Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Game of Budgeting

I made this game for my Activity Day girls (8-11 year olds) and it was a lot of fun! We had a lesson about tithing and budgeting and followed it up with this game. We had 14 girls that night and split them into two equal teams. Here is how the lesson was broken down:

Theme: Tithing and budgeting
Source: For the Strength of Youth booklet pgs 38-39
Faith in God goal: Developing Talents #1
Lesson: We talked about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of paying tithing. We talked about where tithing goes, why we pay tithing, how to fill out a tithing sheet, and we read a story about tithing blessing people's temporal needs because that concept was confusing to them. We talked about the blessings that come through tithing and I shared a personal experience about how I have been blessed and I bore my testimony about the blessings of paying our tithing.
Game:
The Game of Budgeting!
So there are three sets of cards- blue is jobs, yellow is pay, and red is earn. We had the two teams make up a family name (i.e. Smiths). The first person took a turn and drew a blue card to find their job and salary. Then they had a choice to pay their tithing. The tithing road had fewer spots. We then would take away 10% of what they had and kept going. Each person would roll the dice and either take a red or yellow card depending on where they landed.


If they landed on an "e" space then would draw a earn card and if they landed on a "p" they would draw a pay card. They had to stop at each corner and pay or earn for that spot. The first spot was $30 for groceries, the second was $150 for bills, and the third was the bank. The bank was where you would roll again and if you got an even you would get $50 out of the bank and if you rolled an odd it would be $50 into the bank. When they got back to pay day they drew a new job/salary.


Afterward we talked about how even if you pay your tithing you will still have unexpected expenses and stress of not having enough money but you burdens will be lightened through the blessings of paying tithing.

The jobs were:
Teacher- $300
Mailman- $275
Daycare Worker- $250
Chef- $275
Hairstylist- $225
Scientist- $400
Clothing Store Cashier- $225
Secretary- $250
Photographer- $250
Firefighter- $300
Computer Engineer- $350
Doctor- $350

The Earns:
Babysit for nieces and nephews- $20
Make some jewelry for friends- $30
Return some clothes you got as a present- $15
Find money on the sidewalk. After trying to find the owner you get to keep #10
Dogsit for neighbor- $20
Lemonade stand on hot day- $15
Babysit for friend's 2 kids- $30
Happy Birthday! It's your birthday. Your grandma sends you $20
Have a yard sale. Sell your used junk! $40
Sell cookies at bake sale- $15
Find money in wallet $10
Sell some old books on eBay. Goodbye, Good Night Moon, Hello, $5.

The pays:
Cell phone bills $30
Forgot to bring lunch to work $15
Out to ice cream $10
Sick! Go to the doctor $30
Need new shirts $20
Out to eat $10
Fill up car with gas $40
Need milk at grocery store $5
Girls Scout cookies. Yum! $10
Stay up law watching infomercials. Decide to buy $20
Throw party for friend $40
Amusement park fun with your family $30

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ultimate Cheesy Potato Recipe

This recipe is a staple at my husband aunt's house. I'd say she serves it 7 out of 10 times when she has company over. I finally made it myself and found out it's super easy!


Ingredients;
1 bag of hash browns, cubed (the Southern Style hash brown)
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz sour cream
8 oz mild cheddar cheese, grated (or more!), divided
Pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan. Mix  soup, sour cream, pepper and half of the cheese together in a bowl. Add hash browns and stir. Pour into pan and cover with the remaining cheese. Bake for one hour.


Tip: It's ok for the hash browns to be frozen when you cook this dish but if they are a thawed a bit, it's easier to mix up. 

These are great with dinner, but I also ate the leftovers with breakfast and they totally work!

Next time you're asked to bring a side, I suggest these!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Another sweater!

Since I was on a finishing kick, I decided to finish a sweater I've been working on for my son for a long time. Fortunately, I made it a couple sizes to big for him when I started, anticipating spending too long to finish. Two and a half years, in case you're wondering—and yes, it fits him! I went ahead and made the button bands pretty wide just in case, and it seems to fit him pretty well.

In addition to recently finishing my husband's sweater, I wanted to get this done because the weather is still cool in the morning, but my son doesn't have a lightweight jacket to wear in the mornings and take off in the afternoons. So two weeks ago, I finally finished!



The buttons look a little off-center here. I wonder if you have to make buttonholes off-center for them to look centered.

The pattern: Hallows Cardigan by Melissa Metzbower. I knit the actual pieces of the sweater probably two years ago, but as I recall, it was pretty easy! One thing I found interesting about the pattern was that there's no armhole shaping, they're just square. However, the fit seems fine.

The yarn: Joann Sensations Kashmira I have to confess, I picked this yarn because the yarn name is similar to a Led Zeppelin song ("Kashmir") It wasn't anything remarkable to work with, but nothing to complain about.

My project on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/MamaBlogga/hallows-cardigan

The recipient: He loves it! The week after I gave it to him, his class watched a segment from the TV show Arthur where they talked about knitting (it was supposed to be about perspective & point-of-view). He became the class sensation and asked me to teach him to knit. Apparently the fact that it took me 2.5 years to finish this didn't set in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Banana Pudding Cookies

I know I've mentioned her before but my awesome friend Megan is an amazing cook. She found this recipe and tweaked it to perfection! We made these recently and wow they are amazing!

Megan's Banana Pudding Cookies

1 c. butter--softened to room temperature (STAY AWAY from the microwave!)
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 c. flour
1 (3.4 oz) package of dry Instant Banana Pudding mix
1 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
5 graham crackers--broken into small pieces, NOT crushed OR use Vanilla wafers broken into pieces

Cream together butter and sugars using the paddle attachment on your mixer. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until fluffy again. In a separate bowl, combine salt, soda, flour, and pudding mix, then add slowly to wet ingredients (do not over mix). I toss the chocolate chips and graham crackers in just after I finish dumping the flour mix in, then, viola, cookie dough.

I use my cookie scoop to put cookies on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-9 minutes, until they are barely turning golden brown around the edges. DO NOT over bake.



Go try them out!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to Host Your Own Trivia Night

If you've been a reader of WGC for several years, you'll know I have thrown a Valentine's Day party for the past 2 years. 2012 and 2013.  2014 was year 3 and I came up with a really fun theme: Stupid Cupid Trivia Night! A trivia night is a really fun way to have everyone involved in an activity and it can be done any time of year or for a fun birthday party. We had 25 people attend the party and it was a good number. Here's how we did it:

1. Break up into three groups. Give each group a nose maker of some kind, like a buzzer, bell or clapping hands. It's best if they are different sounds so you know which team rang in first. 


2. Have the host introduce the game and categories. My friend, Jessica, hosted and read all the questions. She did really well! We did a Jeopardy style game where anyone on the team could ring in with the answer. To help, we plugged my laptop into the TV so players could also read the question. 

3. Some of the questions were actually team challenges. For example, each team was given a Barbie to dress up like cupid using only things they had on their person in 2 minutes. The best cupid was given the points for that question. It was a fun way to break things up. 


4. After two rounds, the team with the most points was the only one who could participate in the Final Jeopardy round. They wagered what they wanted and then wrote down their answer for the question. The winner got caramels from Trader Joe's and movie passes!

We also gave out painted ceramic measuring bowls for the best dish and Trader Joe's candies to the best dressed (the one wearing the most hearts!). It was a really fun night. 

We made the Jeopardy board using Jeopardylabs.com which made everything MUCH easier. It keeps track of your points and has all the answers. Here's one of the boards we used--it has a cupid theme to it: Stupid Cupid Trivia Board Round 1

Monday, May 19, 2014

Two fast shoe makeovers!

I had a big writers conference a few weeks ago. Naturally, I don't have 51 other weeks of the year to prepare, so I found myself shopping & making over my wardrobe for those few days in a hurry.

Fortunately, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and was able to get the supplies together quickly, so I got them done in time.

Makeover 1
Before shot!

You might remember this picture from the last time I refashioned these shoes. The color did fade quite a bit when I finally rinsed them out, but I really decided to refashion them because I never wore them anymore.

First I painted the heels (fake cork) and the fabric under the toes with matte black spray paint. (Note the other pair of shoes waiting in the background.)

The uppers are fabric (most likely cotton) and I wanted to keep the fabric feel to them, so I hunted down glitter fabric paint. At first I planned to use this glitter spray fabric paint, but I decided to go with Tulip Soft Fabric Paint Glitter instead. It took five coats to get complete coverage, no joke. (Mod podge & glitter might have been better.)


The result's not bad, but there are 2 problems with this: when you turn the shoe at an angle, the blue shows through a lot, and that many layers of fabric paint make the shoe kind of . . . sticky. It doesn't stick to things as you wear them, but if you leave them touching in your closet or set them on, say, a pen, there's a sticking issue. It hasn't ripped off any paint yet, but it's a problem.

Makeover 2
Before!

When I originally dyed the first pair of shoes blue, I seriously debated making them yellow instead. It's been two years and I still wanted yellow shoes, so I decided to go for it. For these fake patent leather shoes, I picked up some glossy spray paint, Rust-Oleum American Accents Ultra Cover Gloss in Sun Yellow.

I'm so bad at spray painting, guys. It's not even funny. I tell myself, go easy, thin layers, you'll get good coverage. But then I push that button and I'm like COVER IT COVER IT COVER IT oh crap it's dripping—better make it drip everywhere MORE MORE MORE MORE and done.

Okay, it's kinda funny. Fortunately, you can't see the bubbles & unevenness in the paint unless you look closely.

To do it right, instead of how I did it:
1. DON'T PAINT ON A WINDY DAY. At the very least, it's aggravating. At the worst, you'll have vital supplies blow away and dirt and leaves stick to your wet paint.
2. Use gloves (I did do this).
3. Spray even, light layers.
4. Be sure to cover all parts of the shoes. You don't have to do the inside (I did anyway), but for open toed shoes, be sure to get the part under your toes. I also did the underside of the heels.
5. Turn the shoes to get all sides. I found holding the shoe by the inside of the heel gave a lot of control and mobility, and then I painted the heel last. While painting, keep the other shoe a safe distance away.
6. You may want to verrrry carefully move any pieces of the shoe that overlap or touch between coats so they don't get painted together.
7. Let dry an hour between coats.
8. Let dry several days to reduce the spray paint smell.
9. Keep the paint for touchups.

And after!


I love them!! The paint chipped a tiny bit and there are small drips and bubbles that *I* notice, but who is going to get down and examine my shoes that closely?

They were also a hit at the conference! I even made the #Storymakers14fashion feed with the conference co-chair:



The glitter shoes also made #storymakers14fashion, but they weren't the stars of the picture . . .

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bed Time Miracle Chart

PB is turning 3 in a few weeks and within the past few months she had gotten even more resistant to authority (I guess is how you would nicely put it). One day I had a break down and then a break through about the situation. We're still working on behavior but it has improved so much. All in all the materials cost me about $2.50.

I made her two charts. The first chart is for bed time and the second is for general obedience. These have made a huge difference in our family. Does she still procrastinate bed time and throw tantrums? Oh yes! but she is redirected easier when we reiterate expectations and remind her that choosing to follow directions has rewards.

Here are the charts I made (I posted  the charts as jpgs below so you could print them out-after personalizing of course) :

 This is obviously not a chart but this is an additional technique we started using.

For the sticker obedience chart I got a pack of stickers from the dollar store. I let PB pick them out so that she could feel excited about it. I printed the chart out on heavy card stock and got them laminate for $1.25 each at a local office supply store.

For the bed time chart I bought these dry erase crayons and they have been great. You could also use stickers or make check marks and put them on with velcro dots.

We also made a jar of warm fuzzies. When she does an unsolicited act of kindness she gets a warm fuzzy. I told her when she fills the jar she can go to the store and pick out a toy or treat. I think she needs a more concrete reward so we may buy the treat and put it on the fridge to give her a visual of what she is working for. I already had all of the supplies to make these on hand. I used a jelly jar and a mason jar with a mayo lid. I taped on the graphic below and filled the jars with little puffs that can be found at the Dollar Store.

Do you use charts or reward systems for your kids?


I did not keep track of where I got each of these clipart pictures. Sorry! If you know a source I will gladly post it. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Triple Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

For Valentine's Day, I made my first cake to put on my cake dome. I got the cake dome 7 years ago as a wedding gift so it was the perfect time for its maiden voyage. Sadly, My cake making skills were lacking and the cake kinda fell apart and there wasn't enough frosting to seal it all together. It still tasted great though! Ok, the point is, I needed to redeem myself so I took my friend, Ari's, birthday as the perfect time to do so. Ari's favorite cake is chocolate with peanut butter frosting. I went for it!



Here is the happy birthday girl




The cake was a hit and I'm grateful my dome has finally housed a very, very good cake.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What works for me: 5 last-minute meals

How was your Mother's Day? I hope it was wonderful! Mine was great!

I've been kind of burned out on menu planning for a while. Too many decisions, not enough time, and most of all, no idea what to make for dinner for one night, let alone thirty.

So we've been doing a lot of last-minute meals lately. Naturally, that's a lot harder than just planning the meals, but I still can't make myself do it. Instead, after the great advice of a friend, I've been relying heavily on the easiest meals I have, especially these five favorites.



"Mexican"

Cook corn, diced tomatoes, black beans, onions, peppers, and garlic with spices (salt, pepper, cumin, basil) to taste. Serve with lettuce, cheese and other toppings on tortillas or tortilla chips.

For some extra flavor, char the corn, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. Above, I used cubed sweet potatoes (steamed and then sauteed) and a little pineapple salsa.

Bonus: I often skip meat for this meal, and we hardly miss it. Mexican meatless Mondays ;)

Stir-fry

This is based on a recipe from How to Cook Without a Book, but it's the version I make when I don't feel like pulling out the book.

Heat oil in a wok. Add sliced onions, cooking until they're translucent. Add minced garlic, ginger and chopped meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through or browned, your preference. Remove from wok. Heat a little more oil. Add chopped vegetables like celery, peppers, carrots, (whole) snow/snap peas, or whatever else you like in a stir-fry. Cook until tender. (If you're really lazy like me, you might use canned meat, in which case, you'll cook that after the veggies.)

You can use soy sauce to season it or make a cornstarch thickened sauce, but then I start pulling out the recipes.

Serve with rice.

Breakfast

Pancakes, waffles, sausage, bacon, eggs, fruit—everything you love about breakfast, only at dinner time!

Frittata
If you've got a lot of eggs and a few other things on hand—for example, when you didn't end up making nearly as many Easter eggs as you were planning—this is a great alternative.

Again, this formula comes from How to Cook Without a Book. You can use all kinds of veggies in this, but my favorites are always ones with potatoes and diced ham or crumbled bacon.

Preheat the oven to 425. In a large, oven-safe skillet, saute the meat first (if raw), then the vegetables. (Cooked meat, like ham or bacon, is added after the veggies have begun to brown.) In a bowl, mix 8-12 eggs, up to 3/4 c cheese, salt, pepper and spices. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and let cook on the stovetop until the edges are set (about 1 min), then transfer to oven for 10-20 minutes.


Spaghetti
It's hard to go wrong with this favorite! Boil spaghetti, brown ground beef (or skip for a vegetarian meal), warm up a jar of sauce, add spices and combine them all.

If you want to go a little more homemade, saute garlic and onions in olive oil until just tender, then add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Tasty homemade sauce (via Rachael Ray & 30 Minute Meals AND How to Cook Without a Book).

What's your go-to meal when you don't know what to make?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Taking back Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a big deal. Sometimes, it's too big a deal. Mothers work hard all year long, and somehow we hope that in this one day, all that effort will be recognized with breakfast in bed, dinner made for us, dishes done, house cleaned and perfect harmony all around.

mother's day still 13


Shockingly, this dream almost never materializes for us. The breakfast is burned, the pancakes are filled with eggshells, dinner doesn't happen, we end up doing all the dishes and cleaning the entire house in a fit of martyrdom, and worst of all, the kids fly at each other and fight like roosters possessed of banshees.

I've always tried to keep my expectations low for Mother's Day. Most years, a box of See's chocolates and homemade cards are all I want, but sometimes I don't even get that—and sometimes, even holding those sweet notes (and sweet treats) isn't enough to make it feel worthwhile while the children scream and fight all around me.

I'm tired of the expectations, the dashed dreams, the hollow hope of harmony. I'm tired of focusing on me and hoping the kids will do the same, and being disappointed when—gasp!—they're the same kids they were yesterday, not bad at all, but no more obedient or kind or clean than they were last week.

So I'm taking back Mother's Day. Instead of focusing on what they can do for me and how they can make me feel appreciated, I'm going to think about what being a mother means to me. I'm planning to surprise each of them with a handwritten note on things I love about them, how I feel about being their mother, and how much I love them.

In the end, motherhood isn't about me. We mothers do work hard, but nothing our kids do (other than giving us grandkids!) can truly repay us. I hope to teach my children to be grateful more than one day a year—that's way too much pressure!—but for Mother's Day, I want to focus on what it means to be a mom to me.

What would you do to take back Mother's Day?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spice Up Your Veggies

My father- and mother-in-law used to get food from this one food truck all the time and he had great veggies so they asked how he made them. She shared the recipe with us and it is so good! I find that I have to make twice as many veggies as I used to because everyone loves them so much!

Here is how they are made:

Ingredients:
veggies (I used four squash/zucchinis in two batches that I sliced before started)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1-2 Tbsp of olive oil
1/2 Tbsp dried onions
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic


Start by heating up the oil in your pan on medium/high heat. Place the bouillon cube in to dissolve. Once that is heated up add your vegetables (see list of veggies that could work below).

Cook for around 5 minutes stirring frequently. I waited until my squash was starting to darken and get translucent. I then added the onions and garlic. Make sure you wait to add these because they will burn.


I made these last night for dinner and they were delicious! If you make them in smaller batches they cook more evenly and don't get soggy. Doesn't this look like the perfect summer meal?




Veggies that would work with this recipe:

  • Green beans- frozen works better but we have also made this recipe with canned. Just make sure to use no salt added. 
  • Asparagus
  • Squash/zucchini
  • Corn (same as green beans with the no salt added) We used butter instead of olive oil and they tasted just like roasted corn on the cob
  • Broccoli
What other vegetables do you think this would work with? 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mini Ice Box Wafer Cakes with Strawberry Whipped Cream



I just helped with a friend's baby shower. We had a lovely blue velvet cake made by the other co-host and I was in charge of another dessert. I chose to make mini ice box cakes because they are easy, cute and delicious! I'd made them once before using chocolate chip cookies and they were very good. This time I found the perfect cookie to use, Marias. They are a Mexican cookie and were next to the Digestives (European cookie). At 50 cents a sleeve, the price was right. Ice box cakes can get rich but these cookies are mild and perfect for the recipe. Any mild cookie would work. I realized why this combo works so well together, it's basically a strawberry shortcake!

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup of sugar plus a teaspoon
Splash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberries, washed and stems removed (you can use fresh or frozen) plus more for garnish
4 packs of wafer cookies (about 160 cookies)

 photo MiniWafterIceBoxCakes1_zps8ce56b85.jpg

1. Place strawberries and teaspoon of sugar in blender or food processor and process until it makes a thick, seedy liquid. Set aside

2. In a stand mixer, add cream and beat until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla. Don't overbeat, the cream should be floppy and light. 

 photo MiniWafterIceBoxCakes2_zps860d2b9f.jpg

3. While with the mixer on, pour in strawberry mixture slowly until completely incorporated. Put whipped cream into a pastry bag or large gallon bag. 

4. Place wafer on a cookie sheet. Squirt about 1 teaspoon of strawberry whipped cream onto wafer and repeat until you have a wafer tower of 4 cookies with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Repeat until you have as many wafer cakes as you desire. 

5. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight. When ready to serve, top with a sliced strawberry.

Yields: about 40 mini ice box cakes


I think I ate the most. I may have squirted some of the whipped cream in my mouth after I was done too. Don't judge


Recipe adapted from The Kitchn and The Cupcake Project

Monday, May 5, 2014

The seven-year sweetheart sweater

In the knitting world, there is a legend whispered among women over the clicking of the needles, a legend that tells of the tragic end that has befallen many a knitter. The legend has a name, murmured in fear or shouted in rage. That name is

the boyfriend curse.

For whenever you knit a sweater for a boyfriend, inevitably the relationship ends before the sweater is done.

Fortunately, I waited until we were married a few years to start a project for my husband. Of course, were that curse to befall me, I would have gotten a nice long reprieve from the curse, because my (first?) sweater for my husband took a mere seven years to complete.


The Sweater Saga

I began this sweater after Christmas 2006. I was hoping to get it done in time for his birthday at the end of January. I finished the front and the sleeves and was working on the back when his birthday came, so I surprised him with the pieces and told him my plan.

Next, I was hoping to have it done for Valentine's day. But in the intervening weeks, when I reached the armholes of the sweater back, I discovered that I'd knit 2/3s of this large piece in the wrong size. AGH. I had to take out all of that knitting—and then I needed to take some quiet time away from this sweater.

Sometime in the next few years, I pulled out the yarn and needles again and knit back to the armholes—in the right size this time, but then I put it down because I needed to find the pattern again to work the armhole shaping. A couple years later, I finally finished that piece and blocked the pieces.

Then seaming. Ugh. I hate sewing the pieces together, but I took advantage of some TV time to get this done.

Six months later, I was ready for the final step: knitting the neckband. After six long years, it was finally done! And then my husband tried it on—and the neckband looked terrible. It was like bacon neck, but standing up. It was ridiculous.

No way could I let a sweater I'd worked so hard on end up looking like that. So finally, last month, I pulled out, ripped out the neckband knitting and started over, making the neckband much tighter.

The finished product!


The pattern: Leo by Kristi Porter, from Knitty Fall 2004. I picked this pattern because it was suitably low-key. Since this was originally a surprise, I wanted to play it safe with the design. I'd fished for hints about what he liked, and I was pretty sure cables and most other design elements are out, and this is now my go-to sweater for guys who want an understated, classic look. Or guys who balk at the idea of (gasp) a stripe.

The yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Jade. I'd originally purchased this for me, but decided to use it for my husband's sweater because I'd love to see him in it!

Now we just have to wait for the weather to get cold again.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Threading a Bobbin Right

Ok so have you ever sewn something then when you finished you see a big heaping mess of thread on the underside where you started? Well this is because the bobbin hadn't been threaded all the way correctly. In order to do so first you're going to need to put it in the machine the correct way leaving it with a couple of inches of extra. This is important. Not all machines are alike so I don't really know how yours needs to be threaded!
Next with the needle threaded, turn the knobby thing until the needle goes all the way down into the machine.
Now pull it back up . You should see that the top thread has gone down into the bottom part of the feeder. Now pull the top thread's thread until the bobbin thread comes up.
 Using a seam ripper or whatever's small enough to fit under the foot, pull one side of the bobbin thread.
And pull that thread to the side. Now you won't start a sewing project with a ball of  thread around your bobbin!

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