Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chili weather

I love chili. However, I don't have a lot of time for extra cooking. I have a quick, easy way to make chili at home.

First, I brown a pound of ground chicken in a large pot. You can of course use beef, but I prefer the chicken. After it's done, I add some homemade chili seasoning (recipe below).

It's supposed to be 2 Tbsp/lb, but I forgot & used 4 this time. Still delicious.

 Next are the beans.
 Add 4 cans of beans, with liquid. This time I used 2 each dark and light  kidney beans. Sometimes I use four different kinds just to mix things up. Also add a 6 oz can tomato paste.

Stir well, and let simmer for a bit to combine the flavors.

This is tasty with a little sour cream and cheddar cheese on top. This freezes well, also. I'm the only chili eater in our house so I divide the batch into individual containers and freeze to take to work for lunch.

BTW, the 4 tbsp of seasoning was a bit much...

And as promised, here is the chili seasoning blend I use:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fantastic books for kids

Psst... Christmas is coming! I know how hard it is to decide on gifts to give the kids on your list. "Do they like this character? What if they already have this toy? Will their parents hate me if I give this to them?" You can't really go wrong with books, though. To help, here's a list of books that have been kid-approved in our family.

Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic
This story, as the long title says, is a true story that happened in 2010. The little dog became stuck on a slab of ice in a river and floated out to sea, where he was rescued. The book is written for ages 3-5, and Sophie adores it. She loves to read about the little dog who is saved and finds a home.

Little Pup books
The collection is for Kindle, but all three books can be purchased separately as "real" books as well. Sophie loves these books! She especially loves "Why? Because I Love You!" It's such a sweet story of Grey Bear telling Little Pup why he has to do all the no-fun things like eat healthy foods, take baths, and dress warmly. It's also a great series because Grey Bear can be a grandparent, adoptive parent, traditional parent, or guardian. There is no specific term given other than love. Kids in all kinds of families can relate to these book, and I really love that.

Mr Popper's Penguins
This is a great book for ages 5-10. Sophie hasn't read this one yet, but Emma loved it. It was first published in 1938 and is a classic. Mr Popper is a house painter who dreams of traveling to the South Pole. Someone sends him a penguin, then he gets more, and more. The Popper family has quite the adventure.

The Hundred Dresses
Another classic, for ages 6-10, that Emma loved. Wanda is bullied by her classmates because she wears the same dress to school every day. She insists she has a hundred dresses, they just all look the same. Her classmates learn a hard lesson from their bullying.

Divergent series
I think most teenagers like this series - and the first book has already been made into a movie. To be honest, I haven't read these books but they come highly recommended by both teenagers and many parents I know. Teachers, too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


It's November, which likely means your Facebook feed is filled with "30 Days of Thankfulness" posts. I have tried this several times, but I always end up forgetting a couple weeks in. This year, I'll just do one list of thirty things.

1.  My husband
2. My daughters
3. My parents
4. Our house
5. Netflix
6. Caffeine
7. Comfy bed
8. Heat
9. Cheaper puppy food (Angus eats a lot)
10. Food
11. Lower gas prices
12. Temps in the sixties in the forecast
13. Books
14. Warm clothes
15. Laughter
16. Fun times together
17. Friendship
18. Internet
19. Insurance
20. Nature
21. Trifexis
22. No pull dog harnesses
23. Employment
24. Hugs
25. Music
26. Extended family
27. Memories
28. Sparta
29. Creative outlets
30. Education

Friday, November 14, 2014

The struggle of writing

For a four years now, since I first learned about NaNoWriMo, I've been working on a fictional story. My timing seemed to be off that first attempt, since I had an infant at home, along with our preteen daughter and a full-time job. An active family just wasn't conducive to the writing commitment that needed to be made. Although I didn't complete NaNo that month, I've still worked on my story off and on over the years.

And it's hard.

I know every writer shares this struggle. But I have so many questions that I just don't know the answers to! Most of my writing is simple - I have an idea, and I write until I've exhausted that idea. My problem this time is it's not finished and I have no idea where to go next. I have no outline, no set length, not even a title.

Image via

And titles - how do people come up with titles? I have a hard enough time naming blog posts, much less a novel. The pressure!

I know the advice - just write. Write and get the words out and edit later. That is a huge struggle for me, since I self-edit constantly. I don't move on to the next passage until the one I finished is perfect. In school I was the same way. I didn't write first drafts of essays and revise, I wrote the finished work (and made an A, too, darn it!). Drafts are strangers to me.

Another huge issue with this piece is that I have no idea what happens next. I can't even decide what direction this will take - happy ending? Suspenseful? Is Mr X telling the truth? Is it a ploy? I have no idea. I will decide one way, write out a few more pages, then decide later I don't like that. I've added major characters and loved the new direction, then weeks later hated it and scrap that whole section. I feel directionless, like I'm being blown about by the winds of my own rambling thoughts. I just want to grab one, feel like "this is it!" and run with it.

Tell me - can it really work that way?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A few of my favorite things that help me function

Cue the music... these are a few of my favorite things! Not really when dogs bite or bees sting, but when I have places to be and things to do, these are some of the things that get me through my day.

I start my mornings with The Skimm, a daily (M-F) email newsletter that hits the highlights of the news. It gives you a summary of major news stories, without the extra pontificating you get on many other sources. And it's not stuffy, either. Important news, easy and fun to read - what's better? Subscribe easily here.

Quite a while ago, while telling a friend at work about being stuck in a horrible traffic jam on the interstate because I didn't have the news on that morning, a man overheard us and told me about an app for smartphones called Waze. He has been my hero! The Waze app (it's free btw) has a real-time, user updated map that combines navigation if you need it, real-time traffic issues, even things like police, missing signage, red light cameras, and debris on the road. I have a long commute to work, and Waze makes it easy for me to see if alternate routes will be needed or what time I will reach my destination.

When I'm trying to keep up with our family's activities, events, and work schedules, I use my Tools4Wisdom weekly planner. It's similar to the Franklin Covey system, but for me, easier to use. Not only is there a weekly calendar, with each day marked off from 5 am to 11 pm in half hour increments, but each week has space to list goals and other priorities for the week and steps to complete them. Each month has a monthly overview calendar, and a page to list goals for each month. There is also a place to record yearly goals, and action steps to implement them. It even comes with its own bookmarks!