Thursday, March 29, 2012

How cool is this for a party?  Someday when I have kids, all of their birthday parties may be Dr. Suess themed... ha ha.  This party went all out; I am highly impressed at the level of detail.

Here are a bunch of other links that "One Pretty Thing" had listed a few weeks ago for Dr. Suess ideas.  These are great. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Happy 16th birthday, little sister, Hope! I can't believe you are 16.  Thanks for being a great little baby sister.  Don't I have the most beautiful sister's (including my college sister (Michelle) and beach sister (Rachel)?

We went to see Toby Mac together.  There is a picture of us in this post.

I remember playing outside of the Taylor's house, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, when Aunt Suzanne told us that you had been born.  I am glad you were born. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Favorite toys

These are a few toys that I still love:

Erector Set
I enjoyed playing with my Dad's old set as a child and my parents bought me my own set.  I bought another set after Christmas a few years ago to add to the collection. Almost all of their old ads talk about how these are for boys.  :(

Tinker Toys
Again, I bought 2 barrels of these after Christmas a few years ago and added them to my older set.

Fisher Price Farm
Do you realize that you to find a picture of this farm, you have to type in the word "vintage"? I am not that old. I love this set. Love love love it!  I have almost all the original pieces still and I bought some extras a while ago.

These are some cool uses for K*nex. This guy has a working engine.  We used them in my engineering classes.

Lincoln Logs
We used to build towers this tall and then throw the little ones at it to knock it over... We may have scarred up the walls in my Dad's newly built addition doing this.  :)

Marble Track
I especially like these wooden ones.

How can you go wrong?

Confession: I like the idea of these.  I love magnets.  But Jared bought me the multicolored set and when I try to build thing I seem to have more of one color left over and I can't get it balanced and it frustrates me, thus, this set of my toys rarely is played with.  Plus, they are hard to put back in the case because they get stuck to each other.  When you succeed, is is beautiful, but otherwise, to me, it is irritating. 

add on
When I was at Stef's house,  I built several different variations with the tracks.  I love these. I wish Ikea was closer; on rainy days I would walk around the store.
Metal Tonka Front End Loader and Dump Truck
Oh, yes. Sarah and I owned these. They were hours of fun. We used to sit in the dump truck and push each other around. But I loved digging in the dirt with the Front end loader. Classic. Now that I think about it, Dad, who buys this kind of toy for two young daughters?!?


 Some other Ikea toys I spotted that I like:


I am sure I have forgotten something.

What are some of your favorite toys?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Baked Ziti

Jared and I rarely eat ground hamburger because ground pork, turkey, and chicken are so much cheaper and better for you.  :)  However, none of those were on sale last week and I resorted to buying regular ground beef.  Half of it went to sloopy Joes and half of it to baked ziti.  This is adapted from my Mom's recipe.  I follow it to the letter, except for I don't add in as much butter.  This recipe always makes me happy; it is a perfect comfort food.

* A box of noodles, cooked (ziti preferably)
* red sauce (or a jar of spaghetti sauce)
* 1/2 - 1 lb. hamburger, browned with onions
* 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese, divided
* 2 - 3 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
* 1 - 2 T. butter (my Mom says 4 - 6... I just can't bring myself to use that much butter, but it sure is good)

Cook noodles. 
Brown hamburger. 
Grate cheese. 
Make or buy red sauce.
Drain noodles. 
Melt butter in noodles.
Mix in 1/2 c. parmesan cheese.
Spoon 2/3rds of the noodles in pan (13 x 9).
Layer with half mozzarella cheese.
Spread meat and 2/3rds red sauce on top.
Spoon rest of noodles.
Spread rest of sauce.
Sprinkle on the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Bake 350 for 30 - 40 minutes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I love to learn.  I blame this on my parents.  I am so thankful that they choose to homeschool me and let me learn things for myself.  One things I found out in college is that most people don't care about school, they are just there because they have to be.  I feel like I want to know about everything and how it works and why it works and what makes it work and who made it work and why did someone discover it and what were they doing that made them think that this would work... etc.  Recently (the past 2 or 3 years), I have found biographies really fascinating (I consider this a huge sign that I am REALLY old. Really Faith, non-fiction is your favorite type of books?!? I feel like disowning myself sometimes. Who else my age is checking out old non fiction books and reading about how to make your own motor, chairs, model boats, telescope, bobsled, speedboat, slide, etc?). 

While Jared is working on schoolwork,  I have taken to wandering around the SU library and finding old books that no one has checked out for 15 - 20 years.  There are some really treasures buried in the shelves upstairs in the library.  Speaking of the SU library, I am really looking forward to seeing the new SU library when they finish building it.

I also assign particle blame to Aunt Suzanne and this book she had around her house when I was growing up. Every family should have this book around their house for their children to look through! Will someone please, buy this for me as a baby shower present someday? I think that would be one of the coolest baby shower gifts I could receive.  Actually, I might just have to start buying this for all my friends who are having kids.  I used to be (and still am) amazing by this book.  Also, to Cathedral and Castle, which were part of our history curriculum (and I just bought the other day), and all his other books.  

Other awesome books:
* Reader's Digest Treasury for Young Readers (I stole this from my Mom - sorry, Mom. It used to be her book when she was young. My Mom's copy is green, not read as the amazon link shows and the little circle pictures of people are in a straight line across the front. I still read through it every couple months). 
* Biographies on famous inventors -read read read them!!  Be inspired.
* Amateur Craftman's Cyclopedia (published by Popular Science magazine in 1937).  This may be one of the greatest books I have ever seen.  And if someone would buy it for my birthday, I would be one of the happiest people in the entire world... but until then, I am keeping the SU copy out until they force me to give it back.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book.  Along with the Way Things Work, I want my kids to be able to look through a book like this and be inspired.  I have not wanted a book so badly in a long time.  This book needs to be owned by me and live in my house. 

For all their glossy, shiny, multiple pictures, I find the newer books can't hold a candle to the flame of my imagination the way that books published for my parents or grandparents generation can.  The simple sketches and descriptions that they give are so much greater than multiple diagrams.  Plus, I find these older books do a better job of explaining things.   
Speaking of books, in the Library of Congress directory, I find that almost all my favorite books are in the T section.  It includes, crafts, handiwork, photography, engineering, efficiency studies (cheaper by the dozen is found in this section), and home economics (hello, cookbooks, canning guides, gardening books, and quilting books).  How can there be any section that is greater than this? Cookbooks, crafts, and engineering, the best things in life. I will give Q, the science section a little credit, but T is by far, the superior category of books in the Library of Congress system.  Needless to say, I spend most of my time walking up and down the T rows at the library.

Do you have any favorite books that inspire or inspired you?  And what is your favorite section in the Library of Congress directory?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012


When ground turkey and pork are marked down at the grocery store for under $2/lb, I usually snatch it up.  I can make so many useful and tasty things out of them, lasagna, tacos, baked ziti, meatballs for spaghetti, sloppy joes, etc.  Well, this week I look over that list of old favorites and didn't feel compeled to make any of them. So, I pulled out one of my favorite old cookbooks to find new recipes (Betty Crocker is for old favorites, my Southern Cookbook is for biscuits and chicken recipes), Taste of Home 2009 Annual Recipes is the best for inspiration.  I almost made southwest burgers, but instead of I decided to make meatballs.  I was slightly compelled in this direction by the fact that I had just worked out at the gym and I was having to fast for 12 hours to get my blood work done in the morning.  Thus, I needed something before my 12 hour fast that would fill me up.

There are very few junk food/party food that I am especially drawn towards eating.  I usually don't like to waste calories unless I know that it has been made with loving tender care and usually has to include heavy whipping cream, butter, dark chocolate, of homemade yeast breads. Plus, I am under the impression that I can make almost any store bought treat with better ingredients and fewer calories (for ex. cream puffs, cinnamon buns, whipped cream, any kind of cookie) ... That being said, meatballs in that disgusting ketchup and grape jelly sauce are something that I can't seem to stop stuffing in my face at parties... that along with Tacitos (why why why do I like these?  They are so gross) and mozzarella sticks.  Those are mainly my big three weakness.  Since starting to make my own salsa and learning Mrs. Render's mexican layered dip recipe, I have even given up most store bought salsas. 

Anyhow, knowing that I couldn't eat for 12 hours and craving protein after I worked out at the gym is what compelled this recipe to be tried out.  Because I know that I love that jelly and ketchup combination, I tweaked this recipe to include some jelly (also because Jared refuses to eat my homemade strawberry jelly because it is not bright red like store bought jelly and I can't eat it all by myself).  I also tripled the sauce because there was not nearly enough if it.  I added extra mustard, less sugar, and refused to sprinkle the tops of the meatballs with crispy rice cereal (that is just weird - even the picture looks as if someone accidentally spilled their cereal on it right before the picture was taken). 

Barbecued Meatballs
Makes 24

1 egg
3/4 cup crisp rice cereal
2 T chopped onions
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 pound ground meat (chicken, pork, beef)

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 - 3 tsp mustard
1/4 - 1/2 cup strawberry jelly (I am not sure how much I added, I just kept tasting the sauce until I liked it... I also added more ketchup and mustard to taste... so these are all guesses)

1. Mix the meatball ingredients together, also add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the barbecue sauce to the mixture and mix in. 
2. Roll the meat into 1 to 1-1/2" balls and place on a cookie sheet or in a 13 x 9 pan.  I use my fancy Pampered Chef kitchen scoop that my wonderful little mother-in-law bought for me.  :)  I wash it by hand and then run it through my dishwasher to sanitize it afterwards because it is also very useful for scooping cookie dough out in the right size.
3. Put a teaspoon or so of sauce on eat meatball and maybe some in the bottom of the dish.  Reserve some to put the meatballs in after they come out of the oven. 
4. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes at 400 F.  Can be baked at the same time as pizza if you want to maximize the use of the oven. Sorry, my brain just tries to jump to the most efficient way of doing things. 

Speaking of efficiency, I have a cell at work that has doubled its efficiency.  I am pretty proud of them, but that is not what I really wanted to mention.  I have been reading the Cheaper by the Dozen books (and Belles on their toes).  If anyone wants to buy those for my birthday (hint hint hint, Mom) I would love to own them!!!!  If you have not read the books, you need to and if you have not watched the old movies, you need to do that too.  I would also take the movies for my birthday, as well. 

Anyway, this women is my new hero.  I am looking to see if I can find any of her or her husband's books or articles in any of the libraries around here.  If you have not read about Lillian Gilbreth, you should because she is brilliant.  I may write a post about her in the future.  Her husband is pretty interesting too.  He painted morse code in the bathroom so the children would learn it and then he would leave them secret messages around the house so that they would have to keep using the knowledge they learned.  He also made them listen to foreign language records in the bathroom while they took showers so that they would learn French and German.  Pretty cool. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A few projects on my list...

I need to make these!!  I will post a recipe and review once I make them.  

I think this shirt would be super cute in a little size.  I might shrink it down and give it as a baby shower gift.... maybe.  I have to play with this pattern.   I have some gray fabric that I need to use up.

I would have made these for my wedding.  LOVE!!

I am inspired to hand stitch this or something similar on a new quilt. 

This is a great idea.  Again, this is going on my list of baby shower possible presents.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

* chicken
* chicken broth (see recipe below)
* dumplings (see recipe below)
* 1/2 c. milk
* 1/4 stick of butter (cut into pieces)

Chicken and Chicken broth:
The best way to have shredded chicken and chicken broth is to buy bone-in chicken breasts (or thighs or legs - but I think the breasts are the easiest to work with).  To make these and several other chicken recipes, I boiled 9 chicken breasts, 6 - 8 tops of celery stalks, a carrot or two, some onion scraps, and some garlic cloves.  Cook for a few hours.  Take the chicken out, pull off the bones, and discard the bones.  Strain the broth into containers (I use 3 - 5 quart mason jars). Chill.  Once the broth is chilled you can scrap off the fat and use it later for the dumplings.  :)  Believe me, it makes them taste 10 times as amazing if you do this.

Now we have chicken, broth, and fat for dumplings.

Warm the chicken stock (1.75 - 2 quarts) up until warm.  While it warms up, make the dumplings.

1/3 c. chicken fat (add vegetable shortening if you are short)
3 c. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
ice water

Cut fat into the flour and salt.  Start adding ice water 1 TBS at a time.  Stir gently with hands until mixture holds together and is the consistency of flaky pie crust dough.  Once mixed, roll out on a lightly floured surface (as thin as possible). Cut into rectangles about 1" by 2".

Add chicken and dumplings to warmed stock.  I add a handful at a time to the stock, cut some more, add some more, cut some more, add some more... etc.  Simmer for 30+ minutes until the liquid begins to thicken. Turn off heat.  Add milk and butter. Stir gently until butter is dissolved.

Can I tell you how happy this makes me?  Thanks again to Ms. Pat and her amazing southern cookbook.  LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!

More recipes to come from this cookbook (that you have to look forward to sometime on my blog):
crunchy crust cornbread
black eyed pea
cheesy ham grits
sweet potato casserole
dirty rice (minus chicken livers) - still have to make
country fried steak (with cream gravy) - still have to make
pan broiled fish
milk gravy
red eye gravy
basic cheese sauce
barbeque sauce
buttermilk biscuits
hot pepper jelly - still have to make
angel food cake - still have to make (what do you do with all the extra egg yolks?)
pecan spice cake - still have to make
caramel cake with caramel frosting - still have to make
fresh coconut cake with seven minute frosting (AMAZING!!)
strawberry shortcake
red velvet cake
coconut custard pie (amazing - I like coconut)

Other recipes (that I will also post sometime):
apple and pork stuffing
cornbread stuffing
cornbread and biscuit stuffing
cinnamon and raisin bread
chicken skewers (chicken in amazing sauce with peppers, onions, and tomatoes)
key lime pie
lemon meringue pie
sweet potato pie
bread pudding with brandy or whiskey sauce
pecan divinity - still have to make this

Thursday, March 01, 2012

February Goals Report

I am going to rate myself out of 5 because partial credit is better than no credit.

1. I would like to take more pictures of life to document what happens (even the boring stuff)
* I have been taking a few more pictures.  I have started carrying my camera around, but I usually forget it is there.

2. clean out my fabric stash by making lots of fabric things (so I can buy new fabric)
* I have started organizing my fabric stash and I have 4 or 5 jobs that are prepped to be sewn.  That will get rid of some of the fabric.  I have a few bigger projects in my head that I want to start (maybe in March, February seems to be book month).

3. lose 5 pounds
* I am going to keep this goal.  I have lost 4 pounds, but pants fit much better probably due to the weight training.  But I am raising the bar because I need to force myself to stop eating sugar.  :) 

4. weight train 3 days a week (not just to wimp out by doing just cardio)
* Okay, so I have done this four times this year.  But going along with my goal of working less is my getting to the gym to lift more often.  Cardio is easy.  I have lifted for the last two weeks; I think I am back on track.

5. cook more dinners for Jared and grill more (even in the winter)

6. wake up 30 minutes earlier each day
FAIL. I think I did this 3 or 4 times. It was so much better when I got up early...
(1/5) 2 books a month (I read 4 books a month during grad school, I should be able to read 2... although, reading a 700 page book should count as 2, maybe I should set a page limit... hmmmm, I will get back to you on this one)
* So far this month I have read 8 books and I am in the middle of a 9th. I have far surpassed this goal, but then again, I have done no sewing...
Books read:
Little House in the Bing Woods
Little House on the Prairie
On the Banks of Plum Creek
On the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Hard Winter
Hunger Games
Catching Fire

8. visit Stephanie and family (see Colorado again!!!)

9. finish thank you notes

10. make more granola (just finished the last of my last batch)
accomplished again. 

11. work fewer hours
accomplished.  The past three weeks I have worked just over 40 hours.  No more 50 hour weeks for me for a while!!  :)  My dotted line boss was in town last week and I had a plant tour and I still only worked 42 hours. Go me.  

12. eat less sugar
FAIL.  Between confetti cups, cream puff filling, real whipped cream, and valentine day candy...
(0/5) I didn't even try.

13. watch a Russian new years movie
accomplished :)

14. invite at least one family over for dinner
Does Michelle count?  Or the Taylors for my Mom's birthday? My intention was to invite someone that I didn't know that well, so I am going to say, I failed at this too.