Saturday, April 30, 2011

End of April Menu

Ruth's post of her menu and budget was great, so I thought I would follow suit.

The grand total for food this month came out to. . . $330.00.  I have $30 left over!

My menu for the last two weeks of the month, which included Easter, looked like this:

Sunday-Baked Potatoes topped with bacon, cheese and sour cream, green salad (always make extra baked potatoes, they can be used in a potato soup or potato salad/side dish later in the week)

Monday-Chicken Pot Pie (I chopped up my extra potatoes from Sun. and mixed them with my veggies, and I had extra pie dough to use later), green salad, fresh bread, strawberry jello salad (we had company)--I made extra chicken to be used later

Tuesday-Chicken Noodle Soup, bread, strawberry pie (I had enough pie dough for two single crusts leftover from Monday)

Wednesday-Spinach Bacon Quiche (pie crust from Mon.), strawberries, green salad

Thursday-Passover feast--Roast (I actually bought it in Feb. for beef stew, and used maybe a third of it for that, and froze the rest.  I would have used lamb, but it was too expensive), bitter herbs--celery and carrot sticks, hummus and flatbread,  and Strawberry Dessert (Ruth needs to share the recipe).

Earlier in the day I had a little Easter playgroup activity at my house and I served Spinach Dip w/carrots and celery, strawberries w/fudge sauce for dipping, and a friend brought cupcakes for her little girl's birthday.  I also had monkey bread leftover from seminary, but we didn't get to that until later.

Friday-Pizza Pockets, salad (I made the pizza pockets ahead of time and froze them).

Saturday-I actually didn't make dinner.  We were working in the garden all day, then had to get washed up and go to a baptism quick.  The refreshments were quite ample and when we got home I just had the kids go to bed. 

Sunday-Ham, cheesy potatoes, yummy jello salad, green salad (I splurged a little on the ham, but I got it for $1.57/lb and got a 7 lb. ham.  I divided up the leftovers into bags-maybe 1/2-3/4 lbs each- and froze them for later)

Monday-Leftover ham and cheesy potatoes mixed together, green salad

Tuesday-Taco salad (I used the leftover meat from Thursday's roast, heated it up in a skillet with peppers and onions, cumin and garlic, a jar of salsa, and refried beans.  I let that cook down until it was nice and thick, then I served it over salad greens and topped it with cheese and a homemade ranch dressing).

Wednesday-Chicken and Spinach Lasagna, green salad

Thursday-Leftover Chicken and Spinach Lasagna--I wanted to fix something else, but the kids complained--it was that good-- Strawberry Shortcake

Friday-Broccoli Ham and Cheese Salad--delicious (I'll have to do a separate post on this), rolls

Saturday-Homemade Pizza, salad

And there you have it folks!  Two weeks of menus.  I stayed in budget too.
You might be thinking, wow, they eat a lot of salad.  This is the reason why:
I have tons of salad in the garden, and until it bolts, I just pick the outer leaves, so it keeps growing and growing and. . . well, you get the idea.  Once the spinach does bolt, I'll wash it up, blanch it, chop it up and freeze it for later.  Then I'll plant something else in its place.  We've also had a lot of strawberries in our garden lately.  It's been great using them up.  Sadly, those are almost done producing. -Lena

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jobs, Allowances, Mommy Store and Kids

There are lots of ways to teach your children how to work, and incentives to go with them. I am going to share my favorite way, after experimenting for years with different job charts and incentives.

For my job charts for my children, I do it in Microsoft Excel. It offers me the most flexibility. I was doing it in Word Perfect, but I was copying and pasting the different jobs so much that it was making things kind of messed up after a while.

Here is a job chart I made for my son, who is a teenager.

My gradeschooler

And the one I made for my Preschooler.

Let me explain what each category is.

Extra Job: During the school year, each child has 1 job a day around the house to do Monday through Friday. During the summer or vacation, they have 2 jobs a day. These jobs change on a seasonal basis. Notice that I put down Family room windows--in and out, twice for my teenager. Basically each window has 8 areas that need to be washed, I thought it was more fair to give him credit for 2 jobs, instead of just one--so in this case 1 job counts as 2. I also try to match skill levels with the jobs as well. Notice that my preschooler has scrub toilets. When he scrubs them, I just have him squirt dish soap in the toilets and swish it around, and then wipe down all the surfaces with a sanitary wipe. When my teenager has clean toilets, I have him put on gloves and use regular toilet bowl clean on all surfaces, rinse them and then wipe them down with a clean rag. Here is a list of all of my extra jobs that I use most often as well as all year long.

  • Bathroom Woodwork  
  • Scrub Toilets 
  • Clean & Organize drwer or cupbd  
  • Scrub Tub
  • Stair Railing
  • Clean Kitchen Sink  
  • Sweep Deck and Front Sidewalk
  • Clean off 2 Shelves in the Fridge  
  • Sweep Floor
  • Clean Out Van  
  • Vacuum Along Baseboards Downstairs 
  • Clean Out Window Wells  
  • Vacuum Along Baseboards Upstairs
  • Clean Oven  
  • Vacuum Out Van
  • Clean Toilets  
  • Vacuum Rugs
  • Door Handles  
  • Vacuum Stairs
  • Door Windows  
  • Vacuum, dust & clean front entry way
  • Dust & Vacuum Furnace Room  
  • Wash 2 Doors
  • Dust Ceiling & walls Downstairs  
  • Wash 3 Outside Windows
  • Dust Ceiling Upstairs  
  • Wash a Wall
  • Dust Downstairs  
  • Wash and Dry 3 Types of Toys
  • Dust Plants  
  • Wash Appliances
  • Dust Upstairs  
  • Wash Bathroom Sinks
  • Empty Trash Cans  
  • Wash bedroom Trash Cans
  • Family Room Windows-in & out  
  • Wash Chairs
  • Fill & Scrub Soap Dispensers  
  • Wash Doors
  • Front Room Baseboards  
  • Wash Downstairs Trashcans
  • Front room windows  
  • Wash inside cupboards
  • Hall Baseboards  
  • Wash Light Switch Covers
  • Help Mom for 15 Minutes  
  • Wash Little House Trash Cans
  • Kitchen Sink Wash Mirrors
  • kitchen windows-in & out  
  • Wash monitors & screens
  • Mop bathrooms and Hall  
  • Wash Upstairs Trashcans
  • Mop Family Room  
  • Wash Windows
  • Mop Kitchen  
  • Weed front bed
  • Mop laundry room & back hall  
  • Wipe Appliances
  • Mop Music Room 
  •  Wipe Down Baseboards
  • Organize Food Storage for 20 min.  
  • Wipe Door Handles
  • Scrub Shower  
  • Wash 5 cupboard fronts
I am constantly making changes to this list dependent on the current weather and needs around the house. For example, one job that happens once a year is take down Christmas lights. And in the summer, everybody will have jobs with weeding and taking care of the garden.

Dinner Jobs: Everyone should help in some way with getting the main meal on the table, whether by helping mom cook and grabbing the ingredients from food storage, or by emptying the dishwasher. I try to rotate them so each person isn't doing the same thing every day. Notice on my gradeschooler's sheet that she has dishwasher everyday. There were a few complaints about emptying the dishwasher, and so she has been assigned that job exclusively--and the complaints and time it takes to do it are now at acceptable levels, so she will soon be back in the regular rotation.

Clean Room: Pretty self-explanatory--they should be cleaning their rooms.

Put Away Clean Clothes: They have to do it anyway, so I thought I might as well be the nice girl and give it to them.

Morning Jobs: So at our house morning jobs are--get dressed, put on shoes, put away p.j.'s, make bed, comb hair, eat breakfast, brush teeth and wash face--basically everything you have to do to be ready for the day. This is definitely NOT a favorite part of the day, since they would LOVE to stay in their pajamas, so they have a time limit. For the basics (minus breakfast) you have 20 minutes. Sunday clothes gives you an extra 5 minutes, a shower an extra 10, make-up and shaving an extra 5.

Pick Up House: The next day goes 10,000 times better, if everyone helps tidy up everything the night before. It usually takes only 20 minutes to have everything neat and ship-shape in the main living areas of the house.

Saturday Jobs: Saturday is a special day--it's the day we get ready for Sunday! I don't know if you are familiar with that song, but we sing it nearly every Saturday morning, and it is true--it is a special day! To listen to the song, click on this link: We usually tackle big projects together on this day, many of them are several hours. One of the most rewarding experiences of my life is working with my family. I love the feeling of accomplishing something good together.

Pets: I think that it is good for children to have pets, so they can learn to take care of something else. We have tried many, but I think our dog and fish that we have now are the easiest.

Evening Jobs: These are kind of like the morning jobs. Brush teeth, put on p.j.'s, wash face, set out clothes for the next day, put away dirty clothes, read scriptures (if you are old enough).

Practice Piano & Trumpet: A skill of playing the piano is mandatory in our home--at least through a certain level, and other instruments are encouraged as well--practicing surely deserves a reward!

Read for 20 minutes: I'm sure many of you have this as a requirement for anyone in elementary school.

Mommy Project: My preschooler is always helping me during the day, and needed an extra category.

Watch Movie, Mommy Store and $$$$: So, now we get to the rewards. Every job is equal to one token. If you have a clean room, your extra jobs are done, and you have earned a minimum of 28 tokens, you get to watch the movie on Saturday night. For every token above 28 you get 10 cents (I know--I'm pretty cheap, but it's better than nothing!). So if you earn 38 tokens, you walk away with $1. This you can use for spending $$$. The real reason I like the $$$, is that it gives my small children the opportunity to pay tithing on a regular basis, as well as learn how to manage their money and save for bigger purchases. In addition to the $$$, they receive tokens as well, equal to the number they earned.

The tokens are then used for purchases they can make at Mommy Store. They can buy small toys, stickers, candy, pudding cups, canvases to paint on, etc.

I know that this is an extra long entry--but I would love to read your comments on what works at your homes!

Happy working!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Strawberry Yogurt Smoothies

Strawberry season is upon us.  I've been making lots of yummy strawberry things at my house.  Strawberry Pie, Strawberry Dessert, Strawberry Jello, Strawberries dipped in Fudge Sauce, Spring Spinach Salad with Strawberries, and Strawberry Syrup to name a few.  My sisters have fabulous strawberry dessert recipes, that I hope they will share sometime (hint, hint Ruth and Deb). 

Strawberry shakes or smoothies are so delicious, easy and fun to make.  My husband is especially fabulous at making these concoctions. The ingredients can be varied, according to your tastes.  You can also add in more fiber and nutrition with a little oatmeal, blueberries or other fresh fruits, or even fresh spinach.  My m.i.l. has been making a lot of smoothies lately and she's been adding spinach to them.  She said it tasted good.  So last week with our strawberry abundance (have I mentioned we are growing our own?) I tried the smoothies with spinach and blueberries along with the strawberries.  The kids asked what the green specks were (of course).  I told them the green and purple specks were confetti.  I thought it tasted a little grassy, but otherwise the flavor was good.  Here's a basic recipe (minus confetti) that you can try:

Strawberry Yogurt Smoothies

2-3 cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (lowfat or fat free)
1/2 cup skim milk or orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tray of ice cubes (optional--the ice will thicken up the smoothie a bit more)

Blend everything together in a blender or food processor, pulse it a bit first if using ice.  Enjoy immediately, or cover and refrigerate, blending again quick before serving.  Or freeze in popsicle molds for a frozen treat.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Sunday

I love getting new Church clothes for Easter Sunday. We had the tradition growing up (at least the girls did...) and it's one that I'm definitely going to continue in my family. This year I decided I wanted to make a skirt. I thought it would be fun to use elastic thread - since I have never sewn with it before and have seen lots of craft bloggers using it. I'm sure there are a ton of great tutorials out there about how to use elastic thread, but since it was going to be my first time using it I wanted to take the safe route and I bought a "pattern." I ended up going with one from Make It and Love It (which actually ended up being a detailed tutorial). I thought it turned out really nice and enjoyed making it.

Finished Product:

An up close of the elastic thread detail
Not too bad for $15..
(and that's including the pattern)

(I couldn't help inserting the awkward photo of myself) :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ramen is back!

For the April menu we did not have Ramen once.  Aren't you proud?  And for those of you who don't know me well, we hardly eat Ramen.  Actually, I don't even really like it.  But for menu purposes and the budget, it's an easy option and my kids love it! We never eat it more than 2-3 times a case anyone was wondering.

For April (I am all done with April grocery shopping) I spent $239.28.  I watched Extreme Couponing last week and now I wish I could spend even less!  For May I am actually slightly increasing the food budget to $265.  We have gone a few months with the food budget low and now it's time to start increasing it a little...I need a little break I guess!

I have my May menu done. Here is the first week:

Sunday: Rice & milk
Monday: Creamy mashed potatoes, corn, brownies/cookies for FHE dessert
Tuesday: Pancakes, applesauce
Wednesday: Noodles with white sauce,broccoli
Thursday: Rice with chicken gravy, peas
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Box mac-n-cheese, corn

Happy shopping and budgeting everyone!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chair Re-do, re-do

I love re-covering things - it's easy and gives an object an instant and gratifying change.

Case in point:
Some friends gave us this lovely chair. I was looking at it one day and realized that I could take off the cushioned parts. So I did. Then I found some fabric I had on hand and stapled it onto the chair. And...

Voila! Instant gratification.
And then if you get sick of the fabric choice or someone accidentally cuts a hole in it....

Then - Presto, chango - you can have another bout of instant gratification:

The moral of the story is: go buy a staple gun and some cute fabric and start re-covering... :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Terrific Tuesday

Lena did a post a couple weeks back of some cakes she did with homemade fondant. I thought I would post some of my cakes too.

We don't buy very many birthday presents for our kids, but we make them whatever cake they want.  When they are grown up I want them to remember birthdays centering around family dinners and fun birthday cakes. In no particular year order, here they are!

May 2 2010 (5)

Mar 14 2011 Elden and dog



June 12 2010 Cal's birthday (7)

Mar 19 2010 Elden's cake




Monday, April 18, 2011

Yummy Jello Salad

I was talking to my sister (can you guess which one?) about the yummy jello salad I took to a potluck recently.  She said she had never made that kind of jello before.  It surprised me that she hadn't because it is super quick and easy to make.  You don't even need to know how to boil water.  A child could make it, which in this case, my 8 year old made it for me when we got ready for company last week.  This would also make a great side for Easter dinner.
The line up--
8 oz. whipped topping
16 oz. cottage cheese
3 oz. jello (whatever flavor you prefer)
15 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained--totally optional, but we like the orange/orange combination.
a spoon and a bowl to stir it together.

 Dump everything in the bowl.

 Stir it together.  If adding oranges, fold them in too.
 It's ready to eat.

This isn't rocket science, but the little geniuses around my house love it! 
Here's my cute chef in training.  
You may want to double the recipe.  It disappears quickly.~Lena

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Resurrection Eggs

Easter is such a wonderful time to focus on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and his subsequent Resurrection. We never had the Easter bunny when we were kids. Our mom thought he detracted from the sacredness of Easter. I agree with her. We still have our Easter egg hunts, Easter baskets, treats, and other fun activities, but I love teaching my kids about the true meaning of Easter. Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God, he is our Savior and Redeemer. It is only through Him that we can return back to our Father in Heaven.

This coming week I want to have a devotional each morning with my kids, and we will listen to one of these testimonies of Christ each day before school, and sing a hymn to go with it.

Here is one of my favorite Easter activities. This idea is not my own. I copied it from somewhere years ago. I apologize for not having a reference here. You can search and find variations of this activity on the internet.
Resurrection Eggs
Simply buy a bag of plastic eggs and place the items listed below, and the corresponding scripture reference/verses into each egg. Hide the eggs around the house and allow the children to find them all. Then have each child open their egg and discuss what the items in each egg represent. You may want to number the eggs so that you remember the correct order to open them.

For 12 eggs you will need:
3 dimes or nickels
1 sacrament cup
twine or yarn with knots in it
a piece of soap (not pictured)
square of red fabric
a cross (made from toothpicks)
2 dice
crushed rock or gravel
strip of white cloth
a stone
bayleaf spice

Egg 1:
Three dimes

(Matthew. 26:14)
14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

Egg 2:
One sacrament cup

(Matt. 26:26-29)
26 ¶ And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my cbody.
27 And he took the acup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, bDrink ye all of it;
28 aFor this is my bblood of the new ctestament, which is shed for many for the dremission of sins.
29 But I say unto you, I will not adrink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I bdrink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

Or use (Luke 22:39-45)
39 ¶ And he came out, and went, as he was awont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into atemptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, aremove this cup from me: nevertheless not my bwill, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an aangel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an aagony he prayed more earnestly: band his sweat was as it were great drops of cblood falling down to the ground.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,

Egg 3:
Twine with knots in it

(Matt. 27:1)
1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

Egg 4:
A piece of soap

(Matt. 27:24)
24 ¶¶ When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the
multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
26 ¶¶ Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Egg 5:
Square of red fabric

(Matt. 27:28)
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 ¶¶ And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

Egg 6:
A cross (made from toothpicks)

(Matt. 27:31)
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

Egg 7:
Two dice
(Matt. 27:35)
35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
36 And sitting down they watched him there

You can also have one egg with a nail in it and the reference about the Savior being crucified.

Egg 8:
A tiny bag of crushed rock

(Matt. 27:50, 51 & 54)
50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

Egg 9:
Strip of white cloth

(Matt. 27:58)
58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.
59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

Egg 10:
A stone
(Matthew 27:65)
65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.
66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

Egg 11:
Bayleaf spice

(Mark 16:1-4)
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

Egg 12:
An empty egg
(Mark 16:5-6)
5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Craft Night

A couple nights ago I went to my friend's house for craft night (hi Shelley!). :) We made these cute button eggs:

I'm always on the lookout for crafts using buttons. When my parents were moving a couple of years a go I saw a big box full of buttons my Mom had that she had gotten from her mother and asked if I could have them. It's been a lot of fun making things with them, while thinking of my Grandma Ruth.

For the fabric I used some corduroy from some old jeans. I loved the color of the jeans - so I'd been saving them for awhile. I'm glad I finally got to use them in a project.

Here is a fun picture of my old jeans.
I don't know if any of my old roommates read this blog but I hope they don't mind that I'm posting this. :)

My egg turned out a little lopsided, so I'll probably go back and sew on a couple more buttons. I thought it turned out cute though.

If you would like to make your own button egg - you can find the tutorial here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


It might appear that we are eating dinner in p.j.s when in fact we are visiting Jerusalem, with our feet shod and staff in hand.

The Thursday (April 21) before Easter you may consider having a passover feast with your family, patterning it after the Passover Feast held by the Jews and the Last Supper of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Your menu could include:
  • Lamb (this can be quite expensive and although we've used this in the past, sometimes we substitute with a beef roast)
  • Unleavened bread (pita bread)
  • Bitter herbs (celery is considered a bitter herb, cool huh!)
Passover this year is held April 18-26, with it beginning for the Jews at sundown on April 18.  There are many scriptures that you can read to help you prepare for the passover.   Here are a couple to get you started.
  Exodus 12:21-28
Mark 14:12-25

I especially like reading the account in Exodus and having one of my younger children asking the question.
"26And it shall come to pass, when your achildren shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
 27That ye shall say, It is the asacrifice of the Lord’s bpassover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and cdelivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped." Exodus 12:26-27.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tasty Tuesday...Mint Brownies

I am going to share our current favorite-homemade-brownie recipe. It is a frequent request for a Family Home Evening treat.  The original idea came from my friend Celia.  She shared with me a delicious mint brownie recipe.  Then later we started using another brownie recipe from my friend Gianetta, and combined the two (the mint part from Celia, brownie part from Gianetta). I don't know if it's technically my recipe now, since I've changed some things.  Thanks Gianetta for a great recipe!  Here is my version:

Mint Brownies

1/2 Cup butter
1 package chocolate chips, divided (semi or milk chocolate, 12 ounce)
1 1/2 Cup sugar  (isn't cup such a weird name for a measurement???)
1 1/4 Cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup nuts (optional...of course!)

Grease 9 x 13 pan; I like to line mine with foil then spray with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 250.  Set aside 1/3 cup chocolate chips in a small zip bag. In a large, microwaveable mixing bowl (or in a pan on the stove), melt butter with one cup chocolate chips. Check and stir every 20 or 30 seconds till melted.  [I am a lazy baker, and this is how I really make them at home.]  Once melted add sugar, flour, vanilla, baking powder and salt (if you melted the chocolate chips and butter on the stove, then pour into a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients and vanilla on top). Add the eggs.  (If you add the eggs right into the hot chocolate mixture, you might get scrambled eggs!  So I put in the other ingredients on top of the chocolate mixture, then add the eggs.)  Mix ingredients together.  Stir in remaining chocolate chips (about 2/3 of a cup).   Bake for about 25-30 minutes.  Cool. 

1 1/4 Cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, softened 
1 1/2 Tablespoons milk or cream--use more or less for desired consistency
1/4 teaspoon mint extract

April 11, 2011 Brownies (2)

Combine together in a small bowl using a fork (a hand mixer works fine too). Add food coloring if desired--pink was the color of choice this week I think it will be purple. Spread over cooled brownies.  The frosting is just a thin layer.  You can make more if desired, but the brownies are so good on their own, too much frosting might be a bad thing!

Chocolate Drizzle
1/3 Cup chocolate chips set aside earlier in small zip bag
1 teaspoon shortening

April 11, 2011 Brownies

Add shortening into bag with chocolate chips.  Put bag in the microwave, melt; check every 10-20 seconds.  In between microwave melt times, hold bag upright and smoosh the bag with your fingers to combine the chocolate and the shortening--warning it can get HOT! An unmelted chocolate chip will melt easily with a little finger work. Once melted, snip a small hole in the corner of the bag.  Drizzle chocolate over frosting.

Eat quickly...they disappear fast!

April 11, 2011 Brownies (4)


Monday, April 11, 2011

Confetti Eggs

 You don't need a lot of money to create lasting family memories.  Some of the best times our kids remember are when traditions were established and then carried out each year.  When my older children were small our neighbors had a fun tradition of making confetti eggs, hiding them at Easter time, having their kids find them, then they would run around and smash the eggs on each other.  Talk about memorable!  I thought it was a terrific idea.

We love to decorate eggs, but how many hard boiled eggs can a small family eat?  We found that if we started saving empty egg shells a few weeks before Easter, then we would have a good amount to color, hide and find, in addition to the plastic candy-filled eggs.  My family isn't so small any more, but this activity has become a yearly tradition that we look forward to each Easter.

To make confetti eggs you need three things:
  1. Eggs, devoid of contents, rinsed and dried--we save ours in empty egg cartons on top of the fridge.
  2. Color medium of choice--we chose food coloring from our cupboard.  Crayons, markers, water colors, or those fun boxes of Easter egg dyes all work great as well.
  3. Confetti--we used paper from our shredder--an awesome way to use those unwanted credit card offers!
 This is how I like to crack an egg so it can still be filled with confetti:

  •  Tap one end of the egg on the counter.
  • Peel away the broken shell, leaving most of the egg shell  intact.
  •  Dump out the egg into your recipe of choice.  Putting it into a separate bowl first gives you the chance to brush out any stray shell pieces.
  • Rinse the egg with water.
  • Allow to air dry--an empty egg carton is a great storage container!
  • Save up enough eggs for lots of egg coloring fun.
  • Color eggs.  These eggs need to be handled a little more carefully than hard boiled ones, but they work well with dipping in egg colors.
  • Dry thoroughly.
  • Add confetti.
  • Hide the eggs.
  • Send kids out to find the eggs.
  • Chase everyone around and smash the eggs on them.  If your kids are small, have them chase daddy or mommy around and get them with the eggs.

Happy Easter! ~Lena

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mac and Cheese

When I am running low on time and I want something quick and easy to make I can always fall back on my homemade Mac and Cheese. I have always loved macaroni and cheese and making it with fresh cheese makes it taste even better. This recipe probably isn't the yummiest homemade macaroni and cheese you will taste because it doesn't use cream but it is pretty good and I usually always have the ingredients on hand. I normally don't have cream on hand. Also, this is just a recipe that I kind of made up. I got the white sauce portion of the recipe from my mom and the rest is, well, just cheese :)

Homemade Mac and Cheese
White Sauce:
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
(if it isn't thickening up after you cook it for awhile just add more flour)
Put the milk in a saucepan and completely stir in the flour. Then add the butter and start to heat.

Next add about 1 cup (not really sure on the measurement, I usually just add to taste) cubed cheddar cheese. Stir until it is all melted and the sauce becomes thick. Add salt to taste.

I also like to add some ground red pepper for a little more flavor.

I pour the sauce over whole wheat noodles. This only takes about 10-15 minutes to prepare. It is usually ready for me when the noodles are done cooking.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Superhero Capes

Hello! It's been a little while since I posted... One of the reasons I've been away was my son's Superhero Birthday Party. I ended up making capes and masks for all of the party goers, so I decided to share how to make the capes here on the blog.

First off I started with two rectangles of fabric measuring 22 in x 27 in. I then used this tutorial from Serving Pink Lemonade - a blog I follow, to make the capes.

Since I was doing the capes for a birthday party I didn't want to do the normal Batman/Superman thing (plus I had already made those capes for my son for Christmas) so I decided to go with a simple oval with the first letter of the child's name.

I just drew the oval in Microsoft Word. For the initials I downloaded the font Adventure from (I love downloading free fonts) and enlarged them to 400 in Word.

I then ironed some of my fabulous Heat-n-bond to the back of some felt and traced the letters on BACKWARDS.

Cut them out....

And ironed them on.

And there you have it! A fun cape for your own little Superhero.