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Monday, November 19, 2012

Perfect Roast Turkey

Since we're so close to Thanksgiving, I thought it was the perfect time to re-post my turkey recipe.  I'll be utilizing it again this year, but after watching an episode of the Pioneer Woman I'm going to add some peppercorns, rosemary and orange peel to my brine this year (her full recipe is here).  I'll let you know how it turns out...

It's a lot of preparation and work, but this turkey recipe is the ultimate centerpiece to our Thanksgiving dinner.  The turkey is moist and succulent.  Even with the addition of citrus and the maple glaze, the drippings are still great for gravy.  So give it a try if you're feeling adventurous and industrious!
13 lb turkey
2 oranges
2 lemons
2 grapefruit

3/4 cup salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
water to cover

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 medium white or yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup minced thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1/2 teaspoons salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

DAY 1 (yes, this is a lengthy recipe!)
  1. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey.  Rinse well with cold water inside and out.
  2. In a container large enough to snugly hold the turkey, combine the brine ingredients with a cup of cold water.  Stir well.  Place turkey in the container and add more cold water until covered.  Put a plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Combine the stuffing ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Put the mixture on wax paper in a log shape.  Roll the paper around it and refrigerate.
DAY 2:
  1. After 24 hours in brine, discard the brine and rinse the turkey well with cold water.  Pat dry.  At the neck cavity, gently separate the skin from the breast meat on both sides with your fingers, working from the neck end back to the tail, making a pocket to hold the stuffing.  Be careful not to rip the skin.
  2. Remove the stuffing log from the refrigerator and cut into slices.  Insert the rounds under the skin.  From the outside of the skin, use your fingers to smooth the stuffing evenly over the breast meat.
  3. Quarter the citrus and stuff as many as will fit into the cavity of the turkey.
  4. In another bowl, combine the baste ingredients.
  5. Place a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and when it is hot, add the turkey, breast side down.  Cook until the breast skin is an even brown all over--about five minutes.
  6. Place the turkey breast side down on a roasting rack in a 4" deept roasting pan.  Baste the exposed skin well.  Put the turkey, leg end first into the lower third of 350 degree oven.  Baste every 30 minutes.  Cook the turkey, breast side down, until the innermost thigh meat registers 165 degrees.
  7. Turn the turkey breast side up and check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast.  Baste well and return to the oven.  Baste every 15 minutes until the breast meat registers 152 degrees.  Remove the turkey and let it rest 30 minutes under an aluminum foil tent before carving.
  8. Use the drippings to make gravy. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds

I know it's been FOREVER since I've posted on the blog.  It's been a busy month.  I have a catch up post coming soon, but in the meantime I thought I'd re-post one of my favorite fall snack recipes.

I love pumpkin seeds.  My favorite part of the fall season is getting those seeds out of the pumpkin and toasting them up into tasty snacks.  I came across this recipe last year and it was WONDERFUL!  I even made extras to include in our Christmas gift baskets last year (it was a challenge not to eat all of them, myself).  This year the boys have a couple pumpkins they just painted to decorate, so I'm happy I have two more pumpkins full of seeds to harvest!

Her's the recipe.  Enjoy!

  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (according to your taste)
  • 2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds, washed and dried
  • cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons of sugar, the cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, and set aside.
  3. Place the pumpkin seeds on the prepared baking sheet, spray them with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake the seeds in the preheated oven until lightly golden--20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and stir in the toasted pumpkin seeds along with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cook and stir the seeds until the sugar forms a coating on the seeds, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  5. Stir the caramelized seeds into the bowl of sugar-spice mixture, toss to coat, and let cool.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Halloween Costumes With Wheelchairs

I randomly came across a picture today of a fantastic Halloween costume that includes a wheelchair.  I was so excited about the find (I’m kind of a Star Wars geek), that I immediately posted it to a parents group I belong to on Facebook.  Meanwhile, I got to thinking about other possibilities for costumes that include wheelchairs.  

 With Halloween just about a month away, it’s a good time to start working on costumes, especially if they’re going to be complicated or require a little construction (last year I waited waaaaaay too late to create a Paper Mache Yoda mask for my son who told me he wanted to be Yoda way back in August).  I’m determined to get an early start on the costumes this year so I’m not scrambling at the list minute or spending a lot more money than I had planned on.

While my kids don’t utilize a wheelchair regularly, I know a lot of families who do.  I thought it would be fun to go through pictures of wheelchair costumes and post as many as I could find in one spot.  Maybe the pictures will inspire you.  I’ve tried to include links to the websites where I found them, especially if they included instructions on how they created them.  I love this time of year!  I’m excited to get started on our own family’s costumes.


 Batman in his bat-mobile

Buzz Lightyear in the "Claw" Game

Optimus Prime

Superman - Flying through the clouds!


Viking and Ship

Pirate Aboard a Ship

Pirate in a Tower - This could totally be Rapunzel in a Tower, too!





Flintsone Car 



 Ice Cream Truck

Ice Cream Truck


Police Car

        Thomas the Train


John Deere Tractor 





Princess Coach

 Kissing Booth


Medieval Knight 

Peewee Herman 






Mr. Burns 



Monday, September 3, 2012

A Self Advocate Emerges

Tomorrow the boys start a new school year.  They are excited and they are anxious.

Tomorrow also marks the first transition Cainan has had to make since entering Kindergarten.  Since he started school, three years ago, he's been in the same Special Education class, with the same teachers and, essentially, the same kids (only 12 total).  This year, he is embarking on a journey of complete community belonging, in a regular 2nd grade class, at our neighborhood school, with a new teacher and all new kids (over 20 in this class).  He will have some supports, but not the hand-holding and individualized pace he's been used to.  He's a smart boy--I we know he can do this.  He's looking forward to the new experience.

As I've journeyed this last year toward becoming a better advocate for my kids, I've also tried to impart my knowledge and skills to my boys, in the hope that they will learn to be advocates for themselves.  One of the biggest steps in this direction is occurring for Cainan tomorrow.  As he starts his first day of class with these new kids and a new teacher, he's going to stand before them all and explain the medical diagnosis he lives with.  He's going to help them understand why he may seem different in some ways to the kids and how in many ways, he's just like them--a regular kid.  

We worked on the speech together and I wrote it out for him on index cards.  He's been practicing and he's ready to get up tomorrow and share his narrative.  I am so proud of him, that he agreed to speak without hesitation and that he's looking forward to helping the kids in his class get to know him better.  He's expecting to make lots of new friends and learn all the things a second grader is supposed to learn.  He has high hopes for this year, as do we.    

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Healthy Eating and Detoxing With Smoothies

I've embarked on the world of "green" smoothies, recently, because my doctor told me I need to include more fiber in my diet as well as eat more healthy fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.  While I like smoothies as a general rule, I've never been a fan of meal replacement.  I've never found smoothies to satisfy me the way "real food" does.  If I drink a smoothie, I still want to eat--so I wasn't really excited about this prospect.

However, I went into it with an open mind.  I invested in a Ninja (I love saying that!). 

Who knew a Ninja would be so great in the kitchen...seriously, though, it's the best blender I've ever had.  It has individual serving cups and it's quick an easy to clean up (something I hated previously about using a standard blender, is taking it all apart and cleaning it every time).  

I've been drinking smoothies for three weeks now and I'm surprised at how full I feel afterward. I had never made smoothies like this before, incorporating vegetables as well as fruit (and no ice cream or yogurt!).  They taste good (wasn't expecting that either) and my difficulty with finding an acceptable morning meal has been solved (I don't care for most breakfast foods).  PLUS, Cainan has been having one for a snack everyday, as well--he's especially fond of kale and I pack it in there!

My standard smoothie has been a mix of frozen blueberries and cranberries, a big bunch of spinach and/or kale, frozen cherries or strawberries, some flax seed and a little orange juice to smooth it out.  The Ninja pulverizes everything into a sweet, frozen blend and I don't taste the greens or flax.  It's yummy and surprisingly filling.  

Recently, I came across a great picture resource for detoxing the major organs in your body.  I was pleased to see that my regular smoothie covers a lot of it but I'm glad for the information.  I can tweak them a bit if I want to work on a whole body detox (of course, the rest of my diet would need a big change, too).  Here it is for your perusal:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Cool and Fun New Idea: Fan Forts!

Today, it's going to be 106 in the valley.  It's hot! My boys have been board for days--too hot to play outside, had enough of the same old toys and routine inside--PLUS, I've been down and out from a bad back and other health issues.  It does not make for a good combination.

Today, totally by accident, I stumbled onto a new exciting idea that is such a novelty, I am currently sitting here in utter quiet while my boys, just three feet away relax and play together peacefully! 
 It's called a Fan Fort (well, that's what I called it).  I grabbed my king sized duvet cover--which we are currently not using during summer time--and stuck a fan on high in one side of the opening.  I buttoned up the rest of the opening, leaving a small hole for the boys to climb in and out of.  The duvet cover filled up with air and the boys thought it was the coolest thing ever (literally!).  

Inside the Fort
After climbing it in and checking it all out, they started grabbing toys and even the dog (who also seemed to like it pretty well).  Then before long, Asher came out and got his duvet, his favorite stuffy and a couple of pillows.  It's been quiet now for about 10 minutes!

It's super easy to make; all you need is a giant "pillow case" and a fan.  My duvet cover worked perfectly but you could also use sheets as long as they are sealed around the edges (it doesn't have to be a perfect seal).  You could roll up the edges and but clothes pins or safety pins on them to keep the edges together, then stick a fan in an open spot.  I have a pretty powerful circular fan but a box fan would be fantastic, too.  This was so much easier than having the boys build a fort, pulling out every blanket we own and trying to prop stuff under them--and it's super easy to clean up when they're done.   I love it!   

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cainan's Adventures at Camp Korey

It’s long overdue—I can’t believe Cainan went to camp almost a month ago—but here’s the run down on Camp Korey and how “awesome, awesome, awesome!” it was.

If you you’re a Facebook friend, then you got a sneak peak of some of the great things Cainan experienced.  Like, when we pulled into the parking lot and a bunch of the staff, dressed in costumes, ran up to the car and made a hand tunnel for Cainan to walk through as they sang and welcomed him to camp.  That was an auspicious start!

Then we headed up the hill for registration and check in.  We met his counselors, Adam and Mike. We checked in the with nurse and went over his medication, his diet and any other medical/safety concerns.   
From there we went to the craft room where Cainan decorated a “warm and fuzzy” bag.  This is a bag where campers and counselors leave positive notes for each of the campers, which they take home at the end of the week.  This was also where I was able to put the four letters I had written to him for each day at camp.  I will be doing another complete post on Cainan’s warm & fuzzy bag (it was AMAZING!).  He also decorated his own water bottle.

Once that was all done, we went out on the lawn and met several therapy dogs that were there for a visit, along with a therapy llama (yes, I said llama).  He was trained to give kisses and Cainan got one right on the mouth! 

We were welcomed to stay as long as we wanted but Cainan was already asking when I was going to leave.  I knew he was going to have a fantastic time but it was truly one of the hardest things I’ve had to do—this was his first time away from me EVER (besides spending the nights at grandmas’ houses) and it was going to be for a whole week!! 
  My last views of him were with huge smiles as he was visiting and meeting new campers who were arriving.

By Wednesday, I was crawling out of my skin, wondering how he was doing.  I figured he was having a blast, but I contemplated the worst, too (I couldn’t help it).  I was just looking up the number to call the camp and check in (I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk to him directly) and see how he was doing when I noticed I had a message.  It was the camp director leaving me a very nice message about how fantastic a time Cainan was having and how great he was doing.  What a relief!

On Friday, I’m not ashamed to say I was the first parent there to pick up their kid.  I found Cainan in the “Hippodrome” having breakfast.  He was not ready to leave.  
He was covered in black and red face paint and had blue painted nails.  

 We spent 20 minutes saying good-bye to campers and counselors alike and checking him out.  It was bittersweet to see him leaving—he obviously had a good time and would have gladly stayed longer but my heart was exploding with joy to have him back in my arms again.

As we drove away, I turned on the video recorder on the iPad and told him to start telling me all about it…

He was excited to tell me his experiences but he also kept wandering off subject (which is totally not like him) and I realized just how exhausted he was.  He passed out after about 30 minutes of talking and slept for a large part of our drive home. 

 Over the course of the drive and the ensuing weeks, I’ve heard a lot about his counselors and friends at camp.  He told me about swimming and pretending to be apples bobbing in a tub with a couple of the counselors.  He rode horses.

 He climbed a rock wall—twice!  

 He went to a tea in Tarzan’s cottage (apparently, this is where the blue nail polish came into play).  He got to dress up like an animal—a tiger (hence the red and black face paint).  He visited a greenhouse where he got to try edible flowers and herbs from the gardener named Rosie.   

He had an epic food fight with green oatmeal, chocolate syrup, ketchup, mustard and spaghetti. 

 There was a camp dance and a camp talent show where he got up on stage by himself and performed a Wiggles song.  He finished each night off in his cabin with his counselors and two cabinmates doing “cabin talk” and sharing what their favorite things about the day were.  

According to several of the counselors he went around the camp all week telling everyone he was “the happiest camper” and everyone agreed.  I was so impressed with how awesome the staff was.  They were supportive and excited.  So many people were telling Cainan goodbye as we left and after I read all the notes in his warm and fuzzy bag, I saw that each of them had some kind of personal moment with him during the week.  They were all asking if he would be coming back next summer and, of course, he immediately looked at me and asked if he was, as well.  If there’s any way possible, he will be going back each and every summer, as long as he wants.

Did I mention this camp is totally free?  Camp Korey is a Newman’s Foundation Serious Fun Camp.  They are supported by donations and grants—you can help support them by letting their contributors know how great their contributions are and by supporting those businesses, like: Newman’s Own, Hasbro, Microsoft, Key Bank, Clif Bar and Glassy Baby to name a few.  This summer they had seven sessions, each are disability specific, but if your child doesn’t experience one of those disabilities, that doesn’t eliminate them from attending—they found a spot for Cainan in the cranio-facial differences camp and were able to accommodate ALL of his needs.  

Camp Korey’s focus is on giving a great, traditional camp experience to every kid, age 7-16.  They are staffed with doctors and nurses to oversee the health of each camper.  The camper to counselor ratio is 2:1 unless it’s determined your child needs 1:1.  They offer airline travel for free to campers who live within 1,000 miles of the camp.   

They focus on the strengths and abilities of each of the kids there and encourage them to try things, they may never have dreamed of doing—like a fully accessible challenge course, complete with a zip-line!  Cainan was looking forward to that more than anything but we found out after we arrived that campers have to be 13 to try to challenge course.  

I can’t say enough good things about the camp.  I can’t say a single negative thing—we didn’t experience anything negative.  We are already making plans for Cainan to attend next summer.  And when people ask him how camp was, he smiles and says, “Awesome, awesome, awesome!”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Community In Action

Wow, I’ve been busy lately.  I know most of you really want a detailed explanation of Camp Korey, especially if you followed all my posts and pictures on Facebook—and it’s coming—but this isn’t it.  Instead, I feel the need to reflect on some amazing projects I’m apart of and how God works to tie things together in our lives even when we never saw the connection.

Of course, if you read the blog you know I’ve had a life-changing experience by participating in Partners in Policymaking over the last six months.  I learned an incredible amount about disability, disability rights, advocacy, inclusion, community, policymaking, etc…  I know it changed my life and the lives of those closest to me.  I also knew that with this new knowledge came the burden and happy responsibility of using it beyond my own family’s benefit.  I’ve been trying to figure out how that’s going to look and God has been directing me down paths—some way before I knew they would connect so beautifully.

Right now I am neck deep in a phenomenal project from the Heart Campaign called I Heart Rogue Valley.  In a nutshell, the Heart Campaign is a faith-based effort whose goal is to initiate lasting change in communities through volunteer service projects and dynamic live events.  We had our first Heart Campaign day of service in the Southern Oregon last November, called I Heart Ashland with over 500 volunteers.  Now the movement has spread and I Heart Rogue Valley will attempt to place 3,000 volunteers in Southern Oregon on service projects, all coordinated on July 28th to show the people of our valley that Love Is ACTION and showing God’s love begins with serving others. 

I am helping coordinate projects through my church in Ashland.  We have over 400 volunteer opportunities in Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford.  I am passionate about this event since I was fortunate to be involved in the coordination of the last one and saw how amazingly God moved and changed lives in the community.  What I learned from our last event (and was reinforced through my PIP experience) is that there were a large number of people who wished to serve but due to health, age, disability, etc. could not find a project on which to serve—they were all too laborious and physical.  It was very important to me to create a project for I Heart Rogue Valley where people of ANY ability could serve and be a part of this community building event.

I am so blessed to be leading a 100% accessible project for I Heart Rogue Valley with 100 volunteers that will help create at least 1,000 care packages for the homeless in our community.  This project filled up quickly and there are more who wish to sign up, showing me the need for more accessible projects like this.   

Community building is so important, for everyone.  It’s where we find common ground, it’s how we build relationships, it shows another human being that we care and they belong.  It’s vital…and it’s especially vital for those who struggle to be a part of a community; those, who until very recently in our nation’s history, were not allowed to be a part of community: people who experience developmental and/or significant disability.

What struck me recently is how profoundly my heart has changed toward people who experience disability.  I don’t see the disability first—I see the person first.  I don’t presume incompetence due to a disability—I’ve learned to presume competence.  I’m grateful to be a part of this accessible project but what strikes me as even more amazing is that at least two other projects I’m helping to coordinate are being led by people who experience  disability (maybe more--I'm not asking people if they have a disability)—and it’s never come up.  It’s obvious that they experience a disability and I could probably name what the disability is, but it has not been important or relevant to their participation in I Heart.  Each of them came to me, just as the other leaders did, expressing an interest in leading a project.  I explained the responsibilities of leadership and they agreed they could take on those responsibilities.  End of story.  I didn’t feel the need to ask them if they were SURE they could do it. They're responsible adults with talents and abilities and a willing heart to serve in their community.  Why would I discourage that?

This is what true community is.  People from all different backgrounds and ability are coming together to love and serve one another.  The people who serve will be blessed.  The people being served will be blessed.  Relationships will be born—by those working together, by those serving and those being served.  I can’t express how overwhelming it is to see complete inclusion and cooperation in action, among churches of different denominations and among people of EVERY variety.  This is truly God’s hand at work, challenging imperfect people (I mean ALL of us) to love one another, accept each other and work together for the sake of love.  It’s all about love.  Love IS action. 

Come be a part of the action…