Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ultimate Fudgy Brownies

We are celebrating summer and my brother-in-law's birthday today with these awesome brownies from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Granny's Drawers." I doubled the recipe for a 13x9 pan.

4 oz. Unsweetened chocolate (I used chocolate bark)
2 sticks margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate & margarine. Remove from heat and add the sugar and eggs and stir well. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla and stir well. Stir in nuts. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan and bake about 25 minutes or until edges pull away from the pan and a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Let cool completely before cutting.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Beat the Heat White Chocolate Tropical Fruit Salad

It is soooo hot outside pretty much everywhere in the country.  So hot we lost power last night.  The heat makes me think of citrus, which I am usually not drawn to so much because I have a history of heartburn.  But this light and fluffy citrus fruit salad is the perfect thing to temp the kids to take a break from the pool and the white chocolate adds a richness.
Start with 4 large navel oranges.  Cut off the ends and then trim off the peel with a paring knife.  Carefully cut along each membrane so the juicy part of the orange comes out without any membrane or pith.  If they are large pieces, cut them into smaller bite-sized chunks.  Put aside in a mixing bowl - make sure to drain any juice off your cutting board into the bowl too.  Cut up one fresh pineapple into similar size as your orange pieces and put the pineapple and its juice into the bowl with the orange.  Take 4 bananas and cut into chunks the same size as your oranges and pineapples.  Add to the bowl and use a rubber spatula to carefully turn together until the banana chunks are all coated in the citrus juice.  This will keep your bananas from turning brown.  Dump the fruit into a colander to drain while you make the rest.

Melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips.  To chocolate chips add 1 cup sour cream and 1 cup whipped cream cheese.  Beat until fluffy.  Add 1/2 a package of mini marshmallows and 1 cup chopped cashews to the whipped mixture and mix well with a spatula.  Add the fruit and carefully fold together until well combined.  Let sit for 1/2 hour refrigerated to let the flavors combine and the marshmallows absorb some of the liquid.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Teaching Sportsmanship

My husband sent me the link to this story today - (updated 5/6/13 - the video doesn't work on the story anymore but here is a link to it on YouTube.)  Be sure to watch the video to the end - its not long.
My brother plays hockey and I have witnessed similar taunting by parents and other coaches - particularly on the high school level - but really all along.  Many teams like ours makes parents sign a commitment like this one to appropriate sportsmanship or the player can be the one who loses their right to play.  One game, my step-dad was manning the door and a mother from the opposing team came up to him screaming in his face (pretty nervy since he's 6'4" and not a small guy) about the calls and lack thereof being made by the referees.  I'm not sure if she thought he worked there or what.  

In another game that was part of a tournament, I witnessed parents being particularly obnoxious and taunting the players themselves - a bunch of high school kids being watched by their high school friends and younger siblings.  A couple of the parents started name-calling the kids and screaming demeaning comments.  Up to that point the game had been hard fought on both sides but relatively fair and both sides had equal penalties.  As each period came to an end, the players grew angrier and angrier with the harassment coming from the crowd.  A couple of the kids upon heading to the locker room shouted back at the parents in frustration.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Random Happenings From Last Week

We are really struggling this week (not sure if its allergies or a virus we are passing back and forth) so I'm very far behind in what I wanted to do and share for this week but we had so much fun stuff happen last week I thought I'd share a few random highlights...

First little boy told me I looked like a princess so I thought "today is a good day to try for a new mug shot"...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cashew Chicken

This is a Chinese chicken stir fry inspired by the lettuce wraps from P.F. Changs and its a big hit in my house. Start with 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts and dice them finely. Saute in 2 tblsp butter for about 4 minutes, add 1 small package of fresh sliced mushrooms, a cup of finely diced cashews, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/8 tsp pepper. Continue to saute until chicken and mushrooms are cooked through. Serve over sticky rice.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Citrus Bars

This is the light summer treat we are enjoying poolside today! Quick and easy for the kids to help with. Here's what you need.

1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp fresh orange zest
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp lemon juice

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter until fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients in order, mixing well in between each. Spread dough evenly in a buttered large baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees about 10 minutes or until edges were lightly browned.

Stir together 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tblsp orange mango. juice. Brush lightly over bars. Let bars cool completely.

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tblsp lime juice

Stir together. Add more lime juice as needed until smooth and spreadable. Spread evenly over bars and let set 5 minutes. Cut into 2 inch squares to serve.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Deluxe Grill Packets

Here's just the side to compliment whatever you are grilling out - or add an egg to the packet and cook over the campfire for breakfast! Start with 5 potatoes - washed and sliced thinly. Slice one large onion thinly. Lay out 6 pieces of foil and divide potatoes and onions piled in the center of each foil packet. Top each with 3 thin slices of black forest ham, 1 slice of smoked provolone, and about 1/4 cup of shredded colby jack cheese. Season with salt and pepper and top with a small slice of butter. Put two edges of the foil together and roll together. Then roll the two open sides to seal the packet. Poke a small hole in the top of each packet to release steam. Grill about 10-15 minutes or until poatatoes & onions are soft. You could top with a dollop of sour cream but they don't really need it. Grill 'em tonight!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Free eBooks Chicken Recipe Book Download from Gooseberry Patch

I love recipes and cookbooks but I have SO many printed that I rarely have time to sit down and organize them so I can find the one I am looking for.  Gooseberry Patch makes it easy for all you e-reader fans to download their free recipe books and save the cookbook storage mess.  Try this one full of chicken recipes!
eBooks-Gooseberry Patch

A Feature at Nutmeg Place

Nutmeg Place - I just love that name!  It just sounds so warm and cozy and friendly.  Like a great place to curl up with a book and your favorite beverage.  Meg is just that kind of host so be sure to go check out her blog!  This week she featured my Strawberry Butter Fluff Dessert from the All Star Block Party.  Thanks so much, Meg!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Inspiration from Great-Grandpa #2

If you missed my first post about my great-grandpa, you'll find more of the story here.  He was a very smart guy and one who loved to get right down at kid level and play.  We spent a few weeks each summer at their little house with he and Great-Grandma.  They would have been great teachers - well, actually, they were great teachers to everyone who knew them.

We had so much fun there, often when my parents would come to pick us up we were reluctant to leave (sorry, Mom, I now understand how that feels!) so he would chase us around the yard and make it a game of tag and "safe" was the backseat of the car.

He loved to come up with simple but fun new things for us to play with.  While the girls far outnumbered the boys in the family, we were all tough farm girls and loved sports and getting in the dirt as much as any little boy.  There were usually three of us there at the same time - my youngest aunt, my brother and I.  We loved to play baseball but often he and Grandma had chores to do, meals to prep, etc. so they couldn't sit there and pitch to us all day.  So he came up with this simple batting jug that he would tie to the trees that we could bat with the plastic wiffle ball bats.  We spent hours and hours swinging at these things.  I couldn't even tell you how many of these he made for us - we would crush them until they were flat as a pancake and then he'd make us another.  He also took some of these and cut a flap out just above the window and put birdseed inside for the finches and chickadees.

You need an empty water jug or washed out milk jug, a couple colors of spray paint, and string (I used baler twine from my hay).  

Just spray paint the outside randomly in layers of color.  Make sure to coat the bottoms too.  It takes very little paint so this is a good project for leftovers.  Let them sit in the sun about 5 minutes and they will be totally dry.

Tie the twine around the handle and knot a few times to make sure it won't come undone (remember this is going to take a beating like a pinata).  Then find a tree branch to hang it from and let the kids go to town on it.  Be careful about the string length - you don't want it to be a danger to kids or pets.  I like to leave enough extra length that I can raise or lower it as the kids want but then loop the excess in a knot at the top of the tree branch.  Also, when the kids are done for the day, I raise it up out of the way so no kids or pets can get tangled in it.  This picture is before I trimmed the excess off.

Here is the Princess demonstrating how much fun it is.  They get lots of giggles trying to get the jug stuck up in the tree too, haha.  She suggested last night that you could fill it with candy and use it as a pinata for a party too.  I think she's right.  Before you paint, you could cut three sides about half up the jug, fill it with candy and then tape it shut with masking tape or washy tape.  Leave the cap on the top.  Then spray paint.

Recommended Reading for Toddlers/Preschoolers

A strong ability to read is the very foundation of education for your child.  The earlier and more consistently you work with them to build the basics of reading skills, the easier it will be for them to pick up and the more interested they will typically be.  

If you are looking for some fun books to teach manners and help your toddler or preschool build their reading skills, I highly recommend the Magic Castle Readers series.  (Nope, I am not being paid for this post.)

I bought this series when my daughter was about 2 years old and began reading them to her every night.  She would pick 2-3 of them each night (and often beg for another round).  She is 8 now, is reading above her grade level and yet still enjoys reading them to her little brother.  

The words are simple and the font size makes it easy to point along with your finger for little ones to follow along (I always do this when reading a story - it helps them build visual word and letter recognition).  When I realized that she knew the story well enough to have some of the words memorized, I would start to leave out a word at the end of my sentence and she would fill it in, and then later, I would leave out the repetitive phrase throughout the books and she would read that.  

The illustrations are also great at re-enforcing the message but being fun and colorful to keep their attention.  Each book features a little poem in the front about libraries being a magic castle and books being like a magic word window - this little saying fascinated my daughter from day one.  At the back of each book are pages that ask the children to repeat words or ideas from the story to enforce the learning experience and help you gauge how well they have learned what you are trying to teach them.

The stories all have an implication about manners and everyday behavior skills young children are building.    Some of our favorites are:
Yes, No, Little Hippo  - A Book About Being Safe (Magic Castle Readers)
These ones in particular are great for reviewing inappropriate behaviors like doing what mom and dad tell you not to, how being grumpy impacts those around you, and good habits versus bad habits.  I like to pull these out when we are having a rough day and I'm losing my mind.  A few minutes of quiet snuggling up reading these stories and usually the kids pick right up on what are the good behaviors and what are the inappropriate ones.  Then we can discuss how Little Man jumping on Mommy's bed could result in a fall like the one Little Hippo takes but when Little Hippo listens very good and does the right thing then he gets a reward for being good.

Some of the books like
The Magic Moon Machine (Magic Castle Readers… focus on counting and reasoning skills.

 Others improve memory and rhyming abilities.

So if you are looking for some reading that will keep your young one's attention but also provide a multi-faceted learning benefit, I highly recommend the Magic Castle Reader series.  It does appear to be out of print but I was able to find many available online at a reasonable cost and I have seen them in our local library as well.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Humbly Featured Today at Full Circle Creations!

I am sooo thrilled to find others who enjoy the same kinds of things I do and today my Strawberry Butter Fluff Dessert is being featured over at Full Circle Creations from my link to the All Star Block Party.  Please be sure to stop by and check out all the other great projects and link up your projects to tomorrow's All Star Block Party!

Thank you to all my new followers and all of you who have invited me to your Linky Parties!  If you haven't visited me at Twitter or Pinterest, please follow me there too.  I try to share lots of goodies from like-minded bloggers I think you will enjoy too!

Buffalo Chicken Wings

My husband LOVES a good chicken wing.  And since we often host a few of the guys during football season, a good wing recipe is a must.  These are not for the little kids - they are not killer but are pretty hot!

All you need for this one is a 3-5 lb bag of frozen chicken wing sections, a bottle of Frank's Red Hot, a bottle of Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce, and a bottle of your favorite ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping.

Start with your oven at 425 degrees and lay your frozen wings on a large baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for about an hour and 20 minutes or until the outside has started to caramelize and get crispy.

 In a large heat-proof bowl, toss the wings with the bottle of hot wing sauce.  
Return to the baking sheet and bake an additional 10 minutes until the sauce has soaked in.
 Spoon any leftover sauce over the wings on the baking sheet and then drizzle with Red Hot sauce.  
Bake an additional 3-5 minutes until the Red Hot sauce is heated through.  
Serve with celery sticks and your favorite ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Beef Ravioli with Artichokes

Need a quick meal to feed a crowd?  Here is a semi-homemade ravioli that will please a crowd in 30 minutes and not break your budget.  

2 packages frozen beef ravioli (without sauce)
1 large jar spaghetti sauce
2 cans artichokes in brine, drained
fresh parsley
fresh oregano or dried Italian seasoning
salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add frozen ravioli.  Boil until all the ravioli is floating at the top.  Drain well and return ravioli to the pot.  Add spaghetti sauce, artichokes, and about 1 teaspoon fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning.  Add a general pinch each of salt and pepper.  Stir well and heat through.  Serve with some fresh snipped parsley on top and salt and pepper to taste.  You could top with some freshly grated Parmesan.  Serve with garlic bread and a salad.  For a family of 4 just cut the ingredient amounts in half.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers just want a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Did you see this survey on MSNBC?

Or the follow up article by a dad feeling the sting.

I'll admit - reading these twanged the guilt strings a bit.  I do sometimes realize that I find it much easier to criticize than encourage when it comes to my husband and parenting.  Rather than praise him for the efforts he makes - even though I do notice it and smile to myself - often what comes out of my mouth is a tip on how he could do it better or showing him the way I do it.  I don't usually hear the criticism or bitterness that can creep into my comments in the moment but in that rewind in my head (usually when I'm wondering why he's clenching his jaw and making excuses to head to the garage).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day Finished Gift Basket

Not the best picture as I was trying to finish and sneak pics while he was showering, haha. Its so much easier when they are gone the day before! I will post better pics after the gift is delivered tomorrow. Happy Father's Day!

Last Minute Father's Day $1 Bucket

So its Saturday morning and you are thinking about just making breakfast for "dad" tomorrow and calling it good.  Well, here's an idea you can run out and do today and he'll think you planned far ahead.

I love to put together gift assortments - bags, baskets and in this case, buckets.  I start by choosing a theme. In this case, I decided to do a "superhero" theme.  My husband loves Superman (and even looks a little like Clark Kent) and my little guy loves all superheros.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My First FaceBook Fan Page Feature!

Thank you SO much to Carri at Simply Done Wright for featuring my Strawberry Butter Fluff Dessert on your FaceBook Fan Page!  

Come see all the other fantastic goodies at the All Star Blogger Block Party!  Some really talented folks there!

Fellow bloggers have been so warm and welcoming as I stumble my way through learning this new world.  Speaking of can find and follow me on StumbleUpon and BlogFrog I just haven't figured out how to add their buttons yet.  I'm still trying to learn all the etiquette, tools, tips and tricks so bear with me!  And certainly, please share any advice or feedback you have!  

Thank you so much for those who are following and taking the time to comment - I love your visits!  I do visit and follow each of you who leave a comment or follow me and love seeing what great blogs you all have too.  You are all so creative and inspiring!

Strawberry Butter Fluff Dessert

This heavenly bit of loveliness is sure to make you the hit of your summer parties.  
My family gobbled this up shamelessly the first night.  

On the second night, the minute we got home from work 
my 3-year-old son sidled up to me, aimed those pleaded big green eyes my way, 
puckered up to give me a kiss (he knows mommy so well, lol)
and begged "Pleeeeeaaaassssse, Mommy, 
can I have some of the strawberry dessert? 

Large Families

If you've read my profile you may have caught that we have a lot of family who live nearby but let me give you an idea of how much family we are talking about here...  

My husband is #10 in a family with 12 siblings - yes, I know, that is not a typo.  Nearly all of them are married and there are a total of nearly 30 grand-kids and the first great-grand baby is on the way.  His parents and several siblings with their children live within 20 miles of us.  
A portion of the grand-kids on "pumpkin patrol" at the family reunion.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Taco Pie - Leftovers Remade

Another great use for leftovers - this time - use your leftover taco or nacho meat!
Start with a large, oven safe skillet or baking dish - 
I love my large cast iron skillet for this as its the same size as the tortillas.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fun Summer Kid Snacks!

Are your kids bored with the usual snacks?  Do you have older kids who want more "grown up" snacks?  Try these!

Red, White and Blue Fruit Tray:
Easy but looks fun!  Fresh diced pineapple, sliced strawberries and blueberries in a colorful arrangement.  Excellent way to make sure they eat and stay hydrated on those hot summer days when they don't want to eat much.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strawberry Freezer Jam

One of my favorite summer treats is homemade strawberry freezer jam.  It is soooo much better and prettier than anything you will find in the store.  It is so versatile - on your toast, on your pancakes, ice cream topping, cooking, shakes, as a yogurt topping...  And this method takes a lot of the time and hassle out of it - especially when you are short on time to can.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Coffee-Time Treat, Last-Minute Teacher Gift Idea and Weekend Wrap Up

Good morning!  What a busy weekend!  I'm starting the morning with this coffee and a treat.

It is a tasty strawberry cream cheese breakfast square.  Very easy to make.  You need two package of refrigerated crescent roll dough, two packages of cream cheese (softened), about a cup of fresh sliced strawberries, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, an additional 1/4 sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the cream cheese.  Add the vanilla, 1/2 cup of sugar, and egg and beat well.  Fold in the strawberries.  Press one package of the crescent dough into the bottom of a greased 13x9 baking dish.  Spread the cream cheese mixture on to evenly.  Top with the second package of crescent dough - stretch and press the edges together to cover the entire top surface.  Bake at 350 about 25 minutes or until the top is golden.  Mix the 1/4 cup of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle on top.  Let cool completely and then refrigerate overnight.  Cut into squares and serve cold.  Yum!

On Thursday night I was scrambling for a last-minute teacher/principal gifts so here is what I made:

 Trail Mix:  2 cups pretzel sticks, 2 cups Rice Chex, 2 cups small whole grain crackers, 1 cup peanuts, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds and 1/2 cup chocolate candies.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


School is out, the heatwave has begun, every Saturday is filled with graduation open houses - what better way to welcome summer than strawberry picking!

And it sure was busy. Little Man was happy to entertain the crowds though - a rendition of The Backyardigans theme song in between exclamations of "Wow! That's a really BIG one! Is that a good one, Mommy?" Finished right at noon - perfect time to grB lunch and head home for naps in the air conditioning before the next open house. Lots of strawberry recipes to come!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Economics Project Update...The Market

So yesterday I told you about The Princess and her economics project and I thought I'd give you the follow-up.  It was a rousing success with all of the kids.  A full range of exciting offerings were available at the market. Food was by far the most offered product line - caramel popcorn, cotton candy, cookies, cupcakes, etc.  One of the boys made marshmallow shooters out of pipe and sold them for $3 each and 100 mini marshmallows in baggies separately for $1 each for ammo - my daughter thought he was overpriced but he sold out quickly (although he only made 4 of them).  This led to a good discussion about how popular items can be sold for a little more but his expenses to produce them were probably higher too and he only made a few so his profit wasn't as high as some others.

My daughter's purchases included a homemade bracelet, bouncy ball (the kid had one of those little machines), tattoo rock, a lion made from Perler beads, and here she models a lovely face painting by her friend...

While she did not sell out of everything, she sold all of her beautiful tissue paper flowers, several of the sets of pipe cleaner swords, and several of the origami puppies and kittens.  She did not sell any of the little houses but it sounded like maybe the other kids didn't know what they were or thought she had them priced a little high.  I think a separate sign explaining what they were and perhaps painting the outsides would have helped.  She did end up giving away one to a friend at the end of the day.

She was a bit perturbed at the snotty attitudes of some shoppers as she told me they asked questions and she told them "Look at the sign..." LOL.  A good customer service experience...apparently her friends had the same issues.

In all, her profits after expenses came to $8.75 cents and she was very pleased with the whole experience.  We discussed the idea of holding a similar sale or perhaps even just a swap with her many cousins at the family reunion and she liked that idea so we'll be talking about it more.  I think its something that would cover the vast age differences of the kids and keep them busy for most of an afternoon.  I would highly recommend doing this "market" - it was a great chance for kids to show their talents and creativity, have some independence and responsibility, and learn some lessons they will use very often for the rest of their lives.

The Importance of Girlfriends

I have felt often through the years since high school that a piece was missing.  
There is my boyfriend who became my wonderful husband and best friend. 

I am surrounded by caring family (though sometimes more than I wanna be), 
blessed with sister-in-laws I enjoy and love.
I worked my way through a couple of jobs until I found one I love 
and co-workers I fit with.
I have beautiful, smart kids to fuss over and  
thankfully they enjoy all the things I drag them along to do.  

I went away to school, came home, got married, 
made my house, putzed around with my hobbies...  
But I often have felt even when I am surrounded by all those people 
there is just something that doesn't feel like it clicks at times.

I started blogging in hopes that I would find that fit that I was looking for...
Those "kindred spirits" as Anne of Green Gables would say...  
And I have.  And I love connecting with you and hearing 
how much we like and live so much the same, 
but in a way, you are also intangible.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Economics Project for Kids

My little Princess (OK...well...she won't let me call her that much longer because she's almost as tall as me...) is wrapping up with her last full day of school today and all the third graders are holding a "market" as an economics project.  A great idea for any school but I think it would be a fun excuse to gather homeschoolers together as well.  

Here is how it works.  

  • Students can work in teams, pairs or on their own.  If they work in teams, then they can take turns shopping and keep their sale table open but they have to share the profits.  If they work alone, they keep all of their profit, but they must either wait until they are sold out or close their table while they go shopping. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Another Garage Sale Find

I am fascinated by this Rival Kitcheneer combination grinder/shredder I bought at a garage sale for $10.  I'm not sure its ever even been used it is soooo perfectly clean.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Finally... Fairy Day Pictures!

I can't believe its been a month since we went to the fairy day at Heavenly Scent Herb Farm already.  Hope you enjoy the pictures!
The back of the dress and wings Grandma made for her.
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