Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adventure and Simplicity in 2014

So here it is, a close to the year of 2013 and the approach of yet another new year.  All my life, I've always created some kind of resolution, was sure to eat a pork roast with sauerkraut for good luck and review my year of accomplished (or unaccomplished) goals.

This year, it will be different.

I'm being stubborn and I'm going against the grain for my New Year.  It all started right before Christmas when I went to my granddaughter's dance class.  Seeing those tiny little feet tap the floor with their shiny tap shoes, it triggered a childhood memory: I always wanted to take tap lessons.  Marcella was getting a violin for Christmas and that reminded me too, that I always wanted to learn how to play myself.  Looking back, I now understand that my parents had limited funds as I was growing up with two other sisters and Mom being a stay-at-home mom.  It may not even have been a financial issue, whereas a time factor as well.  There are many things I can now understand what my mom went through as a stay-at-home mom now that I am one, too.  I decided I wasn't going to just live vicariously through my children.  I'm going to take the plunge and go for it, for myself. 

My Wish List

A long long long time ago, I created a Bucket List.  I'm not even sure where it is, it's been so long ago.  I know it's in one of my hundreds of journals so it would take me a while to locate it.  But I do remember that many of the things on my list wasn't significant, or maybe they were.  I remember wanting to go on a hot air balloon ride...  Hope a butterfly would land on me.  That's all I remember.  So I decided I was going to create a new list.  And honestly, I don't like the term "Bucket List".  Seems so final, like I'm dying.  I'm going to create a Wish List for 2014.  I'm going to make a scrapbook of my wishes and then leave room for each wish to add photos and notes of when I do accomplish (or attempt) each wish.  I'm going to put severe thought into each wish.  They will not be frivolous and careless.  There will probably be a reason why I choose each wish.  I'm also not going to pressure myself in making sure each wish is accomplished in 2014.  Finances are always tight for us and most of my wishes will end up costing something, but that's okay. 

So starting tomorrow for the New Year, I will not eat sauerkraut and pork.  I hope that will jinx me into something good, something different. 

Simplicity & Happyness

One thing that I will go for is simplicity and happyness in my life.  Yes, "happy-ness".  My goal is to strive to say "no" more often.  Boy, this is a hard one for me.  When my husband came home and surprised me with a brand new computer, oh it was hard for me to say "no".  We didn't NEED a new computer (well, that's a fine line.  We were borrowing an old laptop dangerously out of memory) and we certainly didn't NEED another bill, but my eyes lit up when I saw that the monitor was more than double in size, new programs and yes, MORE SPEED and memory.  I'm going to have to work really hard on this one.

Does simplicity and happyness go hand in hand?  Simplifying life, my possessions and material "things" I've collected over the years really make me happy?  I think that's a big debate for lots of people.  Needs and wants are very different... or are they?  Do I really NEED that box full of I-don't-remember-what's-inside sitting in the closet for the past 12 years? Do I really NEED to keep my stuffed animals from my childhood that my own children don't care to love like I did?   Did we really NEED a new kitchen table?  (that was a big debate between my husband and me, but I still didn't say NO, either).  Needs and wants are very similar, if you ask me.  Sometimes what you want is something you need and sometimes something you need, you just plain want.  It's like creating a Christmas list.  I was always told to write a list of things I WANT, but what I want is something I NEED, like a wooden spoon or underwear.

So, for the upcoming New Year, I vow to create simplicity and adventure in my life.  I will work on saying "no", clear out material things I've collected over the years that I really don't need and make room in my house and my soul.  I refuse to become that "boring stay-at-home mom" that is always satisfied to stay home in my pajamas all day.  yeah....  I love those days!  I will create a wish list to better myself, learn something new, strive to live as my own person, not just my daughters' mom or my husband's wife, but me.  I will smile more, be silly more and dig deeper in my soul to find that hidden energy I've been wondering where it's been these past few months.  It's time to dig out that old scrapbook hiding in my closet that I haven't used yet.  Stay tuned and journey with me through my Adventure in 2014!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Homemade Lotion

I wanted to post this before Christmas but it would've ruined the surprise to my friends and family who read my blog.  I try to make Christmas gifts every year.  I can't afford to spend $20+ per friend/relative these days so making gifts makes it all the more special.  Last year I made laundry soap, but it didn't turn out so great.  After a month of using this homemade soap, my towels started to smell funny.  Needless to say, there's nothing like good ol' store-bought laundry detergent.  I can't remember all what I've made in the past years but nothing turned out quite as good as my homemade lotion that I made this year.

These beauties were so easy to make and they didn't cost very much at all.  I found the little containers at JoAnn Fabrics and used a 20% off coupon, too.  They were .75 cents a piece.  I used ribbon, labels and bows that I already had.  I suppose I could've printed the labels to make them prettier but I don't ever have colored ink so I hand-wrote them with glitter gel pens.  The coconut oil was around $6.50 and I got three containers out of each jar of oil.  The essential oils were anywhere from $9-$15, depending on the oil.  I'm never very good at figuring out how much each cost to make but it's roughly around $6-$9 each, depending on the essential oil(s) you choose.

All you do is put some coconut oil in a mixing bowl, beat it with a hand mixer until smooth and then add your favorite essential oil and mix.  I used lavender, bergamot, sage, peppermint and lemon.  I mixed and matched different flavors.  That's it!  After a day or two, the body butter will solidify more in the container but it can be used right away.

I've heard raves over these lotions.  There are 100 uses for coconut oil, which I plan to blog about soon.  In the meantime, these lotions are fantastic for dry, cracked feet, legs after shaving and dry, scaly skin and hands.

Maybe I'll open my own shop one of these days!

My Spit Is Dry

"Mom!  I'm thirsty."

"Lick your lips," was my reply.

"... But my spit is dry....."

Believe it or not, that was our conversation with our 6-year-old daughter on our way out of the mall not too long ago. 

My spit is dry, too.... and so is my body.  This winter is killing me!  I wake up with cotton in my mouth and my skin is so tight and dry, I feel like a wilted rubber band.

On top of feeling the affects of the wretched dry air and lack of light in my life, my energy level is being depleted by the hour. I watched four movies today.  Granted, I'm also coming down off the holiday high and I told myself I needed a day to be lazy and lazy I was!  So lazy that this house is a disaster and I'm content to let the kids play with friends all day just so I can watch TV all day.  So sad.  BUT!  I did take the dog for a walk today.  The poor guy hasn't been on a walk in, I don't know how many months. Pitiful dog master if you ask me.  On top of all that, I can't stop eating crap.  I don't eat potato chips, but lately I can sure down a whole bag of chips in a day, not to mention any cookies I can get my hands on.  I've gained a few pounds but it might as well be 20 pounds cuz that's how I feel!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I hope you all have many blessings in the New Year!  I suppose I'll be falling into that category with everyone else:  Eat all the crap I want until New Year's and then "get back on track and lose this holiday weight" with a New Year's resolution.  Ugh!  Maybe I'll just wait until Spring.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Grandma! I'm Home!

"Grandma.... I'm Home!"

I get to hear these words every morning when my darling granddaughter, Adyson comes over.  I love how she feels so comfortably at home, she knows where to hang her coat and where the cereal is.  Then when Ellen gets home from kindergarten, Adyson gets so excited to see the school bus arrive. 

"Ellen home!  Ellen home!  Ellen... hug!"

Her eyes light up over the simplest things.  She knows after lunch, her and Ellen get to play.

Most days, Ellen is so nice to Adyson it warms my heart.  Many days, it's hard to get Adyson to take a nap because they're having so much fun.

Camden is the easiest baby to take care of, just like Adyson was.  He doesn't ever fuss unless he's hungry or tired.  He'll just lay there and play.  He's so quiet, sometimes I forget he's here!

Then we get to do it all over again when Marcella gets home from school.

Elf on the Shelf - Here we go!

So, we jumped on the bandwagon and got an Elf on the Shelf.  Her name is Koda.  She's named after our beloved German Shepherd, Koda Bear.  The girls still haven't gotten over her so to make her live on, she's now our new elf.

I wish I had taken more pictures of this elf, some of the things she's gotten into.  I didn't really care if we had an elf or not.  I never was the kind of person to go along with everyone else, but this time I'm in.  I'm having a blast with this elf and shockingly, it's working!  Marcella and Ellen are getting along so well these days, I can't remember the last time I had to yell.   The first day, Koda arrived by appearing on top of the curtain rod with an arrival letter.  That very day, the girls noticed that Koda had a tag on her butt.  (insert a slap on the head here)  They thought that since Koda had a tag, then she was stuffed and not real.  Here comes Dad to the rescue:  He said that since there are so many elves and they all look alike, they have to have tags on them to tell them apart.  Then once they get claimed by a family and receive a name, the tag gets cut off and made official.  Clever, huh?  Marcella just thought the elf got a new outfit and Santa forgot to cut the tags off.

We were going to keep this elf simple and just move it around the house.  Umm... no.  That's too boring.  So Koda has taken a trip to the dining room light, had a tea party with Barbie and a Monster High monster, she's made friends with each of the girls' favorite stuffed animal and she's peeked her head out of the kitchen cabinet door.

 Yes of course, zip lining.

One night we forgot to move Koda.  Completely forgot about it until the girls found her still hanging upside down on the curtain rod.  Just as I was trying to figure out how to move the elf without the girls figuring it out, Jeff told me to leave it alone and tell the girls the elf is testing them.  So I told them:  "I think she's testing you to make sure you're paying attention to her..."  With confused looks, I said, "Well, no one talked to her all day yesterday and no one said good night to her...."  BINGO!  That worked.  Ever since the girls have been talking to Koda, showing her their school work, and saying good night.

Ellen showed Koda her Nutcracker she got when her grandma and I took her to see the Nutcracker. So Koda wrote the girls a letter...

Grandma Linda has made it a tradition to take each grandchild to the nutcracker when they were young.  The kids get to pick out their own nutcracker and they were proudly displayed at Grandma and Grandpa's house every Christmas.  Marcella went when she was about 6 years old and this year was Ellen's turn.  Grandma Linda has gone to the nutcracker 9 times.  That's 7 grandchildren, a daughter-in-law (me) and granddaughter-in-law. 

I wish we were able to get better pictures.  We're not supposed to take pictures in the Ohio Theater and the lights were dark.  We were already bundled up to free hands to hold onto each other, but at least we got a picture.  As always the production was fantastic!  We almost got to talk to one of the ballerinas and ask her to sign Ellen's nutcracker box, but she said goodbye to her friends and took off really fast.  Oh well.

Counting down the days 'til Christmas....  Entering panic mode.  We haven't even started shopping yet!  We have "special connections" with Santa because of Jeff's work.  He works on Christmas day this year so Santa said he'll make a special trip to our house the night before Christmas eve.  We're already short on days.  'Tis the Season!!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Christmas Is Not YOUR Birthday

"Sorry honey, I can't play with you right now.  I have to finish baking these pies and then start cleaning the house...."

"No, I can't take you to your friend's house to play.  I'm in the middle of waxing the kitchen floor..."

"Kids!  Out of the kitchen!  I'm trying to cook here!"

"Who made that mess in the living room?  Clean it up!  I don't have time to deal with this right now...."

Sound familiar?  The stress of the holidays are approaching us all and real fast.  Thanksgiving is over and as it took me a day or so to recoup from all the baking and cooking from the first family dinner, I'll soon be getting ready for another family Thanksgiving dinner this weekend. 

Then once that will be done, it'll be time to start the shopping. 

Oh the shopping.....









and more shopping.

What has happened to our holiday season that everyone has become too busy doing so many things all at once?  What is the season really about these days?  Family?  Santa?  Presents?  What's the first thing your kids say when you ask them what Christmas really means?

The Reset Button

Maybe it's time to push the reset button in our lives.  To go back to simpler times when family was the focus of the holiday season.  Where it's special to find two gifts under the Christmas tree instead of only one... or none.   Where moms and dads feel allowed to drop what they are doing to pay attention to the kids, even just for a few minutes.

Maybe it's time to let the guard down and make amends to those loved ones who have gotten lost.  To forget the pride of who's fault is whose, to forget the past and move on to the present. 

What is really important?  To prove a point or let the holidays slip by in a blink?

Unexpected and Undeserved

This holiday season, my goal is to try to be more creative.  To give a gift that's unexpected and maybe even undeserved.  To someone who has wronged me or someone I need to find forgiveness in and give them a gift they don't expect or maybe they don't even deserve. 

Instead of going shopping for that "one more gift", I'm going to try to find time instead.  To create that last gift with time from the heart.  I want to spend more time with my children without feeling hurried, to play a game with them, read a book and just snuggle in front of a good cartoon.  To listen more instead of talking more.  Pray more.  I invite you to do the same this Christmas.  Slow down and smell the cinnamon pine cones and take in all the blessings you have in your life. If it wasn't for Jesus being born, we wouldn't be celebrating Christmas.  Don't forget the reason for this season. 

                                                        flickr.com/Alessandro Pinna

 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly with your God."  - Micah 6:8
Inspired by Pastor Nathan Custer, Columbia Heights United Methodist Church, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gluten Free Pumpkin and Apple Pies

I hope everyone had a thankful Thanksgiving!  I helped my mom in the kitchen for two days.  We work well together in the kitchen and I really had a great time.  I learned more about making spaghetti sauce from scratch but I still have a lot to learn.

I decided I was going to make gluten free pies for Thanksgiving this year.  I usually forego dessert since I can't have it but this time, I was not going to skip it.  I found the most fantastic recipe from Gluten Free Girl, which was also featured on Oprah.com.  This recipe had me searching all over town looking for teff flour but never found it.  I eliminated it and used Laura's Artisan All Purpose Gluten Free flour and it turned out just fine.  I also learned that I never want to use shortening again.  Have you ever read the ingredients of shortening?  Ummm.... EWWWW!!!!!  So I found a different brand of leaf lard, which she recommends in her blog but it's pure lard with no soybean oil or hydrogenated oils.  Pure lard. Yeah... gross but using the right kind of fats in a pie crust is crucial and I think this lard made a world of difference.  AND it didn't give me heartburn like Crisco does.

Gluten Free Girl gives wonderful tips on making great pie crusts.  What I like about gluten free pie crusts is that you can't over-knead the dough because there's no gluten.

Even though you can play with this dough and not ruin it, it's not the easiest dough to transfer to a pie pan.  It falls apart so easily, you can't do much with it.  So I rolled the dough on parchment paper, put the pie pan on top of the dough, then slid a cookie sheet underneath.  Flipped it over and voila!  But once I peeled off the parchment paper and let the dough slide down inside the pie pan, it fell apart.  What makes it nice though, is that it's super easy to reconstruct and repair.

I'm terrible at taking pictures during the process.  I always think the end result will be a bust, but you can be sure I'll take pictures if my creation turns out looking good.  Gluten Free Girl shows you step-by-step.  It's fantastic!!!

These pies turned out SOOO GOOD!!!!  I didn't realize that the huge can of pumpkin that I had only made one pie.  Usually they make two so I was off to the store at the last minute buying more pumpkin to finish off the last pie crust.  Then it dawned on me that the can I had was for Pumpkin Mix.  So the pie on the left was made with regular pumpkin where I had to add the sugar and milk, etc and the pie on the right is the pumpkin mix.  I really couldn't tell a difference, except maybe the regular pumpkin pie was a tinge sweeter.  I thought the pumpkin mix looked prettier, deeper in color.

My mom always took the leftover dough, rolled it out and smeared butter all over it and sprinkled cinnamon and sugar.  She'd roll it up and slice it so it looked swirled.  I don't think we ever had a name for it, but man are they good!  Unfortunately, I couldn't do that with this gluten free dough so I made the next best thing:

I call them cinnamon sugar chips.  I took the leftover dough and smashed pieces through my fingers to make flat pieces of dough "chips".  Sprayed them with cooking spray and sprinkled cinnamon and sugar.  Bake 350 for about 15 minutes and oooohhhhh!!!!!  They were sooooo good!  I thought they would be good sprinkled over vanilla ice cream but I was so full and tired that night, I just couldn't do it.  Better believe next time, I'll be trying it!

Next weekend, we'll be doing Thanksgiving again with my husband's family.  Of course, I'll be making these pies again.  I never seem to get enough pumpkin pie this time of year.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Your Kids Really Think of You

So life has taken over lately.  In fact, my days flew by so fast, I didn't even realize it's been what, two weeks since I've posted?  I guess I'm going to end up being a bulk blogger.  I'll post everything in a day just to save time.

So lately, we switched cable providers which caused me to have to change my email address that I've had for 12 years.  Instead of getting an average of 30 emails a day, I'm down to about 2.  I guess I should've changed sooner.  Then a couple days later, my husband brought home a very early Christmas present:  a new computer.  We've been borrowing my sister's old laptop for several years and it's been good to me, but now we have our very own large-screen hp desktop with Windows 8.  It's fantastic and I'm still getting used to Windows 8.  The only thing I'm not happy about is Office 365.  The new version of Outlook stinks and now I have to get used to using Yahoo! mail.  Such a sad, torturous story but I'll spare you my pitiful details. 

As if that wasn't enough, we got a new computer desk.  We've been talking about it for years but it was one of those ripple affects that once you move one piece of furniture, the other rooms follow suit.  So we finally bit the bullet and just did it. That meant I went from having 3 drawers, shelves and a hidden compartment to no drawers or shelves.  (I had a lot of crap hidden in my old desk!) But I finally got to bring in my two-drawer filing cabinet from the garage that's been put for way too long.  Part of that ripple affect: we got a new kitchen table, too.  It's a counter top with 8 chairs.  We've had the same 4-chair table forever and it was never big enough for our large family, but boy has that table seen some crafts in its day!  I LOVE my new kitchen table!

But my real reason for posting tonight is that I want to share a video a friend of mine sent me.  It brought tears to my eyes.  Just when I start to wonder why God has entrusted me with children after having a very bad day (and counting down the minutes to when the school bus arrives), I imagine my kids whining about me all day to their friends at school.  "That mom of mine....  she drives me crazy!  She's so mean!  She yells all the time...."  And on those days when my daughter tells me that I'm the best mom ever, I wonder what she's really wanting.  Sound familiar? 

Ya know what?

When your child says "you're the best mom ever!"  she's telling you the truth.  Kids know a thing or two about love.  We become our own worst critic when the only thing our child sees is:





If you don't believe me, watch this video.  It's not very long so if you had a bad day today, yelled at the kids and grounded them to their rooms, and have been declared as "The meanest mom ever", enjoy this video!

What Kids Really Think of Mom

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

I came across a blog that had gluten free peanut butter cookies and she raved so much about them, I had to try them.  Afterall, I'm so stuck on chocolate chip cookies, it's about time I try something new.  They are fantastic cookies and both my girls liked them.  The true test will be what my hubby says about them!  Alex Thomopolous is a food blogger and a professional chef.  Pay her a visit and check out her other fancy and easy recipes.  A little shout out is the least I can to support other bloggers when they give me good ideas.

What you need:
1 c. smooth peanut butter (I prefer natural peanut butter for a better, healthier cookie)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg at room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

What to do:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth.  (I used electric hand mixer, or a whisk will do, too)

Roll dough into balls, about a tablespoon size and place on greased cookie sheet.

350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

After 10 minutes, my cookies were still in balls so I took the good ol' fashioned fork and gently pushed each cookie down to get those fun criss-cross marks that peanut butter cookies are so famous for.  Then I continued baking for another 4-5 minutes.

Take cookies out and let cool on baking sheet for 3-5 minutes.  Then gently transfer the cookies to parchment paper or a cooling rack.  Let sit for 10 minutes and they will become a bit crispier.  Trust me, wait the 10 minutes.  They aren't quite as good until they've been cooled to a firmer cookie.


Gluten Free Basic Biscuits

These biscuits are fantastic!  I've tried several other gluten free biscuit recipes and none compares to this one.  At least these didn't come out looking like cookies... uh.. yeah.  True story!

Try adding Parmesan cheese, Italian seasonings or cinnamon to change it up for something new.

Now, this recipe said to flatten the biscuits to 3/4" thickness, which I did.  I don't think it was necessary, although you may have to increase baking time if you leave them high mounds.  I will try that next time.  I also added the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

This recipe calls for almond flour/meal and golden flaxseeds, which are very healthy ingredients.  They have 8g of protein, 9g carbs, 18g fat and 6g fiber.  200+ calories per biscuits.  Yikes!  However, they are a FAR cry from the Red Lobster biscuits so at least you're getting fiber, low carbs and protein out of these babies!

AND!  My kids liked them too.  What more could you ask for?  Try these biscuits with the Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup recipe.  Excellent accompaniment!

What you need:
1 c. almond meal/flour
1 c. golden flaxseeds
3 tsp. baking powder
4 TB cold butter, cut into cubes
4 egg whites

What to do:
Mix almond flour, flaxseeds and baking powder (and Parmesan cheese if using).

Cut in butter until well blended.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Gently fold in egg whites into flour mixture until well blended.

Spoon dough on a baking sheet and flatten to 3/4" thickness.  Bake 350 degrees for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Makes approximately 9 biscuits.

Recipe from Wheat Belly Cookbook by William Davis, MD.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup - Gluten Free

What's for dinner?  You've got to try this soup! It's filling and very easy to make.  Again, as most of my gluten free recipes I try out, I have my doubts.  I always worry my kids won't eat what I make and I'll hear complaining all through dinner.  As always to my surprise, it turned out fabulous and my kids liked it too!

This recipe calls for Wild Rice, which is a very healthy grain.  It doesn't raise your insulin level and give you a big energy drop like regular rice would.  It's low in carbs (21g), high in protein (27g) and it's only 300 calories!  This soup is fantastic with the gluten free basic biscuits recipe.

What you need:
6 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. wild rice
1 lb. boneless, chicken breast, cubed
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 + tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
2 medium heads of broccoli, cut very small pieces
2 c. half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:
In a large pot, bring the broth to a boil and add the wild rice.  Cover and cook medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

Add chicken, carrots, onion, celery, lemon-pepper seasoning, salt and pepper.  Cook covered for 15 minutes.

Add broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes or until broccoli and rice are tender.

Gradually stir in half-and-half, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until heated through.

Serves 6

Recipe from Wheat Belly Cookbook by William Davis, MD.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gluten Free Mozzarella Sticks

I'm linking up with Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity for Homemade Monday.

So I've been enthralled by this new book I tripped over at the library, The Wheat Belly Cookbook, by William Davis, M.D.  More posts about what I've been learning about wheat later!  But one of the recipes I found in this book is Gluten Free Mozzarella Sticks.  Oh yum!

I have to admit these little sticks looked a bit leery to me.  My kids kept asking if we were having sausages for dinner.  Then I got nervous.  They weren't going to eat these!  But I trudged on.


2 TB arrowroot (which I didn't have so I substituted 2 TB of cornstarch)
2 eggs
3/4 c. golden flaxseed meal (which I didn't have so I substituted ground flaxseeds)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 tsp. crushed basil
12 string cheese sticks
6 TB coconut oil
1c. warm marinara sauce (I used plain spaghetti sauce)
In one bowl, mix the arrowroot or cornstarch, flaxseed, cheese and basil. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat eggs.
I cut the string cheese sticks in half to work with easier but this your option.
Coat cheese in egg and roll in flaxseed mixture and repeat.
Continue for all the sticks and place on a plate or baking sheet.
Freeze for 30 minutes.
Heat coconut oil in skillet over medium heat.  Cook 3-6 sticks in the oil for 1 minute or until golden brown and sticks start to become soft.  Place cooked cheese sticks on a paper towel lined plate.  Serve with marinara sauce.  Enjoy!
I was really surprised how good these things were!  My kids loved them.  What's so great about them?  No flour, flaxseed is good for you and they were cooked in coconut oil, which is also good for you.  Now you have a good excuse to have fried mozzarella sticks for dinner and not feel guilty!!!

Flower Pens - Great Teacher Gift

My daughter wanted to give her preschool teachers a gift last year for Teacher Appreciation Week.  I loved these pens so much, I made some of my own and they stayed in a vase on my kitchen table all summer long.  They are super easy and super cheap if you find the flowers on clearance.

I bought a package of pens for around $2.  I already had florist tape so I'm not sure how much that is.  I found a vase for .79 cents and a bag of pretty stones for around $2.  I split this bag of stones between three vases.  Each vase got 3 pens and her lead teacher got 4 pens.  I found the flowers at Walmart for .50 cents a piece.  So I spent around $12 to make 3 gifts.

To help the bulkiness of the pen, I used wire cutters to strip the green plastic off the flower stem to expose a thin wire.  I used the florist tape to tape the thin wire to the pen. 

I took brown construction paper and lightly crumbled it into the bottom of the vases.  Then I divided the stones.  This helped fill the vase, made it look more like dirt and helped the pens stay in place and not get broken on the stones.  This wouldn't be needed if you use a small flower pot.


Other variations: Use a small pot instead of a vase and glue ribbon around the vase to make it more colorful. Use aquarium stones, rice or sand. Add a small hand trowel with the flowers and tie a ribbon around the handle.
Then, simply add a note:
"A teacher's like a gardener
And this is so you'll know
We surely do appreciate
How you helped the children grow"


Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have tried many different variations of gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipes and none compares to my mother's recipe.  All I do is substitute the flour for King Arthur All Purpose flour.  It has a bit of a gritty texture but it's so much better compared to the Bob's Redmill brand.  That's just my opinion.  Either flour works just fine.  I've included the regular recipe along with the gluten free recipe.  Keep in mind, using regular flour does not make these cookies gluten free.

What you need:

3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar (this can be cut down by preference)
1 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. shortening
1/2 c. stick butter
1 1/2 c. shortening (as much as shortening is bad for you, I'd hate to say it, but using this option makes these cookies a heck of a lot better than using butter!  If you don't mind a flatter, crisper cookie, go for the butter.  The taste is fantastic!)

Beat these ingredients to death until soft and fluffy.  While mixing, add the following ingredients in a smaller bowl:

3 1/2 c. King Arthur All Purpose Flour
1 c. Tapioca Flour/Starch
4 1/2 c. King Arthur All Purpose Flour (your cookies will be a bit more grittier) or regular flour
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

Mix dry ingredients together well.

Slowly add dry ingredients to mixing bowl.  Beat well.
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. vanilla
1 large package of chocolate chips (16 oz.) 
1 TB water
1c. nuts (optional)

Mix well.

Using gluten free flour, chill dough for about half an hour before baking.  No need to chill if using regular flour.

350 degrees for 13-15 minutes using Gluten Free flour or 11 minutes using regular flour.


Greased 11x17 pan 375 degrees for 20 minutes, cut into squares.  I have not tested this option with gluten free flour.

Do not double this recipe!

Bacon Wrapped Vegetable Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I'm not the best at taking pictures while cooking, so my recipe blogs may be a bit boring.  But I came across this recipe when I was watching the Weather Channel one Sunday morning.  It made my mouth water just looking at it.  This recipe is so easy that it's not going to come as a traditional recipe style.  So here goes....

What you need:
Chicken breasts
Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
All kinds of finely diced colorful vegetables: red/green peppers, mushrooms, shredded carrots, tomatoes, yellow/green zucchini or squash, etc.
Salt & Pepper, any other spices you desire
Thick style bacon
Toothpicks soaked in water for at least 15 minutes

What to do:

Preheat grill

Lay cling wrap on top and bottom of  chicken breasts.  Pound breasts thinly.
Place cheese and vegetables on center of breasts.
Wrap breasts as tight as possible.
Wrap bacon around breasts.  It took 3 or 4 per breast, mostly to hold the vegetables inside.
Use toothpicks to keep breasts wrapped tightly.

Grill the stuffed chicken breasts on indirect medium heat until 165 degrees internal temperature.  If you're afraid of grease flare ups, you can precook the bacon in a skillet until it's flimsy to drain grease before wrapping around the chicken breasts.

Once done, cover breasts lightly with foil and let sit for about five minutes to let all the juices flow together. 

Add some grilled corn on the cob, grilled zucchini and you've got yourself an amazing dinner!  Who says gluten free meals have to taste icky? 

Cocoa and Coffee Facials

Caught your attention, didn't I?  Is there anything better that go together like coffee, chocolate and a facial?  I love trying new recipes, new ideas and products. This crazy idea of mine was inspired by my 8-year-old daughter and her friend when they had a sleepover the other night.  They wanted to do facials and since I didn't have any store-bought facial stuff, I had to look up recipes that would be good for young skin.  You can read the story here.  So as I was looking up recipes, I found one that cocoa and coffee were the main ingredients.  Caught my attention, too.  Of course, I had to try this when my husband wasn't around.

So, cocoa is actually good for your skin.  The recipe I found said to use unsweetened cocoa but doesn't specifically mention to use dark cocoa.  I've read articles that it has to be real, dark chocolate because milk chocolate is not the same.  Dark chocolate smooths and hydrates the skin and because it contains antioxidants, it helps with sun sensitivity, too.  Milk chocolate doesn't.  Sorry if you're a milk chocolate fan.

Coffee, glorious coffee, takes away puffiness and brightens the skin (hello, caffeine!).  Need I say more?

I will say that this facial mask smells divine!  It really should be used in the mornings.  What better way to start the day with a coffee aroma on your face and chocolate?????  Hello!

Coffee & Cocoa Facial Mask

4 TB finely ground coffee or espresso (instant will work too)
4 TB unsweetened cocoa powder (I recommend the dark chocolate powder)
8 TB dairy product (whole milk, unflavored yogurt, almond or soy milk or heavy cream)
2 TB honey if you have dry skin or lemon juice if you have oily skin.

Mix coffee and cocoa together.
Add dairy product.  I only used 6 TB of almond milk.  I would only use 5 TB next time for a bit thicker consistency.
Mix well.
Add 2 TB of honey or lemon juice
Mix well.
Apply and let dry.  Then wash off with warm water or wash cloth.

This recipe makes a lot!  You can easily half this recipe or invite a few friends over to try together.  You can refrigerate for a few days.

I was surprised that this mask dried just like a regular facial mask.  It felt amazing and felt cooling on my skin.    Be gentle when applying on face.  The coffee grinds act like an exfoliant.  I used some on my hands as well!

This picture just proves that I can have a sense of humor about myself.  I had to talk myself several times into doing this.....

Now, I know what you're thinking.  I thought it too AFTER I applied the mask and thought, oh crap!  What have I done????  Chocolate and coffee are very staining substances! No need to worry.  It didn't stain at all....

I never post photos of me unless I've Photoshopped them.  Yeah, it's a sickness of mine.  I wish I could permanently Photoshop my face for real.  Here's a picture of me before and after this facial.

You really can't tell a difference in the pictures.  After I used this mask, my skin looked brighter and my hideous acne scars were lessened.  My skin felt smoother and I smelled really good!  :)  Even the pouches under my eyes were almost gone.

I guess the real test will be what my skin will look like in the morning.  If you try this, let me know what you think!



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wordless Wednesday 10/9/13

Welcome to Wordless Wednesday!
Photos of Downtown Columbus, Ohio

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Catching Up

So it's been a fantastic summer!  Not hot enough in my book.  We had a couple weeks of 90 degree weather but it didn't last long enough for me.  I've stuck with my gluten free diet for six months now and lost 30 pounds!  Here's a picture of me one year ago:
and here's me now:

I haven't felt better in years!  I have recently eaten foods with gluten in them, such as pizza and they no longer make me sick; however, they do make me break out really bad if I eat too much in one day.  So my goal is to only eat those types of food very rarely and very little of it.  Gluten also makes me feel very sluggish and moody so that's another reason to avoid the stuff.

It has helped that we've been non-stop all summer.  I love being busy!  The girls and I went to Girl Scout Summer camp.  Of course, the week we were there was the one of the two weeks we had 90 degree weather and terrible storms.  It stormed three out of the 5 days of camp but it didn't matter.  We still had a great time.

We went to Cook's Forest in Pennsylvania right after camp.  I haven't been there since I was a kid and I think it got more beautiful since.  It's quiet.... beautiful.... well, I guess I can't explain just how great being outdoors in the woods is to me!

I actually made it all the way through summer before I started counting down the days until school started.  I really didn't want school to start.  I was enjoying the carefree days of summer, but a couple weeks before school started, the girls started arguing and fighting a lot more.  Enough said about that.

Then the most amazing thing happened.  I became a Grandma, again!  Yes, I said Grandma.  Camden Charles was born on September 14, 2013, one day before Jeff's and my 12th wedding anniversary.

I get to babysit Adyson and Camden when my daughter-in-law goes back to work.  I'm so excited about it.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying the quiet mornings when both my girls are in school.  I'm trying to get things done while I'm kidless in the mornings but I just can't seem to stop being busy long enough to get stuff done.  Not too much of a problem to me. 

Since school started, I became my daughters' Girl Scout troop leader.  I absolutely love it!  We have 9 Juniors and 5 Daisies.  I knew it was going to take a lot of my time, but I had no idea it was going to suck up ALL my free time.  But I don't mind, really.  It's still the beginning of the year and both my co-leader and I are new at this. I do have tons of pictures of their bridging ceremony but they are on my big camera, and if I get that out now to upload the pictures, this post will never get done. 

I'm impressed I've gotten this far on this post in one day.

Ellen turned 6 on the 29th, along with Adyson, my granddaughter.  They are lucky enough to share a birthday.  This year, Ellen got a big party since she's in kindergarten.  Her birthday party was at Sweet and Sassy and it was the girliest girly girl party of the year!

 So that's my summer in a nutshell.  It was a fantastic summer!

So tell me, how was your summer?