Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Storytime! Magician's Elephant.

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo was our latest read. I had to talk Jared into this book. He had to read a book that was about an animal (nonfiction or fiction). I should say that I wasn't dying to read the book either. Tale of Despereaux wasn't one of my favorites of children's literature. But, we gave it a shot.

Both of us were pretty excited for the evening storytime to happen each night. Jared always begged for an additional chapter to be read. It isn't funny, but it is captivating. DiCamillo really has a style of writing that makes a story sound like a song. (At least to me.)

Jared is nine years old. Although the many fancy, big words made it hard for Jared to read on his own, he enjoyed learning the new vocabulary. Because of the challenging vocab, I would rate this as an excellent book to read aloud to your kiddos under the age of 10 but, not a great choice if they read it on there own.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

THE NOTEBOOK: words of love, appreciation and approval...

ON MOTHERHOOD: If you are looking for a way to enter the heart of your child, or enrich your relationship with your child... here is an idea that has worked for us.

Six years ago, when my daughter was five (she read at age four), I started a notebook for her. Most nights, after she had fallen asleep, I would quietly slip into her bedroom and write in that special notebook.

I would write words of love, appreciation and approval. Such as... "Great job reading that hard chapter book!" OR "You sure looked cute in pigtails today!" OR "I was so proud of you when you shared your candy with your brother! You're awesome!" OR "I love you!"

Our relationship changed for the better. I changed for the better. She started to write me notes and draw pictures in the notebook. From her I would hear, "Good job cooking dinner tonight! It was yummy!" OR "Thank you for playing games with me.", etc...

Funny thing... I was always on the look out for the positive so that I would have some new material for the notebook. I spent less time focusing on her faults, struggles or disobedience and MORE time focusing on the positive character traits, and good deeds or decisions.

Both of us felt more loved, cherished, appreciated and accepted for being who we are!

We've fallen out of that habit recently. I noticed last week that I was falling into an old trap of criticism and missed our notebook. It's great to say those same things out loud, but let's face it, often it doesn't happen. I love the notebook because in the quiet time of the evening, I would have time to reflect on the day and remember to "say" what she needs to hear. Time to start another notebook!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Want some "Boo-berry Muffins" ?

These are so simple to make and so moist and yummy! It's my mom's recipe and I've used both fresh and frozen blueberries. It is not a super sweet muffin. If you want it sweeter you can always add additional sugar.

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins

2 cups biscuit/baking mix (such as Bisquick)
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar, divided
1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream (not low fat)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries*
2 eggs

*If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw before adding to the batter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin cups with liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine the biscuit mix and 3/4 cup sugar. In another bowl, combine the eggs and sour cream until smooth; stir sour cream mixture into the biscuit mixture until just combined.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Yields: 1 dozen

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Thursday, October 22, 2009


Here's a fun craft to do with the kids....

Check out the video on how to make Bat-o'-Lanterns on the Family Fun website. The kids and I made these last night and they turned out soooo cute!! We actually used glue dots and straightpins to help hold the foam bat ears and bat wings up and out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's finally fall for me!

Although I've been enjoying the beautiful fall colors of the changing leaves, fall didn't feel like fall to me until I dug out the Halloween decorations. My kids are so excited! These little things that I sit out on shelves, tables, and counters, really mean a lot to them. They talk about each little decoration and their favorite decorations seem to change with the discovery of the next old favorite.

I have a lot of favorites too, but I just love pulling out the Halloween picture frames with photos of my precious family from years past. Here are my two rugrats- six years ago! The kids remember the events that took place when we snapped this photo, because they get retold every year. Here we are in Frisco, Texas - we went to the pumpkin farm/patch with my friend Crystal and her 4 kids. They had a petting zoo and a hayride. I love hearing them relive the fun!

An after school snack today thanks to Pillsbury and Betty Crocker. :-) The kids had fun doing the decorating. We'll be delivering the rest to our neighbors!
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spooky Treats

At last the long anticipated day came for my kids. Every year we do caramel apples. I usually wait until closer to Halloween, but last year I decided I needed to space all of the activities throughout the month. MUCH better, we have too many traditions to keep up with for only a day or two of fun!

About the caramel apples... they don't look the best. Ah, well. I decided to try a new recipe this year and it was a mistake. My fault, for not reading through the entire directions before dumping all of the ingredients in the pan. The caramel tasted yummy, but was not quite as thick as it needed to be. We didn't have a candy thermometer on hand, so we sort of had to eye ball it. Yeah, I AM that type of cook.

This cute little ghost is a twinkie (well at least three quarters of a twinkie). He is frosted white with two mini M&Ms for eyes. My favorite of the spooky treats ended up being the box mix brownies. We drew skeletons on them with a white cake decorating writing tube. It was so easy and the kids did an outstanding job! We had a lot of fun making these treats at Grandma's and Grandpa's house.
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Witch Hat Candy Corn Hanger

This was a simple craft that I saw somewhere online and don't remember where. Cute, huh? Simple - gotta LOVE simple! This craft also cost me only about $3 (including the candy)!

I purchased this witch hat at a local craft store (non-chain) a few weeks ago for a different project (which I've abandoned since giving one week + of my life this month to the flu).

To assemble: You will need a generous cut of ribbon, I'd say a bit over 2 feet so you have plenty to make a nice bow. Thread the ribbon through a hole on the outside of the hat, just under the brim. Pull ribbon through to a hole on the opposite side. You should have the ribbon threaded through now with a generous amount of ribbon on each side. Pull the ribbon upwards at the center of the hat to form the loop that hangs on doorknob. Careful to keep the ribbon equal on both sides. Next, I find it easiest to tie the bow by first tying a knot. If you want to, you can secure this with a dab of hot glue. Then tie a bow the size you desire. OPTIONAL: You can also do this with two different ribbons if you want. It can be a bit frustrating to line the ribbon up that way but, worth the effort!
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Bars

I made a cute craft tonight but, will have to post it tomorrow because I promised Caitlin that she could help me fill it with candy. She fell asleep just before I was finished.

So instead, my sister-in-law, Michelle, requested this recipe today and I thought it was of course seasonal and everyone who likes pumpkin will LOVE it! It's one of my favorites, which is why I chose to make it for my own birthday cake. Very moist and delicious! I found this recipe on the website allrecipes.com - great site!

I apologize for this photo, it is not the best. I've discovered that the lighting in my new kitchen is terrible for photography. I will have to carry the plates into other rooms of the house or outside- the kitchen has too harsh of light and just too much glare.

Pumpkin Bars

3 eggs
1 & 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 (15 oz. each) cans pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie seasoning
1 teaspoon salt

8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray pan with cooking spray. (I like these best cooked in jelly roll pan, my second choice would be a 13 x 9-inch pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil, and the pumpkin with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to the pumpkin mixture. Stir well. Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake 25-30 minutes if using a jelly roll pan and roughly about 30-35 minutes if using the 13 x 9 - inch pan. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted comes out fairly clean. It's a moist cake, so you may have a bit of cake on the toothpick, but it shouldn't be doughy.

Frosting: beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla. Stir in powdered sugar until smooth. YUMMY!! Enjoy!
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

In My Kitchen

Here are a few of our family favorites. Tonight we had a real sit-down family meal for the first time in two weeks. It was very nice, something I miss a lot when Scotty is out of town for work. I made some of his favorites tonight and I tried a new chicken recipe which didn't end up getting very good reviews from the family, "It's okay" doesn't really make the recipe files.

Tomato Focaccia Bread
This is a 5 star recipe I hounded my husbands co-worker for for months.
Worth begging for... :-)

1 loaf frozen bread dough (such as Rhodes)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
4-6 roma tomatoes (or 2 very large roma tomatoes)

Thaw bread dough in an oiled 13 x 9-inch pan for about 4 hours. Cover with a piece of saran wrap sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Press the dough dough down, spreading to cover the bottom of the 13 x 9-inch pan. Sprinkle dough with 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Slice tomatoes and place on top of the cheese.

In a small bowl combine 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, basil, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, and garlic. Top each tomato slice with a rounded teaspoonful of the mayonnaise/cheese mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown slightly. Let sit a few minutes before slicing. I store leftovers in the fridge and reheat in the microwave. They never make it past breakfast.


Wedge Salad
One of our favorites.

1 head of iceberg lettuce
1 roma tomato, diced small
1/4 cup chopped bacon
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup blue cheese
desired amount of blue cheese dressing (our favorite is Marie's Original)

Cut lettuce head in half or quarters (depending on the size of the salad you want. Pour desired amount of blue cheese dressing on top and sprinkle with tomato, bacon, green onion and blue cheese. YUM!

Oven Rice Pilaf
My friend Miho brought us dinner one night and this casserole was a huge hit with the family!

2 cups rice (not instant)
2/3 CUBE butter
5 cups water
3 Knorr chicken bullion cubes (the large size 1 cube=2 cups broth)
1 & 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 & 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 c. slivered almonds

Brown rice in the butter in a medium saucepan (holds 6+ cups). Place rice in a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. In the same saucepan heat up 5 cups water and the bullion cubes to a boiling point. Pour into the pan with the rice. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Take the pan out of the oven, add vegetables and almonds. Stir to mix well with a fork. Return to oven for another 30 minutes.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting the 411 on movies!

ON MOTHERHOOD: I found one more web-site that deserves a great shout-out from me! I really like kids-in-mind.com for giving the 411 on the movies out there.

Earlier today Scotty and I were talking with the kids about the "world's ratings" vs. "our own ratings". You see they really believe that what is appropriate for one person or family is appropriate for ours. It's the "well, so-and-so is doing it!" argument.

I'm ULTRA picky and conservative when it comes to what my kids watch on tv and in the movies. It's not always easy to understand what "suggestive behavior and mild crude humor" means, you know? I cringe at the alarming amount of times I am watching a "kids show" and there is some mature undertones peaking through. Sometimes, I will know of a particular scene or quote on a movie and use it as a teaching opportunity because that is the wise thing for a parent to do. My goal isn't to shelter my kids to an extreme degree, but to protect them from seeing more than I think they can understand or be exposed to based on maturity.

I do think it's a bit unrealistic for me to be "in-the-know" of all the entertainment out there. So, I like kids-in-mind.com and the exact details they give regarding nudity, sex, violence, gore, and profanity in a particular movie. LOVE IT!

WOW!! WOW!! WOW!! Real Hero Posters!

Photo used with permission of Real Hero Posters.

WOW!! I'm so excited about what I just found! Maybe many of you already know about these but, I am LOVING these..... REAL HERO POSTERS!

They are beautiful to look at and inspirational artwork for your home. You can dress them up a bit with a nice black wooden frame for the main areas of your home. I just can't decide which to get!

They have a Bible Series and a Book of Mormon Series! My favorites from the Bible are Peter Walks on Water, Daniel in the Lion's Den, Moses Parts the Sea. My favorites from the Book of Mormon series are Enos, Lehi's Dream, Samuel the Lamanite.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!! GO CHECK THEM OUT!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cranberry Coleslaw

Trying out a new recipe. I thought this salad was yummy. I omitted the sunflower seeds only because I didn't have any. It was good with out them, but next time I'm going to add them for sure! I love that I usually have everything on hand except the coleslaw mix. That makes for easy shopping! This recipe came from the First magazine.

Cranberry Coleslaw

Makes approximately 6 cups

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (16-ounce) package coleslaw mix
1 (6- ounce) package dried cranberries (I used 1 cup Craisins)
1/4 cup sunflower-seed kernels

In a 2-quart bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well with a whisk. Add slaw mix, tossing gently to coat. Refrigerate until serving time.

Before serving, stir in dried cranberries and sunflower kernels.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009


This week, being stuck at home with the flu, I've had to look at a blaring chaos of paper. Sick of it, I've spent some of my "feeling better" moments tackling it. I hate getting the mail. Let's face it, there is rarely something fun inside the mailbox. Mostly junk mail, a few bills each month. The kids come home from school and dump a backpack full of paper each night. AND did I mention my son is an artist? YEP, he's good too and I have a gazillion papers around to prove it!

So, it was time to fill the empty filing cabinet drawers (remember we've just moved in). My friend, Debra, taught me something several years ago that I absolutely LOVE. You see, file folders usually come tri-cut. Three separate divisions, stacked so that you can read all of the tabs at a glance. But, if you like to alphabetize and IF ("snort")- WHEN you have to add a new file, it messes things up. Well, it bothers me. Debra taught me that I should use all file folders with the tab in the same place, that way you can add or toss any folder. I just loved that idea!

BEFORE (not shown: the stack next to the filing cabinet, the one on the desk, the one on the sofa table and the one on the table):
Supplies: File folders with the tab on only one side or the center (every single file folder) and a label maker. I cannot live without my label maker. One of my favorite tools.
Filing cabinet drawer after: Alphabetized, ready for new folders to be added. The Yellow hanging files in front are my "To Be Filed" and "To Be Paid" folders. Someday the red and blue hanging folders will be green...
This little metal container holds four files. Labeled Mom, Dad, Caitlin and Jared. It sits above the filing cabinet and next to the computer monitor. It is meant for the papers that need action (other than bill paying action). For example it looks pretty sloppy right now because my folder is STUFFED! I have a lot to do. Caitlin's folder has a paper that tells me the details of some items I need to purchase for her violin class. Jared's has a book order that needs returned to school.

When the kids bring home their school work for keeps it goes into their box. I usually weed it out about 3-4x a school year, and it's the place the art/school work sits until it gets scanned into the computer for their Shutterfly books.

The hardest part for me is being consistent about filing the stuff away, but more than half the battle is actually having a home for it to go. I used the box system for the kids papers last school year and it worked pretty well! Found the boxes at Longs Drug store of all places! They are approximately 13x15".
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Monday, October 12, 2009


Here's a SIMPLE idea for a cute centerpiece. I've been doing it for years and I still believe he's one of my favorite Halloween decorations. I use this same glass votive for every holiday, they are really versatile.


A glass votive
A candle
Self-sticking First Aid Gauze - I used 2" because my votive is quite large
Googly eyes- Again use a size that makes sense with your votive
Glue Dots (to attach the eyes)

Wrap the gauze around the clean votive. I started at the top and worked myself down. Leave a considerable uncovered space on the votive for the eyes. For the eyes: attach one to two glue dots on each googily eye and stick to the votive. YEP, it's that simple and SUPER cute!

Here he is all lit up!!
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

3 Can Creole Dinner

This recipe was actually created by me, accidentally. A few years back I had a kielbasa that needed used, so I decided to pair it up with my husbands favorite (black beans) and throw in whatever spice. Only I wasn't paying too much attention to cooking, because I accidentally opened up a can of green beans instead. Not to waste, I added the green beans anyhow and later a can of stewed tomatoes because I thought it was dry. The result of that accident is quite amazing ((BLUSH)). I hope you enjoy it! Our son won't even taste it (he doesn't like his foods mixed together) but, it is in the top three favorite dinners for the rest of us! Sorry for the awful photo. Too late to take another, that stuff is LONG gone!

FRUGAL TIP: Not factoring in the seasoning or the white rice (which is an on-hand staple for us) this meal cost $4.57. Watch for the kielbasa to go on sale, here they are 2/$5.00 . The canned food frequently goes on sale too (I could have got a better deal on those had I stocked up during earlier sales).

3 Can Creole Dinner

1 smoked beef or turkey keilbasa, cut into 1/2" slices.
1/2 large onion, chopped (or one small onion)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 can (14.5 oz.) stewed tomatoes (PLAIN: not the Italian or Mexican seasoned)
1 can (14.5 oz.) cut green beans, drained
1 can (14.5 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. - 1 1/2 tsp. Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
cooked brown or white rice

Brown keilbasa and onion in the oil. Drain off fat in a colander, return keilbasa and onions to the pan. Add stewed tomatoes, green beans and black beans. Add creole seasoning to taste, I recommend starting out with the smaller amount and going up from there, especially if your serving the kids! Serve over a bed of rice.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

Product Shout-Out

So, if there is a product that I just LOVE I'm going to tell you about it. I WISH that these companies were compensating me, but they are not. Not too long ago there existed a particular frozen pasta meal made by a particular brand. This pasta was amazing! My daughter and I loved it! Easy fast lunch, tasted homemade. They must not have heard many shout outs about it because that product no longer exists and my daughter and I lament about it all the time. So here are two products I hope will be around forever, because I love them...


These are called "Monkey Hooks". Now there are actually a few different brand names out there and my dad says they are all the same. Basically instead of drilling a large hole for a screw you drill a tiny little hole and insert this hook (the big long part)into the drilled hole. That is it! No stud necessary and it can really hold a lot of weight! I think they are very clever and if you decide that you don't like the picture where you hung it, you are not left with a large hole to patch up. Nice!

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(Just turn your head like you're eating a taco. I'm not sure why this photo rotated on me. I swear it is right side up in Picassa. So strange.) ANYHOW.... I love Indian food. In fact I'm hoping to eat at one of my favorite Indian Restaurants this weekend!

The Amy's brand is sort of a hit or miss with me. Some of it I really dislike, others I absolutely love! This is a yummy curry wrap filled with potatoes, peas and tofu. Tofu takes on the taste of whatever it is cooked with/in. It is basically there for protein. If you have been wanting to try tofu, this is an excellent quick lunch. Two minutes in the microwave and TONS of yummy flavor!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A little bit of Spidery Cuteness


Yesterday, I got to spend a little one-on-one time with myself! After Scotty's trip to Africa to help the team Biketown and then his business trip to Dallas, Texas, I was so ready for some time alone doing something fun. I signed up at the local scrapbook store for a fun class involving a bit of wood, paper and paper mache. I made this cute little spider, there are other little wood pieces to display during other holidays or months. In fact, Nicole, the genious behind this cute little guy, said she would cut out a CTR emblem for me. (Of course, the wheels are turning in my head, and I'm thinking of even more things)

Check out Nicole's blog and her cute crafts!
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

...mmmm mmmm good, SOUP!


I actually didn't think the day was that cold, but the morning was a bit chilly and put me in a soup mood. I invited mom, dad and Katie over for some corn chowder. It's very tasty and easy to prepare...

Deluxe Corn Chowder
(an adaption of "Grandma's Corn Chowder" on allrecipes.com)

1/2 c. diced bacon (optional)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped small
2 c. water
1 large Knorr vegetarian vegetable boullion cube
(or chicken flavor)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 c. cream-style corn (about 2 cans)
2 tsp. salt
2 c. half-and-half
black pepper to taste

Mix potatoes and onion into a large cooking pot with 2 Tbsp. of oil. Cook and stir for five minutes. Pour in the water, boullion cubes and corn; stir. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover cooking pot. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes are tender.

Warm the half-and-half in a small saucepan removing from heat before it boils, add to chowder just before serving.
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