Saturday, January 16, 2010

OAMC Manicotti

This old favorite freezes like a dream.  Slightly undercook the pasta and it will come out just right when baked!


  • 1 pound cooked, shredded or chopped chicken (opt)
  • 2- 8 oz containers of chive and onion cream cheese (can use plain)
  • basil to taste
  • minced garlic to taste
  • 10 oz frozen spinach thawed and drained
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese--shredded and divided
  • 1 package manicotti slightly undercooked
  • Small jar of pasta sauce


  1. Combine cooked chicken (if using), cream cheese and spinach.  
  2. Season with garlic and basil to taste.  (I love garlic and use at least 2 cloves and about 1 t of dried basil).
  3. Add 1 c. of mozzarella cheese
  4. Cut cooked manicotti down the side and fill with 1/3 c. of cream mixture.
  5. Place seam side down in 9x13 pan (if you are a small family, make this into 2 dinners by using 2 8x8 or 9x9 pans).
  6. Cover with pasta sauce and top with remaining cheese.  
  7. Cover with saran wrap and then foil.  Label.
To Serve:
Take the manicotti out of the freezer at least 24 hours in advance and thaw completely.  Uncover and bake at 350' for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Like all pasta this goes well with a salad and French bread.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Spy School #4


Yes, this is a type of sushi and yes, this is from "Friends."

In today's challenge you and your husband will test your awareness skills together.

You will need:
A chair that can be moved about easily (think dinner table chair, not La-Z-Boy)
Something to produce light background noise (humidifier, radio, TV)
dim lighting

The goal of this challenge is to use your senses, besides your sight, to recognize someone else's proximity to you.

How You'll Test Your Unagi
1.  Explain how the game works (numbers 2-9).
2.  Have your husband move the chair to the location of his choice.
3.  Have him sit down and blindfold him.
4.  Your blindfolded husband will count to 10 aloud.
5.  As he counts, you will position yourself around him--near or far, it's your call.
6.  After he says 10 you will try to get as close to him as possible.  Your goal is to kiss him somewhere on the head (preferably the lips) before he shouts UNAGI!
7.  His goal, of course, is to recognize where you are and shout UNAGI before you have a chance to get him.
8.  If you kiss him, you win the round.  If he shouts UNAGI and you are within an arms reach, you lose the round.  However, if he shouts Unagi and you are further away than an arms length, you win.
9.  Switch roles and let him try to trick you.

The winner of the game gets a back rub (an example--feel free to wager a week of dishes, diaper duty, grocery shopping, etc.).

E-mail or text your husband the following challenge:

The Challenge

Unagi--you either have it or you don't.  Do you have it?  Your mission, should you choose to accept it begins tonight at _______TIME_____.

Dress comfortably.

Days of Play--Flash Light Game

For young children
Grab your baby and sit in a dark room with a flashlight.  Point the flashlight to an object, turn it on, and describe the object to your child using vivid adjectives.

For toddlers:

Point the flashlight to an object, turn the light on, and have your child tell you something about the object (what it is, what color it is, etc.).  Encourage your child to use as many words to describe the object as possible.  Now switch and let him or her work the flashlight.

For older children
You'll need a blindfold for this one.

Sit in the dark room and have your blindfolded child turn the flashlight on.  You describe the object one phrase at a time (It is orange.  It is round.  It bounces) until he or she guesses what it is.  Switch roles and repeat.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rilda's Kickin' Chicken Corn Chowder

My mom is an AMAZING cook.  What follows is one of our favorite soups--it even won first place at a Souper Bowl contest.  It is best paired with a nice bread or freshly made tortillas.

If you want to see great photo coverage of the cooking process, check out Frontier Kitchen.

Rilda's Kickin' Chicken Corn Chowder

You'll need:
1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 c. onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 T butter
3 cubes chicken bouillon
1 c. HOT water
1 t. cumin
2 c. half  and half(or whole milk--don't use anything less than whole milk)
2 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 can cream style corn
2 cans Rotel Tomatoes (mild if you don't like too much spice) with juice drained

In a Dutch oven, brown chicken, onion, and garlic in butter until chicken is no longer pink.
Dissolve bouillon cubes in hot water.
Add to Dutch oven along with cumin.
Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Add Half-n-half, cheese, and corn.
Cook and stir constantly over low heat until cheese is melted.
Stir in drained Rotel tomatoes and serve.

Garnish with shredded cheese and cilantro leaves.

This delicious soup does not freeze well.

Day of Play--Lava Sharks

Two of the world's scariest elements combine for this fun game of tag that is suitable for 2+ people.

To Play:

1.  In your living room, randomly spread out pillows, blankets, place mats, etc., to create "islands."
2.  Explain to your child that you will take turns chasing each other.  The chaser may touch the floor but the person being chased can only touch the islands.
3.  Play chase.  A new person becomes "it" if he or she falls in the lava (touches the ground) OR gets eaten by the shark (tagged).

To make this easier for younger children:

Have BIG islands made out of receiving blankets and put them close to one another in a circle format.  The adult who is "it" should chase on their knees.  I encourage a "tackle" sort of tag that leaves you rolling on the floor in a fit of laughter and giggles.

To make this more difficult for older children:

Use small islands (pillows, opened cloth napkins) spread quite far apart to encourage jumping, leaping, etc.  If you need an even more extreme version play the game where everyone is it and the last person standing "wins" (though we all win when we play with our children, don't we?).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spy School #3

Today's challenge is designed to increase your husband's knowledge about drinks.  To prepare, read up on when to stir and when to shake.  Here's a good link

If you do not drink your husband can still learn this tidbit (this might come in handy in Trivia Pursuit) but instead of making alcoholic drinks, he can make Virgin Pina Coladas, Sex on the Beach, and Manhattans.  Recipes here .

Determine what reward your husband will receive for good explanations and a drink well made.  Present him the reward even if the drink is barely drinkable; he is playing along, after all!

Text or e-mail your husband the following challenge:

The Challenge
Today's challenge will help you become a Master at Mixology.  At our next party, wow our guests with your brilliant knowledge and ability to mix a variety of drinks.

For your challenge you must:

1.  Learn when to stir and when to shake.  Be prepared to explain this to me.
2.  Learn the recipes of three popular drinks, one of which must be the Bond Martini.
3.  Make us each one drinks.  Drinkability=reward!

Days of Play--Floaters and Sinkers

Yes, I named it that just so you'd giggle.

Here's what to do.

1.  Get a bowl or bin and fill it with water.  You can use a bathtub, kiddy pool, or sink.
2.  Randomly grab little things you don't mind getting wet (spoon, feather, sponge, pennies, whisk ... probably best to hide your cell phone about now).
3.  Show your child how some object float and some objects sink.
4.  For each item, have your child guess if it will sink or float.
5.  Test your hypothesis!

To make this easier for younger kids:

Omit the guessing and just play in the water with toys that aren't usually water toys.

To make this harder for older kids:

1.  Talk about mass and density.  Need a refresher?  Look here , among other places.
2.  Blow up a balloon and talk about why it floats.
3.  Put a plastic margarine container or toy boat in the water and add pennies or marbles until it starts to sink.  Have your child guess how many of the heavier item it will take to sink the boat!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baked Ziti or Rotini


  • 1 lb. ziti or rotini pasta slightly undercooked
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, cooked and chopped (turkey sausage works well)
  • 1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 (28 ounce) jar pasta sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cook pasta a minute or two less than directed.
  3. Mix ricotta, egg, parsley, 1 1/2 cup mozarella, and parmesan in a large bowl.
  4. Mix cooked sausage and pasta in with ricotta mixture.
  5. Mix in 3/4 jar of sauce.
  6. Transfter into a 2 quart casserole dish.
  7. Top with rest of sauce and mozarella.
  8. Bake for 30-35 min, or until hot & bubbly.
  9. To freeze: Cover dish with foil and freeze. When frozen you can pop it out of the container and put in a freezer bag if desired. To heat: Thaw and preheat oven to 350°F Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more

Cranberry Chicken

Cranberry Chicken (from Don't Panic Dinner's In the Freezer)
1 can (15ish oz.) whole berry cranberry sauce
1 small bottle (8 oz.) Catalina dressing
1 packet of onion soup mix

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Mix the 3 ingredients.
Put chicken breasts in a freezer bag and pour cranberry mixture over them. 

To serve:
Preheat oven to 350'
Put chicken and cranberry mixture in a casserole dish.
Bake 1 hour or until cooked through.

Serve with wild rice and leafy greens.

Sugar Scrub

Since I have young children I wash my hands ALL the time which leaves them looking dry and cracked (and I'm sure the WY weather doesn't help).

To bring your hands back to life make this sugar scrub and keep it near the kitchen sink. Once a day (say after the dinner dishes), put a glob on your hands, rub together for 30 seconds and rinse.


Here's what you'll need:

1/8 c. granulated sugar
1/8 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon (optional)
Olive oil
Container with sealable lid

In a bowl mix sugars and cinnamon.
Add in oil slowly until it is well mixed and a bit of oil starts to rise to the top.
Put in container with lid.
Use as needed.

(This smells so good you'll want to eat it. And technically you can though I don't recommend it.)

**Some people will make larger amounts and keep it in the fridge so it doesn't go bad. I prefer smaller amounts so I can keep it out and handy without it going bad. If it starts to smell bad, it is!**


Days of Play--Match Game

Need a quick activity to do with your child today? Here's an idea (and check back for more)!

Match Game

Suitable for Toddlers

Get a box or laundry basket and find items that come in pairs (shoes, socks, gloves, etc). Put one of each item in the box and hide the other visibly about the room.

Have your child reach into the box and pull out the item and work with him/her to find the match.

To make this more difficult for older children:

1. Find items that go together but don't necessarily match. For example, a 1/4 c. and 1 c measuring cup, glove and hat, sock and shoe, hat and glasses, snack and juice, soup and can opener, etc.

2. Rather than hide things visibly in the room, hide them around the house.

3. Only let your child FEEL what is in the box (not see) and have him or her search for the match.

To make this easier for younger children:

Find items that have pairs and show how they match. Talk about color, texture, shape, etc.

Spy School #2

Today you will challenge your husband's observational skills in a funny and tricky manner. To prepare for this challenge, do the following:

1. Cut and paste the challenge into a Word document e-mail it to him OR print it and leave it in his car OR text it to him.

2. Get a flat tray OR cookie sheet and put a bunch (at least 20) of random stuff on it. For example, tape, pencil, screwdriver, key, change, rubber band, crayon, small toy, lipstick, etc.

3. Dress in a sexy/flashy outfit with LOTS of accessories (for example--skirt, patterned tights, heels, button down shirt, scarf, ear rings, bracelets, etc.)

4. Have a notepad and pen handy. The notepad will have the directions on it. Also get a timer.

5. At some point in time when you and your husband are both home, surprise him with this challenge.

6. Prepare rewards for him.

To do the challenge:
Stand in front of your husband with the tray and have him take a look. Set the timer for 2 minutes and let him LOOK (no hands) for the full 2 minutes (or until he thinks he has it, whichever comes first).

When the timer dings, give him the notepad with directions upside down. Tell him when you leave the room he needs to set the timer for 2 minutes, flip the pad over, and do what the instructions tell him.

Notepad Instructions

On the notepad write:

You have 2 minutes to write down in detail what I was wearing. The tray was a diversion.

Reward Ceremony
When the 2 minutes are up, come back into the room and go over the list with him. Then give your husband a reward. Make it a tiered reward so that they more things he observed, the better the reward.

For example:
0-2 items--1 minute kiss
3-5 items--I'll take out garbage for a week
6-10 items--I'll make your favorite meal
10+ items--20 minute back rub

Please be aware that this is meant to be fun and silly. Do not become angry with your spouse if he didn't notice much and DO NOT make fun of him. If your husband feels like he's been made a fool of he'll be hesitant to continue with spy school.

**e-mail or text the following challenge to your hubby**

The Challenge

A spy is always aware of what is going on around him. Today your observational skills will be put to the test. You will be challenged when least expected. Keep your eyes open and be wary of diversions.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Babysitting Co-op

Ever take your child to the OB/GYN with you?
Ever want to go on a date but couldn't find a sitter?
Then consider a babysitting co-op!

With the change in the economy, many are financially unable to go out on dates. It would be one thing to do dinner or a movie but add babysitting costs on top of that and opportunities to be out and about without children get fewer and fewer.

To ease this problem, a group of 7 families created a babysitting co-op.

Babysitting Co-operative


Each person interested in the co-op will fill out a form containing name, e-mail, phone number, kids (ages, names, allergies), emergency contact info etc.

When you need a sitter, you’ll e-mail the co-op listserv stating date/time you need a sitter. People who are interested and available will contact you by phone or e-mail. Together you will make arrangements concerning where babysitting will take place, how long you’ll need a sitter, etc.

When you drop your child off, it is up to you to provide an INFO form. The babysitter will fill out her portion and give it to you when you pick your child up.

Please recognize that as SAHMs, we will generally be babysitting with our own kids in tow. If you want an adult alone to watch your children there is an additional cost.

**Please keep in mind that people may not be interested or able to watch your children every time you request it**


Each parent gets 10 tickets for each child (3 kids=30 tickets). This is 10 hours of babysitting for each child.

Babysitting “costs” 1 ticket per child per hour (3 kids=3 tickets an hour).

If you want someone to come to your house to watch your kids it costs an additional 1 ticket (3 kids, 1 hour, own home=4 tickets)

If you want someone to watch your children alone (meaning their children will not be with them—a likely situation on “date nights”) it is an additional 2 tickets (3 kids, 1 hour, own home, alone adult=5 tickets)

The only way to get more tickets is to watch someone else’s children. If you use all 10, take a year hiatus and want to re-join the group you will have to watch kids to “earn” tickets. There are no exceptions.


It may become necessary to discipline another mom’s child. Follow these guidelines:

• No yelling or use of crude/coarse language
• No corporal punishment including but not limited to: spanking, smacking, pulling, pushing, dragging, etc.
• Give child 2 warnings and then a timeout if necessary. Time outs should be 1 minute per year of age (3 years=3 minutes). More than that is not developmentally appropriate.
• If you are having a hard time, contact the parent ASAP
• Consider these phrases: hands are not for hitting, teeth are not for biting, feet are not for kicking, words are not for hurting …


At all times you provide food and drink for your children. Make sure to always send a cup and snack. If your child will be with a sitter over mealtime, send a lunch/dinner.

Send extra clothes as needed.

Parents are responsible for providing diapers/pull-ups/wipes.

You are responsible for your child’s transportation. Another parent may transport your child for an additional charge.

This co-op is open for children of all ages.

Habitual last-minute cancelations will be considered on a case-by-case basis but may lead to removal from co-op.

The e-mail listserv is to be used for the babysitting co-op only. Please do not use this group to solicit donations, party hosts, etc.

Please remember that some moms may form friendships and offer to exchange babysitting free of charge.

This is the form parents give to the sitter EACH time

Babysitting Co-op Parent Info:

(Give a copy of this to babysitter each time you use a sitter)


Spouse’s name (if applicable)____________________________________________________


Home phone:______________________________________________________________
Cell Phone:_________________________________________________________________
Other phone numbers:____________________________________________________

E-mail address you want listed on the listserv:

Can children’s father pick them up if needed? Y N

Children’s names/ages

Emergency Contact (someone local)



List all medical issues and allergies pertaining to child:

Child’ Doctor name/number ____________________________________________________________

Child’s special toy, favorite games, ways to calm him/her down?

How long do you want child to cry before you are contacted?
Please list your child’s routine below. Babysitters will do their best to follow your schedule but may not be able to due to many factors.




Foods enjoyed:

Food dislikes:





Special toys/blankets/routines




Other Instructions:

This is the form sitters fill out for parents

Child Report (to be filled out by babysitter and given to parent)





Time (start and stop)



Diaper changes:




Discipline Fully explain what happened including time in time-outs if applicable

Injury –If child is injured please fully explain what happened, the extent of the injury, etc. NOTE EVERY INJURY

We've found that Facebook is a very useful tool for the co-op. We hardly use the listserv; instead we sent out group mailings by Facebook.

Our "tickets" are actually little wood tokens. We have hour and half hour increments. They cannot be copied.

If you have questions or suggestions, please share!

Open Letter to New Moms

New to motherhood? Welcome to the roller coaster! This truly is the toughest job you'll ever love. Being a mom is a glorious burden.

When I became a mom I was sucked into reading EVERY book on parenting, spending precious moments on the computer trying to find answers to every question, crying while my child was crying, fighting with my husband (and our moms) about the "right" thing to do, and refusing to believe I had anything to offer my child.

I learned a lot between my first and second child. By the time I had Pax, I had 2 books I casually referred to but I can't pin-point exactly where they are and I do not have any sections memorized. I made it clear I am NOT parenting by committee. If I want your advice, I'll ask. I learned there is no ONE WAY to do anything. ANYTHING. I realized NO ONE will know my child they way my husband and I do and therefore, I have everything to offer my children.

So, here is some casual advice. I am NOT a doctor or a professional. All this non-sense is my advice but let me remind you that the best advice ever given is that you don't have to take it!

~Read with a critical eye
A lot of books assert that there is one way to do things. And amazingly, the ways are generally polar opposites. Some will say if you don't breast feed or sleep with your child, he or she will be ruined and never will trust you. On the other hand, you'll hear that your kids won't get enough vitamin D if you breast feed and your baby will never move out of your bed if you sleep with him/her. The truth is somewhere in the middle and totally based on your feelings, perspectives, and beliefs. Read with a critical eye. There is good info out there but use what works for you and ignore what doesn't.
~Refuse to believe that there is a "natural" way to parent.
I exclusively breast fed Pax but M.E. had a bottle once a day. I babywear but do not sleep with my kids. Even though you'll read (mostly by Dr. Sears who I like) that breast feeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing are the most natural ways to parent, don't believe it. What is natural is doing what works for you and your family. Anything to the contrary is unnatural.
~Be aware that your relationship with your mom and mother-in-law (MIL) may change
The general rule is that if you had a good relationship with your moms before, it might be strained after because they'll be TOO open with advice, telling you what you are doing wrong,etc. On the other hand, if your relationship is strained before it might get better after because you'll both agree that your baby is the cutest and most lovable baby ever. My MIL was totally offended that I didn't go to her for advice and even more offended that I didn't do things her way. It seemed more natural for me to seek advice from friends who had more recently had children or to do things the way my mom did them. Communication is key.
~Place healthy boundaries
Put boundaries in place BEFORE issues become a problem. We wish we would have done this! For some reason, our parents assumed we would parent by committee and whenever an issue came up thought we'd take a democratic vote. When we didn't do this, it hurt a lot of feelings. When we sat our parents down and explained that we thought they were good parents and we loved them BUT we were going to do things differently, obviously since we were raised differently, it helped. Now when we say, "Pax goes to bed at 6," we don't get, "we never put you to bed that early!" Instead we hear, "OK." Even if they disagree, we've made it clear that we are M.E. and Pax's parents, their Biblical authority and what we say goes.
~Retain the right NOT to take advice
Mine, your mom's, his mom's, your friend's, Dr. Sear's, Dr. Weisbluth's, your baby's Ped's ...
~Put your baby to bed within 2 hours of waking
As soon as your new baby starts showing sleepy cues (generally within 2 hours of waking but often sooner), put him or her to bed. You can rock to sleep, nap with baby, or lay baby down and walk away. Whatever manner you choose, get baby to nap before he or she is overtired.
~Put baby to bed EARLY
M.E. was an awful early sleeper. She barely napped from 2 weeks to about 5 months. And at 5 months she still hadn't slept through the night. We'd put her to bed at 10 and she'd be up and 1, 4, 6 and up for the day by 7:30. When we read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child we thought the guy was a nut. But by 5 months we were desperate. The first night we put M.E. to bed at 5:45 she screamed for about 15 minutes, fell asleep, and slept until 7:30 am. She's gone to bed early ever since. We've had times when it didn't work perfectly and times when she still fought us on sleep but overall, the child sleeps like a champ! At four M.E. is in bed by 7:30 pm at the latest and sleeps until 7:30-8 am. Pax (nearly 8 mo) is in bed by 5:45 and sleeps until 7ish. Not only does the early bed time seem to help kids sleep better, it provides Matt and I a time to chat, relax, enjoy one another, and do personal projects we enjoy.
~Give your child the grace to be who s/he is
Let your child wear whatever clothes he/she wants--s/he'll learn to coordinate, or not. Let your child eat dirt and fall down. There are some absolute NOs at our house (anything that is sin) but everything else is an OK. If the worst thing that happens is our daughter wears a princess dress to church and Pax bleaches his hair, I'll be cool with that!
~Determine your discipline system and be consistent
You might use corporal punishment; you might not. If you do, make sure you are doing it in a Biblical manner (hitting out of anger and wrath is NOT Biblical). If spanking makes you uncomfortable, learn appropriate and successful ways to discipline. But most importantly, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page and be consistent. Side note, this is one of those areas where grandparents get NO say.
~Watch your mouth and actions
Your kids are watching you. Use your words and actions to breath life into their lives.
~Turn the TV off
I know those movies seem educational but studies show TV before 2 is bad for children and lots of those "educational movie" companies are being sued for not coming through. A little TV once in a while is OK but not every day and never more than 1/2 hour. Some other things you can do: read, books on tape/cd, listen to music ...
~Get toys that encourage imagination
Books that read to you, trucks that make all the sounds, Princess dresses and crowns, Barbie soda fountains--with today's toys there is really little need for creativity. But your kids need a chance to be creative. So, get them blocks, and boxes, and paints with white paper, and old funny clothes so they can imagine and create!
~Spend time away from your children
You'll be a better parent and woman if you spend some time alone doing what you love. Reading, exercising, cooking--whatever it is, carve out at least 20 minutes a day and do it!
~Trust your spouse and give him room
He might not do it your way, or the best way, but allow your husband time to have the kids alone and let him find his way. He's new too so cut him some slack. If you don't let him have alone time with the kids or if you nag that he doesn't do it "right" then don't be shocked when he stops helping.
~Advocate for yourself
If your spouse won't help and you are at a breaking point, call a friend, family member or sitter and take a break. When you're calm, explain to your husband that you need a break. If this doesn't work, consider counseling.
Spend time offering multiple opportunities for your child to play. Play with him or her. Let him or her play with other kids. Don't underestimate the value of allowing him or her to play alone. For 2 days make a tick mark every time you tell your child "not now". If it is a lot, it is time to re-prioritize. They won't want to play with you forever so engage them now. Cook, read, dance, sing, stack, walk, bounce, ride ...
~Repeat this as needed
It's only a phase. If it's good it's a phase; if it's bad it's a phase. It's only a phase.

Alicia's Enchiladas in White Sauce

Beef & Cheese Enchiladas w/ White Sauce
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 can water
8 oz sour cream
green chiles (optional)
1 pkg flour tortillas
cheddar cheese
Brown beef and mix in taco seasoning as directed on package.
In a sauce pan warm soup, water, sour cream and chiles.  
Spoon thin layer of soup mixture in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish
Fill tortillas with meat and top with cheese.  
Roll and place seam side down in baking dish.
Pour white sauce over tortillas.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes.
P.S.  This recipe works well with chicken (diced or shredded) also.

Small family?  Put the enchiladas in 2 8x8 square pans.  Eat one tonight and pop the rest in the freezer to eat at a later date!