Thursday, January 31, 2008

Little Dreamer Designs

Right now, I am loving this digital scrapbooking site. Their designs seem to resonate with me , everything I see I like. They are incredibly generous, always giving freebies away on their blog. Heck, I used some free stuff to create my current blog banner and this layout below, which I think I downloaded from a link at Memory Makers Magazine. I am super proud of this layout (granted, overall it is very simple) b/c I learned how to round corners and make that little journal box. Photoshop: ever elusive, often a joy!

I just downloaded the latest freebie to go along with a challenge they are hosting. I am really hoping to carve out a little me time and do that! At this minute though, I'd take a nap over anything else, too bad the reality is that is not going to happen! Pin It

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

new pages

It's been more than 10 days since I went for my scrap day with my Mom, and I actually completed, 10 paper pages! Here are just a few. I did not spend much time photographing them so that is a bit lacking, but the sentiment is real :)
I am just getting back into the full swing of things after having strep throat. I continue to really hope that my kids do not catch it. So far, so good. Olivia got her report card this week, and I am so proud of her. We need to keep reading, reading more, reading more often but that has also come a long way. She seems SO grown up.
Shelby is officially enrolled for 4 days of preschool next year so everyone is finding their own way around here. My job at the Mary Maguire Foundation is unfortunately, officially, winding down and will end when this month does. I feel good about my efforts there, however small in the grand scheme of it all. I am so appreciative of being able to work from home for someone is who is so flexible and also to have a hand in a really good thing. It opened my eyes to many things but foremost, how difficult the non-profit sector is.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Coco Key

Coco Key is a local hotel waterpark. We went Friday night, overnight, and then enjoyed the activities for 2 more hours today before checkout. It was really fun. Big, but a manageable size for my girls. Olivia is still about 2 inches shy of being able to ride the big slides, but she was OK with that. Today, Shelby really got her groove on and was zooming on the ones geared for 48" and under. She is a water girl. My girls LOVE hotel rooms. That would be thrill enough for them, and if they know people in some of the neighboring rooms, even better. Of course, it's the good life when you are eating Doritos in bed at 9pm. And as you can see, Olivia brought all the comforts of home along and left me with that 9'" wide space! I, unfortunately, got diagnosed with strep throat yesterday morning so although I have taken an antibiotic, I am sorta limping along. I had a good time and just hope I did not infect anyone else while there. When you are the Mom, you just have to keep on, keeping on. Today I crashed when I got home and feel better, although eating any kind of substantial food just plain hurts my throat.
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This is a test, this is only a test. If you press that arrow, and see a video of Shelby under a very noisy waterfall, than this is a success! I have had my "small" sony camera for a few years and by mistake last week, took my first video and darn if it is not fun! I am so not a video cam person so this may work for me. Now I need to figure out how to preserve these somewhere besides my computer? I do not have a DVD burner so I think this gets added to the pro side of the reasons why I need a new computer.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

a little scarce this week

The weekend had me busy scrapbooking, and I hope to share some of my "paper" pages soon, once I photograph them.

On Monday, I learned at a family member had been killed in a car accident. Very sad and tragic, and that has preoccupied me all week. I have been a bit estranged from that part of my family, which makes the whole thing heavier, if that is even possible. Tomorrow I will attend the services and I nervously anticipate it for many reasons. It is never easy to attend those kinds of things, yet I do it b/c it is the right thing and will mean so much to those more personally affected. I have been pretty much at a loss of how to bridge the gap that exists in these relationships, if I can, if I really want to...and just now I saw a cool thing on Becky Higgins blog:

So I'll leave you today with a thought: Are you upset with someone? (Don't tell me. It's just a rhetorical question.) Take a load off your shoulders and let go of unkind feelings. Just love that person. Life is too short.

I think this is good advice. I want follow it. I also loved the cool photo display right above this quote, check it out. Pin It

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It seems I receive poor customer service, far more often than good, let alone, great service. So today is to thank I ordered, I mean Santa ordered, a badge maker for Christmas. The kids used it Christmas day, but when we tried to use it this week, it was broken. I called last night and with about 2 minutes, I was told a new one was on it's way and, I did not have to return the old one. Gotta love that. Olivia is quite certain it went so well b/c it originally came from the North Pole :) Pin It

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I cannot believe it either...

but I made more soup! This is from the new Rachael Ray cookbook, Just in Time, but I found it online so I feel safe posting it here. Harvest Creamy Corn Choup. I subscribe to her mag, and I watch the show on occasion so I have to be honest, I was a bit surprised to recognize some of the recipes I already had/or have seen, in the new cookbook. Not like it had a banner that said: all new recipes or anything, I guess I just assumed they were. Not dissing my girl though, I am a pretty big fan. This soup is super tasty. My only tip? Get the bacon super crisp before moving on, mine is soggy now but the flavor is yum-o! Pin It

Friday, January 11, 2008

funniest video

I am not so much into You Tube but I am so glad I watched this one about the 'burbs. Hilarious! Pin It

Thursday, January 10, 2008

vegetable soup

***written Thursday

In about 60 days, I have gone from a non-soup eater, to a lover of soup. Weird?! Not only am I buying pre-made soup in the grocery store and at restaurants, I am reading recipes like a mad woman. I have several that I am anxious to make and even had a few ingredients on my grocery list last night. Then I read this recipe, in our local town newspaper, and it sounded so easy and good to me as well. I am happy to report I made this today, straight from the grocery store, into the pan and almost as quickly, into my mouth. It is terrific. Easy, and almost mess free. I used a knife, a cutting board, a dutch oven and spoon to stir. The less clean up the better in my book. I am all about the creating, not so much about the aftermath. Now I have two bowls in the fridge for immediate consumption, and 2 in the freezer for later. My husband will likely take those to work. Aren't I a good wife, preparing homemade soup for my man? Why yes, I am!

30 minute vegetable soup

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 c. chopped onion
1 tsp. garlic
1 jar 20-30 oz. chunky garden style pasta sauce (I used Ragu, about ¾ of a jar)
water to taste (start with 1 soup can) (I actually omitted this, I like thick soup)

2 cans beef broth
1 can 10 oz chopped tomatoes and chilies
1 bag 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables, thawed if you have time

Sauté meat, onion and garlic together in stockpot. Drain any fat. Next, add everything else. Remember to add only part of the pasta sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Toss in fresh spinach if you’d like (I did not) until wilted, about 1 minute. Serve with grated cheddar or parmesan for garnish.

Now might be the time to admit that I have never tried vegetable soup, at least not that I recall. So I am not sure if this compares to a traditional recipe or not.

***written Sunday

Also, now that I have eaten 3 bowls of it over the past few days, I recommend maybe cooking it slightly longer than 20 minutes to soften all the veggies more. Seriously, there are probably 5 veggie servings per bowl!!

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Public Service Announcment.
Did you know if you go into your local Sears store and use their computer to place Land's End orders, that you never pay shipping?! I am so sad to learn this now.......after Christmas! After years of ordering! I was so impressed there today. Very easy to return two Christmas gifts, very nicely arranged "store" inside the Sears store and HUGE sales! Plus, the petite pants were short enough for me, even better deal!

Later in the day, I lived one of my worst fears (for the second time this year actually). I was going to pick Olivia up after school and got caught in a traffic jam due to an accident. And when I turned around and took another route, that was congested as well, due to everyone trying the same thing. It ended well but my armpits were sweating profusely. To make it worse, she was there for an after school program, so I could not call the school office. Time to load some helpful cell phone numbers into my decrepit cell phone, of which I know how to use VERY few features. Pin It

Monday, January 7, 2008

horseback riding lessons

***photo disclaimer*** this is a very dark ring, and my poor tiny point and shoot

Meet Ruby the pony and her very able rider, Olivia! Olivia has completed two riding lessons as of Saturday and is doing really well. I am enjoying watching her, and being around the horses, the barn, the overall has been a long time. And you really have to love it, b/c it has been darned cold at 9am! On this past Saturday, she did not even used the lunge line, just trotted around the perimeter of the riding ring on her own. I hope not to jinx this but Olivia is a natural. More confident doing this than most anything she has tried. She has done so well that the instructor said next week, she is upgrading to a horse!
And on a funny note. Horseback riding is a costly hobby. For example, the helmet alone was $50. Funny how I plunk down the fee for the lessons for a month, drive about 2 miles, purchase the helmet and later buy boots too. All b/c it is making Olivia so happy. All the while thinking of what else I can give up to make this possible. Just today I had to laugh how I have not owned a bottle of perfume since before I had kids. Right now, there is just no way to justify $50 for that. And I am OK with that. Being a mom is just crazy like that.
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Friday, January 4, 2008 promised

The first is the Breakfast Casserole. Just like most of my recipes, it ain't good for you but it tastes good! I have seen this, or a variation of it, dozens of times but this one is good, easy and foolproof:

Breakfast Casserole

6 slices of bread, crusts removed
1 lb. pork sausage (I use mild)
1 8oz. pkg shredded cheddar cheese
5 eggs beaten
1 pt. half n half
1 tsp. mustard

Line 9x13 inch buttered casserole dish with bread (I use the disposable aluminum). Brown sausage, drain. Sprinkle sausage over bread. Sprinkle cheese over sausage. Combine eggs, half n half and mustard; pour over casserole. Refrigerate overnight. Bake covered at 350 for 30-40 minutes, check eggs for doneness. Bake uncovered for 5 additional minutes.

This recipe came from my mother in law so I am just sure where the name came from, or even why it is called this. What I do know? It is tasty! This became an instant favorite of my sister, Kelly.

Jewish Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (not golden)
1 box instant vanilla pudding
1 8oz. Container sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
½ cup oil
Mix together at high speed for 7 minutes

1 ½ tsp butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup chopped pecans or other nut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Bake in large greased tube pan
Place half of batter in pan, top w/ ½ topping mixture
Top w/ remaining batter, sprinkle with remaining sugar
Bake according to cake mix directions for Bundt pan, or slightly longer. Test with toothpick.

* I think the original recipe called for a tube pan. I made it last week (dang, Christmas was actually more than a week ago!) in a bundt pan, with good results. And I guess I did not read the directions very well, b/c I filled the pan and used all the topping on top. It worked fine. Better than fine b/c it was the first time in the recent past it came out of the pan without much incident. Tip: use lots of oil to coat the pan!

So, get cooking...and baking. Have brunch for your friends and/or family. Throw in some orange juice and a fruit salad so you don't wreck every new year's resolution in one sitting.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

chicken pot pie

As a kid, I would never have eaten this. As an adult, I am pretty particular about them. A few years ago I found this recipe inside the box of Pillsbury Pie Crusts, the refrigerated kind, of all places, and it is the best ever, in my opinion. It may look a little involved but it goes quickly. Try it.

Classic Pot Pie

1-15 oz. Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust
1/3 c. butter or margarine
1/3 c. chopped onion
1/3 c. flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 ½ c. chicken broth
2/3 c. milk
2 ½ cups cooked chopped chicken or chicken breasts (you can buy this pre-cooked in the refrigerated case)
1- 10 oz. bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed (one with corn, beans, and peas etc.)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pie crusts as directed on package for a two-crust pie using a 9 inch pie pan.
In medium saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until blended well. Gradually stir in broth and milk; cook, stirring constantly until bubbly and thickened.
Add chicken and mixed vegetables; remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into pie crust. Top with second crust and flute; cut slits in several places.
Bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I place the pie pan on a baking sheet covered with foil b/c this inevitably cooks over making a big mess!

Next I will share two recipes that have become a tradition at my house on Christmas morning when I host my family here . They are so crazy, they get up at o' dark thirty, to see my kids finish opening their Santa presents, and to join in the festivities right from the get go. I love that. So I reward them with good food :) I meant to share these a week or more ago, but things got in the way like snow and entertaining two kids for 14 consecutive days. Pin It

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

a snow day

Hooray! Even though I am somewhat craving our old routine, I dreaded Olivia's return to school on Jan 2. Thanks to Mother Nature, snow and very cold temps (2 degrees this am?!) she got the day off. My girls are HARDCORE about the snow though. Two phone calls to neighbors and no takers on joining them outside, however, they were not to be deterred. I have to be totally honest and tell you I took all of these photos standing in the front door of the house, never actually stepping out into the frigid weather but they tell the tale well. I was so proud of Olivia for including Shelby, getting her on the sled, and digging her heels in, to get them to the point that they eventually slid down our tiny hill. Shelby was squealing with delight. One of those moments that absolutely warmed my heart.
The downside of outside, snow play? The mess!

And then Olivia wanted to make "snow cream". I found a recipe quickly here, and we just did that too. (I made a little promise to myself, that I would commit to doing more hands-on things over this break with them, and I have done a darned good job: bird feeders, crafts, a movie at the theater, Festival of Lights at the Zoo). It tasted remarkable like ice cream! Not Haagen Dazs, and it melted fast, but pretty tasty.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Lame, but it's all I've got.
We had a great New Year's Eve at our neighbors. Seriously, the most fun I have had in years. I am not a huge NYE person. When I was young, I'd shell out the big bucks for a big Hotel event or something and always end up disappointed. Since having kids, we just stick with the low key, if we do anything at all. BUT the past two years, my Mom has graciously offered to babysit. That worked out perfectly for us last night + no driving to or from our destination + PLENTY of food and cocktails + dancing (really hoping there were no hidden cameras) + truly fun friends. Today, we picked up the kids from my parents' home and had a big home cooked meal. Nothing soothes the soul (or a hangover) like homemade mashed potatoes.
Back to reality starting tomorrow: early morning wake up calls, school buses, carpools, packing lunches.... Pin It