Alive and Kicking

Hi, I'm Shannon. Once upon a time I blogged here, and then I took an entirely unplanned break, and then I started getting e-mails asking me if I had died. So it seemed like I should pop in and put those concerns to rest: I have not died, run away, or otherwise gone crazy (despite Hubs' occasional testimonials to the contrary).

Here's the scoop:

We moved unexpectedly this summer, fulfilling a life-long dream to live in the country. I should explain that by "in the country" I mean "more than four minutes away from a Wal Mart." It's a whopping nine minutes to a Wal Mart, and I think this must be just exactly how Ma Ingalls felt. You city folk just wouldn't understand.

So: New (unexpected) house and new schools, which meant that late summer and early fall were flurries of unpacking and helping everyone ease into all the new-ness. As if that weren't enough, my little tiny baby started kindergarten, which meant that I had no preschooler at home for the first time in 13 years. It was the end of an era. A sticky, playdough-encrusted era.

I realized this meant it was time to get busy on all the stuff I'd been putting off forever. I thought about running for Congress (not really) or going back to medical school (not really on that one, either), but I decided instead to to tackle the mysterious chunk of petrified something-or-other I'd been needing to scrape off the bottom of the breakfast table for a decade (yes, really, on that one).

A funny thing happened, though, as I found myself so necessarily elbow-deep in the business of real life. The part of my life that was, for so long, filled up with Twitter and deadlines and comments and stats and advertising suddenly grew silent…and, to my staggering amazement, I liked it that way. This blog was an important part of my life for so long, and those of you who have read here so faithfully have encouraged me in ways I can't express. So why, I asked myself, was it so easy to step away? I had the sense that for this moment, anyway, I'd simply said all I wanted to say in this space.

And then I wondered if I should blog some big, official announcement, but blogging about not blogging seemed a little trippy, doesn't it? So I'd look at my computer and shrug and–whaddya know–six whole months had passed.

Really, that's the whole story. No big scandal or trauma, just the much-needed realization that my online life had become too consuming and–despite my best efforts–it was keeping me from giving the best part of myself to the people I love most. It was time to change that.  And it's been very, very good. Life is quieter now, or, at least, "quieter". There are, after all, four offspring in the house with a tendency to ride down wooden stairs in laundry baskets.

This all sounds like a "The End." It's not. I don't have any plans to close this blog down, though I can't guarantee any plans to fill it back up, either. Right now I'm content for it to sit here and let me dabble in it occasionally or often or never. (Clearly, I am all about the strategic planning.)

In the meantime, wherever you are, I hope you're well and happy and finding your own little slice of quiet. Or "quiet".

See you around, sweet friends. Thanks for stopping by.

Because Regular Pumpkin Pie Is Just Plain Dull

This a rerun–I originally posted this last Thanksgiving. But a recipe this life-changing deserves a rerun. Enjoy!
I come from a long line of women who do not like to cook.  I hold tightly to
this genetic predisposition to get the heck out of the kitchen as fast
as I can.  It is a fine heritage.(Incidentally, it was once a source of significant stress that I married a man who came from a long line of women who love to cook.  Their family recipes, handed down for generations, involve sifting things, and using thermometers, and grating lemon zest.  My family recipes involve instant pudding.)Truly, though, it is a lovely thing that my favorite family recipes are so simple.  The very best one is the one my grandmother made for Thanksgiving every year.  It is so unbelievably good–but be warned.  Once you eat it, you may never be able to go back to regular pumpkin pie again.

And before we begin, I should point out that the best part of the
deal is the little mini, tart-sized pie-shells.  Usually they are
located in the freezer section.  The day after Thanksgiving, I’d always
go over to my grandmother’s house, and we’d sit on her couch and eat
all the empty pie shells like potato chips.

Clearly, I also have a genetic heritage involving carbohydrates.


1 15-oz can pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 3.4-oz box instant vanilla pudding
2 cups milk

Blend all ingredients well, using a whisk.  Cover and
refrigerate until chilled.  Prepare small, tart-sized pie shells (both
the frozen pastry variety or the graham cracker variety work well).
Before serving, spoon pumpkin mixture into tart shells.  Top with
whipped topping and serve.


Dear People With Grown Sons: PLEASE HELP

Many years ago I was the mother of three preschool boys, a fact which sometimes necessitated that I take all three of them to the grocery store. As surely as I sit here typing this, I could guarantee you that each of my boy-laden grocery trips would draw out comments from observers. The comments were usually pretty predictable:

1. "You certainly have your hands full."

2. "So, are you trying for a girl?"

3. [On the occasional good day.] "Your boys are so well-behaved."

4. [On the more typical day.] "Ma'am, did you know that your son is whacking your baby with a package of hot dog buns?"

5. "Wow, I can't imagine your grocery bill when they're all teenagers."

That last one always just made me smile and shrug. Sure, I know growing boys eat a lot, but how bad could it be, really? I mean, they're probably hungry after school, so you fix them a hot dog, right? No big challenge for a frugal-minded shopper. 


Let's just add this one to the (growing) list of challenges I didn't see coming. Because these sons of mine are bottomless pits of extraordinarily high metabolisms. Kind of like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, except not green. And no cocoon. And I can't put them on a bookshelf when they're done. So, not at all like The Very Hungry Caterpillar actually, except, my stars, they're HUNGRY.

Case in point: my eldest son (who is verrry tall and verrry skinny) can polish off a gallon–a gallon--of whole milk in a day and a half. At this rate, I'm wondering if we should just get a cow. My youngest son (who, at the tender age of eight and a half, is already built like an imposing linebacker) ate an entire jar of pickles the other day. An entire jar. In a day.

We haven't cut out sugar altogether (because really, why would such a life be worth the living?), but I do try to offer them primarily high-protein snacks (eggs, nuts, cheese, peanut butter, etc.) that will sit in their bellies awhile. And yes, they're eating complete and (mostly) healthful meals. No, they're not filling up on sodas or juices. And no, nobody is anywhere in the vicinity of being overweight.

They're just stinkin' hungry.

I'm left standing here holding the proverbial grocery bag, wondering how we're going to afford both college and all the pickles. As the one who has been genetically (and happily, and expensively) appointed to feed them, I'm trying to do it sensibly (and this book is helping). But high-protein foods tend to be more expensive foods, don't they?

This leads me to my point, which is to ask anyone who is reading this, especially anyone who has raised multiple sons without going through grocery-induced bankruptcy, how did you do it? What are the best kind of snacks for growing adolescent boys? (Preferably snacks that are easy and cheap and leap into the dishwasher when done. I'm all about the realistic expectations.) Please share with me any suggestions you may have, and if you know of a dairy and pickle farm for sale.

Barbecue Cupcakes

This post was originally published in September 2008.

Yes, barbecue cupcakes.  The original recipe for this (I believe it came from Taste of Home) was entitled “farmhouse barbecue muffins”.  But in this family, we believe in inserting dessert conceptually wherever we can.  So, they’re barbecue cupakes.

They are delicious and easy.  They’re perfect for a family meal, but they’re also a fun party food.  Here’s the scoop:


1 lb ground beef, cooked
1 cup bbq sauce or sloppy joe sauce, whichever you prefer
1 can of LAYERED refrigerated biscuits (not the little tiny packages, the bigger one.  I use
About 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

Cook beef, drain, mix with bbq sauce.  Set aside.

Carefully pull apart layers of biscuits, so that each biscuit is now in two pieces, like this:


Roll out layers with a rolling pin, until they make a 10-12″ circle.

Spray the insides of a muffin pan.  Insert one flattened biscuit into each cup, like this:


In each little pastry shell, spoon in about 1 tbsp of beef mixture.  It will look this:


Afterwards, sprinkle cheese on top, because if a recipe doesn’t say “sprinkle cheese on top”, then you should run the other way:


Bake in a 350 oven for 8-12 minutes, take it out, and then you just tell me this isn’t the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen: