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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oops, I Did It Again

I'm a roll when it comes to cupcake baking recently. I can't help but go through this cupcake book and not find a recipe that looks delicious.

After the Wedding Cake cupcake, I had to try the First Kiss Cupcake. I'm not a huge chocolate cake fan but everyone who was enjoyed this cupcake and I even ate my way through a couple. They were a hit.

Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 c. Dutch process cocoa

2 c. boiling water

1 c. butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 3/4 c. all-purpose soft-wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chocolate extract (I could not find this in our store so did without it)

paper baking cups

Combine cocoa and 2 cups boiling eater in a large heatproof bowl, stirring until blended and smooth; cool completely.

Beat butter with a mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Combine flour and next three ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in chocolate extract.

Place paper baking cups in 2 (12 count) muffin pans, spoon batter into cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely.

While cupcakes are still warm, press one chocolate kiss into the center of each.

Cherry Frosting:

1/2 c. butter

3 Tbsp. cherry jam or maraschino cherry juice

1/4 c. whipping cream

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/8 tsp. salt

1 (16 oz.) package powdered sugar

Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy. Top frosted cupcakes with red maraschino cherries (with stems). Yummy!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hey, It's Okay Tuesday!

I'm linking up from Airing My Dirty Laundry for Hey, It's Okay Tuesday! As she explains it: I got this idea from Glamour magazine. They have a section called Hey, It’s Okay and will list a bunch of things to be okay about.

*To not care about the Oscars (or was it the Grammys? See...I really don't care!). I don't care who won what. I don't care who wore what. I don't care to see all the commericals and hoopla leading up to it.

*To be loving my limited Internet usage during Lent. Especially when it comes to Facebook. I feel like I'm back in 3rd grade whenever I'm on Facebook. People, it's a status, not your diary.

*To reserve the newest Sophie Kinsella book from the library and not feel the least bit embarrassed when I went and picked it up and read it that night. Yes, it's fluff. I needed some fluff in my life.

*To eat Cadbury Cream Eggs. They may be the death of me but at least I'll die happy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rock the Laundry

I love doing laundry. No, really, I do. It's one of the few household chores that I find relaxing and joyful. I love hanging clothes on the line. I adore folding clothing into neat little piles. I just don't like putting the clothing away. That part of laundry I loathe.

For those who aren't so keen on laundry, why not rock up your laundry room? Rockin' Green makes all natural laundry detergent. It is often marketed for cloth diaper washing (and it works great for that!) but I'm still using it even though we no longer have any babies in diapers (the first time in 8 years that diapers have not been needed in our house!). I use it for washing our clothing and love, love, love the scents and the way it washes our clothing.

Even though I already use Rockin' Green, I was sent three samples to try. I'm happy about that as I was able to try some new (to me) scents. Motley Clean is my new favorite!! What a fresh, original scent! Some other great formulas are Femme Rock which is for all those cloth menstrual pad mamas and Dog House Rock which is for pet beds and toys.

You can read my last review of Rockin' Green here.

Now for the fun part! Rockin' Green is offering one lucky winner a bag of 40/90 in your choice of formula/scent. Leave a comment below telling me whether you love/hate laundry. One winner will be chosen through Random.org on Saturday, March 3rd. If you would like additional entries, tweet, Facebook, or blog about this giveaway, linking back to here. Enter additional comments below letting me know you did so (one additional comment per additional entry).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Use Me

I had someone ask how they could find an older post of mine. I mentioned the "search" function on the side of my blog and they were happy to hear it was that simple. For those who aren't familiar with my blog options, let me point them out for you. You will find all the info you need on the right hand side ------------->

You'll find the "About Me" section, where you can get my e-mail address if needed.

You will find my blog button.

You will see my twitter feed. Click on it if you would like to follow me. If not, feel free to just stalk it on the side of my page. I don't update often, but occasionally I'll write something of interest on twitter.

My Facebook page is also listed. We are at 99 followers at the moment. I often link when I have a new post up, but occasionally conversations or odd comments are posted on there by me. Join the craziness!

If you are afraid you are going to lose this link, you can become a follower in order to have it in your reader. Or you can become a follower just to see your happy little thumbnail photo on my blog!

The Blog Archive will take you to a certain month or year if you choose.

The Labels section will take you to a certain topic.

Next comes the search button. If you are looking for a particular post, type in the keyword, hit search, and scroll to the top of the blog - it should show the post you are looking for.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sweet Treats

Last year there was a flurry of posts about a new cupcake shop on Facebook, in a city where my cousins live, about an hour away. The wedding day cupcakes made my mouth water, they sounded so good. I had made plans to travel there for my birthday last year and partake in some cupcake goodness, but ended up in the hospital that day with Jacob for another treatment.

Months went by and again and again I planned to go but something always came up. Finally, a local deal group had a cupcake voucher for this shop for half price (12 cupcakes for $11). I bought it and within weeks I was able to travel with the kids to pick up our dozen cupcakes. The children stood at the glass case, carefully choosing their flavors (they ended up with Oh Happy Day, The Princess Cupcake, and Chocolate Raspberry) while I finished our order with the wedding day cupcakes. They were pure joy - delicious, moist, everything you could want in a cupcake.

Now I've been craving them ever since. Yet, they are $2 each, and an hour away. I almost talked myself into driving that far to pick up some more, but chastised myself...that would be silly!

Which is why I went to the library instead and scoured the cook books to find a cupcake book. I ran across Big Book of Cupcakes by Jan Moon and found exactly what I was looking for...wedding cake cupcakes!

They didn't turn out quite as fancy as the cupcake shop cupcakes (I chose to forgo the decorations of pearl candy, which I find looks nice but adds nothing else to the cupcake) but they taste almost exactly the same. For a lot cheaper. And no driving.


1/2 c butter, softened

1 c shortening

2 c sugar

4 large eggs

2 3/4 c. all-purpose soft-wheat flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. buttermilk

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp. almond extract

paper baking cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in extracts.

Place paper baking cups in 2 muffin pans, spoon batter into cups, filling two thirds full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely.


1/2 c. butter, softened

1/4 c. whipping cream

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/8 tsp. salt

1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar

Beat first 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy.

(Recipe taken from Big Book of Cupcakes by Jan Moon. The recipe states making two batches of the frosting, and piping one half into the cupcakes and the other half on top. I decided to only frost the top, as I felt extra frosting would be too rich.)

I think next time I will make jumbo cupcakes, as these seemed just a tad too small! Enjoy! I'm off to make the "First Kiss" cupcakes today.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Patch Happy

Do your children wear out the knees of their pants as quickly as mine do? I hate to admit it, but I often just tossed their clothing when it got holes in it. Lately I've made more of an effort to upcycle their clothing and become more creative with their outfits.

Now when they get holes in the knees I've been patching them up, in creative ways, thanks to the idea my crafty friend gave me. I had given her a pair of Joe's outgrown pants for her son...they were our favorite pair but had pen scribbles on the knees thanks to Joe's artistic talent. She cut out star patches and affixed them to the pants and they looked even more adorable then they did before!

I tried it with Joe's jeans which were wearing thin recently and love the results.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Give It Up

Today is ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent. For Catholics, that means a time to give up or give more. I know some families who do more (more charity work, more praying, more kindness, etc.) during this period and other families who give something up during this period. For some it may be sweets, eating out, watching tv, and so on. It is a way to fast and abstain.

I am giving up mindless computer usage. I've become one of those people who will hop on here and hop on there. I'll check Facebook during lunch, pop in on a blog or two while drinking my morning coffee, check my e-mail throughout the day. It is bits and pieces throughout the day but I think know it adds up to more time then it should. During the Lenten season I am giving myself one hour a day on the computer...no more then that. It will make me more aware of how I spend my time online and also make me more choosy with what I do with that time.

I doubt that it will affect my blog, as that is something that I will choose to do within those 60 minutes a day. I think it will affect my house, my other interests, and my mind - for the better!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kid Buffet

When I have a lot of odds and ends to use up in the fridge or when my children are being picky (or both!) I put together a small buffet for the children for lunch using a muffin tin. They like having their choice of what to eat and whatever isn't finished can be stuck in the refrigerator for snacking later in the day. The kids love it and it's an excellent way to clean out the refrigerator!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Have you signed up for Vitacost.com yet? By going through this link (which happens to be my referral) if you are a new customer you will receive $10 off your first order. Right now, if you buy the 3-pack of JASON Powersmile toothpaste for $10 you will receive free shipping. So with your $10 code, you will receive the toothpaste with no out of pocket cost! My husband and I use this toothpaste and love it - it's natural and the mint taste freshens very well.
Once you sign up for the $10 code it will be e-mailed to you, so before placing your order be sure to check your e-mail for the code to enter in the box at checkout. It's that easy for three free tubes of toothpaste!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Citrus Cleaner

I use white vinegar in much of my cleaning. I use it in a bucket of hot water for washing floors, in a spray bottle for wiping down counters, sinks, and the stovetop, in the rinse cycle of laundry for fabric softener and deodorizer. It has so many uses, is natural, and works as well as bleach for sanitizing.

It does have a strong odor, and for that reason many people hesitate at using it. "I don't want my house to smell like pickles!" I've heard. Vinegar does not smell once it is dry (it actually leaves a very fresh scent!), but it still turns people off, especially people who are used to the artificial chemical scents of marketed cleaners. Many people will add essential oils to their vinegar, but some balk at the cost of a tiny bottle of essential oil.

I think I've got the perfect all-purpose cleaner recipe for those people!

Essential oils are produced by extracting the oils of plants. Orange essential oil, for example, is made from extracting oils from the orange peel. Citrus smells wonderful, and has many antibacterial qualities. It is great for degreasing. Combine that with vinegar and you have a powerful cleaner which also smells wonderful.

Start with a jar filled about 1/2 way with white vinegar. I used an old pickle jar. Save citrus peels from fruit as you eat it (I used oranges but I imagine you could use grapefruit, clementines, or lemons as well). We go through a lot of oranges around here and were able to fill the jar in a few days. You can gradually add peels throughout a week or two if your household orange consumption is less then ours.

Keep this soaking for a week to several weeks. As long as the orange peels are covered with vinegar you don't have to worry about mold. It will gradually smell more like oranges then vinegar. Once you feel it is done, strain it (dispose of your orange peels) and add the cleaner to a spray bottle (I just reused an empty cleaner bottler). Fill the rest of the bottle up with water.

What a great, safe, homemade cleaner to use in your home! You can immediately start another batch to cure on the counter as you use what you have in your spray bottle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Before and After

I can't believe that it's taken me six years to make curtains for the bathroom! The window in there is small and oddly shaped (our bathroom is tiny and oddly shaped as well. It must mean something that in several of my dreams I open a door to find a second bathroom in our house, which excites me greatly!) so I wasn't able to find already made curtains that interested me at local stores.

For six years we've kept the blinds up that came with the house. They get dusty, dirty, gunked up by hairspray, and even moldy in the summertime. It was well past time for them to go.

Our bathroom is a neutral brown color. I wanted to add a pop of color and loved this fabric when I saw it. The picture just doesn't do the colors justice.

It freshens up the room and I know I will be able to find some accessories within those colors to mix into the bathroom. My shower curtain is plain white with brown stitching and on the back of the toilet we have a happy little plant. It's a very simple style, which is perfect for such a small space.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Share the Love

Remember when I wrote about my experience with Kiwi Crate? They are running a Valentine special where you can get $10 off a subscription just by using this link. You can order by the month, six month, or yearly subscription. It sounds like using this $10 credit for the one month subscription would be a great way to give it a try for 50% off!

It's a great idea for any homeschooler, but also great for any child who loves to receive mail or make crafts and experiments. It would also make a great gift for your grandchild or a special child in your life. Just thought I'd share this deal!

(This is my referral link)

Keeping Warm

I rarely make an appearance on my blog in photos as I'm the one typically behind the camera so I had Becca take a photo of my sporting my new scarf.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Right Now

I'm watching out the window as snow swirls it's way to the ground. Almost all of the snow was melted in our yard so I suppose it was time for a new fresh layer. It's a peaceful scene outside on a day where the children all woke up on the wrong side of the bed and are fighting like cats and dogs.

I've been spending time working on a scarf for myself. I finished it last night - just in time for this snow!

I visited a local yarn shop in town on Saturday and fell in love with this soft, gorgeous purple wool yarn. I had to have it for myself! Wanting to learn how to make a hat and mittens next.

I finally found a recipe for sweet potatoes that I like. It's taken years of failed attempts to finally get me to eat them.

Wash the sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. Sprinkle a bit of olive oil on them, toss gently, lay on a baking sheet and bake for about 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees until fork tender. Put into a bowl, throw a few pats of butter on top, a drizzle or two of maple syrup, and salt and pepper. Toss. Enjoy!

I'm angry that my weight loss has stalled out never started. Seriously, I've been trying since January 1st to lose weight and I haven't lost a single pound! This is after changing my eating and exercising more. My mom keeps reminding me that muscle weighs more than fat but I'm getting frustrated. So frustrated, in fact, that I gave up last week and ate whatever I wanted. Now I'm frustrated at myself for that. Deciding not to even pay attention the the numbers on the scale for the moment and focus instead on balance and health.

Joe has become very creative with his homemade play-doh and spends lots of quiet time working with it at the table. Becca and Jacob have turned into bookworms and are going through piles of books weekly, begging me to stop at the library several times a week to replenish their book piles. It's a request I'm happy to fulfill while out and about on errands.

My children have become hungry little monsters the past few weeks. Growth spurt? Extra fuel for these cold days? Whatever it is, they are eating me out of house and home. Yogurt, two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches , a bowl full of popcorn, and an ice cream cone was just one meal yesterday for Jacob and he was hungry not even an hour later. My weekly shopping trips have had to become twice weekly and our food budget is having to go up. Yikes - I need to sit down and rearrange that and see what I can come up with!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Waste Not

Several months ago I was flipping through a PEOPLE magazine while getting my hair cut when I ran across the article about a Zero-Waste Family. I found the article intriguing, as I too have been trying to cut down waste. I was impressed by the family, who recycled most everything and by the end of the year just had a small jar of what was actual trash, which is incredible considering that the average American produces around 4 lbs. of garbage a day. I did find the article a bit misleading, as it stated that when they make a large purchase such as a computer they leave the packaging at the store to be disposed of (that means that they are producing more then the small jar sized amount of trash that they claim). All in all, it was a real eye opener.

We live in a town which has curbside recycling each week. We are lucky in the fact that all we need to do is throw our paper and metal into one bin and set it out to be picked up. Recently, they stopped accepting glass. I feel bad throwing glass away so have been trying to re-purpose as many jars as possible. I'm using a lot of jars for storing bulk items in my baking cupboard. Popcorn, rice, barley, etc. It's free storage, looks nice on the shelf, and is saving trash from the landfill.

We have a compost bin outside which we throw all our food scraps into. This saves a lot of space and waste in our garbage...think of how much waste a watermelon can make. Our food scraps, in turn, are making rich compost for our garden. I'm also beginning to learn to use food scraps for other purposes - more about that later!

I'm still bad about remembering to take my reusable bags to the store with me. I have plenty of them but almost always forget to grab them before venturing out, or forget to take them into the store with me. While I intend to do better about that, I do still re-purpose the plastic bags. We use them while walking the dog to pick up waste, and save the rest to bring to my aunt's consignment shop where they re-purpose the bags for their customers.

I hate throwing things away. And yet, we still are almost always at the maximum of three garbage bags a week. Occasionally I am able to get it down to two bags. My goal is to get it down to two bags weekly this year. I would love to someday get it down to one bag! The first goal is to make sure everything that can be recycled is. We are pretty good about this but occasionally a recyclable item will be thrown in the trash. Next, our purchases should be chosen more carefully. More bulk purchases, reusable produce bags, such as these (I have never bought these but am considering them!), choosing items with the least amount of packaging or the one with the most recyclable one, etc. We no longer use disposable products such as paper plates or paper towels. It's still a work in progress but at least we are aware of our waste and trying to do something about it!

What are some of your tips for reducing waste?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coloring Outside of the Lines

"Why doesn't she have her math facts memorized?"

"He is still holding his pencil in a fist grip instead the pinch style."

"They prefer doing instead of sitting for book work."

These were some of my concerns as I spoke to the certified teacher whom we work with. In our state, if we are not dual-enrolled through a school we must work with a certified teacher and have eight contacts a year (four must be face to face).

Each time we have a meeting I come away refreshed and relieved. As parents, I think we can all admit that from time to time we question whether we are doing the right thing for our children. While I know homeschooling is right for us, sometimes I question whether I am doing a good enough job.

Then the certified teacher swoops in and assures me I am. When the kids fell behind with school last year the teacher assured me they would catch up later (they did). When Becca was struggling with math the teacher told me she wasn't ready to grasp those concepts and to work on reading instead (this year she has been sailing through her math).

I realized I am stuck on "rules". Someone, somewhere, sets rules for children at school and I blindly follow along. Back in the late 80's I learned reading in 2nd grade. Now schools are teaching reading in Kindergarten. I panicked when Becca finished Kindergarten without knowing how to read. Then I read study after study that shows the ideal age for learning to read is age 7. That is not to say that a child of four, five, or six can't or shouldn't learn to read, but rather that a child will learn at their own pace and at the right time when given that opportunity.

Albert Einstein was 4 before he spoke and 7 before he learned to read, causing his teachers and parents to think he was mentally handicapped. Thomas Edison was told by teachers in his early years that he was "too stupid to learn anything." Winston Churchill failed 6th grade. Monet was rejected and mocked by The Paris Salon. Beethoven's teachers thought he was hopeless in composing and would never learn to play the violin. Michael Jordan was cut from his High School basketball team.

These are some examples where a person did not follow a set of rules and was deemed stupid or worthless because of it. Children are now labeled because of their nature. I am not saying that there isn't such thing as ADD or ADHD but I do feel that there are many children misdiagnosed. For example, if my Joe were in school he would be labeled ADD for sure, but he just has a lot of energy and I am able to get him to sit still for worksheets, yet he does his best learning while being active. Jacob may be in a Special Ed program because of his speech issues, and yet he is such an intelligent little guy that something like that could hurt his ego greatly. He knows he can't speak well, but he also knows that he learns just like any other child.

The most common anti-homeschooling comments I hear are about socialization, the next complaint is often "A child needs to learn to follow rules, they need to learn that the world won't cater to them when they are adults." I think a child can learn rules just from living in society, not from being told to color within the lines. We learn to respect adults by being around adults, we learn to stand in line when at a store, we learn how to do a job by actually doing the job. These are life lessons but have nothing to do with the style of learning we each learn by.

I'm not saying public/private schools are bad, I'm saying that they aren't the only way to learn.

11 years out of high school and I'm still learning...learning not to live within one set of rules, learning more and more that the world is my classroom, learning that the ones who color outside of the lines are the ones who get noticed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Off the Hook

What I've been busy learning recently, with the help of a book from the library and tutorials from YouTube...

Up next, learning to follow a pattern.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Support a Cause

When Susan G. Komen announced last week that they were no longer supporting Planned Parenthood, the news went wild. They retracted that statement a few days later.

Planned Parenthood had a huge increase in donations due to this news. Planned Parenthood may do some good, such as health screenings, but they don't do anything that most clinics and doctor's offices also do for reduced costs or free (my own doctor office works with a fund which provides free pap smears and mammograms to low income families), and they don't offer mammograms...just make referrals. The bad they do outweighs the good. Unfortunately, all these donations that Planned Parenthood received aren't just going to the health screenings, but will also be used to support abortions. If we want to support women's health, there are much better charities to donate to.

Which is why I made a donation this week to National Right to Life and urge any of you who are pro-life to do the same. I'm hoping that this month the National Right to Life Committee also sees an increase in donations. Or donate to a charity which offers low cost/free health screenings for women in your own area, which does not supply abortions. There are plenty of clinics and organizations that do a world of good in women's health which do not get the national attention they deserve.


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