Sunday, December 28, 2008

Long Term Food Storage

Make this year's New Year's Resolution to get your food storage together. Our wonderful Prophet's have been advising us for nearly thirty years to get our food storage together, not only to get us through the second coming but to get us through any hard times we encounter. This downturn in our economy would definitely be considered hard times for many of us. Jobs are being lost and there are not as many employers hiring. Families are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet and food, although a priority, is getting more and more difficult to come by.

For those of you already in this situation, can you imagine how much less stressful your struggles could be if you did not have to worry about how you were going to put food on the table? And for those of you with a family, can you imagine the extreme stress of not knowing how you are going to be able to feed your family, let alone pay the rent!

We just did that recently. My husband lost his job and we spent a quite a bit of time trying to live off my income alone. And honestly, I work for play money, my income does not come near being able to pay the bills. I could barely manage the mortgage! Fortunately, we had plenty of close family and friends that were able to carry us through these rough times, to whom I owe my deepest love and appreciation for all the kindness and love they showed my family.

However, it did make me think. What would I have done if I had not had my family to lean on? How would I have fed my family? How would I have paid the bills? The Church was a great help, but they can only do so much and what happens when no one has food and there is no one to help? I need to be able to take care of my own family. I can not always rely on the love and kindness of others.

So I started my long term food storage. I started small, just as soon as we got back on our feet. I purchased a bucket of wheat and an electric wheat grinder. I started by learning how to make bread out of fresh ground wheat. (It was actually much easier than it sounds.) Then I picked up a couple buckets of rice and a bucket of soup mix. I am slowly gathering things as I can and as money permits. I have a list and I keep track of what I have and what I still need. I have tried to make sure that I am only storing things that I can use and I make sure that I am using them so I know that next time I find myself in this situation, I can use what I have stored.

I would hate to find that I need it but have no idea what to do with it. So in my case, I store less shortening and more vegetable oil, because I don't use shortening much at all. And I decided to store almost double the recommended amounts of peanut butter and oatmeal because we eat a lot of both of those. And although it is not in the recommended list, I store Cocoa powder, because I just could not live without chocolate!

When all is said and done, I will most likely have spent in excess of $5000, which is a HUGE amount of money for me to just fork over. However, little bit, by little bit has not been that bad and I am already seeing the benefits. My food storage is growing as well as my peace of mind. I can take care of my own family!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weight Loss

I am really getting hooked on this natural/herbal remedies and with so much hype going into the newest, biggest, best diet pills, I thought this was worth throwing out there.
There are a few really good natural weight loss stimulants.

The first of which is Kelp and Seaweed. They are both high in iodine which can help to boost your metabolism by naturally helping your thyroid.

Ginseng is a natural energy booster and can help to boost your metabolism.

We hear all the time how good Green Tea is for weight loss. This is because of the caffeine content that could have an affect on boosting your metabolism and the antioxidants can't hurt either.

And last but not least is Cayenne or Chili Powders. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in Chili Powder, which is said to boost metabolism, help your body burn fat and boost your digestion.

So before you try a weight loss drug, try the natural way and see what happens.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Make Your Home Awe Inspiring! Make it Yours!

It was a dark and gloomy night. As I sat in my sitting room listening to the rain on the shutters, I looked around. The curtains, tattered and torn, hung over the shabby couch. Lackluster furniture filled the room, illuminated by a single, dim bulb from the fixture in the center of the room.....

Although it sounds like the beginning to a great mystery, it is actually a page from my book of life. My furniture is decades old and has survived not only the family that had it prior to it being handed down to my family, but also my family of five active children. The couch is worn and shabby, the curtains tattered and torn. The lighting less than adequate and the carpets stained and worn. It was the room I least enjoyed spending time in.

But at that moment, looking around my house, I decided it was time for a change. Then I found it! The best redecorating website I have ever had the opportunity to experience! Just from their home page you know it's going to be good.

On the left hand side of the page there are articles you can choose to help you make the best decisions for your home. There are articles on everything from Green Design, designing your home in an earth friendly manner to ceiling domes to molding and everything in between. They have articles on things you would have never thought of before! It's not only a one stop shop for decorating your home, but a wealth of information at your fingertips!

Then moving into their vast array of product offerings, they have everything from wood carved crown molding, door handles and columns to furniture of all sorts. They are the one great source for architectural products, carved wood, hand crafted and hand painted home furnishings and beautiful home lighting. They have an oriental table that is beautifully hand crafted and painted to give your home that "one of a kind" look. Or columns, artfully sculpted to add dignity and class to your living area. The stair brackets they offer are something you never knew you needed, until you see them. It is just amazing to me how something so simple can make such an amazing difference in the look and feel of your home! They offer things that are usually far out of most people's budgets, but amazingly affordable through their site. It gives ordinary people the opportunity to have the mansion they have always dreamed of, complete with ceiling domes intricately carved and hand created wooden columns to add awe and inspire all who enter. Imagine your home with the decorative hardware and ornate woodwork normally found only in the homes of the rich and famous. Imagine being able to walk someone through your home and have them gasp at the articulate design and singular beauty of your home.

That is my dream. Ornate, intricate and handcrafted woodwork throughout my home. Singularly beautiful accent furniture and bright, inviting lighting fixtures to shed their beauty and warm my home. Pieces of furniture, table and lamps and decorative accents, moldings, corbels and columns to inspire awe in all that enter and create a feeling of warmth and turn of the century beauty in the one place that I spend more time than anywhere else, My Home.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Reaping the Rewards of the Hunt

As hunting season dies down, some come away with a prize, other are left empty handed. This years hunt has seemed to be a productive one. I saw a couple of good kills one the opening day and many since. But now the guns, Nikon binoculars and orange vests are put away and you have more game meat than you know what to do with, what are you going to do?

Venison makes a great substitue for beef in almost any recipe. I have used it ground as meatballs (one of my favorite uses. The Marinara sauce really compliments the flavor of the venison). Stews are the norm and I have even used it in Hamburger Helper and Spaghetti. I have tried tacos but have not had any luck in that department. The taco seasoning seems to disagree with the flavor of the meat. Venison Enchiladas however are my husbands favorite. Here are some tips that I have used over the years to use reap the rewards of being a "Deer Widow" for a couple weekends each year.

Tip #1:

Remember that in the wild, Deer love eating fresh Bay leaves so cooking venison with bay leaves compliments the meat very well.

Tip #2:

German venison recipes often use fruits like cherries or are served with a cherry sauce. The gamy flavor goes well with certain acidic fruits.

Tip #3:

Aging will help dissipate the game taste and permit natural occurring enzymes to tenderize the tissues. Proper aging also firms the meat, giving it better cutting quality. Aging should be conducted between 32 - 35° F for 7 - 10 days. Never age at room temperature. Venison may be cut within 24 hours after the kill and still be acceptable for aging. Improper storage facilities increases risk for spoilage.

*From National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Tip #4:

When you cook Venison, make sure you cook it slowly with very moist heat as there is very little fat in the meat to keep it moist and tender. Overcooking or cooking to quickly with dry out the meat and make it very, very tough. I really enjoy wrapping in bacon as a constant baster and periodically manually basting it with bacon grease or beef broth while it is cooking. It gives it a great flavor and keeps it moist and tender.

Tip #5:

When drying I have found that Citric Acid helps to keep the smell down and take away some of the gamy flavor in the jerky.

Can You Keep a Secret?

How good are you at keeping a secret? Me, not so much. But when it comes to gift giving, I am a pro! I love giving but even more, I love surprising. I think the best one yet was when I was in the midst of my holiday shopping, my SIL told me about a stuffed puppy she had when she was just a child. It was her "Henry Dog". She has pictures of herself with Henry and her mother even painted a picture of her Henry dog for her. She loved him so much, but she believes that when her friend moved away, she took it with her. She never saw her beloved "Henry" again.

That was until the plot began.....

With the help of her sisters and mother, I was able to locate someone selling a Henry dog, just like hers. We made the purchase and within a couple of weeks the precious package arrived. With no knowledge of our escapades, she showed up to her parents house as requested by her mother. She started to think that something was up when three of us were standing at the top of the stairs taking her picture like the paparazzi when she walked in the door. She obliged us and sat down on the couch where she was presented with her new "Henry". She cried and laughed all at the same time. It was a great experience and one I hope to repeat many times in my lifetime.

But with that said, I want to know can you beat me? Do you have one even better? Is it worth $15,000??? Well, it just might be! is currently holding a contest for the best shop and confess video. They are giving away TONS of money with the Grand Prize at $15,000! That's a whole lot of money to continue your holiday shopping spree with!

Check out the YouTube video for more information...

Now if you are wondering why this is so important to me, I can win too. The blog that gets the most people to enter and refer their blog can win cash too. Not quite as much as you can win, but every little bit helps! So please, if you do enter, give me a referral and help me out. Good Luck and I can't wait to see your confession!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Paella; A Spanish Treat

In high school I had a forigen exchange student in my class whom I became very good friends with. She was from Spain and she taught me so many wonderful things that she brought from her culture. But one of my favorites was the Paella that she made. I remember how the rice would be carmelize and the flavor was just wonderful! It was the first time I had heard of saffaron, let alone tried it.

Every now and then I will find myself craving the wonderful flavor and texture of Paella. I have tried making it myself a few times but with out the proper paella pan, and most likely the Spanish up bringing, it just never seems to come out the same. I can remember the aromatic, comforting flavor of hers and mine just never hits it quite on. And without the proper pan, I just can't get enough of the rice touching the pan so it just isn't the same. But for those of you who are better cooks than I, and those that have the proper cookware, or those of you that are just feeling like making something different, here is the recipe she gave me.

"Fill the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Heat until it pops. Add chunks of rabbit meat and cook until browned. Slice a red and green pepper and and chop a tomato and an onion. Remove the meat and add the veggies to the oil. Stir and don't let them burn. Add mashed garlic and salt and replace the meat. Pour two bowls of rice in to the pan and cover with 5 bowls of meat broth. Add saffaron strings and cover. Cook until all the broth has been absorbed. Serve it warm."

Just some notes on the above, I use chicken as rabbit is rather hard to come by around here and Saffaron strings are rather expensive but well worth it if you want to make this dish. It is what gives it that authentic flavor. Enjoy!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Healthy Grilling

If it is cooked on the grill, I love it. I don't really care what it is, I love it! Veggies, steak, hamburger, Salmon, heck! even hot dogs! But I have been noticing that grilling is not always the healthiest option. However, I have found some simple methods to make healthy grilling a reality in my home year round.

To start with, in the summer time when I am outside, using my big grill, I used to use Bacon grease to grease the grates. It added a wonderful smell and a great flavor to the food. However, I have found that coconut oil is a much healthier alternative and gives the BBQ a Luau flair. On the other hand, olive oil works great as well, with out a strong smell or flavor. So the true flavor of my meat is the star of the show!

For indoor grilling, pans and griddles are so way out! All that grease that collects around and absorbs back into my food is just out of the question! I use counter top grills that allow the grease and drippings to drip off into a catch tray, leaving my food healthier and as flavorful as ever. Again, I will use coconut oil or olive oil to prep the grill to prevent sticking.


Weight Loss Drugs

Well, I don't agree with it, but if you have got to do it, at least do your research. Do not depend on what I or any other unqualified, non-professional has to say! Take the time to seek out and ask the experts. I found that the Mayo Clinic did not find too much wrong with the wildly popular weight loss drug alli, in fact, they found it to be rather effective, from what I gathered. But again, do not take my word for it, look it up yourself and do your research! But I will add my disclaimer right now, I feel very strongly that the only true way to weight loss and true beauty is by regular exercise and a healthy diet. I don't believe there to be a drug that can make you lose weight and still maintain your god given beauty.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

How to Clear Up Acne

I have noticed lately that I am getting older. It's something that rather snuck up on me. I have always felt very young and very alive. Suddenly I am feeling older, slower and slightly achier. The joints hurt when I get up and by the end of the day I am beat. It definitely true, I am not as young as I used to be. If only my skin would catch up too! Who has ever heard of a grown woman having acne outbreaks??? Well, that is one thing that I have not yet grown out of. Nope, those nasty little zits just pop up whenever and wherever they feel like! Fortunately for me I found this post with great ideas on how to get rid of acne. It really has some great information!

"I am getting greener and greener and the funny part is I used to laugh at all the "tree huggers" and think they were ridiculous. Now I am finding myself agreeing with them alot more now than ever. I find myself leaning towards things that are more natural and natural cures is at the top of my list.

As a 30 year old woman, I am finding that I am still struggling with a slight case of acne. Nothing heavy and nothing that would cause me to wear tons of make-up, but a pimple here and there and once in awhile, one that gets really ugly and is a bit embarrassing. So I started looking for natural acne cures. Things that don't break my budget and help me be more natural. Here is what I found on I can't verify any of it, but I will let you know if any of it works, because I will definitely be trying some of it.

"Some Natural Anti-Acne Products you will find in the market Tea Tree Oil, Aloe Vera, Zinc, and Vitamin A are some natural products that have been used with some success to cure Acne. A word of caution about 'natural' skin care items. They often contain certain chemicals for preservation purposes. Some of these may not be advisable for you if you're pregnant or have certain special health considerations. As mentioned, it is best to consult with your doctor before embarking on any therapy.

Tea Tree Oil - Tea Tree Oil is obtained from the Melaleuca alternifoliais tree from Australia. It is very effective against Acne as it contains bacteria-fighting substances called Terpenes. Acne is often caused by bacteria and the Terpenes either outright kill them or weaken them enough to be destroyed by protective antibodies. There are very little side effects from using Tea Tree Oil.

Aloe Vera - The watery gel from Aloe Vera plant is also a highly effective natural cure against Acne. The enzyme-rich gel has very soothing anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It can also be taken internally and helps clean up and detox the digestive tract. This in turn can help clear up the skin.

Zinc - Zinc is taken in the form of capsules. It helps to strengthen the human immune system and to repair the skin.

Vitamin A - Vitamin A tablets are also a natural and effective Acne cure. Vitamin A promotes healthy skin.

Vitamin E - Vitamin E also helps in countering Acne. It is a natural antioxidant and beneficial for the skin. Vitamin E comes in soft gelatin capsules that contain Vitamin E, Soybean Oil, Glycerin, and Water.

Some Natural Homemade Cures to counter Acne - The most important thing to do if you suffer from Acne is to drink at least four pints of water every day. Drinking a lot of water is very beneficial to your skin. Including fresh fruit and leafy green vegetables in your daily diet will also bring about a marked improvement in the quality of your complexion.

Before bathing, apply a mixture of tomato pulp – real tomota pulp, not packaged one – honey and rose-water to your face and keep for twenty minutes before washing off.

At night, before going to bed, apply a mix of cream, glycerine, and lemon juice to your face and again keep it on for a short while before washing.

Regular Yoga exercises will also improve skin and overall health."

My New Pride and Joy

For my birthday, I received the best gift I have ever been given. This beats out my 35mm Nikon 360 by just a titch. This year my mother got together with my father, in-laws, grandparents and step-father to get me a brand new Nikon D80 Digital Camera. It was top of the line when I got it (of course, the very next weekend they came out with a bigger, better version! But that's okay, I am totally lovin' my D80). It has a huge screen and shoots in tons of different modes. I can finally take a photography class and be able to "play" with all the ideas they throw out! It has the tiniest 1gbmicro sd card too. It is so incrediably small that I could lose it in a heartbeat! Isn't it amazing how small things can be and stll hold 1gb of memory!?! I can't wait to start playing!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Relaxing Times A'Coming!

I am so excited with this new job! Not only do I enjoy it, but it should finally give us enough money to build my quiet room off my bedroom, fix the deck and add the shed and garage that we have been talking about! The lady told me she would pay me $15 per hour, which is great! That is just what I need. It certainly makes adding an extra 24 hours of work to my already busy week, very, very worth it. Hopefully I can be as good for them, as they are for me!

Most of all, I am just excited to get my quiet room. Something the doctor prescribed to me nearly a year and a half ago. Peace and Quiet. Relaxation. My room will be just off my bedroom with french doors, white tile from floor to waist height and windows all the way around. I want lots of plants and a comfey hammock chair where I can kick my feet up and read a good book. Where I can let the cares of the world just melt away and the stress of the day can wait at the door. I'm telling you, I just can't wait!

Baby Time

At work, there is this darling gal that I work with. She is 8 months pregnant and getting ready. We are having a baby shower for her coming up soon and I can not decide what to get her. She works at a Kitchen Needs store and she loves to cook so I can't imagine getting her anything for the babys food, I am pretty well sure she has that covered! But I want something different, I want to find unique baby gifts, something you don't see everyday. Those were my favorite baby shower gifts. I remember getting a formula holder. You could measure out the exact amount of formula for a single bottle into each of three divided sections. It made it so easy as I was always on the go. I loved the baby diaper cakes when they first came out, but they are getting a bit overdone now for my taste. But the "baby fridge" I got was another of my favorites, it was a small, insulated cooler to keep baby bottles warm while not at home. But my all time favorite gifts were the embroidered blankets with my baby's name. Those are keepsakes right there. So, that just might answer my question right there.

Company Shirts

I loved the company shirts that we had when I worked at the R.V. dealership. They let us choose the style of shirt we liked and then they had their company name and logo embroidered on it. We had to pay for the shirts but the company paid for 30% because they were company logo shirts. It identified us as employees and yet allowed us to have our own style. I wish the new company I worked for did the same thing. Right now, we all wear anything we like and then have to wear aprons. It is after all a Kitchen store and there is plenty of ways to get completely filthy! But I just think it would be great to have aprons with the company name and logo embroidered on them or even better, personal company shirts.

Car Problems

I know of way too many people having car trouble lately. My friend T just took her car in to have it fixed. She had broken the strut bar clean through. But the worst part was, she was still driving it around! Thank goodness she got it fixed finally!

Then the fuel pump and steering rack went out in my babysitter's boyfriends car and I had to advance her $150 to get her Jeep licensed and registered.

Luckily for me, mine are running fine for the time being. Knock on wood! I don't know that I could handle car problems right now. I already have computer and job issues!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Icebox Dessert

I remember family get togethers with my Mother's family. Every year my Aunt Maryann would make a wonderful thing that she called Icebox Dessert. Unfortunately, after her husband passed away unexpectedly, she stopped planning the get togethers and the Icebox Dessert became little more than a memory for me. Lately we have been getting together again but it has been nearly 20 years and with these new get togethers I have yet to see another one of these desserts surface. So I finally decided to call her and request the recipe for myself. It took her some time to find but she did and now I have the recipe to pass down to my children.

You will need:

16 oz. pkg. graham crackers
2 (3.5 oz.) pkgs. instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups whole milk
2) 8 oz. tub frozen cool whip, thawed

Mix the 1 tub cool whip, pudding mix, and milk in a medium bowl until well blended.

Place a layer of whole graham crackers in the bottom of a 9x13" baking pan to cover the bottom completely. Spoon half of the pudding mixture evenly over the crackers. Repeat with another layer of crackers and remaining pudding mixture. Top with the last tub of coolwhip.

Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours to allow it to set. Makes 14 servings

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just Relax

More and more people are finding themselves off on Fridays, but whether you have the day off or are required to work, Friday has become a frantic end to the work week. People try to shove the last bit of paperwork, housework, chores or errands into the last 24 hours allotted to them before banks, stores, companies and clinics close for the weekend.

This Friday should be different. Start your weekend today by looking at your to do list and cutting out three things. Take three things that can wait until Monday and put them aside. Then take a huge glass of Iced Tea or Lemonade, a good book and a comfy chair and spend an hour doing nothing.

I promise you, when you start doing "something" again, you will be much more relaxed and capable of handling anything that comes your way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cantelope Peach and Lime Smoothie

Cantaloupes are one of the most difficult fruits to find uses for, aside from eating them plain and simple, which happens to be one of my favorite past times! I remember as a young girl, sitting in my Great Grandmother's garden with a spoon in one hand and a fresh cantaloupe in the other. Nothing is better on a hot summer day. Nothing that is except maybe this wonderfully cold smoothie!

You will need:
1 Lime, 1/2 teaspoon zested and 2 tbsp juiced
2 Cups Cantaloupe cut into pieces
1/3 Cup Fresh Peach Slices
2 Tbsp Honey
4 or 5 Ice Cubes

In a Smoothie Blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy immediately.This recipe makes only one glass. Double or triple to make as much as you need.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Forced Green

Forced Green is my pick for Blog of The Week because it is something that is on my mind day in and day out lately. "Living a natural life in an industrial world" as she puts it. I have been so worried lately about the food I eat, the vehicles I drive, the cleaners I use and the medicines that I take. Is it really all for the best? Is there something that I can do?

At Forced Green she takes a closer look at our ever changing and industrialized world and does what she can to make a difference. Then she shares the information she get with the rest of us through a very candidly written blog that pulls you in from your first read.

Some of the posts that she has written lately that I enjoyed the most were, Renewable Energy Storage which talks about utility companies taking closer looks at using and creating renewable energy and her thoughts on how to best accomplish that. Another post that I really, really liked was her post For the Future, From the Past where she starts out talking about the basics of root cellars. This caught my attention because I am currently in the process of creating a root cellar in our backyard to preserve our vegetables from our garden. But then she takes the lessons learned from using a root cellar and turns it around to make a point that our society has sorely missed over the last 50 some odd years. I won't spoil it for you, take some time to read it for yourself. It really is an eye opener.

So if you find yourself out cruising the World Wide Web, take a minute to stop by her little corner of the blogosphere. It will be the best use of the next twenty minutes of your life. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Keeping it Close to Home

Have you looked around your city lately. Where can you go that you have never been before. Where I am, we are blessed to have the majority of the National Parks at our doorstep. Most less than a days drive. Have I visited them all. Not even close! There are great places for children in the very state that I live in and I have never taken them there either.

So here is my travel tip for this week. Find somewhere close to home, somewhere you can drive to in less than 4 hours. Book a hotel near there and take your family this weekend for a Close to Home Family Getaway. Enjoy your own Town!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Getting Your Kids To Help

Small things can make a huge difference around your house and getting your children to help with the small jobs so you can tackle the harder ones is not as difficult as it sounds.

First thing you need to do is make it fun. Put on some music and teach your child to dance while they work. It's great exercise and the time will fly by.

Make it easy. This sounds a lot easier than it actually is. But get cleaning wipes for them, rather than having them try to wet, wring and rinse a rag.
Use a Swiffer with moping cloths instead of having them handle a real mop.

Find small chores that don't take any more than 5 minutes. Have them vacuum the stairs or fold the couch blanket. Then let them play for awhile before requesting something else.

Here are some easy chores that any walking child can accomplish:

  • Wipe down doorknobs and light switches.
  • Mop the floor with a Swiffer.
  • Wash a window
  • Rinse dishes. (I would not have them load the dishwasher until they are older)
  • Wipe out the sink.
  • Wipe a wall (most of the dirty finger prints will be at their level anyway.)
  • Sweep a floor. (with a small hand held broom and dust pan, almost any child can do this once they have been shown how.)
  • Vacuum anything. Kids love to vacuum especially if they can use the hose. I have my littlest ones vacuum the stairs with the hand held Dirt Devil and the edges of the hallway with the hose.They love it!
  • Folding blankets and towels is a great chore for little ones if you are not too picky.
  • Taking out the trash, if they can reach the big can.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas to get your little ones involved in cleaning early on. This will avoid lot of future struggles! Happy Day!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Fudge Craving!

This week I had the fudge craving hit me like a ton of bricks! I have been craving the creamy, rich chocolate that you can only get from a piece of fudge. Now the problem is I am hugely picky when it comes to fudge. It's either right or it's wrong. There is no in between. Strangely enough however, one of the simplest recipes, when concocted correctly is enough to satisfy not only my connoisseur nature but also my colossal craving. But like I said, it has to be done correctly!

This Recipe comes directly from the Recipes Cache of Kraft Foods

Fantasy Fudge

Fantasy Fudge
Prep Time:
10 min
Total Time:
25 min
3 lb. or 40 servings, about two squares each
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
1 small can (5 oz.) evaporated milk (about 2/3 cup) (Do not use sweetened condensed milk.)
1-1/2 pkg. (12 squares) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, chopped
1 jar (7 oz.) JET-PUFFED Marshmallow Creme
1 cup chopped PLANTERS Walnuts
1 tsp. vanilla

LINE 9-inch square pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan; set aside. Place sugar, butter and evaporated milk in large heavy saucepan. Bring to full rolling boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 4 min. or until candy thermometer reaches 234°F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

ADD chocolate and marshmallow creme; stir until completely melted. Add walnuts and vanilla; mix well.

POUR immediately into prepared pan; spread to form even layer in pan. Let stand at room temperature 4 hours or until completely cooled; cut into 1-inch squares. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.

***A couple of things to remember about this recipe, like I said, it has to be made perfectly to come out right. First and foremost, measure the ingredients exactly. It's much more important than you might think. Second; keep the heat down. You have to have enough heat to get it to a rolling boil and get it up to 234°F, however, you don't want to do it too fast or you will end up with grainy fudge. NOT a good thing! Last but not least; make sure you get it to the 234°F. If you don't it will not set properly.

Now, enjoy the end of the week and satisfy your chocolate craving! Yummy!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cool Dinners for Lazy Summer Nights

I love the heat and hate the cold, but when it gets this hot, it's just too much. So by the time dinner rolls around, I am hot and tired and I have no interest in eating something hot, let alone cooking it! So I have found this pasta salad with chicken, pasta, grapes, pineapple and cashews to be the perfect meal on a hot summer night. Even my children love it, and that's saying something!

Bowtie Rotelli Pasta and Chicken Salad

1 Box Bowtie Pasta, boiled
1 Box Garden Rotelli (this adds great color and flavor!), boiled
2 Lbs. Red Seedless Grapes
1 Cup Chopped Celery
1/2 Cup Chopped Green Onions
1 Can Pineapple Tidbits
3 Chicken Breasts, boiled, diced and cooled.
1/2 Cup Cashew Halves, (I prefer salted)
1 16oz. Bottle Hidden Valley Coleslaw Dressing
1 Cup Mayonnaise

In a small bowl combine the Coleslaw Dressing and Mayonnaise, whisk to mix well. In a large, (very large) bowl, combine all other ingredients. Pour the Mayonnaise and Coleslaw Dressing mixture over everything and mix well. Serve immediately.

This recipe make WAY more than my family can eat in one meal but it saves very, very well in the fridge. Just cover and store it in the fridge. This goes wonderfully with a cold Lemonade or a Sprite and Sherbet Punch.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Diet and Exercise vs. The Easy Way

You will hear doctor after doctor tell you that Diet and Exercise are the only way. Yet everyday you see new diet pill popping up and cha-ching, cha-ching, the money starts flowing into yet another diet pill. I would like to see a long term study that shows whether or not it is possible to find diet pills that work or if people are just throwing their money to the wind. The diet pills I have seen work for a short period of time but before long, it's over. In my opinion, it is a lifestyle thing. You need to make the time for exercise, you need to make the effort to eat right. McDonald's is NOT the answer, no matter how quick and easy they are! Movement, activities, regular exercise routines and healthy eating have got to be better than chemically treating every aspect of your life!

Health Care in the US

I do believe that something needs to be done about the Health Care system in our nation, but what? Ruters did a study that ranked the Dutch Health Care system as the best in the world, our's? Dead last! The worst! Does that surprise anyone? Not me. State by state, Hawaii ranks #1 in the US. Utah, number 24. Health insurance is not the greatest either. NC health insurance can be expensive and hard to get. Unless you are sponsored by a company, an insurance company can deny you for any reason they choose. As I watch the political campaigns I hear them throwing around the war and gas prices and every once in awhile throwing in something about needing to reform Health Care, but what are they actually going to do about it? I don't think they really have any ideas. Personally, I think they need to take some tips from the Dutch, since they are ranked as the best in the world. But then my opinion doesn't count, it doesn't come with a $1M price tag.

To Go or Not to Go?

Gas prices are falling and as the summer is slowly diminishing, prices for travel are going down. Airline ticket prices are falling and it's getting less expensive to drive. Now is a great time to get out and go! If you can be flexible, it's not to late to grab your kids and enjoy a weekend family vacation or pack a swimsuit for you and your sweetheart and your ipods and take a surprise romantic getaway to spend the weekend relaxing on the beach. Check out the airlines prices today and tomorrow. By tomorrow night the "specials" will be gone, but most airlines offer great weekend prices for getaway trips. You usually have to leave on a Thursday or Friday and come back Monday or Tuesday but you can get airline prices of $49 each way! It makes a great family getaway and they do offer some really great destinations! Check them out now!

Friday, August 08, 2008

To Eat or Not To Eat... Chocolate!

My favorite topic, Chocolate! I wanted to bring to light some interesting facts about Chocolate.

  1. Chocolate comes from an Aztec word "cacahuatl", which means "bitter water".
  2. Cocoa Beans were used as a form of currency by the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Pay me with chocolate any day!
  3. Mexico's Emperor Montezuma sipped a Chocolate drink before entering his harem. This gave rise to the notion of Chocolate having aphrodisiac properties. There could be some truth to the idea though, since Chocolate contains hundreds of chemicals including feel-good stimulants - Caffeine, Theobromine, and Phenyethylamine. I know it makes Me feel good!
  4. Allergies to chocolate are very uncommon
  5. Chocolate is a wonderful energy source. A single chocolate chip provides enough food energy for an adult to walk 150 feet; hence, it would take about 35 chocolate chips to go a mile, or 875,000 for an around-the-world hike.
  6. A common myth is that indulging in chocolate causes acne. However, experiments conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Naval Academy (good to know our tax dollars are doing some real good!) found that eating chocolate, even frequently, had no effect on acne. That's great news!!! Bring on the Chocolate!
  7. Consumers spend nearly $7 billion dollars a year on chocolate.
  8. The average person eats about 12 lbs. of chocolate a year. Is that all?!?
  9. American Chocolate Manufactures use 1.5 billion pounds of milk each year. That's only slightly less than the Cheese and Ice-cream industries!
  10. Studies are now showing that small daily amounts of dark chocolate will lower blood pressure in those with moderately elevated blood pressure readings. Rock on!
So now that you know, go! Go out and enjoy your chocolate!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is Seafood On The Menu?

One of the easiest and most delicious seafood recipes that I know how to prepare is a really light Shrimp Scampi. I got the recipe a couple years ago when I was looking for a recipe to fry trout, imagine that. The Internet can take you so many places!

But it is a a simple recipe that requires little preparation, limited cooking time and just a few ingredients but the result is fantastic with a glass of red wine and some pesto linguine.

You will need:

1-2 lbs of cooked shrimp
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 tsp. Onion Salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3-5 Tbls. Olive Oil

Coat the bottom of your frying pan or wok with olive oil, add more or less depending on the size of the pan you are using. Heat over medium heat and add Shrimp, garlic, onion salt and Italian seasoning and saute until tender. Add the Parmesan cheese and warm. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

A couple things about seafood;

I always prefer to use domestic seafood. It usually goes through a more rigorous safety testing process and it helps to sustain our American way of life, providing for American workers. Call me silly, but that is a big thing to me!

When cooking seafood of any kind, always wash and rinse it thoroughly first. Many diseases can be transmitted through unwashed seafood. Take the time and effort to keep your family healthy, wash ALL food before you cook it (veggies included!).

If you are a huge seafood fan, there are many great places to get ideas and just enjoy the company of other seafood fanatics. This Friday and Saturday 5 chefs will compete in the 5th annual, Great American Seafood Cook off, showcasing domestic seafood and showing off their talents in the Louisiana area where seafood is a staple and is always the freshest. The best seafood to be had has got to be in Louisiana! If you are a seafood fan, this is a must see!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Watch For Travel Fees

I am excited to see the next Get Gephardt on our Channel 2 news. It's a program where Bill Gephardt takes on big corporations, large companies and gets answers and sometime even money back for consumers that have been taken advantage of by these large companies.

Tomorrow's is all about Travel Fees. I am really interested to see what he finds out about the airline baggage fees, fuel surcharges and such, not to mention the insane "resort fees" charged by the hotels for any amenity, if you use it or not!

Get Gephardt comes on, on the 10pm Channel 2 news here. If you get a chance to see it, please tell me what you think. After it airs, I will be sure to add a link to it, so those of you that are not in my area can see it too. I would love to know what everyone thinks!

Here's that link, as promised! It was a good one!

Get Gephardt: How Hotels And Airlines Get Away With Making You Pay "Fees"

Monday, July 28, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons....

Okay, one of my favorite sayings is "When Life Gives You Lemons, Throw Them Back!". But in all reality, lemons are, in my opinion, a staple for any kitchen. There are so many amazing uses for them. But I will cover that later. Today I want to talk a little bit about getting the most out of your lemons.

Before you are ready to use the lemon take a minute, make sure the lemons are at room temperature and then roll them between the palm of your hand and the kitchen counter just before squeezing them.

This will get you the most juice possible out of the lemon. It also makes the lemon rind much more flavorful for zesting.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Week Off

Sorry everyone. I took the holiday week off to enjoy time with my little children that were left home with me while my husband and oldest son went and tried out Scout Camp for a week.

All I can say is "It is good to be back!"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Don't Let Your Pasta Boil Over

Don't let your pasta boil over, use a tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil, added to the water to keep the bubbles down. Then take the wooden spoon your using to stir it and place it over the top of the pan. Between the oil and the spoon, your pasta won't stick to the pan and it won't have a chance to boil over.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Meatloaf Fiesta

I have never been a fan of meatloaf and my kids would not touch it if I paid them! Then I found this recipe. It changed the way my family thinks about meatloaf. It is super moist and super flavorful and an added bonus for me, it is super, super easy! It has a zesty, southwest flavor added by the salsa which is also what keeps it moist. Try it with different variations of salsa until you find the right one for your family. My family prefers Pace, extra mild. My Father prefers Hot La Victoria and my Aunt, enjoys it with fruity, homemade mango salsa. Every family has their own flavor, give it a try and find yours.

1 lbs. ground beef
1 egg
1 Tbsp Mustard
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Cup Salsa
1 1/2 to 2 Cups crushed Saltine Crackers, Crushed Corn Chips, Broken bread or Oatmeal

Mix all ingredients lightly, just until crackers, chips, bread or oatmeal is moistened. Place in loaf pan and cover lightly with more Salsa if desired. Bake at 350 for 30 -45 minutes, until meat is done or center temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summertime Sun Tea

This is a recipe I have had around since I was a small child. I remember seeing the pitchers sitting on the porch, sparkling in the sun. My Grandma would sweeten it to perfection and after a few hours in the fridge, it was a delightfully light, crisp and refreshing drink to sit down to after running around in the sun.

2 Quarts Water
6 Tea Bags
1 Lemon, sliced
1 Lime, sliced
1 Orange, sliced
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 cup Sugar

Fill the pitcher with water, add the Tea Bags, Lemon, Lime and Orange slices and the cinnamon stick. Allow to sit in the direct sun for 3 hours. Bring in the house, add the sugar and allow to cool in the fridge until perfect drinking temperature.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kater-Bug's Amazing Cakes

This Wednesday's Blog of the Week is my favorite cake decorating blog. Katerbug Cake's always has something new and exciting, is full of great tips, tricks and ideas and has links to some of the best products you can buy and the best prices. Katerbug Cake's is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cake decorating and you can tell she loves decorating, it shows in her work. She is so creative and so incredibly talented, I learn so much from her every time I visit.

Her recipe for "5-minute Chocolate Cake" is so easy and so delicious. Just take a look at the picture and your mouth will start watering!

My favorite cake so far has been her Guitar Cake. The flames were amazing and the detail is to die for. Before too long she will start putting those guys at Ace of Cakes to shame! She is just amazing!

So if you are looking for some new ideas, cake decoration supplies or just a fun new blog to follow, take a mouth-watering, awe inspiring journey over to Katerbug Cakes and get inspired!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Favorite Children's Books

When I travel with my children, I always bring along my favorite children's books. Not their favorite books, but mine, because I am the one that will be reading it over and over. Two of my favorite children's books are Silly Sally and Dinosaurumpus. They are fun rhyming books with bright pictures and laughable lyrics. The kids love them and I enjoy reading them. It makes travel with five children not just bearable but enjoyable.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Don't Cry Over Your Onions

This has to be one of my all time favorite kitchen tricks! I learned it from my grandmother when I was first learning to cook. She would put her onions in the freezer as we were getting ready to start a meal. When it came time to chop the onions, she would take them out of the freezer and they never made us cry! The few minutes in the freezer does not change the composition of the onion but it does something to the juices to make them less potent. So, next time you are cooking with onions, put them in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes and take them out when you are ready to chop them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Want A Dyson!

I have gone through SO many vacuums in the last 10 years that I wonder how there could have ever been any dirt on my floor, but I know there was/is/always will be tons of dirt. So I vacuum and I vacuum and I vacuum again. I keep noticing that my vacuum loses suction within a couple of days of replacing the filter and it just never seems to work properly for more than a few days. So I have been checking out vacuum cleaners and I really, really like the Dyson. There are no filters to change and so no loss of suction. They carry a competitive warranty and I have a friend that has tried one and really enjoys hers. She swears she will never go back. I just wonder though, without a filter, what is it kicking up into the air from my carpet? Hummm..... the decisions, the questions.... maybe I'll just tile the whole house!

Do you love your Bluetooth?

I have been looking at Bluetooth speaker phones lately. I am thinking it would be really nice to have one for my cell phone, but my dad got himself a Bluetooth headset about 6 months ago and he hates it. It won't connect for him when he wants it to and sitting in the car, right next to it, it will disconnect for no reason. I am wondering if they need a little more time to work out all the bugs before I look to much further into getting myself one? Does anyone else have any experience with them?

Party Time!

I am not of Mexican descent so La Quinceanera's are a new concept to me. I was completely surprised when I found out everything that goes into this "coming of age" ceremony for daughters turning 15 years old (I believe). My sister was asked to make Quinceanera invitations for the sister of a co-worker. She was telling me about all that goes into these celebrations, the wedding gown type dress, the cake, the boys! It's a lot like a wedding, with out the groom and instead, eligible boys she might be interested in. There's food and fun, it's a big party and one of the biggest events in the girls life. It sounds like so much fun.

Deep Chocolate Tart

You all know how much I love chocolate, especially soft, rich and creamy chocolate. But this is a doozy with more than 390 calories per serving, even diet pills can't help you here. But you will enjoy it so much you won't care! This tart is absolutely fantastic! It is a recipe that I have had around for quite a few years. I don't know where it came from at this point, so if you know, please feel free to let me know. I would love to give credit where credit is due. And this deserves lots of kudos! It is the perfect end to a summer time lunch.

Deep Chocolate Tart

1/3 cup Butter or Margarine, softened
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 Egg
1 tablespoon Butter or Margarine
1 14oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 12oz. bag (2 cups) Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Chopped Walnuts
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Whipped Cream if desired

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In medium bowl cut 1/3 cup butter into flour until mixture is moist and crumbly. Add egg and mix until a firm dough forms. Press dough firmly and evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9" ungreased tart pan with removable bottom. Bake for 12 to 15 min, until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. In 1 qt. sauce pan melt 1 tablespoon butter over low heat. Add Milk and Chocolate Chips, melt over low heat occasionally stirring slowly until chocolate is melted. (To protect the integrity of the chocolate, use the lowest heat possible) Once melted, add the Walnuts and Vanilla. Spread into baked and cooled crust.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until edge is set but center appears moist. Place on wire rack and cool completely (approx. 1 hour).

Top with whipped cream to serve.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Neighbor is Leaving!

I am so sad! My wonderful neighbors are leaving! Their parents found out that in order to avoid a HUGE tax payment, they had to get rid of their second house, the one next door to me. So they started getting ready to sell it. Before they had even gotten it ready and listed, their sister found a family that was looking for property in our area and before we knew it, it was sold! They have to be out by the 31st of July. I will really miss them! They have two darling little boys that my kids LOVE to play with and the cutest little girl that happens to be Baby's best friend. I love talking to her and I will really miss sitting and chatting while our kids play. But I am floored at the fact that her house sold for what it did and as quickly as it did! It sold for nearly $80K more than I bought my house for 6 years ago and they are identical houses! Yikes! But then the Wilmington real estate, or all real estate for that matter is really going crazy. But it really does make me consider selling my house, at an $80K profit, who wouldn't!?! I just can't imagine our little cul-de-sac without my wonderful neighbors.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I wish, I wish....

I am chatting with my sister and she is telling me about how they are going to go visit the U-505, it is a Captured German World War II submarine at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Lee really wanted to see it when we were there but we didn't have time. It's a Chicago travelers, must see! But we didn't. I guess that just means, we'll have to go visit my sister again soon. Darn it, you'll just have to twist my arm! :)

It's Official, I'm Getting Old!

Last night we took Butterfly out for her Birthday night. My Mom, Ladybug and I took her to get her nails painted, shopping for new clothes and out to dinner. Sitting at dinner with my new eyeglasses on, Mom and I were talking about Dan's kids and how old they were when she realized that I will be 30 in September! Yikes! I am wearing glasses, aching most of my days, can't keep up with my kids and before long I'll give up and start using anti wrinkle cream. It is official, I am getting old!!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why Drug Yourself?

I have never heard of Phentermine, but that is probably because I am not one that struggles to keep weight off, but rather the opposite. But I came across some articles about it as I was searching for something to help me put weight on. Morning smoothies, like Carnation Instant breakfasts and such, but no drugs for me! I would rather keep the drugs out of my system. But that is how I heard about generic Phentermine, it is "probably the most sought after prescription diet pill on the market today. In fact it is so popular that diet pill manufactures have used just about every similar name they could think of to market their pills. The problem is that prescription diet pills tend to not only be expensive but also very hard to get." is what had to say about it. But they missed one key point. It is still a drug! How can putting drugs in your body, just to lose weight, be a good thing. Why not just diet and exercise. That just seems like a much healthier, safer way to me. I have to diet and exercise to keep my weight on and while it's hard, there are no safe "quick cures". You just gotta buckle down and do it! I have watched my sister in law lose a whole lot of weight by being persistent and focused. She eats right and exercises regularly. Not that she was not beautiful before, but I have watched her blossom. She feels good, she looks good and she knows it and she didn't use any harmful drugs to do it. That is a good feeling!

I love to read

I love to read and when I had boys, I was so worried that they would follow in their Daddy's footsteps and hate to read, hate books, hate everything about it. I am the kind of person that can spend hours on end at the bookstore, the library or hidden away with my newest book. I get a new book and you can bet that I'll have it read within a day or two. I don't put it down once I pick it up. It's a lot like an addiction. Daddy on the other hand, will read repair manuals or instruction booklets, but as far as picking up a book just to read for enjoyment, it just won't happen. He gets no enjoyment out of reading.

My fears were put at ease recently however. I have been getting frustrated at Big C for this or that, but he just seemed to be getting farther and farther behind in his chores and the reason became painfully clear. Everytime I was out of site, he would sit back down on his bed and start reading his book again. This went on to the point on me grounding him from reading and taking away his books. I couldn't really blame him, like I said, put a book in front of me and I finish it. I don't put it down until it's done. Chores be damned. But, finally we came upon a solution, I would allow him time to read one book cover to cover, then he had to completely finish his chores before starting another one.

Fortunately for me, this has worked wonders! His chores are getting done again and he is still enjoying his reading. Now if I can just figure out what to do about Ladybug! She had 3 pages of missing assignments and her teacher said it was because she was reading during class instead of doing her work. Maybe this is a curse and I blissfully unaware of it. Maybe Daddy has the right idea and has escaped the addiction that has the rest of us bound. Maybe?

Strange Calls

I have had some strange calls the last week or two. Has it been a full moon? On top of the regular questions about how much baggage they can now take, since the regulations just recently changed, I am getting questions like... "My wife wants to take bologna, cheese and pickles in a cooler. Will it be allowed on the airplane?" Ummmm.... why? Then there was the guy that wanted to know if he could take his beach umbrella and tennis racket on board. Why would you not just check it? A funny one was the lady that called in and said, "I would like to talk to someone about flying animals." Just the way that was phrased made me giggle. I have had a guy that booked his condo hotel, something I have never even heard of, online and needed an itemized receipt for the government and he was getting nowhere. It took me just over an hour making calls and tracking numbers to find someone that could fax him one. And then of course there are the weirdo's with no lives. We have the foot guy, the pencil guy and the San Francisco guy that prank call. What a strange week!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fixing the Sprinklers

For Mother's Day we went out to my in-laws and worked on their yard for my Mother in Law's mother's day gift. It became my job to drive the lawn tractor around and cut the grass that had not seen a blade in a very long time. To give you an idea, I managed to ram 3 sprinkler heads because the grass was so high I could not see them. They stood nearly 10" above the ground! Needless to say, I totally destroyed them. So today we went out to replace them as well as a valve that froze this winter. It was so easy to replace the sprinkler heads, screw the old ones out, new ones in and you're done! As for the valve, it was just as easy but I could not believe how extensive and complicated it was! It had filters and compression rings and such. Of course, it was also $60 to replace! Ouch! But the good thing is, we got it done, my in-laws can water their lawn again and all is well. :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thought Provoking

I received this this e-mail today and I wanted to pass it along with some of my own thoughts. I don't know the validity of it but it was in fact thought provoking.

"There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the Prof noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back
and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his
country's government and install a new communist regime.

In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked: "Do you know how to catch wild pigs?"

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said that it was no joke.

"You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity."

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America. The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of
programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax
cuts, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to
plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc. while we continually lose
our freedoms, just a little at a time.

One should always remember two truths:

1) There is no such thing as a free lunch

2) and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself."

My thoughts are this... yes, you can trap anyone with a little incentive and patience and yes, I agree that such things are happening in America, along with the revocation of the rights of the majority by minority groups that happen to have a louder voice (i.e. more time on their hands) and lots of other things. But I disagree with both points made.

A) There is such thing as a free lunch and it comes from charity and service to your fellow man. Unfortunately, in America this is becoming less and less common. Here is something that should be even more thought provoking.... When was the last time you helped someone you didn't know? When was the last time you saw a neighbor's yard, overgrown with weeds and decided to complain instead of walk your mower up and offer to help? When was the last time you was someone walking down the street, pushing a stroller and carrying two arms full of groceries and you stopped to offer a ride? Have you ever complained about the condition of someones house? Their hair? Their clothes? Their car? What was the last thing you complained about? Did you offer your assistance in rectifying the situation? Or did you just go on your merry way, complaining?

B) As for not being able to hire someone cheaper than you could do it yourself, it completely depends on your level of expertise. If you know how to do something and have the tools to do it then you can definitely not hire someone else to do it less expensive. However, if you are without the tools or the expertise then it is possible that it could cost you quite a bit more to do it yourself. And you have to take into consideration the amount of time it takes you to complete the task. Can someone else do it more efficiently while you focus your energy on something you can do more efficiently? And do you know someone that does have the tools and the expertise to help you? Networking is a great opportunity as long as you don't take advantage. Give as much as you take. There are plenty of opportunities to trade services! They can be very lucrative.

So there are my two cents. As you all know, I am very opinionated and if you read any of my blogs, you should be used to it. I would love your thoughts added to this, please feel free to comment back.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Taming the Beast

Have you heard about these progesterone creams? They are supposed to help relieve the symptoms of PMS and menopause and such? Do you actually think that something like this can work? I mean I have tried everything from Midol to strong liqueurs and there is not much that can tame this beast! My poor husband and children have just learned the phrase "Oh! It's that time! I'll talk to you later Mrs. Queen." Yeah, it really gets that bad. I just don't see how a cream, progesterone or not could actually help in any way. Maybe applied to the site of the cramps like an icy hot, but just being absorbed into your skin seems pretty far out to me. Has anyone had any experience with these creams? Do they actually work? I would really like to know, and I think my husband secretly wants to know too.

It's Time For Me To Go Into Drug Rehab

I have thought long and hard about this and I have decided that it is time for me to go into drug rehab. No, not because I am a drug addict, but because I need a break at an amazing resort, being waited on hand and foot, with maid service and beautiful, private accommodations, fed gourmet meals and relaxing by the pool sipping non-alcoholic mixed drinks and sunning myself the whole day through. And I think the state should pay for it as part of my "treatment plan". Treat me for drugs, alcohol.... HELL! Treat me for KIDS! What every, just let ME escape to one of the wonderful, amazing, way to nice drug rehab resorts! I might not have screwed up my life and everyone around me by doing drugs, but I think the absence of that should earn me the vacation, not the other way around!

You might think I sound callous but come on! No one forced them to start taking drugs, no one forced them to follow the path in life they have chosen! I have met many people who have come from perfectly awful parenting and they turned out to be respectable, upstanding human beings. I have seen people brought up by perfectly wonderful parents turn in to the scum of the earth. So they can not blame their parents, peers or anyone else. It was their own choices that led them to ruin their lives. I just don't feel that they deserve the "royal" treatment now that they have hit rock bottom. Make them climb out, clawing and kicking just like the rest of us do when we are faced with a problem!

410K Finally Resolved!

We finally got it taken care of! For those of you that don't know the story here is the short version... Lee had a 401K when he worked at Wells Cargo. For about 6 months he put 3% of his income into it and trusted that everything was great, (since neither of us have ever had a 401K before, we never knew to think it strange that we were not receiving quarterly statements or that a disbursement was not made at his termination). We just went along, happily thinking that he had a couple hundred dollars, sitting in a 401K, bouncing up and down with the stock market.

Well, when he got on with his current employer and was eligible for a 401K with them, we decided it would be best to consolidate and move the money from the Wells Cargo 401K to his new one. And the drama began. I started by calling the company that held the 401K. They had never heard of Lee. I checked his paycheck stubs and the money had in fact been taken out, so I called Wells Cargo. After no less than 30 phone calls from Utah to Indiana, 6 years in tracking and calling, 3 different 401K companies and excuses like, "Well, the stock market is really hard right now, it's probably all gone" to "Well, the snow is really high here in Indiana and it would be really hard to find the hard copies of his pay stubs until springtime" from Wells Cargo HR people, I was finally able to find the answer. A gentleman by the name of Gary Green had worked with the company but was fired just before Lee started. His SS# was one number different from Lee's and they transposed the numbers and my husbands money had been going into an account for Gary Green. Every quarter, Gary got my husbands quarterly statements and one day decided he needed money so he sent in his request and easy as that, my husbands 401K was sent by check to Mr. Green. Now, in his defense, everything was in his name, under his SS# and looked, by all accounts, to belong to Mr. Green. It was Wells Cargo that screwed up. Royally! Then came the tedious process of getting them to return the money to us. Which was only $180 and some change, but after all this, it was principal! So, I started the calls again and months went by with no return calls. Finally it happened! We got a quarterly statement! Our very first one ever! one little problem, it said a disbursement had been made in March. We had no money and no check. And the calls began again.

Finally, today the check came by UPS Overnight, Urgent delivery. Now we will get a new savings accounts and put this into a high yield CD and start a good savings. Can you believe what I had to go through to get this taken care of? It was insane!?! I feel that we are entitled to the interest for the last 8 years at least, but considering what I had to go through to get the $165 check they just sent, I don't think it would be worth the fight. Wow!

Economic Stimuls Check

I was so excited to receive my economic stimuls check for $2100! What a wonderful windfall! We were able to get our kids the digital cameras I have wanted to get them, Lee got the air tools and the tap and die set he has been needing to fix his truck and I got a trip to Houston to visit the Shangri La Botanical Gardens with Baby. It has been so nice. I was going to buy us all passports, but I decided to make an extra house payment instead. So we have made our mark and helped to stimulate the economy and we loved every minute of it!

MY Cat in Crisis

I can not believe how expensive a single kitty can be! My long haired cat, Prince, does not groom himself like he should so he gets really bad mats. I have him shaved in the summertime to keep him cool and remove the mats. Thursday, I took him to the groomer and made him pretty. That was a $40 bill! Then he went out "Tom Catting" and got himself hurt in a fight so I had to take him to the vet. There's another $98! Ouch! $140 in one week! It makes me laugh though, all the different cat supplies and stuff that you can find! They actually gave my kitty ammoxicillin, you know, the pink, bubblegum flavored stuff you give to your kids? Yep! My kitty gets a mouth full of bubblegum flavored ammoxicillin every morning and every evening! I am actually pretty impressed by how well he takes it. I tell ya though, when he and Batman are gone, I am DONE with pets! I have KIDS! Why in the world would I want Pets???

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spreading Germs and Washing Hands

I was sickened when I saw the statistics on public hand washing. It was very disturbing. Disturbing enough that I have started a Hand Washing Campaign with my kids, just to make sure that it is ingrained into their heads.

I have taught them to wash with soap and water for as long as it takes to sing the ABC's, twice. Then to turn off the bathroom faucets using a paper towel, so as not to pick up the germs again and to open all public restroom doors using the paper towel they dried their hands with, so as not to pick up someone else's germs that left the restroom without washing.

I am working with them on washing their hands after they touch their face, the cat or dog, the garbage can, the floor or the bottoms of their shoes. And always before eating (you should see my house at dinner time. Everyone sitting down at the table, heads bowed for the prayer, Mommy asks, who has washed their hands and the table clears as everyone races to the bathroom to wash up. Then a steady procession of small children returning with moist, pink little hands, held out in front of them positioned for mommy to smell them. Proof that they indeed used soap.), before cooking, before putting away the dishes and after playing outside. They are getting better and better.

However, I wasn't sure that they understood the concept that there are germs all around them. They get on their hands and they spread them by touching things. I was really excited when my friend T told me about a project that she had seen where you wet a child's hands and sprinkle them with glitter. Then everything they touch gets glitter on it. After awhile you can take your child back and show them where they have been, what they have touched and what "has germs" on it from their hands. I can't wait to try it out with my little ones.

For your knowlegde pleasure, here is the study I found about hand washing in public restrooms from the Minnesota Department of Health website.

Hand Washing Statistics: People Don’t Wash Hands

Some statistics illustrating that people don't wash their hands. Excerpt from the 2006 Minnesota Hand washing Tool Kit.

  • American Society of Microbiology studies showed:
    • 97% of females and 92% of males say they wash
      • of these only 75% females and 58% males washed
    • 50% of middle and high school students say they wash
      • of these 33% of females and only 8% of males used soap while washing hands
  • Minnesota Department of Health led three observational studies:
    • 2003 Back to 50’s Car Show Event—64% females washed and 30% males
    • 2003 State Fair—65% females washed and 39% males
    • 2004 State Fair—75% females washed and 51% males

(Source: 2006 Minnesota Handwashing Tool Kit)

Treating the effects of a good meal

I love a good meal and while I enjoy things spiced well, my tummy doesn't always agree. I will end up with indigestion almost every time. One thing that has worked well for me is a glass of very cold, whole milk. I am not sure the reasoning behind it and I am sure it is nothing more than an old wives tale but it works well to control the acid reflux and ease my discomfort. But at night time, it's a completely different story. If I eat and then lay down, it does not matter how much milk I drank or how cold it was or how thick, the heartburn will continue. I have learned to get around this most of the time by eating early or easing off on the spices with a late night meal. However, it can not always be avoided. Dinner parties, traveling etc. can lead to situations where I am eating late and much spicier foods than I am used too. Then I am up all night.

I will usually try to sleep by propping pillows up behind me to elevate myself and this works until I try to roll over and the pillow stack collapses. Not to mention, it's very difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position on a pillow mountain. But I have started seeing more and more of these sleep wedges. It's simply a large, firm pillow in the form of a wedge to give your body the elevation it needs to relieve the symptoms of acid reflux. Now for me, the occasional suffer it would be nice, but for someone that has chronic acid reflux, this could be a lifesaver, or at least a dream saver. Yea, I'm cheesy, I know it. Something else I found that looked wonderful was a Medibeads King size Heating pad. It delivers warm, moist heat to aching muscles. Now I can totally see that helping me sleep better!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My Kitchen Toys

I love "Kitchen Toys" and I love to cook if I have the right "toys" to make it easy. So my husband has learned that if he wants me to cook something the best thing he can do is buy me a new toy. Most recently I got a sandwich maker and he has been talking lately about getting me a new smoothie maker and waffle maker. But I have my eye set on an icecream maker/dispenser and a food dehydrator. I saw a couple in magazines like SkyMall and Kitchen Creations (I think that's what it's called) and they can be so expensive and range in quality and features so drastically. I really just want to get the best product and the best buy. I have to keep looking but I would love any suggestions on which appliances you prefer when it comes to icecream makers and food dehydrators and where you found the best buys.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Aftermath of a Good Trip

I love to travel and I always hate coming home. Not just because I am getting back to the daily grind and the routine chores, but also because my body has never handled the climate and time changes very well. You know what I mean? We left New York on Monday and flew home and it wasn't until we got home that I realized what havoc the humidity had played on my skin. Suddenly my skin, especially my face, was uncomfortably dry and itchy. Not to mention, the humidity left me in desperate need of a good acne treatment!

And then there is the time change. My internal clock never seems to adjust to time changes at all. I will get onto the East Coast and at Midnight, I am still wide awake and raring to go but come morning, do not even think about waking me before 11am. It really messes things up. Then I get home and I am ready for bed at 10pm and up at 6am for the next week!

But all the bad that comes from coming home, I would not trade my travels for anything I have seen so far!

What NOT to put in a Restaurant Restroom!

I just have to laugh, I was dining with a friend of mine at one of our favorite restaurants yesterday and I excused myself to use the restroom. As much as I love this restaurant, I will leave it nameless, I have never used their facilities. So I walked into this very nice restroom and as I was leaving I noticed that they had, not only a mirror, but a full bathroom vanity! Now I am a very curious person but not to the point of actually opening someone else's bathroom vanity to see what is inside. So I left the restaurant very perplexed as to why anyone would put a full vanity in a restaurant restroom and very curious as to what anyone would put in bathroom vanities in restaurants. And the more I think about it, the more I wish I had taken just a small peek!

What is the funniest thing you have seen in a Restaurant?

Friday, April 11, 2008

New York Dining At It's Best!

We spent a lot of time trying to find places to eat in New Jersey and New York while we were there. Here is one of the place’s we went that I would HIGHLY recommend.

Just a word of warning to anyone wishing to travel with the assistance of a GPS navigation device, while they are amazing, and I personally can not live with out mine, BRING A MAP to New York! We had so much trouble with our GPS losing the satellite signal when we got into downtown and among all the really tall buildings.

Warning aside, we spent an awful lot of time trying to find a good seafood restaurant in an area of town that looked safe for us to park and get out. (The first three choices did not meet this requirement). Finally we tried for City Crab and headed in the direction of Downtown. Once we finally found it we were on a one way, one lane street with cars parked along both sides and hardly enough room for cars to drive down the middle. While stopped at the light, Ladybug and I jumped out and sent the others to park the car and meet us in the restaurant. (My feet were beyond tired from walking all day in heels) So we got up to City Crab and read the menu which was posted in the window. $70 A PLATE! We began rethinking our decision.

But in the mean time, Ladybug had to potty. So we wandered down a little further and found a cute little bar and grill about 3 doors down called Maxie's. We went in and they allowed her to use the restroom. While I waited for her I perused the menu and found it to be both upscale and reasonably priced. I was impressed. So by the time the others had parked the cars and met back up with us, I had made the decision to adjourn to Maxie's Bar and Grill and save ourselves $50 plus, per plate. This decision made D Dad very happy as he was the one in charge of paying for the food. :)

Once seated in Maxie's I looked around and realized that it was very upscale. Men in dress coats at the bar and couple's in business dress at the tables. Luckily, we were not the only family, nor the only ones not in business dress. The entire atmosphere, however was just surprisingly upscale. The waiter, an aspiring actor and very, very good looking I might add, was dressed in all black, adding to the good looks immensely! I wish I had gotten his autograph, with his good looks, he will go far!

The menu was simple and direct with very, very reasonable prices considering we were on Park St. in Downtown New York City. D Dad and I ordered the salmon and Lee ordered a New York Steak. Butterfly got a chicken salad and Ladybug had the chicken tenders. Big C got an appetizer of chili that ended up being more than even HE could eat! And to begin our meal we ordered the Nacho Fries Grande.

The Nacho Fries Grande was absolutely amazing! This wonderful appetizer was a huge pile of waffle fries smothered in ground beef, nacho cheese, onions and tomatoes and served with a side of guacamole and sour cream. It was an absolutely, wonderfully filling, satisfying, yummy, gooey mess! Well worth every penny and then some! We were thinking that we should have just gotten a couple of those and made it a meal. Nacho Fries Grande: 6 Big Messy Smiles

Then came our meals. My husbands steak was just your run of the mill steak. Mine and D Dad’s Salmon however was wonderful! Cooked medium and served over a butter dill sauce and steamed veggies, it was a wonderful meal, full of flavor. Butterfly’s salad was extra yummy with chunks of mozzarella cheese mixed in with their house dressing and grilled chicken strips arranged on top. Big C’s meal included a huge serving of chili and ½” thick potato chips which he just loved. Ladybug’s meal was your everyday, average chicken strips, breaded and served with dipping sauces. Over all the main courses get 4 out of 6 Big Smiles and 2 Happy Faces with no Frowns.

Now on to the desserts! All I can say is WOW! What a way to finish of an amazing meal! I had the Black & White Cheesecake, drizzled with raspberry glaze I was forcing myself to finish it, just so I didn’t have to let any of it go. It was fantastic! The kids split an order of Fried Cookie Dough. Yes, that is exactly what I meant. It was three scoops of chocolate chip cookie dough fried and served drizzled with chocolate sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream to tone it down. It is even richer than you are imagining! The kids could not finish it. Lee got a S’more milkshake which was in interesting combination of chocolate, vanilla, graham crackers and marshmallows. With whipped cream and toasted mini marshmallows on the top, it made a lovely presentation and a smooth finish to his meal. D Dad just had to try the Fried Banana Split. Again, yes, I said Fried Banana Split. We were in a new place! We had to try the local flavor. And it was great! Although, I could much better imagine the banana’s served with butter for breakfast. They reminded me a bit of banana muffins. But they were really good and added a very different twist to a banana split. After forcing ourselves to walk away from the last crumbs of our dessert, for the sake of our buttons, which were already straining, we rolled ourselves out the door and headed for the car. Very full and very happy. Dessert: 6 Big Smiles

One other thing I might add, they served bottled soda drinks by Steven’s. The kids and I got Orange Creamsicle and Lee got Rootbeer. Very, very good. New to us, but probably not to most. I definitely recommend the Orange Creamsicle!

Total Bill for 6 people, including appetizer, meals, drinks, desserts and tip: $140

I would HIGHLY recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Downtown New York or the surrounding areas. This would make a great place for a business meeting or a quiet family dinner. However, be prepared, it is more of a business atmosphere. Sophisticated and upscale. Yet the service is friendly and the food is wonderful. Don’t miss out just because you are traveling with a family, they accommodated us very well. Well worth the trip!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What's Going To Happen To Timeshares?

I have watched the economy slowly, okay, rather rapidly slip into a recession and the interest rates and prices taking a sharp decline. So with this new trend I was wondering what is going to happen to timeshares? I bought into a timeshare trial situation this year and I am not sure I intend to extend it into a full blown membership due to the exorbitant price. But, if the price is going to go down and the interest rate drop then I might reconsider.

But I just marvel at the prices of new cars, real-estate even commercial real estate. It just amazes me, the rate at which it continues to drop and even the rate that the foreclosures are jumping. It is a rather scary situation. I am really putting some serious effort into making sure that I am not seriously in debt and I am in a position to sit out a full blown recession. Of course, I will never give up my travels!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Working Off Those Wonderful Resturants

As much as I love to eat, I also find myself needing to work off some of those wonderful calories that I find. I am not by any means "the norm" when it comes to an exercise routine. I like the playful, fun and exciting exercises. I love jumping on trampoline, riding my bike, hiking and swimming. If I were to take a walk I would burn more brain cells being bored than I would calories. I just like the fun. So I decided to list my preferences for burning calories:

Jumping on the trampoline with the kids: 8 calories per minute
Riding my bicycle around the neighborhood: 7 calories per minute
Hiking to Malan's Peak: 4 calories per minute
Talking on the phone: 8 calories per 10 minutes
(Pacing around my house while talking on the phone: 31 calories per 10 minutes)
Weeding and Planting my Garden: 3.3 calories per minute
Playing with my kids: 3 calories per minute
Reading my favorite book: 8 calories per minute
Writing on my blog: 8 calories per 10 minutes

So to burn off the calories from that wonderful cheesecake cake I had for dessert last night we are talking 425 calories. So I would need 130 minutes of pacing and talking on the phone. Hey T! Give me a call will ya? I can always talk to T for 2 hours and not even notice it! What a way to balance my weight! What's your favorite way to burn calories?

Friday, March 14, 2008

A little help from a food fan...

I have a friend that loves to cook, and more so to eat, just as much as I do. However, the last time we were together cooking and laughing, she just wasn't eating as much as she normally does. Being the good friend I am, I was worried about her. (Okay, so I was worried that I was going to have to eat the entire Chocolate Ganache cake all by myself and end up sick the rest of the night.) So I asked her what was wrong. She said she was fine but continued to pick at her cake. Finally she started laughing.

I guess a friend of hers had given her a diet drug to try called hoodia. I have heard it advertised all over the place and I had always wondered if it worked. Well I guess she had too, so she tried it. Now she is by no means fat but she would happily lose 20 or 30 pounds and not feel guilty. So she tried this stuff and she was as amazed as I was. It totally curbed her hunger. There she sat with a cold glass of milk and a fresh piece of Chocolate Ganache cake and she was not even interested in eating.

After all was said and done, she decided that she enjoyed eating too much to continue taking something that powerful, but we were both amazed at the effects it had.

Here is the recipe we were using. It is one of my favorites from Barefoot Contessa. I have tweaked it a little here and there but I will give you the orignal so you can play with it and get it perfect for you.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

1/4 lb butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 (16 ounce) can hershey chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Butter and flour an 8 inch round cake pan, then the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time.
  5. Mix in the syrup and vanilla.
  6. Add the flour and mix until JUST combined (overbeating will make the cake too tough).
  7. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until just set in the middle.
  8. Let cool thoroughly in the pan.
  9. For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.
  10. Place the cake upside down on a wire rack and pour the glaze evenly over the top, making sure to cover the entire cake and sides.
  11. You can tilt the rack to smooth the glaze.
  12. Do not refrigerate.

1¼ hours
20 min prep

Makes one 8" cake