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Lilypie Kids birthday Ticker
Friday, October 31, 2008
Happy Halloween!
We've celebrated another successful Halloween. Sera had a party at pre-school at 3:00pm, then we headed home for dinner at 4. By 5:00, she was back in her costume and out the door. Sera and daddy walked the neighborhood while I manned the trick or treat bowl. I set up a chair at the end of the driveway and even snuck in some magazine reading between visitors. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temp was in the low 70s. In other words, it was a perfect day for Halloween.

Halloween 2007

Halloween 2008
You might think this is a witch costume. Sera will tell you that it's a

Fancy Nancy ballerina dress with a super Sera hat.

Digging into the treats.
This is Sera at our neighbor's house. Their daughter is one of Sera's
friends and another member of our local play group. The similar
costume is pure coincidence, but don't they look cute!


Casserole Challenge & Giveaway


Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

Recently, I was contacted and asked to pass on news about Velveeta's Casserole Challenge. Five bloggers are participating in the challenge. Click the logo above to meet all five and visit their sites. The winner will be decided by voting between October 30th and November 23rd. You can also enter their essay contest to win some great prizes. The challenge is to make a casserole in a 13"x9" pan for under $20.00.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I received a Le Creuset casserole pan and six coupons for free Velveeta (up to $9.00). The casserole pan is now in my refrigerator with leftovers, but the coupons will go to six of you.

My casserole is a work in progress, but I'll share the my results with you. The background information on this recipe lies in my past life as a restaurateur. My family had a couple of fast-food style Mexican restaurants in southern Alabama and northwestern Florida during the early 90s. One of our best selling items was called the Mucho Burrito. I took the basic ingredients of that burrito and am turning it into a casserole.

Always begin with a cute assistant.

First, I made the queso. Cube one pound of Velveeta, add 1/2 cup of milk,
1/2 can of condensed tomato soup, and 1/2 cup of salsa.

Heat over low until cheese is melted.

Brown one pound of ground beef with one cup of onions. Add taco seasonings and water according to package directions. I did this the night before. This allowed me to degrease it more by removing the orange chunks of solidified grease. Heat with one can of your favorite refried beans.

Pour half of the bean and beef mixture into your casserole pan,
and top with diced tomatoes.

Cover with queso.

Add a layer of flour tortillas, and cover with the remaining meat. Now here is where I went wrong. I decided there wasn't room for another layer of tortillas. I was wrong. I covered the rest of the meat with the queso and put it in the oven. I should have put another layer of tortillas between the meat and the queso. The flavor was great, but it came out a little soupy. I want to try this again with another layer of tortillas. I'd also like to try it with tortilla chips, instead of tortillas. The chicken burrito was always very popular, too.

For a bonus, I'm including my Spanish rice recipe. It's a variation of what my mother would make when I was a child.

Saute the 1 1/2 cups of rice and 1/4 cup of onions in vegetable oil until the rice is translucent and slightly brown. Watch carefully as it burns easily.

Pour can of tomato sauce into measuring cup, and add water to make 3 cups of liquid. Add this, 2 teaspoons of chicken base, and peas. Bring to a full boil. Cover, and turn stove to low. Simmer for 25 minutes.

This is what you do when your casserole is too runny. Grab
another tortilla, heat to soften, and make it a burrito.

The advantage of the burrito is you can put your cold veggies inside before you wrap it.

I'll be trying some different variations of this. Let me know if you do, too.

Leave a comment if you'd like to win up to $9.00 of free cheese.

Mucho Burrito Casserole

1 lb of Velveeta cheese
1/2 c milk
1/2 c salsa
1/2 can condensed tomato soup

Add all four ingredients to a saucepan. Heat over low until cheese is melted and ingredients blended.

Meat & Bean Filling
1 lb ground beef
1 c chopped onions
1 pkg low-sodium taco seasoning
1 can refried beans

Brown ground beef & onions. Add taco seasonings and water according to package directions. Add refried beans, and mix.

1 pkg flour tortillas
diced tomatoes
shredded lettuce
sour cream
sliced black olives

Preheat oven to 350. Pour half of meat & bean filling into a 13"x9" casserole. Add a layer of diced tomatoes. Ladle queso over the top, and cover with a layer of tortillas. Add remaining meat, another layer of tomatoes, and queso*. Place in oven for 25 minutes.

Serve with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, and black olives.

*I'd add another layer of tortillas between the last layer of meat and queso next time.

Spanish Rice

vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups rice
1/4 cup diced onions
2 teaspoons chicken base
1 can of tomato sauce, plus water to equal 3 cups
1 cup peas

Saute rice and onions in vegetable oil until rice is translucent and slightly brown. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a full boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 25 minutes.

UPDATED: I made it a sticky post.

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Sweater Weather
Last summer, Kate made a beautiful sweater for Sera. The only problem was Sera would never let me put it on her, so I could take a picture. Now that it is cold outside, she has deigned to wear a sweater. She is one stubborn girl. Once she had it on, she loved it. Her favorite part are all the buttons.

We had some modeling issues though. She has learned to say cheese when she sees a camera.

The problem is the word cheese produces this stilted clenched mouth smile.

Okay, a little better. Don't her feet look huge from this perspective?

Now we're talking!

Would you like to know the secret to getting that last smile? Ask Sera how a monster smiles. She's big into growling like a monster right now.

And a very big thank you to Kate. The sweater is beautiful.


Thursday, October 30, 2008
Take That!

On Monday evening, I talked with my sister on the phone. We were both complaining about our houses being a disaster. She posted a picture of her's, so I felt obligated to do the same.

This is what happens when you sort through all your child's toys planning to take some to the consignment store or pass them on. You know the ones...the ones that haven't been played with for months. Well, she found the bag and liberated them.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Ten Years Ago
Ten years ago tonight, a very nervous woman sat in the New Orleans airport. A casual friendship of nearly two years had grown over the last few months. E-mails and chats had grown to packages and phone calls. Mutual friends had travelled to both and shared information, details, and photos. What had started as an online friendship in an rpg had grown into a real world connection, and it was time to meet.

The flight was on time. The woman nervously scanned the crowd. She had seen his picture. She knew he was 6'4". He would stand out. All of a sudden there he was. The crowd faded as the two met and embraced for the first time.

They sat in a crowded dark restaurant. No one knew the other better than they did, yet they were strangers. Their hands reached across the table. Strangers no more.

In a courtship as old as the first written correspondence and as new as technology, they had fallen in love with words.

Ten years...and they said it wouldn't last.

I love you, Jim!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Starry Starry Night

This is what I saw outside my front door when I headed up to bed last night.

No, those aren't stars.


Monday, October 27, 2008
Ho Ho Ho
A few weeks ago I received a catalog in the mail from a toy company. I don't remember the company name.

Sera loves to get mail and was very excited when she saw this. She sat right down and told me was reading her big girl magahine. Needless to say she found many things in there that were Sera's. She was especially excited about one playset that included a bath for dolls. I've seen one like it in the older preschool room at her school. I told her that maybe she could ask Santa Claus to bring it to her for Christmas. That was the first and, so far, only time I've suggested she ask Santa for anything.

Yesterday, she was playing in the living room when she pointed to my laptop and said my computer! I laughed and said no, my computer. We went round and round a few times before she announced

I ask Ho Ho Ho give Sera computer

She's a Stinkerbelle alright.


Friday, October 24, 2008
Guess what I did today?

I voted! We still had to stand in line, but it's nothing compared to the craziness that's going to happen on the 4th.

Our polling place is on a road that is under construction. We always get there at 6:30 am, and there is always a line of people. We usually get in and out pretty quickly because our district has the shorter line of the two at the polling place. It's a small church whose parking lot fills very quickly and people start parking on the very busy, very dark two lane road...the one that is currently under construction. The lines are even worse in the afternoon. In my opinion, all of this will pale in comparison to this year. I think the voter turnout around here will be huge.

I base this opinion on my students. I've never seen so many students paying attention. My seniors are making their plans to vote. The rest are talking to their parents about voting. The town where I teach recently made a national newspaper who declared it the hardest hit town in the current economy. New numbers just came out in our state that this county has the highest unemployment percentage and had the highest increase for the month of September. Families are hurting, and they want change.


A Funny Clip To Start The Weekend
Put your politics aside and just enjoy the video. You have to be of a certain age to appreciate this clip.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Housekeeping Time
Every now and then I find myself with a hodgepodge of things to post. This is one of those times.

First, you must go here and read this post. It's awesome!

Want to bring a smile to a child who can use a little fun? Get details below:

It's that time of year again! Overwhelmed with Joy is hosting her annual holiday cooking extravaganza. Click on my sidebar for the link to past recipes, and click below to get details for this year.

And, finally, I've been tagged!

Tammie got me.

Do I even have any secrets left to share? I think my 100th post pretty much put it all out there, or all that I was willing to share online. Hmmm......

1) I saw my husband's face and my child's face online before I ever saw them in person.
2) I got my first paying job at 10. I would stop at a small shop on my way home from school and sweep for $1.00. After a while, the owner showed me how to ring up the occasional customer. I felt very grownup.
3) While I was thinking about #3, a ladybug landed on my desk. I'm at school before students arrive. I've taught here for seven years and have NEVER seen a ladybug inside the building, much less on the second floor in an interior room.
4) I have entered the Pillsbury Bake-off twice. I didn't make it past the first step. I want to try again.
5) I graduated from high school in 1979. My 30th reunion is coming up next year. I look at my classmates names at classmates dot com, and I don't remember most of them...at all. I do treasure my 33 year friendship with Lori, the only high school friend with whom I am still in contact.
6) I have left only one job involuntarily. My position was eliminated. I went into a depression that lasted eight months. It was the hardest time in my life, and the best thing that ever happened to me. There was some controversy behind the decision as two jobs were combined and the other person retained. I had a proven success record taking revenues from just under $200,000 to over $1,000,000. She had an affair with the owner. My department fell apart, and the revenue bottomed out again. I was happy to hear that news. Yes, I am that shallow.
7) I barely passed typing in high school. I teach typing (now called keying) in high school. Luckily, I got better. My fastest typing speed I've ever recorded in front of my students was 112 words a minute.

Phew! That was tough. Now I'm supposed to tag seven more. Is there anyone who hasn't been tagged yet?

1. Overwhelmed with Joy
2. Kiy
3. P*ug M*ama
4. Marcia
5. Theresa
6. Jim
7. Wendi

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Sunday, October 19, 2008
Family Time
On Friday, Jim and I played hooky (took personal days) and headed south to Indianapolis. My sister, Marcia, her husband, Derek, and their daughter, Ava, flew in for a travel group reunion. We had thought they were only going to have Friday free so we just made plans to drive down there for the afternoon/evening. They ended up being free until late Saturday afternoon. I wish we'd known earlier and could have planned to spend more time together. We didn't have enough time.

But the time we had was wonderful. We picked them up at their hotel and headed downtown for a big Italian meal. Ava is the happiest, smiliest child, but you'll never figure that out from my pictures. I only captured her smiling in one.

A Happy Family

Sera was very excited about getting to see "my Ava"

Chicken Saltimboca
Spaghetti with meatballs as big as your head
Daddies and Daughters
Daddies are smiling
Thomas the Train is pretty fun
The toy that was the hit of the day
After lunch, we headed to the Children's Museum. We were worried they'd close since we had a really late lunch, but the guard at the parking garage told us we had an hour. We figured an hour was about what our girls would last. When we got inside, we learned it was already closed for the little ones. They were getting ready for their haunted house, so we never left the lobby area. Both girls have been obsessed lately with stethoscopes and making their own out of various toys. Marcia found these in the museum store. Both girls were thrilled. Sera's was amazing. It will also take your temperature and doubles as a phone, microphone, and television remote.
The museum is amazing. I was expecting a small place with some basic interactive exhibits for kids. This place is about five stories. We can't wait to go back and actually see some of it.
I think Sera summed up our outing best. Saturday afternoon she was playing when she looked at me and said, "mommy, play Ava fun."
"You had fun playing with Ava yesterday?"
"Yes," with a beaming smile.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008
To show how shallow I can be, I am a little upset that tonight's debate is taking place at the same time as the season finale on Project Runway.

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Such a Girl
My poor little Stinkerbelle. Did I ever tell you that is her favorite nickname? She's become a huge Tinkerbelle fan. Jim called her that one day when they were playing, and it stuck. She'll call herself that sometime, or ask us to call her that.

She had a rough night last night. She just couldn't sleep well. I know it was her congestion as she wasn't running a fever. I ended up holding her in the rocking chair until 5:10 this morning. We would both doze on and off. I don't want to make sleeping in our bed an unbreakable habit. Plus when all three of us are in our bed, none of us sleep well. It's amazing how much room that little body can take up. Those flailing arms and legs can pack quite the punch. I knew at 5:10 that Jim would be getting up for work, so it was safe to climb in. Sera and I slept until 8 am. It was the best three hours sleep.

When we woke up her fever was back up to 102. Since we're planning to head up to Indy on Friday and see Marcia, Derek, and Ava, I'm really hoping she kicks this today. I did take her to the doctor yesterday. It looks like her never ending cold has become a bacterial infection, too. Amoxycillin it is.

We were watching Regis & Kelly this morning while eating our breakfast. Kelly came around the desk to show off her shoes to her guest cohost, Anderson Cooper. As she's posing her feet to show off her 5-inch stilettos, Sera excitedly pointed to the TV and shouted, "What's that? Sera want some!"

She's such a girl, and I love her.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sick, Again
Poor Sera. She just can't shake this cold. She's been sick pretty much since Labor Day weekend. She acts just fine, but she's the slight cough and congestion have never gone away. She had a fever one day last week when I stayed home with her. This morning she was burning up when I got her up. By the time I carried her to my bed to take her temp, her nose started gushing blood. I had her humidifier on last night, but it must not have been enough.

Jim had a prescient moment yesterday (maybe influenced by the fact that he isn't feeling well either) and had already made sub plans, just in case. He stayed home,and I went to work. When I called during my prep hour, she was fine. About an hour before my lunch break, I got a text from Jim saying her fever was back up to 102. I called home during my lunch break, and she was just chattering away. You'd never know she was sick.

Jim called her doctor and made an appointment. When I got home from work, I bundled her into the car and off we went. She was very excited about going with mommy to the doctor. We get into the exam room, and she starts demanding her clothes be removed. You would never have known to observe her that she's sick.

The doctor said that it does look like her original virus has a secondary bacterial infection component. Amoxycillin, here we come!

I'll be home with her tomorrow. I hope I can keep up with her.


Sunday, October 12, 2008
Last night we did something we haven't done in a long time. We went out to dinner after 5 pm. One of Jim's old co-workers was back in town. She took a new teaching job this year in Tennessee, and they have the week off for Fall Recess. I say old, but that's a misnomer. Nothing like feeling your own age than going out to dinner with six 20-somethings.

I was excited about going out not just because we'd get to spend some time with some really nice people, but because of where we were going. Just a few days before I had suggested to Jim that we go to the Japanese steakhouse. I was sure Sera would love it. We usually go with friends to celebrate a birthday or other special occasion as this restaurant is definitely a splurge, but hadn't been in a long time.

Sera was fascinated from the first flame. "Mommy, he cook'n on table!" She loved the soup, the veggies, the rice, the shrimp, steak, and chicken. We didn't order for her because she's 2 and can easily share with me. They still brought her her own soup, and our chef gave her some rice and chicken. Jim and I shared our shrimp and steak with her. Our chef notice right away, obviously, that Sera is Asian and asked where we adopted her from. He then laughed and said he was assuming she was adopted. I joked back with a what, she doesn't look like me? When I told him she was from China, he told me that he was adopted from Korea at 14. He also mentioned how lucky he was to be adopted at his age. I was dying to ask more questions, but I didn't want to be rude. He was very funny and a good chef.

I'm now on a mission, though. I have to find some of those cute kid chopsticks. I think I remember seeing some at One Step Ahead. They used cardboard and a rubber band to make a pair for Sera last night, and she loved them. She did such a good job and really enjoyed using them.d


Saturday, October 11, 2008
'Cause We All Need A Little Sparkle and Charm
My friend, Kathryn aka Overwhelmed with Joy, has been working on her new online boutique for the longest time. This week she celebrated its launch.

Be sure to pop over there and see all the cute, girly things she has going on.

sparkle and Charm Boutique
Grab this button


Thursday, October 09, 2008
He Lost He Mommy
Sera and I are hanging out at home today. Nothing serious, just a slight fever and a really runny nose with some very messy sneezes. Enuf said.

After naptime, I turned the TV to Dora while I made some chicken noodle soup. Sera has been quite the Dora fan for quite some time now, however she's not really gotten into the interactive portion.

When I entered the living room with her soup, she looked at me with the saddest eyes. I could actually see a tear glistening. She pointed to the TV and and told me that he lost he mommy. There was a red fish crying in the water. Just then Dora and Boots asked him what was wrong, and Sera was right. He had lost his mommy, daddy, sisters, and brothers. After a few minutes, Dora asked for help finding something to carry the fish to the ocean. For the first time, Sera called for Backpack, and when the items appeared, she pointed and called out for the bucket. When Backpack suggested other items first, her tone as she said no proclaimed loud and clear how silly Backpack's suggestions were.

Needless to say, she was quite pleased when Dora and Boots agreed to help Red Fish find his family.

It's just so amazing, and such a privilege, to witness the cognitive leaps she makes.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008
That One?
I've deliberately not gone political on this blog. The first reason was because it took me a long time to decide who I was going to vote for this election.

The main reason is because I believe in the old saying about avoiding politics, religion, and sex. You rarely change anyone's mind, and you just annoy the heck out of them.

I believe it is our responsibility to research the issues and choose our candidate regardless of party affiliation.

More importantly, I believe it is our responsibility to vote.

You don't vote; you don't complain. That's my motto.

When I became a teacher in an urban school, I became more aware of racism in our society.

When I chose the path of international adoption, I studied more about racism in our society.

When my family became a multi-racial family, I became aware of "soft" racism.

When I heard "that one" last night, it rubbed me wrong. In my head, I heard "you people" and "uppity" in the subtext.

Am I wrong?


Friday, October 03, 2008
Favorite Ingredients Friday

My recipe for this week is a throw it all in a pot until something works recipe.

When you're a decent cook, you get complacent, even a little cocky. Isn't that always a prescription for disaster?

Jim wasn't home for dinner on Wednesday and had to work late on Thursday this week because of Parent Conferences. For Wednesday's dinner, I decided to make a hamburger stroganoffish like dish. Jim's not crazy about it, but I like it, and even better, it's easy. I browned a pound of ground beef with some onions, added some worcestershire sauce, cream of mushroom soup, mushrooms and beef base. I also made a pot of rice to go with it. Sometimes I'll use chicken broth; sometimes I add a little chicken base. This time it was chicken base.

I don't know what happened. I threw it all together pretty quickly while also playing with Sera. But when Sera and I sat down to eat, she put one bite in her mouth and looked at me like I was trying to kill her. I grabbed a napkin and caught the food before she spit it completely out. I took a bite from my plate to see what was wrong. Holey Moley! It was salty enough to kill a person. I'm wondering if I lost track and added the base twice? Dinner became PB&J sandwiches.

Not willing to throw away a pound of ground beef, I packed it up and put it in the fridge.

My thought was to turn it into vegetable soup. When I went to start dinner yesterday, I looked in the frig, pantry, and freezer. The only vegetables I could find was one can of cream-style corn. (It's time to go shopping!) That's okay, I'll make a chili out of it. No tomatoes. Though I did find one can of Ro-tel and some tomato sauce. Hmm....

Okay, I'll work with what I have. I pulled out my beautiful Le Creuset pot. In went the Ro-tel, in went the tomato sauce and the creamed corn. Oh, look...there are some kidney beans. They went in, too. Add one tomato can full of water, and heat.

It was delicious. I call it....

Are you ready?

Mommy tried to kill us with salt, so she had to come up with something else Potluck.

Feel free to come up with your own name, if you're brave enough to try it.

Be sure to visit the Favorite Ingredients Friday home to find more great recipes!

Past FIF recipes:
Amish Friendship Bread
Ice Cream in a Bag
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Chocolate Pudding Fudge Cake
Pasta, Pesto, and Peas
Basic Beef Starter, Plus
Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits
Tomato Chicken
Greatest Hits: Enchiladas de Pollo and Old-fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge
Almost Cabbage Rolls
German Chocolate Pie
Carne Asada & Sour Cream Tortilla Casserole
Dorito Salad
Shrimp Stuffed Potatoes
Apple Cake
Vegetable Beef Soup
Stuffed Cabbage Soup
Raspberry Pie & White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Pie
Breakfast Granola
Shrimp Creole
Lazy Man's Lasagna & Apple Cake
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Jim's Favorite Jelly Cookie
Eye of Round Roast
Mozzarella & Tomato Sandwich
Marcia's Taco Soup
Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Cajun Baked Catfish
Jim's Snickers Pancake
Crawfish Monica
Grilled Meats and Vegetables over Saffron Orzo
Crockpot Red Beans
Better Than Almost Anything Cake
Fruity Sangria
Outrageous Brownies
Enchiladas de Pollo
Catalina Chicken
Croissant French Toast
Corned Beef
Sloppy Joe, Mac 'n Cheese Casserole
Shredded Chicken
Baked Bean & Burger Casserole
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Crab Rangoon
Sausage con Queso and Ro-tel Cheese Dip
Blueberry Multigrain Coffeecake
Banana Bread
Bananas Foster
Old-Time Beef Stew
White Chocolate Snack Mix
Gorilla Bread
Ginger Shrimp
Roast Chicken
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

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Heard From the Backseat

"Mommy, be careful! It's raining leaves!"


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