Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Galveston Trip


We took a little trip down to Galveston the day after Christmas.  We went to Schlitterbahn Galveston, that has an indoor section at their water park.  It was very fun!  I'm feeling a bit short on words, so enjoy the pics and videos.  :)

I won't post all the pics, but you can check them out in my picasa album.

It was in the low 40s when we got there and quite breezy. 

This boy LOVED the lazy river!

They had some tube chutes open.  Everyone got to go.  Princess A got a little scared though. 

She LOVED looking for shells on the beach.  She would scream "I found a shell!" every time.


Running along the sandbar at Jamaica Beach near Galveston.


We only had camera phones, so the quality is crummy.  This is on the seawall at Galveston

On the balcony at our hotel room.  

The hub was trying to get a good picture (with the camera phone) and we couldn't get the kids to smile.  Not sure what he was doing behind me as I took this, but it made some funny faces.








Sunday, December 18, 2011

Using My Brain

A little over a year ago, I went back to college.  It was a scary thing, but it was something that I needed to do for me.  I had never really caught that "love of learning" bug earlier in life, but man....it got me bad this time around!  It's amazing what different circumstances can do for your attitude.  When I went to college right out of high school, my main focus was fun-centered.  I also had ADD unknowingly.

This go-around, I'm not going to school for the wrong reasons.  I'm going for ME!  I know that I have ADD and the challenges in presents.  It feels so good to be able to learn and to know that my brain is capable of more than just knowing how to calm a fussy baby down.  Very validating indeed.

I've been taking a combination of on-campus and online classes.  Both have their pluses and minuses.  I love being able to hear the professor lecture and ask questions and interact with other students in my on-campus classes.  It also gives me a little break from my mommy-life.  My online classes give me flexibility.

I'm applying for the Dental Hygiene program next month.  I'm a little nervous.  They only take 15 students per year.  My grades are fabulous, but so are a lot of other students.  I figure if it is in Heavenly Father's plan for me, it will happen.  I might look into their nursing program as well.  Who knows.  ;)

I had a small experience the other evening which was a nice little "I'm watching out for you" moment from my Heavenly Father.  You'll need a little background info to hopefully appreciate this.  ;)

After I get my Associate's degree, I'm only a few classes off from getting my Bachelor's, so I've been trying to finish up those core classes as well.  For next semester I had registered to take a government class as part of those core classes.  I had taken political science when I was at Texas A&M, but they didn't transfer as credit for government when I had checked on what I needed six weeks ago before I registered for the spring semester.  In the "planning section" of the college's website, it showed I still needed both of my government classes, so I went ahead and registered to take one online.

I went online to check on what books I would need for next semester on the college's website.  Somehow I ended up on a scenario page for various degrees that the college offered.  I don't even know what degree plan I was on, but it showed I had met my government requirement.  Huh???  So I went back to my transcript page and lo, and behold, there it was!  They had given me credit for both of my political science classes!  I was able to get out of the class I had registered for and get into another online class that I needed for those core classes.  It saved me a semester (since I only take 2 classes a semester at this time), and about $500.

I also kept getting a weird pop up on the college's page telling me to check my financial aid.  I hadn't qualified for financial aid this go around, but thought I'd check it out anyways.  And lo, and behold, AGAIN, there was a surprise!  I had qualified for a couple hundred dollars to help out the cost.  Sweet!

The same evening, I also found out that I will have a great professor for my Microbiology class.  And a friend lent me her books for that class, which also saves me a couple hundred dollars.

It was a great evening.  They were all little things, nothing of huge consequence, but they made me feel loved and remembered by my Heavenly Father.  I know that furthering my education is a great blessing and will be a great blessing for me and my family for years to come.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How It's Going

I thought I'd take a second and let you know how some of the changes I've been making are working or not working.  And plus, blogging is WAY better than studying for my final.  ;)

Facebook:  I am shocked at how much I do not miss Facebook.  I really thought it would tempt me to go back.  There hasn't been any temptation at all.  It's weird.  It's almost too good to be true in a way.  I think that the benefits of not being on it and the weight that was removed when I deactivated was so much more than what I thought I was giving up.  I even had to look back on my blog posts to see when I actually quit....I couldn't remember!

This doesn't mean I don't love my friends and family that are still on FB.  It just means that I get a chance to make relationships better than just virtual ones.  It doesn't mean that I don't care what is going on in their lives.  It means that if you feel you would like to share something with me or if I want to know something, we'll take care of it.  I'm sure I'm missing a lot, but what I'm gaining in myself, in my kids, and in my friendships is so much more.

The two things I have missed from Facebook are having everyone's pictures imported to my contact icons on my phone.  I don't like looking on the boring silhouettes for everyone.  The other thing I miss is knowing everyone's birthdays.  So I did reactivate and export my facebook birthdays to my google calendar...yep, you can do that!  It is so easy too!  You just click on events, then birthdays, and then there will be a link at the bottom of the page somewhere to export your friends' birthdays to different calendars. So now I have at least one (and the biggest one) of the things I miss taken care of.  :)

Scripture reading:  I have read every day since I committed to from my "Exercise the Demons" post on October 24th.  I haven't been great about the whole 20 minutes, but I have read every day.  It has become a habit, which I am thankful for.  I am doing it before I go to bed right now, which for me, isn't the best brain time.  I need to figure out a time slot during the day, but it is hard to find a quiet moment, let alone several moments to study, with 2 kids that never, and I mean NEVER stop talking!

As far as spiritual progress, it has been good.  Not huge, but it is progress.  I actually made it to church 3 weeks in a row.  Shocking....I know.  I'm reengaging in class participation, although I usually say something that gets me some AWESOME (in my best sarcasm font) looks!

Music Fast:  I am feeling so much less chaotic in my thinking and emotions.  It is crazy.  Music is powerful stuff.  I don't have a time frame on how long I will go.  Like my eating habits, I'm looking for a lifestyle change, so I think I'll just try and moderate what I listen to and evaluate my emotions and thinking and see if I need to change the station, so to speak.

Weight Loss & Exercise:  Progress here has slowed.  I have been eating okay (except for the 4 cookies last night).  My new elliptical is sitting unused because they packed it with 2 left feet.  Literally.  It has 2 left foot paddles.  We contacted them and they sent us a right foot paddle.....for the wrong model!!  Ugh!  I need to get my exercise mojo back though.  I know it would help with my mood and that my weight loss would get moving again.

Getting off Lexapro:  It has been about a month since I've been off Lexapro.  It's been about 3 weeks since I've felt the negative withdrawal symptoms.  My mood has been okay.  I've had a couple blah days, but nothing that lingered.  I've been overly emotional, crying like a pregnant lady at EVERYTHING!!!!  Hopefully that will calm down because it is annoying the crap out of me!  I think my mood will improve once I get to exercising again.  I just need to kick myself in the tush to get me going.


So there you go!  WAY longer than I had planned, but at least everyone's updated now.  :)  Have a wonderful Thursday!  :)


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Salisbury Steak & Gravy

Salisbury steak is one of my favorite meals.  Thankfully, my oldest shares this love, so I can make this dinner without too many complaints.

This is a fairly simple recipe that you can vary as your tastes like.

Over the years I have been making it, this is what we like the best.  Enjoy!  :)



Nicole's Salisbury Steak & Gravy


6-8 ground beef patties (preformed or you can form your own)
2 medium onions, sliced
4 c beef broth (can be made with bouillon cubes or beef stock)
Steak, fajita, or seasoned salt
corn starch (to make gravy)

Step 1 - Sear patties on high heat.  Sprinkle with whatever seasonings you prefer.  I usually use the steak or fajita seasonings.   You can also use pepper or a seasoned salt.  Make sure to cover both sides of the patties with whatever you decide to season with.




Step 2 - This is what they should look like when you flip them. You want to just turn once to brown on both sides, but leave the juices so the patties are not dry.  I usually let them cook for about 5 minutes or so.  Once you can seared both sides, remove patties to a plate.





Step 3 - Saute sliced onions in remaining fat from cooking the meat.  This should take 5-10 minutes, on medium to medium-high heat.  If there is excess grease/fat, you can drain it once the onions are cooked.




Step 4 - Spread out onions evenly over bottom of pan and place patties on top of onions.






Step 5 - Add 4 cups of beef broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cover.  Cook for about 30 minutes.






Step 6 - If your family doesn't like onions in their gravy, just strain them out and put them in a bowl.  (Then I get all the delicious onions on my plate later!)





Step 7 - Bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat.  Slowly pour in 1/2c cornstarch mixed with about 1/2-3/4c COLD water.  Use a whisk to bring gravy to desired consistency.  It if isn't thick enough for you after adding in the cornstarch mixture, just make up some more.  If it gets too thick by mistake, you can just slowly add in a little water until it thins down to where you like.


Serve with mashed potatoes and TONS of the yummy gravy!!!  Make sure to have a good bread to sop up the gravy too.  Happy eating!  :)




If you want a little cheat method, after you brown the patties, use 2 packets of onion soup mix + 4 cups water instead of real onions and beef broth.   



Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Christmas Letter

Here is our Christmas letter.  I highly doubt it will actually get printed and mailed.  It may get emailed, but that's a big IF. ;)   Enjoy!  :)



'Twas the night before Christmas
And to no one's surprise
Nothing was ready
Not a present in sight

So what shall be done
Instead of boring ol' shopping?
Why....writing a poem
That'll leave 'em all talking!


First off is Miss K.
She's our oldest and wisest.
She's eleven and growing
Sixth grade's finest!

She's playing the fiddle
And not even too squeaky.
She's smart, but the way
Her brain works is slight freaky.


Next we have Miss B.
The sweetest of sweet!
When it comes to story writing
She can't be beat!

She's still speaking Spanish
In the fourth grade.
With creativity bursting,
There's always something homemade.


Our only boy, G-dog
Is such a little man.
He's five and he amazes
With the strength of his hands.

He's getting ready for school,
Numbers and, of course, ABC's
His mouth's always moving.
Tons of questions...oh geez!


Last there's our baby.
Our sweet Princess A.
“Fwee” on her “burfday”
We all think she's great!

She talks up a storm
And never is quiet
With all the chatter in this home
You'd think there's a riot!


The hub is still working
Da Man pays the bills
Making sure everyone's paid
From making trash deals.

Lots of long hours
And dates with Excel
But he's here and not traveling
So for us, all is well.


Blue, purple and pink
Those are colors of hair
Nicole keeps 'em guessing
At least her head is not bare.

Still studying like crazy
With a fab 4 point 0.
She even quit Facebook!
Shocking! I know!

Our sweet, old dog
Passed away in her sleep.
Our new spotted dog
Likes herding kids and sheep.




It's been a great year
Some ups and some downs
But we are so blessed
With more smiles than frowns.

We pray that this finds you
Well and quite happy
May your Christmas & New Year's
Be joyful and snappy!


A New Take on Playdoh

 Today we made playdoh.  I've always done the plain old flour, salt and cream of tartar recipe.  It's a good recipe.  I ran out of cream of tartar and since it's Sunday, and I still had 2 kids that I owed a batch of playdoh in their chosen color too.  Yikes!  What's a mom to do!

Improvisation, baby!

So here's the recipe I came up with.  It made the fluffiest, softest playdoh!  I think it might become my new staple recipe.  And an added bonus....NO CREAM OF TARTAR!!!  (Can  you hear the savings?)  :P


No Cream of Tartar Playdoh Recipe


1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c boiling water
1/2 c salt
3 TBSP baking powder
1 TBSP vegetable oil
food coloring


1.  Put all the dry ingredients in a mixer (I have a Bosch).  (You can also add in some fine-grain glitter at this point if you like).
2.  Add the oil.
3.  Boil water in the microwave (takes about 1.5-2 minutes on high).
4.  Add desired amount of food coloring to water.
5.  Pour water in mixing bowl.  It will foam up a bit.
6.  Using your cookie paddles (see pic below),  mix on low until dough forms a single ball and isn't sticking to paddles or sides of bowl.
7.  You can knead it if you like, or just start playing.

If the dough seems too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it gets to the right consistency.

Happy molding!

Cookie paddles for the Bosch mixer.  If you have a Kitchen Aid, I'm sure they have a similar attachment.
playdough
play-doh
play-dough
play dough

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Grinch in Me

 It is true.  I'm a Christmas Grinch.  I'm not sure why.  I joke and blame my festive mother (who ADORES all things Christmas) for my grinchiness, but honestly, it just sounds like a good excuse.  I dread the holidays and all the decor.  I think that is what I dislike the most.  I don't like seeing Christmas throwing up everywhere.  I don't like the additional clutter, especially in my house which already has more than its fair share of the regular clutter.

In the past, I have even gone as far as to not put up a tree.  This was when the kids were younger and wouldn't really notice.  If they did, they can blame me in therapy later.  I used a large pencil cactus one year as a Texas Christmas tree.  I passed it off as creative and festive, but it was pure laziness and distain for decorating.

My poor kids know that I'm a scrooge.  They beg to put stuff up.  We usually get the tree up a week before Christmas.  It's usually sad-looking, but they love it.  They beg to put lights outside in the bushes.  I think I did that once YEARS ago.  They love to hear the Christmas carols on the radio.  I boycott those stations from Thanksgiving to New Years.

This year, I'm trying to be less grinchy.  I have no place to put up a regular size tree, so I bought a small 4 foot one.  It's even prelit.  Yep.  I'm fancy like that.  I even bought lights to put outside in the bushes AND actually put them in the bushes!  Yay me!  The Christmas music radio stations have been turned on a couple times in the car.  I even tried not to make grimaces.  So maybe Grinch Nicole will be a memory, and a more Christmas tolerant Nicole will replace her.


But one thing you will NEVER, and I mean


NEVER


see me do is this ---------->

I can't even begin to tell you how much I detest the reindeer car.  Sticking a red ball on the front of a motor vehicle and brown branches on either side does NOT make your car look like a reindeer.  It makes you look like an idiot driving down the road.  It makes me want to run through the parking lot ripping stuff of the cars.  (Don't worry....I won't.  I don't want to make little kids cry).

So if you have your car decorated as a reindeer, we can still be friends.....after New Years.  Just don't let me see you or I may vomit a little bit in my mouth. :P


Merry Christmas!!!!!!



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I don't want to regret

I just read an article on the top five regrets of the dying.  They were put together by someone that worked with those dying.  I don't know how scientific these were gathered, but they are still are good to reflect upon.

1.  I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2.  I wish I didn't work so hard.
3.  I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5.  I wish that I had let myself be happier.


Wow.  So here are my thoughts on each of these.....


1.  I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This is going to be my toughest one.  Where do you draw the line between being true to oneself and being selfish?  How do you find that balance?  I think as a parent, this is slightly limited.  You have others' lives to consider, especially if living a life true to oneself is much different than the one currently being lived.  Thought-provoking I tell you!


2.  I wish I didn't work so hard.

I have the opposite problem.  I don't work hard enough.  I need to be a better example of being a hard worker.  Not an obsessed worker, but a hard worker.  


3.  I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

On this one, it totally depends on who I'm expressing those feelings with or about.  As I'm working on actually feeling to begin with, this will hopefully become something that I am good at.  


4.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

No problems with this one.  There are people that I don't have as frequent contact as I would like, but with the ease of technology, this isn't that big of a battle for me.


5.  I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Hmmmm.....another tough one.  I go through phases I think with it.  I really want to find happiness in what I do have, in what I have been blessed with.  Sometimes it is easier than others.  ;)



I would be interested to know more of the top things that those that are at the end of their lives wish they had done or had not done.  So for those that are more experienced in years than me, what would you add to the list?  

Outback's Cream Onion Cheese Soup Recipe






When I was a teen, a friend introduced me to "Walkabout Soup" at Outback.  I was instantly addicted.  Outback no longer serves this soup, but no worries....this copycat recipe tastes JUST like it!  This is a favorite of mine.  It's easy to make and is pure deliciousness!  It makes a BIG batch, and it does freeze and thaw out fine.  (It usually is a little thinner when thawed and reserved).  


Outback's Walkabout Soup (Creamy Onion & Cheese Soup)
8 beef boullion cubes
8 c water
3 med white onions
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 c all-purpose flour (or you can use cornstarch)
1 c heavy cream
1 1/4 c shredded cheddar
1/4 c monterrey jack cheese

1. Heat water to boiling. Add boullion cubes and dissolve.
2. Cut onions into thin slices, quarter the slices. Add to broth. Add salt and pepper.
3. Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
4. While stirring, sift flour, stirring carefully to remove lumps. (Or you can use a cornstarch and cold water mixture to thicken broth).
5. After 30 minutes, add cream and 1 c cheddar. Simmer 5-10 minutes.
6. Serve with remaining cheese on top.


**You can skimp on the cooking times a little and it'll taste just fine. ;)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Music Fast

I love music.  I love to sing.  (Although poorly).  I love to listen.  I love to experience it.  It moves me.  The melody, the rhythm, the notes, the words.  I like everything from classical to soft rock to rap to pop and even some county (only stuff from the 90s when I was in my country phase though).  ;)

Lyrics, to me, can say exactly how I am feeling.  They can take me to an emotional place instantly.  I feel my mood change.  I feel my body change.  It's insane.  There are so many gifted writers and singers out there.  I wish I was one of them.  I have found lately though that my emotions get a little too out of control with certain songs.  Well, almost any song that has meaningful lyrics.  You'd think I was a hormonal pregnant woman!  (And I am most definitely NOT!)

In classic Nicole fashion, I am going to go to an extreme.  (My therapist would frown up that.  Good thing I'm not in therapy right now). ;)  I am going on a music fast.  I started about a week ago, and I am loving it!  I am only listening to instrumental and classical music with a few hymns mixed in.  I love Pandora for that reason.  I have compiled an AWESOME instrumental station.  You can check it out here:

Nicole's Instrumental Station

It is helping my life quiet down.  I still feel emotion when I listen (don't worry Melissa), but it is less dramatic and/or extreme as with music with lyrics.  The emotions don't linger either, or maybe I just don't dwell on them.

Time will tell how this experiment goes.  I don't have specific goals or a timeline, so I will just wing it.  That's how I roll anyways.  ;)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Birthday and the Preciousness of Life

Today was a bittersweet day.  A family in our ward laid to rest their 19 month old son after a drowning accident on Thanksgiving.  It has really hit home with me and many of my peers.  It could have happened to anyone.  It takes only a second for a child to wonder off and disappear.  It has really made me reflect on my role as a mother and how precious life is.  I love my kids and I am taking more opportunities to tell them and show them.  I am so grateful for my knowledge of the plan of salvation.  I am so grateful to know that we can have our kids with us forever.

As I have celebrated my birthday over the past few days, it strikes me how blessed I am with such amazing family and friends.  Not only have I been spoiled rotten with gifts, I have been blessed with thoughtfulness and love.  I have a special and unique love for each and every person in my life.  You each add something special to me and help and affect me differently.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being in my life and blessing me with your friendship.  (Sorry....I'm feeling all mushy and corny today.  Deal with it.)  :P


Here's the sweet elliptical I got for my birthday.  (Or at least one similar).  I just need to get the man to assemble it.