Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ho Ho Humbug

I’ll admit it, I’ve had a really rough time getting into the spirit of the season this year. Normally this isn’t an issue at all, in fact, I usually have to talk myself out of putting up my tree before Thanksgiving and it’s generally a rush to drag out the boxes before the turkey day plates are even cleared from the table.

That hasn’t been the case this year. 

We’re now almost two weeks into December and the “big day” is just two weeks away and I’ve only barely  just gotten my main tree put up. Yes, main. I’m skipping the other six this year.

I’m not sure why I’m so behind in my excitement this year. I’ve done all my shopping and nearly every gift is wrapped, I’m co-hosting a party this weekend and I’ve been belting out Christmas carols for six weeks, but I’m used to being much more excited by this point.

I suppose it could be because of all the gloom and doom chatter, you know, with the world ending several days before Christmas and all… but I really think it’s all because my pre-lit Christmas tree wasn’t this year. That’s right, I had to take a step back in time to 2007 – the last time I had to string lights on a tree myself rather than just plugging it in. It was humbling and horrible. My cuticles and forearms are still recovering.

I think the worst of it was pulling off the burnt out lights so the entire tree could be re-lit. Well, I exaggerate – not the entire tree… there was one string of lights still working.

So Much For A Pre-Lit Tree via The Other End of the

Eventually we got to this point

Tree Lights Making Progress via The Other End of the

And finally got the whole.thing.done.

Almost Christmas via The Other End of the

Just in the nick of time for my baby sister’s big 4-Ooh birthday celebration at our house last weekend. Somehow she doesn’t look a day over 12 to me.

The Big 4-oh via The Other End of the

I must say, now that the featured d├ęcor item of our holiday is complete it’s much easier for me to get excited about Christmas.

I'm Dreaming of a White and Black Christmas via The Other End of the
Black & White Christmas Gfts via The Other End of the

But I’m REALLY not looking forward to taking it down and putting it all away in another two weeks or so. We just may keep it around until Valentine’s day…

How about you? Are you caught up on the “spirit of the Season” required to pull it off?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pump Up the Pumpkin

I’ve been on a cupcake jag lately and felt I should find a flavor appropriate for the Thanksgiving season. I combined several flavors that I enjoy (and that make me think of cool, crisp temperatures) and decided the perfect opportunity to try it out was at a combination church Game Night and Bake Sale. I’m pleased to report that it was a great success of flavors and would be a sweet treat for Thanksgiving dinner that isn’t pie..

Semi-Homemade Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese & Homemade Caramel Drizzle

And the big bonus is… You start with a MIX! Yay! I love a good “semi-homemade” recipe.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

  • 1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® Butter Pecan cake mix (if you can’t find Butter Pecan you can use Spice cake mix.)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

In large bowl, beat cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs and pumpkin pie spice with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Don’t overmix your batter. Divide the batter evenly among muffin cups (fill about three-quarters full). Bake at 325°F for about 22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when tested in the center.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese icing and Homemade Caramel Drizzle. Ready for transport.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost with something that would go well with "pumpkin” or “spice”. The obvious choice is Cream Cheese frosting. The even better, but maybe less obvious choice is CINNAMON Cream Cheese Frosting. The flavor difference is subtle, but marked.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 Cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 (16 oz.) packages powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add mixture of powdered sugar, salt and cinnamon, beating at low speed until blended. Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy. That’s it! No more. If you overbeat your cream cheese frosting you’ll break down the cream cheese, and it will end up grainy looking and be too soft to hold shape when you pipe it. (Makes about 5 cups)

Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting & Caramel

This is the easiest cupcake to decorate – all you need is a big zip-top bag. Fill it with your luscious cinnamon cream cheese frosting, snip about a half inch from one corner and swirl it on top of your cupcakes.

To add to the depth of the flavor even more, generously drizzle  some homemade caramel over the top of the frosted cupcake. Oh man!! You won’t believe the flavor… this is really simple, impressive and oh so good!

Homemade Caramel

  • 1/2 Cup butter
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Cup whipping cream

Combine butter and sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is caramel-colored, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, stirring constantly until blended.

Seriously. That’s it.

Be sure it’s cooled sufficiently before you drizzle. I like a little candy decorating bottle for this, but you could do your drizzling with a spoon or out of the snipped off corner of a bag.

You could add the little Wilton leaf sprinkles if you want, but it’s even pretty without them.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese icing and Homemade Caramel Drizzle

Now you might notice a little hint of something orange there are the top of my cupcake in the photo above. That’s an upside down Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kiss. I pushed it into the cupcake while it was still very warm.

Don’t do this.

There are a couple of reasons. First, it’s overkill – you don’t need it – it’s actually too much.

Second, this cupcake will need to be refrigerated because of the cream cheese in the frosting. (Assuming you don’t eat them all at once…) That will just make this Kiss get hard and cold. It’s not quite as tasty that way. So just leave it out.

So, mix it up on your dessert table on Thursday, pass on the pumpkin pie and try a pumpkin-y cupcake instead.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Relish the Thought

Long ago (like about 30 years) and far away (in the Inland Empire of southern California) when I was but a wee child (in seventh grade) I had my first taste of THE most amazing dipping sauce ever. It happened on a “movie night”, a traditional fundraiser for our little parochial school, there in the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains.
Pinnable Loma Linda Sandwich Relish Dip

Movie night back then was a pretty big deal. Yes, children, this was long before we were able to watch movies on our phones or in the back of the minivan, long before the DVD vending machine and even before the VCR (or trendy Betamax)  was common in every household. The movies were actually rented for several hundred dollars and were reels of film delivered in a can (or two) played back on a temperamental dinosaur sort of contraption.

On fall and winter nights we watched such film greats as The Snowball Express, Apple Dumpling Gang, and My Fair Lady (with the volume obviously turned down during the swearing parts…I feel sorry for the poor sap that had to memorize each spot.) 

Loma Linda Foods Sandwich Relish & Morning Star Farms Vegetarian Corndogs

But the movies were never the main event. What you really came for, (besides sneaking outside with your friends) were the hand dipped (vegetarian) corndogs and the incredible dipping sauce served with them. You’ve never had anything like it. (Unless, of course, you’ve actually had it…)

After decades of yearning for this sauce my mom finally dug up the recipe for me. I haven’t been the same since. Once you try it you won’t be able to thoroughly enjoy a corndog again without it. Our current plan is to have the children make it regularly, bottle and sell it and put themselves through college.

Morning Star Farms Vegetarian Corndogs & Loma Linda Sandwich Relish

Loma Linda Foods Sandwich Relish

Circa 1983
Mix together and keep refrigerated:
  • 1 quart mayonnaise
  • 1 cup dill pickle relish
  • 1 cup celery, chopped super fine
  • 4 Tablespoons pimento, chopped fine
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine – measure after chopping.
  • 3 or 4 green onions, chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon  sweet basil, dried or fresh
  • Turmeric for color
These measurements yield about 2 quarts of the relish, if you need to make a huge amount let me know in the comments and I’ll send you the proper measurements.

This is also an excellent sandwich spread or vegetable dip. But the real memories flood in when you serve it with a Morning Star Farms “classic” vegetarian corndog.

I’d tell you how long it keeps, but we usually don’t have any hanging around… Yes, it’s that good.
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Friday, November 2, 2012

To The Rescue

When I first created the post tag for ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) I didn’t think I would use it much. Unfortunately, their services are needed for disaster relief once again in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

You can donate by clicking here.

Please pray for those affected by this storm in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, and the United States.
Lady Liberty May 2012

ADRA Responds to Hurricane Sandy

In the event that donations exceed what is needed for Hurricane Sandy Relief and Rehabilitation, ADRA will redirect funds to other like activities worldwide to help children, women, and men in need. 

Hurricane Sandy brought 3 days of devastating rains and winds throughout the Caribbean and the United States. ADRA is providing clean water, food parcels, and blankets to families in some of the worst affected communities in the Dominican Republic where more than 1,200 homes were completely submerged in mud. In Jamaica, ADRA has already distributed blankets and is currently assessing the damages to homes to assist in the rehabilitation efforts. 

In the United States, ADRA is working through local partners, to provide household cleaning kits to help deal with the residual effects of flooding, hot meals, warm blankets, and personal care kits. Hurricane Sandy's aftermath is likely to be severe and the scope of it's impact will continue to unfold in the coming days and weeks. 

Your support, pooled with other resources, will help us meet the basic needs of those suffering from this disaster. 

Please send your gift today.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Back From My Apparent Nap

It's been far too long since I've posted anything here. Let's kick off November with this little graphic nugget of information.

P.S. If you have any questions about homeschooling or how to get started just holler and I'll see if I can't point you in the right direction. We're in the throws of our 9th year at it here, and some days I still feel like a beginner, but I'd say it's going pretty well and I don't regret it for a minute.

Homeschool Domination
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Friday, October 5, 2012

Instagram Ketchup

If you’re a blogger at all, perhaps you understand how difficult it is to come back after a long time away. And by “away” I mean, so busy living life that you’re too exhausted at the end of the day to write about it.

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or, better yet, Instagram, you will have seen some of what’s been going on. When it takes too much time to make a proper blog post, a quick photo with the cell phone and and upload to the Web will suffice.

In “Instagram style”, here’s what’s been going on for the last eight or so weeks around these parts.


This is our oldest son’s purity ring. The first one… Turned out he was allergic to pewter and we had to get a stainless steel ring for him. Both had the Scripture verse, I Thessalonians 4:3-4 on them.IMG_20120809_131521


Here is our adorable mutt, (with one good eye) lounging on a cast-off piece of foam while we were doing a major deep-clean of our office/school/scrapbook room. He’s the best dog ever.IMG_20120815_201314


This is my youngest son, Jacob, sporting his new mustache. I found some temporary tattoo pens when cleaning out my desk drawers in our office/school/scrapbook room. This was on a Friday. As it happened the pen marks weren’t temporary enough to be gone completely by church time…IMG_20120816_224643


These are the parts to the clever cubbies my kids put together for our office/school/scrapbook room. They did an excellent job assembling them IMG_20120818_224129


They worked hard, as good minions should, until the wee hours. But I did pay them… IMG_20120819_025119 We’ve since rearranged them and have tons of new storage.


I helped my friend, Lisa, through a dessert emergency, (yes – that’s a real thing) by baking up a batch of my Cherry Filled Cupcakes with Wedding Cake Icing and a batch of my Lemon Curd Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Icing,IMG_20120821_131438

In the tiny size they were super adorable topped with Lemon Heads and Cherry Sours candies.IMG_20120821_130701

Have you seen anything cuter than this watermelon land shark? Lisa made this and it was a perfect centerpiece for her Summer Fun themed event.IMG_20120821_131125

My church hosted a Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage DVD seminar by Mark Gungor. I was on deck for hospitality and snacks/meals for the guests and members. I think I’ve just about got these things down to a science. We served about 75 folks and didn’t have any leftovers from the two days and nobody went away hungry. 20120825_17201120120825_171957


The day after the marriage seminar, I hosted a Back to Homeschool Tea. It was a sweet and relaxing afternoon with about 16 of the best homeschool moms around.IMG_20120826_124756Back to Homeschool Tea Table Back to Homeschool Tea Table 2   Lisa captured a few Instagrams of her own – I’ve borrowed them here – she’s got a great eye.

Lisas Instagram of HS Tea decor 2Lisas Instagram of HS Tea Decor

Those “taffy” candies (above) are erasers in waxed paper.

Lisas Instagram of HS Tea decor 3

That gets me through August. Stay tuned for a September ketchup and I’ve got lots of recipes to share – FALL is here and I LOVE to cook in the fall.

You can follow me on Instagram here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

25 Random Thoughts

There was an open invitation to do a “random things” blog post on my bestie’s blog and I’m taking it!

  1. I’m a terrible blogger if you use normal blogger standards, but I see my blog as mostly a place to “journal” my memories (and sometimes be a platform for what I’m passionate about…) So – not such a bad blogger after all.
  2. I tend to be wordy but I find that endearing about myself. Don’t you? What?
  3. Few things set my teeth on edge more than bad grammar and misspellings. It drives me up the wall.
  4. I’m horrible at grammar, punctuation and spelling. I even have spell check on Facebook.
  5. I have particular trouble with apostrophe’s…
  6. And I use ellipses too much…
  7. I spend too much time on Facebook and hate it at the same time.
  8. (There’s a lot of bad grammar on Facebook…)
  9. I use parentheses too often as well.
  10. I frequently cause my own inner conflict. Or, maybe I don’t.
  11. I like to travel, even road trips, and I could be ready to go on a trip in a matter of minutes – I’m nearly packed all the time. I’m waiting for my husband to whisk me away at a moments notice.
  12. My trip with my husband to New York City in April/May was the best trip ever! I frequently think of it fondly and can hardly wait to go again.IMG_20120503_103842
  13. My computer crashed/fried early this summer and I lost several blog post drafts about my NYC trip. I’m so obsessive/compulsive that I have a hard time going back and writing posts out of order. Thus, the lack of posts about NYC. Then I figure, nobody else really cares anyway.Brooklyn Bridge
  14. Our recent trip for two weeks in Missouri at the family spot on the lake was great too. On the Lake Summer 2012
  15. I brought home a couple of boxes of teacups and saucers that used to be my great grandmother’s.
  16. Washing china and rearranging my china cabinet makes me want to have a tea party.Favorite Teacups and Saucers
  17. I’m planning a Back to (Home) School tea party for my fellow homeschooling moms later this month. (Any excuse for a party…)
  18. Sometimes I have parties so that I will be forced to clean my house.
  19. I don’t really “like” tea. Just the ritual of tea. Tea is pretty much just dirty water in my book.
  20. Ice water is my go-to drink. If I run out of ice I don’t drink water. That’s bad.
  21. I don’t like lemon or lime in my ice water either. Again – just dirty water.
  22. Pop (or soda) gives me hiccups and makes my teeth squeak. I avoid it (unless the water tastes bad.)
  23. Sometimes, when I’m out to eat, if a soda comes with my meal, I just get water anyway. Unless I get tea.
  24. If I get tea, it’s got a lot of sweetener and some other fruity flavor. Which really makes it more of a watered down juice.
  25. I guess I prefer iced tea over hot tea. I just need to serve my iced tea in pretty teacups. With scones. And little sandwiches. And dessert…DSCN5135
  26. Technorati Tags: ,,,

Friday, July 13, 2012

Orange Julius–Oh Joy!

Step into my time machine, (which looks nothing like a stainless steel sports car…) and head back to 1974 with me.

My memories are scant at that point – my earliest memory is of my third birthday party, after that I have a recollection of my first visit to Disney World early in 1972. After that, it’s a misty blur up until kindergarten EXCEPT for trips to the mall to visit my Aunt, working at the Orange Julius stand. This is probably what catapulted her to most-favored-aunt status at the time.Orange Julius yumm If you’ve never had an Orange Julius you need to make the effort. I haven’t seen an Orange Julius stand around since I don’t know when, but I’ve discovered that they were purchased by Dairy Queen back in 1987. Now you’ll find combo stores or “Treat Centers”. Further investigation at their website has shown me that there is one within about an hour’s drive from me. Next time we’re in the Big City I think we’ll track them down and compare the original with my made-up recipe from home. I don’t have access to the “magic powder” that they use at Julius, that’s what the vanilla pudding mix is for…Orange Julius Knock Off Pinable 
Orange Julius Knock-Off
  • 6 oz. Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate
  • 6 oz. Milk
  • 3 oz. Simple Syrup*
  • 1 teaspoon dry Vanilla Pudding Mix
  • 2 Cups crushed ice
Whiz the juice concentrate, milk, simple syrup and pudding mix in the blender. Add the crushed ice and blend until smooth. This yields 3 good sized servings.
Grab a straw and brace yourself for a brain freeze because it’s so yummy you’ll drink it too fast.Orange Julius smoothie *Simple syrup is easy, if you haven’t made it before. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water and 2 cups granulated sugar. Bring to a boil, stir constantly and dissolve the sugar. Remove it from the heat and cool completely. Pour into a jar and store in the fridge.Orange Julius knock off This isn’t quite as frothy and delish as I remember the original to be, but it’s a nice knock-off. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

An American Celebration

It’s the Fourth of July in America, normally the time we celebrate our independence, freedom and the birthday of our young nation. But convenience has stepped in and our big “Fourth” celebration is already over here. In fact, it wasn’t even in July! Our city fireworks were Saturday night, June 30. That kind of rubbed some people the wrong way.

Happy 236th Birthday Liberty

The holiday sneaked up on me this year, but we threw a little tailgate celebration together and headed up to the top of the parking garage downtown. We met up with another homeschooling family and ended up parking next to yet another homeschooling family and in front of a third homeschooling family. Yes, folks, we are taking over the world…

Picnic on the parking garageTailgate party on the parking garage

There was a pretty impressive fireworks display that lasted a good 20 minutes, paid for by the local Iranian businessman that owns several Mexican restaurants around here. That’s America.

Fireworks Collage 2012

It’s a little bit anticlimactic, but we’re having an indoor picnic today with grandparents. It’s still too hot to be outside, but those vegetarian hot dogs and burgers never do very well on a grill, (as if we owned one) anyway.  Fourth of July indoor picnicWe’ll still have all the fixins of a great picnic, hot dogs, burgers, coleslaw, baked beans, chips and dip, root beer and cherry limeade, apple pie and more of those cherry filled cupcakes.Fourth of July Cupcakes American Flag Centerpiece for Church Fellowship Lunch

I collected some buckets from Target’s Dollar Spot and made up some centerpieces to use at our church fellowship luncheon last Sabbath. I decided that I’d keep them for myself rather than making them part of the church stock, so I’ll be using them at home sometimes too. If you think about it, there are really a lot of holidays that could use a red bucket for something.Cheap Patriotic Centerpiece

I hope your celebration is filled with family and friends and that you don’t all expire from heat stroke. Patriotic Front Porch 2012Be safe out there today, drink plenty of water and enjoy your independence! (While you still have it…)Patriotic Porch Pinwheels 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

If George Washington Ate Cupcakes…

If Martha Washington made cupcakes for her backyard Fourth of July celebration, I bet they looked like theseCherry Filled Patriotic Cupcake

Well, maybe not. Martha Washington probably had the cute patriotic cupcake papers too. But I’m sure her cupcakes had a cherry filling like these do.

Vanilla Cupcake with Cherry Filling & Patriotic Frosting
Cherry Filled Vanilla Cupcakes with Fourth of July Picks
These are SO easy to make. So easy that I didn’t do any step-by-step photos for you.

  • Get yourself a white cake mix (or a recipe for vanilla cake) and a can of cherry pie filling (or a jar of your homemade cherry pie filling…)
  • Make the cake according to the directions on the box, put all the batter in a gallon-size zip-top bag, and snip off a small corner of the bag.
  • Squeeze enough batter into the bottom of your cupcake liners to just cover the bottom.
  • Using a teaspoon from your silverware drawer, spoon a bit of cherry pie filling (I use Lucky Leaf brand) onto the batter – try to keep it in the middle.
  • Squeeze more batter to cover the pie filling until the cupcake liners are about 2/3 full.
  • Bake according to the regular directions on the box. Patriotic Cupcakes & Apothecary Jars

    The frosting is also very easy. I used a recipe found in the book Simply Sweet Best Cupcakes Ever! (I purchased my copy on the magazine rack at Costco.)

    For a decadent amount of frosting, I made a double batch of the Wedding Cake Frosting recipe.

    Wedding Cake Frosting
    Makes 3 cups
    • 1/2 Cup butter, softened
    • 1/4 Cup whipping cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    • 1/4 salt
    • 1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
    1. Beat first 4 ingredients at medium speed wit an electric mixer until creamy.
    2. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy
    .Cherry Filled Vanilla Cupcakes with Wedding Cake Frosting
    To get the multicolored frosting look, save 2 cups of frosting aside and leave it white. Tint 2 cups red and 2 cups blue using gel color. Wilton brand is great and you can pick it up at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s or another store with a cake decorating section.

    Grab a gallon-sized zip-top bag – cut about a quarter inch off the corner and drop a 1M decorating tip (with a large star-like opening) into the open corner of the bag.

    Fill the bag about halfway with about 1/4 cup each of red, white and blue frosting. 

    Pipe a generous peak onto each cupcake and decorate with edible glitter, candies or picks. I made my picks using a star punch and some scrapbook papers. Each pick takes 3 stars – 2 of red paper and 1 of blue paper. Trim the blue star into two pieces and adhere the pieces over the two red stars. Stick your stars back to back with a toothpick between them – be sure they’re both right side up – and adhere with liquid glue . When they’re completely dry stick them in your cupcakes.

    I took about a dozen and a half of these to fellowship lunch at church and I was surprised that they didn’t go as fast as some of the other obviously “store bought” cookies and such. I was later told that they looked like they’d come from the store also and so they were passed over – our local China-Mart makes HORRIBLE cakes and cupcakes. But the word got out and there were none left over!

    Patriotic Cherry Filled Cupcake & Jacob
    These are really yummy and moist, and the cherry inside is a nice surprise (if you like cherry…) Your kids will LOVE them and they’re easy enough for the kids to help make without stressing out momma too much.
    Party like the Washingtons and whip up a batch for yourself. They’re so simple you could even make them at the last minute. Fourth of July Cupcakes
    Happy Fourth of July!
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