Saturday, May 28, 2011

Panera-ish Creamy Tomato Soup

Last year I developed a passion for Panera Bread's creamy tomato soup. Ever since tasting it for the first time, I haven't been able to enter their restaurant without having a bowl. So intense was my love, that I wanted to duplicate it at home so I could enjoy it without the price tag. I found a copycat recipe online, but I wasn't crazy about it the first time I made it. It just did not measure up to the Panera standard. I tried it again with a few modifications, and now I think I can declare it wholly awesome. Even the girls eat it with apathetic tolerance (and that is saying a lot when we're talking about tomato-based foods and my girls).

Inexplicably, it was one of the foods which suddenly seemed abhorrent to me during the first trimester of my last pregnancy. So it was shelved for a respectful amount of time in order to purge my soul of all first trimester prejudices, and has only recently enjoyed a revival in our house. Pregnant women are insane.

Here it is in all it's oh-so-much-better-than-Campbells glory

The green you see is basil pesto stirred in (recommend!)

Here is the recipe:

4 cups crushed tomatoes
3 cups milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a bowl, stir the baking soda into the tomatoes. This will prevent curdling between the tomatoes and milk (Supposedly. Once on a particularly dare-devilish sort of day, I actually skipped this step and couldn't tell the difference. If you are a more cautious sort whose blood curdles just at the mention of the word "curdle" then you should probably do it just to be safe). Set aside. Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until translucent. Add flour and stir and cook onions for about 1 more minute. Stir in milk, bay leaf, sugar, and oregano. Stir over medium heat until slightly thickened. Add tomatoes and cook until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

A variation I really enjoy lately is to reduce the tomatoes to 3 cups and add 1 cup of pureed roasted red peppers (in their juice) for even more flavor. Yum! Sam's sells a huge jar of roasted peppers for $4.

What is your favorite soup?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Those aliens cannot be trusted.

Is there an alien writing bad checks from our account?
Where are my Reeces Pieces?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Remember when the Israelites were wandering around in the desert and were despairing of their lives and groaning because they did not know where their next meal would come from? And then God provided manna for them? And the ambitious and industrious among them set out to gather as much as they could possibly store in their tents so that they would be safeguarded against a drought in the provision? And God said "Hold on just a minute - that was not exactly what I had planned."

Well, we have been in a strictly manna relationship with God this year. And it is humbling! I would like to line my little storehouse and know what I'm going to eat tomorrow, the next day, and five years down the road too! God knows I have a tendency to cry out to Him in times of hardship, and then when things seem manageable, say, (by my lack of humility and prayer) "Its ok God, I've got this." How I love to think I did it on my own! How I try to present myself to people as if I've got it all together, and I don't need their help, or His daily sustenance. Just a pat on the head for being such a good girl will suffice. I have a strong desire to be "self-sufficient". Diligence and ambition are not bad, but self-sufficiency is an illusion of mine that God has had to tear down for me again and again.

This year has been no exception. Many of our best laid out plans have fallen through in one way or another, and we have been hit with sickness, pestilence, and plague in various forms non-stop since the beginning of the year. None of these things have been calamitous by any means, but they have been enough to take me regularly back to my knees. I love living life when it's comfortable. There are no deep questions to be answered, no huge tasks beyond the regular daily care of our household, no immediate financial anxiety, no uneasiness or tension in relationships, no parsley stuck in your teeth when you open your mouth in public, you get the picture. At least, I think that's what I love. I can't recall ever trying it out for long enough to be sure.

This last week we have had to rely heavily on the goodness of God, and He has provided for us through friends who have been so generous with their time and resources while our vehicle was out of commission (again). Tomorrow is slated to be the day that this most recent episode of insecurity comes to a close. I hope it does, but I hope we won't forget what manna tastes like.

firstborn of four

She's not even five yet
but already she has three impressionable siblings
looking up to her example.

An example, I am proud to say,
that I am happy for them
to follow.

I'm so glad God sent each of them,
and He sure knew what He was doing
when He sent her first.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Au Contraire

 Whoa-whoa-whoa! Didn't I just give you a bath?!

Me? I don't need a bath.

Au Contraire.

This wet bar has certainly seen a lot of action lately.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ye Olde Facebook Statuses

Eliza, mixing up children's songs: "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly....and Bingo was it's name-O!"

We finally had the appliance repairman out to look at our washer this morning since it has been taking forever to drain and spin. The culprit? Seven baby socks collected in a grimy, impenetrable mass in the drain. I wondered why Emeth had so many unmatched socks!

Contrary to popular belief, the presence of large amounts of candy in the house does not increase the happiness of young children.

Since we got our swingset, the girls get up about an hour earlier than usual and head straight outside to play. And Ingrid now calls our backyard "The Park".

Reviewing opposites with Theia. Did you know that the opposite of 'beautiful' is 'boys'?

Ingrid's naptime request: "Can I just sleep in my belly?"

Theia: "Mommy, I need to go get a q-tip for Emeth's ears. They are so dirty - I saw a booger in one of them!" (P.S. it was NOT a booger!)

Earlier Eliza came to us with a handful of hair, explaining that, her hair was too long so she cut some off. Should I put "Tangled" on the shelf for awhile?

Eliza shows drawing to Jessie: "Daddy, this is a witch, and she's mad." Moments later she walks to my side of the table and shows same drawing to me: "Mommy, this is you, and you're mad." --- Now hold on just a minute!

I love it when Emeth gets so excited, he just has to bite something.

And now we have come to that point in the evening where all the children are asleep and I can finally tackle that mental list I've been accumulating all day just for this moment. Except now that it's here, all I want to do is to go to bed myself.

I've been thinking about how much more productive I could be if my family didn't eat, or wear clothes.

"Eliza, do you like my haircut?" - "No, I don't like it cuz it's not very pretty, and I wanted them to cut it just like mine." If you ever want a candid opinion, ask Eliza.

It is very difficult to type one's status with one finger whilst one's 5-month old is trying his hardest to rip one's glasses from one's face.

Eliza has been repeatedly measuring my height with daddy's measuring tape and informing me that I "weigh" "forty-nine ten".

Well, THAT was an epic diaper change.

I love it when Eliza asks me "What on earth are you doing, Mom?!"

At a neighbor's garage sale Eliza stood with her hands behind her back, keenly observing the very outgoing elderly gentleman in the wheelchair for some time before politely inquiring "Sir, are you old?"

"Miss Bev! You have sandals like Jesus!" But I actually don't think Jesus ever wore crocs.

Theia, intently watching the "I am 16 Going on 17" part of The Sound of Music says, "I wish I could be 16. When am I going to be 16?" - Not for a VERY long time, little girl!

I actually enjoyed handwashing two days worth of dishes on our patio this morning. It's too nice a day to waste it on a bad mood. However, I will welcome the appliance repairman with great enthusiasm tomorrow!

I hate sorting through Emeth's drawers. Packing away all the clothes he will never wear again is a very melancholy task; and such a frequently recurring one too!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Salad for Studs :: Asian Bok Choy Salad

Want some?

Yes. You do. Trust Me.

I saw the original recipe for this salad a few years ago on another blog, and took note of it, but did not actually make it until a few weeks ago. We frequent a flea market in town that sells produce for amazing prices. Most of the vendors are asian, so bok choy and other vegetables not ordinary to our western diet are very cheap and plentiful there. By the way, I am so grateful for produce markets like this. It would not even be possible for me to cook the way I like to if I didn't have access to these places. 

We were hooked from the first time I made this salad. I didn't take pictures until the third time I made it because I was too eager to start eating it to stop for a photoshoot, and of course there are never any leftovers. 

The original recipe was here, but I did make a couple of small changes to it (most notably the addition of fresh ginger) which I think makes it tastier and a bit healthier.
Here is my version:

For the dressing, in a glass jar, mix together 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1 Tbs soy sauce, and about 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger.

In a frying pan, lightly saute one package of Ramen noodles, 1/4 cup slivered almonds, and a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds in about 2Tbs olive oil. Drain on paper towels. (For a gluten free version, just substitute rice noodles)

Coarsely chop 8 to 10 leaves of bok choy and 1/4 cup red onion.

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Makes 4 large helpings.

I know you might be questioning the studliness of this salad since it does contain sugar. But my philosophy is that studs can use a little sweetness here and there.

Happy Monday

This morning we awoke to a day that 

is delightfully cool and refreshing.

We are told that the 

high for today is

81 degrees,

which is considered

 a cold front this time of year.

Definitely a good day to be outside as much as possible.


Oh, and our dishwasher is broken.

I guess it is the perfect day to use our patio's wet bar.

Happy Monday Everyone!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Still Twitching

 You know what this is, of course.
Don't you?
Alright, then I'll explain.

 This is a picture
of a little girl,
dressed as a bride,
who just tried to catch a lizard,
and succeeded.
But not quite.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Life is a Beach (Free Florida Fun)

Obviously you can't talk about Free Florida Fun without mentioning the beach.

I am sure I have been to the beach at least twice as many times in the two years since we moved here than I had been in my entire 26 years of previous life. We are a beach loving family. And you can't hardly beat it in the "bang for your buck" department. Especially now that we live only 15 minutes from the beach.

Okay, yes, you do have to buy swimsuits and beach towels somewhere along the road. An umbrella and a few chairs don't hurt either. But when you consider how much you aren't spending on heavy winter coats, boots, hats, scarves, gloves, snow shovels, and ice melt every year, These purchases seem rather small in comparison.

We like to go there an hour or two before sunset when the crowds have thinned and it isn't quite so hot. This also saves money on sunscreen since you don't have to use as much, if any, by this time.

Trekking across the expansive desert to the water's edge.
Jessie is balancing a huge rubbermaid planter 
containing all of our beach toys, towels, and other necessities
on top of the double stroller.
He's  kind of a stud.

(If you are too embarrassed to walk next to us in this getup,
don't worry, the beach is very wide)

"Cheeeese-Peanut Butterrrr!"
is Eliza's mugging phrase of choice.
I'm not sure why. It's actually very unhelpful.

Once there, you can frolic in the waves 
with reckless abandon

or build a sand castle with Daddy

using the rubbermaid planter as a base.

You will probably have to pose for some pictures
before you leave.

And you might be wrangled 
into holding a baby for awhile.

C'mon. You know you wanna.

Total Cost: Well, ok, this beach does have metered parking. $3 (plus gas and blah blah blah).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Life would certainly be a whole lot simpler if everyone in our house enjoyed eating like this as much as Jessie and I do.

But I'm afraid if I put this plate down in front of one of the girls, they would seriously question whether their mother actually loved them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Bouquet

We made a simple gift for Mother's Day this year that is great for sentimental grandmothers. I even got  a little sentimental myself while I was making it.

I saw the tutorial for these simple no-sew flowers over on MADE and decided to do a little more of a personalized take on it. I am big on saving cute dresses that the girls have destroyed (and therefore rendered un-donate-able) simply for using as scrap fabrics. I wasn't sure that they would come out looking "gift-worthy" when I started, but I ended up really liking them, especially after putting them in their cheery yellow vase (anchored with floral foam). I will definitely make more of these.
(Tip: I used kebab skewers instead of the wooden dowels used in the tutorial because I had a big package of them. The pointy tips were great for sticking into the foam. I also did not think it necessary to cover the bases with felt.)

Below are Eliza and Theia wearing some of the clothes
used for the bouquet. Ingrid has worn these dresses too,
I just don't happen to have any photographic proof.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Beach Bum(bo)


She's been my mom all the way from here

to there,

and into the great unknown.

Constant, devoted, full of faith.
That's my mom.

Happy Mother's Day

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Marinated Oven-Dried Tomatoes

I think we all have a few things that we have to watch ourselves over, or we'll get carried away in praise of them and start sounding kind of like Frank Navasky in "You've Got Mail" you know, the one who is so obsessed with his typewriter.

For me, this is one of them. My affection for this recipe borders on mania. I could extol their virtues for several pages worth, but in the interest of avoiding overkill, I will limit myself to the barest facts.

They are delicious.

They look like this.

They are super easy to make.

The recipe is here.
They are awesome tossed with any pasta and chopped walnuts, but that is only one of many applications for these tomatoes.

People who eat them are cool.

In short, I like them a lot, and you should too. Seriously.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Adolescent Alligators and the Adorable Angels who Admired them.

We have found so many things to do with ourselves that cost little to nothing since moving to our new town, that I decided to share a little series called Free Fun in Florida. This is partly aimed at tempting friends and family members to visit us down here in our little corner of tropical paradise, the sooner the better. Not least amongst these inducements are the little angel-faces pictured below that will accompany you on all these delightful (and economical) excursions.

Meet your tour guides:

This is your senior tour guide. Her vast knowledge of every topic
will be sure to enlighten you.
Tour Guide No. 2: Listen closely or you may be confused into thinking that "dragonflies"
are actually called "american flags" or vice versa. Watch out, lizards she hands you
may not actually be alive.

Tour guide No. 3: If you are on the timid side, stick close to Ingrid.
She will be sure to warn you if there is any hint of the slightest danger.

But don't expect her to share her favorite safe perch with you.

Are you ready? Let's go!
Tucked away in the middle of a suburban jungle,
where you'd least expect to find it,
and only 15 minutes from our house,
there is a large preserve area where you can see all kinds of
Florida wildlife at very close range.

We have been here once before, and on that occasion we very easily spotted several full-grown alligators and myriads of turtles and fish. On this visit we found no adult alligators, but scores of "toddler" alligators. The cute little tykes swam around so cunningly, snapping at minnows and grinning sardonically at passerby. Still sporting their baby stripes, but looking in every other way like miniature versions of their parents, they may be small,
but they most definitely are NOT cute and cuddly.

This guy was about the size of a miniature yorkie. Precious, isn't he?

Alligators are an animal that I just can't summon up any affectionate feelings for.
But as a transplanted Michigan girl, they still hold a certain fascination for me,
and the novelty of seeing them in our own back yard
(No, not literally - Calm down Aunt Robin!) still hasn't worn off.

Does this seem a little ho-hum to you?
Don't worry, you're in good company.

Total Cost: $0

Eat your heart out (before the alligators do).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

ye olde facebook statuses

Eliza, proudly: "Mama! Ingrid can say FORK now!" - "Oh! Um.......good." *that is not the way either of them pronounce that word*

"Ingrid, pull your pants up!" - "No, I'm good."

Theia (with her hand on the doorknob): "Hey Mom! I'm going out into the world to pick flowers!"
Ingrid to Jessie: "I like your head, Daddy!" I guess she doesn't want him to feel left out of the hair compliments.

In the quest of some peace and quiet this morning, I sent the girls outside to play, except for Theia, who told me "No, I'll stay inside with you Mom, so you'll have someone to talk to." Can't really say no to that now, can I?

I think the girls need a lesson on relations. Within the last 5 minutes Theia has asked whether she came out of my belly or grandma's belly, and Eliza has told me a story about "Uncle Grandma."

I have become very adept at undoing buckles one-handedly, due to the fact that Ingrid thinks it is her sacred, un-shirkable duty to make sure that all buckles on Emeth's bouncer, swing, or carseat are properly fastened at all times, baby within or not.

Theia: "Can we please take a nap?" - Me: (surprised) "You sure can!" - Theia: "I actually meant can we have a drink of soda." Nice try.

Theia to Jessie: "Yes, oatmeal sounds GREAT for a snack! You're such a good snacker-boy!"

Eliza: "Mama! I just found a big frog in our backyard, and it's a MIRACLE!"

Emeth is very annoyed with me because I can't stop coughing while he's nursing. I didn't know a 2 month old could glare like that

I am now listening to the girls play "hide in the sink" as Eliza calls it. I'm glad they aren't playing it literally.

Staring at my sleeping son and wondering what he'll look like when he grows up.

 Eliza: "Sometime I want to go somewhere where we can see bats and pigs - cause I've never seen bats OR pigs!"

Eliza: (during the pink-eye epidemic) "Aren't my eyes beautiful when they're pink?" I hate to break it to her, but no. Pink does not always equal beautiful. (Longest 10 days of my life, by the way)
What Jessie and I hear from Ingrid many times a day: "Daddy/Mommy, I so like you. I so so SO like you."

I'll admit, it's been a really rough week with sickness and whatnot. but Ingrid is now potty-trained, and Emeth laughed today, so it hasn't been all bad :). (Note: feb 17, Emeth’s first laugh)

Theia was all giggles tonight after Emeth burped right in her face in response to her wishing him a good night.

 People think children are expensive, but really they've saved me so much money in what I didn't spend at yard sales because I couldn't pull over and browse with all of them in tow.

I love it when Emeth smiles and kicks his little feet in excitement when he sees me crossing the room to pick him up out of his swing. It's nice to be so popular.

Eliza: "Actually Mom, I DO want to go for a walk; I LIKE for my legs to hurt!"

I so enjoy hearing Theia say "tony-nails" that I can't bring myself to correct her most of the time.

Theia to Jessie, giddy with excitement: "I get to help Mommy clean my bathroom!"

Just watched Emeth roll from his tummy to his back unassisted and on a flat surface for the first time. Now he's trying to roll back with his whole might and main. (Note: Mar 6, Emeth rolls over. 3 months exactly)

Eliza: (To my sister at the end of her visit) "Are you going to stay here for a little while, and then go home?" Rachel:"Yes, I will go home this afternoon." Eliza:"I think that's a good idea. I would like to sleep in my bed again."

Theia (singing): "It's a worry-freeeee......economy - Hakuna Matata!" It's easy to forget lyrics when you don't know the meanings of half of the words...

He's really cute, but I wish he would GO TO SLEEP!

One of these days, while I'm checking facebook with him draped over my arm, he's going to puke all over my keyboard. I just know it.

At 14 weeks Emeth already weighs more than Ingrid did at 8 months. (15 lbs)

Theia: (thoughtfully) "I really don't know who I'm going to marry when I grow up." (pauses - then, emphatically) "But, I would LOVE it if I could marry Uncle Warren."

Emeth seemed pretty out of sorts tonight before the diaper change in which he managed to "fire hose" me. That cheered him right up.

My girls are so creative in their production of messes. today we've even had a "cleaning mess" created when Eliza took a rag, got it sopping wet, and proceeded to clean her mirrored closet doors with it. just follow the trail of puddles...

I don't think anyone can get bigger smiles and laughs out of Emeth than... Emeth. That boy loves the mirror.

Why do children universally take one bite out of the middle of their peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and continue biting straight down the middle until the contents are smeared halfway back to their ear lobes?

After being pestered repeatedly I said to Eliza in exasperation "No, Eliza, we are not having that tonight - how many times do I need to say no before you will believe me?" She hesitated, then answered timidly "Um...three?" I guess I should make a note of that.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

You could say that.

Lazy eye?

Yeah. You could say that.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bathing Beauties

The other day I enlisted Theia's help so I could snap
some bathtime pictures of Mr. Emeth.

She decided to try her hand at bathing him while she
was at it.

That boy still loves the mirror.

Afterwards, Theia thanked me profusely for
letting her help me. I sure hope this lasts :).