Saturday, March 30, 2013

Curious George Reading Month Party

While the official Reading Month is coming to an end, reading is something that can (and should) be celebrated at any time of the year.  Our daycare plans several events each year for the daycare families to provide a chance to interact, build excitement and continue to build pride in our daycare.  The events have become something all the families look forward too.
Taking inspiration from a favorite character or book series is an easy way to find a theme for one of these parties.  It also provides a lot of inspiration for games and interactive activities (like decorating these little Curious George bags).

Friday, March 29, 2013

30 Last Minute Easter Basket or Hunt Ideas

Running a little behind on the Easter planning?  Here's a list of 30 non-candy items that are easy to find at any time of year that make for a great Easter basket or hunt (most of them can be found very cheap at the dollar store or pharmacy too!):

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Banana Pudding With An Upgrade

When the daycare parent group decided on a Curious George theme for our Reading Month party, banana pudding was the obvious snack choice.  I volunteered to make it - largely because I wanted to try to give it a makeover.
I don't care for mushy cookies and I'm not fond of banana-flavored pudding.  So I decided I would use my own semi-homemade pudding recipe, homemade whipped cream and homemade shortbread (recipes at the bottom).
Then some of the other moms pitched in and brought topping so the kids could have an interactive experience with their pudding (here is my Little Man digging in to his creation).  OK - let's not kid ourselves - the adults had as much fun dressing this up sundae-style as the kids did...  The list of toppings included:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Venison Medallions with No-Fail Sauce

These tender, juicy little bites of meat are full of flavor and adults and kids alike will love them.  Better yet, its fast and easy to prepare.  This picture is done with a venison tenderloin but I use this recipe with all cuts of venison steaks and even odd sized chunks of meat you may have intended to make into jerky or roasts - your cooking method will just be slightly different and I'll tell you how I do both.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do You Celebrate Reading Month?

Do you celebrate Reading Month during March with your kids?  Reading is one of the best bonding opportunities we can have with our kids - when else do they stop moving and actually listen to what you are saying?  When else do you have a chance to focus your full attention on them and the questions they may ask?  It doesn't matter whether its a small book that only takes a few minutes to read or a few chapters of a larger book - taking even 5 minutes to read to your child every day can make a huge difference.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

10 Years Ago - Life Changed Forever

photo credit: MATEUS_27:24&25 via photopin cc 

On this day 10 years ago, my brother (along with his fellow Marine brothers) crossed a line in the desert sand and began to lead the March to Baghdad to remove a tyrant from power.

I sat at home and work frantically scanning the news and online coverage for any news.  I spent a lot of time connecting with a group of Marine family members in my brother's unit sharing what tidbits of information we discovered and sharing messages of encouragement.  I spent a lot of time saying prayers and asking for prayers.  Two nights earlier, here is the message I sent to my family and friends:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Soda Float Fountain Party

This is a fun idea I've used the past two years to host a party at work as a March of Dimes fundraiser.  This would be a fun idea for a cheerleading or dance team fundraiser or birthday party for older kids too.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patty's Day!

These cute little pups came to visit our office on Friday in their St. Patty's Day gear.  

"May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours. That stay with you all the year long."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Flirty Aprons and Girl Time in the Kitchen

You may notice another something new around here - another addition to this Country Life blog family - Flirty Aprons!  I've joined their affiliates program where I will earn 15% commission on any sales that come from the links on my site.  As I have promised before, I only want to bring you products that I truly think make sense with this blog and what my readers come here to find and I really think Flirty Aprons fits the bill.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Flashback Friday - Carnival Birthday Party with Roller Coaster Cake

Its a flashback to my daughter's 5th birthday party!  This is one everyone remembers - largely because of the weather.  It was wet - really wet.  It poured cats and dogs and then poured some more.  We always had the whole family on both sides invited for my daughter's birthdays which meant the potential for about 100 people.  So we held it at the park so it didn't matter how many people came.  
I had worked for a couple of weeks making large carnival booths out of cardboard appliance boxes free from a local distributor, spray paint and items scrounged from around the house.  The day before the part it was still raining and forecast to rain the entire day of the party.  We knew we would have access to a covered pavilion and it wasn't supposed to be too cold so we decided to stick with the park.  We had already asked people to bring a change of clothes and towels for the kids because we usually did a water balloon fight at the end of the party.  So I scrounged up some more items from around the house that could be used for smaller carnival games and nixed the boxes (the kids still had fun with those at home another weekend).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm Not Ignoring You - Really!

photo credit: billaday via photopin cc

Remember that post a while back about managing chaos?  Well...not sure how well I'm managing it but I am definitely caught up in it!  So what's going on?  A little bit of everything...I could use a little "Luck O' the Irish" right now!

Its tax return time and teacher conferences time and a return to hockey lessons...let's just not talk about the daylight savings time switch...  We are dealing with a ton of mud around here - not a pretty picture to be found!  Our typical Michigan March is here and that means wild temperature fluctuations and rain mixed with snow.  Which means the horse pen and driveway are a total mess which translates to muddy brumbies and a goat who more closely resembles a pig...
We've been trying to buy the foreclosure next door that adjoins our property so playing bidding wars and waiting games with the banks and realtors...stress...  We are trying not to get our hopes up but its hard not to daydream about what we would do with the place if we get it.

You've probably seen my posts on the March of Dimes and my team is definitely very busy rounding up donations and planning events.  
  • We are planning a pre-order bake sale since we've had problems finding a traditional location that works for us.  So we are having a month-long order form distribution followed by a day of the girls gathering and baking in mass production style (there will be pictures of that - and recipes).  We'll be offering sweet and savory options in the hopes that we have something for everyone.
  • We've been busy asking for business sponsorships to help hit our fundraising goal.  One local family business donated 20 pounds of farm-raised Berkshire pork and chickens so I did a silent auction at work and it resulted in a $100 donation from a very excited and generous co-worker who I am sure will be a long-time customer once she tastes that meat!  
  • This Friday I will also be hosting a "Soda Float" treat for my co-workers.  I'm asking for a $3 donation per float.  I'll provide vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream along with several flavors of soda (hooray for Michigan's Faygo which is not only tasty but inexpensive!).  Then I'll have whipped cream and sprinkles to top it all off.  I'll have the bake sale order forms available too.  (And of course, a post coming on this for you too.)
My mom and her sister and I are all getting together for our first annual "sewing/crafting day" on Saturday and we are all really looking forward to it.  (I'm planning on some pictures to share with you on that too.)  My mom came up with this great idea after a similar day with some friends where everyone brought whatever unfinished projects they wanted to work on and worked and snacked and chatted the day away.  Personally I am just having a hard time decided which unfinished project(s) to take!  

Sunday just so happens to be my grandparents' anniversary as well (my grandma discovered just this past year that its an Irish tradition to get married on St. Patty's Day) so we'll end the day on Saturday with a big family dinner to celebrate.  Then the hubby and I are sneaking off for the night to meet up with friends for a long-overdue date night and our traditional St. Patty's Day night out with the crew.
I hope you are all having a great week so far and I hope to be able to get some new posts up for you later this week.  In the meantime, here is a flashback recipe for your St. Patty's Day fun!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Make Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches

Apparently I was in a breakfast mood on Sunday night...  At about 8:30 p.m. when the kids went to bed is when I made the Blueberry Coconut Muffins and then a round of these tasty breakfast sandwiches for those who prefer something a little more on the savory side.  

These are so much better than an Egg McMuffin from the drive-thru - more taste and virtually no grease!  I don't know why I don't think to do this more often because it only took about 15 minutes to make 7 of them.  For less than $9, I can make a dozen of these and have breakfast for my husband and I for 6 days with our travel mugs of coffee!  That's the cost of about 2 drive-thru breakfasts!  Most days we wouldn't even bother with breakfast - the kids eat at their daycare - so my husband and I would just starve until lunch.  And if you don't like English muffins, you can do this with bagels for just a few cents more.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Blueberry Coconut Muffins

This bright little muffins will take you straight to spring!  I made both the large and mini muffin sizes and my crew has been gobbling them up.  

My base recipe came from my standby cookbook - good ol' Betty Crocker.  This recipe is a great starting point to tweak as you wish.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Floured Venison Steaks

Here is a very basic recipe you can whip up in short order with very few ingredients.  With tender venison and a crispy coating, you can't go wrong.  Warning though - because the pics show raw meat or meat in the process of cooking some are a little on the bloody side so if that bothers you, you may wanna skip those.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Blogging Anniversary - Thank You!

I've been so busy that I almost missed the mark on the calendar telling me that this blog is now 1 year old!  I can't believe how far it has come and all the great friends I have made since I started this adventure a year ago.  I've been a writer almost as long as I've been a talker and it was a part of me that sort of got pushed aside when life got busy with starting my young family and handling some of the challenges that we faced over the past several years.  I've had many of my friends and family comment about how good it is to see me writing again - to see me have that creative outlet.  And I will say, it has been more than I ever imagined it would be in just one short year.

I look forward to sharing so much more with you - I have all these ideas bouncing around in my head and lists upon lists of ideas on scraps of paper and pages ripped out of magazines of ideas and recipes I can't wait to put my own twist on.

I thank you so much for joining me on this adventure!  You have all been so kind with your comments and questions, features and awards.  Followers and fellow bloggers here from around the country have made me feel like I'm your neighbor and we're chatting over the garden fence rather than over the internet - did you know there are nearly 1,000 of you!  And you are just exactly what I came looking for.  Fellow foodies, mommies trying to raise productive and self-reliant children, women who want to make a difference in their communities, gardeners, adventurers, crafters, critters lovers, frugal ladies who want to save the world and stretch a dime at the same time, people who want to preserve the culture and history of this great country, kindred spirits, and so much more.

So thank you for the time you give me here and please keep the comments and questions and suggestions coming!  I love interacting with you and I take to heart all of your feedback.  I know I have a few things I've promised to bring you and haven't delivered on yet and rest assured I have not forgotten - it is on those lists, LOL!  Bless you all and thank you for your support and camaraderie!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Country Evening Snow

I just love when it snows in the country.  Especially those big snows that begin in the evening and you know are supposed to last all night.
Heading out to check all the critters and 
tuck them in for the night as the snow softly falls.  
Its that time when the quiet settles in.  All sounds are dampened by the cushion of snow.  Everyone else is tucked warmly in their houses.  
Nothing but the rumbling nicker of the horses and the stomp of impatient feet as they wait for their dinner and treats.
My guardians, the dogs, following me steady back and forth.  The soft purr of the cat as she perches above to monitor everyone.
I could stay out here for hours.