Archive | November, 2011

Big Announcement for December Cookie and Craft Lovers

30 Nov

December is coming!

Christmas is coming!!!

Holidays are coming!!!!

Family is coming!!!!!

Stressed yet? Don’t be!

This time of year can either be really awful or really special. For most of us, myself included, it’s a little bit of both. I love to bake and I’m always so proud of my cookies for my trays, but it’s hard to find time to carve out to make them all when you have little kids running around. Therefore, many of the recipes I will be posting will be recipes your kids can help you with (aka rolled cookies) so that it keeps them occupied when you’re baking and it cuts your prep time in half. No, all the rolled cookies may not be exactly the same size or shape, but really does that matter? (And if it does, just kind of re-roll them a little bit when you take them to put them on the tray. I’ve done that!)

However, so often you don’t just want them to be occupied, but you want what they are doing to be something they enjoy too, something meaningful for them. Therefore, I’m going to alternate my recipe postings with seasonal activities for the kids as well. They will be things like crafts, special stories to read, gifts to make, things like that which often coordinate somehow with the cookie recipes I’m posting (okay, once a teacher, always a teacher, clearly!) Some of the crafts will be things I’ve done with my kids in the past or things they’ve done at school and brought home that I loved, or even gifts I’ve received that were handmade that I loved. Times are tight for all of us, so any handmade gifts they can make is one less thing we need to buy! The stories I post are just the ones we have at our house, but my kid always love when I pull out the seasonal stories each December. (I always wish I did that every season, but I don’t ever think of it any other time of year!)

So are you ready? If so, be sure to check out the first recipe on December 1! The coordinating book and craft will be featured on December 2! And no…no hints!

Bonus Recipe for your Monday: Beer Bread to go with your soup

28 Nov

I just finished posting a delicious Butternut Squash Soup recipe and in the post I mentioned that I often serve the soup with a homemade Beer Bread. The recipe for the bread is super easy so I thought I’d post that too, so that you’d have both in one day in case you decide to try the soup.

BEER BREAD

INGREDIENTS

3 cups self-rising flour

1/4 cup sugar

12 oz. beer (and yes if you use a crazy flavor, like blueberry beer for example, your bread will have a flavor as well.)

1/4 cup melted butter

DIRECTIONS

Mix flour, sugar and beer, pour into greased loaf pan.

Pour melted butter over top.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool 15 minutes.

Thoughts on Black Friday: Can a Polly Pocket Marry a Transformer?

25 Nov

Today was Black Friday, and as my husband and I went through our day, some random thoughts and discussions came up. I figured I would throw them out there for you and see what you had to say:

1) Do you shop on Black Friday during the wee hours?

2) Do you shop on Black Friday online from home?

3) Do you shop at big box stores, at small local business, or at a combination of the two?

4) Do you try to buy the same amount of items for each of your children or do you try to spend the same amount of money on each of your children?

5) Do you have a list or do you see what strikes you as you go? Or by any chance, does anyone else have a spreadsheet? Just asking.

6) Can a Polly Pocket marry a Transformer? Our youngest is hoping Santa will bring a boy Polly Pocket so that she can have a wedding with her numerous girl Polly Pockets (and no we don’t watch Sister Wives.) My husband feels that Santa could probably bring a Transformer and he’d work out just fine for a wedding, but I do believe it must be a boy Polly Pocket. So what do you think? Can a Polly Pocket marry a Transformer?

A lifetime of gratitude: What I am thankful for

23 Nov

I try to be grateful and thankful all year long, I really do. I consider myself to be very lucky on so many levels and I try to never go a day without being grateful for all that I have. However, Thanksgiving gives us a chance to focus on what we have and give extra thanks for it. So here goes:

This year on Thanksgiving I am extra, extra-thankful for:

My husband and my children. Everything I do, I do for them first and foremost.

My family, both my immediate family and my extended family on both sides. They are loving, caring and supportive and my family means everything to me.

My health and the health of my loved ones. I have been very lucky so far in my life, having been in good health and having both health and longevity in my family.

My friends. I have a large support network of friends and I know that in times of need, everyone will be there, has been there, and I appreciate that more than they know.

My jobs. In a time when unemployment is at its highest, I am thankful for all of the work that I have. As tough as times are, I always believe that there are people struggling more than we are.

I am thankful to all those who do the jobs I do not do. Not everyone can be a doctor or a police officer, a teacher or a soldier. Each of us has been blessed with different abilities and talents. Therefore, I am always grateful and thankful to those who possess the talents and abilities that I do not. All of us put together make the world go round. Thank you to everyone for all that you do.

Technology. I am grateful to be able to connect with so many who mean so much to me, across so many miles. I am not super-technological and I don’t have the best of everything when it comes to phones or computers, but I have the basics so that I am able to be very connected to those I love and miss.

My dog. Who knew I would ever be grateful for a pet as much as I am? I love my new dog very much and I have been grateful for her company this first year of my kids all being in school all day.

The seasons. I am thankful that we have chosen to live in a place where we can celebrate and enjoy the glory of each season. Fall is one of my favorite seasons. There is nothing like taking a ride through New England during the fall and seeing the beauty that we are surrounded by.

I have been very blessed and I am thankful today and every day. I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings, filled with love, family, friends and wonderful desserts and side dishes!

Pumpkin Palooza Recipe of the Day: Cranberry Pie

20 Nov

My Thanksgiving Day Cranberry Pie

Each year for Thanksgiving we go to my aunt and uncle’s for a huge family Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of all the food with none of the stress of buying gifts. I especially like it because we have A TON of desserts, homemade pies and desserts of every flavor in the world it seems. In the past I’ve been assigned a pumpkin pie, a squash pie or an apple pie. Last year though, I was given the choice to bring whatever I wanted. I decided to walk on the wild side as they say, and try something new. I saw this in a magazine last fall and I was determined to try it out. It was delicious and I’ll be making it again this year.

At the time I could not remember where I had found the recipe, but I believed that I had ripped the recipe out of Country Living . The author of the recipe is Chef Joan E. Aller, author of Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly.

CRANBERRY PIE

Makes 1 pie  (8 servings)

Working time 15 minutes

Total time 1 hr 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 nine inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries  (1 twelve ounce bag)

1 cup sugar (divided 2/3 cup  and 1/3 cup)

1 heaping Tablespoon all purpose flour

1 egg white

1 cup heavy whipping cream

DIRECTIONS

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out piecrust and arrange in a 9″ pie pan.

2) Pour cranberries into crust to form a thick layer.

3) In a medium bowl, sift together 2/3 cup sugar and flour.

4) In a separate bowl beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Then fold into flour mixture. Slowy stir in cream until combined.

5) Cover cranberries with remaining 1/3 cup sugare and then pour cream  mixture on top.

6) Bake pie for about 10 minutes.  Then lower oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes more.

7) Let pie cool completely before serving.

Pumpkin Palooza BONUS: Triple Recipe for Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

18 Nov

Last week I posted a recipe for Pumpkin Cranberry Bread. It’s a recipe from my mom and I make it every year. Last year I think I doubled it and this year I tripled it. It made five regular sized loaf pans and the Pampered Chef mini loaf pan, which is four mini loaves. It was SO easy to triple the recipe and I literally used just one dry measuring cup (the one cup measure) and one wet measuring cup, with a couple of measuring spoons and one big spatula/scraper, so despite yielding so many breads, the cleanup was minimal. I took a ton of photos, so I thought I’d share the triple recipe with you and show you photos of the process as well. Recipe first, photos at the end…

TRIPLE RECIPE for PUMPKIN CRANBERRY BREAD

*I used a lobster pot type of stock pot (we registered for it when we got married, but we never do make lobster!) to do my mixing and one large Pampered Chef scraper. I don’t think my Kitchen Aid stand up Mixer could fit the amount of ingredients in the bowl, nor could it have mixed them.

INGREDIENTS

3 cans Libby Pumpkin (equals six cups of pumpkin, each can is 15 ounces)

6 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

12 eggs

1 1/2 cups canola oil

12 cups flour

12 tsp or 4TBL baking powder

3 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp grd. ginger

3/4 tsp grd. cloves

3 packages cranberries

The directions remain the same, but I’m pasting them here anyway. A couple of tips: I mixed all the wet ingredients in the pan together first to make sure the eggs were well-mixed. Then I mixed again after I put in six cups of flour, then added the last six and mixed again. Then I added in my spices…mixed again, and the cranberries…mixed again and then portioned it all out. Super easy.


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan(s). You can either use two large loaf pans or 3 mini loaf pans.

Beat together pumpkin, sugar, water, eggs and oil.

Sift in remaining ingredients except cranberries. Mix just until smooth.

Gently fold in cranberries.

Pour into loaf pan(s) and spread evenly.

Bake in the center of oven for 60 – 70 minutes for large loaves, less time (40-50 minutes for smaller loaves) or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake or bread will be dry.

Cool in pan on a rack for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn bread(s) out onto rack and finish cooling.

Bread may be made in advance, covered and chilled for up to four days.(When I make two loaves for us I often save one to eat and keep one to freeze to eat at a later date.)

PHOTOS

Pumpkin is in the pan, ready to go.

All ingredients are mixed, except the cranberries.

Three bags is a lot of cranberries!

I did NOT lick that. Well, that one swipe up the side, I licked that, but the rest...

Ready for the oven.

Done....

When can I……

17 Nov

“When can I have a cell phone?”

“Can I get my ears pierced?”

“Can I get them double pierced?”

“When do I get to sleep on the top bunk?”

“How come I have to put my own laundry away and they don’t?”

Sound familiar? As soon as our kids are old enough to ask for something, it starts….and it never ends. We realized very early on that we needed to set up House Rules for the kids who lived in our house and stick by them no matter what “everyone else” was doing and no matter what the rules in their houses were.

The rules were basically set by our experiences with our oldest, since she is the one who approached every benchmark in life first, whether it was sleeping on the top bunk, or having a cell phone, or whatever the case may be. However, by setting the rules for her, and making them known to the next two girls, it’s stopped a lot of the questioning. The rules are set, they know what they are, and there’s no question. We’ve only had to make an exception on one rule, one time, which I’ll explain later.

Having set rules not only helps us stay consistent in our parenting from kid to kid in our house, but it helps us have a ready answer when confronted with a question from another parent, and gives our kids a ready answer as well, when they’re asked if they can do something, by one of their peers. They may not like the answer, and their friends may not either, but at least they can blame us and say, “That’s the rule in our house,” if they want to.

Obviously we know that nothing can be written in stone and exceptions may have to be made along the way, and things may come up that we have no rules for and need to make a split decision on, but we have our baseline set of rules and we do our best to stick by them. We also know that our rules may be different than other families’ rules.

Clearly, we’ve only gotten up to the rules for twelve years old and sixth grade since our oldest is only that far along, but it makes me curious:  what the rules are in other people’s houses? Do you have rules set up beforehand and stick by them or do you make them up as you go? Do you have rules that you’ve found helpful beyond the ones we have here?

Comment back and let me know.

Here’s a look at our House Rules

Age 5 allowed to have their first friend birthday party, at home, five friends

Age 6 allowed to have their first friend birthday party out of the house

Age 6 first time sleeping in the top bunk  (*This is a safety rule told to us by the furniture store where we bought the beds, so there was no question here.)

Age 8 ears pierced

Age 9 last big friend party out of the house

Age 10 the almost sleepover birthday party (Three friends can be invited. Kids arrive with pjs, pillows, sleeping bags and stay late but not sleep over night.)

Age 10 Bedtime is moved to 9pm

Age 10 Responsible for putting away all of their own laundry

Age 10 first time sleeping at someone else’s house other than family (This is the one we had to make an exception for. Our second daughter got a birthday party sleepover invite from a family we’re very close to and we allowed it so she didn’t miss the party or have to leave the party. However, it was just an exception for the one night.)

Age 11 allowed to have an email address

Age 11 able to stay home alone for very short periods of time on an as-needed basis only

Age 12 sixth grade we allowed a laptop (our oldest “worked” all summer before her 12th birthday as a Mother’s Helper to save her own money in order to purchase a 10″ notebook laptop)

Age 12 or end of sixth grade can get a second earring hole if they want one (Sixth grade for us is the last year of elementary school.)

Age 13 or entering seventh grade can have an emergency-only cell phone

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