Monday, May 23, 2011

Grilled Pizza And Other Outdoor Stuff...

Hey friends!  How was your weekend?  Mine was fabulous!  It truly was an ideal weekend...beautiful weather, and lots of outdoor time with my three favorite people.  We spent most of our time doing yard work, planting our garden, playing in the sand and observing nature. 

The irony is that we live just a few minutes from downtown Des Moines, but you wouldn't believe how many critters have taken up residence in our backyard!  We have a birds nest with three tiny little guys camping out just outside our kitchen window, and a few steps from our backdoor, our sweet dog discovered a bunny nest with five baby bunnies inside (not to worry, no bunnies were harmed in the discovery, and mama bunny is still caring for them).

It's like Animal Planet 24-7 around here.  The little Mr. and little Miss have been getting lots of lessons in nature!

*Sorry, no baby bunny pics...I was too afraid to disturb the nest
again after getting them all safely home and out of Stella's reach.*

When the weather turns warm, we begin eating most of our meals outdoors and spend more and more time grilling.  When we grill we like to do our entire meal from entree' to dessert on the sense in wasting good coals!  That's right...coals.  We're sort of grill snobs and prefer charcoal/wood over gas.  To avoid that nasty lighter fluid flavor, we use a charcoal starter (which looks sort of like a chimney) to get our coals good and hot.

Our favorite thing to grill is pizza!  I love how the pizza gets a nice smokey flavor and just the slightest bit of charring on the bottom of the crust...mmmmmm...delish!

*a kid pizza, an adult pizza, and a banana boat*

My favorite pizza on the grill is a combination of Italian sausage, red bell pepper, red onion, mozzarella and just a bit of goat cheese.
I love how the cheeses get all melty and gooey.

The key to grilling a great pizza is to make smaller pizzas.  I start by spreading out the dough on a lightly greased sheet of foil (olive oil) then top with sauce and toppings.  I recommend using thinly sliced mozzarella over the prepackaged shredded variety.  The powdery anti-coagulant doesn't allow the cheese to melt as well.  This is probably more of a personal preference.

Grill for about 5-10 minutes on the foil, then remove the pizza from the foil and continue grilling just to allow the bottom of the crust to crisp up a bit.

If you haven't grilled a pizza, you need to!  It's really quite easy and pretty much any toppings will do.  The only topping I did not have much success with was grilled chicken as cooking it ahead of time and then grilling the pizza made the chicken a bit tough. 

The recipe for both the pizza dough and sauce are from 101 Cookbooks and are just about the easiest and most delicious I've found so far!

Do you want it?  Okay, you twisted my arm, I'll share it with you...

Neapolitan Pizza Dough
4 1/2 C flour
1 3/4 tsp salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 tsp yeast
1/4 Olive oil
1 3/4 C Cold water

*Stir together dry ingredients--add oil and water, mix with mixer (fitted with dough hook) until ball forms.  Dough will be sticky. Lightly oil bowl to prevent dough from sticking.  Dough is ready to use after resting approximately 10-20 minutes.

5 Minute Tomato Sauce
1/4 C Olive oil
*1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 
1/2 tsp Sea salt 
3 medium cloves of garlic (crushed)
1-28 ounce can of tomatoes
*Zest of one lemon

Combine oil, pepper flakes, salt and garlic in cold saucepan.  Heat pan medium-high just until garlic becomes fragrant.  Add tomatoes and heat a couple of minutes then adjust seasoning and add lemon zest.

*I leave out the pepper flakes so it won't burn little tongues and I do not add the lemon zest.  I also let mine cook much longer than the recipe calls for.  As it cooks, I mash the tomatoes with a potato masher so the sauce thickens as it cooks.  I cook mine uncovered about 15 minutes stirring and mashing every so often.

Oh...what about dessert you say?  Well, if you like it messy, then get some s'mores going before those coals run cold!  Or, you can do banana boats like we did:

Banana Boats
1 banana (peel slit from end to end --do not slice the banana)
chocolate chips
mini marshmallows
crushed graham crackers

pull the peel slightly apart and fill with chocolate chips and marshmallows and top with crushed graham crackers.  Grill until chocolate and marshmallows are melted and all is warm.  So yummy with vanilla ice cream!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Um Yeah...I'm Grateful...

Grateful is when your handsome hubby walks in the door at 10:30 pm all tired and ruffled from his flight after being gone for four days. 

Grateful is getting your couch buddy back, because frankly who wants to watch a movie when you can't turn to the person next to you and exclaim, "Did you just see that?" or, "Wanna know what I think is going to happen?" (to be clear...the answer to that question is always a firm "no!" when watching a movie with B). 

Grateful is getting your parenting partner back, because let's be honest friends, you don't have quite as much pull when it's bath time and the wee ones are running naked circles around you chanting, "No tub! No tub! No tub!"

Grateful is watching him go in and kiss those sprawled out, hanging-off-the-bed, sleeping kiddos on their foreheads and re-tucking them in. Yeah, I'm super grateful B's back!

B just got back from a short trip to Orlando (I know, so rude to go without me, right?).  Even more rude are the awesome pictures of him hanging out on Cocoa Beach during some down time after meetings, while we put up with cold/rainy weather in Iowa.  Oops...I'm losing my grateful momentum here.

He stayed with an awesome host and hostess, who showed him around, gave him a list of some must-see attractions, and made him feel at home.  Here are some of his pics:

Gorgeous right?!  Especially the last pic *smile*  Not to worry...B called often and said the trip just wasn't the same without me there sharing everything with him...I love him.

Friends, I'd post pictures of how my weekend went, but A) Brent had the camera, and B) Well, my weekend wasn't as glamorous...although the kiddos and I ate out every evening for supper, this place being one of my favorite haunts...good food and kids eat free on the weekend! 

Otherwise, I cuddled with the kiddos, we played at the petri dish mall play place, cleaned, had a garage sale with a good friend (only made 21 bucks *wop, wop*), and sat by my cellphone like a 15-year-old waiting for B to call.

It was a great weekend with my wee ones, but I'm so grateful B's back!

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kindergarten Roundup...

No.  No.  No.  I am in total denial.  I can't believe my little Mr. will be in kindergarten in the fall.  Well, that is, I didn't believe it until he and I attended kindergarten orientation today.  As we walked along the sidewalk in front of the building, hand-in-hand, I just couldn't help but glance down at him. 

He looked nervous.  He looked like he was trying to muster up the courage to walk through those double doors.  If only he knew his facial expressions matched my insides.  I didn't want him to walk in those doors and be labeled a 'kindergartener'.  I wanted him to be two-days-old, lovingly placed in a carseat, bundled in a sweet blanket, with a giant paci in his mouth, about to go home with a couple of nervous, new parents. 

Instead, we were walking through those doors, when he grabbed my hand a little tighter and motioned for me to bend down.  He whispered, "Mommy, I don't have to go to kindergarten...I could just stay in Miss M's class.  I could stay in preschool...that would be okay."  He nodded his head, affirming how good his plan sounded to both of us.  I assured him that kindergarten was the next step, and that we might even see some of his preschool friends.  He wasn't so sure, and wanted to hang back in line a bit.  As the crowd cleared, we could see into the cafeteria full of five-year-olds and parents. 

Just as he began to despair, he saw hope in the face of his good friend, 'T'.  'T' smiled big, waved and called out, "ETHAN!"  And all was well.  There was peace in the smile of a familiar face.
The little Mr. let go of my hand, ran to fill out his cowboy boot name tag, and firmly planted himself next to 'T'.  Just as he so boldly accepted his new label, I knew I needed to as well. 

Soon after, the kindergarten teachers arrived, took the throng of children to tour a 'real life' classroom and make crafts, while the parents were introduced to elementary school life. 

Sitting there in the cafeteria, among parents anxiously raising their hands for the principal to field their questions on safety, peanut allergies, bathroom breaks, and the rules of the 'drop-off' lane, I couldn't help but chuckle a little.  Anxious smiles were plastered on all of our faces as we wondered if our little ones were really ready for this.  What is this?  It seems like a big world masked as a school for children.

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief, as the children came back into the room (neatly lined up, single file...they learned the routine quickly).  Each of them were wearing the carefully created headpiece that is a badge of honor for all elementary school students:  the stapled band headgear of craft paper, stickers and crayon-colored letters with their names scrawled across the forehead.

They each stood a little taller, a little more confident having jumped this first hurdle of a glimpse at being one of the 'big kids'.  The little Mr. smiled, broke formation, ran over and slid into the seat next to me.  He pulled off his headgear, showing me each detail and with excitement exclaimed, "Look what I made in kindergarten!" 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Listen To Your Mother...

Listen to your mother :

When she tells you The secret ingredient in your favorite meal.

Taking a shower and putting on a 'touch' of blush will make you feel better when you're sick.

Eat something for's true, you do concentrate better.

There is a good reason for separating your laundry so you don't ruin your favorite shirt.

An $80 sweatshirt is simply not worth the money, no matter how popular it is (neither are $100 jeans for that matter).  And when she says, "clothes are clothes."  She's right.

There is a burden and responsibility you take on when you get behind the wheel...don't take it lightly.

If you clean your room in the morning then you'll have all day to do something fun.

You may not catch a cold if you go outside with wet hair, but you will freeze your butt off.

She means it when she tells you that you are her favorite child...even though you know she's telling the others the same are her favorite for a different reason.

When she says she believes in matters.

When she comforts you while you cry on her shoulder and she tells you, "Those girls probably weren't your true friends to begin with." She's right.

And when she tells you, "That boy just isn't the one God has for you." She's right...again.

When she tells you that you are always beautiful to her.

When she says, "You can tell me anything." 

It's true when she says to take the time to make a good decision...a decision made in haste doesn't usually end well.

Be a leader...not a follower.

*Five Generations of first-born daughters...or... Five Generations of mother/daughter battles*

Don't wish to be an adult so soon...enjoy your childhood.

Observe what your date is ordering off the menu, then order something either comparative in price or less...never order something more.

Your relationship with the Lord should take first place in your life.

Vegetables really are important, especially the green ones.

You do have more energy when you get a good night's sleep.

You get respect when you give it.

Dressing modestly does matter...and is still 'cool'.

Don't get mad when she doesn't give you what you want...her reasons are good...just listen.

Read your was written for you.

Spend more time with God than being distracted by things that don't matter.

When she tells you that being a mom is the hardest job she's ever had, but has brought her more joy than anything else.

When she tells you you're a great mother and she's so proud of the woman you've become...

Happy Mother's Day mama!  I really was listening.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Don't Argue With An Expert...

I love the bed time routine with my little's just a time to unwind, talk about the day and get in some cuddles before going to sleep.  These are the moments when they are the most honest about their thoughts on life, or simply asking those burning questions (that frankly, I have to google the answers to).

The little miss is just now understanding that bedtime is her opportunity to start deep discussions as a means of postponing sleep.

Take last night for example.  We cuddled under her favorite quilt, read a book, sang some songs then prayed.  Shortly after, she pointed at the polka dots on the blanket and said, "balloon."  I said they were circles.  She looked at me determinedly and repeated, "balloon".  I pointed and said again, "circle."  This time she shook her head, pointing at the dots more emphatically and said a bit more loudly, "balloon." 

We went back and forth a bit bantering balloon vs. circle.  finally, I looked at her, enunciating very slowly, and said "cir-cle."  She took my cheeks in her hands turned my face to look at her and spoke slowly, loudly enunciating every syllable: "ba-lloon." It was obvious to both of us we were at an impass.

First rule of a debate:  support your position with conviction.  Well played my dear.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Little Miss: 101...

The little miss turned two, and suddenly I have to figure her out all over again.  She was our quiet, easy, gentle baby girl, who was always content and happy.  Overnight, she seems to have changed.  She has different preferences, different body language, a different attitude personality, more words, and new favorites.  She has decided that, 'me-do,' is the new way of doing things.  She is so independent and just...well...seems more like a little girl than a baby *sniff*.

Raising kiddos feels like such a crash course in letting go (something I don't learn easily or do well).  But, I've loved seeing this new side of her.  So, here are my notes from Little Miss: 101...

1.  She will do anything if it's presented with praise and flattery:  "Eva, you are such a big girl!  I'll bet you can put your clothes back on all by yourself!"  To which she shouts, "Me do!"  It sure beats wrestling her to the ground multiple times a day when she comes out stark naked declaring "Ta Da!"

2.  To thwart a temper tantrum, ask her to help clean the kitchen counters...the flow of tears will cease and she will happily wipe the same spot over and over.  I discovered this out of desperation...she may be a tad O.C.D.

3.  Uh-oh means several things:  she's stripped naked and has been caught, she just completely emptied a dresser drawer, the toilet paper has been completely spun off the cardboard tube, lunch is on the floor or in her hair.  The list is longer, but you get the point. 

4.  Clothing is optional.  (See #1, 3) For the most part everyday is a naked day.  She's a confident girl.

(She single handedly destroyed this playroom at my best friend's house...while naked.  She may or may not have been under the supervision of two five-year-olds and a three-year-old.)

5.  Utensils during meals are also optional.  Shoving food in by the fist-full is much more efficient than the small bites offered from a spoon. 

6.  Bath time is a magic word that elicits excitement and shrieks of joy.  Probably because nakedness is involved (see #1, 3, 4).

7.  Elmo.  Her love and obsession over Elmo rivals that of Elvis' devotees.  If she begs to put up a velvet painting of Elmo, then I'll know it's gone too far.  If a velvet Elvis is called a 'Velvis' then would a velvet Elmo be called a 'Velmo'?

8.  Cowboy boots, leopard print and jelly sandals go with anything.  Sunglasses indoors is also acceptable.

cowboy boots, nakey tooshie, and buzz lightyear wings...a winning combination.

9.  She would swing. all. day. long...if we let her. 

10.  If you ask her what she wants to eat (no matter the time of day) the answer will always be, "teetza!" (pizza).  That's my girl.

Before having kids I was a pretty serious, straight-laced person.  God has a sense of humor, and blessed us with two of the most energetic, spontaneous, hilarious(slightly ornery) children.  We have so much laughter in our household, and I'm really grateful for that.

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb is a reward."
Psalm 127:3

So, I would like to know...what is your favorite quality or story about your children?