Monday, December 31, 2012

Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies!


Over the weekend I told a friend I would help her out with an open house she was having by making some cookies. I decided quickly that I wanted to do something different....something fun...something especially yummy. AND, I was craving chocolate that day: All. Day. Long.

I came up with these: Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies! (I think the name demands an exclamation point. Doesn't "triple chocolate" anything demand an exclamation point?!)

The results were fantastic...and the family complained that the bulk of them were to share. Oh well...I suppose I'll have to make them again. ;)

Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter-flavor Crisco (I like the sticks for ease)
2 T. softened butter
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 2/3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. dutch-process cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3 c. quick oats
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat Crisco, butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. (This step takes time--give it a good 5 minutes!). Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Mix flour, cocoa, soda and salt together and add to Crisco mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats, and then chips. Form into tablespoon-sized balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Set the timer for 11 minutes. With 5 minutes left, take a fork and flatten the cookie balls to about 1/2 inch flat. Complete baking time. Remove from the oven and cool one minute before removing to a wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen.

**I found that baking the cookies half way before flattening them kept them together. Flattening before baking often led to crumbled cookies.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

What happens when you try to catch Santa?

If you've been reading this blog much, you've heard about my 8-year-old daughter, Libby. She is hilarious and comes up with the darndest things sometimes. I think she about topped herself on Christmas Eve.

Libby determined to try and catch Santa in the act by videoing him secretly. She set up a blanket in the corner of the living room, and set the camera in the blanket folds so that the lens was just sticking out. Oh, she was quite pleased with herself too! She was sure she would succeed, and gave me strict instructions to make SURE the camera was still working when I went to bed. Of course, I did just that.

Here's what Libby found Christmas morning:


A letter from none other than BUDDY the ELF. You know, Buddy who says "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loudly for all to hear?" Yeah, that Buddy the Elf.)

As for the video camera? Just like Buddy said, Santa's magic can't be recorded. It was as blank as the white snow outside on our lawn. But Libby was okay with that. In her words, "I GOT A NOTE FROM BUDDY THE ELF!! SANTA TOLD HIM TO WRITE IT!" It is stuck away among her prized possessions. :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's all about love.


Nicole gave me two tickets to see Les Miserables last night, just she and I. It's the first time I've ever gone to a movie on Christmas Day, but it's also the first time there was a movie I thought was going to be worth it.

It was worth it. We loved it! (Thank you Nicole!)

Quick review: the movie is Amazing. Hugh Jackman hasn't won a few Tony awards for nothing--he is incredible. Anne Hathaway does an awesome job as Fantine--a tough, gritty role--and there are a couple of scenes in her story to beware of. Russell Crowe was a question mark before I went--can he sing well enough? Honestly, I thought he did okay and his voice matched the character well enough. He isn't on par with Jackman, but he doesn't crash and burn either. Eddie Redmayne's Marius was great. Loved him.

As I sat there watching the closing scenes (and crying!) as Jean Valjean prepares to die, I was struck with the thought that it's all about love. The movie is--the story is--life is. Ultimately it's for each of us to discover God's love in our lives, let it give us hope, receive & extend forgiveness, and let it make us into the people He wants us to be, while reflecting it to those around us. The character of Jean Valjean was able to do just that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas!!

We are having a wonderful, relaxing Christmas Day. I sincerely hope all of you are too! Here is what Christmas really means to me.


Friday, December 21, 2012

All together again & Libbyism #3,013 (or something like that)


"We're all together again, we're here we're here..."


Can't help singing that song in my head today after Nicole returned home for Christmas last night. So happy to see that girl! It was awesome to me that literally the first thing she wanted to do was take a picture of all of us. I love it!!

In other news, Libby has been at it again. This morning she is saying in a sing-songy voice:

"It's the end of the world!"

When asked about it, her answer was, "Some people ran out of paper so they thought it would be the end of the world."

It works for me. Happy end of the world, people.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Real life & diabetes: Blessings

Meltdown. Confirmed.

Yesterday was not such a good day. And I did not handle it particularly well. Oh, I didn't yell or scream (too much) but I was not nice. I was not happy. I had HAD IT!!

With 6 days before Christmas, we had to have $340 of car repairs. Jared's infusion sets (the needles that go under his skin to deliver insulin) were not working. One was leaking onto his clothes. The next one kept giving an "occlusion detected" alarm on his pump. I felt like yelling "OH MY GOSH! Will it never end?!" Needless to say, his blood sugars yesterday were through the roof, and wouldn't come down below 400 for hours. So stressful--especially for him, I know. But also for his mom. And the $340 in car repairs? Nothing compared to the worry of diabetes. So I had resolved to just deal with that, but the diabetes was still not under control.

Later in the evening as I tried to chill out by folding laundry, I said to Jared, "Diabetes sucks!! And I'm not even you." After about 30 seconds pause, Jared said something that really astounded me.

He said, "Sometimes it's a blessing."

What? He said what?

I repeat: "Sometimes it's a blessing."

I said, "Why do you say that?" (Especially after such a tough day!)

He said, "Because it teaches me things."

Talk about kids teaching parents. That right there was a really humbling moment.

And I'm officially done complaining.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Saltine Cracker Toffee

Have you ever tried this yummy {and so, so easy} treat? And yep, there are saltines in it. You can't even tell in the finished product.

I actually made this once over 10 years ago and then forgot about it {I have no idea how that happened!} until I saw it recently over at Six Sisters' Stuff. I made a couple of adaptations to the recipe, like using semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of milk. Give it a try. You'll love the results.

Saltine Cracker Toffee
adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff

1 cup salted butter
1 cup brown sugar
40 saltines (about 1 sleeve)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with foil, and spray the foil with non-stick spray. Lay the saltines close together on the foil. I learned they aren't quite square, and laying them with the shorter side aligned with the short side of the pan helps them all fit better.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and add the brown sugar. Whisk to combine, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it boils, DO NOT STIR. Set the timer for 3 minutes. At end of cooking time, immediately pour the hot syrup over the saltines. Spread over the saltines to cover as much as you can. Don't worry if it doesn't quite cover everything. In the oven, it will spread further on its own and soak the saltines, like so:
Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake 5-7 minutes. (I thought being high altitude that I'd try the 7, but it was a little too long and the very edges of my toffee browned too much. So I would go with 5 and then take it out promptly). Remove pan from oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot toffee.
Let the chocolate chips sit for about 5 minutes to soften. Using a spatula, spread the melted chips across the toffee to completely cover it. Sprinkle the chopped pecans (or any other nut you wish) over the top. Lightly press the nuts into the chocolate to hold. Place the toffee in the refrigerator to set. My toffee was completely cooled and set after one hour.

Once the toffee is set, lift it from the pan with the edges of the foil liner. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container, or freeze. At room temperature the toffee will keep 1-2 weeks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One week to go...what's on your schedule?

T-7 days! Are you ready? I am not quite ready, but pretty close. We did visit Santa the other day, and that's one of the most important things to do in Libby's book. So I can check that off the list!

This week I have to:

1. Make some more cards like this one:
(All from Stampin' Up: taupe cardstock, holly-printed Christmas Elegance, stocking stamp in Sahara Sand ink, and grosgrain ribbon in Old Olive. The saying is done free hand by yours truly).

2. Make some more tags like this:
(Again I used Stampin' Up cardstock in taupe, Christmas Elegance paper in stripes, "merry christmas" stamp in Ruby Red ink, and silver ties. Also large round and ornament punches).

3. Wrap, wrap, wrap!! I keep reminding myself that I've got to get that done by Friday, or lose my sanity trying to do it after school is out for Christmas vacation.

4. Cook, cook, cook! Toffee, peanut brittle, and 4 kinds of Chex Mix.

5. Wrap some more!

6. Find a gift for my father-in-law. Why are fathers-in-law so hard to shop for?

7. Mail a couple of packages and cards. I need to do that TODAY. Not looking forward to the post office madness....

8. Go to Jared's Christmas concert.

9. Four different family parties, all by Christmas Eve.

10. Make the traditional trifle. Last year's trifle:
(Yellow sponge cake, raspberries and bananas, set in raspberry gelatin and topped with a layer of vanilla custard and then real whipped cream).

I'm sure there are other things I should have on my list....



Saturday, December 15, 2012

So much evil, but even more good.

There really are no words for yesterday's tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut. Such evil. Such sadness!! So horrific.

These words were one of the best things I read all day, and I thought they were also something we could say to our children about yesterday's events. I hope they help you, too.

"When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” ~Fred Rogers

Friday, December 14, 2012

Flashback Friday: Christmas papercrafting

Brads are sharp. (Brad Pitt is sharp too--if his hair is short!--but I'm talking about these brads today. Tiny little things, but sharp enough to draw blood. Ask me how I  know.)

After I found out how sharp they are, I figured out that this handy little tool Jeff brought home for me does indeed have a special purpose. You guessed it (or very probably you're smarter than I am and you just knew), this tool is for making a tiny little brad hole in whatever you might want to "brad."


In my case, I wanted to decorate candy bars and other treats with cute tags. These treats are boxes of Sweet's Chocolate Raspberry sticks. Yum.

I discovered that these "Little Felt Flurries" (soo cute!) could be attached to the circles that I punched out of  Stampin' Up! Cherry Cobbler card stock with said brads.

 I then rediscovered the "May your Christmas be sparkly and bright" stamp and silver ink pad Jeff brought home for me. Perfect for these bottles of sparkling cider.

I also covered some giant Hershey bars for my girls to give away. This is my favorite design. Love the blue and white paper...also from Stampin' Up!, of course. :)

I seriously didn't plan any of these ideas, other than knowing that I was going to cover the Hershey bars somehow. That's not my style, because if I sit down and try to plan out how to use this stuff, I can't do it. My brain goes blank.  My style is come-up-with-stuff-as-I-go-along, or in other words, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Divergent

 
This book came highly recommended from one of my book-loving friends. I finally bought it for my last birthday, and after reading Pure, I started in on this one. How did I like it? Here's a clue: Pure took me several weeks to get through {it's longer, and it wasn't a complete page-turner for me}. In contrast, I read Divergent in about one week. It's not as long as Pure, but it was definitely a page-turner! I do recommend it, but with a couple of reservations that I'll explain later.

Divergent is Veronica Roth's first in a three-part series. Just out last May was the second, named Insurgent, and next year will be the conclusion, which is still unnamed as far as I know. {I could suggest Convergent....Resurgent...???} Insert smiley face here.

The heroine of Divergent is Beatrice Prior, who evolves into "Tris" as the book's events unfold. The hero, Tris's instructor and love interest is Tobias, who is known only as "Four" as the book begins. They are ages 16 and 18, respectively, which means that like the Hunger Games, the series is aimed at young adults.

Tris lives in a dystopian version of Chicago, where society is divided up into factions. The factions are determined by character traits. There are the Abnegation (selfless), Erudite (intelligent),  Amity (peaceful), Dauntless (brave) and Candor (honest). At first, the idea of living by one's noblest character traits was successful, but it is proving to have its downside as pride and power enter in, particularly among the Erudite and the Dauntless.

When a child reaches the age of 16, they will choose the faction they will live among for the rest of their lives. They must choose carefully, as that is also the character trait that they will emulate and live by. Before they choose, they undergo an aptitude test that tells them which faction they will best align with. Tris learns during her test that she is something called "Divergent," which is so dangerous that the person administering the test won't tell Tris what it means, beyond informing her that she has equal aptitude for all factions. The administrator then fakes Tris's result as Abnegation to hide her Divergent result. Tris was raised Abnegation, but isn't certain she is selfless enough to live that way for the rest of her life. In the beginning of the novel, Tris makes her choice to live Dauntless, but the initiation process proves to be dangerous, and she isn't sure she will even make it. And she must keep the fact of her Divergent status a secret from everyone. Four is her instructor, and he has a secret of his own.

I really like the premise of this series, and I plan to read the next two also. From a family values standpoint, though it is aimed at teens and young adults, I won't let my 13 and 15 year olds read it yet. The reason is that although there is no sex in the book, there are just a couple of scenes that are on the risque side in the description of the kissing that takes place between Tris and Four. There is also a slight amount of language in the book, but not much. Violence is a part of the story also, but certainly not to the extent that it is in the Hunger Games. The risque bits are really what is going to keep my young teens from reading this series. If you're an adult who enjoyed the Hunger Games, you will enjoy Divergent too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grandma-razzi and the gift she left us.

This is a great pic from a Christmas Past. I can't believe it was 7 years ago that they were all so small!

Pics like this make me ever more grateful for my mom-in-law--the one who took this pic, and a lot of the pics we enjoy reminiscing over now. She was NEVER without a camera, either right in her hand or close by where she could grab it at a second's notice. We used to tease her and at one point, even started calling her the "Grandma-razzi." {Or something like that}. How we all miss her!!

Anyway, what a difference 7 years makes. Grandma is now watching over us (especially her little people) from the other side. Nicole is all grown up and getting close to earning her bachelor's degree. Jake is going to graduate from high school this year. Jared is in high school and now takes good care of his own diabetes. Sarah is in 8th grade and a great babysitter for a lot of our neighbors. Mia is enjoying musical theater, something I had no idea she'd be doing when this pic was taken. And Libby is still the buddy of everyone in this pic--I just love how she and Mia are hugging. They still do that!

Merry Christmas! Treasure each and every one that you get to share with your loved ones.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Liebster Award! {And my 11 nominees}

Recently, Lori from Operation Dinnertime nominated me for a blogging award called the Liebster Award. {Thank you, Lori!}


Here's how the award works: bloggers award other bloggers who they deem as "up and coming" and have less than 200 followers. It's a nice way to help other bloggers increase their visibility. If you receive a Liebster, you must tell 11 things about yourself, answer 11 questions posed by the nominating blogger, and nominate 11 new bloggers. Then you ask those bloggers 11 questions that they will answer. {Don't forget to tell the new bloggers you have nominated them!}

11 Things About Me:
1. I love blogging. I'd spend all day on it if I could!
2. I love living in a place where there are 4 seasons. {This year I'm wondering if I still live in a place that has 4 seasons...}
3. I wish I could knit. I would love to knit, but I have not had the patience to master it yet!
4. One of my favorite books of all time is Gone With The Wind. I've literally read it dozens of times since I was a teenager.
5. In sixth grade I played Hermia in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
6. If I had the budget, there are sooo many things I would love to do with my house...and if I ever get to do them, you can bet I'll blog it.
7. I'm a Downton Abbey fan. {Then again, who isn't it seems?}
8. I teach piano lessons. I love when a brand new student "clicks" with the piano. It's fun to watch.
9. I don't like sticky candies. Only chocolate. With nuts? Even better.
10. I love Honey Walnut Shrimp!!! And I'm going to learn how to make it at home. You know I'll post that, too.
11. Sunday is my favorite day of the week, hands down.

Here are Lori's 11 questions to me, with my answers:
1. If you won a Powerball jackpot, what is the first thing you would buy, and why?
After things like religious donations, helping others and paying off my house, I would start that list of things I'd like to do to my house....

2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Honestly, I live in a great place and I'd stay right where I am. But I'd love to visit a few other great places.

3. What is your idea of a dream vacation?
Right now, Hawaii. Never been there, and I'm dying to go!

4. If you could write your autobiography, what would it be called?
In a sense, this blog is my autobiography, so I'd keep the same name.

5. If your autobiography became a movie, who would you cast to play you?
Well, this will never happen, but let's pretend. I'd cast....Reese Witherspoon? {But she'd have to cut her hair. Like Anne Hathaway did for Les Miz. But Anne's MUCH too tall to play me. :) }

6. If you could have one superhuman power, what would it be and why?
I could run a marathon anytime, anywhere. And FAST. In like, minutes. Why? I don't really know...I suppose so I could go anywhere on my own power.

7. What is on the top of your Christmas wish list, and why?
See number three...because I really, really want to see Hawaii. And while I'm there I want to go running. But mostly lay on a beach.

8. What's better, breakfast for dinner or dessert before dinner?
Breakfast for dinner. Namely, pancakes.

9. Do you believe in Bigfoot?
I don't think so....

10. You have one open spot at your dinner table tonight. Who would you invite, and why?
I'd like to have dinner with the Duchess....when she's feeling better of course. I think she's awesome.

11. If you had a chance to redo college or high school, which would you pick and why?
I'd redo college, but only in the sense that I'd do it faster. And maybe add another major--music!

My 11 Nominees:
The Real Thing with the Coake Family
Nutrition4Life
Mom on the Runx2
We Three Crabs
Me and D
Moments of Wonderful
Tickles & Tots
Friends with Sprinkles
The Knotty Knitters
Love, Peace & Hodson
Structure in an Unstructured Life

Okay, nominees. Here are your 11 questions. Go!

1. Why did you start blogging?
2. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
3. Did you have a childhood nickname that has stuck? What is it?
4. What hobby would you do more if you had more time to do it?
5. What is your favorite movie?
6. Can you speak more than one language?
7. If calories were not a consideration, what's the thing you would eat most?
8. What is your favorite season and why?
9. If you could do anything you wanted with your most favorite person for an entire week, what would you do/where would you go?
10. Which would you rather do--fold the laundry, or iron the laundry?
11. If there were one person who lived before you who you could see & talk with for an hour, who would it be and why?

Thanks again, Lori!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More of my favorite things.

Time to showcase a few more of the things I love. {None of these are sponsored.}

1. Petroleum Jelly. One thing I just can't live without. I've been using it on my lips for years, applying it multiple times a day. If there's ever a petroleum jelly shortage, I'm in trouble. {I know it says "Comforts for Baby" on the label. That means NOTHING. Petroleum jelly is petroleum jelly.}

2. Dove Dark Chocolate Promises. Yes, this pic got really special treatment. Deservedly so! I almost always have a stash of this stuff. :)

3. Hot Cider. This stuff in a packet takes second to actually heating cider on the stove with cinnamon sticks, cloves & nutmeg...but mornings are busy around here. I don't have time to make the real stuff every day, so these packets do me just fine. I do add some cinnamon & nutmeg to it. Mmmmm.


4. Garnier Fructis Leave-In Conditioner. I've always had frizzy hair {so a honeymoon in humid Orlando meant hair disaster--otherwise the honeymoon was fantastic} and now that I'm in my mid-40's it's also getting drier. I don't shampoo every day, but I do have to wet my hair every day, and I put this in every day as well. It really makes a difference for me.

5. My latest, BEST find for my hair! This stuff is perfect for helping my pixie-short locks be a little spiky through the crown. It holds All. Day. without being sticky.




Lastly, a simply gorgeous new rendition from The Piano Guys just in time for Christmas. I'll let you in on a little secret: I wish I could play the cello. This song just makes me wish it even more! And if you've never heard The Piano Guys---you've been missing out. Take a listen and you'll hear.





Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Review: Pure


If you've been following this blog for long, you know that I love books. Pure is one of the books I got for my last birthday, and the first one that I decided to read because it looked so interesting. It did not disappoint--it was very interesting, and also a little harrowing, but one that makes you think. Julianna Baggott's Pure is a look at a post-apocalyptic world. "The Detonations" are a time referred to often in the novel, with time marked as either Before or After. The Before would look mighty familiar to you and me, but The After isn't anything I'd want to see in real life. It was a little harrowing. In the Pure world, there are basically two groups of people. Those who live out among the gray, flattened landscape, and those who live in The Dome high above it all. The Dome was protected, and those who live inside are Pure. Those "wretches" who lived outside The Dome have been scarred in one way or another--physically and in other ways--by the destruction of The Detonations. One of the most harrowing parts of the novel is the descriptions of the fusings. The wretches suffer by having been fused to whatever or whoever they may have been near when The Detonations occurred. The heroine of the novel, a now sixteen-year-old Pressia, has a doll head fist because she was a five-year-old holding a doll when the destruction hit. Another boy in the novel was giving his little brother a piggy-back ride, so they are now fused together in a permanent piggy-back ride and if one dies, they both die. Those in The Dome are a mystery to those outside of it, and vice-versa. The people in The Dome are looking to the time when the earth regenerates and they can rule a new world. The wretches distrust those in The Dome, even believing they may have been responsible for The Detonations. They may be right. One teenage boy from The Dome, Partridge, a Pure, escapes and heads out into the world of wretches and bands with them to help bring about a possible revolution. Pure is the first novel of a trilogy, with the second, Fuse, due out in February 2013.

Monday, December 3, 2012

eShakti Winners!!

Congrats to the winners of a $25 eShakti gift certificate! I am super excited for both of you!

#31 Laura T. who said, "I love the "take me for a ride" dress!"
#68 Abbie who said, "Love the High collar houndstooth dress."

You should both hear from eShakti by email with info about your prize.
Thanks for entering, and have a blast with your eShakti shopping experience!!
 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fun for less!

Friday night was party central at our house.

Amelia invited 12 friends to come over to celebrate her birthday. They did, and we managed to pull off a fun party for only a little money.

They enjoyed $5 pizzas and soda. I made up a batch of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.
And then I made up the awesome butter cream frosting recipe from Cooking Classy, divided it into five and colored them with neon gels.

The girls frosted cupcakes and then decorated them with sprinkles, marshmallows and candles.
After that, we lit the candles and the girls sang a rip-roaring version of happy birthday!

Then it was time for a movie (Brave, which Mia & I had gone to five different Redboxes to find!) and then fingernail painting. To thank her friends for coming, Mia gave them each a favor: just simple Christmas-themed cups filled with candy and gum from the dollar store and tied up with Stampin' Up ribbon.


So there you have it. It was fun (which makes Mia happy) and inexpensive (which makes me happy!).