A Slope and a Sled

Well, we are home today.  Jess has a cold.  She is on the couch watching Sponge Bob and eating breakfast so while she is otherwise occupied, here are some pics of our snow play last weekend.

Michigan had a little snowfall last Friday and the snow stayed the entire weekend.  It was “good packin” so Charlie, Jess, Mark and I took advantage and went outside.  We started with a snowball fight.  I seemed to be the main target.  I should have kept my camera with me as a force field but I was counting on pelting some family members.  Mom’s revenge for dirty dishes, t.v. arguments, and messy bedrooms.  Unfortunately, I have very poor aim and not much distance.  Jessie, on the other hand, does not throw like a girl.  We were all lucky she had a visual bull’s eye on our bottoms.

As the kids moved on to sledding, I dusted off the snow and grabbed my camera.

Jess pulling sled

We have just the tiniest slope from the garage entrance down to the backyard.  It’s just enough for Jess right now.

Mark giving Jess a push


Jess pulling uphill

and down she went…

Jess sledding downhill

only pausing to shake off the snow.  Do you think maybe the lack of a hat contributed to her cold today?

Jess shaking off snow

Charlie turned the sled into a snowboard.

Charlie Snowboard

And, of course, what Charlie tries so follows Jess.  She kept her hat in the back of the sled for quick action when Mom and Dad said, “Jess, put your hat on your HEAD!”

Jess snowboard

The dogs had a great time.  Sagey came in low and took Charlie out but she apologized.

Charlie, Sagey and Chili

It’s possible that all this activity was the catalyst for Jess’s cold.  But for a few sniffles, I think it was worth it.

Just one last picture.  Isn’t this the cutest kid?


A day old baby goat.  Beth, my sister-in-law, has a sister with a small farm.  She sent us this picture since they know we are considering getting goats and chickens.  This makes it hard to resist.


Time for Manicures, Parties, and Rapunzel

Jessie asked me the other day, “Mommy, why don’t you wear dresses and paint your nails?”  I was torn between laughing hysterically in her face or beginning a tirade on the pressures of balancing family and work.  Instead I opted for:  “Jessie, we’re late…go, go, GO!”  Which I guess is a more efficient version of the tirade.

I used to do both those things but searching through mounds of nylons for one pair that does not have a run can add a precious two minutes to the morning rush.  “Don’t mess with the dress” became “don’t mess with a dress.”  I’m lucky if I have a clean shirt to match my slacks.

Manicured nails gave way to washing dishes, grooming poodles, and, again, finding thirty spare minutes to sit still while your nails dry.  Add a seven year old that does not understand “smudging”.

But Jessie’s question nagged at me for several days.  I don’t want to be the “old” mom.  I clearly remember wishing my mom was a little younger at times.  My parents were at least ten years older then most of my friends’ parents.  My mom didn’t understand things like pierced ears, bikinis, or eye shadow and mascara.  She was fine with a dab of lipstick and a small compact of face powder.  She usually put it on in the car after urging, “Shelley, we’re late…go, go, GO!”

I want Jess to know that she can ask me style questions.  I realize we won’t always agree.  Hopefully future disagreements will be more about clothes then tongue piercings or tatoos but I, at the very least, hope she will value my opinion from time to time.

I do paint Jessie’s nails quite often.  She has such tiny hands it usually involves me basically running the brush over the entire tip of her finger and telling her the paint on her skin will wear off eventually.  However, I decided we should have some real “girl” time.  I bought some new polish, put on my readers and we did this:

Manicure party

It was a perfect hen and chick party.  We talked about her birthday party.  Who she wants to invite and how she wants to decorate.  We talked about her little boyfriend, Jack, at school.  We talked about how her skin looks like her dad’s and how white I am but how we both have brown eyes.  She asked me if I ever had long hair and her goal for her hair is to grow it like Rapunzel.

I received more than I bargained for with this girlie time.  Plus the added bonus of discovering a polish that has lasted for five days without chipping.  I’m aiming for Sunday nights during “quiet” time for the mom/daughter manicures.

Imagine the treasures if I can make this last until college.

Grandpa’s Macaroni and Cheese

DGG Peg and her husband, GG Bill (a.k.a. Grandpa) sent me this recipe.  This is a VanLoo Crew favorite.  I tried it out on New Year’s Day.  It’s easily the best Mac and Cheese I’ve ever made.  Of course, I’ve only made Mac and Cheese out of a box.  But, this was really delicious and, excluding the baking time, very easy and fast.  It also has a little kick to it from the spices.  Jess asked for seconds so I know she liked it and it wasn’t too spicey for her.  This is a perfect recipe for multi-tasking.  It only takes about 10 minutes to prep for the oven.  Then while it’s baking clean the kitchen, do homework, play a board game or a do a quick walk on the treadmill.

First, preheat the oven to 375.  Use about a tablespoon (or less – I didn’t have to use a whole tablespoon) of butter to grease a 9×13 cake pan.

In a blender, puree 1 cup of cottage cheese, 2 cups of whole milk, 1 teaspoon of dry mustard, a pinch of cayenne, a pinch of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.  The recipe calls for whole milk and regular cottage cheese but I used 2% milk and low fat cottage cheese and it was fine.

Ingredients for Macaroni and Cheese

While I was making this, just before I hit the puree button, my power went out for about 2-3 hours.  I threw everything in the fridge and waited in the dark with a blanket, book light and my book.  Mark and Jess left earlier to drop something off for the boys at their mom’s.  I called and said just stay there since the power was out.  Three hours alone time is kind of unusual around here so I jumped on it.  Mark was happy since he was able to watch football and Jess was happy because she was with her brothers. 

But, you are here for the recipe!  So next, grate 1 pound of sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese into a large bowl.  Reserve 1/4 cup of grated cheddar.

Grated Cheddar Cheese

Stir in the milk mixture and about 1 1/2 cups (or 1/2 pound) of uncooked macaroni.  Not having to cook the macaroni makes this prep go really quick.  You can also buy shredded cheese but we bought the block cheese because it’s cheaper and it didn’t take long at all to shred it.

Mac & Cheese Mixture

Pour the mixture into the pan.   I had a Divine Greene Girl moment and almost forgot to add the macaroni.  DGGs are known for their DGG moments.  Otherwise known as scatterbrained.   Fortunately, I remembered just before I popped it into the oven.  Otherwise, it would have been Milk&Cheese.

Pre-cooked Mac&Cheese

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover pan, sprinkle with remaining cheese and dot with a tablespoon of butter.

Half baked Mac & Cheese

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes more.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving.  It makes 6-8 servings.

Baked Mac & Cheese

I love the burnt cheese edges.  So tasty!  This also stores well for leftovers.  I brought it to work for lunch yesterday.  This would also be a great recipe for the kids to make with some guidance.  The little ones would love to press the button on the blender.

If you want to print this, click on the PrintFriendly icon below.  This will take you to the PrintFriendly website and you can decide if you want to print the entire post, including my ramblings, or remove the pictures, ramblings, etc.

Here is a condensed version:

Grandpa’s Macaroni and Cheese

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)
pinch cayenne (optional)
pinch ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound elbow macaroni, uncooked

Preparation Instructions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Use half the butter to grease a 9″ round or square baking pan.  A 9×13 pan works, too.  In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk, spices, if you are using them, and salt and pepper.  You can also mash the mixture with a fork.  Shred the cheddar and reserve 1/4 cup.  Add the rest to a large bowl along with the milk mixture and the macaroni.  Mix.  Pour into pan.  Cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Uncover pan, sprinkle with remaining cheese and dot with remaining butter.  Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving.  Makes 6-8 servings.


Happy New Year!

I’d like to share a piece written by my sister, DGG Peggy:

This is not the year to be scrimping.  Not a time to hold back on anything.  I’m not talking about boosting sales figures at Target and Macy’s either.  I mean stuff we’ve already got.  Things we know we’re good at.  Let’s all go on a spree this year.

Let’s give gifts of joyfulness and grace.  You know the kind.  Listen to the one who always goes on and on…without interrupting.  If the kid would rather play Sorry than decorate the tree – well, bare trees are nice, too.

And give  yourself a break.  Maybe set yourself easier goals.  Instead of framing the house with ten thousand outdoor lights, make the grocery store clerk smile.

Look around you.  Pay attention.  The people wo mean the most to you are right here.  Ready for what only you can give.

So let’s go hog wild.  Splurge on kindness, indulge in praise and stuff ourselves with gratitude.  Don’t say no to hope and add great huge dollops of compassion, patience and love.

Even better than gold and frankincense and myrrh.

by:  Peg VanLoo

Katya giving her Grandma, DGG Peg, an extravagant gift.

Malia being extravagant with Grandma.