Tuesday, January 16, 2018

White Chicken Chili

Burr! It’s cold out there. Temperatures here in Indiana have been below freezing. I don’t know about you, but I like to serve my family warm and filling soups and stews on those cold winter nights. 

 They seem to stretch farther and since they don’t require as much time to prepare, I give the appearance like I have my act together.

As long as I feed him, The Studly Muffin is a happy camper.

I have a few soupy recipes I want to share with you over the month of January, but this first one is one of my favorites.


I LOVE chili. And this White Chicken Chili is a yummy respite from a traditional tomato based chili. This is similar to a Mexican Chicken Soup my mom used to make when we were younger. I actually shared this particular recipe in a long ago forgotten post years ago (we are talking nearly 11). It is still one of my favorites. 

I like to serve it with tortilla chips, extra cheese and a little diced avocado for good measure.

I DON'T have a picture of the finished product. That would be too industrious today 😀

White Chicken Chili
2 cans of great northern beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon hot sauce (less if you like a milder chili)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Two 4-ounce cans chopped mild green chilies, chopped
2 pounds skinless chicken breast halves cooked and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup sour cream

In a skillet cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat until softened.
In a pot, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Stir in onion and gradually add broth and half-and-half, whisking constantly. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in hot sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add beans, chilies, chicken, and Monterey Jack and cook mixture over moderately low heat, stirring, 20 minutes. Stir sour cream into chili.

If you want to make this dish more economical, you can use more beans and less chicken. Don’t skimp on the spices…This last time I made this I added some dried wild garlic I got from my mom PLUS some smoked paprika.


Yummo! 


Friday, January 12, 2018

A Favorite Space: My Piano

Happy Weekend, my friends!

We just got another blast of cold weather and snow. I had to reschedule a procedure I was going to have done today (a Venus doppler).  It wasn't worth traipsing around in the white stuff.

Not that I can traipse anywhere. All of the icy conditions puts a damper on my running around game. I sure have enough to do at home, so my running game would only prove to be distracting.

Every year, I love taking January to purge and redecorate.

This year, I'm taking my time. I'm designing one little vignette at a time.

My design style has certainly changed throughout the years. I have never been what you would call a "minimalist." But as I grow older, I am fonder of unique pieces, handcrafted items and touches of vintage here and there.

Mostly, I am of  the "use what you have" and "use what you love" persuasion. The results aren't always worthy of Joanna Gaines. But...a girl can only do what she can do.

I thought I would share with you what is going on with my piano.

You might need to know that for several years my piano was in storage. Our reunion was a happy one...though my piano is in desperate need of tuning. That will come later...for now she's all dressed up.

Fair warning. I've taken lots 'o pictures. Mostly so I could show my momma.


Here is the side view of the old girl. That fabulous "T" we got from Hobby Lobby in clearance for less than $8.



Excuse the glare. That snow is sparkly!



This beautiful watercolor is called "Field of Flowers." My momma painted it several years ago and it has been "on loan" at my house for some time.  That little garland is not part of the picture, but I had it up over Christmas and decided I would keep it up there for a while. I tried to move it...thus its wonky position.



The other big piece of my wall is a ruffled wreath I made out of an old hymn book. It was simple to make. I just sat down one night in front of the TV with my glue gun and the hymnal pages. I have made a couple of book page wreaths with the neater rolled pages, but I liked this one for myself. It's kind of messy....like me.


I didn't get a picture of the wine colored candle stick, but I've had that for several years. I got it at Hobby Lobby (once again in clearance). I put a cute little artificial plant on top. I got a set of them from Amazon. The container is cement. I loved the texture it adds.  I might change the candlestick in the near future. We shall see. 

I've had these Spanish dancers for years. They also spent some time in the storage building. They also came from my Momma. Got to love Momma's rejects. Spanish lady had an accident and we had to glue her back together. You can see her little glue line. We just pretend it's her belt. 


This is a special little piece. A dear friend from church, Joe, is a fantastic artist. His specialty is painting scenes and wildlife from his native Indiana (which is, of course, where we are living now). This little snow scene is just perfect on my piano. Joe is in his early 80's by the way. The rest of us have NO excuses.



This Hobby Lobby lantern is not really black. It has copper and bronze accents that you can't see in the picture. I did fill the lantern space with fairy lights at Christmas and decided to keep them for the winter. Shiny!


I am so in love with this piece. My niece, Kalynn, is a talented ceramist. She made us this bowl and a mug for Christmas. It can be used to actually eat in, but I couldn't bring myself to pour a bowl of cereal in it. It's just too special.



I will try and take a picture of the mug (which has lovely details) one of these days, but for now we will just bask in this bowl's loveliness.


This sweet owl is a candle warmer my sister-in-law, Deb, got me for Christmas. It comes from Yankee Candle. A few years ago, she bought me a smaller warmer that I use in my bedroom. It isn't an owl, but one of my favorite features of this particular warmer is that you can set it to be on for 3 hours, 6 hours or 9 hours.  The candle currently in use is lavender & vanilla. Delicious.


I am obsessed with this little rug. My momma made it. ON HER LOOM. I couldn't bring myself to use it as an actual rug so I put it on my piano bench.


It is gawwgous! And I think it is right where it needs to be.


I realize that the left side of the piano is a bit heavier than the other. I'm not ready to do anything about it quite yet. I like how I've anchored either side with a set of 3 books. I have a thing for books. And old books....I can't even tell you how much I love old books.


They make wonderful accents to my decor. AND I love using them to change the heights of my lovelies.



I also love using natural elements. This is a real piece of wood. It's cracked, messy and just perfect.


So that's it! I'll try and share a few more projects as I go.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Book Challenge: The Woman in White



This year I've jumped into something new. You might know that I LOVE to read.

In fact, reading is my superpower.

I decided to join the Reading Challenge over at  Modern Mrs. Darcy. Not because I am struggling to find time or motivation to read.

Gurrlll....As I said...Reading is my superpower. And the library my happy place.

I through this challenge would be fun. And it would help me search out new and exciting books and authors.

The challenge for this week?

A classic you've been meaning to read. 

Now this was more challenging than I anticipated.

Ya'll. I've read a whole lot of classic literature. My favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre. And then there is this. I really don't like books that don't end well. I like happy endings.

All that heavy, depressing literature we read in High School?

I'm not into it.

Of Mice and Men. Nope.

Grapes of Wrath. Nope.

Animal Farm. Nope and Nope.

Frankly, there are many works of classic literature that are downright SAD.

Give me rainbows and sunshine. Unicorns and glitter.

And if I can't have rainbows and glitter, I do love a good spooky, gothic mystery. 

Years ago, I watched a satisfyingly spooky Masterpiece Theater production called The Woman in White. Admittedly there wasn't a rainbow or unicorn to be found in this terrific production. But it sure met my other criteria.

I enjoyed this program immensely, but never sought out the book it was based on.



Written by Wilkie Collins in 1859, The Woman in White is considered one the first mystery novels.

We begin our story with a Mr. Walter Hartright letting us know that he is about to tell us a story. This isn't any old story. He's gathered personal testimony from all those involved so you (the reader) won't doubt the whole truth of it.

Mr. Hartright is a drawing master. He has inherited his business and talent from his late father. His newest assignment sends him to Limmeridge house. On the way there he meets a mysterious (if not a little "tetched") woman in white.

dum. dum. dum.

We don't understand the significance of this meeting until later, but once he gets to Limmeridge house he undertakes the artistic education of two sisters, Laura and Marian. The ladies are half sisters who share the same mother. Both are orphans and are under the care of  Laura's truly odious (and hypochondriac) uncle.

You know that Mr. Hartright has to fall in love with one of the girls and he (of course) chooses the gentle and beautiful, Laura. Now even when I saw Masterpiece Theater production I was irked about this (just a little).

Laura is really delightful, but Marian is most definitely Mr. Hartright's soulmate. They get along famously and there is none of that awkwardness, etc. But...Marian is plainer and she also happens to be poor. Laura is an heiress to her father's fortune.

She also is engaged to a certain Sir Percival Glyde.

dum. dum. dum.

Keep in mind that all of this happens towards the beginning of the book. Laura doesn't ride off into the sunset with her drawing master. She bows to her late father's wishes and marries Sir Percival...even after he makes a big stink about having full control of her fortune.

Mr. Hartright decides to drown his sorrows in some foreign jungle. And we learn a little bit more about the mysterious Woman in White.

I won't go much farther in my summary of the story...I don't want to give away any of the good bits to those of who you might want to read it..BUT, there is a delicious villain by the name of Count Fosco.

This is a villian to surpass all villians.  He is so engaging that you almost hate to hate him!

The Masterpiece Theater production took some liberties and changed the story a bit. They made it just a bit darker. I think perhaps that those things which Victorian England might have found shocking won't seem to dark to us, so those who adapted it to film wanted to increase the "wow" factor.

There are a few twists and turns in this novel that are completely unexpected. There were also events that happened that made me feel completely helpless. Women were helpless in this society for the most part. A woman's well being and fortune often depended on the whims of a man.

I do suggest that you watch the movie after reading the book. It can currently be found on youtube.


The actresses that play Laura and Marian (Justine Waddell and Tara Fitzgerald) are just plain terrific.



So I give this book (and movie) and BIG THUMBS UP! It meets all my criteria for a spooky, gothic classic with a happy ending.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Winter Homeschool Printables and Some Good Advice


Good evening, my friends. Hope your Monday was productive. I did get a few things on my "to do" list done.

I have so much many things I want to tell you. But, unfortunately, my productivity petered out a few hours ago. I did manage to get supper in the oven.

Yay! Cereal is off the menu for tonight!

We all have those days.

One of my goals this week is to continue my planning and preparations for this next year.

I'm getting there. Getting my ducks in a row can be quite a challenge. They are usually hyperactive and just a little crazy.

My duck wrangling efforts have reminded me of some fun resources I have for the chilly months here on the blog.

Here you can find some fun printable writing prompts for Winter.


Now this next link will take you to a whole page of awesomeness. I promise. There are winter notebooking pages, winter animal reading and study, a weather printable, and more!

I think this Winter Bird Watching Set is sooo cute!



All of the printables were created by yours truly and absolutely FREE. 

The flu is especially nasty this year. I understand some of you have been under the weather. I've got the cure! This Chicken Noodle Soup is a family favorite and one I fix for all my people. Tuck this recipe in your arsenal. You won't be disappointed. 



Winter can be pretty tough on me. My body hurts and I am frequently homebound.  It just gets exhausting. I want you to know I understand. This post  I wrote several years ago talks about Homeschooling Through the Hard Times.  I find that I have to go back and read through it from time to time.


This last link is actually for a post I recently wrote for the Homeschool Review Crew. It's just a little advice about looking ahead to the new year.  I also stumbled across a post I wrote for the Crew blog back in 2013. It's not necessarily about the winter, but I think it's good to read heading into these long months.

So, my friends. My productivity is way past its bedtime and I've got that casserole I need to get out of the oven.



Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Year. Stuff. From the Couch

Happy New Year!

I hope you are having a wonderful day wherever you are.

We have SNOW on the ground and are experiencing mighty cold weather. It's the kind of weather that freezes your face off.

The Studly Muffin and Josiah got up and went to the men's community Bible study they go to every other week. The Muffin went out to start the car and the thermometer said it was -6 degrees.

Brrr.

Princess and I have elected to occupy our corner on the couch wrapped in the fuzzy robe my momma got me for Christmas. I haven't even started the coffee yet this morning.

Speaking of dropping off the face of the earth (because easy transition sentences aren't coming to me this morning, nor apparently, are blog post titles) I realize I haven't posted in ages. It isn't because I haven't had anything to say. I've either been too stinking busy or suffering some sort of writer's block.

You will not believe how many blog posts I've started. They all begin with something like this.

Hi friends, it's been a while....

Hello! I know I haven't posted....

Good Morning! I'm still here...

And that's about it.

So much for my great plans to blog over the Christmas holiday.

I had great plans for writing an inspiring New Year's post laying out all my bright and new shiny goals for this next year.

This will happen eventually, but in my dealings with chronic illness/disappointments/life challenges over the years, I've come to realize that it is perfectly fine and more advantageous to tackle what is right in front of you. I've talked about this a lot, but I live by this mantra....life is made up of tiny moments. Don't spend it waiting for the big things. Learn to live a beautiful life TODAY.

Sometimes, we just need to start where we are. And where I am this morning is on the couch.

With my cat.

This week, my goals are simple.  I have been doing my annual New Year's purge (I was challenge my this post from my sister-in-law) and making over one meal.

What does this look like?

Every day I have been getting ready of something or somethings according to the calendar date. For example, today is the 4th of January. This means I am purging 4 things from my home. It is that simple. Tomorrow I will purge 5. Believe me. We are homeschoolers. I have more than enough clutter in my little office to last me until, at least, June. Eventually, this month I am going to reorganize my kitchen, but for now, I feel accomplished just doing what I'm doing.

Making over my meals is something I have found helps when refocusing my healthy lifestyle. It is vitally important for me to eat a certain way, but sometimes difficult depending on how well I feel at the time. I have found that if I focus on one meal at a time, I am more likely to succeed. This week, I am working on breakfast. I'll talk more about this in a future post.

Meanwhile. You will find me on the couch with Princess the Cat. I think it's time to make the coffee.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Still Complaining and A FREE Doodle (Christmas Choir)

This post contains affiliate links...using affiliate links from There Will Be a $5 Charge for Whining helps support this blog, our homeschool and my book addiction. Thank You! 

Hello, my friends.

It's cold here in Indiana today. Not that I've been out of the house in almost a week.

I take that back. I did go to the doctor, but that barely counts, right?

I got up this morning with every intention of going to church. I got as far as making a pot of coffee, feeding the cat and fussing at Josiah to get himself out of bed.

Too much for me! I do feel better in some respects, but the thought of even putting mascara on (let alone going to church) was exhausting. You know you have been sick when you readily agree that the Orange Crush your son has been guzzling down can be counted as a fruit.

I am really, really looking forward to Christmas this year. I've been making plans. Some of those plans sound exhausting to me right now, but I know that eventually I will need those plans.

Written in sparkly pen and highlighted with jeweled stickers. That's just the way I roll.

Something I have learned throughout my years of chronic illness, etc. is that a girl really needs to have an arsenal of things that feed a creative outlet, help relieve stress and takes appreciation of those little moments. After all, those little moments are all some of us are guaranteed.

A few years ago, my momma began creating adorable zendoodles (also known as zentangles) for her people at the Nursing Home. She is getting ready to retire towards the end of December, but for the past several years she has worked in the recreational department of a nursing home in Joplin, MO. She plays music a couple of times a week, teaches art classes and a variety of other handicrafts.

A big change for her years as a Respiratory Therapist, but Momma did go to art school...so I guess it wasn't that much of a stretch.

Well, the zendoodles were a big hit. We even had a little online store for a bit. I've shared a few here on my blog. And today, I have another one for you.


Isn't this little Christmas Choir the sweetest? I think it would be adorable as a print to frame or as even a gift to give.

All you need to do is click on THIS LINK (or the picture) and you will be directed to Google Drive. There you can download a PDF of the print.

The finished copy will not have the SassyFrass watermark on it...so don't worry about that.

My favorite materials to use for coloring are a couple of things.

First, everyone must have a set of Prismacolor Coloring Pencils. They are truly beautiful and so great to use.





You can use a set of Dollar Store colored pencils, but I think that once you try these you won't ever feel the same way about colored pencils again.

There is also a bigger set (72 pencils) for some of you more ambitious coloring hobbyists. This set has a pencil sharpener (which is a necessity) included.




I don't like to use markers for these projects...they bleed through and are too heavy. Instead I opt for Gel Pens. I LOVE a good Gel Pen. They make me happy.

One of my favorite brands of gel pens are these from Sakura. They are called the Gelly Roll pens. the set you see here is the metallics. I adore anything shy and glittery and these are so smooth to use.




I also any of these pens and pencils would make a terrific gift or stocking stuffers for your Bible Journaling friends or budding artists. I know I would be thrilled to find any of these in my stocking (hint, hint).

So that's it. I hope you enjoy the sweet little Christmas Choir girls. You can find a few more Zendoodles underneath my Free Printables tab.











Thursday, November 16, 2017

Writing with Sharon Watson: Characters in Crisis (A Homeschool Review Crew Post)

So here it is. The last review for the Homeschool Review Crew for 2017. And I’ve got a good one for you.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

Sometime back I had a chance to use a product from Writing with Sharon Watson. I’ve had the opportunity to use a good number of writing curriculums and I have to say that anything I’ve seen from Sharon Watson ranks right up there. This time around I got to review Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis.

Before I talk about what I received you need to check out this great resource of free sample chapters, Teacher guide samples, quizzes, and grading grids and more!

Got to love those samples!

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis by Writing with Sharon Watson is intended for students 9-12 grade. It is written from a Christian perspective and can be used for two semesters to earn one credit. The 38 lessons are student-directed and use complete novels and stories.
I received the following products:

Teacher’s Guide
Student Textbook
Quiz and Answer Manual
And a Novel Notebook pdf download…which is FREE!

You will need to obtain the books used in the study yourself, but Sharon provides links for easy purchase on the website. I happened to have several of the books except for some of the short stories.

Let me talk a little about each part of the curriculum.

The Teacher’s Guide contains a monthly lesson plan, grading grids, and answers to all the lessons, quizzes etc. that are found in the Student Textbook. Yay! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to think too hard when reviewing an assignment with my son. As I tell my son. I already had several literature courses in college. I’ve proved myself. Now I just read for fun.  For those of you who are a bit more ambitious there is even a plan for setting up a reading club (book-of-the-month club) for your students.

The Student Textbook contains everything the student will need (except the book) to enjoy literature. As I mentioned, the student will read the entire book…not just a passage here and there…which happens to be a pet peeve of mine. Let them read the whole thing! Sharon also includes in-depth author bios (I personally loved reading the one about Mary Shelley), interesting facts and background information to give the student more insight.

The curriculum will appeal to reluctant readers, as well as those of us who are bookaholics (yes, this is a term).  One of the things I appreciated about the textbook is that Sharon walked the student through each chapter. I really dislike literature programs that are open-ended. Sometimes it’s hard to interpret an author’s intent…and can you please give me that example of “foreshadowing” you keep talking about? Anybody with a reluctant reader will agree with me.
After completing each section in the textbook, the student will be prompted to go take a quiz.


Now there are two ways you can quiz your student. There is a hardcopy version of the Answer and Quiz Manual or there is an Online option. If your student enjoys the online quiz there is a code found in the Teacher’s Book for access. Personally, I think this is a fabulous option. We seem to be doing more and more of our schooling online as of late. It’s just so handy.

The Novel Notebook is a free download. It contains 86 pages that can either be printed off or saved to the computer using the add text option that comes with a PDF. This is a journaling notebook that contains questions and extra activities. I do have to say that what I appreciated most about going through this was Sharon’s laid back and gentle attitude in studying literature. For example, she encouraged students not to answer ALL of the questions provided in the section for Frankenstein. In fact, she said “We don’t want to beat the novel to death.”

This has always been my beef with many literature programs. Let’s not kill a student’s love for literature by trying to get too complicated. Sometimes it’s not that deep.

The literature list is as follows. We are encouraged to use a particular edition of the books as helpful page numbers are given throughout the course. I always use an audio book in addition to the hard copy so I've had to make sure everything matches up. 


A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell, (included in the textbook)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
An Assortment of Short Stories (included in the textbook)
A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett
The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges
Haircut by Ring Lardner
The Lady, or the Tiger? by Frank Stockton
Of the Passing of the First-Born by W. E. B. Du Bois
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Biography or autobiography of student’s choice
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Mariner Books version)

What I Thought

My concern with any curriculum is always will it be appropriate for my dyslexic son. The truth is that obviously a literature program will be a bit more challenge to navigate. There is an awful amount of reading involved.  I have noticed that peppered in the usual discussion questions are some helps. For example, in the Frankenstein unit the students are taught how to make notes in the book itself. This is called annotating and something I encourage Josiah to do in all his reading.

I also love the variety of activities given to enhance each unit. For example, after reading the short story A Jury of Her Peers, students can participate in a mock trial, learn to can, create a sewing stitch, write a procedure and more.

Overall, I think these kinds of experiences only make to bring the story and the experience to life. I love it!

I think you’ll be impressed with Characters in Crisis. Be sure to check out those free samples!

You can connect with Writing with Sharon Watson via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner to read more reviews !

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/WritingWithSharonWatson
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/writingwithshar

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}
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