo sauce, all ingredients are fresh. I was able to view the exact contents of the rice mix at the store since they have everything available in case you wanted to purchase extra. It was a safe food for me, so that made me glad.

6. When you do the math, the meals are highly affordable. I calculated $4.08 per person per meal. I can't eat out at a fast food restaurant for that amount!

7. Did I mention all my meals for the next two weeks were ready and in my freezer by 12:30? That means I got to take a break and read some blogs!

When I did the 30 Day Freezer Cooking with CP, it took a meeting to plan the meals and make the grocery list, a day for shopping and prep, and a day to assemble the meals. A very long day to assemble the meals. Plus, we had a TON of cleanup. I had to keep extra dishes on hand to be able to freeze the meals in containers.

With Menu Mailer, I had to go over their grocery list, arrange the menu, visit two separate grocery stores, plus I had to put away groceries, prep the food, and cook the meal. I would also tend to buy ingredients that I ended up wasting (half-can of tomato sauce, a cup of broth, rare spice). At Dinner A'Fare, Lisa pointed out that I'm only purchasing edible food. No waste! There won't be a can of spices that goes bad in my cupboard, or leftover chili sauce that I don't really use for anything else.


1. While it's within our budget, it does stretch it just a bit, especially when they have side dishes and desserts available for purchase. I gave in on the Caramel Apple dessert! I told Himself that once some of these kids move out, we'll eat like kings for less money. :-) (Kids, I love you. I'm in absolutely no hurry for you to move out. Seriously.)

2. There's a glare on the assembly instructions that's a little irritating when trying to read. Hopefully, someone will invent frames that tilt downward to eliminate this. Plus, they're up a little high. I'm only 5'5"!

3. I would prefer broccoli florettes instead of large stalks for the Fetticini Alfredo with Chicken and Broccoli. It seems each family member will only get one stalk this way.

All in all, I'm waiting only for the actual eating of the food to give it my full endorsement. There seemed to be food and ingredients I would make myself, but an extra gourmet flair added that I would probably skip on my own. My whole family is looking forward to the dinners.

I signed up for another session. By doing so, I earned a free entree, so I'll be getting 13 dinners next time for the price of 12! They also gave me a punch card, so after I purchase 6 sessions, my next session will be half price! This is quite a deal.

If you'd like further details, I'd be happy to answer them. Just leave questions in the comments. I can tell you this: you don't have to make their exact menu to fill your order of twelve meals. In other words, you can make three of one meal, three of another, and then six separate ones if you like. It's easy and flexible.

Just like Himself. ;-)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Convention Inventions

My dear friends at Deeper Roots Publications overbooked themselves again. Many of you may remember what happened last year, when they asked me to do the convention (Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools) for them since they would be out of state. I was so amazed that they actually wanted me to do it again!

This year, our booth was half the size it was last year. I also noticed there were fewer vendors. In these economic times and with the gas prices being what they were just last month, I wasn't surprised that more vendors are being selective on the shows they attend. At this particular show, they don't allow the conventioners a lot of time to visit the vendors.

Here's my wee booth. The point of the show was not to sell books as much as it was to get curriculum samples in the hands of school principals and administrators. I handed out every sample Howard gave me! I was also able to sell some books, which was a good thing.

I love this curriculum, which is what makes it so easy to talk about it to browsers. I use it with Kelly and Glenna. It truly takes children beyond biblical knowledge and into spiritual application; there's no rote answers, either. They have to dig deeply into scripture and into themselves for the answers, with life-changing application!

Here's my ready and able convention assistant:

Who wouldn't want to stop and visit a booth with a smile like that, huh?

As I stated earlier, this particular convention doesn't allow the attendees a lot of time between sessions to visit the vendors, particularly when the sessions run later than scheduled. This gives us vendors plenty of down-time. Glenna and I did some exploring of the vendors closest to us.
This guy had all sorts of magic tricks, puppets, and this blue gorilla. He assured me it was a quite comfortable suit, with an actual fan in the headpiece! I'm not sure exactly what the purpose is, but he says the kids really get fired up with the blue gorilla. Maybe at pep rallies and stuff.

The owners of this both also did several magic tricks to people as they walked past, then they'd do them to their fellow vendors when we were bored which was 3/4 of the time.

The vendors right next to us had a very interesting display for child safety.
In the screen behind Glenna, you see pictures of several children. This company installs a security gate with a laser-reader. Each parent is given a bar-coded sticker (or card, if someone else needs to pick up the child) that they apply to their vehicle.

The vehicle passes the scanner, which allows the gate to open, and the child's photo is displayed to alert the school staff. They then send the child to the curb to be picked up by their parent. Clever! And yet, a little scary that this is what we've come to.

The guys had three miniature cars, a VW Bug, an SUV, and a Porsche (for the parents with a lotta moolah, whose children can afford to attend private schools evidently!). They had a Barbie doll posing as a soccer mom and stuck her in the VW. When I questioned this, they said Barbie is now eco-friendly and wouldn't think of driving the SUV or the Porsche. Right.

The vendor deftly demonstrated his remote skills by pulling the Porsche up to the sensor, which triggered the gate, and then driving around again. Then, he let Glenna try.

Glenna hit the fence. Not once, but repeatedly. She pushed it back about five inches.

I asked him if he wanted me to fix it - he said not until the insurance adjuster arrived.

Ha ha.

Funny Vendorman.

The booth directly across from me had a lot of scrap. I can't say the word I would normally use for such items, because in my family that word has been banned since my two-year old used it in a complete sentence.
I have never seen so much stuff in one place. Stuff without any function, except for maybe the ties and watches. It's a booth of teacher trinkets and there were two such booths at this convention, unrelated to each other, but with the same scraps.

Not surprisingly, this booth was constantly busy with customers. This picture is blurry because I was tryiing to take the picture inconspicuously.
They loved that stuff! They would pick something up, laugh at the cute "saying" on it, show it to five of their friends, then buy it for their principal or teacher friend, or whomever. I wonder how many "I'm not worried about my job, no one else wants it!" mugs a principal can use?

This is a choir from SomeSuch School. They looked so classy as they filed past.

This booth was the highlight of the convention. You make a certain number of baskets and win a free basketball! Those teachers stood in line to do this, cheering each other on. Then, of course, they had to see how many baskets in a row they could get. Then, of course, they had to break their previous records.

They actually install gym floors and basketball hoops. Everyone knows exactly what they offer since their booth was so effective!

The timing of this convention is such that there's one last general session before it ends, which should give the attendees one more chance to walk past the vendors. This is also the second day, and pretty much everyone has seen what everyone has. We're not allowed to break down during the general session, which is held in the same hall. Some vendors read the writing on the wall and scoot out of there before the last general session.

Emptiness to the right of me. Good-bye, remote control car guy!

Emptiness to the left of me: Good-bye, Mr. Auto Test Scanner guy!

The people who had the booth next to the Scrap Booth weren't even present during the convention. They set up their table and posters, put out a bunch of brochures, then headed for the pool I guess. They knew enough to shut down before the last general session, though!

That's when Mr. Scrap Booth Man made his move:
He started arranging the abandoned tables to his benefit, so their customers could have more room (his booth was as tiny as mine, so there was NO walking space). He didn't actually use the tables to dispay more scrap (that would have been illegal and the convention police would have shut him down), but he did have them ready to spread out for their break down.

Glenna and I weren't quick enough to get out before the last general session, plus we wanted to make sure we didn't sell Howard short by leaving early. We knew no one would come after general session (they're thinking lunch and cheese fries at this point!) so we ever so quietly started putting books away during the speaker and choir. The convention police never heard us.

I love doing these shows! As tiring as they are, I love talking to people about curriculum, home schooling, and books.

Thanks again for the opportunity, Howard!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Surprise

The Friday after my birthday in September, I found this in my living room:

My children had bought me a tree!

There is a tree down the street that I have been admiring for four years. I don't have anyone here to tell me the name (and none of them are sure of the correct pronunciation) but in the spring is a blaze of brilliant yellow.

I see them throughout our city. Every time I spot one, an "Oooh!" escapes from my lips. I can't help it! It's so gorgeous.

My Kelly is the one who not only remembered this, but took action. She pooled funds with her siblings and conspired with Himself to bring me the tree. Right now, it's planted in the front yard outside the kitchen window.

As much as I want to enjoy the coolness of fall/winter (Hah!), I also can't wait for spring!

My kids are waiting somewhat apprehensively; what if it's not the right one? Regardless, I love them for thinking of me specifically, reading my heart, and blessing me.

Himself blessed me with the beauty of blooms:
The color of these roses was amazing and they lasted for weeks. Here, they're fully opened.

Of course, there's always some joker in the family, trying to give Mom a heart attack:
I won't tell you who did it, but her name rhymes with Glenna.


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