Wednesday, December 31, 2008

99 Things


I saw this over at Comfort Joy Designs then at a few other blogs. I'm always a sucker for these types if things :)

Things I’ve already done: bold

Things I want to do: italicize

Things I haven’t done and don’t want to - plain font

1. Started your own blog.

2. Slept under the stars – I’ve camped a lot.

3. Played in a band.

4. Visited Hawaii.

5. Watched a meteor shower.

6. Given more than you can afford to charity.

7. Been to Disneyland/world - both.

8. Climbed a mountain.

9. Held a praying mantis.

10. Sang a solo – every time I get into the car :) .

11. Bungee jumped – went on a bungee swing a few weekends back with my daughter – it was scary.

12. Visited Paris.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch – cake decorating - I think it's an art!

15. Adopted a child.

16. Had food poisoning.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

18. Grown your own vegetables – have a huge tomato crop right now, carrots, radishes, and peas ready soon.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.

20. Slept on an overnight train – we went to visit my grandparents in MT (from MN) a few times for Christmas – it was beautiful and snowy.

21. Had a pillow fight.

22. Hitch hiked - no way!

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.

24. Built a snow fort – walking home from school with my friend Andrea used to take hours in 1st and 2nd grade because we would stop to make snow forts along the way (in other peoples yards).

25. Held a lamb.

26. Gone skinny dipping.

27. Run a marathon – very hard but well worth it.

28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.

29. Seen a total eclipse – lunar eclipse while I was running one morning – very cool.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset - both.

31. Hit a home run.

32. Been on a cruise.

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.

35. Seen an Amish community.

36. Taught yourself a new language - I could use Spanish, would love to relearn Russian.

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.

39. Gone rock climbing.

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.

41. Sung Karaoke.

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.

44. Visited Africa.

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.

46. Been transported in an ambulance.

47. Had your portrait painted (only if it was by one of my children – otherwise wouldn’t care to have it done).

48. Gone deep sea fishing – in the British Virgin Islands.

49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling - in the keys and BVI.

52. Kissed in the rain.

53. Played in the mud – mud wrestling and mud volleyball in college.

54. Gone to a drive-in theater – saw ET sitting on the top of our vibrant green suburban.

55. Been in a movie.

56. Visited the Great Wall of China.

57. Started a business.

58. Taken a martial arts class – Krav Maga – loved to grapple, who would have thought?

59. Visited Russia – when the USSR was breaking up in 1991/1992.

60. Served at a soup kitchen.

61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.

62. Gone whale watching.

63. Gotten flowers for no reason.

64. Donated blood - also a lot of plasma while in college.

65. Gone sky diving.

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.

67. Bounced a check.

68. Flown in a helicopter.

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.

71. Eaten Caviar – yuck, too salty.

72. Pieced a quilt – started, never finished.

73. Stood in Times Square.

74. Toured the Everglades.

75. Been fired from a job.

76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.

77. Broken a bone.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.

80. Published a book - I guess Snapfish doesn't count :).

81. Visited the Vatican.

82. Bought a brand new car.

83. Walked in Jerusalem.

84. Had your picture in the newspaper – once in grade school playing softball, the other while watching an Elvis impersonator….long, funny story.

85. Read the entire Bible – almost all, few in OT I haven't gotten through.

86. Visited the White House.

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating – I did bow hunt for one season – didn’t shoot anything - never saw a deer - so I'm not sure if I would even had tried.

88. Had chickenpox.

89. Saved someone’s life.

90. Sat on a jury.

91. Met someone famous.

92. Joined a book club.

93. Lost a loved one.

94. Had a baby - three.

95. Seen the Alamo in person.

96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.

97. Been involved in a law suit.

98. Owned a cell phone – I sometimes wish they were not invented.

99. Been stung by a bee – ouch!

So what about you??

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve Fondue Dinner

Every New Year's Eve growing up we would have a full fondue meal, with different courses all night. We had a cheese appetizer, oil to cook shrimp, chicken or beef for the main course, and, of course, a chocolate fondue for dessert. Fun stuff! I am not ready for the main course with my little ones.....something about toddlers, skewers (I could stop there) and hot oil. We will wait. To start the tradition, this year we will have a Parmesan cheese fondue....and most likely chocolate-almond fondue to end 2008!

Creamy Parmesan Fondue

16 oz. cream cheese
2 cups milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

french bread and veggies for dipping

Heat your cream cheese on low until melted (the original recipe says to use a double boiler...I've never had one but this works). Gradually stir in milk until mixture blends into a smooth sauce. Add garlic and Parmesan and stir until cheese melts and sauce thickens.

Serve in a fondue pot to keep warm. Serve with chunks of breads and assorted veggies.

makes 1 quart.

Go over to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday for more New Year's Dinner ideas!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Catch Up

I took a little break from the blog so am going to share some Christmas pictures. We had a fantastic few days just relaxing....and watching the Vikings FINALLY make it to the playoffs.

The girls and their stockings. The calm before the storm!

The best present Scarlett could ask for - whatever wrapping paper came close enough to her to grab....and eat. Then the present mom wanted for her.....

a sock monkey....and the sweetest little tutu.

The older girls got harmonicas from Grandpa Don and Gramma B. The music sure is pretty! Beats that old organ we had for a few short months.

Mark built this GeoDome on Christmas Eve. Without help from our very tall neighbor he would still be working on it. Thanks Rusty!! We could not have done it without you! Can you tell we are trying to entice all of the neighborhood to play at our house??

The girls also got field guides to birds, bugs, trees, and wild flowers. They are a big hit. Emma went out with her bird guide and binoculars, sat on the top of the dome, and did some bird watching. When I went out with her we actually saw a Red Bellied Sap Sucker, Blue jay, and some kind of yellow finch. That is the benefit of having some woods in your backyard!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Third Stocking Complete

I am not a big fan of needlework (I like projects I can complete in an hour or less); so when I decided to make Emma's Christmas stocking 5 years ago, I didn't realize I was signing up for a lifetime of needlework (3 kids = 3 stockings, I wish I would have done the math sooner).

When I was a kid one of my highlights of Christmas decoration was our felt stockings made by my mom. I think it had a sequin or two and I was in awe. Nowadays....stockings have a bazillion sequins and the same number of little felt pieces. And to my little girls, spectacular equals the number of sequins present on the stocking (sorry, lots of math today). Nothing is ever simple, is it?

Anyway, I completed the third and final stocking just in time (even though Scarlett is not getting anything in her stocking). If I didn't get it done now there would be no big deadline looming to motivate me to complete it - except NEXT Christmas. I couldn't have that hanging over my head for another year (I have scrapbooks to complete that take on that job).

I hope to never have to sew another sequin to a piece of felt again. Ever.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cookie Dough Truffles

For Tempt My Tummy Tuesday I wanted to share these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles from Taste of Home's web site. They are worth their weight in gold. I made them because I had a half can of sweetened condensed milk that had to be used. I should have made the whole recipe. I took them to a Christmas party and they were devoured. These will make appearances many time this year!
Go over to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday to check out some more goodies!! You will be glad you did~

Cookie Dough Truffles

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I didn't use nuts)
1-1/2 pounds semisweet candy coating, chopped

Directions: In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour, alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Shape into 1-in. balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating; stir until smooth. Dip balls in coating, allowing excess to drip off; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. If desired, remelt remaining candy coating and drizzle over candies. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 5-1/2 dozen.

Family Moment Monday

In keeping with the movie theme for Family Moment Monday over at Motherhood for Dummies, I will share our traditional family Christmas movie.....The Christmas Story. Ralphie, a young boy growing up in the '40's, dreams of owning a Red Rider BB gun. He sets out to convince the world this is the perfect gift.

I remember watching this movie with my dad. I think it was on TV at least a dozen times during the holiday season. We watched it last year for the first time with our children (then 4 and 2)....we are hoping for a better response this year. Maybe the humor?? in the film will be a little better received. There are *some* parts that toddlers think are funny, right? Emma has made reference to it a few times so I know it wasn't a total flop. With popcorn, they will watch almost anything. I would switch movies (we can start a new tradition - I'm flexible) but I really don't know any other Christmas movie that is age appropriate (for a big age range) that I would want to watch every year. I am open to suggestions.

Enjoy your Monday but remember....Don't shoot your eye out!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Fun

Just for fun - our family doing the elf disco or a country dance! The girls think it's hysterical. The laughs are well worth the little bit of download time! Now go do one for your family. I promise they will enjoy it! Thanks to Rocks In My Dryer for the idea!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Something Special

The fine china we got for our wedding doesn't even have the tags taken off of it. What am I waiting for? It's not like I plan on hosting elegant dinner parties any time soon. The kind of gatherings we host consist of paper plates and good friends hanging around the food on the kitchen counter. We certainly don't have a dinning table big enough for more than one or two guests, and that is a stretch. Good thing we have a huge counter!

Tonight's advent event is to have a fancy dinner. We dress up (the girls put on princess costumes), break out the fine china, and have a normal meal. The kids get so excited. I set the table early so they get to look at the pretty things all day. I even folded the napkins. We are having frozen pizza, goldfish, pineapple, carrots/ranch and ice cream (their choice of menu). It is a big deal to them.

I need to remember to do this for their birthdays as well. It's so easy. It's free. They feel so special. And the china gets dusted! Bonus!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reindeer Snack/Gift Bags

I actually made these last year and never used them so when Lexi got the snack basket last week for her preschool class I was all set...and so excited that I didn't have to store them for another year! They are a fun little way to spruce up plain snacks (or put really great snacks in them and be the *best* snack mom). I just added some popcorn and off they went.

Using a brown paper lunch bag, round off the corners to make a face. Use the paper you just cut off to fashion ears. Fold the face over and glue the ears in the fold. Cut out a nose and antlers and let your child glue them on (mine lives for "glue projects"). Draw on some eyes. Fill with anything. You are now the coolest mom in preschool :)

Go over to Rocks in My Dryer for more Works For Me Wednesday ideas. You make find something that may change your life! Or at least make it much easier.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

EASY Raspberry filled Sugar Cookies

If you are able to get the prerolled sugar cookie dough at your SAMS Club or Cosco store, these cookies are too easy and often requested. They come in a package of three sheets and I can get 23 cookies out of them without rerolling the leftover dough. If you cannot get the prerolled dough, whip up your favorite dough and make them anyway! OR if you have leftovers from making cutout cookies with your kids use that. OR you can give your kids the leftovers from the prerolled dough to make shapes of their own. OR if your kids will have a fun time spooning jam use them....I could go on, but I won't. I'm already cutting into your baking time. You should just try these yummy treats!

Raspberry Sugar Cookies

1 package prerolled sugar cookie dough

A few tablespoons of your favorite jam. I use raspberry

A few sprinkles or sugar (or if you are lucky enough to have vanilla sugar)

Using a cookie cutter, cut out 15 circles on each sheet of dough - about an inch and a half diameter. Place 1/4 teaspoon of jam on top of one circle. Cover it with another circle and gently press the edges closed. You may have to adjust the amount of jam based on your dough's pliability. sprinkle the top lightly with sugar. Bake at 350 for 7 minutes or until it just starts to brown....less brown is better and makes the cookies soft.

Enjoy more great recipes at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday! They are doing a giveaway today for beautiful cookbook holder. Check it out!
I just remembered I got a huge tub of lingonberry jam at IKEA and wanted to try these cookies with them. I think the tart little berries would be a good change and my husband noted that they might not be so sweet. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Foster Children

Did you know that if ONE family in every church in Florida adopted a child in the foster care system, every child would be placed? Think of the resources that the church could then give to that family to help raise that child (both emotionally and monetarily). I bet the statistics are about the same all over the country.

I always thought that I would adopt. I have two younger sisters that were adopted internationally. I worked at an international adoption agency as a case manager for 4 years. I certainly understand why families choose to adopt internationally. There are families waiting over three years just to get their chance to adopt an infant from a foreign country. These adoptions are time consuming, expensive, and often emotional roller coasters as you are at the mercy of the government of that country. Too many willing families, not enough available infants. The wait for older children and sibling groups is much less. This is the same in our system. These are the children that are so hard to place...they come with baggage (don't we all??).

With three young children could we parent a much older child? Are we where we need to be at to give that older child all they needed. Probably not, but I also feel that at any stage in our lives we could justify why it was not the right time.

It breaks my heart to think that children age out of the foster care system without having found that forever family, to not feel wanted enough to be adopted. Can you imagine the holidays without a family to go home to?

Look at some of the children in need of a home in Central Florida.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Beautiful Husband!

My hubby has commented many times about how his students noticed that there are no pictures of him on my blog.....SOOOOO this is for all of you! Go easy on him please :)

If I ever find that picture of him in the short shorts and half shirt from WAY back in the 80's, you'll be the first to see it. Love you baby!!

Friday Fragments

Here's my edition of Friday Fragments....

Last week Emma and Lexi were running down the street. Emma runs way faster so Lexi is left in the dust which creates the perfect moment for a "Life is Unfair" tantrum. She stopped and started wailing "Emmmmmaaaaaaa, Emmmaaaaaa" - picture Marlon Brando yelling for Stella. Emma turned around, waked back to her crying sister, took her hand and said in a low voice "Stop it Lexi, you are embarrassing me." So Emma knows how I feel at moments.
My standard attire is t-shirt and jeans or shorts and flip flops. I rarely wear anything else. When hubby and I got dressed up to go out this week I wore a dress and (gasp) some rather high heals. Emma looked at me a said with a huge smile "Mommy you look beautiful. You looks so you're at least FIVE feet tall!" I'm 5'3"...but for her, 5 feet must seem like a giant!
My husband recently asked Lexi if she would like to go with him to the store. She smiled at him, shrugged her shoulders, and told him "Not really Daddy, but thanks for offerin'!" She surprises us all of the time with phrases she picks up from who knows where...with the cutest little smile and a three year squeaky voice, it made us roll on the floor with laughter.
I know there are more....I need to start writing them down!

Enjoy your weekend everyone!!

Check out more Fragment Friday posts HERE :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Baby's First Meal

I swore at Little Bit's 4 month doctor visit that I was going to wait until after the holidays to start feeding her. I caved. Was it the way she reached at everything I ate (because she is almost always sitting on my lap during meals)? Or the longing look in her eyes for something that everyone else was having? Who knows, but I had an *extra* 15 minutes before picking Mimi up from preschool yesterday so decided I could do this. I forgot how messy this is! And that I have to do it for every meal time. Mommy brain; it's a little cloudy at times.

Her favorite thing to do right now is the "raspberry" sound, ppfffttt. Like she's blowing bubbles. She does it right when she is done nursing. She did it in the middle of the night a few nights back (just for fun and to see who she could wake up - play with - at that time). She'll ppffftttt constantly for a minute or two to get some good laughs. She's already a ham. So she took her first bite and pppfffftttt'd it all over. Very funny. I guess there is no going back now!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tempt my Tummy Stew

So in honor of my elegant dinner last night (Huckabee and Me) which consisted of a blue cheese topped filet mignon surrounded by fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, and asparagus in a sauce that reminded me of stew (elegant, yet comfort food, who knew?) is my crock pot rendition of Crock Pot Turkey Stew.

1 1/2 lbs turkey tenderloin

1 large sweet potato, cut up

1/2 bag baby carrots

4 potatoes, cut up

2 packets of onion soup mix

1 1/2 cups water

Throw it all in, in the order above, and let it cook for 6 to 8 hours.

The sweet potato completely mushes (for the lack of a better term and that I'm only on my first cup of coffee) and makes a wonderfully thick and tasty base. You don't need to cut up the turkey before you add it as it will just fall apart when it is done. Also, if you cannot find turkey tenderloin use a turkey breast and cut the meat off the bone (discard skin as well - yuck!). I just did this this morning and it took about 15 minutes to assemble. Why are raw sweet potatoes so much harder to cut than regular potatoes??
Check out Tempt My Tummy Tuesday for more delish ideas!
***I know it's supposed to be a Christmas Goodies recipe, but I am yet to start my Christmas baking.....and with the list I have I need to start soon! This would be great for those baking days....throw it together, set it aside, bakes lots and lots of cookies, enjoy your stew after the madness.

Huckabee and Me

A friend of ours invited Mark and I to their school's Christmas Dinner (thanks t!!). They had Mike Huckabee as their speaker (I thought, WOW! How did they get him....but they rattled off some of their past speakers - Oliver North, Alan Keyes, etc. So I guess they can get some powerhouses). This is not a school I could afford to send my kids to!

This year's primaries were the first time I ever really cared about politics. I watched the first few debates and found out Huckabee was the guy for me. I really liked him and agreed with him about the majority of issues. I even sported a bumper sticker (yes, I did take it off once he was out of the race). Our friends knowing this, we were invited to this very elegant dinner. It was the second time I have been away from home since the baby was born. Both the baby and I did fine. We both only cried a little bit.

To open up the show Mike played his bass with some kids from the school. He's big into art/music education. Nice for someone to actually walk the walk. His speech was amazing. What a dynamic speaker. The first half was pretty much a stand up act, as he is such a funny storyteller and the second half, serious and oh, so truthful (preach it Brother Mike).

We all got signed copies of his newest book (I guess I can return my copy to the library before it's due date :). He wasn't doing a "photo opportunity" because he was on his way to the airport but I made my own. That's why it looks like I'm jumping into the photo. Reminds me of my college days, except no, despite my goofy smile and crazy eyes, I was not drinking.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Superhero in the Making

Lexi is the middle child. She thinks she is treated unfairly at least every other minute and has perfected her tantrum to fit the bill. She is too little to do many things that big sister Emma can do and too big to be the baby. She is apt to burst into tears at any time. I think this is why she is so into superheroes right now.
Lexi has asked for a cape now for some time and I finally got around to making one. I was planning on hitting stores after Halloween to get one cheap, but even thought they were relatively inexpensive, they were such low quality. They wouldn't have lasted long. So out came the sewing machine.
I used some fabric I already had - fleece that was a little too small for a nice blanket and some satin from the hideous detachable train that came with my wedding dress that permanently stayed detached. There was twice as much fabric on that train than the dress. Lucky for my little sewing projects!
I did a Velcro closure and a "L" logo on the back. Now that it's finished there are lots of things that I would have done differently (lighter fabric, fuller cape, different neckline). But she thinks it's great. "Super Lexi" is off to save the world, one injustice at a time....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

EASY Crock Pot Chicken-Fried Chops

I have a go-to pork chop recipe which I love. It has a nice gravy and caramelized onions that I adore (and pick out for the kids). Goes great with my "mashed potatoes" (aka cauliflower and very few potatoes). It's making my mouth water right now. The problem was that I wanted to go to spinning class which was at dinner cooking time (so I could eat the gravy without regret) and it took too long to start it after I returned. SO....I went to Taste of Home and took my chances.

I found this Chicken-Fried Chops recipe for the crock pot. I knew the "Chicken-Fried" part would go over well with my husband. Little did I know this will now be my go-to chop dish. It was incredible and the time it took was so much less than the other. I am always a little suspect of dishes with canned cream soup, but the crock pot turns it into something magical. Now that I think about it, the crock pot potato soup recipe that we always battle for the leftovers also has cream of chicken soup. Anyway, you should try it if you are looking for a quick fix. I'm even going to make it next week when my relatives come to town. It was THAT good!

For the faux mashed potatoes, steam cauliflower and boil just a few potatoes. With mine the cauli far outweighs the potatoes. You could do half and half if you are skeptical. I leave some potatoes in because it gives them a better consistency. Mash them all together like you normally would. I add chicken bouillon, butter, and milk. Now you have some sneaky mashed potatoes that have a little better nutritional content. AND you are getting two veggies in one. Nobody noticed when I made the switch. I couldn't help tell my husband that what he was eating had cauli. I don't dare tell the kids....

Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Celebrating Advent

A few years ago I took a workshop about celebrating advent in preparation for Christmas. I implemented a fraction of what they gave us and it was a huge hit with the girls. My favorite idea was the nightly family activities.

I made 25 little boxes (each year it's a different amount of days) with my blue, white, and silver Christmas theme. Each had a number and an activity inside for that night. I was a bit too ambitious the first year and was stressed trying to prepare my activities. This was not what I was going for. I wanted to spend some good quality time as a family each night. I learned that I needed to plan activities that were easy, but fun, with no stress for me. The girls get to find the numbered box for that day and find out what activity is to come that night. They can't wait to do it each morning.

We also try to play a lot of Christmas music, light festive smelling candles, read the Christmas story, and pray for those that we get cards from that day. Celebrating advent has made our Christmas much more special.

Here is my activity list for this year:
Nov 30 – Decorate the Christmas Tree!

Dec 1 – Make a paper prayer chain for the advent season

Dec 2 – Look through scrapbooks and home video.

Dec 3 – Have breakfast for dinner! Make Christmas wrapping paper out of paper bags.

Dec 4 – Go out and look at the stars. Play with the snaps and sparklers. Hot cocoa?

Dec 5 – We are going to Young Life camp! Let’s listen to Christmas music on the way!

Dec 6 – Young Life camp -

Dec 7 – Young Life Christmas Party!

Dec 8 – Paint everyone’s toenails bright red - let's see if we can get Daddy to do it! Play outside!

Dec 9 – Let’s go shopping so you can pick out a gift for your sister! Then let’s come home and wrap it!

Dec 10 – Make Christmas cards for your teachers. Make coffee mix for teachers.

Dec 11 – Decorate for Aunt Jackie’s Birthday party.

Dec 12 – Bake sugar cookies and decorate them! Send a care package to Aunt Abby and Aunt Beth.

Dec 13 – Run a 5K and kids run! Visit “A Walk Through Bethlehem” 4-9pm

Dec 14 – Scarlett’s Baptism (party!). Game Night! Make mulled cider and popcorn!

Dec 15 – Craft: color stained glass nativity book.

Dec 16 - Have a fancy dinner using the fine china (dress up for dinner).

Dec 17 – Read Christmas books.

Dec 18 – Go see Santa (in the neighborhood holiday party).

Dec 19 – Bring the tabs to the Ronald McDonald house (bring cookies too!).

Dec 20 – Feed the homeless. Bring them Christmas cookies as well.

Dec 22 – Watch The Christmas Story and eat popcorn!

Dec 21 - Go look at Christmas lights.

Dec 23 – Camp out in front of the Christmas tree and read stories.

Dec 24 - Make a birthday cake for Jesus!

Dec 25 – Christmas morning Breakfast!

Check out Works-For-Me Wednesday to get more great ideas!

Go HERE to read more about the overall celebration.
Go HERE to see a list of Christmas books that we read.
Go HERE to see a list of the specific activities we did last year.

Holiday French Toast

If you are planning a special breakfast for the holidays, make it easy on yourself. As a tradition, we use Hawiian Bread (you can find it by the deli) for our holiday frech toast...but that's not the best part (or maybe it is, but that isn't what my post is about). Last year I had some left over flavored coffee creamer from a get together. I like my coffee black so was not going to use it the conventional way. Always looking for new ideas to make normal things extraordinary (I was probably out of milk) I used the creamer in my french toast mixture. So different, but so good!

There are a ton of flavors out there to make your french toast festive. How about Belgium White Chocolate Macadamia, Southern Butter Pecan, White Chocolate Raspberry, or Mocha Almond Fudge. They have sugar free and fat free choices as well. I went with the Vanilla Caramel, as I didn't know how adventurous my little ones would be. Also, I'm not a huge fan of chocolate for breakfast. Substitute it for the milk you add to any french toast recipe. It really does give it a kick.

I don't have a set recipe for french toast. Just throw together some eggs and creamer. I usually add sugar, vanilla and spices, but because there is already sugar and flavoring in the creamer you can skip it. Need a french toast recipe? Go to RecipeZaar to find one that fits you.
Just think of the possibilities.

Hazelnut, Eggnog, Gingerbread, Pumpkin Spice, Tiramisu.....

Check out Tempt My Tummy Tuesday for some more holiday recipes!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pretty Princess Cake

I make a cake this week for a special friend of ours, Ashlyn. She had a princess theme birthday party (complete with a HUGE castle made from several appliance boxes - they had to clear their front room of all furniture, a royal beauty parlor, and a pin the kiss on a frog game - cute!). She chose a castle cake. I choose to use marshmallow fondant for the first time (use YouTube instructions to see how), but only for the accents. I'm still not brave enough to cover a whole cake with the stuff. I don't like how regular fondant tastes but this marshmallow stuff was good. A little messy, but easy to make.....and I made it about a month ago and it kept very well in the refrigerator.

I haven't taken any cake classes and have been learning new things each cake I do. The lesson I learned on this one is that vanilla frosting is not really white....Classic White frosting is white. So Ashlyn ended up with an ivory castle. Not too shabby for a fondant frog prince!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Using YouTube For Personal Hygiene

Why is it that I always remember to cut baby's fingernails when nobody is around to distract her? Yesterday I figured out that I can use YouTube to my advantage.

1. Go to
2. Search for "laughing baby."
3. Play any number of the clips over and over until each of the 10 tiny fingernails are no longer razor sharp.

This also works for bad days, stressed moments, or when trying to get your 3 year old to laugh herself out of a tantrum.

This is one of my

Go to Rocks In My Dryer to check out more Works-For-Me Wednesdays ideas!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our "MUST" for Thanksgiving

I am linking this to 12 Days lf Bloggie-mas at A Moderate Life!

Curried Cauliflower! Sounds funny but I love it. Another traditional side dish in my family that is one of my comfort foods. It's not something you would want to make all of the time (my kids won't eat it) but it's something I make on major holidays. Make it with fresh or frozen cauliflower. Make it with mild or hot curry. Make it "light" with low fat soup, cheese and mayo. Just try it, try it and you'll a box, with a fox.....! You may just find it on your must-have list. You'll appreciate that it's another easy recipe :)

Curried Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower (or 2 bags frozen)
½ tsp salt
1 can cream of chicken soup (or make-your-own cream soup concentrate, like I do!)
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp curry powder
½ cup bread crumbs
4 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces and steam until tender. Mix salt, soup, cheese, mayonnaise, and curry in a casserole dish. Add cauliflower. Mix well. Mix bread crumbs and butter. Sprinkle over the top of casserole. Bake for 30 minutes.

P.S. This is also a good after Thanksgiving meal - just add cut up turkey, and cranberries if you are feeling festive!

***Go over to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday for some more festive recipes! Enjoy~

Monday, November 24, 2008

Not Crazy About Crust

I've never been a big fan of crust (making it or eating it), therefore pumpkin pie is only the pumpkin filling for me. Last week I found a recipe long hidden in my recipe box. I think it came from one of my old church cookbooks because it's name is....The GREAT Pumpkin Dessert! How original :) I made this for my small group but with the disclaimer "I'm really not sure how this will all turn out." Lucky for me, the group is OK with experimental desserts. It was so much better than pumpkin pie because, instead of a crust, it had a crunchy and sweet topping. And did I mention that it is very, very easy?? Bonus!


One can pumpkin (15 oz)
One can sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
One yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted

In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, condensed milk, eggs, and spice until smooth. Pour into 9" x 13" dish. Dump yellow cake mix (dry) on top of the pumpkin mixture. Pour butter as evenly as possible over the top. Bake at 350°F for one hour or until knife inserted into center comes out clean.

P.S. The picture is of some pumpkin cupcakes that I had made for Emma's kindergarten class.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Early Christmas Baking

I got to start making Christmas cookies already! I know it is really too early for that but our church is collecting cookies to send to our troops. In order to make sure they have them by Christmas, we have to get them to church today. Soooo.....Here is my first Christmas recipe of the season :)

Paradise Sugar Cookies

makes 3 dozen small cookies
· 1 cup
granulated sugar
· 1 cup
powdered sugar
· 2 cups
· 3/4 teaspoon
· 1 large
egg, beaten
· 4 1/3 cups
cake flour = important (I've never used cake flour before but it really makes a difference)
· 3/4 teaspoon
baking soda
· 3/4 teaspoon
baking powder
· 1/4 teaspoon
sugar, for decorating

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugars and shortening using an electric mixer.
3. Mix on slow speed 30 seconds, then scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
4. Increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
5. Slowly add vanilla and beaten egg while mixing.
6. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, mixing on slow speed until just blended. Do not over mix.
7. Scoop with an ice-cream scoop and roll in sugar.
8. Place directly on cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with palm of hand.
9. Bake at 375° for 9-10 minutes. Cookies are done when small cracks appear and are pale golden. Ideally, the edges do not brown. They will look a little underdone.

I am normally not a big fan of sugar cookies but these are yummy. They are very light and delicate (hopefully they will ship well). My husband wasn't as impressed because they were not sweet enough. Maybe that is why I like them so much.
It is time for the Recipe Swap Challenge at the Grocery Cart Recipe Swap. Go check out the great recipes!
There's a button on the bottom of my site that links you to a great gift giving guide. Check it out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fall Garden Experiment

I truly have gardening in my blood. My grandpa was a tomato farmer in MN (as well as other relatives who still have nurseries up there) and my father devotes most of his free time to his extensive gardens. I think he retired just so he could spend more time in the garden.

One of my fondest memories of growing up was going to the St. Paul Farmer's Market early Saturday morning to help sell produce, eat ham and cheese bagels, and play with my cousins. I worked at a nursery and craft store throughout high school and a small nursery one summer in college (I have had an abundant amount of jobs, but that is another post altogether). With my last two babies I planted instead of nested. My children, who are ecstatic to get a shovel and plant seeds, know where veggies actually come from. They have seen it happen. So you get the picture, I love gardening.

Last winter my Dad came for a visit and dug up a garden bed and started tons of seedlings for me. Besides the sunflowers, the garden did not do well. I think the summer is just too hot for things down here. I've planted things before for the summer season but never had great results. When he came down again after Scarlett was born he dug another two beds and two sides along the house. Tons more space! So I have experimented with a fall garden. It is doing great! I have 20+ tomato plants (I really cannot help myself, it's an addiction), bell peppers, banana peppers, habenero and jalapeno peppers, string beans, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, red onions, scallions, a lettuce mix, various herbs and an eggplant that has hardly made it past a seedling. You can tell you have a gardening problem when you start planting things you don't even normally eat (radishes).

The tomatoes have really blossomed in the past few week. I think they like the cooler weather we have been having. I'm so used to the traditional northern summer garden that each thing is toss up. The true scientist (nerd) that I am, I have been keeping notebooks as to what grows well, when, where, and for how long. Maybe in a few years I'll have it down. For now, I keep vigilant watch on my little tomato babies! Soon the girls will be eating them right off the plants quicker than I can get my hands on them.

P.S. I hate squirrels. They are doing as much "gardening" in my beds and pots as I am.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sock Monkey Family

After 3 children we have finally learned that babies 1. can't open presents, 2. don't care that they get anything for Christmas, and 3. would be perfectly happy with the box that your present came in. Therefore, while not wanting to completely leave Scarlett out of gifts, I decided to make her a sock monkey.

I can copy almost anything. I would love to say I'm wonerfully creative but I often get my crafty ideas elsewhere. After seeing several adorable sock monkeys on, and not wanting to spend the money on them, I set out to make my own. They have great instructions here (although I modified mine a bit to make them my own).

Now be assured that Scarlett will have plenty of presents under the tree (we have lots of great family) just one really cool sock monkey made with love from her mommy!

WARNING: They multiply! When one child sees the sock monkey that mommy is making for her sister she will ask for one as well. I have ended up with one for each girl (upon request) and have one in the works for a little friend down the street that saw them in production!

About me

I have too many interests. Really. There is not enough time in the day. I was the kid in 4-H who took 15 different projects just because I couldn't decide on a specialty (plus I wanted to make as much money as I could come fair time :). My mom and dad both had so much they could help me with, so why not try it all? I love to garden, sew, woodwork, cook, bake, craft, etc. I am wife to Mark (an amazing teacher and coach), mother to three wonderful daughters, and in love with Jesus. I have dozens of different projects (and books) started and much too little free time to finsh them all! Let's see what I can share!