Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Homemade" Ranch Dip

Using a packet of dry Hidden Valley Ranch mix, changing the directions and then calling it your homemade ranch is totally okay.  Because I say.

On the back of the above package the directions call for 1 cup of mayo and 1 cup of milk.  I make it this way all the time for dressing and it is Num Yummy.
When I want a good thick dip for my mounds of celery and cucumbers that follow me polishing off around 15 wings or so I make it this way:

1 packet HV Ranch dressing/seasoning mix packet
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk

You're already excited, I know. 

The sour cream makes it a little more tangy and less milk makes it thicker so that more will stick to your veggies. 

Because who wants to see any veggie showing through where you have just dipped? 

Not me.

Not you.

Go make this.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tip Tuesday

I just realized something: I have strayed from writing about things I love on my blog. 


Time to stop that immediately and get back to talking about only happy things.
Like puppies and ice cream. 

Well, that might be taking it a little far.

How about cleaning.  Now there's something joyful to discuss.

This little tip is currently making me pretty happy though.

We have a shower pan in our master bath that we installed back in Februaryish of 2008.

Odd thing to remember the date of, you say?  As it turned out I got a very special surprise the day I went to pick up that shower pan. 

Anna was born about eight months later:).

Back to the shower pan. 

In the beginning I loved my shower pan.  Scrubbed it weekly even.

And now? 

Who cares?  It's a shower pan.

And then I actually stopped to look at it.

Fiberglass shower pans from Kohler with the non-skid bottom get really nasty if you don't keep up on them.


And then when you read about them you start to learn that they can't be brought back to their original state.  But, I pretty much don't ever take 'can't' for an answer. 

So, I found my own answer. 
And it's amazing.
Vinegar and paper towels.

Line the shower pan floor with paper towels (if you're doing this in a bath tub then I would go ahead and close the drain).  Pour vinegar down over the paper towels until they are thoroughly wet. Leave them sit over night.  The following day pull up the paper towels and you'll see that most of the staining is gone. Take a good scrubby sponge (that's what you call them too, right?) to the rest of it to finish off the job.  Pretty much looks like brand new again!

And it's WAY easier than:
A. Scrubbing until your arm falls off or
B. Replacing your shower pan

And yes.  Those ARE the only other options.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's Official!

After nearly two years (the amount of time you have to complete the program, by the way) I am officially...

A certified yoga teacher!
(You like how I changed my name to Stephanie Banana Republic?  You do, don't you.)

What?  You heard I've been teaching since March, 2011?

There's that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Flying by in an Insta(Gram)

It happens every year.

Day one of summer:

 Rejoicing!  We have forEVER!

July 4: 

What??  It's the fourth of July?  We just finished school, like, yesterday.

Panic ensues. 

Mad amounts of ice cream are consumed. 
Leisurely swims begin to look like triatholon training. 
Bed times get later. 
The house gets messier. 
The firefly population decreases significantly in the backyard.  (Sorry, fireflys, they just get excited while holding you)
More ice cream.
Comments like "I'm tanner than you" are regularly heard.
The bike riding portion of the triatholon heats up.
The librarians begin to expect us daily.
Every flavor at the Caboose has now been sampled.  Mmmm.  Gelato.

Oh yes, and tons of Instagram pictures are being taken...

Sox Games
Florida Sunset
Sweet Beach Girl
Beach Photo Shoots
Cousin Time
Daddy Date Nights
 Morning Devotion
 More swimming
 Ice Cream

Summer Joy

And we're just getting started...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It is Easy...

At 7:30 am while the house is quiet.

With a steaming cup of hot coffee in my hand.

Sunlight streaks through my curtains warming the chair I sit in.

And in my lap is Sanctuary.

I memorize a verse and take inspiration for the day.

And it is all seems so easy.

I see my day so clearly and I am so calm.

I am present.

I get it.

And then... I go downstairs.

And I become distracted.

I am finding distraction is what keeps me from living life well.  Fully well. 

It is a daily struggle, but I am up to the task. And will conquer.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tip Tuesday

When traveling home late at night, alone, it is widely regarded as a stupid decision to drive through what is known as a very dangerous neighborhood on a beautiful night. 

I am even one of those people who would regard that as stupid.

But when roads are closed and you just want to get home and you have a momentary mental blank spot on where the road you are choosing actually leads... you become stupid.

And then you wise up.  Real quick like.

And this is what that wising up looks like:

You look around and you feel your cheeks start to burn.

You say a bad word under your breath.

As you roll to the stoplight, of course it's red, you slink down real low in your seat barely peeking out over the steering wheel.

Your palms sweat.

You want to call your husband but are afraid to light up your face with the back light of the phone.

You pray out loud, "Lord please change the light, please change light, please change the light,"  as a low rider pulls up next to you.

Your eyes dart to the sides of the street where men are gathered. 

You actually think to yourself  "I really don't want to be raped or killed tonight." 

You exhale when the light finally changes.

You drive quickly, contemplating blowing every stop sign and light thereafter.

You give in and call your husband saying with quavering voice "Honey, I just want you to know where I am in case something happens."

You listen to your husband say a bad word.

And then you see the end of the scary neighborhood and you don't see anymore scary people lurking on sidewalks and street corners.



An apology for the bad word.

A little scolding from your husband when you get home.

And a hug, too.

Tip for today: don't be so hurried that you become stupid.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Homemade Maple Syrup

I don't eat a lot of syrup these days. Okay, I don't eat any syrup these days.
I tried sugar free but it doesn't taste good and quite frankly those labels scare me.

For my kids (John included) I make syrup. It's easy and I think it's more delicious then anything you'll find in the store. But then, I've been eating it since I was little. Just like my mom has been eating it since she was little. So, it sort of tastes like home.

And it's very very simple.

Maple Syrup
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Maple extract
Vanilla extract

Add the sugar and water to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil stirring gently allowing all the sugar to dissolve.
Turn off the flame and allow the simple syrup to begin to cool.
Add in 2 tsp (more if you'd like it darker) each of maple and vanilla and stir to combine.
That's it. And you can easily make smaller batches.

But you won't want to because this will keep wonderfully well in your fridge.

I had a pretty little maple leaf bottle from a dear Aunt in Michigan (not Aunt-i) that looks lovely filled with homemade syrup.

Perfect for a Saturday morning filled with pancakes and sausage!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Alright.  I made these because the people pinning this recipe were all:

"I LOVE brussel sprouts. 

Roasted brussel sprouts are DELICIOUS! 

Roasted brussel sprouts are going to save the world!"

Actually, no.  That's not true.  I made them because the recipe mentioned serving them with garlic aioli.  And that, my friends, is the only reason I made brussel sprouts.

And truthfully, that is the only reason I ate these brussel sprouts.

Because I discovered what I knew all along: 

Brussel sprouts will not save the world.  They aren't that good.

They do, however, serve as a good delivery vehicle for garlic aioli.

They also photograph really well.

Recipe adapted from Savoring Life with Anna Costa
Brussel Sprouts:
20 Brussel Sprouts, quartered
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400
Line a baking sheet with parchment and toss the quartered brussel sprouts with the olive oil, salt and pepper until coated.
Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned

Garlic Aioli:
6 Tbs mayo
1/4 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbs flat leaf parsley finely chopped (I used dried, it was fine)

Mix all your ingredients together and serve alongside your sprouts.

Happy aioli shoveling!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What is That?

Ever get that unsettled feeling? 

You start scanning.

Racing back through your mind...

"Okay.  Okay.  No.  Not that.  Okay.  Yup, I'm good there.  Huh.  What IS it?"

Sometimes I just feel so... so... submerged.

Yes.  That's it. 


I'm underneath all this stuff that keeps perpetually moving me forward.  And it leaves me so unsettled.  Almost with this mid-life crisis-y feel. 

Maybe it's the mundane.


The 'setting up the pins' to just knock them down again.  Sometimes as I stand there washing the millionth dish I'm like "Really?  Really?  They couldn't have put this in the dishwasher before I ran it?"  And then I tell myself "In the grand scheme of things this doesn't matter"  And then myself tells myself "Well, yeah, it kinda does because you could be sitting down at 9:30 at night instead of washing dish number 1 million and one."  And that's when the mundane strikes.  The "Ugh, I'm going to do this all again tomorrow."

And then I day dream. 

About opening an amazing little restaurant in Hawaii. 

Because really.  Shouldn't life be really LIVED.

(And shouldn't you be really tan while doing it?)

And sometimes that is the feeling.  The desire to do something radical.  To live life wide open.

Wide Open.

Unbridled, free, full throttle, passionate.

Who wants to live in Hawaii with me?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spring Chicken

I have a gray hair.  I had no idea gray hairs were so wiry.  And they also really stand out against Not Gray Hair.

Actually... I did have a gray hair.  I pulled it instantly.  And if two grow back I will pull them both, instantly.  And if I find three.  I will color my hair.  Instantly.

This getting older thing is a bummer.

When Holland hopped out of the car, after her kiss and 'I love you Mom', I watched her walk away with her seventh grade sister (who did not kiss me goodbye) and I teared up a little.  Sometimes it just becomes very real watching them get older.

When looking in the mirror these days it's becoming very real watching me get older too.

And for the record, I may have been against plastic surgery of all types in my 20's, but in my 30's? 

I'm really warming up to the idea.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tip Tuesday

So many of our weeknights are filled with running here and running there right now.  Much like most other people I know.

Monday night's are open currently, except for story hour, so we've been choosing to make them something special.

And of course, since this is me you're reading, special = food.

Last week we had a full Thanksgiving meal on Monday night.  Turkey, stuffing I made from 100% whole grain bread, sweet potatoes, seven layer salad and green beans.  I informed everyone in the morning that we would be having a Thanksgiving meal, and while I was at home enjoying the smell of turkey filling my house, they were all out and about looking forward to their big meal at the end of the day.

After dinner and devotions everyone quickly pitches in to clean up and John puts on a small pot of coffee.  The kids scurry off in all directions and he and I sit down and enjoy the candlelight, sip our coffee, and discuss the day. 

It is really what I wish every night could be.  But because it isn't, it just makes it that much more special.

And that's my tip today:  make a weeknight something extra-ordinary.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Red Plate Tradition

I love traditions.  Yes, it's true they allow me to plan parties, entertain, decorate, and cook which are all some of my favorite things to do.  But they also invoke this whole Family, Cozy, Fun, Familiar feeling for me.  They do seem to mesh well with my love of making people comfortable as well. 

John tells me that it is no wonder our children have blankies, bottles, binkys, loveys etc for so long- I have made them all comfort addicts. 

I'm okay with that. 

They like it.

One of our year round traditions is The Red Plate.

Our plate came with a pen to record the special events we use it for on the back.  I'm not gonna lie to you, the pen kind of stinks.  It doesn't stay on real well which requires that I fill in a few letters here and there every time I wash it.  It's a small price to pay, however, for this wonderful time line...

John grew up using The Red Plate and early on in our marriage we were given one by my sister-in-luv. We bring it out for all sorts of occasions.

Straight A's
And sometimes, just because, as evidenced here

"Feb.13, 2012 Daddy is special to us on Valentine's Day."

Our girls have many (and varied) suggestions for when to use the plate.  Holland feels that if she finishes her breakfast and eats all her lunch it is certainly a red plate evening.  Alyssa's idea is much more restrained: straight A's, Birthdays, a special award.  We'll see what Anna thinks of it as she gets older.  For now she just loves any excuse to bring out a fancy plate and light some candles (because lit candles mean blowing out lit candles for a three year old). 

On a sad note.  I have yet to recieve the Red Plate.  And frankly, I am terrified of what the requirement will be for me.  I've had three children.  I've been baptized by immersion. I've completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program.  Not to mention, I've had several Birthdays. 

Still no Red Plate.

What's a wife and Mom got to do around here? 

Maybe you'd like a Red Plate of your own?  You can find them online at The Red Plate Store.

And if you do begin this fun tradtion, please let me know what it is you do to receive it, won't you?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Bet your never expected to open up my blog and see a roll of toilet paper, did you?  It's your lucky day.
For today's tip all you will be needing is:
toilet paper
essential oil

I saw this on Pinterest and it is SO easy, seriously works great, and really?  Who doesn't want more good smells in their bathroom?

Lemongrass is my scent of choice today.

Just drip two to three drops on the inside of the roll and it will safely scent your whole roll of tp.  Lovely and simple.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Little Things Loved

The computer went ahead and gave up last week so here is what's been happening in the meantime...
Her sweet face warms my heart and the fact that I got each of those pairs of shoes for under $6 does too.
Moody Church and a sea of hands worshipping the Almighty with Keith and Krystn Getty during their song In Christ Alone.

Julie and me after Founders Week. 
A sweet student of mine MADE this for me.  Lemongrass and Star Anise is a wonderful combination.
A little love from my man.
Our Valentine's Day "Egg in the Hole"... look closely and you'll see the cut out is a heart.
Our first attempt at Royal Icing.
A sweet shot of Holland getting Anna ready for cookie decorating.
Don't freak.  There was excellent supervision.  She is SO proud of herself!
A cozy Saturday morning.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Penny wise pound foolish. Don't be that. That is my tip this week.

If you are penny wise and pound foolish then you don't buy the good anti-virus software and your laptop crashes and you lose all your pictures, that you didn't back up, your accounting spreadsheets, that you didn't back up and all your music, that you didn't back up. And then you have to go buy another computer.

And that costs a lot more than anti-virus software.

And now you'll excuse me while I research anti-virus software.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Story Hour

Tonight begins this year's Story Hour.

What is that, you ask?

Last year we started this old fashioned idea of listening to stories being read out loud. Now, we've always read aloud to our girls, but this is a little different.

John's Mom and Dad live very nearby and we thought it might be kind of fun to invite them over for story hour (or two hours). We of course were right, it is very fun indeed. I read, we discuss, and everyone eats popcorn and the whole thing leaves you with the warm fuzzies.

Obviously the book is very important to the success of Story Hour. Several years ago I learned about Lamplighter Publishing. I treasure this wonderful company. Founded by Mark Hamby, Lamplighter gives us back great literary treasures. These are gems that have gone out of print, been lost, or just forgotten. Mark seeks out these rare books, carefully considers each one, edits only what is deemed necessary leaving in tact the spelling and punctuation from the 18th and 19th centuries, and then reprints them.

My first Lamplighter was The Hidden Hand by EDEN Southworth.

Mark Hamby found it, in a box, at a garage sale.

To this day it is one of my all-time favorite books. It is that memorable. It is full of moral convictions, triumph, deep characters and, most importantly, faith.

Look, we all like Twilight. It's delicious. Page turning. Easy to read. But aside from a somewhat pro-life message in book four and the alluding to of 'don't have sex before marriage', there's just not a whole lot to sink your teeth into (Get it?). This is NOT what you will be getting from Lamplighter books.

Last year's Story Hour choices were Ishmael and Self Raised. Again, two of the best I have ever read. I find myself, as well as Alyssa and John, applying the principals Ishmael held to so strongly to OUR lives.

Oh! I haven't even mentioned how beautiful these books are! Gorgeous leather bound volumes that are more than library worthy.

Tonight we begin The Lost Clue. Part of the Lamplighter Rare Collector Series (doesn't that just SOUND fantastic?), it was originally published in 1907 and written by Mrs. O.F. Walton. This selection is recommended for ages 12-99. Lamplighter has books that will apply to children younger than this as well.

Want to learn more about Lamplighter or read the description of our latest pick?

I know not everyone has their in-luvs a couple blocks away (and not everyone has what they would call "in-luvs") but why not apply the idea to just your immediate family, friends, or other extended family. I think you will find it is a great way to spend a winter evening and one that lasts.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tip Tuesday

So I'm in a yoga class with my sister in-luv.  I'm borrowing her mat, because she's teaching.  I sweat on her mat.  I go to clean it with the cleaner provided by the studio and she says "Noooooo!  Don't use that stuff!"  Too late.  Now I'm thinking I damaged her mat.  Turns out, she just doesn't want the chemicals.  She hands me a pretty blue bottle which is full of a homemade mat cleaner one of her students made for her.  Not only did it look good it smelled amazing too.

Recently I decided I want a pretty blue bottle filled with pretty smelling mat cleaner.  So I made some.  Here's the recipe:

Distilled water
Witch Hazel
Tea Tree Oil
Any natural oil you like (basically to cover up the tea tree oil smell- blech!),
I used:
lemongrass, 4 drops
lavender, 6 drops
eucalyptus, 2 drops
(sweet orange is nice too)

Find a nice diffuser.  My local health food store happened to have the pretty blue ones!  Use equal parts distilled water and witch hazel.  5 drops of tea tree (for a small bottle) and then a minimum of 4-5 of your nice smelling oil.  Maybe more because you need to cover up the tea tree oil smell.  Which really should have been called "Tar Smell". 

Tea Tree Oil is naturally antimicrobial so it will get rid of germs without chemicals. When you're hot and sweaty you more easily absorb chemicals.  Let's avoid more chemicals, shall we?  Witch hazel is a natural disinfectant.  I chose the kind without any alcohol so as to not dry out the fibers of my mat.

After class spray on your mat and wipe off with a clean cloth or paper towel.  And then give everyone the recipe after they come over to ask what that lovely smell is.

Mushroom Burger

You're shocked right now aren't you?  Stephanie is preparing something that doesn't include meat?  It's true.  I did.

And while we're pondering...

Why is a hamburger even called a HAMburger?  There's no ham, there isn't even pork.  At least in my burgers anyway.  I want beef, beef, and more beef.  Mmmmm.  I love meat. 

But I love mushrooms too.  So when I saw these Mushroom Lovers Burgers, in the sad little non-meat section of the freezer, I thought I'd cheer them up.

And by cheer up I mean: add butter, grilled onions, and provolone.

This burger does not care one bit about a bun.  There is 8 carbs though so save this for phase two.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Be Present

I love the concept of Being Present in my life.  I'm just not real good at applying it. 

The thought behind it is to slow down, look around, and notice what is swirling all around you. 
Breathe in the smell of dinner.  Look, instead of just seeing, your children as they play on the floor while you cook.  Listen a little more closely.

Be aware, be present, be mindfully engaged.

Here are a few examples of what made me stop and savor this week.
A sunny room with a comfy little girl.  Comfort.

Popping popcorn with a clear lid brings all the girls in to watch.  Togetherness.

Catching Holland smashing down through the giant snowball she was about to pose on.  Laughter.

A three year old still be rocked by her Daddy.  Time Passing.
Slowin' it down over here.  Soaking it up.