Broccoli Salad Recipe

Try this broccoli salad at your next picnic gathering! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I don’t want pasta salad AND potato salad…they just aren’t the healthiest options. And it makes me feel a little better when I can get more veggies in my picky hubby’s diet.

Ingredients

for the salad**
–broccoli
–grapes
–onions
–pecans
–craisins

for the dressing
–1/2 cup lite mayo
–2 tablespoons sugar
–2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

**I apologize that this recipe doesn’t provide exact measurements. I just toss together what I think looks good. 😉

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Directions

1. Cut broccoli; chop onion; halve grapes; chop pecans.

2. Combine all ingredients in bowl.

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Don’t let this picture fool you…there is far more broccoli than any other ingredient. In fact, the entire bottom of this bowl is filled with broccoli!

3. Mix together mayo, sugar, and vinegar until well combined.

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(I apologize for the shadow in this picture!)

4. Stir dressing into salad until evenly coated. Refrigerate before serving as it tastes best cold!

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As you may have noticed, my pictures do not contain any pecans. 🙁 This salad is so versatile! You can leave out ingredients or add in others (like bacon…everything tastes better with bacon, right?!). Last time I made this salad, we had company over with nut allergies, so I just skipped out on those, and it was still terrific!

Of shovels and sledge hammers

Digging to China

When my oldest children asked if China really truly was located on the other side of the world, I suggested they dig a hole deep enough to find out. A few years later, when they were still working on that hole, they began to wonder how gravity would affect them once they reached the center of the earth and came closer to their goal. The day they found out the earth has a molten lava core, they fell into a short depression, but by that time they were trying to figure out how to get a giraffe, the tallest animal in the world, on top of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world (that was before the discovery that Mount K2 might be taller after all.) If you ever climb Mt. Everest and find a giraffe-size box dropped by parachute from a cargo plane with two thin trail marks leading down through the snow, look for a trained giraffe that may have skied to safety at the bottom!

Digging further

As my boys grew to manhood, they faced other problems than putting a giraffe on Mt. Everest. Their own untamed natures needed direction. When anger broke through the surface, I sent them out to dig a hole to China. The three of them made good progress on the hole, and on their character. Hard work helps boys think more clearly.

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Sometimes more than one would be digging at a time. The heavy clay soil meant slow work.

Paul and I planned to use the hole as drainage for the rain run-off from the driveway. It’s one of those places in the yard that needs attention, but has never been completed since it isn’t very visible from the road or to the neighbors. We needed gravel or rock to finish the project.

Demolition crew

Yesterday I joined the family demolition crew for the afternoon. My brother bought a fixer-upper house on a nearby lake. Before Christmas I spent several days with him tearing out walls and molding, installing insulation and new dry wall, and my favorite, laying wood flooring. He recently took out the furnace. He removed the original wood stove when he first bought the house. He could have left the chimney as it was and worked around it, but it cut into the area of the small bathroom.

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Starting at the bottom might have been more fun!

Last week he and my dad pulled the top three layers of block out of the roof and laid down new board, tar paper and shingles. Now it was time to take out the lower section of the chimney.

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The first block crumbled willingly.

My back is a little sore today, but tier by tier we broke out the blocks and hauled them to my dad’s truck. I wished little bro could have helped. He would have loved it.

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The dust we created was truly amazing.
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Taking whole blocks cut down on the mess, but they tended to crumble anyway.
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The chimney seemed to go on down forever, but when we hit the floor level, the rest took just a few really good whacks.
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Done!

Turning in our shovels

We took the broken pieces to the hole the boys dug in our yard. Now our drainage area is nearly complete and we didn’t add the broken blocks to the local landfill. We’ll lay some drainage pipes and cover it up. The grandchildren will miss their mini pond, especially in the winter when it would freeze and they could slide on it and pretend to skate. We’ll have to go to the lake at my brother’s.

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Ready to be filled back in.

 

DIY Front Door Wreath

I like to think I’m crafty, and I like when I have an excuse to exercise my craftiness. My most recent creation was a front door wreath.

I participated in the “Secret Sister” program at our church this past year. I did pretty good until Christmas time–I wrote her a note at least once a month, got her a gift for her birthday and Christmas. Then, well…I’m not going to lie about it…I was TERRIBLE. I think I wrote one card in a four month span. I feel pretty bad about that, and I don’t think I’m going to participate again next year because I just don’t have the time (as you probably noticed by my sparse posts this year).

Anyhow, the sister reveal party was last night, and we were charged with giving our sisters one last, nice gift. I didn’t know my secret sister at all before she was assigned to me, so I knew only what she filled out about herself on the information sheet. I knew her favorite color is purple, she likes arts and crafts, books, tea, and chocolate. I felt like I depleted all my gift ideas related to those things, so I went a completely different route and decided on making her a wreath for her front door.

I made a quick trip to the new Hobby Lobby they opened down the street about 3 months ago, and got my supplies:

–twig wreath
–two fabric roses
–two long, flowery stems
–grey ribbon
–wooden “W”
–purple paint

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Painting the “W” took the longest in this project. I even painted the back because I wasn’t 100% sure how everything would look when I assembled it. I painted it over the course of two or three days.

I turned to Pinterest and looked up how to tie a bow. I followed this article. A little secret of mine? I used tie wraps for extra security instead of floral wire. 😉 I assembled all the flowers, stuffed the “W” in place, and voila!

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Can I just tell you that I was tempted to keep this for myself!?

To Wren: an open letter on your first birthday

Happy Birthday, dear one! You have left your first year of life behind you and are on to bigger, older things today. This week you started to try to walk in earnest. You stood yourself up on chairs, trikes, and boxes and pushed off in the tentatively swaying toddle that turns my heart to melted ice cream and butterflies. Each time you made it safely to mommy or daddy, you paused expectantly for our applause, and graciously accepted out delight at your accomplishment. You did this over and over and over till our hands were red with clapping, and our hearts bursting with pride.

Oh, dear girl o’mine, what will I do now that my little snuggle bunny is starting to walk? Will you give up the warmth and comfort of a perch in mama’s arms for the excitement of mobility?

Will you give up the comfort of mama's arms for the joy of mobility
Will you give up the comfort of mama’s arms for the joy of mobility

I can hardly imagine that last year at this time I had only just met you. We had seen each other for only a few brief hours. But, how we loved one another. I remember it like the day was yesterday. I heard the birds just starting to sing outside the window, and then, you were with us! You were lying on my chest gazing up at me with your large dark eyes, your curly dark hair, and your infinite baby rolls.

I still remember the gasp of shock when the nurses carried you over to be weighed. I thought someone had dropped you, or something had gone wrong.

“What is it?!”

“She’s 9 lbs!” No one could believe that you had squirreled away those rolls of fat while I had been wasting away with nausea! I wanted to get up and dance around the room I was so happy for your weight!

I remember the first moment your sister saw you. Aunt Sherri brought her in, and she bounded up the stairs to find me, barreling into the bedroom, to the bed, and up. And, as she turned towards me her eyes fell in the bassinette beside the bed. And her eyes grew round with surprise and love.

You stole your sister's heart
You stole your sister’s heart

“Beebee! Beebee!” She climbed up on my lap and leaned over to look at your slender fingers, and soft cheeks. But, when I lifted you onto her lap I knew she had fallen in love, almost the same way I had. You had stolen our hearts.

I’ve watched your personality develop. Where your sister dives in head first, you hold back and survey things before making your move. Where she slept poorly, you sleep sound. Where she tries things over and over without caring for injury to herself or others, you choose careful planning, and testing each move for safety and stability. Yet, you equal each other in wonder for the world- the delight at splashing water, the intensity of watching an ant climb the deck railing, the joy of wind in your face, and love for books being read to you.

The joy of wind in your face
The joy of wind in your face

What will this next year hold for you? Will you love South Carolina as much as you’ve enjoyed Minnesota? Will you be talking in full sentences next year? Will you still bounce up and down  with excitement in your eyes when I tell you it’s time for a nap?

My dear sweet Wren, I cannot wait to know you better!

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday dear one!
Happy Birthday dear one!

Update: Little Chefs Kick-Off

Kick off chef hat

Our kick-off night started with crafting baker hats. You can find a half dozen different designs online. Since our children-baker’s average age sifts down to 6, we go for the easiest projects.

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The end result really tickled all the children. They are ready to cook!

One of my friends cut out the basic strip for the bakers hats ahead of time. After measuring and stapling them to fit each child, we showed them how to puff up tissue through the band and taped them in place. Voila! Chefs! Total cost, about 10 cents per child.

Bible lesson

The lesson, from The Life of Christ flannelgraph series, focused on Christ turning the water into wine at a wedding. The teacher took extra pains to connect all the cooking opportunities to our theme. She spoke in detail about wedding feasts. The children listened extremely attentively. Being so used to DVDs and technology integrated into school lessons, the simple flannel-backed pictures are fascinating to them because they are different than usual and because we love to tell the stories of Jesus! We took these lessons from the church files and didn’t need to buy anything.

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We kept the evening moving, but plan to readjust our schedule so craft time will have a few extra minutes and not be as rushed when we have more complicated items.

Snack time

During the snack time, I used a powerpoint to tell an old story about a little girl in Haiti who raised yams to buy a new dress made out of flour sacks. The story came from our church files, also, but was missing the illustrations. I ordered another online for $6 which included shipping. It will continue through the entire summer which makes each night’s story cost about 50 cents. The snack cost a couple dollars for the brownie mix and sliced strawberries were $2 on sale at Aldis.

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All the teachers and helpers jumped in by dressing the part.

Fun and frugal

The cost for the first night, just under $6. Several people donated items, such as the tissue paper, the brownies and so forth. No money had to be taken out of the church budget. The cooking theme mixes well into every area of our ministry and the children love it!

 

Porridge

Breakfast from our kitchen

Porridge sounds so much more appetizing than oatmeal. We eat it all week long, summer and winter. We like it so much, I buy it in bulk.

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This is a small container. I used to buy 50 pound bags.

The grandkids love porridge, too, though they find it the most fun to steal my craisins. Everyone in the house likes their bowl slightly different, so not being a fastfood restaurant, I take special orders.

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Currents works, too, but no Craisins for Papa.

My sister-in-law introduced me to chia. She eats it soaked in water 20 minutes because it gives her such great energy. It is a super food. I mix mine in my porridge. Starting the day before, I add 2 tablespoons to a cup of water and let it soak overnight.

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Chia has almost no flavor. When I chew on a seed, I feel like I’m eating meadow grass. I enjoy the texture of it, though some people don’t.

Paul and I agree on several ingredients.

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Any type of nut will do except peanuts. Paul gets a small scoop of chocolate chips. I eat 5. Unless the grandkids steal them.

One last important ingredients. Adding the cinnamon while it’s cooking brings out more flavor from it.

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We like a healthy amount of cinnamon. It boosts the pancreas and helps prevent diabetes.

Special orders don’t upset us!

Now for the specialty menu. Half goes into Paul’s bowl. The other half gets chia.

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Although it looks dry, it’s quite moist. Paul doesn’t even add milk. When I add the chia seeds to the remaining portion, it’s perfect for me.

Cheaper than dry cereal, healthier than bacon and eggs. We love it.

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Summer breakfast is meant for eating in the garden.

Did I mention I like a little porridge with my breakfast? That oatmeal is far outnumbered by all the added extras!

Haircut and a Conversation

A high school girl cut my hair at the beauty school. She seemed a bit nervous. Maybe her first cut without the instructor hovering nearby? You can read about using beauty schools to save money here.

My hearing aids get in the way during haircuts. So when I’m sitting there with empty ears, almost deaf, I feel a bit awkward. I discovered that I need to do most of the talking, which is outside of my comfort zone. But I do have a captive audience. And I do have one subject that I can talk about all day: my incredible God.

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I love to talk about my Saviour, my Redeemer and my God of all Wonders.

 

Here’s the conversation. I had to edit it a little, sorry about that, but you don’t have time to read a book.

Her: You really want this much cut? More than 2 inches?

Me: Yep, it’s been three months since the last time I came.

Her: Ok. (hesitant snip of scissors.)

Me: Do you mind if I ask a spiritual question?

Her: No, I’m really interested in spiritual things.

Me: Good. What do you believe is the way a person gets to Heaven?

Her: Wow! That’s a tough question. (Long pause.) Well, I go to three different churches with my parents and I’ve been confirmed as a catholic, but I don’t believe what they teach. I think it’s like the Bible says, you have to become like a child.

Me: I know that verse. The one that says you have to become like a little child to enter into the Kingdom of God.

Her: Yeah. That’s the one.

Me: That is really interesting that you said that. I ask a lot of people this question and almost all of them say that you have to do more good than bad to get to Heaven.

Her: That’s true. You do.

Me: But how can you tell you’ve done enough good or that your good is good enough? Like what if you punch someone, and then you try to make up for it by carrying groceries for an elderly person. You might think you did enough, but the person you punched might not agree. You can’t depend on how you feel about it or your own opinion. It’s really important to find out what God says is the way to Heaven.

Her: I never thought of it that way.

 

Me: God is holy, right? That means He has no sin. He doesn’t allow sin in Heaven. Do you know that the Bible says you can never be good enough to go to Heaven?

Her: Then how does anyone get to Heaven?

Me: You have to get rid of your sin.

Her: How?

Me: When I was about four-years-old, my mom gave me a bath one day and told me I was clean on the outside, but dirty on the inside. I wondered if I needed to eat soap to get clean inside.

Her: That’s funny.

Me: My mom explained that only Jesus could wash away my sin and make me clean. I wanted to please God. I told Him I was sorry for my sin and asked Him to forgive me. I wanted to be His child, like you said, becoming a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

She was done with my hair and the instructor came over to check her work. As I tipped her and picked up my stuff, she asked, Where do you go to church? I told her. I hope she visits and finds out more.

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Great haircut. Great conversation. All because I have a great God.

 

Pesto Chicken Bake Recipe

So, remember my last blog post with the yummy pesto recipe? If you missed it, you can read it here. Well, I made a most delicious pesto chicken bake with it! It was soooooo easy to throw together, and it really is a low-calorie meal.

Ingredients

–3 to 4 chicken breasts
–6 to 8 tablespoons pesto
–1 cup fresh spinach leaves
–4 roma tomatoes, chopped
–1 can of quartered artichoke hearts, drained
–6 to 8 ounces of cheese

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Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place the chicken flat in a glass baking dish. No need to grease the dish. But you may need to pound/flatten the chicken a bit. It will cook more quickly and evenly.

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3. Spread approximately 2 tablespoons pesto on each chicken breast.

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4. Layer spinach, artichokes, and tomatoes. Top with cheese.

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5. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on thickness of chicken breasts) or until the juices run clear.

Picture Design (1)

You can eat this dish by itself or serve with it with rice, pasta, steamed spinach…you’ve got plenty of options. My parents loved this dish, and my hubby…well, he ate it without complaint, which is saying something for his picky palate. 😉

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Best Boxes for a Move

We’re full steam ahead with our move. The POD shipped out today for our new house. The appraiser for the new owner for our property stopped in at the same time they were loading the POD. We have just a few days left here in the first house we’ve every owned. As you may have guessed, packing is very much on my mind. The past few weeks I have collected a plethora of boxes. I have asked at stores throughout our fine city, and today I’ll share with you the 3 best places we found boxes, and one store not to bother with.

Full steam ahead packing the POD right to the top!
Full steam ahead packing the POD right to the top!

Target

By far Target had the best, and was the kindest about finding some of their old stocking boxes for us. I stopped at two separate locations, and both times the employees went above the call of duty tracking down their cardboard gold for me. The boxes were in good condition, very clean, and of varying sizes- just what I wanted!

Cub Foods

Cub is probably only available to check if you’re in the Midwest. It’s our local grocery store. If you’re down south I’d think they’re about comparable to Bilo. I asked at Cub, and was directed to ask in the produce section. I was given several large produce boxes. They smelled like apples, which wasn’t too bad, and they also were not in quite as good condition as the Target ones, but hey… they were free- I’m not gonna complain about free!

At our local grocery store they gave us some used produce containers. They smelled like apples, but they worked for the move!
At our local grocery store they gave us some used produce containers. They smelled like apples, but they worked for the move!

Self Storage

We had rented a storage unit while we were showing our house, and several times were able to get empty boxes from those getting rid of them! The sizes have the potential to vary greatly. But, we were able to get about 50 fairly small ones that were awesome for packing my kitchen utensils, medicine cabinets, jewelry, and other small items.

Home Depot

Don’t try Home Depot. They don’t give out boxes. They only sell them. I tried two different locations wondering if I’d just talked with a grumpy employee. But no. They do have very nice boxes you can buy. But, I could get similar boxes for free from Target.

Almost everything fit in the POD
Almost everything fit in the POD

All tied up!

Time to buy summer shoes at last

Lots of stores start summer shoe clearance before summer begins! I went shopping this week, so I know. I bought a pair of shoes. My foot needs a D or E in width, so I often have to buy an overly long size to fit comfortably. Tennis shoes or Crocs usually work best, but I wear skirts and dresses, which don’t really go together.  Since pointy-toe, mega-high heel shoes are the style, my feet are toast, and a predictable broken ankle will probably keep me out of the current fashion.

I bought these.

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A classic look.

$30 at Meijer’s, which was $20 off the regular price. That’s a lot more than I usually pay, but I have been super-busy this spring with two of my adult children moving and my youngest son and his wife adopting two adorable little girls. When I’m too busy, everything costs more because I don’t have time to shop smart.

Those troublesome laces

The only drawback to these shoes—the laces. They look fine, but they won’t stay tied. A friend suggested buying longer laces, restringing them and using a double knot. These thick round laces get bulky doing that, and still come untied, but they are the right type of lace to fit through the grommets. Flat laces don’t look good or lay right either.

Thank you, Justin

I have to give credit for how I solved my problem to my middle son. He always meticulously stripped out shoe laces whenever he bought a new pair of tennies and relaced them with his own flair. It struck me that I could do the same. I spent half an hour coming up with a way that worked. These babies aren’t coming untied! The pictures show how I fiddled with them to get a consistent look that took up the extra slack of lace that needed to be out of the way. After tucking the ends under the section called the quarter (the outer  section above the tongue) I pushed the aglets (the plastic finished ends of the lace) as far as they could go toward the shoe’s sole.

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This style shoe gives a lot of extra width because of the laces. I left the lace in as it was on the sides and back.
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I tried lacing from the top down first, but didn’t like the look.
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Are you following? Just slip that lace through!
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Wrap the lace in a tight curl around itself.
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Tuck the aglet in as far as it will go.
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Now for the other end.
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Wind it around itself from the opposite direction of the first one.
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Tucking the aglet in this side is a little more difficult, a tight squeeze.
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Ready to wear. No loose ends to come untied. Looks a little different, but not all that noticeable.

Hours saved

After wearing them for a couple miles of walking yesterday, I’m happy with them. The half hour I spent paid off. I didn’t spend five minutes every half hour bending over to retie them. Since it rained, I didn’t drag loose shoelaces through muddy parking lot puddles. In the end, I saved oodles of time.

 

Now, would everybody reading this do the same so we can start a fashion trend? Thanks!

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Marching to my own drum, uh-huh!