Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Double Berry Pops

I found this fantastic treat recipe in the Gluten-Free Bible.

Double Berry Pops

2  cups plain yogurt (I used vanilla flavored)
1  cup blueberries
3  TB sugar
6  5-oz Dixie cups (plastic or paper) or pop molds
1  cup strawberries
6  pop sticks

1. Combine 1 cup yogurt, blueberries and 1 1/2 TB sugar.  Blend until smooth.

2. Pour mixture into cups and freeze one hour.  After one hour, add the sticks.

3.  Combine 1 cup yogurt, strawberries and 1 1/2 TB sugar.  Blend until smooth.

4. Pour over blueberry layer.  Freeze for at least 4 hours.  Cover with foil if needed.

5.  To serve, peel away paper cup or gently twist frozen pops out of the plastic cups or molds.

Tips:  Try other flavors such as orange and lemon, using grated lemon and orange peels; key lime and orange, or make the berry pops all one flavor.

These were a huge hit with my kids.  No artificial flavors or aspartame (if using original yogurt brands and not lite), low in sugar and healthy fruit.


Chore Charts

It feels good to not have so much going on at once.  It feels good to get caught up on sleep, to not have to be running around all over the place and actually finish up the million little projects around the house.  Now with the kids out of school, I've made it clear that I will not be doing all the work around here by myself while everyone else gets to play all day.  I wasn't very motivated to make yet another chart on the computer and have the kids put stickers on each chore and have them lose interest after a day or two. So I adopted an idea for chores off of Pinterest by

Each child picks a color.  Paint one-half of the Popsicle or craft stick and write the chore on the other.  If your sticks are big enough, a small mason jar works perfectly but I had these little containers that worked better with Popsicle sticks.

Each child gets a container.

 Then I put them in a larger container to keep them all together.  A pretty basket would work great, too.

Once the child completes the chore, the Popsicle stick gets turned upside down.  When all the colors are showing, he/she is free to go play.

I added a container for weekly chores such as clean bedroom, clean bathroom, sort and put away laundry, etc. Those sticks stay in the weekly container and once those sticks are color-side up, they stay that way until the week is done unless that chore needs done again before the week is up.

I added a "Good Deeds" container with golden sticks.  If a child chooses to do a good deed, she gets to move that stick color-side up to her container.  Good deeds are chores such as: help fold laundry, help make dinner, play a game with your sister, clean downstairs bathroom, pick up dog poop, etc.

Each child also has the option to do a chore for someone else.  It's considered a good deed and they can move that stick to their own container, color-side up. 

We have not really decided any incentives for these chore sticks.  Right now, their incentives are being able to go play and not be pestered by Mom, but ideas were being kicked around that if all the chores are done each day for the week, we'll go out for ice cream or do something fun.

We are on day 2 and so far, it's been very successful.  I would love ideas on how to keep the kids motivated to want to do their chores.  We can't always afford to give allowances but when the kids need something or want to do something special, they usually get it because they've done chores.  Any suggestions?

Just Gettin' Off This Crazy Ride!

As I was walking up 79 stairs in my bare feet holding a foam mat to ride down the Dolphin Dash water slide at Zoombezi Bay for the third time, it dawned on me that now that I'm out of this humongous whirlwind of a life, I haven't even blogged since Spring Break. My schedule became so full, I broke out into hives from the stress of having to be in 3 different places at once.  One Monday, my husband and I were sitting on the couch with no kids around and nothing to do, someone (meaning me, yes I'll admit) had the bright idea to go visit a gymnastics place.  The girls had been begging us for a long time to go back to gymnastics but we just haven't been able to afford it.  But this place offers fundraising so some or all of the cost could be relieved from out of pocket.  We liked the place so much, we signed on that night. What little did we know, the month of May was going to be the most stressful month we've ever had! We had school, gymnastics, cheer, Girl Scouts, camping, horseback riding, violin lessons, appointments and year-end parties all scheduled during the month of May.  Memorial Day weekend came and my schedule came to a screeching halt. The only thing we have going on now is gymnastics and cheerleading.

Introducing the newest members of Rock Solid Academy:

Marcella is on the gymnastics team...

And Ellen is on the "mini" cheerleading team...

Mondays through Thursdays in the evenings have been spoken for the next year of our lives.

My Happiness Project

My Happiness Project has taken the way-back burner.  I foresee changes and new opportunities coming my way very soon, though.  I signed my family up to help decorate the parade float for Rock Solid, I hope to join the parent team and compete in dance and I'm hoping to start a vegetable garden very soon.  That always makes me happy.  I finally nailed my front tuck on the trampoline, in which I had been a very big chicken over doing for years now.  When someone told me I was too old to be doing "that kind of crap", I made it a point to JUST DO IT and one day, I did.  I refuse to allow someone to call me too old to do anything and I won't let my children ever see me give up on something I'm too scared to do. I've been out there doing cartwheels and hand stands with my girls just to show them that Mom can still be "cool" and young.... at least young-at-heart.  I probably look like a fool and I really have no business tumbling around on a mat but I don't care.  I miss being a kid again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ribbon Jell-O Recipe

This dessert is fantastic for picnics and parties.  Keep in mind, though that it takes all day to make but the results are so worth it!

What you need:

 4 small boxes of jello - any flavor
1 c. boiling water for each color until dissolved
1/2 c cold water
2 c. milk
1 c. sugar
2 pkg unflavored gelatin
2 c. (16 oz) sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
Glass 13x9 cake pan
Whipped cream (optional)
Crushed nuts (optional)

What to do:

Make sure refrigerator is leveled.  If necessary, place a magazine or a thin book on the shelf so that the jello will set evenly in the pan.

Place first color of jello in a medium size bowl and add 1 cup of boiling water.  Stir until completely dissolved.  Then add 1/2 c. cold water.  Stir.  Pour in glass pan and place in refrigerator to set.

Meanwhile, make the white mixture:

In a large sauce pan, bring 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of sugar to a boil, stirring constantly until all sugar is completely dissolved.  (Do not use a whisk to stir)

Place the 2 packages of unflavored gelatin in a cup and 1/4 cup of cold water.  Stir.  Then add to boiling milk mixture.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from heat.

Add 2 cups of sour cream and 2 tsp of vanilla to boiling milk mixture.  Use hand mixer to mix very smooth.

Divide the white mixture in 3 separate bowls (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups each).  Set aside.

Once first color of jello is set, pour first bowl of white mixture on top of jello layer.  Place dish back in the refrigerator to set.  Continue making the next color of jello.

Repeat steps until all layers are added and set.

Add whipped topping and nuts if desired.


*You can make all colors of jello at once and allow to sit at room temperature.
*Try different jello colors for different occasions, such as blue and pink for a baby shower, red and blue for a Fourth of July picnic or pastel colors (lime, orange and lemon) for Easter.
*Before adding next layer, touch the top layer to be sure it's not tacky and doesn't stick to your finger.  If it's still tacky, place dish in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up setting.
*You can spread whipped cream over the whole top to finish the jello dessert or use a squirt whipped cream to squirt a little "cloud" on each piece individually.
*This dessert can take all day.  Allow at least five hours or more to finish.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What Did You Say?

I've been saying that a lot lately.  "Huh?  What did you say?"  Since we got back from our Old Man's Cave trip, I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, and then it spins around like a top and it hasn't stopped since.

I've trained my eyes to focus on what I'm concentrating on and allowing my other eye to look at someone else who's trying to have a conversation with me while words to someone else is coming out of my mouth.  All along I'm trying to complete the task at hand.  Looking at two different things does nothing.  The brain is only trained to focus on one thing at a time, but my brain won't accept that.

A good friend told me one day, "Hun, you can't multitask anymore because you're already multitasking a million other things right now and you can't add anything else."  Oh, how I love her!  You know who you are!

So for two weeks, I've been nonstop.  So overwhelmed, I completely forgot about my Happiness Project.  We somehow slipped into the exciting world of gymnastics, which has now been added to the schedule of Girl Scouts, violin lessons, Safety Patrol, and study groups.  I'm now down to one free night a week, and that's if I'm lucky.

That's when it hit me, out of the blue and I thought to myself, "Hey!  You were going to sign yourself up for tap lessons!"  Just when I was trying to keep the schedule as simple as possible, we added one more thing and blew my little Happiness Project goal out of the water.  Honestly, it's okay.  Once school is over, we'll be down to two activities per week and maybe I can squeeze a tap lesson or two in there for me.

As if a crazy, busy schedule wasn't enough, I get to add the role of Referee to my list of duties.  I can honestly tackle this schedule with success if I didn't have a child who cries over everything, one that complains about the child crying over everything, arguments every two minutes by fighting siblings and kids who can't do a one-minute task in one minute.  It's that time of year where everyone is trying to squeeze everything in at once before school lets out and if I think too much about what's on my schedule, I will simply breakdown and cry.  So I take it one day at a time, one minute at a time and try to avoid those conversations that start out with, "Hey Jill!  You know what would be fun....?"  "Hey Jill!  You know what we should do...?"  "Hey Jill!  Let's sign our kids up together for...."  "Hey Jill....."

Hang in there with me.  I might need a rope to pull me out of this sinking schedule hole, but as I check To-Do's off my list, I'll find more time to write.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Adventure #2 - Old Man's Cave

It happens every year.  The week before Spring break:  nice sunny weather.  The week of Spring break:  cold, rainy and snowy.  When the kids go back to school the following Monday:  Sunny and warm all week.  Never fails.  This year, we didn't let the weather keep us down.

Jeff and I took the girls to Old Man's Cave and stayed in "our" log cabin for a few nights.  Going to Old Man's Cave goes way back to the start of when Jeff and I started dating, 16 years ago.  I came home from work one Friday night and Jeff told me to pack a weekend bag.  He wouldn't tell me where we were going so he gave me a few basic hints of what to pack but that was it.  I got into his truck and looked in the back.  I saw firewood, rope, and an axe, amongst other things.  I started to panic and wondered who I had just gotten engaged to. 

"Uh, Jeff...  You have to tell me where you're taking me," looking in the back of the truck.

Jeff looked in the back and said, "Yeah... that doesn't look good, does it?"

That's when he told me he was taking me to Old Man's Cave.  We loved the cabin so much, that we stay in the same cabin every time we go there.  This time, we shared it with our two girls.

Oh yeah, the firewood and axe was for the wood burning fireplace, just in case you were wondering; and the rope and other things were from the stables where we lived.  He always had farm stuff in the back of his truck.  I love telling that story.

We had a fantastic Spring break.  It snowed really hard the first night, almost an inch, but luckily it was all melted by the next afternoon. 

So to stay warm, we hung out in the hot tub!

We hiked everyday.

The ice on the hiking trails was breathtaking.

The ice was so thick in some areas, the kids had fun sliding down the frozen waterfalls.

Having a tasty snack.

Our little explorers.

 Winter is our favorite time to visit Old Man's Cave.  It may be cold, but the trails are so beautiful with frozen waterfalls, and sitting in a hot tub with snow on the ground makes the achy muscles all go away.

My Happiness Project continues with Adventure #2!!!  It was so nice getting away from phones (no cell service there!), internet, schedules, homework, meetings and have-to's.

If you would like to see more of my photos from our trip, visit my Flickr account.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Little Holiday Big Deal #2

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  You know, I've never cared about Saint Patrick's Day.  I never knew about the tradition of pinching someone if they didn't wear green until we moved to Ohio.  I thought it was the stupidest  tradition, especially when I would get pinched all day long at school.  I don't know if I ever owned anything green other than a pin or a pair of socks.  I'm not Irish and I don't believe in luck, so celebrating Saint Patrick's Day is really a wash for me.

Until I learned.....
In 400 A.D., Patrick was born in Britain and was kidnapped at 16 years old by Irish raiders and was made a slave. After six years of slavery, he escaped and fled back to Britain and became a priest.  He later chose to return to Ireland as a missionary and helped spread the teachings of Christianity to pagans. According to Irish folklore, he used the shamrock to teach the pagans about the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He established monasteries, churches and schools, baptized newly converted Christians and continued his work for 30 years in Ireland until he died on March 17, the day we celebrate The Feast of Saint Patrick.

While many Catholics still observe Saint Patrick's Day by going to mass, the holiday has slowly evolved to become a celebration of Irish heritage. Through the years, shamrocks, ethnic cuisines and wearing green has adapted to other countries' traditions such as Japan, New Zealand, Argentina, and Canada, along with many cities across the United States.

So there you have it.  Saint Patrick wasn't even Irish but because he spread Christianity throughout Ireland for so many years, he became a legend that many parts of the world celebrate his success today.

And with that history, we made a little holiday, a big deal... well, at least as big of a deal as I could on a holiday I never cared about before.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Marcella!

My baby turned 10 on March 7th.  Still to this day, I think about what I did the day before she was born 10 years ago.  I remember every detail.
Her party was at the Chiller, ice skating.  She even helped her Aunt Sheena make her own cake.  "Frozen" theme, of course!

 And we had face painting, too!

Marcella wanted her art teacher to come and paint faces.  We were so tickled that she came.  She even ice skated with all the kids, too!

We've come to love ice skating.  So much in fact, we all got our own ice skates for Marcella's birthday.  Thanks, Marcella!  Now it's on the calendar every weekend to go ice skating.  I suppose this goes down in my Happiness Project for learning something new, too!

I can't believe my baby is 10!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Adventure #1

I love Groupon.  I got an offer from Young Chefs Academy for a cooking class for kids.  So the girls went to learn how to cook and my hubby and I went out on a date!  Honestly, the girls had so much fun, I wish I had bought more Groupons for this. 
While the kids were learning to make Pierogies and Rugelach, Jeff and I went to a new restaurant for dinner.  For those of you who know my husband, this is a SHOCKER!  Jeff doesn't like to try new restaurants and I was surprised when he recommended this place.  We went to a Latin restaurant called Arepazo in Gahanna.  In fact, it turned out to be a great gluten-free restaurant.  We had fried plantains, which was not coated in flour before frying.

And we had some sort of fried plantain salad something or other.  I can't remember the name but boy was it good!  I've seen plantains in the grocery store and I know you have to cook them before you eat them, but I've never had a desire to try them.  Now, i'll be checking them out during my next grocery trip. 
It turned out that this little restaurant inspired my motivation to want to go to culinary school, or perhaps take cooking classes.  If I would ever become a chef, I would want to own a restaurant just like Arepazo.  It was very cozy, small and amazingly popular.
Meanwhile, back at the Young Chefs' kitchen, this is how we found the girls when we went to go back to get them: 
I was surprised to see Ellen having such a good time.  She's been my little shadow lately and haven't left my side except going to school.

Marcella liked the cooking class so much, she's been helping me in the kitchen.  She learned to chop tomatoes and green peppers.  Only homemade salsa in this house!!!

The next day we went to check out the Home and Garden Show.  We go every year.  It's a great way to get Spring Fever in high gear with landscaping ideas and oh!  the smell of fresh spring flowers everywhere!  I saw these flowers that I've never seen before.  They're called cyclamen.  I didn't care for the scent very much but they were beautiful.  They looked like paper petals floating over leaves.

Stringing tiny lights throughout your garden is the "in" thing this year.  I thought these were really neat.  Unfortunately, the girls pooped out on us quickly and we didn't get to see everything.  The show was much better this year than last year. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday 2/18/14

Welcome to Wordless Wednesday!  A little late, but better late than never!  Enjoy!

A Snowy Walk

You can see more of my work at

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Little Holidays Equals Big Deal

I hope you all had a nice Valentines Day.  Part of my happiness Project is to make a bigger deal out of the small holidays.  I've never really been big on decorating my house for holidays, except Christmas, and even Christmas isn't decorated on a large scale.  So this Valentines Day, I did a little more than help the girls sign their Valentine Day cards.  I decorated!

I love paint chip cards.  You can do almost anything with them.  I wrote a couple articles for Yahoo! on different crafts you can do with them.  You can check one of them out here:  Creative Crafts with Paint Chip Cards.

So, I cut out a million hearts out of all the different shades of red and pink and made them into a garland for our mantel.  The girls made Valentine Guys out of plastic cups.

My girls have been ruthless to each other lately.  I'm sure it's cabin fever and lack of fresh air, so I found this craft in Family Fun magazine.  I thought it would be a great way for the girls to write nice notes and valentines to each other.

I made a felt envelope for everyone on the back of our kitchen chairs:  Mom, Dad, Marcella and Ellen.  Even Adyson and Camden (our grandchildren) got one too because they are here everyday.  Ellen enjoyed helping Adyson scribble on papers and "deliver" them to the appropriate envelope.  It was a nice change of pace with giving someone something for a holiday and it not having to come from a store.

Since the girls didn't have school on Friday which was Valentines Day, and Jeff had to work, we celebrated on Thursday.  The kids had no idea when they woke up and found this:

 And pink heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast!

Of course, my girls are "Frozen" stricken like everyone else and about a month or so ago, I found Elsa dolls in her ice princess dress and nabbed two right away.  I knew they would be hard to find if I had waited.  Sure enough, I have yet to find hardly anything Elsa in the stores.  So the girls got their Elsa dolls, too.

It was the highlight of their day... Then they had to go get ready for school.  Ha!

It felt like a big holiday on what has always been "just another day", replaced with happy chattering, "thank yous", eating and excitement.  The envelopes were a big hit.

Even Camden got Valentines!

Now I'm looking forward to St. Patrick's Day.  I'll be back at Home Depot nabbing up all the green paint chip cards to make a shamrock garland and scheming up a pretty breakfast table with green pancakes, of course!

Oh, and in case you're wondering what happened to our colored ice balls, we found them just before it snowed some more.  What an interesting discovery we found....

The food coloring had leaked out of the ice balls and onto the snow around the balls.  Even though the balls are still there, we now have some very pretty colorful snow in our backyard!

And one last thing, my newest picture won an award on Pixoto (in only 2 days!).  When I took the girls sledding the other day, I didn't realize we were in the wrong section and we were walking on the golf course.  It was the most beautiful sight, with smooth snow and no footprints.  I took a very quick picture with my phone and this is what I got:

Here are a couple others I got:

Happy Valentines Day!!!