Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Taking a little blogging break for the holidays- too many things going on! :)

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Homemade Ornaments


The boys made ornaments on Sunday using most of the instructions that we got from Preschool Rock. They were super easy to make.


1. First, they took wooden craft sticks and glued 3 of them together in the middle.


2. Then they painted them, one red (my 2-year-old) and one blue (my 4-year-old).


3. Next they sprinkled glitter on the wet paint.


4. After they dried I glued a green pipecleaner onto the back to hang them on the tree.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dirty foods

I came across this article on Yahoo Shine Healthy Living about the 5 dirtiest foods by Sarah Jio, Vitamin G, Glamour Magazine.

Among the top 5 are pre-washed bagged salads which I buy ALL of the time and no I don't re-wash them. I may start now though.

Here is some of the rest of the article:

"Eggs: While most eggs aren't going to make anyone sick, experts estimate that more than 2 million germy eggs (as in Salmonella infected) get into circulation each year, sickening 660,000 people each year and killing as many as 300. Um, maybe we should think twice about eating that cookie dough. How to buy cleaner eggs? Make sure the carton says they're pasteurized and never buy a dozen that contains any obvious cracks or leaks.

Peaches: They're pretty, but that's just skin-deep. Health experts warn that peach skins are doused in pesticides before they make it to grocery store to prevent blemishes. On average, a peach can contain as many as nine different pesticides, according to the USDA. This is one fruit you might want to buy organic (which may have blemishes, but won't have pesticides).



Pre-packaged salad mixes: Surprise! "Triple washed" doesn't mean germ-free say experts. Pathogens may still be lurking so be sure to wash your greens before tossing in your salad bowl.

Melons: Get ready to be grossed out. According to the article, "when the FDA sampled domestically grown cantaloupe, it found that 3.5 percent of the melons carried Salmonella and Shigella, the latter a bacteria normally passed person-to-person. Among imported cantaloupe, 7 percent tested positive for both bugs." Ewww. Your best bet: Scrub your melons with a little mild dish soap and warm water before slicing.

Scallions: Blamed for several recent outbreaks of Hepatitis A, and other bugs like the parasite Cryptosporidium, Shigella and Salmonella, scallions present a food safety problem because of the way they grow (in the dirt) and lack of proper washing. While you can't control what happens in restaurant kitchens, you can give them a super-duper washing at home before cooking with.
Other dirty foods in the article include chicken, ground beef and turkey, raw oysters, and cold cuts.

The bottom line: Don't be afraid to eat these foods, just be aware of the precautions you need to take before enjoying them."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Cookies are finally done!


I finished my Christmas cookies the other day. I made my traditional cut-out cookies, chocolate truffles, and the Caramel Pecan cookies (recipe posted a few posts ago.) They are all so yummy- not the neatest looking cookies in the world but I had two little helpers helping to make them!


Here is the recipe for the truffles:

Ingredients:
2-1/2 pkg. (20 squares) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
decorations: chopped PLANTERS COCKTAIL Peanuts, multi-colored sprinkles


Directions:
MELT 8 chocolate squares. Beat cream cheese with mixer until creamy. Blend in melted chocolate. Refrigerate until firm.
SHAPE into 36 balls. Place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet.
MELT remaining chocolate. Use fork to dip truffles; return to baking sheet. Decorate, then refrigerate 1 hour.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snowman


The boys (and my husband) made their first snowman of the year yesterday with a snowman kit that I had for some time but hadn't used yet. It has a storybook about making the snowman and then has a scarf, carrot nose, hat, buttons, pipe, and eyes. At the end of the book it has a "My Friendly Snowman Birth Certificate" which you fill out and attach a picture :)

Unfortunately today it is raining and the snowman has already lost his nose and two buttons.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Wonderland








We went to the Winter Wonderland lights display last night and it was SO cold. Last year we went on a weekend and it was very crowded. This time, however, we only saw 2 other families there.











Pictures don't do it justice but there are hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights and light displays. Santa is there and on certain days they have reindeer as well. The kids were just in awe of all of the lights and absolutely loved it! There is a walk through part and also a part that you drive through. Admission is a voluntary food donation so the kids helped me pack a grocery bag full before we left the house.




Thursday, December 11, 2008

Book Review: CROSS COUNTRY by James Patterson


I have always enjoyed James Patterson’s books, although I have not read one for about the past year or so. When I was given the opportunity to review his newest book CROSS COUNTRY, I jumped at the chance. CROSS COUNTRY is Patterson’s 14th book featuring one of my favorite Patterson characters, Alex Cross. Since I had last read an Alex Cross novel there had been a few changes in his life, but after a few pages I was easily brought up to speed.

Here is the book description from the Hachette Book Group website:

“When the home of Alex Cross's oldest friend, Ellie Cox, is turned into the worst murder scene Alex has ever seen, the destruction leads him to believe that he's chasing a horrible new breed of killer. As Alex and his girlfriend, Brianna Stone, become entangled in the deadly Nigerian underworld of Washington D.C., what they discover is shocking: a stunningly organized gang of lethal teenagers headed by a powerful, diabolical man--the African warlord known as the Tiger. Just when the detectives think they're closing in on the elusive murderer, the Tiger disappears into thin air. Tracking him to Africa, Alex knows that he must follow. Alone.”

I found the premise of the book to be very interesting. I wasn’t too sure about Alex just hopping on a plane to go to Africa to track the Tiger. It just did not seem very believable. It is something that I don’t believe would ever happen in real life. However, the book is fiction and these things can happen in a fictional novel. Once I got past that part I did enjoy the fast-paced thriller!

I really enjoy reading about Alex Cross and his adventures. CROSS COUNTRY was a little different from the previous novels that I had read as most of the prior books were set in Washington D.C. where Cross is based. However, I did enjoy the change of venue as it mixed things up a little bit. This book also contains more than Patterson’s usual share of graphic violence, but he was using the events to illustrate points, such as the real-life current situation in Africa, and this he did very well.

Like Patterson's previous books, CROSS COUNTRY is an action-packed read with never a dull moment. I look forward to reading more of Patterson in the future and at the rate which he puts out books the wait shouldn’t be too long!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Member's Mark Spinach & Asiago Chicken Sausage


At the "Holiday Taste of Sam's Club" a couple of weeks ago they had samples of their Member's Mark Spinach & Asiago Chicken Sausage. Surprisingly, at the event my children absolutely loved it and my 4 year old asked me to get some. They come in a package of 3 pounds (separated into 3 1-lb packages) so I was hoping they would still love it when I got it home! They, and I, after eating two of the 1-lb packages still love the flavor! (My husband not so much so though.)


They are so easy to make as they are already fully cooked so they work well for a fast lunch or dinner.

Here are the ingredients: skinless chicken thigh, spinach, asiago cheese, eater, and 2% or less of salt, roasted onions, corn syrup solids, spices, flavorings, parsley flakes, in a natural pork casing. Gluten-free.

So good!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why do we use evergreen trees as Christmas trees?


Here is a fun activity that I found on Preschool Rock:


"It’s the holiday season and many preschoolers will be hanging ornaments on their Christmas tree. But has your preschooler asked why they can’t have the Maple tree from their backyard for a Christmas tree? If so, this Christmas tree botany lesson is for you.

What is an Evergreen Tree?

Simply put, an evergreen tree is a tree that does not lose its leaves, also called foliage, in winter. An evergreen tree’s leaves are called pine needles. They are long, dark green, and pointy. They do not look like deciduous tree leaves. A deciduous tree is a tree that loses its leaves in the winter to conserve energy so that it can live through the winter months that generally do not produce enough water to sustain the tree.

So why do evergreen trees live through the winter? Help your preschooler use his observation skills to understand why an evergreen tree lives all year long.

Step One: Observe
Pick up a deciduous leaf and an evergreen pine needle. Examine them both closely. What are the differences? What are the similarities?

The main difference you will find is that the pine needle is waxy and long while the deciduous leaf is flat and somewhat dry depending on the leaf type. The waxy layer of the evergreen needle serves to hold water in.

Step Two: Experiment
Take two plastic containers. Put them both outside on a sunny day, one with a lid and one without. At the end of the day which one has more water in it? The one with the lid should. This is just like the waxy cover of the Evergreen tree. It keeps the tree alive in the winter and thus makes a great Christmas tree!

Variations
If you don’t have evergreen trees nearby to observe a fake evergreen holiday decoration may serve just as well. The main idea of the observation is to see the waxy cover on the evergreen needle. Certainly a fake pine needle will feel waxy!"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jar Mixes

(photo credit: Philip Friedman for Studio D)




Jar mixes made great gifts! They are easy and inexpensive to make, they look nice, and they are a useful gift for the recipient. I think that this year these are what I am going to make for teachers, mailperson, etc. Christmas gifts.




Yummy Bar Mix (from Delish and Quick & Simple)


Mix Ingredients:

2 cup(s) biscuit mix
1 cup(s) brown sugar
1/2 cup(s) miniature candy-coated chocolate pieces (such as M&M's baking bits)
1/2 cup(s) quick-cooking oatmeal
Bar Ingredients:

1/2 cup(s) (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Directions

1. Mix directions: Wash and thoroughly dry a 1-quart, wide-mouth canning jar. Layer the ingredients as level as possible in this order: 1 cup biscuit mix, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup biscuit mix, 1/2 cup brown sugar, the candies and the oatmeal. Secure the lid and decorate the jar as desired. Be sure to attach the instructions for making the bars.

2. Treats directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Transfer all of the jar ingredients to a medium bowl and stir until well blended; set aside.
3. Cream butter, egg and vanilla in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, fork or an electric mixer set on low speed.
4. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
5. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into 16 squares. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Natural Remedies for Winter Sicknesses


MSN Green has a great article (from The Daily Green) about using natural items to cure winter sicknesses. Of course there is the standard Vitamin C to prevent colds, but there are also some that I haven't yet tried like:




"Add three tablespoons of dried thyme to one pint of boiling water. Let cool, then add one cup of honey. Take one teaspoon every hour as needed. You can store the mix in the fridge for up to three months."




"If dry skin has already set in, set about soothing and restoring cracked, itchy spots with this natural salve:

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup plain regular yogurt

1 teaspoon grapefruit zest

1 cup iced black tea

Apply mixture of first three ingredients to skin and leave for 15 minutes. Splash off with the tea."




"If the foot traffic at the mall gives you a headache, fortify yourself ahead of time with this natural remedy: a simple salad.

Phytonutrients in fresh produce, like the beta-carotene in carrots, can reduce inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain. Eating two cups a day can help some people reduce headache incidence by 70 percent!"




"A pellet or wood stove can be an efficient way to warm your home, but it can also leave you walking away with a burn.


For minor burns, slice a tomato and apply it to the burn, allowing the juice to fully dry. Tomatoes have nature's healthiest dose of lycopene, which is anti-inflammatory.

Also try a baking soda and water salve or St. John's wort oil."



"Cold nights, the stress of the holiday season and the shifting hourglass sands brought on by the end of Daylight Savings can throw off your sleep pattern.

If all the usual non-medicinal remedies have failed you, try munching some celery for the sedative powers of the phthalides it contains.

Also try valerian root, chamomile tea, lemon balm or lavender"


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Caramel Pecan Cookies


So, we just get done with Thanksgiving and now it is time for Christmas . We started to put up some of our decorations but do not yet have a tree up. The majority of our neighborhood has all of their lights and displays up already, some even had them up the week BEFORE Thanksgiving. In my opinion, the week before Thanksgiving is just too early for Christmas decorations. One holiday at a time!

The notices are starting to come home from school requesting treats for the Christmas program, a gift for the holiday party, recipes for a Christmas recipe book they are making, etc.

I have always been very boring with my Christmas cookies. I usually just make the traditional cut-out cookies and frost and decorate them. This year, I am going to try some new recipes and I am going to start with these Caramel Pecan Cookies that I found on iVillage.

"Makes 2 dozen


Ingredients

For the Dough:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Caramel Filling:
24 small caramels, (1/2 pound) such as Kraft or Brach
3 tablespoons heavy cream
24 whole pecans


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cream together butter, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla in the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and salt; mix well. Roll into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven, quickly press thumb gently on top of each cookie to make an indentation. Return to oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes longer, until lightly golden. Cool completely on a rack.

3. Make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine the unwrapped caramels and the cream. Stir constantly Over low heat until smooth, about 4 to 6 minutes. With a small spoon, drizzle the warm caramel into each indentation, filling to the rim. Place one pecan on top. Cool completely before storing or serving. Store in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Recipe by Rori Trovato; photo by Luca Trovato"

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dora & Diego at the mall


Dora & Diego were at the local mall yesterday. Both of my boys were very excited to go! We went last year and stood in line for almost an hour and a half to see just Dora last year. The poor people waiting at the end didn't even get to see her because they were only there 2 hours.


This year I got there at 12:20 (40 minutes before they were supposed to be there) and we were one of the first in line. We saw Dora and Diego, then went over to Santa (where there was no line because everyone was there for Dora and Diego) and were done and in our car by 1:10. When we walked past the line to leave it was ridiculous- it went from Center Court of the mall all of the way back to Sears and then looped around the other way. I am glad we got there early!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Window shopping at Dean & Deluca



Although well out of my price range for a spice rack, I saw this on a Country Living blog post and thought it was so unique! It is from Dean & Deluca and is $150.00 for a large set.

I don't think I have ever browsed on the Dean & Deluca site before, but they definitely have some wonderful gifts that I would love to be the recipient of! Of course, all I will be doing is browsing because the items are VERY, VERY expensive. It is fun to look though!

For instance, how about the cheese of the month gift?

For $585 you can gift the gift of 9 months of cheese including:


"October: Amarello De Baixa, Munster and Pumpkin Jam; November: Pecorino Toscano, Brillat Savarin and Dried Fruit; December: Livarot, Gorgonzola Piccante and Pear & Cardamom Jam; January: Camembert, Bleu d'Auvergne and Strawberry Preserves; February: Classic Blue Log, Quicke's Cheddar and Plum Chutney; March: Banon, Blu del Moncenisio and Muju Dried Fruit; April: Bijou, Tomme Fermiere d'Alsace and Tomato Jam; May: Toma Maccagno, Piave and Farmhouse Olives; June: Cabecou Feuille, Garrotxa and Mixed Nuts; July: Constant Bliss, Smokey Oregon Blue and Orange Blossom Honey; August: Purple Haze, Roncal and Fig & Almond Cake"





"We've chosen four of the best extra-virgin olive oils from the hillsides of Chianti and tucked them into a beautiful silver-plated serving caddy. There's Rosemary Infused Oil, Basil Infused Oil, Chili Oil, perfect for dishes like stir fry, and an Extra-Virgin Olive Oil completes the set."


Or how about the Definitive Pantry at $1000?



"A fully stocked pantry is both a complete luxury and an absolute necessity for anyone who likes to cook (or eat). We've assembled everything no self-respecting pantry should be without so that you'll never have to wonder, "what's for dinner?" again. The ultimate housewarming gift.
Our Definitive Pantry includes:

Top Shelf: DEAN & DELUCA Sonoma Mix, Mixed Nuts and Pistachios; Sarabeth's Strawberry Raspberry and Peach Apricot Spreadable Fruit; DEAN & DELUCA Bensdorp Cocoa; Earl Grey and English Breakfast Tea; Pancake Mix; Balsamic and Red Wine Vinegars; Maple Syrup; Raw Honey
Second Shelf: DEAN & DELUCA Barbecue Rub and Jamaican Rub Tins; Salt Essentials Set; Rosmarino Pesto, Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes; Carnaroli Rice; Rustichella Spaghetti; DEAN & DELUCA Marinara, Arrabiata, Puttanesca and Vodka Pasta Sauces

Third Shelf: Cracker Assortment; DEAN & DELUCA Truffle Salt; Black Truffle Barbecue Sauce; Wine Country Marinade; Ventresca Tuna; Sabatino Tartufi Black Truffle Oil; Capers in Brine; DEAN & DELUCA Dijon, Chile Dijon and Balsamic Shallot Mustards; Rustichella Penne; and Trofie Pasta

And More: DEAN & DELUCA SoHo, Breakfast, French Roast and House Blend Roast Coffees; 40 Tube Spice Rack; Laudemio, Yellingbo Gold and DEAN & DELUCA DOP Extra Virgin Olive Oils; DEAN & DELUCA Hardcover Cookbook, Dish Towel, Suede Potholders and Oven Mitts; four Spatulas, three Wooden Spoons, Chef's Apron and Signature Market Tote (not shown).

Cabinet for display only."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gloves in a Bottle Reviewers Wanted

Pete at Gloves in a Bottle just e-mailed me to let me know that he will send product to any other bloggers willing to post a review on their website.

If you are interested in doing this please leave a comment with your e-mail address and I will send you his e-mail contact info.

It really is a great product!! (see my review below!)

Christmas Pictures



Taking the pictures for the Christmas Card is always quite a challenging experience! I always try to get the two children together and end up taking hundreds of pictures before I am able to get one that is even remotely decent. I just read in a magazine or somewhere about a mom who sent out a card with a collage of all of the not-so-great pictures.



I thought that was kind of a fun idea, but since I already did my cards for this year, maybe I will try it next year!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gloves in a Bottle



In the winter I have always had dry, cracked hands. Using regular hand lotion never seemed to help and always stung when I applied it. When I was offered the opportunity to try and review Gloves in a Bottle I jumped at the chance! Instead of a regular lotion which washes off when you wash your hands, Gloves in a Bottle is a shielding lotion which provides a protective barrier on your hands.

Here is more information from their website about how the product works:

"The outer layer of your skin consists of dead skin cells - it's a protective layer designed to protect the delicate living cells of the deeper layers of skin. This layer of skin needs to stay moisturized to protect the deeper layers of skin. In order to keep the moisture (water) from leaving the outer layer of skin, the skin produces natural oils. These oils also help keep irritants away from the deeper layers of skin. Regular washing with soap or exposure to chemicals can remove these natural oils.

When the natural oil is stripped from the outer layer of skin the moisture (water) quickly leaves the outer layer of skin leaving the skin dry, irritated, and itchy. Worse, the deeper layers of skin are left exposed to harsh damaging substances including detergents, solvents, cleaners, paint and thinners, gardening chemicals, dirt and grease, latex gloves and powder, etc.

This results in more dry, irritated, and itchy skin that becomes chapped, cracked and damaged.

Hand and skin lotions only replace natural oils with artificial ones. These offer temporary relief that does little to heal the skin. Regular use of lotions can actually cause the skin to produce less natural oils.

Gloves In A Bottle is a shielding lotion – it bonds with the outer layer of your skin and helps lock in your natural oils and moisture – the reason why dermatologists recommend Gloves as an effective dry skin treatment."



After using the product for a week I was so happy with the results! I love that it doesn't wash off and that it absorbs SO quickly. My hands look and feel so much better!




My 4 year old also has dry hands. They were very red and cracked in the parts between his fingers. This product worked wonders on him well! I always used to put lotion on his hands at night and he always complained that it stung. He also then didn't want to touch his covers because he didn't want to get greasy lotion all over everything. Then if he had to get up to go to the bathroom and wash his hands we had to reapply it because it would be washed off. Regular lotion never seemed to do anything to repair his skin.




With Gloves in a Bottle it is so different! It soaks in right away, doesn't sting, doesn't wash off, and most of all it actually improved his skin! His hands are not dry and cracked at all anymore!




I wish I had tried this product sooner and I recommend it to anyone who suffers from dry, cracked hands! It really DOES work!!

Brrrrr!!!


Yesterday was the first day that it really felt like winter! We got some more snow last night and it is super windy today. It takes us about 10 minutes longer to get out of the house to preschool in the morning with all of the hats, mittens, boots, etc.!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Book Review: The Paper Bag Christmas





THE PAPER BAG CHRISTMAS begins in the year 1980 with Molar Alan and his brother Aaron visiting Santa in the mall. Even though they thought they were too old to see Santa, their parents insisted that go anyway. While in line the boys noticed that Santa was not letting the children sit on his lap, instead they were just standing by him and handing him their Christmas wish lists. Right before it was their turn, the Santa visits closed for a two hour lunch. However, Santa allowed the two boys to come and talk to him. It turns out that he was Dr. Christopher K. Ringle, a friend of their family. He had lost both of his legs and had inflatables underneath so as not to scare the children, but that was the reason that the kids could not sit on his lap.

Molar and Aaron had spent their entire time waiting in line writing down every toy and material thing on their list that they could possibly think of. When Dr. Ringle saw the list he paused and said this to them: “The things on your list are nice, I suppose. And yet, they miss the mark entirely when it comes to true Christmas joy. Boys, would you like to get something for Christmas better than everything you’ve written down?”” (p. 19) Dr. Ringle gave Molar and Aaron an address to be at on Monday night and told them that they were going to be his elves and help him out. When Molar and Aaron arrive on Monday they find out that the address is a Children’s Hospital. Through the relationships that they build with the patients, they learn the true meaning of Christmas.

THE PAPER BAG CHRISTMAS is an extremely touching and moving book. Watching the two boys discover that there is more to Christmas than the latest toys and mountains of presents was very heartwarming and emotional. While the book is small in size, it is definitely full of substance. It is amazing to me that Kevin Alan Milne is a first time author as, in my opinion, he rates up there with the best of them! This book would make an excellent gift for anyone this holiday season!


For more information about the book and the author visit the Hachette website.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Menu



As mentioned in one of my earlier posts Thanksgiving will be at my house this year (on Saturday) with a grand total of 16 people family members. Everyone is bringing a dish or two so I really only have to clean the house and make a few things :)


Here is the final menu- the ones with links are the recipes that I am making:


Appetizers
Spinach Dip with Bread Bowl
Creamy Crab and Red Pepper Spread with Crackers

Main dish
Turkey/gravy

Salads
Coleslaw
Deviled Eggs
Pistachio Salad
Veggies & Dip

Sides
Squash
Dressing
Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry/Apple Sauce (pictured above)
Pea casserole
Bread
Sweet Potato Casserole
Corn
Dinner Rolls
Cranberry Sorbet

Dessert
Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Crisp

Beverages
Milk
Water
Pepsi
Sierra Mist
Sierra Mist Free
Wine
Crock Pot Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let's Say Thanks in Support of Our Troops





A friend sent me this e-mail this morning:



"Something cool that Xerox is doing:


Go to this web site: www.LetsSayThanks.com


There you can pick out a thank you card andXerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq .


You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services. How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!!This is a great site.


Please send a card. It is FREE and it only takes a second. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these?


Whether you are for or against the war, our guys and gals over there need to know we are behind them... "


I checked it out on Snopes.com to make sure it was legit and it is! Apparently they have been doing this since 2006. What a great program!


Here is more info about the program directly from the Let's Say Thanks website:


"The mission of Let's Say Thanks is to provide a way for individuals across the country to recognize U.S. troops stationed overseas. By submitting a message through this site you have the opportunity to send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women.

The postcards, depicting patriotic scenes and hometown images, were selected from a pool of entries from children across the country.

All you have to do is click on your favorite design and either select the message that best expresses your sentiment or draft a personal note. The postcards are then printed on the Xerox iGen3® Digital Production Press and mailed in care packages by military support organization Give2TheTroops®.To date, more than 12,000 postcards have been mailed to soldiers.


Xerox is committed to helping people across the nation express their gratitude to our troops overseas. The launch of this program is aimed at reminding them how much Americans appreciate their service."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Product Expiration Dates


I actually don't remember how I came across this info but I somehow ended up on Real Simple's website on an article about product expiration dates.



They have compiled a list of 77 items with expiration dates that may surprise you.



Some of the ones that I found useful were:



Brown sugar: Indefinite shelf life, stored in a moistureproof container in a cool, dry place.



Frozen vegetables: Unopened: 18 to 24 months


Opened: 1 month



Juice, bottled (apple or cranberry): Unopened: 8 months from production date


Opened: 7 to 10 days



Peanut butter, natural: 9 months



Peanut butter, processed (Jif): Unopened: 2 years


Opened: 6 months; refrigerate after 3 months



Salad dressing, bottled: Unopened: 12 months after "best by" date


Opened: 9 months refrigerated



Batteries, alkaline: 7 years



Fire extinguisher, rechargeable: Service or replace every 6 years



Fire extinguisher, nonrechargeable: 12 years



Paint: Unopened: Up to 10 years


Opened: 2 to 5 years




There are many, many more listed which may be helpful at the Real Simple website!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chlorine Filter in Shower

Since I moved to our new house a little over a year ago I have experienced very dry skin. I think most of it is due to the fact that I now have chlorinated city water instead of well water like I was used to.

In iVillage's Green Your Routine newsletter today they present different ways to make your bathroom more eco-friendly and one of the items listed is a KDF Shower Filter. Apparently this filter "uses the patented KDF copper-zinc alloy (manufactured by KDF Fluid Treatment, Inc.), the most effective media there is to remove chlorine in high temperature shower water. KDF's performance actually improves the higher the water temperature, whereas carbon's (used by some) performance decreases! With this technology, our filter has been shown to effectively remove 97+% of this damaging chlorine, for up to 15 months (for 2 people) - 2 to 3 times longer than other filters. Treats about 18,000 gallons--get approximately 1800 five minute showers. KDF also removes iron and other heavy metals, sulfur, pesticides and it controls the mold and mildew in your shower."





I wonder if this product would really help my dry skin?


Also iVillage says that "More importantly, a long, hot shower can be harmful to your health. At high temperatures, the chloroform evaporates into harmful vapors that in an enclosed bathroom space, you will be breathing in." This product would solve that problem as well.


Other tips they give for making your bathroom more "green" are switching to a non-toxic shower curtain, organic towels, and green cleaners and bath products.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cheese pumpkins


This cute idea was in the Betty Crocker newsletter today:

Cheese Pumpkins


8 tablespoons smoked Cheddar cold pack cheese food (from 8-oz container), well chilled
2 teaspoons finely chopped peanuts
4 butter-flavored pretzel spindles or sticks, broken in half
16 tiny pieces fresh parsley leaves

1. Line small serving plate with waxed paper. Roll each level tablespoon cold pack cheese food into a ball; place on waxed paper-lined serving plate. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes for easier handling.

2. With end of toothpick, draw ridges around balls to resemble pumpkins. Dip bottoms of cheese balls in chopped peanuts.


3. Just before serving, insert pretzel halves into cheese balls for pumpkin stems. Decorate with parsley for leaves. Store in refrigerator.

Monday, November 17, 2008

USDA's Food Guide Pyramid for Preschoolers


I saw this on Preschool Rock and thought it was interesting:

"If you take the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid and apply it to preschoolers, you can see how much fruit, vegetable, grain, dairy and meat make up a healthy preschooler diet. Some recommendations might be easy to meet - dairy and grains for instance. Others, like vegetables, are notoriously difficult. Here is a quick list of recommended servings from each food group for preschoolers. How is your preschooler stacking up?

The Food Guide Pyramid is one eating plan for a healthy diet. Here are food guide pyramid serving recommendations for preschoolers, ages 3-5:

Fruits: 1 to 1 1/2 cups
Vegetables: 1 to 1 1/2 cups
Grains: 3-5 oz (half should be whole grains)
Meat/Protein: 2-4 oz
Dairy: 2 cups"

The only area that we fall short in is the vegetable area My youngest will only eat corn, nothing else. My oldest will eat dark green lettuce salads and corn but that is it.

The amounts listed above are the general amounts for preschoolers but if you go to MyPyramid you can input your child's age, sex, and activity level and it will generate a customized pyramid plan specifically for your child.




Sunday, November 16, 2008

Snapfish Holiday Cards 1 cent each!



Found this in my e-mail this morning:


Snapfish Holiday Cards 1 cent each!


Get your first set of 20 4" x 8" photo cards for just 20¢ -- that's only a penny each! Choose from over 100 holiday designs that are completely customizable.Just use coupon CARD08 at checkout to save big on your season's greetings. Hurry, this offer ends November 23!*


I just ordered :)

1 4x8 photo cards (set of 20)Multi Photo Snowflakesglossy 14.99
cost of photo card(s): 14.99
CARD08: -14.79
subtotal: 0.20
standard S&H: 2.99
WI Sales tax: 0.18
total: 3.37

Coinstar $10.00 Holiday Bonus!


I never use the Coinstar machines because of the fees but right now they are running a special promotion where you put in $40.00 and you get $10.00 more free! No fees! Unforunately based on the info from the Coinstar site, the closest participating machine is an hour away from me so unless the ones near me join in on the promo I won't be taking advantage of this deal.

"Coinstar coin counting is FREE when you turn your coins into a gift card or eCert. Now through December 7th when you try our Free Coin Counting option and cash in $40 or more, we’ll send you a holiday bonus.

Find a Coinstar Center offering free coin counting near you:

Use the advanced machine locator to find a location near you, and which specific cards or eCertificates are offered. Just enter your zip code and choose "Prepaid Card" or "eCertificate" from the menu."

All of the instructions for how to get free coin counting and how to get the gift certificate bonus are on the Coinstar site :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Always check Rx websites!



My oldest son was prescribed Nasonex for allergies. With our prescription plan it is $15.00 copay for a 2 month supply. I went to the Nasonex website to look up more info about the medication and while I was there a usage survey came up which I filled out and received $5.00 to take (the check came in the mail yesterday).




ALSO, on the website I was able to print up a $10.00 off coupon which I used yesterday at the pharmacy. The website also says that you can print up the same coupon every time that you go in for a refill.




I have learned that it is definitely worth checking out the website of a drug that you are prescribed and that it could save you a lot of money in the long run if the drug manufacturer offers coupons or other incentives!








Friday, November 14, 2008

A few free samples

Enter the No nonsense BETWEEN FRIENDS Contest and get 2 FREE pairs of No nonsense Breathable SOCKS

Dunhill London

Coupon book w/ $27 in savings

If you are a member of the US Armed Forces with an APO or FPO address-
The Carolina Sauce company- a free sauce gift box


Free sample of Fancy by Jessica Simpson

Vaseline Intensive Rescue Moisture Locking Lotion (member ID is not a required field)

Germs, germs, and more germs!


For some reason I am always drawn to articles talking about where germs are found. I probably shouldn't read them because after I saw one about hotel rooms one time I was completely disgusted and still think about it to this day every time I am staying in a hotel.





Doorknobs and TV remotes are germ hotbeds
(found on
Yahoo News this morning)

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione, Ap Medical Writer – Wed Oct 29, 1:52 am ET AP –

"WASHINGTON – Someone in your house have the sniffles? Watch out for the refrigerator door handle. The TV remote, too. A new study finds that cold sufferers often leave their germs there, where they can live for two days or longer.

Scientists at the University of Virginia, long known for its virology research, tested surfaces in the homes of people with colds and reported the results Tuesday at the nation's premier conference on infectious diseases.

Doctors don't know how often people catch colds from touching germy surfaces as opposed to, say, shaking a sick person's hand, said Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose and throat specialist who helped conduct the study.

Two years ago, she and other doctors showed that germs survived in hotel rooms a day after guests left, waiting to be picked up by the next person checking in.

For the new study, researchers started with 30 adults showing early symptoms of colds. Sixteen tested positive for rhinovirus, which causes about half of all colds. They were asked to name 10 places in their homes they had touched in the preceding 18 hours, and researchers used DNA tests to hunt for rhinovirus.

"We found that commonly touched areas like refrigerator doors and handles were positive about 40 percent of the time" for cold germs, Winther said.

All three of the salt and pepper shakers they tested were contaminated. Other spots found to harbor the germ: 6 out of 18 doorknobs; 8 of 14 refrigerator handles; 3 of 13 light switches; 6 of 10 remote controls; 8 of 10 bathroom faucets; 4 of 7 phones, and 3 of 4 dishwasher handles.

Next, the researchers deliberately contaminated surfaces with participants' mucus and then tested to see whether rhinovirus stuck to their fingers when they turned on lights, answered the phone or did other common tasks. More than half of the participants got the virus on their fingertips 48 hours after the mucus was smeared.

The study was sponsored by Reckitt-Benckiser Inc., makers of Lysol, but no products were tested in the research. The study, designed by doctors with no ties to the company, was an effort to lay the groundwork for future research on germs and ways to get rid of them.

In a separate study, the university's Drs. Diane Pappas and Owen Hendley went germ-hunting on toys in the offices of five pediatricians in Fairfax, Va., three times during last year's cold and flu season.

Tests showed fragments of cold viruses on 20 percent of all toys tested — 20 percent of those in the "sick child" waiting room, 17 percent in the "well child" waiting room, and 30 percent in a sack of toys that kids are allowed to choose from after being good for a shot.

"Mamas know this," Hendley said. "They say, `We go to a doctor for a well-child checkup, the kids play with the toys and two days later they have a cold.'"

There is no proof that the remnants themselves can infect, but their presence suggests a risk, said Dr. Paul Auwaerter, an infectious-diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University. He was familiar with the study but had no role in it.

Doctors have long advised frequent hand-washing to avoid spreading germs. Wearing surgical masks and using hand sanitizers also can help, a novel University of Michigan study found.

About 1,000 students who live in dorms tested these measures for six weeks during the 2006-07 flu season. They were divided into three groups: those who wore masks, those who wore masks and used hand sanitizer, and those who did neither.

The two groups who used masks reported 10 percent to 50 percent fewer cold symptoms — cough, fever, chills — than the group who used no prevention measures.

Researchers note that the study was not "blinded" — everyone knew who was doing what, and mask wearers may have been less likely to report cold symptoms later because they believed they were taking steps to reduce that possibility.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paid for the study.

The conference was a joint meeting of the American Society for Microbiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "



While I am not going to go around wearing a surgical mask, I knew there was a reason that I don't let my children play with the toys at the doctor, even in the "well child" waiting area :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Free Photo Book at Snapfish (29.99 value!)

As seen on Oprah.com:


"Overwhelmed by what to do with growing piles of your child's art projects? Peter has a great solution! "Take digital photos of their artwork, upload them to Snapfish.com, and they will send you back a beautiful, bound book of the kids' artwork. So, over time, you can build a library of your children's artwork—let the pieces go, but keep them in this form forever."


To help you get organized, Snapfish.com is offering The Oprah Winfrey Show viewers a free 8" x 11" custom-cover photo book!


*Create a Snapfish.com account now or log in to your existing account to receive this special offer. Get your free book!


* This offer is only good for one standard 20-page 8" x 11" custom-cover photo book per household. Coupon dispersal ends at 11:59 p.m. PST Friday, November 14, 2008. Free photo book must be redeemed by 11:59 p.m. PST Sunday, November 16, 2008. Offer does not include customary shipping and handling changes or additional pages. Offer applies only to mail-order delivery to U.S. customers. Offer cannot be combined with other coupon codes. Coupon cannot be resold or otherwise transferred and is void on the earlier of redemption or the offer end date.

Due to heavy demand, you may experience some slowness navigating to the website. Please be patient and try again later."


I already have all of my pictures on Snapfish so it was easy to make a nice book for the grandparents for Christmas. The site was a little slow from all of the traffic when I was previewing my finished book but other than that I didn't have any issues.

You do pay shipping on the book and sales tax:

1 8"x11" custom cover book(s): 29.99
FREE PHOTO BOOK: -29.99
subtotal: 0.00

standard S&H:
6.99

WI sales tax:
0.38

total:
7.37

10 Signs of a Great Preschool



I found this article today while browsing on Education.com:


"If your child is between the ages of 3 and 6 and attends a child care center, preschool , or kindergarten program, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) suggests you look for these 10 signs to make sure your child is in a good classroom.


1. Children spend most of their playing and working with materials or other children. They do not wander aimlessly, and they are not expected to sit quietly for long periods of time.




2. Children have access to various activities throughout the day. Look for assorted building blocks and other construction materials, props for pretend play, picture books, paints and other art materials, and table toys such as matching games, pegboards, and puzzles. Children should not all be doing the same thing at the same time.




3. Teachers work with individual children, small groups, and the whole group at different times during the day. They do not spend all their time with the whole group.





4. The classroom is decorated with children's original artwork, their own writing with invented spelling, and stories dictated by children to teachers.



5. Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. The natural world of plants and animals and meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance, or serving snack provide the basis for learning activities.



6. Children work on projects and have long periods of time (at least one hour) to play and explore. Worksheets are used little if at all.



7. Children have an opportunity to play outside every day. Outdoor play is never sacrificed for more instructional time.



8. Teachers read books to children individually or in small groups throughout the day, not just at group story time.



9. Curriculum is adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help. Teachers recognize that children's different background and experiences mean that they do not learn the same things at the same time in the same way.




10. Children and their parents look forward to school. Parents feel secure about sending their child to the program. Children are happy to attend; they do not cry regularly or complain of feeling sick. "


I was happy to see that my oldest son's preschool pretty much follows everything on this list. The only area in which they deviate in is #6. They do about 1-2 worksheets a day; however, they are optional worksheets and it is the child's choice whether or not he wishes to do them when he is at the certain station in the room.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Turkey Cookie Treats


How cute are these??


My son's preschool is having a Thanksgiving celebration on the Monday before Thanksgiving and I think that these Turkey Cookie Treats from the Betty Crocker website would be the perfect treat to bring!


Prep Time: 1 hour 15 min
Total Time: 1 hour 15 min
Makes: 2 dozen cookies

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1 container (12 oz) Betty Crocker® Whipped chocolate frosting
Candy corn
1 tube (4.25 oz) Betty Crocker® yellow decorating icing
Miniature candy-coated semisweet chocolate baking bits
1 tube (0.68 oz) Betty Crocker® black decorating gel

1. Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart.

2.Bake 11 to 14 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

3. Frost and decorate 1 cookie at a time. After spreading frosting on cookie, add candy corn for feathers. Pipe yellow icing for beak and feet. Add baking bits for eyes; pipe black gel for center of each eye.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Decrease butter to 1/3 cup.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fruit & Rice Cereal

Other than baby food rice cereal when they were infants, I have never fed my children rice for breakfast. They love eating rice at dinner so I figure why not try it in the morning to give them a little variety? It has been super cold here lately so what better than a nice, warm breakfast to start our day!

Tomorrow morning this is what we are going to try-

I found this recipe at Meatless Monday for Fruit & Rice Cereal:
(Makes 2 servings)

1 1/2 cups water

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup quick-cooking brown rice

1/2 cup lowfat milk or soymilk

1/2 cup mixed dried fruit bits or raisins

3 tbsp. brown sugar

Dash of ground nutmeg


In a large saucepan bring water and the salt to the boiling point. Add rice and dried fruit.


Cover and simmer 12-14 minutes or until the rice is tender and liquid is nearly all absorbed. Stir in milk and nutmeg.


Serve with brown sugar.


Nutritional Info per Serving520 calories, 3g total fat, less than 1g saturated, 0 mg cholesterol, 115g carbohydrate, 9g protein, 5g fiber, 180mg sodium

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Using coffee grounds in a scrub and mayo in your hair?

(image from Wikipedia)

When I was in high school I remember reading about how mayonnaise makes an excellent conditioner and I did try it once. The smell was not the greatest but I do remember that it made my hair look healthy and shiny. I just came across an article called Alternative Beauty: Make a Condiment into a Conditioner in which the Glamour Beauty author does the same thing and is very pleased with the results. Apparently they now even sell beauty products like Silk Elements Hair Mayonnaise Treatment (at Sally Beauty.) Obviously the plain old mayo straight out of the jar is a much cheaper alternative.


(image from Vision Magazine)


On that same note, Fiorella Valesolo, of Glamour Beauty, gives us a great recipe for a scrub using coffee grounds. When she was all out of her favorite coffee scented scrub she did a search online and came up with this one: room temperature coffee grounds, a pinch of sea salt, and a tablespoon of olive oil. She says that "worked wonders on my dry, scaly elbows and knees." What a great use for leftover coffee grounds!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sam's Club Trade In and Recycle Program



For Sam's Club members, there is a Trade In and Recycle Program where you can send your electronics and they give you a trade-in amount in Sam's Club gift cards. You can check online for the value of your items and it is a very simple process. If they value it at nothing you are still able to recycle it with them for free anyway. They even will pay the shipping to them (for a limited time). I know around here to get rid of computers and other items we have to pay $10.00 for a computer tower and $15.00 for a monitor.

Here is the info that they list on their site better explaining the program:

"The Sam's Club Trade-In and Recycle Program is available only to members of Sam's Club who elect to trade in or recycle any qualifying consumer electronic product currently offered by the program. The list of qualifying products is displayed on the trade-in platform home page. Based on the configuration and condition of your item, Sam's Club will offer to purchase your item at the value displayed by the trade-in value estimator. All trade-in valuations are subject to final evaluation by our technical staff. If your item does not qualify for any trade-in value, you will be offered the opportunity to recycle your item for free. Our recycling program employs a zero tolerance landfill policy meaning all of the material that is subject to recycling is disassembled by hand, carefully separated and eventually utilized as feedstock for various raw material extraction processes (including smelting and refining). Shipping for both trade-in and recycle items is free."

Late Night Snacks




There is an interesting article on Yahoo Food called Late Night Snacks to Cure Every Distress. In the article they basically list certain foods to eat to deal with specific late night issues.

"If you're stressed to the max
Rich, sugary comfort foods actually do short-circuit stress, but they also contribute to belly fat. So try to resist the chocolate chip cookies and grab a handful of unsalted almonds instead. The satisfying crunch will help you work off your anxiety, while the B vitamins and magnesium help your brain make relaxing serotonin. And at only 160 calories for about 22 almonds, you won't add weight worries to your woes.

If you're just tossing and turning
Starchy carbs may help you nod off. Why? Foods that quickly raise your blood sugar also raise blood levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which the brain converts to mind-soothing serotonin. So unless you're a diabetic, microwave a potato, warm up some instant rice, pop an English muffin in the toaster, and wait for the Zs to happen.

If you're burning the midnight oil
You could mainline coffee to get your Powerpoint project done overnight, but that'll just leave you with a world-class case of jitters the next morning when it's time to run it by the boss. A better bet, believe it or not: a salad of dark greens and chopped veggies. Not only will the complex carbs in the veggies give you energy, they're full of folic acid, which new research suggests helps your brain work faster.

If you're on a diet or just plain hungry
Give that rumbling tummy a little bit of protein, like a low-fat cheese stick, some lean turkey, or even an egg-white omelet. Eating about a third of your daily calories in lean protein keeps you feeling full, and a there's new evidence that it may also help you burn a few extra calories while you sleep.

If you're pregnant

Forget the pickles, but have the ice cream. Extra calcium is excellent when you're eating for two.

Baby-and-Me Smoothie
½ cup fat-free vanilla ice cream (or 8 oz nonfat vanilla yogurt)
1 banana
1 cup frozen, unsweetened strawberries
1 Tbs. frozen orange juice concentrate.

Puree everything in a blender until creamy. Then put your feet up and enjoy every sip, knowing that you're getting about 340 mg of bone-building calcium -- more than 20% of your recommended daily value -- plus a bunch of vitamins and minerals, so the 373 calories are anything but empty. Even better: The milk protein and banana contain a bit of sleep-inducing tryptophan."


There are a lot of nights where I toss and turn. If I wake up at all in the middle of the night it is a good hour before I fall asleep again. I think next time I will pop an English muffin or a bagel in the toaster and see if it helps! I also thought that the part about eating a salad when having to stay up late was interesting!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

TEASTA™ Free Samples



TEASTA™ is offering two free samples of their teas- I just ordered the Papaya Ginger White Tea Sample and the Wild Blueberry Green Tea Sample - I can't wait to try these, they sound delicious!! They have so many great varieties to choose from. Thanks to Money Saving Mom where I originally saw this posted.


"If you want to taste one of our available premium teas before purchasing, simply add a maximum of two different sample blends to your cart. Then, use the coupon code below and we will deliver it to you FREE of cost. We will deliver the free tea samples anywhere in the U.S. Expected delivery time would be 7 to 14 business days, sometimes earlier. This offer is for a limited time only, while supplies last! Limit one (1) order per household. Due to the high volume of requests for samples, we reserve the right to hold or cancel any order. However, we will try to accommodate all orders placed. Thank you for your interest in TEASTA&trade Tea."


Put in Coupon Code: TRYME at checkout and the order is completely free! You do not have to put in any payment info at all. Hurry! This probably will not last long!

UPDATE: On other sites some are reporting that it is asking them for CC # when checking out, it DID NOT ask me for CC# and I had a $0.00 balance at check out.

Autumn Cookie Wreath

Browsing through Shine on Yahoo I just came across this cute wreath originally posted on Country Living-




"STEP 1: Make enough dough for 48 three-inch cookies. Divide into four batches and tint each with food coloring. Create a multicolored patchwork by pressing pieces from each batch together on lightly floured parchment paper. Smooth with rolling pin. Chill for 15 minutes, then cut out cookies.

STEP 2: Create leaf veins with a toothpick, then sprinkle with sanding sugar, (available at candylandcrafts.com). And make extra cookies to snack on, in order to prevent "sampling" from the wreath while it's still on display.

STEP 3: Cut two wreath forms from sturdy cardboard and glue them together. Tie hanging wire around wreath, then "glue" on cookies with dollops of colored royal icing. Pour into zippered food bag; snip a corner to dispense. Let dry for several hours before hanging."

For more detailed photo instuctions click on one of the links above.

I think this wreath is SO cute, I just don't think it would last long as a decoration in this house unless I made it when the boys weren't home and they didn't know that it was made out of cookies :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Philadelphia Caramel Pecan Cheesecake


In the Kraft Food & Family newsletter that I just received there was a delicious looking recipe that I am definitely going to have to try! It has excellent reviews :)

PHILADELPHIA Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

Prep Time:
15 min

Total Time:
5 hr Makes:

16 servings

What You Need:

50 NILLA Wafers, crushed (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped PLANTERS Pecans, divided
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping

Make It:

HEAT oven to 325°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends extending over sides. Mix crumbs, 1/2 cup nuts and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.

BEAT cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add sour cream, flour and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.

BAKE 45 min. or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 4 hours. Use foil handles to lift cheesecake from pan. Drizzle with topping; top with remaining nuts. Let stand until topping is set.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Remember to vote today!

Slow down for kids!


Yesterday, an American Family Insurance agent dropped off my "Slow Down for Kids!" yard sign :)

We are in a new subdivision and as more and more new houses get built, the traffic is increasing and seems like it is getting faster and faster. It is always nice to have a reminder to slow down and watch out for kids playing :)

I know they used to have the regular road signs reminding people to slow down for children, but our town said that they no longer put those up and are actually in the process of phasing them out.

In other areas, I had noticed these yard signs with the American Family logo on them and called an agent who just delivered one to my house! Hopefully it will make drivers more aware of the little ones!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thanksgiving at my house!

(image from http://www.thanksgiving-day.org/thanksgiving-day-pictures.html)

Since where we moved this past year is centrally located to all of my side of the family it was decided that we would have Thanksgiving dinner at our house.

The nice thing is everyone volunteered to bring certain dishes but they pretty much covered everything and I don't know what to make!

Here is what people already said they were bringing:

Turkey/gravy
Squash
Stuffing
Bread
Deviled Eggs
Coleslaw
Pistachio salad
Cranberry Sorbet
Pumpkin pie


Besides mashed potatoes I don't know what else is missing!

I think I am going to make Marilyn's recipe that she left on my blog giveaway (thanks Marilyn!):

Crock Pot Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Ingredients
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, and tiny pinch of ground ginger)
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee (or 1/2 cup brewed espresso)
garnish with whipped topping

Add the coffee/espresso and milk to the crockpot. Whisk in the pumpkin, spices, sugar, and vanilla.
Cover and cook on high for 2 hours if everything is cold. Whisk again.
Ladle into mugs, and garnish with whipped cream and additional cinnamon.



But I am not sure what else I am going to make! I feel like I have to make at least a couple of dishes- it IS at my house!


At least I will have a decoration! I just was notified that I was the winner of this cute plaque:




from Kisses From The Father - Thank you Stacey :)


Sunday, November 2, 2008

How to Maintain Your Brain



Illustration from: http://www.medical-illustrations.ca

On the Yahoo main page today there was a link to an article called "12 simple ways to supercharge your brain." Being that I am a mother of two young boys my brain definitely on occasion feels as if it needs a recharge!

"Here are some things you can begin doing as soon as today to begin the great brain tune up:

Eat Almonds
Almond is believed to improve memory. If a combination of almond oil and milk is taken together before going to bed or after getting up at morning, it strengthens our memory power. Almond milk is prepared by crushing the almonds without the outer cover and adding water and sugar to it.

Drink Apple Juice

Research from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) indicates that apple juice increases the production of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain, resulting in an increased memory power.

Sleep well
Research indicates that the long-term memory is consolidated during sleep by replaying the images of the experiences of the day. These repeated playbacks program the subconscious mind to store these images and other related information.

Enjoy simple Pleasures

Stress drains our brainpower. A stress-ridden mind consumes much of our memory resources to leave us with a feeble mind. Make a habit to engage yourself in few simple pleasures everyday to dissolve stress from your mind. Some of these simple pleasures are good for your mind, body and soul.

Enjoy music you love
Play with your children
Appreciate others
Run few miles a day, bike or swim
Start a blog
Take a yoga class or Total Wellness routine

Exercise your mind
Just as physical exercise is essential for a strong body, mental exercise is equally essential for a sharp and agile mind. Have you noticed that children have far superior brainpower than an adult does? Children have playful minds. A playful mind exhibits superior memory power. Engage in some of the activities that require your mind to remain active and playful.

Play scrabble or crossword puzzle
Volunteer
Interact with others
Start a new hobby such as blogging, reading, painting, bird watching
Learn new skill or a foreign language
Practice Yoga or Meditation
Yoga or Meditation relives stress. Stress is a known memory buster. With less stress, lower blood pressure, slower respiration, slower metabolism, and released muscle tension follows. All of these factors contribute significantly towards increases in our brainpower.

Reduce Sugar intake
Sugar is a non-food. It’s a form of carbohydrate that offers illusionary energy, only to cause a downhill slump once the initial burst has been worn off. Excess intake of sugar results in neurotic symptoms. Excess sugar is known to cause claustrophobia, memory loss and other neurotic disorders. Eat food without adding sugar. Stay away from sweet drinks or excess consumption of caffeine with sugar.

Eat whole wheat

The whole wheat germs contain lecithin. Lecithin helps ease the problem of the hardening of the arteries, which often impairs brain functioning.

Eat a light meal at night
A heavy meal at night causes tossing and turning and a prolonged emotional stress while at sleep. It’s wise to eat heavy meal during the day when our body is in motion to consume the heavy in-take. Eating a light meal with some fruits allows us to sleep well. A good night sleep strengthens our brainpower.

Develop imagination
Greeks mastered the principle of imagination and association to memorize everything. This technique requires one to develop a vivid and colorful imagination that can be linked to a known object. If you involve all your senses - touching, feeling, smelling, hearing and seeing in the imagination process, you can remember greater details of the event.

Control your temper

Bleached food, excess of starch or excess of white bread can lead to nerve grating effect. This results in a violent and some time depressive behavior. Eat fresh vegetables. Drink lots of water and meditate or practice yoga to relieve these toxic emotions of temper and stressful mood swings.

Take Vitamin B-complex
Vitamin B-complex strengthens memory power. Eat food and vegetables high in Vitamin B-complex. Stay away from the starch food or white bread, which depletes the Vitamin B-complex necessary for a healthy mind.

Written by Shilpan Patel of Success Soul and cross-posted from Dumb Little Man, a web site that provides tips for life that will save you money, increase your productivity, or simply keep you sane."


Some of these things I already do but I think a lot of the other things would be easy to incorporate into my daily routine!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Bloggy Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to all who entered and shared with me your recipes! There are definitely some great ones that I can't wait to try!!

I used Random.org to choose the winner and the lucky commenter is ....

AmyG and her recipe for Easy Spicy, Bean Soup:

4 cans of Great Northern Beans

1 can of Dark Red Kidney Beans

1 can of Light Red Kidney Beans

1 can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes

1 medium onion, diced

4 cups of water

2 beef bouillon cubes

Pepper to taste

I just opened all the beans, rinsed & drained them, diced up the onion & threw it all in the pan. I lightly drained the tomatoes & tossed that in. Added the water & bouillon cubes & pepper. Put a lid on it & heated through until the onions & beans were tender. I think I had it on medium heat for about 45 mins.



Congrats AmyG! I have left a message for you on your blog!

 
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