Monday, October 24, 2011

Creative Pumpkins

As Halloween approaches many people carve jack-o-lanterns.  Most of us stick with simple and easy designs like the traditional one seen here above.  However, there are quite a number of very talented pumpkin carvers out there. I can't imagine how long it took to learn how to do this! Take a look at a few that I found...

Life is Too Short.....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

25 Great Fall Activities To Do With Your Kids

  1. Take your kids for a walk to gather colorful leaves
  2. Use those leaves to make a collage
  3. Go apple picking
  4. Go pumpkin picking
  5. Go on a hay ride
  6. Carve or paint a pumpkin
  7. Bake an apple pie together
  8. Bake a pumpkin pie together
  9. Make apple sauce together
  10. Build a scarecrow - stuff crumpled newspaper and straw into and old pair of pants and a shirt (tie off the feet and sleeves, stuff an old pillowcase for the head and paint on a face add a hat, gloves and old boots for a finished look and prop him up in a chair on the front stoop.  
  11. Visit a corn maze
  12. Make leaf magnets by tracing colorful leaves onto colored paper, laminating and attaching magnets to the back
  13. Make a photo and leaf collage and laminate for personalized placemats
  14. Make leaf rubbings
  15. Help your child make a cornucopia to decorate your table
  16. Teach math skills by measuring, describing and weighing your apples and pumpkins to see which is the tallest, roundest, heaviest etc.
  17. Take your family for a bike ride or hike through the park talk about the seasonal  changes from the last time you were there
  18. Make caramel apples
  19. Rake a maze into the leaves that have fallen onto your lawn
  20. Rake a huge pile of leaves to jump into
  21. Collect 5 different leaves and have your kids research what kind of leaves they are using guide books or the computer.
  22. Look for fall festivals or Oktoberfests in your area and take a family outing.
  23. Make a leaf mobile
  24. Have a fall scavenger hunt give the kids pictures of leaves that they have to try to find outside in the yard
  25. Make bird feeders – find pine cones and tie a string to them, coat them with peanut butter and roll them in a bird seed mix -  hang them from the trees outside your window and watch the different birds that come to eat.  
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The weather gets just a little cooler, the leaves start to change color and it's time to go apple picking!  When ever we go to pick apples we end up bringing home several bushels worth.  That's when all the really good recipes come out for things like homemade apple butter, apple pie, apple and chicken,  etc.  With these recipes in mind I thought I would share a few with you that I found on   Hope you like them as much as I do!

 Gourmet | November 2006

Raisins steeped in dark rum mingle with tart and sweet apples in this updated version of an American favorite. It's a showstopper when paired with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings
Active Time: 35 min
Total Time: 4 1/4 hr
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 medium apples, ranging from sweet to tart (2 1/2 lb)
Pastry dough for a double-crust > pie
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons milk
1 tablespoon sanding sugar
Bring rum with raisins to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, 1 hour.
Put oven rack in middle position with a large heavy baking sheet on rack and preheat oven to 425°F.
Rub together brown sugar, flour, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt with your fingers in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Peel and core apples, then cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges and add to sugar mixture, tossing gently to coat. Add raisins with any liquid and toss until combined.
Roll out larger piece of dough into a 13-inch round (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate (4-cup capacity) and trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top crust.
Roll out smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round.
Spoon filling evenly into shell, then dot top with butter. Brush pastry overhang with some of milk, then cover pie with pastry round. Trim pastry flush with edge of pie plate using kitchen shears, then press edges together and crimp decoratively.
Lightly brush top of pie with some of remaining milk and sprinkle all over with sanding sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a small sharp knife.
Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes more. Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.

Cooks' notes:
•To achieve an ideal balance of tart and sweet apples, we used 2 Golden Delicious or Gala, 2 Winesap or Granny Smith, and 2 McIntosh or Northern Spy (you'll need 6 apples total).
•Raisins can be soaked in rum 1 day ahead, cooled completely, and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
•Pie can be made 8 hours ahead and kept, uncovered, at room temperature.

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Yield: Makes 6 servings
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour
For stuffing
1 Granny Smith apple
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 celery ribs, sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick
1/2 cup coarse fresh rye bread crumbs (with or without seeds)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons dried currants
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For chicken and pan sauce
6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (2 lb)
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup unfiltered apple cider
1 cup chicken broth
Make stuffing:
Peel and core apple and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Melt butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté caraway seeds, stirring, 1 minute. Add onion and sauté, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add apple and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining stuffing ingredients. Cool stuffing completely.

Stuff chicken:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Pat chicken dry and arrange, skinned sides down, on a work surface. Remove tender (fillet strip on side where breast bone was) from each breast half if attached and reserve for another use.

Cut a pocket in each breast half:
Beginning at center of thicker end of breast, insert a small knife horizontally, stopping about 1 inch from opposite end. Open incision with your fingers to create a 1-inch-wide pocket. Pack one sixth of stuffing into each pocket.

Cook chicken:
Pat chicken dry and season with salt. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken in 2 batches, about 2 minutes on each side, transferring to a small roasting pan as browned (reserve skillet).
Roast chicken in middle of oven until just cooked through, 14 to 16 minutes.
While chicken is roasting, stir flour into fat remaining in skillet and cook roux over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in cider and broth and bring to a boil, whisking, then boil, whisking occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 1 cup, about 8 minutes.
Let chicken stand 5 minutes, then cut each breast half diagonally into thirds. Add any juices from roasting pan and salt and pepper to taste to sauce and spoon over chicken.

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Epicurious | © 2001
by Eleanor Topp and Margaret Howard
The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving
This fruit butter makes a quick dessert. It's also a great snack on bread or toast. We use it in a low-fat recipe for a moist and chunky apple butter spice cake. We have found preserving in half-pint (250 mL) jars convenient, since that recipe calls for that amount of apple butter. But if you use larger jars, you'll have lots left for other uses.
Yield: Makes 7 cups (1.75 L)
2 pounds (1 kg) McIntosh apples, peeled and cored (6 large apples)
2 pounds (1 kg) Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored (4 large apples)
1 cup (250 mL) apple cider
2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (25 mL) lemon juice
1. Cut McIntosh apples into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces. Cut Granny Smith apples into smaller dice.
2. Combine apples and cider in a very large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half.
3. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and boil gently for about 25 minutes or until mixture is very thick. There should still be some tender apple chunks remaining. Remove from heat.
4. Ladle into sterilized jars and process as directed for Shorter Time Processing Procedure .

Variation: Spiced Apple Butter
Add 2 tsp (10 mL) ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) each ground cloves and allspice with the sugar.

Kitchen Tips:
• This recipe uses a mix of two varieties of apples for greater flavor. "If these types are not available in your area, go for what's fresh and local," says Topp. "This might change the texture of the butter slightly, but starting with quality fruit is the most important thing."
• "This sweet spread does not need to be processed as long as a relish or pickle recipe," says Topp. "The sugar does most of the preserving — you just need to briefly boil the jars to kill off any contaminants that might have gotten in during filling."

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is Cursive Writing No Longer Needed?

I just read an interesting article that talks about whether using class time to teach cursive writing in a digital age is really a necessity.  The basic feeling in the article is that teaching cursive writing is a waste of time, which could be better used teaching kids typing skills or other 21st century skills.  The worry however was that kids would grow up not knowing how to read cursive or even how to sign their own names. 

While I can see their point that it may not be needed as much as in the past, it does still have a purpose.  It helps kids learn to focus and pay attention to details and build fine motor skills.  In addition,  I can't help but think of the many kids out there whose families can't afford to buy the latest gadgets and won't be able to keep up. If we eliminate writing skills will be automatically be excluding those kids?  

What do you think about this?  Do we still need cursive writing taught in schools or has it become obsolete?  What other subjects do you think need to be eliminated or added? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Diagnosis: Children

Every mom has at one point or another has had days like the one depicted in the comic above. Maybe you didn't sleep well, perhaps you are fighting a headache or a cold or have lots of stress from work and the kids have been, screaming, fighting, whining, climbing, talking back etc. and basically making you wonder if you are losing your mind.  Days like this make it very difficult to feel like the calm rational person you usually are.  We have all been there.  

On days like this I find that my patience runs thin and I have a tendency to be grouchy and yell a lot.   It feels like a constant downward spiral.  But how do you get it to stop?  For me, I find that no matter what is going on around me I need to give my self at least a 5 minute breather from it all.  More would be nice but not always practical or feasible.  So as long as the kids are safe,  I step outside by myself for a few minutes of quiet so that I can finally hear myself think.  It gives me a chance to regroup and plan a strategy on how to deal with things.  

Kids, just like adults, often get irritable when tired or hungry.  Kids need to eat at fairly regular times so if it is between meals I try offering them a healthy snack and make a mental note to send them to bed a little earlier that evening.  I have also found that no matter how whiny the kids are or how much fighting they are doing, if I change their location things calm down for a while,  so I take the kids for a walk outside or drive to the store with them.  Giving the kids art projects to work on  or a job in the house to help you out with are other great ways to put a stop to the madness.  It gives them something else to focus on other than each other.  Anything to put a stop to the out of control momentum that is ruining the day.  

Another important way to break this cycle is to be sure to be taking care of yourself too.  Eat regularly, try to get a decent amount of sleep and exercise.  I'm sure we all love our kids but without any time to ourselves we are just not good parents.  We all need "me" time.  It is how we regain perspective on our lives and recharge our energies.  So be sure to schedule time just for yourself where you can be kid free even for 1/2 an hour although more would be ideal.  If you don't have someone to help pitch in and babysit for a while then at least get up early or stay up a little later after the kids go to sleep to have some much needed "me" time.  Read a book,  do your nails,  work on a hobby, watch some TV ... what ever helps you recharge your batteries so that you can be a better parent.  You deserve it and so do your kids.  

So what do you do? How do you recharge yourself?  What helps you gain that much needed centering amid all the chaos our wonderful  kids bring to our lives? 

Facebook Comics

For those of you who are on Facebook these should make you smile 

Have a great day!

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Really Unique Shoes

As I was searching online for new shoes I came across some very unique ones that I thought I would share with you. I can't help but wonder if anyone would really wear these...Would you?  Could you? Which is your favorite?

These would certainly be interesting but I think not easy to walk in for long periods of time.

I can just picture all the double takes people would have with these :)

These are really fun, I would love to walk through a preschool in 
these just to see how quickly they would get noticed by the kids. 

I wonder if the tail wags?  Wouldn't that be extra cute?

These are really cool shoes with no sole to them. I think I may try these.

I wonder how much traction banana peal shoes have ...

I can't help but wonder how comfortable these really are.  
I wonder if they are heavy?

OK these are kind of cute.  I might try these out. 

Hmmm   I would try these but I'm not too sure it would be 
easy to learn to walk in them.  I could see myself falling easily...

Looks extremely painful.  That curved silver spike is scary looking...

These are really cute I could see these possibly with a little black dress.

Um,  hmm,  not really for me. Would you wear these?