Thursday, November 27, 2014


You know what makes me feel thankful? Writing in this blog! I didn't anticipate that when I started, but recalling all the good things in life keeps them fresher. My memory: not so good. Putting it all in writing/pictures makes it hard to forget. I probably over share more often than not, but, truth be told, this blog is as much for me as for anyone.

"T" is for turkey cupcakes with the preschool group.

Well, I write this as Dave is tackling bath time. I have an empty milk glass and cupcake wrapper by my side and cornbread cooling on the stove (cornbread stuffing...awwww yeah!) Today Dave had the day off so we got to host Thanksgiving preschool together - lots of turkey talk and crafting and baking and Charlie Brown. We hit the library and the grocery store and the thrift store (tacky sweaters!) and we made dinner together. Once the babies are in bed we have Christmas projects to work on and pie to make. At the moment what I am thankful for: this sweet little family of mine. Riley's sassy and Joe is scrappy and Dave is...a little of both haha. My other family, friends - we are all a little quirky, wonderfully so. And besides that, we love each other, and really what more can you ask for in this life?

Riley is thankful for Mom and Dad, cars, airplanes, the park, and Joey, because "when I'm sick he makes me happy."

Sunday, November 16, 2014


*This post brought to you courtesy cold/flu season.

First let me say: I love the winter - it is so beautiful outside and romantic taking walks in the snow. I love the chunky sweaters I wear daily - they're the emotional equal of a fire crackling in the hearth. I love wearing boots and scarves, sipping peppermint tea or hot chocolate, and making exciting holiday plans.
But here at the Munion household, we are also enjoying lots of Tylenol, Dayquil, humidifier steam and Viks Vapor this month. And when you have a cold, there is nothing better than a pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove at the end of chilly day.

Chicken stock: About a year ago I came across this really great post about making your own chicken stock from leftover chicken bones. The idea of using rotisserie chicken in cooking, and then making ultra-nutritious chicken stock with the bones and whatever vegetables we had in the crisper really appealed - I am always on the lookout for ways to make things from scratch, have healthier meals, and stretch a buck. You should check it out. Follow her links to the 100 recipes using rotisserie chicken too - I've tried several, might change your life.

Now I pick up a chicken every time we go to Costco (they are bigger and cheaper there than other stores), I strip the bones and freeze the meat in meal-sized portions and stick the rest of it in a pot with onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery, cover with water, and simmer for a day. She skims the fat off every few hours, but who has time for that? At the end of the day, I simply strain the liquid into a big bowl, cover and refrigerate over night.
In the morning all the fat is on top and it is super easy to spoon that off and freeze the stock in meal-sized portions (about 2 cups per a bag). I usually get 4-5 bags out of one chicken.

When you're ready to use it, run some hot water over the bag and it is ready to go! Stock is thick enough that you can add water for soups, or you can leave it un-diluted for stew or to make rice or casseroles. It will save you some money, and anyways you always feel good when you serve something healthy and delicious to your family that you made yourself.

Here are a few recipes I love that are great with rotisserie chicken and chicken stock. (PS, you can buy chicken stock at Costo for an even easier meal. I suppose.) I always make enough to have leftovers the next day - soup usually is one of those things better the day after. Soup and chocolate cake.

Chicken Noodle Soup:
Serves 6
Toddler approval rating: two thumbs up

2 Tbs Butter
3 med carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
Seasonings: 1 tsp. Mrs. Dash original, dash of thyme and parsley, salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 serving size whole wheat spaghetti (uncooked, the bundle of spaghetti should be about the thickness of a penny at most - not much), broken into fourths

Melt butter in a med pot over med heat, saute veggies till tender, add in seasonings and cook 2 minutes more. Add chicken, stock, water, bouillon, spaghetti. Careful not to add too much pasta - it soaks up the water and can make your soup too thick. In fact, if you want to run another pot, cook the pasta before you put it in so you can be sure and get the right ratio.

*Variations: Zucchini is good in this too, if you like zucchini. And I like to add a squeeze of lemon too sometimes - especially when I'm sick. It's nice. Also, canned chicken works great for this one.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup 
(From my friend Anjela Allyon, adapted slightly with what I had on hand. Isn't soup great for that?)
Serves 6

2-3 Tbs butter
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots, or shredded carrots
2 stalks celery
2 Tbs flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups chicken, chopped
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 cubes chicken boulion
1 1/2 cups half and half

Melt butter in med pot, saute carrots, onions and celery till soft. Sprinkle in flour and stir till combined; add the rest of ingredients save the half and half. Bring to a boil and let thicken (can add a Tbs corn starch dissolved in water if not thickening). Add half and half the last ten minutes.
 *MN is known for it's wild rice - it's a big export here. Wild rice soup, wild rice sausage, wild rice also happens to be really good for you. It is full of antioxidants and has twice as much protein as brown rice, more fiber, but fewer calories than any other rice. Source: here.

Pork/Chicken and Veggie Stew

*One of my favorite stews of all time. Uses stock, and you could use rotisserie chicken in place of fresh meat, but I've never tried that way, to be honest. But I think you would just skip the first step of cooking the meat, and add in the cooked chicken after the veggies and stock.
Serves 6
Adapted from here

3 Tbs flour, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
1 lb pork steak or chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups chicken stock + water
1 and 1/4 cup water, divided
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cups cubed red potatoes (or russet, but for those, add in the last 20 minutes so they don't get too mushy)
2 med carrots, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1 rib celery, sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp parsley

Place 2 Tbs flour and 1/2 tsp salt in large ziplock; add meat and shake so well-coated. Melt butter in med pot till sizzling, add meat and brown, stirring occasionally, for 7-10 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp salt, chicken stock, and all remaining ingredients, adding water if needed so meat and veggies are covered. Bring to boil and reduce heat to low, simmer 30-40 minutes till veggies are tender. Remove bay leaf.
Combine remaining 1 Tbs flour and 1/4 cup water in small bowl. Stir into stew, cook 3-5 minutes till it thickens slightly.

These are all amazing with a loaf of homemade bread or a salad. Here is my mom's easy recipe for delicious crusty white bread. So, you know, you can have the full experience.

Crusty White Bread

1 Tbs yeast
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 Tbs salt
2 Tbs salad oil + oil for coating bowl
3 cups flour
1 Tbs butter

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water, let sit till foamy, about five minutes. Stir in salt and oil, and pour mixture into large bowl with 3 cups flour. Stir till combined, knead till smooth and elastic about 8 minutes (or 4 in a stand mixer fitted with kneading attachment). Place in oiled bowl, brush top of dough with oil, cover, let rise in warm place till doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down, form into loaf and put in greased loaf pan and brush with oil; let rise till double, about one hour. Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes, till golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Brush with butter on removal, let cool on wire rack till ready to eat.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Feeling the Feels

Such a roller coaster of a week we've had! Nothing particularly super great or devastating - just the eb and flow of life I guess. But I tell you, one day is wonderful and..."...everyone is well, everyone is happy, and for that one have peace." Then, the next day dawns and...well, I'm on a mission to complain less, but sheesh!

"They're hot, they're cold, they're high, their low...they're up, they're down...this is really fun making a list with you, but I do have a column to write." Why don't I just do a whole post in nothing but romantic comedy quotes? I'm sure I could.


I am not known for my silent suffering, but I am trying to focus on the good and remember that happiness is a choice. At the same time, I want to feel all the feels and work through them in a healthy way, and come out on top. A good cry can do wonders. And a good honest talk with The Man Upstairs (prayer, that is) certainly makes the world a lot brighter.

We're all working on it, right? Raising other human beings has made me key witness to the work and effort involved in dealing our feelings, and responding to difficult circumstance. Here is a funny little moment Dave caught on camera, which I, ever helpful, transcribed for you. It is kind of relevant.
 And then Joe danced. But Dave just got a picture of that part.

Thank you, PBS, and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (a Mr. Rogers spinoff, for those of you who don't have toddlers.) While the song does have an annoying way of sticking in your head, the message is a true one. We should be patient with our feelings. Maybe acknowledging it and being ok with it opens up some energy to work your way up.

Mr. Rogers can wrap up this brooding moment now:
“How great it is when we come to know that times of disappointment can be followed by joy; that guilt over falling short of our ideals can be replaced by pride in doing all that we can; and that anger can be channeled into creative achievements... and into dreams that we can make come true.”  ~Mr. Fred Rogers
I think that what he is describing comes with maturity. And I think someday I will be super mature.
*PS: I am obviously not talking about depression the illness here. That's a horse of a different color.
*PSS: I'm quite happy at the moment - these are just things that have been on my mind this week.

It really was a good week, over all. Picture time!
We visited Choo Choo Bob's this week for a rare story time. "Conductor Paul" played his guitar and engaged the children in songs and stories and did some color-matching activities. The kids were riveted, and we have been singing the "Peanut butter" song every bedtime since! There was a little peanut on the the railroad tracks, his heart was all a-flutter. A-long came, a choo choo train - UH OH - peanut butterrrrr." Love it!
 We bundled up and got out to the playgrounds. Kids get antsy inside, so we get out whenever we can.
We thawed our bones with hot chocolate and buttered toast
 Riley and I painted together during that one nap Joe took this month. It was tender. She said it made her "really big happy."
 Story time lady brought her friend who brought ducks! I learned that ducks, while not the brightest of creatures (the lady gets them to leave their nests at night by walking into the duck house with white tennis shoes and they all come down to check out the "new ducks") are very friendly and easy to raise. I also learned that duck eggs are fantastic to bake with because of their big, clearer yolk. I also learned that I want to keep ducks.
Today we partied: went to a movie (How to Train Your Dragon at the dollar) and out for pizza (OUT, as in not Little Ceasars. It was a bit pricier but it was delicious). And Riley and Joe got the joy of people watching, which they love to do. Over the chest-high wall, through the windows next to our booth. Creepers.

We also got Joe a bed today! He has for a while now been sleeping on a memory foam pad on the floor, and seemed comfy enough, but when we saw a cute little wood bed at Unique Thrift for 10 dollars, we of course had to get it. I asked him if he'd like a new bed and he said, "No - that bed is for puppies!" I felt a little bad explaining to him that no, little boys sleep on beds, and that was going to be his bed. Poor people! Am I right? Although, I have toyed with the idea of someday all sleeping on mats on the floor, like Japanese people, out of principle. I hate moving, and that alone makes me want to be a minimalist.

And now I am the only one awake around here. Not a creature is stirring; I'm going to go join them.

*Have you read, "The Art of Racing in the Rain"? It is a book written from the perspective of the family dog but... it kind of blew my mind. So much I could say about this book but I think the greatest take-away for me was that the struggle is won inside ourselves first before victory manifests in the real world. We'll be talking about it in book club this month, but if you've read it and want to discuss, hit me back!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Halloween of 2014. And the decade.

I feel like we spent more time in costume this past week than out of it! Let me share our crazy festive week with you:

Halloween Party #1: St. Paul Ward

Last week we went to our old church family's ward for their halloween party and trunk-or-treat. It was wonderful to reconnect with old friends and there were lots of fun games and crafts to keep the kids busy. The young men ran the games, I think. They are a good bunch of kids.
 We forgot to take any family pictures, but Riley was a princess, Joe a dragon, Dave a knight, and I a (hastily thrown together) fairy godmother. If you ask Joe, though, Dave was a tunnel. Joe loves tunnels, and when he saw Dave duck-taping a card board box to look like armor, I guess he thought it looked like a tunnel. We went with it - it's all about the kids, right?

Preschool Halloween Costume Day
That's about as good a group shot as you're gonna get with these little rascals (missing the third batman - he was shy, behind a chair)

 Roseville Library Halloween Story Time

Riley and the story time lady dressed matching! Riley felt a little jealous of the three Batmans at preschool the day before, so I was glad she had a twin at story time. And the teacher, no less! She was pretty excited.
Catching some screen time at the library. In style.

Halloween Day!
We went to the Gleason's Gymnasium in Eagon Halloween morning. The plan was to exhaust the children so they would nap for trick-or-treating. I only succeeded with the first part - they were pretty tired after this activity, but they woke up when I got them out of the car and that was the end of nap time. I think we've seen the last of decent naps with these two. 
But they had a great time!

Roseville Mall Trick-or-Treat

Halloween was a clear chilly day - 30 degrees - and Riley did NOT want to put a coat on over her costume so we went to the mall where, I learned, trick or treating happens every Halloween as a safer alternative to traditional door-to-door. Dave almost had me convinced it wasn't the most ghetto trick-or-treat ever, but then a fight broke out among a bunch of saggy-pants teenagers. Luckily, the children didn't even notice - they were occupied with the hunt! They came home with all kinds of booty. And coupons, since, you know, the mall and all.

They got quite a haul. Luckily, they forget about it the day after if it is out of sight, so really they have only enjoyed a handful of candy each. Unluckily, I never forget about candy.,,

Last Halloween Party: New Brighton Ward
 Our ward had a hopping party. Chili cook-off (I will find the owner of that turkey and butternut squash chili and I will steal their recipe), costumes, treats, balloon animals, and dance off.
 And I made a really ridiculous movie mostly of Joe having the time of his life. For a full minute of dance-fights, see below:
(For best picture, watch it on Youtube)

Whew. Well, I think we maxed out the milage for that holiday. Such a fun week, which I'm glad is over. All that partying is great but I'm a routine kind of girl (aren't we all?). Plus Riley and Joe have been too wound up not only for naps but even full night sleeps. Enough is enough. 

But er, Happy Halloween ya'll!