Top 10 Posts of 2012

Now that I’ve been blogging for a little over a year, I can follow along with all the grownup bloggers and post a recap of my Top Ten Posts of 2012.  And away we go…

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Just in case you missed any of them (or…gasp!….failed to pin them!), here are the individual links to the posts.

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Magnetic Chore Chart

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Batty Bleached Tees

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Blinged Out Pumpkin

Jewelry from the Hardware Store

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Christmas Lights Card

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Handcrafted Coffee Syrups

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Give Thanks Pallet Art

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Jingly Joy Glass Block

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Red, White, and Blue Strawberries

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Tag Baby Blankets

I have tons of fun and (hopefully) interesting posts planned for 2013, so I hope you’ll visit often and see what’s new! I’ve had such a fabulous time over the past year, making new bloggy friends and learning so much about blogging and the importance of having a creative outlet as I navigate the daily chaos.  Thanks so much for tagging along, and I’ll try not to disappoint you in the coming year!

Wishing you the very best for 2013!

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Books of the Month

I’ve decided that I want to have a “Books of the Month” post here on the blog, since, along with crafting and cooking, reading ranks right up there in my list of favorite pastimes.  I’m not up for writing actual reviews, but I’ll share my (brief) opinion of the books and whether I thought it worthwhile or wish I could have those hours of my life back.

1. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

My book club read The Happiness Project this month.  Then we went out for dinner at a Hawaiian Barbeque place and shopping in a quaint little nearby town, and actually did discuss it quite a bit. The general consensus was that it was a worthwhile read, and a couple of ladies even bought journals to use for their own personal “Happiness Projects” while we were shopping.

I’ve also read Eat, Pray, Love for a book club, and this was a much, much better read, possibly because the author has a husband and kids and includes her relationships with them in her project, making it much more relatable for me.  Eat, Pray, Love seemed a completely self-indulgent journey to me and I couldn’t relate to its author in the least.

I’m looking forward to reading Rubin’s Happiness at Home in 2013, which is more about the whole family than the individual.

2. How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas by Jeff Guinn

How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas

I finished How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas on Christmas Day, after laboring through it for over a week. I’m normally a very fast reader, and this was not a difficult book; I just couldn’t get that interested.

It seemed an interesting premise, with an historical look on England in the 1640’s, when Puritans came to power there and abolished the celebration of Christmas.  I didn’t even realize that it was outlawed in Scotland and the American colonies for many years, as well. See, that sounds intriguing, right? But it wasn’t. While I don’t completely wish to have those hours back, I wouldn’t recommend this, unless you’re jonesing to read historical, fluff fiction about that era.

3. Moving Is Murder by Sara Rosett

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I’ve read about this series, by a fellow military spouse, and was happy to see it as a Nook Pick of the Day (which means it’s discounted a lot) just before we left for Disneyworld. I wanted something light to read on the plane (because you can’t really read War and Peace while traveling with three kids and your husband).

It proved entertaining, and the mystery was not a dead giveaway (pun intended).  I was happy to have started with the first book in the series (because I’m a little compulsive that way) and promptly checked the second one out of the library when we returned.

Now that I’ve learned how Mrs. Claus saved Christmas, I can curl up in my favorite chair by the fire and read while the hooligans play in our sixteen-inches of snow from the blizzard.

Have I mentioned that they were unexpectedly out of school two days early, due to our snowfall?  Well, they were, so, come to think of it, I may need a big mug of something hot and alcoholic to accompany my reading by the fire. Hope you’re staying warm and cozy and enjoying the peace after all the holiday hustle and bustle, too!

 

 

One-Line-a-Day Family Memories

Here’s a phrase I bet you haven’t heard…in at least ten minutes…I saw this idea on Pinterest.  It was just a photo, uploaded by someone, with no way to track it or give credit. So I apologize if it’s your original idea.

It’s a simple concept…jot down one line each day, and use it year after year for a cool way to see a snapshot of your life as a family.

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Simple to create, you’ll need just a few supplies:

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I found the adjustable date stamp in the scrapbooking section of the craft store, but I’m sure they’re available at office supply stores, as well. I will always miss the hand-stamped dates on library checkout cards, so I wanted this for crafting.

You can use any color markers you want; I chose a different color for each month, then used cardstock dividers in the same colors.

I’m certain you can figure this out, but all you do is stamp a 3×5 card with each month and day of the year (don’t forget Feb 29, for those Leap Years!).  It sounds tedious, and was, just a bit, but I finished all the stamping in the course of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Then I cut some cardstock into 3-1/2” x 5” pieces and rounded the corners to use as dividers.  You could also use favorite photos or other paper memorabilia, such as ticket stubs, cut to size.

I used an antique refrigerator glass box to hold it all.  I really wanted a ceramic berry basket, which I saw everywhere last summer, but are nowhere to be found this time of year. At least in Wisconsin they aren’t. You could use any container that appeals to you, glass, pottery, or a wooden recipe box.

Happy memory-making!

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Chicken Saltimbocca

Looking for the perfect dish for New Year’s Eve?  This might be the one! Kids and adults alike enjoy Chicken Saltimbocca at our house…the crispy prosciutto, the melty cheese, and the savory sauce combine to make a dish that truly “jumps in the mouth.” That’s what “saltimbocca” means in Italian. Yes, I looked it up.

And, to seal the deal, all this deliciousness can be yours in less than thirty minutes…even including the side dishes.

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Chicken Saltimbocca
  • 4- (6 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 16 sage leaves, ½ of them slivered, ½ whole
  • ½ cup dry vermouth
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 4 slices prosciutto, very thin
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 4 tbsp Parmesan, shredded
  • More sage leaves for garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut each chicken breast in half horizontally to create 8 thin cutlets. To do this, place the breast flat on a cutting board, and pressing down with left hand, slice through the center with a very sharp knife using your right hand.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish and dredge the chicken in it. Saute ½ the chicken in the butter/olive oil, three minutes per side, and remove to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken.

4. Top each cutlet with ½ slice prosciutto, 1 sage leaf, and 1 Tbsp shredded mozzarella. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, while you prepare the sauce.

5. To the skillet, add the vermouth and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Cook until it reduces by about half, stirring to get up all those yummy browned bits.

6. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from oven. To serve, drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan. If you’d like, garnish with a fresh sage leaf.

Click here for the printable recipe

On the side, we like gnocchi sauteed in 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil, sprinkled with seasoning salt, along with steamed green beans drizzled with lemon juice and a bit of olive oil, then a bit of salt and quite a lot of freshly ground black pepper.

There you have it…a meal fit for a celebration, in no time at all!

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Easiest Ever Barbeque Ribs

My mom’s family celebrates Christmas on December 23, which was my great-grandma’s birthday.  The menu generally includes Oklahoma favorites such as brisket, tabouli, and my mom’s fabulous ribs. This year my mom hosted the get-together, and I so wish we could have been there. However, with about a foot and a half of snow here for the hooligans to enjoy,  and having just made that 14-hour-each-way trip for Thanksgiving, it would have been a really hard sell to get them to joyfully ride that far AND miss out on the sledding here.

So I made my version of ribs, which is not very similar to my mom’s, but still delicious. Hers are baked for hours with a dry rub, whereas mine are basted with barbeque sauce.  Why don’t I make hers?  Because I’ve tried, and they’re never as delicious as hers are.  Mine end up more like jerky on a bone, which is not a festive holiday treat!ribs-ChaosServedDaily

But I’ve fed mine to many a guest, and they’ve loved them. Making them couldn’t be simpler.  All you need is a rack or two of baby back ribs, some barbeque sauce (I make my own, but store-bought is great if you have a favorite), and heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Step 1: The night before serving, tear off a large piece of foil. Slather both sides of the ribs with barbeque sauce and place bone side down on foil.

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Wrap tightly in foil, place in a roasting pan (that you’ll cook them in tomorrow), and refrigerate overnight.

12-12 Ribs in foil

Step 2:  4 hours before serving, preheat oven to 300 degrees and slide the pan into it.  Bake for 2-1/2 hours, then pull pan out of oven an open up the foil.  Brush more sauce on top and, leaving foil open, bake another 30-45 minutes, until very tender.

Cut them up into individual ribs, and serve with a extra sauce, if you’d like.  In the winter, we like these with mashed potatoes and a salad on the side, but in the summer nothing is better than grilled corn on the cob and potato salad.

Here’s the barbeque sauce I make.  It’s a copy of Sweet Baby Ray’s and is quite sweet, so feel free to use whatever suits your fancy!

Barbeque Sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1-1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 dashes hot sauce

Combine all in a medium saucepan.  Stirring frequently, bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, then let cool before using. Makes about 4 cups.

These ribs make an excellent meal for busy days, as well as special occasions. You can easily slip them into the oven, then not worry about them for a few hours.  They’re oh-so-comforting on a cold winter’s night, yet still a perfect meal to eat out on the deck come summer.

I hope you have a relaxing Christmas Eve, with the hustle and bustle of preparations over and free to enjoy the peace and beauty of the evening. Merry Christmas!

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Breakfast Blintz with Lingonberries

If you’re fortunate enough to live near an IKEA, or shopped in one on vacation, I bet you couldn’t resist buying a jar of lingonberries. And, furthermore, if your hooligans are big Kick Buttkowski fans (as mine are), the mere mention of a dish involving Gunther’s family favorite ensures it will be devoured. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, lingonberries are the Nordic equivalent of cranberries, it seems to me. Smaller, but the same flavor.

Anyway, this is one of our favorite breakfast (or breakfast-for-dinner) casseroles…it’s a bit like a cheese Danish filling, with pancake batter. Trust me, it’s delectable, and the lingonberries make it perfect for a Christmas morning breakfast. Blintz-ChaosServedDaily

Breakfast Blintz with Lingonberries

Serves 8-10

Filling:

  • 1-(8oz) package light cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup lowfat, small curd cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup egg substitute (or 1 egg, beaten)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Batter:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup egg substitute (or 4 eggs, beaten)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup orange juice

Topping:

  • Lingonberry preserves, fresh fruit, or your favorite preserves
  • Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.

2. To make filling, stir together all ingredients in medium bowl.

3. To make batter: Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and stir until combined. Add flour and baking powder and stir just until combined. Blend in yogurt and juice until batter is smooth.

4. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Gently spoon on the cream cheese filling and lightly smooth. Top with remaining batter, pouring in an even layer.

5. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until top and edges are lightly browned.

6. Top with lingonberry preserves, fresh fruit, or your favorite preserves and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

7. May be covered with foil and frozen. Thaw completely in refrigerator and then bake, covered with foil, at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, until hot throughout.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe

We enjoy this with bacon or sausage, a fruit salad, and hash brown casserole.  I included the directions for making it ahead and freezing, but it really only takes about 15 minutes to get into the oven, if you don’t have time to plan ahead.  I like this recipe because all the cottage cheese and egg substitute boost the protein, but keep it fairly lowfat.

I hope you enjoy, too!Signature

Find It Ornaments

Do your kids have those Find It games?  It’s a clear plastic tube, filled with little plastic beads and about a gazillion tiny objects.  My hooligans keep theirs in the car, and it’s proved a great quiet game for them. For their ornaments this Christmas, I decided to make a version of the game.

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Supplies:

Flat round ornament with tiny styrofoam balls in it

12 tiny Christmas objects

Embellishments for the tag

Ribbon for the edge

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I found all sorts of miniature Christmas-y things at the craft store, along with the ornaments.  The ornaments were already filled with styrofoam balls, and opened along the side, so I didn’t have to have objects small enough to fit into the top opening. All mine did fit that way, so I didn’t need to open up the ornament, but I could have bought larger stuff if I wanted!

To make the tag, I downloaded and printed a vintage-look tag with a “12” on it, from Designer Digitals Counting Christmas Tags No. 1. I just wrote “Can you find all” above the number.  The I printed a list for each ornament (they were slightly different) and cut it to fit the front tag. I used an adhesive runner to stick the front and back tags together.

Then all I had to do was tie the tag on using some bakers’ twine and a little jingle bell.  I ran a strip of sticky strip along the side seam and covered it with ribbon, just to hide the seam and make the ornament a bit more colorful.

Making four of these (I made one for an ornament exchange, as well) took about an hour, mostly because I had to figure out the correct size and type the list.

Hope your Christmas plans are moving along swimmingly!

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Merry Munching

Here’s a confession…I do not enjoy making “puppy chow” recipes. I cannot get the pieces of cereal evenly coated with the gooey yumminess without having fingers that smell like peanut butter for days. Happily, my middle hooligan loves to help me in the kitchen, and he has no qualms about messiness. Of course.

Merry Munch

Merry Munch Snack Mix

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

8 cups rice Chex

1 cup white chocolate chips

½ cup peanut butter

4 Tbsp butter, cut in cubes

¼ tsp vanilla

1-1/2 cups cashews

1-1/3 cups dried cherries or cranberries

1. Place powdered sugar in a large ziptop bag. Measure cereal into large bowl.

2. In medium saucepan, melt butter, chocolate, and peanut butter until smooth. Stir in vanilla.

3. Pour over cereal and toss to coat.

4. Place half the coated cereal at a time into the powdered sugar, seal, and shake until evenly coated.

5. Repeat with remaining cereal.

6. Add cashews and dried cherries or cranberries, and enjoy!

Click here for the printable version

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Not the Post I Had Planned

So I realize that many, many bloggers observed a “Day of Remembrance” yesterday for the Sandy Hook victims. I didn’t, purely because I was on vacation last week, had written and scheduled yesterday’s post weeks ago, and, quite honestly, didn’t think about postponing it. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t cognizant of the suffering, grief, and anguish gripping our nation, and especially the families of those killed.

I thought of them as I put my kids on the school bus, saying a little prayer for even more guardian angels than I normally send with them.

I thought of them as I wrapped presents for our kids…how many of those first graders’ parents already had presents under their family’s tree for their little ones?

I thought of them when I picked up my daughter after 4K, as talked flowed around me of the school board meeting tonight that will now include a discussion of school security. School security, in our little country school, in rural Wisconsin.

I thought of them after I picked the boys up from school and all three kids were singing different carols (offkey) in the car on the way to the post office…something that I would have immediately discouraged (or tried to narrow down to one song) last week.

I thought of them as we unwrapped our nightly Christmas book and snuggled on the couch to read it.

I thought of them just now, with my children safely tucked into their beds, as I downloaded photos of our family vacation to Florida last week.

That, you see, was the post I planned to write tonight. A little travelogue of our adventure, the craziness and the fun and the countless memories we made. But I just can’t write that post tonight.

On Friday morning, our last full day in Florida, the kids begged to drive two hours each way to Clearwater Beach to see Winter, the dolphin from A Dolphin’s Tale. We were having lunch in a funky little local cafe, with only a couple of other tables occupied, when I called my mom just to check in. She told me the news from Newtown. As I sat there, watching my kids wolf down pancakes for lunch, I couldn’t comprehend that such a horrible even could have taken place. Yet it did.

Since then, my husband and I have both given lots more hugs, been much more tolerant of the vacation/Christmas/general kid excitement, and been immeasurably more mindful of how truly blessed we are.

This is the last photo I took on our vacation, just before we left the beach to go find some lunch. We were fortunate enough to have all of our children right there with us when we heard the news (they didn’t hear it), and not feel the need many of our friends did, wanting to go pick their own children up from their schools. We knew they were safely in our arms at that moment, even though we couldn’t keep them there forever. I’m certain that in years to come, that’s what I will remember of the moment captured in this photo…that all was right in our little world. Maybe next week I’ll write that post I meant to write today. For now, I’m praying for peace for those 26 families and counting my blessings every moment.