Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year 2014!

I hope you have someone cute to kiss at midnight and ring in the New Year!

As for me, I hope to be blissfully asleep. Planning on turning in early!

Happy New Year!
Rice Pot Mama

Tuesday Tips - Tomato Stains and Tupperware

I have a lot of strange pet peeves. One of them is when my storage containers get stained by the food I am storing. Spaghetti sauce is the worst. It turns clear Tupperware into a strange orange mess. One way around this is to spray your Tupperware with cooking spray before putting the food in. All of the tomato sauce will wash right off leaving no stains. Love it!

Saturday, December 28, 2013


I'm officially the fattest I've ever been (not including when I was pregnant). I've been exercising but my food consumption has definitely increased with the holidays. Also turning 35 I think my metabolism has taken a nose dive. I know I need to monitor the quantities that I eat but I'm such a competitive person; when the hubby wants seconds so do I!

For my New Year's resolution I'm going to firm up. I'm not going to put pressure on myself to lose weight but hopefully I can get a bit tighter in the areas that are a little soft. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! Whether you love Santa, or

think he's a bit scary, may you find joy in the magic the season brings!
Much love,
Rice Pot Mama

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bah Humbug

Nate is a very pragmatic child. Almost a little too grown up at times. When we were on the Polar Express the engineer announced that we had arrived at the North Pole. Nate proceeded to tell the child sitting in the next seat over that the engineer was wrong. "Look at the trees," he said. The houses, the lack of snow. We need to teach him about suspending his disbelief.

When Santa came aboard he sat with each child and asked them what they wanted for Christmas. He then gave them a bell like in the book The Polar Express. If you haven't read the book, a little boy asks Santa for a bell from his sleigh. Only true believers can hear the ring of the bell. Well...the bell Nate received didn't have a clapper. No ring. The coincidence was not lost on any of the adults. We all enjoyed a good chuckle. As for Nate, we got a new bell. One that rings and everyone can hear.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Polar Express

Last Sunday we had a magical morning with the kids and their friends on the Polar Express. They put on their softest pajamas (and nicest for public viewing, we have some pretty ratty pjs!) and climbed on board.

They were served hot chocolate and cookies by the chefs and read the story of The Polar Express and even met some of the characters from the book.

They were given golden tickets.

The conductor punched their tickets like a crazy man. The kids were fascinated by the hole punch...I think I've found a stocking stuffer for next year! The highlight was the big man in the red suit. Read about that story tomorrow...

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Last weekend we had our annual gingerbread making party with the Okerstroms and Megan F. Typically while the girls bake the gingerbread the guys go skiing. This year we stayed at a posh condo in Government Camp. (Gotta love online deals!) Since we were so close to the mountain the guys took the older kids for their first attempt at skiing.

The weather was perfect. And the kids were all smiles.
Nate's favorite part of the morning was the chair lift. That was Jim's least favorite part of the day. A squirmy boy dangling from a spindly chair up in the air. All I can say is that I'm glad I wasn't there! It would have given me major anxiety. Especially with Nate's wiggle-ness.

The first attempt at skiing was thrilling and left both Nate and Elise with an appetite for more. Yay!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

World's Best Lasagna?

I made the "World's Best Lasagna" over the weekend for a group of friends. We kept saying the name like Buddy the Elf says "World's Best Cup of Coffee" in the movie Elf. (Get the reference, anyone? Anyone?)

The lasagna was meaty and very flavorful. It was relatively easy to make as far as lasagna goes.

Start by cooking the ground sausage. Cook until there is no pink showing.

The instructions say to break up any large clumps with a spatula. Jim's cousin's wife taught me this cool trick with a potato masher...works every time!

Add in the ground beef, onion and garlic. Cook until the beef is browned.

Stir in all of the tomatoes and water. When combined, add in the sugar, spices, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, pepper and half of the parsley. Cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is bubbling away, cook the noodles and prep the cheese mixture.

For the cheese mixture, in a small bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, remaining parley and remaining salt.

Looks yummy, doesn't it?

Once all of the components are ready you can start assembling the lasagna. Spread 1 1/2 cups of sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Then layer half of the noodles on top; overlapping the noodles slightly.

Spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the noodles.

Add half the sliced mozzarella slices on top. Completely cover the ricotta mixture with the cheese.

Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce over the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan. Repeat. Note, you will have leftover sauce.

Bake for 25 minutes covered with foil at 375 degrees, remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

Verdict, the lasagna was good. The World's Best? Not quite. My brother-in-law Jeff's is much better. I feel like this recipe is one that someone who wanted to replicate a lasagna they ate at a restaurant would want. It tastes very commercial. Maybe it is all of the fennel seeds. Too me lasagna is more gooey with cheese and this lasagna is missing bechaemel sauce.

World's Best Lasagna


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
12 oz. lean ground beef
1/2 c. minced white or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. canned, no-salt-added crushed tomatoes and their juices
12 oz. canned, no-salt-added plain tomato paste
13 oz. canned, no-salt-added plain tomato sauce
1/2 c. water
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. ground dried basil
1/2 t. fennel seed
1 t. Italian seasoning blend
2 t. kosher salt, plus more for the cooking water
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley
12 pieces dried lasagna pasta
1 lb. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg
12 oz. low-fat mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Heat the sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, using a spatula to break up any large clumps, until the meat is browned with no trace of pink.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


We had these super thick cardboard tubes from the nursery. Dozens of them. They seemed like a great basis for a craft so we offered them up to Nate's teacher. She looked at them and instantly said "rockets". I was a bit confused how she would make it into a rocket but should have never have doubted her. This is one of the cutest things I've seen in a while!

The kids painted the tubes and rocket tips. Then made the cute straw astronauts with a picture their teacher cut out. The fire bursting out the bottom was added by their teacher. Isn't it fantastic?

Here is a close up. Doesn't Nate make a cute astronaut?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Me

It's my birthday today. I'm 35 if you were wondering. I seem to have earned a few more wrinkles and one or two more grey hairs since last year. My waistline is a bit softer too. All that considered, I had an awesome year! Looking forward to next year, though might consider hair dye if more grey hairs pop up.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Tips - Cooking Ground Meat

When cooking ground meat the directions often tell you to break up the large chunks with your spoon so that the pieces are small and even. This never works for me! I try to cut a large piece in two and in shoots out of the pot and onto the floor. It makes me so frustrated (though our dog Lucca loves it!). One of Jim's cousin's wives told me that she always uses a potato masher to break up the pieces. I thought it might make a mess of the meat but it worked wonderfully!

I would recommend using the handy dandy spoon to cook the meat and once cooked break up any large chunks with the potato masher.

Note, the above ground sausage was for the "World's Best Lasagna". The recipe and my thoughts will follow later in the week.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Sorry for the lack of posts. We've been so busy and I've had the best intentions but sometimes time just slips by. I'm going to inundate you the next couple of weeks to try to fill you in on all the goings-on with our family.

First up, Nate had his first belt test for Taekwondo on Thursday and passed! He will now be a white belt with a yellow stripe. I don't think it is an official belt in the belting system, just one of those feel-good things to keep the "Little Tigers" interested and engaged.

In order to pass Nate had to do two things; first he had to recite his telephone number and second, break a board. On the board Nate wrote his New Year's resolution "I want to learn to read." Apparently if you break the board you will accomplish your resolution. Nate was a bit nervous about whether or not he could break the board but managed with a good punch. For his little level the boards are made out of balsa wood. It took a lot of willpower for Jim and I not to break it ourselves. It looked like so much fun!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Last Week

We were in California last week and had a wonderful time visiting my family. I already miss my family. I miss the yummy food. I really miss the weather. It was in the 60s and 70s and right now that sounds heavenly. When we woke this morning it was freezing cold! Actually, it's below freezing! Our weather gauge read 8 degrees...single digit cold! Yikes!

One of the major highlights of the trip was a family excursion to Disneyland. Happily my cousins Natalie and Nick were able to join us. They were so much fun and really made the day about the little kids; sitting with them on rides, feeding Gabs frozen lemonade, holding their hands. They were amazing!

Surprisingly, the longest line of the day was our first ride, Peter Pan (Jim's sentimental favorite ride). A whopping 15 minutes!

Nate's favorite ride is Splash Mountain. Maybe Californian-ers thought it was too cold to get all wet, but Splash Mountain had one of the shortest lines of the day. The line wait time was mostly walking through to the start. Even though you can't see us, Natalie, Nate and I were in the back of the boat. We wanted all of the guys to block us from getting too wet...it worked. Nick and Jim were soaked. We just got a couple of splatters.
Of course, no visit to Disneyland would be complete with a big hug and photo op with the big cheese himself, M-I-C-K-E-Y  M-O-U-S-E!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Capturing the Moment

It's hard to believe it was only a year ago our whole family was in Hawaii; our kids, his parents, my parents and my sister. Jim and I constantly realize how special it is that both sides of our family get along so well. One of the best things we did was hire a photographer to capture photos of our combined family trip. We found a photographer on Craig's List who was fabulous. She took the time to scout out a deserted beach for us and literally got her feet wet to get the perfect picture. Despite ruffled hair from all of the wind, we have great photos to look back on our combined family trip.