Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Fun

I thought that today I would share a bunch of older recipes that you may not have discovered yet. I'm digging into the archives for this one, how fun!

One of my all time favorite pies- Coconut Cream Pie

 A nice side dish that freezes beautifully-Mexican Rice

 Something a little different to use up the zucchini-Zucchini Cake

 A really delicious version of a popular sandwich bread- Split Top Honey Bread

One of my all time most popular recipes-Overnight Cinnamon rolls

 One of my all time most popular recipes-Overnight Cinnamon rolls

How about learning to make some super delicious Fancy Caramel Apples?

Take a look around and tell me, what is your favorite recipe I have shared here? I'd love to know!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Taco Pizza {Using Up Leftovers}

I hate it when there are enough leftovers to keep, but not enough to make a whole meal out of. It means I have to get creative. Our house has adopted an old motto, "Use it up, wear it out, make do or go without." I try very hard not to throw out any food, and we usually do a pretty good job of it.

Anyway, as I was cleaning I found a couple containers full of taco fixin's from a couple nights ago. Aha! I knew what I was going to make for dinner. 

Enter taco pizza. 

I make mine a little differently than most people, but hang with me and give it a shot. It's so good and everyone loves it. Besides, it's a good way to use up a little bit of leftovers and make enough food to feed a hungry crowd. Yum!

Use whatever you would like for crust, I make my own but you don't have to. Although, I think you should~ it's so good and easy. But that's another post :) The toppings are totally customizable as well, use what you like and leave off what you don't. Had I been making these for adults, I would have added sliced jalapenos and spicy taco sauce to my list of ingredients. I was feeding little people though, so I kept them pretty tame.

Taco Pizza

2 -12 inch pizza crusts
1 small can of refried beans (or use leftovers, they freeze really well!)
1 small jar pizza sauce
2 cups (or more) taco seasoned meat (again, use leftovers)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 head iceburg lettuce, finely shredded
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 can olives, drained and sliced
1 paket (or 2 tablespoons) taco seasoning
Sour Cream
Doritos, nacho or taco flavor
Hot Sauce, optional
Salsa, optional
Guacamole, optioinal
Sliced jalapenos, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread 1/2 the can of refried beans on one pizza crust. Top with 1/2 cup pizza sauce, followed by 1/2 the meat and 1/2 the cheese. Shake 1 tablespoon taco seasoning over the top and then add your desired amount of onions and bake until the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle 1/2 the shredded lettuce, tomato and olives over the top. Put some sour cream in a plastic sandwich bag and snip off the corner. Drizzle the sour cream artistically over the top of the pizza. Crush doritos and add them over the top of the sour cream. Add any addtional toppings, slice and serve. Repeat with all steps to make the 2nd pizza.

The intense taco flavor, followed by the smooth and creamy beans and crunchy fresh toppings is so amazingly good. I don't know how else to explain the flavors and goodness of this pizza. It will rival your favorite pizza chains taco pizza and cost a fraction of the price.

Wanna know how much it cost me to make these 2 pizzas? By using leftovers and a few ingredients from my garden these cost me less than $1.50 EACH! Probably one of my better ideas, if I do say so myself.

The lesson here is that even the smallest amount of leftovers can often be added to a little something and make an entirely different, yet completely delicious meal for your family. Don't throw things away, make something new!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Master Meatball Recipe

Meatballs are one of those things that busy moms and dads should love. They can be changed up and turned into a million different recipes just by changing or adding a few more ingredients. Take these for example: I made a double batch and did some up with brown gravy. The rest of the batch are hanging out in my freezer, waiting to become either 1) Meatball Subs, 2) Sliders or 3) BBQ meatballs. LEts face it, if you're going to take the time to make one batch you might as well double it and have some that are ready for a busy night.

This is my master meatball recipe. It's just a nice, plain meatball that takes well to sauces or gravies. You can certainly add more spices (I often add garlic powder, season salt or other things, depending on what I'm making with them.)

I've made swedish meatballs, meatballs in brown gravy, meatball subs, sliders and pizza, BBQ meatballs appetizer, spicy Thai chili meatballs, sweet and sour meatballs, sweet and spicy asian meatballs and probably a ton more that I can't remember right now.

Since it's Wednesday and I love you all sooooo much, I'm also going to share my mashed potatoes for a crowd recipe. This feeds the 7 of us with enough left over for lunches the next day. Did I mention that they are superb? Cause, they pretty much are awesome!

Mashed Potatoes 

5 lbs baby red potaotes
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Boil potatoes until they are fork tender. Drain water, put potatoes back in the pot. Add butter, sour cream, salt and pepper, mash until desired consistency (we like these a little on the lumpy side). Taste; adjust seasonings.

Master Meatball Recipe
makes approx. 100 small meatballs

4 lbs ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2 eggs
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

In a bowl, beat the eggs, salt and pepper. Add oats and ground beef. Mix until combined, but being careful not to over mix. Form meat mixture into 1-1 1/2 inch meatballs and put them on a baking tray. Cook at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through. Use as desired.

To make the brown gravy meatballs, I just made some brown gravy in a cast iron skillet (I used a packaged mix) and added the meatballs to it for about 15 minutes, to soak up some of the goodness :)

Serve over potatoes, egg noodles or rice.

I hope you make these soon, they are so good and so simple. Besides, isn't it always nice to have an extra meal in the freezer? You will have at least one left over when you make these (maybe more!).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Making Whole Grain Pancake Mix with {King Arthur Flour}

It's August. I haven't made any progress towards my whole grain baking goals for the year. How sad is that? Well, it's sad no more because King Arthur Flour is going to help me meet my whole grain goals!

They graciously sent me their HUGE Whole Grain Baking Cookbook, a bag of White Whole Wheat Flour as well as a bag of regular Whole Wheat Flour. I was all set to go.....and then the temperatures in my area skyrocketed and it was too hot to cook anything in the house, least of all bread. So I (in)patiently waited. And waited. And waited some more.

And then it happened.

The temperature has dropped down to the low 80's for at least a week! The angels sang and the heavens smiled down on me. It's was time to bake!

I thought I had better start off with something simple to get myself in the whole grain groove, so I picked Homemade Whole Grain Pancake Mix. Jackpot! These were winners in a big way. Moist, tender, slightly chewy and fluffy all at once. You could tell that they were more substantial than your regular pancake, but there was nothing in the flavor that screamed "Whole Grain!" or "Healthy!". Not only were these very much kid approved, they were mom approved too. And not just for flavor, but for ease of preparation too.

I made these pancakes plain, with no added extras, so I could get a sense of how they taste and act. Now that I've made them once and have the mix all made, I see many many many different pancake add-ins in our future. Blackberries are ripe right now, how great would that taste??!!

Homemade Whole Grain Pancake Mix
recipe found in Whole Grain Baking Cookbook

3 1/2 cups (12 1/4 oz) old fashioned rolled oats
4 cups (1 lb) white whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/2 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 oz) sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) vegetable oil

To make the mix: Grind the oats in a food processor until they are chopped fine but not a powder. Put the ground oats, flours and the remaining dry ingredients into the bowl of a mixer with a paddle. Mix on slow speed, and drizzle the vegetable oil into the bowl slowly while the mixer is running. When all the oil has been added, stop the mixer and squeeze a clump of the mix in your hand. If it holds together, it's just right. If it won't hold together, stir in 1 tablespoon of oil at a time until the consistency is correct. Store in an airtight container indefinitely in the freezer.

To make the pancakes: Whisk together 1 cup of the mix, 1 cup buttermilk (or you can use 1/2 cup plain yogurt plus 1/2 cup milk), 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1 large egg. Don't worry if the batter seems thin at first: the whole grains will soak up the liquid, and the mixture will thicken as it stands. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes.
Heat a nonstick griddle or a heavy skillet. If your surface is not nonstick, brush it lightly with oil. When the surface is hot enough for a drop o water to sputter across, give the pan a quick wipe to remove excess oil. Spoon the batter onto the surface, 1/4 cup at a time, and let bake 3 or 4 minutes, or until the surface of the cake is no longer shiny and small bubbles are beginning to form around the edges. Flip the cake and cook on the other side until it's brown. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you make the rest of the cakes.

My verdict: The perfect recipe to start my whole grain journey. It's made me excited to try the next recipe and see how wonderful it is. Now I just have to decide what the next recipe will be.....

Follow King Arthur Flour on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Read along with the Baking Banter Blog and see what KAF is cookin' up in their kitchens.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blackberry Days Of Summer

Blackberries are THE free food of the Pacific Northwest. They are so prolific that you are hard pressed to find a space where they won't grow. When they are ripe, there are loads of berries ripe all at once. Of course, most of you already know this. I think these buggers are pretty much everywhere and most all of you are going to be familiar with them. 

The thing is though, I don't think most people know about the fabulous things you can do with these berries. Think beyond jam and a whole new world opens up! Here are some of the ways I'm planning on using this bounty of free berries to bless my family in the coming months:
  1. Jams/Jellies
  2. Pancake Syrup
  3. Ice Cream Topping
  4. Cobblers
  5. Crisps
  6. Pies
  7. Dried
  8. In Granola 
  9. In Hot Cereals
  10. Smoothies
  11. Yogurt
And that's just to name a few. Blackberries are very high in Potassium and also a good source of Vitamin K and Riboflavin. Add to it that they are low in sodium, high in fiber and tasty to boot~ it just makes for a winning combination. 

The last couple mornings we've been heading out, picking pails in hand. With the 6 or 7 of us picking we make short work of the chore. As you can see, the vines are just loaded and the berries are quite large. It's kind of a race to get as many picked as possible in the short time that they are ripe and get them put away. 

My favorite way of processing them? 

In gallon bags in my freezer :) I can store them in here, all cuddled up to the ice packs, sliced peaches and extra croissants from Costco. Later, when the weather cools off, i can make them into jams and jellies, sauces and syrups, pastries and pies. 

Jams and sauces are some of my favorite gifts to give at the Holidays. They are such a nice, bright spot in the middle of Winter. Make a pot of coffee, take some bread out of the oven and smear it with fresh butter and delicious jam. No, there isn't much that gets better than that. 

And to think, it all comes about because I took the time to pick the free food nature provided. 

Now that's something to be thankful for!!! :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Peaceful Pastoral Pictures

It's my birthday, so I'm taking the day (mostly) off. Here are some pictures form last night of the girls coming up to the barn for milking time.

Lily, coming to see if there is something good in the feed pan.

Checking things out......

Deciding she'd rather come into the barn and get an apple :)

That's it for the day, short and sweet. See you tomorrow!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Should Blogs Be All Roses and Sunshine?

When I first decided to start blogging, it was because I was following a certain big-time blogger that I won't name. I loved her. I thought she was Ah-mazing. She did it all, she had 4 kids like me, she was always so happy and full of light and sweetness. She was really successful, had great giveaways and had a huge following. I wanted to be her.

Then, I started to wonder how she "did it all" and still had time to post several times a day, homeschool her kids and work on her family ranch. It didn't take me long to realize that something was fishy, and kind of stinky to boot.

No one, and I mean no one, has a perfectly happy life all the time. It's not all unicorns and rainbows, any sane person knows that. I kind of felt let down by this blogger, like I'd been strung along being fed the fertilizer. It also made me feel bad as a blogger. Not all of my posts are happy. Life isn't always happy, and I thought that putting yourself out there on the internet meant that you were at least acknowledging the fact that sometimes your posts were going to be less than sunny.

I was only into blogging about 3 or 4 months by the time I decided to be honest with my readers. How can you relate to someone if life isn't sometimes bad, or challenging, or disappointing? Real life is real. It's never perfect. It's always amazing though.

I've seen a lot on the internet lately about people feeling bad that they aren't "doing it all". I wonder how much of this comes from seeing people only portray themselves in a rosy light. I mean, I get that not every bump in the road needs to be shared and talked about by the world, and that's as it should be. The internet is a slippery place where anyone can be anything they want to be. Or want to pretend to be. Or hope to be.

Everyone wants to put their best foot forward, but at what cost? At losing yourself and becoming a persona that is nothing more than a empty shell of hopes, dreams and wishes? Should you be true to yourself and be who you are, let people accept or not accept you and be happy that your corner of the internet is as honest as you can be?

I just don't know. I'm torn about all of it. I try to be as open and honest as I can be without jeopardizing personal confidences, our safety or our health. I share what I feel is appropriate for you to understand where I'm coming from at the moment. Because lets face it, what I blog about has a lot to do with what I've got going on in my life. It's easier to do what I love when things are going good.

If you've made it through this twisting, turning, mess of a post you deserve a medal of some sort! I want your honest opinions though: Do you read a blog because it is real, or because it's always happy? Do you like it when you can identify with the blogger or no?

I don't plan on changing the way I blog but I'm still curious. One of my favorite blogs put it best. Suzanne from Chickens in the Road said one time that she wants her blog to be a soft place to land. That's what I want for here too. No drama, no big troubles, no daily rants. But I do want to be honest and open.

Is that what you want too?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ye Olde Custard Pie

When I think of English cooking (truly English, as in in England), I always think of custard tarts or pies. Custard pies burst onto the food scene way back in the middle ages. The lovely English countryside, with all of those farms producing rich milk and cream. The wives on those farms used up their abundance of eggs and milk by making custard pies and custard tarts, among other things, to feed their usually rather large families. Farming was hard work back then and you needed some serious food to keep you going.  Custard was used as a filling for crust, and not initially as a sauce or stand alone type pudding. That would come later. In fact, custard is derived from the word "crustade", literally a tart with a crust. That's your history lesson for the day :)

There are really 2 kinds of custard pies: the ones you mix up and bake in an unbaked pie crust or the ones where you cook the custard on the stove and pour it into the pre-bakes pie crust. Sometimes the latter is referred to as a cream pie. I have one of each to share with you today. How exciting!

First up: Chocolate Cream Pie

This is the cook before you add it to the pie crust variety. It's also insanely delicious, and was unanimously voted our new chocolate pie recipe.

Grandma's Chocolate Pie

recipe found hereHomesick Texan

I pre-baked 9 inch pie crust
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon butter

Mix everything but the butter and vanilla in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until it's as thick as you want it. This isn't a baked in the oven pie, so remember to make that custard thick and delicious! After it has reached your desired thickness, take it off the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Stir well. Pour it into the pre-baked pie crust. Now you have a choice to make: the lovely blogger tops it off with meringue, but we just aren't meringue people so I chose to refrigerate it and top it with whipped cream. To get the meringue recipe, please see the recipe link at the top of the recipe here.

This pie meets every expectation I have for a chocolate pie. It's rich and chocolate-y without being super sweet. If you wanted to make an all chocolate pie and skip the cream topping (or just make a deep dish pie with cream topping) I would double the recipe.

That brings us to our traditional custard pie, I chose to make this one a coconut flavor.

This pie has a completely different texture than the chocolate one. It's rich and velvety, soft and creamy. This pie is very rich, so small pieces are advisable. It also makes a great breakfast if anyone else is into eating pie first thing in the morning ;)

Coconut Custard Pie

adapted from this recipe: Coconut Custard Pie III

Your favorite 9 inch pie crust
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups milk
1/2 cup haeavy cream or half and half
1 cup shredded coconut

In a bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla; mix well. Is a small saucepan, heat the cream and milk until it's too hot to hold your finger in. Slowly add a small amount to the egg mixture, stirring the whole time, Gradually add the milk while stirring and mix well. Add coconut. Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 degrees on the lowest rack of the oven for 30-40 minutes until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm or cold, but always refrigerate the leftovers.

Think of all the custard recipes that we are familiar with and love; pumpkin, sweet potato pie, chess pie. Step out of the familiar and make a new kind of custard pie. Your family just might thank you for it :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Canning Kitchen

My kitchen is in perpetual canning mode right now. My boiling water bath is almost always on the stove top, ready to be heated up and go. I have jars ready and waiting. My box of rings is sitting in the corner, stacks of lids on the shelf. Sugar and vinegar are stocked up. Various spices, herbs and other miscellaneous things are at the ready.

It's the season of the canning kitchen. It keeps me very busy and it keeps me from doing other things, like posting here daily. Sometimes, after canning, laundry, housekeeping and kids I just don't have the energy to sit down and write something. But I'm trying to be better about that too :)

I never know when I'm going to get a great deal on produce, or when my garden is going to decide to have 15 lbs of banana peppers ripe all at once. I never know when my favorite farm stand (owned and operated by my Grandma and Uncle) will call and say they have _______ and do I want it?

Pretty hard to pass up free/cheap food if you ask me.

So for the summer months, we live around my canning supplies. That's ok with me, it means things are getting done.

Today, I canned peaches. I put up 12 quarts of sliced peaches (we'll probably can that many 3 or 4 more times if I can get my hands on the peaches) and sliced up enough for 2 batches of jam. Peaches are so delicate that you want to get them in and put up as fast as possible, or you are going to end up cutting away a lot of bruising and bad spots. That's just wasteful!

I'm slowly filling up my pantry....and cabinet space....and extra closet space....and under bed space. Filling our home to the brim with nature's bounty feel sooooo goood. It feels secure. It feels like a savings account, actually. I'm putting it by to have later, kind of like you might do with extra money. I never thought about it like that until just this very minute!

What are you putting in your food savings account? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Yogurt 101

Making yogurt is one of the easiest, most cost-saving things you can do. It takes merely minutes on your part and the rest of the time it does it's own thing. Kind of like cooking in a crockpot, just set it and forget it :)

The thing you need to remember about making yogurt, or any cheese for that matter, is that you need to start with squeaky clean utensils and equipment. I sterilize all of my jars, spoons, and bowls by dipping them in a pot of boiling water (the same pot I'm going to cook the yogurt in so it's getting sanitized too) and setting them out to dry on a clean towel.

I took pictures of every step in this process, but to be honest they are kind of boring so I decided to just go with a list of steps to get really nice yogurt like what I have pictured above.

You're going to need:
1 gallon of milk
1 cup of plain yogurt with live active cultures, without the cultures the yogurt won't set!
Large pot
4 flat metal canning lids and 4 rings
small bowl
4 quart jars
an ice chest all 4 jars will fit in (the kind you would take camping)
a large towel or blanket

  1. Sterilize everything. Set it aside and dump the water out of the pot. 
  2. Pour the milk into the pot and heat it over medium high heat, stirring often, until it reached 180 degrees. The longer you can hold the milk at 180 degrees (up to 15 minutes) the thicker the yogurt will be. You're heating it this high to kill off any bacteria (good or bad) that might be in the milk so that your cultures have a chance to take over and create the yogurt. If you skip this step, and please don't, you will have very sporadic yogurt making results. 
  3. When the milk reaches 180 degrees, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat. Set it aside and let it cool off to 110 degrees. This is the temperature that the active cultures like to multiply. Any hotter, you'll cool them off. And cooler and it will take FOREVER for your yogurt to set, if t does at all. 
  4. When the milk have reached 110 degrees, remove about a cup and stir in the yogurt culture. Add it back to the big pot and just give it a quick, gentle stir. You don't want to mix the yogurt in until it's perfectly smooth, you'll want to see little bits of yogurt floating around. It's ok, it should be that way I swear. 
  5. Pour your milk into your jars and cover them with a canning lid and ring. Put them into the ice chest and fill it about 3/4 of the way up the jars with the hottest tap water you can get. Close the lid and wrap it up with a blanket or towel. Let it sit 4-12 hours. There really is no magic number of when it will be done, some days it will take less time and sometimes it will take more. If your house is on the cooler side, like in the winter, you may have to check the water halfway through and change it out for more hot water. 
After it gets thick like the yogurt in the picture, refrigerate it until it's completely cool. That's it! It rea;;y is simple and it saves us SO MUCH money. 

A couple things to keep in mind:
  1. The longer the yogurt sets, the more sour it will be. Don't forget about it!
  2. You can add sweetener (sugar or honey) to the pot when you are heating the milk, but we find that the milk itself is really quite sweet without it. Experiment and see how your family likes it. 
  3. I make all of my yogurt plain. That way, I can put a dollop of jam or some cut up fresh fruit on the bottom of a small plastic container and add yogurt on the top, essentially making my own fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. You can add some vanilla when you add the yogurt culture if you'd like. It's really up to you. 
  4. This will last about 5-6 days. Remember that there are no added artificial ingredients in there to help prolong the shelf life, this is real food and will go bad. Food should go bad! 
  5. This recipe can easily be halved for people or families who won't use a gallon of yogurt in a week. 
Good luck and congratulations of taking the step to make yogurt. It's very fulfilling and I think you'll come to enjoy it as much as I do. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll be more than happy to answer them for you. I want you to be a yogurt making success!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Raspberry Jam

Raspberry jam is some of our favorite, if not the absolute favorite, jam in our house. We tend to go through a lot of jam since it can be used so many ways. On toast and pb&j's of course, but also as a filling for cookies and cakes, to spread on a biscuit or scone, to heat up to pour over pancakes or waffles and to use as an ice cream topping. We mix it into yogurt, throw a scoop into a smoothie and just use it a million and one ways. 

Whenever I make jam and tell anyone about it, I almost always hear, "You know you can buy it in the store right?". I'm going to tell you the two ways it makes sense to me to make my own jam.
  1. I know what goes in it There are no random bits of rotten fruit, no pieces of leaves or stems, no really gross things you hear stories about. I know how much sugar or sweetener I use. I know how fresh the fruit is. I usually know exactly where the fruit came from! 
  2. We use about a 16 oz jar of jam per week. My cost on raspberry jam was $1.06 per 16 oz jar for a total of $4.24/week. The last jar of raspberry jam I bought at the store (and it was NOT a name brand, it was a store brand) cost $3.25 for a total of $13.00/week. That kind of savings is worth my time and effort. I'll not only make raspberry, but also blackberry (we get all the berries we want for free), peach, strawberry and we're going to try to make boysenberry this year as well. In 30 minutes, I made 12 pints of jam. Very little time for the kind of savings it affords me throughout the year!
Making jam is easy. If you aren't comfortable with the canning process you can make freezer jam. I've never made freezer jam, so I am not the expert to tell you how to do it, but I have been assured that it is not only easy, but also delicious :)

I got my recipe right out of the pectin box and canned it according to directions. I encourage you to stretch your wings if you haven't already and make some jam. It makes a great present for the holidays, you'll love how fresh it tastes vs. store bought and it is really worth more ways than one. The sense of accomplishment that you feel when you look at those filled jars is something amazing. 

You can do it! You can, CAN! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


This is Tip. Tip is 6 1/2 weeks old. He's as sweet as can be and only occasionally chews up something I would have liked to keep. 

Tip sleeps a lot. He is just a baby after all...

Why the name Tip has probably been asked a hundred times. Well, I'll tell you. There is a series of books out there by James Herriot. In the book All Creatures Great and Small there is a dog named Tip. Since this was my gift to my husband for our 10th anniversary, he got to name him. He picked Tip because of our love of the books and because he has a white tip on his tail. Also, since we plan on training him to be a cattle dog, we needed a name that was short and didn't sound like any of the commands he needs to learn. Tip fit the bill perfectly.

Tip enjoys long naps, puppy kibble, going to the barn and romps in the yard. He does not like being interrupted while napping, having his nails clipped and not being tall enough to get on the couch.

So, there he is. Our newest baby. We love him, he is such a good boy! He's mellow and bright with just enough spunk to make him really fun. I secretly love him because he sleeps through the night :) I'm sure you'll be seeing more of Tip in the future, but I wanted to introduce him to you today.

He'd say hello himself...but he's sleeping right now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Keep Calm and Hit The Water

You know that I'm all about getting outside and exploring the beauty of the outdoors. that's why I'm so excited to share some information with you today about a study that the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation has released. Did you know there was a Recreation Boating and Fishing Foundation? I sure didn't!

Our family loves the water, in fact we just spent some time at the beach.

You can tell by the look on their faces just how much fun they are having :)

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation wants to encourage more people to get out and into the water, enjoying the time and reducing their stress. Here are some highlights I found particularly interesting:

  • 48 percent of Americans have trouble sleeping because of the stress of the day.
  • Boating is ranked as one of the top 3 stress relieving activities.
  • Simply being near water can lower anxiety.
  • Only 37.5 percent of people use the outdoors to relax!

How's that for some compelling reasons to get out and enjoy some boating or fishing? Here is a look at some more reasons to get on the water:

Not surprisingly, when our life gets hectic and we're feeling like we need a break, we load the kids up in the car and head to the water. We're lucky that our coastal waters offer great opportunity for fishing, crabbing and just watching the waves roll in. But, closer to home is our well loved reservoir where we spend much of our free time. Picnicking, fishing, swimming and boating are some of our favorite activities. We love spending time in, on and around the water!

Do yourself and your health a favor and get out there. Get on a boat, by a lake, river or stream. Take your family, friends and loved ones. Embrace nature and enjoy the benefits you get from having fun. De-stress, relax and have some fun. Do it for you, do it for your loved one, do it to teach your kids to love the outdoors. Whatever reason you need, just get out and do it!

It's good for you and it's fun too :)

You can follow on Facebook and Twitter, as well as visit their blog at Go check out all the great information they have to share. I'm so happy to be sharing this with you today. What a great way to spend some time!

Easy Butterfly Cupcakes

These cupcakes are the lazy version of the ones found in Hello, Cupcake!. I received the book a couple years ago for my birthday and I've used several ideas out of it. It's a cute little addition to your cookbook shelve if you're like me and always looking for new ones to add.

Back to the cupcakes~ they are a strawberry cupcake with vanilla frosting. The butterflies are the hardest part and they are not hard. At all.

Here is how I made my beautiful butterfly cupcakes.

1)  Draw a butterfly shape on waxed paper.

2) In a zip top bag or a disposable pastry bag, put some chocolate Candy Melts. Melt them by microwaving a few seconds at a time and massaging the bag until all the melts are, well, melted. Do the same in another bag of any color you like, I did pink. Then, pipe a heavy line of chocolate around the outside and fill in with the colored candy melts. I sprinkled mine with white cake sparkles, but you could also use white nonpareils or sprinkles. Or nothing at all if that's how you roll. Naked butterflies could be pretty too :)

3) While you let all the butterfly wings cool, ice your cupcake with some incredible frosting (I used a large star tip on these).

4)  Peel the wings off the waxed paper and just stick them into the newly frosted cupcake. You could make a body, but I didn't. They probably would have looked nice with one, however these were for my 4 year old's birthday party and when it gets down to the cupcake time they just want to eat. Sometimes simpler is better!

There they are! A whole platter of pink butterflies just waiting to be birthday goodies. These were some of the easiest decorated cupcakes I have ever done for a birthday. I would do them again in a heartbeat. These might look nice added to a larger cake, on the sides or top as well.

A very pretty, very easy way to make a special cupcake even a little more special for someone you love :)