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!