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Thursday, November 30, 2006
Adoption Update Time & a Video!
It's update time for our adoption. The CCAA posted today that they have processed all dossiers sent by September 9, 2005. As you know, our dossier was submitted on October 13, 2005. What does this mean for us, you ask? It means we're getting very, very close. I had already let go of my hope that we'd have a referral in 2006 and started to resign myself to a 2007 referral.

Rumor Queen has been doing a great job with number crunching and has proven to be pretty accurate the last few months. With this latest news, she's done some more number crunching. Pretty much, no matter which scenario she used: best-case, worst-case, good-case, bad-case, whatever, we should be getting our referral in two more batches.

Assuming there's another batch at the end of December, we should be in the batch at the end of January/early February. You might think I'd be upset about more delays, but I'm not. This may actually work out very, very well.

With an early February referral, we'll probably travel in early April. The first week of April is our spring break. That gives us an additional week that we can use for our leave. Because we started the school year so early this year, our last day of school is going to be May 31. This should work out so I end up finishing the year with my leave. We won't even have to consider daycare until we start back to school in August. This will gives us a good chunk of time for us to do some heavy-duty attachment parenting and bonding and get firmly settled into a routine.

My original hope had been for us to have a similar scenario for last spring. While I wouldn't have volunteered to wait an additional year to get this scenario, I am pleased that there is a silver lining to our extended wait.

Now for that video I promised...the best benefit I've found from blogging are some of the wonderful people I've met. One of my newest "blog" friends is Sandra at Jazzie and Tahlia. She has two beautiful daughters that were adopted from China. Her family photographs are just stunning. She had this video posted on her site the other day, and I just loved it. I hope you do, too.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Works For Me Wednesday!

My WFMW entry this week is to pass on an excellent idea from Karen at Chookooloonks. If you haven't been to her blog, I recommend it. Her writing is great, and her photographs are phenomonal. She has written a pledge for bloggers to never intentionally hurt other people and to try to do something to help make a reader's day a little better. She created this button for anyone who agrees with her. Just click here or the button to learn more.

Monday, November 27, 2006
Completely Unsolicited
Book Reviews! No one asked my opinion, but that's never stopped me before!

Jim recently brought home a book from his school library. A student had been reading it during a silent reading time. Later, Jim took a look at the book. He thought it looked interesting so he checked out a copy from the library and brought it home.

The book, Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli is very good. It is set in the streets of Warsaw during WWII. It's through the view of a young child, who when asked his name answers, "Stopthief." Since Jim works in a middle school, this book is geared towards grade 5 and up. The ending was a little weak, but all in all a good read.

After we both enjoyed reading Milkweed, the librarian at Jim's school recommended The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. All I can say is WOW! This book, though also set in WWII Poland, is very different from the first. Since the author and editors refrained from including a synopsis of the book on the inside cover so as to not give away the story, I will do the same. All I can say is that this should be a must-read for everyone. It is suitable for grade 7 and up.

Saturday, November 25, 2006
Did You Hear They Moved?

I would love to claim this story as mine, but it isn't. Jim shared it with me the other night. When I said it would make a great blog entry, he gallantly offered it to me even though he has his own blog.

The other day one of his students came into class wearing a University of Michigan hoodie. Spontaneously, Jim offered 5 Jolly Ranchers to the first student who could name the city where this university is located.

The students named a couple of cities in Michigan, but not the right one. One was smart enough to ask if he had been there. When he said yes, the student triumphantly yelled, "Detroit!" Uh, no. He did tell them it was near Detroit though. More conferring occurred before someone asked for a clue. They asked what letter the city started with. He told them an A. Finally, someone decided to look at the tag on the hoodie. This student then shouted out, "April!" April? Jim asked them how they came up with April. The student replied, "A - P - P - A - R - E - L, April!"

Wolverines, I hope you enjoy your new home.

Friday, November 24, 2006
Favorite Ingredients Friday

It's leftover time! I actually don't have leftovers this year. Jim and I were on our own for this holiday, so we decided to go out to eat. This was, of course, with the understanding that next year I get to blow the roof off with a Thanksgiving extravaganza.

I miss leftovers though. I actually love them. I miss them so much that my plan for today is to make a mini-version of the meal with a roasted chicken. I can eat them just reheated as a repeat of the original meal. Or I just adore a giant sandwich piled high with turkey, stuffing, and a spoonful of cranberry relish. There is a point, however, when you've done what you can. The leftover turkey is crumbs or the pieces no one wants on a sandwich. We tend to use up all the breast meat in sandwiches. There's a little mashed potatoes left and way too much gravy. The vegetables are looking tired, and I swear the sausage stuffing has multiplied since we first ate.

This is when I came up with this recipe. It's not a recipe in the technical sense. It's more a method.

Begin by cooking some noodles, and preheating your oven to 375. You have to choose the amount based on the quantity of the remaining ingredients. Once your noodles are cooked, drain them and return them to a large pot. Now, add everything leftover but the sausage dressing. Mashed Potatoes? Check! Green Bean Casserole? Check! Cranberry sauce/relish? Check! Gravy? Check! Sweet Potato Casserole? Check! Other veggies? Check! You are limited only by what sounds disgusting to you. You'd be surprised how tasty this comes out though. If it's too dry, add some cream of whatever soup, mayonaisse, or sour cream, and pour into 13"x9" pan. Now crumble that leftover sausage dressing over the top, place in oven, and bake until heated through and bubbly.

Now, if I haven't grossed you all out to the point you're not reading, I have a favor to ask. Yesterday I got very frustrated researching strollers and car seats. Please read my post from yesterday and give me any advice you can. I need it!

Enjoy Black Friday, and have a great weekend!

Past FIF recipes:

Tex-Mex Chicken Taco Soup
Shrimp Mold
Pasta Puttanesca
Pork Milanese
Pumpkin Dip
Oven-fried Chicken
Best Bundt Cake Ever
Hot Dog Casserole
Chicken & Rice
Peanut Butter Fudge
Omelets in a Bag
Shrimp Boil
Apple Cheese
Pulled Pork BBQ

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I think my head is going to explode. I've been spending this Thanksgiving morning researching strollers. Our adoption referral is getting closer and closer, so we need to start making whatever decisions we can make not knowing our child's age, gender, or size. I remember doing this months ago before throwing my hands in the air. It's just way too confusing.

As I was viewing all the conflicting reviews and wildly varying prices, from $89-$699, I was wishing there was someone who would just tell me which one was best. I decided to ask you!

Please share with me your advice on a stroller. I'll even tell you what I think I'm looking for. Feel free to correct me if you think I'm insane. I'm also starting to think that it's impossible to buy just one stroller, but would prefer to do so.

Here's what we're trying to find:

adjustable handles - I'm 5'6"; Jim is 6'4". We would like a stroller that we can both push. I have found in the past, from pushing family and friend's strollers, that I usually ended up kicking the back or having to slightly stoop in an uncomfortable position.

canopy - We'd want something to protect our child from the sun (we head south often) or inclement weather.

recline - If we're out at the mall, zoo, etc... and pipsqueak needs a nap, then pipsqueak should be able to nap.

basket - We need some way to stash a diaper bag.

tray or bar - Somewhere to attach or place a toy or sippy cup.

parent cup holder - Odds are good that at said zoo or mall trip we'd want to have a drink, too.

removable cover - To make cleaning the inevitable mess easier.

5-point harness - Maybe this isn't necessary, but it seems safer. What do you think?

lightweight - Of course, who wants to pick up a heavy stroller?

foldable - I like the one-hand fold options. I have visions of trying to hold pipsqueak mid-meltdown while trying to collapse a stroller and get in the car.

one-hand steering - See nightmare above, but start earlier and have to get to car.

practical - We're not starting with a newborn child. We won't need a huge travel system. We will most likely be matched to a child around a year old and 20 pounds.

affordable - I'd like to pay less then our next car. In fact, I'd like to pay less then my first car!

Yes, you could call this shameless begging for comments, but I need help!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sometimes the well is dry, and sometimes it overflows. Today, it's overflowing. I have three different post topics for today. If I were smart, I'd spread it out over three days, but when have I ever been smart?

The first is the obvious, ubiquitous thanks. It is Thanksgiving, afterall. I am thankful for many things: my loving husband, my family, my newly born niece who's doing so well that she was back up to birth weight in a week, the lovely rumor that the next batch of rumors should make us happy, the knowledge that finally we really at our last childless Thanksgiving, my job, my students (even the PITAs), my co-workers (even the PITAs), my dog, our home, our health, and our friends. I'd say we're pretty rich looking at that list.

Anyone who has read my blog for more than a minute has probably picked up on my New Orleans roots. Katrina was so devastating and the city is still reeling from its effects. The "public" side of New Orleans is very deceptive. Visitors can now go back and never even see the parts of the city that are still devastated. New Orleans still needs help, and there's an easy way you can do this. Jackson Square is the heart of the city. It's the home of St. Louis Cathedral. It's the image that many people think of when they think of New Orleans. It also holds special memories for me.

I was 18 when I moved back to New Orleans the first time. I was living on my own and feeling like an adult for the first time. I had a job in an office and everything. My job was at The Royal Orleans Hotel in the Sales Department. At lunch, I mainly ate in the employee cafeteria 'cause it was good and cheap. At least once a week though, I would go out to eat with the rest of the office "girls." Most of them were in their late 20's, but they took me under their wing. We had an endless list of restaurants to choose from for lunch. This was the French Quarter in New Orleans. An area known world-wide for its cuisine and deservedly so. One of my favorite lunch spots was Jackson Square. Somedays I would sneak away on my own. I'd go to Central Grocery (home of the famous muffalotta) and buy some cheese and bread. I'd then head to the park, sit on a bench, snacking on my lunch and watching the people. Jackson Square teems with life. There are artists set up to paint your portrait, jugglers juggling, musicians playing, fortune tellers fortune telling, and visitors gawking. I would share my leftovers with the pigeons that walked everywhere and head back to work. I miss those lunches.

Rather than paraphrase what they're doing, here's an excerpt from their press release:

"Beginning November 13, consumers nationwide are invited to visit www.tidecoldwater.com and pledge to do a load of laundry in cold water. This act will save enough energy to light twenty 100-watt light bulbs for one hour1. The goal is to have 100,000 people make this pledge, saving enough energy to provide a beautiful energy-efficient holiday lights display for the people of New Orleans in historic Jackson Square. The lights, which will be donated by GE Consumer and Industrial, will not only rejuvenate the French Quarter area, but will also serve as a continuous reminder of how a simple act like cold water washing can save loads of energy that can be used in other significant ways. "

This isn't a hardship for me, since I already do all but linens and whites in cold water and even use Tide Coldwater. The bonus is they have a couple of good prizes, and you can enter for those daily.

Now I did have one more thing, but I think this post has gone on long enough. I'll save that topic for later.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! If you're not with the ones you love, love the ones you're with. (bonus points for anyone who can name that song!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Our Future ...

is in their hands. Oh, how scary! This week I've had students working on career papers. I have them take a career assessment test, a personality assessment test, and fill in a diagram entitled, Anatomy of My Dream Career. They then use all this information to come up with three possible career choices for themselves. After they've come up with or narrowed down their choices, they research what they would have to do to start a career in that field. Their papers were due today, but I haven't had a chance to read them yet. Based on what I observed them researching this week, I am teaching a future

NBA star
bounty hunter
professional table tennis player
street hustler
professional gambler
along with the more typical doctor, lawyer, police officer, cosmetologist, real estate agents, and chefs.

What a motley crew. And yes, I did tell those on the edge that they had to pick a legal career.

No, I'm not really concerned about them being our future. I have far too vivid memories of my own high school years to give up hope on them.

Saturday, November 18, 2006
It's All My Fault

I finally figured it out. It's all my fault. I do hereby apologize to all the waiting parents.

Chinese adoption folklore holds the ladybug as its symbol. People claim that a ladybug sighting is good luck when you're adopting. In fact, some claim that seeing them means referrals are on their way.

I've always like ladybugs because I thought they were cute. I have one on my bracelet, and there are a few crawling on the nursery walls. I confess though that I did not buy into the "luck" aspect of them.

I was reading blogs last night and while reading one of my "must visit" blogs, I learned of how she became a Killer Ladybug. They're a group of moms who've adopted that are a little:::how do I describe them::: earthier than many adoption blog moms. They're known to be funny, sometimes snarky, lay it on the line women, and I love reading them. While reading this post, I came to the realization that while I'm not a Killer Ladybug, I am, unfortunately, a ladybug killer.

I grew up and lived most of my life in the south. Trust me when I tell you that we had our bug problems in the south. They really like that climate. One bug I never had problems with, however, was the ladybug. I remember catching them as a child and singing them the song before launching them back into the world. You know the song, "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire, and your kids are alone." Rather a morbid song now that I think about it. Anyway, that was pretty much the extent of our history together.

Then I moved to the midwest. In August of 2000, Jim and I moved into our house. We had built it in a new subdivision. Now most new subdivisions in our area of the country are being built in old cornfields. When you pass them you see huge homes surrounded by saplings. We felt very fortunate because we found a new subdivision that was being built in a wooded area and was surrounded by homes. We weren't going to be in one of those isolated and barren areas.

Shortly after moving in, Jim's mom, brother, and niece moved in with us. T was 11 years old at the time. I don't know if it was because we were a new home or if it was a warning as to how cold and snowy that winter was going to be, but we were swarmed that Fall. Literally hundreds of ladybugs surrounded our new house. The outside walls were covered with them. They squeezed through cracks in the door or flew in when we opened them. T started collecting them in jars. We would warn her to put them outside before they died, but she didn't always listen. I found several jars of dead ladybugs stashed in the house over that winter. The worst carnage, however, didn't reveal itself until spring.

Our move into our home had been hectic. Most of my belongings had been in storage, so they were relocated to our garage. When my in-laws moved in, most of their stuff ended up in the garage as well. When spring arrived, it was finally warm enough to start digging through the garage. As we pulled out the boxes, we found hundreds, if not thousands, of dead ladybugs. They had fled to our garage to escape the cold winter, but didn't survive.

I've heard that revenge is a dish best served cold. Who knew ladybugs had so much patience?

Friday, November 17, 2006
In Memory of Barbara Jamie Bearden Kilpatrick
I didn't know her, but her death has touched me. On several recent posts, I recommended everyone go to Atomictumor and read her husband's blog. It was incredibly moving to share his thoughts as he went through two weeks of hell. Two weeks of seeing his young, healthy wife fall mysteriously ill and then go through a myriad of surgeries and tests as they tried to determine what was happening.

The last few days of posts were so positive as she seemed to be getting better. While still unconscious, her stats were improving and she was becoming more responsive. Last night, she suffered a stroke that damaged her brain stem. Around 12:30 today, she died.

Her husband, known as AT, is continuing his blog as this is how he is processing her loss. His love for her and their two young sons is so clear.

The lesson this young woman leaves to all of us is how short and precious life truly is. We can't afford to waste a minute.

May she rest in peace, and may her husband and sons find strength in her memory.

Favorite Ingredients Friday!

This is a new recipe that I got about two weeks ago. I made it for dinner the other night. I used low-sodium taco seasoning, tomato paste, beans, corn, and chicken broth. I even used neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese) instead of regular. For us, I skipped the chips and extra cheese because I was trying to make a healthier version. My version was outstanding. I can't even imagine how good the original recipe must be.

Tex Mex Chicken Taco Soup

1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced green bell peppers
1 tablespoon minced garlic
olive oil
1 pound chicken breasts, boiled and shredded (I grilled them on the GF)
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 (8-ounce) jar salsa
1 (14-ounce) can kernel corn
1 (14-ounce) can hominy
1 (16-ounce) can ranch style beans
2 (4-ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

Saute onions, green bell peppers, and garlic in a small amount of olive oil. Add chicken, taco seasoning mix, salsa, vegetables, beans, tomato paste, and chicken broth. Adjust liquid to your liking. Bring to a slow simmer and simmer for 20 minutes. Place cream cheese in a separate bowl. Using a measuring cup, take some of the hot liquid from the soup and pour over cream cheese to melt and then add back to the soup. Simmer on low for another 10 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and grated Monterey jack cheese.

For more favorite recipes, visit Overwhelmed with Joy!

Thursday, November 16, 2006
Passing the Word Along
Apparently this video has been making its way around the adoption blog world. I just saw it for the first time yesterday. It's rather sobering to watch, but very, very important. We haven't purchased a carseat yet. I will definitely be keeping this in mind when we do.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
My Purpose
is apparently to provide an endless source of fun Internet quizzes. In that vein, I proudly present...."How Many People Have My Name!"

My name is rather unusual, so I was surprised at the results when using my married name:

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I was not at all surprised how many showed up using my maiden name:

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Does this mean that I don't/didn't exist? Hmm....

Thanks to Samantha. I stole this from her blog.

Works For Me Wednesday, Christmas Edition!

I've been racking my brain trying to come up with a Christmas tip for this week's WFMW. Between Holiday Traditions, Blogger Style and Sharing Gifts from the Heart, I'm pretty much tipped out. My biggest tip would be to head check them out to see what great ideas are out there for holiday meals and gifts, but that smacks of hijacking. Instead, I'm going to repeat my favorite holiday side dish. I love this dish because it's delicious and because it can be made ahead. I don't know about you, but there is never enough time or oven space when you need it. This dish can be made ahead and just needs to be reheated.

Potato Casserole with Caramelized Onions
3/4 cup butter, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
6 large sweet onions, diced
1 tablespoon sugar
4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, onions, and sugar. Cook, stirring often, 25 to 30 minutes or until onions are deep golden brown. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Bring potatoes and chicken broth to a boil in a Dutch oven; cook 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Reserve broth for another use, if desired.
Add remaining 1/2 cup butter to potatoes; mash with potato masher until smooth. Whisk together whipping cream and next 3 ingredients; add to potato mixture, stirring until blended.
Spoon 1/2 the potato mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Spoon caramelized onions evenly over potatoes. Spoon remaining potatoes evenly over onions.
Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden.
Note: Casserole may be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings

I can't resist including links to those posts. They really are full of excellent recipes.

Visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer for lots of great tips!

Edited to add: I wrote this post up the night before. While I slept, I remembered another tip, and it's not even food related! How about that?

When I very young, we were allowed to open a gift on Christmas Eve. Oddly enough, every year, it was new pajamas. Being the bright kids we were, we finally caught on after a few years. We opened the pajamas and then got to choose a gift for ourselves to open that night. To show how really bright I am, it wasn't until I was an adult that I connected the dots and realized that this was a great way of making sure we were all dressed in fresh, new cute pjs for Christmas morning pictures. Since we've been married, I've given my husband a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve and plan to do the same for our child.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I don't even know what to say other than it's been 13 months. Yep, 13 months since our dossier was logged in by the CCAA in China.

Yeah, it's in there. Okay, not actually in those stacks as this is an old picture, but in stacks that look just like this. The last batch matched up through August 25th. This means that the dossiers logged in from August 26th through October 12th are in front of us. The good news is that there were no dossiers logged in the first seven days of October. The bad news is that there are some monster days ahead of us. The 30th and 31st of August had huge log-ins as did September 29. The last referrals didn't arrive until early November. This means we may only have one more batch coming during 2006. We're hoping that we'll be included in the January or February batch. If we're matched in February, we may end up travelling during Spring Break. Ironically, that was our hope last year.

I think that just about brings us up-to-date on the adoption front. It is what it is.

Reminder: Sharing Gifts from the Heart

I've decided that I will post a reminder on Mondays throughout the holiday season about Sharing Gifts from the Heart. I'm hoping that we'll continue to add new links with ideas to Mr. Linky. If you haven't checked out everyone's great ideas yet, here's another chance.

You can click on the button at the top of the post, or just go here.

The recipes I originally posted are all tried and true. This is one I just found. It looks interesting, so I may give it a try this year. I've found several I'm thinking about for this year from the linked posts already.

Gourmet Hot Chocolate Mix

1 25-oz. box non-fat dry milk
1 16-oz. jar non-dairy creamer
1 15- or 16-oz. container NesQuik
1 13-oz. jar malted milk powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa

Combine dry milk and creamer in food processor and process for a minute or two. Then mix all of the ingredients in a very large container, using a wire whisk to ensure it is evenly distributed. Divide mixture into jars with tight lids.

Directions for tags: To make hot cocoa: measure 2-3 tablespoons of mix into a mug, and fill with boiling water. Stir well. You may substitute milk for a creamier flavor.

Sunday, November 12, 2006
A 4-letter Word
I'm always finding new blogs that I think are interesting. I usually find them because I'm reading someone's blog and they link to them. This is how I recently found Chookooloonks. I've enjoyed what I've read so far and am amazed by her photographic talent.

Today she made this button available on it. I think I'll join her.

Saturday, November 11, 2006
More Fun with Quizzes
I wonder if there is a connection between my love for quizzes and my being a teacher? Hmm....food for thought.

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have low extroversion.
You are quiet and reserved in most social situations.
A low key, laid back lifestyle is important to you.
You tend to bond slowly, over time, with one or two people.


You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.


You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.
In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.
You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.
A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.

Friday, November 10, 2006
Endings and Beginnings

Our community has two major sources of employment: factories and farms. The children of the people who work there attend the school where I teach.

Today was the final day of the first trimester of school. About five years ago, our school switched from semesters to trimesters. Instead of two 18-week sessions, we run three 12-week sessions. There are some postives to it, but I'm not a fan. I think we've lost a lot by going to the trimester, but I digress.

The classes I teach are all one term classes. This means that I said good-bye to all my first-tri students and hello to all my second-tri students today. Today was a half-day for the students. They came in for one last final and then we rotated through their new schedule for five minute classes. That's just to make sure they know where they're going and are ready to start on Monday. It also gives us a heads-up on any scheduling issues for the counselors to straighten out.

After the kids left, I was finally able to finish grading my finals and start entering final grades. Don't give up, I'm getting to my point!

I had a student this last trimester that is just sticking in my mind. She's a pretty girl, but doesn't think she is. Her hair is long and unstyled. Her clothes are unflattering. She's not the smartest student in class. In fact, it would be safe to say that learning is very difficult for her. She struggles, and I admire her so much.

She came into class everyday with a smile, and she tried her hardest. It might take her five attempts to type a letter correctly, but she re-did it everytime until she had it right. She was determined to get it. Time ran out and she wasn't able to complete every assignment, but she did enough to pass the class. I have students who can get the grade with minimal effort. I have students who should get As, but can't be bothered. I love the students who struggle and persevere to earn their Cs and Ds.

She's on my mind because I recently learned that she was the student in a story Jim told me last year. She was his student then. At parent conferences, he met with her grandmother to discuss her difficulties with pre-algebra. Her grandmother's response was to question why her granddaughter needed to know it. She wouldn't need it for the factory.

Now there's nothing wrong with working in the factory. It's good honest work, but how sad that your highest hope for a charming determined 14-year-old is that she someday works in the factory.

I think I know why she has such low self-esteem. I hope she's thrilled when she sees she passed my class the first time.

On another note: I mentioned this blog the other day. This family's story is just mind-boggling. They need all the support anyone can offer. If you haven't gone yet, please go read their story. It is the most moving blog I've ever read.

Favorite Ingredients Friday

By now, it should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I love shrimp. It is, by far, my favorite food. Years ago, my aunt made this recipe for somebody's shower. I could have eaten the entire thing by myself. In fact, I bought my first Tupperware jello mold just so I could make this recipe. I like the Tupperware version because it has a removable middle part and when you pop the seal on it, it releases your salad without breaking it. I've made this a gazillion times since I got the recipe, and then I lost the recipe. I found this one on-line last year when I wanted to make it for a party, and it's pretty close. I had to add the hot sauce to it, but the rest was spot on. Without further ado, I present Shrimp Mold. :::I really should come up with a prettier name for this:::

Shrimp Mold

1. 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
2. 2 (.25 ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
3. 1/2 cup cold water
4. 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
5. 1 cup mayonnaise
6. hot pepper sauce, to taste
7. 1 pound cooked shrimp, chopped
8. 1/2 cup green onions, minced

Heat soup in a small saucepan or in a microwave oven.

In a medium bowl, stir gelatin into cold water. Mix hot tomato soup into the gelatin liquid.

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and mayonnaise together. Mix soup mixture into the mayonnaise and cream cheese mixture. Mix well. Add shrimp, celery, and green onions.

Spoon the mixture into a 1 quart mold and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight. Unmold onto a serving plate before serving. Serve with crackers.

Please visit Overwhelmed with Joy for more fun recipes.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006
To gain the above, read this.

Works For Me Wednesday!

I tend to do most of my baking around the holidays because I give a lot away as gifts. I've been thinking a lot lately about what I'm going to do this year. I like to change it around every year. I haven't decided what to make yet, though I'm narrowing my list down. I did, however, think of something that is good to share with you on Works for Me Wednesday. This works for me...

Did you know that adding a tablespoon of instant espresso or even instant coffee really improves the taste of chocolate. It won't turn your recipe into a mocha flavored item. It just intensifies the chocolate flavor, and that works for me.

For more great tips, visit Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer.

If you'd like to see some great food gift ideas or share some of your own, visit here.

And last, but most importantly, a huge welcome to my beautiful new niece, Josephine Madison born Monday, 11/06/06, at 4:34pm. She's 8 pounds, 2 ounces and 20 inches long and an on-time kinda girl. The 6th was my sister's due date.

Monday, November 06, 2006
It's Here....Sharing Gifts from the Heart

I hope that this list gets added to as we approach the holidays. Please bookmark and visit often!

I love to give gifts that I've made myself. I've done crafty things in the past, but my strength is in the kitchen. I usually do a lot of baking, but I've also made cheese spreads, jellies, candy, and more. I'll share a few of my favorite recipes and hope that you will share yours.

Please tell us your recipe or idea in parenthesis by your name when leaving your link, and don't forget to leave a comment.

Happy Holidays!

Banana Bread

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed (approximately 1 cup of mashed banana)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Sift flour, baking soda and salt, set aside. Wisk eggs & vanilla together, set aside. Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Add the vanilla. (The mixture will appear curdled.)

With a spatula, mix in flour mixture till just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts, then pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Note: I actually get two loaves out of this recipe. You could also use the mini pans and include this on a tray with other goodies.

Chocolate Covered Cherries

3 T butter, softened
3 T corn syrup
½ t vanilla
¼ t salt
2½ c sifted confectioners sugar
2-10oz jars of maraschino cherries with stems, drained
2 c milk chocolate chips
3 T vegetable shortening

In a small bowl, combine butter, corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Gradually add the confectioners sugar, and beat well. (If mixture becomes too thick, knead fondant until sugar is well combined.)

Divide fondant in half and roll into two 7 " logs. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1-1½ hours or until firm. Cut logs into 1" pieces, and then cut each piece into 4 quarters.

Place quarter piece of fondant in palm of you hand and flatten it. Evenly wrap it around each cherry to cover. Place on waxed paper-lined cookie sheet; cover, and freeze for 30 minutes.

Using a double-boiler, melt chocolate morsels and vegetable shortening; stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

Dip cherries into chocolate, shaking off excess. Place on waved paper-lined cookie sheets in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Makes approximately 4 dozen. If you have left over chocolate, re-dip after first coating has set.

Note: I made these one year with my nieces. We made a huge batch of these, plus we dipped mini Oreos and Ritz Bitz. Since I didn’t want to keep melting chocolate and I didn’t want the girls working over the stove, I melted the chocolate in my crock pot. I kept it on the lowest setting. It kept the chocolate melted until we had finished dipping everything, yet wasn’t too hot for the girls to work with.

Hot Pepper Jelly

Makes 7 cups

2 c finely chopped peppers (red or green)
¾ c finely chopped jalapeno peppers (approximately 6 med jalapeno peppers), leave seeds in for hotter flavor
1½ c cider vinegar
6½ c sugar
1 T crushed red pepper
1 pouch Certo Liquid Pectin

Measurements must be exact.

Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Drain well before using
Fill small saucepan with water and bring to boil. Remove from heat and place flat lids in hot water and let sit until needed.

Place chopped peppers and vinegar in 6- or 8-qt pot. Add sugar. You may also add ½ t of butter or margarine to reduce foaming.

Bring to a full rolling boil on high heat while stirring constantly.

Add crushed red pepper and pectin. Return to full boil and boil for exactly one minute, stirring constantly.

Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8-inch of tops. Wipe rims and threads clean, and cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands on tightly. Turn upside down for 5 minutes and then right-side up.

Jars will seal as they cool. You’ll hear them popping.

To test, press the center. It should be depressed. If it gives, place the jar in the refrigerator and use first.

Notes: These directions came from the Certo insert. They also include directions for processing in a hot water canner and a method for re-doing if it doesn’t set properly.

Jelly Cookies

These are my husband’s favorite cookies. He will tell you I don’t make them often enough for him, and he’s right.

1 cup powdered sugar
3 sticks softened butter
2 cups flour
1 cup corn starch

Cream butter and sugar in food processor. Slowly add dry ingredients. Mix until dough forms. If the dough is too soft, you can chill slightly.

Add dough to cookie press and press cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 325° for 10-13 minutes. They will not brown.

After the cookies have cooled, spread one with seedless blackberry jelly, top with another cookie, and sprinkle with powdered sugar. You may use any flavor jelly, you prefer.

Lemon Squares

½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
A pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Cut the butter into the flour and confectioners’ sugar and press into a 9-inch square pan. Bake 20 minutes or until light brown.

In the meantime, combine the topping ingredients. Pour the lemon mixture over the bottom immediately, and continue baking for about 25 minutes.

Sprinkle top with confectioners’ sugar.

Outrageous Brownies

I made these last year for the first time, and they’re wonderful. They should be kept refrigerated. I froze them and placed them on cookie trays. This worked perfectly. The recipe makes a huge amount, so you can keep the extras stashed in your freezer.
Recipe By : Barefoot Contessa
Serving Size : 20

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces bitter chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of the chocolate chips, and the bitter chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture.

Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven self to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake!

Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.

Notes: Flouring the chips and walnuts keeps them for sinking to the bottom. It is very important to allow the batter to cool well before adding the chocolate chips, or the chips will melt and ruin the brownies. This recipe can be baked up to a week in advance, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated.

Rib Room Cheese

The Rib Room is the name of the restaurant at the Royal Orleans Hotel in New Orleans. It is where my father worked when we moved to New Orleans. I was three; we left when I was seven. When I was 19, I moved back to New Orleans and got a job in the sales department of the same hotel. It’s still a magnificent place. This cheese is served in a ramekin with crackers to all diners as they wait for their food to arrive.

10 oz port wine cheese, softened
1 oz cream cheese, softened
1 oz butter, softened
1 drop Tabasco
2 drops Worcestershire sauce
¼ t horseradish

Mix all ingredients together.

Notes: The year I gave this away, I found these great mugs that I used to hold the cheese spread. Wrap them in plastic wrap and tie on a ribbon. You could also put them in a basket with crackers, etc…

Strawberry Preserves

Makes 8 cups

4 c lightly crushed strawberries (measure after crushing)
7 cups sugar
1 pouch Certo Liquid Pectin

Measurements must be exact.

Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Drain well before using
Fill small saucepan with water and bring to boil. Remove from heat and place flat lids in hot water and let sit until needed.

Place strawberries in 6- or 8-qt pot. Add sugar. You may also add ½ t of butter or margarine to reduce foaming.

Bring to a full rolling boil on high heat while stirring constantly.

Add pectin. Return to full boil and boil for exactly one minute, stirring constantly.

Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8-inch of tops. Wipe rims and threads clean, and cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands on tightly. Turn upside down for 5 minutes and then right-side up.

Jars will seal as they cool. You’ll hear them popping.

To test, press the center. It should be depressed. If it gives, place the jar in the refrigerator and use first.

Notes: These directions came from the Certo insert. They also include directions for processing in a hot water canner and a method for re-doing if it doesn’t set properly.

Three Chocolate Bark with Spiced Pecans and Dried Cherries

Recipe Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse
Yield: 4 pounds of bark
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours

7 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups pecan pieces
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
1 pound semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1 pound milk chocolate, cut into pieces
1 pound white chocolate, cut into pieces
2 cups dried cherries, rehydrated and chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large sauté pan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter.
Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and is bubbly. Add the pecans.
Season the pecans with salt, cayenne, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar starts to caramelize and coat the pecans evenly. Cook for about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and spread the pecans over a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and roast the pecans for about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely. Break the pecans into small pieces.

Fill three small saucepans half way up the pan with water. Place the pans over medium heat and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. In three separate mixing bowls, add each type of chips into the individual bowls. Place the bowls over the saucepans. After about 2 minutes over the heat the chocolate will start to melt. Stir each chocolate until totally melted. Remove the chocolate from heat and stir 1 tablespoon of butter into each bowl of chocolate.

Pour each type of chocolate over the marble or a large parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the pecans and cherries over the chocolates. Using a metal spatula, spread the mixture out evenly back and forth to about 1/4-inch thick. Either place the marble in the refrigerator or allow to sit out until set, about a couple of hours. Break the bark into medium pieces and serve.

Notes: This made a huge amount of candy. I layered this in a quart-size canning jar with peanut butter fudge and chocolate fudge. I then trimmed a square of holiday fabric and placed it between the lid and screw band of the jar.

Saturday, November 04, 2006
Catch Up
Time to play catch up. I have a several things to chat about, so I thought I'd put them all in one post.

First, to read a startling story about a common cleaning product. Visit Kerflop to read her account of the chemical burns her son received while using that product. It's such an important reminder to keep those chemicals out of children's hands.

Next, I've been playing with the online games again. I tried a few today. I'll share this one now. I'm not sure...was I just insulted?

You Are The Stuffing

You're complicated and complex, yet all your pieces fit together.
People miss you if you're gone - but they're not sure why.

And finally, I hesitated on posting this one. I don't want to get political here because there's enough of that stuff already out there. I will say that I lean just left of middle. I'm not going to embed this video because it would just annoy some people. I know that I'm not going to change anyone's mind, and I'm not going to try. If you find yourself less than satisfied, as I am, with the way things are currently, you might find this video interesting.

Friday, November 03, 2006
Favorite Ingredients Friday

Wow, am I late or what!? My only excuse is this was a kick-butt day. It was the last day of regular class for the first trimester. Next week is finals and then we start a new trimester with all new students. There are four teachers in my department. We are all travelling teachers which means that we're in different rooms every class period. Today, the other three all had substitutes. That meant a day of running to four classrooms each passing period to make sure the doors were unlocked, the lesson plans were okay, and the subs knew what they were doing. This was also a day that began with me scraping ice off the car for 10 minutes before I could even leave. It was exhausting, but it was a good day. My classes got a lot done. I'm so proud of my business class. They're wrapping up their entrepreneurship projects, and I can tell they "got it." You don't know how rare that feeling can be.

Anyway, who cares about my day. Bring on the recipe! We've enjoyed this recipe a few times. We first saw it on Rachel Ray's show on Food TV. Don't let the anchovies put you off. Jim can't stand them, so I didn't tell him they were in this recipe the first time I made it. He loved this dish. You really can't taste them, but they had a wonderful layer of flavor to the sauce. Without them, it just wouldn't be puttanesca.

Pasta Puttanesca

1. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2. 4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
3. 1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained
4. 1 /2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
5. 20 oil-cured black olives, cracked away from pit and coarsely chopped
6. 3 tablespoons capers
7. 1 (32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
8. 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
9. A few grinds black pepper
10. 1/4 cup (a couple of handfuls) flat leaf parsley, chopped
11. 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
12. Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Romano, optional

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add oil, garlic, anchovies, and crushed pepper. Sauté mixture until anchovies melt into oil and completely dissolve, and garlic is tender, about 3 minutes. Add olives, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, and parsley. Bring sauce to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Add pasta to sauce and turn to coat. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Romano cheese.

Serves 4.

While I still have your attention, don't forget to come back on Monday and post your food gift ideas for the holidays! Please pass the message around. I would appreciate help in getting the word out. Feel free to pull the button from the blog or email if you'd prefer the code.

Now go visit all the lovely ladies who posted on time at Overwhelmed with Joy!

Thursday, November 02, 2006
Referral Day
It's official. The next batch of referrals have arrived. This was a good batch. August 24th had a huge number of dossiers logged in so the fact that they made it past that date is very, very good. If they process the same number of dossiers next time, we stand a good chance of being matched in January. This is assuming that we'll receive another batch for November and one in December. If they increase again like they did this month, we could see something in December. January/February is still more realistic. After such a rough beginning of the week, it's good to get some positive news.

Congratulations to all the familes who were logged in during August 2005!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Works For Me Wednesday!
Sometimes making candy can be just too challenging. The candy thermometer has to actually work, the weather has to cooperate, the planets must be aligned, and the moon should be blue. This recipe is awesome and very forgiving. It always works for me.

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup milk
2 Tbsp corn syrup
pinch of salt
2/3 cup peanut butter

Combine first four ingredients, and cook together until it reaches the soft ball stage. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter. Pour into buttered 8”x8” or 9”x9”. This will set up quickly.
Let cool, and cut into pieces.

Peanut butter can be smooth or chunky. You can use any kind of milk: whole, 2%, 1%, skim, even evaporated milk diluted with water. I used smooth peanut butter with 1% milk.

At the softball stage, this fudge is soft, but will hold a shape when cut. If you like your fudge a little firmer, cook it a little longer. My candy thermometer wasn’t working, so I cooked it over medium heat until the bubbles looked thicker and slower and not foamy. I was given this advice on a cooking board, and it worked great!

For other Works for me Wednesday tips, visit Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer.

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