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College Ready: sharing what I’ve already learned (part two)

17 Aug

We spent one full day and shopped til we dropped, hitting three major stores to get the bulk of what we needed. We scored deal after deal.

Earlier this week I shared Part One of my College Ready posts. I don’t know it all, I don’t even know as much as other people know, but in a short time, I’ve learned a lot that I can at least share out. Those who need to know can add it to what they’ve learned, save it for later when they need it, or toss it.

Here’s what I’ve learned: college is expensive, and college needs are expensive. We hear a lot about tuition, room and board, and books all being expensive, but what people don’t really talk much about is the huge expense of getting a student ready to live on campus. Not everyone lives on campus, but if your student is going to, start early saving some money for dorm expenses if you can, and start saving coupons and watching for deals. Get those deals when you can and put them aside if you have to. Shopping for something big like this is like a sport. You need a strategy. Here is our strategy.

Many people know that Bed Bath & Beyond prides themselves in being a go-to for college dorm shopping. (And no, I don’t make any commission off of these posts from them.) When you tour dorms there are often BB&B advertisements in the rooms which have been outfitted by the local store, and you see their ads often on social media, television and in print. Their coupons arrive in the mail regularly: 20% off one item, $5 off your total purchase over $15 and $10 off your total purchase over $30. You can even order all of your dorm room supplies online and have them shipped to the local BB&B near your school so that you can pick them up when you arrive for move-in day.

My advice is simple: save every single coupon. Don’t ever throw them away. They have expiration dates on them but they don’t actually expire. They  will accept them forever, and they let you use more than one per shopping trip. Take every single one of them with you if you choose to shop at BB&B for college dorm needs. More importantly, save every coupon to every store that you get during this shopping time and make the most of the deals that pop up as you see them. You may not realize you need something and you don’t want to throw away a good deal.

We opted to first use any store gift cards our daughter had received as graduation gifts towards her college shopping needs. We advised her to save any visa gift cards for books, since we had a little bit of money put away for shopping already, and to save any Amazon gift cards as well, unless we found something cheaper on Amazon (which we didn’t).  We would combine any gift cards with coupons and then after exhausting that option, we’d use the money I’d put aside from January to June with coupons next. This would not touch the money in her savings account at all, which would be saved for when she was living at school.

She had the most in gift cards at BB&B, then at Target, and although we did not have a gift card to At Home, it was my birthday in August and I’d received a “15% off your whole purchase” coupon. She signed up for their loyalty program and received a “10% off your whole purchase” coupon too, but we didn’t need it. Additionally, we visited Five Below, where everything is $5 or less, and looked to see what we could get there since she had a small gift card there and they have some cute dorm decor items. We planned to save our trip to Walmart for last because although it’s slightly cheaper than Target or BB&B, we would be paying entirely out of pocket with no coupons or gift cards at all, and it ended up being cheaper for us to shop with gift cards and coupons first, exhausting all of those before Walmart.

You can make money-saving magic happen with your coupons if you’re strategic.

Just in our BB&B shopping alone, we saved $100 in coupons (we used a total of 14 coupons in two visits, six one time and eight the next time, and we have some left if we need them) and we used $150 in gift cards, only paying $165 out of pocket total-and only on the second trip-the first trip was totally free. We got the bulk of what we needed there, from a comforter set to all of the under the bed, next to the bed and above the bed storage items. We also got a few decorative items there. We saved $21 at the At Home Store with my birthday coupon, and used $30 in Target gift cards before paying anything out of pocket at either store.

Since we don’t know if we’re 100% correct in everything we’re getting, we are saving every receipt. At BB&B they also told us to save all the packaging for returns as well. A good friend once said to me, “You know, it is possible to over-shop,” and I can totally see how that can happen. There is SO MUCH out there and there are so many suggestions of “must haves.” I tried to look at several lists and compare them to each other, and to listen to other people’s advice as well as knowing what we already had or didn’t have before we shopped. If I saw something come up on every single list and it matched up with what other people told me we’d need, it definitely went on to our list as well. If it was something we already had at home and could spare, we tried not to duplicate. We looked at her room layout to see what we thought would fit, and where. Some things just seemed over the top, or extra. We tried to balance having some cute decor items with having the more functional items first and foremost. Some nice-to-haves are okay, but the must-haves had to come first. We were lucky too, that a friend gave us her daughter’s memory foam mattress pad, which everyone now calls a “must have,” but which is very expensive. (Those didn’t exist when I went to school, I had a foam egg crate topper.) I found this type of shopping to be very similar to when we outfitted our RV for the first time. Function was first and foremost, space-saving was key, and money-saving was of the utmost importance.

So now, we wrap up, picking up the last few little things over the next week or so and then start to pack up and move on out. We’ll see how well we did once she moves in; how on the mark we were, what we still might need or what needs to be returned. Keeping our fingers crossed that we are more on the mark than off!

Fingers crossed…

 

 

College Ready: sharing what I’ve already learned (part one)

15 Aug

What exactly do they need?

They say you don’t know what you don’t know, and that is so true for so many situations throughout life. As a mom to a new, soon-to-be-on-campus college freshman, that saying could not be more true. As an educator to the core, I feel the need to share with others what I’ve learned so far along the way so that I can help other parents the way that others who’ve gone down this path first, have also helped me. Last fall, I wrote an article called Navigating a family’s first senior year. I feel like I am now ready to write the next article in that series.

So, here goes. I’m separating this information into two blog posts so that it’s not too long or too overwhelming.

Here is what I’ve learned so far, that I think is worthy enough to pass along to you.

First and foremost: ask around. This process is all new since we parents went to college, if in fact we parents went to college, as not everyone does. Social media is new, technology is new, online ordering is new, memory foam is new, HIPPA is new, it’s all new. Everything. So other than remembering what my dorm looked like and my basic needs, lots of other stuff isn’t the same. Ask those who have done it before, and research. Read blog posts, read other people’s experiences-good or bad-and then take from them what you wish, and discard the rest. That’s the same advice I always have for new moms: Everyone will give you a ton of information, so listen and use some and politely ignore the rest. We are parents who are starting all over again at the new mom and dad thing, just in a different way. Beginning I’m not sure when, but really focusing this past school year, I did just that. I read, I researched, I asked and I listened, and I made lists.

I also began to put a little bit of money aside after Christmas. This sounds obvious, and it’s way easier said than done, believe me, I know. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was putting money aside for yet either, but I knew we’d be needing it, and I was right. It wasn’t for the college fund, and it wasn’t her savings account money for living on during college, it was different money. Each time I got paid, I’d put some random amount into her checking account from mine, whatever I thought we could spare at the time, and she’d move it over into her savings account. I’m sure that it made me lacking some other money somewhere else for something else, but it allowed me to have a stash ready, designated for expenses for whenever we needed it.

“What is this money for?” she’d ask.

“I don’t know yet,” I’d answer. “But I know it’s going to be for something.”

In the spring, the college deposit was due. Some of the money went to that. In July a small registration fee was due for a September activity, so some of the money went to that. The rest would be spent on dorm supplies when we shopped. (That will be in my next post.) These were things a college loan wouldn’t necessarily cover, they didn’t fall under tuition or room and board, but they were needed, and they were costly, and they had to be done. I wish now that I’d put more money aside, starting sooner, as I found the last month of senior year to be extremely expensive with all of the graduation events (she had three different ceremonies) and clothes/shoes/jewelry needed for each, as well as for her prom, and even things like the meals we hosted for family after the graduation events and the party itself, so keep all that in mind as you go forward.

Additionally, throughout the year, I started picking up random things and putting them aside in her college laundry bag that we’d given her already for her 18th birthday, filled with a few college-ready gifts. Soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, laundry and dish detergent etc., all went into the bag during the year, even more frequently as the spring approached. At my CVS, any time I saw a “buy one, get one half off” deal, I’d buy one for us and throw the “get one half off” item into her bag. If I saw something on clearance she’d need, I’d grab it and throw it into her bag. By the summertime, her bag was full, having started off half-full at her birthday.

This is a great gift for recent high school grads who are going to be living on campus.

Before the summer even hit though, I asked people whose kids had “been there” already, what she’d really need. I got two great tips that I want to pass along to you. I used them both as graduation gifts for her and for others.

The first is a gift they need to have, but you hope they won’t actually need. The mom of student finishing her freshman year recommended a well-stocked first aid kit. She listed off a bunch of items kids need that they don’t necessarily want to go to the health services building for, like a band aid or a cough drop, but that they don’t always think to have. I loved this idea. We get sick all the time over here, and have a ton of bumps along the way too, so I decided to definitely do this as a gift for my own daughter, as well as some close family members. I bought $3 buckets at Target that I found in the “under $5” bins, and I filled them. I did generic things everyone needs, like a digital thermometer and band aids and cough drops, cotton balls, ice packs, etc., much of which can be found at a Dollar Store, for just $1 each. Several things came in multi-packs of individual items, like a three-pack of hand sanitizer, which I’d break up into three individuals for three gifts. For my own daughter I added in additional items, or full-sized items, some more costly, like the certain sunscreen she uses, or a big tube of stain stick, and bug spray. I filled the bins and wrapped them in cellophane with a ribbon (all found at the Dollar Store too) and gave them out.

My daughter took off on that idea, and for her own friends, she gave them buckets as well, but filled them with school supplies (markers, pens, pencils, paper clips, ruler, white out, etc.,) and threw in some band aids and cough drops as well, all for under $20 a bucket, including the bucket. We wrapped them the same way and they made great gifts.

This reminded me that she also needed her own school/desk supplies, so we later made her a bin of those as well. Everything we always have here, on hand throughout the school year, she’ll need there.

This was a fun gift to make and to give.

The next great gift idea, I received from a co-worker whose son was about to graduate college as my daughter was graduating high school. I was stumped as to what to give her for gifts at the time we spoke. Her son had also attended an out of state school, so she had given him gift cards for places that were in the city where he’d be attending school. I thought that was a fun idea, and since our daughter’s school was out of state, but not too far away, one of my best friends and I took a day’s ride up and back, grabbing a bunch of little gift cards to places that were near her school. Some were to places that we don’t have here, but we also spotted some places that we do have here, so I continued to shop for gift cards even after that day trip. Some spots were less expensive, so we got $10 gift cards and some were more so we got $15. One place was a sit-down restaurant she likes, so I got a $25 gift card there.

I filled out the front sections for our gift cards, and she filled out the rest for others she’d received.

Once I had them all, I decided to get a cute organizer from Target for her to keep all her gift cards in, as I knew she’d be getting more from other people and she had been saving a bunch at home as well. I added in restaurant menus if they had them, and figured she could throw in coupons to the places she had gift cards for, if she had any.

This was a great gift, a fun day trip for me, and it made me more familiar with the area in which she’d be spending her time. My friend was my co-pilot that day and she kept a running list of local places we saw so that as time goes on, if someone were to ask me what she needs for a birthday gift or a holiday gift, I can say, “There’s a CVS right next to her campus, get her a gift card there,” or to any other place I now know is up there. If we want to add to her collection ourselves for gifts in the future, we can.

There are so many great gift ideas out there, and I know that there are different philosophies on gifts. Some feel that helping to pay for college IS the gift and that’s what they give. Others take a big trip as a gift or send their child off on a trip with someone else as their gift. For us, this worked out well and it made for a fun afternoon after graduation when she opened her gifts. They weren’t expensive to pull off, and during a super-expensive time of year, that was a blessing in itself. It was just enough and will last her throughout her school year(s). They were fun, but they were functional too. Even the gift card holder can be re-purposed in the future. The labels can be labeled over, and the hashtag sign is on there with removable tape. I really tried to think ahead and be practical. (By the way, in case you’re not sure, HANGRY is a combination of Hungry and Angry, which is a popular word with kids now, but also didn’t exist before. I’ve also witnessed Hangry with my own kids, and it’s real and a perfect description.)

Stay tuned for my next post, and I’ll pass along anything I can about dorm room shopping that I’ve learned so far. I’m not a pro, and we’re not even to the point of moving her in yet, but I’ve already learned a ton and I will pass it on.

Monday Musings on a Wednesday: Onward and upward

20 Jun

She’s off and running

Well, we made it. We made it to and through our first child’s high school graduation week. It’s taken me a while to be able to sit and think about what I wanted to write, as I definitely wanted to mark this life event (for all of us) in writing.

It’s the craziest roller coaster of emotions–happy, proud, sad, thrilled. When our kids were babies, I was constantly feeling this need for life to slow down. They grew fast, they conquered milestones one after another. They rolled over, crawled, walked, ran, rode bikes, drove a car.

I kept wishing that the merry-go-round would slow down a little bit so we could stop, bottle up what we were seeing and doing, and then restart, but we couldn’t. It just kept going.

And going.

And here we are.

High school was hard. Lots of things were hard, but hard prepares you for real life. Life is hard. Throughout these past four years and the years leading up to it, we often said, “In the end you’ll be better off for having worked hard. Do you best, try hard, and most of all, be a good person, because that is what matters most in the end.”

In the end.

That’s the weird thing. As we drove to pick up the graduation cake and flowers on the morning of graduation, my husband said, “It’s weird, for us this feels like the end, but for her, this is just the beginning.”

If that didn’t make me cry, nothing would. (Or so I thought.)

But it’s true, what he said. We were finally finishing high school. There were days of high school that not only did I think we’d never get through the year, I questioned how we’d get through high school three times, but we did. This was the end. She had finished, made it, seen the success and reward of all her hard work and stress, and yes, she’d come out better for the grit and perseverance.

I have reflected in these recent months that you work so hard to get to a point that you see as a major goal or milestone. A benchmark: their first birthday, their 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th birthdays, and you think to yourself, “Whew…we did it. We made it. We survived.” And you think you get a break. We’re done. It’s done. She made it.

But, you don’t. That merry-go-round doesn’t actually stop. You don’t get off and take a break, a rest, a breather. You wake up the very next day and keep moving forward. I think I equated it to a wedding, all the anticipation and the build-up and then you’re done. It’s over. But you’re not, and I think that’s a good thing because there’s so much yet to come.

On graduation day I found myself to be more happy than sad. Proud, thrilled. On the next day afterwards, I found myself to have a bit of a delayed reaction, crying unexpectedly during a song at my youngest’s dance recital (In My Daughter’s Eyes) that I hadn’t expected to hear that day, or to be crying through in the audience as I saw my oldest at three in my mind’s eye, dancing on the stage for the first time and graduating high school in what seemed like the next instant. (In my defense, the mom next to me was teary too, and her daughter hadn’t graduated the day before.) I find that weird things get me emotional, and yet my biggest emotion is happiness and the events where I thought I’d be sad, I’ve been the most happy.

I am so happy for our daughter and what she achieved when she thought she couldn’t, what goals she set and then met, and most of all, what a good person she’s turned out to be at 18. As we read through her yearbook and read through various poster boards from culminating events for various year-end activities, over and over the most common theme was thankfulness for her goodness, her leadership, her help, her time, her kindness.

In the end, that will get her furthest.

There is a graduation speaker I hear at our city graduations each year, and he uses the same line, year after year no matter what else he writes in his speech, and I was so glad to hear him say it again this year. Each year, he tells the students that it is their talents, their grades, their GPA that has gotten them through high school and to graduation day, but that it is their character, their values and their morals that will get them through life, and I truly believe he’s right.

The merry-go-round does not stop now.

As we embark on this summer in between the end of high school and the beginning of the rest of her life, I am reminded of many things, as I have been all year long, and for the past 18 years. My own high school graduation quote in my yearbook was from a song from the campfires at summer camp, “The Circle Game.” The song has stayed with me since my days at camp and through my years as a young mother, through to today-and I know through to the days beyond today. It has run through my head day after day and week after week as I imagined this merry-go-round of our lives.

I think that ultimately, it’ll stay with me for the next forever and a day.

It’s not the end, it’s just the beginning.

The Circle Game
Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you’re older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Songwriters: Joni Mitchell
The Circle Game lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing

Monday Musings: Childhood inspiration, revisited

14 May

I have never forgotten this childhood book.

I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always been someone who loves to cook, especially when it comes to baking. To me, there is nothing more exciting than reading a new cookbook and dreaming about all the new things I want to make. There is also nothing as relaxing for me as being in my kitchen with no place to be in a hurry, baking the day away. Additionally, I love the challenge of a good cooking contest, having entered my first ones back in the days when I was a young Girl Scout, entering and sometimes winning their annual “Girl Scout Bake Off.” I’ve also married someone who loves to cook, and together we turn some amazing meals out of our kitchen, and we enjoy creating great meals together. These are all passions that we have passed along to our children, who all love to cook and to bake, starting off when they were very young. They too have entered cooking contests over the past years, and have often won, which have given them some amazing opportunities, attending special events, such as luncheons with the First Lady or with our state’s governor.

When I was young, I remember reading a book called “Ginnie and the Cooking Contest.” It was written by Catherine Woolley, and I have remembered this book forever, since the time I read it, until now. I have never, ever forgotten it, and I have remembered very specific parts of it very clearly. It was a book I really loved, and it definitely inspired me in many ways. The book was published in 1966, and if I had to guess, I might have read it in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. As my kids have grown up, I have always talked about this book and referred to it, and I often think of it when I’m baking in my kitchen or thumbing dreamily through a delicious new cookbook.

This book was just as I remembered it.

A while back, I tried searching the internet for this book, but I didn’t find it. Then later on when I talked about it yet again, my daughter found it for me on Amazon. I mulled it over in my head for quite a while before deciding to purchase it. Once I hit the “order” button, I was instantly excited, and I couldn’t wait for the book to arrive.

Last week, it finally came. I was so excited to open it up, it looked exactly like I had remembered, and this authentic vintage copy that I’d ordered had crisp yellow pages. My only disappointment was that the company I’d ordered it from through Amazon had put a UPC code sticker right across the front of the book, which I thought was just a terrible thing to do to a vintage book. I was able to peel it off carefully, and only a little stickiness remained. I could deal with that.

I decided to read it again, knowing that I was between books and that this one would not take me very long to read.

I settled in to start reading one night, and I was so happy. The story was exactly as I remembered it to be. I read along all over again as Ginnie decides to take a risk and enter a cooking contest, needing to create a menu and choosing one item from it to prepare for the contest. I got excited myself, as she poured through cookbook after cookbook, trying to choose a contest-worthy recipe. My mouth watered as she considered her choices, and I was surprised by some of the more vintage recipes that were being made then, that aren’t made now, such as a chicken loaf, for example. I followed step-by-step as she made a homemade bread for the first time ever, and I could almost smell the aroma that she described as it filled her kitchen. I smiled as she read aloud recipe after recipe from a cookbook to her little babysitter charge, knowing I’d read cookbooks aloud to my own kids as well.

I knew that this book had inspired me, I knew that I had read it and never forgotten it, but I truly had no idea just how much it had influenced my life, even to this day. I was so glad that I’d ordered it to read it again.

I’ve been inspired to read even more.

That said, I was inspired again, when I recently covered a story for work where middle school students were given the opportunity to hear a picture book read aloud every single day of the school year so far, and on Thursdays, had the opportunity for a “Throwback Thursday” book choice, a chance to request a favorite from their own childhoods. I thought the whole concept of revisiting childhood books we love was a great idea, and the teacher I spoke with said her students loved hearing the picture books read aloud.

In somewhat of a twist on that idea, I decided that there were some books that I’d never gotten to read, like “The Phantom Tollbooth,” for example. Published in 1961, this book was given to my daughter by my mom in 2010 as it was about to turn 50 years old in 2011. I decided that I would like to read that book too. Another book I’ve decided to read is “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” by Kate DiCamillo. It is not a book from my childhood, but it is a book that one of my daughters read and loved so much, I was sorry I never got to read it. Kate DiCamillo is a favorite author in our family and I follow her on social media. The number of people that she posts about who stop her to talk about this book have really inspired me to read it. It was one that we saved as a “we can never give this book away,” book, and my daughter found it for me right away.

I’m excited to read these books, even though I am a grown adult, and I look forward to being inspired by them, as much as I was by “Ginnie and the Cooking Contest.” I am amazed by how much that book influenced me and helped to fuel my passion of cooking and baking over the past decades. I am looking forward to seeing how these “new” books will influence me in the days and maybe even for decades to come.

It makes me wonder, do you have a childhood book that has stayed with you forever? If so, share it in the comments. I’d love to know what some of my readers’ favorites are.

 

The taste of success is sweeter after failure

3 Apr

 

It took a lot of perseverance to get to this point.

Throughout their lives, whenever our kids have stumbled, fallen, failed, we’ve helped to support them in getting back up, maybe taking a quick break, and then trying again. It doesn’t matter whether it was learning to walk, riding a bike, passing a class, creating a project or practicing a role. At the end of their journey, we would celebrate their success with them, even if success looked different than they originally anticipated or took longer to achieve than they thought it would. In the end, that taste of victory was sweet.

Cooking can be like that. Sometimes you follow a recipe and make a creation that comes out right the first time. Sometimes you follow a recipe and even though you worked hard and did what you were supposed to do, it ends up having to go into the trash and you need to start all over again. No matter what though, it is my opinion that the taste at the end when you’ve finally gotten it right, is so much sweeter than it would have been the first time around.

It seemed to look okay coming out of the oven.

This Easter I had that experience. I wanted to try out a new recipe for an Italian Ricotta Cake, from “Tornadough Alli,” and to make it gluten free so we could all enjoy it. Because the cake called for using a cake mix, rather than making the entire thing from scratch, it would be easier for me to make a gluten free substitution in the ingredients.

I know that they say not to try out a new recipe for company, and I knew that it’s especially important when it’s for a holiday meal that you’re hosting, but I decided to try it out for Easter anyway. Our guests are forgiving, and really how bad could it go?

Luckily I gave myself an extra day for baking and started on Good Friday night. I had slept much later that morning than usual, so I could cook into the wee hours of the night and get ahead with my baking. It also gave me a buffer of a day or so in case I had to bake an entire cake recipe all over again.

I’m sure you can tell where this is going.

I followed the recipe to a “t” as they say. I only substituted out the white cake mix for a gluten free yellow cake mix so we could all eat it. I used a springform pan for probably the second time in my life.

As it cooled, it looked less and less promising.

However, after I cooked the cake according to the directions and had taken it out to cool, I had a sneaking suspicion that things weren’t going to go my way this time around with this new dessert.

The instructions had specifically stated to be sure the center of the cake was set when taking it out of the oven.

It seemed a little jiggly, but I used a cake tester to test it so many times that it seemed almost like polka dots on top of my cake. Each time, it came out clean, so I figured I was in the clear.

I wasn’t.

As the cake cooled, the center proceeded to sink and I knew the news was not going to be good.

At about 11pm I opted to try to slide the cake off of the bottom of the pan and onto a serving plate to see what would happen.

Not company-ready.

That happened.

Ugh.

I was so bummed out. I was going to have to toss this cake into the trash. There was still raw batter in the center and there was no way to salvage this dessert.

However, as I got ready to toss it, I tasted it. The cooked edges of the cake were delicious! I knew that if it had gone differently, this recipe could have been a keeper.

I still had a half container of ricotta cheese and of heavy cream. I had all the ingredients I needed, I just had to get a new box of gluten free cake mix.

Luckily I had my buffer of an extra day.

On Saturday, my husband picked up the cake mix as I made our other dessert and I mentally prepared myself to start this one all over again. I was determined to make it work.

I followed all of the steps. This time, on the advice of my mother, whom I was frantically texting out of state at almost midnight the night before, I cooked the cake much longer. Her own recipe usually takes almost 20 extra minutes to cook and set properly, so with that in mind, I cooked it until it no longer seemed jiggly in the middle-about 20 extra minutes-and then I pulled it out and crossed my fingers.

Seemed to look much better this time.

It had to work this time or else there was a gluten free bakery down the street that I’d soon be visiting instead.

I left it to cool, went to the mall to get the last kid their Easter dress for church that night (yes, day before Easter and night of when we needed it, I know) and hoped and prayed that when I got back it would still be solid in the middle.

And it was.

We arrived home in time to color our eggs and head off to church that night. I had my two desserts ready to be frosted the next day and I was good to go. I had managed to pull it all off.

On Easter morning, as I was frosting this cake and sprinkling the spring-colored sprinkles on top, I was glad I’d tried out something new, and glad I’d not quit after the first try. Had I not given myself that extra day for the trial run, I may not have had the chance to try a second time, but I’m glad I did.

That evening as we cut into the cake, I was so proud of it and everyone raved about how good it was. It was definitely a keeper, and I definitely think that I enjoyed it more than I would have if it was something I’d accomplished easily. My kids were definitely more proud of me, more complimentary of this particular cake, knowing how much of my time and effort and how many prayers had gone into making it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, I’m pretty sure that this cake had that extra sweet taste of perseverance as it was going down.

Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 23, 2012

Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.

***********************************************************************************

LEMON CAKE

A cake *just* for Daddy!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)

DIRECTIONS

In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

THE BIRTHDAY TWINS CELEBRATING THEIR SPECIAL DAY IN 2016

 

 

Fun Friday: How picky an eater are you?

16 Mar

Do you eat your beans?

Every so often on social media, a fun questionnaire will come across my husband’s feed and he’ll call out the questions, and have us answer them. It’s all just for fun, but the one he had us answer this past weekend was interesting as we heard each other’s answers, and I thought I’d share it here as well.

The topic was “How Picky an Eater Are You?” There seem to be several versions of this test out there, with a different variety of food items on each one, but they’re all fun to explore.

We often categorize children as picky eaters, and it’s often quite challenging to feed a picky eater, but adults can be plenty picky too! As a kid in my own family growing up, on our 12th birthday we were allowed to choose on thing we never had to eat again. My one thing was orange juice and my brother’s one thing was green beans. What would your one thing be?

How picky an eater are you? To find out, read the 60 types of food on this list and give yourself one point for each thing you don’t eat. The more points you have, the pickier you are. There were some things we just couldn’t eat because of allergies (seafood and gluten) but other than allergies, it’s all about what you do and don’t like.

To give you something to compare to, my husband’s score was three, mine was 12 and our youngest daughter was 34. He had no food allergies to contend with, but we each have one.

It’s all in fun and clearly not scientific data, so go ahead and see how you fare. If you’d like to, you can share your score in the comments.

How do you score?