Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tasty Tuesday - Chicken Spaghetti

I use a roaster as my casserole dish when I make this for my family.  We love Chicken Spaghetti so much that even with cooking in this proportion - there is hardly ever any leftovers!

I like to keep my black olives whole instead of chopping them up (like most recipes).  Some of my kids don't care for them and some of us can't get enough of them.  Keeping them whole allows the picky eaters to easily remove them from their portion.

This is a laughable serving size - but, I wanted to share it out of the pan!  Even though there are several steps, it is really simple and all the unhealthy ingredients are easily substituted.  I'm sharing the old fashioned way, but with a little tweak here and there you can totally create a healthier version of this.

Chicken Spaghetti:

Whole Chicken
Thin Spaghetti Noodles (I use 2 packages)
Velveeta (you can skip this and just use cheddar cheese)
Cheddar Cheese shredded
Cream of Mushroom/Celery Soup (you can easily make your own and omit this)
Ro-Tel Tomatoes with Green Chilies (no substitutions here, this stuff is amazing)
Black Olives

*First boil your chicken until it is easily falling off the bone, remove chicken but save broth.  (I place my strainer over another stock pot and then pour from one to the other letting the strainer catch the chicken but letting the broth pour through into the other stockpot)
*Boil spaghetti noodles in broth while chicken cools
*Remove meat from chicken and shred or chop up
*In another saucepan melt Velveeta and Ro-Tel tomatoes with creamed soup. Heat and stir until well blended
*In prepared casserole pan, pour spaghetti noodles, chicken, and sauce.  Stir to blend.
*Sprinkle about 1 cup of cheddar cheese over top.
*Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes or until bubbly.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yarn Along

Joining Ginny over at Small Things for this weeks Yarn Along~

Don't laugh at me but I started yet another project.  I'm absolutely embarrassed at my lack of skill in completing projects and then I became so frustrated with the last one (that should have been easy) that I frogged the whole thing.  I've determined that I will see this one through to the end, no matter what.  I have never knit a sweater and I really want to be able to knit sweaters for my kids, so it is finish this or bust!  The pattern comes from Debbie Bliss's Celtic Knits.  The yarn I'm using is Knit Picks of course, I purchased this last year during their big Black Friday sale - I love it!  It is DK weight Gloss in colorway Clover.

The knitting will go slow until I have completed this quilt, which is nearly done.  I love it more and more with each stitch.  I am thinking that there will be more quilts with embroidery in my future, I absolutely love the embroidery part of this project!

As to what I'm reading, I have to be honest - not a lot.  Drowsy Chaperone wrapped up just as we entered tech week for The Hobbit and we are all worn out.  Our evenings have been spent just enjoying a Netflix movie or visiting, even a game or two...but, not a lot of reading lately.  I think we will get back in the swing of things soon, we all love to read.  My Mom recently dropped off some light fiction that I would enjoy diving into, I seem to always opt for non-fiction and I do love a good story so I'm glad she shared!

Monday, July 15, 2013


Re-inventing Mother

Friday was opening night for "The Hobbit".  The show sold out, we are really excited about how popular it has been for our community!  
On Saturday our downtown celebrated for the first time (but I hope not the last) Christmas in July! There was a bike parade, lots of fun activities for the kids and the cast members of The Hobbit walked around the square in costume.
Here are some of the Dwarves singing "Over the Misty Mountains" - they really sounded amazing!
My son is 'Balin" the tallest of the Dwarves.

#9 got to explore at the Fire Department.  Our great Fireman pulled out all the stops and had all kinds of trucks (even a boat) out for the kids to explore.  I didn't think I would ever get him away, he was in Heaven!

Letting him know that Root beer floats were at another table helped him tear himself away.  

A local art store "Painting with a Twist" opened its doors and let all the kids create a Christmas tree with their hands.  Balin couldn't resist.

It was such a fun day, with so many fun activities!

I do not have pics for the event that happened when we got home from Christmas in July.  A few days ago there had been a skunk in our back yard early in the morning.  We've been smelling him ever since and knew he was still in the neighborhood.  Around this time our cat, Elizabeth, disappeared (we hope these events are not related).  On Saturday I went outside to clean up the back porch but the smell of death was heavy and unbearable.  I was sick with worry that it was Elizabeth and I could smell that skunk too.
I found the skunk under our bushes and had to call animal control.  They came quickly - I mean less than 10 minutes quickly.  I'm happy to share that the smell of death was not Elizabeth - it was the skunk.  The Animal Control man reassured us that it is very likely Elizabeth is staying away because she can smell the skunk, once that smell is gone she will come around.  I sure hope so, it has been almost a week and we are really worried about her!

On Sunday we started a new family tradition that I'm really excited about.  First the back story though.  Since Summer began the TV has inched its way up with regards to how much it has been turned on.  I realized that part of my little ones crazy antics were a direct result of too much screen time.  I decided we needed to re-instate some TV rules for the Summer all with the idea that less is more.  We are a family of movie watchers so I wasn't going to cut it off, but cut it WAY down.  For now (and all things are fluid and subject to change) the screen stays off during the week for the little guys.  The older kids and I will watch something after the Rosary on week nights sometimes.  The family will get a Friday night movie, Saturday morning cartoons (we have our own selection, no cable here) and a Sunday night movie.  Do you remember 'The Wonderful World of Disney"?  Am I dating myself??  I remember as a child how much I looked forward to Sunday night to watch what Disney would put up next.  I found the complete list of seasons and shows online here:  Wonderful World Of Disney *I recently learned that this link no longer works*.  I do not think this link is intended to actually play the shows.  I did find that between Amazon Instant Video and Netflix we can access a lot of these great shows though.
On Sunday Night we watched "In Search of the Castaways" and what fun we had.  We made a picnic with quilts on the floor of the living room and I served up Nachos and we had a great time.  Everyone loved the show and then we discussed what we will watch next Sunday.  I think this is going to be a long lasting tradition, at least I hope so!

It was a wonderful weekend!  For more Weekending please visit Re-Inventing Mother.

Friday, July 12, 2013

What Works For Us - Shotgun

Hierarchy is a big deal with siblings.  All men are not
 created equal in their view of family life - there is birth order.  'Me first' is a big deal and  riding shotgun in the vehicle seems to be where this monster of 'me first' rears it's head the worst.   I am sorry to admit that we allowed this behavior to exist for far too long, mainly because we lacked a good system of where to sit.  Oh, we tried different plans but none of them were easy to remain consistent with and so they lasted a few days or even weeks until there was a glitch and then we were back where we started with the frustration and sometimes tears that occupy the 'who sits where' on any trip any where.  It is a stress we as parents do NOT need!
One day in total grief my husband issued this law
 (I like to envision him in a Yul Brynner sort of declaration "So let it be written, so let it be done")
"From now on and forever you will sit oldest to youngest, no exceptions"
Wow, how easy was that and when you think about it, completely fair because in time they will each be the  oldest one living at home and when a sibling visits it is right to offer them that front seat.  We've been following this rule for a few years now and it has been one way to eliminate the frustration of dealing with or at least listening to the fallout that comes when a child proclaims 'SHOTGUN" whenever you are about to travel somewhere.
It works for us!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~  

Every Thursday, over at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

I love farm fresh produce.  Pete and I took the kids out to the Damn at the lake and this beat up old pick-up was parked and loaded down with all this goodness.  We got local honey, the sweetest watermelon ever and a whole bunch of okra (my favorite).  I think this could count as happy too, but I'm leaving it at Pretty.


It makes me VERY happy that I can take my boys to an Old Fashioned Real Barber.  Dale has been cutting hair at this location for over 58 years.  His previous Barber Shop burned down, he even has told me the date which was May 7 but I forgot the year.  We love Dale, we love the stories he tells, we love the charm of his Piney Wood Barber Shop and he gives out 2 lollipops and 2 pennies for his gumball machine every time the boys sit still for a hair cut.  Sometimes my teens want to go to a more modern place like Sports Clips, which is fine.  My rule is this:  You pay for it, you can go where you want.  I pay for it, you are going to Dale.  They always go back to Dale, they appreciate him so much -  he is a treasure!


I have 2 funnies to share this week.  Grandma B's next door neighbor bought a real fire truck.  He is a collector of trucks so we've gotten to see some fun vehicles parade through his driveway until he eventually sets them up in storage.  His father was a fireman and so when this came his way, he snatched it up.  #9 has loved firetrucks ever since he was a baby.  He still calls them "wirefrucks" which gives my teens lots of excuses to point them out to him when we drive so they can hear him say "wirefruck".  He has been talking about climbing all over Mr. M's wirefruck for days, it was  a dream come true!

Look, son #1 is Gandalf in a local production of 'The Hobbit'.  This was one of the costume tests, and we all have gotten a good laugh out of how they've made my 21 year old son look.  This is going to be a great show! 

These are both 5th sons.  Uncle and Nephew and they look so much alike.  Uncle M is an actor living in LA so when he gets his big break (and you may recognize him from commercials for HotWire) and he needs a younger version of himself, we've got the kiddo for the job, haha.  We marvel every year at how much more #5 looks like my husband's younger brother (who is also the tallest in the family).  Genetics amaze me!

Please join Leila over at LMLD for this week's {P,H,F,R}

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tasty Tuesday - Frito Salad Edition

I can never make enough of this salad, my kids inhale it - we all love it.  It is very easy to throw together, the only issue is that once the Frito Chips are thrown in and tossed with it, you are on a countdown to the eventual sogginess that will follow (it takes a good long while, but it happens so make sure your proportions are on target for your family).
I'm going to include exactly what I do - and I mix this in a roaster because I don't have a bowl big enough to contain the amount I have to make.  I have also taken this to potlucks and added the Frito Chips once I arrive and it disappears super fast!

Frito Salad:

5 lbs ground beef (or a mix of ground beef and ground turkey)
1 small onion
Taco Seasoning 
(sorry, I don't measure, I buy the MSG free from Sams and use that, most likely it is 1/4 to 1/2 cups worth)
4 - 6 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cans Ranch Style Beans (or chili beans)
1 package chili cheese Frito
1 package plain Frito (do not use the scoops)
Romaine lettuce (I use about 3 all torn up)
diced tomatoes
diced avocado
1 can large black olives
French Dressing (again, I don't measure but I am pretty generous with it)

Cook meat until brown with diced up onion. Drain grease.  Add Taco Seasoning and stir until well blended.  Transfer meat to bowl and add remaining ingredients saving the Frito Chips for last just before serving.
Set out salsa and sour cream for toppings

Monday, July 8, 2013


~Capturing the weekend in pictures, Friday through Monday
Please join in over at Re-Inventing Mother for Weekending.

I forgot to share about our 4th of July Rocket Launch - we launched 3 Rockets the morning of the 4th and WOW!  It was so much fun, we caught all of them and are prepping for the next launch on Labor Day.

We also made homemade Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream for the 4th - to die for delicious!
Especially when served with Texas Sheet Cake!

#4 had to work on Saturday so we headed up there on his break, the little ones LOVE that he works where they serve ice cream and hamburgers.

After Mass on Saturday evening we headed over to Grandma and Papa's house for some good ole' Southern Food fresh from the Farmer's Market and then went swimming.  

I will title this picture "Can I please get in without a life jacket". 

He managed to find a way to have some fun despite the life jacket.

Grandma and Papa with #7 (#3 is in the background)
I cannot tell you how much I love this photo of my Mom laughing and having fun!

Grandma and Papa came over to our house on Sunday evening and I made home-made Stromboli.  We also took the kids to see a movie.  We had a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fourth Of July, 2013

We had the most wonderful 4th of July!  Please forgive the photo dump, this is a scrapbook for me so sometimes my blog can get overloaded with memories I want us to document!
Grandparents, cousins, Aunt, Uncles, good food & fireworks!  The recipe for a great 4th of July!

My Goddaughter and my daughter - I love that they are friends as much as they are cousins!

Grandparents set up a water slide and the boys had a blast trying to make it as dangerous as possible
(which really wasn't dangerous at all)

Water gun and water balloon wars!

I made this Patriotic Jello, it was delicious and after I coached all my nieces and nephews to make sure they oohed and awed over it - they humored me and really hammed it up!  Link to recipe at My Crazy Life as a Farmer's Wife.

The kids had a blast playing with Snaps.

I can't help but share this photo of my niece - isn't she darling!


The best baby!  He is my cute nephew!


Grandpa helping #9 with his tank firework.

Now the crazy is coming out in my boys!

They got him to smile !
(we have photos all the way back to when he was a baby of him not smiling, he is my only shy child, but is truly shy)


Disclaimer - we do not let our boys walk around with low rider pants.  He is genuinely so darn tall and skinny that sometimes when he wears his brothers clothes a belt just isn't enough!

It was a truly wonderful 4th of July this year!!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Works For Us

I'm going to begin a new series of posts on 'what works for us'.  I often get asked 'how do we do it' with regards to our large family and so many boys.  This question always baffles me because I really do think in my head "we just do".  I don't have a formula I can quickly answer with or any words of wisdom that float to the top of my head (other than do everything with love)- I am a borrower of wisdom from other wise parents.  Along the way, we have discovered some 'this works for us' that as my kids have grown I've come to value even more highly.  I thought I could pass those along so that any of you can tweak them to how they might work for your own family or at least to appease the curiosity of how our large family plods along.  Truly though, this is what works for us and may or may not be a great idea for other families.

What Works For Us - Driving Edition
Our children are not allowed to get a license until they are 18.  They also are required to earn and pay for their own driving school.  We firmly believe in instilling the concept that driving is a privilege not a right.  Further more, once they turn 18 we pay for their insurance but if they get a ticket or get in a wreck (caused by them) the insurance will become their responsibility.  This is our rule and as time has gone by I've come to appreciate more and more the value of this rule.

*Read the statistics on 16 year old drivers.  That news alone is pretty convincing.  I don't have any link on statistics to share because I lack the time to look one up, but the information is there.  The very fact that it is less expensive to insure an 18 year old is reason enough when you are dealing with lot's of boys in one family.  We had 6 boys in 8 years and we knew we could never insure and cover everyone of them.  That is 6 drivers under the age of  25 (when rates go way down) if they are all still in college due to pursuing upper level education.  #1 is going to continue on for his Masters and possibly doctorate before he takes a break from college.  

*A kid who earns his own $$ and pays for anything their selves will value it more.  I wish we could pay for each of them to attend the driving school.  I'll be honest, I sometimes feel guilty that we are not paying for it.  This guilt is quickly replaced when I see the maturity that each of my boys has gained by working hard to earn their own $$ and then how much they value the driving school they have paid for.  It really does drive home the fact that a license is a privilege, not a right.  Kids have a very hard time understanding the difference.  There is a great sense of entitlement that comes with immaturity.  I see the character formation that has come from requiring them to pay for this themselves because there is an undercurrent of their grasping the concept of privilege not right.  Teenagers are pretty passionate about their rights, leading them to value what is a privilege and what is not will go far in helping them understand their place in the grand scheme of 'your not an adult yet' which they are desperate to be seen as.  The reward we offer is that we pay their insurance once they've earned their license.

*We pay their insurance unless they get a ticket or have an accident that is their fault.  Watching a kiddo drive away can grip you with fear, it is hard.  It is much easier when you know how long they've waited for this freedom and that they understand how quickly it can disappear if they do not 'keep their heads'.  Showing off for friends, reckless driving, and speeding for the fun of it are easily put off by a kid who dearly wants to keep the freedom, because they've worked hard and waited for it.  It is the anchor that keeps them a little bit safer and saner out on the road.  

It works for us, and because our kids know this is the rule we have yet to receive flack for it.  We do not raise them to believe that once 16 they can get a license.  We also do not joke around about 'get off the sidewalks' my kid is driving out there.  It is hard to explain, but we really do create a perception at home of what is expected and required - we are a family of jokers but driving is no laughing matter, our kids get this.  Pete and I both experienced death of classmates in high school which really shaped the way we approach our own kids driving.  We are borrowers of wisdom, we have closely paid attention to other families with kids older than our own (when ours were young), this helped us form the path we chose with regards to a license to drive.  Truly, we value the wisdom of this more and more as our children have grown.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tasty Tuesday - Southern Edition

I love Turnip Greens, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Spinach...the list goes on.  This week I thought it would be good to share how to get the best out of your Greens - Collards were what I found at the store, so that is what I'm making.  I use the same method no matter if it's Collards, Mustard, or Turnip Greens.  I do prepare Spinach differently though.

The first thing I do is chop up good thick bacon and cook it in a stock pot until crispy.  Greens cook WAY down, so when I add them to the pot I do it a little at the time.  Fresh Greens never look like they will fit, but once they start cooking they break down fast.  I saute the Greens in with the bacon once the bacon is done and crispy.  When I start adding more greens I just keep turning them with tongs.  Once I have all my Greens added, I add a dash of sugar (about 1 tsp.) a dash of red pepper flakes, and chicken broth (just enough to almost cover. the Greens should not be swimming in it - see below.

My brother taught me the trick to cooking them in Chicken broth and it does make a difference.  We love them and even fill up mugs of pot liquor (the broth once they've cooked a good long time).  

We had Jambalaya for our dinner tonight.  Nothing fancy here, I used Zataran's and cut up some smoked sausage to add to it.  

Truly a Southern dinner, complete with fresh garden tomatoes.  If we had not enjoyed Jambalaya the only thing missing was corn bread (made without sugar).  

Remember how Grandpa has a bumper crop of Zucchini?  I made Zucchini bread.  One huge Zucchini squash was enough for 4 loaves.  I always add crumb topping (and chocolate chips).  We shared with the Cast of The Hobbit tonight and will share with Grandpa.  I sure do love his garden!

Zucchini Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and Flour 2, 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans.
In mixer on medium speed mix (I use the paddle attachment):
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs (best when at room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Once blended well, add (but don't mix until all ingredients are in the mixer):
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups shredded zucchini (including skin)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Now turn on mixer and blend just until mixed thoroughly.
Pour into prepared pans, dividing evenly between the two.

Crumb Topping:

In a large bowl place 1 stick butter, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar.  Cut butter into flour and sugar (I use a knife, sometimes a biscuit cutter) until well blended and pebbly.  Divide mixture between the two loaf pans and sprinkle over top of batter.
Place in preheated oven and bake 55-60 minutes.  
Turn out of pan onto cooling rack and let cool completely for at least one hour before slicing.


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