Thursday, September 29, 2011

Costume angst, revisited...

Remember my costume issues last spring?  You can read about it here and here, if you care to. 

Fast forward 4 months to now.  Bubby's school newsletter informs me that he needs to dress up as a circus animal for the last day of class in October. 

Now, think with me here, for just a minute.  How many different kinds of circus animals are there, really?  You've got elephants and lions...those are the staples.  And then there are sometimes dogs or maybe a bear, but that's about it.  Can you think of any others? 

Drawing on the lessons learned last time I dealt with costume angst, I cast about in my brain for a suitable costume that we already have, and came up with: tiger.  We have a hooded towel that is in the shape of a tiger.  Good.  Tigers aren't really circus animals, but there is a tiger in the circus in Marvin the Tap Dancing Horse, so...good enough.

But not good enough for Bubby.  He doesn't want to wear a towel.  Wait, say that again, but you need to use a kind of whine/wail hybrid voice to get the full effect.

What's a mama to do?
 I found this really cute, really easy tiger mask over at HP Creative Studio for home.  Really easy, as in print on card stock, cut it out, and add an elastic string.  If you want to make it a little more durable, you could laminate it or cover it with clear contact paper.

He loves it!  He wants to wear it all. the. time.  I might have to make another one because the last day of class in October is a month away (good thing it's so easy).  To complete the costume, he will be wearing an orange and gray long sleeved shirt and dark gray with orange accents pants.  No angst here.

And, since we're apparently  n e v e r  going to make it to the zoo, I made some for the Camp Scarlet girls, too.  Now it looks and feels like a zoo around here :)

The flower and butterfly masks can be found here.  There are lots of other free printables from HP, as well.  Have fun, and be sure to come back and tell me what you made.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fun with Ten Apples

Sometimes I feel a little...unfocused...with regards to this blog.  I mean, I've got God stuff, family stuff, arts-n-crafts-for-preschoolers stuff, random tips, recipes, money-saving stuff...who knows how it all ties together.  But that's my life.  Unfocused.  So why should my blog be any different?

Anyway, it's fall, which means harvest time, and around here, harvest time means lots of apples and apple treats.  Today I just wanted to share this fun learning activity, inspired by Making Learning Fun, with you. 

I recently read Ten Apples Up On Top, by Theo LeSieg, for the first time (well, for the first time I can remember--it's entirely possible that I had read it or it had been read to me at some point in the past).  For those of you who don't know, Theo LeSieg was a pen name for Theodor Geisel.  Theodor Geisel had another pen name: Dr. Seuss.

It's not my favorite of Mr. Geisel's works, but it's a cute story, and the kids enjoyed it, especially what we like to call the "Ka-blooey" page, when the three friends, each with 10 apples balanced on their heads, smack into a huge wagon-load of apples and apples fly e v e r y w h e r e.  Fun, fun.  You can request it from your local library, or buy it on Amazon (click here).

So first we read the book, and the kids tried to balance apples on their heads.  By the end of the story, they were getting pretty good at balancing one apple, but they decided they didn't want to try two :)
I had previously printed out apples, numbered 1 through 10, from the Making Learning Fun website, and the kids started cutting those out, while I printed out close-ups of the kids' faces.  Notice the apple on the table for inspiration :)
 Next, I had them glue the pictures of themselves at the bottom of a (very large*) piece of paper, and then they glued the apples up on top, in numerical order.  I also propped the book open on the table for them to look at.



Such a great activity for practicing fine motor skills and number recognition, as well as counting forwards and backwards.  The kids finished their projects by gluing a copy of the book's cover to their papers and I wrote "Ten Apples Up On Top of (Bubby or Pal, but I used their real names)" across the top.

I wanted this activity to be about number recognition and sequencing, so  I used the printed apples with numbers on them, but you could very easily just use apples, halved vertically, and paint, to print the 10 apples on the paper.  You could even number them after they're dry.  Making Learning Fun also provided a printable boy head and girl head that you could use, but I thought it would be fun for the kids to use pictures of themselves.

Good times.  I hope this post has inspired you to enjoy some apple-themed crafts and/or treats in the coming weeks.  Leave a comment to let me know what you come up with :)
* If you don't have paper that's large enough, just keep taping smaller sheets of paper end to end until it's long enough.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Drink indentification

:Are you ready to slap your forehead in response to today's tip?  Here goes...

Does this happen to anyone else?  You have a crowd of people over, and they're all thirsty, so you give 'em all something to drink.  But before they actually finish whatever it is that's in their cup, they're off doing something else, abandoning their drinks, and you're left with seemingly millions of identical-looking cups strewn about the kitchen and dining area.  No one can remember which was theirs, so when they return, looking for another drink, the old cups get dumped out, and everyone gets a new cup.  Not only is this wasteful, it's a lot of work washing all those cups.

The other day the Camp Scarlet kids were thirsty.  I just knew they would drink half of whatever I gave them and then run off, and no one would remember which cup was theirs when they returned.  What to do, what to do?

Then I remembered the hair binders I had gotten for free a few weeks ago.  What if I put a different color binder on each cup?  Well, that's what I did.
And it worked!  Like a charm.  Car had the blue cup, Pal's was red, and Bubby's was yellow.  If you happen to have more cups than you have colors of binders, you could put two or more on some cups, as long as each combination is unique.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Would you like to buy...

So the other day, I said to Bubby, "hey, Bud, I think you need a new nickname, since you're going to be four soon.  Any ideas?"  And he said, "Roger."  Didn't even have to think about it.  Roger.  I'll have to ask again in a few weeks, 'cause I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a difficult time referring to my baby as Roger.

*****

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my frequent headaches, but I neglected to mention the krill/fish oil supplement that I was paid to take home.  For a long time I've thought I should probably take a fish oil supplement.  I don't eat fish (believe me, I've tried, and it doesn't end well), and I need all the brain boosting I can get.  But I've heard that, quite often, fish oil supplements tend to...repeat themselves, and I didn't want to spend money on fish oil and then find that I couldn't tolerate it.

So, yay, I got some free fish oil to try, so if it ended the way fish does with me, I wouldn't feel too bad about passing the remaining capsules on to someone else.  The day after my headache post is when I started taking the fish oil.  My friends, I have not had a headache since that day.  It could be a coincidence.  Yesterday I forgot to take the fish oil.  And yesterday I felt terrible, and even started to get a pre-headache.  That could be a coincidence, too.  And, yes it does tend to...repeat itself if I don't put some food down on top of it, but it hasn't been too bad.

*****

So, once again, it's Scout fundraising time.  MC is selling popcorn and AKD is selling wreaths and other green Christmas-y stuff.  If you'd like to buy some, great, and thank you.  Read on.  If not, this concludes this post--thanks for reading.

Popcorn options:
If you live near us, or in the Denver area, northern Illinois, or western Michigan, we can have our delivery people deliver...OK, maybe not so much Denver.  Otherwise, you can order online and have it shipped to you by visiting www.trails-end.com.  In the upper right corner, it will say "You are supporting no one. Change."  Click on "Change" and enter Scout ID 9640047.  Then it should say that you're supporting MC and you can click on All Products, Signature Snacks, Microwave Popcorn, Other Treats, or Military Donation to begin shopping.

If you prefer to order from us, here are your choices:
Military Donation: $50 or $30--popcorn will be sent to our Troops (100% tax deductible)
Microwave Popcorn (we've tried the Kettle Corn and Unbelievable Butter and they are both so good):
    ~ Butter Light 18 pack: $18
    ~ Unbelievable Butter 18 pack: $18
    ~ Kettle Corn 18 pack: $20
Caramel Corn:
    ~ Caramel Corn 11 oz: $10
    ~ Butter Toffee Caramel Corn 20 oz: $20
    ~ Caramel Corn with almonds, cashews and pecans 26 oz: $20
    ~ Chocolately Triple Delight (so yummy!) 20 oz: $20
Collections:
    ~ Cheese Lover's collection (14 oz cheddar cheese corn + 7 oz white cheddar cheese corn): $30
    ~ Sweet & Savory collection (20 oz choc. triple delight+ 20 oz butter toffee caramel corn+ 7 oz cheddar cheese corn): $40 (like getting the cheddar cheese corn for free!)
Other:
   ~  White Chocolatey Pretzels (these are the best white choc. pretzels I've ever tasted) 20 oz: $25
   ~  Popping corn 2.5 lb: $10

Seventy per cent of your purchase price goes to local Scouting (and is tax deductible).  So don't think of it as, "I'm paying $1 per bag of microwave popcorn," but "I'm donating $12.60 to MC's Cub Scout pack, and paying $5.40 for 18 bags of microwave popcorn," which is much less than you'd pay retail.

Christmas Greens options:
If you live near us or in northern Illinois, we can have our delivery people deliver, around Thanksgiving time.  Otherwise, your plumb outta luck.

Here are your choices:
Balsam Wreaths decorated with cones and velvet bows
24"-- $16
36"-- $33
48"-- $46
60"-- $51
Door Swag 24" - $14
Centerpiece with cones, ribbon, candle and holiday decorations: $21
Balsam roping 25 feet - $45

Thanks for supporting Scouting :)

Good gifts

I have a friend who knows how to give good gifts.  She knows I like to carry my coupons with me, and she noticed that my cardboard coupon clutch was falling apart, so she sent me this wonderful sturdy(er) plastic one.  It's even pink!   


Thanks, friend!

She even included some "coupons" in the clutch.

My favorite is the "bathroom" coupon, below:
 In this household consisting of 4 boys and little ol' me, a "pleasing aroma" is something I definitely want to foster and encourage.

So how does one go about giving good gifts?  Well, I think you need to become a student of the gift recipient.  Find out what they like, what they like to do, even their hopes and dreams.  And then put some thought into it: match the gift to what you've learned about the person to whom you give.  That should work, but quite honestly, none of it really matters unless the gift is given from a sense of joy and love, rather than from a sense of obligation.  Those are the best gifts.  My friend's got that part down.

Do you know who also knows how to give good gifts?
If you, then, though you are evil,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven
give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:11 (NIV)
(More about the verses preceeding this one some other time...)
God, that's who. God has studied you. God knows what you like, what you like to do. God knows your hopes and dreams. God knows your struggles and fears. God knows your most private thoughts, your wants, your needs. God knows everything about you, and God knows how to give good gifts, perfect gifts. My friend, who gives good gifts, is God's good gift to me.
Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17
Oh, sometimes the gifts God gives don't look like good gifts.  Sometimes they look like disappointments, disasters, illness, trials.  Sometimes they look like a lost job, a closed door, or an unanswered prayer.  But even when we don't understand, when we don't recognize God's good gifts, we can be sure that God, the Giver of good gifts, knows just what we need, and will give it to us, in His perfect timing and in His perfect way.
And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28
Sometimes, what we need is God's greatest gifts: grace, mercy, redemption.  Sometimes what we need is to draw closer to God.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work so that
you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Coupon Fairy

Last week, Allison, over at O My Family, challenged her friends and readers (who are friends she just hasn't met yet) to go out of their way to perform acts of kindness, and then share about their experiences. 

We do this, not to boast, but to encourage one another, to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24).  It is through these small acts of kindness that we bring glory to God, and in these actions, the kingdom of heaven draws near.  To read about Allison's experience this week, click here.

I was inspired.  I have been thinking about this all week, what act of kindness I could perform.  On Friday.  (because apparently I can't be, don't have time to be, it doesn't occur to me to be kind on other days).  I had been praying about it, too, that God would give me an opportunity. 

Yesterday I decided I was going to use up the last of our zucchini crop to make (the best ever) zucchini muffins and take some to a neighbor...but my motivation failed me and the zucchini is still sitting, intact, on the kitchen counter (along with the dirty pots and pans from dinner 2 nights ago...oops, did I say that out loud?). *sigh*

This morning, after a less satisfying sleep than normal, I got up early and was thinking about my day.  Here's what I thought: breakfast for AKD at 6 a.m., then to the bus by 6:22 (I know--that is appallingly early).  Shower, get MC and Bubby up, give them a bath, get them dressed, feed them, get to the bus by 8:15, drive Bubby to school, then {breathe}, finally.  And back to it: 3 mile hike, Bullseye store, bank, library, back to school to pick up Bubby, home for lunch, then {breathe} again.

Where, in that mess of activity, was I going to find time for kindness? 

And then it hit me: I could play coupon fairy.  I was going to the store, anyway.  So in between feeding the kids and getting them off to school, while I was making my shopping list, I went through my coupon clutch pulling out coupons I could leave behind for others to find.  And that is why, this morning, I could be seen flitting about inside the Bullseye store leaving almost $50 worth of coupons in my wake.  Seriously folks, being the coupon fairy is a lot of fun--you should definitely try it.  As I flitted, I prayed for those who would find the coupons.
 
And then, as I was just about done, attempting to leave my final couple of coupons for a frozen food item that I now know our local Bullseye store does not carry, a woman, who was juggling quite a few items in her arms, dropped something right at my feet.  And that's when I knew that God had answered my prayer, and I needn't have worried about finding my own act of kindness.  God had this appointment planned for me already.

I picked up her bag of frozen shrimp and handed it to her, and then, as I was thinking {I should give her my cart; I have fewer things than she does}, I spotted a stack of baskets out of the corner of my eye, and handed one to her.

That's it.  I pray that, in that instant, she felt God's love beaming down on her, even if she didn't recognize it as such.

Showing God's love through acts of kindness does not have to be difficult or time consuming.  In fact, I think in some ways the little kindnesses are more effective.  All we need to do to make a difference is to open our eyes to the opportunites to share Christ's love that God puts in our path.  That, and to have the courage to act. 

My friends, will you join me and show kindness today?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Winner! (for real, this time)

We have a winner in the first ever Accidental Dessert contest.  Isn't that exciting?  Yes, yes it is.

But before we get to the winner, I wanted to share a few of my favorites.

From Jodi D:
Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Cake (at 1/2 the cost!) :-)
I looooove ice cream, and I looooove oreo cookies!  Yum!  Thanks for sharing, Jodi!

Step 1:
Choose your favorite ice cream (I have tried cookie dough, mint choc. chip, and cookies and cream...all were so yummy, but you can adjust to your taste)
Stir 1.5 quarts ice cream in a bowl, until well mixed. (this is important and you might not think it will get creamy but if you keep stirring, you'll get there)

Step 2:
Crush 1/2 package of oreo cookies. Place in bottom of a Spring Form Pan.

Step 3:
Melt 1/2 stick of butter and pour over cookies

Step 4:
Add 8 oz. Whipped Cream on top

Step 5:
Decorate with more crushed oreos (I usually do 3) and drizzle with chocolate syrup or caramel.

Step 6:
Freeze!

YUMMMMMMY!
 
 
From Bonnie B:
S’More Recipes
S'Mores are delicious, and it's so much fun to try new variations.  Thanks, Bonnie!

The Elvis
Graham Cracker, PB Cup, marshmallow, banana slice

All American
Graham Cracker, white chocolate, marshmallow, strawberry

Oreo
Chocolate graham, milk chocolate, cookies & cream chocolate, marshmallow

Grasshopper
Graham Cracker, Andes mint, marshmallow

Creamy Caramel
Graham cracker, marshmallow, Caramello, Toffee

 
From Mom of the Wild Things:
My MIL's Coconut bars:
I want MotWT's MIL to adopt me (or actually my husband so she'll be my MIL, too)--love her!  And these bars sound a little like mounds bars...yum!  Thanks Mom of the Wild Things!  And by the way, I agree that there's no such thing as too much chocolate.

1 stick salted butter (melted)
1-2 can(s) Eagle condensed milk
1 box graham cracker crumbles
1 package coconut
1 package chocolate chips* (milk or dark)

Poor melted butter into the bottom of a standard cookie sheet. Cover bottom completely, then pour graham cracker crumbles into butter. Cover completely.

Next, poor on chocolate (Peter thinks I use too much, I just laugh. There is NO SUCH THING as too much chocolate!)

Coconut comes next, then the condensed milk. For this step, it all really depends on how gooy you want your bars to be. The more milk, the goo-y-er they will be.

Bake in a 350* oven for about 30 minutes or until the coconut is golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting.

*A good alternative is butterscotch, peanut butter or heath chips.


Thank you to everyone for submitting your delicious recipes...I'm not sure which one I want to try first!  To see them all, click here and scroll down.

And now, I would like to give special thanks to random.org's random sequence generator for picking our winner.  The winner receives bragging rights, as the only person EVER to have won the Accidental Dessert contest, and a $20 credit to Shutterfly*.

And, the winner is...

...

...

...

...

... recipe number 10, S'More recipes, submitted by Bonnie B!  Yay Bonnie!

A special shout-out goes to my brother, who not only entered almost 50% of the recipes, but he also entered a recipe named after me!  Your DUTCH OVEN CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE is the runner up, so you can assume the prize if Bonnie is unable to fulfil her duties as winner of the Accidental Dessert contest.

Congratulations, Bonnie, and thank you, everyone!

* This contest was not in any way endorsed or sponsored by Shutterfly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Cutting Brownies (and Winner!)

Today's tip comes to you courtesy of Chip, in honor of the Accidental Dessert contest, which ended yesterday.  Thanks, Chip!

You know how when you try to cut a pan of brownies, you end up getting that brownie build-up on your knife?  It's actually kind of nice, because then you get to eat the brownie stuff that's on the knife, but your brownies end up with raggedy edges.  Not so nice if you wanted to take them somewhere to share them (not that that happens very often around here). 

Well, I've heard you can prevent that by putting your brownies in the freezer for about 20 minutes before cutting them.  I don't know if that actually works, because I don't have room for a 9 x 13 pan in my freezer.  Besides, I'd be afraid I'd forget they're in there, and I'm sure it's much more difficult to cut frozen brownies.

Anyway, Chip told me that you can prevent the brownie cutting conundrum by using a plastic knife to cut the brownies.  That's right--just a little disposable plastic knife, that we all have 20 million of lying around because we bought the plastic utensil set with 8 each of spoons, forks, and knives, and no one ever uses the knives.

So I tried it, and she's right.  It works.  You should try it, too.  No more raggedy brownies for us!

And the winner is...

...going to be announced on Thursday, along with some of my favorite entries.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Field trip

Hey, folks, this is your very last reminder to enter the Accidental Dessert contest for a (very good) chance to win a FABULOUS prize.  Do it now, while you're thinking about it, because tomorrow will be too late.

***
We're going on a field trip this week.  Can you guess where we're going?

Let me give you a hint.  In the past couple of weeks we've made this:
 

 
and this:

 

and this:

and this (but we didn't finish, so this one probably isn't much help):


I'll let you speculate as to what it will become.  Leave me a comment with your guess for the identity of the mystery creature :)

Did you guess where we're going? 


That's right: we're going to the zoo!  While we're there, we'll be sure to visit the polar bears, and zebras, and tigers, and...oh my!  Fun times!

For instructions, see below:

POLAR BEAR
I found a polar bear coloring picture online (honestly, who is going to color a polar bear? It's already white!), and enlarged it to fit most of an 11 x 8.5 sheet of cardstock. I cut out the bear, leaving the outline intact, and taped the outline to blue construction paper, and the kids sponge painted inside the stencil. After it dried, I used a sharpie to outline and add features.

ZEBRA
I printed and enlarged the plain zebra found at Making Learning Fun, then taped it inside a box with a lid. We put a couple of blobs of black paint outside the outline of the zebra, placed a few marbles in the box, and put on the lid. Then the kids gently tilted the boxes back and forth to make the marbles roll around, forming the zebra stripes.  Bubby had a lot of fun with this!  When it dried, I cut it out, we glued it to our grassy background, and added a black yarn mane and a googly eye.

TIGER
I printed the ABC tiger lacing template found at Making Learning Fun on orange paper, then covered it, front and back, with clear contact paper. Next, I cut the tiger out, and the kids punched holes wherever there was a dot. We used black yarn to lace through the holes in alphabetical order, forming the tiger stripes.

MYSTERY CREATURE
The kids painted el-cheapo paper plates (make sure you get the kind that does not have a plastic coating) with yellow, orange, and brown paint.  Next steps involve scissors, craft foam, construction paper, and of course, googly eyes.  Hmmmm...what could it possibly be?

Friday, September 16, 2011

FABULOUS prize...revealed.

Last week, I announced the Accidental Dessert contest, and I know that you've all been feverishly paging through your cookbooks since then trying to decide which recipe to enter (by the way, you don't have to choose--enter as many times as you wish). 

But maybe you haven't been so sure it's even worth it to enter, even though I've promised a FABULOUS prize.  I'm sure you've been around the block enough times to realize that you can't believe everything you read.  Maybe you didn't think I'd be able to come up with a FABULOUS enough prize.

Well, you already know you get bragging rights...what could be better than that, really?  You would be the ONLY person in the WORLD to EVER win the Accidental Dessert contest.  And if that's not enough motivation, you should enter just to make it less likely that someone from my brother's family will win this contest prize, too (just like every. other. contest. I've hosted on my blog).  Work with me here, people.  We've got to break this streak.

But, if you're still on the fence, not sure if you want to enter or not, this will for sure put you over the edge.

The FABULOUS prize...

is...

a $20 credit to Shutterfly*!

What can you do with your credit?  Well, you could use it to make a cookbook with all of your favorite family recipes (prices for books start at $12.99).  Or use it to turn your favorite pictures into photo books, calendars, cards, gifts, and more.  That could put a huge dent in your Christmas card budget.  Plus, if you're new to Shutterfly, you'll receive 50 free 4 x 6 prints (which you can have shipped to your home or pick up at Target, Walgreens, or CVS), just for signing up!

See, I told you it's FABULOUS!  So start posting those recipes here !

(* this giveaway is not, in any way, sponsored by Shutterfly)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Caramel Sauce

So yesterday, I realized, at about 4 p.m., that chili was on the menu for supper.  Not usually a big deal to remember that so late in the day, since we usually eat supper around 6 p.m.  Sure, I didn't have any ground beef thawed out, and I usually like to let the chili simmer in the crock pot all day, but 2 hours would have been enough time to get it put together. 

Unfortunately, yesterday Hubby had a meeting at 6, so we needed to eat at 5:15 at the latest.

Normally, if I found myself in this situation, I would have declared it "fend for yourself" night, but I decided to put a little effort in and make waffles (just in case you're thinking, "that's almost as easy," I do make them from scratch. ... it's still almost as easy, though).

And then, AKD said, "oops, I forgot to write syrup on the list."

Oops.  Not that I had actually checked the list before I went grocery shopping that morning (but don't tell him that).

I remembered AKD saying that one time when he had spent the night at a friend's house, the friend's parents had made their own pancake syrup, so I thought I'd give it a try.

No high speed internet, so I couldn't look it up online quickly, so I turned to my trusty cookbooks.  Not a single pancake syrup recipe to be found.  Bummer.  I mean, I didn't mind, because I don't use syrup on my waffles or pancakes, or anything else, for that matter, but I felt bad for those other people.

I decided to check for sauce recipes, and found this caramel sauce recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOK BOOK (which is actually quite old, being a hand me down from my much older brother).  Well, it's better than nothing, I thought, and it only uses small amounts of things we already have, so if no one likes it, we'll just throw it away.

1/2 c. packed brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
1 T cornstarch
1/3 c light cream (I used 2% milk)
2 T light corn syrup
1 T margarine or butter
1/2 t vanilla

In a 2-cup measure, mix sugar and cornstarch.  Stir in 1/4 c. water, then cream and corn syrup.  Micro-cook, uncovered, on high for 2 to 3 minutes or till bubbly, stirring every minute until slightly thickened, then every 30 seconds.  Stir in margarine and vanilla.  Serve warm or cool over ice cream, fruit, cheesecake, or cake.  Makes 1 cup.

Well, I'm sure you know the punchline--it was delicious.  We loved it.  Of course we did, or else I wouldn't be posting about it.  AKD got out some cool whip and our waffles were so yummy with caramel sauce and cool whip.  Just imagine if we'd had any toasted pecans to sprinkle on top!  Mmmm.  There were a few lumps in our sauce, so I would definitely use a whisk next time to mix.  I think I would also use actual cream, rather than milk.

Maybe you have a favorite dessert recipe that you could drizzle this caramel sauce on.  You should share it with me, here.  If you need more detailed instructions for entering the Accidental Dessert contest, click here and scroll down.  Enter as many times as you would like...my brother has (and is).

AND, I'm sure you've all been waiting to find out what the FABULOUS prize is..  Well, it's FABULOUS, folks.  I mean, really a great prize.  I'm sure you'll LOVE it.  It's...

it's...

it's...

going to be revealed in tomorrow's post!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bufo americanus

Bubby rescued these little guys from our pond this afternoon, as I was doing a little weeding and mulch augmentation across the path. 
Poor little guys had jumped in to get their skins wet, and then couldn't get back out.  At one point, while he was holding them, Bubby put the "baby froggy" on top of the "mommy froggy," and said, "he likes riding on he's mama's shoulders!"  Such a cute boy.  Unfortunately, I had put the camera away by then...

He loves them, and wants to keep them as pets. 
 
He was inconsolable when I told him the toads had to stay outside.  Which is why I found myself searching "how to care for a pet toad" on swagbucks this afternoon (I won 10 SB, in case you were wondering).  Here's one informative site I found--just in case you were contemplating adopting a toad, yourself.  I think I could manage everything except feeding live insects to the toad.  Yuck.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Pain relievers

I've been having a lot of headaches lately (not a good thing--last year I made it at least until October before I started getting them regularly and it was at least November before they were an almost daily occurrence), so I've had reason to be looking at bottles of pain relieving substances lately.  I happen to have both Excedrin (because they paid me to take it) and Excedrin Migraine (because it was free) in my medicine cabinet right now, and the other day I decided to read the labels to find out what the difference is. 

Guess what I found out! 

They're exactly the same!  Same active ingredients in the same amounts.  Same inactive ingredients, too.  I would say what's up with that, but I already know what's up with that: marketing.  The only difference between the two that I found (aside from the pills being differently shaped because one is geltabs and the other is gelcaps) was the warning, on the migraine variety, not to take it if your headaches hadn't been diagnosed as migraines.  Well, alrighty then.  I'll be sure to keep that in mind.

Anyway, on to today's tip.  Did you know that you can alternate doses of ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol)?  The different medications have different mechanisms, so it's safe to take both at the same time (but don't take my word for it--be sure to ask your doctor is this is safe for you). 

If you have a really tough headache, or a high fever that doesn't respond to just Tylenol or just Motrin, take a dose of one (I usually start with Tylenol, because it usually works better for me), wait 3 hours, then take a dose of the other, wait 3 hours, and continue as needed.  Just be sure to follow the maximum dosage guidelines for each of the medications to avoid overdosing.  It's important to note that you shouldn't alternate meds every time you have pain or a fever--this is only if the pain or fever does not respond to a single medicine--sometimes you just don't want to wait the full 4 to 6 or 6 to 8 hours until you can have another dose of pain meds.

Bonus tip: Mom of the Wild Things swears by Tylenol and room temperature Coca Cola for relieving headaches.  The Tylenol works on the pain, and the caffeine in the coke speeds up the relief.  Makes sense to me!

And before you go, just a reminder: you have until Monday, September 19 to submit your dessert recipes for the Accidental Dessert contest.  Just leave a comment on this post: Mmmm. A Contest.  Hubby asked me last night if I'm going to make the winning recipe.  Maybe.  As long as it's not a beer float. As of right now, it's looking like my brother is going to win. Again. Remember, if you don't have a blogger profile, you can just choose the "name/URL" option from the "comment as" drop down menu--you don't need to enter an URL.  Oh, and Chip: any prize ideas yet? :)

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Alternate, more detailed instructions for entering:
1. Click here, and allow the page to load.
2. Scroll down to almost the bottom, where it says "Post a Comment" with a box beneath.  Click in the box.
3. Type your recipe in the box.
4. Under the box, there is a drop down menu next to the words: "Comment as."  Click on the little down arrow and choose "Name/URL" which is second from the bottom.
5. A box will pop up.  Type your name in the box where it says "name."  Ignore the box that says "URL."
6. Click on "continue"
7. Click on "post comment"
8. A preview box will pop up, scroll down to the bottom, where it says "word verification."
9. Just below "Word verification" there will be some silly looking letters.  Type the letters into the box underneath them.
10. Click on "post comment"
11. The page will reload, and you should see your comment under all the other comments.
12. Reward yourself with a piece of good quality chocolate.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where were you?

Where were you on that day?  I was standing in the living room of my parents' home.  My aunt had called and told us to turn on the TV, and there it was.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  We were still reeling from my brother's death just a few days before--our lives would never be the same--and now, suddenly, our personal grief had been shockingly and irreversibly overlaid by and intermingled with the grief of our nation, and the personal grief of so many who lost loved ones that day.

The other day, I heard the audio clip found here on the radio.  It's probably a good thing I was alone in the car, because it moved me to tears--I almost had to pull over.  I've included the text below, but you really should listen--it gives me goosebumps.

I believe that God's heart breaks for us when we endure tragedies and hardships, and God is there extending his grace and mercy even in our darkest moments.  Yesterday, today, tomorrow.  Even on that day.  As Christ followers we are assured of the hope that God will meet us, and indeed carry us, in the stairwells of our need.

Meet Me in the Stairwell
by Stacey Randall

You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11, 2001.

Neither will I.

I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say 'Good-Bye.'
I held his fingers steady as he dialed.  I gave him the peace to say, Honey, I am not going to make it, but it is OK...I am ready to go.

I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children. I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn't coming home that night.

I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to Me for help. 'I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!' I said. 'Of course I will show you the way home - only believe in Me now.'

I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls.  I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven. He heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer. I was with the crew as they were overtaken. I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faith has saved them.

I was in Texas, Virginia, California, Michigan, Afghanistan.  I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.  Did you sense Me?

I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew every name - though not all knew Me. Some met Me for the first time on the 86th floor.  Some sought Me with their last breath.

Some couldn't hear Me calling to them through the smoke and flames; 'Come to Me... this way... take my hand.' Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me. But, I was there.

I did not place you in the Tower that day. You may not know why, but I do. However, if you were there in that explosive moment in time, would you have reached for Me?

September 11, 2001, was not the end of the journey for you. But someday your journey will end. And I will be there for you as well.

Seek Me now while I may be found. Then, at any moment, you know you are 'ready to go.'

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.

~God~

Saturday, September 10, 2011

'Tis the season!

Soccer season, that is!  AKD is purple, MC is yellow, and the designated fan is...
...pretty cute, as you can see.  I think he'll be old enough to play next fall, if he chooses.

It's going to be an interesting season for the purple team.  AKD's age level has 4 teams, but each team only had 5 to 7 players show up (they play 7 v 7 plus a goalie), and one of the teams didn't have a coach, so they ended up playing a combined purple and red against maroon and green.  Not sure what's going to happen with that in coming weeks...

MC's yellow team had 11 players show up (they play 5 v 5 plus a goalie), plus a bunch of others who kept coming over to our coach to ask if they were on the yellow team because none of the other coaches had shirts on identifying them as such (and actually, the team we played against didn't have a coach, oh, and our coach was double-booked, so he ended up leaving).  MC played really well, especially compared to the last time he played formally.  He had a couple of good break-aways and was controlling the ball well.

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I miss the mobile hot spot, I really do.  I think we're going to have to take the plunge soon...if only it wasn't so darn expensive...
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So, we've got a full week of school in (sort of).  MC's had homework every day this week (even Friday), and AKD has yet to actually do anything...that seems a little backwards to me, although, MC's getting to be one of the older kids in his school and AKD is one of the youngest in his, so maybe it makes sense.  Anyway, every single day AKD has come home from school needing something else, more school supplies.  Really?  Couldn't they get it together to put it on the school supply list?  And even if they couldn't get it together to get it on the list (which was sent out in July, so maybe they missed the deadline or something), couldn't they at least all tell him on the first day what additional supplies he will need?  Humph.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Drift


Bubby & AKD

The boys and I spent the last full week of August visiting with their grandparents, who live on opposite sides of Lake Michigan.  The beach near my parents' home was closed due to storm damage, but we were able to spend a lovely afternoon with my in-laws swimming and playing at the beach on their side of the lake.

An interesting thing about swimming in a large body of water, like one of the great lakes or an ocean, is you drift.  If you've ever swum in an ocean or other large body of water, you know what I'm talking about.  You're swimming and splashing along, having a great time, and when you look up toward the spot on the beach where you've set up your stuff, you find that you're not in line with your spot anymore: you are, in fact, several dozen yards down the beach from where you started.  You've drifted away, without even realizing it.  We witnessed this ourselves, when a large group of teenagers invaded our water-space as a result of their drifting down the beach toward us. 

Ua & MC
The way to avoid this phenomenon is, of course, to keep your eye on where you want to be, and to make adjustments to stay in line.

In my life, there have been times when I've been swimming along, having a great time (or a not so great time), only to look up and discover that I have drifted--that I am no longer in line with where I want to be.  It is so easy to drift, isn't it?  We become consumed with the daily details of our lives, and forget to keep looking up at the big picture.  Before we know it, we've drifted.  As a follower of Christ, I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, to keep in line with where I want to be.  How about you?

BL
Keep your eyes on Jesus,
who both began and finished this race we're in.
Study how he did it.
Because he never lost sight of where he was headed
that exhilarating finish in and with God—
he could put up with anything along the way:
Cross, shame, whatever.
Hebrews 12:2 (The Message)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mmmm. A Contest.

Alright, so I've consulted with my contest consultant (aka Chip), and we've got another contest for you. 

One of the things I like about visiting with my in-laws is that there is always (and I do mean always) dessert.  Mmmm, yummy.  The morning after partaking of a particularly delicious dessert made by my favorite mother in law, Beaver-ly, the contest consultant was taking a shower when inspiration struck (she tells me she does a lot of good thinking in the shower, which doesn't surprise me, since, as a stay at home mom, that's the only time she gets to herself in a typical day).  How about an Accidental Blogger Dessert Contest?  Well, how about it?

Peanut Butter Striped Delight from Kraft Kitchens
To enter, just leave a comment with a favorite dessert recipe (I'm looking for actual recipes, not just the name of the dessert or a description).  If you read my blog via email, you'll need to visit my blog to enter (click here).  Oh, and if you don't have a blogger profile, just choose the "name/URL" option from the "comment as" drop down menu--you don't need to enter an URL. 

I'll share my favorites in a future post, and a winner will be selected at random to receive a FABULOUS prize (well, it might not actually be all that fabulous, since we still have no idea what it will be--but at least you'll get bragging rights).  You have until Monday, September 19 to enter.

Just to get you started, here's AKD's super shake recipe:
To a blender or food processor, add
  • vanilla ice cream (3-4 scoops),
  • milk (2-4 T or more, depending on how liquidy you want it to be),
  • caramel syrup (1-2 T),
  • mini chocolate chips (1 T), and
  • milk chocolate m&ms (~2 T). 
Blend until smooth and enjoy.  (The measurements are in ( ) because they're just guidelines--feel free to adjust to taste)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Messy

So I just had to laugh last night.  I was folding laundry, which means I was watching TV, and I saw this commercial.  I think it was for that big box home improvement store--you know, the orange one--but that doesn't really matter.  What does matter is there was this couple, mom and dad, and their baby/toddler, and they're in their living room and they're all smiling and happy and the baby is toddling about cutely.  It's all very wholesome and lovely and american-wayish.  What made it funny was that the set dresser tried to make the room look lived-in and homey and a little messy by...spilling a tub of mega-bloks.

It was so very obvious that the toddler is not the one who spilled those blocks, because, my friends, if he had, they would have been e v e r y w h e r e, not just in a neat little pile at the end of the couch.  And all of the kid's other toys would have been strewn about, as well.  Well, I guess I'll give the set dresser points for trying...it's not everyone who notices these little things...just moms.

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I've got to share with you this website that I found this morning, full of great ideas for getting messy.  It's http://www.makinglearningfun.com/.  It has dozens of themes and several activities for each theme--so great!  You should check it out.  We'll be doing this in the next few weeks.  I thought of the idea to marble paint a zebra last fall, but never could find a blank zebra form to use.  Well, here it is!  Apparently someone else (who is either better at searching the web or has more artistic talent than me) though of the same idea.

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We have high speed internet!  Did I tell y'all that Hubby checked into some form of high speed internet (when is it going to start being just regular speed internet, I wonder), maybe a hot spot, and there's a 2 mile bubble around our house that is not covered?  Really, Mr. Obama, I thought you had us covered here.  I'm a bit disappointed in you.

Anyway, the other day he stopped in to the Verizon store to ask about their mobile hot spots and the guy told Hubby he could borrow one for a few days to try it out!  Unlimited usage!  Isn't that great?  Right now I'm using it to look for polar bear outlines on AKD's iPod (you'll have to stay tuned to see what I'm planning to do with that), and then I'll type the address into my PC's browser to print.  It's been so nice to be able to check my email in 3 minutes, versus the normal 15-20.  Now all we need is a laptop and a wireless printer and...and...and...the cost is still pretty high for the mobile hot spot (although not as high as satellite) *sigh*

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Routines

I don't know about you, but I am exhausted, and we've been back to school (and "work") for less than a week!  AKD's early bus pick-up time means that I need to wake up at 6 a.m.  The only time in my entire life that I have woken up at 6 a.m. on a regular basis was when I was working full time and had to be there at 7.  I was exhausted then, too.  Oh right, and then there was the period of time when MC was waking me up at 5:30 a.m. every day.  And Bubby took a turn with that as well.  Glad that's done with.

Anyway, I am exhausted, and it's not just because I'm waking up earlier than I'm used to.  The transition from the lazy days of summer to the structured routine of a new school year is enough to leave anyone feeling a bit drained....which leads me to today's tip: give it time.

I distinctly remember, two years ago, thinking that now that school had started, we were just automatically going to fall right back into the routine.  And I distinctly remember the intense frustration I felt when that didn't happen.

It takes time to develop new habits, and that's just what a new routine is.  So, take a deep breath and cut yourself some slack.  It won't happen overnight, but it will get better.

Monday, September 5, 2011

First days of school

Ready or not...here we come: barrelling headlong into a brand new season in our lives.  First day of middle school for one, first day of school ever for one, soccer, karate, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, FROG, MOPS, story time, LATTE...


So I've got three boys attending three different schools.  So far, so good...



Aren't they just the cutest?  And they all look so happy to be setting off for school, don't they?

And what did I do on my first kid-less morning of the school year?
 Why, I went here, of course, conveniently located on my way home from dropping Bubby at preschool.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back to "work"

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
 and yes, that is the bubble gum scented nail polish that Walgreens paid me to take home 2 weeks ago.
Can you believe I get paid to do this?
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