Category: kitchen

choosy moms… choose the best they can

This morning felt like a holiday. We slept until we woke up (so early that it cannot be counted as “sleeping in”). The girls were off of school. And after a diner-worthy breakfast, we headed to our polling place – through rain and traffic, with Randa coughing her poor little head off – to VOTE.

I was excited to once again take my children to the voting booth with me… because it is my duty and responsibility and privilege as an American… not for “revenge” (enough said about that!), not because I am necessarily excited about my choices, but because brave people through the ages and fought and died so that we can do so.

There was a line at the polling place about 20 minutes long, long enough for us to greet some sweet friends from church (turns out they live near-by) and for me to take Randa to the bathroom. I could hardly wait until it was over, so we could get our stickers!

The rest of the day, I spent being a mommy. We grocery shopped. We took a surprise trip to a Myrtle Beach tourist trap (post forthcoming). We made dinner (below). And we talked about the election as well as we could with a 4.5 and a nearly-6 year old.

When I speak to KK and Randa about my choice to vote, it’s in the simplest terms. No, we do not call President Obama a “stinky” president; it is a very hard job. Yes, we do hope that “Rom-e-ney” is the next president… but we will pray for whoever wins, because we love America and we are blessed to live here.

As it goes, as it always goes (this is my first presidential election ‘on’ Facebook, but it happened even before then), social media brings out some of the worst in people. Folks say things so non-nonsensical that they do more harm than good to ‘their’ side. One of the most appalling ‘bumper sticker’ thoughts I have seen was from a Romney supporter who was praying that “God’s will is done…this time.” Somehow, this suggests that when a Republican doesn’t win the office, God is not in control. And that is contrary to everything I believe as a Christ-follower.

I may not be a fan of Obama’s – I did not vote for him either time – but even after he won in 2008, my thought was, “God is in control.” And He is. I don’t subscribe to the theory that God micromanages our every move, but I do believe He sets up the boundaries. The last 4 years have been within His parameters. Everything that happened to America, to Obama, to you, to me… God allowed it. I don’t like some of it. I don’t have the same financial status and stability I had 4 years ago. I think our country is even more divided than it was in the Bush years. But I don’t for a second think that God has somehow been less sovereign during the Obama term.

ANYway. I am not a fan of Gov. Romney, but his verbalized views (do we ever really know if politicians are being truthful?) line up more with mine than Pres. Obama’s. Socially, I lean more liberally. I don’t believe we need to amend the constitution to govern marriage nor do I believe that in the state so much of our country is in, we should spend our time worrying about who legal adults marry. I believe there HAS to be fair access to medical care for everyone (though I don’t think the proposed solution of Obamacare is the right one). I think we have dropped the ball Big Time on the quality of education, and ‘No Child Left Behind’ is much to blame. BUT… I want the government to stay out of my business, my gun ownership, and what my children eat. I want small businesses to flourish and not constantly be asked to give more. I believe WHOLEHEARTEDLY in the rights of unborn children to live – and yes, I also believe that means we pro-lifers can’t be the same ones to turn our noses on feeding, educating, fostering, and even adopting those same children once they are born and perhaps neglected by parents who didn’t want them in the first place. I believe the path to citizenship should be open and fair for those willing to follow it. I believe we as Americans have a right to the PURSUIT of happiness, not to have it handed to us.  I believe we need to keep our military strong and let our enemies know that it is a much more pleasant thing to be a friend to America than not.

Do I think either man will reflect these views in how he runs the country? Not likely. The two-party system we have allowed ourselves to abide in assures me of that. It ensures that no matter who I vote for, I will be compromising something I believe in.

But still… I must vote.

I am encouraged today by the reported larger turnout of voters. I am also excited to have possibly had a different impact on the outcome than I am used to: Illinois is being predicted for Obama. SC is predicted for Romney. Other than the ocean, having my presidential vote potentially count toward the electorate is the biggest indication that I have, indeed, moved to a different region.

I am sitting back in my rocking chair, chatting with Rod and Paige, watching the news, contemplating whether I should bake those cookies when a 6-pack of Coccadotts cupcakes still beckons all who will answer from the kitchen, doing some reading. Maybe the election will be decided tonight, maybe it will be weeks. Whatever happens, I know I did my part. And I…we…must continue. No matter who gets elected, we have 2 mandates:

“Do not neglect your gift…” 1 Timothy 4:14

Take full advantage of the freedom fought and died for to use the gift…and use it to help those who can’t help themselves. – I know that’s summed up eloquently with many historically-rich quotes that are also aesthetically pleasing Pins. I just can’t find one right now.


Creamy White Chicken Chili
Taste of Home

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 can (15-1/2 ounces each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

In a large saucepan, saute the chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add the beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and cream.

Burtons like to eat this with shredded SHARP cheddar cheese and Fritos. And we like to lick the bowl clean…


the power of (level one) words

Randa’s “homework” has gotten us to read more together (yay!) She has 2 books each week with simple, repetitive words which, mainly, she reads to me (and Daddy too):

Recently, we’ve begun visiting a branch of the country library that we hadn’t been to before (this was #3, not counting the Myrtle Beach library, which we paid an annual membership for, and there is a #4 really close to the theatre that we will try soon). It has a truly great kids section, including this book-gazebo thing with comfy red gym mats inside where I cuddled with the girls to read (and could have fallen asleep).

Some of the best books we’ve discovered there:

Mad at Mommy
Komako Sakai
I could not resist this book by its title alone. And it turned out to be really cute… a child rabbit gets mad at his mommy because through his point of view, everything she does is selfish. For example: if she doesn’t get up as soon as he calls, she sleeps all the time. The kids thought this was kind of funny, but I wonder if part of that was because of the knowing way I read to them. It was very fun to read out loud. This book is full of hyperbole: you always, you never.. so it is a good opportunity to talk about the meanings of those words –  and a good reminder to adults how often those terms for measuring frequency are actually accurate.

The End
David LaRochelle & Richard Egielski
I admit: my kiddos were not as into this one as I was. I thought it was hilarious. The premise was telling a fairy tale backwards. For awhile, the kids got it and laughed with me. But the repetitiveness – showing cause and effect very effectively – got on their nerves. It is a neatly packages, cute story… maybe it should have been a few pages shorter. Or maybe I don’t ready it in a funny enough voice. There can be absolutely no skipping of pages, because then the story will make no (or even less!) sense :)

Over and Over
Charlotte Zolotow
I couldn’t make it through this one without crying. Randa actually brought it home from the school library, likely because there is a girl in a pink dress on the front. What we found inside was the simple story of a mother explaining the changing seasons and holidays to her little daughter. I so adored seeing these changes through a child’s simple point of view, especially when it came to the family vacation and the girl’s birthday. I appreciated how the child’s memory was mostly fuzzy, but was going to grow more vivid as she grew. And of course, I was grateful that, like the memories my own family is making, there were things the little girl could count on to happen over and over.


As we go through this month, counting blessings, I am reminded to be grateful for books. I have always loved them…loved going to the Steger-South Chicago Heights Library with my mom…loved when she would let me look at the Sweet Valley High books in Kmart while she shopped…loved devouring favorites over and over again…love how a fictional story can bring about a non-fictional life change…love watching how stories come to life for Randa and Kaity. Our house is filled with books – on shelves, in baskets, still packed in boxes, and I am grateful for them.


Read-It-And-Weep Cinnamon Roll Cake

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp.salt
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1.5 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix everything together except for the butter. Slowly stir in the melted butter and pour into a greased 9×13 pan. For the topping, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Drop evenly over the batter and swirl with a knife. Bake at 350 for 28-32 minutes.

2 cups powdered sugar
5ish tablespoons milk
1 tsp. vanilla

While warm drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Fork it in while reading something great!



why I love this picture

It was to be our first Thanksgiving with KK.

Like every year, I had specific duties for the dinner. Mom was hosting, and I was bringing a kid-food (macaroni and cheese), a staple (deviled eggs), a specialty (sweet potato casserole), and likely a few pies.

The plan: spend all day Wednesday cooking… and being with my just-turned-2 year old and my 9 month old. Rod would be home, so it could be done. There would be Christmas music and candles and festivity abounding.

And then, Tuesday night dinner didn’t go so well.

And Miranda was throwing up.

And Paige was throwing up.

And I was throwing up.

Wednesday, I was useless.

Miranda, thankfully, was content to lie on the couch with me. The puking stopped. The lethargy didn’t.

I vaguely remember making a shopping list. I vividly remember asking Rod to please buy our baby a little outfit for Thanksgiving, and he answered yes, and he & Kaity were so happy to leave the sick house.

He returned with Wheat Thins and ginger ale and whatever else I asked, and a perfect little blue-and burgundy fleece outfit for Kaity.

And the next morning, we were all fine.

I don’t remember if I made all the recipes. I know there was enough food. I know we were smiling. I know I ate.

And I know I ended the day with a sleeping baby wrapped in my arms.

My last decade of Thanksgivings seems to be marked with memorable experiences…flu, surgery, scandal (!) This moment of peace on our baby’s first embodies all that the wonderful day means to me. Oh, and so does sweet potato casserole

Elastic Pants Sweet Potato Casserole
3-4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed.
1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4-1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers
– milk

Bake the sweet potatoes in a 350 oven until they are soft. Peel them and mash with a fork or masher in your 9×13 casserole dish.

Add butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and syrup. Mash, mix and stir until the potatoes are smooth. You can also add some milk at this point if you desire.

Crush crackers and sprinkle generously on top of the smoothed potatoes.

Can be chilled overnight and then baked or baked and served immediately – 350 oven for 25-35 minutes.

An ode to November

Dear November,

I love you.

Momentous things have typically happened in November – some icky (emergency surgeries, family feuds, jobs ending), some amazing (the end of student teaching, the birth of Miracle #1). The best thing about it is the time to slow down.

That’s right.
I will not be skipping the store aisles to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock.” I will be strolling from room to room of my house to the tune of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Because I will be – home with my immediate family in Myrtle Beach, and shortly thereafter, home with my Chicago family in the frigid temps of my birthplace.

In the mean time, we have fun visitors coming this month. Deanna – one of my circle, one of mine, arrives today. And the Groves family returns just in time for Thanksgiving, which also happens to be Miracle #1’s 6th birthday (what? 6?!). Let the festivities begin!

In the process of slowing down, I am repeating my participation in National Blog Post Month (“NaBloPloMo”). Since returning to work in May, my writing has been sporadic, and this project is a great way to kick-start it. I won’t beat myself up if I miss a day, but it felt great last year to post for 30 days straight. (See those entries here).

So here we go~


(Miranda set this table for a Saturday lunch with her sister…)

This morning on the radio, I caught the tale end of a program that was focusing on hospitality. I will readily own up to having the “gift.” I am excited by the prospect of having people over, and it was only until that began happening that I was truly able to feel “at home” once we moved to South Carolina. I love to light the candles, put out the serving platters, make a special recipe or two, and get my kids to pick up their toys (and my husband to go through the piles of paper – or shove it in a drawer, at least). I love when the house is alive with conversation and food and people. I even love cleaning up after everyone is gone… because the full bags of garbage, the crumbs on the floor, and the yummy party leftovers are reminders of the fun we just had.

This radio program was talking about how important it is to pass on the idea of hospitality to our kids. I’m happy to say that they, too, come a little more alive when the doorbell rings. The thought of visitors puts a certain light in their eyes. I hope it always does. Why have things – a home, a welcoming space, food enough to share, a great collection of music – if not to share?

I’m grateful for the friends we have made in this past year that feel comfortable to flop on our couch or open our refrigerator.


And, I’m grateful for pumpkin-flavored things to share. Alas, here is a hybrid recipe of several pumpkiny favorites! ~

Chicagolina Pumpkin Muffins

1 box of Butter Recipe Yellow cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (or half of a 14 ounce can)
a generous shaking of cinnamon
a ‘splash: of pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a mini muffin pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and syrup until smooth. Spoon equal amounts of batter into the prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.

1/2 stick of butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients until smooth. Spoon on top of warm muffins. Eat immediately with your peeps and a steaming mug of something. Cheer with all your heart:

Happy Fall, y’all!



an organized random list

1. Fall
The leaves don’t really turn here, nor do they fall. I miss the colors, but not the raking. I love that we can still comfortably wear flip flops and dine al fresco. I even love that it was “chilly” enough the last few days to open windows, light candles, wear jackets, and get the kind of cozy that only blankets and hot tea can create. And I love most of all that it will be warm again in a few days, that we will have to crank the AC back up and can go to the beach without shivering!

We don’t get there as much as I would like or even as much as my online life might imply, but whenever I am there, it is so glorious. And Sunday, I saw one of these there for the first time:

We were rained on almost the whole time we were there, and it was COLD rain, but this view was so worth it.

3. Promises
The rainbow is a symbol of God’s promises. The Bible tells us that (Genesis 9:17), and also tells us (2 Corinthians 1:20) His promises are “Yes” and “Amen” (so be it). One of my ongoing tests in life is not believing in God’s promises, but waiting on His timing. Lord knows I am perpetually in a hurry. I am reminded time and time again that His time is perfect, and that the fulfillment of His promises is often timed in a way that maximizes my opportunities for learning along the way.

This past week – as I internally commemorated One Year Since Our Initial Supposed Reason For Moving From Chicago to Myrtle Beach Fell Apart and One Year Since My Parents Sort Of Moved Here For Six Weeks – I also saw the fulfillment of some things… maybe not “Biblical Promises” for which I could provide scriptural references, but the coming to pass of events (some tiny, some MONUMENTAL) that make me feel Smiled Upon.

(sorry for my random capitalization. it’s the bloggy equivalent of my airquotes)

4. Visits
A dear, dear, dear friend – member of the sacred Mommy Tribe in Chicago (that most of my South Carolina friends must be a  l i t t l e  sick of hearing about) is coming in a few weeks, and my Whole Family – mom, dad, brother & fam, aunt, uncle, maybe gramma, and cousins, are coming for a week in June. Par-tee!

While visits in and of themselves aren’t life changes, they seem to escort them in. I’m excited for what’s coming.

5. And more visits
Speaking of visits, we have ended a straight month of grandparent and surrogate grandparent visits. Mamaw & Grandpa left today after 2.5 weeks of family dinners, overnights for the girls, and extra help for me. It was wonderful having them here –

Seriously, I wish everyone would quit stalling and just move here already…

5. Lasagna Soup
Our last dinner all together last night was a typical Burton mishmash of snack foods, mostly based on cheese. My one exception (in that it was a real course and not a snack) was this soup, which I made for the first time back in March and revived for a new crowd:

I discovered this Paula Deen recipe via Pinterest, and it goes like this:

Tastes Like Lasagna Soup

1 lb ground chuck
1   onion, chopped
1   green bell pepper, chopped
3   cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
1   (32 ounce) box chicken broth
2   (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes (I used one)
1   (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
(I used 2 cups of jar spaghetti sauce, ’cause it’s what I had)

2 teaspoon Italian seasoning  (I used basil & oregano)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cup broken lasagna noodles
1   (5 ounce) package grated parmesan cheese (I used 8 ounces)
2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
garlic crostini, recipe follows
…I didn’t have these last two ingredients when I made it last night. No big, though more cheese is always a good thing.


In a large Dutch oven (or skillet), combine ground chuck, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until beef is browned and crumbles. Drain well.

Stir in thyme, brown sugar, broth, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add noodles, and simmer until noodles are tender. Stir in Parmesan cheese.

~As always, I recommend eating with people you love.