Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

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I love stories.  That’s probably why I majored in English and decided to teach stories for a living.  For one, it’s what binds us as humans.  It creates a collective experience, a shared understanding.  While I could list off numerous favorite stories, my absolute favorite are the ones that involve my family.

Growing up, one set of grandparents lived about 20 minutes away, and every time we got together, stories of the past were what was told around the dinner table.  My sisters and I especially wanted to hear stories about our dad.  The good, the bad, everything.  Our dad was our hero, and anything we could find out about him was funny and fascinating.

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Usually at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and if extended family was in town, my grandpa would pull out the large projector screen,  and all of us would cram in the living room to see pictures on the slide projector.  It was somehow comforting to hear the hum of the machine, and the loud click as the wheel moved to the next slide.  These pictures made the stories told come alive.  We’d laugh at what my grandparents and aunts and uncles wore during the 50s and 60s (because, face it, when you’re 10, it’s hilarious to see what “old” people wore).  My dad would say things like, “Who’s that stud in the picture?”  And my aunts would give their delightful and infectious squeal about some embarrassing photo, muttering “Oh my!” and shaking their heads.  It made family stories that much more delightful. Continue reading

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Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

RCCM0Being confined to a small space has its benefits.  Right now, since we don’t trust our 4-month-old puppy with much more than the kitchen area, that is where the family has been each evening…all evening…and much of the weekend when it’s raining outside.  It’s great bonding time, but I think we’re all feeling a bit constrained and claustrophobic.

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While I was making these muffins last Saturday morning, my kids got on the topic of being married.  It’s quite funny listening to a conversation between a 6 and 4 year old.  Matthew told Grace she needs to marry someone she knows, so she said, “Well, I want to marry mommy.” (Bless her little heart.)  Matthew promptly told her that wouldn’t work.  Grace then asked, “Who are you going to marry?”  He said no one, because you have to kiss and that’s really gross.  “It’s like kissing a fish with slobber on its lips.”  (Where does he get this??) Continue reading

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Chocolate Espresso Cookies

CEC4Spring is just around the corner.  And honestly, I can’t wait.  We’ve had some snow flurries the past two weeks, and that put my kids in a tizzy.  Matthew was jumping around the house saying, “No school! No school!”  I think in his head, just a few drops of snow equals schools closing.  To be fair, this winter in the Pacific Northwest has been quite unusual, and every time it snowed, school was either cancelled or delayed.

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I think I told you about this crazy puppy we decided to adopt.  He has been fun, but, he is, well…a puppy.  Potty accidents have become a daily ritual, kid stuffies have been mauled, and my dining room furniture has turned into a chew toy.  And this is after having him sectioned off to just the kitchen.  My happy place is currently not so happy, as I can’t turn my back to him because I need to constantly self-direct.  Sigh…it’s okay.  This too shall pass and he’ll grow up, and the vigilance I am trying to do now should pay off down the road, right? Continue reading

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A New Adventure

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I have been saying no for at least 4 years.  Eric asked.  Matthew pleaded.  Grace begged.  When the Humane Society came to Eric’s work last Monday, with furry friends to be snuggled, I knew the battle was over.  It didn’t help that his coworker sent me this picture of Eric holding a ball of fur with the caption, See you tonight?  

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My reply back was Cute! Just as long as it’s not coming home with him, he can pet it all he wants. :)   A cat and two kids are enough right now.  I have no idea what happened next, because less than 5 hours of seeing that picture, I agreed to adopt an 11-week old puppy. Continue reading

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Pax

While looking for a new book to read and share with my middle school students, Pax kept coming up as a recommended read.  This is the first book I have read by the author and in many ways, it brought me back to my childhood and reading Where the Red Fern Grows.  (Ahh, I loved that book!)  Pax carries the same punch and beautiful writing as that book.  It also tugs at the heartstrings, for anyone who has ever had a pet will instantly connect with the main character in this book.  Although it is written for upper elementary to lower middle school children, there is much that adults can connect to, and the writing is anything but “childish.”  Great sentence structure, vocabulary, and a powerful story creates an unforgettable book and journey as boy and fox try to be reunited again amidst a great war.

paxPax, by Sara Pennypacker

Genre: children’s literature; nature; animals

Summary:  Peter and Pax are inseparable, ever since Peter found Pax alone and abandoned as a kit.  However, years later a large war is looming, and Peter is forced to drop off Pax in a forest as Peter’s father enlists in the war.  300 miles away Peter moves in with his grandfather–a move Peter bitterly regrets.  That night Peter realizes he should have never dropped of Pax, alone and vulnerable, and sets off on a journey to find and rescue his beloved friend.  Meanwhile, Pax sets off on an adventure of his own, trying to be reunited with his owner. Continue reading

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7 Layer Bars

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Today hit a high of 50 degrees.  You’d think it was spring, based on all the people I saw wearing shorts and sweatshirts around downtown Portland.  It almost will be, since we dealt with freezing temperatures for about a month now.  20 degrees warmer and we’re pulling out the lighter gear and sunglasses! (Haha.  Seriously though, who are these people?)

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The warmer weather must be messing with my brain, because I have had sudden urges to clean out my linen closet, pantry, and deep clean the laundry room.  That is where I remembered, as I was reorganizing and de-cluttering my pantry, that I had all the ingredients to make 7-layer bars.  It seemed fitting, and rewarding, after all the hard work to make these simply irresistible, and super addicting, bars. Continue reading

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

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I know I’m being cliche here, but one of the best food combinations in the whole world is chocolate and peanut butter.  In fact, I have been known to take a square or two of chocolate and dip into a jar of peanut butter.  Lazy,  I’ll admit it, but oh so good.

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This recipe is almost as easy as that, but there are a few special ingredients that make it that much better.  I made these to take over to a friend’s New Year’s Eve party, you know, before all the diets started, and they were gone in seconds.   They’re crunchy and sweet on the inside, and melty and smooth on the outside.  A perfect combination of salty and sweet.  I sprinkled some chopped peanuts on the top of some of them to add a little extra crunch.

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You can make these balls all in one go, or separate it out over a few days.  If you choose to make it in two days, you can make the dough on the first day, separating the dough into 2 large discs, covering it in plastic wrap, and placing in the fridge until you are ready to coat in chocolate.  On the second day you can roll the discs into balls of any size (I like larger so I don’t have to roll 80) and dip into chocolate.  Whatever you do, just give yourself a little bit of time,  as the balls need to chill in the fridge before you dip them in the hot chocolate. Continue reading

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