Sunday, January 31, 2010


My first DT layout has gone up at stuck sketches, Yeah! this was a fun design to work with, I have created Addison's 3 year milestone layout with it. If you head on over you will see all the other new DT member's layouts as well.
Here is the sketch...

And my interpretation...

I hope you can join in, there are 3 awesome prizes to win, you have until the 31st to get your entry in...

Till next time..........

I *heart* simple solutions

One more day until February--the month of love. I love these simple solutions compliments of Real Simple magazine.

The team at Super Target pitched in and bought Kate a new pink camera for her birthday last week. She needs one of these soap holders to store it in. It would be great for travel or just to store in her purse.

I've been doing this for awhile now. I have a bunch of these small address labels pre-printed and ready to go when I loan a book.

I'm the queen of Ziploc baggies for packing. Love this idea for shoes in a suitcase even better though (so they don't get everything else dirty). I'm snagging those hotel shower caps from now on!

I have Ella's and my elastics in little plastic containers, but I thought this might work better.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Long Boy Burgers

Long Boy Burgers. Have you ever heard of them? I hadn't. I happened across a recipe called "Long Boy Burgers" while flipping through my copy of Cook's Country. Very interested in new and different recipes, I read about the history of the Long Boy. In short, the Long Boy is a 1960's retro recipe that is much like an open-faced meatloaf sandwich, served atop a toasted sub roll or hot dog bun.

I knew I had to make this recipe for several reasons:
*We love meatloaf
*I wanted to use my brand new deli baskets and red checked liners
*it was quick, fun, easy and economical
*I had just made fresh homemade hot dog buns for my HBin5 group

Long Boy Cheeseburgers -adapted from Cook's Country Magazine
Serves 4 -8 **The Long Boys came out rather large. You could easily cut each Long Boy in half and have a very satisfying portion***(Be sure to spread the meat to the edges of rolls, or the bread will burn)
2 (6-inch) sub rolls split in half lengthwise
1-1/4 cups cornflakes, crushed
1/2 small onion, minced
1/3 cup whole or lowfat milk
6 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
1-1/2 pounds 90 percent lean ground beef
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Toast Rolls - Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake rolls, cut side up, on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.

2. Make Meat Mix - Combine cornflakes, onion, milk, 4 tablespoons ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, garlic powder, egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Add meat and knead gently until well combined.

3. Bake Burgers - Top toasted rolls evenly with meat mixture, spreading meat to edges of rolls. Brush top of meat mixture evenly with remaining ketchup and bake until meat registers 160 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes. Top burgers with cheese and continue to bake until cheese melts, 3 to 4 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes and serve.

Results/Notes: This recipe was unique and fun! The kids loved the deli baskets and checked liners. The burgers were much like an open-faced meatloaf sandwich. All in all, it was a cute idea that made for a fun dinner. I really loved this batch of HBin5 dough. The soft sandwich bread was delicious and the hot dog buns were easy to form and baked up well. The soft whole wheat dough is definitely a recipe that I will enjoy over and over in my kitchen.

I recently joined up with a new group, hosted by Michelle of Big Black Dog, to bake my way through the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook. Our challenge this time around was to make one recipe of Soft Whole Wheat dough, a great soft dough enriched with eggs. We were to make one loaf of Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, which I enjoyed with some peanut butter and jelly (my personal favorite). The bread was nice and soft and much more satisfying than that plain old white bread stuff.The other part of our challenge was to make either Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns. Inspired by the Long Boy Burger, I chose the Hot Dog Buns and they worked perfectly in that recipe. Head on over the Michelle's site HERE on Feb 1st to check out any of the other bread bakers.

Have you ever heard of a Long Boy?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

big boy toys

Larsen is not content to play with his own baby toys any more he wants in on the action with Addison's toys !!!!! I have been playing with my Maya Mists again using a kids stencil, my fav part is my letters in the dump truck!

Till next time....

aprons and sock monkeys

Carol's comment on my "kitchen organization" post...

Now, I'm not picking on you, but where is your apron? I have gotten into aprons in the last few years and love them - store purchased and hand made. Ask Deanna to show you the one I made her for Christmas. I hope they're not just for 'old ladies' any more!

got me in a creative mode again. I love aprons. I have two, but they're both butcher-style and very boring. Definitely functional. I wear them more out of necessity than style. When I'm cooking, I get a grease stain splattered on my favorite shirt or when I'm cleaning it's a bleach stain--never fails. I've been looking for some simple apron patterns--both functional and stylish. Making them out of a sassy fabric would serve both purposes. I need to see Deanna's. (Deanna, why don't you post it on your blog?) Anyway, until I do find what I'm looking for, I thought I'd start with a smaller project to satisfy my creative needs. I finally ordered the kit to make one of these for my own little monkey.

So fun and vintage! Madi's great grandma (and Ella's grandma) made this one for her, but Ella has somehow claimed it as her own. The kit is on sale ($14.99, sale price $12.99) here for either size--medium or large. This is the large one. And it makes two monkeys. You supply your own stuffing. They also have a blue elephant kit that's adorable. Either one would make a great Valentine's gift. Don't you think?

I can't stand paying shipping, so I rarely shop on-line without a promotion code for free or reduced shipping or a discount. If you decide to order your own kit, type 9763 in the promotion code box at checkout and your shipping will drop from $7.99 to $1.00. Two sock monkeys for $13.99. Love it. I'm thinking I'll make the second one for my niece, Sierra. She loves to shop vintage/second-hand shops and I thought of her when I saw it. (Deanna and Carol--don't tell!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

bringin' on spring

Only five more weeks of winter and it'll be my favorite time of year--spring! Fall is a close second. I made our favorite salad for dinner tonight, hoping it might hurry things along or at least feel a bit more spring-y. It's loaded with yummy stuff.


1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 pear or can of pears, cubed
1 apple, cubed
1/2 cup craisins
1 cup shredded swiss cheese or crumbled bleu cheese
1 cup pecans, chopped (I toast them)

Layer ingredients in order given. *I've also added chicken or turkey chunks to this salad.


1 cup olive oil
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 T. poppy seeds
1 tsp. salt

Mix ingredients in a jar and shake. *This makes quite a bit of dressing, so I usually cut the recipe in half.

Monday, January 25, 2010

kitchen organization

In mentioned in an earlier post that in the last little while I've helped some girlfriends organize their kitchens. It was a lot of fun for me. Hopefully for them too. I love the feel of an organized and uncluttered space. It makes me feel peaceful. I haven't always been that way and there are still spots in my home that need organizing, but I'm working on it.

I have found there are two things that contribute to clutter. First, we have way too much "stuff" or multiples of everything. And second, we try to store all the excess in a space that's too small.

Because we use the kitchen more than any other room in the house, it's always a great place to start de-cluttering. And my girlfriends each said it was the area they struggle with most. So here are a few tips that have worked for me:

1. I consider my kitchen a "working" space, not a storage space. That means I only have in my cupboards (or my main cupboards) those things I use every day or week. Everything else is stored either in my downstairs storage room or in low or high cupboards that are awkward to get into.

2. I keep items closest to where I will use them. My friends were amazed at how a little rearranging could save so much time. For example, the oven pads and mitts ago in a drawer next to the oven. The silverware drawer and plates, cups and bowls are in the cupboards nearest the dishwasher so it can unload quickly.

3. I set up a baking center so I can stand in one spot and have access to all my baking supplies, tools and ingredients.

This corner of the kitchen is my baking center.

It makes sense to have it near the stove, oven and microwave and to keep my Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter. That's one appliance I wouldn't want to do without. I love it and use it a lot.

In the cupboards above the counter I have my baking ingredients. The first basket contains basics like baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, etc. I just set it out on the counter when I'm making cookies or muffins and then stick everything right back in when I'm done. The second basket holds a variety of nuts. The third basket is molasses and Karo syrup. Come to think of it, I haven't used those items in forever, so I'm going to get rid of them. The half full container on the top shelf is the last of the honey my sister-in-law shared with me years ago. Her dad, Virg Marshall, used to keep bees when they lived in California and it is the best honey. I save it for the good stuff. I love these cupboard stands because it really bugs me to have things stacked so I have to lift one thing to get to another. I was just thinking those stands might work great for my studio cupboards too.

In the corner cupboard are my baking supplies: bowls, measuring cups, food chopper, etc. I know it seems bare, but honestly, these are the only items I use often. Next to my hand food chopper, I keep my small cutting boards because I always use those two items together. On the top shelf is a sifter, parchment paper and cookie cutters. I don't use those items as often, so I don't want them taking up prime real estate.

In the tall cupboard next to the corner cupboard is where I keep my various oils and vinegars. I use them a lot.

In the drawer below the counter are my baking tools. I usually have my mini spatulas in there too, but they're in the dishwasher right now.

Below the drawer is my slotted cupboard with my cookie sheets, jelly pans, muffin tins, etc. My casserole dishes, bread pans and bundt pan are in the drawer underneath the stove.

Behind me on the pantry door are all my spices. The rack is an old video holder. I don't think they even make them anymore. I saw something similar at Walmart in the kitchen section, but it doesn't have as many shelves so there are huge spaces between the bottom two.

Almost forgot. My flour and sugar are in glass jars in my pantry. Not super convenient, but I'd rather not have them on the counter.

All in all, I have things pretty pared down. But the area is easy to keep organized because there isn't a bunch of excess to deal with.

If you're serious about getting organized, I highly recommend the book Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. I found it interesting when she talks about the psychological reasons for staying disorganized. It really got me thinking.

I've learned that just like everything else, being organized is a process. My biggest hurdle right now is the paper stuff. I've got some systems that are working and some I need to change. I just keep plugging away.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Summer street fun

I love this photo of all the kids in our street riding their bikes, scooters etc...we have the most wonderful bunch of neighbours and the kids play so well together, sharing their bikes and toys , of course there is the occasional disagreement but that is kids being kids, this photo most definately reminds me of Summer, I used some of my October Afternoon stash again LOVE this stuff!!!

Till next time..........

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Southern-Style Baked Beans, Pioneer Style

At my house, baked beans are somewhat like a condiment. We love them so much that we top our baked potatoes with them, spread them on our garlic toast, put them on a burger, and more. Baked beans compliment so many things, but they go best with pulled pork, which is what we had last night.

I've tried a couple different recipes for baked beans over the years and they have all been good recipes. Last night I made Pioneer Woman's Southern-Style Baked Beans, which are topped with bacon and baked in the oven for 2 hours. They were outstanding! I served them along with Tyler's pulled pork, baked potatoes, and garlic toast. The baked beans were the best part of the meal. We loved them. The sauce was thick and tangy with pieces of onion and green pepper running throughout. The bacon formed a crispy coating worth fighting over. This will be our new "go to" recipe for baked beans.

Quick Southern-Style Baked Beans-adapted from Pioneer Woman
**Serves up to 18- recipe is easily halved
8 slices bacon, halved
1 medium onion, cut into small dice
1/2 medium green pepper, cut into small dice
3 large cans (28 ounces each) pork and beans
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup distilled or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dry mustard or 2 tablespoons Dijon

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Fry bacon in large, deep sauté pan skillet until bacon has partially cooked and released about 1/4 cup drippings. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. Add onions and peppers to drippings in pan and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans and remaining ingredients bring to a simmer. (If skillet is not large enough, add beans and heat to a simmer then transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining ingredients). Pour flavored beans into a greased 13-by 9-inch (or similar size) ovenproof pan. Top with bacon, then bake until beans are bubbly and sauce is the consistency of pancake syrup, about 2 hours. Let stand to thicken slightly and serve.

I am submitting this recipe to Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman, which is a new group that hosts bimonthly roundups of Ree's recipes. This time around we are making salad and vegetable dishes. Head on over there to see what everyone else is cooking up!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Presidential Visit & Lunch in My Hometown: Elyria, Ohio

Today the President of the United States paid a visit to my hometown Elyria, Ohio. This is big news if you're from a small town, just shy of 60,000 people. In it's heyday, Elyria was a booming and thriving city supported by auto and steel factories. When I was young, it seemed that everyone's Dad worked at Ford, GM or the steel plant. It was just a given. By the time I reached adulthood things had started to change. They were little changes at first, but things quickly got worse. Before you knew it, steel companies closed down, the Big 3 started having layoffs, automotive plants started closing, and businesses and people starting leaving town. Now the unemployment rate is at 10.9%, which is worse than last year.

I've been in Kentucky for about seven years now, but I love to go back home and visit my Dad and my best friends. It makes my heart so happy to cross over into that city line. The people are friendly and genuine and everybody pretty much knows everybody. But, after the excitement wears off, I start to look around and take notice. I take notice of the homes that are vacant, the factories that are boarded up and the businesses that are closed down. I look around and see how much the city has changed, and not for the best. I think about the people I know who are fighting to stay in their homes and having trouble finding jobs and it makes me sick to my stomach. I hate that this is happening in my hometown. I hate that it is happening all over America.

I am glad that Barack Obama chose Elyria as one of the cities on his "White House to Main Street" tour. It seems his visit has lifted the spirits of the city, helping everyone to think positively.

One thing everyone is talking about, is where President Obama had lunch. It seems he dined at Smitty's Place, which is a bar and grill just outside of the downtown area. It's just a neighborhood place where friends meet to indulge in the famous "Smitty burger". Some may even consider it to be a "dive" or a "hole in the wall". Just this past summer, our fifteen year high school reunion was held at Smitty's. Some of us would have preferred somewhere a little nicer, but we sucked it up and enjoyed our reunion outside on the patio at Smitty's. Not one of us would've thought that the President would ever dine at Smitty's, but today he did.
His 24-car motorcade pulled up outside of Smitty's this afternoon and the President dined on his very own Smitty burger, a thin hamburger patty with shredded lettuce, sliced pickles and a dressing somewhat like tartar sauce (delicious). The President's lunch set him back about $4.35. It seems he even bought lunch for some of the regulars.

My phone was ringing off the hook as my girlfriends called to tell me about this. We all laughed and chuckled, remembering just months ago when we stood in the very same spot doing shots with our graduating class.

Here is a picture of me (on the far right) with some friends inside Smitty's this summer.

Here's to my hometown and yours! Let's hope for a brighter tomorrow!

creamy chicken noodle soup & southwestern eggrolls

It's soup weather again. I'm not big on recipes that use cream of anything soup, but this is Lynn's favorite. The recipe has been around for awhile, but we think this version is the best (and simplest to make).


2 tsp. chicken granules or 2 boullion cubes
2 cans chicken broth
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 c. chopped onion (sometimes I use the dehydrated ones from the cannery)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup milk
4 tsp. butter
1/4 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
2 cups cooked chicken, diced (2 pieces)
2-2 1/2 cups cooked thin egg noodles (I use whole wheat)

Cook chicken. Boil egg noodles. In large pot, dissolve chicken granules in one cup of boiling water. Add chicken broth, carrots, celery and onions to liquid and boil until tender. In a separate bowl, whisk cream of chicken soup and milk until smooth and add to broth and vegetables. Melt butter and stir in flour. Add to soup mixture. Add chicken and noodles. Pepper to taste.

*I got lazy when I last made this and added the butter and flour straight into the broth and vegetable. We actually liked it better because it wasn't as thick as usual.

I got this next recipe from a KSL Studio 5 segment. It's not something I'd usually make because it has a lot of ingredients. (Simple recipes for me include not too many ingredients.) These are worth the time--they are yummy!--and the recipe makes a lot. We had enough left for another meal. I always ask Lynn to rate new recipes and he gave this a nine out of ten.


2 chicken breasts, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
2 T. green onion, minced
1/4 cup white onion, minced (I used my dehydrated ones from the cannery again.)
1 can corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup spinach, sliced very thin (I actually used my dehydrated spinach. It was great.)
1 small can green chiles
1/2 T. fresh parsley (I used dried)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt
dash cayenne pepper (missed this ingredient. oops!)
1 cup monterey jack or cheddar cheese, shredded (I used a mix of both because it's what I had in my freezer.)

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except chicken. Transfer to saute pan and heat until warm. Add cheese and mix well. Spoon 1/2 cup of mixture inside warmed tortillas. Fold in each end and then sides so filling cannot escape. Place rolls in a panini grill or George Foreman grill and cook until cheese in melted and tortilla is crisp. (The recipe also says you can using a regular saute pan, just put something heavy on top to flatten and grill.) Serve with avocado ranch dipping sauce.


1 cup ranch dressing
1 avocado, mashed (I used two. I love avocado!)
1 tsp minced onion
salt and pepper
lime juice

Blend ingredients in blender until smooth.
(*Note: This made a lot of sauce. Next time I'll cut the recipe in half.)

These are our favorite tortillas (if your family will eat whole wheat). They have a real nutty flavor and make great quesadillas too.

I usually heat tortillas by wrapping them in a wet paper towel and sticking them in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. Works great. This time I heated them in our George Foreman Grill--much simpler! I also sprayed the rolls with Pam before grilling them so they were crispier.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ina Garten's Broccoli & Bowties And Nigella's Cheesecake

I haven't been cooking a lot of new recipes this lately. Instead, I have been repeating some new favorites. A few weeks ago I made Copycat Broccoli Cheese Soup from Panera and it was so good that I have made it two more times since then. It has become one of my new favorite recipes. I have also made peanut butter and chocolate chip muffins twice, which is a recipe I got from Donna at My Tasty Treasures. Those muffins are super delicious and everyone loves them. Another favorite this month was Ina Garten's herb-marinated loin of pork, which I just made again last night. We loved Ina's version of pork tenderloin so much that it is our new "go to" recipe for pork tenderloin. I used Ina's biscuit recipe to top my ham pot pie and we loved the biscuits so much that I made them again for breakfast a couple days later.

On a roll with Ina's recipes, I decided to make her Broccoli and Bowties (recipe found here). It begins with four heads of broccoli which are cooked in boiling, salted water for 3 minutes and then added to 1/2 pound of cooked bowtie pasta. A sauce is made from butter, olive oil, minced garlic, and lemon zest and poured over the pasta. The pasta is topped with toasted pine nuts and Parmigiano-Regiano.

I think I had rather high expectations for this dish and although it was good, it wasn't great. I enjoyed the broccoli and pasta and loved the hint of the garlic and lemon, but I would rate this more along the lines of a solid three stars, possibly four stars. I guess they can't all be five-stars!

For dessert I broke out my new springform pan and made Nigella's cheesecake from Nigella Express. Nigella's cheesecake is a no bake recipe with a graham cracker crust. In her cookbook, she tops her cheesecake with cherries. We didn't have any cherries so I topped ours with chocolate sauce. The recipe went together in about 10 minutes and was super easy. After chilling in the refrigerator for a couple of hours it was ready to eat.

Nigella's cheesecake recipe can be found here, online at Food Network. The cheesecake filling is a combination of cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla folded into whipped cream. I tasted the cheesecake filling before adding it to the pan and found that it needed a little more sugar. I added about 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar to the filling. Nigella's instructions tell you to fold the whipped cream into the thick cream cheese mixture, which was almost next to impossible. Instead, I mixed the two in my Kitchenaid mixer and I think it worked out fine.

The cheesecake was light and creamy and we liked it, but it wasn't anything spectacular. The upside of this recipe is that it can be thrown together with very few ingredients and also very little time. Great if you need a dessert in a hurry and don't have time to run to the store.
I am submitting this cheesecake to I Heart Cooking Clubs. This week's theme is potluck, which means anything goes. Head on over to the to see what everyone else is cooking up this week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

he is Super ...

I have had these photos for a while and my original concept for this layout is totally different to where it ended up, I found this superman comic at the newsagent and used it on my layout, more Misting YEAH! and just a touch of grunge....

Till next time....

major score!

I was going to wait until my sister-in-law, Deanna, came over to see if she noticed I finally purchased a couch for the little sitting area off our kitchen, but I can't wait that long. She bugs me every time she comes over to just purchase something for the space. When we finished the basement--a couple of years ago--we moved our leather set downstairs and I haven't found anything I liked that much to replace it upstairs. Everyone knows I'm willing to hold out as long as it takes to find exactly what I'm looking for at the price I'd like or just until I find something I really want. (I had birthday money sitting in an account for over a year before I finally spent it on a great photography class taught by the amazing photographer Nicole Gerulat. Lynn and I took it together. Totally recommend it!). Anyway, I do have a very nice leather chair--a knock-off of Pottery Barn's Manhattan--that I love in the area, but the space has mostly been used as a play room for Ella.

We made a trip to Gardner Village last week and I found a couch I loved at Down to Earth, but it was green. I wanted something more neutral. Looked through the samples and found a fabric I really liked. Okay, I'm rambling. I need to get to the good part.

Long story--sort of shorter--I told Lynn three times how much I loved the couch and fabric and he said if I like it that much to buy it. On a whim I decided to go into Downeast Home in Orem before heading back to Gardner Village. It's a store that sells higher-end seconds, so you have to visit often and look things over carefully for flaws. I've found a few really nice items there.

Right up front was the exact Pottery Barn couch I've been looking for and trying to match for years. And it was the perfect color--a neutral, warm tan! Jared (yes, I know some of the employees by name), said he wasn't sure why it was sent to them because he couldn't find anything wrong with it. I looked it over inch by inch and found two small flaws. One was a half-inch dirt spot down in the corner by the foot that I'm sure I can remove. You'd have to look at the piece as carefully as I did to find the other flaw, so I'm not even going tell what it is. No one else will notice it. I called Lynn to tell him about my find and put it on hold until the end of the day. When Lynn got home we borrowed our friend's pick-up and ran to the Downeast. He liked it as much as I did so we bought it. Total score!

The amazing part is I got it for $500 less than the one I was going to order at Down to Earth and about $900 cheaper than retail (including shipping and surcharge). It's such a rush for me when I get a really great deal, especially on something I really want.  And the color looks even better in our home than it did on the sales floor. Love it! Lynn has told me a million times, "Great shopping, Hon!", which translates in husband language to: I didn't have to spend as much as I thought, my wife is happy, so woo hoo!

So here's my philosophy about shopping. I love to shop and I love getting great deals. But I do have two personal rules of thumb for shopping sales:

1. I don't buy an item on sale unless I would have paid full price for it. (Totally fits in the couch deal. Lynn got tired of me furniture shopping long ago and was willing to purchase the PB couch at retail. I knew I could do better. It paid to hold out!) This cuts way down on the "it was such a great deal I couldn't pass it up" mindset.

2. I ask myself if I'd rather put the money I would spend on the sale item towards the purchase of something I like more. If the answer is "yes", it goes back on the rack or shelf. Personally, I'd rather have one item I really love than a bunch of stuff I sort of like.

Both rules save me from purchasing stuff that will just clutter up the house. They also make it an extra bonus when I do get something I love at a great price. Next time you hit a good sale, ask yourself those two questions. I promise it'll change what ends up in your cart (and your husband will be saying, "woo hoo!" too).

Speaking of clutter, over the last little while I've helped a few of my girlfriends organize their kitchens. I love doing it. Sometimes we just need a "clutter coach" to help look at things with a more discerning eye and help us decide what to keep, give away/toss or store. I've found the same patterns with everyone when it comes to dealing with clutter. In the next couple of days I'll share a few organizing ideas that have worked for me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

fhe with byu

One of the wonderful blessings of Lynn serving on the High Council at BYU is that we get to have a group of students come to our home for Family Night once a month. They take care of the songs, lesson and game and we provide the refreshments. Each time, Ella watches out the front window for her "friends" to arrive and gets so sad when they have to leave. They involve her in the activities and play with her. She got to take her turn in the Skittles game (it's played by sucking Skittles through a straw--from a bowl onto a paper plate--until the next person in the circle rolls doubles on the dice). Very fun game. About half way through I noticed a bit of orange backwash on the side of the bowl. I'm pretty sure it was Ella's doing. The girls just asked for a paper towel and wiped it off.

(left to right) Courtney, Alicia, Allison, Rachel, Joran, Aaron, Nik and Chuck.

The highlight of the evening for Ella was playing with her new friends. Jaron played dollhouse with her. He was the daddy and she was the mommy. Then Jaron and Chuck helped her make cupcakes with her kitchen set.

I'm always so impressed by these young men and young women and the spirit they bring into our home. And I love that Ella has them as such wonderful examples in her life.

For refreshments I made Mountain Bars. They are so yummy! It's my go-to recipe for whenever I'm asked to bring a treat to an occasion and it's been a family favorite for years. It makes a large batch so it's great for groups. I was always asked to bring a couple of pans to Girls' Camp when I served in the Young Women's program. Last night, Courtney asked for the recipe, so here it is:


Mix together:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour (I use 1/2 white, 1/2 whole wheat sometimes)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 cups oatmeal

Press 2/3 of dough into bottom of a large jelly roll pan. Save the rest for topping.

Melt over medium heat:
2 T. butter
1 bag milk chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Spread chocolate "goo" over mix in pan and crumble remainder of dough on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. (I always bake for 20 minutes, it makes a softer bar.)

*When you spread the remainder of the dough on top of the "goo" mixture, crumble it between your fingers. It's a bit sticky, but the bars turn out better when there's a nice even layer of topping instead of a bunch of big globs. Enjoy!

Pretzel Baguettes and Cheese of the Month: Red Dragon with Mustard Seeds and Ale

It's no secret that I love bread and cheese. I may have even shared my unnatural love for mustard a time or two. Imagine my surprise when I found this Red Dragon Mustard Seed and Ale Cheese for sale at my Whole Foods. There was only one wedge left and it had my name written all over it. As I stared at the cheese, admiring it's red casing and it's visual appeal, I started to daydream about all the ways I could use it. I must have been off in another world, which happens a lot by the way, because the cheesemonger was talking to me and I didn't hear him. He said "We have a pretzel baguette that goes great with that cheese." MAMA SAY WHAT?

Imagine my delight at the words he spoke! Pretzel baguette. That's genius, I thought to myself, as I squealed in delight running to the bread section. However, he also mentioned "if we have any left", which kinda of made my stomach sink a little. It must have been my lucky day because there were several pretzel baguettes sitting in the basket and I was in love with them. I picked up two baguettes at $1.99 each and went happily to see the cashier.
We know that pretzels pair well with mustard and we also know they pair well with cheese, but cheese with mustard - yum!

Results/Notes: This is a classic combination. Both the pretzel baguette and the mustard seed and ale cheese were wonderful. The baguette was just like a soft pretzel, but in loaf form; soft and chewy. The cheese is a tangy Welsh Cheddar, made from pasteurized milk, mixed with mustard seeds and ale. It is creamy and almost spreadable at room temperature. Besides pairing well with the pretzel baguette, this cheese would be a great addition to any sandwich that would otherwise call for mustard. I think it would also be great melted into Welsh Rarebit or even added into some homemade macaroni and cheese. This is a great combination for any Superbowl parties coming up. All in all, it was fairly inexpensive. The baguettes are only $1.99 each and my wedge of cheese was about $4. A somewhat healthy and unique snack for around $5. These two goodies get a definite "thumbs up" from me and I will seek them out each and every time I happen to get to Whole Foods.

If you don't happen to have a Whole Foods in your area, you can buy this cheese online at Amazon, here. More often than not, you can ask your cheesemonger for specific items and they will order them for you without the added shipping charges.

In case you would like to try your own pretzel baguette, there is a link to a recipe here. I haven't tried this recipe, but I would definitely like to.

This is the first in my series for Cheese of the Month. Each month I am going to try a new cheese and feature it alone or in a recipe.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Although my term doesnt start till next month I played along with the second sketch for January over at stuck sketches. I finally got around to doing Larsen's 1st birthday layout....he sure loved his birthday cake! Thanks to the lovely Taryn for the maya mist, am so lovin the effects you can get !

I finished this layout a while ago but only got around to photographing it today. I used the digger from 3tailscraft as a template and sprayed it with glimmer mist for a masked totally out of my comfort zone but I like it.

Till next time...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

the essential ingredient to making great muffins

The essential ingredient to making really great muffins, is to get very excited and do the muffin dance before you begin. Shake your hands above your head and sing as loud as you can, "We're making pumpkin muffins...we're making pumpkin muffins!" over and over.

Then shake like this:

and move your feet like this:

and your muffins will turn out perfect--guaranteed!

It was Ella's turn to bring the snack to preschool last week. She chose string cheese and her favorite muffins--pumpkin chocolate chip. There's a whole different set of dance moves when you add the chocolate chips to the batter and you have to yell even louder, "Add some chocolate chips...add some chocolate chips!" That's after you've sampled a few handfuls while Mom's not looking!

Ella really does get excited to help in the kitchen, which is so foreign to me. But we can't eat out all the time, so I have my tried and true--and always simple--recipes that I make. I love anything pumpkin. Even though it seems to be a fall thing, we make these simple muffins all year long. It's the best recipe I've found and for some reason they taste even better when you make the mini version. Ella and I thought we'd share the recipe.


3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups flour (I use whole wheat)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (we like more, about 3/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour muffin tin or use paper liners. Mix sugar, oil and eggs in bowl. Add pumpkin and water. In separate bowl mix together the flour, soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Some helpful hints about making muffins:
If you're not using paper liners, these muffins come out of the pan much easier if you bake them for 20 minutes and then let them sit for about five minutes before removing.

The small Pampered Chef scoop fills mini muffins tins with just the right amount of batter.

A heaping scoop using the medium Pampered Chef scoop fills regular size muffin tins with just the right amount of batter.

(For those of you in my ward, Delayne Dayton sells Pampered Chef and puts in an order every so often. I love their scoops!)

Ham Pot Pie

Well, we've all heard of chicken, turkey, or beef pot pie. But, have you ever heard of Ham Pot Pie? I happened across a recipe for ham pot pie and thought I would give it a try. I happened to have leftover ham from Christmas, which I had frozen and needed to use it up. I thought this recipe would give new life to that frozen ham so I was excited to get to work. My husband and daughter were skeptical. My husband kept saying that ham just didn't go into a pot pie. He insisted that it wouldn't work. I knew I had to win them over, so I decided to go with Ina Garten's biscuit topping instead of the pie crust the recipe called for. How can anyone resist perfectly golden buttery biscuits sitting atop a creamy filling?
Ham Filling for the Pot Pie:
1 cup potato, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
1/3 cup melted margarine
1/2 cup a/p flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt
dash or two of pepper
4 cups of ham, cooked and chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Saute onion, celery, carrots and potatoes in butter for 10 minutes.Add flour to sauteed mixture, stirring well. Cook one minute stirring constantly. Combine broth and half and half. Gradually stir into vegetable mixture. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Stir in salt and pepper; add ham and stir well. Pour into shallow 2 quart casserole dish and top with biscuits. Bake 30-40 minutes until biscuits are cooked through and golden.
I topped my ham pot pie with Ina's biscuit recipe from Chicken Stew with Biscuits. It was just the right touch and her biscuits were delicious.

Recipe for Biscuits - adapted from Ina Garten/Food Network
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash (I brushed my biscuits with cream, not egg wash and it turned out great)

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter. (I didn't roll the dough out. I simply formed 12 biscuits by hand and laid them on top the pie).

Notes/Results: The biscuits really made this dish. The tops of the biscuits had the lightest crispness and the inside of the biscuit was fluffy and wonderful. I loved the little specks of parsley flakes going throughout the biscuits. The creamy filling had bubbled up over top the biscuits and was so comforting. I think it was a great way to use up frozen ham. My daughter didn't care for it, but she is extremely picky. My husband couldn't get past the fact that it was a ham pot pie, but he ate his fair share.

What do you think? Do you think you'd give a ham pot pie a try? Or, do you think pot pies should be saved for chicken, turkey and beef only?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

a sweet memory {Christmas}

Sometimes it takes just a simple reminder--something we see, hear or smell--to bring back memories from the past. These candy canes sitting on our counter reminded me of a comical incident from years ago when Kate was an infant.

My first year as a single mom, we decorated our Christmas tree with simple ornaments and candy canes. Knowing what a temptation they would be for almost two-year-old Kate, I hung the candy canes at the top of the tree where she couldn't reach them. I was in my bedroom of our little apartment one late afternoon, when I heard a huge crash and then complete silence. I ran to the family room to find our tree on it's side and two little hands and two little feet sticking out from between the branches of the tree. One hand still grasped a candy cane! Kate had climbed to the top of the Christmas tree, grabbed ahold of one sweet treat and held on for dear life as the tree toppled on top of her. I asked Kate if she was okay and all I heard was a triumphant, "Canny cane...canny cane!" Yes, I did let her eat it and promptly removed the rest of the candy canes from the tree.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

favorite memories 3 {Christmas 2009}

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the decorations. When Ella saw other homes with lights on, she reminded Lynn every day that it was time to put up our lights. We love how simple and beautiful all white bulbs look. When I finally started bringing bins of decorations up from the storage room and you'd have thought it was already Christmas! Ella was so excited. She would tell me twenty times a day, "Let's's time to decorate!" She wanted to help with everything. She'd sneak items out of the bins and place them on doorknobs and backs of chairs. She managed to wrap an entire pine garland around a table in her room while I was wrapping one on the banister! I loved decorating our home together and seeing that it brought her as much happiness as it brings me.

My little helper:

A few of my favorite things:

1. I asked Ella to decorate the sign we keep on the porch. She drew Jesus and a Christmas tree. 2. I hung snowflakes and shiny silver bulbs from the chandelier in the kitchen. 3. Red gingham and dots together--love it! 4. One of my favorite ornaments--love the buttons. 5. I bought Ella her own four foot white tree for her room. We decorated it with princesses, of course! She hung her pink and white bead necklaces all over it and told me it was so she wouldn't have bad dreams. 6. I made these place holders with each person's name on them for Christmas dinner. 7. I love monograms. Our tree is filled with the first letters of each of our kids' names. 8. I love this little set so much I keep it on my plate holder in the kitchen all year. Ella will only use these cups for hot cocoa. 9. Ella made her first handmade ornament at preschool. I love, love, love it--especially with all the cute buttons. 10. This was quite a temptation for little ones, so it was hung high on the tree. 11. I love snowmen. 12. I love the ribbon and ric-rac on this ornament. 13. More ribbon. 14. When our other kids were younger, my brother's family used to give us a new Christmas book each year. I loved the tradition. We started reading them to Ella this year. I bought a few paperback books from Scholastic before Christmas and wrapped them up in fun paper. Ella got to open one each night and then we'd read it before she went to bed. 15. More dots. 16. I wrap all the gifts in the same paper each year to match our red and white tree. And of course it's usually dots.