Friday, January 29, 2010

What's Cooking: Almond Crescents

(Mixing the buttery goodness)

I decided to make almond crescents, which looked so good when Rachel made them over at Heart of Light .

(Ready to cook)

The recipe gave me enough to fill two baking sheets and just as I was about to pop them in the oven I realized my ovenwas broken... brilliant. So after a quick phone call to my fellow Two Blogger I drove to her house with my uncooked delights.

(The finished product)

The recipe doesn't specify how long to cook them, but I left them in for about 12 minutes. I rolled the finished crescents in powdered sugar and I was done. They turned out dry and crumbly, but in a good way. They're perfect with a cup of coffee.

Photos by moi.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Music Musings

(Fleet Foxes)

Right now there are two bands that I've been listening to for weeks. The first is Fleet Foxes. I've been flipping their serene album from A-side to B-side since my brother-in-law got it for me for Christmas.

The second is The Avett Brother's album "I and Love and You." I'm slightly obsessed with this one. I heard the album's title track "I and Love and You" months ago and have been hooked ever since. Each time I listen to the album I have a new favorite song, currently "And It Spread," but to be fair, yesterday "The Perfect Space" was my fav.

I highly recommend both albums and encourage all of you to get thee to a CD store (or library or iTunes).

(Avett Brothers)

Photos are the band's album covers.

Let Me Count the Ways....Worksheets

I once asked a teacher, who is a friend of mine, what her kids struggle with the most in third grade. She quickly answered, "counting money and making change." Well, no surprise there! I can barely function adding and subtracting coins in my own head.
So, wanting to get my son more comfortable around coins and numbers I turned to the Internet for resources. I was not disappointed! I found this website comprised of all kinds of homeschooling worksheets. Donna Young is the creator, and she has a numerous list of different subjects and age appropriate worksheets!
Here are the worksheets I printed out, about coins. Having them laminated at a Teaching Supply store (not UPS, they are very pricey to laminate! I found out that the hard way.) These were only $1.30 at the Teaching Store and will last forever.

I cut out the ones that I am going to use as flashcards, and the rest are ready for an erasable marker!

Oh, Internet let me count the ways I love thee free and abundant resources!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Avid Reader's Musings

I've decided to start a new blog with posts just about books. It's too hard for me to try to limit myself to posting about books once a week or so.

We'll still have this blog, which will have fantastic posts on decorating, DIY projects, cooking, organization, travel, and a million other interesting things. But I hope you'll come visit me over at...

The Avid Reader's Musings read my book reviews and thoughts on various books.

Photo was e-mailed to me and I have no idea where it is originally from.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Juicy Vitamins

Here's the starting health line up- Orange, Apple, Carrot, Cranberries, and Spinach Juice. My helper and I took the afternoon and sliced and diced.

It was the first time I had used a juicer. Here are my Pros and Cons of the process:


-Takes a minute to pour out a healthy drink from our pre-made selection of juices.

-The kids favorite is fresh apple juice. Orange, carrot, and spinach combination is mine.

-I know that my body is absorbing the highest nutrient content it can get through these juices. The fiber in the pulp (or skin of the fruit) is taken out by the juicing machine. So, my body is more readily able to absorb these nutrients rather than expel them with the skin/fiber portion of food.

-I saved the skins of the cranberries and carrots. I added them to the meatloaf and muffins for breakfast and dinner the next day!


-It is a pain to have to clean out the blade out every so often, because the excess "skin" clogged the machine.

-We had a bag full of cranberries and spinach and only got a slim selection of juice.

- I threw away the apple, spinach, and orange skins.

Overall, I would say that I would do it again. But would not use a juicier as an everyday source of vitamins.

One Man's Trash

(New dresser!)

Over the weekend I acquired a brand new, gorgeous wood dresser! By brand new I mean new to me. And by acquired I mean, found on my brother's apartment balcony.

I stopped by my brother's apartment and happened to notice this beautiful piece of furniture sitting on his back porch... in the snow. I was flabbergasted. I tried to remember that he and his roommate are male college students and furniture is only truly functional if it can quickly be turned into a beer pong table, but come on!

(Contact paper lining the drawers)

After a quick conversation he explained someone had given them the dresser and they didn't want it (hence the outdoor storage). Two days later, after I had cleaned it, rubbed it down with pledge and lined the drawers with contact paper, it was sitting in out master bedroom. It replace a little pressed particle board dresser we had been using.

(Old dresser)

I know the trend right now is to paint pieces like this, but I just can't bring myself to cover the wood. I love it just how it is, slightly nicked and scratched. One man's trash can absolutely become another (wo)man's treasure.

Photos by moi.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Corralling Cords

Organizing Issue: Two lamp cords who think they own the joint.

Organizing Solution: 3M Cord Clips striking fear into wayward cords everywhere.

The Action Shot.

Not even gravity can stop me from organizing! :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Books: 3 Characters I Love to Hate

This week's Book List topic is "3 Characters I Love to Hate."

Here's my list...

1) Rebecca from "Rebecca"

2) Miss Trunchbull from "Matilda"

3) Kevin from "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Hop on over to Lost in Books for more info.

Book covers courtesy of the publishers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What's Cooking: Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork

(Raw meat looks gross)

Flannel Man isn't a huge fan of pork, but in an effort to diversify my cooking skills I decided to try this recipe.

I skipped the pears entirely and cheated a bit with the potatoes (they were straight from the freezer section at the store).

(Ready to go in the oven)

It ended up being incredibly simple and tasted great. I bought the pork tenderloin and it was my first time ever buying something that big from the deli counter. I felt like a real grown up.

After I layered on the prosciutto and drizzled the honey on I popped it in the oven. When it was finished it looked kinda gross (meat always does), but it tasted wonderful! It was moist and flavorful and I was pretty proud of myself.

(The finished product)
Photos by moi.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Around the Internet and Back

Prevention Magazine - Laundry Tips You Never Knew

Simple Mom- Paperless Kitchen

Early Retirement Extreme- Bartering Skills

Photo by TwoBloggers

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Library Trippin'

I had some free time to do as I pleased yesterday and got to go to the library (by myself)! Yes, it really is my happy place. I think for me, at least, I am a gatherer by nature. And if you give me a card to swipe and no limit to the things I can "buy". Well, then my inner desires are satisified. (Until garage sale season picks up again.)

These magazines were free for the taking and take them I did. They are wonderful to browse, tear out ideas, and file into binder books.

For my son, who is catching on quickly to reading I got him some more challenging first level chapter books. Two teaching books. One that I have heard frequently about is "Teach Your Children to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". Plus, "More Than Counting" , which illustrates how to make your own math related board games with kids. I also got some French Flashcards in which we have not been using the French nouns at all. However, I did find a website that we will enjoy. Learning at this age is new and exciting. I hope that I can give them every opportunity to learn about the world around them, near and far. Plus, who doesn't want to know how to say scarecrow in French?

My real reason for going was to pick up the book "In the Defense of Food." Our family has been ordering organic vegetable delivery to our house every Friday. So, the amount of greens in our house has gone from canned peas to fresh broccoli, spinach, and green beans (eating enough fruit around here never seems to be an issue). The whole process is amazing. And couldn't have come at a better time when reading a book whose primary purpose is to educate and defend WHY we should be eating primarily fruit and vegetables! I will let you know how I enjoy the book...and my fresh ginger.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Books: Random Book Challenge

I've found another fun reading challenge that I just can't resist. This one was just too interesting. Instructions are explained for choosing each book. I've figured out the book I'll read for a few of them, but I'll post an update once I have them all.


1. Random Book Selection. Go to the library. Position yourself in a section such as Fiction. Then write down random directions for yourself (for example, third row, second shelf, fifth book from right). Follow your directions and see what book you find.


2. Random Word. Go to this random word generator and generate a random word. Find a book with this word in the title. Read the book and write about it.

Word: Highway

Book: "Blue Highways: A Journey into America" by William Least Heat-Moon

3. Birth Year Book. Find a book that was published in the year of your birth.

Book: "Flaubert’s Parrot" by Julian Barnes

4. Judge A Book By Its Cover. Pick out a book based SOLELY on the cover.

Book: "Blindness" by José Saramago

5. Phoning An Author. Pick a random last name out of the phone book. Find an author with the same last name and read a book by them.

Name: Morris

Book: "News from Nowhere" by William Morris

6. Public Spying. Find someone who is reading a book in public. Find out what book they are reading and then read the same book.


7. Random Bestseller. Go to and, using the True Random Number Generator, enter the number 1950 for the min. and 2008 for the max. and then hit generate. Then find the bestseller list for that year and pick a book.

Year: 2007

Book: The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

8. Turn on your iPod and hit play, the first song that comes on at random, find a book that shares at least one word in its title with the title of that song.

iPod song- Fool for a Lonesome Train by Ben Harper

Book: "Fool" by Christopher Moore

9. Have give you a number between 1 and 1,000 and read the book that is that number of the list of 1,000 books to read before you die.

Number: 689

Book: "Strait is the Gate" by André Gide

10. Movie/Book Comparison. Find a book that you haven't read that has a movie based on it that you haven't seen. Read the book and watch the movie within a few days of each other.

Book: "Proof" by David Auburn

Photo by Pidge

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If Walls Could Listen

Do you love your home with your ears? Eyes always seem to get the attention when decorating. So, today I took the time to update my Pandora list with these artists. They capture the mood, season, and coziness I am trying to bring into these walls. Like coffee for the ears. Just add fiddles and Celtic cream.

When researching some of the artists I came upon this dance song written by a Shaker, Elder Joseph, who was born in 1797.

"Simple Gifts"

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and bend we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come out right.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon

Good Use Of Space

I'm a huge fan of anything that takes up the smallest amount of space possible, while still be useful. There's something wonderful about functional furniture (storage ottomans, etc.). In the kitchen it seems like every appliance is huge and rarely put to use.

Enter the Progressive Collapsible Salad Spinner. We got this as a wedding gift and I couldn't be happier with it. Not only does the entire thing collapse into a thin disc, it also doubles as a serving bowl or colander. It can also be washed in the dish washer if needed.

So for anyone out there trying to make more space available in their crowded cabinets, may I suggest investing in one of these.

Photos by moi.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wine Bottle Candle Holders- DIY Valentines Day Craft

I saw a version of these in a magazine and had a crafty crush.

All I had to pick up were the candles.

The rest is...
-wrapping paper
-"bling" stickers

I used left over wrapping paper from Christmas to fit around the bottle.

Attaching it with double sided tape and glueing the ribbons on snug was the most difficult part.

The bling stickers were spaced evenly along the candle.

The candle I broke in half, because of its height. Then wedged it into the bottles opening.

This would be oh so romantic on a table set for Valentine's Day dinner!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's on my bedside table?

No matter how fast I read, the stack on my bedside table always gets out of control. Right now I'm reading an interesting mix of books. I just finished the Pulitzer-Prize winning play "Dinner With Friends," "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "Great Expectations" (reviews below). I'm in the middle of "The Color Purple" and am finishing up "The Portable Dorothy Parker." It looks like this is going to be a great year for reading.

Dinner With Friends ★★★★

The story follows two married couples in their 40s. Gabe and Karen, happily married with kids, and Tom and Beth, who are in the midst of getting a divorce. The play paints an intimate portrait of marriage and friendship. The play is really well done, giving glimpses of each of the characters' true feelings, which aren't always pretty.

It was interesting to read the play as a newlywed. It almost felt like a cautionary tale. But the portrayal of the two couples also reminded me that marriage is work, a lot of work and you need to treat your partner with the respect they deserve if you want your marriage to last.

Great Expectations ★★★★★

I've had a interesting relationship with Dickens over the years. I've really enjoyed some of his books (A Tale of Two Cities) and didn't like others (Oliver Twist), but Great Expectations is the first that I've truly loved.

The plot follows Pip from his time as a young orphan through his maturing into a young gentleman. All of the main characters are deeply flawed: the violent criminal Magwitch, selfish Miss Havisham, haughty Estella. But each of them has redeeming qualities or aspects of their lives the reader can identify or sympathize with.

In addition to that, the plot is so richly developed that, though at its core it's a coming of age story, it feels so much more complicated than that. It was a book I could dive deeply into. Its lessons were diverse as well: the danger of refusing to open your heart to anyone, the importance of valuing the people who care for you, the unimportance of wealth in the large scheme of things. It's a book that resonates with readers for so many reasons. Great Expectations reminded me, once again, that sometimes books become classics for a reason.

The Girl Who Played With Fire ★★★★☆

The book sucked me in immediately. At the end of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," the one thing I wanted to know more about is the character Lisbeth Salander. This book explores her world in much more details. The story is well-written, the characters are rich in detail, I was hooked. This is the second book in the Millennium trilogy and I would definitely recommend reading the first book before diving into this one. It was a great read!

The White Tiger ★★★

The story is told through letters from a formerly poor Indian man named Balram. He has made his fortune and is now an entrepreneur, but to reach that level he killed his boss. He tells his story, starting with that piece of info. The telling was fresh and original. It was an interesting look at the caste system and corruption in India, but it never quite got me to feel deeply for the characters. It's a interesting was to tell the story, but in the end it fell flat to me.

My Rating System (I rate on my personal reaction to the book):

★ = one star

☆ = 1/2 star

★★★★★ - a must-read

★★★★ - liked it a lot

★★★ - nothing special, but OK

★★ - not my cup of tea

★ - a waste of time

Photo by moi

Monday, January 11, 2010

99 Corks on the Wall

"We all are mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine." - Eduardo Galeano

I've been saving since the summer for this.

Good news. By the standards of Eduardo I have been non-mortal many times this year. Bad news. I am going to be 100 mortal years old before this craft is complete!

What's Cooking: Quiche

(before I popped them in the oven)

I made quiche the other day and it turned out really well. The recipe called for store-bought, frozen pie crusts and they come in packs of two. So I made two full quiches and froze one for later.


The first was made with chopped parsley, cooked ham pieces and gruyère cheese. I'd never cooked anything with gruyère before and it was wonderful. It has a great flavor, but it's not

overpowering. I shredded the cheese, chopped the parsley, and mixed it all together.


I made the second quiche using some spicy sausage (I had some that I'd already browned left over from a different recipe) and shredded colby cheese. I modified the recipe a bit, Flannel Man and I don't like onions, so we cut that out entirely. I was out of nutmeg, so that got cut as well. The rest stayed the same and it turned out great. We had to cook it longer than the recipe called for by about 20 minutes. Just make sure the middle of the quiche is completely done.

(finished quiches)

Photos by moi.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Menu 1/11/10-1/15/10

Monday- Autumn Sausage Casserole

Tuesday-Creamy Chicken

Wednesday- Easy Mexican Casserole

Thursday - Super Simple Cranberry Roast

Friday- Sun Dried Tomato and Caper Pasta Sauce

Can you tell I really don't want to cook this week? Crockpots and Casseroles for us! Also, I am planning on making two of the crockpot and casserole dishes and freezing the contents in a freezer bag/dish to pull out on a later date and throw into the crockpot/oven.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter Wonderhouse.

It's winter and I wonder what the kids CAN do? There's no going to the park, no walks, no bikes, and no outside. But inside the house there is plenty to do! It just takes a pen and some to Popsicles sticks to visualize the possibilities...

I made these last winter and even now I can think of quite a few more activities that the kids would enjoy like puppets, play house, dollhouse, legos, and jump on a bed.

These are all good activities for kids to do by themselves. So, when cabin fever sets in, and the tv looks tempting, tell the kids to take two of these and don't call you till after dinner is ready :)

Books: Audio Book Challenge

Another book challenge I'm undertaking this year is the 2010 Audio Book Challenge Hosted by Royal Reviews. The challenge has different levels and I'm doing the "Obsessed" level.

Challenge Guidelines:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. There are four levels:

-- Curious – Listen to 3 Audio Books.

-- Fascinated – Listen to 6 Audio Books.

-- Addicted – Listen to 12 Audio Books.

-- Obsessed – Listen to 20 Audio Books.

I love reading in audiobook form. It's like sitting around a fire and having someone tell you a story. So, I don't think this one will be too hard. Hop over to Royal Reviews if you want to join!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

DIY: Emergency Car Kit

As those of us in the Midwest know, the roads get bad in the winter. You don't want to be stuck on the side of the road, in freezing weather, completely unprepared.

So as a Christmas present for Flannel Man I made an emergency car kit. I actually made one for myself too.

I used one of the many milk crates I already had (I pick them up at yard sales whenever I see them) and filled it with a few items that would be helpful to have in a pinch.

The kit includes...

-Plastic gas can

-Paper towels

-Kitty Litter in a tupperware container

-A bungee cord

-A blanket

-A sweatshirt

-Granola bars

-Duct tape

Most of the items are self-explainatory. The duct tape and bungee cord can be used as a short term fix for a minor accident.

The kitty litter is used to provide traction when you are stuck in an icy ditch. Just pour some kitty litter under your wheels to prevent them from spinning on the icy.

The blanket and sweatshirt are to provide warmth if you're stuck on your own for awhile. To save on space, tightly roll them together and wrap the bungee cord around them.

Add any other items that you think would be beneficial in a tight spot. A flashlight or head lamp would be a good idea. Also, make sure you have a set of jumper cables in your car.

In my kit I have a car jump starter. It's a one time use item that charges your battery via your cigarette lighter. I would only use this if I was in the middle of nowhere and couldn't get another person to jump my car.

I also added a book to mine, because if I'm stuck on the side of the road I know that's what I'm really going to want.

Photos by moi.