Monday, December 29, 2014

Prettig Kerstfeest!

(Dutch for "Merry Christmas")  :-)

My mom and I have a lovely tradition of assembling Dutch letters during the Christmas season!

Dutch letters are pastry tubes made with an almond filling.  Traditionally they are shaped like a letter S, and this is usually how you will find them at a Dutch bakery.  Since the pastry dough is kind of fragile and thin, my mom and I have had the most success making lowercase Ls :-)

According to the Jaarsma Bakery's website (Jaarsma is in Pella where my sister lives), Dutch letters have been a favorite treat in the Netherlands since the 1800s, and when the children celebrated Sinterklaas on December 6 they would leave the pastries for him.

Mom put the dough and filling together ahead of time for our baking extravaganza.  If I can find the recipe, I'll post it -- it may be on my computer somewhere.  In the meantime, here are some pictures of the assembly process:

Roll out a 2-oz piece of chilled dough...

...until it is 14" long and 4" wide, approximately.  You have to use a ton of flour to keep these babies from sticking to your countertop.  

Grab some of the almond paste mixture (Mom pre-measured it with a cookie scoop)...

...and form it into a snake.

Fold the dough over the top...

...then seal the other side with a bit of water to create the letter. 

Poke the letters with a fork so the steam can escape...

...and brush the tops with beaten egg white.

Lastly, sprinkle a bunch of coarse sugar on the top!  Be generous--the sugar makes a lovely crunchy top.  I use raw sugar from Hy Vee.

They're all ready to bake at this point, at 350 degrees for 20-ish minutes or until golden brown.  Or, put the cookie sheets into the deep freeze, and when the letters are frozen, bundle them up in foil or plastic wrap and they'll keep for several months.  I like to freeze a few dozen and keep them on hand for special gifts.  

My chalkboard.  Translation?  Delicious!  

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with family and friends.  Tom, Jude and I got to travel to his hometown for Christmas Day, and then to Pella to join up with the Neerhof side.  We are glad to be at home now and soaking up the rest of the week off.  This time of year we are always so happy to have our break from school.  From my perspective: concerts are done and I am DONE singing Jingle Bells until next December.  From his perspective: basketball season is crazy, so this is precious time to spend with family and to catch up on sleep.

The rest of the winter will fly right by!  Betty and the Gents will play some fun shows (Valentine's Day at MC Brewing, for one) and we will keep busy with everything else we do.

I always make a Summer Bucket List when March or April rolls around and we get the first glimpse of spring.  Maybe it's time for a Winter Bucket List...

I'm thinking as I type, so these are in no particular order.

- Eat dinner at 1910 Grille.  This time, no pregnancy nausea!

- GO SKIING.  Yes.  I want to SKI for heavens sake.  I haven't been skiing since.... gosh, it must have been 2006 or 07.  That is pathetic.  My family traveled to Colorado every few years when we were growing up and skiing was a huge part of our lives.  Why have I let it slip away?  I don't need a trip to Colorado...don't have the funds...but a weekend in Minnesota would be splendid.  (By the way, Tom doesn't ski and he doesn't want to learn.  Can you please help me convince him that it's the most fun thing in the world?)

- Go to a movie.  I haven't seen one in a theatre since before Jude was born.  It's time.

- Go sledding.  Because it's fun and I like to pretend I'm ten years old again.

- Go ice skating.  Did you know I used to be a figure skater?  True story.

- Make a snow angel.  Because why not?

- Eat more sushi.  Tom and I went to the Mall of America on the first Monday of break and we ate at Crave, which is one of our favorite places in the mall.  I ordered a beautiful sushi platter and it was so good I wanted to roll around in it.  (Weird?  Yeah....sorry)  There is this place in Des Moines I would like to visit, and we can't wait to return to our go-to date night spot in Minneapolis, Seven.

- Decorate my house.  I got some gift cards for Christmas to all of my favorite places, so I can find unique and beautiful decor for our house!  I can't wait to rally my mom and sister sometime, and hit up these stores so I can make this place look like a home.

- Spend more time with family.  Enough said.  Isn't family worth every struggle, every disagreement, every moment of stress and worry?  In the end, it's those people who will love you the most and be there for you.  We need more time together.

- Start lifting again.  Sometimes I feel like finding the time to go for a run or walk is impossible...and lifting weights again is only in my dreams.  I miss it.  It will happen again.  Hopefully soon.  Would it be weird to bring the pack-and-play and set it up in the weight room so Jude could come along?

- Write on my blog.  Ha.  We'll see if this happens past this week :-)

Enjoy the last remaining days of the Christmas season (it's not over yet!) and have a wonderful New Year!

Love, Betsy

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

the good stuff.

It feels good.

It feels good to have a clean house, thanks to my hero, whom I also call Mom.  I would fall apart if it weren't for her.

It feels good to have had a Friday night last week without a basketball game, so Tom and I could attend a fabulous Christmas party and just relax for the evening.

It feels good to have sore abs and an aching face from laughing so hard at said Christmas party.

It feels good to know that my happy little boy was taken care of while we were away, and not having a single worry about him.  Again--I love my mother.

It feels good to have another grad class done and checked off the list...I will now be endorsed to teach TAG.  How crazy is that?  "Here is our music teacher, and oh yeah--she also can teach TAG if we need her to."  It's laughable, right?  But it is also totally me.  I'm thrilled to carry this "ability" and add it to my credentials.  Gifted learning is so, so often overlooked which is a huge problem.  I am passionate about these talented learners who are, in my opinion, just as entitled to extra time, effort and funding as our special needs kiddos.  They are the ones who have the skills and capabilities to do amazing things in the why are districts shoving TAG programs to the side and focusing so hard on at-risk learners that the gifted ones get forgotten altogether?

Geez...sorry.  Sometimes I create soapboxes without trying sometimes.  And, I realize that I might be controversial.  Moving on.

It feels good to have hosted our first formal dinner party last night with some wonderful people.  We had Italian Night, complete with ingredients that made the trip from Italy with John and Donna (pasta, wine, even olive oil!), gourmet cheese, an AMAZING tiramisu, Prosecco, bruschetta, opera music, and gelato.  Our next dinners will be German (YAY!), then fondue, then Greek (COLOR ME EXCITED!  OH MY GOSH!  I ADORE GREEK FOOD!).  Food, friends, and laughter are my favorite things.  The world needs more relaxed, strung-out meals where guests stay for hours and just enjoy the food and each other.  If you're ever stressed out, please call me and say "let's make dinner."  :)

It feels good to know that we have 8 days of school left before a two-week break.  You know me -- I love my job.  But if it weren't for our guaranteed breaks, I'd be a crazy person.

It feels good to have my house decorated for Christmas.  The past two years in our shoebox house, we didn't have room to decorate, so we didn't.  No tree, no garlands, nothing.  Tom hung exterior lights but that was all.  This year we've got the tree.  We've got garlands.  We've got wreaths.  We've got sparkly things.  I love it!  I'm realizing quickly how expensive decorating I'm taking it one room at a time.  How fun will it be to pack it away, knowing next year I'll be able to drag it all out again?!  I'm feeling very, very blessed with this gorgeous space.

It feels good to have the Gents back in the rehearsal room upstairs, gear out and tunes flying.  We have a gig on the 20th and it feels like it's still so far away, but it'll be here before we know it.  I sent them a text a few days ago that said "let's practice soon, because I miss my sanity."  :)  There is a part of me that can only be calmed down with music-making.

See?  This is serenity.  Even my arm hair is glowing because I'm so happy.

*Gig is at Mason City Brewing, from 8-11 pm.*

Lastly:  it feels good to sit here and write.  In my perfect world, the day would have more hours so I could do this more.

Goodnight, my dears!

Monday, November 24, 2014

50 Things

*lets out exasperated sigh*

*Debbie Downer sound effect from SNL*

I'm complaining about grad school again.  I am so, so ready for it to be over.  I have better things to do with my time.

I can do this.  I can do this and it will be worth it.

I just submitted another assignment, and tomorrow I have another presentation.  When 5 pm rolls around tomorrow, I will be on Thanksgiving BREAK!  Whoop whoop!  Again...I can do this.  I can do this and it will be worth it.

I decided to do a 50 Things list instead of a "real" blog post.  It's a random list of 50 Things About Me.  I saw this on another blog years ago and I recently remembered it...I have had it in the back of my mind for a few weeks now.  

It reminds me of those email surveys my friends and I would send to each other in college.  I loved those things.  They were like self-interviews...little moments where you typed out things you didn't even realize about yourself.

So, here are my 50 Things.

1.  I could eat oranges and grapefruits every single day.

2.  And salmon nigiri.

3.  I enjoy convincing people who say they don't eat sushi "because they don't like fish" that it is absolutely one of the most delicious foods in the entire world.  Because it is.  And you will like it even if you don't like fish.  I promise.

4.  I would rather run than walk 90% of the time.

5.  I was a pottery instructor at a Bible camp one summer, before my senior year of college.

6.  I grew up respecting authority and rules, and I plan on teaching my children the same.

7.  I don't have any tattoos.  Sometimes I'm tempted to get one.  I have a lot of friends who have them and they look beautiful.  I'm too chicken, though.

8.  Swimming in the ocean is one of my favorite memories.

9.  I love Jesus.  I'm crazy about Him.  I'm a Christian.  I am not perfect, because no one is.  I'm human.  The amazing thing, though, is that I'm forgiven.  He loves me and He loves you, too.  

10.  My favorite type of book to read is historical fiction.

11.  I haven't read a book since the summer of 2013.  Unless you count grad material and "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

12.  Tom is a super-extrovert that gets energized by groups of people.  I love friends; I can handle groups every now and then, but I am a serious home-body most of the time.

13.  I love shopping.  LOVE IT.

14.  I hate birds.  HATE THEM.

15.  I never played sports past 8th grade.

16.  I was a cheerleader in high school.

17.  I like to make poffertjes (Dutch mini-pancakes) rather than regular pancakes.

18.  My family is Dutch.   Pella's Tulip Time is our annual holiday and we dress in the traditional costumes (from my Grandfather's province in the Netherlands) and participate in all the events.

19.  I've sung the 7th Inning Stretch at three Twins games.

20.  I was 11, 12, and 13 years old when I sang them.

21.  I actually think going to the dentist is relaxing.

22.  I am certified to teach K-12 music.  That means band, choral, and orchestra.

23.  I am certified to teach band and orchestra...not qualified.

24.  I used to like risotto. 

25.  I can't eat risotto anymore because I ordered it the first night I started feeling nauseous....I was 7 weeks pregnant.

26.  I love, love, love the movie "The Wedding Singer."

27.  I quote it almost daily.

28.  Especially when I am singing at a wedding, or when Brett is around.

29.  Our wedding was on August 11, 2012.

(photo by Jalisa Mayer - JM Studio)

30.  I love the Olaf character in "Frozen."  Yeah.  Why?  :) :) :) 

31.  Tom, Jude and I have breakfast at Hy Vee every single Friday morning.

32.  Giving birth was the hardest, most exhausting thing I've ever done.  Also the coolest.

33.  My favorite country in our 2002 European Tour with Wartburg Choir was Germany.

34.  No, Austria.

35.  Favorite TV series:  Modern Family.

36.  I don't steam vegetables anymore.  I roast them with coconut oil, coarse salt, fresh ground pepper in a 450-degree oven.  

37.  My earliest memory is playing beauty shop in my bedroom with my doll and little red plastic chair that swiveled.  I was two.

38.  I love the Hawkeyes and Cyclones equally.  Tom has issues with this sometimes.

39.  A perfect day is waking up slowly to sunshine coming in through the smell in the air...a giggly pajama-ed baby cuddling with me in bed...hubby downstairs listening to Sinatra and cooking breakfast...playtime with Jude in our living room...stroller walking along Clear Lake and lunch at Starboard Market...dropping JT off with parents at our house so Tom and I can go to dinner and a movie.  Bliss.  

40.  The best interior paint color is "greige."  We have it on our bedroom walls.

41.  In my opinion, Instagram is the superior social media outlet.  Facebook is nice, but stressful at times.  Twitter is fun if used properly, but wow, there is a lot of junk that comes along with it.  Instagram is great because it's photographs...and you can filter them.  Simply pictures.  Love it.

42.  My sister is my best friend.

43.  In college I had a pair of terribly ugly red sweatpants that I wore almost every single day after class.  By the end of my senior year I had to throw them out because they'd been through the washer so many times.  I got teased a lot about those sweats...but oh my gosh they were comfortable.  

44.  College!  I went to Wartburg.  I had an amazing 4 years.

45.  I wanted to go to Luther for a year before I decided on Wartburg.

46.  At the end of my senior year at the Burg, the neighbor girls and my roommates and I made a slide on the stairs.  We used the mattresses from our beds.  We discovered that the only way we could go fast is by wearing swishy pants (remember those?) but only 2 girls had swishy pants.  There were at least 10 of us using the slide, so we took turns wearing the pants.

47.  We also made up a dance to Motown Philly one night and had every intention of performing it at a wedding later that summer.

48.  Jude's laugh is my favorite sound in the whole world.

(photo by Jeanne Hansen)

49.  I need to go boot shopping.  I wonder when I'll have time for this.

50.  I have a glass of cab next to me.  Goodbye!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"You should be on The Voice"

I've heard it from several folks and it really is a nice thing to hear.  People are so, so kind.

You know me -- singing is what I do.  I love to perform.  It energizes me and it just feels "right."

And, I like to watch The Voice. (I must say though, Tom and I are behind on, um, 14 or so episodes.  We haven't even started watching this season and it's likely we never will.)  It's quality entertainment.  Even better is The Sing-Off.  I love the a capella groups...and I love Ben Folds.  He is intelligent and talented and funny.  I want to be related to him so he could play piano at family reunions and we could sing duets together.


People have said I should sing on these shows.  But I disagree.  I respectfully disagree with each of them, and I would say no thanks to the opportunity to "be on The Voice."  Or Idol.  Or America's Got Talent.

But WHY?  Doesn't every performer want to be famous and rich, with platinum albums, sell-out crowds, tour buses, and lengthy riders full of ridiculous dressing room requirements?


And I'll tell you why.

1.  I want to own the music I write.
I've written a handful of songs.  If I were to sign under a record label and use them on an album, they would no longer be my own.  Something I put MY heart and soul into would no longer be MINE.  They'd be "owned" by the label.  That's not okay.

2.  I want to choose who I play and sing with.
My name is Betty, and I have three Gents.  They are my best friends and I can't imagine playing music with anyone else.  Period.

3.  I want to stay here.
Hollywood doesn't appeal.  Neither does New York City.  Let's go on a vacation or two, but don't make me live in either place.  The midwest is where it's at...I like to walk down the street and get a smile and a hello where I live.

4.  I don't have a big voice.
I don't sing "big"...and I don't want to.  Stretching my range to fit the famous-female-singer expectation (think Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood) would be pretty voice wasn't created to reach those notes.

5.  I have a family.

If I were to go somewhere and "make it big" (I really don't like that phraseology btw) in music, I could kiss my precious family life away.  The thought makes me shudder.

6.  I'm already famous...because I am a music teacher.
It's the best kind of "fame" -- I walk into my school building and get surrounded by squealing 6-year-olds and mauled by their hugs.  Coming back from maternity leave was comparable to being a victim of an elephant stampede.  The kids are my "fans" -- and I am THEIR biggest fan.  They're my perfect singers and I am their teacher.

And now I'll go back to listening to Coldplay and being grateful for their talent, and thankful I'm not in their shoes.  :)

Love, Betsy

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Haven't Forgotten!

I haven't forgotten about my blog, I promise!

"Busy" is a bit of an understatement.  I talk about that a lot on here...:)

Here's what's been going on.


We got down to business this month with some important appearances and a LOT of work.  My dear friend Amy got married on October 4th and I got to sing in one of the most beautiful churches in the state of Iowa, with two more of my best girls...

I met these two and the bride 6 years ago in a musical and we have been family to each other ever since.  For the recessional we sang "Can't Help Falling in Love" -- from the show -- and it was super meaningful and special for all of us.  Gahhhh it was so fun.

A solo set at the brewery for me and an acoustic duo show for the Quarry's Oktoberfest were the following weekend.  We have been SO. LUCKY. with the weather this fall!  I love that we were able to load equipment without rain, play outside without cold and wind, and enjoy a lot of beautiful color and sunshine all month long.

The next weekend was our biggest project: Kelsey and JD's WEDDING!  We were honored to play for their beautiful celebration.  It was our very first gig as "wedding band" and we had a great time! We thought it was received pretty well, and we are now in the process of refining our sets and logistics so we can commit to more, hopefully.  

The last big show for us this month was this Saturday at the Mercy Foundation's fundraiser, "Nurses Rock," at NIACC.

When I got a call asking us to play for this event, I said "YES" immediately, without checking with the Gents...which is a huge no-no.  I couldn't wait, though...I wanted to do it to say thank you to the nurses that took care of us when Jude was born.  We had a great time playing for everyone there, and I even got to read a little thank-you tribute for the birth center nurses.  I will always, always be grateful for them.


I've said it before and I'll continue to say it over and over: this season of life is incredible.  I love being "Mommy."  It is the best job I have ever had and it will forever be my favorite job.

Our pumpkin is 6 months old (!!!) and as happy as can be.  He loves to play with no clothes on (as you can see), be outside, look out the window, laugh at Mom and Dad, listen to music, play with wheels and noisy toys, splash in his bath, and play in his exer-saucer.  He is ALMOST crawling, and can scoot himself around on the floor pretty well.  

The other day I watched him scoot over to his diaper basket, dump it over, and take everything out.  Then I walked into the kitchen for TWO SECONDS, to come back and see him on the opposite side of the room, chewing on one of my boots.  I think it's safe to say...he'll be a handful.  But I am so thankful.  For nine months I prayed constantly for a healthy, active, happy baby...and we have been blessed a million times over with our little man.

He likes to lift his right arm in the air sometimes when he is sitting up.  Why is this?  LOL

His sleeping patterns have changed and he is now a "sometimes through the night" sleeper.  I'm not crazy about waking up with him, but when I'm rocking and nursing him at 3:30, I try to remind myself that he will only be this small for a blink of time.  I need to treasure every moment and every snuggle.

We've also started solid foods and it's going great.  I've been making all of the baby food, and I'm going to save the details of that for another post!


I LOVE my classroom!!

My eleventh year of teaching is going well.  The school year is rolling by quickly, as always.  Each day at school has challenges, but the joys are constant.  And the kids are funnier this year than they ever have been - I'm pretty sure it's because I'm spending more time with them, in class and during recess and lunch, thanks to the increased duty schedule I have this year.  More kid time = more chances to notice funny stuff.  Last week I had a first grader ask me if TVs were invented when I was a kid.  I said yes.  Then he asked, "Did you have color TVs?  Because in the olden days, people could only see black and white on their TVs."  LOL!! I told him I was born in 1981, and a fun project would be to research the history of televisions.  I told him to report back to me when he learned all of his interesting new information.


Tom and I are enjoying the occasional date night...required by every other young parent we've ever met, every doctor I've seen, all of our colleagues, and both families.  It's hard to find the time and energy, and I generally hate being away from Jude when I already struggle with sending him off each morning...but the effort is well worth it.  

It is absolutely true that you CAN'T let your relationship with your spouse suffer because your family has grown.  Our relationship at home is always better after spending time together.  We are lucky to have both sets of parents close enough to come watch Jude basically anytime, and many many willing friends!  

So, here comes November.  I really don't want to let a month go by without writing keep me accountable, okay?  Thanks :)

Love, Betsy

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Time I Met Marian

I had something special happen to me a week or so ago.

First, let's rewind to the 90's for a second...

When I was in high school, I got to play the role of Laurey in our school's production of "Oklahoma!"

You can pretend this is me:

 It was my first "favorite" role in a musical that I've gotten to do.

I watched Shirley Jones's portrayal of Laurey in the 1955 film over and over as I got ready to play the part.  I didn't have any acting training when I was young, so she was my "teacher" -- my ideal for stage dialogue, singing and expression.

That was when I was a junior, in 1998.  Shirley came to Mason City to perform at the Surf and serve as Grand Marshal in the Band Festival parade the next summer.  I wanted SO badly to meet her...I went to the concert and was the only adoring fan under the age of 70, and watched her from afar at the Band Festival coronation.  No chance to get close, though.  She was too busy and too surrounded by "official" people.

Now, let's fast forward to adult life.  I've been in a few more shows since "Oklahoma!" and I've earned a degree in vocal music.  Shirley Jones's voice, to me, is one of those perfect voices that has made a lasting impression and I truly believe her voice helped shape the way I sing.

When I started teaching music in Mason City, I became well-acquainted with The Music Man and its glorious legacy.  I got to accompany Harding's fourth grade students to the Meredith Willson house and Music Man Square each spring, and led the kids through a short Music Man singing unit at the end of the school year.  I owned a VHS copy of the film and practically wore it out...falling in love with Shirley Jones's Marian the Librarian.  

I was employed at Stebens when they performed The Music Man, Jr. and was delighted to teach the wonderful music to the kids in the cast.  I felt like I was becoming a small part of a woven fabric of sorts...a special fabric that preserves the show and keeps the people of Mason City enthused about this amazing piece of history.

Recently, Mason City had a production of The Music Man in concert.  Shirley Jones was the host, and played the part of Mrs. Paroo.  Her (dreamy) son Patrick Cassidy played Harold Hill.  I had several friends and former students in the chorus, but hadn't made plans to see the show.  At the last minute I decided it was rather stupid that I wasn't going.  I even bugged my friends Sarah and Molly, who were in the show, to see if I could get backstage at some point to meet Shirley!

I went to the concert alone, which is definitely not a normal occurrence with my husband and fellow theatre-lover.  I treated it as a self-date and rather enjoyed myself.

Did you know that NIACC serves red wine in COFFEE CUPS before the show?!  HA!!!


I drank my secret merlot and perused the concert program.  I noticed the ad for Darlene Love's concert and the fundraiser for which Betty and the Gents is playing for...

and thoroughly, completely enjoyed the wonderful concert.  It was fantastic and I cried through most of it.  It was a collection of historical Music Man facts, photos, songs from the show, and bits of the dialogue.  It was a perfectly designed memoir.  I was so proud of everyone onstage and wanted to give each person involved a big bear hug.

After the show I visited with Sarah and started to tear up when I realized I would probably never meet Shirley Jones, one of my all-time heroes.  Sarah quickly said, "let's just walk backstage and see."  I am thankful for my friend, because


She was a delight...absolutely friendly and kind!  We talked so briefly, but I will never forget it.  I shared that I was a music teacher.  I thanked her for her singing.  I told her I'd been Laurey and that I have dreams of Marian, someday.  She told me I was beautiful.  (WHAT?!?!)

I even got to shake Patrick Cassidy's hand and chat with him for a bit, and he asked me for advice on keeping his throat healthy after a bout of laryngitis.  LOL!!!  I told him to hydrate, rest and steam.  As if he really needed to know those things.  I think he was just being super-kind, just like his mother.

When I posted the photo of Shirley and me on Facebook, my dear friend Michelle told me "Now you just have to meet Julie Andrews."

YES!  So, let's get on this, Mason City.  Julie Andrews.  All my heroes need to be checked off on my bucket list.

And after you bring Julie Andrews to town, you may bring Justin Timberlake.  


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Recipe: (I Forgot To Put It In The) Crockpot Tortellini

I love to find new recipes.  I have approximately 297,403,691 recipes stashed away for later use...they're scattered in cookbooks, emails, my Pinterest account, my phone, and in my school bag.  "Someday I'm going to make that!"  "OOOOO that looks delicious." "That would be perfect for Christmas." "If only I had three springform pans...then I could totally rock that layer cake recipe."  

Basically, I find recipes and never make ANY of them.

That is, until I re-discovered the glorious beauty of the CROCK POT.

I love you, Crock Pot.

When we moved into our new house, I unpacked ours and placed it on the counter...and it hasn't moved since.  I have had loads of fun finding things to make for supper and everything has passed the Tom test -- he's not picky by any means, but he has loved every new recipe I've made in it.

This week, I had a tortellini recipe all set to try on Tuesday.  The sauce is cooked in the crock pot for 4-6 hours on low, then the frozen pasta is thrown in at the end.  Super easy.  Well, Tuesday came along and during the school day I remembered that I'd forgotten to put the ingredients in and set the timer.  Whoops!

With no other supper plans in mind, I decided to try it anyway and just set everything in my Dutch oven to simmer for a while after school.  It turned out perfectly!

Here is the simple 7-step recipe:

1.  Brown 1/2 lb Italian sausage (I used Johnsonville) and 1/2 lb ground beef in a Dutch oven.

 2.  Let it go until the bottom of the pot looks like this:

3.  ...then dump in some red wine.  (this isn't in the original recipe but I don't make red sauce without wine anymore)
This red's name is "Intermingle."  It came from Aldi and wasn't the best.  Shelby and Loni and I tried it during the last Vino Vednesday, and threw most of it down the drain after we found it has a very bitter aftertaste.  It was only $4 so maybe next time I'll splurge and get the $6 bottle :)

4.  As the wine bubbles, scrape up all the bits off the bottom of the pot.

5.  Break a cooking rule and dump in a jar of Prego sauce.
(I don't actually know whose rule that is, but I assume it's a party foul to add jarred sauce according to somebody important in the cooking world.)

6.  Add a can of diced tomatoes with the juice.  I used Hy Vee brand with onion and garlic, I think.

7.  Get it to a simmer, then reduce the heat.  This is the beginning of something magical, people.  

 9.  Forget that your new house has an electric, flat-top stove which makes the Dutch oven handles HOT.  Grab the side of the pan and burn the crap out of your hand.  Yell a few choice words at your stove and cry because you miss your lovely gas stove with dependable heat levels.

10.  Get over yourself and be thankful you have a stove.  Remind yourself to not be such a ding-bat next time you reach for a hot pan.

11.  Get your cute new pot holders out of the cupboards and take a selfie with them.

12.  Set the timer for an hour or so, and let 'er rip.  By "rip," I mean "gently simmer."
 mmmmmmmm...revel in the gorgeousness...
13.  Check on your napping baby and whisper sweet nothings, aka "I'm so glad you're asleep right now" into his cute little ears.

14.  Realize there is a little bit of the "bad wine" left in the measuring cup and pour it into a glass.  These are glasses that I got in Prague when my choir toured Europe in 2002.  Aren't they pretty?
Even bad wine tastes good in a pretty glass.  

15.  While the sauce is working away, take care of some other random kitchen and household chores, like washing baby bottle parts and hanging the nipples on the nipple tree. 

16.  Giggle at the fact you have something in your house called a "nipple tree."

17.  Notice the too-ripe bananas, which are way too ugly to be sitting on such a cute little tray (which was kindly given to us by our beautiful neighbor Danika).  

18.  Write a mental note to make banana bread before an army of fruit flies takes over your house.

19.  Finally, when the hour is over, dump in the frozen pasta, turn the heat off, and cover.  In 10 minutes supper is done!

20.  Serve with salad, bread and a snuggly baby.  (no actual bread in the photo because we were all out)

Okay so it's 20 steps instead of 7.  Try the recipe, it's great!

The next one I'm going to try is called "Autumn Delight."  Why on earth would someone name a beef/mushroom soup/onion soup/egg noodle recipe AUTUMN DELIGHT?!

Happy Crocking!

Love, Betsy