Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dixie Salad - Family Tradition I Can't Live Without

When I was young, we would often on holidays go visit my grandparents who lived in the south. In those warmer climates, Pecans and Pomegranates grow quite well. My grandparents had a pecan orchard and had several pomegranate trees on their properties.

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas that I can recall, we would have what my grandpa called, "Dixie Salad" as it was mostly from things grown in the warmer climate of the south. I can't let a holiday go by without making this salad. My girls aren't crazy about nuts in things but tolerate them because in my opinion it isn't the same without them but this year I did relent and use sunflower seeds rather than pecans as my Princess number three said she would be OK with them over the pecans.

So, this year, we had an altered version but I will give you the original. I will tell you here the best way I have found to peel and use a pomegranate. Grandma used to have us sit on her porch and crack the walnuts while the women got the other food ready. As we got older, she allowed us to peel the pomegranates. It wasn't until many years later reading in a magazine that I read about this method and have used it ever since.

Cut the pomegranate in four. Place a quarter in a bowl of cool water. Push the back peel side of the pomegranate through forcing the little seed out and brush them into the bowl of water with your hands. The old way, we would end up with red hands and stains on the counter or cutting board. Now, no mess. It all goes into the water and then once you have all the seeds out, just dump out the water and you have the seeds left to use.

Dixie Salad

1 - 2 Large pomegranates seeded

1 container of "Cool Whip" or Dream whip made up

1/2 cup chopped pecan pieces

2 - 3 cut up apples of different types if you like. I core them and chop them into small pieces.

Mix all ingredients into a bowl and mix. It is simple but the textures and different flavors make this a favorite in my eyes. It is also a reminder of happy times with my grandmother as a child.

I hope you enjoy this. You can add other items as you like. Coconut, chocolate pudding, bits of candy cane broken up... anything, including sunflower seeds. ;-)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Invitations are DONE... Did You Get Yours?

I was up late on Wednesday night with my AMAZINGLY talented sister finishing the printing on the invitations. By the time I arrived home, it was very late and I didn't want to start putting together the invitations so we waited until Thursday night.

I rented some videos and we all stuck little cards with their initials on the side of the picture. The blessings to help with these invitations went on and on. My sister had lots of the cream envelopes free so we needed to make the invitations to the size of the letter as we needed 500 to send out. We priced photos and you already saw some of the photos I took for them to choose from earlier last month. Here is a link to that post if you missed it.

If we made the invitation the length of the envelope it doubled the price. If we made a 4x6 it was $.13 each on anything over 100 prints. We ordered 500 prints. We ran into some problems. My sister edited them in her own design software and had some issues with the color printing the same. At home on the computer they looked blue but when we printed them it came out near black or purple.

Her daughter designed some online and we had a problem that when she sent it online to Walmart, it would blow up the image some and cut off the boarder. The woman said they have that problem all the time if people design them at home. If you design them on their scanners and software, she said they have no problem. My sister had these same issues when she did my nieces invitations last year. I wish Walmart would fix the problem but don't say I didn't warn you. :-)

We finally figured out the problem with color and sizing and then we had to go to a print shop and have them cut just a little to fit into the envelope. The print shop also cut the strip of cream we used as the background. My sister is an expert chalker and did stacks at a time using her ink pad. I was amazed at how quickly she was able to ink 500 invites, envelopes, cards, etc. She did have hands like a blue smurf after for a few days. She learned when doing boxes of paper, wear gloves!

We taped on the "initials" card and the picture and stuffed the envelopes. The girls were up really late and one stayed up almost all night with me to make sure we got them done and up to Princess number one's wedding shower. Working all night, I finished the invites and finished printing the labels at noon the next morning and got a quick nap in before leaving for out of town.

Princess number one was able to hand out many of the family invitations at the shower and then took the one's his family needed and gave me the one's I could hand out. On our way home on Sunday before even going to the house, we delivered about half of the invitations in town. The girls weren't keen on it but I already spent $88 on stamps and don't think that will be enough so every person we hand deliver it to saves us almost $.50. Sounds cheap but we are on a tight budget so we will do what we need to and still make it a beautiful day for Princess number one.

I liked that they sell wedding stamps. I wasn't aware of that until I went to buy the stamps. I also liked that my AMAZINGLY talented sister put a map graphic under the blue on the invitation which brought in that theme to the invitations.

The pictures cost about $70 and the stamps $88 so far (we haven't gotten them all out yet.) The other items were donated by the paper company that saves scraps and gives them to my sister every week. The inks and tape were stuff my sister had and the labels I bought at a second hand store. But still, all in all, to get 500 invitations labeled plus postage for under $200, I thought that was great.

Two more blessings. My sisters printer needed an ink cartridge. I went to Walmart and picked one up for $45 or so. I was on my way to meet my sister to get it to her. She stopped at the thrift store before we were to meet and guess what she found? The exact cartridge we needed in the box for $1.50. While I was at Walmart in the check out line, I found a dime. I met her in a grocery store and on my way out after meeting her for the drop off, I found a dime in that store as well. I figure Heavenly Father was telling me not to worry about the costs and that he would take care of it. He is so good to watch over me that way. My sister brought back the ink cartridge today so I can return it and use that money on something else!

I have to give the credit for the invitations to my AMAZINGLY talented sister and her talented daughter for their help designing them. I also have to give credit to the three youngest princesses for helping put them together. I took the photo and did lots of the work and printed the labels. It was a group effort for sure!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bouquet Finished... Most Beautiful Ever

My sister helped me make the invitation last week so we could get them done and she also worked on making the bouquet I mentioned a few days ago on my blog. I told you how amazingly talented she is but now I can show you and you can see for yourself how truly talented she is.

She took scraps of fabric, lace, ribbons and that blue map I posted about two days ago and made the most amazing and BEAUTIFUL bouquet for a bride I have ever seen! She said she spent between 8 and 10 hours making it. She used the one blue map I showed in that post and did flowers and pinwheels about if it. She integrated bling and pearls and she used some pearl corsage pins that she had from my grandmothers things and used those for some of the centers on the pinwheels and flower centers.

By using those pins, she helped (with the bouquet) to fulfill all the required needs of a bride. "Something old (pins), something new (bling), something borrowed (the fabric from another brides dress to make some of the flowers), and something blue, (the map!)"

I love that my sister made it. I love that it uses the map and the pinwheels both of which Princess number one requested for her wedding. I love that it will last forever. I love that Princess number one LOVES it. Look at this photo of her first seeing it and all of the other photos and look at the smile on her face. It doesn't get better than that with her! I love that I don't have to worry about someone holding it or putting it in water or having it freeze. I love that it was free and a gift. I could go on and on but you get the idea.

One more thing off the list and several more to go....

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wedding Favors.... Thank You Gift

I have been up all night again as I had to do Thanksgiving for my family and finish all the wedding invitation to take them up to Princess number one as we are heading out of town to have a family Thanksgiving dinner today. In all the time I have done my blog, this is the first time it has been late. There was one other time I had a.m. and p.m. mixed up but I feel sad that I didn't get it written to post on time.

I tried to write it last night but kept falling asleep and putting lots of d's and p's and so I used the one I wrote for today knowing it would be a busy and late night. So... I am sorry that I didn't have it up in time. I am happy to say that I did finish the invitations, I am printing the labels that we need for out of town right now and I am doing a bunko game for the entertainment for my family so I had to get prizes and the game ready. One last thing I had to get ready was boxes of dishes and some of the decorations for the wedding. I am taking everything that I can up with me so that I don't have to take a trailer the day of the wedding. I will have to take all the food up that day so I am praying I can borrow a truck and get all the doors taken up next weekend when I have to go up anyway.

With it being "Thanks" giving, I thought I would post about these favors that we are handing out at the wedding. I had some other ideas in mind but they were related to making things and it would have been time consuming so I was so grateful for this find. I went to "Michael's" one day looking for something and they had bins and bins of clearance in the front entry of the store. I saw these magnets and thought they would be cute favors for the drill team. They were $.60 each which made them $.10 a magnet. I bought all they had thinking my girls could use them for magnet boards etc. Then, I counted them and realized that I probably had enough for the wedding.

I cut a label and had a "Thanks" stamp that I stamped them with and also chalked the edges and liked the blue string to tie it on so it looked like an old store tag as they look a bit antique. I wanted to make them easy and notice on my sisters "cricket" machine they have a tag along with the alphabet. I used that to make a page of tags and it cut them so quickly and also had the hole in it right where it needed to be rather than me having to center a punch. It was so quick. I finished them in one evening.

Then I was trying to figure out how we could display them and a friend who is a handyman brought over some steel french doors so I can have them near the exit door with these wedding favors on the door and people can take one as they leave. I though they were cute and also inexpensive.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Bouquet of Map Flowers

Princess number one was thinking of holding a bouquet of pinwheels for her bouquet and I thought perhaps we could integrate some small pinwheels into the bouquet so I bought some silk flowers and made some small pinwheels and placed them in the cream colored flowers. She then thought she would get live flowers which I quickly rejected telling her that she would have to worry about someone holding them or keeping them in water and it is December and they could freeze and look horrible by the reception time. I told her she would need three bouquets if she were to do real as she would need one for the reception, one to throw and one for the wedding.

My AMAZINGLY talented younger sister told me that her "cricket" has some paper flowers that look real as you layer them. They have six three dimensional designs on one of their sets and layered two dimensional on other sets.

My sister took this map that I thought would be good for the blue in the bouquet and within about 2 minutes, she had the rose at the top. She cut it using the "cricket" and then used a spray bottle to spray the paper and then she crinkled it into a ball and then opened it and started wrapping it around itself starting at one end.

Within two minutes she had it wrapped and we used tape to hold it and there it is! She used some tan paper she had for the other flower. We pulled out some of the cream real maps that she can use for the lighter colors.

So, her bouquet will be out of maps for the most part. I will make sure I show you the finished product. The nice thing about the "cricket" is that you cane cut them in any size so she will have big and little flowers all out of paper. She also used "chalk" on the edges on some making them look like the multicolored flowers with darker tips as on the tan flower at the top.

I look forward to seeing it! My AMAZINGLY talented sister is making it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Floating, Spinning Wall Part 1

When Princess number one told me that she wanted, "maps, doors, and pinwheels" for her wedding decor I have to say I was a bit blank as to how to make the three of those things fit together. It is also a winter wedding and she picked the colors of blue and Cream as her main colors.

Armed with that information, I pondered on what I could do to make the three of those things come together and make the decoration process easy but beautiful. I talked with my AMAZINGLY creative younger sister and we talked of how we could figure out the pinwheel thing. I wanted to make a floating wall using fishing line but the fishing line wouldn't hold the pinwheels or hearts and let them spin at the same time. The idea then came that I could use straws. I purchased some blue straws but they showed more than I liked as I still wanted it to look like the wall was floating and moving so I opted to use coffee stir sticks.

I went to every store in town and tried all the coffee shops and truck stops and the only place I could find black was at K-mart. They were about $3 or so for 250 straws. I thought that was good and bought two but that was really overkill on my part. One would have done plenty. I then used my sisters "cricket" (with lots of help from her) to make and cut lots of hearts. I used wrapping paper in the color of blue for her wedding that I found at WalMart and it was $1 a roll. We (actually my sisters friend Donna) found some scrapbook paper that is a map in the colors that would match as we wanted a consistent color rather then the variations of color in real maps. She found it on clearance for $50 a package! It is normally $.50 a page or more. I am sure Heavenly Angels were guiding her for us to that deal! I was blessed to find a roll of contact paper in cream with marble lines running through it of the other wedding creams and tans at a second hand store for a few dollars. I loved having the contact paper so that I could just place a straw in the center of the heart and then place one of the other colored hearts over it without having to use glue.

When I would use the wrapping paper blue hearts and use the map paper opposite, I had to use a glue stick and put it thick right in the center where the straw would go so it would hold the heart in place.

I made some chain type hearts as she said she liked the heart, in a heart in a heart but I couldn't get them to work and spin that way so I tried making a chain heart and punching a hole in the center. I put the straw through the center of the heart at the bottom and glued it to the center of the heart at the top. This worked well but when I actually hung it up on my door, you couldn't even see those hearts because you were looking right through them and I would have had to glue a heart on the back or something and decided that it wasn't worth the work as I didn't like the result with those open chain hearts. If you wanted to make these or use them for something else, you can make the hearts long and thin, round and fat like the one in this picture or by gluing more of the top together on the straw, you end up with a more crafty looking heart. I also glued a little at the bottom on one making it come more to a point. I didn't have space to post individual pictures but if you blow up the top picture, perhaps you can see the different shapes of hearts I made.

I loved that the map hearts had Providence on them as that was where Princess number one was born. At first was putting the hearts at different places up and down on the straws to give it variety but after trying that out, I didn't like that one at the bottom and the next below it was near the top, it made them close leaving a large gap until the next one after that, I started putting them all on the middle of the straw.

As you can see in the top picture, I also added pinwheels. This in itself was a learning experience and there is a learning curve. I will tell you about that another day but there is an art to making pinwheels believe it or not!

The whole idea here is to put a fan behind the back drops and to have the pinwheels and hearts spinning round and making it look like the wall is moving and spinning but that the pinwheels are floating in air. I wish I could have just done it all on the fishing line and put some type of fishing weight or clamp on the line to hold up the hearts and pinwheels but I have so much to do that I went with this easier way as the line would be hard to keep from tangles but with the straws on it, it will be easier for me to manage. Now, I am getting into mass production.

So far, I think I am doing a great job bringing together the colors, and the three decorating items she wanted of pinwheels, maps and doors. I am getting a little excited to see how things turn out. I will be glad when it is over. Perhaps I will become a wedding planner...... or NOT! :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And The Winner Is........ ME!

My daughter and I were working on wedding stuff when my sister needed some maps for one of the projects we were working on. She was running a booth at a trade show and so Princess number 1 and I took them to her at the show. When we entered they had a drawing box so we put our names in as we went into the show.

While we were talking to my sister, they called my name over the loud speaker. I wasn't sure what I won but went to the winners table to find out. They called three names and the woman in front of me gave her name as a winner and they pulled a blanket off the table and handed it to her. I gave her my name expecting a fleece blanket and she started to reach for that and then went down the table and grabbed something else. I was thrill when I found that it was a stadium bleacher kit. It was a padded seat with support for bleachers that zips into a bag when not used. It also had two rain ponchos, a water bottle and a fleece blanket.

Since I go to lots of drill and dance competitions, I sit for hours and I was thrilled to win that prize. My daughter and I ran into a friend while at the show and started talking to her. She is the friend that I mentioned in my post a few days ago who said they could help me paint the doors for the wedding. I started to cry when she told me they would help because I have so much going on with life and the kids that it was such a blessing and relief to have some help with the doors.

While talking to her, they called out Princess Number one's name. She went up to the table and there had been several winners called while we were there. There were only two stadium kits there and can you believe that my eldest Princess won the other kit! I thought it was funny as she was telling me that Prince number one made a comment about how she was going to have to get used to watching football as they go to support his brothers and she told him that it was fine because he was going to have to get used to going to drill and dance competitions! Now she has a comfy seat as well!

While we were talking a man walked over and handed us a card for a free gift if we came to his pan/cooking demonstration. He was giving away free salads so we went and sat down and had a free salad. We had also gotten a free water bottle at the first booth we passed so we got some lunch for free and during the demonstration I answered two questions and won two paring knives. I thought that was funny because Princess number one was telling me that she had most things for her kitchen but didn't have knives. So, I gave her one of the paring knives. He then gave us each a citrus juicer for coming to the demonstration.

At the end of the show he gave everyone a ticket for a drawing for a prize. He had two large knives he was giving away. Wouldn't you know that out of the 25 or so people there, he drew my number first! I promptly handed it to Princess number one.

That day I won three knives, got a citrus juicer, a water, a salad, and a stadium pack! The best blessing from all of that is that my friends are helping with the painting of all the doors. I felt truly supported and loved by their willingness to help.

I was glad I went! My friend stayed and watched the show and leaned over and said, "I just can't wait to see how you get the pan set for free!" I wish I could figure that one out myself. They are an amazing set and I would LOVE some or at least get some for the new bride but until then.... I am happy with all the blessings of the day. The best part was that we bought Princess number One's wedding dress and got to spend time together. Who can beat that?

With five amazing Princesses and now an added bonus of Prince number one.... I am the winner!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Freezing Carrots for Soup, Roasts and Other Dishes

I mentioned some blessings of carrots coming my way and I need them to use for turkey soup for the wedding. I didn't want them to freeze in my garage and didn't want them to go bad and they needed to be peeled and cut for the weeding anyway so yesterday while we masked 120 windows on 4 doors for painting, I had my three youngest princesses busy at work peeling this case of carrots so that I could get them ready for the soup.

Once the box was peeled, I had them soak them in large pressure cookers in cold water to keep them from browning until I had time to get to processing them.

Getting ready, you need; peelers, large soaking pots, smaller pot with boiling water, sharp knife, cutting board, colander, Ziploc bags and a bowl for cooling.

Peel the carrots. Rinse them and place them in the cold water to keep them from drying and browning. Take them out of the water and chop them into whatever size you need for processing. If you want to use them for soups, I chop them about 1/4 to 1/2 in thick and if the carrot is larger around or towards the top where it is thicker, I cut it in half. If I am using them for roasting or a home style soup, I cut them into 1/2 to 1 inch thick or long. If you are going to glaze them and serve them as side dish, cut them into whatever size you like.

Once they are cut. Place them in the center of a square piece or two of cheese cloth. pick up the cloth by the opposite corners bringing all the corners into the center and then twist the cheesecloth sealing the veggies inside. Dip the cheesecloth into the boiling water for about 15 seconds holding the ends of the cheesecloth. Be careful not to burn yourself. You can use a hot pad mitt if you are worried about getting burned. Pull the cheesecloth out of the water and let it drip for a few seconds and then place it into a colander and allow to drain in the sink while you chop the next batch of carrots or other vegetables.

Once I have the next batch cut and ready to blanch, (the term for dipping vegetables in hot water so that the cells burst keeping which helps them keep their color for drying or freezing) I take the veggies out of the cheesecloth and pour them into a bowl to cool before placing them in freezer bags. They say it isn't good to put hot items in plastic as it releases toxins so I allow them to cool in a bowl for a few minutes before pouring them into the freezer bags.

I then blanch the next batch and now have one in the cooling bowl, one in the colander draining and start cutting the next batch. Once that next batch is ready to blanch, I place the cooled carrots into a Ziploc freezer bag, take the draining one and place it in the cooling bowl, blanch the next batch and then let it drain while I cut the next batch.

I have tried using a food processor but they cut the carrots too thin and I don't like how they come out as the cook while blanching. If they made a thicker cutting blade, I would be thrilled. I haven't ever seen one so that won't work so I do all the cutting by hand when it comes to carrots.

If you want to glaze the carrots, or use some type of sweetener for side carrots, you could place some sugar or other sweetener in the bag at this point before freezing them. Just make sure you label them as such so they aren't used for something else.

I usually use about a quart sized bag when doing roasting carrots as I like larger roasts and company for dinners. If you are a smaller family make them sandwich bags instead.

Last night I did almost 4 gallons of carrots. I did three gallons together in gallon sized bags for the turkey soup and then did sandwich bags for the other soups and stir-fry dinners I make.

I worked on carrots for about 4 hours to get that many done. I saw in the box of carrots I got the largest carrot I have ever seen in my life. It is shown in the pan above but you can't tell size due to the fact that the pan is a huge pressure cooker. I placed the peeled carrot on the cutting board next to my large cutting knife and it made the knife and the board look normals size so I put some bananas next to it and took pictures but it made the banana's look regulars so I put a butter knife next to them so you could see how large the carrot really is. I probably should have taken a photo of someone holding it so you could really see the size. The carrots chopped on the cutting board above are those two carrots chopped. All that came from two carrots.

Bag the carrots and label the freezer bags and then freeze. If for some reason you need the carrots individually frozen (so you can choose how many you need out of one bag), you can freeze them flat on cookie sheets and once they are frozen, you can then dump them into freezer bags at that point. That will allow you to use just a few out of the bag.

I warn you now that your hands will turn orange and I wish I had taken a photo of them this morning to show how they looked. It looked like a spray tan on my hands. If you want to wear gloves to keep your hands from drying and staining, it would be good but make sure you don't use latex as if you served them to someone who had a latex allergy later, it could pose a problem. They serve plastic food gloves at most stores, even dollar stores have food grade gloves.

I hope all this work makes Princess number one's big day memorable for her. We each should have such a day!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Someone is Watching Me....

I had a busy day but an unusual thing happened. I had a board meeting for the food bank and after the meeting one of the workers had a daughter there who is going through a divorce. Her situation is somewhat similar to mine and I talked with her about how when I got divorced, I had a low self esteem. (Read about that and how I overcame it here) That wasn't always the case but due to the situation of life and other circumstances, it just was what it was.

I shared my feelings about God and how I believe He loves each of us like a Father would as I believe He is my Father in Heaven. This woman has a daughter that is about 6 months old and I shared that just as she wants the most out of life for her daughter, her Heavenly Father wants all that and more for her.

We talked for about an hour and while we were talking, a woman came into the office we were visiting in and wanted to say "hi" to them. They introduced me to her and when she heard my name she said, "I know you, you are the lady who prays for what she wants and then it shows up!" She continued, "I am Kathy's cousin and years ago when you were going through your divorce she would tell me all the amazing things you would win and get because you would pray for them."

I was taken back and told her that, "Yes, thats me!" After that I shared that I do pray for what I want and need and most often do get blessed by my Father in Heaven with what I pray for. I also told her that "Paying it forward and giving Gratitude are also very important in getting what you want and need." She then said that she had started "using" the same thing back then and now she prays and gets things she wants in her life!

We talked on further and exchanged numbers as time was limited. She wanted to know more about how it works for me. I openly share about my wins, big and little and my daily blessings. Blessings come every day but I don't share them all as some are personal and others I don't think others would see as blessings. I however, KNOW they are blessings and gifts from God.

I shared with the new mother going through a divorce about how we never know why we go through situations or trials but even though we don't always know it or find out, people are always watching us, even when we may not know them. I asked her how funny she thought it was that I had made a difference in that woman's life ten years ago and I didn't even know her. Someone just shared with her regularly about things that I shared with them as I volunteered at the food bank.

The divorcing mom then told me that she hadn't planned on going to go to the food bank today but "situations" made it so she did and she felt that it was meant to be. Blessings all around as I made a new friend, she was lifted up and knows she isn't alone.

Other blessings for the day.... I was talking with my sister about getting large cardboard boxes from fridges to cut and place between the doors for the wedding once they were painted so they don't scratch each other. She said they don't use boxes anymore but ship in crates. I was driving down a street I don't often drive down and saw a trailer being backed into a driveway with a large box with a fridge in it. I passed by later having to return something back to where I had just come and the box was empty on the driveway and the people were standing there. I stopped and asked if I could have the box and they had another one folded up and said they would have more tomorrow. I didn't have to go out of my way and now I have already cut them and have them to protect the doors and glass on the way to the wedding reception.

-I got a call from a friend saying that a man brought him a dryer needing to be fixed and also left a working fridge he didn't want and someone mentioned I needed another freezer to put stuff in until the wedding and would I like to use it until then.

- Princess number 1 wants little white boards at the wedding for people to write down their advise and then she has several friends taking photos of the people holding up their advise and they will put them into a book. I found a white board at a second hand store that was large for $3. I asked my neighbor if I could use his saw and he helped me cut it in about 5 minutes. I had planned to cut it with my little saw but his made it much easier and straighter.

- I bought carrots the other day and we already ate them. I was thinking I needed more carrots for the turkey soup I would be making for the wedding and I used all I had for the carrot curry soup I made last week. While at the food bank, I had my trunk full of magazines to share as they have a shelf where they allow people to share clothes, books and magazines. I took them in the main door where I wouldn't have been otherwise and they had a pallet of carrots they need to get passed out as it came on the refrigerated truck and the boxes got wet so they have to get them out fast. I was able to get two boxes of carrots. It is weird that the food bank has had them like that when I needed them as they don't often get carrots. Others may say coincidence but I know it is a blessing of me needing them and Heavenly Father providing them. Two weeks ago they had potatoes that had the same problem. They need to figure out a new way to package them that they don't get condensation from the truck and ruin the boxes. However, both were a blessing to me as I need them for our wedding soups.

- A sweet friend said they would help me paint the doors for the wedding using their expensive paint gun. She mentioned in that conversation that she needed a keyboard for her voice students when they perform. I went to a second hand store today and my sister happened to be there and had a stand in her cart for a keyboard. I mentioned my friend wanting one along with a keyboard and she pointed to a corner and there was a lovely Casio with 4 1/2 octaves and hundreds of instruments and prerecorded songs. I asked my sister if I could take the stand and "owe" her and she was gracious and let me take it and I bought the keyboard and the stand for $44.

This family also helped me make frame boxes for my mother last June and wouldn't allow me to pay them and have been one of the two longest standing friends in town since we moved here. I felt so blessed to be able to get her something she has wanted for some time and know that God placed that there just when I would be there. A few minutes later and my sister would have been gone with the stand and there was another lady looking at the keyboard when I arrived.

None of those may sound anything big to anyone else but those were all direct answers to my prayers for things that I needed or wanted and I was also able to be a blessing in the lives of several others. Isn't that how God works though, allowing us to love and support others and be "Angels" in their lives and at other times, they are "Angels" in ours!

If you missed the posts about "Knowing how God loves you." Here is a link to that post:

I know that God loves me. I read the posts I linked to above and was reminded just how much He does for me and how often He shows me He love me. He loves each of us and knows our individual needs and wants. How blessed I feel to have that knowledge when so many don't.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spice Rack Button Holder

I went to a boutique the other day that my sister had a booth at to drop something off and while there I saw her cute button holder. She was at a second hand store and found a spice rack that had two rows of clear jars. She bought it and took it home and washed it. She then sorted her buttons by color and put them in it.

A few days later I was shopping at a second hand store and they had this interesting piece of wood with little jars attached to it by the lid. Someone took a square piece of long wood similar to a dowel but square. They screwed lids from baby food sized jars into the piece of wood alternating them on each side. They put two screws into each lid so that it would hold and wouldn't twist around when the jar was unscrewed. You can see it here in this photo.

The jars had nuts and bolts in them when I bought it. I didn't want to use it for bolts but thought it would be cute used for the buttons I have in a similar way that my sister used it. I had my buttons in drawers inside baggies. Here is a picture of how they were before sorted in the drawers. I sorted them out again into a few more options of colors and screwed a hanging hook on the top so that I could hang it from a rod so I could see the colors clearly when needed.

It would be cute for lots of different scrap booking or sewing uses. I like that you can see clearly what you want. For me, I have all my scissors, ribbons and other things hanging so it will fit right in with the rest of my craft room.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two Honors are Better than One

Last week was a first for me. I had two children in National Honor Society at the same time. You can't apply as a Freshmen and all the girls have been in it for three years but they were all spread out enough than none of them were in it at the same time.

Noblise Oblige is the theme for the National Honor Society. In the American Heritage Dictionary the definition is as follows: "Benevolent, honorable behavior considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank." It suggests that because we have been given much, we too must give! It is our duty because we have been born into a wonderful free nation and blessed situation.

This was Princess number fours first year. Here she is proudly holding her membership card.

Princess number three is Vice President of the National Honor Society chapter at the school so it was her "honor" to hand Princess number four her membership card this year. To be a member you need to maintain a good gpa and do three hours of service each month. Many of the students only do it their senior year so it will look good on application or sterling scholar but I am proud of my girls doing all three years as it keeps them oriented on service.

I don't think it is hard to give three hours service a month and it makes them realize how blessed they are when they do service for others who may not be as blessed in their lives and situations.

It was a fun night seeing them together. In Proverbs 31:28 it states "Her children rise up and call her blessed." I love that verse of scripture and have it hanging with my girls pictures on the wall. I have to say that seeing my girls doing all the wonderful things they are doing in their lives, I surely am blessed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thank You For Africa - Asante Sana

Princess number three went to Africa to do service. If you have read this blog for long you will know that our family is big on service and grateful for the opportunity to do it. I realized today that I never posted pictures of her from her trip as I finally am getting the last "thank you" card out as I have had some difficulty in finding all the addresses of those that donated.

The experience was wonderful for her. Part of that experience is sending "thank you" notes to those that donated to her trip. I didn't want to have to spend tons on the mailing and pictures so I thought we could make the picture into a post card and mail it for the post card rate saving us some money. I had her pick a picture from her trip that she liked and we went to Walmart and had them printed.

I went to do some other shopping and had her pay for the photos and meet up with me. She laughed when she arrived to where I was checking out and said, "Guess what the total for the pictures was?" I smiled and guessed, "$11.11?" she nodded "yes." to that.

I showed her how to make the back into a post card looking style by drawing a line down the back and writing the address and person on the right side. I think this would be a great way to do Christmas cards so I thought I could share the idea with you.

Walmart has several ways you can print. They have by the hour, instant or online printing options. I usually go in the morning hours and the "by the hour" prints are done in minutes because they have nothing in line as it is slow before school gets out. If you are printing lots, it is cheaper to order them online. However, I like to use the editing software they have on the computers there for writing words etc.

My daughter wrote "Asante Sana" on her cards which is "thank you" in Swahili. If you remember the movie, "Lion King" by Disney, they say, "Asante Sana, Squashed banana" in the movie. Walmart makes it very easy to make your own cards within minutes using their easy to use software. No, I don't work for Walmart but with all the scanning and printing I have done in the past year, I have come to appreciate their photo department!

If you missed the posts leading up to and coming home from Kenya, here are the links to those:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brownie Blessing and Wedding Treat Part 2

I wanted to take another day to share what I learned with the different brownies and now cookies. I had the thought to just put the brownies in little muffin tins and when I tried that the outsides grew up the sides of the tins and were flat in the center. They tasted OK but looked horrible. My sister suggested that I add some flour and use the higher altitude suggestion. I did that and then tried mixing in some flavored chips into the cups. I wanted to try some different options so I mixed some in. Put some at the bottom, sprinkled some on the top etc. I wanted all the different flavors to have something different on the top as well so we could distinguish the difference between the flavors so I could put them on different platters.

I then baked them and they came out great. The one's with the chocolate chips on top weren't very good. The chocolate baked and became dry. I think the one's with the chips in the middle were best. I put heath bar sprinkles on the tops of the peanut butter chip brownies and put blue sprinkles (wedding color blue) on the top of the dark chocolate chip brownies and left the one's with cinnamon chips with nothing on top.

I made about three different batches trying different things and took some up for the wedding couple to try. They liked them all. That batch was a bit dry as I added a bit too much flour but I have been timing them to get the best baking time and also think it would bake better if I used non-stick baking spray on the top of the sheet as a few over flowed and stuck to the top of the pan. The added flour suggestion made them rise like muffins would.

I baked one tray for 14 minutes, one tray for 15, one tray for 16 , and one tray at 17 minutes. I baked them at 350 degrees and I liked the one's baked at 16 minutes the best.

I froze some for a few days and then we ate some and they tasted great. We did like the heath bar on the peanut butter and those went first.

I was talking with my friend about what I was going to do and she told me that she does the same thing with cookie dough. I have never seen that before so I came right home and tried it with some frozen cookie dough that I have. I bought a case of several different flavors which I have used for family gatherings and when we need to take treats somewhere. I pulled out some of the smaller cookies which are the sugar cookies. I cut it into half and then thirds to see which worked better. I also pulled out some coconut/pecan cookies and those are a bit bigger cookie. I cut those into quarters and thirds and put some into the mini muffin cups. I also sprinkled some crushed candy canes onto the sugar cookies to give them color and flavor and then some blue sprinkles onto some of the coconut cookies.

I baked them at 350 degrees and checked them at 10, 11, 12 and 13 minutes and the baking time was good between 13 and 14 minutes. I pulled them out and they didn't last long as kids could smell them and came running.

The ones I show first above were the 1/4 coconut cookie and 1/3 of the sugar cookie. The sugar cookie did what the first batch of brownies did. They rose on the sides and sunk in the middle. In the second picture above, I used 1/2 of the sugar cookie and 1/3 of the coconut cookie and they are almost to the top of the paper.

Because they are pre-made cookie dough, there isn't much I can do to the sugar cookies to make them not fall in the middle so I had a light bulb moment and stuck a Hershey's kiss in the middle of the fallen cookie upside down and stuck them back into the oven for a few minutes to melt the "kiss" into the fallen cookie hole. I had the oven off but it was warm from baking them. I then sprinkled some crushed candy cane onto the tops of the melted chocolate.

I liked the chocolate in the middle so I think I may make some of those as well as trying some other cookies I have frozen. It will save me money not having to use the chocolate chips as I do in the brownies. The reason I didn't want to use the cookie dough I had was that I was worried they would get crushed or crumbled in transit to the wedding. Now, I can use the cookie dough I already have and clean out the freezer at the same time. I kept some and froze them along with the brownies to make sure they will freeze well once baked so that I can make them all ahead of time and just take them up made.

I learned that 1/3 to half of a large cookie will fill a small muffin tin and and for sure half of the smaller cookie. I liked the crushed candy cane on top. I think I may do that on the dark chocolate chip brownies and use the blue sprinkles for the cinnamon one's since the sprinkles don't taste, it won't matter.

Princess number 1 didn't want any Christmas decorations but said I could use the crushed canes so I will! I am learning so much doing this wedding. Perhaps it will save you some trials if you ever have to do something like this!