Tuesday, December 30, 2008

10 Years of Wedded Bliss

For our fifth anniversary we had a fancy dinner at a fancy hotel, stayed one night in their fancy room, and enjoyed a fancy breakfast the next morning in bed. We had grand plans of doing something extra special for our tenth anniversary, maybe a short trip somewhere exotic. Our busy Christmas trumped that, but we're so happy it doesn't really matter where we are. Praise the Lord for the perfect spouse!

Read more about us here and how we met here!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008 in Pictures

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! We had a very nice, VERY white Christmas! A colossal snowstorm turned our city into a winter wonderland on the 17th, and it has continued snowing off and on ever since!

Drifts on our front porch that first morning. Notice the smattering on our window to the right.

Shovels are made for throwing snow at people, right?

After the plow came through two days later, I shouted, "Let's go shopping!" We were able to buy the last of our gifts, but by evening we suspected I had the flu. Praise God, it was mild, but I still spent much of the following two days resting. I had just enough time to recover before Sunday, when we made more candy, delivered it to our neighbors, and hastily packed for a mini vacation. My uncle had arranged for everyone to spend four nights at The Western Pleasure Guest Ranch. There were nearly 30 of us even though many didn't make it this year. For those who did come, flying in was an adventure with all the delayed and cancelled flights!

We drove to the ranch in a line of four vehicles Sunday night. Three more joined later in the week.

There were several cabins, but most of us stayed in the main lodge. Upstairs were four rooms with lofts.

Our room was one of two downstairs. It wasn't fancy but we were pleased to find it clean and quite comfortable.

Our hosts provided two dinners and three delicious breakfasts. This was our meal the first morning: cinnamon French toast, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, and fruit.

The inside of the lodge was decorated with mounted animals. I COULDN'T believe the size of this albino moose head! You don't realize how gigantic those creatures are until you see one up close.

The guys spent countless hours playing pool. We also played lots of board and card games including two full games of World Domination Risk. I lost both times. :-(

Two of my cousins at the piano.

Kylen and another cousin with a jumbo search and find book. The large tree behind was wound with rope instead of ribbon! Just to the right is a large fireplace with comfy furniture where we spent lots of time reflecting, chatting and reading.

My brother and cousin returning from sledding. It snowed every single day!

One of the highlights was a real sleigh ride! It was everything you can imagine. Large flakes gently falling, perfect weather, breathtakingly beautiful woods. We sang carols. It was unforgetable!

A bunch of us on the way to the sleighs with the lodge in the background.

Grandma somehow ended up in the sleigh with most of the young, unmarried cousins. Lol!

Our sleigh's driver.

View ahead from my seat.

Greg, Kylen, and me!

The evening of the 23rd we gathered upstairs to exchange gifts and sing carols. The kids got stockings.

Family pictures were taken in an old-fashioned sleigh.

We dimmed the lights, lit candles, and sang two different evenings. It was a lovely experience, especially with all the gifted vocalists in my family.

Three of my talented cousins. They are siblings and grew up performing together in front of audiences. Ben usually sings bass, Holly sings lead and alto, Travis does lead and tenor.

Group pic taken the 24th.

On Christmas morning we scrambled to pack and check out by noon, drove two hours on snowy roads home. By the time it was dark, we were back on the highway headed for Greg's parents. The roads were treacherous. Greg has lived in this area 20 years and doesn't remember ever seeing so much snow in the cities. We ended up in a snow bank and had to wait for a tow truck to pull us out. But we eventually made it for dinner/gifts and survived the trip back. Praise God for His protection!

Yesterday we opened gifts at home, just the three of us. It was a wonderful, relaxing day.

The only thing Kylen really asked for was a Bob t-shirt. I decided to get a Larry shirt for Greg as well.

Our Christmas will officially end New Year's Eve when we will open gifts with my parents and siblings. Perhaps a couple more pics then. :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: Christmas

This seems like a good time for a Thursday Thirteen!

13 Things We Do During the Christmas Holiday
1. Decorate inside and out
2. Shop for and wrap presents
3. Prepare an advent calendar for our son
4. Watch Christmas movies and listen to Christmas music
5. Make and send cards
6. Purchase gifts for several charities *
7. Make our annual candy
8. Give goodies and sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas to the neighbors on our cul-de-sac
9. Usually add a new holiday themed children’s book to my collection
10. Sometimes see The Nutcracker ballet live (pic below)
11. Celebrate with family and friends
12. Hear the story of Jesus’ birth read from the bible
13. Marvel at the love and mercy of our wonderful God!

This was Kylen's first year to attend a real ballet. He was definitely too young! Bored out of his mind! (I had a great time!) But we ALL enjoyed eating at an upscale Chinese restaurant beforehand. Don't worry! He had help with dessert!

*See previous post for ideas. :-)

Christmas Charity Ideas

Each year we participate in several Christmas charities. I thought it might be an interesting post to highlight some of our favorites. If you are like I was and desire to give but are not sure where to begin, I suggest starting out small. Take that first step; perhaps pick out a gift for a child from the giving tree at a store. As finances allow, add something else. God will bless you for sharing with others!

We sponsor two children through Compassion International, and at this time of year we send extra money for gifts. Christmas funds are pooled and divided up to buy presents for all the kids, even those still waiting for sponsors. One time donations are welcome!

A couple of years ago we stuffed ten stockings for a local men's homeless shelter through a homeschool organization. It was lots of fun! We bought most of the items in bulk, which brought down the cost. Wal-mart and Costco were great for personal hygiene items, candy and hat/scarf sets. We included small bibles, wooden puzzles, and Christmas cards with a hand-written note and gospel tract. Everything was wrapped in festive tissue paper, which I purchased in a jumbo pack. We filled the stockings assembly line style with all of us helping, even our son who was around five. This is a good project for the entire family!

Last year we started a new tradition of picking gifts from Partners International, a ministry begun in 1943 that works "alongside national believers to bring Christ's love and compassion to the least Christian regions of the world." They have a nice, full-color catalog with things like: Well for a Village, Cambodia; Training for a Church Planter, China; Milk and Cereal for a Child, Senegal; Small Business Training, Mali. Each item includes a photograph and description. We agreed ahead of time on the amount and enjoyed sitting down together "shopping." There is a wide range of gifts to fit any budget from $5 for medicine all the way up to $6,000 for a village grinding mill. We plan to do this on Sunday.

Greg's company has sponsored 2-4 families for Christmas the past few years. They have fund-raisers such as a silent auction and a pancake/spam feed. There is a Tree of Sharing with the names of family members, or employees can donate money directly. The funds are used to purchase any gifts for any names left on the tree, groceries, and as a monetary gift for the family.

I think this was the most fun charitable thing I've ever done. Greg brought home two tags for a nine-year-old girl. Our son is nearly nine, so I have a good feel for that age. Plus, I always wondered what it would be like to have a daughter (even though I adore our son!). One tag said, "Age appropriate game." I visited a game store and picked out a 550 piece family puzzle and a game called "Apples to Apples Jr." for ages nine and up. We have enjoyed the adult version (offensive cards removed, of course!), but Kylen had trouble joining in due to some complex words and concepts, which we were constantly needing to define. So I think this would be a great family game! In fact, it's going on our own wish list!

The other tag said, "Dress and tights." First, I looked at Wal-mart where we get most of our clothes. They did not have ANY dresses or skirts other than a few VERY ugly ones. So Greg dropped me off at JC Penney, and I eventually found a pretty black dress with ruffles, matching jacket, and black tights. That's when the fun REALLY began!

I had lots of extra time to kill, so I decided to hunt for accessories. Just a few stores down was Claire's. What an awesomely fun, FUN store!! Chock full of inexpensive hair doo-dads, fancy lip gloss containers with delicious names, jewelry (great place for a cheap tiara if you ever need one!), and lots of marvelous stocking stuffers for any girl. I found a cute black purse with glittering silver stars, chocolate chip cookie lip gloss, a small black/pink stuffed animal, black hair decorations, and tiny silver stickers that could be worn on a cheek or fingernail. OK, and I spent WAY too much! But it was totally worth it! And next year I hope to do it again, Lord willing and if finances permit!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday Stirrings

Whoa! I haven't posted for a week! This is our busiest month, so next month should be better for blogging. :-)

Today's recipe caught my eye as I was looking for something easy, festive, and different at myrecipes.com. What could be more "Christmasy" than cranberries? Turns out my husband likes these so much, he ate most of the first batch, bought the ingredients for a second batch, made it himself (VERY unusual for him), and ate most of that one as well. And he has been asking when we are going to make them again. Lol! People who like the combo of juicy, sour and sweet will really dig these.(Hubby's fav fruit is pie cherries, his fav apple is Granny Smith, and he eats lemonade concentrate directly from the can.)

Sugared Cranberries
4 cups granulated sugar
4 cups water
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cup superfine sugar

Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired (we kept ours and used it for making a second batch). Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

18 servings (serving size: about 1/3 cup)

Don't worry if they split. Ours did, and they were still great! Here is the description that was with the recipe:

    Because of the contrast between the tart cranberries and sugary coating, the flavor of this snack pops in your mouth. The berries are steeped in hot sugar syrup to tame their tangy bite. When entertaining, serve these in place of nuts. For gift-giving, package in parchment-lined tins. If you can't find superfine sugar, make your own by processing granulated sugar in a food processor for a minute.

Click here to see how Carol is hung up on apples (her words, not mine!)! Hee-hee!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday Stirrings

As promised, here is the delicious, easy, perfect-for-cold-winter-months soup from our fall party! Take a guess where the recipe came from. Hint: Look at the ingredients!

I couldn't find frozen onions and peppers together, so I subbed half a bag of frozen onions and half a bag of frozen peppers. This is the first recipe I've used frozen chopped onions and peppers. We always buy them fresh. But I was quite pleased with skipping the prep work of chopping, and the results were yummy. I might use frozen onions/peppers more often! And I've read frozen can actually be more nutritional than fresh if the fresh has been sitting at the store long or traveled from afar.

Easy Italian Stew (Soup)
Serve with buttered rolls or Ritz crackers

2 Tbsp. KRAFT Zesty Italian Dressing
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth
1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen stir-fry vegetables (white onions and sliced green, red and yellow peppers)
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

HEAT dressing in large saucepan on medium heat. Add sausage; cook 8 to 10 min. or until done, stirring occasionally to break sausage into small pieces.

ADD broth, stir-fry vegetables, beans and tomatoes; bring to boil. Stir in macaroni; simmer on medium heat 8 to 10 min. or until macaroni is tender, stirring occasionally.

SERVE topped with cheese.

Let's see what Carol is cooking in the kitchen today!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finding Home -- Book Review

Among the publications I read to broaden my knowledge of spiritual things is literature from Focus on the Family. A few years ago the organization's president, James Dobson, stepped down in order to give his attention more fully to other ministries. Jim Daly was chosen as his successor.

A few days ago I turned the page of one of their magazines to see a picture of Jim’s family, and my eyes began to fill with tears. A result of reading his book Finding Home: An Imperfect Path to Faith and Family. Knowing all that this man suffered and seeing the immense joy on his face surrounded by loved ones, especially the protective embrace around his two little boys . . . One of the things he most wanted growing up was a father figure to look up to, one that would love and support him. Now, he is giving to his sons what he missed out on.

Finding Home is a straightforward summary of Jim’s troubled childhood and his journey to Christ. Most of the book lays out the details of his life in plain, easy to understand language. It is neither poetic nor spiritually profound, but it is sincere and touching. I think this would be an excellent way of introducing sinners to Jesus. They will not get bogged down by deep spiritual truths, and it is a quick read that could be finished in an evening. I am thinking of inmates, drug addicts in recovery, perhaps even new baby Christians. A nice book to leave in the guest room or someplace where it can be easily seen and accessed by people who are not completely open to reading overtly religious literature.

Most of the spiritual content is concentrated in the final chapter where Jim briefly reflects on lessons he has learned. I will conclude with a quote from there on suffering:

    Sometimes I wonder whether we make a mistake when we try to save others or ourselves from experiencing brokenness – as if having a broken spirit was like having the plague. Our culture is bent on experiencing “happiness” and being “pain-free” no matter what the cost. In fact, if the truth were known, billions of dollars are spent annually medicating pain in our society.

    Certainly it’s tempting to mask our pain – whether physical, relational, emotional, or spiritual – through distractions: entertainment, work, or sports. Pain hurts, and who wants that? Yet, in spite of our best efforts to avoid brokenness, for many people, it seems to be a prerequisite for
    coming to a relationship with God. I know that was the case for me.

    What’s more, the purpose of pain is often to develop our character, yet we run from it because pain is the gift that nobody wants. I believe that we rarely understand or perhaps overlook the benefits that pain can bring, not the least of which are the qualities of patience, obedience, and
    dependence on God.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a nice, relaxing day, since we are always blessed in going to my parent’s house and they only ask us to bring a couple of things. Greg’s parents joined us and two of my sibling’s families.

We took a couple of pictures while waiting for the rest of our group to arrive. Notice my weak smile and my mom’s head is cut off. Lol! Oh well! My jaw was giving me grief that day, but I was still thankful for all of our blessings, which are numerous! And today my jaw feels MUCH better!

They always do such a beautiful job of decorating the table!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Stirrings

We had this appetizer at our fall party (Yes, I actually took the photo myself for once! Not exactly magazine worthy, but you get the idea!), and it was a hit! No Vidalia or Walla Walla available? No problem! Ours turned out great using a run o' the mill sweet onion.

Onion Dip
2 cups Real Mayonnaise
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Italian Cheese Crumbles or Shredded Italian 5 Cheese Blend
1 large Vidalia or Walla Walla onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

PREHEAT oven to 375ºF. Mix all ingredients until well blended.
SPREAD into 8-inch square baking dish.
BAKE 30 min. or until golden brown. (Could broil at end for 5 or so to brown more) Cool slightly.

Serve with crackers.

There's a foody giveaway going on at Carol's plus a potato recipe. What are you still doing here?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas Party Class

My last “Just for Fun” co-op class was Monday. Since we won’t see everyone again until after the holidays, I decided to have a little Christmas party! Kids entered to see green tablecloths with colorful candy canes on the tables and bows on the chair backs. They earned points toward a prize by winning games, of which there were three.

For the first, I asked them to get in pairs and read each group a couple of stanzas from a poem I had written about the class. Each stanza was a riddle, and they had to guess which theme it was referring to. We played one round of I Spy Bingo. Then I split the group in half and we played several rounds of Outburst Jr. This is such a fun group game, I highly recommend it. (We also liked the adult version after removing several offensive cards!)

The student with the most points at the end won a jumbo Christmas themed pencil. Everyone received a small prize and a wrapped present which they were told not to open ‘till Christmas. I will also be sending them envelopes with pictures taken from each class and a copy of the poem.

Few things in life have given me more satisfaction and pleasure than seeing these precious children enjoy themselves. I am constantly amazed at how unique and gifted each one is. This is going to sound very cliché, but their smiles are worth more than all the riches in the world. How grateful I am to the Lord for this wonderful opportunity to serve in a way that adds such richness to my life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Heaven's Peace

Matt. 22
[28] Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.[29] Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.[30] For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

At some point, I began to wonder how heaven could be missing the attachments we have in this life, particularly spousal relationships and parental bonds. So much of our time and energy revolve around caring for family. My curiosity most likely began after falling in love with my wonderful husband. If you have a "match made in heaven” then you know very well how horrifying is the thought of losing your significant other. He is my best friend and ideal companion. I simply can’t imagine life without him!

Then came along our precious son, who introduced me to possibly the most powerful bond known to man (not counting God). During those first few weeks when asked the standard questions about our new role as parents, I often answered that the single most surprising aspect was the intensity of my love for our baby. A love so powerful and sudden it was terrifying. I had read and prepared myself for the worst of postpartum depression. I knew that I might not even like my baby and not to worry; the love would come in time. Instead, I was astonished to feel a love so overwhelming that I became fearful and paranoid something might happen to him. And I was certain if it did, I wouldn’t be able to survive it.

All I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother, and it’s been every bit as wonderful as I expected and more. I have thrown myself into being a homemaker, but with that role has been a tremendous weight of responsibility. From morning until night a mother’s mind is constantly busy. Meal planning, housekeeping, celebrations, hobbies, and in our case, homeschooling. Concerns about my soul and others. Concerns about our son’s future. Concerns about my country and the world. My obligations as a wife, sister, daughter, aunt, granddaughter, friend, neighbor. And at some point in my life, concerns about my health, the greatest trial I have faced.

Last November I nearly died. But for several years up to that point, my health was slowly declining. And as it did so, my spiritual state was rising. Though I grew incredibly close to my Savior, there were very hard times. One evening I was lying in bed feeling discouraged and longing for relief from the troubles of this world. Quite suddenly an amazing feeling came over me like nothing I have ever experienced. It was as if every earthly care was completely gone, every bit of pain…replaced by a peace so incredibly complete and sweet, so wonderful I can’t do it justice with words. The feeling was so strong that I truly thought I was dying and did not mind the idea at all. I’m not sure how long it lasted, but it was an experience I will never forget.
If that was a taste of heaven, a taste of what is to come – and I believe it was – then, death truly is something to look forward to. One of my prayers from childhood has been that I will be ready when it’s my time to go. I believe this experience was part of God’s answer to that prayer.

Something else, though, is that I finally understand with satisfaction why earthly attachments are meaningless in heaven. Enveloped by that peace, I no longer cared about anything here. It all seemed so unimportant in comparison, a peace that surpassed all understanding. God didn’t have to solve this mystery for me, and perhaps that wasn’t even His main purpose in giving me that gift. But it is nice to have one of my questions answered and a privilege to be alive and share the hope of heaven with others.

It's worth it, guys! It's SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO worth it!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day 2008

THANK YOU, Veterans!!

The Prayer at Valley Forge by Arnold Friberg

Monday, November 10, 2008

Face Fun

Can you raise one eyebrow? Make a three leaf clover with your tongue? Flip it upside down?

Such were the challenging questions my students winked, grimaced, and fish-lipped their way through. Yes, these are the lasting life lessons I desire to impart upon my young troupe. I handed out mirrors (from the dollar store) at the beginning of class, and we went through a long list of “can you’s” . . . quite entertaining!

I previewed my first list of questions with a bit of background on genes and alleles. Here is a list of dominant traits we covered:

Brown eyes
Dimples (one counts!)
Cleft in the chin
Widow's peak
Unattached earlobes
Non-hairy ears (ok, we tried, but I have NO idea what this is talking about!)
Bushy eyebrows
Unconnected eyebrows
Naturally curly hair

There are many others which may be found here, but I stuck with those on the head in accordance with my theme, “Face Fun.”

Additional things to try:
eye crossing, single eyebrow raising, fish lips, winking, tongue rolling (make a “U”), tongue flipping (flip it upside down), ski tongue (touch nose with it), tongue folding (Only one in 1,000 people can roll or fold their tongue!), elbow licking

Also with the tongue you can make a two leaf, three leaf, four leaf, and my brother could even do a six leaf clover! Try touching your nose or chin with your tongue!

I had the children break off into pairs. The first one to make the other laugh with funny faces was the winner. They seemed to enjoy this!

Next, I shared a story about our experience at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in California. There were mirrors near the entrance where we could attempt various tricks with our tongues such as touching our nose, etc. Later, we noticed people making odd faces, fixing their hair, touching up their make-up and so forth . . . through windows. What were they doing?? Alas! We had been looking into one way mirrors way back at the beginning! Talk about humiliating! But I laughed SOOOO hard! Absolutely one of the best jokes I've ever seen. I could have spent hours just standing there watching people's reactions as they walked through the door and realized . . .

Then, I divided the class into two halves for two rounds of “Guess Who?” My assistant and I drew the cards and let the kids on each team take turns asking the questions. My team of mostly girls won both times, which did NOT make the boys happy. NOT AT ALL! Lol!

At the very end I handed out “Hairy Cowboy Wanted Posters.” Remember doing those as a kid? You use a magnetic wand to put hair (magnetic shavings) on a face. Bushy eyebrows, beard, whatever strikes your fancy. They loved ‘em!

Oh! Been wondering about the handsome man at top? That’s my TALENTED husband! I asked him to pose for a picture to include on a sheet passed around during class. He is the only person I’ve seen who can raise either eyebrow separately while stretching the lower lip down on one side and the upper lip up on the other. Now you understand another reason I married him (the last reason stated having been his spitting abilities)!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I just visited a blogger who calls himself a "true believer" bashing Christians for being upset about the efforts to eliminate the phrase, "Merry Christmas" from the public square. Apparently he forgot the percentage of Christians living in this country and the name of the holiday. After that very discouraging visit, I am hoping saying the following will prove therapeutic:


I feel better already. And I would feel even better if everyone who sees this would leave a comment wishing me a Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! I should get some of those Merry Christmas buttons.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Isn't Jesus wonderful? I sure do love Him! I'm currently reading about his birth again in Luke. Ironic that I read this guy's post right when I'm reading the Christmas story in my personal Bible devotions this week. I am in awe of the humility displayed by our King . . . Maybe I'll do a post on it soon! In the meantime, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Venting

Is the world going to end? Nope.

Am I terribly upset about Obama winning? Not really, because it wasn't much of a surprise. I've been seeing it coming for weeks or months all over the net and blogosphere. I actually do read quite a bit of political stuff even though I don't post on it much. I've seen alarming numbers of Christians praising Obama. I've seen lots of others determined to vote for a third party candidate.

No, it wasn't a surprise.

However, I am tired of Christians making me feel guilty for not being happy about the election results. I keep hearing and reading how we need to remember that God is in control, and He put Obama into office. People who say these things often imply that we need to be at perfect peace and even cheerful about it.

But you know what? Jesus wept. I can weep, too. When God brought famine, disease, and war on nations, His prophets were not happy. Sometimes they were pleading for mercy on behalf of the people. They were not rejoicing even though it was God's will that punishment be served.

This country has asked for Obama, and now we have him. But I don't have to be happy or excited about it. Nor is my sadness a sign of not trusting God. I am fully aware that God is in control. And I have trusted Him in ways that few people will ever be tested in. I'm not a stranger to faith. I am also aware that sometimes God gives people what they want in order to teach them a lesson.

So, no, I am not happy about Obama winning. I am not rejoicing, and I don't feel a bit guilty for my lack of enthusiasm. I do have joy and peace in my Salvation. I am not depressed. But I am sad, and perhaps . . . Perhaps God is sad, too. If He is, then I am in good company.

2008 Elections

Please pray. And then vote. And then pray some more.

Monday, November 3, 2008


How I loved playing with them as a child, happily idling away the hours in a world of tiles. Over the weekend I researched domino history, artwork, terminology and events. A short summary of this information (mostly found here) was given at the beginning of class. I also passed around pictures, including an example of this guy’s work. His site includes free detailed instructions for a few designs, which may be used as class projects.

Next, I dumped our colorful collection of dominoes (purchased here at Hearthsong) on the tables and let the students have fun! They enjoyed this theme, but it was also a test in patience for them. Selfish tendencies quickly surfaced, as did praiseworthy displays of kindness and sharing. Their creations were often brought to premature demise (sometimes purposefully by naughty peers!), but I had warned them about this ahead of time. For the most part, I would call the class a success despite the sprinkling of flaring tempers and mischievous behaviors occasionally exhibited.

For some reason I am suddenly in the mood to play with dominoes. Perhaps I can entice Hubby and Sonshine to join me in a few rounds of Chicken’s Foot.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween 2008

Most years on Halloween we dress up (one our most anticipated traditions!) and head to the elementary school for games and candy. A couple of my siblings usually join us, and we are home just long enough to hand out some candy. This year, Kylen wanted to stay home the entire evening and answer the door in costume! So I decided to have a little party. I wasn’t sure how it would all work out, so I kept the guest list short, inviting mostly relatives. Three families were unable to make it, so we had a VERY little group! But it was still lots of fun!

Here are the adorable handmade invitations I received as part of a swap. They were put to good use!

Inside were party details, which I made on the computer, printed and glued inside:
Candy Bowl Waiting . . .

A puzzle for "down time" entertainment (guess what my boys were just working on as I made this post?)

Appetizers included Triscuit Bruschetta Bites (average, best on regular crackers), store-bought Pecan Blue Cheese Dip from Costco (none of us liked!), Baked Onion Dip (a hit!), and homemade Italian Stew with shredded mozzarella and Ritz crackers. I will give the onion dip and stew recipes in future posts, as both are excellent and easy!

For dessert we ate store-bought chocolate pumpkin shaped cookies (yummy!), fresh sliced pears with fruit syrup drizzles and preserves (average), and Pumpkin Gooey (recipe below). The Pumpkin Gooey (upper left) garnered oodles of compliments!

Our costume contest winner was a shoo-in for cuteness!

King Greg, Fairy Farrah, Roman Soldier Kylen, and Caveman Ryan

Trick-or-treaters kept us hopping from about 6:30 to 7:30 pm. (We got lots of compliments on our carved pumpkins. Visit my husband's post here for pictures!) Around 8 we changed and played a few games. Afterwards, everyone got to pick something from prize bowls, which had a variety of small items such as a fall themed dish towel, stickers, novelty toys, and flashing glasses.

Straw Face: Everyone must race to move a straw from one side of the mouth to the other using only the lips and tongue. Great photo op!

Pumpkin Seed Spitting: The name is self-explanatory! Shockingly, Greg won! Who knew? He’s not exactly Mr. Gross, but the other guys were seriously impressed! My sister thinks he does it by explosion, as spittle was flying everywhere. My brother surmised that it had to do with his height and form. He would stretch himself up to his full 6’2” stature, tip his head back with neck stretched to its limits, and then thrust his entire upper body forward while expelling air from his lungs with as much force as he could muster. And my brother-in-law, on whose face I detected a glimmer of smugness, was asking by the end, “How does he spit so far??” Smugness replaced with a mixture of frustration and admiration, of course. Yep, that's my man! Despite the fun, we didn't linger long. I feared that our deathly quiet neighborhood might not appreciate the loud and obnoxious laughter coming from our driveway. Besides that, I was getting cold!

Oh! And, yes, I tried spitting. Let’s just say my score was in the negatives, unlike my sister's. Hey, I’m a real lady! (Shhh! No one tell my sister I said that!)

Saturday Stirrings

There are many variations on these cakes, but I have to say that the following combination is EXTREMELY addictive for me. "Is that a good thing?" you ask. Well . . . We won't talk about that right now. :-)

Anyway, it's called Chocolate Chip Gooey. I also made Pumpkin Gooey for our little fall party yesterday, and it was good, too! My husband favors yellow cake mix with butterscotch chips. Click here if you'd like more ideas on the wonderful possibilities! And I've enjoyed the name immensely. "We're having gooey tonight!"

Chocolate Chip Gooey
1 (18.25-ounce) box chocolate cake mix
1 egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (16-ounce) box confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 or two cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan.
2. Combine cake mix, egg, and butter. Mix well using an electric mixer. Pat into the bottom of prepared pan and set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth; add eggs and vanilla. Dump in confectioners sugar and beat well. Reduce speed and slowly pour in butter. Mix well.
4. Pour filling onto cake mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Don't worry if it doesn't look done. We want it to be a little gooey!
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares.

For the Pumpkin Gooey: I used yellow cake, but other kinds could be used such as spice cake mix. Follow the original recipe, adding a 15-ounce can of pumpkin pie filling and an extra egg to the cream cheese filling. Bake as usual, remove from oven, and allow to cool. Cut into squares and top each square with a pecan half. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Drop by Carol's blog for a crock pot dish!