Saturday, February 26, 2011

Recipes to Write Home About

I have recently enjoyed a couple of new recipes, and I thought I would share the yummy goodness with you all.

The first I found through Money Saving Mom, from the blog Life As Mom.  The link is here if you want to print this recipe.  This is for the best lasagna!  I should let you know that I am not a big fan of Italian food, and I despise making lasagna because of the work involved.  But this recipe is worth it.  I divide the ingredients into two 1 1/2 quart baking dishes.  We eat one and freeze one.  If I didn’t divide it, Ben would eat it all in one sitting!

{“Fish Mama’s Lasagna”}
Serves 6 to 8


  • 1 pound ground beef or ground turkey (or cooked chicken, Italian sausage, seafood, etc.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 26 to 28 ounces (about 3 cups) pasta sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
  • 12 ounces (3 cups) freshly grated mozzarella
  • 6 to 8 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups cooked, well-drained broccoli, spinach, peas, or other vegetables (optional)
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) freshly grated parmesan

Heat oven to 400. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Thoroughly cook the ground beef, garlic, and herbs in a large skillet, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat. Stir in pasta sauce and bring to a simmer for about 2 minutes. Season to taste and add the red wine, if using. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add cream cheese, turn heat to low, and whisk until smooth, about 6 minutes. Season to taste and add the white wine, if using.

Spoon half the meat sauce into the pan as evenly as possible. Sprinkle 1 cup grated mozzarella over the meat mixture. Top with 3 or 4 lasagna noodles. If using vegetables, toss them evenly over the noodles.

Pour the cream-cheese sauce over the noodles and cover with another cup of grated mozzarella. Arrange 3 or 4 lasagna noodles over the cheese, then spoon remaining meat mixture over noodles as evenly as possible. Top with the rest of the mozzarella and the grated parmesan. Bake until brown and bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. (You'll need the longer cooking time if you have made and chilled the lasagna in advance.) Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes or it will be too gloppy to cut well. That would drive you crazy this late in the game.

I love the vegetables included in this, and I don’t use the optional wines (just in case you were wondering).  Try it…I know you’ll love it!

Another delicious recipe came to me via Mom:  Poppin’ Fresh Barbecups.  I’ve made it twice, and it is easy deliciousness.  I used shredded chicken instead of the beef the second time.  I liked the chicken better.

{Poppin’ Fresh Barbecups}


    • 1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef (or 1-2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded)
    • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
    • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
    • 1 can (12 oz) Pillsbury® Grands!® Jr. Golden Layers® Refrigerated Buttermilk or Flaky Biscuits
    • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar or American cheese (2 oz)


  • Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 10 regular-size muffin cups with CRISCO® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray, or grease with shortening. In 10-inch skillet, cook beef over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in barbecue sauce, onion and brown sugar. Cook 1 minute to blend flavors, stirring constantly.
  • Separate dough into 10 biscuits. Place 1 biscuit in each muffin cup. Firmly press in bottom and up sides, forming 1/4-inch rim over edge of cup. Spoon about 1/4 cup beef mixture into each biscuit-lined cup. Sprinkle each with cheese.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges of biscuits are golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from muffin cups.


Week in Review

On Monday I loaded Elaine into the car and headed for Pittsfield, Mass. to visit Ben’s family for a couple of days.  We had our share of difficulties getting out of town (snow, turning around because I had both sets of keys, missing our exit, etc.) but we finally made it.  We enjoyed our brief visit which consisted of swimming at the YMCA, thrift store shopping, church (they have a Tuesday night service), and good fellowship.  Elaine loved the cat, Barthomew, who wasn’t thrilled with her constant attention.  She was afraid of Fezzik, a “giant” dog to her with a scary bark.  Eventually she warmed up to Fezzi and was able to be in the same room as he was.

Playtime with Auntie Meredith

Dishes with Grandma Hamilton…they’re almost the same height!(JJJKJT to Mom H.!)

My favorite captured moment…Elaine is obsessed with her toothbrush.  She saw Auntie Mere brushing and went crazy until I gave her a toothbrush also.  So all three Hamilton ladies…three generations were brushing their teeth together.


Enjoying the pellet stove fire during playtime.  Grandma H. bought this zylophone at the thrift store, and Elaine had a ball with it.

The rest of the week held some new firsts for Elaine.  A few were captured in my lens…

I ordered a tutu for my little dress-up girl.  She enjoyed playtime with it, but refused to give a good picture.



Ben requested that I ask his mom for a picture Bible that he remembers from childhood.  On Thursday night Elaine and Daddy had their first devotions…In the Beginning.

I love this picture too…almost as much as Elaine loves her Daddy kisses.  And she finally said “da-da” many times today, and even succeeded in saying it to Ben.  Hooray!

I encouraged her vanity (I know…I’m a bad mother!) with the first ponytail.  She then insisted on brushing her own hair in front of the mirror.

One wild and long wisp…but it was a ponytail non the less!

Next week we should {hopefully} return to our normally scheduled posting here at Random Issues.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Elaine’s Food Pyramid

After sleeping in yesterday, Ben decided to avail himself of the opportunity to fix my clothesline.  It broke just before Christmas, and we have had several feet of snow in the backyard ever since.  There are still about six inches, but he thought it was manageable.  Elaine saw Ben getting ready and became very excited about the prospect of going outside…so Ben took her along.  When I peeked out the window this is what I saw…

Elaine eats dirty snow

Elaine was enjoying the snow…and trying, and probably succeeding in eating it.  Dirty snow.  Yuck!  She tried to go for the mud close by, but Daddy rescued her!

We had a late dinner because Elaine took a long afternoon nap.  The menu?  Fish and green beans.  Elaine has never cared for green beans, and she has never had fish before, so I didn’t expect her to be a good eater.

To my surprise, she went straight for the green beans!  She even had seconds, enjoying the fact that her fork could be used as a spear!

Elaine at Dinner

Next she worked on the fish, and when she succeeded in getting it on her fork also, she ate her entire serving.  She was so proud of herself for doing everything on her own!  Finishing with some apples, some bread and peanut butter, and milk she had a great dinner!

Elaine at Dinner

Then Daddy broke out the ice and started crushing away.  Elaine, ever curious, wanted some too.  It was funny to watch her face as she sucked on the cold cubes.  Then she figured out how to crunch it between her front teeth, and she was very proud of herself.

Elaine at Dinner“What is it, Daddy?”

Elaine at Dinner“It’s cold!  Now what do I do with it?”

Elaine at Dinner“This is fun to crunch!”

Elaine at Dinner“Mmmm!  That was delicious Mom!”

And like a good little girl, she brushed her teeth after dinner!


We finished off the evening with a phone call to Grandma Hamilton, and some ice cream.  Elaine has never been allowed to stay up for ice cream before, and she completely enjoyed the treat!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Elaine, 15 Months

This little girl of mine never ceases to amaze me!  Here are a few of her antics and activities lately…

Elaine loves to dress up.  She is constantly going through the laundry baskets and putting on Mommy & Daddy’s clothes.  Most times she has multiple layers on and usually trips because she can’t walk properly.  This week she started going through her own drawers for dress up.  She walked into me wearing three jumpers (which she had put on upside down), and wanted me to put on her little baby bib (which barely fits around her neck anymore).  Grams sent me a few tops and jackets this week.  Elaine hijacked the shirts before I got to them, and walked around in her “dress.”  She also likes to wear my nursing cover as a cape!


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAShe is wearing a shirt, a sweat shirt, leggings, no diaper, and a “dress”.

I can’t believe how much she understands!  I say, “Go put your clothes in the laundry,” and she does!  Everyday, she toddles into my bedroom and deposits her dirty clothes in the basket.  (Later she takes them out to play dress up!)

Elaine wants to do whatever Mommy is doing.  She loves to “help” in the kitchen – measuring ingredients for cookies, getting into the pots and pans, or playing in the dishwater bubbles.  Daddy is the one who lets her help wash dishes.  In the end, Elaine and my floor are both drowned in water!  If I am doing laundry, she wants to help carry the clothes into the living room to be hung up to dry.  She tries to hang some things up herself.  If it is dinner time, she wants to put the forks on the table.  Yesterday she wanted to carry the bag out of the grocery store, and she became very vocal when I didn’t enlist her help in packing a diaper order.

Elaine helping with teh diaper laundry

Elaine helping with teh diaper laundry

Elaine helping with teh diaper laundryHelping with the diaper laundry

Elaine hasn’t wanted to wear a hair bow for quite a while now.  A couple of days ago I put one in her hair and took her to the mirror, exclaiming her to be “pretty!”  Now she wants a hair bow everyday.  Today I caught her in front of the mirror, touching her bow, smiling, laughing, and talking to herself. 

Elaine also loves purses.  Or anything that functions like a purse.  She toddles around with one on her arm, or both arms.  And she gets very excited when we put shoes on to go outside.  She is definitely a girly-girl!  (But she will also play baseball, or so Daddy insists!)

Elaine’s two words at this point are “No” and “cookie”.  She loves to boss the kitty around with “No” and a pointed finger.  She likes him, but knows to keep her distance because she has been scratched before.  If he gets too close to her toys or space she gets on his case with loud no’s.  She is very opinionated with her “no” when Mommy wants her to do something, too.  “Cookie” seems to refer to a lot of things, whether an actual cookie, a Ritz cracker, or whatever object she wants at that moment.

Elaine has had a bad rash, which the doctor is determining to be an allergic reaction to some natural rash cream that I used.  The prescription included lots of diaper-free time.   That’s dangerous, I thought.  Sure enough, as soon as the diaper came off she left a puddle in the bathroom floor.  At least it wasn’t on the carpet!  I took the opportunity to introduce the potty chair.  This is how I found her:

Hmmm.  I wonder who she gets that from?

My little girl thinks she is a big girl and tries to blow her own nose.  What happens is a lot of Kleenex’s get wasted!  She also likes to borrow my napkin at mealtimes to wipe her face.  Then she insists that it is nicely spread out in my lap again.

Another favorite activity is drawing.  I am constantly finding pens and note papers all over the house.  Elaine pretends to write like Mommy & Daddy.  Her newest favorite book seems to be the Spanish-English pocket dictionary.  Not sure how that got started!  She also likes to talk on the phone (or to bring it to me when it starts to ring), and to Skype.  When we Skype she is allowed near the computer, which is taboo at all other times!

That’s it for now.  This post is as much for my personal records and memories as it is for your enjoyment!

What We’ve Been Up To

I’ve been absent here for a little bit.  I’m enjoying the peace of naptime, some beautiful music playing in the background, and warm chocolate chip cookies with a mug o’ milk, so I thought I would take the time to write a little post.


Nothing is really new with me.  I still chase Elaine around, do the laundry, buy milk (at a rate of every day, it seems), and I’m still pregnant!  My busyness lately has consisted of preparing for a card making “class” that I am “teaching” tonight at our church.  I’ve been collecting ideas, writing instructions, designing examples, and putting together beginner “kits.”  I’ll write more about that later.

I am increasingly grateful for public transportation in the City.  Yesterday Elaine and I took advantage of the warm sunny weather to go on an excursion.  We took the train to Target and hit some other stores along the way.  This time I left the stroller at home.  It is now too heavy for me to carry up and down the subway stairs.  Elaine likes to be independent anyway.  I was definitely kept on my toes trying to steer her in the right direction, but we made it!  The four blocks from the station to home never seemed so long, as with a backpack full of items, a tired 15 month old, and a very tired me!

I had my 20-week ultrasound on Tuesday the 15th.  Elaine’s 20 week ultrasound was not very long because she was low and uncooperative, so they couldn’t get many good pictures.  This ultrasound seemed to last forever.  The baby was very active, and I could see the individual fingers and toes fly by on the screen.  “He” (no…we still don’t know the gender) is healthy, developing well, and right on track!  I wasn’t given a great picture to take home, but here it is…


Just a small blessing to share…I was in need of a couple of winter maternity tops.  Being in Virginia Beach during the last pregnancy meant that everything was short sleeved.  I can’t hardly stand to go into the Motherhood Maternity store because their prices are so outrageous.  And I can’t justify spending $20 on a shirt that I will just wear to wash dishes, clean the house, and change diapers.  Twice recently I have gotten a bargain on items that were “As Is” – because of little spots or snags that rendered them unsellable.  I can get spots out, so I bought them.  I got two tops for $2.90 each, one for free, and another for $6, plus a nice pair of khakis for $10.  When you add the outfit that Mom sent me, I’m doing pretty well!


He’s still here too.  (Do you see why I haven’t blogged much?)  He was working on coordinating a mission’s trip to Mexico for our church members in June.  We were praying for six individuals to commit to go, and only five could be found.  We took this as the Lord’s answer that the trip should be postponed until 2012.  He is also planning Summer Adventure Club, and working on things with the evangelism program.

We only have one closet in the house, so Ben has been using a portable garment rack as his “closet” in the bedroom.  It has leaned since the day we got it.  Recently we had it tied to the wall with a string and nail.  Last week it finally gave up the ghost and collapsed.  We tried to just hang a clothes bar on the wall, but since everything is plaster it didn’t hold.  Ben has been wanting something more permanent, so he built a closet.  It is basically a sheet of birch plywood anchored to the wall with 2x4s, but it is sooooo much better than before!  He also built shelves up to the ceiling, so I gained a little bit of storage space.  Elaine enjoys it as her new “hideout” during playtime.

Ben's Closet    Ben's Closet

Ben's ClosetSo it’s not glamorous, but I love it.  Moving the games into the bedroom freed up some more storage space for Doable Diapers in Elaine’s room.  Buying toilet paper on Amazon saves money, but it’s always hard to find a place to stash it!


Well she is a very active, busy little girl and there is just too much to write in this spot.  I will save her for another post!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Look At Ben’s Handiwork

This week I took the train into Manhattan to meet a lady and show her some cloth diapers.  She had a six day old little girl with her!  We met halfway between her home and mine, which happened to be Union Square.  Ben recently completed some work on a shop just a couple of blocks from there, so Elaine and I popped over to take a look.


The store is called Fishs Eddy, and they sell really nice dishes.  Ben stripped and refinished these four main doors into the store.  The doors were done offsite, but the entryway was done onsite.


They just wanted a paint job on these doors.  Ben painted them in the snow because the owners were so anxious to have the project done.  Ben thinks the paint job looks terrible!  He also built the upper part of the door frame which sticks out.


These doors lead to the residence apartments over the store.  Ben worked on the outer doors, the set of inner doors, and all of the wood in the hallway leading up to the elevator (visible in the background).  Everything used to be green like the picture above!  Ben’s company stripped the paint and then refinished all of the wood.  (Sorry for the glare in the pictures).


Just another shot of the store…it’s a neat building.  Ben didn’t do any work on this part, though.

On the way home Elaine and I stopped at the fruit market in Union Square.  We purchased several 3-pound bags of apples for $1 each!  I managed to carry Elaine, the stroller, my backpack, and the diaper bag (stuffed with apples) down the subway stairs.  Next time Ben is coming along!  And tomorrow we are making applesauce!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


canstock4876668Today marks the halfway point in my pregnancy.  That’s right – 20 weeks!  Whoo hoo! I don’t have any news to share, and I’m not planning to tell you the baby’s gender.  I just thought you might want to celebrate with me…  I’m thinking of heading to Starbucks.  (Don’t worry Ben, I have a gift card).  Or maybe a little shopping?  And I’m not really quite this big…yet!

Wordless Wednesday–Elaine’s Pillow Bed

Elaine's pillow bed

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Elaine the Bookworm

I mentioned before that Elaine is turning into quite the bookworm.  Before you think of having a seat on our couch, you should consider that you may not get up for some time.  Let me warn you that Elaine will spot your relaxed position and peaceful moment out of the corner of her eye.  Then, before you know what is happening, in a flash she will be in your lap with a story to read.  And you can never read just one!

Last week I walked into the kitchen to find this:

Elaine reading my cookbook
Yes…that is Elaine.  She is reading my cookbook!  She just can’t stand to leave any books alone!

This morning I returned from the kitchen to find this:

Elaine's Storytime
Elaine loves this bouncy seat.  She considers it her own personal recliner, I think.  She has several Dr. Seuss (by far her favorite author!) books in her lap.

But wait!  Let me zoom out a little bit!

Elaine's Storytime
She had been doing quite  a lot of reading in my absence!

Let this be a warning to the grandparents…stock your house with lots of books before we come to visit!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To think on…

Our pastor made this statement:

The Spirit of God without the Word of God is delusion.

The Word of God without the Spirit of God is deadness.

But the Spirit of God with the Word of God is dynamic.

Happy weekend, and have a blessed day tomorrow as you worship the Lord at your church!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I am finally out of my laundry detergent “stash” that I built up before leaving Virginia.  The best place to get more would probably be Target, or BJ’s Wholesale, but I don’t go to either one very frequently.  My friend Carrissa had mentioned that she was saving a lot of money by making her own detergent.  I asked for the recipe a while back, and then procrastinated.

Carrissa’s recipe is for a liquid variety of detergent, which I usually prefer.  However, it makes a {very} big batch and requires a 5 gallon bucket.  I neither had a bucket, nor do I have a place to store the bucket full of detergent.  I searched online and came up with a powdered version.

I made it, I used it, I like it!  It works out to about 4 cents per load, and it took me all of about five minutes to make.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup of Arm &KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Hammer washing soda (not baking soda, and not Arm & Hammer detergent)
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 bar of soap (Fels Naptha, Ivory, etc.)  I chose Ivory, because it was accessible at the local store.  Next time I want to try Fels Naptha, as it is designed for laundry.

:: First, grate the soap.  My picture ended up being no good.

:: Second, combine all ingredients and mix well.  I decided to store mine in a quart sized canning jar, so I just added the ingredients, put on the lid, and shook it up really well.


To use, add 1-2 Tablespoons to wash.  I also use Biz in most of my loads.  The Ivory soap does not dissolve well in a cold wash, but everything seems to be “uber” clean.  (I learned that new word this week from my friend Shannon and a new blog I’m reading).  I already have a magnetic laundry scoop on my refrigerator for the diaper detergent.

Maybe there isn’t a connection, but I was thinking about this as I made my detergent last week.  I had read Colossians 3 in my devotions.  The opening verses instruct us to “set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” 

I know that brand name (or store bought) laundry detergent isn’t something we usually “set our affection on”.  But I was already thinking about materialism and this world’s lust for things.  I thought before that only ultra-frugal people would make their own detergent.  I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal to buy detergent at the store.  It’s a necessity to have clean clothes.

But I have found myself inwardly desiring certain things lately.  A nice, painted, decorated, organized house (with many closets, of course!).  The ability to just go out to a restaurant for dinner without considering the budget.  Starbucks when I go shopping.  These are material things that I don’t need to be dwelling on so much. 

I have determined that part of my problem has come from the blogs I have been reading.  There is nothing wrong with these particular blogs, but they don’t share my belief in Christ and my goal to please him with my life.  They blog about the latest find at the store, the newest baby accessory, the best dining experience, etc.  I even have a list in my planner of the little household or organizational items I want to purchase as the budget allows. 

But by reading so many of these blogs with their worldly perspective I have been causing myself to desire to live as they live, and have the things that they have. I have been setting my affection on things on this earth.

How does it all tie in?  Back to the detergent…if I make my own soap, then I will have more of what God has given us to use in other areas.  Like giving to a mission’s trip or helping a friend in need, or preparing for the baby.  For me, doing this little chore to make laundry soap was also little reminder to keep my focus where it belonged.  And today I cleaned up my blog list and facebook list a little bit so that I can read what matters most.  That will probably free up not only my affections, but also some time for better pursuits.

Did that make any sense?  It makes sense to me.  I’m grateful for the little reminders that God gives us day by day to make the right choices.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordish Wednesday

These pics needed an explanation…

posing for the camera

she thinks teeth are great, and won’t relinquish either sippy cup

she makes this funny face when sucking on her sippy cup

Elaine was jealous of the cat in Ben’s lap, so she brought a book and sat on top of the cat!


Elaine Cristin…15 months on Saturday