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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cheap, but Cute, Christmas Ideas

I have so many ideas today. You know those days when inspiration comes flowing out?? Maybe it's sleep deprivation.

Anyway here are a few cute ideas for the teachers, friends, sisters, sister-in-laws, neighbors and others in your life, that won't break the bank.

Soup- Soup in a soup bowl. "Thanks for being a super teacher." You can buy canned soup and bread bowls and wrap it up in a cellophane bag or basket. You could also buy big bowls/mugs (check the dollar stores or Tai Pan Trading) and place bagged soup inside. If you wanted to go a step further for someone trying to add to their food storage, buy a case of canned soup. Check for coupons. You could also attach a favorite family soup recipe to the tag.

Jewelry- I don't care how old you are, girls love jewelry. Michael's crafts has their beads on 50% off this week. It's super easy to whip up a necklace, bracelet or earrings that look boutique-style, but don't cost a ton. There are a ton of charms out there to embellish your design. Wal-Mart also has a surprising amount of cute beads and findlings.

Scarves- These are super popular this year. Knitted scarves (make it or buy it at Use code 56271 for an extra 20% off, and right now is BOGO sale. Buy one, get one 1/2 off. Plus free shipping to a store near you.) You can also make them out of thin fabric from the craft store--sheer, gauzy fabric with a print works well.

My favorite idea is an upcycled scarf from t-shirt material. There are several styles, but my favorite is the frilly one. You cut 8-10 circles out of your t-shirt using an 8 or 9 inch paper plate. Cut the circles in a 2 inch spiral. Then glue the ends of the strips together in two's. You could also sew them. Run your fingers down the sides of the strip and they will turn under. Then taking a scrap of material tie the sections all together where you glued/sewed them. I also like to use a clip or fancy pin in the front. I made one for the twins this weekend and they are a HUGE hit.

Scented lotions/lip gloss- "Merry Kissmass." Avon has a huge sale and free shipping over $10. Lotions start at .79 cents and lip gloss at .69 cents.

Gum/ candy- clean out an old pickle jar, or other glass jar, paint the top and fill it with your favorite candy. "Thanks for being so 'sweet'" or "Have a 'sweet' year" may be an appropriate tag. You could even go so far as to make homemade peanut clusters or peppermint bark--not hard, I promise. There's always coupons for gum and candy coupons, or you could score some clearance candy at Amazon, Target or Walmart in the next few days.

Music- burn a CD of your favorite holiday music, or fun stuff your kids like, or what you like. With cheap Amazon or Itunes MP3 downloads and Freegal, this is a thoughtful gift with lots of possibilities.

Emergency Kit- When my college friends get married I make them a "survival kit" for the wedding day. I include things like safety pins, clear nail polish, double sided tape, gum, lip gloss, Kleenex, etc. This way if they run into an emergency hopefully there's something in there to help them out. The same thing can be done for gifts for anyone. Check out the travel section of your local beauty aisle for ideas. I put all my items in a pencil case or make up bag, something small, and try to personalize it with their name or at least get it in a favorite color.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Party

You may remember from previous posts that although I LOVE Halloween, I despise Trick-or-Treating with kids. They get cold, and whine, don't want to wear the costume they originally picked, or they have to pee when we are miles from a bathroom. Then there's the wheelin' and dealin' of candy control (times five) and bargaining on who can eat how much, what tooth care will be required and the fall out when too much sugar has been reached.

This year Halloween is on a Monday, and the local schools celebrate it on Monday. However, the Trick-or-Treating is being done anywhere from Friday night to Monday night, probably more than once. I am turning off the lights once again and we will be having our annual pizza bash in the basement.

This year we are scoring some pumpkin shaped pizza and bread sticks, watching Young Frankenstein and consuming a minimal amount of candy. Each child chose their favorite snack pack and we're sharing. We are also supporting the local Trunk-or-Treat so the kids can hang out with their friends, play games, get candy from neighbors they know and participate in the chili cook off.

Hopefully I'll remember the camera so if anyone ever complains about not having a "fun" Halloween, I can whip out the scrapbook and have proof positive that they did have fun at least once.

Keepin' it simple.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mealtime Monday

It's Fall, and it's cool, and I am learning to master the crockpot.

This week is soup/stew week, although that is really just more work, cuz D. and J-Dog won't eat most soup. But hey, maybe if they are offered it 12-15 times (like the "experts" say) they will get sick of me asking and just eat it.

Tomato Basil Ravioli Soup (for the crockpot)
2 Tbsp butter
3 (14 1/2 oz) cans diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
1 small onion, diced finely
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup
evaporated milk
12 oz frozen ravioli
1 1/2 tsp dried basil

Melt butter in skillet.  Add tomatoes, onions, tomato paste, 1/2 tsp salt and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute longer.  Whisk in 1 cup of broth.  Transfer contents of skillet to the
slow cooker.  Stir in remaining broth, reserved tomato juice and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours.  Discard the bay leaves.  Pour contents of slow cooker into a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth.  Pour back into the slow cooker.  Stir in the milk, basil and ravioli.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 more hour, or until ravioli are cooked through.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Potato Cheese Soup
2 c.                  Chicken Stock
3                      Bay leaves
2 c.                  Milk
1/4 tsp.            white pepper (black works too)
4 tbsp.             Butter
4-6                   potatoes, diced
1/4 c.                Flour
½ tsp.              Salt

Heat chicken stock & milk in sauce pan over medium heat -almost boiling

In a large stock pot, melt butter and flour to make a roux (like a paste) Stir vigorously to blend;
add bay leaves, white pepper, potato and salt; pour milk and chicken stock into large stock pot with other ingredients

Simmer 15-20 minutes on low heat- it’s ready when potatoes are soft. Mash potatoes into soup.
Serve in bread bowls, topped with sour cream, cheese, onion, bacon bits (opt.)

Crock-pot Cream Cheese Chicken (crockpot)
Good Things Utah
Serves 6-8; can be cut in half

8 (or 4)     chicken breasts
2 (or 1)     8 oz. Pkg. Cream cheese
2 (or 1)     pkgs. Dry Italian seasoning/dressing mix
2 (or 1)     cans cream of mushroom soup

Soften cheese in microwave
Mix soup, cheese and Italian seasoning together
Place chicken in crock-pot and pour sauce over meat

Cover and cook 4-6 hours
Serve over rice or pasta

Sweet ‘N Sour Meatballs (can be done in crockpot, or pan)

1 can          Pineapple chunks
2 Tbsp.      Cornstarch
1/4 cup       Vinegar
1/4 cup       Brown sugar
2 Tbsp.      Soy sauce
1 cup          Coarsely chopped green pepper

2/3 cup       Canned milk
1 ½ lb.       Hamburger
½ cup         Chopped onion
2/3 cup       Cracker crumbs
1 tsp.          Salt

Drain the pineapple.  Add enough water to syrup to make 1 cup liquid.  In saucepan, combine liquid, cornstarch, vinegar, brown sugar, and soy sauce.  Heat until thickened and clear.  Add pineapple and pepper.  Brown meatballs and drain.  Add sauce.  Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes.  Serve over rice.

Cookie Salad
1 cup           grapes, halved
1 cup           strawberries, sliced
1 cup           bananas, sliced
1 cup           apples, cut into bite sized pieces
8 oz.           Cool Whip
1 pkg.         Shortbread cookies w/ fudge (such as Keebler Fudgestripe cookies)
1 package  Mini Marshmallows, used colored marshmallows for variety

Cut up all fruit, mix in Cool Whip. Break up cookies into small pieces, stir into mixture. Add Marshmallows

T.G.I. Friday's Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad



4 four-oz. Chicken breasts
3 cups chopped pecans
2-cup flour
3 large eggs
1 oz. Milk

Glazed pecans

1 cup chopped pecans
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. Water

1 head romaine lettuce
¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing
1 can mandarin oranges
½ cup craisins


Chicken breasts

Mix 2 cups pecans with 1-cup flour and pulsate in blender or food mill. Mix eggs and milk for batter

Place leftover flour in one bowl, egg batter in second bowl, and pecan flour in third bowl.

Coat chicken first in flour, then in egg batter and third in pecan flour.

Sauté chicken breasts in vegetable oil over medium heat until browned on both sides.

Bake chicken breasts in oven at 350° for 7 to 8 minutes or until fully cooked, cool and slice.

Glazed pecans
Mix chopped pecans with brown sugar and water and heat, set aside.

Toss romaine lettuce with: Glazed pecans, Balsamic vinaigrette, Mandarin oranges
Craisins, Bleu cheese crumbles,Top with sliced chicken

Watch for our next post on how we handle Halloween on a weekday......

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Break Fun

Fall Break is coming our way this week. I am so looking forward to sleeping in....

Here's some fun ideas to keep you busy during your Fall Break, or day off, or vacation, whatever.

For little ones
This website is so cool. It's presented by the Screen Actors Guild and has several celebs reading favorite children's books.

Barnes and Noble has an online story time too. Visit
Don't forget Library visits for a more hands on experience.

Halloween Lantern
* One mason jar, with lid and band
* One glow stick
Break the stick and pour the liquid in the jar. Put on the lid and shake for about 1 minute. You will have a glowing lantern to spook up your porch.

Spider Hunt
Write the letters on the alphabet on cut out spiders, or orange plastic ring spiders. Hide them and let the kids search. When all the pieces are found let the critters find all the words they can spell with the letters they've found. Fun way to work on spelling and phonics, or just get some energy out.

Spooky Oreo Bats
Place a sucker stick in the bottom of an Oreo. Dip into melted chocolate and secure bat wings (either cut out of licorice or paper). Let dry and enjoy. Here's an example from Our Best Bites.

For Older Kids
Check out
This is Utah State University's website and there's tons of stuff to learn about. There's a searchable index if you know what you want to learn about. Great resource for parents and kids.

"Bored" (yes, I know board) games are always fun. You can also make up your own rules to a board game you already own. We do this a lot, in part because I get bored playing the same way and having to explain "why" to little folks. Clue would be super fun this time of year.

Fly's Up
This is the old school football game of toss and catch. My kids LOVE this game. Instead of just plain old toss the football and everyone tries to catch it, we mix it up. If you catch the ball you get points--say 100 per catch. The first one to 500 gets to be the tosser. That's pretty basic. However you can take it one step further and do the last one to 500 has to do something as a penalty--run around the block screaming something funny, or jog in a circle for 30 seconds. You can make this into Truth or Dare or Minute to Win It, depending on the age/abilities of the kids. Be creative.

Dress Up movie day. Have each person dress up as their favorite character in a movie, and watch the show together. I love the Neil Simon movie "Murder By Death." It would probably go over kids' heads with the witty humor, but teens may get it, and any adult worth his weight would definitely appreciate the sarcasm.

Upside down Dinner
Let everyone pick one ingredient and figure out what to make for dinner using those ingredients. There can be lots of lead way in this. For example, mom can choose chicken and the kids can pick items to go in a chicken soup, casserole or side dish. Use or for ideas. You can type in what you have and the search will return recipe ideas.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Christmas Service

I have 3 things left to get and Christmas shopping is DONE. Jealous much???

Each year I try to get involved in the community, especially at Christmas, to help others. In the past we've participated in Candy Cane Corner and Toys for Tots, food drives, blanket drives and other non-profit projects to give a little to others.

This year we are bringing a little extra cheer home. Each of us is choosing a nearby family from our community and sending a little love their way this holiday season. There are many middle class families struggling this year. The double dipping economy, job loss, divorce, lack of health care and just plain loneliness hits families hard.

You know my mantra about service by now, if you've read this blog regularly. So here we are again finding ways to spread a little joy and get outside ourselves.

I haven't worked out the details, but something to do with a few goodies, a few kind words and a gift of service or two to the families struggling in my neighborhood. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them.

If you want a Christmas to remember, try this idea with your own family. You won't be disappointed.

Merry Christmas (early, really early)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kids fighting?? Here's a Solution

Kids fight. Kids fight with each other, their friends, their parents, and themselves. It's part of natural selection, or maybe just part of life. It's part of learning how to get along, although that seems like an oxymoron.

For a few months we've been dealing with equality. Punishments around here are all pretty equal. You break a rule, you sit in time out--I don't care how old you are, you need time to think. Then we talk about what happened, how to avoid it next time, apologize, and things move on. All pretty equal, right?

Well for some strange reason--OK not so strange we have a big family--every time I would compliment one kid, that would start a chain reaction of inequality. **Disclaimer** I do not have a favorite child, nor do I favor one child. They are each my favorite, just depends on the time of day who is my most favorite. So I would tell one they were a great writer, and out of nowhere came another kid, "but I'm good at math, huh Mom?" And then, "Well, I'm good at science. I'm the best in the class." Enter kid three, "What about me? I can tie my shoes faster than anyone."

I am not patient enough to go around the circle handing out meaningless compliments so no one gets their feelings hurt. Get real. But I do recognize that building a positive self-esteem should start at home. So I got a jar, and made it cutesy and then launched a plan.

Each week one person (parents too) is the STAR. The rest of us leave anonymous comments in the jar about what we appreciate, enjoy, admire, etc. about that person. Then at the end of the week we read all the compliments out loud. This way each sibling and parent has an opportunity to think about what this person means to them. J-Dog was first and he was beaming the rest of the day after he heard why we all love him. Even D. had nice things to say about him. They even played nice together and learned to solve a few disputes during the week.

I'm not saying the jar solved all our issues, we're still learning. But, after just a few weeks, there's a few more moments of quiet, and a few less moments of crazy. I know it's made us all think about ourselves a little less, and others a little more.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Time is of the Essence

My brother-in-law calls the hours of 4-6 p.m. on a weekday "vodka hour." He doesn't drink, he just has kids in school. Most of us have been there, or are there. Kids need help with homework, chauffeurs to drive them around, we need to tend to the baby, while fixing dinner and answering the phone. Crap hits the fan at our house during that time daily too. I'd go for a little vodka now and then just to get through those hours if I could, but I've seen what alcohol does so I settle for a large Diet Coke.

There is no easy way to organize all of the chaos that comes through the door during after school hours. Here's some random thoughts that may help.

1- Work with each kid one-on-one. Give them 10 minutes to go over their day, have you sign stuff, work out any issues, and prioritize homework. The other kids can grab a snack while they wait and start reading.

2- Each kid has a plan or a list. My house resembles a circus after school. I've got 5 tiny clowns all yelling over each other, getting frustrated, they are tired and hungry, backpacks and shoes thrown every where, folders scattered. I've found this year if they get in the habit of expecting one-on-one time, they are more relaxed. If they are waiting for me, they are engaged in something else productive. Type them a list of things to do each day and they will learn responsibility and self direction.

3- Have a system. Using either binders or folders have the kids put stuff where it goes. You should have a specific location for notes, homework, checklists and other "things to do" so you are aware of things going on at school or with activities. Read the notes from school every day. Ask your kids if they have anything for you and check bags if necessary. Experiment and find a system that works for you.

4- Dinner is my frustration. I know what I am making, but sometimes it doesn't get done. I love the Make Ahead Meal plan. One day a month I buy chicken, beef, pork, etc. and either cut it up for a specific recipe and/or marinate it. I also chop the veggies or other ingredients for the week so it's easier to pull a meal together while doing fifth grade math, spelling second grade words and assisting in reports on Marco Polo or Magellan. If you don't want to make it ahead find quick meal ideas and have a menu so you know what's in the house to make for a dinner. Remember, circus.

As winter approaches I am trying to master the crock pot so I won't have to be in the kitchen every night. The husband in this house also cooks one night and the older kids have a night to cook with me. This part of the plan is exhausting, but I am convinced if trained well, by the time they are 14 they will have a night they can cook by themselves, and I can relax....we'll see how it goes.

Maybe "vodka hour" won't be eliminated completely, but it may be toned down a little with some planning and rationale.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Have I told you lately...

I've been to Target 3 times this week....but I got some cool FREE stuff. It wasn't all to score free crap, in fact that was after the fact. I am trying to get the monthly shopping done, but  forgot some necessities on my list so had to go back, and last night I just needed a break from everything on my mind, so therapy shopping I went.

I can't brag (or blog) about everything, let's just say Christmas is going to be great this year. I've saved as much as I've spent and taken care of more than half my list.

Other cool stuff this week: free Dr. Pepper zero (Target or Walmart); Free Coke (Target); Free Suave Professionals--I got a free shampoo, free kids shampoo and free gel (Target or Walmart) and Free Treseme shampoo (Target); 2-free 10 pk Shick razors; Free haircuts (2; thanks to the U of U, the guy who kicked the field goal and won us all free haircuts at Great Clips; $26 value, and I did tip); Free Thin buns; free Sierra Mist; Free Chips and Salsa from Costa Vida--love this place, and almost every time I go they give you a customer survey for free chips or dessert. 5 free feet of vinyl at Robert's Crafts. Not too bad for a week. All this is stuff I normally use; I am not one of those Extreme Couponers. In fact, I think they ruin it for those of us just trying to provide for our families. Why buy cat food if you don't have a cat, even if you do make money on it? At least donate it to a shelter or neighbor.....greed is a funny thing.

I am really serious about getting all my shopping done before Thanksgiving. I have even pointed out deals to Santa that he may want to purchase. Mrs. Claus should not have to shop for herself, or bear the burden of the Visa bill in January.

I'd love to help you score deals like this, or help you plan and save for your holidays. Send me a comment or email. Love saving money!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mealtime Monday

I know you missed it. Here's a few newbies to try this week.

Mexican Roast from Wendy Paul
4-6 lb Pot Roast or Shoulder Roast
1 onion, sliced thin
2 tbsp. cumin
Garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste

Place your roast in the slow cooker, topping with onion, cumin, garlic salt (approx 1/2 tsp.) and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on slow for 6-8 hours. Remove from the crock pot and shred, then place back into the juices. Serve with lime wedges, sour cream. olives, tortillas, or any of your favorite toppings.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Random Thoughts on Parenthood

If anyone ever told us the truth about what being a parent is really about, I think our world's "overpopulation" problem would solve itself.

A good friend told me once that being a mother is like "walking around with your heart outside your body." At first I thought she was being a bit dramatic--she has that flair, but then I had my twins. So, that makes it two hearts walking around outside my body....and she is dead on.

Being a parent is so much more than providing physical things like food, shelter, clothing, trips to friends houses, piano lessons, rides to the mall, soccer, last minute items for a school project and help with homework. It's also about helping our daughters to have positive self-esteem and how to navigate "girl world," and helping our sons understand that it's OK to show emotions and that there's more to sports than winning. It's about giving 110% of yourself on days you'd rather crawl back into bed and pull the covers over your head.

I am by no means a perfect parent. I taught my four-year-old a not nice word on the way to preschool this week when someone cut me off. I get that tone just like almost every other parent when I am frustrated. Yeah, you know the tone, even if you won't admit that you do it too.

For me being a parent requires much more patience than I was given, but I am learning. It requires long hours of prayer, worry, frustration which in many cases leads to overwhelming joy, satisfaction and relief. It ticks me off when some people view parenthood as trivial or think that staying at home to raise children is beneath them. I was asked the other day if I worked. Before I could answer my friend TJ said, "Of course she works. She has 5 kids." I was relieved at her answer and grateful for her support.

Being a parent means you are responsible for a piece of the future. You are responsible for teaching patience, understanding, tolerance, responsibility, virtue, honesty, integrity, kindness and love. If you don't possess these qualities they can be learned, although sometimes painfully. If you aren't willing the learn the lesson, please do the world a favor and don't have children until you are ready to take on the challenges of parenthood.

It's all about finding a balance, but if parents give up on their children it will affect more than the family, it will affect the world. Think about the "butterfly effect." It is important to take a minute and evaluate our lives, make sure we are making a positive influence on those whom matter most.

Friday, October 7, 2011

October Scrapbook Post

1. What am I eating for dinner today? pizza
2. Who was the last person I talked to on the phone? PTO volunteer moms
3. What color did I wear today? pink
4. What was the last good thing I read? Note from Sydney
5. What's one goal I have accomplished this week? Canning is done!!!
6. What's one thing I need to work on? Donations for PTO Fundraiser
7. Today's best thought? Test results were great. One more year of good health, just like my fortune cookie predicted.
8. One word to sum up today is? Accomplished
9. One worry or concern? Grocery Shopping/balanced budget
10. Favorite thing I did this week? Dads and Donuts w/ my hubby and kiddos

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tips for Thursday~Household

Newspaper weeds away Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil.  Wet newspapers. Put layers around the plants overlapping as you go.  Cover with mulch, and forget about weeds.  Weeds will get through some gardening plastic; they will not get through wet newspapers.  

Broken Glass
 Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily. 
Flexible vacuum To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge, add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings 

Measuring Cups Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup.  Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out. No More Mosquitoes Place a dryer sheet in your pocket.  It will keep the mosquitoes away.  (Harold has put this under the back of his cap (when mowing the lawn) for years, and it works--so he says.

Foggy Windshield? Hate foggy windshields?  Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car when the windows fog, rub with the eraser!  Works better than a cloth.

Reopening envelopes  If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. It unseals easily.  

Even if you always clean the lint from the filter after every load clothes the wax from dryer sheets builds up. This keeps the air from properly flowing throught the filter's mesh material. That's what burns out the heating unit.  You can't SEE the film, but it's there.  It's what is in the dryer sheets to make your  clothes soft, smell good and static free. You know how they can feel waxy when you take them out of the box.  This is also what causes dryer units to potentially burn your house down with it!  The best way to keep your dryer working for a very longtime (and to keep your  electric bill lower) is to take that filter out and wash it with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush (or other brush) at least every six months.  He said that makes the life of the dryer at least twice as long!  How about that!?! I tried this trick and was surprised that everything above is true. Hopefully this little trick will extend our dryer's lifespan, since I've purchased two major appliances in the last 6 months.

Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving  cream and leaves your legs really smooth.  It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair. or the stuff that's left over in the bottle when you run out of the coordinating shampoo. We always seem to use more shampoo than conditioner.

Reducing Static Cling Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress.  Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose.  Place pin in seam of slacks and static is gone.

Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants.  They eat it, take it "home", can't digest it so it kills them.  It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it  works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!
Goodbye Fruit Flies To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it ½" with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well.  You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tips for Tuesday~Food Tips

Here's some tips passed onto me by my Mom. (Now, don't get confused. I have two Mom's, and not in a creepy way. I have a Mom whom I mentioned in my post yesterday, and I have a second Mom who is technically my step-mom, but whom I consider a Mom to me too.) These will save you money and time. These posts are so popular, just proving we can do more with less.

Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store.  If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking. 

To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich, add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up. (Caution: Be sure that you like this consistency in your scrambled eggs.)

For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed.  Melt Andes Mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies.  Let set for a wonderful minty frosting. 

Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic, and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.

Leftover Snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert.  Simply chop them up with the food chopper.  Peel, core and slice a few apples.  Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes!!!  Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.  Yummm! 
Reheat Pizza: Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy-no soggy micro pizza.  I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.

Easy Deviled Eggs: Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

Expanding Frosting:
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size.  You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving. 

Reheating refrigerated bread: To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water, which you have previously brought to a boil. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What's on my Mind on Monday

Mealtime Monday is on hiatus just for today. I had a long weekend bottling grape juice from grapes grown by my in-laws; we made raspberry jam from raspberries grown in our garden; I also bottled more tomato juice from the last remaining tomatoes in my yard. All of my large bowls are full of produce to process for the upcoming winter months. Yes, I realize there's a grocery store, and it's not 1850, and I am not a pioneer. I do this gardening stuff because believe it or not, to us, it's fun work. Sick, ehh?

We listened to LDS General Conference while doing our "fun work." Most of you reading this are already familiar with what that is, however, if you are not please check out to learn more about the amazing gift our Savior has given us. You won't be sorry.

I learned a lot of new things, or was reminded of many things I've become apathetic about. One talk was about "being real." I loved the part where the speaker reminded me being real is more than just being honest. I am a pretty direct person, so honesty with others isn't a problem, but being honest with myself, sometimes I struggle. It was a simple reminder that "being real" is important.

There were great talks about families and the importance of motherhood. I loved the talk by Elaine Dalton about fathers and daughters. What is the most important thing a father can teach his daughter? He must love and honor her mother. This way girls grow up knowing how they should be treated, and what qualities they should look for while dating and deciding whom to marry. My girls are taught this lesson every day. Andy is a great husband; better than I deserve most days. He's a great dad too. I have no doubt the lesson is being taught to our four daughters, I hope they listen. I am preparing for rebellion every day the twins move closer to becoming teens. One of them thought they'd try out the "silent treatment" this weekend. My response was, "Oh goody, the silent treatment. I've been waiting for this." Her reaction was a very large smile, laugh and hug. Guess I'm still in charge for a few more minutes....

Having an eternal family is the pinnacle of my beliefs. It's the reason I do things, or don't do things. Every good choice I make protects my family. My beliefs have carried me through dark times, extreme loss and have rewarded me with extreme joy and happiness. I was so blessed to know my mom and every day I miss her. She's in the back of my mind reminding me how to be a better mother, friend and spouse. People say time heals all wounds. I disagree. It's been almost 19 years and the pain is still there. However, after all that time it has lessened. It's a wound that won't go away, and maybe I am glad it hasn't. It is a constant reminder to carry on, focus on my goals and live every day.

Find what matters to you and what makes you happy. Life is more rewarding when you do.