Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve Treats

I've been cleaning the house, putting away Christmas decorations, the boys have their friends over, and I'm making treats for us tonight.  Tomorrow I'm planning on making breakfast pizza for the kids and then we (just the family) are planning on going shopping and returning a few Christmas gifts so we will have the traditional New Years Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage on Saturday. 

Here are some of the yummy treats that we will be having tonight - guacamole (Carl has never had this and it's about time he tries it), cranberry bars (recipe courtesy of Janna B. from work), and Texas chocolate sheet cake.  This is kind of a long post, but I hope you enjoy it.

Guacamole (from All Recipes)
3 avocados- peeled, pitted, and mashed
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. diced onion
3 tblsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)

The ingredients for yummy guacamole!

In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados.

Mix in the juice of one lime and salt.

Mix in the cilantro.  I used a kitchen scissors to cut mine up.

Then mix in the chopped onions, garlic, and tomatoes.

Stir in the cayenne pepper (I didn't put this in my batch).  Refrigerate for 1 hour for best flavor or serve immediately.

Ohhhhhh, the finished product.  Can you see that I have a chip in there ready to sample the blending of flavors? 

I have to show you three kitchen gadgets that I used to create my guacamole.  All three are from Pampered Chef and are some of my favorite things in addition to their little brown squares and vegetable peeler.  From left to right:  the whopper chopper - I seriously don't know what it's called but I use it all the time; the middle one is usually used to mix up ground beef in a pan when you brown it, but I used it to start mashing the avocados and then went to a fork, the last one is the garlic press and you can guess what I used that for.

Cranberry Bars - This recipe is from Janna and I'm not sure where she got it from, but she tells us they are delicious!
2 c. washed whole cranberries (I used dried)
1 c. chopped walnuts
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. melted butter
1 tsp. almond extract
2 c. powdered sugar

2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. almond extract

Add small amount of water to obtain desired consistency.  Drizzle over bars.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray jellyroll pan with non-stick pray or line with foil.  Mix eggs, flour, sugar, butter, and 1 tsp. almond extract.  Spread batter in jellyroll pan.  Sprinkle with cranberries and walnuts.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let bars cool before glazing.

Before baking......

After baking, cooling, and the glaze.

The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever (at least that's what Pioneer Woman says)

For the cake:
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tblsp (heaping) cocoa
2 sticks butter
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

For the frosting:
1/2 c. finely chopped pecans
1 3/4 stick butter
4 tblsp (healping) cocoa
6 tblsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 pound (minus 1/2 cup) powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.  In a saucepan, melt butter.  Add cocoa.  Stir together.  Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat.  Pour over flour mixture and stir lightly to cool.  In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla.  Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture.  Pour into sheet cake pan (jellyroll pan) and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing.  Chop peans finely.  Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat.  Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar.  Stir together.  Add the pecans, stir together and pour over warm cake.

I'm sure you can see that there was major spillage here!  I'm afraid to lift the pan up and how big the mess is that I have to clean up.  I think I went wrong when I didn't let it cool a bit, but hey I was in a hurry.

Happy New Year everyone!

Watcha Working on Wednesday (Ok, it's really Thursday)

I've been finding some really great blogs lately that are filled with great stories, projects, recipes, etc.  Does that mean I've been spending too much time on the computer and not enough time with the family?  Probably, but don't ask my husband.  Here are some of my most recent finds:
  • Blessed with Grace.  Lisa has a wonderful Christian blog, a great testimony, and she likes Pioneer Woman.  You know that's a plus in my book! 
  • My Country Home.  Leslie does a segment called Watcha Working on Wednesday and I love reading about what other women are working on - I've learned a few things along the way and found some new things that I would like to try.  Leslie does stitchery and besides quilting, this is one of the things that I would like to do in 2010. 
  • I've also been checking out All Roads Lead Home.  Sarah has a beautiful home, likes Goodwill shopping (she must have a really good one to shop at), and she refinishes furniture or just about anything that she buys.  I've really been inspried by a few of her posts from November and want to try to refinish some furniture myself.
  • I just found A View of My Life today.  Sherrie likes to crochet and she has links to other blogs with something happening almost every day of the week. 
These ladies have made me really think about being crafty and creative again.  I feel inspired, motivated, and looking forward to 2010 after reading their blogs and some of my other favorites the past few weeks.  So, thank you ladies and I wish you a very happy new year!

Now to share with you my projects for Watcha Working on Wednesday.   I learned this from Sarah's blog on a post about cabinet makeovers.

My MIL gave me this cabinet and I love it.  It's been in so many rooms in our house and I recently pulled it out of the attic so I can refinish it.  It's a litttle worn on some areas and just needs some TLC. My plan is to paint it black, put a coat of barn red paint on it, sand it lightly, and then put a coat of stain on it. Here it is before and I'm hoping by next week I can post the finished project. 

I also have this sewing machine box that I think my mother gave me.  I've had it sitting in my family room for a while with greenery in it, but after looking at some new blogs, I saw a picture of one with old canning jars in it on a kitchen counter.  I think the jars had stuff in them too.  Oh how I wish I could remember where I saw that, but my brain's filing system can't find that record :)  I have the same plan for this item as the cabinet.  Good thing I have a few days off of work so I can start on these!

So folks, that is all I'm going to post now about projects.  I'm probably like so many others - too many projects, not enough time.  Just have to pick and choose what you want to or need to work on first. 

Please join me tomorrrow as I post the first installment of  Fit Friday.  Please let me state once again that I am not a fitness expert!  I just need to start treating my body better by what I put in it, on it, and do with it.  I'm trying to figure this out as I go and posting will keep me accountable.  So please have a safe, fun, and happy New Year everyone!

See you next year!  Sorry, I couldn't resist :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ho Ho Ho - Santa's in the house!

I just want to share a quick post about Christmas at our house this year.  I was so excited to have some of my family come to our house to celebrate the season.  My mother and youngest sister and her family arrived in the early afternoon and spent the night, leaving the next morning for Florida to take our mom back home.  I haven't hosted a family dinner for my side in a long time, so I was pretty excited.  Here are some pictures from Christmas at our house.

These are just some of the yummy treats that we had to munch on.

This is my niece and I also found that she is going to be a big sister in July.  Her pajama bottoms were so long on her that she pulled the legs up and walked around all night like that.  She is so entertaining...

Cousins :)  Can you read what Kay's shirt says?  All I want for Christmas is my Auntie and can you guess which auntie bought that for her???

Mimi, Heath, and Kay (my sister and her family)

My mom

Kay, Ryan and my mom.  For some reason, Kay really likes Ryan.  She follows him around and laughs at him alot.  Ryan made popcorn and sat down to watch a movie on Christmas night.  Kay climbed on the couch and slowly inched her way over to where she is in the picture.  Too cute.

Our family - Carl, Pam, Kyle and Ryan

I have more pictures to post from Christmas with Carl's family, but that will have to wait for tomorrow.  I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and please have a safe, happy, and fun New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What's for Supper?

This is an every day question at our house. I can be asked by any one of us. Doesn't matter who asks. Doesn't matter what time it's asked. It's a question that is asked every day. I could have just answered the question and the next person that comes in the kitchen will ask "what's for supper?".

Good grief, I can't even think about food right now after all I've been eating the last few days, but I'm going to have to figure it out. That means that I'm going to open some of the many cookbooks that I have or go to some of my favorite websites to figure it out:

Tasty Kitchen
And Baby Makes Five (Colleen)
All Recipes
Dinner Made Easy
Eat Better America

So, while I'm doing that can you please give me some suggestions on what I can make for supper? What are you having, and.....can we please come over?


While we are on the subject of food (one of my favorite subjects), I wanted to let everyone know that I am going to start a new segment called "Fit Friday" that will include healthy recipes, fitness tips, exercises DVD reviews, and other miscellaneous tidbits.  Let me say one thing first:  I am in no way, shape, or form, a fitness expert.  AND - I did not sleep at a Holiday Inn Express, so we are all in this together.  My goal is to try to get myself motivated to get back in shape, treat my body better, learn a few things along the way, and share what I've found with all of you. 

So, please join me this Friday - New Year's day - for the first installment of Fit Friday and let's get healthy together.

See you next time!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This Christmas....

I have been finding some really great blogs lately and this is one thing that I would like to share with everyone.  It is on Julie's blog and I thought it would make a good post since Christmas is a few days away, people may be getting a little stressed out and need to take a few moments to think about what Christmas is all about.

"This Christmas, mend a quarrel.
Seek out a forgotten friend.
Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust.
Write a letter.
Give a soft answer.
Encourage youth.
Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.
Keep a promise.
Forgo a grudge.
Forgive an enemy.
Try to understand.
Examine your demands on others.
Think first of someone else.
Be kind.
Be gentle.
Laugh a little more.
Express your gratitude.
Welcome a stranger.
Gladden the heart of a child.
Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.
Speak your love and then speak it again."

President Howard W. Hunter

Please take time out of your busy day to reflect on all of your blessings large and small.  Share a smile with a stranger, a kind word with a friend, a hug with someone you love.  You may never know how these little things may really brighten someone's day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas tree, a squirrel, and a man with a chainsaw

This is Ryan and Carl's latest drawing.  Carl drew the tree and put the star on top.  Ryan drew the man with the chainsaw an the squirrel running up the side of the tree.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mt. Dew Apple Cobbler

Good morning all!  I was going through my recipes trying to figure out what to make this weekend and found one that I forgot all about.  A friend (thanks Scheli) shared this several years ago and I think the recipe has made it's way through the county we live in.

Don't even ask if it's fat free......

Mountain Dew Apple Cobbler

2 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored & cut into 8 sections (use Granny Smith because they hold their shape well)
2 cans of crescent rolls
2 sticks of butter (use the real stuff)
2 cups of sugar
1 can Mountain Dew (1 1/2 cups)
Cinnamon and chopped pecans or walnuts as desired

Wrap one crescent roll around each section of apple and place in a 9x13 lightly greased pan.  Melt butter and mix with sugar.  Pour over apples.  Pour on the Mountain Dew (DO NOT STIR).  Sprinkle with cinnamon and chopped pecans.  Bake uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes.

Before you leave, please visit Colleen's blog as I'm sure some great recipes have been posted on her site.  She also has some craft tutorials that look like fun.  Have a great weekend everyone!!

Christmas Lights

We were driving home after Kyle's basketball game last night and decided to drive by a few houses that always have a lot of Christmas lights up.  The lights were beautiful again this year and one of the neighboring houses also put up lights.  I only took pictures of the house with the biggest display and then I took a picture of the neighbor's house - the pictures aren't the best because they are coming from my phone, but I think you will be able to see everything just fine.

This house has a huge display of Christmas lights in the yard, on the house and the garage, in the trees, basically everywhere.

This is in front of the garage.

The picture is tilted a little, but this is a dump truck - I wish I had a video because it was so cute.

Here is the neigbor's house....DITTO.

Do you have your favorite places to look at lights or a new place that you would like to check out?  We have a few around here.  I also remember a few places in Crown Point, IN near my hometown that were some of my favorites.  Maybe we can visit those this year when we come home for the holidays.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lucas Oil Stadium

Today my youngest son is going on a field trip to Lucas Oil Stadium and I'm so excited for him.  You see, Ryan's school has the blue dot reading program designed to get students interested in reading.  When students read, they choose books with a blue dot (of course) and each book is worth a certain amount of points.  Once the student reads the book, they take a test on it and receive points once the test is passed.  Then each grade level has a certain amount of points they have to reach each semester and 70 points was the goal for the fourth grade.  Well, Ryan likes to read but yet I really had to talk him into reaching his goal so he could go on the field trip.  Normally the "prize" for reaching your goal is to go swimming and I think that is what he would have preferred.  Well, he earned 70 points and read some good books along the way and now gets to tour the stadium.  However, he wants to wear his Chicago Bears football jersey.  Carl talked to him and explained that while he was happy that Ryan wanted to support his favorite team, he would probably receive some ribbing for wearing an opposing team's shirt.  Ryan still didn't get it.  Carl then explained it like this:  it's like going into someone else's house and not showing respect to them.  Still don't know if he understood, but he did pick out a different shirt. 

I can't wait to see Ryan tonight and hear all about Lucas Oil Stadium.  Maybe he will have a new favorite team at the end of the field trip. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Came Early For Me

Oooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I'm soooooooooo excited!!!!  I got one of my Christmas presents early.  My husband made my blogging life so much easier and more enjoyable by buying me a new laptop!  Isn't he absolutely wonderful?!  Plus he earned major brownie points because it is P-I-N-K and I love the color pink.   Even though this isn't my laptop, it looks exactly like the picture below.  I think I'm so stunned that I don't know what to say.  I'm actually at a loss for words and that will really surprise some people that know me.  So, I will come down from my high and then blog appropriately tomorrow because I have lots and lots of blogging ideas now. 

Only 9 more days until Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chili Cook-Off

Earlier this week a friend of mine asked me if I would enter a recipe in a chili cook-off that he was organizing.  I don't know why, but I agreed to do it even though I can't make chili to save my life.  I don't know why it's so difficult for me, but I feel like I can't ever get the recipe right - too many beans, too many tomatoes, noodles, no noodles, too spicy - you get the picture. 

Now that I agreed to enter chili in this cook-off, I had to find a recipe that I could actually make and one that actually tasted good.  I would normally give in and go directly to panic mode, but I was calm, cool, and collected as I remembered that there was a chili recipe in the new cookbook that I recently purchased (lucky me).  If you read my blog, you may remember that I posted last week about Pioneer Woman.  I bought her new cookbook (which is wonderful) earlier in the week and decided to use her Simple, Perfect Chili recipe.  Pioneer Woman has some of the best recipes that don't seem extremely difficult or use funky, not-so-normal ingredients, plus she is really funny and takes great pictures. 

Anyway, I made the chili (yes, the first time I made it was the entry into the cook-off) and my husband and boys really liked it.  Here are the pictures from the evening and to find out how I fared, you will have to read the entire post.  Come on, just humor me a little please :)

This is the finished product ready for Carl to test before we left to deliver the goods.

There were 11 mild entries and 4 spicy entries, plus garlic bread, hot dogs and chips, desserts, and drinks. 

Rachel and Andy love chili and drove all the way over to have some good food.  As you can see, Rachel takes her taste-testing very seriously.  She had a sample from every chili entry. 

I think Andy went more for the spicy samples.  (He did tell me that he liked my recipe the best - 1 vote.)

The taste-testing was done, desserts were gobbled up and it was time to vote.  Just thinking about all of that food makes me want to put on a very stretchy pair of pj's and lounge on the couch.

Carl is thinking really hard about which recipe he should vote for.  Sweetheart, can I just say one thing?  Think really hard about your vote if you don't want to be eating bologna sandwiches for the next year....

Santa even made an appearance at the cook-off.  This is my youngest son, Ryan.  What do you think - was he naughty or nice this year?

Drum roll please...........

You really want to know what place I came in?

For real!?

I came in second out of four spicy entries.  Not bad for making the recipe for the first time.  The boy (yes boy - 7th grade boy) that won this year also won last year with the same recipe.  I do have to say that I had fun and we had a nice evening out visiting with friends.  On the recommendation of my oldest son, I'm planning on entering again so watch out 7th grade boy - I'll be seeing you next year.

And I would like to add a very big thank you to Pioneer Woman!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Life and Caramel Marshmallows

Wow - can you believe that Christmas is two weeks from today!!!  I seriously need to take an inventory of presents that we already have and ones that we still need to buy.  My hope was to go shopping with my husband and then have a nice dinner with him (or at least a Starbucks), but I think that we will have to wait a few more days.  Kyle had a basketball game last night (yea - South won!) and now he wants to go to the high school game tonight, so because he is showing interest in something (not typical for this 14 y/o), we have decided to change our plans and cheer South to victory.

I need to pretend I'm Martha Stewart or some other baking whiz and start my Christmas cookies this weekend, plus my mother is coming in next week and I want to get some small projects finished so the house looks nice for her arrival.  I have to tell you that my sisters and I really surprised her with her birthday gifts yesterday.  If you remember from a few posts back, I mentioned that I was going to visit two of my sisters and my niece and we were going to work on my mom's birthday gift.  Well, she thought we were working on this scrapbook that was started many, many moons ago, but we all made a quilt square for her.  (Now I can't post a picture yet because my mom wont get her gift until she arrives next week, but I will post a picture after that.)  I enjoyed making my quilt square so much that I want to take a quilting class after the holidays (put it on the list....).

Friends of mine talked me into entering a chili cook-off on Saturday and that's also on my list of things to do this weekend.  I'm doing this a little backwards and the recipe that I'm making for the cook-off is a brand new recipe that I haven't tried yet.  So, since there are people in town that read my blog and may be entering also, I'm not giving away any secrets yet so that post will have to come later.

I work at a college and finals are next week then Christmas break.  We still work over break and have a few days off around the holidays.  This time of the year is always welcomed because everything is quiet and it's a great time to catch up on projects, etc.

Now for one of the caramel marshmallows that I talked about in a previous post.  This recipe came from my grandmother and all of us just love these things.  They are little messy, but definitely worth it.  I would have to say that this is a holiday family tradition for me and my sisters.  I'm also going to visit Colleen's blog to see what other great recipes are there and maybe I can find a new tradition to start.  What traditions do you or your family have?  Are you wanting to try something new this year, or not continue something?  Whatever your plans are, I hope your holiday season is happy and healthy. 
Caramel Marshmallows
1/2 c. butter
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 bag caramels
large box of Rice Krispie Treats
1 bag of large marshmallows

In double boiler melt butter, milk, and caramels. 

Dip marshmallows in caramel and then roll in Rice Krispies.

From my experience in making this recipe, the dipping and rolling works so much better if the caramel mixture can cool slightly.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pioneer Woman Rocks!

I absolutely have to tell you about Pioneer Woman.  If you've heard about her, have you been to her blog?  If not, you must - and I mean must - check it out.  I laughed so hard last night reading some of her posts.  She cooks, is a great writer, she takes awesome pictures, she channels Ethel Merman and Lucille Ball, and she is hilariously funny - Pioneer Woman rocks!  The bookstore at work has her new cookbook and I broke down and bought it.  It is a great book full of recipes (of course), some of her pictures, great stories.  Pioneer Woman also has another blog - Tasty Kitchen.  Its similar to, but I just like hers better.  Ok, I know I need to calm down because I sound like I'm stalking her or her blog, but she is really, really funny. 

While we are on the topic of baking and cooking blogs, have you been over to  She has a great website/blog full of really interesting, cute, fun recipes.  I plan on visiting her site and trying to find a new recipe or two for Christmas.  I do know that I plan on making rice krispie covered marshmallows this year.  It is a family favorite that my grandmother found on the back of a rice krispie box (I think).  For the recipe, come back on Friday when I post it and link to Colleen's blog.  Speaking of Colleen (who I don't know, but I really like her blog), she has some great tutorials for crafts and those are more things that I would like to make this Christmas season. 

Do you have a favorite cooking blog or website?  How about a favorite holiday recipe? Maybe a new one that you would like to try?  Drop a note here - I would love hear about it.

Reason #253

Reason #253 why my husband wants to move to Florida. I've been on the road for 1 hour trying to get to work and traffic is at a standstill, and I haven't even made it to the big booming metropolis where I work.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Assembly Complete!!

Assembly complete! I repeat: ASSEMBLY COMPLETE!!

Princess Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are on a vital mission for the Rebel Alliance and they need Ryan's help!  Actually, Ryan received an early Christmas present from Grandma Peggy and Papa John and he needed help putting it together.  It was an intense assembly, but one that has been attempted before, so these two dare devils knew what was in store for them. If there are any lego-loving little boys out there (or big boys for that matter), here is what the completed set looks like:

Ryan with the completed Star Wars Lego Tantive IV blockade runner.

The front pod with Captain Antilles and a Rebel Trooper.

Princess Leia even has her own desk on the blockade runner.

Escape pods are always a must when you are trying to battle the bad guys and save the galaxy.

Here is a cargo transport if you want to take a Sunday drive around the galaxy.

And these babies can catapult any ship into light speed in a nano second. 

This is a little thing that Ryan built to go with the Star Wars battleship. 
He calls it a front line destroyer.  It's big, it's bad, and I wouldn't want to be in it's way.

Well, Ryan is one lucky boy to have his dad (and mom, brother, and Grandpa) help him put together his lego sets and I'm sure it wont be the last one he ever receives.  Even though these sets have a million, bajillion pieces and are enough to drive a person crazy, the real joy comes when we see the smile on his face after everything is put together.   So, as long as there are battles to be fought and galaxies to be saved, we will  regroup, focus, and draw straws to see who helps with the sets Santa will be bringing in 19 days.
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