"…And she smiles at the future." ~Proverbs 31:25

Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Celebrate the ones you love

Happy Valentine’s Day from our family to yours!

(For this Heart Hat Craft and other Valentine activities for little ones, see this post.)

Hopefully, regardless of how you feel about the commercialism that has crept into our society around the holidays (ugghh!), you are still making this a special day for the ones you love.

We are keeping things simple around our house this year. Before the kids came downstairs this morning, I mixed up some pancake batter and put it in this…..

…..which made it really easy (even for me!) to pour these…..

I added some strawberries—heart-shaped-already-by-God, you know—and ended up with a fun Valentine’s Day breakfast that made all the kids smile.

(I got the idea from Pinterest, and it came from this website.)

When I set the table, I added a box of chocolates for each child. So, YOUR challenge of the day is to figure out which candy was for which child.  Leave me a comment below if you think you know!

The kids weren’t the only ones who woke up to a special treat this morning. As you may remember, I have a secret admirer. I hear from him every Valentine’s Day, and this year was no exception. I found this sitting on the bar when I woke up today:

Inside was one of my all-time-favorite treats:

Oh, boy, I am in trouble now. ūüėČ

If you haven’t already, you can go here to read about my secret admirer.

I’d love to hear what you are doing for your little (and big) Valentines today. (I won’t reveal Troy’s just yet since that would ruin the surprise for him.) Please leave me a comment to let me know what special things you are doing today, and don’t forget to guess whose box was whose!

Thanks for stopping by,

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Christmas bucket list

Last Christmas, two sad things happened.

First, I realized too late (read: after school let out) that I hadn’t taken our toddler to see Santa Claus. I know, I know…she didn’t really know the difference. But I did. There are only a few short years to be able to take a child to sit on Santa’s lap, and I missed one of them. {Sniff}

Second, I realized AFTER Christmas was over that we’d never taken the time to go out looking at Christmas lights with the kids. Yes, we saw them as we drove to other places. But when I was a kid, one thing we ALWAYS did was set aside a special night to drive around…JUST to look at lights.

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day is always packed so full of motion and activity that it’s easy to let the things that are important to us—the special family moments, the cherished traditions—get squeezed out. So, this year, to keep that from happening, I decided to create a Christmas Bucket List!

We’ve done most of the items on the list and still have a couple of days left to do the rest. Hopefully this will jog your memory in case there’s something you wanted to do and forgot about. (It’s not too late!)

Amy’s Christmas Bucket List

1. Listen to Christmas music. CHECK (many times over!)

2. Decorate the house and yard, and put up lights outside. CHECK

We even put ornaments on all our bushes and trees this year! They make me happy every time I pull into the driveway.

3. Go look at Christmas lights together. CHECK

(Although, I think we’re going to have to go again, now that my friend, Chelli, found this cute printable—a checklist of things for the kids to try to spot.)

4. Make and drink LOTS of hot chocolate. CHECK

We even got special cups so we could take some with us while looking at lights. So fun!

5. Do plenty of Christmas crafts and school projects. CHECK

6. Watch Christmas movies. CHECK

7. Make “Reindeer Food.” CHECK

No, this wasn’t really for the reindeer. Can you guess when we ate it? (Hint: See #6.) You can get the recipe here. Warning: Don’t plan on leftovers…

8. Make Reindeer FEED. (This one IS for the reindeer.)

We haven’t gotten to this one yet, but as long as it’s ready by Christmas Eve night, we’re good.

9. Eat tamales. CHECK

(We’ll do this again on Christmas Day, but we were blessed already by a sweet friend who knows our love of tamales and showed up at our house with stacks of them!)

10. Count down to the big day. CHECK

Of course, this one is ongoing throughout the month.

We actually have four different countdowns going, including this cute one Remi’s been working on:

You can get the free printable here. (Thanks to my friend April for sharing her find!)

11. Sing Christmas songs. CHECK

Remi’s been singing, “We wish it was merry Christmas…” (No, she doesn’t mean to change the words; she thinks that’s how it goes.) The boys were able to go caroling with our church youth group. Addy sings all the time, and has been playing lots of holiday tunes on the piano, too. I love to hear my kids sing!

12. Make cookies together. CHECK

We’ve made them several times at home as a family…

…and the kids from Addy’s Bible class made about a gazillion cookies for our elders, deacons, and ministers. Aren’t they pretty?

13. Decorate the tree. CHECK

(You can read about our tree mishap here.)

14. Read Christmas books. CHECK

(But we still need to read my favorite, The Polar Express.)

15. Make ornaments. CHECK

16. Make homemade Christmas cards. CHECK

Our kids, along with the kiddos in one of their homeschool groups, made cards for a number of local Christian friends who are going through hard times. We hope the cards will brighten their day and remind them that someone is thinking of them at Christmas.

17. Mail cards to out-of-town friends.

Yes, this was on my list. But sadly, for the second (or third?) year in a row, it just didn’t get done. (To our faraway friends who are reading this: Merry Christmas! We really are thankful for you…even if you don’t have the mail to prove it.)

18. Make paper snowflakes. CHECK

I think Addy was already working on hers December 1st! I had hoped to laminate some and hang them from our trees outside—I think it was Troy’s idea, actually—but that didn’t happen. (Maybe next year?) Never fear, though. A quick glance around Addy’s room reveals that she was definitely working on her end of the project.

DSC_1845b

(I love how she just taped them right onto her existing wall hangings.)

19. Attend holiday parties. CHECK

20. Go visit Santa Claus. CHECK

21. Write a letter to Santa.

We haven’t done this one yet, either. But, I do still plan to let our newly-four-year-old daughter dictate her letter for me. Should be interesting…

22. Enjoy Elf on a Shelf. CHECK

This was our first year to do this, and it’s been so much fun for ALL of us! We named our elf Zanzibar, and the big kids love helping us find interesting places for him to appear each morning. Remi loves looking for him as soon as she wakes up each day. I’m thankful for the friends who gifted us with our little elf!

23. Make a family hand wreath.

This is another item from my list that just hasn’t gotten done. I wanted to trace each of our hands and put them all together in a wreath with the year on the back so we would always have a record of what size our hands were this year. With four kids ranging in age from four to seventeen, we have quite a variety of sizes! And, they change quickly.

24. Make a hand-and-foot reindeer. CHECK

Addison did this when she was younger, and I was anxious for Remington to make one, too. So, even if we don’t get the wreath done, we still have a record of the youngest child’s hand and foot size this year. Oh, and the nose is her thumbprint, so we have a record of that, too.

25. Make homemade gifts. CHECK

We did LOTS of different handmade gifts this year, as always, for friends, family members, and neighbors.¬† The kids love to make and give, and it’s always a good reminder for me that the best thing we can do for others is to give of ourselves.

26. Make gifts for our church elders and their wives.

I seem to get to this later and later each year. I hate that, because our elders are amazing, sacrificial men, and they need to know how much we appreciate them. (But I think this year they’ll be getting “Happy New Year!” gifts from our family instead.)

27. Make gingerbread men.

Here’s another one we haven’t managed to cross off our list yet. But, even if we have to do it after the holidays are over, I still really want to enjoy this activity with my kiddos.

28. Make gingerbread houses. CHECK

While the gingerbread men may not be crafted yet, their houses are ready and waiting for them. Or, they were…until they got eaten…

Addy's gingerbread house

Addy’s gingerbread house

Remi's gingerbread "princess palast" with patio

Remi’s gingerbread “princess palast” with patio

29. Visit the sick and/or elderly. CHECK

Last year we did more of this between Christmas and New Year’s, but we’ve already gotten a head start this year by visiting our sweet, senior citizen neighbors. We really want our kids to understand that it’s not all about them and what they receive. (And thankfully, I think they get it!) We hope these visits bless those we go to see; we know for sure they bless our family.

30. You decide!

What is missing from my list? Do you have a favorite activity on your own holiday list that hasn’t been mentioned here? What should #30 be? Please leave me a comment telling me what you’d add.

So, do you have a Christmas bucket list, too? If so, how’s it going? Several of the things on my list don’t have to be confined to this particular time of year. Make a plan to do the things you deem most important for your family, and start checking them off your list! (And remember to add #30 to mine.)

Thanks for stopping by.

Toffee cake love

I realized recently that it’s been quite a while since I shared a recipe with you here, and since I happened to be making one of my favorite desserts to take along to some friends’ house this weekend, I decided this was a great time to share with you my easy and seriously-melt-in-your-mouth, yumola Toffee Cake.


I’ve been making it for ages so I don’t remember where I got the recipe. (This was way before Pinterest.) It’s not only easy to make, but it’s a fun recipe to do together with your kiddos. Here’s what you need:

Start with your choice of a box of chocolate cake mix, and prepare and bake it according to the package directions. As soon as you take it out of the oven, grab a wooden spoon (or something similar) and use the handle to poke holes all over the cake. For some reason, this will be great fun for your kids. Just make sure they poke all the way down to the bottom of the baking dish so the yumminess that’s coming next can sink down through the cake.

Now it’s time to add in the good stuff. While the cake is still piping hot, open a can of sweetened, condensed milk and pour every single drop of it into the holes you just made in the cake. Do the same thing with a bottle of butterscotch sauce.

At this point you are going to want to get the biggest spoon you can find and just start digging in, but don’t do it! Muster your self-control and let the cake cool completely. While you’re waiting, you can be chopping up some Heath Bars to add later. Again, the kids love to do this part. We unwrap the candy bars, put them all in a freezer bag, and go to town banging on them with a rolling pin. It’s the perfect way to get out all your frustrations (adults) and pent-up energy (kids). Just be sure you don’t go too crazy and end up with toffee powder–you want some chunks in there.

Once the cake is completely cooled, spread Cool Whip over the top and then sprinkle on the smashed-to-smithereens candy bars.

It’s super rich so you can only eat so much in one sitting, but one of the great things about this cake is that it tastes even better once it’s had a chance to sit overnight and soak up more of the goopy stuff. (That’s the scientific name for the mixture that was poured into the holes, you know.)


I hope you love Toffee Cake as much as our family does. Here’s the copy-n-paste version so you can make your own:

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Toffee Cake

1 boxed chocolate cake mix (+ items needed to prepare it: oil, eggs)

1 can sweetened, condensed milk (I usually use the fat-free version.)

1 jar butterscotch sauce (Find it where you buy ice cream toppings.)

8-oz. container of Cool Whip (I usually use the reduced-fat kind.)

Heath candy bars (You can use any size since they’re being broken into crumbles…but I like to buy the fun-size bars so there will be some extras to…ummm…dispose of.)

1. Prepare and bake cake according to package directions.

2. Remove from oven and use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes all over the cake.

3. Immediately pour sweetened, condensed milk and butterscotch topping into holes.

4. When cake is completely cooled, spread Cool Whip on top and sprinkle with chopped-up Heath Bars.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Best. Muffins. Ever.

I must admit that I’m always baffled when I hear someone say, “I love to bake.” Really? Personally, I equate baking with a(nother) giant mess in the kitchen, and we have enough of those already. Therefore, a baker I am not.

Or, maybe I should say, I WAS not. Because everything changed when my friend and culinarian extraordinaire, Melissa, made me some Pumpkin-Butterscotch Mini-Muffins. I should say she made them for our family, but I’m pretty sure nobody else even got to try that first batch, because once I tasted them I couldn’t quit. They are amazing. Which means I am now in the kitchen–BAKING–quite often.

Best. Muffins. Ever.

These things are SO easy—you don’t even have to break out your mixer! My whole family goes crazy over them each time I make them. One recipe makes 48 mini-muffins, and I’m ashamed to say that the kids and I eat every single one of them in one sitting. (Our good intentions of “saving some for Daddy” turn out to be just that.) Nothing gets them out of bed faster in the morning than knowing these are in the oven.

I’m not going to make a public confession of just how often I make these, but I will say I keep a steady supply of canned pumpkin and butterscotch chips in the pantry now, and all the other ingredients are things we always have on hand. Oh, and here’s what your pan will look like if your three-year-old decides to help out with the baking:

I hope you love them, too!

Pumpkin-Butterscotch Mini-Muffins

(makes 48)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup canned pumpkin

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 package (6 oz.) butterscotch chips

Directions:

(Preheat oven to 350 degrees.)

1. Try not to eat too many of the butterscotch chips before you get them into the muffins. (Good luck.)

2. Melt the butter in a microwave-proof bowl. Add eggs and pumpkin and mix all together.

3. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. (Don’t add the chips just yet.)

4. Slowly stir dry mix into pumpkin mix. Now you can add the butterscotch chips.

5. Spray a mini-muffin pan and fill each cup about 3/4 full with batter.

6. Bake about 10 minutes or so in a 350-degree oven. (Check with a toothpick to make sure they’re done.)

7. Enjoy the compliments of your happy family and the way the house smells now while you chow down on your mini-muffins.

Thanks for stopping by!

Still ringing

New Year’s Eve came and went, and we celebrated. New Year’s Day came and went, too, and we celebrated then, too. But further into the first week of the new year, it still felt like we needed to celebrate. So, as evening rolled around, we gathered the kids together for a little still-ringing-in-the-new-year family¬†party.

We broke out a board game from our stash…

…and while we played, we inhaled some fun finger-food snacks, like bacon-cheddar pinwheels

…and these cute little ham and fruit picks…

…and a vegetable platter I knew they’d smile about, since it included specials treats like baby corn and Crazy Ranch Dip. (I just mix Ranch dressing with bacon bits and grated cheddar cheese, and they’ll actually eat the vegetables!)

We even pulled out “the good glasses” for some Holiday Cocktail. (We mixed apple juice, cranberry juice, ginger ale, and ice.)

And we topped it all off with some yumola chocolate-chip cheesecake dip, only I substituted Heath bits for the chocolate chips (and I must say it was amazing.)  I tried to healthy it up with some apple slices, but to be quite honest I could have easily eaten it straight from the bowl with a spoon!

Later that night during our devotional time, we went over our goals for the new year as a family. Earlier I’d had the kids write theirs down.

(And yes, in case you’re wondering…those ARE Beaver Nuggets they’re eating—a belated Christmas gift from friends who know us too well. I figure if I’m going to require them to do this, I might as well make the task as pleasant as possible.)

As always, I learned some things from my kiddos through this experience. I loved hearing them talk about the things they wanted to work on!

Here’s what Addy came up with. (Gotta love the “try” on #5.)

These were Connor’s:

(The last one is my favorite. This is my shy guy.)

I didn’t take a picture of Chandler’s resolutions, but I’ll tell you right now that they blew me away. He went crazy and wrote two full pages of goals to work toward, and after he read them to us Troy and I just sat there for a while, jaws dropped. (How could my 16-year-old’s goals make mine look so piddly?) Here are just a few examples from his list:

Take criticism with a good attitude, and use it to improve myself.

Do jobs until they’re done.¬†

Develop a servant’s heart.

Try to see the good in “bad” situations.

Try to see good in every person, especially those who are hard to get along with.

Be a good example to everyone.

Use my time wisely.

Apply Sunday’s sermons throughout the whole week.

Be friendlier and more outgoing.

Use better manners.

Think before I speak. 

Treat everyone with respect.

Enjoy each day.

Don’t take anything for granted.

Yeah…maybe I should ditch my goals and just copy his. I’d be a better person; that’s for sure!

So, are you working hard on your resolutions so far? My friend Lisa and I agreed to go over ours together once a week to help each other be accountable in the areas where we’re trying to improve. ¬†It’s nice to know someone else is praying for your success!

Remember, if you haven’t set new goals yet, it’s not too late! (And feel free to share them in the comments. Hint. Wink. Nudge.)

Thanks for stopping by.

Angry birds, happy kids

It was Christmas Eve morning and I wanted to make a special brunch for the kiddos. My friend, Angela, had posted a picture on Facebook that morning of some cute pancakes she’d decorated with whipped cream. Alas, I didn’t have a bit of whipped cream in the house, and there was NO WAY I was going to the store on Christmas Eve.

But I headed to the pantry to explore my options, and found that I DID have a few chocolate chips…and some Oreos (Could they work?)…and some orange slice candy which we’ve NEVER had in our house before but which had found their way into my daughter’s stocking this year and would be just perfect to use on this project. So I went with what I had, and this is what I came up with:

Angry Birds Pancakes

Pin It

Before I went up to call the kids, I turned on the game on my phone and turned the music up really loud. Then I ran upstairs, screaming, “What’s that? What IS that noise?” The kids ran down to help me investigate, and their big eyes and the smiles on their faces (even the teenagers!) when they saw their brunch made it worth every bit of my effort.

P.S. My husband said they looked more like angry chickens, and I have to agree with him…but the kids knew what it was SUPPOSED to be and they were happy, so my goal was met.

Thanks for stopping by!

The sweetest little Santa

Now that we’ve already given it away, I can show you what I helped my youngest daughter make for her grandparents for Christmas this year:

We started with a small wooden frame we already had on hand, and painted it black (with acrylic paint and a sponge brush).

Then the fun part: I painted Remi’s hand, much to her delight, and had her press it onto white cardstock.

This is how the finished product looked:

Pin It

I got the idea here, and as usual I adapted it some. (I added the googly eyes and the sequins on the tip of the hat; I let Remi draw the smile herself; and I did NOT use glitter. I assume there’s no explanation needed for that little modification.)

I love how it turned out…so much that I had her make another one for our family. I’m excited about the thought of pulling it out to display each Christmas and remembering how tiny those chubby hands were this year.

Thanks for stopping by!

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