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:

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

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


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!

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



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


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!!


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.!

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