Friday, January 29, 2010


Perhaps it's because my little guy's drawings look very much like these monsters but, I just love this stamp set from Recollections called "My Little Monsters". (I bought the set at Michaels)

It has been awhile since I've done any stamping. My craft room is about three quarters unpacked but, I had to get a bit creative as I was throwing these together for a challenge I'm doing to complete four cards each month this year. That doesn't sound very hard, but here I am at months end. :-) Namely my challenge was not being able to locate my watercolor pencils, they are probably still in one of six boxes left to unpack. So, don't tell anyone but Crayola colored pencils work too- when you are under a deadline! GIGGLE, giggle...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spicy Pine Nut Pasta

There are certain things that I am "forbidden" to eat while the kids are at school. And NO, it's not bon bons.

You see, they have their favorite foods and IF it is discovered that I did eat those favorite foods without them I hear a few disappointing whines. Of course, they always figure it out, especially my daughter who has the nose of a blood hound. It doesn't look like a blood hound's nose, just works like one. (I had to clarify that, just in case she reads this).

Of course, if you know me then you also know I don't really let my kids dictate what I eat for lunch so, I made something yummy today... it is my favorite pasta dish. It's my own recipe, which just means I made it up. It is also one of my daughter's favorite meals.

Spicy Pine Nut Pasta

1/2 cup shelled pine nuts
1 tsp. olive oil
2 1/2 cups medium shell pasta (that is approximately half of a 1 lb. box)
4 1/2 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes (the amount you would use to make 1 cup of broth each)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped finely or pressed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 can of Italian Style Stewed Tomatoes
ground cayenne pepper
black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste (I don't add any extra)

In a small skillet over low heat toast the pine nuts in the olive oil until they just begin to turn a light brown. Set aside.

In a medium saute' pan bring the water and one bouillon cube to a boil. Add pasta and cook 7-8 minutes until al dente. Drain pasta, rinse with hot water, and set aside. In the same saucepan heat up 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, add garlic cloves and over medium heat saute' for a minute to soften. Add the canned tomatoes, the remaining bouillon cube, 2 dashes of ground cayenne pepper, and 2 dashes of black pepper. Simmer over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the bouillon cube is dissolved. Add pasta and pine nuts; gently stir the pasta mixture. Serve with crusty, warm bread.

My daughter took one step inside the front door and asked, "Did you save me any?"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A rainbow in the midst of a sea of kleenex

Now I am sick. The kind of sick that you choose to sleep all day, even ALL of the hours your children are away at school. The kind of sick where you cannot sleep well regardless of the amount of hours you spend in bed. Fevered, then cold, body aches, sore throat, congestion, migraines, an annoying cough... the list goes on a bit more.

Even though my challenges these last few weeks have been very small in comparison to others, this is a week when I didn't want to be mom. I wanted to be the one taken care of, or at least the one left alone to sleep my way through the week. I have less ambition to tackle the dishes, feed the family, wake the kids for school and settle their tiffs. Basic stuff has been a sacrifice.

In the middle of my self-pity I have seen a rainbow this week, and it is beautiful. I did find beauty in the middle of a sea of Kleenex and a foggy brain on cold medicine. I was blessed with sweet parents willing to come take one child to his martial arts class, children who surprise me by cleaning the house while I am away at a the pharmacy, a son who offers to rub my feet when I complain of the aches spreading to them, and a daughter who decides to bless me this week with taking her showers without begging, pleading and threats. (Just kidding about the threats, sorta.)

I just feel so blessed that joy in my family can be felt even when I am fevered. I no longer resent the "chore" of caring for them while I am feeling miserable, only grateful that I have them around when I am feeling miserable. I am also grateful to discover that joy in family life doesn't mean that life has to be going well, there are things that bring happiness even in the middle of life's challenges, big or small.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Boston Cream Pie

I usually order Boston Cream Pie from a bakery... but, no more! This recipe was a hit with us! I made a few slight changes to the original recipe, those are noted in color. Try it, it is just yummy...

Kraft Boston Cream Pie

1 (3.4 ounce) package JELL-O vanilla flavor instant pudding (I used French Vanilla)
1 cup cold milk (I used 1 c. heavy cream + 3 Tbsp. milk)
1 1/2 c. thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping
1 round yellow cake layer (8 -9") (I used two 9" rounds made from 1 boxed cake mix)
1 (1 ounce) square BAKER'S unsweetened chocolate
1 Tablespoon butter
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons cold milk

1. Beat pudding mix and 1 cup milk (or 1 c. heavy cream + 3 Tbsp. milk) for two minutes. (It should appear quite thick and smooth) Stir in Cool Whip, let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile cut the cake layer horizontally into 2 layers with a serrated knife (or use two layers, as I did).

2. Stack cake layers on a serving plate, with the pudding mixture in between layers.

3. Microwave chocolate and butter on HIGH 1 minute; stir until chocolate is melted. Add powdered sugar and 2 Tbsp. milk; mix well. Spread over the top of the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Black Eyed Pea Salad

Here's one of my favorite side dishes... it is delicious on it's own or as a dip with tortilla or regular chips. It came from a Weight Watcher cookbook or magazine.

Black Eyed Pea Salad

1 (15.8 oz.) can black-eyed peas, rinsed & drained
1 (11 oz.) can shoepeg white corn, drained (or frozen regular kernel corn, thawed)
1 c. chopped seeded cucumber
1 c. finely chopped celery
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 (10 oz.) can Rotel diced tomatoes & green chilies (either mild or medium)
3/4 c. KRAFT Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing with Parmesan
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; cover and chill. Serve with a slotted spoon. If using as a dip, drain liquid.

Yields: 7 servings (3/4 c. = 2 WW points)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to fix a cake blunder PART 2

I used BAKERELLA's Easy Buttercream Frosting, which turned out very yummy and indeed easy to make, and I covered the top of the cake.

Easy Buttercream Frosting (this is BAKERELLA's recipe)...

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1b. 10X powdered sugar
1-3 teaspoons milk, half and half or cream

  • Using a mixer, cream softened butter and vanilla until smooth.
  • Add sugar gradually, allowing butter and sugar to cream together before adding more.
  • If you want your frosting a little creamier, add a teaspoon of milk at a time and beat on high until you get the right texture.
  • Then, just use icing color to tint the frosting the color of your choice.

I decorated it with crushed graham crackers (dirt) and green frosting (grass)... added a few cars and flags... there you go... a suitable "PLAN B cake". It especially looked beautiful to me at 1:00 am, knowing I now had a cake for the birthday party just hours away, and I was going to get at least a few hours of sleep! MORE to come about the party...

How to fix a cake blunder PART 1

I searched the web for a great cake for our son's 9th birthday. We planned a party at a local hobby store where they have a big track set up with jumps, etc... for R/C cars. I found the perfect cake. Simple enough for me to do myself (so I thought), and adorable. You will find that HERE.

I thought what a great time to try out a new recipe. I usually use the boxed cake mixes when I make cake, which isn't that often, a few times a year. I've been trying to expand my collection of "tried and true" recipes, no better time to add a homemade yellow cake recipe! So, I went to the queen of baking: BAKERELLA and found her favorite recipe. How could I go wrong? Well, Bakerella I am NOT! Look at my results:

What did I do wrong? Still not exactly sure. I just knew I didn't have the time to start over.

Time for plan B. Walmart bakery was Plan B. Went there at 10pm and found a big enough cake with suitable colors.

Removed the decorations and the icing off the top.

See PART 2

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Shelf: The Stolen One

The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley

I didn't really have time for a lot of reading this week, but thanks to a fever that comes and goes and all of the aches and pains with it, I was sorta forced into it. (I had an enjoyable time though!)

It took me several weeks to get through the first two (short) chapters, once I got through them I was hooked! 406 pages later... I give it a four and a half stars. (Amazon readers gave it 5 stars).

I love historical fiction books and this one takes place in the mid 1500's. A poor young woman on a quest to find her birth mother. Her talent with a sewing needle brings her to the palace, where it seems that none can be trusted. It is more of a mystery than a romance novel. Cowley does a fantastic job of transporting you there. I loved that with her descriptions I could envision England and it's citizens, fine clothing to poor rags, the story setting seemed real from the country shacks and the Queen's quarters. I loved that the characters had real life qualities, talents and imperfections.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Storytime: The Titan's Curse

Each night at bedtime I read to the kids. We have two kids, ages 11 1/2 and about to turn 9. They have always loved storytime and I have always loved storytime. It's OUR thing. I love that they love books.

We finished our latest book last night. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan (the 3rd in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series). I was very hesitant about starting this series. I was unsure that reading about Greek myths was a wise thing. Would it confuse my impressionable 8 year old? Here it talks about gods who are nothing like the God I have taught our children about. I decided to read it with them and I think that it was a wise choice.

These books are such exciting, well written books. I do love the adventure, the characters, and the humor. Each chapter feels like a cliff-hanger in the adventure. You don't want to stop reading but, the parched throat and the stifled yawns help to remind me to wrap it up for the night. I will admit that on occasion I have been tempted to read ahead while the kids are at school or after they have gone to bed. But, I haven't... YET! :-)

Just my opinion: Even with this recommendation, I think these books are for older children (no younger than 8). As we read, I like to know how things are affecting the kids, what they are thinking. Perhaps these things don't bother you, so skip this paragraph. But, if you are concerned like I was, then read the first book before making a choice. I would suggest that you read the books with your kids or before your kids so that you can discuss certain things with them namely: the myths that talk of mythological gods, gods having children in non-marital relationships, and the occasional phrase "oh my gods!" (which I find offensive and skip over).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pizza on a Stick (Pizza Kabobs)

When I first saw this recipe in Quick & Easy Meals, a Paula Deen's Special Collector's Issue Magazine, I knew I had to try it out. This is just the sort of thing that my kids like, and it's nutrition on a stick.

It's all of the ingredients of pizza in a different presentation, and may I add that this way seems slightly healthier. Unless of course, you are my son, who is THE pickiest eater out there. At one time he would only eat Chicken Nuggets, ham or Chicken Cordon Bleu. And bread... he has always loved bread. So, we've expanded his taste buds a bit over the last 4 years. His kabob above is the one with only bread, cheese and pepperoni. He will dip his food in the marinara sauce and the ranch dressing. Hoping there's enough nutritional value in there somewhere.

So here are the ingredients:

and Paula Deen's recipe:

Pizza on a Stick

1 (11 ounce) can refrigerated breadstick dough
8 skewers (wooden or metal)
1/2 pepperoni (mini or regular size)
1 c. Colby Jack cheese cubes
2 cups mixed pizza vegetables (chopped bell peppers, mushrooms, black olives, grape tomatoes)
Marinara sauce
Ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (NOTE: I went with 350 degrees because those were the instructions on the dough packaging). Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

On a clean flat surface, unroll breadstick dough. Cut 4 breadsticks in half crosswise. Reserve remaining breadstick dough for another use. (NOTE: or cook it all, I did) Tie each dough strip in a knot. Arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Thread baked bread knots, pepperoni, cheese, and vegetables onto skewers. Serve with marinara sauce and ranch dressing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Moms for Modesty!

If you know me, you probably have heard me complain loudly about the lack of appropriate clothing and especially shorts, swim suits and Halloween costumes for girls. Sometimes I feel that I am one of the few who really think it's a big deal. I'm so happy to have discovered Moms for Modesty!

If you feel the same way please click HERE to visit the Moms for Modesty site and sign their mission statement as support!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pine Trees for Breakfast

While the kiddos were out of school I made a fun breakfast I had seen in a cooking magazine a few years ago. (Don't remember which publication) The kids love it! Simple enough for them to help make and delicious! This may be like one of those "grandma instructed" recipes. My grandma's recipes were always "a bit of this", "a handful of that", etc... Like Grandma I didn't measure or count anything. Don't let that scare you though, it's really easy.

Pine Tree French Toast Breakfast

You'll need:

Egg Beaters (or eggs)
Texas Toast (cinnamon/maple flavored or plain)
sausage links, cooked
maple syrup
powdered sugar (optional)

Step one: Heat a large frying pan coated with non-stick spray on the stove top over medium low heat.

Step two: Pour the Egg Beaters or crack several eggs (start with 6) into a pie plate. Add a few tablespoons of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla and about a teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix up well. If you are using real eggs, whisk until smooth. The mixture should be a nice pale yellow color.

A note about the EGGS: My friend Drady taught me a long time ago that Egg Beaters are great for making french toast. No trying to beat the eggs smooth enough that you don't have any egg white or egg yolk lumps. I prefer using the Egg Beaters, but then I'm one of those crazy people that have to remove the little white things attached to the yolks. Please, no comments about WHAT they are... you can have the opinion that I'm crazy but, I can't discuss eggs. It's a close your eyes and eat type thing for me... and as a vegetarian that eats eggs and milk, I really need that protein option. Egg Beaters are my way of keeping my eyes shut to it all.

Step three: Quickly coat a bread slice on both sides, careful to not let it soak too long or the bread will become extremely wet and fall apart. We are talking a few seconds on each side. Immediately add it to the hot fry pan. Watch bread slices carefully and turn when they are golden brown. Cook on both sides.

Step four: Cut slices of french toast in half diagonally. Set on the plate with sausage links to form pine tree. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar (snow) and serve with butter and syrup.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Growing Your Self-Improvement Muscles"

OUCH!! It's been forever since I posted!

Well, we are now owners of a fancy new computer and I should be able to get my act together. Our old dinosaur was just so fickle... of course there is more than one way to upload photos and I should really put on my problem solving cap and figure it all out. It's not my favorite thing to do. In fact I think it causes migraines... at least for me. I promise to get over my bad attitude and I have just the inspiration to do it!

Check out THIS post from Messy Moms!

It is titled Growing Your Self-Improvement Muscles! Catchy, fun title! I love the quote: “You can make radical changes in minute steps.” I think that some valuable wisdom is shared there AND it is just perfect timing with New Years Resolutions or goals that we may have set. No motivation to accomplish a goal or task? We can all do "minute steps". How many times have we had to do something for 5 minutes that we absolutely hate?? 5 minutes is here and gone quickly! We can do almost ANYTHING for only 5 minutes... and if we can't we can do it for 60 seconds and build up from there, right? LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!