Thursday, November 29, 2007


I'm not a home-schooler who likes formal tests, especially not in Kindergarten! But this week, Baby Blue Eyes has been finalizing some review of basic math facts, early phonics sounds of short letter a, and what we call "good student skills" (basically sitting at the table or island, doing what Teacher Mommy asks when she asks, and trying our very best). Surprisingly, the "good student skills" have been the hardest for BBE to get down pat. The transition from occasionally playing with workbooks and playing school to honest-to-goodness real daily (almost!) lessons and learning things that don't come easily the first time he tried has proven to be more challenging than I would have guessed for him. I am realistic enough to know that some of this was my consistency (or distinct lack thereof!) with the amount of time and regularity with which we schooled. And that some of it was volunteer work I do and the incredibly busy pace that each week seemed to push upon us all - making it just too easy to push lessons off for "just today. . ." too many weeks in a row. "After all, it's just Kindergarten, right?!") Ugh.

But I also recognized early in October that some of this difficulty in taking lessons seriously was his maturity. He's a young 6. In our loud, crazy, busy house, he has had 6 years of enjoying playtime, arts, music, and craft time pretty much all day long. Expecting him to hop into his chair with his pencil, eraser and pocket protectors at the ready was and is completely unrealistic. It's almost as if I forgot that "good student skills" are learned. Like math facts must be learned by regular practice. Like the individual sounds of the letters must be said and sung and repeated over and over and over . . . So I backed way off, purchased some fun and colorful workbooks that were below his academic level and we practiced holding our pencils. We practiced the "top to bottom" and "left to right" motions of writing. We did letters and numbers on our MagnaDoodle. We practiced saying "Okay, Mommy" when Teacher Mommy requests another page of practice. We read silly books and we played computer phonics and math games.

Then I re-introduced our Hooked on Phonics & Math tapes, flashcards, and workbooks. While I was down for the count a week or so ago with the flu, BBE had his first spelling test: he scored a perfect 100% on his "-at" words. It was on his MagnaDoodle, so I didn't get a picture of it. In the same week, he read his first story and quickly progressed to his second. How priceless is the giggle of pride and the shining eyes of joy at his new achievement! And today, my boy scored another 100% - this time on his first Level 1 math test (+0 and +1's). He's beyond ready for the next level of both his phonics and his math - and now I'm ready too! We have some new workbooks to supplement the fun and we are ready to go, first thing Monday morning! In the meantime, enjoy with me the picture of his "star, please!" and the 100% at the top of the page . . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Comfort Food For a Cold Windy Day

Today has been a really cold, windy day. It's the kind of day that makes me want to putter around my kitchen in my flannel pants and fuzzy slippers, simmering and stirring and creating scrumptious dishes to warm the belly. In case you are feeling similar cravings, here is my recipe for Basic Potato Soup. I got the recipe from a former pastor's wife and over the years I've added and replaced and enhanced it for lots of different tastes. Some of our favorite modifications are also listed below the basic recipe. Enjoy a big bowl of it with your family this week!

Basic Potato Soup
1-2 medium sweet onions, chopped
10-12 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (1" cubes)
salt and pepper to taste
parsley to taste
3 oz. jar of real bacon pieces
3-4 cups of any milk or cream combination
(if using skim, thicken slightly with cornstarch first)

In a very large pot, boil chopped onions & cubed potatoes in JUST enough water to cover them. When fork tender, DO NOT DRAIN! Add salt, pepper & parsley to taste. Add bacon pieces. Stir and let blend for about 15 minutes. Add milk or cream combination and allow to simmer until all flavors are blended. I've added shredded cheddar cheese at the end to thicken it up and make it richer. Serve hot or cold, garnish with chives, sour cream and/or cheese.

Our favorite modifications:
  • Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder: Use equal parts sweet and white potatoes. Instead of bacon, add one can of Fiesta Corn (drained) and 1/2 pound of cooked, sliced smoked turkey sausage.
  • "Like Olive Garden's" Potato & Sausage Soup: Instead of bacon, add cooked bulk sausage in large crumbles (turkey or pork). Use equal parts of reduced fat chicken broth and cream/milk combination.
  • Veggie Potato Soup: I also add chopped carrots, celery, and sometimes chunks of chicken breast instead of bacon. This week I'm going to add frozen chopped broccoli that has been cooked and drained. Maybe it'll be a brand-new favorite for The Gang!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Again!

Okay, so I'm sitting at my father-in-law's desk in the mountains of VA, feeling terrible about waiting this long to post for Li'l Sis's birthday. The last two days have been a flurry of holiday preparations, packing, and catching up on my household. Being sick for 10+ days is a great way to see just how many things can mysteriously pile up on counters, in corners, and in the laundry room. I swear to you I had no idea we had that much STUFF. Now that I'm away from it all and can clear my mind, I am already plotting which rooms and closets to tackle first when we return home. How sick is that?! While I'm sitting here with a rested mind and a very full tummy, I want to share with you what I love most about Li'l Sis - to honor her on her birthday.

Li'l Sis is a beautiful woman. Physically, she is a very attractive girl. She has always received compliments about her beautiful eyes and her pretty face. What makes her beautiful to me is so much deeper than that. Her beauty lies in her purity of spirit and her depth of character. She believes strongly in the virtues of honesty, integrity and compassion. She works hard to instill these things in her children and the junior highers of our church family. She believes whole-heartedly in a radical faith lived out in a tangible and practical manner. It shows in her convictions and her teachability of spirit. Li'l Sis is a great example to me of a Proverbs 31 woman: she is frugal, industrious, diligent and energetic. She is intentional in her marriage, in her parenting and in her friendships. She is loyal and faithful to those she loves. She has incredible wisdom for a woman as young as she is - after all, she's the first one that told me The Boss was a keeper! She is fun and funny, laid-back and easy to be with. Beside The Boss, I love hanging out with her, just relaxing and chatting. Throw in a shopping trip to Kohls with coupons and it's the perfect night as far as I'm concerned!

Best of all, Li'l Sis is a wonderful sister. Through all the years we were growing up together, I remember her always being there supporting the rest of us siblings. Encouraging us. And as my younger brother can testify, fighting for us! I always loved that she never let anyone pick on him, even if he was wrong. She stuck up for what she believed in, and she believed in family. No matter the hard times I have gone through, I have always known that I could count on her for love, support and loyalty. I knew she'd tell it to me straight, but that she'd do it in love and she's still doing that today. She is real in her compassion over my struggles, but she carries a mantle of wisdom and authority about her that reminds me that it doesn't have to be like that and that I can make it through. I love that idealistic spirit - I especially love watching her pass it on to her kids, my kids, and the families that she and Pastor Brother-In-Law minister to every day. She is certain that God's best for YOU can be accomplished here and now.

Li'l Sis represents the best of both of my parents. She has taken the wonderful godly traits that they both carry and allowed the Lord to steep them into her spirit. She honors the Lord and my folks with the way she lives her marriage, parents her kids, ministers to her family, and works in her local church. Some of you are blessed to call her friend. Some of you get the benefit of calling her your pastor's wife. I am the most blessed of all: I call her my sister!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Okay, so November is a really BUSY month for our family - beyond the holidays and the changing of weather patterns. Last week was my Dad's birthday, yesterday Dr. Doolittle turned 12 and today is Li'l Sis's birthday. I'm still sick (now it's a sinus infection!), I'm running behind, but I must pause to acknowledge these important people in my life. After all, the people are what keep me going and doing all that my "To Do" list dictates that I do. What good is a "To Do" list if what I'm doing isn't for and about the ones that I love the most? The next two posts are dedicated to honoring Dr. D and Li'l Sis. I hope you hang in with me to share the joy that they bring to my life - and yours if you are blessed enough to know them!

Dr. Doolittle is 12 now. He's my "brown-eyed boy" and the family joker. (I always wanted a brown-eyed son, since I was in high school!) He's always got a funny story or a joke or a prank to play and most of the time keeps us laughing. He's sweet with little ones, so tender and caring that they are drawn to him and his antics immediately. He's crazy about the Eagles and a loyal fan even when they are driving the rest of us to complete frustration. Dr. D is hopelessly optimistic that "this might be the big play," and I love that about him! He's our resident nature lover and devours non-fiction books like they are candy bars for his brain. Sometimes we look up random crazy facts about exotic animals just to try and stump him with a question, but he's way ahead of us - he knows the most bizarre facts about the most bizarre animals. He's recently taken up photography, and is thinking about becoming a wildlife photographer someday. I often tease him that I don't want him to graduate because I may never get him back from the remote jungles of the world after that.

Beyond all these interesting and fun personality traits, I see in Dr. D a caring and tender heart for Jesus. He takes great pleasure in the simplest things about the world around him - thrilling over the sound of a wild turkey calling across the woods at Grandma and Grandpa's mountain home, cracking himself up over the crazy characters he makes up to entertain us all, wonder and awe at the sight of the huge turtles at the Aquarium or the hawk and woodpeckers that live in the gully behind our house. This joy in simplicity is a quality that I admire and desire to emulate. It's something that many of us love about Dr. Doolittle - I think that's because many of us have lost that child-like faith and awe somewhere along the way. Dr. D makes me stop and remember that the creation that makes him drop his jaw in wonder should make me pause too.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Doolittle. You are an incredibly important part of this family - you make us all laugh and remember to stop and enjoy the little things in life along the way. Don't lose that child-like exuberance for the world you are in - we all need that. We all need you and are so grateful to Jesus that He chose US to be your family. You are special and you are unique. Even if you do leave your socks laying all over the house when your feet get hot :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Favorites Friday

In honor of my Dad's 65th birthday this week, I'm going to share my favorite things about him. I was going to make a special Monday night edition just for him, but I've been down with a flu type bug most of the week and am just clearing the fog today. Yeah, I know, the week started so great, didn't it?! Anyway, in celebration of one of the greatest men I know . . .

My Favorite Things About My Daddy
(yes, I occasionally still call him "Daddy!")
  • He prays for us. I know this because all my life, I've seen him praying for those he loves. He believes strongly in the power of prayer, and lives it out every day. He is faithful to pray, faithful to trust, and faithful to wait on the Lord for His answers.
  • He cares a lot about legacy and history. He studies the history of The Church, of our family and of our nation. He learns from it, treasures it, and lives his life in a way that honors it. Watching him be so passionate about where we have been makes me want to be diligent about where I'm going.
  • He is a survivor. No matter the hard times that he and Mom have been through, he has trusted the Lord, he has clung to the Rock, and he has survived. And from where I'm sitting, he hasn't just survived, he has overcome and conquered. Faithfully. Trustingly.
  • He never accepted mediocrity from me. I may have chafed at that as a child and later as a young woman; but now that I'm a mom, I am incredibly grateful for it. I hear him in my heart when I tell my kids that I don't care about the actual grade, I care more that they did their best and that they challenged themselves. It makes me strive to be a better wife and better mom. And I think it makes me willing to take risks in areas that I wouldn't otherwise.
  • He loves his God, his family, and his community. As a pastor, I've seen him lay his life down for more than 25 years for the same church family. As a dad, I've seen and experienced his care in countless ways: cereal marshmallows for a certain little grand-daughter's sweet tooth, power washing our deck when The Boss mentioned it had to be done soon, a beautiful family vacation home that he shares generously, and those Valentine cards that have been coming addressed in his hand to each grandkid every year without fail. As a member of his community: I hear stories of the garage mechanic he's been sharing Jesus with for 20 some years now, the police officers who know him by name, the luncheon to honor the fire department that saved their church building from a dumpster fire. All these relationships are borne out of his love for Jesus and the love that he allows Jesus to pour into him for those around him.
I know that not all of you have been blessed to have this kind of "Father" relationship in your life. And I know that often our view of our Heavenly Father is skewed by our relationship with our earthly father. So, trust me when I say that I am completely grateful to the Lord that He saw fit to rescue my dad and pour Himself into dad all those years ago. It changed our family's course for generations to come. And I am very grateful that my dad emptied himself and cried out for Abba Father to fill him anew. And that he keeps doing this even now. It's a great example to me and to my whole family. Faithfulness, steadfastness. Daily renewal, daily grace. This verse always reminds me of my Daddy's example of a true, faithful, daily Christian walk:

Lamentations 3:22-23 "The steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."
(English Standard Version)

So, Happy (belated) Birthday, Dad! You are a treasure to our family and to all those who know you. Your steadfast following of Jesus Christ is an example to us all and an honor to the One who gave up ALL so that we might be His. I love you!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Great Start to the Week!

Imagine my joy! First, I get to start my week slowly and quietly at home with Baby Blue Eyes and my cousin, S. Then, the pinnacle. The joy. The perfect start to a quiet, peaceful Monday morning.

They talked about Philly, about his dad's weather gig on Action 6, about his adorable little boy, and of course, about Bones. There was a clip of an upcoming episode. Oooooh, I love that show. The dialogue, the intrigue, the science. Well, I could do with out the cutting and the dismembered body parts. But I do love that show. If you don't watch it, you really ought to give it a try. But be warned, you'll get hooked. It's simply one of the greatest crime shows out there. A perfect balance of levity, snappy dialogue and serious crime. Intelligent crimes, none of that thug knocking other thugs off stuff. Smart stuff. Really! There was a passing mention of a new movie coming soon, filmed here in the greater Philly region. I know I didn't miss the title or the date of the movie, as I was glued to my seat and the volume was as loud as BBE would tolerate it. So, now I must google it and see what to expect and when I can expect it.

But that was a great start to the week. I may as well not watch any more morning television all week. They can't top that. That was the perfect Monday morning kick-off. Especially on the heels of the news and other important updates and features by Matt (Lauer, of course!). Really, the week is off to a grand start!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Favorites Friday

As promised, today's favorites are the sites and links I check regularly. Because we are in the waiting process of an international adoption, my "regulars" may look different than other stay-at-home, home schooling mommies. I hope that translates to something different and new, maybe even fun! for you. I try to limit the amount of time I spend surfing any sites on a daily basis - we all know how it can just "suck you in!" to wasting a whole morning over a cold cup of coffee while PBS blares endlessly in the background. No? Well, maybe it's just my house! But when I do check these sites, it's mostly a quick stop to see what's new in recent days.

  • TLC; HGTV; DIY; Good Housekeeping; Foodnetwork, etc. - I surf these sites several times a week. I follow up on information from shows I caught while folding laundry or ideas for decorating, saving money or organizing my home. It's especially useful to check these sites when I can't sit through a whole show but am really interested in specific segments. I also love to enter the sweepstakes - as long as I'm there :)
  • - I love this site! I love the feature to search for a recipe by ingredients, I love the readers' ratings, and I love that almost every time I go there I find something new I want to try out on my family. It's gotten me out of a rut many times, when I just can't face another boring meal of chicken, cream soup and mixed veggies thrown together the same way.
  • Dayspring - I'm a card sender, a note writer, and a "word-y" (you know, like a "foodie!"). So when I found the free e-card page here, I was thrilled. I've thoroughly enjoyed the technology that allows me to jet a thoughtful hello with some cute pics and music to a friend that the Lord brings to my mind. I have also surfed the other popular card companies' sites, but still come back to this one most of the time.
  • ChinaAdoptTalk - well-known in international adoption circles, "The Rumor Queen" runs this site to track rumors and time lines for families in the process of adoptions from China. There is a ton of helpful information on this site and I've learned a lot about the inner workings of various agencies, including the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). I do have to limit the amount of time I spend here, as they are still rumors and emotions can often run very high among forum members and commenters to her blog. And I try to check in to our agency's site (Living Hope Adoption Agency) if for no other reason than to take some cheer and encouragement from the adorable faces on its different pages!
  • My local ABC affiliate - I love current events but I often don't have time to sit and watch each story that catches my eye. So I check here first when I hear about local happenings or news flashes that may affect our family or our community. I also love my local ABC station because David Boreanaz's dad is our afternoon weather guy, Dave Roberts. I can totally see where David gets his acting charm and that "camera loves him" smile. And yes, I am completely aware that this connection has nothing to do with real news or being more informed. Just another little quirk of mine. Look for yourself: aren't their smiles remarkably similar?!
I didn't hear from very many of you regarding your favorite new sites, so hopefully this time around you all will share with me some "oldies but goodies" that you love. And yes, that was another shameless plug :)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Between The Rock and a Hard Place

We are in a very difficult season. I don't feel liberty to discuss the details, Lord knows I've about talked it to death in my head and in my heart already. The Boss told me this morning that he feels "at the end of (his) rope." I agreed - I'm dangling there with him. We have no alternatives before us right now but to trust.

This was confirmed to me on Sunday, when someone who knows a little of our situation shared an option with us that cut straight to the root of the fears that I've been struggling with in the heat of this pressure cooker. He doesn't even know how his words ministered to me, as The Boss just very casually mentioned that "so & so" had something he wanted to share and "here's what he said." This was on the heels of Pastor Brother In Law's sermon that focused on the question "Who Do You Trust?" from II Kings 6:8-17. It was the story of Elisha's servant whose eyes were opened by the Lord to see the real battlefield. I've been holding all this and more in my heart since then - brewing and brewing over them.

I've been spending a lot of time in the Psalms. Countless times, the Lord has dropped a number into my mind, and I've scurried off for my Bible. See, when I get NUMBERS in my head, then I know it's the Lord. One of my greatest weaknesses in learning Scripture is that I have the hardest time keeping references in my head. I flip them around, transpose them, blank out on them, whatever. So when I get a reference that hangs in my heart and mind like a blinking neon sign, I pay attention. And this morning, the Lord sent me to Psalm 61 and 62. That's me - hanging in there, crying out to the Lord. Feeling more desperate and strangely more numb than I've ever felt in hard times like these. As a writer, David's heart and eloquence gets me every time. In desperation, his words are leveling me. Flat on my face, leveled.

It's hard to be here. But even as The Boss was telling me this morning how he felt, I felt a peace that at our end is exactly where He wants us to be. And as hard as it is to be here, I've felt such a peace in the past two days that this will work out - for our good. That we will come out the other side and that the journey won't be as crippling and as painful if we snug up to the Rock. So that's where I want to be - face first, flat up against MY ROCK.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Whew! What a Weekend!

This was a fun and busy weekend in the Gang's household. After months and months of meetings, planning, organizing and creating, our local elementary Home And School Association hosted its first annual Basket Auction fund raiser. I was on the planning team and played a minor role in the final product, so I'm very proud of all that we accomplished. The goal of the event was to raise enough money to eliminate some of our older, worn-out fund raisers. I think we did that, in spades. Final numbers won't be out for a week or so, but it's looking promising.

Saturday morning was spent moving donated "baskets" full of goodies from the chairwoman's home to the hall and setting up tables, displays, check-out stations, food stations, and so on. I had to scoot out early to help The Boss with a big project at home. Boy, am I glad I came home when I did! He moved our tv from one side of the fireplace to the other, with all the wiring, cables, and such that go along with that. In doing so, we also moved our stereo, all the furniture, tables and lamps. And while the shelves above the built-ins were accessible, I dusted and re-arranged all our "pretties," too. I was so tempted to stay at the hall and keep plugging through with the rest of the set up team, but I knew The Boss was going to delve into something big. I didn't want it to become an all-weekend type project, so it's good that I showed up to help him. The afternoon was fun; working with The Boss on any home project is one of my favorite ways to spend time. The kids were in and out, playing with Favorite Neighbor Girl and enjoying the sunshine.

The evening at the auction was a blast. We went with Favorite Neighbors and bid on some raffle baskets, ate dinner, chatted and visited with other school parents and enjoyed the night out. The Live Auction at the end was pretty late but well worth staying for! The bidding over a signed National League MVP ball was intense - quiet and purposeful, but intense. We had a few teachers donate fun "day experiences" with the kids and the bidding was fast and furious for most of them. The "movie date" with the librarian was hilarious to watch, the parents were so intent on winning. One of the days (a pool party for a family at the gym teachers' home) went for $400! And to our surprise, the auctioneer made (pre-arranged) deals with the next highest bidders to throw in additional, identical days for the same price - and they all sold! Huge thanks to the teachers who all are giving so generously of their time with our kids - all for the sake of keeping our school moving forward and being the best it can be. The whole night, my mental wheels were turning: looking for ideas and ways to improve upon this year's event for next year. I know, that's sort of sad. I couldn't just sit and have fun, although I did do that. I am already looking ahead! No wonder it took me almost 2 hours to wind down and fall asleep when we stumbled in after 11:30.

Sunday was spent hanging out with The Gang and the nieces and nephew. They played outside so nicely together, but every time I started to doze off on the couch, one of the 7 of them came barging in for something! Finally, I gave up and read for a while. We had a church meeting later and then I finally got to fall asleep on the couch, while The Boss watched the very disappointing loss of the Eagles to the Cowboys. Normally I care very much about seeing the Eagles trounce dem Cowboys, but last night I couldn't muster the energy. Whew! What a Weekend!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Favorites Friday

Today, I'm sharing with you some sites that I've found recently. Some of them may not be new to you, but all of them are new to me. I am after all, only a hobbyist when it comes to blogging, the Internet, and site searching. Most of the time, I find sites I love, only to forget how I got there. And I happily move on, only after I realize that I didn't bookmark it to navigate my way back. Seriously, for as organized and orderly as I'm supposed to be for an ENFJ, I am absolutely scatter-brained and near dingy (or wifty as an old friend used to say) when it comes to my computer. So here they are, the sites I've found recently and can actually track down the site addresses for, for your surfing pleasure!

My Favorite Sites, recently:
  • Menus For Moms - they offer all kinds of household management support, in the form of free menus with corresponding grocery lists, cleaning and organizing tips and recipes to help you out of your cooking rut. It's a lot to take in, so I've been there several times processing information in smaller doses. They even have a home school page or two!
  • The Reluctant Gourmet - this is actually the spouse of one of the bosses in The Boss's office. Did ya get that? He's The Boss's VP's hubby and this site is a delight to read! Candid, informative, creative, and so inspiring - I've tried some new tricks from this site and I just heard about it last weekend. Their family has a great story and this site is so well done, I love just paging around, even when I am not looking for anything in particular.
  • Puzzle Maker - I forgot about this site for a while, but recently recommended it to my co-homeroom mom. We've used it for baby shower games, spelling list practice, vocabulary lessons, and other special projects for school. I even used it for a Christmas party that The Boss and I hosted when we first moved to SE PA. Makes learning fun, and anything that makes words fun is alright in my geek handbook :)
  • - This site is amazing! I can make up math sheets, let Baby Blue Eyes play phonics games and fill my head with all kinds of fun ideas and inspirations in my schooling. I love the coloring pages, too. It's not the easiest site to navigate the first couple times you are on it, but you get the logic of it quickly. I do still struggle with making up the math sheets, but we are still doing simple addition of 0's, 1's and 2's so I don't stress about it too often. And you can pick the objects to be added - there are frogs, dots, lady bugs, penguins, and so on. Very fun for all of us!
  • Indian Valley Trading Post - Finally, this is a home-based business of some new friends of The Gang. They are creative, interesting and entrepreneurial spirits who make soy-based candles in their home. I have three (Spiced Cider, Vanilla Shake, and Grandma's Kitchen) and let me tell you: I doubt I'll EVER go back to paraffin based candles again. These things are so pretty, they smell amazingly true to the "real scent" (read here: craving an old-fashioned vanilla milkshake and homemade sugar cookies right now!), and they burn slow and clean. I've always been a candle fanatic, with pillars, jars, tapers, and votives all over the house. But now, I think my fanaticism has risen to a whole new level! And I think I got my MIL hooked this weekend - she couldn't stop raving about the Vanilla Shake. Sure makes my Christmas list easy :)
So, there you have it. My five favorite new (to me) sites. Maybe next week, I'll share the "oldies but goodies" that I check regularly. If you have some new faves, be sure to list them in your comments to me. If you are a lurker, come out of hiding and share your faves. And yes, that was a shameless attempt to lure my lurkers out of hiding :)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Yummy Week of Crock-Potting

I've been inspired by the cooler temps. I love this season, with the colorful leaves, the chilly mornings and the dark crisp nights. And I love the food. I've been cooking my brains out for about 5 days now. Shaggy and Dr. Doolittle think they are in heaven. Stews, soups, breads, comfort food casseroles, you name it and I'm whipping it up in my cheery red & yellow kitchen. I'm even surprising myself! But Oh! the comfort of a hearty-grained bread, dripping with chicken broth and veggies as I clean my bowl. Is there any better scent than a crock pot simmering dinner in the corner while I curl up with a mystery novel under my faux fur throw? I think not!

Last night, in lieu of trick or treating, we had a mini-Family night. We watched old episodes of I Love Lucy, and a few other sit-coms. All this while cuddled up in the dark cozy family room with a big bowl of French Chicken Stew. It's a recipe I created a couple rainy springs ago and it is officially now my favorite crock-pot meal. So, as a gift to you, my faithful 5 readers, I'm sharing this recipe today. Enjoy it with garlic bread, baguettes, or hearty 12 grain rolls. I guarantee, you will make it again. And again! And when you do make this, let me know what you think. I love feedback and input about recipes.

French Chicken Stew

1-2 cups flour

1 tsp. each: salt, flour, garlic powder

½ - ¾ c. olive oil

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

or 8-10 thighs, cut into 2” chunks

2 (10.5 oz.) cans 98% fat free cream of chicken soup

8-10 oz. white wine

2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, Italian seasonings

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

2-3 medium white turnips, peeled

1 medium butternut squash, peeled & seeded

2 cups baby carrots

In large Ziploc bag, combine flour, salt, flour, and garlic powder. Heat oil in large skillet. Throw chunked chicken into bag and toss to coat well. Place chicken pieces into hot oil and allow all sides of chicken pieces to brown and sear till golden. Remove to plate and allow to drain on paper towels. Discard remaining flour and oil.

Lightly spray your crock pot with baking spray. Chop peeled turnips and peeled, seeded butternut squash into about 2” cubes and place into crock pot. (If you don’t like turnips or squash, you can substitute white potatoes and sweet potatoes.) Cover with chopped onion. Chop baby carrots in half and place on top of onions. Cover with browned, seared chicken pieces.

In separate bowl, whisk together the cream of chicken soup and the wine. Pour over everything in the crock pot. Turn crock pot on to Low and allow to cook for at least 6 hours. Do not stir for first ½ of cooking time!

About 1 hour before serving, stir in the diced Italian seasoned tomatoes. Stir gently, to avoid mushing up the vegetables or shredding the chicken. If necessary, thicken the stew.

To thicken the stew:

Mix 1 cup very cold water with 2 Tbsp. flour that’s been well-whisked to remove lumps.

Pour in slowly and stir gently.

Allow to thicken for about 15 minutes before serving.