Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Insane? Perhaps...

Who would have thought when they planned the 2nd grade day at the Henry Doorly Zoo on the 31st of March that it would snow. Seriously. But, being a die-hard supporter of Sam's education (and wanting to use that good 'ole zoo pass one last time before it expires today) Josh and I joined up with Sam's group and braved the intermittent snow and frigid wind to take in the indoor zoo exhibits.

The aquarium is fantastic. No matter how many times we go, we are astounded by the underwater walkway, the sharks, sea turtles, and rays. And my personal favorite, the sea dragons.

Just me and two of my favorite guys. And a bunch of gorillas.

This picture pretty much sums up how yucky out it was today. The Henry Doorly zoo is immense. It is popular. And it has so many visitors that it shares a parking lot with Rosenblatt Stadium which is the site of the College World Series. We usually HIKE to the IMAX zoo entrance. But not today. That's my car. In the space next to the handicap spot. Right in front of the entrance.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Southwest Chicken with Black Beans

We have had a rockin' weekend. Jag girls dinner. Working on the house. Watching basketball. Smack-talkin' Bracketology. The Fightin' 55th's Annual Birthday Ball. But of course, no pictures. So I thought I'd share a wonderful recipe that is from a collected recipe cookbook from our time in Great Falls. Enjoy!

Southwest Chicken with Black Beans

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small can diced green chilies
1 clove crushed garlic
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. lime peel
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb. chicken, cup into strips (to add a little zing and save a little time, I use the Tyson Southwest already cooked chicken strips.)

Cook chicken (if using raw chicken), onion, chilies and garlic in oil until chicken is cooked. Add beans, lime juice & peel and tomatoes. heat until hot. Serve with all the side stuff (sour cream, cheese, tortillas) or by itself.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pinewood Derby

Sam participated in his first Pinewood Derby last night!! He has taken to Cub Scouts in a huge way... Scouting was invented for kids like Sam.

Sam decided that he wanted to do a cheetah car (surprise, surprise) and he and Tony spent several weekends cutting, sanding and painting his little car to look like a sleek, dangerously fast cheetah.

I pretty much just stayed out of their way...except for supplying the paint and giving a few pointers on painting the cheetah spots.

Although he didn't win any races, Sam had a great time and is already formulating a plan for next year's car...I think I overheard at breakfast something about a Great White shark...

Way to go, Sam!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Play Date & Mama Guilt

After Josh's nap and Anna got home from preschool, we met the Ogdens and went out to the Community Center on base for a play date. I'm not sure how little Jake escaped my camera, but here are a couple of shots of Lucy, Anna and Josh playing on the giant purple hippo.

Thanks for the fun time and adult conversation, Holly!!

And PLEASE tell me that this is a sight that you have seen at least once at your house. PLEASE tell me I'm not the only one to occasionally use Clifford to babysit/brainwash/induce coma in my kids for a half hour while I make dinner...Please??...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cashew Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry

This recipe from The Pampered Chef's Casual Cooking Cookbook has a lot of steps, but they are easy and this recipe is such a crowd pleaser at our house I had to share. I don't know about you, but I am so craving crispy fresh veggies and a good thunderstorm or two.

Cashew Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry

1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
dash of ground red pepper

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside; mixture will not be smooth.

Vegetables and Chicken:
4 cups broccoli florets
3 stalks celery, cut diagonally into 1" pieces
3 green onions with tops, cut into 1" pieces
2 tsps. finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger root, divided
4 tsps. vegetable oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, pressed and divided
2 pkgs. ramen noodles (any flavor)
1/3 cup cashews or peanuts

Cut all vegetables, place in separate bowls, and set aside. Cut chicken into 1" pieces. Heat 2 tsps. oil over high heat until hot. Add chicken, 1 tsp. of the ginger root, and 1 clove pressed garlic. Cook and stir 6-7 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove from skillet; keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium-high and heat remaining 2 tsps. oil in same skillet. Add broccoli and celery and remaining ginger root and garlic . Cook and stir 2 minutes. Add green onions and continue cooking 2 more minutes or until veggies are crisp-tender. Return chicken to skillet. Stir in sauce ; bring to boil and remove skillet from heat.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to boil. Break ramen noodles and add to boiling water (discard seasoning packets or reserve for another use). Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally and drain. Stir noodles into chicken mixture and sprinkle with cashews. Serve immediately.

And after 3 days, I finally have a voice again...:-) Have a great week everyone!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Passing Along the Love

First of all, I'm embarrassed that it has taken me so long to pass along these kind awards from some sweet blog friends from January and February! They were so appreciated, and now it the time to share the love!!

This first award is from Ginny over at Mom of 2 Dancers. I'm supposed to come up with five addictions and then pass the award along. So. Just five? Okay, top five.

1. My new Stampin' Up scallop edge punch.
2. Raw almonds.
3. The Wicked soundtrack.
4. Fountain diet Dr. Pepper. (that one never changes)
5. McIllece Family NCAA Basketball Bracketology.

And I'd like to pass along this award to:

Eloise from Weasel's Journey. I love her so much that I'm actually passing along an award to her...even though she is currently in Hawaii. She's lucky she's so great! Check out her annual Valentine's party she does for her friends...

Also, Jenni from Nest to Keep. She has a wonderful mix of home decorating ideas and wonderful insights that I always love to read.

And last, but not least, Miss Jeni from At Home in Georgia. I'm lucky enough to know this lady in real life and she seriously is like a little Energizer bunny. She has endless energy and an endless supply of great ideas. I will, however, never forgive her for taking me rollerblading for the first time in Washington 10 years ago and then giggling uncontrollably when I kept falling.:-)

This next one is from Ruth Ann from My Remodeled Nest. I'm supposed to pass this award on to bloggers who show great attitude and gratitude. Easy enough...there are some great ones out there!!

Laurel from Ducks in a Row...LOVE her Grateful Sunday posts.

And Jessica from Variety is the Spice of Life. We were actually roommates in college but had lost touch and reconnected through blogging. Just read a little about her family...she is an amazing seamstress AND mother.

And lucky you don't need a voice to blog. Because I don't HAVE ONE!! Hopefully, with a good night's sleep, I'll be back to my jabbery self tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Feeling Happy & A Little Wicked

One of the ladies that we visit teach each month has become a dear friend and a sort of surrogate grandmother to my kids since our families are so far away. And each year, she sells daffodils as part of a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Well, as much as I love Joyce, I couldn't tell her no. And I knew in my heart that I was consigning those poor flowers to a slow and tortuous death. Joyce delivered them this past weekend and I carefully read the instructions (although that has never seemed to help my black thumb in the past) and placed the closed daffodils on my dining room table. But over the course of the past few days, they have all blossomed. And they look so very beautiful. And they have made my heart happy.

And this weekend, Megan brought up her CD soundtrack to Wicked for me to load onto my iPod in preparation for going to the musical when it comes to Omaha in May. Here is a trailer for those of you who are not familiar with the story. Just hearing the music makes me feel happy...AND a little Wicked!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Italian Cream Cake & Selection Sunday

When my mom was visiting last month, she found this recipe and left it for Megan and I to try. It is different than anything we have tried before, and was a HIT with the entire family.

Italian Cream Cake

1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup shortening
5 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (3.5 oz) can coconut milk
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix buttermilk and soda, let stand for a few minutes. Cream together sugar, butter and shortening. Add egg yolks one at a time. Beat well. Add milk mixture and flour alternately, a little at a time. Add vanilla, nuts and coconut and beat well. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Carefully fold into batter. Pour into 3 well-greased 9" cake pans and bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack. Frost with cream cheese icing. **(I only have 2 9" cake pans, so we just used two. The cake doesn't rise much, so three would make for a higher cake.)**

Cream Cheese Icing

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 lb. bag powdered sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat well. Use to frost cake.

And today is the day. The day the trash talk, bracket mania and late night basketball strategizing begins. After a year at our home, will the McIllece Family Bracketology trophy stay with us?? Or will it be ripped from Anna's cold.dead.fingers. Stay tuned...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Just a quick note today with some EXCUSES as to why I've been such a terrible blogger (posting, visiting and commenting) over the past week. By no means is this an exhaustive list...just the high points/low points.

Last night was our ward's quarterly enrichment meeting. I'm so blessed to work with my dear friend Liz (who is the enrichment counselor) and an awesome, enthusiastic committee. The theme was "Boot Camp for Strong and Immovable Women" based on this talk by Julie B. Beck and focused on three areas of faith, family and relief. It was a huge success...we had almost 50 women attend!!

It's dinosaur week at Anna's preschool! Isn't this a darling idea using a paper plate and tissue paper to make a volcano?

But the biggest reason for my lack of computer time is spelled J.O.S.H.U.A. Poor kid...he has had a nasty cold that finally led to a double ear infection AND a double eye infection. He looks just terrible, and I'm sure feels even worse than he looks! He has been attached to my side and a touch whiny. Although I don't blame him at all.

And in every spare moment I can scrape up, I've been humming away on my sewing machine. So many new babies are on the way, and so many gifts to make! I've also been working on my homemade gifts for my five lucky winners...

Have a great weekend everyone. Mine will be sprinkled with family time, a nice long run, and Grey's Anatomy. Megs is coming up, too, so look for some killer new recipes early next week!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Our Emergency First-Aid Kit

One of the goals that our stake leaders made for 2009 was for each family to become more self-reliant. So, as we made our family goals for the new year, we decided that one Monday night a month for family home evening, we would focus on something that could help our family be more self-reliant. Now we already have an emergency first-aid kit. Granted, most of the stuff in it expired before Joshua was born. So we tackled that project first.

There are many lists of emergency first-aid kits available online, but we followed the one available here at providentliving.org. With the kids' help, we put everything in our Rubbermaid box, taped basic emergency first-aid directions to the inside cover, and made sure it wasn't too heavy for Sam if we needed him to grab it from the linen closet in a hurry. This isn't something we will ever use, except in the case of an emergency.

Now, I don't think the world will end tomorrow. But my church leaders, who I love and trust, have asked us to have some things available in case of extreme emergency. As we were talking to the kids last night, we also touched on something else: being prepared in an emergency can also bless the lives of those around us. For example, our sweet neighbors who the kids love so much. Or the wonderful lady across the street with 3 little ones and a husband TDY until September. Our first aid kit could not only be of assistance to us, but to them also.

Yes, this will be a blessing of obedience, in one way or another.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Circle "Thank You" Card & Mrs. Incredible

Last night, on a rare solo visit to Archiver's, I was inspired by a really fun card idea and so I used my Christmas gift card from the Duvall family to purchase some things to duplicate them. They are actually two circles of card stock stapled together and then I put the clip with the ribbon on it over the staple so it is covered. They're a little small, but I wanted them to fit into a normal sized invitation envelope. And I LOVE those Pebbles sentiment rub-ons...so easy and cute.

And on a side note, Tony and I took all three kids out to the field house on base today to let them run around, kick soccer balls, do push-ups and sprint themselves into exhaustion. On the way out, one of the children (who shall remain nameless) suddenly said:

Mystery child who shall remain nameless: "Hey! Our family is like the family in The Incredibles! Daddy is Mr. Incredible, I'm Violet, Josh is Jack-Jack and Sam is Dash."

Me: "Cool! So what does that make me??"

Mystery child who shall remain nameless: "Oh! You're ASS-LASTIC girl.

I'm not even sure if I should be offended by that.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Irish Blessing Pin

About a month ago I found this little bag of twelve wooden shamrock shapes at Hobby Lobby for $1.99. Since then, I've been brainstormig what exactly to do with them. I like to make pins for the ladies we visit teach in March...something cute because green can be SO unbecoming...even on St. Patrick's Day!!
Today I did a base coat of an avocado green and sanded and antiqued the shamrocks. When they were dry, I used the head of a pin to make dots in khaki, black and ivory in a little grouping of three all over the green shamrock.
Then I tied on a little gingham ribbon, glued a pin back on, and added it to a notecard with one of a whole collection of Irish blessings I found here.

I think I might make some more for my girlfriends with March birthdays...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Kryponite

Every great superhero has its nemesis. The itch they don't dare scratch. The one thing that challenges them to the very limit of their desire to do good.

Luke had Darth Vader.

Tom had Jerry.

Batman had the Joker.

My friends, meet my nenesis.

Whose brilliant idea was it to deliver Girl Scout cookies during Lent?

Just curious.


Monday, March 2, 2009

The Price of Beauty

Anna seems to be the perfect mix of sass and cuteness. She loves to be pretty and is actually quite tolerant of the whole "beauty equals pain" equation. Except when it comes to her hair. Her sweet little curls that she inherited from her daddy (lucky girl) seem to snarl every night, no matter how carefully we brush or how much conditioner we use. The other morning, she wanted pigtails...the queen mother of ouchiness. She asked me to be very careful and I told her I would try.

One pigtail, several shrieks, and one teary little girl later, Anna whips around, looks me straight in the eye and says,

"Is that the best you can do??"

Why, yes, it is little girl. Yes it is. That's the unfortunate price of beauty.

This photo of Anna was taken by the FABULOUS Heather D. White from {unwrapped}.