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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Later 2012

Time is running out and 2013 is almost here. While 2012 was full of some heartbreak and a new found sense of world insecurity, I hope we each take a moment to realize all the good things, and good people, that still exist. If the Mayan's were wrong, and the world didn't end on the 21st please enjoy this blog post of 2012.

I like making a quick list of all the good from this year. It's a good way to keep track of my identity, and I encourage you all to take a minute to take a personal inventory of your accomplishments. It's so much easier to remember mistakes, but forgive, forget and focus on how many things you did right.

The Best Things in 2012
Our kids all got older. Which is great because they are more responsible and are becoming the amazing people they were intended to be.

Andy went back to school and I am so grateful not only for the opportunities that made this possible, but for his willingness to go. I know it's not easy balancing his very full plate, but I am so glad we can enjoy this school adventure together.

I finally got a phone that can text. I have now moved into the 21st century. I don't use it a ton, but WOW! what an ingenious invention.

My friend Ben McAdams won his election as local county mayor. He will do a great job and it was truly an honor and pleasure to work for him. I hope someday our paths will cross again. He is proof that hard work really does pay off. Thank you Ben, for letting me be part of the process.

I learned to say No. If you are a woman, you know how this is. I don't want upset anyone or not do everything, all together and at the same time. I am a fantastic multi-tasker, but had to step away from some projects. I miss being involved in the kids' classes, but there is a time and season...I am sure my guilt will dissipate at some point.

We all know how much I love THE city...Washington, DC was the highlight of my year. I loved the travel and hanging out without an agenda (ok, well a non-kid related agenda). Our memories will last a lifetime, cuz I've scrapbooked about a million pictures, and it will be impossible to not return soon.

I look forward to more good things next year---and hope as a community and nation we can look for the good that surrounds us.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas Gift Ideas

This is one of the last posts of 2012. I am so glad some of you are still with me. It's been a busy year, as you can tell by the dramatic decline in posts here, but it's been eventful.

And as Christmas approaches I am finishing up some last minute neighbor gifts. I found this great link here from my thrifty-nifty friend Paul. Enjoy these ideas for some cute last minute gifts.

Enjoy the season!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Favorites from 2012

The year is winding down. It seems the older I get, the faster time flies. Wasn't it just June? Anyway I have a few new things I discovered on my adventures this year. Try them! You will love them as much as I do.
Disclaimer: These are my own thoughts/opinions. I was not paid for any of the following.

Favorites 2012

Victoria's Secret "Secret Charm" body cream. It's delightful! Jasmine and Honeysuckle....yummy smelling and doesn't dry your skin.

Glitter. Think about how much fun you can have. Edible glitter for cupcakes; glitter for art projects; glitter in fabric paint and spray paint; glitter for lip gloss, lotion and soap. It's sparkly, shiny and fun!Product Details

Glass beads. I made a great pair of earrings this year and I love them.
Right along with that are Statement Necklaces. Easy way to add fun to any outfit. I want this so bad!
Product Details

Crest Mouthwash. I hate flossing. My teeth are tight and floss shreds all the time. This stuff tastes great and does a great job keeping things fresh.

And still my favorite things that I have been crazy about for years...

Lip gloss- I love the new VS winter flavors for Christmas
Freegal music--free, downloadable music from the library to my iPod
Cook Once, Eat Twice Meals- Baked Ziti, Lasagne, Enchiladas--just double the recipe (for a big family) or divide the dish in two (for smaller families) and you have spent the same amount of time, but made two meals at once. Brilliant!

These are some of my favorite things....maybe Santa will leave me one or two under the tree. What do you want from Santa this year???

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crafty Kids

The Winter Break is fast approaching...not fast enough if you ask my kids. We will have 2 weeks off to just hang out with our families. I am sure that after the first 3 days, we will all just be sittin' around looking at each other without a clue of what to do. I am sure that I will hear, "Mom, I'm bored" about 1,000 times. Hopefully Santa will remedy some of that. In the mean time I've got a plan....

I used an old canvas apron, some fabric paint with glitter, some jewels and eyes, and some creativity to create this new apron for D. She loves to help me cook, and now she looks super cute doing it. La La actually came up with this design- -with some help from some freezer paper and a Cricut. and suggested I add the words, "Kiss the Cook" to it. Great idea! 

The baby is obsessed with dogs, so Sydie made her this apron. Totally cute!

This is an easy project to do with kids. Cut your stencils out of freezer paper-either by machine or hand. Iron the waxy side onto the material. Use craft paint and decorations--make sure it's all permanent and won't wash off--and let your inner artist out! I let my designs dry 20 min. in between the 2 coats of paint I used. Once the design is dry, gently peel the freezer paper off, and there you have it! Easy, cheap, fun...and it may just save your sanity this holiday season!

Happy Crafting

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cookie Exchange or Gift Ideas

I totally want to do a cookie exchange. It seems everyone is so busy, there's not enough time. Somehow, someday I am going to do it. In the meantime enjoy some of my favorite ideas, with a bit of help from Betty Crocker.

Russian Tea Cookies click for recipe

Pecan Shortbread click for recipe

Peppermint Shortbread Bites click for recipe. If you live by me you may be getting this...I have to have an excuse to make them, and don't want to eat them all. Lucky You!

Poinsettia Blossoms- these are so cute and colorful.

Thumbprint Cookies- these remind me of my Mom. She used Hershey Kisses instead of jelly.

Biscotti (this is a family favorite and my version of Betty's biscotti)

White Chocolate Biscotti
 1 pouch            Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix
1/3 c.               margarine or butter, softened
1                                egg
¼ c.                 flour
½ c.                 macadamia nuts
1 c.                  white chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together until stiff dough forms. Roll out dough into 2 rectangles. The rectangle should be about 8 X 2 ½ inches. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes on ungreased cookie sheet. Cool 15 minutes.

Cut each rectangle crosswise into ¾ inch slices. Place cut sides down on cookie sheet and bake 5-6 minutes, then turn and bake second cut side an additional 5-6 minutes. Cool on racks.

Melt an additional ½ c. of chocolate in the microwave on High for 30-60 seconds. Drizzle over cooled cookie. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

For variety you could omit the white chocolate and macadamia nuts and do semi sweet or dark chocolate with pecans or hazelnuts. You could also add chopped cherry flavored craisins. 

Now that you're all starving, pick one of these and let me know what you think. Many things like sugar cookies or chocolate chip cookies, you can make now and freeze for later. Happy Holiday Baking!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Leftovers to Good Use

Are you sick of turkey yet? We had enough to last 5 extra meals. We made Shepherd's Pie, sandwiches and soups. With the last of the mashed potatoes I made....

Potato Cheese Soup
1 can. chicken stock
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. mashed potatoes
2 c. milk
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. onion flake
1 c. chunked or shredded cheddar cheese.

Make a roux using butter and flour until the butter absorbs all the flour and it looks like crumbly butter. Add chicken stock, milk, spices and bring to boil. Add mashed potatoes. Boil until the mashed potatoes are warmed through and the soup has a smooth texture.Add cheese and serve.

This was an easy way to use up leftovers. You could also use this as a base and add veggies, bacon or ham or other toppings to round it out.

We served this with grilled cheese sandwiches and it was an easy lunch!

Happy Leftovers! Bring on the Christmas baking and present making!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Welcome Winter

It's here...November 9th and snow is finally here. Global Warming rocks! I've enjoyed 70 degree weather in October and November....whatever, so what if we'll all die of GW effects--we all gotta go sometime.

I hate snow. It is cold. It is wet. It is hard to drive through. 
But staying at home, it is enjoyable.

 The kids were brave, and ran out into the snow. For 90 minutes they lived it up. They built "Joe Bob-Billy Bob Brown, and he is living happily in our backyard.

 D. was very concerned that the snowman had to be named before she came inside. So everyone got to choose a name, and for argument's sake La-La combined them all so we could come in and get warm.

Who knew the snow could make such "warm" memories? These girls are so good to each other.

Hot cocoa and marshmallows for everyone! If you can't beat the snow, at least enjoy it. Happy Winter!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Quit Complaining...Just Be Thankful

"I once complained that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet."

You've probably seen this around. It's been on the internet for awhile. I actually experienced this type of thankfulness almost everyday while I was employed at the local food bank and homeless shelter. Our society is so embedded in needing things and getting the newest things, we rarely stop to think about what is really important.

My mom used to say, "can't take it with you." I guess that ideology got stuck in my brain, because as an adult I clearly have different priorities than those around me. I am grateful to live in a place where I can have my own ideals and opinions and be able to speak about them without fear.

Today is Election Day. I don't care who you support, but for goodness sake VOTE. You can't complain about what's happening in our country if you choose to be apathetic and do nothing. Although many feel "their vote doesn't count" we all have to do it. Otherwise apathy will take over and everyone's rights will be subject to violation. Get out and do it today. It's a blessing we should be thankful for, not apathetic about.

Continuing with our family tradition of voicing our thankfulness we sat down today to list our blessings. It goes without saying we are so happy to have a nice home, clothing, food, health care and good health, family and friends and our faith. The point of this tradition isn't to gloss over the obvious, but to really dig deep and think about how dramatically different life would be without the things we rarely think about. This year we are grateful for: new found talents, indoor plumbing, On Demand TV, baptism, the ability to read, freedom, time, online shopping and new opportunities.

My challenge for my readers: Think about a new blessing each day of this month. Many are posting on Facebook or Twitter, some on their own blogs or in emails. Anyway you do it, count your blessings.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

You know those meals you thought were so gross as a kid? Liver and Onions? Stir Fry? Cowboy's Delight? Well sometimes as we grow up, we realize that once in awhile you need to return to meals like that to reclaim comfort. Of course no one here dislikes anything set before them at the nightly family meal. That doesn't happen here. Everyone eats and loves every single meal I make. I swear I was born to do nothing but bring pleasing meals to the dinner table every night (inserting lots of sarcasm HERE).

I don't make any of those above mentioned recipes, but recently I was messing around with my basic Stroganoff recipe (based upon my childhood memories) and found a new comfort food that my kids will NEVER think is gross. This is great for big family meals, for entertaining or potlucks.

Swedish Meatballs

1. Bake 20-25 pre-made meatballs according to package directions. Or if you are really brave you can make your own. I don't, that would require I touch raw meat, and we all know that is a rule I can't break.

2. Make your favorite rice...we like brown, but anything works.

3. Stir together 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup, 1 can beef broth, 1 c. low fat sour cream in a pot and bring to a simmer. Add onion flake to taste and one small can or one package fresh mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms down until the sauce becomes a gravy like consistency. If you need help thickening I use poultry gravy mix. It gives the sauce flavor as well as thickness. Toss a tablespoon or two into the sauce until desired consistency is reached.

The rest is stupid easy. Put the rice on a plate, cover with sauce and top with meatballs. My kids like Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.

Serve with crusty French bread, steamed green beans and a side salad, maybe some applesauce. Seriously good comfort food that will provide your family with lots of good memories.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Don't let her cute face fool you. She'll trick you out of a Diet Coke before you can say "fairy dust!"
Hope your day is frightfully fun!

I pray this isn't a sign of goth revival. She's Bellatrix LeStrange, and let's just say, she's got the evil look down!

Cruella De Ville, Cruella De Ville if her hair doesn't scare you, the fact she's only 11 and 5 feet tall will....
 He's really here to save you. I am sending him to New York to help clean up the mess as soon as school is out. He knows how to "do stuff just like his Dad."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Comfort Food for Dinner

Taco Soup--not quite chili, not quite Tamale Pie, but definately delicious

1 lb. hamburger
1/ 2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. garlic salt, or chopped garlic
2 cans diced tomatoes with chilies (like Rotel)
1 can tomato sauce
3 cans beans--we like 2 black and 1 kidney, but use what you've got
2 pkgs. taco seasoning
2-3 cups water

Brown the hamburger with onion and garlic, in large pot (I like to do this in my Dutch Oven), add all other ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes.
Optional: top with extra green chilies, cheese, chopped onion and cilantro.

I served this with homemade cornbread....not from a package....homemade.....ok the corn was ground for me, but it was authentically mine!

2 c. cornmeal
2 c. all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 c. milk--use canned milk if you have it
2/3 c. vegetable oil
2 lg. eggs
1/2 can, canned corn

Mix all together and pour into UNgreased 9 x 13 pan. Cook 20-25 minutes at 400 deg. While hot, pour melted butter and honey on top. You could also fill paper lined muffin tins with this and make corn muffins.

Really perfect for a cold day!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Caramel Apples

These are not as easy as they seem, but they are delicious. And because you'll have so much fun making them, you'll burn all the calories you'll take on when you eat one..or two...or three. 

The Ultimate Chocolate Covered Caramel Apples
(from Fab Food)
  • 3 packages (14 ounces each) caramel candies
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6-8 large Granny Smith apples
  • 6-8 heavy wooden skewers or sticks (I use chopsticks)
  • melted chocolate and/or white chocolate
  • see directions below for amounts
  • Optional: chopped peanuts or other nuts, toasted coconut, candy sprinkles, Oreo® cookie crumbs or chopped candy bars
  • waxed paper


Line a large cookie sheet with heavily buttered waxed paper, set aside.

Wash and completely dry apples. Insert a stick through stems. Sometimes it helps to use two sticks or even a fork, as these Apples become quite heavy during the dipping process and a single stick may break. If you plan on using nuts coconut or any of the other optional coating ingredients get them ready by placing in a small bowl.

Combine caramels and water in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels melt. Cool slightly. You can also use your slow cooker to melt the caramel, like we did in the photo (we were making a lot of apples). Dip each apple in caramel mixture, coating evenly, use a spoon to help you cover the top part of the apple.

While the caramel is still liquid, roll the apple in the nuts or coconut or other coating ingredients (not shown). Coating the apple with one of these ingredients helps to keep the apple from sticking to the waxed paper, as well as give texture and flavor, but the apples are still great without this step.

Next melt the chocolate either in a double boiler, a microwave, or in a glass bowl set inside a slow cooker which is filled part way with hot water.  You\'ll notice I didn't say how much chocolate to melt. It depends on how decadent you want the apple to be. We used about 3 oz. of chocolate per apple, mixed white and dark.  If using the bowl in the slow cooker method be very careful not to get even a single drop of water in the chocolate or it will seize and become grainy.

Dip the bottom of the caramel apple in chocolate. Use a spoon to drizzle melted chocolate over the top  completely encasing the apple in chocolate. Using two different types of chocolate gives the apple a more decorative effect. Allow chocolate to set  before wrapping in cellophane.

This is just one idea. We also tried caramel, chocolate then rolling it in toppings. Messy...but divine!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Fun

How do you change a soggy, boring, cold afternoon into red hot fun?
(Insert here: "Mom, I am so bored. I never get treated like a fairy princess. Never!)

A nap, and a little of this...
I had to write "do not eat" on the box, but someone in our house can't read my "scrawly" handwriting, so I had to make an emergency stop to restock.

My sis and I had a little party for the kiddos to celebrate our favorite holiday. We played games, had pizza and treats and made edible crafts--truly isn't a better kind of crafts. The kids made spiders out of our treats, but you could make mummies or any other spooky thing out of Swiss Rolls, licorice and gumdrops, and LOTS of frosting.

 Directions for spiders: cut or tear your Pull n Peel licorice into 6-8 pieces for legs. Using frosting, "glue" them to the Swiss Roll (or you can use ding dongs, twinkies, whatever). Decorate the body using gumdrops or other small candies. And enjoy!

Directions for Mummies. Wrap 2-3 long pieces of Peel N Pull licorice around the Swiss Roll, securing with frosting. Add Red Hots or Gumdrops for eyes. Add "bandages" using white frosting draped across top of licorie wrapped Swiss Roll.

Easy Peasy! Thanks cousins for hangin with us! We had a scary good time!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Fall

My life must be really out of control. When I started blogging I had time to vent my frustrations and celebrate my successes. Now I have time other baking 8 batches of zucchini bread, bottling 10 jars of salsa, 27 jars of raspberry jam, 12 jars of stewed tomatoes, roasting 100 Anaheim peppers, bottling 12 jars of bean, another 12 jars of jalapenos, running the PTO, working on paper after political paper, hand writing 200 postcards for the Ben McAdams campaign, teaching a new organization craft at our church, and oh yeah, putting dinner on the table every night. Seriously, this was just the past week.

I found a great recipe I had to share, then I'm off to run some Christmas--yes, Christmas, errands.

Chicken and Veggies
6 chicken breasts
3 large potatoes or yams, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
 Favorite Italian Dressing

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with Pam and place chicken and veggies in dish. Cover with 1/2  bottle of your favorite Italian dressing. Bake 1 hr. at 350 deg.

This seems strange, but it was another hit that everyone ate. Around here we call that a success! You could also add other root veggies like carrots or turnips or other types of squash. The veggies come out roasted and flavorful, and the dressing makes a great gravy-ish topping.

Happy Harvesting!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Halloween Crafts and stuff....

I love the Fall. If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know how much I love Halloween! It's better than Christmas....ok, I get the irony of having two favorite holidays that are polar opposites...don't tell me, I get it.

I've been a little crafty. It's cheap therapy considering I am now going to Kindergarten, Third grade, Sixth grade (twice) and am a sophomore in college..again. Plus being PTO President has been nothing short of busy and dramatic, and let's add in helping (or really wanting to do way more) with the fantastic Ben McAdams campaign; Ben is running for the local mayoral ship. So things are ....crazy, and I craft.

Here's a little holiday fun.

 I've seen these in a wooden version, but I like the real thing. These are old boots the girls used to wear. That's one advantage to having twins, there are so many clothing items that they don't wear out very often. So I recycled this boot for this awesome craft. Tulle, jewels and some spiders bling out this fab decor.

 Candelabras decked out with silver beads. Super cute and super cheap.

Feathered eye wreath. One package of black feathers glued onto willow wreath and decked out with different sized wiggly eyes. I can't wait to "see" you at my doorstep this Halloween.

Now back to planning lots of fun events for everyone in my life. Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Someone else's Wise Words

It seems like I am always sharing my thoughts with people. I am opinionated, what can I say? Today I was trying to get things in order financially--going back to school is not cheap, and I found this on MSN.

""Ten Characteristics of People Who are Debt Free" , so of course I clicked on it. I've said it once, and I'll say it again,  sometimes you can learn stuff from TV and the Internet.

Check it out. It may surprise you. I thought it was some wise words from someone besides me, that were worth passing on.

Happy Weekend...almost and GO UTES!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Words of Wisdom

So here we are. The first week of school down, one kid left to go--Danni's first day of "big" school is tomorrow. And then it will be me and one kid in the afternoon. Will I cry???? Maybe tomorrow when Danni leaves me and doesn't look back, or worse, if she cries and clings making it impossible for me to walk away gracefully. It should be an adventure.

Maybe my afternoons will even become more calm with just one--who for now, still naps. Oh, I hate to even write it down, for fear of pissing off Karma and having something impede my impending possible freedom. Whatever tomorrow brings it should be memorable.

Our life is in constant craziness and probably like your own, won't slow down for several years to come. My goal this school year is to teach all my kids independence. You are responsible for you and your homework. I am going to try hard not to nag and remind. Let it not be a reflection on my parenting skills if someone forgets something. Live and learn and maybe even write it down....those are my Words of Wisdom today.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Picture is Worth...

a thousand words, many cans of red paint, several pieces of pipe and a ton of creativity.

In case you were wondering....GO UTES!

And THANKS Dad, for helping us stay so classy!

And yes, it has lights. And yes, we will turn them on when they win tonight!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Big Reveal

I have waited so long for this post and it's finally time. Although many of you know part of the story, no one really knows the whole thing. And, SPOILER ALERT, the whole thing does not belong on the internet. So here's the reveal, at least the part I feel is necessary to share.

Several months ago it was made clear to me that things in my life were going off track. As much as I tried to control my life, and wish I could have, I just didn't have control over my life. At least not ultimate, supreme control I thought I wanted or needed. I mean really, who does? I sought advice from a few trusted people, you know who you are, and ultimately made some decisions.

I was preparing to go back to school and get my ASL license. And then another opportunity came our way. To make a long story short Andy is actually going back to school to finish his degree. We were offered a few opportunities that made it possible for this to happen. So to the universe, our employer, and those others who helped us make this change, THANK YOU.

Now you know all good things must come to an he was released as Scout Master. It was with mixed feelings that this happened (and no, I didn't get up and dance in church) and it was an extremely hard decision to make, which was kind of surprising.

I think we all have choices and it's not always about good or bad. Sometimes it's about good, better and best. What's the best choice for me (or us) in this situation? The last few years have taught me more than I'd ever want to blog about. Let's just leave it at, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Seems kind of a silly, simple thing, but it's a huge blessing to be at the same place at the same time, metaphorically speaking. So together we move onto a new phase of life, which we are hoping will lead to several new opportunities down the line. Ya' know what they say, "When people plan, God laughs." Well I am done tempting fate and am trying to be happy in the here and now.

So there's the "cat out of the bag." And here's to upward progression.

Be happy with what you have. Chances are you have it pretty good!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Birthday Wishes

So it's my birthday. I am a year older and possibly a little wiser. When I was little I remember asking my Mom what she wanted for her birthday, and she would always say, "I just want you guys to get along." It would have been easier to buy her Paris. As my kids grow I understand what she was saying. At this point in my life all the "things" I want are way above the kids allowance range. But what really matters to me is free. Do a kind act, say a kind word, serve each other. Doesn't cost a thing and can make a world of difference for everyone.

Now I don't want to sound selfish, so take this next part in context.

What I want this year:
1. I want my kids to let me go to the bathroom in peace.

2. I want them to listen the first time. If I can't get that, I want a recording of the 10 things I am constantly repeating so I don't have to say it; I can just push a button and BAM! there's my voice saying "wash your hands," "don't scream," "Yes, it's nap time," and "Please just set the table." It would be great if I could change the tone and volume of the recording, so my vocal chords aren't stressed.

3. I want one night where I don't have to get up to get someone something. Granted it's not always the kids;sometimes it's the phone, or a neighbor, or my husband. I just want one night of silence.

4. I want people to say what they mean, and mean what they say.  If you really offer something, don't let your words evaporate into "good intentions" when you're called upon.

What I am giving myself this year:
1. I will lock my bedroom and bathroom door to get some peace. I will ignore the pounding on the door by humming Maroon 5 songs out loud, to myself.

2. I will give myself one night each week without kids. This was one of my goals at the beginning of the year. Some weeks are better than others, but I may actually have to ask for help. Moms take back a piece of yourself by getting a little peace & quiet. You deserve it. We all know it. Just do it!

3. Tonight I may actually accomplish number 3. The world's best grandparents are taking my little darlings for a sleepover. THANK YOU. Telemarketers and door-to-door salespeople BEWARE! I want my 8-10 hours of peace!

So onto number 4, if you offered to help be prepared. I have lots to accomplish this year and may actually break down and take you up on it!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's For Dinner?? Chicken and Mushrooms

I made this for dinner by combining two recipes. Everyone ATE IT. I am shocked!

Chicken with Mushroom Gravy and Brown Rice

To cook the perfect brown rice go here. Super easy. Basically put your rice in a 8 x 8 Pyrex dish, turn on oven to 375 degrees. On the stove boil your water and 2 tsp. of vegetable oil. When water boils add 1/2 tsp. of salt and pour the water over the rice. Cover with 2 layers of tinfoil and bake at 375 deg. for 1 hour. When the hour is up take off the foil, wrap the pan with a kitchen towel for 5 min so the moisture from the foil doesn't drip back onto the rice and make it sticky. Then take off the towel and fluff the rice, let it sit for 5 more minutes and serve. The whole recipe is on the above link.

Chicken and Mushrooms

4-6 chicken breasts, marinated in Italian dressing
1 can canned mushrooms, or 1 c. fresh
2 packets of mushroom gravy

Brown the chicken in a frying pan.
Make gravy according to the directions and add to the pan
Add mushrooms
Let it cook together about 10-12 minutes, turning chicken once, until chicken is no longer pink inside

The gravy should thicken around the chicken to be gravy consistency, but if not, add 1 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp. of COLD water to make a liquid (so you can't see the cornstarch) and pour it into the pan to thicken.

I served this over the rice with green beans. It was awesome. Probably a lot healthier than the white rice with cream of mushroom soup many of us "enjoyed" as a kid.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Favorite Time of Year

My birthday has always been a double edged sword. Yes, I get presents and don't have to cook dinner that day, but the numbers keep getting bigger each year; and as a kid, every year my birthday came around, I knew back to school time was right around the corner.

I loved school as a kid. Growing up in a household full of school teachers has given me the appreciation for my education. Seriously the school supply aisle was heaven! Even today I get giddy about new pencils and crayons. (Note to self: call therapist). In any case as a mom of 4, yes 4!, in the public school system I am realllyyy excited for this year! We've had a great summer, lots of fun vacations and activities, but it's time to get back to reality.

And if I'm being honest, I love that back to school gets me into an organization mode where life is orderly and less least temporarily.

We are using the new Menu Board to organize our mealtime. It will eliminate the question "What's for Dinner?" and still has the flexibility of changing things around, since I often "don't feel like" what ever is on the menu at least once a week.

There are lots of back to school lunch and menu ideas on, and many other sites. Mixing up the routine may be just what your family needs.

I've also decided that if you don't like what's on your dinner plate, please feel free to have a pbj or cereal. I am done altering each meal so this kid or that kid will be happy. Pick off the mushrooms, pick out the peppers and eat your food!

Start now. Get them up when they will be getting up for school. You'll be so happy to not have to drag them out of bed that first few days of the new year. Also start going to bed early enough for 8-10 hours of sleep (for the kids, and it wouldn't hurt you either).

Have a night routine: make lunches, pick out clothes, pack backpacks, take showers, find shoes, etc. I promise your mornings may be early, but they will run more smoothly if you're prepared.

We also do weekly Family Meetings and share what each kid has going on that week: lessons, play dates, school work, activities, etc. We also include the parents' schedule so the kids know where we are too. You can use a basic computer printed calendar or a cheap dollar store planner for kids. This is a good way to show kids how to budget their time.

Back to school sales! If you aren't already sign up to shop online through or do it! These companies send you a check for shopping through their sites. For example: I had a Children's Place purchase. By logging onto ebates first, I got 10% back, of my purchase price. Once I logged onto ebates, I selected Children's Place and they linked me to the site. Then I shopped as normal, even used a discount code and paid on the CP website as I normally would. Then I got an email from ebates saying for shopping through them, they'd added $6.50 to my ebates account and I would receive a check at the next check distribution (which is every 3 months for them.). So on top of buying clothes on sale and using my discount code on the CP website, I also get $6.50 back from ebates. Make sense?

Kolh's big sale starts today, online and in store.
Children's Place has free shipping
Aeropostale has a great sale this week too.

Office Max, Staples and Target all have back to school supplies on sale. Don't forget to stock up on kleenex, glue sticks, Expo markers, Clorox wipes, etc. for your teachers.

Save it where you can.

Enjoy the rest of summer. We are going to local farmers markets, having a scavenger hunt and finishing up a couple of service projects. Whatever you do, make it memorable!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kate's Creation- Menu Board

I get to share this craft with all the gals in my neighborhood in a few weeks, so if you live by me---surprise! Here's an easy way to get your weekly meals organized:

Menu Boards

Photos courtesy of my daughter Sydie Sue.

As I've said before, I believe giving credit where it's due. This isn't by original idea, just my spin on the whole thing. The ideas are on Pintrest, or you can get them from me (in your color choice) for $7. You could also use it as a Memo board (which I will happily customize for you) and have a beautiful vision of what your family's week looks like. Easy-peasy way to organize your life.

To go along with this fun craft, I've also been asked to teach a quick class about Freezer Meals. They are quick, easy, and I promise will save you time and money. I use a simple system and our family & budget have benefited greatly. 

In other news.....several of you have been asking about the "changes" in our life that I've mentioned in a few previous posts. I can't let the proverbial cat out of the bag just yet, but I can tell you we are NOT having another baby, and we are not getting a divorce. So put your inquiring minds at rest.

I can say as a family, the things in our future are exciting and challenging; and as a couple, we are prepared to take them head-on. I can also say that although my patience is constantly tested the past few years have strengthened it, and I am a better person for the daily trials I have experienced.

Aren't we all better people after our trials??? We may never know why we have to endure certain challenges, but I am sure that when God closes a door, He also opens a window.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Simple Fun

We are on the downhill slide and back to school is just around the corner! Is anyone else ready? I am a single parent again this week. I applaud all of you who do this on a regular basis. I am not cut out for it. In fact, I hate it. I'd rather have my teeth pulled sans Novocaine, than do this. However, I am one who endures whatever I must for the greater good, and so will once again make some lemonade out of life's lemons.

In a whirlwind of creativity I put some good old fashioned fun into our routine. Here are a few great ideas that will make some fun memories for your family.

1. Charades: There are boxed games out there you can buy, or you can print a bunch of random phrases on paper and tear them up, put them in a bucket and let everyone go for it. Remember the rules: 1) No talking (blissful!) and 2) use hand motions to describe how many words, the category (movie, song, tv, etc. FYI: You can make these motions up at the beginning of the game so all the players are on the same page) and don't forget about the "right on the nose" signal to let the guessers know they are on the right track.

2. Story Tellers: I use  this link to create randomly generated word lists. Each player gets a list and has to work the words into his story. You can give each player 3-5 minutes to think up and then tell their story, or you can tell the story as a group, passing the story along to each person who would continue the story until everyone has had a chance.

3.Pictionary at Home. Here's another great website for endless hours of fun.

4. Memory game: This is a spin off of a bridal shower/ baby shower game. Get a tray and fill it with 15-20 random objects. Let the players have 30 seconds to study the tray, then cover the tray. The get an additional 30-60 seconds to list the items. The player with the most wins. A second round can be played by the winner taking away 2 or 3 items and reshowing the tray to the remaining players, and repeating the game.

5. Dice- We have used dice a lot with math practice this summer. I've made the kids add, subtract and multiply the different dice dots together. We also tell story problems using the numbers from the dice. This is a great thinking tool. There are hundreds of dice games, use your imagination, or visit this link to get started.

6. Water Games. Water bottle bowling or water balloons can take the heat off and provide hours of crazy fun. Try filling an empty water bottle or 2 ltr. bottle with a glow stick for night time bowling. (Thanks MG and Pintrest for that tid-bit).

Happy Playing This Week!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Candy Bar Card

The kids made their Dad this Candy Bar card for his birthday. They came up with the sentences and I had to help with the writing. This was an idea from my childhood that I recreated a few years ago as a Thank You card for a good friend.

The idea is so simple, but can be really meaningful. Plus it can teach your kids the magic of words because you have to be creative. Basically you choose some favorite candy bars or gum, etc. and form sentences out of them. This isn't the greatest picture, it says things like "Dad we will try not to make anything go "Crunch" this year." and "we hope your day is full of "Red Hot" fun and "Almond Joy."

I did this on a full sized poster board, but you can make it any size you want. The greatest thing about this project is it can be done in any size--small snack sized candy bars for a smaller card is very cute; and it can really provide an impact of how much you love and appreciate someone. Also it's very versatile as it can be used for almost anyone for any occasion. Think "Teacher Appreciation" or birthday or "Father's Day" or "Mother's Day."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Birthday Treats

We've had a million celebrations in the past few weeks. We are adjusting back to normal reality, and some big changes are on the horizon. In my next life I'd like to be granted more patience. Too bad there's not a checklist I can fill out and request certain attributes, like tall, skinny, patient, perfect.....ya know? I guess I get bored easily, so change, while not always welcome, is at least not boring.

Back to celebrating. No offense, but how boring is a store bought cake? I just can't do it. I can't go randomly pick out a cake, knowing it won't be as tasty as I could have done, and knowing I will spend 5 times as much as if I just made it myself. So with Andy and J-Dog's birthdays (and mine, but who's counting?) I have resolved to bring back some faves.

My Dad reminded me of the ever popular Tunnel of Fudge cake that we loved back in the day. I thought that was an appropriate and fun idea for Andy. I just recently mastered my bundt pan baking, and am feeling quite confident I can take that on. I'm thinking a new twist on Red Velvet, a delicious chocolate filling, and sprinkles! 

J-Dog's is still in the decision making process, since he changes his mind daily on what he wants to do I don't see the point to decide yet. We've run the gamet from Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and brownies, to a turquoise lion filled with raspberry to a flamigo with flaming feathers. His demands may need to be bumped back a bit, ehh?

I found this delicious idea from Bakerella. These are delicious! It's likely you have the ingredients in your pantry right now. And if you don't, try substituting like I did. I had no sweetened condensed milk so I used this to make my own.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles
from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook (Thanks Lindsay!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
chocolate candy coating
popsicle sticks, cut in half (use kitchen scissors to make a clean, smooth cut)
  • In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
  • Mix in milk and vanilla.
  • Add flour and salt and mix on low until combined.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Chill dough in refrigerator for about 30 minutes until firm enough to roll or scoop into 1-inch balls.
  • Place rolled balls on a wax paper lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. (I had mine in for about an hour so longer is okay, too)
  • Melt candy coating following instructions on the package. Remove a couple of balls from the freezer at a time and insert the cut stick into the ball. Dip in candy coating and let any excess fall off back into the bowl.
  • Add small sprinkles on top and place on wax paper to set. If the chocolate pools at the bottom of the ball, dot the balls on the wax paper until most of it is pulled off the ball and then place it on a clean spot of the wax paper to set.
  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.
Happy Celebrating!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Freebie Cookbook

This link will provide you with some new, delicious recipes. I really like most of the Betty recipes, and of course it's free. Thanks Betty! Click on the link below to download your copy.

Best of Betty Summer Cookbook.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Picture Perfect Part II

There is so much to's a few more things that we love about D.C.

The National Archives where the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, 
the Constitution and the Bill of Rights live. 
 The Library of Congress- this is the Jefferson Building.
The US Capitol building. Let Freedom Ring!
 Our favorite place to eat is "Good Stuff Eatery." This is the place started by Spike Mendleshon from Top Chef. The food is awesome and we even got to meet Spike and chat for a few minutes.
 A roof top garden across from where we stayed.
 The Botanical Gardens
 Chinatown's main gate.
 There are hundreds of murals like this around town in Crystal City. It's way better than graffiti.
The Metro train station. It's clean, safe and a very efficient way to many adventures.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Picture Perfect

Yes it was 108 degrees with 40% humidity; and yes, there were hurricane force winds; and yes, there were blisters the size of dimes involved, but I would sell the remaining part of my soul to the devil to live here...

Ok, so maybe I'll never be president, but this is a most amazing city. Check out these highlights.

 This is at the Dulles location of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. 
Totally worth the bus, shuttle and metro rides to get here. The freakin' space shuttle! Shut up!

 The Lincoln Memorial. Worth the walk and truly inspirational.

The Vietnam Memorial. The wall stretches to the end of this picture. Thank you to all my family members who served in this war, and to all those who keep us safe every day.

 We were at Arlington on the hottest day in D.C. in 136 years. The guards wore their dress uniforms and continued to protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was one of the most amazing things to see the dedication they gave to their country and the honor and respect they have for each other and our country.

Washington Monument can be seen from almost any vantage point in the city. 
If being here doesn't make you proud to be an American, nothing else will.

The sunset was so vibrant and red. It was delightful.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Independance Day

This year's Fourth of July is unlike any other. Andy and I just got back from Washington, D.C. and it was a vacation of a lifetime. Since college my heart has been on the east coast. I don't know what it is about that area, maybe opportunities that I didn't take in my youth, but part of me is there. After a week in DC I have been reminded of why our country is so amazing.

We went to many attractions like the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Arlington Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier--we were there for changing of the guard--WOW, the Capitol, the National Archives, Supreme Court, the Pentagon, the Pentagon memorial, The White House, library of congress, St. Johns Church, Ford's Theatre and the house where Lincoln died.

We went to the Air and Space Museum and saw the space shuttle--Andy was in heaven. We went to the National Gallery of Art, National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum--I was in heaven. It was a fun, fantastic vacation and I will be forever grateful to my parents who made it possible for us to take our first kid free vacation. I hope it's not our last.

The trip was history in the making too. We arrived the day the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. We were there during 105+ degree weather-the hottest it's been in 136 years. And we were there and out in, hurricane rains and windstorm at 11 p.m. watching trees blowing apart and spin down the street. Needless to say, there are many reasons we won't forget this trip.

Here's a few things I learned. The Metro system rocks; People in DC are friendly--don't believe that reputation for rudeness it's simply not true; you can walk 50 miles in four days, but not without dime sized blisters on your feet; I love my country more today than ever before because I have a new understanding of sacrifice, loyalty and freedom; DC has big black suburbans en-mass on their streets too. The only difference is that those are filled with FEDS, not families of five. I will be going back and this time it won't take me 15 years to get back.

I have a ton of pictures of course, and as soon as I unpack maybe I'll post some. Happy Fourth of July. Hug a member of the military today because they are upholding a tremendous gift for all of us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuachan Pics - Summer Vacation

This is the Aladdin cast from Tuachan. They were so kind to sign autographs 
and chat with the guests. It's a must see show....any of their shows I say! Add this to your bucket list TODAY!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Vacation Highlights

We spent the last week on a much needed vacation with the family. It was great. We went to St. George had a blast. Our kids' needs and likes have changed a lot since we were there last, so our vacation was full of lots of new things. Here's the highlights and some tips for having a fun, frugal summer vacation in Southern Utah.

I made the kids pose for this picture of a "shoe tree." Don't know the story behind it, but it was awesome to see hundreds of shoes signed by their previous owners and hung on a random roadside tree.

We visited Zion Canyon. This is the hike to Weeping Rock. Water in a desert is quite a sight. The hike's not long, but it is quite the incline. I did make it to the top, which was a big accomplishment.  $25 for a week long pass to see Zion. They have a free shuttle that drops you off at several hikes along the canyon, no road traffic is allowed to park and hike. The shuttles are great and an easy way to travel with kids.
We also saw the Angel's Landing and the Court of the Patriarchs, pictured below.

We had a picnic at the Zions Lodge....
Then we stopped at a Trading Post around Rockville, UT. It had these cool replica period buildings. If you look close you'll see the Virgin Bank and Virgin Hotel.....hummmm.

We visited the Ghost Town of Grafton. I know why no one lives there. It's hard to find without GPS. It was worth the trip and their cemetery is humbling and peaceful. Truly a sacred place.

And of course we practiced our swimming tricks. Thanks Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Richard & Aunt Elaine for the house. We had a great time.

Tips for traveling to St. George:
There's tons to see for free--the St. George Temple, Brigham Young's House, Jacob Hamblin Home--for those of you who are history/ religion buffs. There are also 3 splash pads in Washington City (near St. G) or in Ancestor Square. There is also Sand Hollow Rec Center--they charge, but my kids had a great time, so it's probably worth it.

There a tons on parks so make a picnic and go to the park. We played volleyball and had lunch at local parks a few times and it was fun. Parks also make great "potty breaks" along the trip. McDonald's has free mini ice cream cones at the St. G location, or other inexpensive treats if you need a break.

The golden jewel of the trip was taking the girls and my nephew to Tuachan's "Aladdin." If you haven't visited Tuachan, it should be on your bucket list. The stage is set into the natural stone and dirt landscape. The actors were great, and even signed autographs after the show and took pics with the guests. I have some to post later. It was funny and well worth the ticket price. We will definitely go again. This is not a cheap event and kids under 3 are not allowed, but it is an amazing experience. (And no, they didn't pay me to say anything.)