Saturday, January 24, 2009

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

I am a confessed blog junkie. I love clothing, home decorating, news, gossip (horrible I know), and cooking. So there are a number of blog sites that I take time out of each day to read. And one of my favorite cooking blogsites (although she does so much more than just recipes) is the Pioneer Woman Cooks at Ree Drummond does such a fantastic job taking photographs and documenting each step in her cooking process and posts terrific recipes regularly. So if you haven't checked her site out and you enjoy spending time in the kitchen, I highly recommend that you take time to peruse what she's got out there.

When I am having a really bad day, there is nothing more that I want to do then spend hours standing in my kitchen cooking and baking. Part of what I enjoy about being at home during the day is the fact I can stop whatever I am doing (most of the time) and go to town creating something. Yesterday was not a good day in the Hawkins' household, so needless to say I went through my pantry to see what I had on hand and got busy baking chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies.

And then to make the day even better, I tried out one of Ree's newer recipes for cauliflower soup - I followed her recipe step by step but I also added some corn and some cheese to my version. We enjoyed the soup for dinner last night alongside stuffed baked potatoes. It was delicious! I am a major soup person in the cold months so I am always game for trying new recipes for warm soups. For some reason canned soups just don't do it for me. And as an added bonus, this recipe made enough for at least three more meals!

As much as I love being in the kitchen most of the time, I try and stay out of it over the weekends. So cauliflower soup will be dominating our dinner table over the next couple of days!

Wiggles Fan #3

I don't know what it is about my kids and The Wiggles. If you aren't familiar with The Wiggles Australian children's group you can read up on the website: Basically, it is a four man group that sing and dance and have many catchy songs that have reverberated off my walls off and on over the past six years or so.

Ryan started The Wiggles fascination and was a loyal groupie until he was about four or so. He had the "Murray" guitar, the "Murray" doll, and about every Wiggles video and DVD I could get my hands on. He even had little Wiggles fan friends that got together and danced while watching Wiggles movies.

I actually thought Emma was going to skip the entire Wiggles phase entirely because she didn't show any interest until she was around two (trust me, it hit Ryan very early in life!) But she eventually noticed The Wiggles and we made our second concert rendezvous to see The Wiggles in person (complete with roses for Dorothy the Dinosaur and dog bones for Wags the Dog.)

Now it is Avery who has found The Wiggles. Avery doesn't care much for T.V. and that is just fine with me. But lately when The Wiggles show comes on Disney, she gets so excited and starts jumping up and down. So I pulled out one of the old DVDs from years ago and put it on.

She danced, she clapped, she ran circles around the room. She loves The Wiggles! The funny thing still holds Emma and even Ryan's attention!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Day!

So it did snow! A little bit. A really tiny little bit. More of a dusting, but it is snow in Lexington, SC! The elementary school and the girl's preschools were closed today so once we all got up and dressed, out the door we went to grab a few pictures of the kids playing in the snow.

Here is Emma making a snowball. I know you must be thinking, "Wow, I can't believe you let your kids play in a blizzard like that!"

I know, I know. We live on the edge.

It was actually a strain to find the snow since there was so much grass still popping through. Not exactly snowball fight worthy.

But that didn't keep the kids from having fun on their snow day.

Here is a shot in a neighborhood. Now you can see why the schools and local businesses were closed today, can't you. It's very dangerous driving around on streets like these!

Since we really don't have to deal with much snow or regular cold weather, we really don't have much in the way of gloves, scarves and hats for the kids. I just had to mix and match the little that we did have and try and fit it to them. Avery refused to wear the gloves because she was still nibbling her bowl of cereal. You can see the the pink gloves cast aside behind Ryan!

Here is the three of them about to do some damage to the winter wonderland. Watch out!

A shot from the backyard. It snowed pretty steadily until around noon today and then just tapered off. It was gorgeous while it was coming down. A nice treat for those of us who don't get to witness actual snow very often.

And of course, Avery, still eating cereal in the cold. She really didn't seem all that impressed considering this was her first experience with the white stuff.

We didn't last long outside and eventually ventured inside for some hot chocolate and marshmallows. Isn't that what snow is really about anyway?

A chance of snow and white bean chili

Yesterday afternoon I hit the grocery store while Michael had the day off and was at home with the kids. We were pretty much out of all the staples - bread, milk, juice, eggs, cereal and so on. It was time to buy some groceries. While I was going down aisle after aisle, I kept hearing the word "snow" come up in conversations around me. Our T.V. hadn't been on all day and I really had no idea what the weather was supposed to do, so I finally asked the bag boy as I was checking out.

"So there is a chance of snow?"

"Yes, we are supposed to get two inches tonight. We have been super busy today with everybody making a mad dash for milk and bread."

So that was the point I got clued in. If you are from the South then you understand that this is a BIG deal around here. We rarely get snow, especially the kind that actually sticks to the ground. When the weather announcers are calling for a chance of snow it is almost like a major hurricane is coming. Everyone runs out to the grocery store to stock up on milk, bread and necessities. I'm not really sure why, but they must think that they are going to be stuck in their homes for quite awhile.

Sure enough, I turned on the news and they were calling for an 80% chance of snow during the early morning hours. It wasn't long before all of the school districts in this area cancelled classes for Tuesday which got the kids rather excited.

And it was the perfect weather situation to simmer together a warm pot of white bean chili.

We enjoyed this chicken loaded chili with a side of corn bread last night and it was tasty. Served with a sprinkle of cilantro and a side of sour cream and Mexican cheese, all I can say is "yum!!!" I am using the leftovers for burritos one night and you just can't get two meals any easier than that. Check out the recipe below:

White Bean Chili

3 cans great northern beans (drained and rinsed)
5 cups of chicken stock
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 cup diced onion
2 small cans of diced green chiles
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts shredded
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1-2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
Cilantro leaves chopped for garnish

Drain and rinse beans and place in large pot with chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. In a saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and chiles and saute for 5 minutes. Add chile mixture to pot with beans. Add chicken, cumin, oregano, pepper, white pepper, and red pepper flakes. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 1.5 hours. Garnish with cheese, chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.

Ryan lost his first tooth!

Ryan has had several loose teeth for the past few weeks now and as his permanent adult teeth have quickly grown in behind the baby teeth, still nothing was happening. We figured he just may have a double set of teeth for awhile.

But finally after much pushing, pulling and obsessing over ways to make that first tooth come out and trying a variety of removal tools - apples, tweezers, etc. - we were finally able to pull it out!

Ryan placed his tiny baby tooth in his Tooth Fairy box and placed it under his pillow and sure enough, the Tooth Fairy made her appearance surprising Ryan the next morning.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My enemy - the evil glucose test!

As most of you who read my blog are already aware, we are expecting our fourth child at the end of July. We are very excited about meeting the newest member of our family and the kids have remarkably been very upbeat about sharing Mommy and Daddy a little more with a new baby.

That said, for anyone who has been pregnant before, you know what I am talking about when I say the words "glucose tolerance test." Usually given around the 28th week of pregnancy, the woman is given a nasty carbonated substance that kind of tastes like Orange Crush that has been sitting out in the sun all summer. You have around three minutes to drink that sucker down and then get to wait around the office for an hour before having your blood drawn. During that hour, you pray you do not have to rush to the restroom to upheave as your stomach is doing flip flops (and quite often the baby too) from the nasty sugar rush.

I was fortunate enough to pass this test during my first two pregnancies. And then along came Avery. Not only did I fail the one hour test in the office and had to go to a special lab to have the three hour torture test completed, I also failed that test as well. And I became a gestational diabetic.

For me this turned out to be a good and bad thing. On the positive side, I had to watch every little food and drink product that went into my mouth so I didn't gain too much weight during my pregnancy with Avery. And I certainly would not have enjoyed wearing all of those cute maternity halter tops nearly as much had I been larger.

On the negative side, I had to draw blood four times a day and check my blood sugar level to make sure I was within my allowed limits. By the end of the pregnancy my fingers were raw, cracked and bleeding without even using a needle from all of the constant poking. It wasn't fun, but I can't complain too much. For people who are born with or develop diabetes they have to endure this lifestyle each and every day with no end. Mine ended the day Avery was born.

And then I became pregnant again and of course the first thing that I think of is, "Hmmm, I wonder if I'll be diabetic again?" During my first doctor's visit, the nurse checked with a doctor and confirmed that they would want me to take the glucose tolerance test during my next visit in order to regulate it earlier this time.

Well, the visit was last Tuesday morning. I braced myself for the worst and have even been stocking up on whole grain items, sugar free treats, etc to be prepared. I was not told to fast for the one hour test and I did something different this time that I don't think I had ever done before. I ate before I went to the doctor's office. Generally, I would starve to death until after the visit which of course makes the glucose drink set even more horribly on one's stomach!

I had a piece of whole grain toast and some sugar free Jello to start the morning and went in and drank down my nemesis - Mr. Orange Glucola. After sitting around for an hour and witnessing not one but three different ladies receive negative results on their glucola tests, I knew I was bound for the same three hour test.

But somehow, I passed. And when I heard the nurse say, "Congratulations, Ms. Hawkins. You passed," I just hightailed it out of there and quickly ran to the check-out in case she had made a mistake. Yea!!!! I have persevered this time. Unfortunately me and Mr. Glucola have another duo scheduled for 28 weeks. Until then...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The South Carolina Children's Museum

As I mentioned in my previous post, we gave Ryan the opportunity to choose what special family activity he would like to do last Saturday in honor of his birthday. He didn't have a party or anything extravagant this year, so this seemed like a good idea to make his birthday special.

Ryan decided he would like to visit the South Carolina Children's Museum. I have never been to any other children's museums so I have absolutely no comparison, but I think ours is very nice and there is enough there to keep the kids preoccupied for a good portion of the day. We don't go very often so it is kind of a special thing when we do visit. Plus, it isn't cheap for all five of us to pay admission. Avery is no longer free - bummer!

The first exhibit you come to is a life-size firetruck that the kids can climb in and "drive." There is even a little corner where you can pull on real firefighter clothing before you board the truck. The girls had no interest in getting dressed up as firefighters but this is one thing Ryan always insists on doing each time we visit. So we waited a good half hour around the fire truck until he was in proper apparel to fight fires, save cats from trees, etc. One thing Ryan is not is quick in any shape or form!

He got to the fireman pole that he had just watched a two-year-old girl shimmy down seconds earlier, contemplating whether or not to try it. In the end, he just stood there at the top deciding it would just be too risky!

And then it was on to the farming area of the museum where the kids can do a variety of things like sit on a tractor, milk a cow...

Pick peaches (or in my kid's case, throw peaches at the tree)...

And plant a variety of root vegetables...

The museum always has special exhibits that they change out every three months or so. Right now the special exhibit is "Snowville." They had a room where kids can throw "snowballs" and slide down an ice fort while real snow falls from the ceiling. It's kind of cool for a state that rarely sees snow.

They had a special corner dedicated to penguins and the two girls saw those and immediately ran over. Once Emma went for one of the giant penguins, Avery was right there with her trying to carry around a penguin that was bigger than she was.

They also had a special little playhouse with a fake fireplace burning inside and this little play kitchen, rocking chairs and a bunch of girly stuff. The girls enjoyed baking and eating muffins.

And Emma took good care of the snowman that lived there, tucking him in the cradle and rocking him to sleep.

Ryan even had the chance to play ice hockey...

Then it was off to do some grocery shopping. They have this very cute set-up with all sorts of dry goods, baked goods, fresh produce and meat products and even frozen foods organized in a life-like grocery store. Complete with child size grocery carts and check-out stations, all three of the kids got busy.

As you can see Emma is an impulse buyer like her mom! She had difficulty balancing her pie and cake selections on top of her other purchases - but made it work one way or another!

Ryan hit up all of the junk food - pie, cake and ice cream to name a few!

And then you have our youngest, thriftiest shopper. As you can see, Emma is still lugging her full cart around in the background searching for anything she might have missed as Avery quietly checks out her sub sandwich, wedge of cheese and a couple of doughnuts.

On the second level of the museum, they have many educational exhibits where children can learn about healthy foods, taking care of their teeth, bones and so on.

The giant game of Operation is available for kids to try to remove the bones without setting off the buzzer. I, of course, played a round before Emma and Ryan took turns!

Emma did a very thorough job in surgery. She didn't care if the buzzer was going off constantly, she was going to get that bone out one way or another.

Here is a shot of Emma inspecting the poor dental victim and Ryan raids the storage drawers for any loot. I think he came up empty handed.

Happy 7th Birthday Ryan!

Ryan's 7th birthday was a week ago today - January 8th. Thursday's are always an extra busy day for us between the girls' preschool, Ryan's school, and Emma's dance class in the evening. On top of that, Michael had to work much later than usual last week so all three of the kids were dragged along to dance class. Let me tell you, that is not anything I would wish on my worse enemy. Headache, headache, headache!

Anyway you do what you got to do, so off we all went and so Ryan's special day was made. I had told them that if they behaved during dance class, we could go eat inside McDonalds. INSIDE!!! That is a big deal for my kids because it is such a pain to drag them all inside and try and get them to eat when they just want to run around and play on the new play equipment. But it was Ryan's special day.

Unfortunately, Ryan did not behave during dance class so there was no visiting the inside of McDonalds that evening. We went through the drive-through and were told that they ran out of apple dippers to boot. Ryan doesn't eat French fries so this was not good news.

Once we got home things got better and we were able to enjoy our gourmet birthday meal and celebrate with cupcakes and ice cream.

And he opened a few birthday presents. Notice Emma had to put her tiera on for the special occasion.

So that was last Thursday, his actual birthday. But then we had another little celebration for him on Saturday. Ryan decided he would like to visit the Children's Museum (I will share some pictures from that next) and we were able to meet up with Papa and Nana and Grandma and Grandpa for lunch that afternoon. Once we got home, Ryan got to make another wish, enjoy another cake and open a few more presents.

He chose a Batman themed cake this year.

And here he is blowing out the candles once more. All in all, I think he had a good birthday! It is hard for me to believe I have a 7 year old son - but I'll just keep putting that out of my mind. No need to dwell on the fact that I'm getting old - ugh!