"Sharing Sunshine" Blog Roll

The name of the background I'm (currently) using for this blog is "Sharing Sunshine," and I found it at Cutest Blog On The Block. I chose it because it's simple but a bit colorful, and reminds me of my inspiration board for the children's room redo I'm working on, with lots of neutrals (beige/white) accented with rainbow colors, and a variety of sunshine, moon, rainbows, trees and birdies art.

For a couple of years it will be a shared girl/boy room, with a very young girl and infant boy, so I want colors that will go with both children, and I want everything that I may eventually put in there to coordinate.

Also, I love singing "You Are My Sunshine" to my babies. I often call my daughter sunshine, so we starting calling the baby 'moon.' She says mama is the earth, because I'm a Virgo -- which I've described to her as Mother Earth/the earth mother -- because I'm not even going to attempt explaining virginity yet!

Anyway, I was trying to find some cute, sunshiney graphics to use as an avatar, and decided to Google "sharing sunshine' and clicked images. Well, I don't know why I was surprised, but I saw several other blogs using this theme, and thought it would be fun to add them here. There are some very different sites that have chosen the same theme.

"Sharing Sunshine" Blogs:

2 Moms Talk
Not the same background, but it's featured there -- because it's the blog for The Cutest Blog On The Block website.

A teacher blog.

Makeup tips, perfume & scents, personal care.

Writing blog.


Couponing tutorials and frugal living.

A girl who is a student at Trisakti University in Indonesia.

Challenges to use up scrapbooking scraps.

A pregnancy blog.

Craft tutorials including paper and photographs.

Photography blog.

Scrapbooking blog.

Personal blog.

Special needs children for adoption.

Personal blog.

Family blog.

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What To Do If Your Child Is Missing - Amber Alerts

Amber Alerts - What To Do If Your Child Is Missing - 3 Boys And A Dog:

The link above will take you to the 3 Boys And A Dog blog, where a guest poster, Marc Courtiol.  If you have young children, I urge you to read the full text and save it somewhere that you can easily refer to it.

I once had a close call with Miss Sunshine when she was only three. We hadn't lived in our new house that long, and still hadn't installed the central air conditioning unit.  It was really hot and I had several windows open in the house. She was sitting in the living room watching television and I had stepped in to the kitchen to start cooking and was also washing a few dishes and had the water running so I didn't hear her.

I did, however, hear the ice cream truck, and a couple of minutes later, I returned to the living room (just steps away from the living room, the kitchen is in the center of the house) and she wasn't there. I looked up and saw that she had pushed a screen out of one of the living room windows and stepped right out onto the front porch.

Beginning to panic, I ran to the back door to slip into my shoes, grabbed my keys, and headed out the back door, where I encountered a neighbor man from a few houses down heading up to my front door. I had a sinking feeling and began to brace myself.

Much to my relief, he said, "If you're looking for your little girl, she's at our house." Thank God, thank God, thank God. I went racing down the street to find her chatting away with the neighbors. I was so frightened and emotional I could barely speak, trying to talk to her leaving the house without mommy and so on.

The neighbors were very nice. They asked if it was the first time she'd ever gotten out, and warned me that it certainly wouldn't be the last. She had heard the ice cream truck and wanted ice cream, so she went out the door. When he left without stopping for her, she then saw the neighbors playing outside with their toddler grandson, and went to visit. I am so grateful that they were the right kind of neighbors.

We hadn't lived there too long, we didn't know anyone, we didn't know the neighborhood, we didn't know the ice cream man. We do now -- it turns out he is also an immigrant from Baba's home country, and he often takes his four children with him along on his route on summer afternoons and evenings. He even memorized my favorite treats last summer when I was pregnant, and new what to give Baba to bring me when I didn't have the energy -- well OK, the appropriate clothing -- to get out to the street.

Anyway, after that Baba and I had several talks with Miss Sunshine about leaving without mommy and daddy, about safety, and dangers, and everything we could think of for a three year old to understand.

Though now, nearly three years later, I still nearly hyperventilate when I remember that day. I can only think of the "what if's" -- What if she'd gotten hit by the ice cream truck? What if she'd been taken by the ice cream truck? Or another car or another stranger? What if that had been the wrong sort of neighbor? She could have been whisked away inside instantly. What if she'd continued wandering?

And this all happened in just TWO OR THREE MINUTES!  LESS THAN 5 MINUTES. Yes, afterward, we always say, "but it was just for a minute," or, "but it all happened so fast." It's true though, it does, it only takes a moment to change your life.  I was really only steps away, long enough to put on a pan of water to boil and run a sink full of dishwater.

So please, read this article. I feel better for having read it, so that I know exactly what I would need to do if, God forbid, there were ever a "next time."

Here are some highlights from the article:
Step 1: Someone who knows the child should be out actively looking while you are going through the first few steps of the process. 
Step 2: If there was ever an emergency, this is it. Pick up the phone and dial 911. Do not worry-they will not dismiss you or tell you your case is not an emergency.
Step 3: Notify other authorities of the missing child. 
Step 4: Notify local media.
Step 5: Contact organizations devoted to finding missing children. 
Step 6: Ask for help from those around you. This is going to be a difficult time for you. And even if your child comes home safely very soon you are likely to suffer frayed nerves for a while. 
Step 7: Follow up on everything. If you feel the law enforcement agencies are taking too long to investigate your case or get back to you, do not be afraid to call and visit them multiple times.  

I'm Living The Dream, Man

I'm Living The Dream, Man - Saturday Centus

       I've finally done it. I'm living the dream, man...or is it really reality?  Now that I've "got it all," it seems as if everything that came before was just a dream.  No babies,  no house, only the life of  a wanderer, with too many parties and nothing of consequence.  When I look back, it feels like all those previous chapters in my life were just a movie, starring someone else. Someone almost like me, but not quite. Today I'm living the dream, but for the first time in my life, it feels like I'm really awake. Totally awake, man.

I'm participating in Saturday Centus, a writing activity where a five word prompt is given, and each writer must write exactly 100 words, including the prompt.

The rules are to keep it PG, no splitting of the prompt , play nicely, and visit the other entries. Any style or genre of writing is allowed.


Eight Of My Best Memories

A Ohio Bicentennial Barn in Lyme Village, Huro...
Image via Wikipedia
Not this farm, but 
one something like it.
10 Day Blog Challenge - Day Three - Eight of My Best Memories

In chronological order.  Some of these are not one-time, episode specific events, but years of memories that can all be categorized into one subject.

Playing on the farm as children.
My paternal grandparents farmed in North Central Ohio, and raised a large family. Many of their children also had large families, so there were lots of cousins to play with on weekends and through the summer as children. Growing up, most of my closest friends were also my cousins (both sides of the family), and even today, I only have a handful of good friends who aren't related to me.

Family Game Night
It could be a group as small as my mom and us kids, or could include aunts, uncles, cousins, friends or neighbors.  As we aged, we also included our significant others. Whatever the configuration of people and whatever the game, we always had fun. We played board games, word games, card games, dice games, mind games, and trivia games.  I'll also include doing jigsaw puzzles here too. Most everyone in my family enjoys gaming.

Meeting Winona
English: Actress Winona Ryder at the 2010 Toro...
Image via Wikipedia
Not that Winona.
I met my best friend of 36 years, Winona, in fifth grade when we were ten years old. She was the new kid that day, and having had some experience at being the new kid myself, I took on the responsibility of being the one to reach out and include her. We started bonding immediately and became best friends. At age 46, separated by thousands of miles on opposite ends of the country, we still talk almost daily, or at the least, a couple of times per week when we're really busy. Thank God for cell phones!

Going Back To College
A text logo for Ohio State University
Image via Wikipedia 

                                             Go Bucks, WooHoo!
Having started college the first time when I was still a bit too young and immature, I flunked out because there were way more interesting things to do than go to class or do homework.  When I returned as an adult approaching 30, I was thrilled that I was able to be an Honor's student and earn many achievements.  Until then, I didn't know I had it in me, but my successes there gave me a new foundation to build the rest of my life on.  I'm also grateful for the experiences and education that I received, and the view on life that I have gained.

Meeting Baba (Hubby)
Of course, finding my sweetie is one of the best memories ever. When we first met, I told him I wasn't interested in meeting anyone new, because I was moving across the country soon. He told me he'd change my mind. He did.  

Finding out I was pregnant - twice.
After battling infertility for all of my adult life, I'd finally given up at around age 38 - 39.  Around the same time I met Baba, and we were both at the point where we thought we were past being able to have children, and even though we'd both wanted children when we were younger, we felt that we had gotten over it and moved on. Even so, he told me the first time that we went out what he wanted to name his first daughter and first son (he got his wish). We decided that in a couple of years, if our finances changed, that we would seek treatment and try to conceive later in our 40's.  
English: positive pregnancy test Deutsch: Ein ...
Image via Wikipedia
Shortly afterward, I discovered to my surprise that I was pregnant at age 40 just months after we'd married.  I delivered a healthy baby girl who has been a joy to raise, so we decided to look into what it would take to try to conceive one more baby before we got too old, since we now knew it to be possible.  Luckily for us, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is now much easier to treat than it was in my youth, and all it took was one trip to the endocronologist for a work-up and a prescription for Metformin.  It took more months than it has for some couples, but we had to put it on hold a couple of times due to other health problems.  Then when we had the all-clear to go ahead, we went on with our plans.
After more than another year of trying, I was getting older and more discouraged, believing it just wasn't going to happen, but he was sure it would and just kept trying. At one point I told him that if I hadn't conceived by my next birthday I was giving up...and just a few weeks later I found out I was pregnant again!  We've now added a healthy baby boy to our family.

Giving birth - twice.
I won't share all the gory details. My birth stories are like those of many women -- anyone who has been through it knows how it is, and anyone who hasn't probably doesn't care -- but if you are a mom, you know that these are the type of memories that you can replay over and over again in explicit detail.

Nursing my babies.
Breastfeeding has been the most awesome thing I have ever experienced, there are really no words to describe it. I'm so glad that I've been able to nurse two babies.  Both of my children have been exclusively breast fed (EBF), and Miss Sunshine nursed until she was 18 months old (though she was down to only a couple per day, along with a variety of foods). So far Baby Moon is still nursing well at 6 months, and I'll keep going until he's ready to wean. Well, no older than age two. He's also enjoying a wide variety of solid foods. Even if they're only nursing occasionally, there are still a number of benefits from extended breastfeeding.

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St. Patrick's Day Favorites Pinterest Roundup

I'd like to do something fun for Miss Sunshine on St. Patrick's Day. I usually make something special for dinner, some Irish food, or even "Irish Flavored" food, and something green for dessert. Now that she's five, I think this is a good time to do something really fun.

Unfortunately, I'm reaaallly pressed for time and money is a bit tight. I'm in the midst of planning our vow renewal ceremony, and with the time constraints of taking care of a still new baby, I just can't do anything too extravagant this year, even though there are lots of activities I've found on Pinterest that I'd love to do. Maybe in the future, like next year when there's no wedding and the baby is over one and will be able to play a bit more on his own.

So, I've tried to pick out some very simple and actually doable ideas that will make a little one really happy:

For our main meal, instead of some of the traditional corned beef and cabbage or Irish Stew, or even as I've done some other times, some sort of fish or salmon patties, I thought I might go a little bit more in a Scottish direction. I mean, hey, it's still Celtic, right?  It started out because I've been wanting to make some Scotch Eggs, and while searching out a good recipe, I came across another recipe for Scotch Broth, and I realized I hadn't made that for a long, long time, even though lamb and barley are both favorites around here. So here are my menu ideas:

I usually substitute beef, chicken or turkey for pork in recipes. When researching this recipe, I was amused to find out that although people most often make them with pork sausage, they were originally made from "Scotch beef" from the reddish, hairy Scottish Highland cows.

And a nice fun green smoothie from Miss Organic's Kitchen. The nice thing about this one is I happen to have almost everything it needs on hand already. Some of the healthy "green" smoothies require special health food store type ingredients, but these are typical groceries that we buy weekly.

For dessert, I'm also going to keep it simple. I've always wanted to make a Grasshopper pie, and never have, even though they seem pretty simple. I think I'd make this one even easier buy using a premade chocolate cookie crust.

Another possibility is sugar cookies bars, decorated like these, only using green frosting, which I think would be really cute with the lattice decoration. When I was younger, we often made shamrock sugar cookie cutouts with green frosting, but this will save the chilling, rolling and more detailed frosting time.

Or we might just have some Girl Scout Thin Mints!


Seville Orange Chicken (Sour or Bitter Orange)

Or Dajaj Naranj in transliterated Arabic.  In parts of the Arabic speaking world, "naranj" may simply mean "orange," but often refers specifically to the sour orange, also known as the Seville orange or bitter orange.
My Seville oranges. 
If you live in an area where they grow fresh, or have a good produce market that stocks them, give them a try. They are large and have rougher and bumpier skin than other oranges.  If I can't get them at the produce market, I substitute by using the juice of two sweet oranges and the juice of  one lemon.
Seville Oranges

I typically use a whole chicken or a whole chicken cut in pieces for this recipe, but you can substitute breasts or other parts.  Just make sure to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Prep time takes just a few minutes to season the chicken, squeeze the oranges, place it in a pan and pop it in the oven.

Oven 375
9x13 Baking Dish
One hour for whole chicken parts.

One whole chicken, cut in 8-10 pieces.
3 Seville oranges OR 2 oranges any variety and 1 lemon.
Seven Spice or Allspice
Ground Coriander


  • Season chicken as desired with spices and rub into the chicken.
  • Place in the baking dish.
  • Squeeze the oranges (and lemon, if using) and pour over the chicken.
  • Add about 1/2 C. water to the pan.
  • Bake at 375 for about an hour, adjusting time for other chicken cuts.
  • Baste with juice half-way through cooking.

1. Use plenty of turmeric (yellow) and paprika (red) to give the chicken pieces a nice orange color.

2. Seven spice is a spice blend that contains a variety of spices, and commonly includes black pepper, cumin, coriander, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace. If not available, just use allspice.

3. This spice blend goes nicely with the oranges, it smellslike an orange pomander.

4. If using bone-in chicken parts, the juices from the chicken will combine with the citrus juice to make a tangy broth you can serve with rice.


My "Lucy & Desi Moments"

Publicity photo of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz...
Publicity photo of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in I Love Lucy. Lucy and Ricky in Scotland as part of their European tour shows. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband speaks English as a second language, and didn't really begin to learn much English until he immigrated to the U.S.A. in 2002.  Over the years, I've known a number of immigrants who were able to learn English as a second language since Elementary school, so even though they speak with an accent and may not have a complete knowledge of English, they speak well enough to get along fairly well in English speaking countries, or even to attend university.

Not so for my hubby. The school he attended didn't offer English until, like here in the states, high school, as an elective. He did take an English class, but learned and retained little from it, other than standard greetings and the names of a few items.

Kinda like me with high school French. I can count to ten, say paper, pen and crayon, my name is Charlotte (my "French class name"), and have to following exchange with an imaginary French person:
~ Bon Jour Madame
   "Bon Jour Monsieur"
~ Como tale vous?
   "Bien, merci, et trois?"
~ Pas tres bien.
   "C'est dommage"
~ Au revoir Madame
   "Au revoir Monsieur!
A handy thing to know if I meet someone who's not doing very well!  Luckily, as an adult, I worked for a French company for a while, and picked up just a few more words. Not many, and I can't construct a sentence, but talking to French people daily helped with my accent!

Anyway, so Mohammed didn't really begin to learn much useful English until he got to America and began taking ESL and college courses, and ten years later it's still a daily learning experience. Which means that on most days, we have at least one exchange where we just aren't quite getting each other. Like, I think we're not even having the same conversation. I refer to these as our "Lucy & Desi" moments. I've been saying for years I was going to document them, so here we go.

Earlier, the washing machine was making loud noises as if it had an unbalanced load (I was washing bedding), so later on he was down in the basement watching working out, and a little while ago he called up to me from the basement, saying:

Him: Yeah, I'm cleaning the top of the machine because it's noisy.
Me:  What ???
Me:  Did you say you cleaned the top of the machine because it's noisy?
Him: Yeah, the sheets were not level, they were all on one side.
Me:  OK, but what does that have to do with cleaning the top of the machine?
Me:  Riiight. OK, but, what does that have to do with cleaning the top?
Him: What are you talking about?  I said the sheets were not level!
Me:  Sigh . . . . (nevermind, I think I'll just go sit down now).

The problem here is that when he said he was "cleaning the top," I pictured him wiping off the lid of the washer...whereas he actually meant that he was "clearing"
the upper portion of laundry that was inside.

Clearing, not cleaning.
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Middle Eastern Rose Milk Pudding

 Mahallabia, Mahalabiyya, or other various spellings, is a simple milk pudding that is most often flavored with cardamom and rose water. The only ingredients needed are milk, sugar, cornstarch, and flavoring. No eggs or butter needed.
Middle Eastern Rose Milk Pudding, Mahalabiyya 
The rose flavored pudding is made with rose water, which is clear, and most often served in it's natural pristine white color, topped with coconut and/or pistachios. It may be served with a drizzle of bright red rose syrup, or for variation, some rose syrup may be added to tint it pink.

Rose Water
Other common flavorings are orange blossom water, saffron, and cocoa, but you can change the flavors to your own liking. You can even use chocolate milk and omit (or decrease) the sugar. You can add vanilla or other extracts, instant coffee or espresso powder, use brown sugar in place of white to make butterscotch, or stir in fruit puree towards the end of cooking. 

Rose Syrup
This is the basic recipe and method for the traditional rose and cardamom version.

Stove top
Medium saucepan
20 Minutes
Yield 4 Cups

4 C. Milk, any kind, divided
1/2 C. Sugar
2 Pods Cardamom
6 T. Cornstarch
2 T. Rose Water, Culinary Grade
2-4 T. Shredded Coconut, Optional
2-4 T. Pistachios, Chopped, Optional

  • Stir milk 3 1/2 C. milk and sugar together in a saucepan, add cardamom, and bring slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir the remaining 1/2 C. milk into the cornstarch to make a slurry.
  • Add to the milk mixture and boil, stirring constantly, until pudding is very thick.
  • Remove from heat and stir in rose water. Remove cardamom pods.
  • Pour into a large serving dish or individual serving dishes and allow to set.
  • Sprinkle with coconut quickly before a skin forms.
  • Garnish with chopped pistachio if desired.
  • Serve warm or cold.

I like to use my pretty rose flan dish. 
1. Make it as light or as decadent as you'd like by varying the type of milk or cream used, it works well with any kind.

2. I sometimes just mix rose syrup with milk until it tastes good, and omit the sugar. This makes a pretty pink pudding, and looks beautiful topped with the greenish color of chopped pistachios.

3. This is only very lightly sweetened. You can increase the sugar as desired.


Porcupine Meatballs

Oven Baked Porcupine Meatballs 
This is a variation on an old recipe originally from my "Red & White Checked" Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  It's been a family favorite since my childhood, and called "porcupine" meatballs because the rice pokes out of them like little quills.  They are on the order of the meat and rice filling used in stuffed vegetables such as cabbage and peppers.

The original recipe is for one pound of ground beef, and only one can of tomato soup. They are rolled into small balls and simmered on the stove top.  My mom has always baked the in the oven, and I continue to as well, but have increased the amount of beef and sauce to feed the hearty appetites of several adults.

Now I can fill a pan with 20 decent sized meatballs with plenty of sauce. Of course, we don't mind if we have leftovers either.

Once I was out of tomato soup and tomato sauce, and all I had on hand was a can of stewed tomatoes, so I tried to puree them and use them for the sauce. The flavor was delicious, but I also missed the sweetness of the tomato soup version I grew up with, so after some experimenting, I began making the sauce by combining both.  The celery and seasonings added to canned stewed tomatoes add lots of flavor, and makes a bit more savory sauce then tomato soup alone.

If I don't have stewed tomatoes, I just use the traditional tomato soup, Worcesteshire sauce and water called for in the original recipe, only doubling the amounts for the larger amount of meatballs. This makes a sweeter sauce.

Oven 350
9x13 Baking Dish
45 Minutes

1 1/2 lbs. Ground Beef
1/3 C. Rice, Uncooked
1 Egg
1 Onion, Diced Small
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Pepper
1 Can Condensed Tomato Soup
1 Can Stewed Tomatoes/Or Additional Can Tomato Soup
2 tsp. Worcesteshire Sauce
1/2 C. Water

Mix 1/3 C. uncooked rice, one whole egg and 1/4 C. of the tomato soup, stirring until egg is slightly beaten. Set aside while chopping onions so that rice will slightly soften.
Add ground beef, diced onion, salt and pepper to the rice mixture and combine.
Portion into 20 pieces, roll into balls and place in a 9x13 pan.
Blend stewed tomatoes, remaining tomato soup, 2 tsp. Worcesteshire sauce and 1/2 C. water.
Pour sauce over all the meatballs.
Bake about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

1. You can blend the tomatoes with the other sauce ingredients in a blender, food processor, use an immersion blender, mash lightly with a potato masher, or crush between your fingers. You can make the sauce smooth or chunky.

2. You can use a more traditional recipe by eliminating the stewed tomatoes and using an additional can of tomato soup, increasing water to 1 cup.

3. The version with two cans of tomato soup is quicker and easier, just stir together and pour over meatballs, no blending required.

4. To get 20 meatballs, I first divide the meat mixture into fourths, divide each fourth into 5 portions, then gently roll into balls.
The 1/3 C. rice, 1/4 C. tomato soup and 1 egg blended together. 

Two of the four divided portions remaining. 

Twenty approximately even portions. 

The blended sauce.

Gently rolled into balls and covered in sauce.

The sauce cooks down a bit and the meatballs brown up nicely. 

The left meatball is turned upside down to show
 how the  rice pokes out like porcupine quills. 

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