If you put your kids Christmas gifts in unmarked boxes, you can get them to wrap their own presents.
I haven’t added to my “little known fact” list since January of 2011. It’s way overdue for some attention.
I would rather eat a Brussel sprout than a Peep. bleh. It’s like goo with glitter on it.
and again. bleh.
I have absolutely no problem, however, purchasing Peeps for the sole purpose of blowing them up in the microwave. After seeing this on facebook, we’ll be new to “Peep Jousting” this year. As Larry the Cable Guy would say, “I don’t care who ya are, that’s funny right there.”
and a fitting end to a Peep in my opinion.
I’m a day late on this, so I’ll have to do two: I’m thankful:
1. that everyone in my immediate family knows God, loves God, desires an active relationship with God and strives to serve God in their every day lives.
2. that no one in my family is battling a life-threatening illness.
I’ve murdered jack.
cut him up into small chunks.
Now, I’m boiling jack.
soon I’m going to bake him in a few loaves of bread.
later this month, we might even turn him into soup.
(and his friend, Harry Potter.)
(After spending so much money on pumpkins, I can’t, in good conscience, just throw them away. Have you SEEN the price of canned pumpkin these days?) eek!
NOTE: If you BLEACHED your pumpkin to make it last longer – do NOT do this.
Me, trying to wake PinkGirl this morning:
“Good morning Ida.” (her character in the play she’s in rehearsals for) nothing.
“Good morning, Luna” (the character she’s dressing up as tonight) nothing.
“Good morning, PinkGirl” nothing.
PinkGirl: “JUST A MINUTE. I’m almost finished with my dream.”
I know some Christians have a problem with Halloween, but in our house it has always only been about two things: costumes and candy. Like theater, but on a sugar high.
Any personal recommendations for spice/flavor if I attempt to roast these pumpkin seeds? And, I suppose, any instructions on how to roast pumpkin seeds? I can Google, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. I’m still dealing with jack-0-lantern guts.
kids fed dinner. check
kids dressed in Halloween costumes. check
jack-o-lanterns carved. check.
pumpkin guts cleaned up…kinda.
mini-Snickers in the freezer. check.
7:45pm: There’s a guy driving down my street in a golf cart, pulling a lighted, homemade mini-Halloween float with kids on it. #toomuchtimetoomuchmoney
The witch from Snow White, painted by MY DAD! Unfortunately, there’s something about her that says: “Don’t wait for someone to open the door, just go ahead – reach out and open it yourself! Had to lock the door between trick-or-treaters!
8:45pm: A tiny little boy pulled down the bowl of candy I was holding to look for a lollipop, which I didn’t have. PinkGirl chased him down the sidewalk to give him one from her pillowcase.
So, the festive Christmas lights FirstHusband zip tied to the entire length of the luggage rack of my van work GREAT.
The low beams on the headlights, however, do not work at all. If I can’t get them fixed tomorrow, I either don’t drive at night or annoy everyone by driving with the high beams on.
Or I could duck tape Maglites to the front of the van and just go Christmas shopping.
We’re long time Disney freaks and I adopted this idea YEARS ago after seeing it at Walt Disney World.
I LOVE me a Disney Christmas and I’m REALLY missing Candlelight this year! But it wouldn’t be frugal. Best time EVER? Front row, smack in line with the sign language interpreter. My FAVORITE narrator is Marlee Matlin.
AFTER getting all my Christmas mugs DOWN from the attic. I do NOT stop drinking coffee in December!
We just don’t have room in the cabinet for all of them at the same time, so I switch them out. (I know I have two Cupids in the picture, Vixen was already in use.)
We hang jinglebells along the stairwell for easy whacking as we go up and down. Not surprisingly, PinkGirl does the most whacking. Sounds of the season.
We had some for the front door knob, but they broke. This post may have prompted their replacement this year.
“What’s a pierogi?”
“It’s a dough. Wrapped around meat.”
“What’s a gwumpkey?”
“It’s a cabbage. Wrapped around meat.”
“Now, what is a paprika?”
“It’s a bell pepper. Stuffed with meat.”
“What’s a kielbasa?”
“It’s pretty much just meat.”
“The seventh Polish Christmas dish I bring to the party,Seven pitted prunes…”
“I don’t like prunes!”
“With this food, you’ll need ‘em son.”
I originally blogged about this Easter Bunny Cake back in April 2009, but every year around Easter, it’s my most popular post. If you make it, post a link to a photo or comment and let me know how it turned out!
Growing up, my mom often made an Easter Bunny cake like the one below for Easter. My favorite version of this cake is dark chocolate with white icing, covered in coconut!
Like a GIANT Mounds bar – but BETTER!
(page down for more decorating ideas)
Bake a cake, any cake, in two round cake pans. (Mine will be dark chocolate, in case I neglected to mention that. There is no reason for me to eat cake unless it is chocolate.) Let it cool and then cut it like you see in the photo on the left, below. On the serving plate (my mom always used a piece of cardboard covered in aluminum foil), CAREFULLY arrange it like the photo on the right, below. I’ve also seen the cake arranged so that one of the bunny ears is lopsided. Very cute.
Then, frost and decorate! My mom always frosted it white and covered it with coconut shavings as a base. Dark chocolate cake with coconut – mmmm – just like a Mounds bar. But CAKE!
Here’s some more decorating ideas:
I really like the whiskers and mouth on this one to the left, but I think it’s because it reminds me of a cat – which makes me wonder if this is an easy convert to a black cat cake! DOUBLE DARK CHOCOLATE. (Although at that point, it would be so rich I wouldn’t be able to finish a piece.)
Scroll down and check out a retro, kid friendly how-to video from ZOOM, a PBS show I used to watch as a kid! A Zooma Zooma Zooma Zoom!
The one on the left below looks the most like what we made when I was a kid, and I really like the ears on the one on the right. Are those red hot candies?
This next one on the left has GREAT eyes! And they don’t look too difficult. Love the strong Red Twist outline of the bow tie on the one to the right. I think I would take my favorite parts of each of these guys and put them all together on one cake. Dark chocolate, of course.
Animal will always be my favorite. But that Beaker has some serious pipes! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Check out JanMary over at Welcome to My World for an authentic Irish post and find out what a real Irish family does (and doesn’t do) to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! She’s hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Blog Carnival.
According to my WordPress Stats, I should highlight a post I wrote last year about how to create an Easter bunny shaped cake. In the month of February, that post shows 310 views and in just the first 8 days of March, it has had 149 views!
So, if you want to make a bunny cake for Easter, check out my post entitled “Easter Bunny Cake” from April 8th of 2009 for photos of different decorating ideas.
My favorite is a dark chocolate cake with shredded coconut all over the icing. Like a giant Mounds candy bar.
There are certain songs . . .
The great Satchmo, singing “What a Wonderful World” on Thanksgiving Day.
The Walt Disney Candlelight Processional Choir singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” at Christmastime.
And Sandi Patty, singing “We Shall Behold Him” at Easter.
Growing up, my mom often made an Easter Bunny cake like this one for Easter. (page down for more photos)
Easy, not too crafty (thank goodness), I think I’m making one this year. Judging from the number of available photos on Google Images, I’m not the only one. Check it out:
Bake a cake, any cake, in two round cake pans. Mine will be chocolate. There is no reason for me to eat cake unless it is chocolate. Let it cool and then cut it like this:
On the serving plate (my mom always used a piece of cardboard covered in aluminum foil), CAREFULLY arrange it like this:
Then, frost and decorate! My mom always frosted it white and covered it with coconut shavings as a base. Dark chocolate cake with coconut – mmmm – just like a Mounds bar. But CAKE!
That does it. We’re making this cake.
Here’s a video and some more samples:
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer
If you’ve got a few minutes, check out my previous chocolate posts.
You may recognize the pink fingernails. I’ve posted videos from this lady before. She made chocolate Gobble Berries (turkeys) for Thanksgiving and spiders and ghosts for Halloween. Her level of patience is astounding.
Let me just state. My children will never eat bunnies such as these. This is way too close to crafting for me.
Besides, is it just me or do these bunnies look a little like rats? Their noses are way too pointy. Easter rats. No, that won’t catch on. Easter mice?
If you’ve got a few minutes, check out my previous chocolate posts.
So, ten things I love that start with (the letter she assigned me) the letter “H” are:
I love my HUSBAND. He’s my best friend. The bonus? He loves me back.
I love my HOME. Because it is within our means and a cozy, memory making, safe, happy, comfortable blessing. I am SO thankful, that a few years ago, when the real estate market was going crazy, we didn’t buy a house we really couldn’t afford. Our daily lives would be very different. Our house would own us.
I love The Hallelujah Chorus. Every year, I have to go to EPCOT for the Candlelight Processional and get my annual Hallelujah Chorus fix. I try to go when Marlee Matlin is narrating. The year before last, we sat in the front row, near the musical sign language interpreter. Marlee, front and center, signing the Christmas story and an extremely talented sign language interpreter practically right in front of me, signing the music. INCREDIBLE.
I love the song “Hip to Be Square” It’s my ringtone. It’s my motto. What’s a motto? Nothing. What’s the motto with you? (movie trivia again. where’s it from?)
I LOVE the sound of Happy Children. Especially my own. My daughter. Singing at the top of her lungs. Her own made up songs. Without a care in the world. My son. Singing to whatever is on his itouch. When he thinks I’m not listening. If you are out somewhere trying to shush a loud child, don’t ever do it on my account. I knew kids were loud before I had them myself.
I love my Honda Odyssey. Because it’s paid for. And it starts EVERY time I turn the key. Do I want a different/new vehicle? No. And again NO. Because I would have to pay for it.
I love strong, tight Harmony. The harmony that comes when people are perfectly in tune. When they know and sing their own unique part, smooth and steady, while at the same time, they listen and adapt to blend . . . just right. I LOVE harmony. Musically and otherwise. I prefer harmony over unison. Musically and otherwise.
Heat. DRY heat. Specifically, the 6 x 4 foot cedar sauna in my garage. I bought it on eBay over 6 years ago. Someone won it at a home show and didn’t want it. I was digging my heels in at the expense, but FirstHusband strongly encouraged it. I haven’t gotten tired of it. I used it today. And I’m already planning on using it tomorrow.
Health. I’m so thankful for it and I’m not taking my health or the health of my family and friends for granted. I do NOT want a handicap sticker for my car. NO THANKS. I’m getting stronger. I’m walking. I’m eating healthier.
I got stuck here at the end. Do I cheat? Something like, “Honkin Big Pile of Books” or “Huge cup of coffee?”
I asked FirstHusband what he thought. He immediately said “Hope.” I asked him what he meant and he said, “Whenever you run across someone who is in, what they believe to be, a hopeless situation, you don’t accept that the situation is hopeless. You encourage them to consider an option or a path they hadn’t considered before. You love hope.
He’s right. I can be annoying that way. I was talking with FavoriteSon just yesterday about a problem he had and I clearly remember saying:
“I’m not saying I know what you should do. I don’t have the answer right now. I just believe there IS one.”
Hope. He’s right. FirstHusband is my density.
Want to participate in this meme? Write about ten things you love that begin with the first letter of your MIDDLE name. Then come back and comment on this post and link up to yours!
Walt Disney World in the summer is HOT. And I mean REALLY Hot. If you can go ANY other time of the year, do it. You will not miss the melting, the heat rash or the dehydration. And I am not exaggerating.
Expect the lines to be long. And I mean REALLY long. 120 minutes for Space Mountain is normal. It is possible to spend 12 hours at a Disney theme park and ride only 5 or 6 attractions. If you see a 45 minute line, be thankful. You will NEVER see this:
That’s Pirates of the Caribbean in February of 2008. Three days ago we waited 12 minutes. (February is a GREAT time to go to WDW.)
The heat and the lines aside, we’ve vacationed there in the summer for years. Even though we live 45 minutes from Walt Disney World, we’ve stayed in the resorts. Due to school schedules, we had to go in the summer just like everyone else. But we learned a few things about going to Disney in the summer:
We try to go when surrounding counties are still in school or back in school. Since we’re in private school, our calendars are sometimes off from public school by a week or two. For instance, the last day of school for Osceola County, where WDW is located, is June 4, 2009. Surrounding counties get out on June 3rd. Our last day of school is May 21st. The public schools begin again on August 24th. We begin on August 13th. So THIS year, if we were to go to Disney for a week, we would try to go at the beginning of the summer so we wouldn’t have to contend with locals so much.
Extra Magic Hours. Each day, one of the four theme parks at WDW has Extra Magic Hours. Resort guests – DISNEY resort guests – are allowed admittance into one of the parks one hour early and can stay inside that same park an extra three hours after closing. (You can leave and come back. You don’t have to stay the entire time.)
We NEVER take advantage of MORNING Extra Magic Hours. For example. Today, Sunday, February 15th, Magic Kingdom has extra magic hours. If we were staying on property we would NOT go to Magic Kingdom MORNING Extra Magic Hours because Magic Kingdom would be MOBBED with resort guests. We would instead, go to one of the OTHER parks because MOST of the resort guests are at Magic Kingdom.
Exception to the Morning Extra Magic Hours? Animal Kingdom. By far, the hottest of the parks. Not a lot of air conditioning at Animal Kingdom. If you want to see the animals, go EARLY. Leave when it gets hot. Come back in late afternoon or early evening. When you are on the safari and you see the animals lounging in what seems to be the perfect Kodak spot, it’s no accident. There’s an air conditioning vent out there to make that spot more attractive to them. The animals get air conditioning. You don’t. For years, we flat out skipped Animal Kingdom in the summer. It’s better in February.
We ALWAYS take advantage of the EVENING Extra Magic Hours. Even when PinkGirl was little. She adjusted to the change in schedule very quickly. Sometimes FirstHusband or I would take her off into a nook somewhere so she could nap in the stroller, but for the most part, she was right there with us, having fun.
My FAVORITE Extra Magic Hours are at Typhoon Lagoon on Saturday nights. A water park in the dark is FUN. Blizzard Beach doesn’t do Extra Magic Hours.
Water to Drink, Water to Spray.
Drinking. A bottle of water is $2.50. And it’s Dasani. We either bring our own bottles of spring water or buy ONE bottle of Dasani and fill it up at water fountains. We invested in the Disney bottle straps and either wore them around our neck or hung them on the stroller when PinkGirl was younger.
Spraying. Disney sells bottles of water with battery operated fans attached. For $17.00 each. Because they have Disney characters on them. Walmart sells similar bottles for about $3.99 each. No Disney characters. (A few years ago – the price is probably higher now.) We have both, but I got my Disney “misters” at garage sales. (okay, except for one. I bought ONE for $17.00 one year.) FirstHusband rigged up a fan and mister for PinkGirl that attached to her stroller canopy.
Sunscreens and Hats. Waterproof sunscreen. Nowhere near a baby or toddler’s hands. They WILL rub it in their eyes. That only happened to us once. Once was enough. Hats or visors means sunscreen isn’t needed on the forehead – which means it won’t run into eyes. Sunscreen in the eyes: BAD.
Extra Change of Kids Clothes. There are various places in the parks that kids can get squirted with water. And it is a GREAT way to cool off. But later? Wet socks can lead to blisters. Wet clothing can lead to chaffing. We kept a change of clothes for each kid in a a Ziplock bag. Wet clothes went in there after the kids got soaked. I’ll write another post on our “best practices” with regard to clothing, but let me say here – denim is NOT moisture wicking and when it gets wet, it can take a while to dry, no matter how hot it is.
Take a Break During the Heat of the Day. When PinkGirl was little, we would take a break during the heat of the day. If you’ve read ANYthing on Disney vacations, you’ve seen this before. DON’T IGNORE THIS ADVICE if you have little ones. We stayed at the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, for 3 summers. They are within walking distance to the back gate of EPCOT. From EPCOT, you can take a boat to Hollywood Studios or a monorail to Magic Kingdom. So it was VERY easy for FirstHusband and I to split up during the day. One of us would take PinkGirl back to the room for a nap while the other would take FavoriteSon on some “big kid” rides. It was wonderful. One grown-up got to rest with PinkGirl and the other got one-on-one time with FavoriteSon. (We were able to stay at these resorts because we had friends and family who got us what is called a “Friends and Family” rate, but there are less expensive resorts in that same area, still within walking distance from the back gate of EPCOT.)
But our BEST strategy for going to Disney World in the summer?
We Went Nocturnal. When PinkGirl got older and didn’t need naps, we adapted again. We went nocturnal. Here’s the typical schedule:
Spend the heat of the day at (1) Typhoon Lagoon, (2) Blizzard Beach or (3) the resort pool.
Take showers and get washed up for an early dinner (between 5 and 6pm)
Go to a REALLY nice dinner on property. (Character dinners are GREAT!)
Right after dinner, go to whichever park has Extra Magic Hours.
Stay for extra Magic Hours after the park closed for regular guests.
Leave that park around 2:00 a.m., getting back to the room and in bed around 3:00 a.m.
This is a GREAT summer schedule. By the evening, most of the resort guests who were at the theme park gate bright and early for Extra Magic Hours have long since left that park because they’re exhausted.
I’ll be writing more on our Walt Disney World “Best Practices” and I’ll list them under the “peace.love.mickey” page above, so check back!
I’ve been tagged for a “little known facts about me” meme by Debbie over at Midnight Musings. I haven’t added to my “little known facts page” (upper right corner) in quite a while, so this is good prompting. I’ve been doing a little recipe research/menu planning lately, so I’ll get some food facts out of the way first.
1. I like “clean” food. Not really a “sauce” person. Especially sweet sauces. Or thick sauces. FirstHusband is a sauce man.
2. I almost ALWAYS order salad with dressing on the side. I don’t care for salad soup, where there’s a puddle of salad dressing at the bottom of the bowl when I’m finished. Instead, I dip my fork in the little bowl of dressing before using it to stab some salad. At home, I can measure and add just the right amount , so it’s no big deal.
3. I love mushrooms. In anything. Cooked or raw.
4. I hate salmon. I went to London on an MBA class trip and was inundated with salmon everywhere we went. My classmates were convinced I would like it if I tried it baked. or grilled. or smoked. or poached. or whatever. I finally said, “How much salmon do I have to try before you all believe I DON’T LIKE SALMON?”
5. Sometimes, when we go out to dinner, I ask FirstHusband to “surprise me” and place my order for me. When I’ve made enough decisions for the day – or maybe for the week – and I just don’t want to make even one more, no matter how small, he graciously does this for me. Knowing my anti-sauce, anti-salmon, dressing on the side and mushroom preferences, among other things, he always does a GREAT job.
6. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a vocalist, but I’ve been too lazy to post any clips. Well, I finally took the time to figure out how to capture video from my antiquated camcorder, convert it to the “right” format and upload it to youtube. FavoriteSon was the camera man and he’s new at it, so we’ll cut him a break. I cut the beginning of this song because there was a dad/kid dispute near the camera which was louder than the music. This is Mary Did You Know, performed by me on Christmas Eve.
My daughter and I also performed a duet, singing Away in a Manger. She sang the first verse, we sang the second together and I sang the third verse alone. Two things of note. First, when she leaned over and whispered into my ear, JUST before we started singing the second verse, she whispered, “I accidentally farted.” (NOBODY tell her I posted that!!!) Secondly, notice her sneaky grin at the end of the song on the last few notes – JUST before she “bunny eared” me.
This last song is one of my favorites, Breath of Heaven, originally made popular by Amy Grant, but more recently by Nicol Sponberg, formerly of the group Selah. My camera man had a little trouble in the beginning, was too shy to tell a guy in a suit that he was blocking the camera in the middle and the tape ran out at the end.
7. I’ve probably mentioned that I also do a little public speaking, but until last year, I didn’t have a recording of any of my presentations. (And I didn’t know anything about uploading videos to youtube). This was recorded last May at a Mother’s Day Brunch. Please forgive the quality of the video, the lighting was not conducive to videotaping, but the audio guy did a great job!
So, Debbie, THANK YOU for the meme tag. It prompted me to FINALLY do this! I was recently asked if I had any recordings of my work and I knew I needed to get that May 2007 video up on youtube, but I was just dragging my feet. done. It’s after 1:00 a.m. – Kristin – are you up?
UPDATE: October 2009 – Uploaded more speaking samples to my youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/JulieStilesMills
For years decades, we’ve made something special for my dad for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s his sister’s recipe for Cranberry Salad. I remember making it as a kid, as do my sisters, but since we grew up and moved out, my mother – who fondly calls this dish “cranberry crap” – took over the job again.
This year, since my mother is in Arkansas, my father asked me if I would make it. Actually, my mother also asked me if I would make it for him and offered to give me the recipe. My father thought it would be nice if I called his sister, my Aunt Margie and ask her for it. I hadn’t spoken or seen my Aunt Margie in over ten years – not because of any problems, just logistics and lack of effort. It was a great impetus for renewing my relationship with my Aunt.
We easily fell into a very nice conversation and as she gave the me ingredients and instructions, I realized. My mother had a different version of this recipe. We had not been making my Aunt Margie’s Cranberry Salad all these years. I’ll explain and show photos as I go through the recipe.
2 bags of cranberries
2 apples (peeled and cored)
1 can of pineapple chunks (drained)
1 cup of sugar
walnuts to garnish
Wash the cranberries and discard stems and rotten berries.
Now here’s the pragmatic twist. My father delivered a hand grinder to me when he asked me to make this recipe. A hand. grinder. Serious flashback. I remember hand grinding the fruit and cranberries. Every. Year. What a mess. Cranberry juice everywhere. Seriously. A MESS. As soon as my sisters got old enough to use the grinder without losing a finger, I gladly passed the job to them. In their young naiveté, they thought it would be fun. By the time they realized it was a sticky and disgusting job, the cranberry crushing baton was completely out of my hands. When my mother took over again, I think she switched from hand grinder to blender. So over the years, the whole thing went from cranberry goo (in the grinder) to cranberry soup (in the blender).
Although resistant, I tested the grinder and my memory on the apples first. Yep. Just like old times. Applesauce anyone?
So I pulled out my handy dandy Oster chopper attachment.
And I tried again. MUCH better.
The red pieces in the applies are from the cranberries.
I chopped the cranberries, the apples and the pineapple using the “pulse” button on my chopper. Filling the container multiple times allowed me to chop in different . . . textures? Sizes? Basically, there are three different textures of cranberries and apples, ranging from finely chopped, medium chopped and barely chopped. I didn’t have to chop the pineapple very much since it started out in small chunks anyway.
That leaves the oranges. I made two changes which were a HUGE difference from how I made this as a kid. First, I zested the orange. We NEVER did that. NEVER. Didn’t even have a zester in the house growing up. I don’t own one now. I had to use a small grater. I got the sweetness and the taste, but not the texture. I’m buying a zester for next year.
The second difference with regard to the oranges? My Aunt Margie strongly emphasized removing the “white stuff” from the orange. It’s called the “pith” and while it is actually good for you, it tastes a little bitter. There are a few ways to remove the pith, but I just rolled the orange on the counter, peeled it and then cut away the white layer that remained. I also removed the inner white stuff – I’ve been calling it the “cartilage” of the orange. It’s hard and crunchy and bitter and it is THE reason I would never eat this cranberry salad. I hate that stuff. yuck.
Here’s the finished product sans the walnut garnish. I wasn’t serving any at the time of the photo and I didn’t want to waste the walnuts. I actually prefer pecans, myself. This can be made ahead and I’ve been told it freezes well too. Panara’s got nothing on my Aunt Margie.
My dad said he could tell the difference before he even tasted it, just from the way it looked. So could I. I tasted it, my younger sister tasted it, our dinner guests tried it – all with positive reactions. None of the kids would touch it. Big chickens. My dad took most of it home. I understand it’s great with vanilla ice cream.
I’m wondering, if I retain some of the fruit juice, heat it up and thicken it with cornstarch and stir it into the fruit mixture – would it make a good pie? I may test it next year in a Pillsbury pastry.
As always, I’m providing a print friendly version – CLICK HERE.