Got 20 Minutes for Prep? Easy Dinners


Recently I’ve had some requests for easy weeknight dinners recipes so I thought I’d share them here.  I have no pictures so I may throw in a random picture I like so it’s not a completely boring post.  The no pictures of food is intentional.  I’m a bit of a photo snob.  I can’t pull off appetizing looking soup.  Also, I also like to “play with tastes” so I’m giving you recipes with country girl-style because I don’t give you exact measurements (like using landmarks rather than street names to give directions).  This will drive some of you crazy.  I apologize in advance and just encourage you to live on the wild side and follow along.  I think you may even find you like it.

Recipe #1 — Turkey and Bean Chili


1 container of ground turkey from Costco (Foster Farms)

1 brown, yellow OR white onion

seasoning for turkey — I love Cabo Seasoning from Shenandoah at the Arbor in Los Alamitos (so for you non-locals season with some type of seasoning salt)

2 cans of white beans (navy or Cannellini work well), black beans also work but Kidney beans are a bit too bitter in my opinion

8 oz of frozen corn (much better for you than canned corn which is full of sodium)

8 to 10 oz of cut up mixed bell peppers (I get mine from Trader Joes) OR two fresh, sliced red, yellow, or orange pepper

2 – 3 cups chicken broth

oregano to taste

Directions:  Brown turkey meat with onion, season as it browns.  Put in either crock pot or big pan.  Add all the remaining ingredients.  Then you can do one of two things — make early in day and cook in crock pot, cooking on low for two to three hours OR you can cook on stove for 30 minutes.  If you use fresh bell peppers, you may want to saute first for stove-top but for crock pot they soften nicely on their own.)  Bring the chili to a boil if cooking on stove top and then put on low for 20 to 30 minutes.  This makes great leftovers and can be frozen as well.  It really tastes better the longer it can cook as long as the beans don’t get mushy.

Recipe #2 — Quesadilla

Flour Tortilla and Mexican Cheese — look up how to make from someone way more detailed than me.

Additional Toppings — Salsa, Black Bean from Trader Joe’s — (Amazing! for all you spice lovers), cooked chicken, jalapenos, and green onions.

Recipe #3 — Tacos

So I’m only calling this a recipe to keep the format of this post.  But really, think of this as a suggestion for an easy dinner because why reinvent the wheel with my special spin on tacos.  Create your own special spin with your favorite Mexican/ Spanish flavors.  We make this at least once every two weeks and though my kids may get sick of it, it’s a nutritious meal with our fresh veggies and fruit.

Recipe #4 — Homemade Pizza

We buy our pizza dough because it’s just faster but for those of you who may have more time, there are some good recipes out there for dough.  We use store bought pizza sauce, we like Trader Joe’s but you can also use spaghetti sauce, which is usually more flavorful and is cheaper.  For the rest of the ingredients, I just want to say, play, play, play.  We make ours with Mozzarella cheese because my kids don’t really like a strong cheese but there are plenty of cheese options out there.

Topping Suggestions:

Sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, pineapple, bell peppers, olives, hot peppers, sauteed onions, bacon bits, and so many others.

We have a pizza pan but you could also use a cookie sheet for baking.  We follow the dough directions for cooking.

Enjoy!  Hopefully this will help those “what do I make for dinner and it’s 5 pm” times.

As promised my random photo, lil e’s Christmas gingerbread man.


Vegas, Baby, the Second Time


We spent part of our Christmas break in Vegas.  I definitely had a bit of trepidation before going…Vegas may have lots of kids’ attractions, but it isn’t exactly kid “eye-friendly” if you know what I mean.  Thankfully, it was one of the coldest weeks on record so we saw no one inappropriately dressed!  Divine intervention?  Perhaps, it definitely answered my prayers surrounding inappropriate flyers or attire but regardless, of divine or not, it definitely worked to keep all the body parts that should remain hidden in public, hidden in public.  Even the showgirls on the strip posing for photographs were wearing fur coats!  This mama bear was extremely happy!

I’ve gotten several requests to take you, the reader, through our kid-friendly vacay so here it is.


Day 1 — before we hit Las Vegas:  Hoover Dam and the Mike O’Callaghan and Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Hoover Dam We walked on the bridge…definitely felt a bit tingling, not for those afraid of heights.  This bridge is massive.  Then, we toured the dam informally in the museum/visitors center.  Since we were there at peak visitation, the wait was too long for us for their generator tours and such.     IMG_3681

Every day — Dennis cooked us a great breakfast in the room that lasted until mid-afternoon so we not only saved money, but saved calories for those who need saving.

Day 2:  Dennis and I bought the 3 for $57 deal (which was a choice of 6 different options).  First stop, Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.  This place was fabulous for us.  Highlight — Lion roaring at us when were were only two arm lengths away.  You can see where my love is…no dolphin pictures (though they were cool) but here are some highlights from our visit.

Even though lions and large cats are nocturnal, many of the animals were active with the exception of the white tiger.

IMG_3694Aren’t these 9 month old cubs, fabulous?  There was a trainer in the cage playing ball with them.  I will say, the posters have them much smaller so lil e was greatly disappointed and said, these were the same as adult cats.  No amount of “look at how big their paws are, they still need to grow” changed his perspective.  IMG_3739 IMG_3753Shadow the Black Panther — the only name I noticed. Shadow the Black LeopardSome play?!  Again, we were super, super close and these lions roared at us.  We loved it! IMG_3787Since Dennis’ breakfast aren’t supernatural, we needed food mid-afternoon.  There is no better place to break bread, then Serendipity 3 at Caesar’s Palace.  A missed picture opportunity — their desserts.  You MUST, MUST save room.  R.I.D.I.C.U.L.O.U.S.   Serendipity 3Following lunch, we went into Caesar’s Palace for a free showing of the Fall of Atlantis.  An 11 minute show in front of a very cool aquarium.  Now this show, lil e loved, being in pictures like the one above, not so much) IMG_3838 IMG_3839Then we called it a day and watched FOOTBALL back at the room!  (Just so I’m not redundant, we watched football every night back at the room!)

Day 3:  Adventuredome all day (part of our package of 3 for $57) and Cirque Du Soleil

IMG_3843 IMG_3849 IMG_3868 IMG_3870Me after the roller coaster ride where even my part is confused.  Here, I’m imagining anything other than puking.  I went to the car and laid down for an hour Laser tag was my next ride choice.  IMG_3875 Frog Hopper…lil e went on it about 10 times.IMG_3898Cique Du Soleil Show.  We got a great family 4 pack deal and saw yet another fabulous show by them.  I’ve seen 3 of their shows and have never been disappointed. IMG_3916 IMG_3930 IMG_3932Day 4: Exploring the Strip — getting our daily walk on in

At the Cosmo — my next car…

IMG_3936The Bellagio is spectacular this time of year with their flower displays.  These polar bears are made of carnations.    IMG_3940These log cabins are made of chocolate logs, mini wheat roof, and variety of candy canes.  They took two people 4 weeks to make.IMG_3958IMG_3941This is the world’s largest chocolate fountain.  Forget Disneyland.  THIS is the happiest place on earth — Jean Phillipe PatisserieIMG_3983IMG_3984 And here are two examples of what made our stomachs and taste buds happy indeed. IMG_3979IMG_3978 This was New Year’s Eve, which we celebrated in our room after watching a Nathan Burton comedy show at Planet Hollywood AND the free rainstorm show (worth missing).  We all stayed up and enjoyed the fireworks coming up from Planet Hollywood.  Kids weren’t into going out in the freezing weather to catch the fireworks from anywhere else so we obliged, after all they were spectacular to us!

IMG_4002 IMG_3999Day 5 – Sleep in and spend the day watching football with good friends who happen to live in Summerlin (outskirts of Vegas).

Day 6 — Shark Reef in Mandalay Bay — FABULOUS (the last part of our 3 for $57)

WAIT — This isn’t a shark!!  Who said there would be something bigger and better?  A DRAGON!  He looks like he wants to eat me.

IMG_4007We love the Long Beach Aquarium but Shark Reef has a SIC shark reef.  There are a half dozen or so different kinds and it goes over and under you in parts, plus the mere size of the green sawfish combined with the teeth of the sand tiger shark makes it intimidating and almost scary — which is what it’s about really.IMG_4035 Now, this was a spectacular surprise, our nocturnal friend here was awake.  I stayed here while the rest of the family finished the exhibit about ten minutes just watching this beautiful Pacific Ocean Octopus.  This one is four years old, which is old age for an octopus.  In order to get food, it must solve puzzles, open boxes, etc. because Octopus’ are incredibly smart and in captivity, they still need to work for their food.  They are also little Houdinis so their tank is the only one that actually has a lock on it!  IMG_4036 IMG_4042 Love Lion Fish.IMG_4050 Day 7: Day Trip to Red Rock Canyon and Red Rock Casino

We started the day with a buffet, actually the only one of the trip.  Before touring the beautiful hotel in the Red Rock Casino.  We’ve already determined we’re staying here next time.  They have a 60 lane bowling alley, a Kid’s Klub, and an arcade.  Also, should we want to gamble, they even have some smoke-free slots.  A real treat in Vegas.

Here is the beautiful lobby chandelier.IMG_4064 A view from the $3000 a night room we will be getting next time.  (Or not) IMG_4065Our second choice suite — $750 a night IMG_4068 My favorite part of Red Rock Canyon besides the red rock itself were the tortoise crossing signs. (Which sadly I failed to get a picture of)IMG_4080 IMG_4102 IMG_4103 Temperatures were a bit chilly — froze the waterfall.  IMG_4174 We did see some wild burros which were too far away to get pictures of but other than that, all the animals were probably around a big bonfire trying to stay warm.

And that’s our trip to Vegas!  We had a blast, which delivered nothing in the way of personality change (see lil e) but delivered laughter and goodness to our souls.

And in the words of lil e, “When I get to play technology, then I sleep better,” the drive was a piece of cake thanks to Tablets and motion sickness armbands.


Yearly Reflections 2014

I love to do yearly reflections as well as new year resolutions.  I consider it to be an important time to consider if I’m going where I want to go or living how I want to live.  Last year, I found the following questions on one of my favorite blogs, Rage Against the Minivan, who appears to have “stolen it” from another blogger who has taken it from another blogger, etc. and I wanted to continue by starting my year again answering these questions.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I “swam” in the Boiling River in Montana, which is a river where hot springs meet a river and creates an interesting experience of feeling boiling hot water and ice cold water sometimes within inches of each other.  The temperature outside was a brisk 50 degrees but the warm pockets in the river made it worth any coldness we experienced on the short hike out to our car.

The Boiling River


Another thing I tried this year was pole dancing for exercise.  I found the experience incredibly fun, I loved twirling on the bar and challenging physically.  It took me a long time to get up the nerve to actually do it and I was grateful I found the courage to try something new that involved body movement.  It was liberating.  And.  There will be no pictures for that one.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Like every year, I kept some of my new year’s resolutions and not others.  I could pretty much say the same things I did last year, which lets me know how committed I am to some parts of my life and not others.  I was successful in my career goals.  However, I wanted to blog more regularly and just didn’t create the time.  I was also successful in connecting with friends regularly and staying committed to two regular meeting groups but I had wanted to have a “fun” night out every month and that happened irregularly.  Health goals were hit and miss but I did gain understanding of what really works for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and need to do a better job of preparing veggies one or two times a week so we can have them for snacks rather than going for the baby carrots every time.  I also hope to meal plan a better variety of foods rather than our go to meals of tacos, spaghetti, and Costco rotisserie chicken.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No.  The first year in a long time my group of friends and family didn’t welcome someone new.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, good friend, Amy died after her 6 year battle with brain cancer.  She experienced some years of remission before it came back aggressively a year ago March.  She did not want to die.  I didn’t want her to either.

5. What countries or new places did you visit?

While I would love to write I traveled outside of the country, it didn’t happen.  However, I traveled to the first time to Montana and enjoyed Yellowstone National Park as well as Red Lodge where we saw a black bear.  We also went to Antelope Canyon in Utah and Walnut Canyon in Arizona, two places I had never been.

Black Bear in Red Lodge

Black Bear in Red Lodge

Yellowstone ImagesIMG_2880 IMG_2820 IMG_2799Walnut Canyon

IMG_1356 IMG_1358

Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ

IMG_1450 IMG_1482 IMG_17336. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

I would like to have a routine planning time where I meal plan for the week, enter budgeting information, identify time for writing and exercise, and daily prayer/ meditation.  I find if I do not plan well, quality of meals, spending habits and healthy choices get compromised.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

June 20th, the day I learned my friend, Amy died. October 30th, the evening I received a call from my dear family friend, Barbara, who told me my Mom had been “air-vaced” to Seattle for bleeding in her brain.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I continued my work on my memoir and will be submitting it to an editor and then agent for hopeful publication.  I will have my huge school bill paid off in 2015.  I am also proud of all the fun outings we planned as a family.  We made some incredible memories, many of them cost us only time.

9. What was your biggest failure?

1) Purging and organizing my garage, I just never created time for it after Dennis, my husband, put up shelves.  2) Failing to live with a budget.  We want to pay off my still large school loan in two years, which means living intentionally with our finances.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My hips and back have been injured for much of the year.  I haven’t been able to do the type of physical activity I was doing before but am hoping that by adjusting what I’m doing, I’ll find healing.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I made big canvases out of several of my photographs and hung them in my house.  These are two of my favorites.



12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage, taxes

13. What did you get really excited about?

Visiting National Parks and Forests.  This year we visited the national forests by Sedona, Walnut Canyon (a national monument), Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Sequoias.  In 2015, we hope to visit Red Rock National Park and hopefully make another trip to the Sequoias.

14. What song will always remind you of 2014?

Counting Stars by One Republic.  This was one of my favorite concerts of the year.  Eden and I saw them at the Hollywood Bowl.  There are so many lines in this song I love but my favorite is, “Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.”  I love the honesty this song gets at about the struggles of life and the striving for dreams and how we sabotage ourselves by how we cope.  I can relate not so much in terms of having blatant addictions; instead, in terms of how I emotionally protect myself by isolating when I need connection, by staying silent when I need to speak up, by speaking up when I need to be silent, and by doing all those things that are intuitive and which I do unquestionably — many of which take me away from relationship and deeper into my unhealthy ways of coping.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder?  I’m sadder than last year, I’ve been grieving the loss of my dear friend, Amy since June as well as grieving some realities about my life story which are painful.  However, (and I don’t want to just sugar coat my sadness) I’ve experienced some of the most joy and laughter as a Mom this year than I ever have.

– thinner or fatter?  I’m sure I’m fatter though I haven’t gone up any clothing sizes.  I’m ending a two week vacation, one week which was spent in Vegas which has AMAZING, AMAZING dessert establishments (did I mention they were amazing!?).  I’m hoping it doesn’t take all year to lose whatever pounds I’m gaining while enjoying mounds of chocolate.

– richer or poorer?   Richer but our commitment to paying off school debt hasn’t translated into feeling richer.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I would’ve spent more time with God, listening and praying.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Surfing the internet

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With my husband’s family in the Phoenix area before traveling to Sedona for a quick stay and finally, ending our Christmas vacation in Las Vegas where we got to experience the crowds and New Year’s Eve fireworks.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Same as last year, Parks and Recreation (though I’m only on season 5) and The Voice; guilty pleasure — Nashville

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

Brainstorm by Dan Siegel; and books I read written in previous years — Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, and Integrity by Henry Cloud.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Philip Phillips album was probably my favorite from the year.  I also enjoyed new music from The Script, American Authors, and Five for Fighting.

22. What was your favorite film of the year?

I loved Philomena, one of the only movies I saw that wasn’t rated G in the movie theaters.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

43, I went to hear Jerry Sittser speak at Biola, which was simply amazing, and ate my favorite restaurant, Panda Inn and I don’t think my age matters anymore.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having landed an agent to publish my book.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Lots of tops with asymmetrical lines and leggings or skinny jeans with hair down, curly, and long.  Bohemian casual to Bohemian dressed up (for work)….and ankle boots.

IMG_3130The backdrop almost looks fake, but it isn’t.  The picture was taken in Montana on a fun, picnic hike to Ousel Falls.

26. What kept you sane?

Nature, dinners with friends and family, prayer and meditation (God’s presence), laughter, writing, meeting weekly with my mentor, and deepening friendships.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Should your death be anything but immediate, you will most likely die in much of the same manner that you lived — the fruit you bear will be recognized as coming from you (for better and for worse).