Friday, December 13, 2013

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies

Christmas time is no fun without cookies.  We have our tried and true family favorites that we make year after year, but it's always fun to try a new recipe.  I participated in the virtual Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap co-hosted by White Lights on Wednesday, {i love} my disorganized life, and Real Housemoms.  For this swap, participants were paired up, then you sent your partner a cookie recipe.  Each person makes the recipe they received and then posts the recipe and photos for everyone to salivate over.

My partner was Elizabeth, who blogs at The Law Student's Cookbook.  She sent me the recipe for these yummy Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies.

(I modified her recipe just a bit since I don't have a food processor and I despise rolling out cookie dough, so I'll share my modified version.)

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp red food coloring (or if you’re using a gel food coloring, about 1 tsp or whatever looks good)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp coconut oil
1. Preheat your oven to 325. Cream together butter and sugar.  Add flour, cocoa powder and salt.  Mix until dough forms.  Add food coloring and knead to incorporate color throughout. (Disposable gloves will keep your hands from turning pink!)
2. Roll dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Slice each cookie about 1/2 inch thick and place on cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and allow to cool.
4. In a microwave-safe container, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil for 1 minute on 50% power.  Stir.  Continue to melt in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval, until mixture is smooth. Dip half of each cookie into the melted chocolate. Let stand on waxed paper until set (about 10 minutes in the freezer).  

Honestly, I preferred the cookies without the chocolate dipping and savoring the rich shortbread flavor, so you may want to leave them undipped. 

Check out all the other cookie swap recipes below.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Walks, walls and four-leaf clovers

I had an epiphany the other day while Bugaboo and I were walking home after dropping Princess off at school.  We're in the midst of a heat wave this last couple of weeks, so we were taking our time walking home.  At one point on our walk, there is a concrete retaining wall that Bugaboo loves to walk on.  As he was carefully taking each step, he was so proud to do it "by myself."  Sure, it took us twice as long to cover the distance, but the joy in his face was worth the extra time in the heat.  I took a little more notice of the trees and grass and absorbed the beauty of God's creations.  After the wall, I was watching the ground and noticed a four-leaf clover in amongst the grass.
image source
I have never found a four-leaf clover before.  I've been right there when others have spotted them, but I've never been the finder.  Even one day when I was visiting a friend with a patch loaded with mutant clover, I couldn't find any of the four-leaf variety.  A few feet down the sidewalk, I spotted another four-leaf.  I knew it must be a divine message to slow down and take more notice of things around me. And that's when my epiphany hit.

You see, I've had this little blog on my mind a lot lately.  Even though I may not be very active with my posting, it still sucks a good chunk of my time thinking about posts and post preparations.  I've felt prompted to take a step back from my life online and spend more time with my family.  I love my little corner of the web, but I feel like God wants me to prioritize better and focus more on uplifting and building relationships with my family.  I may still pop in from time to time, but for now, I need to put my schoolhouse on the backburner.  I've loved getting to know many of you and interacting through your comments.  Thanks for joining me on my adventure.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Road trip 101 - Packing

Packing for a trip is, quite possibly, one of my least favorite things.  It's right up there with mopping and taking out the garbage.  It used to be easy to throw several days worth of clothes into a suitcase, leave space for hubby to add his and off we went.  As kids came along, we expanded to two suitcases and various bags.  Now with a family of eight the amount of stuff we take just for a weekend trip can be daunting, let alone a week or more.

My solution is to let the kids do their own packing, within reason.  They choose their clothes and I approve them so we don't end up with their rattiest jeans, clashing outfits, etc.  We pack four days worth of clothes and do laundry every three or four days.  (Most of our trips are visiting family, so this works well, but a trip to a laundromat can be a fun break from sightseeing and offers a little downtime.)  If you like step-by-step lists with photos, here's one with some great space-saving ideas that we used when The Artist went to France and needed to travel light earlier this summer.

As far as toiletries, I try to condense as much as possible with one shampoo or toothpaste, etc. for the whole family.  Sometimes I'll even just pack sample sizes and purchase more at our destination.

Rather than try to fit everything into one big suitcase, I try to have smaller bags/suitcases for one or two people.  This helps the independence factor of being responsible for their own bag and gives hubby some practice at problem solving when he is figuring out how to pack everything in the back of our van. ;)

Each of the kids also gets to bring a small pillow, a blanket for the car and to sleep with and one stuffed animal.

Stay tuned for the next installment, combating the "Are we there yet" syndrome.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Announcing Road trip 101 - a new series

Have you missed me?  Probably not, but you can gush about my blogging absence if you want.  It will make me feel loved. ;)

Along with the crazy-busy summer schedule that happens with six kids and their activities, we just got back from a two-week trip to visit both sides of our family.  All in all, we put more than 2200 miles on our van and 30+ hours of drive-time to create lasting family memories.  Plus, we did it all without any movies or electronic games.  Sound impossible?  Not really.  I decided to share some of my planning and experience with the blog world in a new series I've titled Road Trip 101.
Watch for installments over the next few weeks with tips and tricks to keep your sanity on the road.  Have questions?  Leave me a comment and I'll try to answer them.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Skills I never knew I had

This handy little tool has become one of my best friends over the years:
Image source
I certainly never set out to become a handywoman.  It has kind of been thrust on me by kids.  Lately my trusty screwdriver has been used to remove and reinstall doorknobs.  Bugaboo has a knack for locking himself in the bathroom or my bedroom.  The problem then is that he can't unlock the door to get out.  Mom with her screwdriver to the rescue!  Have a toilet paper roll holder that has been taken off the wall?  Yep, I can fix that.  Towel bar pulled away from the wall brackets?  I can fix that, too.  Maybe I need to just ban Bugaboo from the bathroom entirely.

What unforeseen skills have you gained as a parent?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Insomnia book review + giveaways

Today's post is a little different than my usual posting.  The Author follows several teen fiction writers.  We were given the chance to review Insomnia, the debut novel for J. R. Johansson.
“Completely unputdownable. I’ve decided to nickname Johansson: Scary McScarypants, because she spooked me in all the best ways.” –Carrie Harris, author of BAD TASTE IN BOYS

We thought it would be fun to do a little question and answer session about the book. (Just to clarify, this is with my daughter, The Author, not J.R. Johansson, the author of Insomnia.  I would hate to confuse anyone there.)

Amy: We’ll start out with a question to make you think.  How would you describe Insomnia in 5 words or less?
The Author: Creepy ride with great characters.

Okay, now can you give us a quick plot summary for Insomnia?
Parker Chipp has not slept in four years. He’s pretty sure it’s killing him. Instead of sleeping, he goes into the dreams of the last person he makes eye contact with.
This all changes when a new girl appears in town. Mia’s dreams are peaceful and calm. Parker is able to sleep in them.
But then Mia is in danger from a real stalker… And everybody thinks it’s Parker. Parker isn’t too sure of his innocence once he discovers that he’s been leaving his room at night and finds himself near Mia’s house.

Who is your favorite character and why?
I loved Parker’s best friend, Finn. He wears cool T-shirts. He’s a great guy with a fantastic sense of humor. Finn has great development, too; I love well-developed characters!

Which character experienced the most growth?
Parker. He has to come to grips with his odd scenario, the fact that he’s acting very creepy just to catch Mia’s eye, and that he’s not exactly being the best friend for a time.

What did you learn, as a writer, from reading Insomnia?
I loved the characters. Everybody had a story and a part to play; they all had lives outside of Parker’s dilemma. I also loved how you had to keep guessing at who the villain was, as the plot twists changed your guess at the stalker just as you were certain it was someone. I’ll be able to look to that as reference in one of my books where I want to do that. Parker’s voice also felt natural. That’s not easy to pull off.

Fill in the blank:  If you loved ___________, you’ll like Insomnia.
The Author: The closest thing I can think of is Supernatural, the TV show. Both Supernatural and Insomnia are creepy, well-done horror that is not stereotypical. Insomnia has no ghosts, zombies, or serial killers and still manages to be a scary ride.

What do you hope to see in the future from J.R. Johansson?
The Author: The sequel to Insomnia comes out next year; it looks like Parker will be learning more about his unique ability and controlling it. I really want more non-stereotypical horror from Jenn, because that’s a genre that is being neglected in YA that she absolutely nailed.

What do you think?  Are you itching to get your hands on a copy?  Well, this would be your lucky day, because Jenn is giving away 10 signed copies.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
But wait, that's not all! Have you ever had the secret dream of being an author yourself?  I used to dream about becoming famous with my debut story about a penny and a nickel that got separated when the nickel was taken from the cash register drawer.  They each had their separate adventures until they finally got reunited in a coin purse.  Yep, it was going to be the next best thing before Harry Potter. Anyway, if you or someone you know is a budding author on the verge of stardom, you will love this giveaway.  Jenn is offering 10 first ten-page critiques.  So, you can find out if you have the next big idea.  Just remember, I called the penny and nickel adventure first!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! 
** Disclaimer -- We received a free ARC copy of Insomnia to review.  All opinions are our own.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sewing pioneer clothing

The Author is currently on a three-day handcart trek.  One of the requirements for the trek is to dress in period clothing.  While some sources recommend just shopping your local thrift store and finding clothing to modify, I've never had great luck shopping thrift stores and I knew I could come up with what we needed through sewing.

Here is our pioneer ready to hit the trail:
Some of my inspiration for this outfit came from a pattern: McCall's 9424.  The bonnet is directly from the pattern.  I used a stiff craft interfacing on the brim since previous bonnets I've made have been a bit on the floppy side.  This one was going to be used on the trail, I wanted something sturdy enough to provide good sun protection. 

The blouse is modified from the pattern.  I shortened the dress pieces to a blouse length and cut two inches off the width of the front and back pieces, so they're a little less gathered when attached to the yoke.  I also added a couple inches to the length of the sleeves.  I found this allowed for a little bit deeper casing than the pattern calls for and a bit less stress on my part when threading the elastic through.  I hope the unbleached muslin looks period enough.
I also used the pattern to make a dress, but it was packed away before I thought to get photos.  I'll have to grab an after photo for that one and explain my modifications.  The apron was an old one I made years ago for a pioneer-themed activity day.  It still fit and The Author decided that would be one piece I wouldn't have to sew this time around.  It was a bit shorter than I would have liked, but I'm just glad I had the foresight to add a nice deep pocket the first time around.
The skirt was made from a couple yards of excess fabric I had on hand.  I just cut it to length and used the selvage edge instead of a bottom hem.  I cut a waistband slightly larger than her waist (about 1 1/4 times her waist measurement) and gathered the skirt onto one edge.  The other edge of the waistband was folded over and sewed down over the gathered waistband seam to create an elastic casing.  Yes, an elastic-waist may not be true period, but I try to avoid buttons and buttonholes whenever possible, even with my one-touch buttonhole setting on my sewing machine.

You can't see it, but under the skirt is a petticoat of unbleached muslin.  For this I cut two panels from 45" wide fabric in my desired length.  Sew the selvage edges together for side seams.  Cut a piece of 1-inch wide elastic to the waist measurement plus 1/2".  Overlap elastic ends and stitch to secure.  Divide elastic into quarters and mark with pins.  Secure elastic to top edge of petticoat at side seams and center front and back.  Sew elastic to skirt with a zigzag stitch, stretching elastic between pins and pleating excess fabric to fit as needed.  We found it is most comfortable to wear with the elastic on the right side of the petticoat.

Any questions, please ask.  Hopefully someone else can find these ideas helpful in preparing for a trek.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crocheted beaver hat

This past weekend I finished a year-long adventure that was called Wood Badge.  For those that might not be familiar with this course, it is an adult leadership course through Boy Scouts of America.  My course was two 3-day weekends of camping and hands-on instruction in a small group called a patrol.  For me this was the Beaver Patrol.  Then I had to put this knowledge into practice and complete my ticket (five Scouting goals).

The reward for completing the process is a neckerchief scarf and leather woggle (neckerchief slide),  and two little wooden beads on a leather thong, in addition to the experience and prestige.
The other ladies that completed the course with me both had hats to represent their respective patrols.  So, I set out to figure out how to create a beaver hat.  After some looking, I found a pattern.  However, being the frugal person that I am, I didn't want to pay for something that I could probably figure out on my own.  I kept searching and hopped onto the Repeat Crafter Me site since I knew she had several free hat patterns there.  A combination of a few patterns and some free-handed elements and I have my own beaver hat:
My hat used the basic hat instructions from this Sock Monkey Hat pattern and crocheted in a spiral rather than joining each round.  The ears are from the same pattern, but I folded them in half to create a smaller, 3-D looking ear.  I wanted a little bit of a feminine touch, so I used the bow pattern from this Penguin Hat to make the purple bow.  The other facial elements were my own creation for the muzzle, nose and teeth.  The eyes are black buttons sewn onto white felt circles.  The whiskers were just sewn on with black yarn.
I made my own pattern for the tail.  I'm not sure I like it, but it works for the general idea.  I think it's a little short.  I might try to change that at some point.
What do you think, is making beaver hats my calling in life?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Budding photographer

Over the weekend we learned that Princess has quite an artistic eye when it comes to photography.  She got hold of the camera and was snapping some photos after my Woodbadge beading ceremony.  While you might look at a photo like this and think it's a person hiding behind a water bottle, consider that the human subject is nicely centered, in focus and pretty good proportions. (Even if she is hiding.)  Most of the person photos Little Miss Sunshine snapped were at awkward side angles or done in such a way to leave the subjects headless or with floating heads.
Here's another example of an odd photo -- a purple water bottle in the middle of a grassy patch.  But, where do you  focus as you look at the picture?  The bright water bottle right in the middle.  I say, for a 6-year-old, it's not a bad color contrast and good centering.
I bet you've never thought to take a picture of pink, have you?  This was an extreme close up of the storage bag from a camp chair.
At first glance this is just a dandelion.  However, as I looked at it more, I realized the artistic quality of the dandelion head being right in the center and focused as opposed to the blurred grass in the background.  It may not be the best angle for the flower head, but again, this was taken completely independently by a six-year-old.
This photo I love.  It was probably a random snap as the sun was going down, but I really like the brilliant sun causing the rest of the image to be in shadow.  I was surprised by the composition of the trees on the sides and the open space in the middle.  I definitely don't think I could have created something like this even if I'd tried.
I'll be the first to admit that I am not a great photographer.  I do my best to capture my subjects, but I will not be going pro any time soon.  Maybe I should start hiring Princess.  What do you think?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pin-spired hair - Game of Thrones styles

I was excited when I saw this week's challenge for Make-up Monday at Agape Love Designs.  The challenge is to recreate a look, mani/pedi, or hair style that you found on or pinned to Pinterest.

Makeup Monday

The Artist has quite a collection of hairstyle pins.  Over the past several weeks we've given a couple of them a try.  This pin and this pin to video tutorials were the winners for our attempts.

The first style is a Daenerys-inspired braided style.  I'll admit, I know nothing about Game of Thrones or any of the characters, so I have no idea how realistic this style might be, but it did turn out pretty cute.
I was a little nervous for the waterfall braid section, but all in all it wasn't too bad to do.  My spacing needs a little bit of help, but I'm sure that probably comes with practice.

The second style is for Arya Stark.  (Sorry for a less-than stellar photo, it was the best we ended up with.) 
This style is a double braid bun.  Wrap the braids around each other and pin in place.  Both of the pins above ^^ link to great video tutorials that move step-by-step at an easy-to-follow pace.

Special thanks to The Artist for encouraging me to play with her hair and to Maria and Andrea for hosting a great Makeup Monday challenge.  Maybe I'll try some pin-spired looks for me next.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

April Blog Angel reveal

This past month I was a blog angel, spreading cheer through comments.  The blog I chose this time was Simply Smiling . . . Everyday!
I really like helping small bloggers through the Blog Angel program.  I know how much comments mean to me, so I like spreading the comment love to other blogs.  Here's a few of my favorite posts you should go check out:
This adorable thumbprint frog tote
Fun rainbow cupcakes
Sunset inspiration

If you'd like to be a Blog Angel, signups for the next round open May 15 for June.  Visit Craftbotic to get the details.  Rosie really wants to get more than 30 people involved for the next round.  It doesn't have to be anything big or spectacular, just commenting on posts works.  It really doesn't take much time and you just might find a new blog or two that you enjoy.  Maybe I'll be your Blog Angel next.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Methinks mine offspring hath too much spare time

Good Greetings, gentlereaders.  Prithee, mark thee this, by decree of the honorable Governor of the State of Nebraska, this day, April the 23rd, is Talk Like Shakespeare Day across the land.  By my troth, 'tis the truth. I do beseech thee, joineth me and bid thine honor to the great bard, himself, upon this, the 449th anniversary of his birth.  Perchance thou shalt discovereth thy new form of speech.  Or mayhap 'twould be folly.

Whew, I am apparently not as up on my "Shakespeare-ese" as I used to be.  If thou wouldst like to join in the fun, here's a few hints to add a Shakesperean flair to your speech today.  (borrowed from the Nebraska Shakespeare website)
  • Instead of you, say thou or thee (and instead of y’all, say ye). 
  • Men are Master, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin
  • Don’t waste time saying "it," just use the letter "t" (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t). 
  • When in doubt, add the letters "eth" to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth). 
  • To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore
  • When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say "Get thee to a nunnery!
  • When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.
  • Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.
 Many thanks to The Author for sharing this fun day with me.

But that's not all -- (do I sound like an infomercial?)  Today is also a big day in the Doctor Who fandom.  For weeks we have seen this on our calendar, courtesy of The Artist:
That's right folks, today is Tally Mark Day, honoring the 2nd anniversary of the debut of The Silence in "The Impossible Astronaut" episode.  What are The Silence, you ask? They're freaky creatures that cause you to forget them as soon as you look away:
from the Silence Tally Mark Facebook page
What was I saying?  Oh yes, I was going to explain The Silence.  They're freaky creatures that cause you to forget them.

What was that?  Oh yes, I was explaining The Silence.  They're freaky creatures . . .

Anyway, in the episodes the characters devise a system of making tally marks on their arms and faces to remind themselves that they have seen a Silence.  The Artist dutifully marked her arms this morning before school and The Author planned to mark her arms once she got to school.  I think I'll pass and let them have the fun today.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April blog angel - the halfway point


If you've been around for a while, you probably know that I love participating in the Blog Angel program.  Since Rosie adapted the program so you get to choose who you are an angel to each time, I have tried to reach out to blogs that I might not have discovered otherwise.  Sometimes I've used a blog that I've been paired with for an exchange of some sort, sometimes I just pick from the list of blogs that want to have an angel.  I really don't have a set plan for choosing, I just go with one that feels right at the time.  I do like to choose smaller bloggers so my comments don't just get lost in a sea of other commenters.  Plus I think it means more to support someone trying to get their blogging feet underneath them, so to speak.

This month I've been an angel to . . . wait, this is my halfway post.  I can't spill the beans yet!  Just know that I am trying to secretly brighten the blogging life of ______________.  You'll have to stop by at the end of the month to fill in the blank.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cake Boss cakes: a review

A few months ago we discovered TLC's Cake Boss on Netflix.  It quickly became a family favorite, especially for Little Miss Sunshine.  She celebrated her birthday this week and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try a Cake Boss Cake.

I should mention that I am not a big cake purchaser.  I'm usually a "throw a box mix together and make some homemade buttercream to cover it" kind of mom.  Sometimes I've splurged on Costco cakes for birthdays, but we typically go the homemade route. 

We have several stores where they are supposed to be available, so the morning of her birthday I walked into the bakery section and asked where they had their Cake Boss cakes.  I was told that they didn't sell well at that location so they quit carrying them (although this location still pulls up on the Cake Boss Cake site).   A phone call to a different location and I was set to go buy a cake.

I opted for the Bada Bloom version:
This is a 7-inch two-layer cake comprised of yellow and chocolate cake layers with chocolate fudge filling.  I'll be honest, I almost didn't walk out of the store with cake in hand once I saw the size and the price - $24.99.  I chalked it up as part of the cost of the birthday and gritted my teeth at the checkout.  This had better be some good cake for that kind of money. 

Let's keep score here: 1 strike for small size, 1 strike for outrageous price = 2 strikes.

Upon examining the box at home, this cake didn't come from Hoboken, NJ (shh, don't tell Little Miss Sunshine!), but is manufactured at Dawn Food Products in Jackson, MI.

Another strike = 3 strikes.

When we cut into the cake I was surprised to see a chocolate layer with the yellow.  Apparently I missed that in the description and was expecting two yellow layers.  With chocolate fudge filling, how can you go wrong?

1 plus for chocolate cake and 1 plus for chocolate fudge = 2 plusses and 3 strikes.

The cake itself was firm and stayed sturdy through cutting and serving.

Another plus = 3 plusses and 3 strikes, we're tied back at square one more or less.

It came down to taste:  the frosting wasn't that sickly sweet buttercream, and although sweet (it is frosting, afterall) it wasn't overly sweet.  Plus 1 there.  The cake was disappointingly bland and a touch on the dry side (from being frozen?). 

Score: 1 plus and 1 strike for flavor, 1 strike for dry cake = 4 plusses and 5 strikes.

So, what's the final verdict?  Will I be buying any more Cake Boss cakes? 
I would have to say no. 
I can't justify the price for the size of the cake.  While I liked the frosting over many store-bought buttercreams, the bland, dry cake just doesn't work.  I can make my own dry cake from scratch for less.  Better yet, I'll stick to a mix.  If you want to buy a cake, your money would be better spent on something fresh from the store's bakery.  If you happen to have a good (non-dry) cake recipe, please send it my way. 

On a side note, do you know what happens when you leave the used birthday candles in reach of a three-year-old?  Peanut butter sandwich "birthday cake".

** Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored in any way, shape or form.  I purchased a Cake Boss Cake from a local grocery store at my own expense and have received no reimbursement or compensation.  All opinions are entirely my own. **

Sunday, April 7, 2013

That's how much food?

This weekend is the semi-annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This is also the time when we rotate the food in our 72-hour kits.  (See this post for what we have in them.)  Have you ever considered the amount of food consumed in a 72-hour time period?  This is the aftermath from our rotation:
In case you've ever wondered what supplies for 3 days for a family of 8 might consist of, this is from 24 toaster pastries, 24 protein bars, 48 granola bars, 24 packages of dehydrated fruit, 24 candy bars 1 case of pudding cups, 48 fruit snack packages, 1 bag of hard candy, and 24 boxes of raisins.  This time we didn't rotate our cans - 24 canned pasta and 24 canned fruit, or our water - 48 half-liter bottles.  No matter how you look at it, that's a lot of food! 
The positive is that we have plenty of snacks to munch on while we watch Conference and listen to messages from Church leadership.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our wacky, April Fool's dinner

For April Fool's Day, I decided to do a wacky dinner.  I thought about disguising the menu with creative names and letting everyone order in courses, but I wasn't feeling very inspired with creativity.  So, I went a different route and collected a variety of utensils, plate-substitutes and cup-substitutes.  I assaigned numbers for each type of item and let everyone choose a number out of a hat to determine what they got to use.  We had some pretty funny combinations.
For plates, we had a sundae dish, large mixing bowl lid, medium mixing bowl, cake pan, aluminum foil, small glass prep bowl, pie plate, pizza pan.

For the utensils, each person got one of the following: tongs, potato masher, measuring spoon, small cookie scoop, measuring cup, spatula, large mixing spoon, small rubber scraper/spatula.

As for the drinks, we used the waffle batter measure, measuring spoon, small glass jar, dressing carafe, measuring cup, small graduated measuring cup, Pyrex measuring cup, shot glass.

I tried a new recipe and made Ratatouille since we had a lot of Italian veggies and herbs from our last Bountiful Basket.  It was good, but not a family favorite.  Part of the issue may have been the difficulty in eating.  At least the deviled eggs went over well.

All in all, this was a fun dinner activity and one that the kids have asked to repeat.  That's always a good sign.  Have you ever done a wacky dinner?  How did it turn out?

Monday, April 1, 2013

That's a good one, Mother Nature

Over the year's I've seen some pretty good April Fool's jokes.  This was Mother Nature's joke on us this morning:
This is quickly turning into the year when winter just won't quit.  At least our new ground cover should be gone this afternoon when we warm up to a whopping 40 degrees!

What do you have planned for April Fool's Day?  I'm thinking of doing a mixed up mystery dinner for my family.  We'll see how that goes.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pinterest party

Since Mother Nature has decided it isn't time for warm, spring weather, regardless of what the calendar or Punxsutawney Phil might have to say about the matter, our spring break was less than springy and spent indoors.  One day The Artist and a friend decided it was high time to finally have a Pinterest-inspired get-together.  We threw together a few activities and had an enjoyable afternoon.

The first item on the table for the teens was melted crayon art.
 We didn't really follow a specific tutorial for this, they just hot-glued the crayons on a canvas.
Then hit the whole thing with a hot blow dryer to melt the wax. (One note of caution, the wax can splatter off the canvas and the force of the air has a tendency to move the melted wax around, so some experimentation is probably a good idea.)
The girls tried using masking tape to leave a blank area to add an inspirational word.  That didn't work out so well.  I don't know if something stickier would work, or vinyl or just what.

Little Miss Sunshine and Princess wanted a project, so I pulled out some rick rack and attempted making roses.  The original plan was to try this tutorial from the Crafting Chicks.  However, I was too lazy to pull out my sewing machine, so I used Kadie's no-sew tutorial here.  We used medium rick rack in 12-inch lengths and it made the perfect size roses to put on barrettes.
Some opened up better than others.  For the multi-colored one, we put the white, wrong-sides of the two strips together as we twisted them so there would still be some color when it was opened.  However, Little Miss Sunshine decided she wanted it to stay closed.  It works, either way.
Our last project was a batch of the BYU Mint Brownies that can be found all over Pinterest. To be honest, these were ho-hum.  Granted, I didn't realize there was a difference between mint extract and peppermint extract, so maybe that makes a difference in the final outcome.  I've never had the original from BYU, so I can't say how ours compared.  However, we did have some "cool" brownies.
Have you ever had a Pinterest-party?  What did you make?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Random Friday

Today I thought I'd join Megan in sharing 5 random facts about me:

1 - I've never traveled outside the continental U.S.  Someday I hope to visit my sister in Canada and vacation in Hawaii.  A Caribbean cruise would be fun, too.

2 - I can't stand the texture of marshmallows.  They must be melted for me to eat them.

3 - I hate mopping floors.  That really why I've taught my kids how to clean the bathroom, and the kitchen, and the tile entry.  Or maybe I just hate cleaning in general.

4 - Someday I plan to go back to school and get a masters degree.

5 - I've always wanted to play the flute and violin.

Come join the party at and here's to you, Mrs. Robinson. :)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Parenting: I need help

Okay, maybe some people would look at me and say I'm doing a great job as a parent.  I certainly hear it from my kids' teachers all the time.  However, I can always use new ideas to help tweak my parenting and make it better (just ask my kids, or maybe not, that could get ugly).  I was thrilled to see that Andi of The Hollie Rogue is starting a faith-based parenting book club.  To start things off, we're reading Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel.
The first discussion will be April 8, and cover the first two chapters.  That gives you plenty of time to place a library hold, etc.  Won't you join the club?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pins worth trying

I'm great at pinning things to try later.  Problem is, "later" may never actually come.  So, I decided to remedy this affliction for a couple of my pins.  If you love cinnamon rolls (or even if you don't), these pancakes need to go on your "to-try" list ASAP.  They were so good, I didn't even get any photos of my version, so you'll have to let your mouth water with the original.
Cinnamon Roll Pancakes pinned here
I used fresh ground whole wheat flour and instead of a cream cheese glaze just did a vanilla glaze (3/4 cup powdered sugar, 2-3 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla).

Another "tried that" pin is these no-rise rolls.
No-rise rolls pinned here
We demolished the recipe for dinner and snacks throughout the evening.  I whipped up another batch for use in lunches when I realized we didn't have any bread in the house.  Those didn't last very long, either.  I subbed whole wheat flour and added 1/2 cup flax meal.  My next attempt will be replacing the sugar with honey.

While I can in no way take any responsibility for the original posting, I highly recommend both of these recipes.  Let me know if you try them and what you think.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday 10 - Favorite Picture Books

Since I'm chairing the book fair at our elementary school this week, I thought I'd compile a list of my 10 favorite picture books.  Some are favorites from my childhood and some are favorites for my kids.
(All the images have been borrowed from

1- "I can't" said the ant is the first book I ever remember getting from a book order.  My first grade class read it together and the teacher encouraged everyone to order a copy.
2- The Little House was a childhood favorite.
3- The Poky Little Puppy - another childhood favorite.
4- Love You Forever - Somehow I was in college before I heard of this book.  I got a copy for myself when my oldest was a baby.  I can't read it without tearing up at the end.
5- The Monster at the End of This Book was a favorite when my younger siblings were little.

6- Another Monster at the End of This Book was a discovery when my kids were little.  Our copy got all beat up, so I need to find another one.
7- Guess How Much I Love You - we didn't own a copy until I found a "Baby's First Year" calendar for one of my kids.  Then I had to get the book to match.

8- Stellaluna  was another college discovery.  I've used it with my own kids to help them learn that bats aren't scary.
9- Are You My Mother?  is one I remember having my aunts read to me when I was little.
10- Winnie the Pooh is a classic from my childhood.  I remember reading how to play Poohsticks and thought it was the best game ever.  I even created a version with toothpicks in a cake pan for a group project in my college Children's Lit class.

I'll be linking up with Mindy.