Friday, August 1, 2014

A Recipe: Beef and Mushroom Ragu

It has been one of those weeks when I have had a hard time dragging myself out of bed in the mornings.

Monday I was disciplined. I got up at 4:45 and swam a half mile so slow I'm surprised I didn't drown.  I decided enough was enough and headed home to my comfy bed. For another 2 hours.

Tuesday I didn't even try. Beyond kicking Mr. Hippie out of bed at 5:30 to make the coffee, and sipping a few gulps of said coffee around 6:00. I'm pretty good at drinking coffee with my eyes closed. But, I gave it up after less than half a cup, and tucked back in until almost 8. Oh, and I was a bad influence on Mr. Hippie, because he went back to sleep too.

Wednesday...I am pretty sure I got up on Wednesday. Not at 4:45 to swim. I got up at 4:45 to turn my alarm off. I got up a little after 6 to drink coffee, and miracle or miracles-I actually stayed awake.

Thursday was another 6:00 wake up call. And I stayed awake. And I was so glad I did. I took off on a long bike ride just after 7:00, and saw 3 deer in a field not too far from my house. One even had antlers. So cool.
my recipe here

I am not sure what has knocked my socks off. Maybe it is the cooler weather. Maybe it is all the training I had been doing (before I slacked off this week. Instead of 2-3 discipline days, I've only done 1 each day.) Maybe it was the wedding on Saturday. We did food stuff for 9 hours straight. Whew!

I started and finished Eleanor and Park this week. I know this is a cult favorite, but I can't say it was a personal favorite. There was a fair amount of language in it, which is not my thing. Plus, the story didn't really have a happy ending or even a conclusive ending. I don't like books that the ending just kind of meanders off. Personal preference.

It has been a great bread baking week! I made French Bread, regular bread and Pita bread. (those are three separate links there, to my favorite bread recipes) Today I need to refill my cookie jar. I am waffling between ginger snaps and chocolate chip cookies.

Did I mention that we picked 48# of blueberries this week? In only 1-1/2 hours. It was good picking. We have had blueberry coffee cake, and handfuls of fresh blueberries, plus I made a double batch of jam. Gorgeous!

Well, in the cooler weather I am also thinking of cooler foods. This beef ragu is a recipe I tried several weeks ago. It looks fussy with lots of ingredients and steps, but in truth it is very easy. And the end product is fantastic. A rich beef broth, chock full of mushrooms and beef and vegetables.!

I am actually considering making this recipe for the Sunday lunch of our church campout in October. If I serve the noodles and parmesan separate (or not at all), it fits most diets-unless you are vegetarian. Then it doesn't exactly work for you. But, dairy-free and gluten-free-I've got you covered!

Beef and Mushroom Ragu
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 pound beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
kosher salt and black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1-1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1-1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 pound assorted mushrooms (such as button, cremini, and shiitake), sliced
16 ounces pappardelle or fettuccine or extra wide egg noodles
3/4 cup grated Parmesan (3 oz), plus more for serving

-Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season
the beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until
browned on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

-Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion,
carrots, garlic, rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally,
until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened,
about 1 minute more.

-Return the beef to the saucepan and add the chicken broth and tomatoes. Simmer, covered,
stirring occasionally, until the beef is fork-tender, 60 to 75 minutes.

-Add the mushrooms to the saucepan and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 10 to
12 minutes more. If the sauce is too thin, simmer, uncovered, until thickened to the desired

-Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain and return it to the pot.
Add the beef rag├╣ and Parmesan and toss. Serve with additional Parmesan.

Doesn't that look fantastic?! You might want to bookmark this recipe for September!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ode to Summer

Oh let it never end...

Well, I guess that doesn't exactly sum up my feelings about summer. I do want it to end. When it is supposed to end. Officially on September 20th, and unofficially on September 2.

But not before.

I am all for living in and embracing the current season. Not wishing for the next one. (The exception to the rule would be winter to spring. I start hoping for spring about January 1.) I will do minimal planning, if necessary, but that is about it. (My school books are ordered and my curriculum is set. It is all ready for me, when I am ready for it. I've planned a trip to Spain in February, but I am not stewing more over it right now. I'll leave that dreaming and planning for later.)

My dreams and posts and Pinterest boards are not filled with sweaters and boots and scarves and apple cider and donuts and soups and school supplies.

I'm still in the throws of salads and grilling, shorts and bathing suits, naps and beaches and outdoor concerts.

Maybe it is because I am a home school mom, and thus my kids are with me 24/7/365, but the start of school is not something I am counting down the days to in excitement.

School doesn't mean freedom for me. It means teaching schoolwork for hours everyday. It means less time for running and biking and swimming. It means more schedule. And more nonnegotiable scheduled activities.

I do look forward to the start of school for the basic fact that I am excited about our module for Friday school. (Ancient history before Alexander the Great)

Fall means crisper temperatures (love), but it also means shorter days. Which I really don't like. I like light. From 5:30 in the morning until 10:00 at night. I feel myself withering as the darkness gets longer and the days get shorter. The best thing about Christmas is that the days start getting longer from then on out.

Fall really is my favorite season. It has been for a long time.

But, I am not wishing for fall. I am loving summer. I am enjoying reading tons of books. I think I have read at least a novel a week for the past 6-7 weeks.

On Tuesday evenings in during the summer, our family attends an outdoor concert series. We meet up with the BFF and her family, bring a picnic and listen to great (or sometimes mediocre) music. Last night Freckles was counting up the remaining concerts (2), and said with a sigh, "that means summer is almost over."

I get you, bud!

But, while it may be almost over, we still have an entire summer month to live. To live in the present. To not worry about the changes or schedule of fall. To not overly and eagerly anticipate the changes or schedule of fall.

An entire month to stay up late reading books. To catch fireflies and swim in lakes. To be bored and to rest. To celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. To can tomatoes and peaches. To just be.

What will you do (or not do) to really live in summer this last month of summer 2014?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Annoying Discrimination

I learned something new yesterday.

In turns out that my sister in law and I get our oil changed at the same place. And we both have used the same place for a couple years.

I found that surprisingly surprising.

I mean, I know we live across the street from each other (so it isn't in the realm of impossibility that we'd use the same place), but we also both pass at least four oil change places to get to the one we use.

Why do neither of us use one of those four oil change places?

Well, this is the surprising thing. We both use the same oil change place for the very same reason. They don't discriminate against women. 

I'm not talking about only Men's Health and Car magazines in the waiting room, ESPN on the screens and filthy restrooms.

I'm talking about much more subtle discrimination.

At this particular place they don't treat me like I am mechanically ignorant because I'm a woman. They have never tried to up sell me on anything because I am a woman and I don't really know if this car situation is an emergency or not.

The flushes. The high mileage oil. The air filters. The wipers.

The one hundred and one other radical problems' fixes that they couldn't in good conscience allow me out the door without performing. Your brand new car is practically a death trap careening through the roadways, did you know?!

In (way too many) garages, women=pushovers. Easy, emotional sells.

If you are a woman, chances are you know exactly what I mean.

If you are a man, chances are you may know what I mean, but you most likely haven't experienced it.

I've asked my husband if he ever gets pressured in the oil garage. Nope. Do they try to sell him on _____ or ______? Nope. Did they tell you you are likely to explode your engine because you haven't changed the air filter since last month? No and no and no!

I've been with him in the oil garage and I don't hear the squeeze.

Men won't take it. Men see through the crap.

So, after blatant discrimination again and again at various places, I've refused. I refuse to be treated like an ignorant bimbo with fuzz between my ears who will believe any catastrophic theories about my vehicle.

(I mean, if I can string a sentence like THAT together, why do they think they can pull one over on me?)
Does this look like a girl to be trifled with? I don't think so...

I will not subject myself to poor treatment. That's rather masochistic.

I've taken my business elsewhere. I've taken my business to a place that shows integrity in service-whether you are a man or a women.

Loyalty is my thing. Quality service is my thing. If you treat me well, I will be your loyal customer for life. I will send others your way. My frugal self will even pay more for good service.

This discrimination-it isn't painful or life altering. It is annoying. And it makes for great blog post fodder.

As a woman, have you ever conscientiously taken your business somewhere that they treat you with dignity and integrity? 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A New Season of Parenting

I've mentioned here before that I feel old. I think it isn't my age so much that is bothering me, but my kids' age. Because, seriously, I feel about in my prime. My strongest. My 30's have been good to me. I'm a mean and lean fighting machine. Or not.

But, what is getting me is not my 30's but my kids' adolescence. I have two boys on the cusp on teenage-hood. And that is weird.

I no longer have a child in diapers. Meres is almost 100% potty trained. (she still wears a pull up at night) I'm not nursing. I don't have to cut up food super small or schedule life around naps. I'm loving it!

I can actually relax a bit at the beach and enjoy myself. Because, yes, I am a former life guard, so I'm a super watchful at the pool/beach kind of mom. (I have nightmares of my kids drowning) There is no napping or book reading for me.

At least, not until this summer. (and I'm still not napping there) This year the boys are confident and skilled enough in the water to go out a ways, and not need to be constantly within arm's reach. LC is braver, but still doesn't venture far without an adult-which gives me a measure of peace. And Meres is just not a big water person. She loves going to the beach, but she hardly ventures into the water. She is a sand imbiber. Always has been.

I am enjoying the beach this summer. It isn't as stressful a situation for me. I can soak up the sound of the surf and let it sooth my soul. I can read. I can sit in a chair next to Meres and know she is going to be fine.

My parenting is entering a whole new stage, and that has evident at more than the beach this summer.

The boys have outgrown children's areas. They aren't interested in splashing in fountains and playing in the sand. They aren't mesmerized by swinging and parks and slides. Magic shows and such are below them. And BMV, entering junior high in the fall, is even too old for most DVBS's.

My boys are growing up.

We are walking new paths of different interests, plus increased privileges balanced with increased responsibility. Their boundaries are stretching. They bike the half mile loop of our neighborhood without supervision. They like miniature golf and they finally are decent at it. They play board games and read and amuse themselves. They don't need watched 24/7 to make sure they aren't in danger.

Girls are still in the friends' category. (PTL!) No one is anywhere near driving. Their biggest obsession is still legos, followed by Mine Craft, and then Star Wars. Well, maybe their biggest obsession is any area where these three interests converge.

But, it is a definite stirring nonetheless. And I find myself navigating these new waters a bit gingerly. The gawk-wardness, and the fun. The little men in front of me, as well as the little girls.

'Cause Meres and LC are thoroughly still little girls. They are still into little kid stuff. Dolls and snuggles. Story times and children's gardens.

New interests, new activities, new seasons. Still balanced with old interests, activities and seasons. This parenting season is more like early spring or early fall than summer or winter. It is seeable changes, but nothing drastic as yet. Still the warm/cold temps of the past season, but with the visible feel, look (and even smells) of the new.

Are you still solely parenting little kids, or are your kids adolescents, teenagers or beyond? If so, what nutshell of wisdom would you share with me?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Spiced Pork Chops, Mango Salsa

It was a great week. 

As I was anticipating this week from the perspective of last weekend, I was not sure how everything was going to fit. I need the mad skillz of a contortionist or the genius brain of a jig-saw puzzle aficionado. (which is NOT me. I hate puzzles. Almost as much as I hate cutting.)

Blueberries are ripe for the picking.

I needed my granola. (I buy it from a store an hour's drive from my house. 2 hours, if you count there and back)

I was hanging with my friend on Monday, plus I had another meeting about the wedding I am "catering" on Saturday. (which basically involves a bit of watermelon slicing, pulled turkey reheating, broccoli salad combining plus setting up, running the buffet and cleaning up. Not much in the scope of things. But, it's the responsibility of it.)

Working on Thursday.

Brunch with the BFF on Friday-me cooking.


Tri practice on Friday night.

Ladies' meeting at church on Wednesday afternoon.

Blues Concert Tuesday night.

VBS for the 3 oldest kids Monday through Friday.

Cater the wedding on Saturday. 

Can you see why I was a bit overwhelmed?

So, I chose to pick and choose. To prioritize in order to not lose my mind.

No blueberries. This week. They will still be around on Monday. And that is when I will get them.

Combine a granola trip with a family trip to the beach. We pass the beach on the way down. It made the trip more than worth it.

Get up early for training. And go to bed early for sleeping.

Instead of being crazy, it has been a really good week. Things fit into their place, without it being like the jig-saw puzzle work of a contortionist.

I made this pork chop recipe for the Blues Concert picnic on Tuesday. I am not a big fan of fruit with my meat, so I keep these separated, but it sure looks nice together on the plate. Greens. Yellows. Porky-pink. 

This would be a great recipe to serve at a Green Bay Packers game...

I must confess I don't have any coriander, so I have made this twice without, and it was still really good. The pork chops are spiced not spicy

You can buy pork chops, or buy pork loin and cut your own chops. I usually buy the pork loin because it is a good cut of meat for a great price.

Spiced Pork Chops
1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin, fat trimmed
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander (I must confess I don't have any coriander, so I have made this twice without)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger

-Preheat grill to medium high.
-Cut pork into 3/4” chops.
-In a gallon sized bag, mix the flour and seasonings. Add the pork, and shake around unit evenly coated.
-Grill chops, turning once, until the pork loses its pink color, about 5 minutes per side.
-Serve with Mango Salsa.

Mango Salsa
2 ripe mango
3 medium kiwi
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp peeled, grated fresh ginger (or a 1/4 tsp ginger powder)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

-Peel, pit, and coarsely chop the mango, and place in a bowl.
-Peel and coarsely chop the kiwi and add to the mango.
-Chop cilantro. Grate the ginger.
-Add the vinegar, ginger and cilantro to the fruit and stir well.

How was your week? What did you give up to make room for priorities?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Favorites Currently

Occasionally it is time to get back to the basics of blogging, and do a light list of currents favorites...

My favorite (this week):

Bathing Suit-Lands End Slender Suit (here) Okay, this is hands down the most flatteringly modest suit I have ever worn. The girls are completely covered, and the side shirring is very slimming. Wow! I personally prefer my white shell bead necklace with my suit.

you thought I was going to post a picture of myself in my suit?
Snort! Not hardly!

Activity: reading or writing in my backyard in the canopy created by my cherry tree branches. Peaceful. Breezy. Relaxing.

Author: Susanna Kearsley. (here) I mentioned her a while back on my current reads list. I LOVE her writing style and the genre she is dipping in. Her books are fiction, and most are set in modern day with a storyline that also is happening sometime in history.

Splendor Falls bridged now and Medieval times. Firebird was set in France and St. Petersburg in the early 1700s following the story of Jacobites there. Shadowy Horses had a storyline in Wales in Roman times.

She also includes lines of poems by famous poets for in the beginning of each of her books. Awesome!

I am on my fourth title by her, which is all my library system carries. I maybe will do the (almost) unthinkable (for me) and purchase her kindle only books.

Bean Snappers: these four...

Indulgence: M&M McFlurries. What can I say? I love M&Ms on/with ice-cream. I love how the chocolate kind of freezes. Delicious.

Deal: My new bicycling gloves. Brand new. Cost-$22. Cost to me-$0. Plus, more than any of my biking gear, these make me look like I know what I'm doing. It's an optical illusion. But, a nice one.

and, how do you pose your hand in a picture? Awkward!
Recent gift: this colander. From a dear family friend. She gave it to me this spring and I thought in my heart, "ain't nobody got time for a colander!" I always strain things via a tipped pan lid. Well, this beauty has sat atop my fridge, and because it is so handy and convenient, I have used it a ton! It is the perfect size for draining a pound of noodles. Who woulda thought?

Podcasts: Art of Simple (here) and How They Blog (here). I am newly converted to the wonder of podcasts. I listen to them mostly when I dust my house, and I listened to them last week when I sewed. Basically I listen when I am doing a task that doesn't require my full attention. I like the Art of Simple Podcast because I like the host, Tsh Oxenrider. She has a heart for simple living and for travel. These podcasts are about 30 minutes long, which is a perfect length for most tasks.

How They Blog is hosted by Kat Lee. She interviews bloggers about blogging and life. I particularly liked her interviews of Laura Smith, Erin Odom and Denise Hughes. Laura Smith sounds like a kindred "set and accomplish goals" soul. Erin Odom mentioned something about scheduling FB posts for 3:00 a.m. which I have been doing and it has sky rocketed my exposure and traffic. Denise Hughes had some great tips on the nuts and bolts of writing.

Bling: This sterling silver flower ring. So, I paid nothing for the gloves. I paid $2.11 for this ring. Original price-$35. It was 75% off, plus I had $10 in Kohls cash. You can't beat it! It's been a great value because I have worn it every day for the past month...

Thrift Find: this beauty. I don't know why it caught my eye, but it did. Blue glass. Probably holds 2 gallons. I have no idea what I might use it for, but it was one of those things that you buy now and contemplate later. One word-gorgeous!

What's on your favorites list this week?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Unapologetic World View

So, if you know me very well, you know that I am unapologetic about most things. Because I'm right about most things. Not everything. But, like, 99% of things...

I jest.

Whether I am right the majority of the time or not, I am confident the majority of the time. Loud and proud and all that.

(un)Shockingly enough, I am pretty confident and unapologetic of my worldview.

Simply put-worldview is how you view the world. (Rose-colored glasses is a worldview.) It's the overall perspective from which you see and interpret the world. Your world view is your filter.

Through what lens are you looking at culture, people and events?

Worldview is very important. It affects how you think, and thus how you act.

How do you view this world?

My worldview would fit into the Biblical worldview category. I try to see culture, people and events the way God sees them and Scripture portrays them. I try to fit culture with the Bible, not the Bible with culture. It is the difference between looking through the big or small ends of the binoculars.

And even though this worldview is not in the vogue currently, I will not apologize for it.

Five unequivocal filters in my worldview are...

God is good-all the time. And He is accomplishing good in believer's lives all the time. Circumstances may be rotten, but God is good. (Mark 10:18)

Jesus Christ is the (definite article) Truth. (John 14:6) Jesus Christ is unchanging. (Hebrews 13:8) Therefore, truth is unchanging. Truth is absolute. A truth is something that is true for all people in all situations. Truth is not subject to popular vote, majority opinion or democratic process. Truth is still true even if it is only held and believed by the minority. (the world was still round even when scientists said it was flat. What they believed didn't change the truth)

The Bible is God's Word. Because God cannot lie, then the words contained in the Bible are truth. (Hebrews 6:18)

Every person ever born was born a sinner,(Romans 3:23) and thus needs a Savior.

Jesus Christ died a criminal death on the cross, to fulfill the punishment and pay the price of sinners' sin. (John 3:16)

It only follows that these foundational beliefs shape how I view the world.

When I don't understand something in the Bible, I don't ever question the truth of the Bible.

When culture contradicts the Bible, I err on the side of the Bible. Scripture is right, thus culture must be wrong.

When I go through tough circumstances, my anchor of hope is that God is good. I may not be able to see the goodness in the midst of the trouble, but this assurance keeps me getting up in the morning.

When I meet with people whom I disagree with, or whose life choices/lifestyle I disagree with, I am able to evaluate those choices, etc. by the Bible, and agree or disagree, but also still love the person, because they are a soul for whom Christ died. Because God loves them. That's the truth.

Our world does not appreciate my worldview. The educated would call me brainwashed. Many Christians would call me a bigot. The cultured would say that I am ignorant. They'd tell me that the only reason I believe this book of fairy tales is because it was what I was taught as a kid.

And, I would have to agree that my upbringing definitely shaped my worldview (as did your's). But, that, in and of itself, does not make my world view wrong.

Everyone has a worldview. What's your's?