April 2015

April 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sick Days

By now you have probably gathered that I have a son, and you've probably gathered that I am sentimental, too.  On top of those things, I'd be willing to bet that you have caught on to how important I find the details of life.  Throw all of that together and you get a happily teary-eyed momma on the day of my son's first stomach bug.  Yep.  You read that right.  My poor baby was pitifully laying on the couch, after his first official stomach bug experience and I was moved.  Let me explain.

I'll start by saying that my home as a child was a magical place.  It was old and warm and cozy.  And, there was lots of brown.I think this is why I still love to surround myself in the color brown today. The doorways and windows were framed with stained wood, the console television was a beautiful piece of wooden furniture, and the couch.  Oh, the couch.  It was a rough apolstered, orangey-brown plaid, and I can remember plucking my fingernails back and forth over the bumps.  There was always a hand-crocheted afghan draped across the top, and it was the perfect place to be sick.  The light was diffused through the many windows by curtains my mother had crafted from a set of white sheets.  They kept out and let in just the perfect bits of light.  Yesterday, as my son lay napping on his couch, the light was just exactly the same.  

Within seconds, I was back on Freeman Street.  The Price is Right was on the old console, and our scratchy couch was covered in our soft and fluffy Holly Hobby quilt.  I think it was Holly Hobby, but regardless, I can see it clearly, it's yellow and orange squares held tight with little ties made from yarn.  My pillow is there and I am comfier than any person alive.  Next to me is the can.  If you know me well enough, you know I still have those milk cans that my mother found.  What treasures.  They have been a seat to many dinning children, both when I was a kid and now.  But, on sick days they were special.  They held the ginger ale, complete with a plastic bendy straw.  Lastly, I see the brown bowl.  I think most families have their own version of the brown bowl.  It was never too far from reach when a stomach bug came around.  

What this vision brought back to me, moved me because I realize what a lucky little girl I was.  My mom could even make sick days and their memory, one that brings feelings of nostalgia. Memories that bring a yearning to travel back and lay there listening to her in the kitchen making me a special sick day lunch.  Memories that I will always be grateful for.  

So, when I realized my son was sick, I also realized that it was now my turn.  I had the chance to start forming those memories of safety and comfort and love for him.  What a blessing to be the safe spot for someone needing comfort.  I happily got him set up on his couch, with his pillow, soft blankets and our version of the brown bowl.  Straight from an unexpected mid-morning bath, in fresh pj's, my sweet boy feel right asleep.  And the light in the room was just exactly the same...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Long Time No See

Hello all!

I'm back from a post-Easter break.  Do you ever do that?  Take a self-imposed timeout for a bit?  I do it often, and it reinvigorates me.  I drop out, regroup and then I'm ready to go again.  It's no secret that I am, by nature, a bit on the hermit side of the fence, so a little step back always does me good.  It's odd to some people, and a part of my character that is often not understood, but I really require it.

I spent time with my family and with old, dear friends.  By the way, is there anything better than watching your kids play with the children of your high school friends?!?  There really isn't.  I am so grateful for such friendships.  Your high school friends know you, I mean they really know you.  For me at least, they know the girl that still had braces in the eleventh grade.  They know all of those coming of age chapters in my life, and they were there when I met my husband and started to grow a family.  I am confident that they will be there indefinitely, and vice versa.  Yep.  Not much cooler than that.  

I avoided packing up my Easter decorations.  That kind of work is definitely not part of a week long Sabbatical.  I did, however, collect all of it to one spot.  Then I spent some time in the kitchen, on the couch, and exploring our new part of the world a bit more.  We had fun, but now it's back to work!

Today's been a cleaning and laundry day, but after that's finished I have a new project.  I'm off to explore kale.  Kale, kale, kale.  All I ever hear about is kale.  Kale smoothies, kale chips, you name it, I need to try it!  I've never eaten it, have no idea how to prepare it and have been intimidated by it.  Weird, right?  All things new take some time, but this week is the week of kale!  It has been purchased, and I welcome any recipes you are willing to share with me.  If they are toddler approved, all the better!  And by "welcome" I mean, I'm begging for recipes.  Thanks in advance.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pre-Easter Fun

Hey!  We have had a fun week, and we hope you have, too!  With Easter weekend just around the corner, there is lots to do, but I wanted to share with you some of our fun.

Monday- We got things off with an epic Pinterest fail.  Those are always fun, right?  If nothing else, they bring hysterical laughter.  The kind of laughter we shared on Monday night is the kind that makes your eyes tear and gives your abs a mini-workout. Peep Play Dough, if you read the instructions, is probably a very nice alternative to the stuff you buy at the store.  Here's what happens when you miss a few of the directions...

Everything started out fine.

We somehow ended up with different quantities of each.  Again, when you barely read the directions...you end up with tons of blue and very little purple.

 People began to play with it....
Sadly, this happened next.  If you choose to attempt this, keep your hands dusted with the powdered sugar as you play. Apparently, we missed that part. Please excuse the disgusting photo that follows, but I think you need to see it, Peep eyeballs and all...Yuck. 

Tuesday-  We decided to take our son to the movies...in our playroom!  We closed the blinds, set out movie candy that I grabbed for $0.98 each, and surprised him after his nap with some Springtime Max and Ruby.  He was so excited that he actually sat and watched a whole episode cuddled with dad.  I think the M&M's helped with that a bit...

Please ignore the unsightly cords hanging all over the place.  I abhor them, and welcome any secrets you have for hiding them.
Wednesday-  Cookie Baking Day turned out great!  My son was excited to help, and by help I mean sit in his chair and chat with me about what I was doing.  He really watched and was thrilled when the cookies were ready for tasting.  The Rice Flour Sugar Cookies that we tried turned out very nicely.  They are a brown sugar cookie, and almost taste like a soft, puffy oatmeal cookie without the oatmeal.  I drizzled a powdered sugar glaze on them, and  added some Easter sprinkles.  They were tasty.  My guys loved them, I liked them, and they are worth a try.  Here is the recipe.  

I used the small Pampered Chef scoop to make them uniform in size

Thursday- I forgot to do our Easter Activity.  Ha!

Friday-  This morning while my son played around my ankles, I made these super fun and easy Easter Pretzel Candies.  You can find the recipe here.  I used gluten-free pretzels, candy melts, M&M's and a mix of sprinkles and sugars that I had on hand.  I need to check on all of those extras to see if they are also gluten-free.  I'm new to this, but I'm pretty sure that sneaky gluten is everywhere!  This is a start. 

I squeezed in some sewing, too, and am working on a fun and exciting project!  I mentioned it a few posts back, but can't really share just yet.   Stay tuned!

I am off to get some eggs boiled up, and I wish you a very Happy Easter!  Enjoy the time with family or friends.  If you don't celebrate Easter, I wish you a wonderful weekend with family and friends, as well!  See you Monday, and make it a great one!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Weekend Review

Hey there!  We are well into our Easter festivities over here. It made for an awesome and busy weekend.  Aren't those great?  The ones where you leave one thing, just to get to the next as fast as possible?  Did a nap or two get skipped?  Sure.  Did home-cooked lunches get replaced with something fast and on the way? Yup.  Did it feel special and memorable?  You bet!  

Our first stop was our little boy's first non-family Easter Egg Hunt at church.  I felt like it called for a special outfit, so I pulled a very special sweater from his drawer.  This sweater was knit by my nana for my cousins son over 20 years ago.  She tucked it away after each of her three sons had worn it, and passed it along to my sister.  My sister lovingly stored it in the years after her son wore it, and passed it along to me.  How wonderful is that!?!  I know my nana was smiling down at her great-grandson on Saturday, and I felt it.  Thanks to those mothers, the ones that save things, for having made that possible.

The Egg Hunt was tons of fun!  And to top it all off, Elsa and Anna, along with Woody and Spiderman were there for photos and autographs!  Um, unexpected at an Easter event?  Yes, but so awesome. 

We ran home, changed clothes, grabbed a quick nap in the car and headed outside.  A little sunscreen and a whole lot of energy accompanied us to the You-Pick Strawberry field.  I went on a recommendation from a local mommy group, and it was a wonderful experience!  We will make this a family tradition.  

We, or I should say, I, picked and picked and picked!  My guys, ran up and down the rows, and up and down the rows and up and down the rows!

It was perfect.  The sun was shining, but it wasn't hot.  There were no bugs, and it wasn't very crowded being the last weekend on their schedule.  I picked 6 quarts of berries and only paid 50 cents a quart.  

I think, next year we will plan better and go a few times over the season.  That way we can stock our pantry with jam, and our freezer for smoothies, without having to clean, hull and freeze all of them at once.  That took a bit of time, and I'd rather break it up.  

If you have this type of farm by you, I suggest a family trip there.  We all had a blast!

Lastly, we attended Palm Sunday service at our new church, and our son went to Sunday School for the first time.  Now, some back story on this...I have never left my son with anyone other than an aunt and his grandparents.  Ever.  This was only for an hour, and he had a ball.  For me, it was rough to walk away from my little boy!  It only took a few seconds of awesome music for me to relax and let go.  It was a terrific first experience, and I'm so excited for him to spread his wings a bit.  The very best part was receiving his first little Sunday School craft!

It's a palm, that he calls his "leaf", and it says his name in black sharpie. I had tears in my eyes when they handed it to me. 
We had planned to attend an earlier service then swing over to our neighborhood egg hunt, but sometimes plans don't come together like we...plan.  And it's okay.

I hope your weekend was also one for the books!  

Friday, March 27, 2015

Time Flies...

I can't believe that another week has passed, and that it's Friday already!  I am knee-deep in Easter preparations and having a great time.  I decided to plan out next week to ensure that I have one special Easter related activity per day.  If I wait and do it on the fly, like I do many times, I won't have the materials I need when I need them.  Here is our plan:

  • Saturday- Church Egg Hunt 
  • Sunday-  Neighborhood Egg Hunt after Palm Sunday Service
  • Monday-  PEEP Play dough
  • Tuesday- New Easter DVD 
  • Wednesday-  Bake and Decorate GF sugar cookies
  • Thursday-  Color Easter Bunny pages with MARKERS (a special treat around here)
  • Friday-  Paint a Cross with PAINT BRUSHES (equally as special)
  • Saturday-  Color Easter Eggs and make Eastery Pretzel Thingies
  • Sunday-  The Bunny comes, and off to church

Even though it will only be the three of us this year, all of that stuff up there requires a plan, or a recipe, or a shopping list or a special outfit.  The bunny visit alone, is intense, with filling eggs, filling baskets, hiding eggs.  That's what I hear.  He'd have to tell you about that part, though.  As much scurrying as is going on, there's nothing I'd rather do.  Easter is such a special holiday.  Embrace the hustle and bustle!  Love all over it!  

What special traditions does your family have for celebrating Easter?  And, if you do celebrate, please share with me what you eat for Easter Dinner!  Really.  I haven't gotten that far yet, and I need help.  Have a wonderful weekend!  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Who knew?

There are many things our mother's or in some cases father's, did for us growing up that we noticed and remember, and may even be trying to do for our children, too.  Things that come to my mind include special meals for our birthday, a bendy straw in our ginger ale when we were sick, or a fun tv picnic on top of an overturned laundry basket in our living room.  Stuff like that sticks.  I noticed that those things were happening, and they felt like love.  One thing that I now know was ongoing behind the scenes, and for three children mind you, was Clothes Management. It is the definition of love.  Cleaning and ironing and keeping clothes wrinkle-free, pulling extra special pieces and tying an equally special ribbon around them for safekeeping, and ensuring that the next size is ready and waiting in the closet are all true acts of love.  And, they are a bigger job than I ever noticed!

In hopes of someday having a sibling for our son, I planned to tuck away his outgrown clothing and bring it back out if I ever needed it.  After all, I wore my sister's hand-me-downs.  Doesn't everyone wear someone's?  I never thought any further on this topic, until a few weeks after our little, rapidly growing bundle joined us.  At first, it was fine.  I made a tiny pile in his closet of outgrown items, and ever so often, I placed them in the holding area.  The holding area, also known as the over the garage room, because it was over the.....garage, was an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kinda place. 

Throughout the course of my son's first, I'd say 6 months of life, I just kept piling on that bed.  Now, I had a situation developing.  A ditch the clothes on the bed real fast, turn around and slam that door closed kind of situation.  I finally faced the music.  How was I going to store these mini-treasures. It was easy to come up with the next step.  It had to be sorted! Yes, I decided to sort the pile during nap one day.  I set out a number of paper grocery bags, labeled'em up, and got to sorting. Easy enough.  Now, what to do with these sorted bags?  Easy!  I decided to fill vacuum seal bags, one for each size, and tuck them under the guest bed.  I got to work and sealed them up tight, slid them under the bed, and turned around to see an equally high pile waiting, as the one I had just processed! Well, not really, but it was growing again.  Okay, wait, I thought I was done.  Check it off the list, right?  Nope.  These little guys just. keep. growing!  

Soon, I ran out of space under the first guest bed, so I started stuffing these bags under the second guest bed.  I now have filled all of the space under all of the beds.  I've shoved these bags in closets.  I have resorted to filling wardrobe boxes with vacuum bags full of clothes and lining our garage with them. And, talk about a chore that falls by the wayside!  I let myself get so behind, that the pile now climbs my son's closet wall until it topples over and I decide to "process" it.  I know I am not alone in this.  Can I get an Amen?  

Look familiar, fellow pilers?

While, it is something that is ever evolving here, I give those mom's that have it down to a science, a huge high-five!  Way to go!  Thanks for taking the time, mom, to do it for me.  It is special to see photos of my sister and I wearing the same dress. Thanks to my mother-in-law for doing this, too.  My son has been able to wear the same sweaters his father and uncles wore.  And, thanks to my sister and sister-in-law.  My son is wearing sweet treasures that they packed away as their sons grew. You, too, Jodie!  It's an act of love that goes often ignored, but it shouldn't.

What is your "process" for this daunting task?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Weekend Review

Good Morning!!  It's a rainy one here in Florida.  I, of course, LOVE it!  As much as I enjoy the warm sun, I equally can indulge in a good ole dark, cloudy and rain-filled day at home.  This rain also reinforces why I spent my weekend the way that I did. If you soak up the sunshine when it's the sunniest, you can cozy up and stay close to home, totally guilt-free, when it's hidden by dreamy rain clouds.  I know it's not popular to love rain this much, but I have always loved it.  I can remember wishing I lived on the foggy moor, described to me in middle school, as we read the book, "The Hound of the Baskervilles".  Who does that?!?

Alright, let's see how I did.

  1.  We will visit a bi-weekly fresh farmers market tomorrow.  I've been meaning to go since we moved here....in NOVEMBER.
This was so fun!  What a nice way to spend a morning, and a great motivator to get up, get out there and live!  On the way, we did a slow pass of our neighborhood pond.  I do this each time I leave the neighborhood, in hopes of eyeing an alligator.  I never see one.  Saturday, we did!  Holy smokes, that little guy was RIGHT THERE! *Wildlife moment #1*  We freaked out, thought he was kinda cute and headed to the Farmer's Market.  

What beautiful colors there were to see.  Freshly picked fruits, veggies and flowers.  We saw honey bees, and olive oils and fabrics of every shade.  One of the most fun moments was a visit with some chickens and their chicks.  My son loved them! *Wildlife moment #2*  
This boy of mine, tried his darnedest to free the little guys.   

On the way home, we drove past our alligator viewing spot and wrapped around to check in on the cows at the end of our street. If you can zoom in, check out the white cow beneath the tree on the right.  You know, the one flaring his nostils and snorting angrily at my family.  My husband informed me that he wasn't all that interested in the visit. *Wildlife moment #3* And, don't worry, there was a fence between them.
Note to self:  Visit cows very quietly.  Or, from your car.

  2.  Decorate the house for Easter

This did not happen, though I started.  I accomplished this:

Can you tell I was doing this in haste?  If you have OCD like me, you already know what bothers me about my towel placement!
I know.  I outdid myself.  With temps in the upper 80's, the neighborhood pool was calling for us on Saturday afternoon.  So, we listened without regret. 

  3.  Bake bread, waffles, and various other baked goods for           freezing

Nope.  I bought the rice and tapioca flours for the bread. That's a start.  I made waffles for breakfast Saturday, but they ate all of them! So, yeah... Not a problem.  I just added it to my weeks to-do list.

  4.  Get started on an Easter sewing project for my nieces

I did get started!  Look, I pulled the pattern and the fabric for one of them.  I then, quickly got distracted by an idea, and started sewing something else.  Haha!  I will share that with you at a later date. 

   5.  Visit our new church, and take my son to Sunday School for     the first time.  

We visited and attended service, but our son stayed with us this first week.  It was wonderful.  I'm so excited for Palm Sunday, and for our son's first little school experience to begin.  We were able to tour his little Sunday school classroom and meet his teachers.  They were wonderful and reassuring for momma!

       6.   Go to the beach on Sunday!

Do you ever feel like you're forcing a plan, and you follow through, but it's slightly an "off" experience?  Did we go to the beach?  Yes.  Did it feel forced?  Yes.  The tide was strangely high, the water was surprisingly choppy and rough and the sky clouded up the second we laid our towel down.  It was an hour of fun for our son, and that's what counts.  It did, though, remind me that if something isn't coming together, maybe just skip it.

How was your weekend?  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It's Important.

It's not life or death important, but it's important.  At any giving time, I like for my home to be decorated for the next approaching holiday.  Most months this works, and I can find something that needs celebrating.  I did this as a single person (some seasons of life less than others), and it has carried over nicely into my family life.  As an added bonus, it is really helping to teach my son about each holiday, and ready him as each approaches.  So, just as soon as one holiday passes, I gather all of the decorations to one central location.  Most every time they land in the center of my dining room table.  I wrap them up and store them away for next year.  

Here's this year's St Patrick's Day pile, awaiting it's plastic storage bin

I'm not big on spending a ton of money on decorations, and I like for each piece to remind me of where I got it or of who gave it to me.  This makes each collection ever-growing and special.  I try to add at least one decoration per holiday, per year.  Making them from things I have on hand is typically the deal, unless I've found a treasure while visiting say, a sweet gift shop along the way.  

Last year I made this Easter centerpiece for my kitchen table, entirely with items I had on hand.  I wrapped a Christmas Cookie jar candle with old, scraps of pastel fabric and some Easter colored ribbon.  I placed it on a placemat surrounded by Easter grass I had tucked away in my craft closet.  The only thing I bought were some chocolate eggs, that I sprinkled around in the grass.  This was so easy and I loved it so much, I may do it again this year!

This was a no-sew project.  I simply tied the fabric strips around the jar.  What could be easier?!?

So, go make a pot of coffee, raid your craft closet and get creative.  It doesn't take a ton of money or skill to make something out of nothing.  It also doesn't take very much time.  We are all busy, but a few minutes of decorating is important.  Not food, water and shelter important, but it's important just the same.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Think It's Wednesday?

After some time off spent with family, I am back!  What fun it was to show our visitors around our new home.  It was a great excuse to take a little staycation.  When you live in a popular vacation spot, you don't have to go far to feel like you've gotten away from it all, so that's what we've been up to this last week.  We hit some touristy areas and some less visited hidden treasures!  I like to think of this as Round One.  All of our visitors, so far, will be coming back again.  So, I came up with a list of spots for visit number one, and all of our visitors so far have gone on basically the same tour, with minor adjustments. Next round, we'll change it up, but here is our basic Round One visit:

Day One-Fred Howard Park

Has this ever been a crowd pleaser!!!  It's a peaceful, safe, clean and beautiful town beach.  The water is shallow and warm, and the sand is white and cool.  One of our visitors suggested renting an umbrella and beach chairs from the fella on the beach. I will now do this whenever I visit!  He sets it up, he checks on you, and he's from the same area of Massachusetts as my father. I like him, and I like the umbrella.  Twenty dollars very well spent.  

At the two hour mark, most everyone is ready to go.  The next stop?  Tarpon Springs for shopping, eating and some history on sponge diving.  This visit, I found the best homemade soap shop! Getaguru soaps is dimly lit, incense-filled and just, plain dreamy for this wannabe hippie.  It is apparently the oldest shop on the Sponge Docks, and the olive oil soap?  Oh my gosh, my skin has never been so soft!  I picked up a bar of orange-clove soap the first day, then had to spring back for a bar of rose and a bar of patchouli scented soap the next day.  It's true love.

Day Two- Clearwater Beach and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

This is the super touristy part of the Round One visit.  What a beautiful beach!  It's enormous and parking isn't quite as easy, but there are bigger waves and lots of space to spread out. Again, having learned the joys of the beach umbrella/chair rental, we grabbed a lovely setup, and got to the business of playing in the sand and surf.  Chasing little guys around the beach gets exhausting, so at that two hour mark, we were once again, ready to move on. 

The next stop?  You guessed it!  We made our way to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  What a cool place.  This is the spot where Winter and Hope, the dolphins from A Dolphin's Tale, live. If you recall, Winter was injured, rescued and fitted for a prosthetic tail.  This is the aquarium where that all took place. We saw the famous dolphins being trained, as well as, otters, pelicans, sharks, and my favorite, the sea turtles.  Did you know that their spines are connected to their shells?  They could feel the trainers scratching their shells!!  I had no idea.  This is a lot smaller than I thought it would be, with far fewer animals, but what a very neat place.  A must-see while in Clearwater!

Day Three- The Manatee Viewing Center and Local Shopping

The final stops on the Round One visit include shopping at our local shops and a visit to the Tampa Electric Company Manatee Viewing Center.  During the winter months, when the waters get cold, the Manatees move toward warmer spots.  One of these is in the water outside the power plant.  As the months move on and the waters begin to warm again, fewer can be seen.  The first time we visited in February, there were many!  This last time, there were very few, but it is still a bizarrely, cool stop.  For one, you might get lucky and see a manatee, but there is also a very pretty nature path.  It runs right through a thatch of mangrove trees.  And, of course, there is the gift shop!  Yes, I need another manatee Christmas tree ornament!  Don't we all?

While not everyone saw all of this, each of them saw some of it. We had a great time being tourists in our own neck of the woods, and can't wait for Round Two!!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Recipe Card Swap

Granola is a real treat to me.  It's crunchy and salty and sweet.  What could be better, really?  As a person with nut sensitivities, I always have to be so careful to avoid store-bought granola.  I know nuts add a healthy and yummy twist, but I really think that there should be more nut-free options available.  Anyway, years ago, I found a nut-free granola brand that I loved.  It was super crunchy, and the manufacturer kept it in big chunks.  Those crunchy chunks really made it.  It was addictive!  This recipe comes so close to that, now no longer available, brand.  What a lucky thing to have stumbled upon.    

It is a basic recipe, and you can add in anything you choose. When I made this batch last week, I added milk chocolate chips, dried cranberries and raisins.  

Once it cooled, I broke it up but was mindful to keep some larger pieces.  A big, glass jar is perfect to store the granola, and it keeps fresh for over a week.  It's usually gone by then around here!  

I like to keep a baggie of this in my purse, for those times when you just need a little something.  Add this one to your recipe collection.  It's tasty!


I used both of yesterdays tools last week, while baking the Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Muffins you see here.  So, here is a bonus recipe!  Yum.  Yum. Yum.  These pretty little muffins browned in the oven, while my sons dinner cooked on the stovetop. I popped them in the freezer, and they were ready to serve my guests this week.  I hope you like them as much as we do!  They are a dense and cakey type of muffin, which is why I like them so much.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Two Things Wednesday?

Since I was baking a ton, in preparation for out-of-town guests, my two things today come from the kitchen.  If you can't tell already, it's one of my favorite places.  Both of my grandmothers loved being in the kitchen, as do my mother and sister.  Come to think of it, most all of the women in my family enjoy creating meals and sweets for their families.  And as with any other hobby, the tools are important.  The affinity I feel for certain cooking gadgets is intense.  My mixer is a treasure to me, and I actually adore some of my bowls.  We'll get into that more in a future post, but just get the idea that I like kitchen stuff.  A lot.

The first thing I'd like to share today, is this package of PaperChef Parchment Baking Cups.  These are unreal!  I never really gave baking cups much thought.  I mean, have you?  I, typically, grab the basic multi-colored pack and move on with my life.  Though, looking back, those are a flawed product compared to these beauties.  First of all, and the reason that I bought them, was that I thought they looked nice.  A plain, brown piece of parchment paper seemed like it would pair nicely with most any color cupcake or muffin I might concoct.  Secondly, and most importantly, the baked goods do not stick or attach themselves in any way to these cups.  I never knew I wanted that in a baking cup, but good golly do I ever!  It is so nice to serve a warm muffin that just pops right out of the paper.  I found them at Target, and you need them.

The second thing I'd like to share is this Pampered Chef Large Scoop.  I have both the large and the small scoop, and I use them for everything.  Cupcake or muffin batter is one of my favorite uses, because it makes the process of filling baking cups fast and clean.  I also use this with ice cream, cottage cheese, rice pudding, cole slaw, pancake batter and so on.  When you use this scoop with batters, your baked goods have a perfect shape and are all uniform in size.  Other foods, just plain look better when served by the scoopful.  This is worth every penny and has paid for itself over and over again!  Love it!  Mean it!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Weekend Review

Monday is once again upon us.  I like Mondays.  They are a fresh start to a whole new week.  Now, I haven't always liked Mondays, so if this finds you in one of those chapters of life, I get it. I mean, I REALLY get it.  It is hard to believe when you're in it, but another chapter will begin right at the very moment you need it to.  If it doesn't, start writing that chapter for yourself now.  

Anyway, back to Monday.  This one is extra-special, because it marks the beginning of a week spent with family.  We are headed out to explore this gorgeous Florida landscape together, and bask in the warmth of spring.  So, I wish you as much fun in your week, as we will be having in ours!

First, let's look at the weekend, then I gotta go!

* Grocery shop for fresh fruit and dairy items-  Done.  Easy. Fun.  And, yes, the strawberries have been washed and topped, placed in the paper-towel-lined freezer bag and are chilling in the fridge.  I've tried it with blueberries and raspberries this week, so we'll see how they do.  If you missed this tip on my Facebook page, it works.  Do it right away to keep your berries fresh longer!

* Bake Bread (wish me luck on this!)-  Done.  And, I think it came out better than last week.  I read up on over-proofing.  I thought that's what happened last week, and why my bread sank.  So, I avoided that this time, and things were really looking good......Then, it sank on one side.  Now, after researching a bit more, I think it's my pan.  It may be too thin which causes the crust to bake faster than the inside.  Next week I will try baking it in the pan for the first twenty minutes, then removing the pan for the final twenty minutes of baking. Thank goodness it still smells and tastes delish!  And, there's always next week, right?  
Isn't dough pretty?

Fresh out of the oven and all poofy!

Partially sunken on the right...

* Refresh my knitting skills (I recently came across a project   started that needs finishing)-  I ditched the knitting for this weekend, and decided to make a fast pillowcase for our guests. The cozy blanket that I chose to leave in the guest bedroom for our nephew is a soft, cozy Spiderman blanket.  It NEEDED a special pillowcase to go with it, didn't it?  I thought so.  

I used an idea that I shared on Facebook, as well.  I didn't have Spiderman fabric on hand, but I had fabrics in the Spiderman colors, and along with the themed blanket it is just enough "character" for me.  The problem was that I only had red cotton fabric and blue jersey fabric.  I used them, but as my mother later told me, you really need to use fabrics that are weighted the same. Using different weights led to some pulling and weirdness, and I know now for next time.  

I also, did not have a pattern, but using a pillowcase that I already own, I was able to trace it, and sort of make one. I have another pillowcase project coming up, and now that I have ironed out some kinks and built some character, I'll share a tutorial then.  

I know just about enough about sewing to get myself in trouble.

I was able to complete this, from start to finish, during my son's nap.  It doesn't take long to add a few extra touches around your house
You can see the strange pulling where the blue and red come together, but it's fun and a child would never notice!

* Greet my visiting family, and have a blast showing them around!-  They are here!  Yay!  

How did your weekend go?  

Friday, March 6, 2015

We're having guests!

I recently added something to my bucket list.  On the timeline of my life, I see it falling in between the time when my son will be of age to begin his own life journey and my dream of retiring into a community of golf carts, quilting bees and gray hair. With those two events as the bookends, I would love to spend my empty nest years running a Bed and Breakfast.  Will this ever happen? Maybe not, but it could.  A girl can dream, and do I ever!

My collection of family tea cups, given to me by my mother

I picture Laura Ashley rosebuds, mixed with wicker and doilies and knit throws, oh my!  The softest towels, the freshest smelling herbal soaps, classical music, just in the background enough that you can barely notice it playing, and breakfast!  Oh, breakfast! Delicate tea cups, just-browned-enough blueberry muffins, and I won't forget the molded butter.  Nope. Don't worry it'll be there.  See, I told you.  This girl can dream...

In the meantime, I love having guests come to visit!  In advance of family or friends coming, I try to think of things they might need, and then surprise things for them to enjoy.  Needs include, say, a bed.  The basic stuff is fine to pull together, but it really gets fun to ready the extras!  I love to bake and freeze ahead things that are easy to grab for breakfast (like the muffins I mentioned), prepare snacks that are good to take as we leave for adventures (like trail mix or granola), and I make a running grocery list of things to buy fresh.

Choose white towels for guests, as they are easy to bleach and keep clean

If children will be staying with us, special items, related to our planned outings, might greet them when they arrive.  I think it's even more fun to surprise little ones with a small wrapped trinket each day.  It's not expensive and it makes for such fun! Also, every guest should have a quiet spot to retreat to, if they need to get away from the fun.  For adults, I like to leave current magazines on the bedside table and a spot to set up their laptop.  For children, I think it is important to have a television and a cozy blanket.  Kids can get overwhelmed while traveling, and this allows them a spot in your house that feels like their own.  

I try to never forget coasters, tissues and a trash can

So, I'm off to bake, fluff, wrap surprise goodies, and mold some butter.  That last part is just a joke.  I'll save the butter for my inn.  

My weekend list looks like this:

* Grocery shop for fresh fruit and dairy items
* Bake Bread (wish me luck on this!)
* Refresh my knitting skills (I recently came across a project   started that needs finishing.)
* Greet my visiting family, and have a blast showing them around!

Have a wonderful weekend!  See you on Monday morning!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Recipe Card Swap

It's Thursday, once again, and you know what that means... It's time to share what's worked this week in the kitchen.  We don't really need to talk about what didn't work, right?  Let's think about that another day.   I added two great recipes to my collection this week.  In honor of family and friends up north, bracing for yet more winter weather, I wrote them each with my icy snowflake pen!  

My entry into this weeks Recipe Card Swap, is for a crockpot soup that I served company a few weeks back.  Somehow the tab was open and hiding on my iPhone for this long...sneaky little recipe! This Crockpot Taco Soup really hit the spot after a fun-filled day of local shopping.  I chose to make this with ground turkey, but any meat would work.  Make sure to pick up lots of different topping choices, and don't forget the tortilla chips!  This is a great recipe to serve a crowd, and crockpot cooking is spectacular when you have company in town.  Pop it in, get in the car, see the sights, and then return home to a warm meal waiting.  

The second recipe that I added to my recipe card box today, is for a warm and cozy Baked Banana Oatmeal.  I tried it out on my little guy yesterday, and if you follow us on Facebook, you know that he gobbled it right up!  If you missed it, hop on over to our Facebook page, and the recipe is posted there.  While you're at it, "like" our page to ensure you don't miss any future recipes I may share there!  

What worked in your kitchens this week?  If you found something yummy, we'd love for you to share it in the comments!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Little Moments

Are you losing the little moments in your day?  I was.  I should go back a bit and tell you that in a previous life I taught school.  I think I learned to use the little moments in that role, but never translated it to home...until now.  

As a teacher, if you finish your lesson plan earlier than you expected, you are left a few moments to spare, maybe even just one.  You cannot imagine how much you can do with a minute until you try.  A teacher can assess students understanding of a lesson, clarify an element of the lesson if need be, or even work to build comfort in the classroom by sharing a fun story from the weekend.  Those little minutes are so easy to throw away, but if you use them, you can achieve so much!

When you have a baby in the house, at least for me, my first instinct was to use the little moments laying on my bed in complete silence, staring at the wall....at first.  As I became more comfortable in this role, started to get more sleep, and cut out energy-zapping gluten, I realized that those moments were where it was at!  I began telling myself, "Get busy momma, so you can cuddle and play with that little guy as soon as he wakes! Make these little moments count!"  I think lots of parents get to this place waaaay faster than I did, but I'm just glad to finally be here. 

The little moments are awesome for a fast load of laundry.  Try it!  Stop reading this and go throw one in! Just don't forget to come back... I also catch up on thank you notes, wipe down a bathroom, etc. in these tiny snippets of time.  It is mind-boggling to me how much time I wasted here and there (and still do, on tired days or days when I'm just not feeling it).  

Last night I used some little moments after bedtime to prepare some St. Patrick's Day decorations.  I love construction paper, and these shamrocks and paper chains were so fun to make! I felt like a kid again.  I only wish that I had some oak tag on hand!

Then, today, I stole a few naptime moments to hang my creations. What fun it will be to see his surprise when he wakes up!  Our boy is having the best time learning about holidays.


How will you use your little moments, today?