Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dear readers

I will post soon, I promise. 

The Santa season has ended and he won't be back til November. I actually had people asking what our hours were for Santa visits for Thursday and Friday. You know, after Christmas. I guess they thought the lines would be shorter.

Meanwhile, I'm nestled in my bed with a large mug of herbal tea and popping cough drops like candy. I ventured out today after a diagnosis of viral pneumonia and made a stop at the health store. I'm now armed with zinc, echinacea and goldenseal, plus my probiotics and garlic. The big problem with viral pneumonia is all you can do is wait it out and try to prevent secondary infections. Antibiotics are not going to help kill a virus. 

I plan to dictate orders from bed and trust the family to pack up Christmas.

Hopefully I'll be well enough for our New Year's game night. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread... Get Carton Smart

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Carton Smart for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread #CartonSmart

The holidays are a stressful time for pretty much everyone. Around here, our lives are even more hectic because I'm working Santa photos nearly 30 hours a week, plus substitiute teaching. Some weeks I'm working 60-70 hours!

I'm definitely looking forward to vacation.

But it's not here yet. And I still have all sorts of holiday baking to do.

One of my favorite things to bake is my Pumpkin Cranberry Bread. I usually do mini loaves. Perfect for gift giving. Normally, I make my own pumpkin puree. But this year, I just didn't have the time. I really don't like the taste of canned pumpkin. At all.

When I had the chance to Become Carton Smart this year, I jumped at the chance to take a little help from the store and swap out the pumpkin puree I normally use for  photo d1d52bb8-c150-4f19-9a7c-b8c9ab3c8df3_zpsac6b75dd.jpg

I was also sent several other products I can't wait to try, including the Pacific Foods Chicken Stock which will find it's way in to my mashed potatoes. photo 795e421d-1ec8-414e-b1b8-dde8f5f23ded_zps62983f0a.jpg

And the Pacific Foods Cranberry Sauce, which I love to spread on sandwiches.  photo 62adf36b-e1dc-4d93-98c1-aa80d97a468d_zps600d562e.jpg

There are so many great things about the foods in cartons not limited to just being better tasting than cans. It's better for the environment, too!
 photo 1898ca76-3272-4baf-a8df-07abf60e15e3_zps1bf425e9.jpg

When it came down to the recipe, I couldn't tell the difference between the fresh pumpkin and the Pacific Foods Pumpkin Puree! I was super impressed.

Pumpkin Cranberry  Bread

1 carton Pacific Foods Pumpkin Puree
4 eggs
1 cup cooking oil (I used coconut...make sure to melt it first!)
2/3 cup pumpkin spice soy milk
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 C fresh Cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9 mini loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, eggs, oil, soy milk and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in cranberries. Pour into prepared pans.
Bake for 70-90 minutes, testing with a toothpick inserted in the center about the 70 minute mark. Cook longer if the toothpick doesn't come out clean.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread #CartonSmart

Want to learn more about becoming Carton Smart in the kitchen? Tweet @CartonSmart and Follow #CartonSmart on Pinterest

And be sure to comment, letting me know how you are plan to replace the tins with cartons in your holiday menus and become #CartonSmart!
Visit Sponsor's Site 

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Merry Christmas photo


This year, we waited far too late to take our Santa picture to actually get it on a card. With how busy I've been, I've waited too late to even look at cards.

Christmas shopping? Hahahaha Haven't even started. I imagine I'll do quite a bit of shopping Saturday night. Or Maybe even Tuesday night.

With all the craziness, there hasn't been any holiday baking. No homemade gifts... I feel like a total slacker.

I mean look how our Santa pictures turned out! And this is my JOB


The two in front didn't want to be there. They said they'd rather be studying for finals than take a photo with Santa. Danger Girl was angry because she has curls in her hair. Of course, she's always upset about her curls. I told her to blame her father. She certainly didn't get those curls from me! B and the two little girls were fine until I told them no to cinnabon.

Needless to say, they staged a mini revolt on camera.

I agreed to snap a few pics of their true feelings before making them put on their happy family faces. And, at their request, I'm only allowed to share this silly picture.

Kids are so weird.

And here's what you don't see in the picture:

Punky Brester is wearing a bright purple skirt. Little Miss' skirt is hot pink.

Punky Brewster spilled chocolate on her turtleneck, so we just turned it around. Yup. Wearing her shirt backwards!

Leelee actually put on makeup! I feel like my 15 year old daughter's idea of putting enough make up on for a picture is one for the win column. And there's some sort of anime thing going on with her pose.

My boys are wearing bow ties because bow ties are cool. The Boy's tie is pictures of the T.A.R.D.I.S. and B's is in homage to 11.

Like I said, kids are so weird.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

PF Chang's desserts for the holidays

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of P.F. Changs for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Whenever we make one of trips north to the "big city," we love to eat at restaurants we don't have in our neck of the woods. . . Places like P.F. Chang’s, where you can get amazing Chinese food.

 

While I love to cook things at home, there's just something special about going out to eat with your sweetheart during the holidays. P.F. Chang's is the perfect spot for a date night.

And what do I love best about those special date night meals? Getting amazing desserts that I can't recreate at home.

 

 photo d3f7af4a-3858-4175-a9d5-7e42e8ad35ae_zps70fdfd3f.jpg

 

Doesn't that look so amazing? Sweet Vanilla Cheese dessert wontons. I'm swooning already.

 photo 0008911f-7d1d-4c9e-90f7-5a122a4eea6b_zps1de0003f.jpg

 

And these Chocolate Raspberry dessert wontons are equally drool worthy.

 

I'm having a really hard time deciding which one to try. I may make it easy on myself and just order both!

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I know D will be ordering the Vanilla Bean Milkshake. He goes for the milkshakes every time we go out.  He's a bit predictable that way...always ordering the same thing. I like to try new things each time, which probably explains why I've eaten so many exotic foods.

 

Are you totally excited to hit P.F. Chang's this holiday season? Which new menu item are you most excited to try? Help me out with my massive indecision!

 

Meanwhile, if you want to keep up with all the new offerings Follow @pfchangs on twitter and check out the gorgeous foods and Follow P.F. Chang’s on Pinterest!

 

Visit Sponsor's Site

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday window treatment

Holiday decorating has started! I wanted to do something simple, yet fun in the grand foyer. The window treatment I had in place before just wasn't working. The colors were right but the pattern was too much for the space.

I've been playing with different options. My plan is to sew my own window treatments but finding just the right fabric is proving a challenge.

I was recently given a copy of a 1985 holiday craft book. Let me tell you, the puffy paint holiday sweatshirts were amazing. There were a few good ideas that  provided inspiration for me. . . Along with a need to cover up the plain red curtain.

The red just wasn't doing it alone, so I added a longer black fabric and used the red as a "trim."

From my big bucket of holiday bows, I grabbed these Santa bows from last year's tree and tacked them down the side.

I experimented with the bows on green and red curtains but they just blended in. My original preference was just black drapes but well... Last minute project and clearly not enough fabric. As it turns out, I do like the pop of red on the bottom. 

Adding the bows to the side is a fun and temporary way to add holiday to your windows!


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Friday, November 29, 2013

Stamped Clay Ornament

Tis the season for homemade Christmas ornaments.

This year, I participated in a handmade ornament swap with a bird theme. I didn't really have the time to sew something...so it was a time to get creative.

I took an idea from my girls who love to stamp images into their playdough and figured I could turn that in to a handmade ornament.



Kato polyclay was the perfect medium. It is soft, rollable...and will bake up firm in the oven.


Take a good chunk of the clay and kneed it until it becomes soft. Then, place it between two sheets of waxed paper and roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness.


Remove the waxed paper and press the stamp into the clay.  Using a knife trim away the excess...I did mine in a rectangle shape. I used a chopstick to make a hole near the top for the ribbon.

Stamps with intricate detail don't really work well with this project. The details just get too hard to see.

Bake the clay according to package directions. 





You could stop here with the ornament. But, I found the details a bit difficult to see. 

I used a versamark ink pad over the top of the ornament then sprinkled with embossing powder, following up with my heat gun at the end.


Different amounts of embossing powder give different effects. I think they all turned out great!





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Thursday, November 21, 2013

$100 Shutterfly giveaway!

Hey, friends! Earlier this week, I shared with you a fun way to keep track of birthdays using luggage tags I ordered from Shutterfly.Over the past two weeks, you may have seen a number of other bloggers sharing about their own experiences with Shutterfly gifts this holiday season. If you missed some of those, be sure to check out LooksiSquare tomorrow for a very special collection showing you a variety of gift ideas for everyone on your holiday list! In the meantime, as part of the Looksi and Shutterfly collaboration, Shutterfly is offering all of you the chance to win $100 credit! Think of the photo gifts or Christmas cards you could order!

shutterfly giveaway button

shutterfly photo gifts

Rafflecopter will walk you through the entry process! You'll notice that one of the ways to enter is by submitting your own posts about projects you've done with photos to LooksiSquare.com; we'd love to see what you've done with pictures too! Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Luggage tag birthday reminders

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Shutterfly partnered with Looksi . Product compensation was received for this post, however all opinions are mine.


My mother-in-law has 6 children, each married, twenty-two grand children and 2.5 great-grandchildren. That's nearly three dozen birthdays she needs to keep track of!

It's insane. 

Until my green bean casserole loving sister-in-law, Shannon, had her two girls, there were no birthdays in September. That was grandma's month off. 

Over the years, Grandma has come up with several methods for keeping track of the birthdays, ranging for an wonderful spread sheet to a small calendar in her purse to pre-made and addressed and stamped birthday cards, with the month written on the back of the envelope.

For Christmas this year, I wanted to make her something portable and durable to list the birthdays.

When I saw the luggage tags on Shutterfly.com, I knew right away this was the perfect solution!


I used a basic photo editing program to create a 2.5x3.5 blank image, then added text, dividing three months of names and birthdays on to each tag.


As you can see, April is a very full month! And, when my new great niece or nephew arrives this spring, the info can be added to the back of the luggage tag with a sharpie.

What I love most about the shutterfly tags is they are sturdy! These aren't your cheap paper or thin plastic tags. They can take a beating in a full purse or survive being clunked around on actual luggage.

I am a terrible at surprises, so I did tell my mother-in-law about this gift and she is really excited for it. She's asked me several times when I'm actually sending it to her. Don't worry...it will be there by Christmas!

Don't forget to Enter to WIN a $100 Shutterfly Giftcard so you can create your own practical gift this holiday season! 

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu



November has sped right by. It always does.

Leelee's birthday party is this weekend. Her birthday is usually within a few days of Thanksgiving.

I'm especially glad for a later Thanksgiving this year as it gives me a bit more time to prep.

Over the last few years, I've been experimenting with recipes, trying to find the perfect combination my family loves. So far, I've found the perfect turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes,  pumpkin and pecan pies, jell-o salad and green beans.

I'm still on the hunt of an amazing roll that I can turn out perfectly each time. 

It's only taken me nearly 20 years.

Before I share all these wonderful recipes, you need to know that our green bean recipe is not green bean casserole. The only time that particular recipe crosses our table is when Aunt Shannon visits and her family just moved to Italy. She's not coming for Thanksgiving this year.

This also means it's just our family, unless I can scrounge up some folks to come over!


I found our turkey recipe on FoodNetwork. It's Emeril's Big Bird. I don't do the giblet gravy. Like the green bean casserole, my family just finds it very, very wrong.

For the dressing (not stuffing, because it's on the table and not in the bird), we use a recipe full of wonderful fall flavors. This recipe is part of a larger holiday dish recipe, but we only use the dressing.

The mashed potatoes just boils down to my secret ingredient: I use chicken stock instead of milk and a generous amount of pepper. The sweet potatoes are also just regular baked sweet potatoes. Nothing fancy. I let everyone add their own toppings: butter, brown sugar or marshmallows.

The family also loves my caramelized green beans


The pumpkin pie is a brown sugar topped pie. It's supposed to be topped with walnuts, but we always have an ample supply of pecans so I use those instead.

This year, I am skipping the pecan pie. As much as I love the pecan pie, I'm actually the only one who loves it. That means I'm the only one who eats it. Not happening this year. I'm thinking Lemon Meringue.


Do you have a must-try recipe for Thanksgiving? I'd love to hear about it. Even though the family considers our menu perfect, I'd love to add a new thing here or there :)




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in and out of the kitchen **

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

11 DIY Nativity Ideas


Every year, our church participates in a local Interfaith Nativity Exhibit. As the name implies, people of a variety of faiths share their nativity sets and allow people to view them. The sets come from all over the world and run from the small to the grand. Every nativity is welcome!

The exhibit is made even more special with local individuals, churches and schools performing sacred music. It culminates with a Christmas Devotional Sunday night.

This event, more than anything, really gets our family ready for Christmas.

But here's the thing. . . I don't really like my nativity set. I've had it for 20 years and it's cute, but it's not really my style any more. It was when I first received it when I was 19.

I figured with the internet around, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to have more than one nativity...especially if it's one I made myself. Here are a few of my favorite nativity projects, some of which you can do in a day and a few others may need more time (which is why I'm posting these ideas NOW!)

If you want to see more of my Christmas finds, be sure to follow my Christmas board on Pinterest!



Clothes Pin Nativity Scene by Delineate Your Dwelling




Pallet Nativity by Passion Pink and Pearls



Nativity Blocks by Ivory Bloom



Nativity Stocking Holder by U Create




Small Wooden Nativity by 36th Avenue



Nativity Peg Dolls + Download by Lil Blue Boo




Felt Wall Nativity by My Crazy Blessed Life



Nativity Ornament by Better Budgeting



Felt Nativity + Download by What Madeleine Loves



Nativity Advent Calendar by Cutesy Crafts


Nativity Magnets by Every Day Mom Ideas



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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Holiday Photo Cards with Minted.com

This post was written by me on behalf of Minted.com. I have received compensation for this post, however, all opinions are mine.

One of the tasks I dread most about the holidays, is sending out cards.  I spend so much time looking at cards before I decide what I want to use. I gather my addresses, label the cards...and decide to go to the post office the next day. And the next day. Or the day after that.

Basically, I never really ever make it to the post office.

I have stacks of signed and addressed cards from several years that never made it to the recipients.

It's shameful.

For some reason, I never seem to be able to complete the Christmas card task.

I have to wonder, though, if I found a really awesome photo card it would be different. Especially if I found a really different photo card. One that screamed The ADD Housewife Family!

Minted.com has so many unique card designs beyond the standard top/bottom names in the solid colored area type cards. Not that there's anything bad with the basics. Don't get me wrong. I just really love unique ideas. And, my holiday heart is made even happier with their Address Assistant...where your cards arrived already addressed!

The first card that caught my eye was this round card. I love the quote, too!


But, with all my kids...we're just not going to fit on a card like that. Or this one, even though it's so stinkin' cute!



The one card that stopped me in my tracks and I fell instantly in love with is this one that kills two birds with one stone: The required Christmas card and the dreaded Christmas Letter. A card that would make my life a tiny bit simpler by not having to stuff a letter in with the card? WIN!


So it's not a long Christmas letter, but it gets the point across. The year was awesome. The kids would all fit in the picture. Perfect!

After I was done looking at the holiday cards, I decided to click around the rest of Minted and found that they do more than just cards. They also have customized art, stationery, and even photo backdrops. I was really impressed with the selection done by all of these independent artists and designers!




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers

First a warning: This recipe is not cheaper than buying a box of cheese crackers at the store. If you are looking to save a dime or two, then just skip the recipe... especially with coupons.

But, this recipe is healthier. A lot healthier.

And ridiculously easy to make.



For some reason, I was really reluctant to make these. I've been looking at cheese cracker recipes for quite some time. I just could never bring myself to commit to making them. I had it in my head that homemade crackers were time consuming.

After a really bad day, I needed to do something productive besides cleaning and working in the garden.

I needed to do something nice for everyone I snapped at.

Homemade snacks always seem to do the trick around here. Usually brownies, but I was still a bit frustrated... so whole wheat cheese crackers seemed a nice alternative. Nice and homemade, but also healthy.

The dough mixed up quickly. I made two batches, one with cheddar and one with Swiss.  Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and use a pizza cutter to trim it in to one inch squares.  I used the small end of a chop stick to poke a hole in the middle...because real cheese crackers have holes.



The cheese taste gets stronger once the crackers have cooled. The kids snatched them up before I got a good picture of the first batch.



Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers Recipe

1 1/2 C shredded cheese (the stronger flavor, the better)
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C butter 
1/4 t salt
2 T cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the first four ingredients together with your fingers until it resembles crumbles. Sort of like you mix a pie crust. Add in the cold water and continue mixing until the dough comes together.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/8 in thickness. Cut into squares using a pizza cutter. 

Place squares on to parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Cool completely.


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