Saturday, November 29, 2008

Recipes by Request

I'm so glad you asked!!

The cheesecake recipe is a combination of a couple recipes I found online. I liked some of both, so I combined the two. One is from kraftfoods.com and the other from verybestbaking.com.

Turtle Cheesecake
Ingredients:
2 cups oreo chocolate cookie crumbs
6 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1 bag (14 oz) kraft caramels
1/2 cup milk
1 cup pecan pieces (I used walnuts instead)
3 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups (9 oz) chocolate chips
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (or improvise)

Preheat oven to 325 F if using a silver 9-inch springform pan (or to 300 if using a dark nonstick springform pan).

Mix crumbs and butter; press firmly onto the bottom and 2 inches up the side of pan.

Place caramels and milk in a small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 3 minutes or until caramels are completely melted, stirring after each minute. Stir in pecans/walnuts. Pour half of the caramel mixture into crust. Refrigerate 10 min. Cover and refrigerate remaining caramel mixture for later use.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended.

Microwave 1 1/2 c. morsels in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on high power for 1 min; stir. The morsels may retain some of their shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted. Stir 2 cups of cheese cake batter into melted morsels, mix well.

Alternately spoon batters into crust, beginning and ending with yellow batter.

Bake 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes or until center is almost set. Run knife or metal spatula around side of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing side of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Microwave reserved caramel mixture on high 1 minute; stir. Pour over cheesecake. Sprinkle with mini morsels. OR melt chocolate (more chocolate chips or even semi-sweet chocolate squares) according to package directions and drizzle over cheesecake.

**My own notes:
Put a "drip pan" like a cookie sheet on the rack under the cheesecake. My butter *leaked* out of the springform pan and made a smelly mess on the bottom of the oven before I realized what was going on.

I didn't use all the caramel mixture. I saved it and served it along with brownies today. Yum.

If you bake the cheesecake too long, it will be really dry at the edges and less flavorful. I know the worry is that it won't get "done" in the center, but I found that the 1 hour 5-10 min baking time was just perfect...even in my imperfect oven. This was a very easy cheesecake, and I am not even CLOSE to an expert cheesecake maker.

If you don't have a springform pan, you should be able to make this in a regular 9x13 pan. Just line it with foil running both directions so that you can lift the cheesecake out later (makes for easier serving). If you do this, you will need to adjust the baking times (and I have no idea how much).

Wassail
I love this. The first time I had it was when my step-mom's sisters brought it for Thanksgiving dinner. I remember what a big deal we all made out of it. It's so simple, though

1 Gal Apple Cider
27 (or so) whole cloves
8 cinnamon sticks
1 qt pineapple juice
1 can froz orange juice concentrate

Mix the ingredients together and heat until as warm as desired. I usually let it simmer all day. I haven't found a way to get the leftovers to keep (it gets stronger and stronger, plus heating it all day contributes), so we throw any away at the end of the day that is unused.

When I was looking for a "good" recipe, I came across lots of stories of traditional wassail. That's fun to read/research. I liked this recipe because it's very simple with ingredients that are easy to get. The flavor is just right, and we have used it for several years now.

To answer another question, the students we had over were part of the international program at our local university. We heard about it through other church members who promote the program, but it is NOT a religious or church-affiliated program. I think the university would have big issues if they thought it was associated that way. :) They have other programs available too beyond Thanksgiving, but we had never gotten our act together to participate. Now that we have these four students that we've fallen in love with, I think we will try to do more things with them. In fact, we bought some fleece to make blankets for each of them and hope to invite them over as soon as finals are done. I know they will love it!

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Heart is Full

My heart is SO full. We had such a blessed Thanksgiving celebration yesterday!! I wanted to share some photos with you, and a little of the story.

Mitch picked up "our" students at 10 am. They are all from Nepal. I was sooooo nervous. My first thought when I saw them approaching the door was "They are beautiful!" With dark hair and eyes, they do have a more "Indian" complexion. {For those of you whose geography skills are as poor as mine, Nepal is sandwiched between China and Northern India. Mt. Everest in is Nepal.} Names were exchanged rapidly and I figured I would never get them right! We handed out name tags (yay Mitch for thinking of that), and that helped. We asked the students to come early if they wanted to help with the meal preparation. So we got started with that right away. We made munchies first--homemade chex mix and muddy buddies. This was a big hit. We showed them around the house and tried to keep the kids from all talking at once. They loved the kids instantly. We explained EVERYTHING as we went along. They had expressed interest in learning about our culture, so we really took this angle and ran with it. We pulled out kids pictures depicting the Thanksgiving story and explained the tradition. A nervous question was asked, "It's not a religious holiday is it?" We were able to keep rolling right through and explained that religious freedom is one of the main reasons why settlers came to America in the first place, so yes, it is a religious holiday. But only for some. We continued with the history of the first thanksgiving, explaining how the settlers had been starving. The first feast was a true feast...it's all about eating AND giving thanks. A little while later I took the opportunity to share, in diluted form, a story Ann Voskamp recently posted on her blog. Giving Thanks without specifically saying WHO you are giving thanks to is like putting a letter in the mailbox but not putting an address on it. Then as the day went along we prayed before our meal with no trouble and Mitch had the opportunity on the drive home to once again say how thankful we are to God for all He has provided for us. It was seamless, and not uncomfortable (I worried that it might be). We just were US. We didn't put on airs. We didn't try to be who we were not. We were ourselves.


Mitch expertly carving the turkey. I should have gotten the whole "spread" in this pic.

After our dinner, we all cleaned up together and sat around and played games. There were no shortage of willing children to play games! One student is a music major, so I brought out my dad's mandolin. He had never seen one before, but he tuned it and gave it a try. He loved it and came back to playing it several times. He did very well for it being the first time he had ever picked it up! After we thought our food had settled enough, I brought out dessert. Right at this time (good timing!) Holly and her boyfriend Kyle came over. They brought some dessert too (a custard pie). For dessert I had made (both from scratch) a pumpkin pie and a turtle cheesecake. Not even the crusts were store bought (though the pumpkin was canned, lol). I don't like pumpkin pie, so I'll have to take Kyle's word for it that it "looked and tasted just like pumpkin pie!" LOL. We let the students sample each and their favorite was the cheesecake. I have to agree! It was so rich and delicious.


We had homemade wassail in the crockpot brewing all day. It was delicious also!

Boy, do those desserts look good, or what!



Not long after dessert was over we gathered for more pictures, and it was time to say goodbye (around 6 pm). This was the hardest. No one wanted to go. We have promised to keep in touch. One student is a computer science major, and I offered to help with studying for her calculus final. We offered to help them with rides or even just to have them over again any time they want. We would like to try to invite them over at least once a month just for games and food.


Holly took this excellent group photo. Kyle and Mitch are wearing hats the students brought as gifts for us.

I am SO glad we did this. It was a wonderful experience. Like I said at the beginning of the post, my heart is full. I could write more and more about the day. The students were so warm and gracious. My heart breaks to think of them here all alone in this strange country. They said we were the nicest people they had met so far. There are so many people in St. Cloud who are just as nice and even nicer than we are.

Today I'm just chillin'. The closest we went to shopping on black Friday was buying a newspaper to look through the ads. We saw quite a few things that we would "like to have" but nothing that could convince me to get up early or brave the cold even now at a modest 9:44 am. I think a nap sounds good. Doesn't it?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey in the Oven

Hehe...I love the play on words!

Here is an 18-week 3-day belly shot BEFORE I chow down this afternoon. Hmmm...maybe I'll post an "after" shot later.

Yeah, right. ;)


I haven't had much change in the past two weeks, huh? That's because it ALL went into my hips. They have spread apart quite a bit!! I am feeling movement now, too, have been (for sure) for a little over a week--yay! I only feel movement on the lower left side (the side facing the camera, not too far above my left hand). That's exactly where the doctor always finds the heartbeat too. To me, my uterus feels "higher" on the right side, and at first that's where I thought the baby was (and where she would find the hb). So now I'm thinking *maybe* the placenta is on that side??? Maybe it won't even be low-lying this time!! I'll find out for sure in two weeks when I go for my ultrasound. I can't wait!

Wishing you all a VERY Happy Thanksgiving! It's my favorite holiday. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Birthday Soon...

It's going to be my birthday soon (next Saturday), and you know I DO like to celebrate a little. I've been joking for a few years now that I'll be 29 forever, therefore every year (since #29) we celebrate my "golden birthday". This year is no exception.

The emails are already rolling in. I was surprised by my inbox this morning and I had to chuckle. So many people wanting to wish me a Happy Birthday, and they're all a little early!! So here are some of the well-wishers:

Old Country Buffet: Free buffet with the purchase of an adult buffet
Perkins: Free slice of fresh-baked Perkins Pie for you AND your spouse with the purchase of an entree
Red Lobster: $5 off two adult dinner entrees
Arby's: Free regular roast beef sandwich with the purchase of a medium fry and drink at full price
Another still to come from Cold Stone Creamery: a free very small ice cream in a bowl (no additional purchase necessary)...I know this one is coming because we have everyone in the family signed up for it and thus have made a few runs to CSC this year.

I had NO idea I had signed up on so many websites. Goodness!! (No wonder I get so much spam mail, too, huh?).

The one I'm most looking forward to requires no email--it's a free entree from Mexican Village, and that includes fried ice cream for dessert. THAT is the best value out there, in my opinion. I can already taste the Durango with their special fundida sauce now. Or just thinking about the free chips and salsa makes my mouth water. :) I hope Mitch gets a sitter--to take advantage of this great deal we have to go on my actual birthday. I've been looking forward to it ALL year!! Hehe.

So anyways. I thought I would put this out there as sort of a funny and also if you see any thing up there that *you* would like for your birthday, go sign up!

Oh--here's another freebie, albeit a one-time thing and not a birthday thing--Dr. Pepper is giving away a free 20 oz pop to every person in the US. To get a coupon, you have to log on on Sunday (Nov. 23) to their website. It will only be there for 24 hours. You can read the story on Fox News. Or visit the Dr. Pepper website here.

Hmmm...you think Pepsi would send such a loyal customer a free 20 oz pop on her birthday...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No Lice!!

I just wanted to update to say that we never did see any little buggies here. Yay!! All the laundry is done, thanks to Mitch doing a large part of folding and putting away. :) It took more than 4 days. Today we are going to bring the pillows and stuffed animals back in the house. The risk is minimal at this point since we never actually got infested, and also we've had a week of freezing temperatures that probably helps kill anything that may be there.

I'm feeling better every day. The nausea still comes and goes, but it seems that it will either be here one day or not be here, so instead of feeling a little nauseous every day I'm only getting it some days. I'm still pretty exhausted, though.

This week *may* be going by a little faster than I thought it would. I'm glad it's already Wednesday. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving next week. It's my favorite holiday, and we have so much to be thankful for! We are hosting some international students from St. Cloud State University for Thanksgiving dinner. We may not be able to go to other nations (right now), but we are blessed to live in a town where the other nations come right to us!! There are many, many students who would like to have somewhere to go for dinner, and very few host homes. If you live in the St. Cloud area, call SCSU and ask about the program. :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Hink Pink

So here are some fun ones we came up with one day when trying to give the kids clues that I was pregnant (they didn't take the hint):

What do you say to a woman who might be pregnant?

Maybe Baby

What do you say if you hope if the baby is a girl?

Think Pink

What do you say if the baby is a boy?

Boohoo Blue

I'm kidding of course. I had my 16-week doctor appt. yesterday. I had gained 4.8 lbs since my last visit, and 11.2 lbs total to weigh 133.something. It's a little more than I wanted to, but what else can I do? I'm probably not going to give up my high-calorie snacking ways. I gave up Pepsi, what more can I say??? :) My blood pressure was low as always, 110/60. She asked how I felt (everyone asked how I felt), but honestly I was so happy to be there and hear the heartbeat that I was feeling great at the moment. I have been feeling exhausted, still a little nauseous especially in the evenings (right at supper time--oh goody), and having frequent headaches. I asked the doctor if it's alright to be taking tylenol 2-3 times per week and she thought I was going to say 2-3 times per day. Yeah, per day would be a little too much. Per week is ok, she said. I said, you know, you read so much and then it is contradictory and then you just sit and worry. Frustrating. I already know that the headaches are due in part to increased blood volume and that is also affecting my sinuses. It's also due in part to the on again-off again Pepsi thing I've got going on (I do allow myself about one per week, and then drink it over a 2-day span). Oh, am I rambling on? Should I get on with it already??

The baby is still a stinker. I barely heard the heartbeat before lots of static and then my own heartbeat. The doctor kept trying to find it, moving all over, and we'd briefly and unclearly hear it before it would be gone again. Finally she found it. It was 145, 146, then 147 bpm. It was really, really low in my uterus! The fun part was that I got to schedule my 20-week ultrasound. It's going to be on December 12th. Hopefully Mitch will get to come, since I scheduled it after daycare is over.

Since I keep detailed records, here is some fun trivia for you comparing my pregnancy with Eden (my only girl) to my pregnancy with Malachi. In the other pregnancies I went to a doctor that did not tell me the heartrate, so I only know theirs from the ultrasounds.

Eden at 17 weeks:
Gained 7 lbs so far to weigh 118.
Blood pressure: 110/55
Heartrate: 136 bpm



Malachi at 17 weeks:
Gained 4 lbs so far to weigh 129.4 lbs
Blood pressure: 98/40
Heartrate: 140s
I had a very itchy rash all over my legs and nothing seemed to work. It got better later with good lotion, but it was still there until I had him.
This pic is technically 18 weeks, but it's the closest one I have. The next closest is 20 weeks.


And today's (16 w 4 day) belly shot,I need to brush my hair so I cropped out my head! Mitch is a good stand-in, right?:


So, now that you have more details, go VOTE in the side bar. If you need to change your vote, you can do that too. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Louse House

Ever played the game of hink pinks? A hink pink is a riddle whose answer is two rhyming words. For example, what do you call an overweight feline? Fat Cat.

Here's another one, a little more difficult now:
What do you call a home for people who are infested with insects that live in their hair?
Louse House.

Ahem.

Our home.

Yes, I realize that was not funny. Neither was the phone call we got from a daycare parent this morning, saying that their family has been infected with the little buggies. That meant her child had been here yesterday INFECTED and possibly left a few little "friends" behind. And I have no idea how many days before that too. We don't have a policy for this. In fact, I don't think it EVER entered the realm of possibilities for me. I mean, it's not even possible that our family could get Lice! Do you realize how much cleaning and chaos that would require? I do NOT like chaos. I like order. I was pretty close to panicking, and Mitch was contemplating what kinds of drugs the doctor might prescribe me if he had to call her. LOL.

We already had two daycare kids here. We met the next family at the door and gave them the option of leaving while they had the chance. They took it. Then we turned to research. We immediately combed the internet and desperately tried to come up with a game plan that would work. We checked heads. Good. No lice or nits spotted. We stripped the beds and took any clothing from the floors and put it down the chute. In fact, we took every blanket from everywhere that may have been used in the past couple days and sent them to the laundry room. Pretty soon we had an impassable pile. Then we began vacuuming the "safe" rooms. The rooms that daycare children don't go in as often. This would be the place where we would take blankets after they were clean. We moved every piece of furniture in these rooms and vacuumed everywhere. We even vacuumed the mattresses. Still no bugs spotted. We put tea tree oil in a shampoo bottle and everyone got a good head washing. We read that the bugs don't like the smell of tea tree oil, so it's a good preventative measure. At this point we considered ourselves still in "preventing" stage, though my head is itching uncontrollably. Next we proceeded to bag up every cloth toy that would not get a chance to be washed and put it in the garage. We also put all the unused blankets in the garage--if they hadn't been used in the past couple days, we can survive a couple weeks without them. At this point *I'm* actually praying for freezing cold weather! We continued to vacuum every inch of the house, moving toys and furniture and giving it a very thorough cleaning. And we get to do it all again TOMORROW! Yipee. Not. Well, we won't do all the washing again. But the vacuuming will happen for sure. I'm not done with the laundry yet. Here is a photo after I tried to make some sense of the mess that was in the laundry room. Oye Vey.



There are no less than 12 loads here. I've done 6 so far and there is still a mess to go. And let me tell you: 59 min on the washing machine does not mean 59 REAL minutes. It's actually longer than that. Sigh. Oh, we did make sure MJ didn't carry any bugs from the pile to the rest of the *clean* house.

It's 12 hours later now, and still no sign of any bugs or nits. Let's pray that it stays that way and none of us have to have more serious treatment. At least we'll all have clean hair for a change!! I'm still quite a bit paranoid. After supper I asked Mitch to check my head again. You know, just to be sure. It was too funny. He said my scalp was so pale. For whatever reason that made him sick to his stomach. Hahaha.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Little Fun...to Lighten the Mood

First, I think it's safe to say I "popped". Here is my 15 w 3 d belly pic. My tummy yesterday morning looked so funny! I think I'm carrying differently, but it's a little early to tell for sure. I made both the shirt (it's an undershirt) and the jeans!

Next, Kristin has been crocheting baby hats, and that reminded me of all the cute newborn pics I see on the message boards of newborns wearing adorable hats...unlike the ones my hospital uses...and I got a wild hair that I wanted to knit a hat. So I did. My stitches are terribly uneven! It's pretty funny. I'm good at crochet, but not so much at knit. We are using this doll to model because Kristin & I measured her head and it's the same circumference as an "average" newborn.

The yarn is very special. It was my grandmother's. :)


I had some cotton yard that I LOVE and I really wanted to try again making another hat. I felt bad using *blue* yarn, because I'm convinced I'm having a girl. ;) {Don't forget to vote!} But I love the yarn that I did it anyways. Well, it is 4-ply yarn and the pattern calls for 3-ply. Also it's just heavier, and it doesn't have as good of recovery as acrylic yarn does. Therefore, something strange happened and it ended up plenty big enough to fit Malachi! Isn't it adorable???

I don't feel so bad after all now.

Finally, Mitch was browsing You Tube the other day and came across this WILDLY popular video. If you haven't seen it yet, you are in for a treat. Here is a kudos to brothers!!

"Charlie bit my finger"

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thoughts...

First of all, thanks for everyone who has voted so far on the gender poll! It's way too much fun. Mitch (who thinks this baby is a boy) has accused me (who thinks the baby *may* actually be a girl) of somehow messing with the numbers or guilting you into voting "girl". I assured him I have not!

Next, I have been strangely quiet this political season. I will not deny that the results of the election were largely a disappointment to me. It was not Republicans who lost yesterday. It was unborn babies. :( This verse has been a great comfort to me today:
Romans 8:28
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Barak Obama may be President-Elect, but Jesus is still KING!!

Finally, if there is any doubt in your mind that there *might* be a reason to EVER abort a child or do induced labor abortion, please watch this video. It may make you cry. They showed it at our church for Sanctity of Life and I bawled. It's incredible. Mitch and I have discussed different scenarios at length, even ectopic pregnancy, and we will never terminate a pregnancy or do an early induction, no matter how bleak the prognosis. We will never really know the pain without walking down that road. I'm grateful for people who make incredible videos like this that MAGNIFY God's perfect goodness. I can't even begin to understand, but I cling to hope.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Gender Poll

For fun I put a gender poll in the sidebar. I hope to find out the gender of the baby in early December, but the ultrasound is not scheduled yet so I'm not sure exactly when. It will definitely be fun to see what you guess. Come on, lots of guesses please!! :)

Auto Pilot

It is totally normal to have weird dreams while you are pregnant. I really have some interesting ones! My dream last night left me with a somber thought.

I dreamed I was going home from somewhere, in the truck, with just the youngest 3 children: Zeke, Josh, and Malachi. I was driving along a 4-lane road that is undivided and the speed limit is 35 mph. In my dream I realized Malachi still needed to be buckled in, so I put the truck's cruise control on, then climbed back into the seat next to him and proceeded to buckle him in. Next I realized that traffic in front of the truck was moving slower than I was. I *slightly* bumped the car in front of me (which happened to be Mike Gewecke's car, if you recognize that name! Sorry Mike!!) and the truck veered into the left-hand lane where traffic was moving along a little quicker. Suddenly the road we were on was not the same road, but that doesn't matter in a dream, now does it? Neither did curves, since the truck seemed to be taking those just fine too. I climbed back into the driver's seat just in time to slam on the brakes (good brakes) as the cars in front of me stopped to make a left turn. Such a weird dream. And it seemed so logical in my sub consciousness.

Now here's the somber thought: How many of us parents go through life on auto pilot? We don't know how to handle the tough issues that our kids face, especially as they head into adolescence, therefore we close our eyes and hope they make it through just fine? As Micah nears 12 years old, I've been reading every book I can find on the subject. We absolutely can NOT afford to close our eyes and pray they make it through ok. While prayer should be central to raising our children, we need to be MUCH more proactive than that! Two books I recommend (one I have read and the other I am reading) are:
Parenting Today's Adolescent by Dennis & Barbara Rainey
A Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex by Kevin Leman and Kathy Flores Bell
A book I want to read is Preparing for Adolescence by James Dobson (going to check my library for that one!).

In other news, I worked last Friday on making a pattern for a maternity cami (under shirt), with Kristin and Tami's help. Kristin was actually wearing a cami and I made her put on one of my shirts so I could trace hers. The first cami I made turned out too big for me (we were all laughing), so I passed it on to Kristin and modified my pattern. The next one had a critical design flaw, but still works good enough. The third time was the charm and it turned out *perfect*. I have a picture on my camera, but I'm too lazy to upload it right now. Kristin is the proud owner of the cami that turned out too large. I love this cami because it's very fast and easy to sew. Very fast. It's perfect for me because I'm always cold, especially in the winter time, and that makes it a perfect under layer--plus it will cover my expanding belly all the way to 9 months.

I'm still feeling pretty sick. Last weekend I was stuck on the couch and in bed all weekend, except for a trip out to the store. This weekend I have been doing some scrapbooking for the first time in MONTHS and thoroughly enjoying it. I finally finished Josh's (yes, Josh's) baby album. That means I have, oh, 5.5 months to finish Malachi's if I want it done before the next baby comes and erases all memory. I have my family albums caught up through 2005. 2006 pictures are printed, but sitting in a bag waiting to go. I'd love to get completely caught up before baby comes, but that's pretty improbable. I am crocheting Malachi a baby blanket (never did that either), and it's my goal to have it finished by December, before the big ultrasound. Then when I find out the gender of this baby I can start making a new blanket. Ideally I'll finish the blanket before I bring the baby home, unlike with Malachi when I was just plain tired of crocheting!!