Summer Minestrone

Wednesday, I made this for dinner. We had it for leftovers Friday. And I have two more meals of it in the freezer! It’s delicious. So many flavors, and so fresh.

My Summer Minestrone

 It’s Summer Minestrone from the August, 2014, Family Circle Magazine. Quick to cook, but took longer than 30 minutes to prep. Instead of the bullion cubes, I used about 8 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth. Loved the sausage in there, and all the veggies! Such a healthy meal.

Next time I make it, I will leave out the pasta. I didn’t add anything to the taste, and I’d rather fill up on veggies instead.

It cost me about $24 to buy the ingredients for this, and I figure that for the two of us, we’ll get about 5 or 6 meals out of it, including my husband having leftovers for breakfast Thursday morning. So this is not only a delicious and nutritious meal, it’s economical, too! Continue reading

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Eating Like Grown Ups

Somewhere along the line, we got off track and I stopped cooking for my family. It was in those years of soccer and little league, when Dan was always the coach and I was team mom. On those short evenings when we had to hurry and do homework, then jump in the car as soon as Dad got home to go to practice, it was always so much easier to just grab something to eat along the way.

That was when my children’s taste buds started to rebel against good, healthful food. I got so very tired of hearing, “Yuck! I’m not eating this!” when anything I made did not resemble mac and cheese from a blue box accompanied by frozen sticks of possibly poultry or feasibly fish. I know I should have been stronger and made them eat better, but I was tired. Ask any mom of youngsters. They are all tired. And if someone said to me, “Don’t cook. Let’s do what’s easier.” I didn’t have the energy to fight them too much.

As the kids got older, we continued our take-out tradition. By then we were deeply entrenched in the habit. Thankfully, as the kids became adults, so did their tastes. We ate a lot of take out, but it was mostly from local restaurants, not fast food. No one minded at all. And family time is much nicer when everyone can have their favorites.

But now we are living in an Empty Nest, just the two of us adults. Thankfully, I have a husband who is a bit of a foodie and will try anything. It’s more of a miracle that I am excited to try all the new foods we’ve been exploring. 

What got me started cooking (mostly) every night is a study our small group did at the beginning of this year. It’s called The Daniel Plan. I got really excited about the Food chapter. That is where I learned why some of the things I’ve always eaten are so bad, and why some of the things I thought were so hard to eat enough of are so good. Continue reading

Baby, It’s Cold Outside…

It’s cold.

Well, not up-north-where-I’m-from-in-Michigan-and-Ohio cold, but definitely we’re-used-to-90s-here-in-Texas cold.

I’ve been in Texas since 1981, and somewhere along the way, I became a cold weather wimp. We went for a visit at Christmas time in 1989. It was snowy and beautiful, but the wind was fierce and stabbing. I just wanted to be inside with a couple dozen blankets and a heating pad. So it didn’t take long for my body to decide it prefers 90+ degree days to -20 degree days.

But don’t you just love this time of year? We get to wear our jeans, funky boots, warm fuzzy sweaters, fun sparkly scarves, and jackets and coats that cover a multitude of desserts.

And the best part of all, it’s cuddle-up weather! Time to wear our “home pants” (aka flannel pajama bottoms) as long into the afternoon as our day’s activities will allow. Soft, fluffy slippers just beg to be left on as well. And hoodies! Oh the comfort of hoodies! Grab a mug of your favorite hot beverage topped with whipped cream and possibly even sprinkles. Find a cozy spot to curl up in with your favorite blanket, and spend a couple hours with the pastime of your choice, be it with your laptop, TV remote, or for your traditional types, a good old fashioned book. Add the mesmerizing glow of a fire and a loved one to cuddle up next to you, and I dare say, you are as close to bliss as you will ever be on this earth.

Another thing that adds to the yumminess of this time of year is the aroma. Besides the baking smells, for this surely is the time to bake, there are the candles. The candle companies have special scents all year round, but none of them even come close to the candles of autumn and Christmas! The woodsy, spicy, pumpkinny, tobacco-y, harvest smells of autumn candles lure my mind to a cabin somewhere in the woods, full of homey touches like rough-hewn wooden furniture, and overstuffed chairs and quilts in reds, oranges, browns, and greens. Outside the golden glow of sunset and the sound of birds chirping “goodnight” as they settle into their nests for the evening. And oh! The Christmas scents of cedar, red berries, fresh baked cookies and apple pies, peppermint, pine, balsam, and cinnamon! Reminds me of being a child, and carefree days at home with family all around.

So yes, I love it when it’s cold outside, as long as I’m warm inside. And right now it’s cold…sort of…well, it gets down into the mid 40’s at night…sometimes…

Alright. It’s 72 degrees outside my house as I’m writing this, but here in Texas, 72 is on the chilly side…kinda…to us. But Thanksgiving is this week, and if the weatherman won’t cooperate, I’ll pretend it’s cold enough for hot chocolate, warm pumpkin pie, and sweaters.

MeeMaw’s Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

When Hubby and I got married and his family and my family converged to become Our Family, one of the things included in that merger was our old family recipes. This weekend, I got to try one of Hubs’ mom’s recipes.

He had mentioned that he wanted an orange chocolate chip cake for his birthday. I Googled and found Ina Gartner’s sumptuous recipe, only to discover that what Hubs meant was he wanted the cake his mom used to make.

So I called my sister-in-law and got the recipe. It’s a brownie type cake with no icing or glaze. It doesn’t need any. It’s very moist and oh-so-good!

Funny that in 30 years of marriage, this is the first I’m hearing of this cake. Wonder what else I’ve been missing?

Meemaw's Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

MeeMaw’s Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

Preheat oven to 250°F  (Yes 250°. You cook it low and slow.)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Mix the above dry ingredients lightly together in bowl and set aside.

  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp grated orange peel (You’ll need two large oranges.)
  • 1 cup soured milk*
  • 1-12 oz bag chocolate chips (I like to use Nestlé’s semi-sweet Tollhouse chips.)

In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugars with a fork. Beat in eggs until creamy. Mix in grated orange peel then soured milk. Add flour mixture slowly, stirring as you do. Don’t over-stir. This stuff is more like muffin batter than cake batter, so over-mixing might make it less fluffy. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into a 13×9 cake pan that has been greased and floured. Bake for 50-65 minutes at 250°F until golden and done. (The recipe says 50 minutes, but at that point, mine was still pretty wet in the middle. 65 minutes was perfect for mine.)

Hubs says his mom used to make this as a Bundt cake. Sister-in-law said she tried it, but it didn’t work for her. I might try it next time, just to see.

Let me know if you make this and how you like it!

*Prepare soured milk by mixing 1 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar into 1 cup of milk. Set aside for about 15 minutes to sour.

It’s the Age-Old Question, Mac or PC?

MacBook Pro or Toshiba P840?

I need a new computer. I’ve had my Toshiba Satellite A100 since August of 2006. I “built” it myself on ToshibaDirect.com complete with a Sunset Copper lid. We have been very happy together for the past six years. And while it’s still a good computer, it’s time for a new one. It is getting slow and giving me messages that it can’t quite keep up with my demands anymore. The hard drive is small, and I need some room to stretch out without having to run get my back up drive all the time. And it is heavy and hot, and the batter has long been dead. I’m getting a little tired of having to untangle my legs from the cord when I want to get up.

As much as I love my little cooper baby, it’s time for a new laptop.

Back in 1992, when we got our first personal computer, after much experimenting with both Macs and PCs, we decided that Mac was a million times easier for us to use. Especially since our boys were five and two years old at the time. Our youngestcould climb up into the desk chair, turn on the Mac Performa 400, and with a couple of clicks he was playing Playhouse with ease. It’s amazing to me that today I have more computing power and storage space in my cell phone than that computer had with its 4 MB of RAM and 80 MB hard drive. I remember having to drive across Houston to the one place that sold Apple software, because programs were few and hard to find. But difficulties aside, we were a Mac family and proud of it.

During the homeschooling years, I fell in love with a curriculum called Switched-On Schoolhouse. It was only available PC and not for Macs. I tried installing Windows on our old Mac, but it just slowed the entire computer down. So we got a Compaq desktop and discovered the joys of being a PC family. A whole world of available and more affordable software opened up to us. We were hooked. We became a PC family.

As the times progressed and we found we each needed our own personal personal computer, we stuck with Windows based laptops. Trying to fill the computing needs of four people, we didn’t even give the more expensive Apple computers a second glance.

And then our youngest became a computer science major. And now half of us are back to Apple laptops.

The CS major knows a little more about computers than we do as consumers. He tells us how much better Macs are and why. And I know he’s right because I’ve read all the same arguments on smart people’s websites, and because he’s an intelligent kid who dives deep into any subject he’s interested in and learns it well. And he is an incredible at comparative shopping (it’s a family trait, on his dad’s side). So when his dad asked him for advice, it’s no wonder the man came home with a MacBook Pro.

So now it’s my turn to be a comparative shopper, and I’ve been studying and reading articles and listening to advice. It’s hard not to just follow that pied piper son of mine and buy the MacBook Pro, but I’ve got a few problems with it. The largest of which is price.

I’ve been putting money away since December in anticipation of this purchase. I’ve got a nice chunk of change saved, enough for either a Mac or a PC. But that doesn’t mean I need to spend it all. The MacBook Pro I want is $1299 to $1499, depending on which model I go with. The Toshiba P840 is $829. These prices are after I customize them with the upgrades I want in RAM, hard drive space, etc. That’s a difference of anywhere from $470 to $670. I could almost buy two Toshibas for the price of the Mac!

There’s also the difference in speakers. My husband has the same MacBook Pro that I would get if I got the less expensive of the two. I tested it against my Toshiba’s Harman/Kardon speakers, and there was no comparison. The H/K speakers blew the Mac speakers away. I don’t often need to fill a room with the music coming from my computer, but when I do, I want to have great sound.

Then there’s the fact that the Mac doesn’t have two of the ports I use. My son assures me I can buy adapters. I checked them at Best Buy. They run about $25 each. Even more money.

When I have to replace something, like a computer, I love to get something new and different, not just the same thing updated. So the idea of getting a MacBook excites me! So much to explore! And I think I could work with my photos more efficiently, even just using the software that comes with it.

They say there aren’t as many programs out there for Mac as there are for PC, but other than updating Microsoft Office and Outlook, I don’t remember the last time I needed to buy a program for my computer. Even so, I love that you can buy programs for the Mac at the Apple App Store like you can for the iPhone and iPad. There’s some fun and useful programs on there. Toshiba has its own App Store. I looked into it. You don’t so much buy their apps as you rent them, or actually pay for a subscription. And you don’t download them onto your computer; they run out of the Cloud. Their apps are more expensive, and they don’t have near as many of them. I guess that kind of flies in the face of the old argument about not having as much software for Macs, doesn’t it?

I think I’d probably be happy with either computer. They each have their good and not so good points. I just need to pray about it some more, and figure out which one will make me more than happier. (Excuse the pun. It was just right there. I had to say it.)

 

A New Place to Call Home

Welcome to my new home on the web! Isn’t it nice? It’s roomier, in a better neighborhood, and I got to pick out my own address. And there’s more room to grow.

I started this blog on Tumblr, just to get it going in a familiar place. I wanted to make sure I was really going to do this before I made any kind of monetary investment, or learned a new format. I’m enjoying it quite a bit, so I thought it was time to change to something I can personalize a little more.

I love the design of this skin, so colorful, so retro! I’m all about retro. I love the colors and patterns of the 1950’s-70’s. When I went looking for a design, I was really looking for something a little cleaner, more open. So you might come here one day and find a new design and another the next day. Let’s just say I’m in the dressing room phase, trying on different outfits, looking for the one that suites me best.

I still have some moving in to do, like filling out the “About” page and starting a blog roll with links to those I read. But there’s time for that.

Another reason I changed to WordPress is that many readers were having a hard time leaving comments on the Tumblr blog. This should be easier. Just go to the bottom of the post and click “Leave a comment.” Try it! Leave lots of comments! Blogging’s more fun when you add your two cents.

So here we are. Remember the new address: MoreThanHappier.com!

Front Row Baby!

 

My best friend posted that on my Facebook page. It is a truth we’ve lived by for the last 11 years. Most my friends feel the same. If we can’t sit in the first row, we’ll begrudgingly take second or third row. It’s not that we’re snobs, and we’re certainly not groupies, but we are spoiled to it.

We like the front row for lots of reasons. Mostly because we like to be where the action is! My friends and I want to feel like that band is playing just for us. We like to be part of the party. I feel like that at church, too. I like to sit in the first few rows. If I am farther back, I get too distracted by the other people in the audience. Farther back feels like watching your favorite movie on an 11” TV instead of the big theater screen!

The other reason we like to sit in front is we are all mad concert photographers. Not professional, mind you. The only reason I take decent pictures is because I’ve been doing it a while now. I’ve picked up a few pointers, but mostly this one little trick. I have found if I take 500 pictures at a concert (Thank You God for digital photography!), 200 of them turn out good, 100 of them are really nice, about 30 of them are kind of awesome, and about 5 are what we call “money shots”. I don’t know why we call them that. None of us have ever sold a photo, although some of us have had photos used on other websites.

It’s always a thrill to see your photo on a music website, especially if they actually ask first and credit us without having to remind them. A good rule of thumb when right clicking and saving someone else’s photo is to save their name with the picture. Then if you ever post that photo anywhere, always ask the photographer’s permission and put something like photo by: Soandso Jones in the caption. The photographer will love you for it.

I’ve gone to concerts and sat stood in the front row without my camera. Boy, is that awkward. I don’t know what to do with my hands! Especially if I don’t know the words to the song. I’m so afraid the singer will look my way, and think I didn’t listen to the record enough to learn all the words.

I like to make the artist on the stage feel appreciated. I clap, sing, smile, dance, and show them that I’m having a great time. That’s why I don’t understand why people sit down at rock concerts. Rock music is meant to move you! These folks up on the stage are working hard. Look at them sweat! It’s not easy to get up there and pour your heart out to a different audience in a different city every night. Artists feed off of the energy of the audience. The more fun the audience is having, the more fun the band has, and the more fun the audience will have. It’s a circle of love!

As I wrote most of this post, I was minutes away from trying to buy tickets to see one of my favorite bands, NEEDTOBREATHE. (That’s not me shouting. That’s how they spell it.) I was a nervous wreck! I checked my blood pressure and pulse, and they were each up 10 points! I love buying tickets, and I hate it. It’s like riding a roller coaster, thrilling and terrifying at the same time! All the while we are screaming, and laughing, and feeling sick, and praying.

And really, I have no business going to this show. It’s in Longview, Texas, and the day after this show my husband and I have tickets to MUTEMATH (they like their name shouted, too) in San Antonio! That means we have to get up the next day, drive six hours, stand in line for another couple of hours hoping to get in there before everyone else, and then stand up all night, because it’s a GA (general admission) show! I mean seriously. Is that anyway for a couple of 51 year olds to act? Of course it is! (Note to self: Pack Geritol and Starbucks gift cards, lots of them.)

But it’s worth it. Whether it’s just me and the hubs, or me and my friends, or any combination thereof, we always have such amazing times at concerts.

So how did I do with the ticket buying? FRONT ROW BABY! It’s going to be an awesome, awesome weekend seeing two of my very favorite bands back-to-back with my hubby and friends!