Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The saddest soup story you ever heard.

I found a delicious recipe back in 2009 in our community magazine. I've made this soup several times during the cold Autumn/Winter months in the last few years. I've even made it two nights in a row. Not because it's so yummy (which it is) but because of some unfortunate events out of my control.

I was so gung-ho on making this soup that I wanted to do every bit of chopping, slicing, cubing, pouring, measuring, seasoning, tasting, and stirring myself. I bought 2 different kinds of squash and a pumpkin. I cut each of them open, scraped out all of the guts and seeds, and cubed each one of those darned things. It was quite labor intensive and not a bit of fun. I finally reached the end result of this wonderful recipe. I proudly escorted that soup pot to a beautifully set table. Just moments before saying the prayer on the food one of my children was doing something silly (I can't even remeber exactly what) with his glass of water. It slipped out of his hand and crashed on the table splashing water and projectiling glass shards everywhere. Including into the pot of my beloved soup. I am not proud to say this but I absolutely lost it. I threw a tempter tantrum that could rival any toddler's. I felt my blood-pressure sky rocket. I cried. I yelled. Then I went to my bedroom for a self-inflicted time out and cried some more because of how I behaved. But I have 3 little words that will justify my behavior and stop your judgements right now.... I was pregnant.

My understanding, patient, and very apologetic boy waited outside my door until his very wise, understanding, patient dad thought it was time he could come in and have a heart to heart with me. We cuddled. We apologized. We cried some more. We hugged. And we decided to go out for pizza instead. (The soup was made again the next night using pre-chopped pumpkin).

Learn from my mistakes! If you make this soup... and I strongly suggest you do.... enjoy all the slicing, pouring, measuring, seasoning, tasting, and stirring but please oh PLEASE leave the chopping to someone else. I strongly believe that if I didn't have to do all of that work I wouldn't have had such a strong reaction. It's really an easy soup to make if you just buy pre-chopped stuff. It's totally worth paying the extra dough. Costco has cubed butternut squash this time of year and that's the only squash/pumpkin I put in this soup anymore. But if you decide to go the longer route then more power to you. Good luck. You are a better cook than I. Here's the recipe. Double it. And let me just add, if soup were a candy.... this would be it!! (It's not super healthy. Get over it.) ;~)

This is how I make it now. This is the "undoubled" version that feeds 5 and leaves us wanting more every time.

1/2 cup chopped bacon

1 cup green onion

2 cups cubed red-skin potatoes (DIY. It's OK.)

2 cups cubed butternut squash (Don't DIY. Scary. Danger. Go to Costco.)

1 quart broth

1 cup cream

1 tsp sage (or rosemary)

1 tsp parsley

salt & pepper to taste

2 T brown sugar

In a large soup pot cook bacon slowly to render fat. When bacon is crisp and brown remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Once cooled chop bacon. Set aside. Saute green onions in bacon fat for 3 minutes. Add potatoes and squash. Cook for 5 minutes stirring ocassionally. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat them simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add cream and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add brown sugar. Add bacon. Enjoy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Soups On!!.... All week!!

It's been a long time since I've done a recipe post. With the weather turning cold and the sun going down earlier we seem to be hunkering down and going for some warm comfort foods. I figured this recipe is worth sharing with the 2 or 3 of you who stop by to read this blog every once in a while.

But let me start out by saying this...

I am a list maker. I make lists for everything. I love lists. Lists keep me organized. They keep me on task. And I love the feeling of accomplishment when I get to cross something off my list. I may be a bit obsessive-compulsive but if I have already accomplished a task before making my list I will even write down that task just so I can cross it off. I think it's good to see in black and white the things you need to and CAN accomplish in a day if you just stay focused.

I especially, 100%, and without exception HAVE to have a list made when I go grocery shopping. I sit down, plan out my menus, scan the fridge and pantry for needed items, and happily make my list. I feel out of control if I just haphazardly throw things in the cart. I feel scattered, confused, and to be honest... a little dirty. I know. Crazy, right? I think my husband appreciates the organized me but thinks my list habit is a bit silly. The few times I've done my shopping his way and shopped without a list I ended up spending more money than necessary, forgot items that I needed, and ended up with things in the pantry that I'm pretty sure are still in there.

Well, this morning he actually sat down with me to make my weekly menu. I gladly welcomed his input on our family dining plan. He totally got caught up perusing the cookbooks for ideas and before either of us knew it he had the pen and paper and HE was making the list. He came up with the brilliant idea of having soup all.... Week.... Long. It took me a few minutes to hop on board with the idea. I didn't want to get bored in the kitchen thus lowering the quality of food coming to the table. And I certainly did not want to hear the whiny complaints of my children (who are good eaters) about having soup, yet again. But I caught the vision and we came up with some soups that are different enough that we won't bore our palates and I am looking forward to a week of easy meals that I think my family will love.

Tonight's soup is Kielbasa and Kale Soup. I found the recipe when I was pregnant with Mercedes in a Fit Pregnancy magazine and it's been a favorite ever since. It might sound like a strange combination but it is yummy. Even my kids like it. It's a broth-based soup and so super healthy. The least healthy thing in there is possibly the Kielbasa but I use Healthy Choice's brand since it has less fat. It is so easy to throw together and you can actually SEE how healthy it is. (Did I mention how yummy and healthy this soup is?) For those of you who actually try this out, come back and let me know how you like it. I won't be offended one way or another. Here it is:

1 large onion, chopped

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 lb. sweet potatoes or yams (scrubbed and diced)

1 (14 oz) pkg. low fat Kielbasa, sliced

3/4 lb. kale, stems trimmed and leaves coarsely chopoped

Coat a large soup pot with nonstick spray. Add onion and saute over med-high heat, until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in all other ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Friday, November 4, 2011

One on One

Last weekend while my older kids were either babysitting, having sleepovers, at the movies, or celebrating the "tweens" at a Beehive/Deacon party, Reef was getting some special one on one time with his Dad.

They started out by heading to one of Dad's favorite surf spots and paddling out into the line-up. Reef was stoked about catching two waves. He not only loves the liberating feeling of heading down the line on his own board but he loves the adventure of the fall and trying to outpaddle the larger sets that roll through. This kid will get rumbled and come up to the surface smiling. I've seen it with my own eyes. The only thing that keeps me from pacing the floors nervously until they return to dry land is the fact that I have complete and utter faith in the man that I married and his respect and knowledge of the ocean. I've seen him take a mild beating himself to make sure that his little ones are safe in the water. He's right next to them at every paddle, every drop-in, every duck dive, and he's beaming from ear to ear. Remember this post? Well, I believe my kids are starting to form their own love for the ocean and for the sport of surfing.

After surfing it was off to watch the Cold Water Classic surf contest and try to spy some professional surfers. Reef got some head nods and smiles from a few recognizable contestants. This kid is not shy and I'm pretty sure if he was given the chance to speak to any of these guys he would have asked them all about why they love to surf, how old they are, what their name is, if they have kids, why they have so many tattoos, and if they think they're a better surfer than his dad. (Because, let's face it, when you're a kid, NOBODY is better than your dad at ANYTHING.) And that's exactly as it should be.

Reef's got a personality that never quits. It's a whole other entity in and of itself. He's also a very deep thinker. He will ask me things like, "Will this dead cow that I'm eatting get resurrected?" "Jesus created the world, right? Well then does that mean he invented cigarettes, too or did Satan do that?" "If somebody kidnapped me would you jump in the car and crash into the kidnappers car to save me.... or would you get a gun out of Dad's gun safe and shoot a bad guy if they were trying to hurt our family?" He is obsessed with "hobos" right now and asks me funny things like if hobos eat fruit , how people become hobos, if hobos are mean to their brothers and sisters. He can handle himself in social situations like no other 6 year old I've ever seen. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes not. He keeps me on my toes physically and mentally.

While at the contest they got to go inside a video game and be an actual part of the game. I still am a bit confused on the details of this but they both assured me it was a pretty cool experience. Coming from two people who are not "gamers" I don't know if they fully appreciated the opportunity or if it was kind of lame and they just don't have much to compare it to. No matter what the case may be, I love the look on Reef's face in the picture below. It tells me that this precocious little boy that I love is just that.... a little boy.

Next up was meeting Ward Coffey, the shaper who is making Brandon's new, custom surfboard (early Christmas present). He talked this guys ear off and Ward ate it up. I think they talked about everything under the sun except for politics. Reef still confuses the names Osama and Obama so that's probably for the best. (We don't really bring up either of those names in our house, anyway.) Reef got to see how surfboards are made and learned about different board shapes and styles.

They had a fun-filled day and I do feel the tiniest bit as if I missed out. But I know that these one on one moments are important and to be honest I think that the dynamic of the day would have changed with a mom tagging along. All in all, I think if you asked them, both father and son would say that this was the best 'playdate' that either of them have had in a long time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

He's Found His Calling In Life

He rules the roost in our household....

Why not down at the church, too?

Monday, October 31, 2011


I have so much blogging to catch up on that it's overwhelming. My goal is to TRY to do at least 1 post a day. This is my way of journaling and scrapbooking so there are things that I want to document before the details get fuzzy. I'm thinking it's best to start with current happenings and go backwards from there. But also try to keep current as day to day life continues to happen. So we'll start with Halloween...

I was pretty lame this year and forgot to take my camera with me to school, Trunk or Treat, and Trick or Treating but at least I captured some moments with my phone.

You can always count on Kathryn to have some great, original costume. Mercedes is the White Queen from the Johnny Depp version of Alice in Wonderland. (A few of her friends were also characters from the movie.)

.........Brooklyn was the "Black Queen".

Reef started out wanting to be a werewolf but chose to be Batman instead. His best bud Cody is a zombie dirtbiker.

Beau is also a zombie (baseball player). It's hard to see his makeup with how bright the sun was shining. This is the second year in a row that Beau wanted to be some kind of zombie. Last year it was a "dead" (zombie) dirtbiker. I tried to talk him out of it this year but zombies are the easiest costume EVER. This kid is happy with whatever he's got in his closet and a little bit of face makeup.

Each of our kids have worn this pumpkin costume. It's so simple but so adorable. Re-using old costumes makes it easy to justify splurging on a toothy pacifier.

We partied from 9am until 10pm. After a school parade, a classroom carnival, nacho party, Trunk or Treat, Trick or Treating with friends, and a pre-teen party we are all wiped out.

Especially this little guy. No amount of suckers could keep him awake.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Significant Subtlety

I walked in the door this morning after dropping kids off at school. My husband greeted me with a smile and a loving demand to give him a kiss. I leaned in and as he wrapped me in his arms he whispered, "Happy Anniversary".


Now it's not that I forgot about the signifigance of this day. Just last week I was chatting with a friend and the topic of marriage came up (as it often does). I casually mentioned that we'd be celebrating our 14th anniversary at the baseball field. My main squeeze would be coaching our 6 year old's team and this old ball and chain would be at an adjacent field, in the stands cheering on our 8 year old.

We had a great day despite the lack of a formal celebration. He worked, repaired, bargained, loaded, did some bids, sweat, drove, coached, diapered and provided. I cleaned, organized, laundered, answered phones, scheduled jobs, taxied kids around, cooked, helped with homework, cheered, diapered, and nurtured. But this is just the life we live. We are happily wrapped up in each other. Always.

There was no exchange of gifts. We stole kisses and hugs from one another a few times more than we usually do in a day. I left the game I was watching to take him a cold drink from the snack bar. He cleaned up the kitchen after a picnic-style dinner of buffalo wings and veggie sticks. (Not too romantic, but homemade none-the-less.)

Today we "celebrated" 14 blissful years of marriage in our minds and in our hearts. We pondered on the last 14 years in the quiet moments of the day. Our journey together has afforded us opportunities to witness miracles both big and small... 4 of those miracles bring us both frustrations and joy on a daily basis. (I'm not counting the dogs. They mainly bring frustrations. Well, for me, anyway.)

I am a lucky girl to have this man as my eternal companion. It's cliche but he really is my best friend. We laugh often. I think it's one of our favorite things to do together. We have our inside jokes. We kiss and hug in front of the kids. We date. We text love notes to eachother.

It's true that this blog post might be the most attention that's been paid to our 14th Anniversary. I grabbed the camera and had one of my miracles snap a picture of us real quick before going up to bed. The day might have passed without much fanfare. But that doesn't mean it didn't hold any less emotion, appreciation, love or excitement at the prospects of eternity than some of our past years have.

We're just 14 short years into forever. And I can't wait for what's to come.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Just Can't Get Enough

Of these eyes...

Of this (sticky) mouth...

Of these little hands...

Of these cheeks...

Of this baby boy...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thank you, Sir. May I have another?

If you've never heard of the Ragnar Relay Series then go here . Last weekend I had the opportunity to be part of a running team in the first ever Napa Valley Ragnar. San Francisco to Calistoga. 186 miles!! I absolutely loved it.

Highlights from the race.....

Sharing Van 1 with these people

(Caroline, Arnell, Me, Melinda, Mark, "Sanchez")

Finishing the race together as a team of 12

Running into friends on another team and getting to visit with them throughout the race.

No picture of Debbie but had fun texting with her and sharing hugs at every exchange!!

Running through beautiful areas

Having a "slumber party" in the hotel room.

(I forgot my camera but would have loved a picture of Brandon sleeping on the window seat and "Sanchez" sleeping under a table.)

One of the slogans of the Ragnar Series is "Run. Drive. Rest? Repeat"


I was lucky runner #1 which means I got to run across the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, 2 of my 3 runs were early, early in the morning. Downside? Having to run with a reflective vest, headlamp, and "taillight". Upside? Only having to run one of my legs in the heat of the day!


Decorating your ride is a must in Ragnar. Our team name was "Thrill of Victory... Agony of Da' Feet". It was fun to see how creative peoople got with their team names and their vans.


Don't be fooled by our casual cuddling. Rest was a hard thing to do. I personally found this part harder than the running.


Yes, I will definitely repeat!! Call me crazy, but I think I'm addicted!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"I Am"

Keeping in the homework assignment theme, this is an assignment that Beau did a few years ago in 2nd grade. I loved it so much I have had it hanging inside the pantry door. It's obvious what he loves to do, what a sweetheart he his, and what he dreams about.

I Am

I am Beau

I see books

I hear dirt bikes

I touch dirt bikes

I taste chocolate

I smell 2 stroke gas

I am helpful

I wonder how my family feels

I hope my family is happy

I wish I get first place trophy

I know we have fun

I love my family

I am Beau

Friday, August 26, 2011

In a million words or less....

I have a lot of blogging to catch up on. If I don't hurry up I'll have a year's worth of pictures and events to post about all at once. (yikes). Thank goodness for a friend who urged me to do this post. Hopefully it will get me back into blogging mode. I've definitely missed it.


It's been almost 15 years since I've been assigned homework by a teacher. Who would have thought that sending my daughter off to 7th grade would change that? Her Language Arts teacher sent home an assignment for the parents to tell her about your child in "a million words or less". So... for posterity's sake, here it is. (I can neither confirm nor deny whether Brandon got teary eyed and choked up when I read it to him. I'm just sayin'.)

Million Word Assignment

My daughter, Mercedes Sowards, is an amazing young woman and I feel lucky to have her as my oldest child. She is a very responsible person and not only is she fun to be around but she is very helpful here at home with her three younger brothers. I feel very envious of her teachers who get to spend the day with her. I miss her when she’s gone but I know that when she is away she is learning lessons both academically and socially that will shape her into the woman she will someday be.
Mercedes has enjoyed school ever since she was in Kindergarten. She always received above satisfactory marks as well as great compliments from every one of her teachers. Once she started earning letter grades in 4th grade she came to realize how much fun it was to receive A’s on her report card. She made the decision to strive for straight A’s all through school and thus far she has been able to accomplish that. She’s even gone as far as to tell her 5th grade teacher at the beginning of the school year what her intentions were, grade-wise, and challenged him to teach her well so she could study the material and “ace” her tests so as to complete her first goal of earning Principles List for all of her elementary school years. Mercedes becomes discouraged if she earns a B on a test or assignment but takes that as her cue to regroup and plow ahead in order to make up for it.
Mercedes is an avid reader. She loves most books but as of late has found it hard to sit through any type of fairy tale or mythical material of any kind. She is currently reading the Hunger Games series for the fourth or fifth time, I’ve lost track. She started reading the Harry Potter books when she was in 3rd or 4th grade but although she loves the movies she’s lost interest in the books. Some would say she is quite sheltered as we have not allowed her to read the Twilight series or see the movies yet. Mercedes once asked me why that was. True to her naturally obedient form she has never once questioned my parental judgment on the matter again.
Mercedes is quite the “girly tomboy”. She loves clothes, makeup, shopping, dancing, and has even had a few crushes. But she also owns a dirt bike, loves to surf with her dad and brothers, wakeboards, skates and feels immense pride when she beats any of the boys at running. She was quite disappointed that sports have been cut from Rancho. She ran Cross Country as a 6th grader and was ready to join the Track and Field team.
Mercedes is a friend in every sense of the word. She has her close friends that seem to be attached at the hip but she is very aware of those around her who might need a friend. When courage to extend herself to these lonely ones fails her she is at least good for a friendly smile and a shy “hello”. She is very loyal and even when she has been hurt or has felt left out she is very quick to forgive as well as forget.
My word count at the end of this sentence will be 556. Trust me; I could fill volumes with praises and outspoken love and adoration for my only daughter. But I know that there are many other wonderful students you still are waiting to read about. I hope my “Million Word Assignment”, though much less than a million words, has given you some insight to my daughter and what a great girl and student she is. She is very loved here at home and I am confident that you will soon know why. Take good care of her, please. She’s worth more than a million. A million dollars, a million words … a million anything.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Civic Duties

Remember how the early bird caught the worm? That poor worm got up early, too and what good did it do him? What an ironic end to what probably started out as a beautiful, Spring day. I think it'd be fair to say that his early rise turned out to be quite an inconvenience. Well so is jury duty!!!

I'm baffled at some of my fellow citizens and their excuses as to why they can't serve.

"I'm highly claustrophobic and get anxious in enclosed spaces. I even have a hard time in the back seat of a car." (Lucky me.... this guy is Juror #4)

"I have health issues and sitting down for long periods of time makes my ankles swell and it's not good for my arthritis either." (Seriously? Judging from the way you walked in here, Ms. Cankles I'm sure sitting down for long periods of time is EXACTLY what you do all day....probably tuned in to The People's Court anyway. Why not stay awhile and experience the real thing? No? Okay, dismissed.)

"I got a problem wit' authority." (Buh-bye. Dang. That was too easy. Why didn't I think of that one?)

"I have two daughters. One is only a year and she's used to being around me all day. I just don't think I could leave her." (Hello. Meet my 10 month old son who is also used to being around his mommy all day. Sorry he's not very friendly at the moment. He's been riding around in a truck all day with his daddy so that his mother could be a responsible citizen.)

"I pretty much have a strong animosity toward Distric Attorneys. Why? Oh, because of my previous experience going to trial for narcotic abuse, narcotic posessions & narcotic sales. I think the DA likes to make things up to sound more interesting. But I guess I could be impartial and fair." (Really? What would make you think that? Oh... the narcotics. Right.)

"I really want to serve on this jury. I've been a juror before and it was a great experience. But is there any way that we could start tomorrow around 1 pm so that I can get in touch with all of my clients first?" (Sure. Because of course the Defendant and the DA and the rest of us jurors all agree that the world revolves around you. NOT! But welcome back to jury duty, Juror #11!)

"Sorry, I donta speaka English." (Unless you say something like, "Okay. This is a unique instance. I understand your situation. You're excused from this responsibility." ....I understand that phrase muy bien!!)

So I guess I'll be dropping off the social grid for a few days. I'll be missing my babies, my hubby, my laundry, my Scouts, my vacuum, my errands, my mop, my friends, my music, my business calls... to name a few. But I'll do my best and look forward to the promise of 365 days without a Jury Summons popping up in the mail. What a sarcastic "reward", this Jury Duty service. But it's one of the things that makes our country great.

Proud to be an (inconvenienced) American,
Juror #6

Monday, April 18, 2011

To Mercedes

Long before the time you can remember
Our Father held you in His arms so tender.
Those loving arms released you as He sent you here to Earth.
He said, "My child, I love you. Don't forget your great worth."

Walk tall, you're a daughter, a child of God.
Be strong, please remember who you are.
Try to understand, you're part of His great plan.
He's closer than you know. Reach up, He'll take your hand.

It wasn't the first time I cried while singing that song. But this time it was different. You were sitting right next to me. You. My 12 year old daughter. My only daughter. It made me think of how I used to tenderly hold you in my own arms. Could it really have been that long ago? The time is flying at me and I'm really not prepared. Is it possible to look forward to tomorrow and all that it has in store for you while at the same time long for the yesterdays?

You are a daughter. You are my daughter. But more importantly you are His daughter. A daughter of God. You are part of an eternal plan. You are part of an eternal family. My eternal family. Everything you've been taught thus far and all of the lessons to come are teaching you to walk tall. And you've been a good 'student'. But you know what? You've been an even better teacher.

My teacher.