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Kitchen Nightmares

I love to cook…baking not so much, I do it for the kids, but cooking dinner is something I really enjoy. My favorite is Pan Roasted Filet Mignon prepared simply using a little Salt and Pepper, browned in saute pan, then finished in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. I usually serve this with Red Wine Reduction. I cringe when my husband asks me for A1 Steak Sauce, but to each his own…he’ll come around.

What I don’t like about cooking is the clean up. I’m pressured by my family to leave the kitchen mess and spend the only time during the day all of us are home….together. Each night for the past two weeks, we’ve watched the 2010 Olympics. The kids are really into it and ask for Lindsay Von every night. They enjoyed the Ice Dancing outfits and the Snowboarding competitions.

So I leave the kitchen mess, and wake up to a Kitchen Nightmare…visual noice and stale smell. I refuse to cook during the day for many reasons: 1) I’m busy cleaning the kitchen 2) I don’t like to reheat food 3) I’m not home.

My Mother always cleaned the kitchen after dinner, but I remember sitting with my Dad watching the tube while she slaved away. Maybe if I enlist all members of my family to help me, we can get done fast and then enjoy our time together.

What about you? How do you get around your Kitchen Nightmares? Do you enlist all family members? Cook during the day? Use the crockpot most days? Cook giant meals to eat for a couple days?

I welcome your comments! Oh, sorry, there is no recipe today….I have to go clean the kitchen!

iPhone Mania: There Are Some Things It Can’t Do

The Apple iPhone. It was a very surprising Christmas present for me in December. My husband and I were supposed to be shopping for Christmas presents for the kids when he steered me into the Apple store. As the salesperson was showing us all…and I mean all the features, I couldn’t help thinking the whole experience was Space Age and Futuristic. It was exciting and frightening all at the same time.
It comes with little Thumbnails called Applications, or Apps. There’s an App store thumbnail where you can download almost anything you can search for. Just lastnight I searched for a Mirror App because as we were going to lunch this weekend, my daughter couldn’t see how dirty her face was from playing.
Here are a few ways I use the Apple iPhone:
1) Grocery IQ
I’m terrible at keeping lists organized, and I simply can’t stand loose pieces of paper shoved here and there. So this App allows me to input my grocery list anywhere I’m at. It sorts all the items by category and aisle. Yesterday I emailed it to myself and printed the whole thing out. If I had a wireless printer, I could do this directly from the phone.
I always keep a Bible in my handbag and by my nightstand. In fact there is one in just about every room of our house. If you find yourself needing some inspiration, one is not far from reach. But I discovered the Bible App, and have been using it because the phone is lightweight, and since I’m a big highlighter, I don’t have to snap the cap off, highlight and recap (which annoys my husband when he’s trying to sleep). I can just do it with my fingertip. I can’t tell you how many times the Bible has fallen on my face in bed, because I’m shuffling around pens and pages. So if I’m taking a bath, waiting for the bus to deliver my kids while in the car, out to lunch, or any other place where it isn’t convenient to bring my Holman Illustrated Study Bible, I use the App.
We are big movie people, and this App allows me to see all movie theaters around me, and what showtimes are for all movies. This comes in handy whereever you are because the iPhone has a GPS built in, and can tell me what time a movie is playing in Timbuktu.
4)Around Me
This App uses the GPS to tell me what Hospitals, Restaurants, Banks and Coffee Shops, etc. are around me. If I’m about to run out of gas, I hit the Around Me App and I know where to go and how far.
5)Epi by Epicurious
I use this App now more than my many cookbooks at home. At the touch of a fingertip, I can look at all recipes for Flank Steak and save the items to the grocery list. It has come in handy when I forget (which is a lot) to bring recipes on loose pieces of paper (which I don’t like, remember).
I love to listen to music when I’m cooking and Pandora is the App of choice for that. I just type in a song or artist, and it will play all songs in that genre. My favorite is Pachelbel Cannon at 4pm when I’m cooking. I also listen to the App through the speakers in my car when I’m on the go, never listen to the radio anymore…well rarely.
Boy I could go on and on about what it can do, but what it can’t do is this:
1)Make me develop more thoughful character
2)Make me more loving
3)Increase my security
4)Banish fears
5)Help me sleep
6)Put kind words in my mouth
7)Give me willpower
8)Give me strength
9)Make me a better Mom
10)Make me a better Wife
11)Make me a better Person in General
12)Do my workouts for me
Only God can help with those things, thankfully I’ve not replaced Him with the iPhone. And how clever He is to allow us to have this technology and find Him in the midst of it. Thank You!
What is your favorite iPhone App?

#2 Frivolous Fridays: Randomness

I couldn’t sleep lastnight from about 4 to 5 am. Then of course, I fell into a deep sleep just as the alarm went off at 5:30am. In that 1-hour window of time, my thoughts were all over the place, and mostly at the funny things in my life. Here are just a few snippets for you:
~Yesterday I met my husband for lunch and the woman in front of us in line had really long hair. She proceeded to run her fingers through it and at about half-way down, she pulled the strands up to her nose and took a whif of it.
~A couple of weeks ago I was driving to town on a sunny day, enjoying the view, lost in the glorious spirit of impending Spring. I looked out my window to the right, and saw a woman holding a pail, and pulling her Donkey by the leash in her front yard.
~I was minding my own business, having lunch at Subway a while back: Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich on Flatbread with all the Stuff except Hot Peppers. An older man, on his lunch break from working construction, walks by me and says, “Are you going to eat that all by yourself?”
~On Wednesday while at the Wild Ginger in Bellevue, WA. I was reading a book on my Kindle and eating Siam Cups, when I happened to look out the window toward a corner park. I saw two people of opposite gender doing some sort of martial art dance while on their break from work. I don’t know if it was Tai Chi or what you call it, but it was cute and looked like something fun to do.
So there you have some random thoughts from my sleepless hour lastnight. This is why I love to get out and immerse myself in life…to notice seemingly inconsequential things that tell a story, fuse people together and make me smile. And while I won’t be getting a pet Donkey anytime soon, I just might try and find out what those people were doing in the corner park, and sign up for a class.
What random things have happened to you or around you lately?

#1 Frivolous Fridays: The Rabbit in the Snake Effect

I usually match an image with what I’m writing about, but today I couldn’t find an appropriate picture, and will have to leave you with your imagination. I also want to apologize for the icky analogy the title implies. It will become clear as you read on.

This is the first post for Frivolous Fridays, where I just blog about something more random without much thought at all. Sometimes I like to go off the path for a little bit, to help me get back on track. I know this sounds silly, but it’s much like eating a bag of Doritos (I couldn’t help it after seeing those Superbowl commercials), and then promptly switching to Celery Sticks because you can’t believe you’ve strayed so far. And so, this is how we’ve arrived at Frivolous Fridays.

Today’s post is about an embarrassing confession…no, confession isn’t the right word. It’s more of a Reveal, as if I’m peeling back a layer from an onion, or unzipping part of my baggage, or unpacking something in storage. I think you get the idea.

Here it is: I can’t figure out why I look like a Snake who’s eaten a Rabbit, or in some cases…a human, after I eat a meal? I swell up around my mid-section and appear pregnant all over again. If I’m in public, I become paranoid thinking the stranger next to me is eyeing my round belly about to ask me, “How far along are you?” Uggghh!

The other day, I received confirmation that I am not alone in this ordeal. I caught the first fifteen minutes of Regis and Kelly (which are the best anyway. She’s a hoot.) and Kelly went on to explain THE phenomenon. Yes! I’m not alone!

Nevertheless, I’ve decided that while in Hawaii, I will not eat until just before bedtime. Yep, I’m going to pack all 2000 calories into my body at about 9pm. As backup though, I might try one of those “older lady” one-piece swimsuits with the ruffled tummy. I saw one at Nordstrom the other day. It had a nice animal print. I think I might be able to get away with that. We shall see. I’ll be sure not to post any photos!

It would make me feel better if you’ve experienced this problem too. Oh, that was rude. I guess misery does love company. How about this? If you know of any foods that cause this problem, do share. If you have any expertise at all regarding this, please help!

But today I’m not in Hawaii. I’m not sporting a swimsuit anytime soon in the Northwest, so I’m going to go and find those Doritos I hid from my family. Rabbit in Snake in about 15.

To Salt or Not to Salt?

Yesterday I was excited to meet an old friend for lunch. Not old in the “age” sense, but old as in, “we go way back.” Well, I guess if you count how many years we go back it makes us old in the age sense, so we won’t do that today. That’s another blog when I’m feeling depressed.

As I was saying, I got to eat again! We went to the…wait, since I didn’t like my meal, I won’t tell you where we went, because I vowed not to bash any restaurants on my blog. I won’t be giving anything away when I tell you that I had a bowl of salty pasta and meat sauce. We all know that you’re supposed to put salt in the boiling water after you add the noodles, but it tasted like the chef at this restaurant put in a bucket load. I may be exaggerating a little, but my first bite did give me a little start and I think I may have puckered a little.

So, today I’ll be giving you a recipe for making your own pasta and leave you with a Bible tidbit:

I’m not an expert in this area and haven’t done all my research on Biblical Salt, but in the Bible salt both destroys and preserves. Here are two examples: 1)We are called “the salt of the earth” in Matthew 5:13. 2)Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt because, “she looked back” during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah after God had told them to flee quickly in Genesis 19:26.

What I learn from these two examples is that 1) Being the salt of the earth, I am meant to season my relationships; bring goodness to them. 2) When we are given pathways to move forward and we choose to linger and focus on the past, we can become stagnant and it can be permanent.

Here is a link to a recipe I used the other day to make homemade pasta. My daughter and I used the traditional method with the eggs mixed inside a flour well. Just make sure not to use too much or too little salt!

Do you have a story of a time when you took a bite of something super salty? What happened?

I “Hot” You!

I’m sure you’ve experienced the funny things kids say. We have a house full of young, elementary-aged children, and sometimes we have to stifle laughter in order not to hurt feelings, or let them catch on to the fact that what they said is a hot button.

Just a few months ago my daughter gave me a puzzled look and said, “Mom, why do they call it stainless steel? It stains. See?” And then she proceeded to make a smudge mark on my stovetop with her fingers.

A couple weeks ago we went to Lowe’s as a family (what fun we have!), and I was enjoying a Latte. My thoughtful, and always endearing husband says, “Oh, look at your mom drinking her coffee. Why don’t you put your pinky up too?” My other daugher says, “Just as long as it’s not your middle finger.” Picture stifles as we inquire about why this is wrong. She says, “It means the ‘F’ word.” We kept throwing out other ‘F’ words like: Friend, Fun, Fancy. I got her to tell me which friend at school let her in on this mystery. I’ve got my eyes on you, or more appropriately, my ears!

Here is the latest funny. My son came home and told me that a certain boy in class thinks Taylor Swift is “hot.” My husband says, “Well, why doesn’t she just take her jacket off to cool down?” All of our kids start laughing, and explain to us that ‘hot’ means ‘love.’ So, my husband says, “So, I hot your mom, and I hot you too?” It was hard for them to explain why this didn’t make sense…thankfully they are unaware of the real meaning! Please let them be innocent forever!

Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought I would leave you with a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes…I hot these!! If you have any funnies….send me a comment. I so appreciate them!

Achieving a Golden Brown: Pancakes and Bodies

Recently we settled on plans for a family vacation to Hawaii. We leave in a couple of months, and since I live in the Northwest, it is a good idea to get a nice base tan before exposing my fair skin to an unbiased sun. The sun does not see me sitting on the sand and decide, “oh, I’m gonna go easy on her. She’s fair-skinned.”

So today, I walked into one of the prevalent tanning salons adorning every street in town, much like coffee stands in our area. I think coffee stands and tanning salons take up more square inches per block in Washington, than in any other state in the country.

The last time I “fake-baked,” (do they still say that?) was probably right before I got married…13 years ago! Boy, has the tanning industry changed. After listening to the manager explain membership options a mile a minute, I was signed up and fingerprinted at a cost of $75! What did I get myself into? Fingerprints? Really? Does the Government work with Desert Sun if I don’t file my taxes right? I left feeling a little vulnerable…but tan.

So in honor of achieving a golden brown tan in lieu of burning in Hawaii, I leave you with this recipe for the most delicious Golden Brown Potato Pancakes and a question:

What industry have you seen change dramatically during the last 10 years? You now have my answer!

Potato Pancakes (Cayou Cove, Orcas Island, WA)

2 lg. baking potato
3 eggs
1 1/2Tb. flour
1/2tsp. salt
a crack of pepper
1Tb. shallot
1/4 inch canola oil in bottom of fry pan
2 pads of butter in bottom of fry pan

Peel and shred potatoes and put in bowl with ice cold water, cover for 30 minutes.
Mix together, eggs,flour,salt, pepper and shallots in large bowl.
Heat frying pan over medium heat, add oil and butter.
Drain the potatoes and squeeze by hand until dry.
Mix potatoes with egg mixture.
When pan is hot enough fry a spoonful of potato mixture, flattened with fingers. When golden brown, turn to cook other side.

Serve immediately! Enjoy!

Visual Noise

This weekend I heard the phrase, “Visual Noise.” I thought it was a perfect description of how I feel when things in my life are a mess. When I look at the picture to the left, I feel agitated and distracted…no peace at all. It truly does feel like this picture is screaming at me!

I’ve been working, like many people this time of year, at cleaning up the visual noise in my life. I’m making a commitment to spend two-hour blocks of time cleaning up noisy areas, in the hopes it will keep the screams at bay. Current areas include: my desk, laundry room, closets. (I could definitely go on, but I feel the peace I started this blog with slipping away the more items I add.)

The strange thing I find, though, is that there are some noisy areas I can completely block out. It’s as if that particular area is screaming so loud, I’ve pressed a mute button and am able to walk past it, throw things on it, knock things over reaching through it…what is this madness.

Unfortunately, I recognize that I’ve allowed all of it. And not only that, I’ve let it translate into the kitchen. The French cooking term “Mise en Place,” meaning “Everything in its Place” currently has no landing pad on my kitchen counter. With Mise en Place you are supposed to plan ahead, read the recipe (ingredient list and methodology), measure out all of your ingredients, and get all of your tools ready…. before you even start the cooking process.

I usually just start, which creates a lot more work, wasted effort and less-than-perfect outcomes. So I’m going to try Mise en Place for the next week, and see if my Visual Kitchen Noise can be reduced. In fact I’m going to try Mise en Place on the rest of my noisy areas too… Pray for me!

If you’ve got a great idea for how to reduce visual noise, please leave a comment or drop an email. I’ll try it and let you know how it works!

Welcome to Speckle of Dirt!

This photo is a snapshot of my life at 4pm every afternoon M-F. I am a very messy cook, but I love to do it and look forward to what I will make everyday (well, most days!).

I’ve just combined two blogs into this one for a couple of reasons. My first blog, Inside the Chrysalis, was a blog about growth and transformation. It talked about what was generally going on in my world…but it seemed like I was always either using food as an analogy, or showing you what I made.

I started another blog a few weeks ago, Seattle Dining Girl, but I never liked the name – too hoity toity. That one was strictly about food and dining, so I thought I would combine the two, so here we are, finally settled in at Speckle of Dirt!

Speckle of Dirt is going to be an inspirational blog that inspires both of us to grow things in the garden or a simple kitchen pot, to cook new and fun recipes, to eat at local restaurants with chefs that have so much to teach us about procuring local meat and dairy, and how to transform those raw ingredients into delicious family dinners. It will also be a blog that uses food to talk about life: Authenticity in a Tomato; Zest for Life; Sweeteners and Smiles…you get it!

Thank you for visiting!

Intelligence: Overrated?

I’m currently reading a couple of books with chapters on Intelligence. The first book I picked up a couple of weeks ago and is titled What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. After reading his popular book Tipping Point, I thought I’d go ahead and pick this one up. The second book is titled Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

Intelligence is one of those things that can be uncomfortable to talk about in a crowd. I’m sure we’ve all run into those people who love to boast about their intelligence, much like some people like to boast about money or beauty or possessions. Rarely do you hear someone exclaiming their “average-Joeness” around the dinner table. But it’s something we all think about. We want to be intelligent in our jobs. We want our kids to be intelligent at school and love when the teacher says “your child is so smart.” But what does it really mean? Here is what I think about it.

Remember Enron? Enron recruited the best of the best, 250 MBA’s each year and boasted about how much talent these people had and how smart they were. The problem was the company allowed these young “talents” to run wild with their new ideas. We all know what happened in the end. There was no structure within the organization. It isn’t the “talent” that makes the organization smart, it’s the structure, processes and systems that allow the “talent” to become successful.

Of course I always translate what I’m reading into my own life. So this lesson of organization and structure spoke to me. If I can put successful strategies in place and create an environment where each member of my family is working toward the success of the family as a whole, we can achieve success within that system…whatever we deem success to be. That was lesson #1 for me.

IQ testing was another chapter I read. I think these tests are fun and funny. It’s interesting that these tests are not made up of difficult math problems or structural essays, but instead of perception, patterns and the like. If you click on the title of this post you will be directed to MENSA, an organization created for the top 2% of highly intelligent people in the population. It is a fun test, and if you really want to get serious you can take the official membership test and be granted admission to this elite group.

But I ask myself, “why?” Why take an intelligence test? It doesn’t determine success or wealth. Members of MENSA range from Millionaires to Welfares (yes, people on welfare). Early IQ tests administered to children do not indicate future success. So many factors go into becoming a well-rounded adult who goes through life with humility, kindness and servanthood. One of those things is Emotional Intelligence.

Do you remember the book written in 1995 by Daniel Goleman about Emotional Intelligence? I read it along with other co-workers back then. It was an interesting read and the concept was adopted by many companies as part of their hiring objectives.

So what to do with all this? Well, I learned a long time ago that you can compare yourself to someone you perceive to be better than you at some attribute (intelligence in this case.) And the opposite is true as well. We can compare ourselves downward and gain an awareness that we are better at some attribute than someone else. Either way it is a negative state of mind that leads to insecurity when I compare myself up, and pride when I compare myself down. Enough with that, I say! Don’t compare!

And so often, God puts things in perfect perspective when I seem to hone in on things I shouldn’t. With all this IQ stuff rolling around in my mind these past couple of weeks, I was reminded that Jesus called average Joe’s to His team! Tax collectors and fisherman. He can even use a stay-at-home-mom in her average-Joeness to focus on what is most important! And it’s not IQ, athleticism, finances, beauty or anything else. It’s loving Him and loving others. What a relief!

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