Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Three Things You Should Always Have on Hand

I was thinking about this the other day-- how I think that you should always have on hand the means to make three things when the mood hits you:

Cinnamon Sugar: (for cinnamon toast and to shake liberally onto baked sweet potatoes) Mix 1 Tbsp of cinnamon with 1/2 cup sugar and keep in empty cinnamon spice jar. Refill as needed.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The ingredients for these items would include things like flour, sugar, brown sugar, sticks of butter, chocolate chips, confectioners sugar. I make sure to always have these things on hand, ready and waiting, on a special shelf in my pantry I think of as my baking shelf.

I think it's very telling that the things I want to be able to make are all sweet. I wish I kept the makings for salad just as ready.
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Reading Quote

(Photo Source:

"A man reading should be a man intensely alive. A book should be a ball of light in one’s hand.” - Ezra Pound

What are you reading?
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Of Mailboxes And Menus

The other night I tweeted that I had cut down my inbox to a mere 14 emails AND planned a menu for the week. What a great feeling that is! I'm happy to report that, while my inbox didn't stay at 14, I've managed to keep it below 25, which is always my goal. I know this will not stay that way, but for now it perpetuates the illusion of control that I love so much.

The other thing that makes me feel in control is having my menu planned for the week. And so, while it's a little late, I thought I'd share what we're having this week at the Whalens, with links to many of the recipes in case you'd like to plan a menu of your own. I used my Pinterest "Food Faves" board this time for my planning and it was a fast process! Plus it's nice to finally make some of the many delicious looking recipes I've pinned.

Here they are, in no certain order:

Teriyaki Chicken over Rice, Roasted Broccoli

Chicken and Gravy over egg noodles, black eyed peas

Pork Chops, Stuffing, Lima Beans

Pot Roast, Carrots and Onions, Mashed Potatoes

Crockpot Beef Fajitas

Pork Roast, Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes

Chicken Drumsticks, Corn, Rice Pilaf

Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, easy apple dumplings

And don't forget dessert! I love bars so I got the ingredients to make these:

Deep Dish Oatmeal Chocolate Cookie Bars

No Bake Reese's Bars

Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodle Brownies

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Secretariat's Heart

My daughter brings me the Kentucky Derby glass, her finger marking the spot on the glass where the great horse's name is listed under the year 1973. We own a collection of these glasses from all the years when my parents went to the Derby. (This is an example of "My mom went to the Kentucky Derby and all I got was this glass." But I'm not bitter. And I'm also not here to talk about that.)

I wanted to share something my mom, who got to see the great horse at the farm where he retired, told me. Because I shared it with my daughter when she showed me his name on the glass. And it got me thinking. (Incidentally, those 5 words probably scare my husband more than any others.)

If you've seen the Disney movie, you know that one of the big concerns about Secretariat was that his heart would explode if they pushed him to go too fast. That had happened with another horse and the people around him were worried it could happen again. They were protecting their investment.

And so they stood on the sidelines and they wrung their hands and they held the reins (figuratively and literally) and they tried to control the outcome. Until one brave lady looked into that horse's eyes and knew there was more inside of him-- they were holding him back from what he could achieve, not because he was scared, but because they were.

And here's what my mom told me that she learned. After Secretariat died, they did an autopsy of him and his heart was massively larger than a normal horse's. He could run faster because he was made to. Those people who were holding him back couldn't see inside him. They didn't know what he was capable of.

This made me think of those of us who see people trying to accomplish things and we hold them back. They want to run faster, harder, stronger and we-- because we can't do it ourselves or we know someone who failed before-- pull back on the reins. We try to protect our investments-- into our children, our spouses, our friends, our family. We have poured money, time, love into them and what if we lost? Better to hold them back. Better to be safe.

But what if they were made-- specially crafted by the hand of God-- to do more? What if your child actually can play an instrument better than the rest? What if your husband really was given the talent to write that novel? What if your friend can succeed with that crazy idea because she really does possess a better business acumen than the average person? What if that emotional risk your loved one wants to take is actually safe for them because their heart is larger than average?

We can't see inside people. We don't know what they're equipped to do. This is what I've been thinking about as I parent these young adults launching into the future, do life with a husband who is making decisions that might feel risky at times, befriend women who dream things I wouldn't dare try. Who am I to hold them back? Better for me to stand on the sidelines and cheer them on, urging them to go faster, run harder, be stronger than I ever could, trusting that's what's inside will carry them safely across the finish line.
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Friday, February 15, 2013

The Friday Post

Can I be frank? This week has sucked. Last week was not much better. While I enjoyed seeing Safe Haven with my daughter and putting on our Valentine's Day dinner, I was also unsuccessfully fighting off a cold and dealing with some other family health issues that just overall sucked the joy out of it.

I was supposed to be at the Grove Park in Asheville NC tonight enjoying a brief getaway with my husband but alas I am home taking care of children who needed me. And I'm now officially sick too.

I did get a much-needed haircut, so that was good. It's now four inches shorter. Everyone in my family agrees it looks better. This is either true or they're just being nice.

Today I have a post running over at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard you might want to check out. Since their focus is managing motherhood and work, I decided to write about my proclivity towards lists of all kinds because lists help me get stuff accomplished. I hope you enjoy it.

Well I'm off to take down my Valentine's Day decorations and put up my St Pat's stuff. And feed my kids who are home from school from now til next Wednesday. And get to the grocery store. And then lay down and do as little as possible. And pray next week is better.
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Safe Haven Review

I saw Safe Haven the other night with my daughter and wanted to share my thoughts:

I had a friend ask about taking her 13yo daughter to see it. My daughter is 18 and she was totally fine. But I wouldn't take my 13yo daughter-- not because of the sex (there is one brief scene) but because of the violence. There are flashbacks to some domestic violence episodes that are pretty intense. That's just my opinion, of course you know your kid.

Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel had better chemistry than I thought they would.

I loved seeing the shots of Southport, NC especially since I had spent some time there this summer. It's truly a lovely place.

I was pleased with how they unfolded the story. While I thought I knew where they were going, I wasn't entirely sure. And since I love to guess what's going to happen, it's saying a lot that they kept me guessing at least somewhat. It wasn't as strait forward as you might envision a Nicholas Sparks love story to be.

There was one element I did not see coming at all, which earned my respect. I never once picked up on it. If you see it and guess what it was, feel free to email me and let me know if you did so you can have my respect as well.

I would recommend seeing this movie with a girlfriend, though if your husband is really looking to earn brownie points for Valentine's Day, he won't be totally miserable.

SAFE HAVEN (Relativity Media)
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 115 Minutes
An affirming and suspenseful story about a young woman’s struggle to love again, Safe Haven is based on the novel from Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author behind the hit films The Notebook and Dear John. When a mysterious young woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, her reluctance to join the tight knit community raises questions about her past. Slowly, she begins putting down roots, and gains the courage to start a relationship with Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children. But dark secrets intrude on her new life with such terror that she is forced to rediscover the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love in this deeply moving romantic thriller.

Hashtag: #SafeHavenMovie
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Friday, February 08, 2013

On Being Brave

Get Lucky by Katherine Center

Found this on a writer's site and wanted to share it.

Are you being brave with your life? What is one brave thing you could do today? Something that might inspire others-- even if the "others" in question are the people who call you mom?
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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Noise Symphony

A poem, with my apologies:

The Noise Symphony

Outside there is a dog barking, a chainsaw grating
In the kitchen there are dishes banging
In the den a gun is shooting (on the tv)
Upstairs there is music thumping
Beside me there is my music playing (softly, gently)
In the bathroom there is water running
Somewhere in the house a phone is ringing
Above me, there are feet romping

I nearly complain about all this noise before I realize
This is the symphony of my life
So I sit and listen and think of when
This symphony will one day cease
And I then I will curse the silence
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Monday, February 04, 2013

Baked Mediterranean Chicken

I had my meals all planned for the week and, because we live in the south and at the time I was planning it was 70 degrees outside, I had planned to grill some marinated chicken and serve it over salad with some french bread on the side. But the weather didn't cooperate and, because we live in the south, the temps changed in about a day and suddenly we were plunged into an icy cold snap. I looked at my husband and said, "I don't suppose you'd be willing to grill anyway." He gave me that look that required no further conversation. And yet, I needed to use up that salad and bread lest it go bad. Can't have food going bad in my house. That really bugs me.

So I stood in my kitchen for awhile and stared at the chicken, sitting there in the fridge taunting me. It was about to outwit me until I remembered one of my mom's old recipes-- a staple meal of my childhood. And right there, thanks to my mom, I had my solution. I adapted what my mom used to do some and updated it a bit, because the product I used wasn't available in the 70's. At least not that I ever saw.

So here's my recipe, complete with pics, in case you need to come up with an indoor alternative to grilled chicken.

Baked Mediterranean Chicken 

You will need the following items. Just four things, and that includes the foil to wrap your chicken in. I like recipes that have few ingredients. You need chicken breasts, extra virgin olive oil (my mom used butter), and McCormick Mediterranean Spiced Sea Salt (my mom used Jane's Crazy Salt).
If you look closely at this photo, you can see the laundry piled on my loveseat in the background. This is real life, folks.
This is what the spice looks like that you will use. I found mine in the spice section with the salt.

Lay your chicken breast in the center of a decent size piece of foil, turned diagonal. Drizzle evoo over it and sprinkle with the salt mixture. This is salt, so remember if you put a lot your meat is going to be salty, so keep that in mind. One time I went a little crazy and my chicken was too salty. (And I love salt so that is saying a lot.)
It is helpful if you have a small person in the background watching you intently and asking a lot of questions. 

Then wrap your chicken breast like a little tent, leaving space on top of the chicken, so it looks like this picture. Make sure to seal the foil all the way around. The steam that gets trapped helps to cook the chicken and make it moist. It also keeps in the juices, which form a sauce when mixed with the spices and oil. This will come into play later.
The nice thing about this meal is you can go ahead and make these packets up whenever you have a few minutes, then just stick it in the fridge until you're ready to bake them.

Put all of your little chicken packets on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. When you open it it will look like this. The best part is there will be a yummy sauce that has formed in the bottom. I made some Basmati rice to pour the sauce over and it was good. When I was a kid my mom used to always make baked potatoes. The sauce also tastes good poured over those. I served the salad on the side as a side item along with the rice. And the french bread because why have one carb when you can have two?

If you did your job correctly, your family should look like this while eating the meal. And they should never miss the grilled chicken you had originally planned.
Mediterranean Grilled Chicken
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken
McCormick Mediterranean Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Aluminum Foil
Lay chicken breast on large piece of foil, turned into diamond shape.
Drizzle a little bit of evoo over chicken breast.
Then sprinkle sea salt mix over top of that.
Tent the foil around the chicken and seal well.
Put chicken packets on cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.
(My chicken breasts were a good size-- you may want to reduce cooking size if your chicken breasts are smaller.)

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Friday, February 01, 2013

I Blame This Entire Post On Pinterest

So I have developed a serious Pinterest habit that has awakened inside of me a serious love for pretty things. I blame what you're about to see on Pinterest. And the fact that, after I took down our Christmas decorations my house just looked... sad.
My mantle, which is my favorite thing. I am actively lobbying for my husband to paint the brick a bisque color so that my mantle creations would show up better. Thus far he has been... hesitant. But even with the red brick this mantle makes me smile when I walk by. I'm already thinking through how easily I could change a few things out to switch it over to St Patrick's Day. Curt is of Irish descent so he likes to mark that day and I know he will love for shamrocks to show up in our house in honor of the holiday.
A quick run-down of what you see: I already had the off-white candlesticks so it was easy enough to pick up some red candles at the dollar store. I already had the little heart votive holders and the pink vase. I found the bunch of tulips at Michael's for 40% off. And the heart garland was just $2.99. As for the print, I downloaded it for free and bought an 8.5X11 frame to pop it into. Now that I've made the investment of the frame, I have designs on multiple ways to change out what goes in it each season. Sigh. This makes me happy.
I already had this heart, which did not show up very well in the picture but you get the idea-- it's hanging in my kitchen window above my sink. I'm pretty sure it was a dollar store purchase from years ago.
This is my dining room table. I had these hurricanes from Christmas time and was looking for something quick, easy and inexpensive to fill them with. Then I got the idea to use the multi-colored bag filler and thought it was ingenious. Of course I was sad to since find it used several times on Pinterest and see that I'm not the only one who has had this burst of inspiration. The center candle holder is a large silver one that has moved all over our house and held many a candle in its day. I have a little dollar store tchotchke up there right now. It's not the most beautiful thing in the world, but it gets the job done and looks pretty when I light the candle inside it. I also scattered a package of dollar store glittery hearts and used some glass candlesticks w/tapers I already had.
In case you were unclear on what the hurricanes looked like with the filler inside, here is a closeup. You're welcome.
This is a little table in my living room that I elected not to go all red and pink with-- but I did want something seasonal so I was delighted to find this "LOVE" sign at Ross for $5. It gets the message across nicely and I might leave it out all year, seeing as how LOVE is My One Word for this year.
Here is the sign in better lighting, in case you were curious what it looks like. I love the colors and designs. It also makes me smile when I see it. And it is a nice reminder to practice love all year, not just at Valentine's Day.

This is also terrible lighting. A professional photographer with an expensive camera, I am not. This is on my kitchen table all year long and I just change out what goes in it. The center is filled with candy conversation hearts and white votives right now. It looks very pretty when lit but the candy level in the center keeps mysteriously getting lower.
Another free printable, another cheap frame. This will also get changed out seasonally. I already had this little candle holder so I just got some red dollar store candles to put in it. This sits in my entryway. I'm thinking green candles and a St Pat's printable after Valentine's is over.
I love this towel. It came in a set of two at Ross. I washed one and it just does NOT look like it did when it was new any longer. So I have told my family if they value their lives they are NOT to use this towel. It is for decoration purposes only. My sons especially think that a towel you can not use is the most ridiculous thing they've ever heard of. But they are not making the rules, no sirree.
And here's another printable. Can you tell I'm on a kick? The pinner I found who created this did it much larger and put it over her fireplace. Since I was looking for a small reminder of My One Word to have in the bathroom, this smaller one fit the bill perfectly. I have it on my bathroom counter where I will see it everyday, and be reminded. Because I need reminders. Really bad. This is a dollar store frame but it does the job nicely.
And finally I decided I needed something on my island and found these real tulips marked down to a dollar at my grocery store. I have now found where they keep the marked-down flowers in my grocery store and take a look each time I'm there. Will these last til Valentine's Day? No. But at that price they're easy enough to replace!
I have one more project I'd like to do that involves doilies and baker's twine to make a garland. I intend to string that across my kitchen windows and the large mirror in my den. I already have the doilies... now to find that baker's twine...
As we turn the page to February today perhaps you'll be inspired to display some red and pink of your own without breaking the bank. If you'd like to be inspired, check out my Seasonal Display board at Pinterest. I've pinned most of the pins that inspired this post there, including the printables. Happy decorating!

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