Friday, May 27, 2011

Anne of Green Gables- a special play, a special treat!

The notorious "Carrots!" scene: Anne & Gilbert
I copied this photo off their website:
May 14th turned out to be quite a busy day. Not only, did I receive a scholarship to attend the Educate.Advocate special education conference over at the Community Baptist Church, but more importantly I got go to see on of my favorite books adapted into a play. It was sweet. It was nostalgic. It was delightful.

It all happened because I spoke up. May 1, I was sitting at church next to Rae Watts, one the sisters in my church's Relief Society sunday meeting. She was tolf me about how she had plans to see a play. I asked what play she was attending. Then, when she told me what play it was, I exclaimed, "I love that book!" It turns out that she had an extra ticket. So, not only did I feed my mind that morning by attending the conference, but I also got to feast my eyes.

It was a wonderful opportunity and treat. I am so grateful and lucky to have been able to attend that performance. And, it was a great opportunity to better get to know Sister Watts and her daughter in law. What a treat!

A model of the set.
Display in the foyer.
More scenery in the foyer. Little girls were loving this up. Especially because the cast came out and did a meet and greet after the play.

Creamy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

One word: yum! Pic from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
I made this recipe originally last Friday night. But, my husband and I only got a small portion, our kids scarfed the rest. We discovered some long lost movie tickets hidden in the desk. We went to see Pirates of the Carribean 3. It was a nice date, but the cost was a decent portion of dinner. 
So I made them again Monday night for the missionaries. They were well received by the masses. 
I have another recipe called chicken chalupas. That recipe features cream of chicken soup. But the flavor of the chalupas vs. the green chili enchiladas are very distinct. What I enjoy about Mel's kitchen is that she uses very little processed food ingredients. I like the fact that I had to make the cream sauce from scratch than use a can of cream of chicken soup. Not only is it much better for you but it is so much more flavorful!
Creamy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

4 cups cooked, chopped chicken
2 (7 oz.) cans of green chiles, lightly drained
2 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, cubed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained 
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium sized onion chopped
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 28 ounce can green chile enchilada sauce
1 cup sour cream
1 lb. (about 2 cups) Monterey jack cheese, shredded
16 medium (soft taco size) flour tortillas
Handful of chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and green chiles. Mix well. Add the chicken and black beans. Mix to combine. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and starts to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir well. Cook for 1 minute, stirring. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk. As you whisk and the mixture cooks, the flour will get less lumpy around the onions and the mixture will become smooth. Cook over medium heat until the mixture is bubbling and has thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the enchilada sauce and sour cream.
Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish. Spread about 1/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Fill each tortilla with about ½ cup of the chicken/cream cheese filling. Top with a small handful of shredded cheese, a couple tablespoonfuls for each enchilada. Save at least 1/2 cup cheese for the top of the enchiladas. Roll the tortillas up and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Continue filling enchiladas until the dish is full (I can easily fit 8 enchiladas in one pan).
Pour the white sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the enchiladas are bubbling, hot and lightly browned. Sprinkle fresh cilantro over the top and serve.
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

La-la-la-lemony goodness

Lemony goodness
Bake Sale Lemon Bars
3/4 c. butter
1 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
Mix together butter, flour and powdered sugar. Bake 350 for 15 min.

6 eggs
1 3/4 c. sugar
6 Tbs. flour
3/4 c. lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
Combine eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and zest. Bake 350 for 20 min.
Sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I heart Faces challenge of the week- Yellow

Here is my latest entry on I Heart Faces weekly photo challenge. The theme is yellow and it has to show a face. After all, the whole website is dedicated to faces. Hello.... yellow!

I'll show you the original. I like it ok. However, you can see Aeron's wedgie. He was just getting used to underwear at that point, and had difficulty getting his underwear on appropriately. It's charming- kind of, but I didn't want to display that in my picture. I also didn't want to include the car in the background on the left hand side. So I smudged it. It's in the shadows anyways.

I took this picture in Sutter Creek at a gas station now converted into an auto shop. They still have the antiuqe gas pumps. I had been eyeing that location for a while to use as a possible picture shoot sight. The colors are so vivid and I love the charming old fashioned feeling of it. Sutter Creek is a great place to visit because it still retains the feeling and historic sites from the long ago gold mining days.
I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges, Tutorials and Tips
Check out more great photos on I Heart Faces!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Heart Faces - May Flowers

I love photographing flowers. And with my recent trips up to Sacramento (Sutter Creek), it is easy to get some great shots. All you have to do is go outside to appreciate the beauty of the country.
This photo was taken up at the gorgeous Daffodil Hill, located in Volcano, CA. It is a popular spring destination when the daffodils are in bloom; people come from all over to witness this profusion of flowers. This is a shot from the entrance. Daffodil Hill did not open this year due to a heavy late snow fall making the hill and surrounding area unstable for the visiting masses. But, you could still behold the beauty from the gates. There was so much to see. It was the highlight of my trips up there in March/April.

I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges, Tutorials and Tips

Budget Saver: Homemade Chocolate Syrup recipe

Image from
In my house, chocolate milk is a staple. Ethan drinks this every day.

With the tightening of our budget, I have had to make some grocery shopping changes.
While in the past I have purchased the store brand of chocolate milk powder, like Nestle Quick. In attempts to save money, I have been experimenting with making chocolate syrups with which I can make chocolate milk.

I am pleased to say I have found a worthwhile recipe for chocolate syrup.
It's from Tasty Kitchen, a recipe site maintained by Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.

Chocolate Syrup
2 c. sugar
1 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Mix first 4 ingredients. Simmer on low heat 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla; stir until combined.
Allow to cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.

For hot chocolate: Add 1 Tbs. syrup to 1 c. of hot milk. Stir until combined.
Chocolate milk: Add 1 Tbs. syrup to 1 c. milk. Stir until combined.

Ridiculously Easy Caramel Corn

This recipe is so easy it should be illegal! Growing up, making caramel corn was always a long, laborious process. One in which you would get burned and risk scorching the caramel.

This new recipe, is a cake walk- literally!

I've been meaning to post this recipe with a picture. But, whenever I make this popcorn, it disappears before I can get to it.

Here it is:
16 c. popped popcorn (I use my old air popper)
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. Karo syrup
1/2 c. butter
Cook sugar, syrup and butter in a glass bowl in microwave on high for one minute. Stir and repeat for a total of 5 minutes. It should be hot and bubbling.
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix until foamy. Put popped corn intro a brown paper grocery bag. Pour syrup into bag. Stir and shake to coat. Fold bag over. Place in microwave and heat for 1 minute. Remove bag and shake. Microwave 30 seconds more and shake. Pour popcorn onto a cooking sheet lined with wax paper.
Recipe adapted from Your Homebased Mom

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy birthday Ethan. You've come a long way, baby!

My super hero
This last school year has been very eventful for our family and especially for my Ethan. Here's the lowdown:
In August, Ethan started Kindergarten at Banyan in their Special Ed. Day Class. Previously, he attended 2 years of preschool at Frost Early Childhood Education Center, a San Bernardino County Special Ed. program. In April of 2010 we met as a team to decide where Ethan would begin Kindergarten. It seemed ideal when I learned there would be a Kindergarten class offered at our home school, Banyan through our school district.

In August, Ethan started Kindergarten. I was SO excited for a few reasons. First he was beginning Kindergarten. Next, he was at Banyan where his older 3 siblings had all attended (I was happy to have children at only 3 schools instead of 4). Thirdly, his Special Day Class was a full day class! A full day class is this area for Kindergarten is unheard of. But, I was grateful to have Ethan in school and grateful for an extended break and for additional time to prepare. 6 hours to clean and prepare and for me to do some self-care. I was excited!

Then, in September, things went awfully awry. Isn't that how they always go?

Beginning Sept. 24-29th Ethan was first admitted to Loma Linda University Behavioral Health Center. Beginning in August and then through September, Ethan's behavior steadily deteriorated. His behaviors worsened.  His teacher, although a good woman, was not adequately trained to deal with his behaviors. She gave in and ignored Ethan's bad behaviors. And, being the smart fellow that he is Ethan generalized this behavior. If the bad behavior worked for him at school, Ethan then figured he could do the same at home with similar results. Makes sense right?

Ethan was next admitted back at Loma Linda Oct. 6-11. This hospitalization began with a ride in the back of a police cruiser. You see during a therapy session he went into a murderous rage so severe the therapy staff were unable to help him. The police were called and disbelieving, the officer tried to help him. When her attempts failed, we had no choice but to transport him to Loma Linda on a 72 hour hold. It was a rather surreal event. I had never been in the back of a police car before. And, then trying to calm and restrain an irrational 4 year old in the back of a police car... well, it's something I will never forget.

During the following weeks, I kept Ethan at home. He was also enrolled in an Intensive Outpatient program in Temecula (an hour away). The school district was unable to help him. He would go, get angry and hurt others and himself. I finally put my foot down and said enough! It was obvious that Ethan's placement was not right. Why would I keep sending my child to school when he had meltdown after meltdown? Isn't that the very definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over expecting different results.

Ethan was hospitalized a third time at Loma Linda, Oct. 22-Nov. 2. Very little occurred during these hospitalizations. Ethan's behavior was stabilized. He tried different drug cocktails to help control his behavior. Some of them worked and some failed in the worst possible way. Our family was traumatized. It was hard to care for him and care for my other children. Thankfully friends were able to help out here and there with my house and the kids. I am eternally thankful to all those that helped our family during that time and continue to this day.

Ethan's last hospitalization occurred Jan. 4-14 at UCLA's Reznick Children's Hospital. That hospitalization was the hardest by far. We could only visit Ethan once a day. And, it was a 2 hour drive to visit him for 1 hour. But, the Children's Psych unit there is ABSOLUTELY amazing. His team of doctors were great. They even got him his MRI which we had been trying to get as a means of ruling out an organic brain issue as opposed to a strictly behaviorall/mental condition.

During those months, we stayed at home. We tried to limit his interactions with others because he was so completely emotionally unstable. There were a lot of meltdowns and even more tears. The slightest thing would set him off into a violent meltdown lasting an hour or more.

Then on Jan. 14th a beautiful ray of light and hope appeared though the clouds and darkness. The district offered placement in a County Special Ed. program with a very special woman named Ms. Michelle. Ethan would have an aide on the bus to and from school and at school.

Beginning Jan. 31, Ms. Michelle has worked a miracle with Ethan and in our lives. She has challenged him and loved him despite his best efforts to prove her otherwise. Once memorable day for me was watching her bring him to the car. Ethan had had a terrible day. He got angry during class and pulled his pants down and urinated on her. As she brought him to my car, she said, "Ethan, I love you!" I had never heard a teacher utter those words to my son before. To be perfectly honest, it was hard for me to utter them when life with him was SO very difficult. I couldn't take him out in public. The slightest frustrations at home devolved into hour long meltdowns. I was afraid of him, because of his ability and strength when he was angry. Life revolved around Ethan.

Ms. Michelle sees him through different eyes. She knows how to help him work through the anger and frustration. She helped him use his words instead of yelling and kicking. She helps us at home too. She has helped us analyze and document his behaviors. It has made a world of difference with us and Ethan. We have been able to identify his triggers. We have learned techniques to help him.

Ethan is doing amazingly well. He has turned around. The combinations of medication, counseling/therapy, the prayers of family and friends, the divine help of the Lord, behavior training, and the amazing influence of his teacher, Ethan is a different person. We have occasional flare-us but they don't last hours anymore. They last minutes.

One of the most miraculous things occurred Easter Sunday. Ethan stood up next to his little brother with our church's primary (children's) group and with no parental assistance participated in singing a song with the other children. He didn't sing very much but he acted appropriately. It was nothing short of amazing! It was miraculous.

With all that said, I knew I wanted to something unique and wonderful for Ethan on his birthday. That little boy has been through the fire at the age of 5 and has come out on top! So I figured we should celebrate in super hero style.

When Ethan woke up, power o's AKA donuts, were awaiting him. He loved them. And no he didn't eat all of them. He had 1 and shared the rest.

Then I took him to school. He wore his superhero cape and his mask. I stayed up until 2 am the night before to make them.

Then, later at school I brought in 2 of the $5 Little Caesar's pizzas, bottled water and frosted sugar cookies. Ethan likes sugar cookies way better than cupcakes. On cupcakes, he just eats the frosting.

I brought in some "special" bottle water. Wonder Water. The kids liked the labels I taped over the original water bottle labels. The kids used the labels I taped on as wrist bands. It was cute.

For dinner, I made 3 cheese pasta bake. Ethan liked the noodles. And then he had chocolate cake. He was funny and said, "This is MY chocolate cake. But, I will let you have some."

That's Ethan. I am so grateful that we he has received help. And that he has RESPONDED to help. Life isn't perfect, we still have a few blow ups. But, they are much rarer in frequency and the duration is significantly lessened as is the intensity. We are grateful!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Teacher appreciation day

It's way late. I couldn't sleep. I was quite frustrated earlier that the chaos fairy had come and so thoroughly spread her "magic dust" through the house. Frustration and sleep do not  make good bed partners. So, I figured I would just stay up and finish up my project. I like projects! Anything to avoid the dreaded C word.
So here it is:

I really like this project. It is very budget friendly. You take a package of Dum Dums, the smallest you can find unless you live in my house. My son's teacher uses Dum Dums as a behavior modification tool. So, Ethan likes Dum Dums. They are a staple in the Gale household.
Buy a package of Smarties. I found a small one at Walgreens for .99. Bargain!
Next go to your local Dollar Tree. Buy 2 packages of their generic pencils and a can of Pirouline cookies- the ones with chocolate and hazelnut filling. The great thing about this craft is you get to eat the cookies and give away an empty can. Bonus! So go ahead and eat a few and then stash some for later. Let the kids have the cheap treats.
Now that you have an empty tin, get your handy dandy glue gun out and glue the pencils on. It takes 2 pencils shy of 2 packages. Then attach a ribbon of your choice. I found this cute black and white damask ribbon at Walmart a few weeks ago.
Next, fill the inside of the tin with dried beans you have laying around the house. Fill it up about 1/3 of the way. Cover up the beans with some leftover Easter grass.
Then glue the bamboo skewer sticks to Dum Dums and Smarties. Let cool, then place them in the pencil container.
Print out a label. And voila! You are done. My project cost less than $4.

I found the idea for the pencil container here.
Then I saw the cute idea for the candy gram here.
So why not combine the 2? That's what I did.
Have a good Thursday!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dulce de Leche cupcakes

Pic from  the

I've been thinking about making these Spanish/Mexican themed treats for some time now.  When I heard about our themed Relief Society activity, I knew that would be a perfect venue to try out these cupcakes. Carpe Diem!
I also know that my children are less than receptive to the idea of a new and interesting flavor besides plane jane chocolate or vanilla. I knew I could bring my little experiments to church with me, and pawn them off on unsuspecting ladies. Who doesn't like cupcakes?

Step 1: Ducle de leche
Making dulce de leche is deceptively simple. Crazy simple.
Open a can of sweetened condensed milk. Pour it into a glass pyrex dish. Cover with a glass lid or aluminum foil. Place dish in a larger baking vessel, i.e. 13x9 pan. Fill the larger baking vessel with water so that the wall of the pyrex is submerged 1-1 1/2 in. Bake 425 for 1hr. 15 min. Once done, remove from oven, drain water, stir dulce de leche until it is smooth. I got the idea from here. Scroll to the directions for buttercream frosting. That's where you get the scoop on making your own dulce de leche. Make it first. It needs time to bake and time to cool.

Step 2: Cupcakes
Here's the link for the recipe. I was too busy to take a photo of my handiwork.
I am pretty happy with the results. The only change I might try to make in the future, is to find a recipe for a less dense cupcake. The cupcake from the above recipe resembles pound cake more than a cupcake, it is a buttermilk brown sugar cupcake- very nice, eh? I love using buttermilk in recipes. Buttermilk not only adds a depth of flavor but moisture.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

3 Chili Rice- your taste buds will sit up and shout Ole!

Confession, I HATE spanish rice...except this recipe.

This recipe was originally made for my birthday dinner years ago by my good friend Jeanne. Being that my birthday is Cinco de Mayo, Mexican food and celebration dinners are the norm for me. (Thank you Jeanne for the gift of a great spanish rice recipe!)
I have NEVER liked spanish rice .... until the day I tried this recipe.
It is flavorful and moist. It is also pretty- I like pretty food! And lastly, it smells great. I made this recipe tonight for my ward's Relief Society meeting.
It's my favorite. I hope it will become yours too!
This photo doesn't do it justice, but it gives you an idea of what the finished product looks like.

3 Chili Rice
2 pasilla chilies
4 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 c. chopped onion
1 1/2 Tbs. minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbs. chopped seeded jalapeno chili
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 c. long grain white rice
1 3/4 cans chicken broth (15 oz.)
3/4 can diced tomatoes (I used whole tomatoes and pureed them- it's a texture thing)
1 1/4 tsp. salt (if you use chicken bouillon or chicken broth omit this)
1/2 bag frozen peas
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Char pasilla chilies over gas flame or under broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag; let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and finely chop the poblanos.
Heat oil in heavy lrg. skillet over low heat. Add poblanos, onion, garlic, jalapeno and spices. Saute until onion becomes soft, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Add rice, saute for 2 minutes more. Add 1 1/2 cans of broth, 1/2 can of crushed tomatoes, and salt. Bring just to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer. As the rice simmers, check it every 5 minutes, it will dry out. You will need to add liquid. Add remaining broth and pureed tomatoes as needed.  Cook for 25 minutes until rice is tender. Mix in frozen peas and green onions. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 10 minutes. Fluff rice and serve.
Serves 8-10 gracefully.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I Heart Faces - Soft & Sweet Photo Entry

I have been doing a lot of photography lately. Last week I missed entering the contest with I heart faces. Last week's theme was pet week. I have this great shot of Aeron holding one of our chickens. But, I waited a day too long to post. So, this week I am doing it NOW.
Here's is my photo for this week. The theme is Soft & Sweet. Nothing is sweeter than the photo I took last year of Baby Ellie. That was one of the my photography highlights of last year. It was so educational and fun to take Ellie's newborn portraits. I was grateful to her mom for letting allowing me to learn.

Sweet Baby Ellie