Monthly Archives: January 2008

Happy New Year!

The Winter BazaarAs you know, we celebrated the New Year with our friends in St. Louis.  This time, I am talking about another New Year.  Last night my book club discussed “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan“, which is set in 19th century China (more about book club here).  No sooner did I finish that book than my copy of “A Free Life” – also set in China – come in at the library.  This is the Kent County “One Book, One County” selection for 2008.

So about this New Year thing.  I have China on the brain, and February 7 is the date for the 2008 Chinese New Year.  It is going to be the “Year of the Rat”.  Somewhat similar to Zodiac signs; your Chinese Astrological sign is determined by your year of birth.  I am happy to say that my honorable husband is a Rat, and he could use a good year. If you would like to determine your sign, click on this link to find your birth year.  You’ll have to scroll down the page a little.

If you live in Grand Rapids and want to celebrate, you’re in luck. The Chinese Association of West Michigan is holding a New Year Celebration.  Check out the website for more information – click on the calendar.  You can also have some Chinese food from one of the many Chinese restaurants in town.  The Visit Grand Rapids website has information about multiculturalism in town, and breaks down information by general region.  Here is the link; click on the ‘Restaurants’ section.

I don’t want any snickering when you read the word ‘multiculturalism’ in the same sentence as Grand Rapids.  Here is a site with more information about early Chinese immigrants to Grand Rapids. I am one woman on a mission to educate our fair city and more importantly, it’s children, as to it’s own abundant cultural resources.  Tasty Tuesday is a big part of this.  One of my favorite outings was to the Wei Wei Palace, and you can read more about that visit in my post,  “You Did What In The Palace?“.

Toward that end, we’ll be having a craft that allows us to talk a little about the Chinese New Year.  It involves scissors, so the kids will need lots of supervision for this one.  I got this craft from Enchanted Learning.


  • Colored paper (construction paper or gift wrapping)
  • Scissors
  • Glue, tape, or a stapler

Fold a rectangular piece of paper in half, making a long, thin rectangle.

Make a series of cuts (about a dozen or more) along the fold line. Don’t cut all the way to the edge of the paper.

Unfold the paper. Glue or staple the short edges of the paper together.

Cut a strip of paper 6 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Glue or staple this strip of paper across one end of the lantern – this will be the handle of the lantern.

You can make several and string them together; like this:

For more seasonal ideas, head over to Scribbit’s Winter Bazaar.


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Meme Catch Up

OK I have been remiss in my meme-playing lately, so I am going to take this opportunity to catch up with a few I have been tagged with.

Bear in mind that as I do this I will be running to the bathroom approximately every 17 seconds. No, I am not sick.. Maybelle has made it abundantly clear that I cannot put off potty training her for one more second. Ever the opportunist, she has decided today is the day. A fine choice, since we are very much snow and iced into our house.

First, “Hey Did You Have That Baby Yet?” Adventure Mom tagged me for the “Mommy Meme.”

How long have you been a Mom?
4 and a half years
How many children call you Mommy?

Girl? Boy? or both?:

While we are somewhat lacking in financial riches, we have the million dollar family.  First a boy, then (almost exactly) two years later, a girl.

Did you know what you were having?
Yes, although with Maybelle they weren’t sure from the 20 week ultrasound.  After a fall at about 26 weeks I spent a day in OB Triage and begged the ultrasound tech to do a gender check which confirmed it. 

How old were you when you became a Mom?

How long were you in labor?
24 hours with A.P., and a (relatively) brief 12 hours with Maybelle.

What’s your favorite thing about being a Mom?
The purpose I feel in my life.

What’s your least favorite thing?
Whining.  Mostly theirs, but I’ll own this.. mine too.

Do you want more kids?
I did for a while after Maybelle was born, but not now.

Do you plan on having more soon?

How many times have you been pee’d on?
I lost track.

Barfed on?

No, of both children only A.P. has thrown up.  This happened one time, and was on my husband.

Is your child named after anyone?

Maybelle’s middle name is the same as my mom’s and grandma’s.  A.P.’s middle name is the same as my husband’s.
How did you come up with their name?
I came up with both of them.  My husband thought they were too ‘preppie’ but now he likes them.

When your child gets in trouble, who is the bad guy?
Thankfully, my husband and I share this pretty well. 

What is the longest you have been away from your children?
When A.P. was about 18 months old, we went on a 4 day cruise.

Bedtime routine?
Brush teeth, read books, then go to bed.
Are your toes painted?
Not right now, but they should be.

Last movie you saw in the theater?
I am spacing on this right now. I can’t remember.

One thing you will not give up just because you’re a mom?
Mommy poops alone.  This is a well known rule in my house and seldom broken.
One thing you did give up now that you’re a mom:
The notion that car travel would be quiet and somewhat relaxing.

Best Mom perk:
Showing them the world and knowing that I have a small window to teach them what I want them to know before they stop listening to me. 

Snack, you sneak bites from your child?
No, not usually.

When the kid is napping, you are:
Trying to do things that are annoying with children ‘helping’, such as emptying the dishwasher.

Where is your child(ren) now?

I have no idea! Just kidding.  They are 1) on the potty and 2) jumping off the back of a chair.

Favorite place to buy maternity clothes?
I got most of my maternity clothes at Goodwill, Salvation Army, or garage sales.  Fortunately, I was pregnant the same time of year both times so I was pretty much set after the first round.

If I could do it over…

I would start younger.  I’m tired.


Next, The Diaper Diaries tagged me for a “5 Things” meme. This is difficult for me, because I love to travel, but I am supposed to name my top 5 places, so here goes:

Seoul, South Korea

1.  Seoul and Pusan, South Korea.  Amazing cities. Seoul is huge and exciting and Pusan is on the coast and more relaxed. I visited Seoul about 5 times (hey thanks Dad!) and really enjoyed it. 

Jackson Hole Photo2. Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  For some reason, this has always stuck in my mind as a remarkable place.  It is beautiful; snuggled into the mountains and the Snake River runs through it.

Cuba3. Key West, Florida.  Every year my family went to Florida for Christmas and my sister and I took a road trip down to Key West.  In the ‘getting there is half the fun’ category, we zoomed through the Everglades; ever vigilant for those alligators we were sure awaited us around every corner.  Then we spent the day strolling about this cool town.   My husband and I spent our honeymoon there in an awesome beach house and planned on returning for our first anniversary.  Instead, we spent in church baptizing our baby boy (I waited a full six weeks after getting married to get pregnant.)   Sadly, this is as close as I will probably ever get to Cuba; an obsession I don’t think I’ve introduced here yet.

Picture of Toronto and the Space Needle - picture courtesy of www.math.toronto.edu4. Toronto, Ontario.  I LOVE TORONTO.  It is the only truly American city, except it’s in Canada.  It is a melting pot that manages to allow cultures to retain their identity while still getting along.  What a concept.

Traditional Dutch dancing, music and other activeties.5. Amsterdam, Holland.  I spent a summer in Germany and took a trip up to Amsterdam.  Germany was awesome, but Amsterdam was crazy. A little overwhelming even.  For any of the Dutchies in West Michigan who think the ‘real’ Holland is in any way conservative or religious you should probably not plan a visit to the homeland.

If you are reading and you think these sound like fun memes, consider yourself tagged!

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National Pie Day

The Winter BazaarWell, Tasty Tuesday was cancelled yesterday on account of we got about 11 thousand feet of snow and I couldn’t get out of my driveway. We made it a “day in”, and I ignored the phone and email and just hung out with my kids and played games.  Don’t get me wrong, I was itching for adult conversation but they are pretty persistent kids and I gave in.  I’m glad I did.  We eventually did get out of the house, when my husband came home and hit the driveway with the snowblower.  Our big outing was a family trip to the gym which we badly needed after an entire day inside.  We Binders are not ones to sit still.

So here we are, celebrating a very important holiday. Oh yes, leave it to me to know that today is National Pie Day according to the American Pie Council.  Leave it to me to know that there is an American Pie Council.   Have I successfully eliminated any doubt that I am a complete dork? I thought so.  You can read all about it on the APC’s website. Curiously, Canadians are involved in our National Pie Championship. Just another example of foreigners taking our jobs away. Why this isn’t an issue in this year’s presidential campaigns I will never know; but let’s move on.

Rich Pecan PieI am going to make a pecan pie today, and I’ll share the recipe with you. First, a disclaimer. I am a good cook, and this is a big source of pride for me.  However, I am completely unable to make the following:

  • Any variety of Thai food, including but definitely not limited to noodles
  • Pancakes – they turn out like crêpes (more on this in a moment)
  • Pie crusts

Therefore, I will use the rolled up kind of crust. Trust me – it is better for everyone. If you are a pie crust purist you  already know how to roll your own so I won’t bother being a poser and supplying a recipe.

This is a good recipe. I know, because I just made it at Thanksgiving.  I gave a nod to my dual heritage at this meal.  I showed up with a baked Brie in one hand (Belgian and French side – hence the crêpes) and a pecan pie in the other (Appalachian American side).

For the recipe, I went straight to the source.  It’s from the Karo Syrup website.  Feel no shame in this my friends; corn syrup belongs in pecan pies. Not in crackers and pizza sauce and everything else you eat but in pies it’s fine.

Pecan Pie

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light or dark corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked deep-dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Beat eggs slightly with fork in medium bowl. Add sugar, corn syrup, butter and vanilla; stir until blended. Stir in pecans. Place pie dough in pie pan. Pour pecan filling into pie crust.
Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

For more winter-y ideas, head over to Scribbit’s Winter Bazaar.


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Menu Plan Monday

 Menu Plan Monday is back! I have quite the stockpile now that I have been using Savings Angel for a few weeks.  You can read more about that here.  I dedicate this Menu Plan to Look, Mom, Look! as she told me the other day she had three weeks’ worth of menus planned.  I can’t even imagine; but good for her…


SoupFrench Onion Soup

This was actually made last month and frozen; the recipe is from 3 In Under 3.  Almost exactly a year ago she made it for a soup exchange she had, called a Soup-her Bowl Party. Clever, no?

  • 5 lbs onions, unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 7 (16 ounce) cans beef broth, divided
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour or instant flour caramel coloring (optional) or Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • French baguettes
  • swiss or gruyere cheese

Peel onions and slice 1/8 inch thick, preferably in a food processor. Melt butter in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot. Add onions; cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in pepper, paprika and bay leaf; saute over low heat 10 minutes more, stirring frequently. Pour in 6 cans broth and wine. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Dissolve flour in remaining 1 can broth. Stir into boiling soup. Reduce heat and simmer slowly for 2 hours. Adjust color to a rich brown with caramel coloring, season with salt. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, heat soup in microwave or on stove top. If desired, pour into ovenproof crocks or bowls. Top with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Heat under the broiler until cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Corned Beef Sandwiches on Kaiser Rolls.  I have some sliced corned beef in the freezer that I will be using for this.

Some variety of Green Giant Frozen Vegetables I have about 20 of in my freezer. 


Roast porkCrisp Roast Pork

  • 2 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1⁄4 tsp. cayenne
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 bone-in skin-on pork picnic shoulder (about 8 lbs.)
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

1. Toast cumin and peppercorns in a skillet over medium heat, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small food processor along with oregano, cayenne, garlic, and 1 tbsp. salt; process to a paste. Cut about twenty-five 1 1⁄2-wide slits in the pork about 1 deep. Rub garlic paste all over pork, pressing it into slits. Transfer pork to a roasting pan. Whisk together orange juice, lime juice, oil, and 2 tbsp. salt in a bowl; pour over pork. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 18-24 hours.

2. Remove pork from refrigerator 2 hours before you are ready to roast, to allow it to come to room temperature. Heat oven to 325°. Roast, basting every 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of pork registers 160°, about 3 hours total. (Add 1 cup water to pan when liquid evaporates; cover loosely with foil if skin gets too dark.) Let rest for 15 minutes, then carve and serve.

This recipe is from Saveur.

 giada.jpgSaffron Orzo

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 pound dried orzo
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, bringing the stock to a simmer. Add the saffron, stir, and allow the saffron to bloom, about 5 minutes. Return the heat to medium and the stock to a boil, then add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain orzo and transfer to a large bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss to combine.

This is part of a recipe from “Everyday Italian” I saw last week on the Food Network.

Mixed Greens Salad with my husband’s new favorite dressing; T Marzetti Light Honey Dijon


Monterey Jack Burgers

  • 3/4 lb ground chicken
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup monterey jack cheese
  • 4 slices turkey bacon
  • 4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
  • 1 tomato, sliced

COOK BACON SEPARATELY AND SET ASIDE. Mix together chicken, onion, soy, ketchup, garlic, pepper and cheese. Mix together and form into patties. Grill or fry in pan. Put on bun add 1 strip bacon and slice of tomato.

This recipe is from Recipezaar.

Refried Beans and Meijer Organic Blue Corn Chips.  I had these at a party a few weeks ago and they were SO good. I love the ingredient list: organic corn, expelled sunflower oil, organic sesame seeds, salt. 

Black Bean and Corn Salad.  Recipe is here.

And… a special desert. You’ll hear more about this on Wednesday 🙂


Tater, Ham and Egg Range Top Bake.  Recipe is here, except I am currently somewhat obsessed with making my own hash browns.  The last recipe I used didn’t work so well, and I am on the look-out for a new one.

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 c. oatmeal
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 c. blueberries, washed. I’m finally using some from this summer that are in the freezer.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • nonstick spray


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oatmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Mix in blueberries. In another bowl, break the egg and use a fork to beat it just a little bit. Then add the milk and vegetable oil, and mix. Add this mixture to the first mixture in the large bowl. Using a mixing spoon, mix about 25 or 30 times. Don’t mix too much! Your muffin mixture should be lumpy, not smooth.
Line a muffin tin with paper liners or lightly spray with nonstick spray. Spoon in the muffin mix. Fill each muffin cup about two thirds of the way up.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
When muffins are finished baking, remove from muffin tin and cool them on a wire rack. 

This recipe is from KidsHealth.

Fresh Fruit


Top Sirloin Steaks with Quick Garlic Pan Sauce

  • 4 (6-ounce) top sirloin steaks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Season steaks with salt and pepper. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and when hot, but not smoking, carefully add steaks. Cook on both sides, turning once, until desired doneness is reached (internal temperature of 140°F for medium). Remove steaks and hold warm. Add garlic to pan and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, scraping the pan to remove any browned bits. Simmer until sauce reduces by half, about 4 minutes. Finish with butter, swirling into sauce until slightly thickened. Pour over steaks and serve. This recipe is from Cooks Recipes. crusty bread with Dellalo Olive Bruschetta (which was on sale at Horrocks a few weeks ago)

Green Beans (frozen this summer) with honey and soy sauce. 

Sorry, I don’t know the recipe. I just boil the green beans in a little water, but not until they get mushy. Then I put a little soy sauce and some honey and a little bit of sea salt and mix it up.  It doesn’t need to cook longer; just stay in the pan long enough to heat the honey to melting.

For more Menu Plan Monday, head over to “I’m an Organizing Junkie!”.







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Catch A Flick

Popcorn ThemeMy suggestion for today’s Sanctuary Sunday is directly related to the noise level in my life recently.  My sweet A.P. who didn’t talk until he was almost three now never shuts up. And Maybelle – I swear, and my sister will back me on this, that she started ‘talking’ in the hospital about 12 hours after she was born.

Yelling ManThey are not the only source of noise.  I have a dog whose decline into senility is evidenced by barking at nothing. All the time. Being one of the 11 people who actually watch Public Access, I called Comcast to get a digital converter box so we would not lose those channels when they move them from analog to digital.  An injunction beat me to it, temporarily at least, but the box was in-house by then and my husband couldn’t stand it.  We get the $13 a month package and he was hoping some sort of Cable Genie would fly out of the box as well and hook him up with some free channels. No such luck; in fact we no longer get whatever channel showed “Ninja Warrior” (kind of like a Japanese Ironman) nor do we get ESPN 2. He seems to think that this new box is voice activated, because he keps yelling at it.

There are a few options. As long as I can go alone, I’m good.  Naturally, it has to be inexpensive.  Adventure Mom occasionally does movie reviews.  She is going to have a baby in about a minute though so her movie days may come to a halt for a while. I have nothing to offer in the review category, but I can tell you where the cheap seats are.

  • Celebration Cinema at Woodland Mall has $3.50 for all seats, all shows.
  • On Sunday nights, Studio 28 has movies for $2.94. 
  • Celebration Cinema South has movies on Sunday for $2.97.
  • The Urban Institute of Contemporary Art offers a free movie on Sunday afternoon from January through April.  More details are here.

That ought to be enough to get you going.  You’ll know me if you see me.  I’ll be the one sitting alone, with a bucket of popcorn the size of a bathtub in my lap. But I will be smiling…


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Cold Enough For Ya?

Well, we braved the snow and headed down to the museum for the Ethnic Festival this morning. I thought the weather might be a deterrent to this free admission day (meaning, yipee! no crowds!), but apparently one thing uniting our diverse community is a combination of hardiness and frugality unknown to most climates.  The place was packed.

Even the parking ramp was full.  Let me just clear up one  point that apparently caused some confusion for a few folks.  A Dodge Durango is not a compact car. The reason the sign says, “Compact Car Only” is because if you park your Durango there, you are taking up two spaces.  There are lots of big car spots; and think of what a deal they are – the same price as a small spot! Those ‘compact car only’ spots are for people with little (hence the word ‘compact’) cars, such as Chevettes, or sweet rides like mine

Фото Plymouth Acclaim 2.5 a 1991 Plymouth Acclaim.

On the way out, a museum employee taught Maybelle to find the elevator button with the bell on it, so she ‘alarmed’ the whole way down.  Oh the elevator crowd thought it was so funny, but I’m certain that every elevator we get into from here on out will have an alarm sounded.

EmergencyThis is my second elevator incident with her. You can read about the first one here.  I think it’s time to start hoofing it on the stairs.

We headed over to Breton Village Mall and met up with our friends from Good Idea Momma.  The steel drum band was more a solo act, but the kids loved it anyway.  A.P. has inexplicably picked up a Teddy Pendergrass  move recently he felt would work well with the steel drum sound.  We got some mardi gras beads, balloons, a t-shirt, and coffee mug just for hanging around. 

Schoolhouse Rock - Conjunction JunctionI have nothing to make for Make Something Saturday because my kids were whipped by the time we got home.  They just watched the “Schoolhouse Rock” video we checked out from the library earlier this week, had dinner, and went to bed.

PreschoolRock.comHowever, I do want to offer a resource if you are looking for activities and crafts for your young kids.  It’s called Preschool Rock and it’s relatively new, but it has really added a lot of content in the past year.  I signed up for the email newsletter and almost always find something fun for the kids.

Where was Mr. Binder today? Well, he headed down to Kalamazoo for an “Old House” trade show with my Dad that they both found a little lacking.  My husband forgot his wallet, so my Dad paid his admission, bought him lunch, and also some brake cables for his bike. 

They did learn that a crockpot works wonders for getting paint off of tools, so I am planning on buying a new one soon.  I have already unwillingly donated several kitchen items for such purposes, including my rolling pin.  Apparently this is great for laying linoleum.  He tried (unsuccessfully) to sand all of the adhesive off and return it to me, but told him he could have it in case the need arose again. “Don’t they have a tool for that?” was my question.  My husband said in fact, they did! Hey! He had one on the garage, he just forgot…

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