Chipolte Chicken Tortilla Soup...and getting our kicks on the epic...Rt 66!

Reverse psychology is a fabulous parenting tool.  If I were a smarter mother, I would have employed this tool much more often than I have in my parenting years.

Being a homeschool mom who has made it to the end of the high school years with one child (one to go!) has taught me more life lessons than I could have indeed imagined.

One is...a precise and tactical use of reverse psychology.

It is without question that the teen years can be interesting, challenging, and daunting for many/most parents.  Try wearing the teacher hat too and you have the setting for potential conflict at every tumultuous teenage turn.

We are no exception.  With all of our moving, my kids certainly benefited from the stability that homeschooling offered to them.  Fortunately, they both have the personalities to fit the lifestyle well and have had no desire to enroll in traditional school.

But...their mother is quite the "Type A" personality who went from corporate marketing... to ballet school owner/director... 'stay-at-home-homeschool-mom".  We need an acronym for that...wait...S.A.H.H.M.  There it is.

One need only imagine the conflicting roles and unaccustomed hats that were adopted at each stage of this journey.

To me, in order to face embarking on a homeschooling journey, I had to compare the task to something akin to a corporate position... bestowed on me for the direct challenge...

...of testing my inner fortitude
...of polishing my zealous organizational skills
...and to tickle my beloved strategic planning acumen.

Otherwise...the title said, 'stay-at-home-homeschool-mom'.  I would be a S.A.H.H.M-y...Ouch.

So, we laid out my new position.  I was determined to reach the CEO level of 'S.A.H.H.M-dom'.

But, just as there are hiccups and snafus within the corporate it is the same within the family enclave...

..there is...reality.  Yes...brutal and unforgivable REALITY!

When the kids were in middle school, I had a highly polished schedule that included finely tuned weekly field trips ~ to places like... the local water treatment facility (woohoo!)...and... remote farm-to-table experiences...where we churned our own butter, separated seeds from lambs wool, and turned it all into our next meal replete with our hand-woven wool coasters on which to place our mugs of freshly steamed milk.

As the years progressed into high school, we were familiar faces at the homeschool museum classes, local farm "homeschool" re-enactment days, traveling theatre events, and all manner of the zillions of classes offered during the daytime hours for homeschoolers.


...something shifted in the high school years.  A dullness crept over the eyes of my children.  I saw flickers of light waning with dimness instead of firing up with sparkles.

Slowly, just a mention of a new art exhibit tour, a potential museum science experiment day, or a theatre-in-the-park evening began to illicit...moans and groans from my veteran homeschooled twosome!

"What was I doing wrong?" I worried.  "Why weren't my kids happily trotting behind me to all of these incredible and educational events like they always did?"  

"How was I going to check-off...fill in...list out all of the achievements of their homeschool years in order to get my 'self-appointed'  S.A.H.H.M. promotion that I needed to justify my 'stay-at-home-homeschool-mom' title?"

Because, as I so abashedly realized...and took a big gulp of reality...they are TEENAGERS...

Period...end of story...they are teenagers. Oh, that word can be so loathsome at times and others (insert smirky smile)

Teenagers don't trot.  Teenagers especially don't  trot behind their MOTHERS!

It seemed that their quest for unrivaled bits of knowledge was coming to a screeching halt.  Computer gaming, fantasy fiction (ew!!), animé/manga (double eew!!) were becoming the leading contenders for my carefully planned agenda of more and more museum exhibit excursions.

A slow, heavy, heady realization occurred to us as parents.

It was time.

Critical tactics needed to be employed at this stage of the four year plan in order to make it to the end of the schooling journey.  Patrick suggested the ultimate well-thought out was nothing short of brilliant.

Bore them to death.  

Yep. Yesss... Yadda!  Plan nothing.  Do nothing. Suggest nothing...offer nothing...stare at..nothing.

Obviously...Admittedly...this does not bode well for the "type A" in me!  Instant dislike was my initial stubborn reaction.  My idea of a vacation from hell is to journey to a secluded beach with endless cocktails... piles of magazines...and...

...nowhere to go one to talk to
...and nothing to see but miles of endless ocean water.

How very...and utterly RELAXING. (ugh.shivers.)

How was I to live with a strategic plan circling around the word "boredom"??

This proposed plan did not speak to my strengths at all.  Where was the planning, the honing of carefully planned out activities, the strategic four year high school "plan de succés".  

No, not going to bode well for me my friends!

But, looking deeply into my reflection in the mirror...I knew he was right.  I knew his plan of action had to become our reality.

We discussed our motives.  Carefully decided on a course of action...and decided to put our ideas to work...

My particular plan was to hide out from my teens in the only safe haven in the house I kitchen.  

So, I cooked...
And then, I photographed...

And then, I wrote about what I cooked and I photographed...

and the result of this "reverse psychology experiment" on our children was the unexpected product of this blog called


"Thyme" has been the result of my escape from homeschooling burnout.  Instead of planning the latest and greatest volunteering activity for the a.m., followed by hand throwing our own pottery vases and then designing them with intricate  Egyptian hieroglyphics in the p.m...

We sprayed into our family atmosphere~'eau de boredom'. (pronounced 'boredumb')

...I, for my part, commenced learning how bake tiny sweet crème bruléesmeticulously burning the sugar to a fine crisp on top with my newly acquired torch.  I spent time carefully measuring out ingredients for little petite rounds of tart crust and then carefully plucking and placing fresh ruby red cherries on top.

Getting lost in my kitchen...from one recipe to another allowed me to escape to worlds unknown to me like E. Europe's state of Georgia, where they make dumplings filled with spiced beef.  And, Mexico where they use beautiful chipotle peppers to flavor their hot soups.

As time ticked on...and more time was clocked in my kitchen than ever before, I began to notice that it was getting a bit crowded in my 'home-away-from-homeschooling-home/kitchen'.

"Oh, Mom, I think Anthony Bourdain went to Sardinia, Italy in one should make that one dish that looked so delicious" casually comments one child while hanging lethargically over the countertop, taking up my precious kitchen square footage. (around month no. 2)


"Since that lamb dish was so flavorful, perhaps we should reconsider that trip to Istanbul, Turkey and see what other dishes we could discover in their culture for you to cook, Mom..." inadvertently quips the other child, while seeing if they can get the burners on the stove to turn off and and on... (around month no.3)

This suggestion from the teen gallery, of actually TRAVELING came...after quite the lackluster reactions of my two teens last fall to the most incredible journey through Ireland that I have ever had the fortune to enjoy. 

"Look kids, another incredible rainbow!!" I gasped as we skimmed remote peninsulas in Ireland.

"Meh," chorused the peanut teen gallery from the depths of the back seat...both wired for sound to Kindles, ipods, ipads, iphones, and eye-rritating devices!

Rumblings in the family unit were sounding.  A pervading unsettledness was detected in the house...feet shuffled to and fro in and out of the kitchen with punctuated sighs and sheepish mutterings... 

"Are we doing anything today, Mom?"

Finally, after months on end of weaning  activities, granting unprompted gifts of lavish computer time...nothing-planned-after-school-time galore...came the exasperated words that tasted like raw honey dripping from those Irish rainbows...

"Mom...we're so bored!" says Thing One.  

" about we think about a road trip...anywhere?!" pleads Thing Two.

"Meh," came my lackluster response with a careless shirk of the shoulder. "I have baking to do, photography to learn, articles to write."

But!  In my mind, I was shouting...

Yessssss, my friends!  Yesssssss, my fellow moms...striving trying to climb the corporate 'stay-at-home-homeschooling-mom' ladder.

Reverse psychology.  It's the most beautiful tool!  It Shazam! ~given a month, or two, or three.

All systems were an immediate 'go' once I shed my carefully shielded blah demeanor after what was probably only minutes!  I had the kids pouring over Mapquest, Google, Fodor's, Yelp, and app after delicious app.  I was giddily dialed-in for the mother-load task of planning, calculating, and plotting...I was in my element again!

The decision was unanimous...

The kids were like putty in my hands...

We would take ...The ultimate.  The classic.  The All-American Road Trip to...

The Grand Canyon!!

We got a quick tutorial in changing a flat tire.  A radiator insurance update check...oil change completed

...check, check, check.  

P. was going to stay at home and man the dog, the cat..and oh yeah...the job!

Within 2 days...the kids and I were off.  They didn't care which direction we went.  Just anywhere out of the stench of ...

"eau de boredom". (pronounced 'bore-dumb')

We chose West.  Ultimate destination...the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We've traveled east, northwest, and north of Houston, but we really had no idea what lay out there in West Texas lands.

I added in our first stop off at the tiny little Texan, but decidedly influenced by German culture, town called Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg was settled by German immigrants in the 1840's.  These immigrants were adamant about holding on to their culture and there is marked display of German culture, heritage, architecture, and food offered in this adorable little Texan town.

Shops sell everything Texan 'chic' for outfitting those cattle ranches in their finest southern garb.

When the best leather boots are bought and the softest supplest cowboy hat is fitted, there can't be anything much better than a good brat, sauerkraut, and cold beer to recuperate from the day's shopping sprees.

After walking the sidewalks of Fredericksburg and observing the shopfronts that looked like something out of the set of a wild West John Wayne movie set, we belted ourselves in...and headed out further West.

Next destination...Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

The landscape became remote.  And when I say remote...I mean r.e.m.o.t.e.

Any signs of life were detected in cactus-like form.  Occasionally, we saw a lizard scamper across the road in front of us.  Madeleine and I actually saw a roll of 'tumbleweed' skittering across the highway.  We became one of the only cars for an hour at a time crossing the great expanse of Western Texas.

Goodbye anything "chain" related.  Goodbye Starbucks.  Goodbye Shipley's donuts.  Did I say...goodbye Starbucks?

The landscape was lunar...dry...barren...dusty...eerie.

After getting used to the shock of bareness as we rolled across the flatlands for hours on end...we began to see the beauty of the landscape unrolling  before us.

We stopped for dinner at the remotest of Mexican restaurants.  We ate a fabulous dinner filled with spicy dishes and fresh tortillas.  M. had a wonderful beef stew called Posole.

I had a wonderful 'Asado' which was fork tender pork slow cooked in spicy red chile pods.

The next day we continued our all-American, classic road trip now turning north into New Mexico.  Just across the border from Texas is one of the largest cave systems in the U.S.

Carlsbad Caverns.

Again, our drive was eerily remote.  For hours at a stretch, we were the only car on the highway.  We kept the gas tank on full and never let it get below half because that is how remotely spread out each town was from each other.

There he is!  Note the 'Cow Crossing' sign right behind the big fellow!

As we followed our trusty iphones to the Carlsbad Caverns, it seemed impossible that we were on the correct highway. We weren't even on a highway anymore but some crumbling down narrow 2-lane country lane stretching into nothingness as far as we could see.

Signs kept appearing determined to warn us about black cows that might be crossing these desolate backroads.   Could we please see a sign that says something helpful like "Carlsbad Caverns...this way"

"Cows Crossing?"  we asked ourselves.  As far as the eye could see, there was absolutely not a living creature in sight.  

But, sure enough...around the next slight hump...there he was.  A black cow in all his black cow-ness...

...staring right at us.

Finally, one tiny little crooked sign said "Carlsbad Caverns". We breathed a sigh of relief and felt as if civilization was within grasp once again.

We climbed the windy hills up to the caverns, passed gnarly cactus-like trees on the right and left...and wouldn't have been surprised to see a scene out of a wild west movie crossing the plains below.

The caverns are spectacular.  Out of the middle of nowhere, a huge visitor center appears.  Within minutes, our hours of isolated highway driving ended and we were surrounded by families from all over the country and all over the world experiencing the glory and mystique of the caverns.

We spent over an hour 1.4 miles (equivalent to 79 stories) under the earth's surface wandering on our own along the miles of softly lit trails in the caves.  

The air was cool, the rocks were damp, and the mood was peaceful and eerie at the same time.

Next stop...another little side deviation from the direct route to the Grand Canyon.  We had recently watched a Samantha Brown travel episode on Santa Fe, New Mexico.  

The resort-like town looked completely different from anywhere we have traveled so we thought it would be a good representation of the New Mexico lifestyle.

The kids and I were googling and 'yelping' restaurants and places to stay during the hours on end of highway driving.

We came across this sweet darling little inn in Sante Fe...
El Rey Inn.

El Rey Inn is a charming inn tucked away along a rather busy road running right through the center of Santa Fe.  But, once you drive onto the grounds of the inn, you feel a wonderful ambiance of quiet and relaxation.

After all of those hours of driving, M. and I completely took advantage of the wonderful jacuzzi pool near our room.  The jets were so strong they could almost blow us across the water.

The next morning we were again delighted by the inn's breakfast room, patio, and buffet.  Yogurts, granolas, lots of fresh fruit, good coffee and tea...were spread out attractively.

El Rey Inn was a treat for us and we enjoyed our stay there.  It was a wonderful respite from the highway drive, the bustling nature of Santa Fe, and the heat of the July sun.

Time to discover the sights and places that Samantha Brown highlighted on her weekend stay in Santa Fe.

We headed to the downtown historical district for some shopping, people watching, and overall New Mexico scenery.

(Needless to say, R. was quite content staying at the inn to catch up on precious computer time!)

Santa Fe was nothing short of fascinating for us.  We are completely unfamiliar with the styles of the Southwest.  From the adobe styled homes to the heavily western, native American, and Mexican styled jewelry and accessories, everything was interesting and different.

I especially enjoyed the faces of the people in Santa Fe.  It was easy to see the multi-cultural heritage in the locals.  I couldn't take my eyes off of this woman as she whizzed by on her red scooter.

I thought to myself...there is the modern day Native American Woman!  Fierce, free, and just beautiful.

Santa Fe is an artist's dream city.  Galleries are lined up one after the other and the prices of many items rival anything that might be showcased on 5th Avenue in NYC.

I've never worn cowboy boots...but I figure if I were to choose a pair from the 100 or so that were lined up...I would select the pair above.

We were incredibly fortunate in that there was an annual Folk Art Festival in Santa Fe on that particular weekend.  All over the city, tents were set up and all sorts of artists, painters, and sculptures had their creations out for everyone to enjoy and purchase.

After a long and wonderful day of shopping and people-watching, we had dinner at a fun and festive BBQ restaurant before calling it a night.

Next day...the crossing from New Mexico into Arizona...we would be on the famed Route 66!

and to the Grand Canyon at last!

The night we rolled into Flagstaff, Arizona the storm clouds rolled in with us.  Fierce storms raged all night and the morning brought low lying grey clouds clear across the sky.

This could possibly become the epic 'fail' of all-American road trips.

We stayed good-natured.  There was nothing we could do about changing the weather.  I think the trip was indeed more about the journey rather than the destination anyway.

People from all over the world were wandering around the rim of the canyon waiting and wondering what this one day would hold in store for them.

Unbelievably, the sun slid out lazily from the greyness,  beautiful soft mists of clouds hung in spots all along the canyon

...and the scenery before us became breathtaking.

We spent the day driving along one look-out spot after the next.  Often we found ourselves caravanning with the same families...not speaking the same languages... but we connected through shared smiles after seeing the vistas stretched out before us.

We just couldn't have asked for much more at that point.  The storms had cleared the heat and we drove around the rim with the windows down.  We were very grateful to enjoy summer weather without the humidity.

Overall, the trains roaring across the flatlands of Texas, barreling into New Mexico, and through the rocky hills of Arizona were my favorite sight of the trip.

What a lonely scene to watch the chugging of a long train sliding across such barren but beautiful landscapes.  

My eyes would shift from looking at the trains to imagining the lives of the early pioneers as well as the Native Americans as they managed to survive in this harsh part of our country.

I imagined sitting at a camp site after a slow, arduous, and hot trek over the lonely lands.  I wondered what they ate for meals.  How did they keep food fresh and edible?  What about the scorpions?

Soups must have been prepared in the evenings to help feed such a hungry crew of travelers.

Thinking about their rugged lives inspired me to prepare this Chipotle Chicken Soup.  This is a deliciously spiced soup, filled with chunks of chicken, spices, tomatoes and herbs.

The flavors are all representative of the people, the landscape and what was provided for travelers who used the few ingredients that were available to them in such a delicious way.

What an epic trip.  I am really proud of my kids for helping me along the way, getting along with each other really well, and creating a memory-filled drive that will undoubtedly mean more to them as the years move on by.

Chipolte Chicken Tortilla Soup
(recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny blog)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I used a roasted chicken from the store)
1 tsp. chipotle chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 (14 oz) can fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
2 (6-inch) tortillas, cut into strips
Cooking spray 

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add minced garlic and shredded chicken; saute for about 2 minutes.  Add chipotle chile powder and cumin; stir well.  Add water, salt, chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350˚F and place tortilla strips on a baking sheet.  Spray strips with cooking spray and sprinkle with a touch of chipotle chile powder or chipotle seasoning blend (such as Mrs. Dash).  Bake at 350˚F for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Top soup with baked tortilla strips, cilantro and a lime wedge and enjoy!

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