Once upon a time I had an Outside Basket. It was beautiful, sturdy, big enough to carry almost everything I wanted when we went out to play, with a handle I could hold in the crook of my elbow so my hand would be free to open doors or hold a child’s hand. Best of all, the basket was part of a gift my good friend Michelle gave me when Angel Face was born, so every time I used it I remembered those happy days and my friend Michelle.
Unfortunately 18 years of use had taken its toll on the basket and despite my best efforts, it finally broke beyond repair. So I began searching for another basket.
It wasn’t easy.
The baskets I found weren’t big enough to hold a binder. Or weren’t sturdy enough to carry all of my stuff. Or didn’t have a handle. Or were the wrong shape. Or were too pricey. Or were just plain ugly.
Eventually I found something that would work. It was oval, wicker, and more shallow than I wanted, but big enough to hold a binder. And it had a handle. And I found it at a thrift store so it wasn’t too pricey. And it wasn’t too terribly ugly.
But it wasn’t as sturdy as it seemed. It didn’t even last a month before the handle broke and I was back to Square One: searching for a new basket. You get what you pay for, right?
Thirty-One to the rescue!
Princess and her sister-in-law, Heather, had hosted a Thirty-One party shortly after I found the replacement basket. I wasn’t familiar with Thirth-One but had seen friends post about Thirty-One parties on Facebook and had checked out the website.
I wasn’t impressed. I figured I could make my own purse, wallet, tote, organizer, or pretty much anything else cheaper and to my own specifications, so there was no reason to pay so much. But I went to Princess’s party anyway because that’s what family does and ended up ordering a wristlet. When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised by how well-made it was, but didn’t plan to purchase any other Thirty-One products.
Then my basket broke and I had one of those “lightbulb moments” – you know, when you feel like a lightbulb just lit up over your head. “I wonder if Thirty-One has something that would work but not be too expensive?” I searched the website, and voilà – I found the Keep-It Caddy.
At the party we got to examine various products so I knew it would be sturdy. It was also the perfect size and the perfect shape, not terribly pricey especially when you consider that I’ll use it pretty much every day, had strong handles, and wasn’t ugly. Of course I had to order it in purple.
It’s more perfect than I thought it would be! Not only does it hold everything I usually take outside, it has pockets so I can ORGANIZE my stuff. You know how much I love to organize – it’s practically an addiction!
The front has a pocket in the middle and places for pens and pencils on each side. I didn’t put anything in the middle pocket yet, but I’m sure I’ll need it for something eventually.
Each end of the bag has a mesh pocket. One contains a ziplock baggie of wipes for sticky hands and faces with room left over for the phone.
The other pocket holds tissues, hand lotion and lip balm – all the necessities for a couple of hours outside.
The view from the top shows how much stuff you can cram in it! It’s got an empty wipes container that I use as a garbage can an idea I got from my friend Nicole, several books I’m slowly making my way through, the WMELS book I refer to when doing documentation outside, my latte, and a bottle for each baby in case they get hungry luckily they don’t mind their bottles chilled.
You know, I could become a Thirty-One fan after all…
Are we ready for another Solea Tequila Dinner?
Why yes; yes we are!
Caution: the Solea website is LOUD
Princess joined Teacher and I for another wonderful dinner with fantastic tequila drinks to celebrate a special night 27 years ago…
After welcoming everyone to the 15th Tequila Dinner the host invited us to taste some tequila while we were waiting for the first course to be served. As always, in the middle of the area there was a pretty little table with about a dozen bottles of tequila, shot glasses, and lime wedges.
Teacher visited the table and returned with Casa Noble Blanco, which we all agreed was nicely smooth and mellow for a “Silver”.
Tequila comes in 3 forms: Silver, Reposada and Anejo. Silvers are aged in stainless steel, Reposadas in oak barrels, and Anejos in oak for over a year. Anejos are often considered “sipping” tequilas.
While we were sipping the Casa Noble they brought the first course, and the yumminess began!
First out of the gate was “Sopa de Calabaza con Manchego Cheese” – Squash bisque with manchego cheese and a crostini. I love, love, love squash, and this bisque was to die for! Rich and creamy, with a slight cauliflowery taste, I’d definitely order this if it were on the regular menu!
It was quickly followed by “Mexican Ponche” – Centenario Reposado tequila, fresh pineapple, pineapple ice cream, and white wine, sweetened with simple syrup. I liked this one much more than I thought I would! Sometimes fruit-flavored foods have a fakey taste, but this drink was fresh, not syrupy at all. And it went well so with the Squash Bisque.
The first casualties… I’m glad I’m not washing the dishes tonight!
In between courses we tasted another tequila, which happens to be one of my favorites: Milagro Silver. Later in the evening Princess won a free drink by being the first – and only – one to know that “Milagro” meant “Miracle.” Hooray for the girl with a Spanish minor! Who says a college education is wasted?
The second course was “Tortitas de Camaron en Salsa de Nopales” – Shrimp cakes simmered in Guijillo cactus salsa. Delish!! This dish was surprising to me – Teacher LOVES Guajillo sauce and makes it often so I’m very familiar with it – but I never would’ve thought to pair it with shrimp. And I would be wrong – it was SO GOOD!
We thought the shrimp cake would have pieces of shrimp in it like crab cakes have pieces of crab, but the shrimp was ground and mixed into the other ingredients so the whole cake was shrimp-y and had a firm texture. It held up nicely with the rich, flavorful Guijillo sauce.
The shrimp cakes were accompanied by a drink called “Verde es Vida” Green is Life – which consisted of Milagro Silver tequila, YUM! vodka, fresh kiwi, fresh lime juice, and mint. Princess doesn’t like kiwi and I’m not fond of mint except in Mojitos, so we were both afraid we wouldn’t like this one, but we did. Like the pineapple one, it was fresh and sweet, although it reminded of Lime Kool-Aid a little bit – maybe because of the bright green color.
Next was “Huachinango con Callos al Mojito” – Red Snapper filet and scallops with mojito sauce, accompanied by rice with corn. This was my favorite dish of the night! The snapper and scallops were cooked perfectly, the mojito sauce was rich and creamy, yet tangy with lime… I could eat this again and again and again.
Not so much with with the drink that came with the red snapper, “Azul Tequila” Blue Tequila – it had 1800 Reposado tequila which I love, blue curaçao which I loathe, pineapple juice, and a splash of sweet and sour. I thought it tasted like “Tootie Frootie” but it was Princess’s favorite drink of the night.
Somewhere in here we tasted El Jimador, which was my favorite of the four tequilas we sampled. I usually prefer my tequila in a mixed drink instead of “on the rocks” but I think I’d enjoy El Jimador on ice… In small amounts.
The main course was “Medallones de Ternera en Salsa de Setas” – Veal tenderloin medallions in mushroom sauce with baby red potatoes and asparagus. I usually avoid veal because it’s baby cow but I pretended it was regular beef, and the mushroom sauce was so good I could’ve had it on pretty much anything and not complained.
Like last time, the chef prepared chicken for Princess instead of veal, which she greatly appreciated.
“Sangria Blanca” White Sangria made with Casa Noble Blanco tequila, seltzer water, white wine, and fresh fruit, paired very nicely with the veal. Sangria is not one of my favorite drinks but I really liked this light, sweet, and fresh version. It didn’t hurt that there were pieces of fruit at the bottom of the glass which were fun to fish out when the drink was gone.
The last tequila we sampled was Gran Centenario Reposado. I didn’t think it was as smooth as the El Jimador, but it was Princess’s favorite one we tasted all evening.
Dessert was “Carlota de Fresa y Pina con Tequila Almendrado” – Strawberry and pineapple drunken cream cake. I knew from the description that I wouldn’t care for this dessert but I gave it a fair try. Then took it home for the boys.
Based on the description I figured I wouldn’t like the dessert drink either. “Dulche Maria” Sweet Mary – was made with condensed milk, half & half, fresh strawberries and El Jimador Reposado tequila. I thought it would be like the strawberry drink I didn’t like at the Tequila Dinner last June, but it wasn’t.
I liked it – hey Mikey!
For those of you who are too young to get my reference:
Princess didn’t like the strawberry drink at all, which is funny since she liked the one from June. Since I hadn’t finished my “Tootie Frootie” drink we traded. Yes, I am taking the requisite “Princess drinking” photo now.
And Princess wasn’t the only one to win a free drink – I won one too! I wasn’t the first one to yell “Solea!” when the host asked “Where’s the best place to enjoy a Tequila Dinner?” but I was the loudest and waved my hand the most. Sometimes a little obnoxiousness does the trick.
And of course, a good time was had by all.
We can’t wait until the next Solea Tequila Dinner!
Ever since attending Lisa Murphy’s aka the Ooey Gooey Lady presentations at the WECA Conference I’ve had Ooey Gooey-isms pop into my head at appropriate and totally random times…
Reflect, not react: Take a moment to see what’s really going on before acting.
When I saw “A” (2 years old) tipping her water bottle to “feed” the baby doll I swallowed my instinctive “‘A’! You’re going to get the dolly all wet! And the water bottles need to stay in the dining room. Bring it back here, please.” Instead I bit my tongue – literally – and watched her for a moment. I noticed that she wasn’t tipping the water bottle far enough for the water to drip out so I didn’t say anything. Unfortunately I later found a water bottle abandoned on its side, soaking the carpet underneath it so I realized I had to uphold my Water Bottles Stay in the Dining Room rule. But I’m glad I took a moment to reflect instead of reacting.
Give it a week: Children go bonkers over new things at first but given time, they lose interest.
Another water bottle story… I always have water bottles available for the children, and they’d apparently forgotten about them until they saw me putting them back after washing and refilling them one morning. They fell on their water bottles like teens on pizza and within an hour the water bottles were empty and the children all needed diaper changes. My instinct was to take the water bottles away but I knew that if I did we’d have the same problem when they came out again. So I washed, refilled halfway this time and replaced them. They drained the water bottles again before lunch, so I washed, refilled just a couple of inches and replaced again.
The same thing happened the next day. And the next. And all the time I kept hearing “Give it a week… Give it a week” in the back of my head. It hasn’t been a week yet, but they’re losing interest; today they haven’t emptied them once.
What do you need? Often “misbehavior” is nothing more than a child trying to get a need met.
I can’t think of a particular story to go with this one, but I love it. All week I’ve been asking “What do you need?” both out loud and in my head and it’s really changed the way I look at the children’s behavior.
Child-led = Adults are hands-off Materials are available for the children to use or not use as they wish, without adults prompting or manipulation.
I love this one too because it reinforces what I’ve been doing for years, and I saw it in action so clearly this week. While we were outside “T” (almost 2 years) rolled the football down the slide, ran around to get it, then rolled it again. And again. And again. The other children (all around 2 years old) grabbed balls and stood in line for a chance to roll them down the slide.
Why is this significant to me? Well, because one of my recent lesson plans had “Roll Balls Down Slide” on it but I hadn’t done it with the children. They were always so engaged in their play that I didn’t want to interrupt them, and when I’d rolled the balls down the slide, hoping to interest them, they weren’t interested. But when it was their own idea they were obsessed! They rolled balls down the slide for a good 10-15 minutes straight, which is a long time for two year olds!
Instead of “No” say what they can do: Find ways to redirect “no” behavior into “yes” behavior.
This is a Love and Logic-ism that I learned several years ago and have been trying to use consistently ever since. Instead of “No, you can’t watch TV” say “Yes, you can watch TV when your chores are done.” Or when “C” (2 years) smashed the markers onto his paper I traded him markers for bingo daubers so he could smash to his heart’s content. It’s not hard once you get in the habit.
Don’t get kids ready for next year by depriving them now. Lisa asks “If you knew there would be a famine next year, would you get your child ready by starving them today?” Of course not!
I don’t have a story for this one either but I can’t get it out of my head. How many times do we try to “prepare” children for some future event by depriving them of something today? I never realized how silly that was until Lisa brought up the famine thing. It just makes sense – treat children appropriately for their age today, and continue to treat them appropriately for their as they get older.
It doesn’t do any good in the closet. Materials you never use don’t benefit your program.
Teacher would be the first to say I have a bad habit of “saving” things for a “special occasion.” I do it with pretty much everything – I have a pair of jeans I’ve only worn a handful of times in 2 years, a unopened bag of M&Ms in the cupboard it’s enough to know they’re there; I don’t need to eat them, a drawer of glitter and sequins that I’ve been hoarding for the past 10 years… I know it’s stupid, but in the back of my mind a little voice says “What if they break it? What if they use it up? What if you can’t replace it?” I know – it’s stupid! If they break it we’ll fix it. If they use it up we’ll get more. If we can’t fix it or get more we’ll get something else. It’s just stuff, right? Time to use some of that stuff up!
Lots to think about… And practice until it’s second-nature.
We moved onto our street the fall of 1999 and absolutely love it. Not only are the houses some of the prettiest in the neighborhood, but the neighbors are very friendly, for the most part, and many socialize with each other throughout the year.
- Every August we hold a Block Party to celebrate National Night Out.
- Every December many of the neighborhood women get together for Ladies’ Night Out dinner and drinks at a local restaurant.
- And every October a friendly ghost roams the neighborhood, leaving goodies on people’s front doorsteps.
I don’t know what the kids are more excited about: finding treats on our front porch or putting together treats for one or two or three of our neighbors. Some years we’ve Ghosted the kids’ neighborhood friends’s houses; other years we’ve Ghosted older neighbors who may otherwise be left out.
The goodies are accompanied by two sheets of paper. One has a ghost saying “We’ve been Ghosted! Happy Halloween!” on it. It goes on your front door so neighbors know to pick another household to Ghost. The other sheet of paper contains the traditional Ghosting poem:
- “You’ve Been “Ghosted”
This ghost haunts you happily
from now through Halloween,
and was delivered by a friend
who left (hopefully) unseen!
The spirit of the neighborhood
has come to wish you well,
someone, somewhere selected you
to receive this happy spell!!
- You must display this ghost
on your door so all can spy,
that you’ve already been haunted
by this spooky little guy!!
- Then fix a sack with goodies
like the one given to you,
ring a neighbor’s doorbell (leave the treats)
and make them happy too!!
- HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
This weekend I’ll have the boys help me put together some treats and decide who to Ghost. I think it’s important for them to experience how good it feels to do nice things for other people. Especially unexpected nice things that you won’t get credit for.
I wonder what they’ll choose to gift…
When I called to reserve a room at the Kalahari Resort for the WECA Conference I chose a Hut room because we could get a discount for being part of the Conference, and because Teacher and I don’t need anything fancy.
Shortly before the Conference I happened to mention to a good friend and honorary family member – if being part of our family can be considered and honor that Teacher and I were going to the Kalahari for a conference. She told me that her sister works at the Kalahari and said she’d call her sister and ask her to “take good care” of us. I thanked her but didn’t think anything of it because I don’t use friends for my own advantage and I knew Teacher and I would be more than comfortable without any special treatment.
The night before we were supposed to leave my friend called us to let me know her sister had offered us a free upgrade Cool! but we weren’t home to take the call. I was excited about the prospect of an upgrade but since we hadn’t connected I wasn’t counting on anything. My friend had given me her sister’s name and said to ask for her if we needed anything but I wasn’t going to – if we were offered something I’d certainly accept but I wasn’t about to ask for anything special.
Oh me of little faith! My friend’s sister really came through for us with an upgrade to a Lodge Room. I was stunned by how gorgeous it was!
Here’s the Hut Room, which would’ve been more than adequate for us. However, it can’t compete with a Lodge Room…
It was AMAZING! So much room, and the kitchen was bigger than the kitchens in some apartments we’ve lived in. I expected a galley or compact kitchen but this one was full-sized and came complete with dishes, utensils, towels, washcloths, pot holders – pretty much everything you need for cooking. I’d want more and bigger pots, but I can’t complain. I could totally see a family reserving the Lodge room and adjoining Hut rooms for a weekend; it would be a perfect get-away in the middle of a Wisconsin winter. Of course, if we did that with our family Teacher and I would get the room with the fireplace; the fireplace is the best part of the room.
Photo credit: Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells
Another WECA Conference has come and gone, and a good time was had by all. Or at least by Teacher and I!
I wasn’t in a picture-taking mood this year, but I did snap a couple of photos:
Lisa Murphy aka the Ooey Gooey Lady was keynote speaker on Friday. She was absolutely HILARIOUS, yet had important things to say too. Yes, I was sitting in the WAY back. How did you know?
Here’s a short video of her talking about respecting children, especially babies: Not from the WECA Conference, but it’s the same speech.
Global Babies is a beautiful book I saw at the Follett booth and bought at Half.com for .75. Ever since Teacher introduced me to Half.com I haven’t been able to pay full price for a book. And I’ve added a LOT of books to my child care and personal libraries!
I also fell in love with this Easy Grip 3D Pond Puzzle from Kaplan Co. You know I’m only in this job for the toys, right? No, not really; but they’re definitely one of the perks of the job!
Sadly, I couldn’t find the Pond Puzzle on Half.com. Amazon doesn’t have them any cheaper than Kaplan, so I guess I’ve got to start saving pennies… LOTS of pennies because there’s also an Easy Grip 3D FARM Puzzle that’s just as cute!
I went to both of Lisa Murphy’s workshops: Infant and Toddler Curriculum and the Importance of Early Experiences. And as expected, she was fantastic in both!
You may have noticed that she’s wearing a different shirt in my photos than she is in the videos…
This is the back; I had to buy one because it made me laugh.
Here’s Lisa talking about the “B-word” and about cloth diapers and potty training. Again, not recorded at the WECA conference, but the same material.
No Friday night would be complete without Margaritas, so Teacher found a fun Mexican restaurant about 20 minutes away from the hotel. The food was good, but it was the decor that made the place.
So that’s a peek into 2013 WECA Conference. Of course I went to more workshops besides just Lisa Murphy’s – Tom Copeland leading expert on family child care business had a great one Saturday morning. And Teacher and I spent some quality time together going out for lunch, hitting the water park, snuggling in front the fireplace more about our room later and just enjoying some stress-free, child-free time together.
I guess the main reason I didn’t take more photos is because I was thinking so hard about the information I gained from the workshops that taking photos didn’t occur to me.
And I’m OK with that. I’d rather have a headful of new ideas to try in my program and few photos, than a ton of photos but nothing new for the children.
I know it’s hard to believe, considering how much I hate early mornings, but by the time this post goes live – 6:00 am – Teacher and I will have been up for two hours and on the highway for over an hour.
Because we’re on our way to the 2013 WECA (Wisconsin Early Childhood Association) Conference! Yes, I am jumping up and down in my seat from excitement… And from too much caffeine… And because I need to find the Little Girls’ Room… Teacher, can you take that next exit, pretty please?
I’ve attended the WECA Conference every year since 2000, except when Z-Man and Little Guy were little and still nursing. Every year it’s SO much fun and I get SO many great ideas that I can’t wait to go again the next year. In the past I’ve always gone with a group of friends – which is a total blast – but last year none of them could go so Teacher went with me instead. He didn’t actually attend the conference with me; he hung out in the hotel room grading papers, writing lesson plans, and doing other teacher-y activities while I was gone. We had breakfast together, met for lunch, and went out for dinner and window shopping, so it was almost like a romantic weekend away. We enjoyed our time together so much that we decided to do it that way again this year!
This year the conference is at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells and I can’t wait to get there – the Kalahari is SUCH a great place! Ever since I was there for a WECA Conference several years ago I’ve wanted to bring the whole family back for a weekend of water park fun, but never made the time. Maybe sometime this year…
We’ve got least another hour and a half of driving still ahead of us, but I’ve posted some random photos from last year’s conference to entertain you until I can get photos from this year’s conference posted. I promise it won’t take me a year to get them up this time. Pinkie swear!
Teacher found an organic grocery store with a little deli about 5 minutes away from the conference site. We had lunch there both days and spent some time browsing the aisles of the grocery store too. It was so nice to be able to pick anything off the menu and not have to worry about whether it had hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup, or other nastiness in it.
There was a welcoming table set up near the entrance to the conference area with complimentary coffee, tea, and water available. A very nice touch, but for me it didn’t make up for the lack of a Starbucks or other coffee shop on the premises.
All of the workshops I attended were fantastic; especially the one on Process Art. The first half the time was a presentation, then the second half we got to try out a bunch of process art experiences. I took photos of my favorites, like this one: “Stick Stuff on Paper” – contact paper with natural items and tissue paper squares stuck on.
Disclaimer: I’m totally making up names for these activities. If the presenter had names I sure don’t remember them anymore.
Another cool idea was “Oversize Marble Painting” using big sheets of paper, big round tubs and balls instead of marbles. Fun!
“Painting with Cars” by rolling them through paint then onto paper or old maps was another great idea – perfect for transportation themes, if you do themes.
One of the most popular tables was “Painting with Weird Stuff” like combs, pieces of PVC plumbing, golf balls, etc. You can do this with pretty much anything!
The Exhibitor’s Hall is always one of my favorite things about the Conference. Most of the exhibitors bring stuff to sell, often at a discount, but this year there were several areas set up for us to explore. This year a whole corner displayed ways to use recycled and repurposed items in early childhood programs, like this adorable pumpkin.
Draw faces on plastic cups with a Sharpie then cut a hole in the bottom and hang them on Christmas tree lights for a string of ghost lights. Z-Man and Little Guy would totally love these in their bedroom!
The label says it all. Colored pencils are perfect for traveling because they don’t melt like crayons do if the car gets hot, and they don’t dry out or leave marks all over everything like markers do when the covers aren’t put back on.
Clear pill boxes for sorting or for small art supplies.
I thought this idea was brilliant… Cut a pool noodle or two into equal lengths, lay them next to each other, then use duct tape to tape them together at the ends. Great for infants to practice crawling over!
Another brilliant idea – cover an old phone book with duct tape and use it as a small step. How cool is that?!
Obviously self-explanatory; simply tie ribbons onto a wood ring. So beautiful!
This little loom is cute, seems easy to make, and is so pretty. I think I’ve got another project for Teacher’s Dad! Lucky for me he likes woodworking projects.
Can you guess where we had breakfast each day?
Of course Starbucks – you’re so smart! The only thing I didn’t like about last year’s conference venue is that there wasn’t a coffee shop on the premises and the nearest Starbucks was a 10 minute drive away so we had to get up half an hour early each morning to get breakfast.
But not this year – the Kalahari has a Starbucks not too far away from the conference area, so I can get my caffeine fix whenever I want!
Have I mentioned that I can’t wait to get there?
If you’ve ever tried to feed a kid you know it’s no easy task! Kids’ tastes can change from day to day and moment to moment. One day they can’t stand to have a bowl of peas on the dinner table, and the next day they’re eating peas like their little lives depend on it.
What’s a mom to do?
Campbells to the rescue!
Yes, Campbells the soup company.
For more than 144 years Campbell Soup Company has been making meals both delicious and fun.
Did you know that every can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup has 32 feet of noodles just waiting to be slurped? I sure didn’t. Did you know that Campbell’s Tomato soup is perfect for kids and adults who like to dunk and/or get creative with toppings? That, I knew.
Campbells – with the help of The Wisest Kid in the Whole World™ – has kicked it up a notch to offer delicious recipes your kids won’t be able to refuse. Mini Chicken Pot Pies… Easy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas… Pepperoni White Pizza Skillet… Yum!
Visit the Wisest Kid in the Whole World™ at WisestKid.com for fun, quick meal ideas your kids will love. You can also see all of the soup varieties featuring your kids’ favorite characters like Super Mario and Phineas & Ferb, and discover fun new topping and sandwich ideas for your Tomato soup.
Speaking of Tomato soup…
Tomato soup has always been my favorite. Usually I like it best with grilled cheese to dunk in it, but my Mom used to make a Tomato Soup Casserole that my brothers and I loved.
My mom made a lot of casseroles when my brothers and I were kids because casseroles were quick and easy to whip up after a long day of teaching, she could easily stretch them if one of us kids brought a friend home for dinner, and they filled up my brother’s “hollow legs” better than other foods.
Like most of my mom’s recipes, this one gives general guidelines for ingredients but you can adjust amounts to your own taste; you can make it more meaty or more noodle-y, more spicy or not spicy at all. The original recipe gives the option of adding peas instead of corn, but I’ve never had it that way so peas would just taste wrong to me. You do what you want though – I won’t judge!
Campbells Tomato Soup Casserole
- 1 lb ground beef I used ground turkey
- 1 can Campbells Tomato soup
- 1 small can tomato sauce
- 3/4 – 1 package egg noodles I used whole wheat noodles
- 1/2 – 3/4 Cup frozen corn
- Pinch of dried, minced onion
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chili powder, optional
- In an electric frying pan or large frying pan on the stove, brown the ground beef or turkey. Drain if needed.
- Add the Tomato soup, tomato sauce, dried minced onion, salt pepper, chili powder if used, and enough water to make it “quite soupy.” Bring to a boil.
- Add the noodles and reduce heat to a simmer
- Simmer until the noodles are tender, about 25-30 minutes, adding water if needed. Stir often, scraping the bottom of the pan.
- Add corn and heat thoroughly.
While you’re waiting for the noodles to cook, why not try out the Wisest Kid widget?
We all love sharing things about our kids – from pictures to funny things they do – and the Wisest Kid widget is a fun way to share the “wise” things your kids say. It’s super easy – try it now, then visit WisestKid.com to discover the “wise” things other kids are saying.
Few pieces of furniture receive as much use as your sofa, yet shopping for one can make you feel like Goldilocks. This one’s too big, this one’s too small, this one’s too plush…and the list goes on. When gearing up for a new sofa, run through this checklist so you can narrow down the list of potential purchases and fall in love faster.
For pure comfort and performance, nothing beats a down and feather sofa. Down mixed with fiber is a cheaper option, as are feather-only fillings, but these can flatten and clump, notes Good Housekeeping. If you’re allergic or opposed to down, there are many foam sofas that are comfortable and durable. Try a HR (high resilient) or memory foam. Low-density foam can quickly lose its shape, while high-density foam may feel too stiff for your comfort.
Expect to spend about $700 to $2,000 for a sofa, reports The Nest. If you’re in the market for a designer sofa, you can spend up to $10,000 quite easily. While it’s useful to know averages, determine your budget before you begin shopping to avoid falling for sofas that you can’t afford. To stretch your budget, shop over holiday weekends, take advantage of seasonal sales or inquire about floor models. Keep in mind the amount of money you’ll spend for sofa extras, like throw pillows or decorative blankets.
A high quality sofa will have good bones, so it’s important to know what types of springs and frames you may encounter when sofa shopping. Springs should feel firm, with little space between them. Squeaks when you sit down indicate something isn’t right. For durability, nothing beats a sofa constructed out of kiln-dried hardwood. This wood retains less moisture than other types of wood, for better performance. The most durable sofas employ some form of joinery other than glue or staples. Inquiring about the joinery communicates that you’re a smart shopper and one interested in quality furniture rather than a bargain. Soft woods, particle board, metal and plastic frames are more likely to warp or break. Consult a buyer’s guide like the one from Macys.com sofa store to learn more about terms that may be unfamiliar. A knowledgeable salesperson should be able to provide detailed information about the construction of any sofa on the sales floor.
This is what you’ll see, so it can often be the biggest draw when sofa shopping. Look for a fabric that takes your lifestyle into account. If your dog loves to nap on the sofa, leather or micro suede may be good choices because they’re easy to clean. If your partner is a klutz, a pale-colored sofa can be marred by red wine and a sofa covered in silk (or other hard to clean materials) is easily ruined by an accidental spill. For natural fibers, tightly woven cotton or linen is unbeatable. For leathers, note that higher quality material tends to have more natural marks. Lower quality leather is often treated to remove imperfections, which also lessens the durability of the material.
Shopping online can teach you more about what’s available in your budget and help you browse, but shopping in person allows you to feel the materials that make up the sofas on your list. Combine these strategies for a sofa shopping approach that helps you find the perfect sofa.
Photo Credit: Couch shopping image by Thriving ink via Flickr.
Photo Credit: Couch shopping image by Thriving ink via Flickr.
It all started out innocently enough… A couple of years ago Teacher and I were enjoying a nice Date Night meal at one of our favorite restaurants – Solea Mexican Grill. (Click with caution – their site has loud music!)
The waiter obviously recognized us from past visits and while we were chatting he asked if we were attending the upcoming “Tequila Dinner.” My ears perked up… “A Tequlia Dinner? Tell us more!”
Solea has hosted a Tequila Tasting Dinner once or twice a year for several years. The Dinner features a special Five Course meal planned and prepared by their chef, with a different tequila cocktail specifically created to go with each course.
Teacher and I like to try new types of tequila and Margarita recipes the way other people like trying new wines. We also enjoy good food and trying new foods, so we knew we had to attend the Tequila Dinner.
Someday I may actually find time to edit and post photos from previous Dinners, but for now I’ve got photos of the one we enjoyed this past summer. Princess and Cowboy’s mom came with us – neither Cowboy nor his dad are fond of tequila so those two party poopers stayed home.
We had a great time without them!
Disclaimer: The blurriness of some photos is due to poor iPhone photography skills; the number of Margaritas enjoyed had nothing to do with it. Seriously – it took three tries to get a clear photo of the first drink. And that was before I tasted it! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The first course was “Gazpacho de Aquacate” – Avocado Gazpacho. It was simply incredible! Silky and rich with a hint of cilantro. The salty bacon, queso fresco and crostini were the perfect garnishes. What a great way to start the meal. I really want to find a recipe for this!
The first drink of the evening was “Paloma” – Cenenario Reposada tequila, fresh orange and lime juices, and grapefruit soda. I’m not a big Squirt fan but I liked this drink, even though it tasted kind of like Squirt.
Tequila comes in 3 forms: Silver, Reposada and Anejo. Reposada has been aged in oak barrels and picks up some of the flavor from the oak. I think Reposada tequila generally has a smoother, “deeper” flavor than Silver tequila.
Next up was “Ostiones Gratinados” – Baked gulf oysters topped with Dungeness crab and spinach, and a garlic cream sauce with reposed tequila in it. The pink and white curly stuff is radish sprinkled with a little lime juice. The crunchy, tart, spiciness was perfect with the richness of the oysters. This chef is a genius – a genius I tell you.
To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about the oysters. Ever since someone described eating raw oysters as “swallowing a gob of snot” they just haven’t appealed to me. But these were cooked so I gave them a shot, and they weren’t half bad. I don’t know that I’d order them ever, but I enjoyed the two I had.
Along with the “Ostiones Gratinados” was Guava Margaritas – Guava puree, Milagro Silver tequila one of my absolute faves, lime juice, and a little sweet and sour mix.
Silver tequilas are aged in stainless steel so they don’t have the depth that Reposada tequilas have. To me a Silver tequila has a fresher, lighter taste than a Reposada. But I’m no expert
I’m not really fond of guava so this wasn’t my favorite drink of the night, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. How’s that for a sad recommendation?! Based on my feelings about oysters and guava I really wasn’t looking forward to the second course, but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
The third course was “Enchiladas de Langosta y Callos” – Cold and warm water lobster and scallops in a corn tortilla with red sauce and queso fresco. They were accompanied with saffron rice.
Yum… just… Yum!! I haven’t met an enchilada I didn’t like, but these are the kind of enchiladas other enchiladas envy. I could’ve eaten a dozen of them. Not that I should, but I so could. Of course the saffron rice was fantastic too. Flavorful but not so much that it detracted from the enchiladas. Have I mentioned that the chef is a genius?
A Blackberry Margarita was paired with the “Enchiladas de Langosta y Callos.” It sounded fairly simple: blackberry juice, 1800 Reposada tequila another of my favorites, and sweet & sour mix. This was my favorite Margarita of the whole night… Or maybe tied for my favorite with the next one…
“Lomo de Puerco en Pipian Verde” – Slow roasted pork tenderloin with a classic pipian mole sauce, served with grilled veggies and roasted red potatoes. This was Teacher’s favorite dish, hands down. He’s a huge fan of Pipian pumpkin seed sauces, and this one was exquisite. The whole dish was utter perfection; I can’t think of anything that could have improved it. Yes, I tried the orchid. I can’t wrap my mind around eating flowers so I just nibbled a bit off the edge. It was good but way too pretty to eat.
One of the coolest things of the night happened shortly after we were seated – a server came to our table and asked if any of us had food allergies. Princess told him that she doesn’t eat pork and had planned to just eat the potatoes and veggies from this course, but the server told her that he’d have the chef substitute chicken for the pork. We all thought was very nice and not at all necessary since the menu had been published weeks before the dinner and Princess knew they were serving pork. The chicken turned out to be just as delicious as the pork; nicely seasoned and tender, with as much thought and care put into it as if it wasn’t a substitution.
I have a confession to make: I loathe the flavor “Blue Raspberry.” There is no such thing. There are red raspberries and black raspberries, but no such thing as blue raspberries. Except in technicolored over-sugared chemical-laden
food junk marketed to children.
That said, I loved the “Blue Raspberry Margarita”! It’s made from blueberry and raspberry puree real fruits, not chemical flavoring, Casa Noble Blanco tequila, and fresh lime juice. Delish!
Apologies for the blurry photo. I was having too much fun with the food, drink, and company that I just snapped it and totally forgot to make sure it was clear.
Finally my favorite course – dessert! “Cheesecake Chimichanga con Cajata” – Cheesecake deep fried inside a flour tortilla, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with caramel-y cajeta, with velvety vanilla ice cream on the side. You have’t lived until you’ve bit into a crunchy chimichanga filled with warm, rich, melty cheesecake. Oh-Em-Gee – heaven!
The final drink of the night was “Torito de Fresca” – Cream, pureed strawberries, and El Jimador Reposado tequila. I’d like to say that I loved this one, but I can’t. To me it tasted like a tequila-spiked melted strawberry shake – not my cup of tea. Personally I think it would’ve been better if it had tasted like a tequila-spiked melted chocolate shake… Or a tequila-spiked melted mocha shake… Hmm… That’s worth trying next time we have chocolate ice cream…
The servers allowed plenty of time between courses so the entire meal took over two hours, and the glasses were half ice so none of us was falling out of the booth by the end of the night. But we were pretty happy and silly by the time we reached the dessert course. Jo hadn’t liked the strawberry margarita so she gave it to Princess, adding it to her collection of half-finished glasses. She looked so funny surrounded by all the glasses that Teacher and I pushed ours in front of her had her pose for a photo to send to Cowboy.
She hadn’t liked the blue raspberry one but thought if she combined it with the strawberry one she might like it better.
Jo thought that was a good idea and tried combining two of her drinks too. Of course I had to snap a photo to send to Cowboy.
Finally I tried to take a photo of Teacher and I together, but the lighting was so dim and the phone too close to our faces that it didn’t work out well.
Or maybe my iPhone was a bit tipsy from taking photos of all those Margaritas. It doesn’t get out much.
In any case, a good time was had by all, and we’re watching our Inboxes for the next Tequila Tasting Dinner!