Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Simply Romantic

Tonight my husband and I celebrated our 6 year anniversary. We went to a nice restaurant and spent 3 hours dining. It was great! We just talked and reminisced and planned together. We reviewed our hardest times and thanked God for getting us through them. And we laughed over the good times...and the not so good times. It's nice that we can laugh about certain "hurts" that were such a big deal when we were first married. God has been good to us!

Something we invested in several years ago and are still using is Simply Romantic Nights by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. We actually got it for my husbands parents when we got married. They're pretty romantic already, but we thought they'd appreciate the gift. It's a nice way to reconnect and it was especially helpful after we had our first son. We just needed to refocus on our relationship and this is a great way to do it. Basically, it's a year of dates in a box (two dates a month one planned by the husband and one planned by the wife). We each take turn picking a date idea out of the box and then plan away. We usually do a date like this once every other month or so. They're really fun and really tasteful. It's a great way to get to know eachother again.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Peanut Blossoms

These are the cookies I made for my sister's fiance. They were really yummy which made them a little hard to give away. ;)

Peanut Blossoms
makes about 6 dozen

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Chocolate Stars

Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar together. Add egg and vanilla. Blend in flour, baking soda and salt. Shape into balls and roll in sugar (I used colored sugar) and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and place Chocolate Star on each, pressing down so cookie cracks. Return to oven and bake another 3 minutes.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Homemade Christmas Gift

My youngest sister and I decided that we wanted to do a homemade Christmas this year. Her fiance asked for peanut butter and chocolate cookies so I made him Peanut Blossoms. And I made her a blanket. I really wanted to do something with pink and black since she likes that...but I couldn't find two fabrics that I really liked. But I found these two fabrics in thermal fabric and they were really cute together. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I really didn't know what I was doing when I started, but it turned out great! And my stripes are even straight all the way down!She made my husband and me a calendar from Snapfish. It's great because there are pictures that correspond with people's birthdays and anniversaries. Fun!!

I also started sewing a little something for myself. It's supposed to be a table runner, but I didn't want my little people pulling it off the table, so I just made something to use as a center piece. I don't have any batting right now, so I'll have to wait to stitch the batting and backing on, but I really like how it's turning out. I found some fun Christmas fabrics that were on sale. I'm also making a mod log cabin table runner for a friend...don't know who yet, but it's super cute!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review of Our First Week

I think I'm just going to review my homeschool weeks and give you the good, the bad, and improvements I could make.

Here's our learning poster for the week (our memory verse is "A soft answer turns away wrath. Proverbs15:1)
Here are the books we read and discussed (I starred the ones that he favored):*Rodeo Ron and His Milkshake Cows
*Millie Wants to Play
*Moo Who?
A Particular Cow
Daisy the Firecow
Moonstruck: The True Story... (don't recommend, too wordy and confusing for little kids)
The Cow Who Clucked (the pictures are really artistic and a good way to introduce some art, but on some pages it's hard to determine what the subject is, you'll have to point some stuff out)

Other books we enjoyed this week:My Truck Is Stuck
Little Smudge
Alphabet City
Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners

My son doesn't want to "do school" right after breakfast because he wants to go play cars. So, we'll have to rearrange his schedule and see what works better. I'd like to get it done right away in the morning, but that doesn't seem to work for him. Also, I'm going to do a better job of reviewing the books before we read them together. The book "Moonstruck" was not a great book for a 2 1/2 -year-old. I guess I'm learning along with him.

Oh, for the Letter of the Week Preparatory Curriculum we have an index card with the number of the week. He gets to put the same number of stickers on the index card. I didn't know what I was going to do with the cards, but I found a 4x6-inch picture album for $0.99 at Wal-Mart and it works great. I just made my own cover.

Say Good-bye to Handmade Toys

Yep. And I don't like it one bit. It makes me sad to think that there will be no more handmade toys sold because of the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. It's great in theory: no more lead-laden toys from China. They have to be tested by a third party before they can be sold. But this isn't just for's for everyone making and selling handmade toys and clothes. This includes my husband's cousin's husband (that sounded way more confusing that it really is). He makes wooden toys and it would be too expensive ($4000 per individual item) to have testing done on them, so it's likely that he won't be making toys anymore.

Here are a few posts by other bloggers about this topic:

Heard In the Slammer: "I Used To Make Homemade Toys."
We Need Your Help to Save Handmade Toys
Handmade Toys Alli

I don't want my kids ingesting lead, but I want them to be able to play with handmade toys too. There has to be a better way. Please consider writing to your congress persons and senators to add an amendment to this law. I'm not one for writing to government officials, but I will do it this time. There are even sample letters if you're not sure what you're supposed to say. Follow the instructions on Cool Mom Picks. (You can add the button to your webpage/blog as well.)

Thanks! I'll get off my soapbox now.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas

I haven't made this recipe since we were first married and living in our little apartment. My mother-in-law was over for the weekend and we made this for lunch after church. I remembered it tasting good so I thought I'd give it a try with the boys. And they liked it. It makes for great leftovers.

Chicken Enchiladas

1/2 cup onions, browned in 2 tbsp margarine or butter
1/4 cup pecans (opt)
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp cumin
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
6 tortillas (I used Azteca Homestyle Flour Tortillas)

1 can cream chicken soup (I used cream of mushroom)
8 oz sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 can green chilies

Mix onions, cream cheese, milk, cumin chicken and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Place 1/2 cup mixture per tortilla, roll, and place seam down in greased 9x13-inch pan.

Mix topping and spread evenly over tortillas.

Cover and bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and top with remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.

I topped the enchiladas with lettuce and tomato. I also served Hy-Vee's Restaurant-Style Tortilla Chips with Black Bean and Corn Salsa (that I got free!! with the purchase of the chips!).

PS. I have to admit this isn't my favorite recipe for chicken enchiladas. If you have a chicken enchilada recipe, I'd love to give it a try.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gramma's Homemade Buns

My husband's Gramma is a wonderful cook! I'm going to treat you with her recipe for "homemade" buns using a bread machine.

Gramma's Homemade Buns

1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 tsp yeast (regular or bread machine yeast)
2 tbsp softened butter or margarine
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour

Heat the cup of cold water in the microwave on high for 13 seconds. Pour into the bread machine pan and add 2 tsp of the sugar and the yeast and let it activate. Then add flour, sugar, butter and salt. Gramma's machine has a feature of "First Rise" in which the machine mixes and rises only once (takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes). Take bread dough out of machine and form into buns and let rise until double. If using a convection oven: bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes. If using a traditional oven: bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Gramma's notes:
Most bread machine recipes have you put the yeast in without letting it activate in sugar and warm water but I found that the yeast did not always dissolve and you get a better rise doing it the "old fashioned" way. It is important that the salt does not get into contact with the yeast. That's why I add the salt last or between cups of flour. The first loaf I made with my machine was only 4 inches high, after that i never followed the book instructions!! Sound like a Gramma thing?

You can make them small to serve with a meal or you can make them a little larger to use for sandwiches. They're really great because they're crusty on the outside and chewy in the middle. I was skeptical of activating the yeast because I'm a rule-follower, but it worked well and the buns are delicious.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hobo Dinners

This is something we have for dinner almost once a week. It's good, it's easy, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand.

Hobo Dinners
serves 4

4 large rectangles of aluminum foil
1 lb lean ground beef
Lowry's Seasoning
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup frozen peas
4 potatoes, sliced thin
1/2 onion, sliced thin

Season ground beef with Lowry's and form into 4 patties. For each piece of aluminum foil layer: potato, hamburger patty, slices of onion, carrots and peas. Wrap each piece into a little packet. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 15th Week's Plan

(Curriculum from Letter of the Week)


Table Time:
introduce weekly theme (cow) and vocabulary word (calf), put pictures on poster
color a cow print-out
Reading Time:
read Millie Wants to Play! by Janet Pederson
read Moo Who? by Margie Palatini
gross motor skills activity - put on some music and move around like a cow
(have purple cows for lunch)

Table Time:
introduce shape (square), put picture on poster
practice drawing squares
review theme
Reading Time:
read Moonstruck: The True Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon by Gennifer Choldenko
read Rodeo Ron and His Milkshake Cows by Rowan Clifford
walk through home looking for square objects

Table Time:
introduce letter (A), put picture on poster
circle the letter 'A' on a print-out of letters
review theme and shape
Reading Time:
read The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming
read A Particular Cow by Mem Fox
listen to music while making finger-paint angels

Table Time:
introduce number (1), put picture on poster
add 1 sticker to number book
Reading Time:
read Daisy the Firecow by Viki Woodworth
read a book from previous days
dance to music that plays 1 instrument at a time

Table Time:
introduce Bible memory verse: Proverbs 15:1
read ABC Bible Verses for letter 'A'
review theme, shape, number, letter
fine motor-skills activity - cow craft
Reading Time:
pick out 2 books that we've read during the week
Little Visits for Toddlers activity
repeat Proverbs 15:1 to music

Ok, I lied. I probably won't post this every week. I'll probably just post our weekly theme, books that I plan on reading, and our memory verse. Anyway, that's our plan for this week.

What are you guys planning for the week??

Saturday, December 13, 2008

School Starts December 15th

I'm starting a homeschooling unit for my oldest son. I'm really excited to give it a try and excited to have to get a schedule going in my life. (My youngest son slept 'till 11am yesterday...he has a cold, but seriously, 11AM!?!) I do a lot better when I have a project going. I feel more purpose-filled. It's exciting and the big nerd in me LOVED purchasing school supplies. New No.2 pencils sharpened and in a canning jar brings a smile to my face.

So, here's the curriculum that I'm using, and the books and CDs I'm incorporating into the curriculum:

The New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes - Kenneth N. Taylor
(in the morning with breakfast)
Letter of the Week Preparatory Curriculum - Katrina Lybbert (free online curriculum)
ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts - Susan Hunt
Hide 'Em In Your Heart Vol. 1 CD - Steve Green
Hide 'Em In Your Heart Vol. 2 CD - Steve Green
My Good Night Storybook - Susan L. Lingo & Kathy Parks
(our bedtime reading)

I'll be posting my plan for the week every Monday morning (that might help me organize my week).

I'm also incorporating the routine from FlyLady. FlyLady helps to organize your cleaning and get you on a daily routine. I used it for a good 3 months before Phin was born and then again when he was about 4 months (and sleeping through the night). About 2 months later, I got the flu or we went on a trip (somehow I got sidetracked) and haven't gotten back into the routine. So, this is the perfect time. The FlyLady site is really overwhelming but they have FlyBabies start-up to get you going. It's really been a great resource for me. And as with most of the resources I use...I only use the things I like and can fit into my lifestyle and scrap the rest.

Here's our daily routine for Mon-Fri (the times aren't as important as the order):

* Mom up
* quiet time at the table
* exercise
* shower & get dressed
* swish & swipe
* make bed (if DH isn't still occupying the bed)
* put laundry in washer (don't start it yet because children are still sleeping)
* empty dishwasher
* start baby's breakfast
* review lesson plan
* check email/blog

* wake the boys (especially the baby; oldest is usually up by 7:30a but won't be allowed out of his room until 7:30a; thanks for the advice, Monica)
* start washer
* breakfast and read "The New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes"
* baby down for nap

* school: table time, reading time, music/movement
* check laundry and start dryer

* snack
* free play (wake baby if needed)
* Mom prepares lesson for tomorrow
* check email/blog
* get lunch ready

* lunch
* boys down for nap
* fold laundry
* Mom's to-do list: Mon- weekly home blessing; Tue - free day (nap?); Wed - menu plan, clean fridge; Thur - clean out car & pick up laundry room; Fri - desk & file
* boys wake
* snack (if boys have folded laundry to put away, do during this time)
* "free time": Mon - baking; Tue - 1:45-3p library; Wed - sewing; Thu - 1:45-3p library; Fri - errands
* free play
* zone cleaning & prepare dinner

* make sure dinner is in the oven
* wash prep dishes
* check email/blog

* oldest set table
* eat dinner
* clear table
* sweep
* bedtime routine & boys to bed

Mom's before bed list:
* look over tomorrow's lesson plan
* check calendar
* check email/blog
* pick-up kitchen
* lay out clean dish/hand towels
* start dishwasher
* pick-up living room
* lay out clothes for tomorrow
* get ready for bed

* in bed

I know that seems really detailed, but I'm a detail kind of girl. Like I said, I posted our main times but the stuff in between can be flexible.


Some notes on our routine:

1. I haven't done this in the past so I'm hoping this will work. I'll let you know if I have problems in certain areas and if some things aren't worth the hassle (two days to the library; putting the baby on a schedule, etc).

2. I plan on having the baby nap during oldest's school time. Our baby is a good sleeper and seems to need a lot of it, so I hope this works.

3. Check email/blog has been put into the schedule several times. This allows a lot of flexibility. I don't plan on looking at the computer everytime it's on the list, but if I run out of time to check it during one part of the day, I will have an opportunity to check it later. Once I have the routine down and make any needed adjustments, I hope to remove some of them.

4. "Free time" is actually scheduled time, but I want to have a plan each day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, free time will be more on a time-based schedule than a routine. Our library has a 20-minute storytime on Tuesdays. The remaining part of the library time will be for play and finding books for next week's lessons. On Thursday's the library has family craft time. It will be nice to have dad along for that since the baby won't enjoy the crafts as much as the oldest, so we can split up.

5. I have a women's Bible study on Thursday mornings from 9:30-11a and the oldest usually comes along with me and joins the children in the nursery while baby stays home with dad. I'm not quite sure how to do this since the oldest usually gets some "Mommy-time" when I'm finished with the study. Maybe we can just have lunch together so I can get him home in time for his nap so we can scoot to the library later in the day.

6. On days that we are out and about(Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) in the afternoon, I will take them to the park during free play, weather permitting. This will be more difficult during the winter months, but my sister-in-law does it with her little boy and I think it's worth it to get some fresh air...and not just for the kiddies.

7. We put our oldest on a bedtime routine and it has been working great. He knows what is expected of him when we tell him that it's time to get ready for bed. I also made a little print-out for him that goes on our fridge. It has the bedtime routine with pictures so he can look to see what's coming up next. (We babysat a set of twin boys for our friends, before we had kids, and their boys went to bed so well when we used their routine.) I like the idea of a routine vs. a schedule because it's not as dependent on the time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nibble Mix

This is one of my favorites since I'm more of a salty-snacker than a sweet-tooth. You can easily cut this recipe in half. This is another recipe that's great for summer too because you don't have to use the oven or even the microwave. It's great for car rides and picnic lunches.

Nibble Mix

1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp dill
1/4 to 1/2 tsp garlic powder (I use 1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp onion powder (opt.)
1 pkg Hidden Valley original ranch dressing seasoning packet
2 (12 oz) pkg oyster crackers

Whisk oil, dill, powders and seasonings. Pour over oyster crackers and mix well. Let stand for at least 1 hour. Store in airtight container.

Microwave Caramel Corn

This recipe reminds me of my sisters. They love caramel corn and this is a great recipe because it's so quick and easy. Last night I brought it to our small group's game night and it was a hit!

Microwave Caramel Corn

1 brown paper grocery bag
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter/margarine
1/4 cup white corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 to 4 quarts popped popcorn (I make my own, but you can buy a bag of plain popcorn at the grocery store)

Combine all ingredients, except baking soda and popcorn, in a microwave-safe 2-quart bowl. Bring to a boil in the microwave, and boil for 2 minutes. Add soda to mixture and stir (it will foam). Pour mixture over popcorn in brown paper bag. Fold top and microwave 1 1/2 minutes. Shake and turn. Microwave 1 1/2 minutes more. (Bag will be VERY hot!) Spread on cookie sheet to cool. Store in airtight container.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No-Bake Cookies

This is another easy recipe that our family enjoys. We like to store them in the freezer; they're so good when they're cold!

No-Bake Cookies
makes 3 1/2 dozen

2 cups sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup milk
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup peanut butter (we like chunky)
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix the sugar, cocoa and milk together, and boil for 4 minutes (stir continuously so it doesn't scorch). Take mixture off heat. Quickly stir in butter, vanilla, peanut butter and oatmeal. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper.

Almond Bark-Covered Pretzels

"Little Women" is one of my favorite winter movies. I'll probably watch it once a month during the winter. It's so great and it reminds me of home. Anyway, I watched "Little Women" (on VHS, no less) as I dipped pretzels.

Almond Bark-Covered Pretzels
makes 6 dozen

5 squares of almond bark
mini twist pretzels

Melt almond bark in microwave until smooth (not too runny). Dip pretzels 6 at a time. Sprinkle with your favorite holiday sprinkles. I used a holiday mix of red sugar, green sugar, Christmas trees, and holly. I usually let my toddler do the sprinkles, but he's napping peacefully.

Salted Nutroll Bars

This is another easy recipe. It's also great for the summer because it doesn't require the use of your oven.

Salted Nutroll Bars

1 (16 oz) jar salted dry-roasted peanuts
3 tbsp butter or margarine
1 (12 oz) pkg peanut butter chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (10 oz) pkg mini marshmallows

Grease a 9x13-inch pan. Spread 1/2 of the jar of peanuts on the bottom of the pan. Melt the butter and the peanut butter chips together in the microwave, then add the sweetened condensed milk. Add the marshmallows to this mixture (do not melt these) and stir. Layer this mixture onto the peanuts. Press this mixture down and top with the remaining 1/2 jar of peanuts, pressing them onto the marshmallow mixture. Cool and cut into bars.

Check out my complete Christmas Goodies List here.


This is a really simple recipe that I got from my friend, Jess.

makes 3 dozen

1 pkg of pecan halves
mini twisted pretzels
1 lg bag of Rollos (chocolate-covered caramels)

  1. Open bag of pecan halves and count how many you have. (I had 36 in my bag. You can join broken pieces to make a "whole.") Open same number of Rollos.
  2. Put a piece of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Place pretzels on the cooking sheet and top with a Rollo.
  3. Bake for 2 minutes at 200 degrees.
  4. Take out of oven and while warm, press pecans into caramel.
That's it. Yummy!!!
Check out my complete list of Christmas Goodies here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Goodies

I've been compiling a list of my favorite (and easy) Christmas treats. I want to make enough to give away and keep some at home to enjoy. Here's my list for this year. I'll get up the recipes as soon as I make the goodies. Most of them are simple recipes so I hope to get them all done this week. It should be fun!!

Salted Nut Roll Bars

Almond Bark Pretzels


Nibble Mix

No-Bake Cookies

Microwave Caramel Corn

Party Mix
Peanut Blossoms
Anise Candy? (There's one ingredient in here that may be hard to find so I'll have to see about this one.)

Do you have any yummy goodies you like to make at Christmastime?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gold, Red...and Bright Green?

I've been busy with the boys putting up more Christmas decorations. It was hard last year because our youngest was born four weeks early, the day after Thanksgiving, and we were four hours away from home. This year, we visited family for Thanksgiving and I got a late start to the decorating. I should've been like my friend, Wendi, and started decorating early since we weren't even going to be home for Thanksgiving anyway.

Here are a few pictures of the red and gold Christmas balls I've been hanging on the tree for years. My mom gave me some sparkly fruit to put in a jar for my kitchen, but the fruit didn't really fit my style, but the little green balls were perfect for my Christmas decorations. Again, because I have green in my kitchen I wanted to add some green to my red and gold decorations, so here it is.
Yay! It's nice when you don't have to spend so much on decorations for one month. Although, I just did some shopping to make a garland that was inspired by The Homespun Heart. I'll be working on it this weekend and hopefully get some pictures up by Monday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Candy Candle Holder

I really wanted to create a new Christmas look in our home since we painted the living room and kitchen. Since the kitchen is bright green, I wanted to add some bright colors to my Christmas decorating. I have been using red and gold for the last few years so adding some bright green was not too much of a problem. I'm still in the process and hopefully I'll just get some basic items and add more each year.

This candle holder was easy to make because I already had all the items in my home. I was inspired by Monica at The Homespun Heart. I think it looks really cute and it adds the bright colors I wanted. Easy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pear Cranberry Side Salad

We have lettuce salad as a side to our meals a lot. Sometimes it gets boring with lettuce, carrots, and ranch dressing. So I started experimenting with ingredients I'd had in salads at restaurants. Give this one a try. It's really refreshing.

Pear Cranberry Side Salad
for 1 serving

bowl of lettuce (we've used iceberg and romaine)
1/4 pear, cubed
1 tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp walnuts (can be toasted)
1/2 tbsp raspberry vinaigrette

You can change the amount of cranberries and walnuts to your liking and you can also add some feta or gogonzola cheese. Delicious!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Job Description:Soul Sculptor for the King of the Universe

There's a time, about once a month, that I fret over what I'm doing at home with my boys. I bounce back and forth the thought that I should be working and earning a paycheck. That I should use the nursing degree I worked and studied so hard for. That I could be making a difference out in the world. I start to feel insignificant and like it doesn't matter. But it does matter. I know that deep in my heart but sometimes I let those negative thoughts control my attitude and I need time to refocus my passions.

I read a wonderful article form Holy Experience this afternoon about feeling just that...insignificant and how that is a lie from Satan:

"You are not a STAY at home anything. You are a woman on the move, a woman on journey. You are in perpetual spiritual pilgrimage. You are following your Master, your children traipsing behind. Everyday you are packing up and leaving behind one spiritual, emotional, physical time and space… are growing, your children are growing, your role in His Kingdom is growing….and at day’s end, you are somewhere very different. In a different heart space, in a different time space, in a different spiritual space. Take it seriously. You are not stagnantly staying anywhere. You are leading your children towards the Promise Land. Don’t get side-tracked, don’t laze about, don’t linger behind….God is moving before you, the Cloud is guiding you----Pack up and follow!"

I have to stop Satan from telling me that what I do is insignificant and that it doesn't matter...that I don't matter...that my boys don't matter. I have to take a stand for my boys' souls and become their warrior. And teach them how to fight for themselves so that they can fight for their families someday.

If you have a minute stop over and read the rest of the article here. It was a great encouragement to me today!

Gramma's Thanksgiving Stuffing

My husband's Gramma brought stuffing to our family Thanksgiving on Thursday. It was really yummy so I was surprised to find out the secret ingredient...StoveTop Stuffing! I know. I was really surprised! It was so good that I don't know why I would spend so much time making it from scratch. She did add some special touches to make it original and I never would have thought it came from a box. So here it is:

Gramma's Thanksgiving Stuffing

1 box StoveTop Chicken Stuffing, cooked according to directions
slice of white bread, toasted, cubed
slice of wheat bread, toasted, cubed
2 tbps hot water
1/4 cup butter (no substitutions)
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 small can of water chestnuts, roughly chopped

Place bread crumbs in a small bowl and moisten with water.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan add onion and celery and saute until done, do not let it brown. Add celery-onion mixture to stuffing and mix in water chestnuts and moistened bread crumbs. Put in casserole and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Thanks Gramma!!

Honey Nut Chicken Sticks

My husband's sister-in-law made delicious Honey Mustard Chicken Strips over the weekend so I decided it was time to share my favorite chicken strip recipe. I'm allergic to processed meat so we don't buy chicken nuggets frozen from the store, but I loved them as a kid and was really missing them. This is a great recipe for chicken strips/nuggets from Rachel Ray's Rachel Ray 365: No Repeats.

Honey Nut Chicken Sticks
4 Servings (if you make nuggets you can serve more)

2 lbs chicken tenders (I just take chicken breast and cut them into strips or nuggets)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
a splash of milk
2 cups Honey Nut Corn Flakes (we use the generic brand of Honey Bunches of Oats)
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
2 tbsp grill seasoning, such as McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season the chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a large, shallow dish. Coat the chicken in the flour. Beat the eggs and milk in a shallow dish. Combine the cereal, bread crumbs, paprika, poultry seasoning, grill seasoning, and vegetable oil in a food processor. Transfer the breading to a shallow dish.

Place a nonstick baking sheet near the chicken breading station. In batches, dip the flour-coated chicken into the egg mixture and then in the breading and place on the nonstick cookie sheet. When all the tenders have been coated, bake them for 15 minutes, or until evenly browned and cooked through. Cool enough to handle and serve, or pack up for a picnic! This chicken may be served hot or cold.

This recipe is a 30-minute meal, but the first few times you make it, it will probably take a little longer than 30 minutes.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Handmade Gifts

On Thursday afternoon, my husband's family had their $5 Christmas gift exchange. The little people are in one group and the adults in another. Our youngest son received a really cute sock monkey made by my husband's cousin. I knew she was taking the Handmade Pledge for Christmas this year so I was excited to see what we would get. We were pleasantly surprised and both of my sons enjoyed it. So here's to handmade gifts and the labor of love they truly are!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shop It To Me

I don't spend a lot of money on clothes. It is a necessity, yes, but not something I need to buy everyday. But I know there are those of you out there who love to shop and this is a great way to get some great bargains:

Shop It To Me

The way I describe it is an online catalog of clothing, shoes and accessories in the sizes, styles and brands that you choose. And everything is on sale or clearance! It's a great way to get some shopping done. You can sign up to receive the SaleMail everyday, twice a week, once a's up to you. (Personally, I get mine twice a week.)

There's a bonus: if you get your friends to sign up you earn a $10 gift card from several different places. I didn't really believe that I was going to get a gift card in the mail for having my friends sign-up, but the other day I got a nice little card in the mail and there was my $10 card to Starbucks!! What a wonderful surprise!

I know what some of you are thinking: this is just a ploy to get my email address and I'm going to get a bunch of spam in my inbox. Nope! They have a great privacy policy. I actually got the information and signed-up under my sister-in-law, Beth. She's very cautious about info on the net so I knew I could trust her.

Shop It To Me also has a blog that's a great read. The author talks about fashion trends and what she has purchased through Shop It To Me.

Happy saving!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Perfect Cake-Mix Cupcakes

Here's the cake-mix cupcake recipe from Hello, Cupcake.

You can use any standard cake mix, but avoid those with pudding in the mix and steer clear of lighter cake mixes such as angel food, since cupcake projects need a firm cake that will hold up when it's decorated. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make a fair substitution by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 cup whole milk. Let sit for 10 minutes to sour. (Actual buttermilk is better.)

1 box (18.25 oz) cake mix (French vanilla, devil's food, or yellow)
1 cup buttermilk (in place of the water called for on the box)
vegetable oil (the amount on the box)
4 large eggs (in place of the number called for on the box)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. Follow the box instructions, putting all the ingredients in a large bowl and using the buttermilk in place of the water specified (the box will call fro more water than the amount of buttermilk you are using), using the amount of vegetable oil that is called for (typically, white or yellow cakes call for 1/3 cup; the chocolate cakes usually call for 1/2 cup), and adding the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes longer.
  3. Spoon half of the batter into a ziplock bag. Snip a 1/4-inch corner from the bag and fill the paper liners two-thirds full. Repeat with remaining batter. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pans, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.

First Birthdays

On Sunday we celebrated my youngest son's first birthday. It was a modest party with friends and family from our church. We served cupcakes, ice cream and pretzel rods.

My cupcake idea came from a book entitled Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. They have some really creative ideas for decorating cupcakes. And they have a great recipe in the back for vamping up your cupcakes from a box mix. They also have "from scratch" cupcake recipes and frosting recipes too. Just can't get enough of it!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blessings Turkey

I've been re-reading through one of my favorite books, Treasuring God in Your Traditions by Noel Piper. It's a great read and as my boys get older I realize more and more how important family traditions are. This book not only talks about holiday traditions, but daily traditions (quiet times, devotions together as a family, bedtime rituals). I've been wanting to establish a tradition for Thanksgiving and my friend, Kristi, found a great idea by Debra P. from the site

You make a turkey out of construction paper (minus the feathers) and glue it onto a piece of white poster board. You then cover the poster board in clear contact paper (so it can be reused for the next year). Next you cut out orange, red, and yellow paper feathers--enough so that each family member has a feather for each day in November. At dinner each family member writes something that they're thankful for and tapes it onto the turkey.

What a great way to display all your blessings!! Thanks Kristi!

*picture of turkey courtesy of Kristi K.

Baked Cod with Crunchy Lemon-Herb Topping

We're always looking for a way to get fish into our diets. I'm not saying that this is a really healthy way, but it's a delicious way. This is from my favorite cooking magazine, Cook's Country, December/January 2006 edition.

Baked Cod with Crunchy Lemon-Herb Topping
Serves 4
Haddock, halibut, or bluefish fillets are good alternatives to cod (we've also used Alaskan pollock). If some of the fish pieces are very thin, fold them in half to make thicker pieces. If you like, substitute dill or basil for the parsley.

1 tbsp unsalted butter
24 Ritz crackers, crushed into coarse crumbs (about 1 cup)
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley (or 2 tsp dried parsley), divided
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 small garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp grated zest plus 1 tbsp juice from 1 lemon (don't use
the bottled stuff)
4 skinless cod fillets (about 2 pounds; I buy the frozen fish
instead of fresh because it's much more affordable, thaw before cooking)
salt and pepper
lemon wedges for serving

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease baking sheet (do NOT use a stone, it will be seasoned with fish) with butter. Toss cracker crumbs and 1 tbsp parsley together in medium bowl. Mix remaining 1 tbsp parsley, mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in a small bowl.

2. Pat fish dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Place fish on buttered baking sheet, spacing pieces about 1/2 inch apart. Brush tops and sides of fish with mayonnaise mixture, then press cracker crumbs into mayonnaise.

3. Bake until crumbs are golden brown and fish flakes apart with fork, about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

I like to double the mayonnaise mixture and serve as a dipping sauce on the side. Here's the mayonnaise sauce for quick reference:

1 tbsp parsley
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 small garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp grated zest plus 1 tbsp juice from 1 lemon

Mix together and serve on side.