Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween! Costume Ideas from your (my) Closet

I often say I'm not going to dress up as anything for Halloween and then I pull something out of my closet at the last minute - what does that say about my wardrobe I wonder?  
Over the years I have pulled together a Victoria riding habit, two scarecrows, Raggedy Ann, Tweety bird (that was actually a costume), a punk rocker, a biker chick, a witch, a gypsy, 
Maxine (that's the white part of a Bic pen in my mouth, not a cigarette), 
a hunter, Amelia Earhardt, a mechanic (more specifically, I was my husband for the day back when he was a mechanic), a princess, 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fisher-Price Toy Review

I've talked about here before and mentioned several of the cool party packages I've won and hosted.  Well the latest package was the best I have ever seen - from Fisher-Price no less!  I was SOOOO excited to win this package and get my friends together for a play date to try out these awesome goodies because I know Fisher-Price has always put out quality, durable kids toys.  Unfortunately, I was not able to get a group together to host the party - just too many things happening at the time for me to get anyone to show up the day of the party.  But I want to share these products with all of you who might be looking for toys for your little boys or that perfect impressive gift for Christmas.

Soooo - what did they send me?  
Not one, but TWO complete play sets aimed at preschool-aged boys (but I will tell you my 9 year old daughter has played with them almost as much as her brother)!  The box Fisher-Price shipped the toys in was so large and impressive looking that my UPS guy took the care to put it away in my barn for me and left a note on my door so no one else would see this giant box from Fisher-Price sitting on the porch while I was at work.  There was no way I could hide this monstrosity from the kids until the party so I let them help me open it...the shrieks and screams of "oooohhhh AWESOME!" "that's SO COOOL!" and other cries of joy were better than most Christmas mornings.  Little Man was so excited he was literally jumping up and down clapping his hands at each item we pulled out of the box.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Christmas Mug Swap

Who doesn't love to get a sweet little gift in the mail?
Well, I do for sure and what more fun way to meet new friends than through a mug swap!
Heather at Heatherly Loves is sponsoring a neat Christmas mug swap and its really simple.
Just sign up HERE before November 20th (super simple signup!).  
Heather will send you the info for another blogger who has signed up.
Check out their blog, pick out a Christmas mug you think is a great fit for them (fill it with some fun little goodies like a baked treat or tea bags if you wish), and ship it by December 8th.
Blog about the mug you received on December 17th and meet back at Heatherly Loves to share in the fun.
Easy, right?!
So join in the fun and kick off the holiday spirit with some new friends!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Edible Halloween Sensory Experience

As part of the costume party we planned at our daycare, I volunteered to create a sensory table experience for the kids.  At our center, the sensory tables in each classroom are always the highlight of play.  From the babies to the oldest of the school-age children, they get a lot of fun and great learning from the sensory table activities.
I had a few ideas of my own on what could go into the sensory table but I took to Pinterest to find some more and let me just say that there are a lot of creative moms and teachers out there.  Because of the diverse age of the children, I decided to stick with all edible items.  Now I don't mean that you would want to eat them or that the children should eat them, but that if a baby stuck their hands in and then put their hands in their mouth, they wouldn't get sick.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chef Boyardee Meets Top Chef - Party Idea

Since Chef Boyardee is launching their latest fun project - The Little Chefs Project - I thought it might be a good time to re-share this idea for a great party with your kids and friends.  Last winter I won a package from and Chef Boyardee to host a party.  Now I love all the cooking shows on TV these days, including "Top Chef" (you could do this sort of theme around any of your favorite cooking competition shows) and a lot of my family and friends love to cook as well.  So I decided to make this party a competition - which also meant that I didn't have to supply all the food which made it a cheap party for me to host.
I started with the great party package that was sent by Chef Boyardee and HouseParty which included an insulated lunch bag, a cute chef's hat, notepads for all the guests, recipe cards for all the guests, coupons for all the guests, and coupons for several free cans of Chef Boyardee products.

I like to do favors for every party I host and I want them to look nice but I am cheap (ahem, frugal) and look for items at places like the checkout aisle, dollar stores, clearance aisles, etc. that are either less than $1 each or come in packs that can be split among goody bags.  I also save extras from one party to the next because I have often found other uses for them - so I had little cutting board mats left from another party that fit the chef theme and were perfect to include with the goody bags.
I found these great little kitchen towels for $1 each at Dollar Tree where I also found 3-packs of black plastic serving spoons/spatulas, 8-packs of pecan tart scented votive candles, and 12-pack cellophane favor bags for $1 each.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More About Barn Bash

Fall is a time when people here tend to gather for harvest and family and traditions.  A couple of weeks ago, I posted a little about our annual Barn Bash.  This tradition started in my husband's family around the time we started dating - I think they had only done it a couple of times before that.  Because his family is huge and scattered around the state, it can be hard to get everyone together so we try to keep the dates for gatherings like this the same from year to year to make planning easier.  We gather at the family cabin "up north" for the weekend and host extended family and close family friends for a reunion.
Each family signs up to bring dishes to pass and party supplies so that everyone is taken care of for the weekend.  The host families also bring charcoal to keep the grills going to feed the crowd.  Some families stay in the cabin, others bring campers or tents, stay in the barn or get hotel rooms in nearby towns.  
While the cabin is available with running water, we have mostly set up the barn to be able to host everyone back there for the whole weekend.  We have electrical in the barn and a separate hookup for the campers, there are beds in the loft of the barn where a lot of the older kids and younger adults stay, fridges for keeping food, a keg setup to keep beer on tap and large coolers of water & juice for the kids, an electric stove for heating food and baking, lots of crockpots in use at all times, port-a-potties, and woodstoves in both large main floor areas to keep everyone warm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Do You Teach Your Kids About Voting?

photo credit: Vox Efx via photopin cc

My daughter is a thinker.  She has always asked questions ahead of her time and often surprises us with very thought-provoking questions about society, community, relationships - things most kids her age don't think to much about yet.  The subject of voting is one that she has always taken a great interest in.  So it didn't really surprise me last night when she asked me if I knew who I was voting for and why.

photo credit: via photopin cc

I always take the opportunity to exercise my right to vote whether it is a presidential election or a county ballot.  I feel that it is my duty as a citizen and my opportunity to voice my opinion and influence change by electing like-minded leaders.  I also feel that it is my responsibility to choose candidates based on their qualifications overall as I would if I were hiring the person to be my employee (which in a way, they are).  I do evaluate and vote for the candidates for every possible position on the ballot right down to school board members.  Change is often influenced from the bottom up and those who live and serve locally know best what our community needs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I've Been Nominated!

I am tickled to be nominated by 
for the Liebster Award!

The rules of this award are:
  1. Thank the one who nominated you and link to them in your post!
  2. Write 11 things about yourself.
  3. Nominate 11 promising bloggers who have less than 200 followers and tag them in your post. Don't nominate the person who already nominated you.  Go to your nominees page and let them know they are nominated!
  4. Give your nominees 11 new questions to answer.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bracelet Turned Wrist Corsage

This beautiful little wrist corsage started with a cuff bracelet, a few fresh flowers and floral tape.  It only takes about 10 minutes to make and could be done easily for a gift for girls and women for any special occasion.  It is inexpensive and has great sentimental value as well.

What you will need:
1 cuff bracelet - I found this with a bundle of bangles for $12 marked 50% off.  I kept the rest of the bracelets for myself so I spent about $1 on this one.
1 stem lisianthus - $1.99 per stem
1 stem baby's breath - $.79 per stem
1 stem mini spray roses - $1.99 per stem
1 stem asparagus plumosus - $.89 per stem
small ribbon - $.99 per roll

We have a farm market nearby that sells arrangements or by the stem for $1.99 or less each.  Roses are $.99 per stem or $9.99 per dozen unarranged - that makes it very affordable to make your own big arrangements or unique gifts like this.  This cost me under $8 and would have been easily twice that for a wrist corsage make on an elastic band rather than a nice keepsake bracelet.

I started with a simple cuff bracelet in colors I knew would coordinate with what the couple was wearing (I knew they were going for all black and white and that the girl's favorite color was hot pink.).  I took a single Lisianthus (the white flower) and trimmed it leaving a stem of about 1/2 inch.  I wrapped this with floral tape. Then I added a small sprig of Asparagus plumosus behind the lisianthus and wrapped well with floral tape.  I took trimmed four mini spray roses so they were each left with about 1/2 inch stem and wrapped each stem separately.  I added the mini spray roses on top of the lisianthus in a cluster.  I added another sprig of asparagus plumosus and a small sprig of baby's breath.  I wrapped all this well with the floral tape.  Then using the floral tape, I wrapped the flower bundle onto the bracelet working from the base of the flower to the end of the stems and back again.  I tied a nice coordinating ribbon over the base of the bundle so that no floral tape was visible from the top.  You could use hot glue to secure the whole bundle and ribbon further but I did not.  

You will not want to make this until the day of the event due to the sensitivity of the lisianthus.  If it were all roses, you could do ahead and refrigerate.  Either way, store this in a box in the refrigerator as close to the event time as possible.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Because I Am A Girl...

...and I am the mother of a girl, the daughter of a girl, the grand-daughter of a girl, the aunt of girls, the sister-in-law of girls, the co-worker of girls who have girls of their own, the daughter-in-law of a girl, the friend of girls, the neighbor of girls, and on and on...  As women, we touch so many other women in our lives and often it doesn't register with us as much as perhaps it should.

Did you know that today is the first ever 
International "Because I Am A Girl" Day?

I was brought up to be a strong woman by a family full of strong women - we often joke that between my great-grandma, grandma and his 5 daughters, my grandpa long ago gave up trying to win an argument or get a word in edge-wise.  My grandpa was a farmer in a line of farmers.  My grandma also came from a family of farmers that traces roots back to Ireland - another home of strong women.  They had 5 daughters and my mom was the oldest.  With 18 years between the oldest and the youngest, my aunt was only 2 years old when I came along so I was raised sort of as one of the sisters as much as a niece.  

Traditionally the boys in the family would help with the farming but since there were no boys and the girls were strong-willed and outdoor-loving, they took active roles in keeping the farm and family afloat.  There were no boys to do the heavy lifting or get the tractor un-stuck or change the tire or come rescue the girls from whatever crisis might arise.  So they learned how to do it themselves.  Every one of the girls in my family can drive a tractor, stack hay bales on the hay wagon, shovel cow crap, run a power tool, swing a hammer, slam in a fence post, pull a feisty horse into a trailer, shoot a woodchuck, handle a gun or bow and arrow, etc.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Think I'm Human Again

...not entirely sure yet...  We have been sick.  
First Little Man, then Sissy got it and then Momma got it.  
So I ended up taking almost a week of vacation time for sickness 
(can you hear my teeth grinding.).  

Last week Little Man had a cough and some sniffles for a couple of days.  He was a little scratchy and whiny but didn't seem that bad.  
I took two days off so he could get rest at home.  

Sissy had a cough but no fever and this mean old Momma made her tough it out for a couple of days because I just couldn't see keeping her home 
from MEAP testing without a fever.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Little Something Called Barn Bash

We have a tradition in my husband's family of hosting a big reunion sort of weekend every fall at the cabin. About 100 people of all ages gather to enjoy northern Michigan's beautiful fall colors and all the fun activities. The dads put on a haunted hayride and the teenagers do a haunted house. We also have a horseshoe tournament, costumes, pumpkin carving, bonfires & lots of awesome food. It is a great chance for all to appreciate family tradition and each other. The weather in October in Michigan is always a big gamble. We have had everything from summer weather to snow. This year we have rain - lots of rain like we didn't have all summer. But we bundle up and get the fires roaring and huddle together under canopies and in the barn and enjoy the closeness.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Food...Easy Italian Bake

OK so I feel like the Italian mother who has neglected my children by not cooking enough food!  Life has been a whirlwind the past two weeks and I have not only neglected cooking for my real children, but I have not had any goodness to share with all of you.  And I have learned that you are all like my co-workers and family - have food and they shall come, hahaha.  So here is a good one for these busy, chilly fall days that you can make one night and reheat and reheat and it will just get tastier and tastier.  I made this last night while I also turned pork tenderloin leftovers into soup and made hot sandwiches for dinner.
Start with a large pot of boiling water and cook a box of penne or rigatoni according to directions.  While that is boiling, brown 1 pound of lean ground beef.  Make sure you let it brown until it gets those dark brown bits for the extra flavor.  Now that you have those two things going on the stove, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and take a 13x9x2 glass baking dish and coat the bottom with your favorite spaghetti sauce (I cheated and used store bought chunky garden pasta sauce).  About 1/2 of a jar will do.  When your pasta is done, drain well and add it to your baking dish in an even layer.  Top with about 1 cup of ricotta.  Drain your ground beef if necessary and top the ricotta with the beef.  Top with a thick layer of pasta sauce - I used the rest of my open jar and a whole other jar.  Top that evenly with about 1 cup of shredded Colby Jack cheese and 1 small round of fresh mozzarella cheese broken into small bits.  Pop into the oven for about 25-30 minutes uncovered and let it bubbly away until the top of the cheese is golden.  Yummmmmm!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Birthday Surprise at Daycare

We love our daycare.  My kids have gone there since she was 4 and my son since he was 8 weeks and so we really do feel like part of the "family".  I was asked to serve on the parent advisory committee to help provide feedback to the director and help plan daycare family and community events to help build relationships and promote the center.  We don't meet very often but we have had a lot of fun when we do and moms who I might have passed and smiled at every morning are becoming friends.  We share a lot of laughs about working motherhood - like our appreciation for the large number of projects the kids do at daycare that involve glitter and paint - so we don't have to do them at home!  
Recently, we discovered our director was turning 30 and we conspired to meet after she had left for the day and decorate her office in whatever birthday goodies we could round up.  Several people had random balloons and streamers and banners leftover from girl birthday parties.  A few of the classrooms made banners to decorate the walls and hallway.  We brought some pretty flowers and a birthday cake.  We also decorated the staff area and each brought easy finger food lunch items that the staff could grab on the run.  We had a lot of fun and laughs decorating and sneaking around.  She was very surprised and all the kids and staff thought it was fun too.  At the end of the day, each child got to take one of the balloons home too.  It was an easy, fun, inexpensive way to show our appreciation for all that she does to make our lives as working moms easier.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Enjoying the Scenery

I did manage to get a few pictures while I was home yesterday 
and it was a beautiful day even though it was overcast and sprinkled just a bit.  Here is a view of the woods behind our hay field - it doesn't get much better than this.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Feature and What's Going On!

New House

I am so thrilled to be featured today by Heather at New House, New Home, New Life!  She picked my Rosemary Roast Beef as one of the highlights of last week's All Star Block Party.  If you haven't seen this link party yet, let me assure you the ladies there are not only talented, but some of the sweetest gals I have met in BlogLand. 

And I am sooo happy that gives you something else to check out today because I am barely treading water around here and only have a long list of what's going on around here and no pictures prepared to show you!  The kids had the hardest working hockey skate they have ever had - in fact, I think it is the hardest my kids have ever worked at anything for an hour straight.  Glad they loved every minute of it and had fun.  It was a late night with showers and homework after skating - the morning start was a little rough.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Simple Gift

This simple gift is a tradition in our family 
that has its roots with my great-grandpa 
A glass bottle or container (this is a curvy little deep green glass bottle 
scavenged along the roadside on a walk - I always take a plastic bag with me 
and try to help keep our country life free from litter)
and a little spray paint (in this case silver)
turns the ordinary into the unique.  
Hand-picked flowers from the garden in bright cheery colors 
(gladiola, sedum, begonia, snapdragon, and wild geranium)
gathered while thinking of the recipient - a gift from the heart.  
Happy Birthday, Mom!