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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sparkly, Shiny Gifts

How did Christmas get so close? Ack! These are some sparkly necklaces I saw on Martha Stewart’s show back in September, at the time thought they'd make great gifts. I even ordered the supplies I needed. Then I forgot to make them.

They’re made with this amazing stuff called Wirelace. It’s a tube of super fine woven wire. You can order it at (where else would you get it?) and they’re superfast with delivery; I think it was less than 3 days until I received it.

trioYou can find the directions on Martha’s website, or at The nice people at Wirelace also included a copy with my order, which was nifty.

supplies 6 mm beads, in 3 graduated colors or 3 strands of the same

monofilament to string them on

1 yard of Wirelace

Size 9 and Size ginormous (15 or 17) knitting needles

Jewelry findings: cones, jump rings, lobster claw clasps

closed-wire-lace Restring the beads on monofilament. If you’re doing the ombre look, like the neutral one above, refer to Martha’s instructions for stringing. It’s a little tedious, but since I have about a dozen sappy Hallmark Christmas movies on my DVR, I don’t mind.

OPENING-UPUse the ginormous knitting needle to gently open up the wirelace all along its length.

READY-TO-THREADUse some sort of tape to secure the end of the monofilament to the smaller knitting needle. Be sure you cover the ends, as the wirelace will snag easily.

pulled-thruThread the needle with the bead strands attached through the wirelace….gently and without snagging. Center the bead strands in the wirelace and remove from knitting needle.

DSC_0012 Tie a knot at each end, making sure you catch all the monofilaments.

wire-loop Measure how long you want your necklace to be, and fold the wirelace there. Use a small wire loop to pull the wirelace through a jewelry cone.

clasp Attach a jump ring through the wirelace so it can’t slide back through the cone. Then attach a lobster claw clasp and you’re done…almost!

E6000 Cut off the excess wirelace…it cuts really easily with any scissors. Fill up the cone with some E600 or other handy dandy adhesive. Let it dry, and package it up prettily. Or hang it with your jewelry and enjoy wearing your creation!

If you get one of these from me for Christmas, act surprised! I’m not at all experienced with jewelry-making, but I think these turned out really well. Give it a try…it’s kind of addicting and pretty much instant gratification. It took a little less than an hour for each necklace, if you’re making a schedule!

And now I’m taking down my fall decorations and cleaning house in preparation for Christmas decorating. If I’m not mistaken, our Elf on the Shelf will be returning to our home tonight…if he’s not lost somewhere in the basement since our move! Wish me, I mean him, luck!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stockings for Stuffin’

Making gift card holders for birthday yesterday reminded me that I needed some Christmas ones as well. Since I go all out with creativity and buy gift cards for my little nieces and nephews and various people, I feel guilty if I don’t at least put a little effort into the card holder. Emphasis on “little effort” since I need multiples.

So, of course, I pulled out my favorite helper for multiples (no, not my husband or children)…my Big Shot. I also needed to justify buying this stocking die that I couldn’t resist. It’s a win-win, really.


I used various Christmas papers and cut out the fronts, then just plain cardstock for the backs. That way, I could write my message on the back. I mean “Merry Christmas from the Hooligans,” not some earth-shattering message I need to share with the world.

The snowflakes are made of felt and from Stampin’ Up! a couple of years ago, but you can find similar in any craft store, I'm sure.


This one was my favorite, I think. Now if you get this one from me for Christmas, won’t you feel special?

jett-stocking This one is completely finished, with the gift card tucked in (I secured it with tape, just to make sure it doesn’t go sailing out when a toddler waves it around in the air. Not that that would ever happen). I used a silver Sharpie to personalize it. When I was in junior high, I was fascinated with that writing…I think it’s called Tinker Toy. It’s a good way to fancy it up a little, without having to get your letters in a straight line.

These just took a few minutes to make with the Big Shot, and I feel a little better about the impersonal gift card when the card is handmade. And that’s what it’s all about, making sure I feel good about it. Right?

If you’re getting snow today, know that I’m envious. I can’t believe it’s almost December and we’re snowless in Wisconsin! Who would have thought it?

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Pretty Little Purse

Suddenly it’s birthday season in the boys’ classes, and the kindergartener is attending a party for twin girls this week. Their mother told me they are Starbucks Frappucino fiends, so we got them a little gift card to go with their gifts. But, of course, we can’t just hand them the card in the holder you get for FREE. Here’s a little purse I made for them:



I’m not even listing supplies, since everything except the Bring on the Cake stamp set I used has been retired or are generic craft store supplies. I’m sure you have things in your stash that you can substitute, or please feel free to use this as an excuse to buy new supplies!

To make this, simply fold a 6” x 6” piece of patterned paper in half and cut a little off each side to make it look like a purse . The fold is at the bottom. I used my Big Shot to cut the “flap” but any symmetrical piece would work. Fold that in half, adhere your ribbon/handle at the bottom of the fold, and adhere to the back piece of your purse. I cut a Stampin’ Up medium clear bag in half for the gift card and adhered all 4 sides of it for strength. To keep the purse closed, use a Velcro dot.

These are super cute for girls’ night or any girly gift giving occasion (and there are so many of those!) and come together really quickly. I usually try to have a few ready to go, except for the sentiment, in various patterns.

Now I’m off to continue easing back into a routine after Thanksgiving. Time always seems to accelerate as soon as Thanksgiving is past, and Christmas is approaching. Hope your day/week/season progresses calmly!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

There’s an App for That

An appetizer, that is, for Thanksgiving. I’ve been making my favorite fall appetizers for too many years for me to remember. Yes, I’m that old. I should branch out, and usually do try a couple of new ones each year, but the tried and true favorites always make a comeback.

Olive Pumpkins

pumpkin-olives I think these were originally called something cute, but I’ve found it’s important to emphasize that there are olives involved. Once I didn’t and an olive-hating friend may have not forgiven me yet. This recipe, by the way, is from my friend Cammie. She doesn’t hate olives.

2 Tbsp slivered almonds
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 drops red food coloring
2 drops yellow food coloring
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I use King Arthur Whole Wheat White so they’re healthy! ;0) )
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
6 oz. garlic cheese spread (here in the land o’dairy I had about 43 brands to choose from)
7 oz jar pimiento-stuffed olives, drained

Bake almonds at 350 for about 5 minutes, until toasted.

Stir together butter, flour, food coloring, red pepper, and cheese spread until it forms a ball.

Press about a tablespoon of dough around each olive. Use the dull side of a small knife to score “pumpkin dents”. Place on parchment covered jellyroll pan. They can be close together as they’re not going to expand any as they bake. Chill one hour.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, until very barely browning. Remove from oven and place an almond in each to resemble a stem. Try not to eat all of them before serving. They’re best warm, but still tasty at room temp. You can make them ahead and keep them chilled until ready to bake. Just cover them with plastic wrap if you do that so they don't dry out.

Apple Ranch Cheeseball

whole-apple Another great recipe from Cammie…all my cute food seems to have come from her! I think her spices were different…we’re a ranch-lovin’ family, so I just use ranch mix for the spices. The white cheddar is important, as it keeps the inside white and looking like an apple.

8 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded
8 oz cream cheese, softened (I use lowfat…like it matters)
1/2 pkg ranch dressing mix
Cinnamon stick, broken in half
Bay leaves

Blend cheeses and dressing mix. Place on plastic wrap and shape into a rough ball. Wrap plastic around it, and twist at the top to help you get it into a compact apple shape. Chill for at least 2 hours. Remove wrap and place “apple” on a piece of wax paper. Dust the paprika all over it, and roll it around to coat it. Add cinnamon stick and bay leaf for your apple!


Pumpkin Marmalade with Lil’ Smokies

Yes, I said Lil’ Smokies. This is, I think, the only way I make them. Take a big cast iron skillet, heat it up, pour your Smokies in, and let them get brown. Stir occasionally, but let them stay in one spot long enough to carmelize. These must be served warm, but you won’t have to worry about them sitting around for long!

For the marmalade:

15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup orange marmalade (or whatever you have left after making cranberry sauce)
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Combine pumpkin, marmalade, and ginger in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let cool before serving. This keeps for a week or two in the refrigerator. It's good on toast, scones, pancakes, a spoon, whatever.

On my serving board, I place the Smokies, the pumpkin marmalade, some spicy brown mustard, white cheddar, and some sort of cracker. Mmm-mmm!

Pumpkin Dip

I’m sure you’ve had this, but it is so tasty I have to give it a little shout-out. It’s a little like pumpkin cheescake, but it’s just cookies and dip, so no guilt, right? I serve it with gingersnaps and apple slices.

8 oz cream cheese
15 oz pumpkin puree
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp orange juice concentrate

Combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar, then add remaining ingredients. Chill until ready to serve.

Hope you all have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving ( I know, that’s so military…hoping it’s safe!). I may or may not blog tomorrow…my husband actually took leave AND there’s Thanksgiving Feast with the kindergarteners. We were asked to contribute trail mix, so I’m not planning to make it my main meal of the day! Enjoy the apps!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Cranberry Quartet

Due to popular demand, (okay, one of my friends messaged me on Facebook) here’s a few of my favorite cranberry recipes. I’m talking sauces and salads here, not baked goods…that would be a hugely long post! Cranberries always entice me with their tart-sweet flavors; not overly sugary like some fruits, with a little texture and gorgeous color. I learned at the state fair that they’re Wisconsin’s top crop. Who knew? So away we go…


The closest thing to a classic cranberry sauce that I make. Super easy, super quick, you’ll never buy it in a can again (unless it’s for a different recipe, as seen below!).

Cranberry Marmalade Sauce

(adapted from Bon Appetit…barely)
1 1/2 cups orange marmalade
2/3 cup orange juice
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
12 oz bag fresh cranberries (or frozen will work here)

add-marn Combine juice, marmalade, and cinnamon stick in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally (or constantly, if you’re holding a drink in your other hand and want a little peace and quiet).

add-cranAdd cranberries and let it return to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 5 or 10 minutes, until the berries burst. You can let just a few pop, or all of them if you want a softer sauce. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely. You can make this in advance. I always do.

If you have leftovers (after you eat leftovers), combine 1 1/2 cups of this with 8 oz. Fat-free Catalina dressing, pour it over some chicken breasts in the slow cooker, and cook for 4-6 hours on low. Makes a yummy, barbeque-y filling for wraps or a great entree. Really. I know it sounds odd. You can also use a can of whole berry sauce if you don’t have leftovers or if it’s, like, July and cranberries aren’t anywhere to be found in stores.

My Great-Aunt Lela’s Cranberry Relish

lelas No holiday meal was complete without this relish when I was young. My cranberries weren’t as red as usual, I think…this is not as vibrant as it normally is. This is an old-fashioned gelatin mold, but I just serve it in a crystal bowl because I think it’s pretty. I’m sure it was incredibly labor intensive for Lela, but in the age of food processors, takes about 15 minutes, start to finish.

1 cup boiling water
1 small box lemon Jello
1 cup sugar
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1/2 cup nuts (I use pecans)
12 oz fresh cranberries
1/2 apple, any kind (I used a Honeycrisp here); roughly chopped
1/2 seedless orange, NOT peeled, roughly chopped

Dissolve the Jello and sugar in the boiling water. A small child is usually willing to do this part, as I don’t enjoy stirring until stuff dissolves. Unless I have a glass of wine in my other hand that needs to be consumed.


While it cools a little, combine all the other ingredients in the food processor. Pulse until pretty finely chopped. The original recipe says to grind them , so that’s how they should look.

Add the Jello mixture and pulse to combine, then pour into your prettiest crystal bowl and chill. Can be made a day or two ahead, even though it’s all raw. I’m pretty sure all that sugar acts as a preservative. But it’s the holidays, right?

I’ve halved the original recipe here and it still makes 4 cups. Feel free to double it if you’re having lots of people or taking it to a potluck. It’s really a refreshing salad, or relish as Lela would say!

Cranberry Salsa

When we were at the apple orchard last month, I saw cranberry salsa in their store. I was intrigued, but already had every member of the family loaded down with tasty treats, so waited until I was home and experimented. This recipe, if I do say so myself, totally rocks. Actually, that’s what my kids said. It’s great on chips, over cream cheese with crackers, or in a wrap with some leftover turkey.


12 oz cranberries
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 orange, unpeeled (yes, I used the other half from the relish)
2 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro,
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger


Combine all in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Salsa consistency…you know what that means. My family was eating this straight out of the food processor bowl, they liked it so much. I had to fight them off to put it in the serving bowl. Oh, and add another jalapeno if you want more heat…we’re pretty wimpy around here.

Cranberry Freeze

I think this recipe is my friend Janene’s. I remember being at Bunko in Louisiana and discussing how much her family hated cranberry sauce, so they had another form instead. Yes, we Army wives really know how to solve world problems when we get together. Anyway, I ended up with this recipe in my files and I think that’s where it originated.


1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
2 Tbsp lemon juice
4 oz cream cheese, softened and whipped
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 cup chopped pecans

Stir together the lemon juice and cranberry sauce. Spread in bottom of plastic wrap-lined loaf pan.

Mix cream cheese, mayo, sugar, and nuts. Fold into whipped cream and spread over cranberries (gently, so it doesn’t blend in with the berries). Freeze at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, remove from mold by pulling out using the plastic wrap. Slice into 1/2” slices with a thin sharp knife.

I admit, I’m not sure if this is a salad or more like a dessert. It’s a little sweet and very delicious, though, so serve it as you like!

I hope you try at least one of these this year. We have all four of them in the frig right now...I told the kids cranberries will keep them healthy and able to play over the long weekend, so they're more than willing to have some at every meal!

Friday, November 18, 2011

With Apologies to the UK

I’m sure you seen them; they’re everywhere. Everything from coffee mugs to t-shirts to plain old posters with the “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan from WWII Britain. I have a little metal memo pad holder with it in my purse, and my favorite coffee mug bears the saying, as well. When I saw several tongue-in-cheek versions, I was struck with inspiration. Well, maybe not struck, but an idea popped into my head.

Gobble-On It took very little time to design in Photoshop Elements and I printed it at home on my photo printer. That was probably $25worth of ink, but I didn't feel like driving anywhere to have it printed. I framed it, put it on the entryway table, and it made the kids laugh. I’m pretty sure Winston Churchill would not have chuckled. Oh, well, you can’t please all the people all the time, right?

Then I realized it’s a perfect tag for a Thanksgiving gift. We traditionally make sugar cookies that look like turkey for Thanksgiving, using candy corn. turkey-cookies


This is last year’s assembly area. We’re making these this weekend, then I’ll stack them in Chinese take-out cartons (not real ones, decorative, gift-wrap ones) and tie on the Gobble On tags. I think they’ll make great gifts for teachers next week. As I may have mentioned before, my hooligans get our money’s worth from their teachers…those poor souls deserve every treat they can get!

If you’d like to make these (my kids LOVE making them), just bake some round sugar cookies (I’m not ashamed to say I usually use store-bought). Melt a little chocolate in a ziploc bag, snip the end, and pipe a thin line about 1/3 of the way around each cookie. Add candy corn, then make a little royal icing, green and orange, for the feet and eyes. The icing isn't strong enough to hold the candy corn; hence the chocolate. You know I don't like chocolate, so I wouldn't use it unless necessary! Super cute, super fun. The drawback is that you can only use whole candy corn kernels, so someone must eat all the little broken ones. But I’m sure you can figure out a solution to that.

Enjoy, and hope you have a creative weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Up, Up, and Away

Is anyone but me watching “Pan Am” on Sunday nights? Well, I don’t watch it then, but record it for later. Every week they show the bulkhead inside the 1960’s era plane, and it’s lovely…tone-on-tone hot air balloons. And every week, I think, “I really should make a card like that.”

Yesterday I was three cards short of my goal to send to Operation Write Home this month, and lo and behold, I actually remembered those Pan Am balloons. Even better, I have a hot air balloon stamp set that needed some ink on it. So there you go.


All Stampin’ Up!: Up, Up, and Away stamp set
Lucky Limeade, Pool Party, and Island Indigo cardstock and ink
Whisper White and Silver Glimmer cardstock
Silver brads; Ruffled Pool Party Ribbon; Small Heart punch

bday-balloons Then the hooligans arrived home from school and “helped” make another one for my sweetie’s birthday today. That’s why the layers are all wonky and there are so many hearts. Five hearts ‘cause we have five people in our family. It’s the thought that counts, though, and it was much less painful than giving them free rein in the craft room to design their own card. I speak from experience, people.

I couldn’t sleep last night so I got up at 0300, made two pumpkin, two pecan, and two cherry-peach pies for my hubby’s potluck tomorrow, then still couldn’t sleep so I made pumpkin spice donuts holes for breakfast. They were baked, not fried, so don’t judge me. And I served scrambled eggs and pears alongside, so it was almost nutritious. Then I ran errands all morning during my three hours “alone.”

I tell you this to justify the nap I’m planning to take while Princess Thundercloud is hopefully napping, as well. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not to brag, but…

scarf I can knit! Every year I make a New Year’s resolution that this will be the year I learn to knit. You’re probably thinking I’d be better off resolving to finally get in shape (other than the shape of a pear) but that’s never going to happen, so knitting it is.

Last month, the Joann Fabrics Christmas flyer featured the Martha Stewart loom and knitting contraption. Of course, that’s not the exact name. I hustled to Michaels and used a 50% off from Joann’s to buy it. Did you know Michael’s will honor Joann’s coupons, as long as it’s something they both carry? Well, they do. I couldn’t wait for a lazy Saturday to try it out.

Weekend before last, the stars aligned and I had nothing better to do. Until noon when I had to take the middle hooligan to a bowling party, but I was sure that would be sufficient for me to knit and entire sweater. It was, to say the least, impossibly frustrating. Perhaps craftier people than I could figure it out, or perhaps if you were already a knitter, it would have made sense. With that rationalization, I decided to use one of the THREE learn to knit kits I already had in my craft room and just learn the old-fashioned way.

It was amazingly easy. The book I used, Stitch and Bitch by Debbie Stoller, is amazingly simple to follow. In 10 days, I’ve learned to knit and purl, as well as fix mistakes! I’ve made this chunky scarf for myself and I’m working on one for my middle kid. Because he asked first, if you must know. All 3 kids are completely fascinated with my knitting. I haven’t been working on this non-stop for 10 days, either…maybe an hour or two a day, while watching shows I’ve DVR’ed. That’s why I learned to fix mistakes, actually.

So if you have the yen, learn to knit…I don’t know how to crochet, so really started with no needle-working experience other than cross-stitch and needlepoint, which are nothing like knitting. I’m loving this new hobby…I can easily take my supplies wherever I want, and if I get started on it soon, I might have enough throw to keep me warm when the snow really flies here.

Oh, and I haven’t tried out Martha’s again…I’m having too much fun clicking my needles together and feeling like Madame DeFarge. (I hope my mom and 8th grade English teacher are reading this and are impressed with that literary reference.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stars and Hearts with Punch

A couple of quick cards today, inspired by the OWH Bloghop over the weekend. What’s OWH, you say? It’s a great organization, Operation Write Home, that sends handmade cards to our deployed troops so that the troops can send them back to their loved ones. I know I would much rather get a handmade card when my soldier is gone than some mushy thing he paid $5 for at the PX. I’m pretty sure they have like 2 card styles and every spouse has already received those! I’ve gotten quite a few with the occasion scratched out and a new one written in, even. But I digress. If you haven’t already, check out them out at

This month, Our Daily Bread Designs challenged OWHers to link to a “love” card on their blogs. For every 25 links, they’ll pay to ship a large box of cards to our troops. So here’s my contribution:


All Stampin’ Up!: A Happy Heart and Stitched stamp sets, both retired
Whisper White, Early Espresso, and Real Red cardstock; Crumb Cake ink
Full Heart punch, Red Polka Dot Ribbon, Real Red and Early Espresso markers

I really like this set (and I’m sure you could find it on Ebay)…such a great sentiment anytime of year, not just Valentine’s Day. For some reason, when I woke up yesterday, this punch idea was in my head. Go figure, but I thought it would work great for this card. I stamped the background with the Crumb Cake and Stitched, then just used markers to color the sentiment stamp. Quick and easy, just like love. Heh heh.


All Stampin’ Up!: Gratuitous Graffiti (retired) and Many Thanks stamp sets
River Rock, Cherry Cobbler, and Whisper White cardstock;
Night of Navy and Cherry Cobbler ink; Denim Ribbon; XL Oval and Star punches

Oops…I just realized that one star is missing as edge, over there on the left. I’ll have to dig that out of the recycle bag, I guess, and glue it on! Sorry. Anyway, OWH is in need of masculine thank-yous, and I think this fills the bill nicely. Same concept as above, punch and let the background show through.

Enjoy and I hope you’re inspired to craft a little for OWH!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rainbows for a Cloudy Monday

ready-to-wear We’ve noticed something about Wisconsin…there are nowhere near as many rainbows here as we had in the Pacific Northwest. It rains just as much, but I guess the sun doesn’t come out as quickly here. Lest you think I have nothing better to think about all day, my kids actually were the ones who noticed the lack of rainbows here, not me.

Recently, it was Color Week at school. Really it lasted two weeks, and each day the boys wore that day’s color. In kindergarten, they also had that color snacks. The teacher posted a video on the school website afterward, and it was pretty cute to see the photos from each color day.

As rainbow day approached, I realized the boys didn’t have rainbow shirts. In Washington, I would have just driven to the Farmer’s Market and bought some cool tie-dyed t’s, but that wasn’t an option here. The farmer’s markets just sell actual fruits and vegetables. Imagine the nerve. I bought a primary color tie-dye kit and tried my hand at it, instead. It was surprisingly fun and possibly addictive. Here’s how I did it….

dyeing The kit came with everything but the t-shirts and plastic wrap. All I had to do was get the shirts wet and rubber band them…the directions were super clear as to how to make the starburst I wanted. Then I added water to the dye bottles, shook them up, and squirted the dye onto the shirts. It blended really easily to make purple, green, and orange. I put a garbage bag flat on the counter to protect it, and had pieces of plastic wrap for each shirt off to the side.

ready-to-soak After they were all saturated, I wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap (individually) and let them sit to absorb the dye. It said the longer they sit, the more vibrant the final result. Since I did this the day before we needed them, I only let them sit 8 hours, the bare minimum recommended. By the way, I did get red dye on the countertop, but Bar Keepers’ Friend took it right out…I love that stuff!

finished-tie-dye As you can see, it looks really vibrant here, right when I unwrapped it and cut the rubber bands. HOWEVER, you must wash them before wearing and A LOT of dye came out in the water. In other words, wash them alone the first time. I also threw in two Color Catchers, and they absorbed so much color they were dark brown. I’m planning to use them for card-crafting, since they look so cool.

The kids were all thrilled with the shirts, even though they faded a little. Fun, easy, and it came out to about $3.75 per shirt, for the dye and the shirts. I used a 40% off coupon for the kit at Michaels, and I probably could have dyed one more shirt with it, but it all has to be used immediately and I was out of shirts. It was kind of like when you get a great charcoal and hardwood fire going in the grill and want to cook as many meats as you can possibly find in your house. I looked and looked for another white t, but no luck.

I’m now plotting which of my relatives would enjoy a little tie-dye in their lives for Christmas. I bet your in a panic now, Mom, aren’t you?

rainbow-cookies We enjoy a lot of color in our lives, so last week when the roads were too icy for the little one to go to preschool, we made rainbow cookies instead. These are the easiest peanut butter cookies EVER…just 3 ingredients. You’ve probably made them, but here’s the how-to, just in case:

DSC_0001-2 Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 cup sugar
Sugar to coat them

Stir the peanut butter, egg, and sugar together. Roll into 1” balls, then roll in sugar (regular granulated or colored). Place on baking sheet, then gently (this was the hardest part for the little one) press a fork in an “x” to slightly flatten themsmashin

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool a bit before you take them off the sheet, or they will crumble. If they crumble, that’s okay because everyone knows cookie crumbles have no calories.

DSC_0004 She was pretty proud of her baking, and acted like Lady Bountiful dispensing them to the boys as an after school snack. She did concede to her Daddy that I helped her a little. Can’t WAIT until she’s a teenager.

Hope you have a colorful day!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Honoring Heroes

Franks-Homecoming Veterans Day is a pretty big deal at our house. As I write this, my husband is attending a ceremony at Marquette honoring veterans, and our boys went off to school talking about how important it is to serve your country. My husband and I were raised in families who serve, albeit by being public school educators rather than military. Our fathers served in the military, along with other members of our families, but their careers and lives were devoted to education. That ethic of service to others was ingrained, and I hope we’re passing it along to our children.

My husband has been in the Army for over 24 years, counting the reserve time he served in college and his career since. We’ve lived an amazing life, which I know is a mystery to our families, none of whom have moved anywhere near as many times as we have. Our eldest child is 8 and is living in his fifth house; attending his fifth school (counting preschool…he’s not repeating kindergarten over and over!). Our lifestyle is challenging, but we make the most of it and wouldn’t change it for the world. Well, maybe those 3 long deployments could be omitted in a perfect life.

The scrapbook page above show his last homecoming from a deployment. He’s been home a year and half, which has flown by. We know he won’t be deployed for the next 2 years while he’s recruiting, and that is an immeasurable stress-reliever. Who knows what will follow this assignment, but for now, we’ll take what time we can together. By the way, his homecoming was at 0400 (that’s 4:00 a.m.), so none of us look our most alert…and we’d been sitting in the gym, watching the soldiers at the airfield on video screens, for about 2 hours before we were reunited. But it was all totally worth it…I’m not complaining! Just explaining our bleary eyes.

My husband loves what he does…his assignments have ranged from combat arms (he’s a field artilleryman) to teaching to his current recruiting position. I love Army wife-hood…the friends, the shared experiences, the adventures in every new assignment.

I think our kids are better for it…they’ve learned to make friends quickly, and that when you say goodbye, it’s not forever. We have a huge Army family that is always there to support us, when our actual families are too far away. When we get a new assignment, we’re sad to leave our duty stations (even the worst geographically speaking) but know we’ll keep in touch with friends we’ve made.

Our current assignment is our toughest yet, in my opinion. We live “on the economy” as we say in the Army…the closest post is about 3 hours away, so we’re in the civilian world without our Army family nearby. We’ve brought a whole new perspective to our children’s school…they’ve never had an active duty military family here. At my kindergartener’s birthday party, people were very inquisitive as to “how we do it.” We forget, in our Army world, that only 1% of the population has or will serve, and that most people can’t relate to our lifestyle.

I read a blog yesterday that was probably the best I’ve seen regarding Army wives. And I’m not talking about the TV show…we really don’t live like that! I’m not blog-savvy enough to just put the name of it here, but if you want to check it out, here’s the link:

Veteran’s Day makes me a little melancholy…thinking of friends who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and the families they leave behind, who continue to make sacrifices every day. They are in my thoughts daily, but especially on Veterans Day.

I’m in awe of soldiers like my husband, who continue to make small sacrifices every day, without complaining. I’m honored to have been his partner in this Army life, and thank God that Americans like my husband are ready and willing to serve our country. They are all true heroes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Farewell to Fall?

single-leaf As we woke to a white lawn this morning, it occurred to me that perhaps the time had come for a final fall post. I’ve been taking photos all fall, thinking each day the colors were more vibrant or the tree trunks much more interesting than the blanket of green foliage that I saw when we arrived in July. But first, a card…


All Stampin’ Up: Inspired by Nature and Holidays and Wishes (retired)
Naturals Confetti, Early Espresso, and Very Vanilla Cardstock
More Mustard, Pumpkin Pie, and Early Espresso Ink
Hemp Twine; 1 1/4” circle and XL Oval punches; Brayer

To make the sun, I first covered the vanilla cardstock with More Mustard, using the brayer. I think you could also just drag your ink pad across it if you’d rather. Or you could just start with More Mustard cardstock and only brayer on the Pumpkin Pie. Then I punched out a circle from a Post-It and used it as the sun. I brayered Pumpkin Pie over the whole cardstock, then removed the Post-It…and there you have it…a sun! The rest was just stamping and assembling.

Now to the photos.

startingAs they started, I was already enthralled…little did I know just how pretty they could be.

golden-green The bright greens and yellows turned the light in the forest warmly golden….this photo was taken from the balcony off our bedroom. What a great way to start the day!


Holy Hill Basilica, a National Shrine, is just a few miles from our home. It’s a majestic sight against the horizon. Even though Princess Thundercloud insists it’s a castle. Of course.


Wisconsin knows how to do fall…we saw about half a dozen other shutterbugs stopped on our way to breakfast this morning.


I’m going to have to create a scrapbook page or two of the fabulous old barns seen all along the country roads. I’m fascinated by the fact that they’re still used and seem to be original construction.


This view from our back deck is almost sculptural to me, with the contrast of black trunks and fall leaves. I spent way too much time sitting at my kitchen table, drinking coffee and contemplating the view.


Peeking through the leaves at the back of our home…a solid carpet of leaves on the lawn. Charming, as long as you’re not the raker or leaf blower. I’m neither.

pumpkinsMums and pumpkins adrift in leaves…why can I not stand mums in flower arrangements, yet love them in the fall as decorations?

turkeysPart of the rafter of turkeys that frequents our yard. There are about 20 in all, but some had already fled for the woods when they saw me. You can see some of these have their necks stretched out, starting to run. Silly turkeys.

DSC_0006 Our driveway…such a peaceful walk each day to the bus stop…as long as I’m alone!

Enjoy your day, and stay cozy!