Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gingerbread Pudding Cake

I made this dessert Sunday evening, after digging through my old recipe box for something winter-y.  It was very satisfying, and filled my need for gingerbread and caramel sauce all at once.  I can't give credit for this one, as it is one of those old cards that's been in the box for over a decade.

Gingerbread Pudding Cake:

Mix together:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream together:
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar

In a mixing cup mix together:
1 cup molasses
1 cup water.

Alternately mix the creamed butter and the molasses water into the dry mixture.  Spread in 13x9 inch pan.  Sprinkle with 3/4 cup brown sugar.  Pour 1 1/2 cup hot water mixed with 1/3 cup melted butter over batter.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40-55 minutes or until tests done.  Serve warm.  Cake will rise to the top and sauce will be on the bottom.

I like it with good vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

12 Days of Christmas Ring and Run

It's that time of year again, time to plan the annual Christmas Ring and Run.  We've done this for the last two years in a row, and it's lots of fun to ding dong ditch and run like the wind!  Here's the list that our family uses, there's lots of variations out there on the wide world of web.

ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…a partridge in a pear tree. Sorry, but we can’t find the partridge, so we are giving you some pears from the tree the partridge flew away from. (attach to a can of pears)
ON THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…two turtle doves…but don’t’ have any…will candy turtles with a bar of Dove soap do? (attach note to a box or plate of caramel turtles w/ a boxed bar of Dove soap.)
ON THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…three French hens…well, we don’t have any French hens, so we’re giving you some chicken noodle soup, compliments of the three French hens. (attach to can of chicken noodle soup).
ON THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…four calling birds…we can’t find those calling birds though! Here are 4 messages they left for you before they flew off! (attach to 4 messages describing what a wonderful person they are)
ON THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…five golden rings, but sorry, we’re too poor for golden rings, but will some golden pineapple rings do? (attach to can of pineapple rings)
ON THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…six geese a laying, but we know you don’t really want the mess of six geese all over your house, do you? How about some eggs that they left behind! (attach to a half dozen eggs)
ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…seven swans a swimming! OK, we looked for the swans, but couldn’t find them, but we did find some bubble bath they used while they were swimming! (attach to bottle of bubble bath)
ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…eight maids a-milking. Here is some milk we got from the eight maids — we think they must have been milking some brown cows! (attach to a container of chocolate milk)
ON THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…nine ladies dancing…Here are some canes used by the nine ladies who were out dancing all night! (attach to a nine candy canes)
ON THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: your true love gave to you…ten lords-a-leapin’ – here is some “Ben Gay”, which is highly recommended by the ten Lords we saw out jumping around. (attach to a package of Ben Gay rubbing lotion)
ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…eleven pipers piping, so here is a pipe of your own, have fun with it, but don’t “blow” the whole day! (attach to a bubble pipe and bubble solution)
ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…twelve drummers drumming, but we figured twelve drummers drumming would take up way too much room, so we drummed up some cookies for you…hope they keep this from being just another hum-”drum” day for you! (attach to a plate of cookies)

We have adapted this list a bit.  For example, on the first day, I always start scouting for a little inexpensive bird ornament and buy some nice real pears instead of canned ones.  On day two I send along chocolate Dove candy and chocolate Turtles.  For the five golden rings, we like to use the big candy Ring Pops.  For day ten, really, who wants to get Ben Gay?  I can't remember what I substituted last year, but I know I didn't send along any Ben Gay or Rub-A535.  Anyway, this is lots of fun, it's a challenge to not get caught twelve days in a row.  Remember to start on December 13th!

Tips - Grandma's Apron

I am wearing an apron right now.  Are you?  I wear aprons every day, because I have learned the hard way the importance of protecting my clothes.  A girl I work with knows this about me, and she brought in a copy of this little story about Grandma's Apron that I thought I'd share with you today.

Grandma's Apron
I don't think our kids know what an apron is.
The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears…
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.
From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.
After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.
In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.
When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men-folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.
Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.
Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.
They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.
I never caught anything from an apron…But Love. (Author Unknown)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In the spirit of 'Keepin' It Real'

In the spirit of 'Keepin' It Real", here's a little confession.  Last time (ok, the last two times) we had a big Cub ceremony where the boys had to wear their sashes, I stapled Josh's badges on to his sash.  *Blush* 

I'd do it again, too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Carving Angels - Review

My friend, Diane, wrote this wonderful book.  I have been looking forward to reading it for quite a while, and it's turn finally came.  (Sometime I'll take a picture of the 'to be read' pile that's often on my bedside table.)

Carving Angels is a sweet Christmas tale about a retired elf named Papa Adam.  Papa Adam was once the chief woodcarver at Santa's workshop, but lost his vision, retired, and has been living a quiet life.  His little granddaughter brings him a piece of wood one day, and challenges him to pick up his tools once again, despite his handicap.  The two embark on a wonderful journey of discovery that leads them to save Christmas.

This is a lovely story, and Papa Adam's tale of rediscovering his talents and finding out that he still has something to contribute was very inspiring.  I work with senior citizens, and so I recognized the sadness and frustration that Papa Adam felt at feeling like he no longer had a purpose.  Everyone needs to have something to work at, and a reason to get up in the morning. 

Diane, thanks for writing this beautiful story of faith and courage in overcoming obstacles!

Check out Diane's delightful blog at On The Border.

The Backyard Visitors

Now that winter has truly set in, it's time to focus on the visitors that come to our back yard when it's cold and snowy.  Here's a sweet little chickadee hanging out in the birdfeeder.

Another visit this week was a sassy bluejay who was enjoying the suet hanger.  I made my own suet bird concoction this weekend.  We had houseguests and I cooked a shocking amount of bacon.  I won't tell you how much, it's just wrong.  As my friend Stacey and I were staring at the prodigious amount of bacon grease waiting to be disposed of, I remembered something I had read in one of the boys Cub books recently.  Little birds need the fat from suet or bacon grease in our cold Canadian winters.  I grabbed a bowl, the grease and a big bag of birdseed, and added enough birdseed to the bacon fat to make something that looked like a seed muffin mix.  I spooned the mix into four muffin tin papers, and popped them in the fridge to cool.  Voila, little chilled suet balls, waiting to be used.  I put one on the birdfeeder a couple of days ago, and yesterday I saw a little chickadee picking away at it, so it was successful!  I hope he has a good cardiologist.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Hiatus

I know, I know, this is turning out to be like how I used to write in my diary every so often, "Dear Diary, sorry I haven't written in a while, I promise to......."  Then six months later, "Dear Diary, see previous entry...."

Things have been wild around here lately, partly due to some stupid overscheduling on my part.  Family comes first, so my number one concern has been hot meals on the table and clean socks and underwear in people's dresser drawers.  And towels and toilet paper in the bathrooms. 

Another concern for me lately has been a blogging identity crisis, which culminated while reading a post on Middle-Aged Mormon Man last night about special blogging awards. Read it if you dare. Scott has been expressing concern that I am presenting an image of our family that is unrealistic and misleading.  We also have had a couple of special lessons in Relief Society (that even spilled over to EQ and HPG!) on perfectionism and depression in women.  Plus as I was laying in bed this morning fretting over writing Christmas cards, I kept thinking over the dreaded Christmas newsletters I will start receiving in the mail soon.  You know the ones, with the perfect family picture and the perfect list of things the perfect family has done throughout the perfect year they've had.  (Not that I'm not happy for my friends and pleased for their accomplishments, I am.)

As I do every year, I contemplated what would happen if people sent out a brutally honest Christmas newsletter.  "Mommy gained another ten pounds this year after spending $500 dollars in January on a gym membership and only going once.  She's decided to cut back on her chocolate consumption, and will eat only one family sized dairy milk bar a day instead of two.  Billy will be starting kindergarten in September, and everyone has their fingers crossed he will be potty trained by then.  Jane has brought her marks up considerably this year, and teacher says she may make it to the sixth grade after all.  Baby has taken up biting other children now that she has teeth.  And Alice has a new piercing and tattoo as you can see from the picture above....."

My point is, I know that one of the dangers of blogging and following other people's blogs is that terrible thing that happens with women.  We compare ourselves at our worst to other people at their best.  And we only present our best on our blogs.  It's like when I sit in RS on Sundays and look at my rough, work worn hands and look down the aisle at the other sisters with their beautiful manicures.  Instead of listening to the lesson, I might add.  The same thing happens when I view others blogs and see the amazing things people do with their talents.  (Another reason I've been avoiding Pinterest, actually.)

This does not mean that I am going to post about indiscretions or show pictures of how bad a certain someone's bedroom really gets, if I could only open the door in the first place.  I don't believe in airing dirty laundry, literally and figuratively.  I'm just going to try to figure out a way to blog in a realistic manner that is more reflective of what really goes on in the four walls of our house.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FYI - Badge Placement on new Scouts Canada Cub Uniforms

While checking stats on my two blogs, I noticed a lot of people are looking for information on where to put the badges on the new Scouts Canada uniforms.  I for one am thrilled with my new red Leaders uniform, I love it!  And Josh is so pleased with the comfort of his new grey Cub shirt.  Our Akela, Carole Hudson, has a great website for our pack, and you can find all the information about badge placement right there at your fingertips, along with lots of other cool Scouting stuff.  Here's the link:  Carole's Cub Page.  Happy Hunting!

Dusting the computer/tv screen

About two years ago while I was at work at the senior's centre, one of the administrators, Cecile, passed on this handy tip for repelling dust from computer screens and televisions.  She said that she dusts her screens with dryer sheets, like Bounce, and that the fabric softener actually keeps dust from landing on the screens.  Nothing gets dustier faster than those electronic devices, so this is indeed a handy tip.  Thanks, Cecile!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Date Night for Parents with Small Children

Many years ago when our children were very small, I remember hearing the counsel to have a weekly date with my sweetheart, and thinking, 'Right, get a babysitter once a week, that's not going to happen!'  We occasionally did get a sitter for a rare night out, but mostly Friday night was a stay at home affair, especially if it was a year when there was a new baby in the family.  Nowadays things are different, and Scott and I do go out on a date once a week, but our children are much older now and we have built in babysitters.  In fact, our youngest is not far away from being able to babysit other people's children. 

While we were not always inclined or able to get a babysitter when our children were younger, we did try and have a date together one night a week.  Because our children went to bed very early, we took advantage of that evening time and planned a little activity for ourselves.  Whether it was renting a movie and getting a treat, or having a picnic in front of the fireplace, we still tried to make time for ourselves as a couple.  I'm afraid I was usually too tired to be very creative, hopefully all the young mothers out there can be more imaginative than I was! 

After twenty years of marriage, I am very glad that we have made the time over the years to date each other.  It certainly helps in strengthening a marriage, and it's important for children to see that their parents are in love. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Musings

                             A neighbor hood ghost swinging between two trees. 

          A bunch of trick or treaters waiting to hit the streets and fill their bags with treats.

This year we had a great Halloween, mainly because it was above zero and there was no snow!  My two boys and their friends spent the evening collecting candy, and then came back to our place for some hot chocolate.  Some even went out for a second go round.  Two smart ones looked at their haul and felt they had more than enough to last for a long time, and stayed back to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

We don't get a lot of trick or treaters at our house, people seem to go to the newer subdivisions.  The houses are closer together and make for faster candy collection, I guess.  I still like to carve pumpkins with the children and put up some not so scary decorations.  We even play a little Halloween music for the ones that do come to our door. 

I know there's always a big debate about Halloween.  In our ward the discussion often centres on whether or not to hold a trunk or treat party.  (Let me 'splain.  No, there is no time.  Let me sum up.)  Basically a church party held in the chapel parking lot on activity night.  Kids dress up in their costumes, adults decorate the trunk of their car, and then hand out candy to the kids as they make the loop of the parking lot.  Traditionally this is held on years when Halloween falls on a Sunday, like last year.  This year it was decided to hold it again, which meant two rounds of trick or treating for all the children in our ward.  I participated with my family, especially since my two teenagers were helping to plan some indoor activities for the younger children.  However, I have reservations.  Mainly, if we have two trick or treat events a Halloween, then the kids will feel gypped on a year when it falls on Sunday.  Also, nobody needs that much candy.  And finally, two big batches of Halloween candy are not cheap, and ward events should never make it financially stressful on families that might be struggling.  So there, I have weighed in on the issue of the Annual Trunk or Treat.

My next problem with Halloween is this:  Halloween seems to have crossed the line from slightly spooky to genuinely disturbing.  I went into a local store called the Spirit of Halloween, and I was not impressed with the display of zombie babies, squishy baby heads, corpses and other really gross things.  I think that Halloween was for kids when I was a little girl, and seems to have ventured into the adult zone in later years.  Plus, the costumes for women and girls are really demeaning.  There was a line of costumes for girls 4-8 in another store marketed as Little Divas, and they were very suggestive.  Not to mention what is available for teenagers and grown women.  My daughter had a really hard time finding an appropriate costume, and ended up going as a rag doll.  She was very cute, and covered up.  Not to mention the fact that we live in Northern Canada, so why would you wear a costume that is appropriate for Miami Beach. 

That`s it.  That`s all I have to say on Halloween.  It`s gone from a night where you carved a pumpkin and raided your mother`s closet for a costume, to a major commercial enterprise that seems to rival Christmas for outdoor decorations, while pushing the boundaries of good taste. ( Plus I miss the days when you`d get homemade fudge, caramel apples and popcorn balls.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Whoopie Pies

My mother used to make this special lunch box treat when I was a little girl.  Whenever I'd open my orange Scooby-Doo lunch box and see this little treasure inside I'd give a big 'Woohoo!'.  My sister used them as a serious barter item, and traded her way to some store bought treats that we'd never see otherwise.  I've noticed that whoopie pies seem to be having some sort of comeback lately, so I thought I'd dig out this oldy but goody.

Whoopie PIes

1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and mix well.  Add milk and vanilla and mix well.  Combine remaining dry ingredients, add.  Drop from tablespoon on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 9 minutes.  Cool and frost.

My mum used to just frost the top.  You can take two whoopie pies and sandwich them together with frosting, which would be yummy as well.  These are very dark chocolate, and can be a little dry.  If your batter seems too dry add a little more milk.  Don't overbake them!  If your oven is hot bake at a slightly lower temperature.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How cheap can she get? Re-using Vacuum Cleaner Bags

A very sad event happened this Saturday afternoon.  After a busy week, Hurricane Jen was flying through the house cleaning everything I could get my hands on.  After vacuuming the upstairs, I dragged my faithful old vacuum cleaner to take care of the back step and stairs.  I plugged in the vacuum cleaner, and nothing happened.  Wiggling the cord caused occasional bursts of engine activity, but after quite a while I came to the conclusion that there was no hope, it had finally bit the dust.  Just so you know, it's several years old, getting very temperamental, and yes, duct tape is involved.  In other words, there is no shame for this machine finally giving up the ghost.  Which meant date night involved shopping for a replacement.  Sigh. 

This led me to reflect on how cheap I really am.  Actually, I prefer the word frugal.  Did you know that you can re-use vacuum cleaner bags?  My friend Laurel told me about this many years ago.  All you have to do is take the vacuum cleaner bag out, have a garbage bag of some sort nearby, and be prepared to sneeze.  Place the bag inside the garbage bag, and start shaking and grabbing and pulling all the blech out of the bag.  It's dusty, it's nasty, and I hate doing it, but it works.  Soon you will have an empty bag, ready to be re-used.  There are limitations to how often you can re-use a vacuum cleaner bag.  They will eventually start to tear or come apart.  Then it's time to break out a new bag.  There, true confessions is now over.  My name is Jen, and I re-use vacuum cleaner bags......