Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tony's 14 Days of Valentines

Tony, if you are reading this STOP NOW or it will ruin your surprise. For the rest of you, continue on!

This year, I'm going to give a simple, little gift to Tony each night of February leading up to Valentine's Day. Nothing big, just a little reminder that after almost 12 years and 3 children, I'm still crazy about him. I'm going to make a little tag for each gift with the message and leave them out on his nightstand. Please feel free to use these ideas or substitute ideas that are more appropriate for your husband. These, of course, are tailored a bit to Tony's taste. And the big gift on February 14th? That one is all up to you!!

February 1: You're the "write" one for me. (bunch of his favorite pens)
February 2: I'm lucky to have you. (box of Lucky Charms cereal)
February 3: You light up my life. (a lit candle)
February 4: I have the hots for you. (Red Hot candies)
February 5: You are my dreamboat. (toy boat)
February 6: We were "mint" to be together. (box of Junior Mints)
February 7: I'm nuts about you. (little bag of nuts)
February 8: Our love was written in the stars. (star shaped sugar cookies)
February 9: I'm so lucky you're my sweetheart. (SweeTarts)
February 10: You're the man of my dreams. (a new flannel pillowcase)
February 11: You complete me. (total "The Office" joke...last piece of a puzzle)
February 12: You're a Cracker Jack husband and father. (Cracker Jacks)
February 13: You're the icing on my cake. (favorite cake)
February 14: Happy Valentine's Day!

SO GLAD January is almost over...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Swimming in Paperwork!

I found this fabulous idea in the February issue of Family Fun magazine (February, 2008 page 39), and it has already made our cold, dark day a little brighter!

I trudged my way out into the backyard last night in the sub-zero weather to get my kids' empty plastic turtle sandbox (but an empty plastic swimming pool would work even better). Then I gave it a quick wipe-down and let the ice thaw out of the bottom enough to pick it up in a 36 inch ice circle and throw it into the back yard. Seriously. Then I cleaned the bottom and let it dry. While it was drying, I shredded all the papers in our shred basket and VOILA! The kids found it first thing this morning and have had so much fun already.

(**The lady who submitted the idea in Family Fun mentioned that she chooses to change colors of paper to coordinate with seasons or holidays. For example, green for Easter with plastic eggs hidden in the "grass", black and orange for Halloween, etc.)

For more excellent ideas, check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Creative Update

Here is my take on Ali Edward's Valentine Tutorial from this past weekend. SO cute. Thanks, Ali , for the constant inspiration!

Also, Martha Stewart came out this past week with a half-sized Good Things for Kids filled to the brim with adorable kids' crafts...most made from things we have around the house already. It is worth a thumb-through.

Happy Tuesday.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Princess Bride Deleted Political Scene

I found this on Scribbit's blog this morning, and just had to share. Maybe a little sacriligious for the Sabbath, but hilarious nonetheless. Go Mitt, Mitt, Go Mitt, Mitt...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ali's Valentine Tutorial

I came across this darling tutorial on Ali Edwards' blog is part of her "Weekend Creative" projects. I have always admired her style and devotion to her little family, and this little Valentine's booklet is something that I can print out (complete with her Ali handwriting and lines), add photos to, and embellish from the children and I to Tony for Valentine's Day. Hope it can be an inspiration to you, too.

I'll post pictures of mine when I've completed it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Crock-Pot Love & a Word Wizard

In my blog-hopping this morning, I came across Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom and she hosts Slow Cooking Thursday, a chance to share tried-and-true crock-pot recipes. And as luck would have it, I tried a great new slow cooker recipe for my family last night from my Gooseberry Patch Slow Cooker recipe book. Easy, and delicious!

Italian Sausage & Penne

3/4 lb. hot uncooked Italian sausage links, cut into bite sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
26 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce
6 oz. cooked penne pasta

Stir all ingredients together except pasta in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. At serving time, stir in cooked pasta. Makes 4 servings.

I took the liberty of adding some grated Parmesan cheese to the top and served it with rolls.

And in other *exciting* news, Sam is now officially a Word Wizard! This means that he has memorized all 100 of the 1st grade Fry Sight Words and passed an oral test given by the principal of his elementary school. Even though he has been very good at his sight reading words since before Christmas, he only wanted to be tested when he felt ready. We're so proud of him!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Felt Valentine Fortune Cookies

Another winner from Martha! This one is from the current issue (February, page 48) of Martha Stewart Living and is so easy...just requires a bit of patience while you wait for the glue to dry! Perfect to do with (or for) children.

Cut a 4 1/2 inch diameter circle from a piece of felt.Cut a piece of matching ribbon just short of 4 1/2 inches. Using wire cutters, cut a piece of floral wire slightly shorter than the length of ribbon. Use tacky glue to attach floral wire across the center of a felt circle. Glue the piece of ribbon to cover the wire. Allow to dry completely.

When dry, fold the circle in half along wire, with the ribbon folded inside. Then bend the wire in half and bring the sides together fold to fold and forming a fortune cookie shape. Carefully pull back one side of the felt cookie and place a fortune inside with a few candies (I used candy kisses) . Fold the flap back over the fortune and treats.

For more great ideas to help keep your family from going crazy this winter, check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Baby, It's COLD Outside!

It is dang cold here. Miserably cold. So cold it makes me worry to take Josh out in it. So we have been huddled in our toasty home for the last few days, listening to talk radio (gotta love politics) and enjoying every moment of laziness. I finished our mountain of laundry this morning and put a few finishing touches on some new scrapbook pages. Sorry the color is a little weird on the *sparkle* one...I had to turn my flash off because I kept getting glitter-glare. And I've had a thing lately for white letter stickers. Obviously.

Yes, the Halloween picture are from 2006. So I'm a little behind...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dr. King

My family is all together today. Tony has the day off because of the Federal holiday and Sam is home because today is a teacher inservice. So I've just spent a few minutes coming up with some fun things to do for FHE this evening with the theme being Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Wanted to share some of the resources I found.

This site has a really cute Montgomery Public Transportation bus for the kids to color. I am using this free pattern...I like the kids' faces for my children to color, cut out and glue in the bus windows while we teach about Dr. King's life and legacy.

I'm also going to use this poem by Jamie McKenzie tonight.

And a couple of pictures for your wee ones to color can be found here and here.

Here is a text with exerpts from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech with key words missing. I thought for older children, it would be fun to listen to the speech online and have them try and fill in the words. Or you can even play online if you're gutsy.

What a legacy to teach our children. Be sure to share any other great resources you find out there!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Any Takers?

Okay, Tony and I have discovered a new talent. This has happened to us TWICE now. We set up a fun date with some friends who happen to be expecting a baby. Then, we get a call at the last minute, like tonight, cancelling because they go into labor.

We'll be open to scheduling more double dates shortly if anybody else gets desperate and wants to go into labor. Our services will not be cheap.

Good luck tonight, Aaron and Holly!

Chocolate-Raspberry Cookie Trifle

We're celebrating Megan's birthday this weekend. Hooray! And instead of a traditional birthday cake, she chose to have a Chocolate-Raspberry Cookie Trifle. It's a recipe we found in The Pampered Chef's Fall/Winter Season's Best Recipe Collection and it looks stunning in the trifle bowl Joan gave me for my birthday.

Chocolate-Raspberry Cookie Trifle

1 cup milk
1 pkg. white chocolate instant pudding
1 16 oz. container cool whip
1 12 oz. box of Nilla wafers (broken in half)
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 12 oz. jar seedless raspberry jam
1 12 oz. bag frozen raspberries (not in syrup)

For filling, combine milk and pudding mix;whisk until it starts to thicken. Reserve 1/2 cup cool whip and gently fold the remaining cool whip into the pudding mixture. Cover and refrigerate. For ganache, combine chocolate chips, 1/2 cup cool whip and half of the jam and microwave for 40-60 seconds, or until melted. Stir until smooth. Place remaining jam in bowl and microwave for 30-60 seconds, or until melted. gently stir in thawed raspberries. Set aside 16 whole cookies for garnish.

To assemble trifle, place 1/3 of the cookies into bottom of the trifle bowl. layer 1/3 of raspberry mixture over cookies. Top with 1/3 of the pudding mixture and 1/3 of ganache. Repeat layers two more times, finishing with a smooth layer of ganache. Place the reserved whole cookies into top of trifle.

Happy Birthday, Megs!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Giveaway Winner & a "Two-fer"

First item of business: the winner of my 100th post giveaway is CHERIE!! I'll get it in the mail tomorrow! Congrats and thanks to everybody who commented.

We get to play with Ashley today...we just love Ashley!

But the best part of the deal was at the very last minute, I got to keep baby Rebecca, too.

Kinda makes me want to rethink the "three-kid-family" thing. . .isn't she sweet?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Crazy Crayons

This is another fun Martha Stewart Kids magazine idea from 2002 that I had filed away, and yesterday, Anna and I did a trial run and had a blast making these crazy crayons!

Tools and Materials
Kitchen knife
Old crayons
Mini-cake tins
(we used a mini-muffin tin and some antique chocolate molds)

Crayon How-To
1. Parents can use the knife to chop crayons into pea-size pieces, taking care to keep colors separate so kids can combine them as they like.

2. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees while children fill the tin with crayon pieces, arranging them in interesting designs
.(our stove only goes down to 170 degrees and that worked fine...just watch them closely!)

3. Bake just until the waxes have melted, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Remove the shapes after they have cooled. If they stick, place tray in the freezer for an hour, and the crayons will pop out.

This is how ours turned out. Next time, I think we'll make them a bit thicker. We had so much fun with these, I'd get a couple boxes of crayons at the $1 store even after we've used up all our old and broken crayons and do more!

For more great winter ideas, crafts and recipes, check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Science 101

Okay, this means that I will move my 100th post giveaway deadline to Wednesday night (I will draw Thursday morning) because I couldn't wait to share this gem.

I can only guess that they started a new science section in Sam's 1st grade class today because as soon as Sam jumped in the car after school this afternoon he said,

Sam: "Mom, guess what you're made of."
Me: (not wanting to influence AT ALL the schooling I was about to get) "I don't know, Sam. What am I made of?"
Sam: "Matter."
Me: "Wow, Sam, that's right. I am made of matter."
Sam: "Yep. Anna is, too."

Anna must have found this profoundly offensive because she instantly shrieks,

Anna: "No, I'm NOT!"
Me: "Actually, Anna, your brother is right. We are all made of matter."
Anna: "Not me."
Me: "Then what are you made of?"
Anna: "Chocolate."

I'm so glad I asked.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My 100th Post Giveaway

I can't believe that this is my 100th post! I've been introduced to some pretty awesome, inspirational, and talented people through the blogging world...I'm looking forward to the next 100!

Now on to the giveaway!

Having a husband in the Air Force makes me sort of a sap for military quotes...especially from historical figures. So I was delighted when I found a really cute sampler (see original here) in the latest The Country House catalog. I loved the quote and the idea, but didn't love the way it was done enough to actually buy it. So I made up my own. I was so happy with the way it turned out that I made one for me and one to giveaway! Leave a comment before I post my 101st post (which could be anytime so act soon) and you're entered! Thanks for making my world a little more interesting and a lot more FUN!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Craft Spot

I've been promising to post some pictures of my craft area...and today is finally the day! One of the things that sold us on this home was the HUGE 850 square-foot finished family room in the basement. I love that I can tuck my things on the back wall and sew or work while the kids play right behind me, or watch a movie. It has been a huge blessing. It is also nice because I have some added incentive to keep it organized because we constantly have people over to play or for FHE. And who wants all their "business" hangin' out for the company.

My desk, caddy of tools, notepads, pictures and sewing corkboard holds inspiration, notes and do-dads that remind me of those I love. And lots of As.

I love old antique boxes, but couldn't figure out an effective way to use my old coke box...until I came across these spice jars at World Market. They are only $1 and hold buttons, charms, metal accents...anything small. I just added a label to the top so I know what's in each one.

I got these two chests of pull-out basket drawers at Hobby Lobby on clearance and they are HUGE inside. All my supplies are put away with similar supplies, and then I labeled each basket at the handle so I know what is it each one without digging. I reorganize constantly, so I sometimes forget what is where.

I requisitioned the top of our book shelves in the basement to hold my current magazines and reference books, binders, and my priceless idea book of gathered ideas and sketches. I only keep my magazines for one year, and then sort through them and file away the good stuff in my idea book. That way, I don't get overwhelmed. The kids love to cut up the magazines when I am done with them.

Do you have any great ideas for organizing?? I'd love to hear them. Happy Saturday!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Curious Anna

Last evening was a little crazy. Tony had a board so he was in court all day and was going to be late getting home. It was about 6:00 p.m. and Josh had just gone down for the night and the kids had been fed and were playing downstairs while I tried to get things set up for my Enrichment Board Meeting. Sam and Anna came walking up the stairs and Anna was sorta whimpering and Sam was telling her to go lay in her bed and he'd help her feel better. Well, my kids have very active imaginations, so I just assumed they were playing. I did check in on them once, and Sam had set Anna up in her bed with a juice box, a chair by her bed for toys and books, and a towel on her pillow...all things we do if the kids are sick. So cute. And they were being quiet and good, so I didn't give it a second thought. About 6:30, I was downstairs puttering around when Sam came up to me and said,

Sam: Mom? Do you promise to take Anna to the doctor tomorrow while I am at school?
Me: Why does Anna need to go to the doctor?
Sam: Because she is sick and needs to go to the hospital.
Me: Sam, Anna isn't sick...she's just pretending.
Sam: No, Mom, she REALLY is sick, and she needs to see the doctor!
Me: Hold on, Sam, why does she NEED to see the doctor (starting to worry).
Sam: So she can get her toy back.
Me: (really starting to worry) What toy, Sam?
Sam: Her Barbie horse food.

Anna got a Barbie horse for Christmas that you feed these tiny pieces of plastic clover to and then they magically reappear out a chute on the horses' saddle so you can feed the horse again. They are tiny and have no sharp edges, thank goodness.

Me: Sam! Did Anna swallow the horse's food?
Sam: Yes...and now she needs an x-ray and the doctor will give her a shot to make her sleep and then when she wakes up, the doctor will give her the horse's food back in a a jar.

This is all starting to sound familiar. That's right. It's the plot right out of Curious George Goes to the Hospital, where Curious George swallows a puzzle piece and gets "sick" so the Man in the Yellow Hat takes him to the see the doctor and they remove the puzzle piece from his tummy. So I ran upstairs to talk to Anna, where I finally convinced her that the food was really tiny and that it won't really make her sick like Curious George and that she won't have to go and see the doctor.

She was so relieved, until I told her the horse food eventually would come out of her tummy (and how) and that we weren't going to play with it again:-) You can't make up a story like that, my friends.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Keeping Warm

I know that some of you live in climes where you aren't especially concerned with staying warm in mid-January. Unfortunately, our family isn't so lucky! So I decided to share one of the Christmas gifts I gave Tony this's warm, soft and perfect for cuddling under while we watch movies! Plus, it is a way to use jeans with holes in them that may otherwise be thrown away.

I saved all of my family's jeans in a special corner of my craft area, and when I had about 20 assorted pairs, I cut them all into 6 1/2" squares with my rotary cutter. Then, I also cut 6 1/2" squares of a soft, blue flannel. I then put wrong sides together and stitched with jean-colored thread from corner to corner, creating an "x" on each square. Then, place flannel side to flannel side and stitch together 1/4" from edge. When you have completed the body of the quilt, stitch 1/4" all around the outside of the quilt. Then clip all the thicknesses of seams and wash and dry to fray the edges. No finishing, no binding...the perfect quilting project! I loved putting the labels and even entire pockets from my kids' jeans into the quilt. Tony LOVES it.

And for all you hot cocoa lovers, a favorite!

White Chocolate Cocoa Mix

1 tsp. vanilla powder
1 tsp. dried orange zest
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Mix ingredients together well and store in an airtight container or canning jar. To make, heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a saucepan, then blend in 1/4 cup cocoa mix until the chocolate chips melt. It's worth the effort! Makes 2 servings. You CAN substitute French Vanilla Coffee Mate powdered creamer for the vanilla powder, but it is worth a trip to a specialty cooking store to find the vanilla powder.

For more great ideas, check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Apple Pulled Pork BBQ

I found this recipe in my Gooseberry Patch Slow Cooker recipe book and we made it for Tony to take to his office Holiday potluck. I guess it was quite literally inhaled, so I made it again this weekend for our family. It was the perfect Fast Sunday meal!

Apple Pulled Pork BBQ
5 lb. pork roast
5 cloves garlic
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 cup spicy BBQ sauce of your choice
1 1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
10-12 rolls, split

Place roast in crock pot (you can cut it in several pieces if necessary). Top with whole garlic cloves and chopped onion; add water to cover roast. Cover and cook for 10-14 hours on low, or overnight. When pork is tender and easily shredded, drain and discard cooking liquid. Break apart roast in crock pot and shred, removing any bones; mash and blend in garlic. Combine BBQ sauce and applesauce; toss with pulled pork to coat evenly. Sprinkle with cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cover and cook until warmed through. Serve spooned onto rolls. Makes 10-12 sandwiches.

I love to cook and bake...except with yeast. I SUCK at yeast. I just could never seem to figure it out! But my friend Brenda shared a recipe with me where you don't have to proof the yeast...amazing! Even I have yet to screw it up! Plus, the pulled pork tastes so much better on homemade rolls. Thank you, Brenda, for making me look good!

Butter Crescents

3 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. yeast
1/3 cup powdered milk
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar

Mix above ingredients together. Add two cups HOT tap water (as hot as you can get it from the tap). Once it is mixed well (just with a spoon), add two eggs and 1/3 cup oil and continue to stir with a spoon. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Add another 3 1/2 cups flour. Mix in and knead until you have a nice dough consistency. Let rise. Divide in half. Roll into 2 large circles and brush with melted butter. Cut into 16 pieces-like a pizza. Roll from outside in to make a crescent shape. Place on greased cookie sheet. Let rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Brush melted butter on top after baking.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sam is 7

Seven years ago today, we became parents to the sweetest, cutest little guy. It took more years than we wanted for us to be able to have him, and we were so grateful when he finally joined our family. He is a kind big brother who adores his little brother and sister. He is a talented artist. He is a dynamite reader. He loves to swim and to use his imagination. We think he's pretty great. So in honor of his special day, we had ice cream sundaes for dinner last night (his choice) and opened presents this morning before gong to church. He and his daddy have sure enjoyed using the rest of us as moving targets for his new slingshot and mini marshmallows...

We love you Sam! Here's to another fun-filled year of laughter and love!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

War of the "Rags"

Okay, my sister Megan has been staying with us during the Christmas break, and as always, she brought her stuffed dog Rags with her. Rags is the source of much delight for Megan, obviously, but for Tony also. It started during the summers we stayed in Alaska and has continued with an increasing ferocity since Megan moved to Nebraska and regularly visits our home (see previous Christmas post). Tony LOVES to place Rags in compromising situations. Usually, Megs will retaliate, leaving Rags in a place that Tony will be sure to enjoy. Once I found Rags in a sexy, "come hither" pose on Tony's pillow. One morning we found Rags in the freezer. The rest of us just shake our heads and hold our precious objects a little closer, grateful that Rags is the one "taking one for the team." Here are the highlights from Christmas Break...

Rags inside the fireplace. (Tony actually had to take the thing apart to get him in and out of there. Now that's dedication...)

Rags in Tony's stocking.

Rags stuffed inside a quart canning jar. And he is, for the record, A DOG.

Osama bin Rags ready to end it all.

Thanks for the fun visit, Megan. We'll be happy to pay for Rags' therapy.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My Day In Numbers

Today I...

...listened to SIX hours of talk radio (gotta love the Iowa Caucus. Oh.My.Gosh. I really am a nerd!) and changed SIX diapers.

...washed, folded, and put away FIVE loads of laundry, and spent FIVE dollars at Target. (I actually didn't know it was possible to only spend $5 at Target until today.)

...packed up FOUR bins of Christmas decorations, and made FOUR visiting teaching gifts.

...watched Josh enjoy the THREE new teeth he has gotten in since Sunday, and bathed THREE of the world's cutest kids.

...made TWO dozen birthday cupcakes for my animal fanatic Sam's class tomorrow and mailed TWO packages.

...cleaned up ONE broken snow-globe (the price of having Anna help me pack up Christmas:-) and am taking ONE quiet moment to relax!

Hope you had a fabulous day!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

April's Diaper Tote Giveaway

My sister is having another giveaway on her blog and it's a great one. We sold what seemed like a MILLION of these diaper totes at our last craft show. They are so great for moms that don't want to lug around a diaper bag for a quick trip, but don't dare leave home without back-up. AND you'll look oh so stylin' doing it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Julie's Shower Set

Just finished a set of baby shower invites, thank you notes, and an advice book for my sister's sister-in-law. The baby's nursery is brown and blue and is decorated in cars, trucks, and planes. So I used this cute brass stencil that has a truck, car, and bus on it and blue and brown buttons as accents. I think the set turned out pretty cute! (If you double click on the picture, it will show a larger image.)

Next on the "to-do" list today...a new monthly menu for my family. Anything to delay having to take Christmas down...