Friday, December 23, 2011

Reindeer Cupcakes

We made these yummy cupcakes for Pappy's birthday. I got the idea from family fun, but had to tweak the decorations a bit for what I had in my pantry. I also created amazing chocolate cream cheese frosting!
For the cake, I use a butter cake recipe I found on allrecipes here. I adapted it for cupcakes by cutting the baking time to about 20 minutes.
For the frosting, I creamed 1/2 cup butter, 1 package light cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla extract, with 1 cup powdered sugar. I then added 1/4 cup cocoa powder. For the perfect touch, I added 1/2 cup melted chocolate chips to the mixture. So yummy!
The nose is a piece of pizzelle (was supposed to be vanilla wafer) with a brown M&M on it. The eyes are mini M&Ms attached with frosting onto white Smarties. The ears are warmed, reshaped mini Tootsie Rolls. The antlers are broken pretzels.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sugar Cookies pt 2

It took us a few days to find some time, but we finally got around to decorating our sugar cookies. I think they look amazing, and taste yummy too!

Due to time constraints, I just bought a sprinkles pack from a big box store, but many of our local Amish/Mennonite run stores carry decorating and baking supplies for very low prices. (My container of green decorating sugar cost 68 cents).

I make a thinned out buttercream icing for the cookies and paint it on. Since it is so thin, you don't need much. It dries hard overnight. As you can see in the picture, it is runny and will run off onto your table (and dry hard overnight) so be sure to clean up before bed.

To make the icing, I used 2tbsp softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract, about a cup of confectionary sugar, and enough milk to make it thin enough to paint. Add this 1 tbsp at a time, but I'd estimate I used 3-4tbsp. Just mix in your mixer and add the milk slowly. If you add too much, counter with more powdered sugar.

Just paint the icing on with a spatula or brush, add sprinkles, and dry overnight.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Candylane

We go to this special event at Hershey Park each year. With a coupon, tickets are $10.95 for ages 3 plus. The roller coasters aren't open, nor the water rides (Ha Ha) but there are plenty of kiddie rides and a few big kid rides (like The Claw).

Years ago, before we had kids, Hershey didn't charge admission to the park. They'd operate on a ride ticket system, so my husband and I would stop for some Hershey's hot cocoa and cookies and just walk around the park looking at all the lights without riding anything (for free).

If you go, one of the overlooked neat treats is the dancing lights on the bridges. Every so often music will start (such as a selection from Trans Siberian Orchestra) and thousands of dancing lights will accompany. Not quite the caliber of Osbourne's Festival of Lights at Disney World, but still very neat (and MUCH less crowded).

This year, we had the privilege of going on a warmer day and a school night so it was very empty. Definitely recommend! Merry Christmas!

Sugar Cookies pt 1

We had fun mixing up sugar cookie dough and cutting out shapes this past week. My older daughter even enjoyed making cutout "freaks" where she'd put a triangle on a gingerbread man or a circle on top of a Christmas tree. I use this recipe:

It is super yummy! Be prepared though for the time needed to cool! We mixed up the dough together one day and cut out the cookies the next, but you could just give it a couple hours to chill.

Friday, December 16, 2011

More Christmas Fun

Oh, it would appear this whole daily blogging thing isn't going to work out, but I'll still post about all our fun. As I mentioned before, the library is a great place for free, family fun. This day we went on the Polar Express. A librarian read The Polar Express and each child received a bag with a bell and coin. We then boarded the Polar Express trolley, which drove us all the way to the North Pole. There, we saw Santa, spent our coin to get a toy from his workshop, and decorated a paper frame with our picture with Santa in it. What great fun and all provided by the library.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth...Day of December

Hi everyone, we are playing catchup here with all the special projects we are doing at home! Today I have 2 more to share. The reason we got behind is we were expecting a new member of our family to join us this week (we are also foster parents) and were hurriedly preparing.  However, at the last minute the child was able to go home instead. So, all is back to normal.

Yesterday we made Christmas Tree wall hangings with tissue paper.  This is a really easy project for any age, and looks pretty awesome.  To make, first you cut out Christmas trees out of green paper.  Then, allow the children to paint glue onto the trees.  Next, take tiny pieces of squished up red and green tissue paper and let the kids place it all over the tress.  My oldest ran and got a star sticker for the top. That's it! Super simple and the kids loved it.

We also baked chocolate chip cookies together. After dinner we had hot cocoa and the cookies while we watched Santa Buddies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fun, easy lunch! Cookie Cutters!

I recently got some new mini cookie cutters and was anxious to try them out. Since we were running errands this morning, a cheese sandwich was perfect for lunch. It took an extra 2 minutes to get out the cutters and make lunch a little special. The girls enjoyed making some themselves, too!

For those who have been following along with the Special December posts, we'll be catching up tomorrow with an explanation on why!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

4th day of December

Today the girls went with their grandparents to a Christmas party. They came back with these four handmade ornaments. The star ornament with toothpicks and chewy candies. The angel is made with coffee filters. The ball ornament is made with old Christmas cards cut in strips and brass fasteners. The pinecone is simply painted with glitter.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

On the 3rd day of December

Today we went and got a Christmas tree.

We get our tree from a local tree farm in the next county. The trees are cut that morning, and after you select one, it is put on a shaking machine to remove bugs, drilled and put on a tree stand at just the perfect angle. Then, it's netted and put in/on your vehicle. When we get home we just have to put it up in the living room, cut the net and add water.

Here's a bonus photo from the Ice Festival yesterday.  Its amazing what they can carve with ice!

Friday, December 2, 2011

On the Second day of December

Today's special activity was a trip to our local Ice Festival. We walked around town munching on free cookies and drinking free hot chocolate checking out the ice sculptures. There was even this cool train display! Hopefully you have a fun, free Christmas event nearby to enjoy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

25 Days of Christmas

Today is December 1, which means there are 25 days until Christmas. Each day up until Christmas I try to do something special with the kids, either a craft, special Christmas outing or baking.

Today we made this Countdown Calendar made out of mismatched socks. Each sock will display the project of the day. I plan to share each of them with you! Today's special project is "decking the halls" (decorating for Christmas)!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Freezer Recipe: Rosemary Chicken

First new dinner recipe in a long time!

Rosemary Chicken

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons Rosemary Leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved (Later)

Mix all the first 6 ingredients together in a freezer bag.  Then add the chicken breasts cut to appropriate size.  Squish the bag around to coat, then freeze.  

When you are ready to cook:  First, thaw overnight, then pour into a baking dish with the small red potatoes.  Mix it all together , place in a thin layer on a baking dish and bake at 425 for 30-35 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  

This recipe was adapted from McCormick's recipe found here.

I bought 30 pounds of chicken....and then sent my husband back for more!

So, after a freezer cooking hiatus, I got a serious bug, and made plans to make a TON of freezer meals.  I wanted some new recipes also so you'll be seeing them, too!

Here's what I made:

chicken fingers
stovetop chicken casserole
hot "wing" chicken
italian chicken
low fat cream cheese stuffed chicken
shredded cooked chicken for easy chicken noodle soup
walnut chicken
chicken cannelloni
stir fry lemon chicken
rosemary chicken

I ran out of chicken, but have the ingredients for coconut adobo chicken and tex mex chicken soup.

So, right now I have 26 meals in my freezer!  Plus, we just made some super yummy turkey broth I can't wait to make soup out of, and 2 bags full of yummy banana muffins with chocolate chips and walnuts!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas Gift Idea for Kids

Need an idea for a child in your life? Consider wooden blocks. Coming in various sizes, wooden blocks can be a house for Blue, a tower, a castle, a town-- anything in the imagination. I've seen our blocks played with for years; one of those toys that never get old. And, when combined with Swagbucks, you can use gift cards won to get some for free!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Freezer Meal Friday: Banana Chip Muffin Recipe

Well, I had meant to post this on Friday, but it didn't happen.  At first I thought it was still Friday SOMEWHERE in the world, but no.  Its not. (Its already Sunday in Australia).  I've had an interesting week, including me buy 30 POUNDS of chicken breast, and then later sending my husband out for 12 more!  I've never made so many freezer meals in such a short time, but when I'm all done, I should have some brand new recipes to post each Friday for the next few weeks.  So far in the freezer we have Stovetop Chicken Casserole, Rosemary Chicken, Lemon Chicken, Italian Chicken, Hot "Wing" Chicken and Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken. I plan to make 2 more Stovetop meals to give away, chicken fingers, walnut chicken, coconut milk chicken adobo, and Tex Mex Chicken Soup.  I think I'll need still more chicken!

This week we had some extra children for an evening, including a young teen. She mentioned something about banana muffins, so I said, "Hey, do you want to make some?"  She thought it would be fun.  I brought to the table 6 or 7 ripe bananas, 2 plates and 2 forks to mash.  She looked really confused and said, "I thought you meant from a box!!!"  I almost never bake from a box. So, we took to mashing and enjoyed a quick and easily freezable banana muffin recipe.  It makes a quick and easy breakfast!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

6 or 7 large ripe bananas (mashed) (I've used 5 and its been okay, too.)
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup of butter (one stick-softened)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 bag (about one cup) dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. (We were able to use one 12-count regular tray and one tray of mini-muffins). Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda in one container.  In another container cream butter and brown sugar together, then add the eggs and bananas. Next, pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until moistened.  (I just do this recipe by hand, not with a power mixer).  Bake for about 30 minutes depending on the size of the muffin tin.  Check with a toothpick in the center of the muffin.  Eat some now, and cool and freeze the rest by placing them on cookie sheet to freeze and then transfer to freezer bags, OR just go straight to the bags (once cool).  It works both ways.

This recipe was adapted from this one.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Pick and Slice Your Own Pineapple

For me, pineapple mostly comes from a can. Occasionally I'd find it at the grocer freshly cut, but mostly it came to us canned. My girls LOVE pineapple. In our home, we try to avoid chemicals like BPA and it just never occurred to me it was leeching into the canned pineapple. I thought about buying one of those fancy pineapple corer/slicer things, but a friend of mine recently challenged me to just try it with a knife!
You can kind of see in the photo I had already taken the first step: cut off the pretty pineapple "hair." Next you cut off the bottom. I used a chef's knife for all the cutting. I also washed the pineapple before starting and after I had removed the skin.

After you remove the top and bottom, start on the sides, trying to stay as close to the skin as possible so you don't lose very much pinapple-y goodness.  After this, I thought for a minute I was done and could easily chop it, but I was wrong.  There's a cylindrical core of rough pineapple about an inch in diameter.  Slice around that, and then chop up.  It really is quite YUMMY!  Definitely beats the canned stuff.  I also think its cheaper this way!

Also, I asked the produce person how to pick a pineapple.  If you want to eat it right away, you want one that is brown like mine.  The ones that are greener look prettier, but they are not ready to eat.  The riper the fruit is, the softer it will be.

So go ahead and try it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

It's here! It's time to pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child. For those of you who are not aware, this charity allows you to pack a shoebox with small toys and toiletry items and the charity will send the box to children around the world in poverty. Last year our boxes left North America and travelled to two different continents. If you register and pay for shipping ($7) online, then they will email you with your box's final destination.

Once you pack and print off your tag at , then you can drop the box off at a drop off site nearby.

It's a great opportunity to bless others at Christmas and to teach children how to serve others.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

50 cent polos!

I'm not a huge Walmart shopper, but when looking to fill Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, it's a convenient one stop shop. So, imagine how excited when I found these 2 pack polo shirts marked down to $1!!! I got one for each of the OCC boxes and for my girls! (Learn more about Operation Christmas Child here.)

Science Museum

We recently had the opportunity to visit Discovery Space of Central PA. What a fun, inexpensive, and educational day trip! We participated in a science program about animal habitats and enjoyed the various exhibits - especially the archeologist dig and flight simulator. There's even a small toddler play area. Just remember to bring money for the meter!

We aren't members yet, but this center also participates in a reciprocal membership with dozens of science centers across the country!  I love this, because when we travel we get to experience all of them for little or no additional cost!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quick Easy Lunch

This is not a sponsored post-- I just really love this product! When I need a quick lunch, I just boil some of the pasta (this variety is wheels) and toss it with butter or olive oil and parmesan cheese. The kids gobble it down, and it's full of healthy green vegetables!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fun Snack Idea

What happens when you bring fruit to a youth group event? Some gets eaten. What happens when you put it on a stick? It goes fast! This simple fruit kabob went even faster than the brownies and cookies that we're also brought! Can't wait to make some myself for an afternoon snack for my family!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Family Fun Night

This past Friday we did a family first: bowling. It wasn't cheap: $20 for 2 adult shoe rentals and 4 players at one game. However, we learned that games are half price on Thursday's. It made some fun memories!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sanity Saver: Clean Pumpkin Decorating

This pretty princess dress didn't quite survive the party, but its not fault of this clean pumpkin decorating idea! Stickers! I never even thought of this before.  We've decorated with Mr. Potato Head pieces and with paint, but never stickers.  These worked so well and were super clean.  The stickers we used were a foam kind and made for pumpkins, but I'm curious if regular foam stickers or paper stickers will work.  If not, maybe they just need some glue dots!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Clutter and Art Saver

I saw this at a friend's house and had to  snap it! What brilliant idea! This artist's board provides a perfect venue for drawings in a limited space. At our house, they are all over the fridge and walls! I think this could easily be a DIY project with a plank of wood, paint, and any saying.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to Make a Cookie Cake

My husband really likes cookies. That's an understatement. For our anniversary I considered buying him a cookie cake. At first the $8 price gave me pause, but then I decided it was worth it. As I picked up the package I glanced at the ingredients... Oops! There was so much artificial and unpronounceable. I put it back and decided to try myself. I spread my chocolate chip cookie dough in a springform pan (should be lined with parchment paper) and baked it about 25-30 minutes. (Check often-- the thickness will determine the length of time it takes). Then I decorated the cake and my husband sampled it before I thought to take a pic!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Today's recess

I walked out of the room for a few minutes to get my little 1st grader's table work ready, leaving the girls for some recess time after I had finished grammar and history with them. I came back to this picture! So sweet! I think you'd agree.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Easiest Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Ever!

This, you see, is the remains of the easiest ice cream recipe ever. You take one package pudding (we used pistachio), one 14 oz can sweetened, condensed milk, and 2 cups cold milk. Mix into ice cream maker, and churn. 20 minutes later you've got super yummy ice cream-like goodness! Can't wait to try another flavor!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Art class idea

Today for art class we got creative! (Well, aren't you always creative in art class?) First, we made a salt dough with 1/2 cup salt, 2 cups flour, and 3/4 cup water. The girls mixed it together and split it two. (You will want to double or triple this for more kids). The toddler preferred just to squish the dough and helped me make a bowl. "A" made a frog and a "plate that looks like the United States of America." We then baked the dough at 350 for an hour to harden it. Next art day we'll paint them!

Monday, September 19, 2011

This is What Homeschooling Looks Like... Today (again)

I realized this weekend that we hadn't gone to the local state park with a sand beach all summer, and summer was just about done (officially- we were past Labor Day so it was already unofficially over). I checked the weather hoping for a warm day. Behold: Tuesday was supposed to be sunny and warm. 'A' did her tablework first thing in the morning. Then, we attended a Mommy & Me class for G before packing up for the "beach." We brought history and science with them. As I sat at the picnic table reading a missionary story as we ate our lunch, I knew I had made a good choice to come. It was so beautiful and peaceful! After lunch, the kids grabbed the sand toys and started what A called art class. After some free play, I started to read history. Just perfectly, today's lesson was about mud huts and round houses. The girls made an African village resembling the one in our book, with "mud" walls, round homes, and thatch roofs to keep the rain off the walls.
Later we read about sea anemones and clownfish while sitting on the playground climber. They even went into spontaneous role play pretending they were baby loggerhead turtles hiding from their predator, the red fox (yesterday's science lesson). Today was a good day for homeschooling.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The County Fair

Our local county fair was this past week. It was a great opportunity to see different animals, foods, and expand on our skill set. Unfortunately, there was major flooding, so the only animals we saw was a horse from a horse show and a kangaroo from another show. Normally there are goats, chickens, cows, rabbits and i think pigs. (Fortunately, we had gone to a smaller fair the previous month just to see animals).

As you can see, there were all sorts of vegetables and eggs to look at. It was amazing to see the different sizes and colors. There were rows of baked and jarred food and a separate building for flowers and hay.

The cool thing was, not only could we learn by seeing, but we learned by doing. "A" made cookies solo for the first time and took first prize in the youth under 19 category (she's six). I only helped by reading the recipe and putting the pan of cookies she scooped in the oven. She also entered photography, art (honorable mention), an apron she sewed (grandma supervised- 2nd place), a napkin holder (4th place), marigolds (5th) and a flower arrangement (2nd). G also got an honorable mention for her art.

Paired with the food and entertainment, it was a relatively inexpensive fun family event! Check one out near you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More carrots please!

I'm a broccoli person. Not so much into carrots, but I bought some on a whim last shopping trip. Had a craving. As I was boiling some of that veggie pasta, I pulled out the baby carrots and cut them into smaller sticks. I then arranged them into a sun around some ranch dressing and gave each girl a plate. I didn't really expect them to eat much. I was wrong... They asked for seconds!

What happened next surprised me even more. Taking a tip from my friend Michelle @ MichellesCharmWorld, I then cut up the rest of the bag and put them into individual baggies. Later that evening, the baby went into the fridge looking for some cheese as a snack, but instead grabbed a bag of carrot sticks, and ate almost all of them!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Unintended Homeschool Benefits

When we started homeschooling this year, I never really thought the toddler would get much out of it. She wants to do everything her sister does! Here you see them doing math together. Sure, she's not really doing a math worksheet, but she's pretending to write numbers. While doing handwriting, I printed a letter sheet just for fun and was shocked she traced it! It'll be interesting to see her development now that she's learning right along big sister!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tip for Drinking More Water

Homemade chicken noodles soup...and water!
I struggle with drinking enough water each day. When I don't drink enough I feel sluggish and dizzy, but yet I still don't drink! Two tips I've discovered to help keep me on track are drinking first and hot sauce.
First, I try to drink a nice tall glass of water first thing in the morning before having anything else. It usually goes down quite easily in just a few gulps.
Second, I put hot sauce on some things. Here you see my lunch: some yummy homemade chicken noodle soup with several drops of hot sauce and water to calm down the heat in my mouth! Yum!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Homeschooling Looks Like... Today


Girls enjoying homeschooling at the kitchen table

I am loving the flexibility that comes with homeschooling. The day I took this photo we started out the day with a special breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. After schooling for a bit, the girls finished the day with a trip to an amusement park with their grandparents! You see the two year old is eagerly doing school right along with her big sister.

Right now both are practicing handwriting while singing the ABCs. Special requests for today: more about animals from the little one and more science experiments from the big one. I'm sure we can accommodate this. I'm also enjoying less rushed mornings and the wonderful morning chore routine the older one has mastered.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Adventures in Cumberland Falls and Corbin, Kentucky! Moonbow!

Its been my husband's dream for years to see a moonbow.  Apparently, the only places you can see a moonbow (defined as a rainbow in the light of the moon) are Cumberland Falls near Corbin, Kentucky and Victoria Falls near the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.  We chose Kentucky.  Its much closer than Africa. You have to view it within 2 days of a full moon.

We arrived to Corbin about 6pm, quickly checked in to our hotel (a Hampton Inn...yummy free cookies) and then started the drive into the park.  We weren't sure how accessable the falls were.  The answer is: very accessable.  We parked in a spacious parking lot, walked down the sidewalk past the visitor's center and gift shop, and then down the sidewalk to the moonbow viewing location.  Once we got close to the falls, we were able to walk out on a flat (as in grade) but bumpy rock formation to get a better view.  It had a cable fence to keep anyone from venturing too close to the water, but it was just cable. (As in, the toddler stayed in the back carrier the whole time).

The falls during the day

My husband set up the camera and tripod and waited.  The rest of us visited the Visitor Center, which was quite educational.  It had samples of many different native trees and a case with dozens of arrowheads and their approximate time period. Some were even BC! There were displays of native wildlife and descriptions of several endangered native species.

About 10:30 PM (the toddler was fast asleep in the back carrier) it was Moonbow time.  The moon finally reached above the trees and was shining on the spray from the waterfall...and there was a moonbow.  We stayed and snapped photos about 15 minutes.  (By snapping, I mean super long exposure because it was night time).  Also by this time there was quite a crowd.  They were very happy to fill in our spot when we left.

Moonbow photo taken in August 2011 at 10:30pm.

Saturday morning we ate the yummy hotel breakfast and returned to the falls.  My husband had considered white water rafting with the 6-year-old, but later decided she wasn't quite ready for that.  Instead, we chose a Rainbow Mist boat ride.  This was provided by Sheltowee Trace Outfitters who have a pavilion right inside the park. The raft ride takes you right up to the base of the falls...thus the mist.  When we went, the price was $12 for people 13 and up, $10 for kids 6-12, and $7 for kids 5 and under (but over 25 pounds).  We were very fortunate to be the only people on our raft.  This could be because there was a thunderstorm an hour before our ride. Our tour guide was super...but I can't remember his name, just that it had 5 letters and was tattooed on his back.

After the raft ride we headed up to the horse stables on park property.  Here, the 6 year old and I rode our very first horse ride!  She was on a lead.  I was not.  The first 10 minutes or so of the guided ride was very relaxing.  Then, my horse realized I didn't know what I was doing and became as ornery as a toddler.  He kept stopping for snacks and twice tried to go off on his own trail instead of staying with the group.  I tried my best to steer him.  It was still fun, but I learned that horses have quite the personality. Cost was $18 a person.

That evening we went for a quick swim and enjoyed David's Steak House & Buffet.  Everyone was SUPER friendly.  The manager even stopped by our table to chat for several minutes.  The food was good, too.  I discovered I really like corn bread salad.

Sunday morning after church we visited KFC in Corbin.  But it wasn't just any KFC...It was the site of Sanders' Cafe.  This was where Colonel Sanders first sold his fried chicken before going on the road selling his special seasonings nationwide. There was a little museum inside too.  Again, everyone here was SUPER nice.  I remarked about how I'd never seen chicken livers and was curious to try them, but didn't want a whole meal.  So, the employee was kind enough to throw in a couple for free so I could try.  My reaction:  the coating was good... but not a fan of the liver.  Now I can add that to my list of odd foods I've tried (ox tail, fish eyes...etc).

We spent some more time by the pool this day and ordered pizza for dinner (Snappy Tomato Pizza). Then, we got ready to depart in the morning...Next stop, Gatlinburg, Tennessee!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Homeschool Adventures

Today for math class we are lining up cars, dolls, and balls to learn about graphing. The kids are having fun running around to gather things and line them up. When we were done we used the easel paper to draw a graph. Final results: 16 cars, 20 dolls, and 6 balls.

Road Trip!

So, we are in KY...actually, by the time you read this we won't be, but we WERE in KY.  It was a 10 hour drive from our house.  Although we brought some Signing Time DVDs we borrowed from the library (2 @ 25min each), the kids were great at entertaining themselves.  I packed books, a notebook for each of them (currently 20 cents at Walmart), a pack of crayons and some pencils. I also grabbed a coloring book for the toddler, and one of those Color Wonder type kids the older one got for her birthday sometime.  We stopped at 2 visitor centers and a restaurant for lunch.   Just to let you know, you DON'T have to have kids glued to TV for long car rides!

Other activities we played in the car were to create a story and the ABC game.  To create a story, one person starts and then go around the car adding a bit to the story until its over.  Makes for a funny, silly story.  The ABC game can be played one of two ways.  Last year, we played by looking for a letter A, then a letter B, etc.  This year, we looked for an object that started with an a, b, c, d, e...the only letter we "cheated" on was X, and used 'exit' for it.

I packed water, clementine oranges, cheese, and goldfish crackers for the car in case we got hungry in between stops.   We also had "lovies" in reach for when the kids wanted to nap.

Stay tuned for what we did in Kentucky!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Freezer Fast Recipe: Chicken Noodle Soup

Oh, I wish I had taken a picture...but we ate it too fast! Maybe I'll remember next time! Previously I posted how to make your own chicken broth. Recently we needed something quick to make for lunch, and I hadn't menu planned effectively. So, I relied on my fall back freezer stash.  After I had made chicken broth recently, I froze about 10 quarts of it.  I also had some extra cooked chicken breast that I had chopped and frozen and a bag of soup vegetables in the freezer.  In my pantry was a bag of egg noodles.  So, to make our very own chicken noodle soup all I had to do was defrost a few quarts of broth (basically just dumping the frozen chunk into the pot and letting it warm), add the vegetables and chicken, some seasoning like salt, pepper, onion, garlic and parsley, and then the noodles until cooked according to package directions.  All done, and a delicious hearty lunch!

We also like to add a little tobasco sauce...but AFTER we dish out the kids' portions.

In recipe form:

3 or 4 quarts of chicken broth
one bag egg noodles
one bag of soup vegetables (about 2 cups)
one pound of cooked, chopped chicken
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt (my chicken broth had ZERO salt in it)
1/2 tsp pepper
(I really just eyeball my should do the same and taste it)

Mix broth, chicken, vegetables and spices together.  Once soup is boiling and all ingredients are warm, add the noodles and cook according to package instruction.  Don't overcook the noodles!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Use the library!

Children enjoy reading Sandra Boynton at the library
Previously I posted about saving money on books by borrowing instead of buying those books that will only be read once. (We still have plenty that are read repeatedly!) Another great resource at the library is programs! Despite living in one of the poorest counties in our state, the library still manages to provide numerous play times, story times and even a Lego club! All free! Today we are participating in a baby story time. It's a great opportunity for the kids (and moms) to socialize, and for everyone to foster a love of literature.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Money Saver: Send Yourself Flowers!

I love fresh flowers, but my husband doesn't buy them weekly! In order to keep my vases filled for next to nothing I grow several good cutting flowers on the side of my house. In the spring there are tulips and hyacinths. In the summer I have a butterfly bush, tea rose bush, and gladiolas. Next year I hope to add sunflowers. So beautiful, and practically free!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Get Creative With Food!

I can't take credit for this one!  This was a breakfast my mom made for my daughter during a recent visit.  It also happened to be her birthday (thus the candle).  Sausage eye brows, strawberry and blueberry eyes, banana bread muffin nose, banana lips around bacon teeth.  Yum!  Sure, its got the same nutrition as if the food was simply put on the plate, but this way it solicited giggles from all!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Money Saver: Local Farmers Market

I love our local farmers' market. So many varieties of locally grown fruits and vegetables at super low prices! This day I got 18 ears sweet corn, 1 qt green beans, 1 pt blackberries, 1 qt blueberries, and 18 small cucumbers all for $15.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Yummy Easy Shrimp Pesto

This recipe was so easy and so healthy! (And so yummy!)

The pesto can be frozen for later use...because the recipe makes plenty!

Cara's Pesto

4 cups loosely packed basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
4 T lemon juice
2 t salt
5 oz grated parmigiana cheese

Mix together in food processor until smooth.

To serve my dish I cooked whole wheat pasta and added pesto to it until it was coated.  Then I topped it with peas, mushrooms, and shrimp I had sauteed in olive oil and red pepper flakes.  Yum!

And knowing that my basil was grown locally in a hydroponics system makes it more exciting! (Dible Diversified Agriculture)