Friday, January 30, 2009

Funny Find

Cake Wrecks is a hilarious blog guessed it, Cake Wrecks! Some of them had me laughing outloud and wondering what were these poor people thinking. Some of these people are professionals and some are just mommas like me. Here's just a sneak peak (you can click on the title to get the whole story of these cakes):

And here's a post about wedding blunders entitled Big Day, Big Wreck showing what was ordered and what was received:




You have to check out Cake Wrecks. It's really a hoot! I just hope one of my cakes or cupcakes doesn't end up on their blog. ;)

PS. They also have Sunday Sweets which is their weekly post about beautiful cakes!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review of Our Third Week

It's been taking us about 2 weeks to get through each lesson. I'm hoping to get it to one lesson a week as that was the original plan. But I don't want to rush it.

This week our theme was kittens. We had a lot of fun with it and on Friday we made a kitten door hanger. I found the pattern at Danielle's Place (she has a lot of neat crafts).

Our favorite kitten/cat books were:

Chicken and Cat
by: Sara Varon
(This book doesn't have any words but the pictures do tell a story. It was fun to "read" because sometimes I would tell the story and sometimes my child would tell it.)

Four Fierce Kittens
by: Joyce Dunbar

Four Hungry Kittens
By: Emily Arnold McCully

Vanilla Wafers

I got this recipe from Monica at Homespun Heart. They looked good and Vanilla Wafers are a favorite around here, so I decided it was time to give them a try.

Vanilla Wafers
makes about 50 cookies

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups cake flour (I used all purpose)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp water

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream together first five ingredients.
3. Add the flour and baking powder. Add water and continue mixing until dough forms a ball.
4. Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls and flatten slightly onto cookie sheet.
5. Bake 15-18 minutes or until cookies are light brown.

They are good little cookies, but weren't like the original Vanilla Wafers. I used margarine instead of butter, so that could be part of the problem. I also thought about using almond flavoring instead of the vanilla. That could be a yummy "twist" on this cookie. Also, it helped when I sprayed a little Pam on my hands before rolling them into balls. The dough was a little sticky. And I would recommend NOT using an airbake pan. Check out what happened when I did. Yikes!!

Works-for-Me Wednesday: Kitchen Face-cloths

This is my first Works-For-Me Wednesday and I decided to participate because of all the wonderful advice I've read through Rocks In My Dryer. On to what works for me.

I get really grossed out by the kitchen washcloth. It's used for washing dishes and wiping counters. I try to get a clean one out every night because I can't stand that dirty wash cloth smell. Eww!!

I also use washcloths to wipe my kids' faces after eating. I started using regular washcloths but never knew which one was for the face and which one I was using to wash the bowl that just held raw meat. See what I mean? That's gross!!

My solution is to use baby washcloths in the kitchen. I buy the really cheap colored ones and keep about 10-15 in my kitchen linen draw. (I use only white baby washcloths in the bathroom so when I'm folding laundry I know where they go.) It's been a great way to keep our kids from the stinky washcloth in the sink. I've started bringing my own face washcloths to other people's houses because a lot of times they'll just use the kitchen washcloth for my kids' faces. YUCK!!

For more Works-For-Me Wednesdays check out Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bloggy Giveaway

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

I just signed up for a bunch of giveaways and thought that some of you would be interested in these as well. Check it out:
  1. Many Little Blessings: $25 Gift Card
  2. The Homeschool Classroom: $25 Gift Card
  3. Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House: MediBag 4 Kids Pack (check out Me4Kidz for more products)
  4. Miss Musing: $100 Gift Card
  5. Robyn's Online World: $50 Gift Card
  6. Frugal Finds From Your Frugal Friend: $10 Target Gift Card
  7. Sweet Savings: $25 Borders Gift Card
  8. An Iowa Mom: $50 Target Gift Card
  9. Welcome to My Loonyverse: $25 Gift Card
  10. The Money Jar: $5 Starbucks Gift Card, Starbucks chocolate, and Warm Vanilla Bath and Body products.

I've entered a few more contests as there are over 600 giveaways to enter. Have fun!! And don't forget to leave your contact information!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stuff Christians Like - #478

Stuff Christians Like is a Christian satire blog by Jon. He's really funny and shares some truths about our Christian culture in a quirky way. His recent post, #478 Sitting Next to Sick People at Church, is so funny and true! Here are his tips (in bold) to dealing with sickies at church followed by my commentary:

"1. Wave to them during the meet and greet."
I agree with this one whole-heartedly, but it's hard for me because I don't want to look unfriendly. And I'm an affectionate person. I enjoy a good handshake and a greeting.
My husband's sister-in-law was visiting several weeks ago and as soon as we sat down after shaking hands, she put on the hand sanitizer. First, I was thinking, that's kind of rude. And then I thought, I really want some of that! She said that her church has stopped shaking hands for the winter because of all the sickies. I think it will take me a while to get used to the wave greeting.

"2. Don't buy the 'it's just allergies' excuse."
It is winter and there aren't really an plants alive in our neck of the woods. But maybe it's the dust from all the artificiall greens. ;) I think that allergies are real and I think that I get them. But face it, it's cold and flu season and germs are running rampant. I'd like to say that my cold symptoms are an allergy (from dry furnace air, from the dust trapped inside our house for 9 cold months) but reality's just a cold.

"3. Bring them Kleenex."
This actually sounds friendly. I have to say that I've never really seen anyone wipe their wet noses on their sleeves, but I have heard people trying with all their might not to blow their nose. There they are, so uncomfortable, sniffling away. I've done this many times because I don't want to draw any attention to myself by blowing my nose. As I give out this next bit of advice I'm really talking to myself: BLOW YOUR NOSE! You will feel better! And if you're uncomfortable with blowing your nose in public, excuse yourself. If you're one of the people trapped in the middle of the row, you will draw attention to yourself when you blow your nose, but remember it's only for a second. Sniffling through the whole service is a constant distraction, I know because I've been one, just ask my mom.

"4. If they bring their sick kids just give up."
I am very guilty of this. I don't want to take my littles to Sunday School when they're sick to avoid getting other people's littles sick. So I haul them into the service. It never works out. They can't sit still, they don't feel well, and instead of infecting their friend, their infecting the friend's parents. It's a vicous cycle. That's why I didn't go to church yesterday. I was home with my youngest son and his dripping nose.

The article is really funny, especially how he talks about his kids coughing right into his mouth. That is so true! You can check it out his commentary here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Decorated Cupcakes

After the Sunflower Cupcakes I made for a baby shower, I was hired to bake cupcakes for a bridal shower. I had one of the party planners look through the book I had (Hello, Cupcake!) and she picked the Black and White Cupcakes...but we went with the colors: brown, blue, and white.

After visiting half a dozen stores, I found all the candy and sprinkles I needed to make these adorable cupcakes. I liked making these because once I decided on how to decorate them, it wasn't so hard on my brain. But they were time consuming. I wanted them to look professional so I took more time to get the coloring right (still didn't quite get the bright blue I was going for, but it still coordinated with the lighter blue of the sprinkles).

My supplies:

1 box of white cake mix (I added in 2 tsp almond flavoring)
1 box of triple chocolate chunk cake mix

2 containers white vanilla frosting
1 container chocolate frosting
blue & yellow food coloring

pastel giant confetti
white nonpereils
chocolate sprinkles
white M'n'M's
blue salt-water taffy
baha blue Starbursts
licorice salt-water taffy

(bought and returned: 4-pack of white Tic-Tac's, Trolli sour worms, 1 lg box Jr. Mints)

My husband helped me decorate these cupcakes, and I think they turned out pretty cute.

Surprise In the Mail

The other day I received a surprise in the mail:

I was so super-pumped!! I thought it was wonderful to see a foodie magazine in my mailbox!! The next day I got a postcard in the mail saying that my mom had gotten me a 6-month subscription to the Food Network Magazine. Does she know me or what?!

There are a bunch of recipes that I want to try:
  • Watermelon Pork Tacos in Lettuce Shells (pg 50)
  • Almost-famous Pumpkin Cheesecake (pg 53)
  • Cornmeal Blini Bites - made with Jiffy corn muffin mix (pg 55)
  • Cranberry Pecan Biscotti - made with Jiffy corn muffin mix (pg 57)
  • Chicken and Black Bean Tostada - or tacos (pg 80)
  • White Chicken Chili Stew (pg 80)
  • White Pizzas with Arugula (pg 87)
  • Cincinnati Chili (pg 141) - I already have a recipe for this dish, but would love to give this one a try

Other features I enjoyed:
  • index of the recipes with pictures (I love to see what it's supposed to look like)
  • what wines to pair with what dishes
  • good boxed wines and what to use to serve the wine to make it look more elegant
  • gift-ideas based on cooks/chefs from the Food Network

What can I say, I'm hooked! The only disappointment was a chunk taken out of the back few pages. Happy to say that there were no recipes on those pages, so it worked out okay.

Yesterday I got a postcard to subscribe to the magazine: 1 year for $10. Sounds like a deal to me.

Oh, and included in the magazine was a little booklet "50 Toast Toppers." Amazing little book! I can't wait to give them a try. I might make a meal out of yummy french baguette toast and fun things to top them with. Yumm-O!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sending our Love

We missed the Christmas card cut-off. Last year we at least had an excuse with a newborn (and we didn't even send out birth announcements - oops!). But this year, there's no excuse except that I was not prepared for the months prior to Christmas to go by so fast. I didn't expect that two littles would be as busy as it is. And so here we are in late January. What to do?

A Valentine's Card!!

That's my solution. I ordered 4x6 pictures of our family from Shutterfly (pre-ordered a package for $.10 a picture) and am in the process of writing a letter. This could go many ways:

  • Humorous - Our family tends to lean towards the humorous side for most things. I haven't thought of any ingenious ways to give an overview in a fun way...but I'm still thinking and I have a little time before our prints will arrive.
  • Yearly Overview by Month - This can get a little tricky since we haven't sent out a card in two I'm trying to decide if I need to include 2007's major information by month as well. We'll have to see how much paper it takes up. And do people really care? I don't know. I guess I like reading people's Christmas cards, so maybe people will care about the "excitement" of our lives.
  • An Acrostic Poem - Personally, I think this is a little overdone and not too original but maybe an acrostic on: We're Lazy, Always Late, A Valentine's Card?, Who Cares?
  • A Little Blurb Written In First Person By Each Family Member - I guess this could be funny since our kids really don't have much to say...except for our older son...but he might not be understandable. And I don't know how accurate the husband will be (he tends to lean way to the funny side of things and his might not make much sense either). I'll have to think about it.
  • From the Point of View of an Object In Our Home - Some people write their letters from their pet's point of view. Well, we don't have a pet, so I might use the fridge or the couch. That could be interesting.

How did you write your Christmas letter this year? Any creative ideas?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jell-O Poke Cake

Mmmm! This has been a favorite of mine since elementary school! I like it because it's not a heavy cake with frosting.

Last night I brought this dessert to Bunco. It was a healthy-themed Bunco. There was guacamole and chips, chicken and pineapple pizza, yogurt with strawberries and granola, chocolate chip muffins with pumpkin puree, and a yummy dip with beans, corn, red onion and green pepper (I called it Cowboy Caviar because my friend Sue has a similar recipe with that name). I thought this cake could be considered "healthy" because it's a light cake and I made some substitutions. I served it with fat-free Redi-Whip instead of Cool-Whip and blueberries on the side. Mmmm!

Jell-O Poke Cake

1 boxed cake mix, baked as instructed on box
(I used white cake: substituted 1/2 of the oil with unsweetened applesauce, and added 1 whole egg and one egg white)
1 3oz package Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water

While cake is cooling, dissolve Jell-O in boiling water.
Add cold water and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
Poke holes in cake (sometimes I use a fork and sometimes I use a knife for bigger holes) and pour Jell-O mixture over top.
Cool in fridge 3-4 hours.
Spread Cool-Whip like frosting before serving (or you can serve the Redi-Whip on the side and let guests put on their own topping).

There are a few ways I have made this cake:
* white cake, peach Jell-O, Cool-Whip, and peaches
* chocolate cake, cherry Jell-O, cherry pie filling as topping
* white cake, blue Jell-O, Cool-Whip, blueberries and strawberries

Or make up your own combo. Enjoy!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Easy Garlic Bread

There's nothing like having garlic bread with your pasta and salad. This has become our favorite quick and easy garlic bread because it takes no time and it's inexpensive.

Easy Garlic Bread

hot dog buns, frozen
butter or margarine
garlic powder
garlic salt
Parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese (for cheese bread)

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Cut hot dog buns in half and spread with butter. Sprinkle garlic salt, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes (may have to broil to get edges crispy).

I usually stock up on hot dog buns when they're on sale and keep them in the freezer. This is a great way to make garlic bread because you can make just a few or a bunch. It's a great quick fix!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Date Night

at a friend's "30th" birthday party

Date night has become very important to my marriage. I notice it mostly when we haven't had one for a while. We are more rammy with each other and tend to become selfish and inward focused. It's always hard to get a date night in over the holidays because it's so busy and money is tight. Now that we've gotten back into the swing of things, date night has become regular again.

Thursdays are my husbands day off. We usually reserve Thursday nights for our date night. My husband is in charge of finding a sitter (which is so nice!). He can usually find a parent of a middle-schooler or high-schooler that will volunteer (for free) to watch our kids since he spends a lot of time with their kids. It's really nice that we don't have to worry about that. All I know, is that my husband is in charge of the sitter and that has been a huge blessing! We'll tell the sitter to arrive at 6p but we don't get out of the house until 6:30ish because we're visiting or the boys are finishing dinner, etc. And we are home by 10p. It works out really nice.

We usually don't spend a lot of money when we go out, but I do love to go out to eat on our dates. We have a few "tricks" to save money at restaurants:

Subway - split a $5 Footlong, no chips, water
Fazoli's - split a baked spaghetti, split a *FREE side salad with the use of our Super Savings cards
El Azteca - free chips and salsa before the meal, split and entree or order ala carte
Taco John's - split a combo meal
Applebee's - split a burger meal

There are probably more, but those are places we frequent the most.

Here are some of the things that we do after we eat:

disc golf *free (when it's warm)
drive around and talk
walk through the mall without our wallets
go to a dollar movie
walk through Target or WalMart and pick up items we need
stop by Target for a bag of popcorn then get a Redbox movie and go home early

Again, there are probably more, but that's all I can think of.

Our date night started when we had our first son. Before kids you spend a lot of time together because there are no big distractions at home. After kids, you need to make your marriage a priorty over the kids which is so hard to do. Our oldest was born almost 6 weeks early. I had been in the hospital for almost 3 weeks before he was born. So, while he was still in the ICU, my husband took me out for dinner. We were only gone for an hour or so, but it was the start to putting our marriage first. It was hard leaving our little man in the hospital, but my husband knew that I needed to get out of there for a while. Since then, it's become our norm. Thursday night is date night. We don't go to any sporting events, we don't hang out with students, we don't double date, we take time for ourselves. To reconnect and to work on our marriage.

Do you have a regular date night? If so, what do you do? Any frugal tips?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


My friend, Wendi, served this dip at a grill-out in her backyard in the fall of '08. It's really yummy and fresh-tasting (just what I needed on a super-cold winter's night). Tonight we shared it with some friends who came over for game night.

courtesy of Recipezaar #16884
makes 3-4 cups

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup diced green pepper or celery
1 large tomato, seeded and diced (I used 3 Roma's since they're our favorite)
1 lb bacon, cooked crisp, drained, cooled, and crumbled
1/2 tsp garlic powder
black pepper, to taste
shredded lettuce to garnish (optional)

1. In medium bowl, with mixer, blend sour cream, mayo, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, chopped onion and green pepper, garlic powder, and black pepper.
2. Add bacon and tomato to mixture; stir well.
3. Garnish with shredded lettuce just before serving, if desired.

I served this dip with celery sticks, carrot sticks, and Wheat Thins. You'll need about two boxes of Wheat Thins for this recipe. Also, you can get away with using light cream cheese and even omitting the mayo if you want a lower fat version. It's really simple and super delicious.

Beefburgers Wellington

(DISCLAIMER: Seriously, this tastes better than it looks. My husband said that all my pictures made this dish look gross, but it's not. It looks yummy in real life, just not in photo's.)

This is a dish we have about once a month. It's yummy and it's pretty (see disclaimer at the top of the page). It also helps to portion control...even though the portions are large. I got this from a friend several years ago and it has become one of our favorites.

Beefburgers Wellington
serves: 4

1 1/2 lb lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 egg
1/8 cup milk
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp parsley
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
4 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
1 frozen pie shell, thawed and quartered

1. Combine beef, egg, milk, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, parsley, garlic in a large bowl.
2. Shape 3/4 mixture into 4 loaves.
3. Make oblong-shaped well into each loaf.
4. Fill each well with cheese and bacon.
5. Top with remaining mixture; press to seal.
6. Place pastry over each loaf, tucking edges underneath.
7. Place pastry-side up in baking dish.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
(Can broil for 2 minutes to brown pastry.)

Mmmmm! When I make this I usually serve it with sweet potatoes. Enjoy!!

At the Heart of Hospitality: A Gift

Hospitality is not only a gift I
have but a gift I give. Be passionate about it!
~ Sandy Coughlin

Hospitality is something I do have a passion for.

"Essential to hospitality is opening our hearts and our homes. We each have a home – be it a small home, mid-sized home, or a mansion! And no matter what the size of our table or what food is served, bonding around that table and enjoying a meal makes people feel loved." ~ Sandy Coughlin.

I have a home. I have a table. I have food. I have a family who enjoys other people. So, why am I not opening that home to others more often? Is it because I'm lazy? Is it because I'm selfish? Is it because I'm a procrastinating perfectionist? It's all of these.

Sandy talks about entertaining versus being hospitable on her blog 4 Reluctant Entertainers. Her first commandment is "Hospitality is a Gift." I can make my home a gift to others by inviting people in. It's that easy. I don't need to impress them, I need to love and serve them.

Here's a way I can check my attitude as I host people in my home:

1. Am I feeling stressed or burdened by the need to impress?
2. Am I putting my guests first (i.e. not the dirty dishes in the sink after the meal)?
3. Am I expecting something in return?

Sandy says it best:
Entertaining too often says, “I want to impress you with my creative new recipes and the latest decorating fad and my perfectly decked-out house.” It can show that, “this is mine and this is a reflection of who I am and what I am. Admire me!” Hospitality, in turn, says, “This home is truly a gift and it may not be perfect, but come on in while I serve you and our family loves on you.” It says, “What is ours is yours. What is said around the table stays around the table.”

Lord Jesus ~
I ask you to enable us to offer our home as a gift. Please help others to know that they are welcome in our homes and at our tables. I ask, dear Jesus, that you stop the excuses that plague us and open our hearts and minds to serving and loving others in our homes. Help us to share openly and without excuse the blessings that You have given our families. I pray that lives will be changed as we visit around the table or over a cup of coffee. Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift that hospitality can be when we allow You to guide us in loving others.
~ Amen.

I'm going to challenge myself to invite people over for a meal once a week for 6 weeks. Can you challenge yourself to do the same?

Week 1
guests: hubby's family
food: turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pie (guests bringing side dishes and bread)

Week 2
guests: hubby's brother
food: pizza delivery, fresh veggies and dip - no one said it had to be homemade, just opening up your home ;)

Week 3
guests: growth group
food: Cincinnati chili, relish tray, Triple Chocolate Sour Cream Brownie Bites

Week 4
guests: brought ingredients to a friend's house in Arkansas
food: baked pasta and garlic bread

Week 5
guests: growth group
food: hobo dinners, homemade bread, homemade applesauce, store-bought pie

Week 6 - 81st Academy Awards Party
guests: friends
food: layered taco dip, Chex and the City Mix,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunflower Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for a women's ministry baby shower on Sunday. I got the idea from one of my favorite books Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

Some things I learned:

1. I need to work on my frosting skills. I'm not great at making petals and they looked a lot better as I went along.
2. Let the frosting "rest" between flowers. Otherwise the heat from my hands softened the frosting too much and it got really runny.
3. I would use food coloring paste instead of the liquid. That would also decrease the risk of the frosting getting too runny or soft.
4. I used melted chocolate chips instead of the chocolate frosting for the ladybugs. I didn't want to open a whole jar of frosting for a few teaspoons. I used a toothpick to decorate the ladybugs and used the melted chips to "glue" the bugs to the flowers.
5. I wouldn't decorate them ahead of time. I could make the cupcakes and put the green frosting on a day ahead, but the Oreo cookies get soggy (yuck!).
6. I'd only use the regular size Oreos (not the Mini-Oreos) until I get better at frosting them. They were very hard to frost because: my skills are lacking, they're really small, my frosting was soft, and my skills are lacking.

Overall, I think they turned out cute and I even got asked to make some cupcakes for a bridal shower coming up. Sounds like fun to me.

Review of Our Second Week

What we learned in week two of Letter of the Week:

We got a little "off schedule" due to an ear infection by the oldest son and stomach flu for both mom and dad. Yuck. But, we're starting week three today and it's a hit...especially when kittens is the theme.

Our theme for week two was jungle. Here are a few books that we enjoyed on this subject:

Tall by: Jez Alborough

Giraffes Can't Dance by: Giles Andrede and Guy Parker-Rees

Splash! by: Flora McDonnell

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cincinnati Chili in the Crock Pot

Chili soup and cinnamon rolls is an all-time favorite of mine. Part of the reason it's my favorite is because we didn't eat it that often growing up. It was something special we would eat when it was really cold, or there was a snow storm, or it was Christmas eve. Whatever the reason, it was always a delight to have such yummy chili soup.

I had been using my mom's recipe for several years and decided to make some changes to make it my own. Some of the ingredients I use are inspired by a Cincinnati Chili recipe from a magazine I get called Cook's Country. We've really enjoyed this recipe and I hope you do too. The funny thing is, the ingredients are always changing to match my mood...or what the pantry/freezer has to offer.

Cincinnati Chili
serves 6-8 adults

1 1/2 lb lean ground beef, browned
1 lg can diced tomatoes
2 cans chili-style beans (I use Mrs. Grimes, unless something else is on sale)
2 tbsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp cinnamon
salt & pepper
1/4 tsp all-spice
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar (I used light because that's what I had on hand)

Mix together in a crock pot and simmer on low for 4-5 hours. Serve over cooked spaghetti and top with chopped onions, shredded cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. Oh, and you can't forget the cinnamon rolls on the side. Yummy!!!

Friday, January 9, 2009

At the Heart of Hospitality

I've been meaning to talk about hospitality but I haven't gotten around to it. Just like I haven't gotten around to inviting the neighbors, the new couple from church, the family that had us over for dinner, an old friend from high school and his new family, or even our closest friends over for dinner. Yikes!

I think a lot of it has to do with my perceived view of hospitality, no matter how wrong it is. To me, everything has to be perfect: the toys are put away neatly, the papers in the kitchen are all filed, the dishes are not piled in the sink (clean ones are NOT still in the dishwasher), the new paint job in the living room and kitchen are perfectly touched-up, I have an extravagant meal planned, the dining area is perfectly decorated, there's no dust, no spills, blah, blah, blah. How realistic is that...really??

I'm coming to learn that it's just nice to be asked over to someone's home. When our family gets invited somewhere, I'm not looking for dust. I'm not looking for a beautiful meal prepared by Martha Stewart or for a home decorated by her either. I'm looking for conversation, connection, love, a sense of belonging, friends, laughter... So I would hope that those are the things people feel when they are invited into my home.

Today, I came across Sandy Coughlin's blog entitled 4 Reluctant Entertainers. It has been a great reminder of what hospitality is all about. She even posted her ten commandments and they have been a great inspiration for me.

I decided that I'm going to do a little series called At the Heart of Hospitality and reference Sandy's Ten Commandments (found in the right-hand column of her blog) while writing some thoughts of my own.

Fazoli's Italian Revolution

Do you like free food? I know I do. I was riding past Fazoli's the other day and they had a banner outside that said: Join the Italian Revolution at So I went and signed myself up for a free spaghetti dinner...and all the free breadsticks I want.

Fazoli's is also a great way to eat out frugally. When my husband and I go there, we use our Super Saver's Card that the high school youth group sells for a fundraiser. With that card you get a free side salad or a free lemon ice. We usually choose the free salad and split it. We also split a baked spaghetti and munch on lots of bread sticks. If we're splurging, we'll share a soda. It's a yummy, cheap way to eat out on a date.

Join the Italian Revolution today to get your plate of free spaghetti.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Good Reading

Here are a few books that we've enjoyed from the library over the past two weeks:

Little Smudge
by: Lionel Le Neouanic

This is a book about being original and accepting others.

Alphabet City
by: Stephen T. Johnson

I loved the illustrations in this wordless book. It's fun to find the letters on each painting. The paintings are really beautiful and some look like photographs.

No More Diapers for Ducky!
by: Bernette Ford

This is a sweet little potty-training book. I hope it encourages my nearly 3-year-old to use the toilet.

This is the book I read aloud to our oldest son when I was up at all hours of the night nursing. I need to get it back out and read it to him again. It was a book that I enjoyed when I was a child. It's fun to pass those things on to your children.

The Indian in the Cupboard
by: Lynne Reid Banks

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

At the Heart of Hospitality: A Review

At the Heart of Hospitality is my series based on 4 Reluctant Entertainers 10 Commandments. I will be taking her commandments and adding my thoughts and how I can apply what I learned.

At the Heart of Hospitality:
A Gift
Organization and Planning
Setting the Mood
Transformation of Your Home
Grace for Your Perceived Mistakes
Being Yourself
Learning and Improvement
Life-changing Impact
I hope you will enjoy this series as much as I enjoyed writing about it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Free Redbox

Do you want to watch a free movie...tonight? Redbox is giving away a free movie with the promo code: 37CEA9. The offer expires tonight (01/05) at midnight. Thanks to MotherLoad for the info!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stranger Danger

My husband and I packed up both boys so that the youngest one could see the eye doctor after surgery. While we were waiting we visited with this couple in the waiting room. They seemed like nice people. I tend to be more private and on the shy side but my husband (even though he's an introvert too) tends to send out the "talk-to-me-I'm-a-nice-guy" vibe. Our boys were waiting with us and the older one was getting a little antsy. The gentleman told my son that he would give him a quarter if he would say his name. And my son (almost 3) went right over to him for the money. YIKES!! I was embarrassed at my lack of parenting skills and scared that my son would just go over to a stranger. I want to teach him about strangers, but I'm not sure he can comprehend it right now and I don't want to scare him...but I kind of do. Since my husband works at church, we're around people a lot. My son has never had stranger anxiety because of that...and now I wish he did. I really don't want anything to happen to him.

So, I'm asking for some suggestions on how to talk to your toddlers about strangers or if you know of any good books to read.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Amoretti Designs

When it comes to buying clothes I'm usually a frugal thinker but I stumbled upon Amoretti Designs and really like her stuff. I love the simplicity of the skirts and dresses. And the "skirty" is a wonderful idea for active little ladies. I only wish I had some girls to shop for. Check out the site as there is a sale going on through January 17th.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Organizing Your Child's New Year

Like I've said before: I love calendars. I also love organization. I'm constantly reorganizing my home to make better use of space, prioritize items, declutter, and just for fun.

I've talked about bedtime routines before. Well, now with "school" starting for my oldest, I decided it was time for him to have a daily routine as well. I don't like to focus too much on the clock but put focus on the order of the day. I hang the calendar and routines on the refrigerator so they're easy for my toddler to find and reference. Below, I have pictured our routines for the New Year. Feel free to use these as a guide when making routines for your children. I used pictures and numbers so they can learn the routine before they can read.

Bedtime Routine
Weekly Calendar
(I put on the "special" things that we do each week; I don't put daily items on this calendar)
Daily Routine
(at this point all he knows are the pictures and numbers so it works pretty well)
My son loves to look at his routines and calendars. I didn't want them to get all messy or ripped and so I decided to protect the big ones with sheet protectors and the small one is "laminated" with packing tape. It's been a great way to redirect my son during the day. It's nice because he can look at his sheets and see what comes next. They're also nice when I have a babysitter. It's really easy to instruct them with the bedtime and daily routines and it helps my son to obey because he knows what's going on.